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
  20-24.4.15, No. 569  
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Foreign Policy

Xi expects substantial progress in advancing economic corridor during Pakistan trip (Xinhua)
2015-04-19
Chinese President Xi Jinping called for advancing cooperation with Pakistan in various areas, including a general framework for bilateral cooperation and a bilateral economic corridor. He made the appeal in a signed article published Sunday by Pakistani press on the eve of his state visit to Pakistan. "I look forward to working with Pakistani leaders during the visit to explore the general framework for bilateral cooperation, make substantial progress in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and practical cooperation in other fields and push for the furtherance of bilateral ties at a higher level," wrote Xi. Pakistan is the first stop of Xi's first overseas trip this year. The Chinese president is to visit the country on Monday and Tuesday before attending the Bandung Conference in Indonesia. During his visit, Xi will meet with his Pakistani counterpart, Mamnoon Hussain, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other Pakistani leaders for in-depth exchange of views on bilateral relations and issues of common interest. "This will be my first trip to Pakistan, but I feel as if I am going to visit the home of my own brother," Xi said. China and Pakistan need to align development strategies more closely to realize the dreams of the two peoples, he said. "We need to enhance strategic coordination, deepen practical cooperation and work together for common development. We will build the China-Pakistan community of common destiny and set a fine example for such efforts by China and its neighboring countries." The two countries need to align economic and trade strategies more closely to deepen economic integration, said the Chinese president. He gave particular importance to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is located where the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road meet. "We need to form a '1+4' cooperation structure with the Economic Corridor at the center and the Gwardar Port, energy, infrastructure and industrial cooperation being the four key area to drive development across Pakistan and deliver tangible benefits to its people." In the article he also highlighted the need to boost security cooperation, intensify people-to-people and cultural exchanges and coordinate diplomatic strategies between the two countries. ^ top ^

China concerned at reports of New Zealand-U.S. plan to spy on diplomats (Xinhua)
2015-04-20
China on Sunday expressed concern about a report that New Zealand and United States spy agencies planned to hack into a data link between Chinese government buildings in Auckland. The plan was revealed in documents from U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden, the Herald on Sunday newspaper reported. The project run by New Zealand's Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) and the NSA appeared aimed at tapping data flowing between the Chinese Consulate and its visa office in Auckland. The documents said the GCSB had identified the data link, and agreed to cooperate with the NSA to use the link to access China's computer systems, said the report. Documents appeared to show the plan was codenamed "Frostbite" by the GCSB and "Basilhayden" -- also identified as fictional spy James Bond's drink of choice -- by the NSA. The paperwork revealed the GCSB worked with the NSA's elite hacker team -- the Tailored Access Operations division -- which specialized in cracking computer systems and planting spyware on computers, said the report. A 2013 NSA document showed China at the top of a list of targets it was having monitored by the GCSB, saying the New Zealand agency gave the NSA "access to areas and countries that are difficult for the United States to access." But it is unknown if the plan went ahead because, as sign-off was being sought, Snowden walked out of his job with a mass of top secret documents. The Chinese Embassy in New Zealand issued a statement Sunday, saying that China was concerned about the report and attached great importance to the cyber security issue. "We will firmly safeguard our security interests and continue to guarantee our cyber and information security with concrete measures," said the statement. "At present, cyber space is riddled with chaos and uncertainty. China proposes to settle disputes through dialogue and formulate codes to regulate cyber space behaviors that are acceptable to all sides." Xinhua was unable to contact anyone in New Zealand Prime Minister John Key's office for a response on Sunday, but the Herald on Sunday reported that a spokeswoman for Key said the government would not respond to claims made from documents "stolen " by Snowden. She said the intelligence agencies contributed to "our national security and the security of New Zealanders at home and abroad." The opposition Green Party said Key and the government pointlessly endangered New Zealand's relationship with its largest trading partner. "Breaking international agreements to spy on Chinese diplomatic communications in Auckland is reckless. It would bring very little, if any, benefit to New Zealand," Greens co-leader Russel Norman said in a statement. "The test is, would we have spied on China on our own accord? It's very unlikely. So why is New Zealand spying on behalf of the Americans?" ^ top ^

Vietnam asked Philippines to form pact to counter China, Aquino reveals (SCMP)
2015-04-20
A new “strategic partnership” being negotiated between two states fending off China's maritime claims in the South China Sea was suggested by Vietnam, Philippine President Benigno Aquino has revealed. It had been widely assumed that the proposed pact between Vietnam and the Philippines was initiated by Manila, which has taken a high-profile stand against China. In an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post, the Philippine president said China's moves in the South China Sea were even more alarming than a year ago, when he likened global inaction to China's push to appeasing Hitler – comments that angered China. In the interview last Thursday, Aquino stood by his remarks. Pulling out a map of the South China Sea, he said: “Perhaps it's even worse today.” But he added that it was never his intention to rile China by speaking up about the issue. “I can assure them that that is not a priority with me. I do not start a day [thinking] 'how do I tweak the noses of these people?'… Put yourself in my position. I do have to protect my country's interest and my countrymen's rights. I'd like to view their actions as also doing the same thing.” He also said it made sense for the Philippines to pursue closer ties with countries with which it had common interests and goals, adding: “Vietnam is asking us for a strategic partnership.” According to media reports, when officials from the Philippines and Vietnam met earlier this year, they agreed on a joint statement that focused on the South China Sea, expressing concern about China's “massive reclamation activities” in the area. No date for signing the pact has been set. “We're actually just defining what it is … We're working out the details,” Aquino told the Post. Vietnam and the Philippines have overlapping claims in the South China Sea, as do China, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. During the interview that lasted well over two hours at Malacanang Palace, a relaxed Aquino fielded a wide range of questions but the focus returned several times to the South China Sea. On the proposed pact with Vietnam, Aquino said: “Anyway, when your strategic partner starts with the overlapping claims, there's more room to have a reasonable dialogue rather than reacting with the national interest, separate national interest.” The Philippines has two strategic partners - the United States and Japan, and both have criticised China for its expansionist moves in the South China Sea. Asked if it was wise for Manila to push strategic partnerships with countries that China viewed warily and adding a third that China had exchanged fire with, Aquino said this was not intentional. “We had them [the US and Japan] as strategic partners before China looked at them suspiciously,” he said. “We're not forming these partnerships with the end point of forming a coalition against somebody.” He said such partnerships were formed “if somebody feels we have a lot of common interest with, who can help us achieve our goals, our national goals.” When asked how useful the country's alliance with the US was, given the strict limits on an armed US response under the Philippine-US Mutual Defence Treaty, Aquino replied: “I cannot answer that question in the sense of telling them how the Americans, for instance, have been helping us.​” “For instance, [in] maritime domain awareness,” he said. Asked to elaborate, Aquino said: “At the end of the day you know what is happening in your waters.” On whether this meant “real time” awareness, Aquino said “that's the part I'm not confident in answering you”, and then chuckled. “When we advertise this, I think we also announce weakness … I think it's against our national interest to say what we are capable of.” US assistance for maritime domain awareness was first included in the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) which Manila signed with Washington a year ago. The EDCA made no mention of Manila's conflict with China in the South China Sea. However, Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said then that the EDCA was in response to the “rapidly evolving regional architecture” that necessitated “strengthening maritime security and maritime domain awareness”, among others. Del Rosario, who was present during the Post's interview, also said Manila was expecting to present its case in oral arguments before an ad hoc arbitral tribunal under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in July. A decision could be delivered within six months or by early next year. China has refused to take part in the proceedings. Asked what the point was in obtaining a decision that China would possibly not follow, Aquino said: “We were cognizant of that … in deciding whether or not to go into arbitration. We were told that this body really does not have that enforcement capability.” But Aquino warned that if China ignored a tribunal ruling in Manila's favour, it would have a negative impact on China's dealings with other nations. “If suddenly, sometimes you will follow and sometimes you will not, that I think will give pause to the trading partners whose doors have to be open for the growth in their economy,” he said. Was there any condition under which the Philippines would consider pulling out of the arbitration as China has urged it to do? “Given the fact that we're expecting a decision either this year or early next year, and then we go back to a status quo of uncertainty, I think that denigrates the original decision to go into the mode of finally settling this ambiguity,” Aquino said. Pressed on whether there was any hesitation on his part to pursue the arbitration to its final conclusion, Aquino replied that even if his government and China came to a bilateral agreement on the issue, any deal would be next to useless because there are - besides the Philippines and China - four other claimants. “How can we have an agreement binding on the other four?” he said. “So perhaps there's an agreement amongst the six. And it's signed. Then perhaps there's no need for arbitration.” However, he indicated that was far-fetched: “That is not a – let us table everything and discuss this continuously for the next 10 generations. Who'll agree with something like that?” Aquino also indicated the high-stakes engagement that the Philippines was in. New light has been shed on China's rapid reclamation efforts to build an air strip on Mischief Reef. And Aquino said he was taking seriously reports of a possible surprise occupation by China of Manila-occupied Pagasa Island, though these have been officially denied by Beijing. Contingency plans were in place, he stressed. Asked to assess China's possible reclamation of more reefs and shoals in the disputed waters, Aquino said: “I will tend to sound like a rabble rouser. Can I just say, I hope not.” “I don't see the logic of their move. Therefore I hope that logic and rationality prevail. Since there is no gain, why embark on something like that?” He said the world was watching China. “There's a certain downside anytime they decide that 'we want this, we want that', they just go ahead and do it. And everybody will say, please do so. You're welcome to it. I don't think that will be the world reaction.” He added that it was in China's interest to promote stability in the region, especially in the South China Sea, a conduit for more than 40 per cent of world trade, because not doing so would not help China improve its own economy. Asked if Aquino had a message for Xi, he said: “In his downtime, when he's taking a break, perhaps, I really would ask him: 'Put yourself in our position, perhaps, even that of Vietnam, and how would you respond to the challenges that are happening in the South China Sea?' 'Put yourself in our shoes, please'. And, then, hopefully, we will be able to achieve a better relationship especially with these contentious issues.” “Perhaps, we should also focus on the fact that, to a large degree, this is the only contentious issue between our relations. And removing that is really, I think, a worthwhile goal.” ^ top ^

China, Cambodia vow to enhance cooperation on law enforcement, security (Xinhua)
2015-04-19
China and Cambodia have vowed to further enhance bilateral cooperation on law enforcement and security. During a meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday, Guo Shengkun, Chinese state councilor and public security minister, said the China-Cambodia comprehensive strategic partnership of cooperation has been deepening. "China will continue to work with Cambodia to carry out all agreements that the leaders of the two countries have reached," he said. "Undoubtedly, China will continue to cooperate with Cambodia in the fields of law enforcement and security for mutual benefits. " For his part, Hun Sen said traditional and non-traditional security issues have become a major challenge for the development and stability of countries in the region. The prime minister said Guo's visit was vital to deepening the bilateral cooperation on law enforcement and security, expressing his confidence that the cooperation will further contribute to stability and development for the two countries. On the same day, Guo also met with Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sar Kheng, and they witnessed the signing of documents on law enforcement and security. Sar Kheng said the cooperation is essential for the two countries to work together to fight trans-national crimes in order to maintain peace and security for the peoples of the two countries. ^ top ^

China and Japan 'will both look to extend influence at Asian-African Conference' (SCMP)
2015-04-21
China and Japan will be seen as jockeying to extend their influence in Asia and as far as Africa at this week's gathering of leaders for the Asian-African Conference marking the 60 years since the emerging nations vowed to oppose colonialism, according to analysts. President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe – along with representatives from about 80 nations – will be in Indonesia commemorating the anniversary of the conference that formed the basis for the Non-Aligned Movement diplomatic norm. Xi will go to Indonesia after ending his tour in Pakistan on Tuesday. The first Asian-African Conference was held in the city of Bandung, on Java island, in 1955 with the attendance of about 30 nations that were newly independent. Refusing to take sides during the Cold War either with the United States or the Soviet Union, the nations vowed that they would not be aligned with or against any major power bloc. The leaders attending the commemoration, which starts from Tuesday until Friday, will be there to back the non-alignment principle and reiterate that it is still valid in post-Cold War international order. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not attend the conference, even though India was a major player at the 1955 meeting, while South African President Jacob Zuma has cancelled his planned visiting because of the spread of violence at home. The focus at the six-day conference is likely to be on how China and Japan flex their muscle to extend influence and how Xi and Abe interact amid the strained ties between the two countries. On Monday Abe said he was ready to meet Xi during the conference. “There will be feeling that China and Japan will competing for influence [ at the conference],” said Xu Liping, a professor studying diplomacy in southeast Asia at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. “But such competition will not be beneficial to the region if it is not properly managed.” Xu said Xi would continue to push forward with the “One Belt One Road” initiative to bolster links between China and nations stretching from Asia to Africa, and the recently established Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Xi might also use the occasion to call for leaders to reflect on history and the 70th anniversary of the end of the second world war – one of the grievances that was facing the bilateral ties between China and Japan, Xu added. In his speech at the conference Abe was expected to explain Japan's postwar path as a pacifist nation, and his “proactive pacifism” policy that has called for Japan to have a more active role in world stability, Japan's Jiji news agency reported, adding that Japan would also announce measures for the development of Asia and Africa. Oh Ei Sun, an analyst at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said the competing sentiment between China and Japan was obvious, but the Southeast Asian nations would be cautious about letting it overshadow the conference. “There are still other players, such as Indonesia, and they do not want their agenda to be overridden by those of China and Japan,” he said. With the attendance of Middle Eastern countries leaders, such as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the ongoing conflict in Yemen will be on the agenda. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation has called on Indonesia to mediate at talks on Yemen during the conference. ^ top ^

China and Pakistan push for 'all weather' ties (SCMP)
2015-04-21
China and Pakistan vowed to lift their ties to an “all-weather strategic partnership of cooperation” as President Xi Jinping launched a US$45 billion investment plan in the South Asian nation on Monday as part of efforts to create an economic corridor linking the two countries. After Xi met Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the two nations reached an agreement that will see Beijing give support to Islamabad in a total of 51 projects, including the construction of major roads and power plants in Pakistan. The economic corridor is part of China's aim to forge “Silk Road” land and sea ties to markets in the Middle East and Europe and reflects a shift of economic power in the region to China. The corridor, a network of roads, railways and pipelines, will run through Pakistan's poor Baluchistan province, long plagued by a separatist insurgency which the army has vowed to crush. The two leaders symbolically broke ground on five renewable energy projects around the country via video link after an airport reception and afternoon talks. Xi said China was ready to “support Pakistan's economic and social development,” while Sharif said the corridor would make Pakistan a “regional hub and pivot for commerce and 8investment”. “We will work hand in hand with you to remove any obstacle in your way to ensure timely completion of the planned projects,” Sharif said. Pakistan's minister for planning and development Ahsan Iqbal said around US$37 billion of the US$45 billion would be invested in energy. Work on US$28 billion worth of projects could begin immediately, he said, with work on the rest starting in the next three to five years. Iqbal called the deals a “milestone in our history.” Earlier in the day, Xi, accompanied by his wife Peng Liyuan, received a warm welcome from Sharif and Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain along with a 21-gun salute when he arrived at Noor Khan air base in Rawalpindi for a two-day visit to the country. Xi postponed a visit to Islamabad last year due to anti-government protests and went ahead with a visit to India. China is also eager to boost trade with New Delhi, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to visit Beijing in the coming weeks. China and Pakistan have enjoyed close diplomatic and military ties for decades, though economic ties have only grown more recently. Bilateral trade crossed US$12 billion last year compared to US$2 billion a decade earlier. China is a leading arms supplier to Pakistan and has sought its help in combating Islamic separatists in the country's lawless tribal areas. China also wants Pakistan's help in stabilising Afghanistan as US troops wind down their presence. Xi also hailed Pakistan's contribution to the international counterterrorism efforts. ^ top ^

China "uncomfortable with" U.S. negative list for investment treaty talks (Xinhua)
2015-04-21
China's Finance Minister Lou Jiwei has said his country is "uncomfortable with" the negative list provided by the United States, which is a key part of the ongoing negotiation of the Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) between the world's two largest economies. Lou made China's stance known in an interview with Xinhua on the sidelines of the just-concluded World Bank-International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings. In the interview, the Chinese finance official said that the U. S. government outlined key infrastructure, important technology and national security into its negative list where Chinese investment is not allowed. The U.S. side does not give any specific definitions over its restrictions while retaining the rights to suspend the projects invested or operated by Chinese investors at any phase. The U.S. side also stipulates that the cost ensuing should be borne by investors, he noted. "The stipulation increases the uncertainty for Chinese investors in the United States and make us feel very uncomfortable, " Lou stressed, who stopped short of making further statements. Talks on the bilateral investment treaty began in 2008 as both countries sought to increase mutual investment, which only accounted for a tiny share of their overseas investment. China has shorted the negative list on which foreign investments are restricted by host countries in the pilot free trade zones in Shanghai, Guangdong, Tianjin, and Fujian, but the negative lists offers for BIT talks will be decided through China- U.S. negotiations, China's Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao said in Washington D.C. Friday. U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman told Xinhua Friday that he expected the two sides to exchange the negative lists soon. ^ top ^

China must improve transparency for foreign businesses: US business group (SCMP)
2015-04-22
China is being urged to press ahead with reforms to create a more transparent and fair environment for foreign businesses in industries including agriculture, banking, and information technology, according to the 2015 White Paper issued by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in China. Despite the improvements made, “substantial problems” have remained in four policy priority areas: rule of law, market access, standards, and intellectual property rights, the business group said on Tuesday at a press briefing in Beijing. “Non-transparent, unclear, and inconsistent rule-making was identified by 65 per cent of our members as limiting their ability and willingness to invest in China, and has remained a top challenge to business for the last four years in a row,” AmCham said. James Zimmerman, the group's China chairman, said the recommendations had been submitted to both the Chinese and US governments. China's rule-making about Information and Communications Technology (ICT), for example, which is “by some measures the largest single category of US exports to China” and a key issue in the US-China Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) negotiations, had lacked transparency, AmCham officials said. While China made its bank-technology rules, no input was solicited from the US side, which was a leader in the sector, the group said. “If industry had been more deeply involved in an open way … the situation wouldn't have reached the point that it did,” AmCham vice-chairman Lester Ross said, referring to a suspension of the rules by Chinese regulators last week. China's banking and information technology regulators said the guidelines were suspended to enable revisions to take place. The suspension came after protests from the US government, as well as industry groups in the US, Europe and Japan, which expressed concerns that foreign companies would be forced to transfer core technologies to China, or they would be shut out of the vast local market. About 75 per cent of technology procurement by Chinese banks was expected to be from domestic sources by 2019 if the rules and additional plans were implemented, Ross told the South China Morning Post. “China has made commitments not to require localisation or technology transfer, but in practice they continue,” Ross said. However, AmCham said it was confident that the Chinese government was listening to the concerns. “That's something we have to keep an eye on,” Zimmerman said. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said last week that “it's fully necessary for China to push forward information security at the banking industry” just as many other countries had done. He called on “all parties to properly understand and respect” China's efforts to improve information security. Unfair treatment, Ross said, also existed in China's anti-monopoly law enforcement, “with respect to the merger review process and also with abuse of dominance investigations”. Last year, foreign companies, including software giant Microsoft, chipmaker Qualcomm, and car makers such as Audi, were investigated by China over antitrust concerns. However, Beijing defended its policy, saying the investigations had also involved domestic companies. Zimmerman also urged Beijing to narrow the scope of issues in its definition of national security, saying its scope has been wider than many other countries. He made the comments after China on Monday unveiled pilot national security vetting rules for foreign investors who plan to take a stake in sensitive sectors in China's four free-trade zones. ^ top ^

China's finance minister criticises US foreign investment 'negative list' (SCMP)
2015-04-22
Finance Minister Lou Jiwei criticised US proposals for sectors to be closed to foreign investment under a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) being negotiated between Washington and Beijing. Lou said that the US "negative list", while outlining prohibitions on key infrastructure, technology and national security investment, failed to provide specific definitions for its restrictions, Xinhua reported. "The stipulations increase the uncertainty for Chinese investors in the United States and make us feel very uncomfortable," Lou said in Washington. Lou is in the US to attend meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Negative lists are a pivotal element in negotiations between China and the United States to conclude the BIT. Last month, US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said it was "critical" that China's negative list be short. Some experts believe China's list will be a barometer for how serious the country's leaders are about their promised market reforms. On Friday, vice-finance minister Zhu Guangyao said he expected China and the US to exchange "negative list" offers in the next month or so. Zhu said he would expect "substantial" progress on the issue in September, when President Xi Jinping meets US President Barack Obama in Washington, though he added that much hard work remained between the two countries. China has shortened the negative list on which foreign investments are restricted by host countries in its pilot free-trade zones in Shanghai, Guangdong, Tianjin and Fujian but the negative list offers for BIT talks will be decided through Sino-US negotiations, Xinhua quoted Zhu as saying on Friday. In its annual position paper released yesterday, the American Chamber of Commerce in China was "hopeful" that China "will seriously and significantly" open up further to foreign investment, especially in the financial services, agriculture, automotive, and health-care sectors. "An overreaching negative list will be a non-starter," the chamber said. But China's restrictions on foreign investment in the name of national security were too broad, chamber chairman James Zimmerman said. In the US, Chinese investors had more avenues for recourse within courts. ^ top ^

China picks Pakistan dam as first stop on US$40b Silk Road investment plans (SCMP)
2015-04-22
China has picked a dam project in northern Pakistan as the first investment project of its US$40 billion Silk Road infrastructure fund as President Xi Jinping looks to expand the country's influence across three continents. The fund will become a shareholder of China Three Gorges South Asia Investment which will construct the Karot dam on the Jhelum river, said a statement on the Chinese Foreign Ministry's website on Tuesday. Total investment in the project will be US$1.65 billion, said the People's Bank of China. Xi's visit to Pakistan this week was the first by a Chinese head of state in almost a decade. Pakistan is seen as the key to his efforts to access the Indian Ocean over land and boost trade with Europe, Africa and the Middle East. China is Pakistan's top trading partner, and they have a mutual distrust of India. The two nations, which have long had close security ties, are planning a total of US$45 billion in projects along a 3,000-km corridor stretching from Xinjiang, in western China, to Gwadar on the Arabian Sea. The investments will help to boost Pakistan's economic growth and open alternative trading routes for China. The Karot dam will be located in Rawalpindi, near the capital Islamabad. The dam was a “great match” between the development strategies of the two nations and a priority project in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, China's central bank said in its statement. The 720-megawatt dam would take about six years to build, according to project documents filed by the World Bank's International Finance Corp, which is investing US$125 million in China Three Gorges South Asia Investment. The project would generate 75 per cent of its energy during the summer months when water flow in the Jhelum river was at its highest, the documents show. China Three Gorges Corp, the Beijing-based developer of the world's largest dam, was expected to become Pakistan's biggest clean-energy company with plans for US$5.5 billion of hydropower, solar and wind projects totalling more than 2,000 megawatts in capacity, said the International Finance Corp, which is part of the World Bank Group. Pakistan requires as much as US$20 billion in investments over the next five years to overcome a 10,000-megawatt shortfall in power capacity, it said. On Monday Xi and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif signed pacts valued at US$28 billion to build roads, ports and power plants – nearly equal to the amount of foreign aid the US has provided to Pakistan over the past decade to support its war in Afghanistan. The investments, if realised, will help Sharif revive Pakistan's economy, which suffers from chronic power failures and an insurgency that has killed more than 50,000 people since 2001. Sharif has received a loan from the International Monetary Fund to help put the country's finances back on track. “It's very significant,” said Mohammed Sohail, chief executive of Topline Securities, in Karachi. “It can bring a big change for all our economic fundamentals, in particular in energy.” The 51 agreements included an “All-Weather” strategic partnership that seeks to formalise longstanding defence ties between the nations. They also pledged to fight terrorism and help bring peace to Afghanistan. The two nations may conclude the sale of eight Chinese submarines – more than doubling Pakistan's fleet. Xi met the chiefs of Pakistan's armed forces and called the operation against militants near the Afghan border a game changer in bringing peace, said army spokesman Major General Asim Bajwa on Twitter. The president had also pledged to contribute in the effort, Bajwa wrote, without providing details. China is viewed more favourably in Pakistan than in any other Asian country, the American think tank, Pew Research Center, found in a poll conducted last year. Pakistanis gave a 78 per cent favorable rating to China, compared with 14 per cent for the US, the poll showed. ^ top ^

Xi's fruitful visit leads China, Pakistan to closer community of common destiny (Xinhua)
2015-04-22
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday concluded his state visit to Pakistan after the two neighbors lifted their ties to an all-weather strategic cooperative partnership and signed over 50 cooperation deals. The trip to the South Asian country, the first leg of Xi's first overseas tour this year, testifies to the importance of the China-Pakistan relationship and marks a significant stroke of Beijing's neighborhood diplomacy. Since the establishment of their diplomatic relations 64 years ago, China and Pakistan have forged an ironclad friendship. Now thanks to Xi's two-day visit, the two "iron friends" have begun upgrading their close relationship to an ever closer community of common destiny. ALL-WEATHER STRATEGIC COOPERATIVE PARTNERSHIP: In Xi's talks with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday, the two countries decided to lift their relations to an all-weather strategic cooperative partnership. "The Chinese side highly values its relationship with Pakistan, and has always placed the relationship on a priority position on its foreign policy agenda," Xi told Sharif during the talks. "China and Pakistan have always trusted, understood and supported each other, and are all-weather friends," said Xi, recalling that the two countries helped evacuate each other's citizens from war-torn Yemen not long ago. For his part, Sharif said that the Pakistan-China friendship is the cornerstone of Pakistan's foreign policy, and the Pakistani people treasure the brotherly relationship with China. Addressing a joint sitting of Pakistan's parliament on Tuesday, the Chinese president spoke highly of the all-weather friendship and all-dimensional cooperation between the two countries. The two sides, he proposed, should constantly enrich the content of the China-Pakistan community of common destiny and shape it into a model for the building of an Asian community of the kind. Meanwhile, he put forward a five-point proposal to usher in a new phase of bilateral relations, calling on the two sides to further boost strategic cooperation, pursue common development, carry on their long-lasting friendship, jointly address security challenges and strengthen coordination on international affairs. The China-Pakistan community of common destiny is a strategic choice made by the two governments and peoples, which conforms to the interests of both countries, he added. In his meeting with Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain, Xi said that his visit to Pakistan has led him to become ever more confident in the future of China-Pakistan relations. "1+4" COOPERATION STRUCTURE : High on the agenda of Xi's visit to the South Asian country is advancing the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a planned network of roads, railways and energy projects linking southwest Pakistan's deepwater Gwadar Port with northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. "We need to form a '1+4' cooperation structure with the CPEC at the center and the Gwadar Port, transport infrastructure, energy and industrial cooperation being the four key areas to achieve a win-win result and common development," Xi told Sharif. The two countries should make steady progress in developing the Gwadar Port and building the CPEC, so as to bring benefits to the people and set an example for other major projects on regional interconnectivity, he said. A joint declaration was issued after the talks, in which the two countries set the target of lifting bilateral trade to 20 billion U.S. dollars in three years, up from the current 16 billion dollars. Also during Xi's visit, Pakistan's Karot hydropower project became the first recipient of funding support from China's 40-billion-dollar Silk Road Fund, which said in a statement that it will actively provide more financing opportunities for other projects under the CPEC framework. In addition, Xi and Sharif also witnessed the signing of more than 50 cooperation deals covering transport infrastructure, energy, agriculture, trade, finance, health, local affairs, media, ocean sciences and education. Later Tuesday, Xi left for Indonesia to attend an Asian-African summit and activities to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Bandung Conference. ^ top ^

Chinese president arrives in Indonesia for Asian-African summit, Bandung commemorations (Xinhua)
2015-04-22
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Indonesia late Tuesday for an Asian-African summit and commemorative activities for the historic 1955 Bandung Conference. The Chinese leader will address the bi-continental leaders' meeting on Wednesday in the Indonesian capital to expound China's stance and proposal on carrying on the Bandung Spirit and boosting Asia-Africa cooperation in the new era. Xi will also hold bilateral meetings with other leaders before he travels to the heritage city of Bandung, West Java, to attend events marking the 60th anniversary of the first large-scale Asian-African conference. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said earlier that Xi's Indonesia trip fully reflects China's firm commitment to advancing Asia-Africa cooperation and promoting the common development of Asian and African countries. The trip is Xi's second to Indonesia within one and a half years. During his state visit to Indonesia in October 2013, Xi proposed the initiative of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Earlier in his ongoing two-nation Asia tour, the Chinese president paid a state visit to Pakistan, during which the two sides lifted their relationship to an all-weather strategic cooperative partnership. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his wife, together with a group of other high-level officials, saw the Chinese guest off at the airport. Xi thanked Sharif and the Pakistani government and people for the thoughtful and considerate arrangements, saying the visit, rich in content and fruitful in results, allowed him to fully experience the friendly feelings the Pakistani people have toward China. Sharif, for his part, said Xi's visit is a complete success and will consolidate the traditional friendship between the two countries, and added that Xi's wonderful speech at the Pakistani parliament was warmly received in his country. Pakistan, the prime minister said, will work together with China to implement the results of the visit and constantly enrich the content of the China-Pakistan community of common destiny. Pakistan dispatched eight JF-17 Thunder fighter jets to escort Xi's plane before it left Pakistani air space. ^ top ^

Obama submits to Congress nuclear energy cooperation deal with China (Xinhua)
2015-04-22
U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday submitted to Congress a proposed 30-year agreement on cooperating with China in peaceful uses of nuclear energy. "In my judgement, it meets all applicable statutory requirements and will advance the nonproliferation and other foreign policy interests of the United States," Obama said in a message to Congress issued by the White House. The agreement, which permits transfer of material, equipment ( including reactors), components, information and technology for nuclear research and nuclear power production, "provides a comprehensive framework for peaceful nuclear cooperation with China based on a mutual commitment to nuclear nonproliferation," Obama said. The agreement "will promote, and will not constitute an unreasonable risk to, the common defense and security," he said, urging Congress to give it "favorable consideration." Obama noted that China has since the 1980s become a party to several nonproliferation treaties and conventions and "worked to bring its domestic export control authorities in line with international standards." China and the U.S. have cooperated on peaceful uses of nuclear energy in the past decades, since the signing of an agreement for this cooperation in 1985, which is to expire at the end of 2015. ^ top ^

60 years on, China carries on Bandung spirit (Xinhua)
2015-04-23
At the 60th anniversary of the 1955 Bandung Conference, leaders from Africa and Asia gathered to carry forward the Bandung spirit. At Wednesday's Afro-Asian summit 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for a more just and equitable international order and a community of common destiny for mankind. The Bandung spirit of solidarity, friendship and cooperation remains relevant and potent today, and the concept of "common destiny" is of great importance, not only to Asia and Africa, but to the whole world. Sixty years ago, Asian and African leaders gathered to oppose colonialism and neocolonialism, with late Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai advocating "peaceful coexistence" and "seeking common ground while shelving differences." Increasingly prosperous, China's will and ability to promote cooperation among Asian and African countries and beyond demonstrate its respect for the basic tenets of international relations as well as the will to improve them. To share China's development with other countries, Xi has promised 100,000 training opportunities for developing nations in the next five years. Asian-African cooperation is key to South-South cooperation. The two continents boast three quarters of the global population and more than half of UN member states. Faced with similar missions to improve living conditions, these countries can cooperate in infrastructure, agriculture, human resources, green energy and environmental protection. Collaboration is not a zero-sum game. The Cold War mentality should be dropped and win-win cooperation upheld. Many of the countries at Wednesday's summit are already closely linked to China on the economic front, the China-proposed Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, international trade and infrastructure projects. Xi's initiative is an ambitious vision, in line with China's wish to share development with the rest of the world. ^ top ^

China's proposal at Asian-African summit to benefit people on two continents (Xinhua)
2015-04-23
China's proposal on carrying forward the Bandung Spirit is quite significant for all the countries in Asia and Africa, and will benefit all peoples on the two continents, an Indonesian diplomat said Wednesday. "I quite agree with Chinese president's proposal to expand the South-South cooperation, which is quite important for all the countries in Asia and Africa, especially in order to strengthen relations in trade, investment and tourism," Soegeng Rahardjo, Indonesian Ambassador to China, told Xinhua. "This will benefit all the people in Asia and Africa," he said on the sidelines of the Asian-African summit. The ambassador believed the North-South cooperation is more important in strengthening the technology and better practices so that the developing countries in Asia and Africa can benefit from the advancement of technology from the developed countries. "All countries can have the chance and opportunity to develop economically and then will create welfare for all the people in Asia and Africa," he said. Addressing the summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping put forward a three-point proposal on building a community of common destiny for all mankind in line with the time-honored Bandung Spirit of solidarity, friendship and cooperation, which he said remains relevant and potent today. Soegeng said that Bandung Spirit is always vital for all the countries, especially for developing countries, to develop economy and reduce poverty. Through the Bandung Spirit, Asian and African countries should boost their cooperation to reach the millenarian goal, he added. He called the China-proposed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank a very good idea. "Through infrastructure development, the connectivity among the countries will be easily built. Through the connectivity, all the countries can invest each other and people-to-people contact will be realized," he said. This year's Asian-African Conference events on April 19-24 gathered leaders and delegates from some 100 Asian and African nations, 15 observer countries and 17 international organizations. ^ top ^

Overseas experts, scholars laud Xi's speech at Asian-African summit (Xinhua)
2015-04-22
Chinese President Xi Jinping's speech at an Asian-African summit Wednesday will help carry forward the Bandung Spirit and promote cooperation between the two continents, overseas experts and scholars said. Patrick Maluki, a lecturer at the University of Nairobi's school of diplomacy, said the "Look East" policy adopted by many African countries has been inspired by China's achievements in many fronts. "The cooperation between Asian and African countries is bound to succeed since we have shared history and future goals," he said. He added that guided by the Bandung Spirit, cooperation between Asia and Africa will be further promoted. "The Bandung Spirit will rekindle our shared dreams with Asia and chart a new course in our path to economic prosperity, political rejuvenation, peace and sustainable development," Maluki said. Joshua Kivuva, a political scientist at the same university, also expressed optimism about future cooperation between Africa and China. "In Africa, we have realized rapid progress due to partnership with China and other economic powers in Southeast Asia," he said. The expert predicted a new blueprint after the summit for the future socioeconomic development of the world's two fastest growing continents, as well as their cooperation in such fields as trade and science and technology. "There could be challenges based on our different political and cultural systems but they should not blur the bigger vision of realizing shared growth and prosperity," he said. In the view of Bethwel Kinuthia, an economist at the University of Nairobi, African countries will greatly benefit from China's "Belt and Road" initiatives, namely the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. "China's proposed 21st Century Maritime Silk Road will definitely revive ancient trade routes that were the bedrock of civilization across a vast swath of the world," he said. He said that historically, the Asia-Pacific region had fueled global trade that immensely benefited Africa, adding the creation of a robust trade route linking African and Chinese markets will ultimately boost economic growth on the African continent. "The Silk Road will enhance interactions among Asian and African people, promote friendship and knowledge sharing in diverse fields like education, technology, culture, agriculture, manufacturing and medicine," he said. Asanga Abeyagoonasekera, former chairman of the International Relations and Strategy Research Institute of Sri Lanka, said that the core of the Bandung Spirit is to promote cooperation between Asia and Africa and that China has played a key role in this regard. "President Xi's wish to strengthen this cooperation as good friends and brothers is a very important remark at a time when both Asia and Africa are facing many challenges to improve the economic environment in many nations, including Sri Lanka," he said. "What's more important is that China always offers help to other countries without any political condition, just as President Xi has said," he noted. Joseph Ma'ahanua, a foreign affairs official of Solomon Islands, said Xi "made a lot of positive announcements" in his speech, including training opportunities and a zero-tariff policy, which will help a large number of developing countries. He said there is clearly more room for Asia-Africa cooperation in many areas. "I think Xi's announcement itself is a good start... (It was) made in a way that serves as a platform for more practice to come," he said. Oh Ei Sun, a senior research fellow at Nanyang Technology University of Singapore and former political secretary to the Malaysian prime minister, said Xi's reiteration of the Bandung Spirit is of great significance under the current international situation when hegemony still hangs on. A series of initiatives proposed by China on global development, including the Belt and Road and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, showed that it will offer help to other countries without any political condition, he said. Li Renliang, a professor at Thailand's National Institute of Development Administration, said that through the promotion of cooperation, China hopes it will become a true friend of Asian and African nations. Xi's speech had pointed out that the Bandung Spirit is still a "code of conduct" for the two continents to lift the level of their cooperation, he said. ^ top ^

China backs political solution to northern Myanmar issue, eyes boosted cooperation (Xinhua)
2015-04-22
China supports efforts to find a political solution to the northern Myanmar issue via peace negotiations, and is willing to promote cooperation with Myanmar, Chinese President Xi Jinping told his Myanmar counterpart U Thein Sein here on Wednesday. During his talks with U Thein Sein on the sidelines of an Asian-African summit, Xi stressed that the Chinese side hopes to see new dynamics of the peace process in Myanmar at an early date. For his part, U Thein Sein said the Myanmar government is committed to safeguarding peace, stability and personnel safety in northern Myanmar, and will speed up the region's reconstruction while propelling political dialogues. During their talks, the two leaders also vowed to cement bilateral cooperation and create a favorable social atmosphere for friendship between the two countries. Xi recalled the two visits made by U Thein Sein to China last year during which the two sides reached broad consensus on advancing the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership between China and Myanmar. He hoped that the two sides could continue making efforts to create new bright spots in bilateral cooperation. China always regards its ties with Myanmar from a strategic height and with a long-term vision, Xi said, adding that Beijing is willing to maintain high-level exchanges with the Myanmar side. China, he added, is willing to enhance exchanges with Myanmar on state governance and deepen strategic cooperation. China appreciates Myanmar's support to such cooperation initiatives as its "Belt and Road" Initiative and the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor, and will push ahead with connectivity projects under these cooperation frameworks, as well as cooperation in key areas like agriculture, electricity and finance, Xi said. Vowing China's utmost efforts in continuously providing help for Myanmar's economic and social development, Xi called on the two countries to take the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties as an opportunity to cement cultural, educational, youth and media cooperation. For his part, U Thein Sein thanked China's long-term support and help to Myanmar in various aspects, saying that Myanmar is committed to conducting close contact at all levels with China and enhance bilateral cooperation in various fields. The Myanmar side supports and is willing to participate in the "Belt and Road" Initiative and the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, he said, expressing the hope that China could take part in Myanmar's infrastructure construction via the Silk Road Fund. ^ top ^

Iran backs pipeline to China under 'One Belt, One Road' initiative: ambassador (SCMP)
2015-04-24
Iran is seeking to extend its energy delivery network to China under Beijing's massive "One Belt, One Road" push to boost regional connectivity, Tehran's envoy has said. Ali Asghar Khaji, Iran's ambassador to China, said Iran would expand its railways, roads, ports, telecoms sector and energy security under a five-year development plan. "Setting up an extended network of energy pipelines would help regional security and development," he told the South China Morning Post. Iran says it has already built a natural gas pipeline to its border with Pakistan, which previously balked at constructing a link on its side amid threats of sanctions from Washington. But Islamabad was now seeking Chinese funding to build its portion, The Wall Street Journal reported this month. The deal comes amid a push to build an economic corridor between Pakistan's port city of Gwadar and western China's Xinjiang region. "I don't think it's too far away [for] this pipeline to be extended to China through Pakistan. That is something that would be of common interest to Iran, China and Pakistan," Khaji said. He also said the "One Belt, One Road" initiative could support the construction of a natural gas pipeline from Iran, Iraq and Syria to Europe - a project that observers say is in doubt because of the Syrian civil war and financial sanctions on Syria and Iran. Khaji's remarks came as President Xi Jinping told Iranian President Hassan Rowhani on the sidelines of the Asian-African Conference in Jakarta, Indonesia, that China would push for a "fair and balanced" nuclear agreement on Iran, and called for cooperation between the two nations on high-speed railways and telecommunications, state-run Xinhua reported. Khaji also said developing nations would be given a prominent role in the governance of the Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), and rebuked existing international financing institutions for failing to serve their needs. Chief negotiators of the bank's founding members will meet in Beijing next week to discuss its charter and distribution of voting rights. Iran is among the 57 founding members of the AIIB, which Beijing says is not a replacement of existing international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund. But Washington has expressed scepticism about how the bank will be managed. Beijing insists international norms will be followed, especially given the participation of Western nations including Britain and Germany. Khaji criticised the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, saying they had failed to implement structural reforms to meet the needs of developing nations. Pre-conditions were often imposed before loans were given. "They base the offering of their loans on the performance of economic reforms, and such conditions have actually made the economic conditions of those countries even worse," he said. "We certainly should consider the views of emerging nations involved in this new bank, even though they may not be great economic powers. They should be given greater influence in terms of voting rights." ^ top ^

Xi calls for fair, balanced, all-win Iranian nuclear deal (Xinhua)
2015-04-24
Chinese President Xi Jinping said here Thursday that his country stands ready to work with relevant parties to hammer out a fair, balanced and all-win agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue. He made the remarks in a meeting with his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, during which the Chinese president welcomed the recent framework deal Iran reached with the so-called P5+1 countries. The consensus marked a positive step toward the conclusion of a comprehensive accord, Xi said, adding that Beijing will continue to play a constructive role in the negotiations. On bilateral ties, Xi stressed that China attaches great importance to developing ties with Iran, and suggested that the two sides maintain high-level contact and exchanges in various fields, so as to enhance strategic mutual trust. Xi called for broader practical cooperation between China and Iran, with the Belt and Road initiatives as the hub, and inter-connectivity and industrial cooperation as spokes. China, he said, is ready to launch long-term and stable energy cooperation with Iran, and expand bilateral cooperation in such areas as high-speed railway, road, building materials, textile, telecommunication, electricity and engineering machinery, so as to dovetail the two countries' advantageous industries, fine resources and strong markets. In addition, the Chinese president called for efforts to enhance mutual understanding between the Chinese and Iranian peoples with the aim of deepening their friendship. For his part, Rouhani said that Iran and China enjoy a lasting friendship, and that Iran is ready to deepen cooperation and communication with China in various sectors. Noting that developing countries in Asia and Africa, including China and Iran, face similar missions and challenges in economic and social development, Rouhani said Iran hopes to expand cooperation with China in infrastructure sectors such as energy, science and technology, railway and port. Iran, he added, cherishes the progress made in the nuclear talks and hopes that all parties will fully observe the recently clinched consensus, so as to ensure the signing of a comprehensive deal. Early this month, diplomats from Iran and the P5+1 group -- Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany -- agreed on the parameters to complete a final deal by June 30. ^ top ^

China's latest humanitarian aid shipment arrives in Syria (Xinhua)
2015-04-24
The Syrian government received a new batch of relief aid from China, a Syrian cabinet minister said on Thursday. The announcement came during a meeting held Thursday between Syria's Social Affairs Minister Kinda Shammat and Chinese Ambassador to Syria Wang Kejian at the ministry's headquarters in the capital Damascus. "The new aid contains stationary tools and mobility equipment for the disabled people as a result of the growing number of such populations due to the ongoing war," Shammat said, adding that the recent aid shipment will be followed by another one in mid-May, which will contain a total of 270 prefabricated housing units. For his part, Wang Kejian said he hoped the relief aid "would be conducive in alleviating some of the suffering of the Syrian people." He pointed out that the solution to the humanitarian situation in Syria would come to a halt with the end of the Syrian crisis, stressing that China will keep on providing the Syrian people with humanitarian aid. "We will continue providing the brotherly Syrian people with humanitarian aids in the future," he said. He added that the Syrian crisis could only be solved through political solutions." ^ top ^

China offers helping hand to those in need (Xinhua)
2015-04-24
China's three-point proposal to the ongoing Asian-African summit could set a new wave of global cooperation in motion. On Wednesday at the summit's opening, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed further Asia-Africa, South-South and South-North cooperation and called for a community of common destiny. Delegates from over 90 countries gathered at the summit in Jakarta of Indonesia, to explore new opportunities for cooperation. Xi said China is ready to work with other countries on the Belt and Road program, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and on the best use of Silk Road fund. Xi showed China's sincerity with practical concessions: zero tariffs for 97 percent of goods exported to China from the least developed nations with diplomatic ties to China; free training for 100,000 people from developing countries and free trips to China for 2,000 foreign youths. Faced with similar problems in improving their people's living conditions, developing countries, especially those in Asia and Africa, are eager to unite and grow stronger through cooperation. Through fresh platforms like the Belt and Road Initiative and AIIB, that cooperation can be deeper and more significant. During Xi's recent visit to Pakistan, contracts worth an estimated 50 billion U.S. dollars were signed on infrastructure and energy projects; a small step on the path of great ambition. Cooperation among developing countries cannot be exclusive. It must be open to all and needs the participation of all. The AIIB, potentially an open and inclusive multilateral lender, has 57 countries jostling to become founding members, including Germany and the United Kingdom. Having enjoyed fast development for over thirty years, China is ready to share its experience with its developing peers. The West should be just as eager to help those countries which lag behind to improve poor infrastructure, narrow wealth gaps and enjoy the fruits of modernity and civilization. A more secure and prosperous Africa and Asia is in the interests of China, the West and the world at large. ^ top ^

Asian-African summit concludes with adoption of 3 documents, focuses on NAASP (Global Times)
2015-04-24
Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Thursday declared the conclusion the two-day Asian-African summit which adopted three important outcome documents. The summit promised to reinvigorate the New Asian African Strategic Partnership (NAASP). "We have successfully adopted three important outcome documents: the Bandung Message, the Declaration on Reinvigorating the New Asian African Strategic Partnership (NAASP) and the Declaration on Palestine," said Widodo on the closing ceremony of the summit. Leaders from Asian and African countries pledged to strengthen cooperation within the framework of the NAASP as a platform, serving as the bridge that links Asian and African countries, said Widodo. "Common challenges could be overcome by closer South-South cooperation and triangular cooperation," said Joko. Co-chairman of the summit Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe said that Asian and African countries will pursue a fair multilateral trading system to contribute to growth, investment and job opportunities, as well as promotes sustainable development. He mentioned that the summit recognizes the centrality of the maritime sector as well as the strategic importance of the Indian Ocean in bridging the economic development in Asia and Africa. "Maritime cooperation will become one of the pillars of the New Asian African Strategic Partnership," he said. The leaders have agreed to reinvigorate the core ideas of the South-South movement, namely prosperity, solidarity and stability of the Asian and African nations, said Mugabe, adding "We agreed to foster trade and investment as the engine for growth." The Indonesian president said that leaders and delegates from Asian and African countries worked hard to produce concrete steps in ensuring the financial availability for infrastructure development, among others, through the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. "I will work hard with all of you to ensure the materialization of the Strategic Partnership," said Widodo. Telling reporters at the end of the two-day meeting, the Indonesian president emphasized the importance of strengthening South-South Cooperation through initiatives and programs of capacity development as well as technical cooperation. "As I have said that countries located around equator have central role to strengthen this cooperation," he said. Bandung Spirit is still relevant due to the world is still imbalance, far from fairness and peace, said Widodo. The leaders have decided on the follow-up of the Asian-African conference to reinvigorate the NAASP, he said. They have agreed that such commemorative conference will be organized every 10 years, and biennial ministerial consultations at the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York will be held to provide strategic direction for Asian-African partnership, he told reporters. The leaders agreed to consolidate the institutionalized process of the NAASP by rotating the cochairmanship of NAASP every four years as stipulated in the NAASP Declaration 2005, said Widodo. The Asian and African countries promised to strengthen people- to-people interaction, particularly in business, academia, media, youth and sports as well as society. The leaders also agreed to declare April 24 as Asia-Africa Day and Bandung as the capital city of solidarity of Asia-Africa. The two-day summit was held under the theme "Strengthening South-South Cooperation to Promote World Peace and Prosperity". ^ top ^

Algerian PM to make historic China visit (Global Times)
2015-04-24
Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal will next week become the first Algerian head of government to visit China since the north African country won independence in 1962, China's Foreign Ministry announced on Thursday. Sellal will be in China from Tuesday to Friday for a visit to which "China and Algeria attach great importance," spokesman Hong Lei said. President Xi Jinping will meet with Sellal, and Premier Li Keqiang will have talks with him. Both sides will exchange views on strengthening bilateral partnership as well as on international and regional issues, Hong said at a daily news briefing. Following Beijing, Sellal will also visit Shanghai. Hong hailed Algeria's contribution in helping China resume its legitimate seat at the United Nations in 1971. China was a founding member of the United Nations. However, after the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC), its seat was occupied by Taiwanese authorities backed by the United States. The UN General Assembly eventually passed a resolution, sponsored by Algeria and 22 other countries, to restore the rights of the PRC and expel Taiwan. Hong said China-Algeria relations have developed rapidly in recent years, witnessing increased political trust, fruitful practical cooperation and close coordination in international affairs. China and Algeria announced a "comprehensive strategic partnership" in February 2014. Chinese top political adviser Yu Zhengsheng paid an official visit to Algeria in November. ^ top ^

China, Cambodia pledge closer cooperation under Belt and Road framework (Global Times)
2015-04-24
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen agreed here Thursday to boost bilateral cooperation under the framework of Beijing's Belt and Road initiatives. "Currently, bilateral relations are blessed with vital opportunities," Xi said in a meeting with Hun Sen held on the sidelines of an ongoing Asian-African summit. China, Xi added, "will firmly advance comprehensive strategic cooperation with Cambodia and firmly support Cambodia's efforts to maintain stability and development." On top of promoting collaboration in traditional areas, Xi suggested, the two countries boost cooperation in infrastructure interconnectivity under the framework of the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiatives and maintain proper operation of the Sihanoukville Port Special Economic Zone. Beijing will continue offering assistance within its capacity for Cambodia's socioeconomic development, and actively consider beefing up bilateral cooperation in public health, disaster relief and other sectors, said the president. Meanwhile, the Chinese leader also called for continued frequent high-level contact and deeper inter-party and closer people-to-people exchanges between the two countries. China is ready to host another Cambodian youth delegation this year, and will continue to provide scholarships for Cambodian students intent on pursuing education in China, Xi added. Zooming out to the regional scale, Xi said Beijing is willing to strengthen dialogue and cooperation with ASEAN members and the countries along the Mekong River, and supports the construction of the ASEAN community. In the meeting, Xi also recalled the first meeting between late Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai and late Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk at the 1955 Bandung Conference, which opened a new chapter in the history of bilateral friendship. Xi added that it is thus of particular significance that he and Hun Sen are both here in Indonesia for the Asian-African Summit 2015 and commemorative activities for the 60th anniversary of the Bandung Conference. "We should further cement the China-Cambodia friendship so as to bring more benefits to the two peoples," stressed the Chinese president. For his part, Hun Sen said the Cambodian side stands ready to continue working with China to carry forward the traditional bilateral friendship jointly forged and nurtured by the older generations of the two countries' leaders. Expressing his country's willingness to push forward reciprocal cooperation with China in socioeconomic development areas, the prime minister said Cambodia also is ready to cooperate with China under the Belt and Road framework. Cambodia, he added, hopes that bilateral cooperation under the China-proposed initiatives will boost its construction of water and aerial transport infrastructure and extend to such areas as health care, agriculture and disaster relief. He also pledged to maintain communication and coordination with China on regional and global issues of common concern and support the dialogue and cooperation between ASEAN and China. ^ top ^

Draft law outlines NGO requirements (China Daily)
2015-04-24
Legislators are mulling a draft law that would set dos and don'ts for foreign non-governmental organizations in China. The proposed law represents a big change to a draft that legislators looked at during a first reading four months ago that banned NGOs or their representative offices in China from setting up branches in the country. The draft that was given a second reading at the bimonthly meeting of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress on Thursday allows NGOs to open branches in the country with the permission of the State Council. The change was made "in light of the Chinese government's positive attitude toward some international NGOs", an explanation text of the draft said. "Foreign NGOs and their representative offices are not allowed to establish branches in China unless the State Council gives them special policies," the revised provision said. The draft is not the final version of the proposed law. Under legislative procedures, the draft will be revised and taken to the third reading, followed by a vote of the Standing Committee of the NPC. Once the draft law is approved, NGOs outside the Chinese mainland will have to register with and be approved by Chinese authorities if they want to set up representative offices on the mainland or temporarily operate on the mainland. The draft law allows foreign NGOs to hold temporary events in China, requiring them to apply to relevant departments or commission their Chinese partners to apply for permission. Dong Zhongyuan, a member of the Standing Committee of the NPC, said the draft law should add some details to the items concerning approval procedures, such as setting a time limit and requiring authorities to give reasons if they reject an application. Yang Wei, a deputy to the NPC, said some provisions of the draft law are not clear and should be explained in a more precise way. He suggested that the punishment for NGOs that provide false application materials should be specified. A draft law on national security was also discussed among lawmakers on Thursday. The law was tabled for its second reading before the Standing Committee of the NPC. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

China launches campaign to improve official conduct (Global Times)
2015-04-19
China's central authority is about to launch a campaign to improve the conduct of officials at county-level and above. A plan issued recently by the General Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) said the education campaign will be launched at the end of this month focusing on the "three strictness" and three solidness". "Three strictness" refers to being strict in cultivating one's morals, using power and disciplining oneself, while "three solidness" means solid planning, working and behaving. The campaign will especially address abuses of power and disloyalty to the Party. Central authorities including the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, Party committees in the top legislature, the State Council and top advisory body are expected to take the lead in the campaign. ^ top ^

Report finds mixed progress on treatment of female inmates in China (Global Times)
2015-04-19
A recent report by a team of Renmin University of China researchers on female detainees and inmates in China's jails has found that, although China compares well internationally in some respects, gender differences are often neglected, with provisions for conjugal and family visits the most notable problem. The report, which used the Bangkok Rules, the United Nations' standards for the treatment of women prisoners as a reference, was based on a survey of 458 female inmates combined with interviews and on-site inspections at two prisons and three detention centers between 2013 and 2014. Pregnancy arrangements: The report found that there are a few areas in which China's detention centers and prisons have performed well. For example, women who are pregnant are not placed under detention or forced to serve prison sentences. According to China's Criminal Procedure Law, female criminal suspects or defendants are allowed to obtain a guarantor pending trial or be placed under residential surveillance if they are pregnant or breast-feeding their own baby. If a criminal is pregnant, courts typically suspend execution of a sentence, or permit her to temporarily serve her sentence outside prison. "Our research found that the treatment of pregnant detainees and inmates in China is particularly outstanding. Some countries place pregnant women under custody or allow babies to live with their mothers in prison, something which is deeply unhealthy for a developing child," Cheng Lei, the associate law professor at the Renmin University of China who led the study, told the Global Times. "Female detainees are required to undergo pregnancy tests before they arrive at a detention center. After they entered the center, staff arrange another pregnancy check and must report to authorities if a pregnancy is discovered," said a policeman working at one of the detention centers investigated in the report. Since 2009, China has also established women's detention centers or cell blocks to reduce female prisoners' risk of sexual assault or harassment. Right to sex : However, the report found that female detainees and prisoners in China have difficulty in exercising their right to sex. Although conjugal visits of between 12 and 24 hours were frequently permitted in the late 1990s, some prisons began to stop the practice due to controversies and difficulties during the visits. "There are to date no clear regulations allowing conjugal visits," Cheng said. "And there are difficulties in implementing such visits, because of issues with visitor safety and pregnancy." Also, despite increasing awareness of inmates' rights to marriage, many could not obtain a marriage certificate because of a 2004 Ministry of Civil Affairs ruling that inmates must personally apply for the certificate at a marriage registration office. "For security reasons, prisons generally do not want to take the risk of transporting inmates to the registration office, while staff at the registration office are not willing to travel to the prison," Cheng said. "The right to marriage is limited." Wang Ping, a professor with the China University of Political Science and Law, however pointed out that prisons and detention centers have the right to exercise discretion in such cases as necessary. The role of family : Apart from the rights to sex and marriage, the study found that the notion of gender difference is generally neglected in both prisons and detention centers. For example, surveillance cameras are installed in prisons and detention centers, covering all areas including bathrooms and toilets. Cheng describes the practice as a serious violation of privacy. "During the detention period, I felt my dignity was offended. There were cameras everywhere, and I knew I was filmed when I was using toilets. I had to change my clothes in bed to avoid being watched," a woman surnamed Lu, who was detained twice in 2013 and 2014, respectively, told the Global Times. In one of the detention centers investigated, researchers found that footage of both female and male cells were viewed by male staff in the center's control room, putting female detainees' privacy at risk. Also, the distinct family role of female offenders was neglected. "In Chinese society, women are vital to the stability of family. If they are jailed, their family could be fractured," Cheng said, adding that women's emotions are closely linked to their family. "In several cases, the husbands of the female inmates requested a divorce, with custody of the children going to the father because the mothers were criminals. As a result, some inmates have a poor relationship with their children, leaving many with little motivation to improve themselves while in jail," Cheng noted. In December 2014, a woman surnamed Wang in Chongqing was arrested during drug dealing, according to cq.qq.com, a news website run by Tencent and the Chongqing Economic Times. Her 6-year-old son, who suffers from a congenital heart disease, was left alone without a guardian as his parents had divorced two years ago. The child was eventually placed under the care of local police and was passed to his father after two weeks. Early in 2003, a 3-year-old child in Chengdu who was locked in a bedroom was starved to death at home after her mother was arrested for drug abuse, people.cn reported. Cheng suggests increasing the length and frequency of female inmates' contact with their families, which currently stands at just five minute by phone a month. Female inmates should also be allowed to serve their sentences near their family residence, making it easier to care for their children. Many prisons are located far from cities, making family visits inconvenient, and impeding normal mother-child relationships, Cheng said. "In principle, China's Prison Law is in line with the international standards, but [the applicable] law and regulations could be refined," Wang said, adding that there are only 78 articles in the Prison Law, and that more could be added to optimize the law. Cheng also said the quality of inmates' treatment is inversely proportional to the recidivism rate. "Improving the treatment of female detainees and inmates is good for all of society," Cheng said, adding, "Treating male and female inmates the same is not equality. True equality is arranging appropriate treatment that takes into account differences between men and women." ^ top ^

Sichuan official prosecuted (Global Times)
2015-04-20
Li Chongxi, former top political advisor in Sichuan Province, has been prosecuted for taking bribes, the Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP) announced Friday. The people's procuratorate of Nanchang, in Jiangxi Province, filed charges with the city's intermediate people's court, according to the SPP. Prosecutors believe Li, former chairman of Sichuan provincial committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, took advantage of his various posts to seek profit for others and illegally accepted huge amounts of money and property. Li will be charged with the crime of taking bribes. Prosecutors announced investigation into Li's case in September 2014, when Li was removed from his post and was expelled from the Party. ^ top ^

Chinese women's rights activist more determined after lock-up (SCMP)
2015-04-20
The most prominent of five recently released mainland women's rights activists feels her dedication to the cause has grown stronger after spending 37 days in detention with interrogators who blew smoke onto her face and insulted her sexual orientation, her partner and lawyer said. Li Tingting, 25, an openly lesbian campaigner for women's issues, has been at the centre of an international outcry over China's detention of activists. Her partner, who gave only her English name, Teresa, relayed comments from Li for the first time since the activist's conditional release from a Beijing jail last Monday. Teresa spoke in the presence of Li's lawyer Wang Yu, who confirmed Li's comments. "'Feminism is my soul'," Teresa quoted Li as saying. "'I thought a lot and came to believe what I do cannot be wrong. My belief is firmer. Feminism will surely be inseparable from me'." Li and four other women, ranging in age from 25 to 32, were detained in a criminal investigation for their plans to hand out stickers and fliers denouncing sexual harassment, in a case reflecting the central leadership's deep distrust of any efforts to organise civil action in a group outside the ruling Communist Party's control. Known for colourful, high-profile protests - from "potty parity" sit-ins to street theatre denouncing spousal abuse - the five women drew what has been, for recent years, an unusual amount of attention overseas. Foreign governments, rights groups and others, including US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton criticised the arrests as an overreaction by a repressive Chinese government, and urged Chinese authorities to drop the investigations. The five were released, but remain under investigation and have been told not to travel outside their home cities or meet journalists. Associated Press reporters travelled to Li's home village of Hongtongying, a community among wheat fields and willow trees on Beijing's outskirts, but were trailed by unidentified vehicles. In a nearby town centre, the journalists were able to see Li with Teresa as they walked arm-in-arm from a tea house to a hospital, but could not interview Li. Her friend and the lawyer said Li would abide by state security officials' demands that she grant no interviews. They also released a written statement by Li, in which she pleaded innocence. "What I have done does not provoke trouble, but is mild advocacy that does not amount to any crime," Li wrote. "I demand police dismiss the case immediately, remove coercive restrictions on me and return innocence to me." The lawyer said the demand that Li hold no interviews had no basis under mainland law. "The activism by Li Tingting not only complies with Chinese law, but should be lauded because she is promoting the law," Wang said, referring to the country's policy and declarations championing equal rights for women. "She should not have been treated so illegally by authorities. For a young woman who is able to do what she's done, I think she should be considered a hope for China," Wang said. Li would need some time to readjust but had been in good spirits despite her ordeal, Teresa and the lawyer said. In the statement, Li said she was deprived of sleep and had cigarette smoke blown in her face while she was restrained in an iron chair. "It made my nostrils and eyes dry and uncomfortable," Li wrote. "I could not move and felt my dignity was greatly insulted." Interrogators shone strong light into her eyes and repeatedly called her homosexuality "sickening" and "shameless", Li wrote. Wang said the acts by interrogators amounted to torture. ^ top ^

China's national security law to address 'harmful moral standards' (SCMP)
2015-04-21
The mainland legislature's top body has reviewed a new national security law that would deal with a range of risks, including "harmful moral standards", state media said yesterday. The sweeping law underwent its second reading during a session of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, a group with about 200 members led by the third-ranking member of the ruling Communist Party, the official Xinhua news agency reported. The news agency said the draft law included clauses that dealt with "important industries and sectors deemed vital to the economy, which would prevent financial risks through the development of financial infrastructure and capabilities, and a grain security system". It also deals with the establishment of "systems for cyber and information security". President Xi Jinping, who heads a newly established national security commission, has said security covered areas including politics, culture, the military, the economy, technology and the environment. "The draft law called for reinforced education and dissemination of socialist core values, to prevent the infiltration of harmful moral standards," Xinhua said, without elaborating. The mainland already has broad laws governing security, and it is not clear to what extent the new law would enhance previous powers. Last November, the country renamed its first national security law, which took effect in 1993, as the Counterespionage Law. The NPC Standing Committee, which has the power to pass most legislation, typically meets every two months. Laws are often adopted after three readings. The body is reviewing a series of controversial laws, including one on non-governmental organisations and a draft anti-terrorism law that has raised the hackles of foreign companies and governments. ^ top ^

China rolls out new rules for foreign investment in free-trade zones (SCMP)
2015-04-21
The central government on Monday unveiled a series of policies, including its long-awaited list of restricted areas for foreign investment, for the nation's free-trade zones, ahead of today's launch of three new zones. People's Daily said the government would officially launch new free-trade zones in Guangdong, Fujian and Tianjin on Tuesday. The Shanghai FTZ was opened in September 2013. The State Council also unveiled master plans for each of the three new FTZs and a plan to expand the Shanghai zone. Meanwhile, a powerful central task force led by Vice-Premier Wang Yang would be set up to coordinate work on the four zones, assistant commerce minister Wang Shouwen said. The so-called Inter-ministries Joint Conference will comprise officials from about 30 central ministries and agencies. A unified "negative list" will apply to all four zones, suggesting that they will operate under the same rules and policies. Lu Hongjun, from the Shanghai Institute of International Finance, said the unified policy would allow each zone to develop their own profile, even though they will compete for foreign investment. "Shanghai will focus on finance and services, Guangdong will concentrate on economic integration with Hong Kong and Macau, and Fujian will develop its economic ties with Taiwan," Lu said. Within the Guangdong zone, Qianhai in Shenzhen would focus on cooperation with Hong Kong on finance and services; Hengqin in Zhuhai will mainly cover tourism and commerce in cooperation with Macau; while Nansha in Guangzhou will specialise in port facilities and manufacturing. The State Council's negative list comprises 122 areas that are off limits to foreign investment. That is down from the 139 put in place for Shanghai zone and includes sectors such as publishing, news and banking. The existing 49 per cent foreign investment cap will continue in some areas, such as securities joint ventures and asset management. Other restrictions will continue to apply to areas such as public transport and air and sea cargo operations. The government said the negative list - which allows investment in any area not specified - was to free up investment for domestic and foreign players. Many foreign investors were initially disappointed by the long list of restricted investments rolled out for Shanghai when that zone was set up, because they were hoping to see a greater relaxation of investment curbs. President Xi Jinping said the experience of the Shanghai FTZ should be replicated elsewhere "as soon as possible". ^ top ^

Foreign firms in FTZs to face security checks in critical areas (Global Times)
2015-04-21
China will conduct security inspections of foreign investment that potentially affects national security in the country's four free trade zones (FTZs), the State Council said Monday, signaling China's efforts to further open up to foreign investment while preserving national security. The inspections will be applied to foreign investment in the arms industry or near key or sensitive military facilities in the FTZs, the State Council said in a statement released Monday. Foreign investors in the FTZs will also be inspected if they invest in key agricultural, energy, infrastructure, transportation, cultural, telecom and equipment manufacturing enterprises that involve national security, only if foreigners have a controlling stake in these enterprises, the statement said. The inspections will touch on the foreign investments' effect on China's defense, economic stability, social order, cultural security, Internet security and key technology research and development, according to the statement. "National security inspections have already been implemented in the Shanghai FTZ, but the measure's announcement makes the process more transparent to foreign investors and reflects China's efforts to advance the rule of law," Chen Bo, a professor at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, told the Global Times Monday. The country's first FTZ was launched in Shanghai in September 2013. The other three newly approved FTZs in Fujian and Guangdong provinces and Tianjin are scheduled to be officially launched on Tuesday. "As China adopts a negative list approach to foreign investment in the FTZs, it is necessary to maintain the country's national security by rolling out the measure," Bai Ming, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, told the Global Times Monday. "Other countries such as the US also conduct similar security inspections on foreign investment that concerns national security, so the newly released measure is consistent with international practices," Bai said. The negative list means foreign companies can invest without any restrictions in any sector not on the list. It was piloted in the Shanghai FTZ in 2013. The State Council on Monday released an updated negative list that will be applied to foreign investment in the four FTZs. "The new list includes 122 items, down from 139 that have been adopted in the Shanghai FTZ," Wang Shouwen, assistant minister of commerce, said at a press conference in Beijing on Monday. It is the second time the negative list has been shortened. In June 2014, the negative list in the Shanghai FTZ was reduced to 139 from 190 items when it was first introduced in 2013. "The Shanghai FTZ has so far attracted more than 3,000 foreign enterprises, and about 90 percent of them did not go through administrative approvals thanks to the negative list approach, Wang said. The shortened negative list signals China's greater opening-up and transparency to foreign investment, he added. The four FTZs' roles were also announced on Monday. The Guangdong FTZ hopes to promote deeper economic integration with neighboring Hong Kong. The Tianjin FTZ will work towards the integration of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region. The Fujian FTZ will serve cross-Straits economic cooperation with Taiwan, and the Shanghai FTZ's primary role is to promote trade and investment as well as the yuan's full convertibility. ^ top ^

Nine passengers hurt in rush-hour subway stampede in Shenzhen (SCMP)
2015-04-21
A rush-hour stampede in a Chinese subway – sparked when one person reportedly fainted while stepping from a train – left nine passengers injured on Monday morning, Shenzhen Evening News reports. Those hurt suffered only slight injuries after being pushed and stepped on in the chaos at Shenzhen Metro's Huangbeiling Station, in Guangdong province, at about 8.30am, the municipal subway operator said. The situation had quickly become chaotic because it was the rush hour and a large number of people had been waiting on the platform to board the next train, the authorities said. Debris, including bags, shoes, half-eaten food and mobile phones were left lying on the ground after the crush had eased and the platform had been cleared of passengers, the newspaper reported. The stampede started as passengers began leaving a subway train that had just arrived on Line 5. The newspaper reported that it was still unclear exactly had caused the chaos, but it appeared that it was triggered after a passenger collapsed while leaving the train that had just arrived. A female passenger, writing later on her social media website, said the screams of a woman had sparked the stampede as hundreds of people suddenly started to run towards her like a “flood”. The woman added in her blog that she felt lucky not to have been injured in the stampede, which reportedly lasted for about two minutes. “Then the situation became less chaotic and the next train arrived,” she said. “When I got on the train I saw a lady of about 50 looking very pale, who was barefoot after losing her shoes and also her bag. It was very scary.” The newspaper reported that two security guards working near the scene, and a number of comments by bloggers had alleged that subway authorities had failed to deal with the problem appropriately. ^ top ^

7 dead, 17 still trapped in China mine flooding (Xinhua)
2015-04-21
Seven miners were found dead and 17 remained trapped underground a flooded coal mine in north China's Shanxi Province, rescuers said Monday. The bodies were retrieved at about 7 p.m. Monday when rescuers entered the shaft of the Jiangjiawan mine in Datong, a spokesman of the rescue headquarters told Xinhua. More than 600 rescuers are still working to reach the 17 trapped miners. Over 1,500 cubic meters of water has been pumped out. "Four pumps are working and the water level has dropped by 70 centimeters," a rescuer said. Rescuers are drilling holes in the ground to pump more water. A total of 247 people were working in the mine when the accident occurred at around 6:50 p.m. on Sunday. 223 people made it out safely. The coal mine, owned by Datong Coal Mine Group, has an annual production capacity of 900,000 tonnes. An initial investigation suggests the flooding was caused by water accumulated in a mined-out area of the colliery. The Datong Coal Mine Group has ordered all its small mines, many of which used to be privately owned and were later merged by the local mining giant, to suspend production to check for safety issues. ^ top ^

Air pollution 'improving' in Beijing, eastern Chinese cities, says Greenpeace (SCMP)
2015-04-21
Air pollution levels in some of China's smoggiest cities fell by nearly a third in the first quarter of this year, environmental campaign group Greenpeace said. But pollution levels remain a major public health threat, linked to thousands of early deaths, and the group said they continue to increase in other parts of the country. In Beijing, levels of PM2.5, airborne particulates with a diameter small enough to deeply penetrate the lungs, fell about 13 per cent in the first three months of 2015 compared to the same period a year earlier, Greenpeace said. The organisation collated data released by China's environmental protection ministry, which makes live figures available, but does not publish full historic or comparative statistics. The main drivers were “the government's strict measures to control air pollution, which have drastically reduced pollution from heavy industry in places like Hebei and Beijing”, Zhang Kai, Greenpeace East Asia Climate and Energy Campaigner, said. Among the 74 cities that have monitored air pollution for more than a year, some saw decreases of as much as 48 per cent. Hebei province, which surrounds Beijing and contributes to much of the pollution seen in the capital, saw PM2.5 levels plunge by 31 per cent. “Our expectations for the immediate future is that PM2.5 concentrations in coastal cities will continually improve thanks to measures that the government has put in place to control pollution,” Zhang said. China's cities are often hit by heavy pollution, blamed on coal-burning by power stations and industry, as well as vehicle use. The issue has become a major source of popular discontent with the Communist Party leading the government to vow to reduce the proportion of energy derived from fossil fuels. Kai warned that elsewhere, there were “ever-increasing PM2.5 concentrations in cities in China's central and western provinces, where such measures do not yet exist”. Despite drops in pollution levels in some areas, about 90 per cent of 360 cities now tracked by Greenpeace exceeded government limits on yearly particulate averages. Shanghai, China's financial hub, saw roughly a 13 per cent increase in PM2.5 levels. Premier Li Keqiang said last month that the country was falling short of its people's expectations in battling smog after a popular documentary drew attention to dismal air pollution levels. ^ top ^

Jailed Chinese journalist appeals against 'shameless' sentencing (SCMP)
2015-04-22
Gao Yu, the 71-year-old mainland journalist jailed for seven years last week for allegedly leaking state secrets, has criticised her sentencing as "shameless" and an affront to legal justice, her lawyer said yesterday. Lawyer Shang Baojun visited her at a Beijing detention centre yesterday and learned that she had filed an appeal against the Beijing No 3 Intermediate Court's verdict on Friday that she had "illegally provided overseas personnel with state secrets". "From the points of view of evidence, conviction and the length of the sentence, the verdict was an affront to legal justice," her appeal said. Shang said the appeal document provided by the detention centre allowed enough space for only one sentence from defendants. "She said she had received jail sentences before and felt those were shameless enough - but the level of shamelessness of her latest sentence was beyond her imagination," Shang said. Gao has served jail terms totalling seven years for her writing. Shang said the case against Gao lacked evidence, apart from her confession on state television last May, which she had been coerced into making because of threats against her son. He was initially detained along with her but was later released on bail. Gao's other lawyer, Mo Shaoping, said earlier that the prosecution produced no evidence to support its allegations that Gao used Skype software to send an internal Communist Party circular called Document No 9 to the US-based news website Mingjing in July, 2013, but the court still accepted it as truth. Mo also said the document, which ordered cadres to tackle seven subversive influences on society, including "Western constitutional democracy" and "universal values" such as human rights and free speech, could not be seen as a "state secret". Shang said Gao was in relatively good spirits and was strong, as she had always been. He said she planned to spend her jail time reading books. She also asked her lawyer to relay her gratitude to her supporters, in particular Ding Zilin, who lost her teenage son in the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989, Bao Tong, a former senior official purged after the event, and detained rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang. Gao's sentence was widely condemned as another move to muzzle dissent in the crackdown on government critics. Gao has been detained since April 24 last year and pleaded innocent at her trial in November. She suffers from heart disease, high blood pressure, chronic back pain and a severe skin allergy. ^ top ^

Two sentenced to death for drug trafficking in NW China (China Daily)
2015-04-22
Two people were sentenced to death in the northwest province of Shaanxi on Monday for trafficking and selling narcotics, while three others received the death sentence with reprieve, said local authorities. The Intermediate People's Court in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi, heard that Song Nanyan hired Chen Jin to transport 7.96 kilograms of methamphetamine from the southern province of Guangdong to Xi'an. They also found 1.17 kilograms of Ketamine in Song's hotel room. The court sentenced Song to death, while it ruled Chen should be sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve. In a separate case, Wang Hui was found guilty of trafficking and selling 1.44 kilograms of methamphetamine and received the death penalty. Two accessory offenders, Zhang Le and Zhang Zheng, were sentenced to death with reprieve. ^ top ^

Solar Impulse 2 lands in Nanjing (China Daily)
2015-04-23
The Swiss pilots and maintenance team of Solar Impulse 2, the world's most advanced solar-powered airplane, will attend a series of exchange and promotional activities to advocate energy-efficient technologies after landing in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, on Tuesday night. In its second stop in China and the sixth stop on the round-the-world adventure, the team and the two pilots, Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, will visit schools where they will meet and talk with Chinese students. The plane took off from Chongqing metropolitan, where it stayed for about three weeks and delayed taking off several times due to weather conditions. Piccard, who controlled the flight to Nanjing, said that compared with his work as a pilot, the work of weather specialists and engineers turned out to be more challenging. "We simulated all possible trajectories and exhausted all different strategies to get Solar Impulse 2 in the air, from defining pit-stops at airports along the route, to trying different speeds, altitudes and holding patterns." Piccard was busy during the 17-hour flight to Nanjing; he had food, took pictures and received satellite interviews. But he was sleepless because the thick clouds he encountered along the way required intense concentration. "Throughout the entire process, the Chinese authorities have been unfailingly helpful and open to our ideas," said Piccard. "We are amazed by the spirit of our team and the willingness of our partners to help us achieve our goal." Co-pilot Borschberg, who has returned to Switzerland to treat migraine symptoms and a minor skin condition, commented that the Nanjing stop will be essential for the whole trip as the plane will be preparing to cross the Pacific Ocean and equipment needs to be checked before it does so. Borschberg will come to Nanjing later this week to prepare for the next leg to Hawaii, which is scheduled for early May. The 8,172-kilometer journey over the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii will take the plane five consecutive days and nights. After landing in the United States, the plane will stop in either North Africa or Southern Europe before returning to Abu Dhabi to complete its 12-leg world adventure. The adventure is scheduled to take five months starting from March 9. Powered by 17,248 solar cells installed on its wings, the plane can fly day and night without fuel. The single-seater aircraft, which is made from carbon fiber and weighs only as much as a car, needs two pilots to take turns to fly. During a previous interview with China Daily, the pilots said that what they want to promote is not the use of renewable energy, but the importance of using more energy-efficient technologies. To welcome the aircraft, the Nanjing Lukou International Airport has established a 3,200-square meter hangar and set aside an area of 30,000 square meters to the east of the runway for it to "sunbathe" in fine weather. The hotel where the team is staying has also prepared local Nanjing specialties and various kinds of cheese, sausages and desserts for the Swiss guests. ^ top ^

China's graft-busters release list of 100 wanted fugitives in Operation Sky Net (SCMP)
2015-04-23
Beijing's anti-graft watchdog on Wednesday released a detailed list of 100 fugitives it wants to extradite back to China as part of its “Sky Net” anti-graft operation. The fugitives are subject to Interpol red notices, which appeal for the location and arrest of each wanted person, and ask member states to extradite them. However, international law experts warned of complicated legal procedures due to a lack of extradition treaties between China and the nations where the fugitives are hiding. The list published by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection has far more detailed information than that released by Interpol. It includes a photo of each fugitive, their gender, former positions of employment, mainland personal identification number, passport details, date of fleeing and the nations they are suspected of escaping to. It also describes their alleged crimes. The CCDI said the names on the list were only a fraction of those targeted in its global hunt. “Implementing Sky Net's strategic operation, the Interpol National Central Bureau for China has issued red notices for a list of 100 civil servants and other alleged criminals wanted for corruption,” the CCDI said on its website. One of the fugitives on the list is Cheng Muyang, a former manager at a Beijing-based advertising company and a Hong Kong company director with a permanent Hong Kong identity card. He fled to Canada in August 2000. Mainland website Thepaper.cn said that Cheng was the son of late Hebei provincial party secretary Cheng Weigao. Forty of the fugitives fled to the United States, 26 to Canada and five to Hong Kong; the rest went to New Zealand, Australia, Thailand and Singapore. Nearly half of them were heads of government departments or corporations. Others were policemen, accountants, corporate treasurers and bank staff. Many held more than one personal Chinese ID card and had multiple passports. The list includes fugitives who fled from 1996 to 2014, with most having taken flight between 2011 and 2013 and from 2001 to 2002. Most are accused of bribery, corruption and embezzlement. Most come from rich coastal provinces such as Guangdong, Zhejiang and Jiangsu. President Xi Jinping launched a massive anti-corruption campaign after coming to power in 2013. Sky Net's predecessor, “Operation Fox Hunt”, netted 680 officials last year. Professor Michael Davis, an international law expert with the University of Hong Kong, said the release of the list was more a public relations message than an attempt to expedite extraditions. He said even in cases where the fugitive was in a country that had an extradition treaty with China, bringing anybody back could be a long process due to other countries' concerns over China's use of the death penalty, and foreign lawyers being able to mount lengthy challenges. Hong Kong lawmaker James To Kun-sun said the Hong Kong government had no legal basis to arrest anyone on the list. Permanent residents could not be transferred due to the lack of an extradition agreement, and Hong Kong was “very unlikely” to intervene in the case of a non-permanent resident, he said. Renmin University political analyst Zhang Ming said the scope of the details would be intimidating for those planning to escape. ^ top ^

China's cybersecurity rules could backfire (SCMP)
2015-04-23
China can ensure its information security in the long run only if it keeps its market open to the best technology products, be they foreign or domestic, Huawei's chief executive Eric Xu says. Xu's remarks on Tuesday were a rare example of a top Chinese CEO openly questioning the direction of Beijing's information security policy, already a source of concern for countries that fear it will limit opportunities for their technology firms. In recent months mainland leaders have advanced, albeit fitfully, several technology "localisation" measures to minimise the threat of foreign cyberspying, by encouraging or requiring the use of domestic products in important systems. But such policies could hamper free competition and innovation in Chinese industry and undermine Chinese security in the long term, Xu said on the sidelines of Huawei's annual global analyst summit in Shenzhen. "If we're not open, if we don't bring in the world's best technology, we'll never have true information security," Xu said, comparing the country's corporate computing industry to primary school students competing against foreign rivals at university level. "Even if you localise, make your own CPUs [central processing units], make your own operating systems, make your own database software, it would still be at a grade-school level, with your security measures transparent to the college students," Xu said. "The only way you can answer the security problem is to keep improving your technology." A spokesman for the national internet regulator said localisation would not influence the competitiveness of the domestic technology industry, and the policy would continue to be pushed forward. "There's not at all a conflict between network security examinations and an open market," the Cyberspace Administration spokesman said. Although Huawei would gain more contracts if foreign products were kept out, Xu said, the overall quality of technology used in the country could drop. "From China's perspective, to determine whether this is a good thing or bad thing we have to look at whether the market has healthy competition," he said. "Is this good money replacing bad money or bad money replacing good money?" ^ top ^

Chinese police rescue 64 trafficked babies (Global Times)
2015-04-23
Chinese police have rescued 64 trafficked babies in raids on six trafficking gangs, the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) said on Wednesday. The MPS planned the raids since the end of last year, and coordinated its local functionaries in Hebei, Shanxi, Shandong, Henan, Sichuan and Shaanxi provinces to crush the gangs. Over 170 suspects were apprehended. Instead of trafficking babies to another province, some traffickers take pregnant women to point-of-sale and sell their newborns there, the MPS noted. The MPS has vowed to stop such business on both supply and demand sides. ^ top ^

Hunan kicks out mayor for drug use (Global Times)
2015-04-23
The mayor of Linxiang, Central China's Hunan Province has been sacked over alleged drug use, local authorities announced on Wednesday. Gong Weiguo was tested positive for drugs, the Xinhua News Agency reported. The announcement came after local authorities and a Hunan disciplinary inspection team received information on Gong's alleged drug use. Gong, who is confined in a hospital in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, has admitted taking drugs, Xinhua reported. Hunan police have gone to Guangzhou to investigate the case. He previously claimed he needed treatment for depression and submitted his resignation on April 7. He also said he had filed a hospitalization application to higher authorities in Hunan. Local authorities also dismissed allegations that claimed Gong personally called the police when he began to hear voices after using drugs. ^ top ^

Impact of indoor PM2.5 level potentially greater (Global Times)
2015-04-23
People are at a higher risk from PM2.5 exposure indoors than outdoors, with indoor impact four times that of outdoors, according to the latest study released on Wednesday. This is the first indoor PM2.5 level research in China. It was conducted by the department of electronic engineering and Center for Building Environment Test of Tsinghua University and the Southern Weekly, by setting up PM2.5 sensors in 407 homes in 13 regions across Beijing and monitoring data from November 2014 to January 2015. The study showed that the concentration of PM2.5 particles indoors is 30 percent lower on average than outdoors. The indoor PM2.5 concentration is 82.6 micrograms per cubic meter on average, which is slightly higher than the pollution upper limit of 75. "Since we normally spend over 80 percent of a day indoors, the impact of air quality indoors is much greater to our body than when we are outdoors. This means we should pay more attention to indoor air quality and should not only focus on the air quality index," Zhang Lin, associate professor of the electronic engineering department of Tsinghua University who led the research, told the Global Times Wednesday. The study likewise found that the PM2.5 level decreases the further one is from the ground and main roads, and the air quality is at its best from the 17th storey and up or when the building is at least 500 meters away from the main roads. Air purifiers and air conditioners also improve PM2.5 levels, the research found, as the ratio of PM2.5 level indoors to that of outdoors would drop to 0.5 from 0.7. The PM2.5 level in offices is also slightly better than that of homes. "Activities such as cooking, smoking and cleaning are factors that affect the PM2.5 level indoors," Zhang said. The research team will meet with medical experts and will look at the link between PM2.5 and human health by studying more data. ^ top ^

Race to the top: China's business elite take a run at the marathon (SCMP)
2015-04-24
Shen Le is determined to conquer the marathon, a goal that he sees not just as a physical challenge but a test of the mind. “I was never any good at distance running,” said Shen, the 31-year-old head of Shoyoo, a mobile game company based in Ningbo in Zhejiang province. “But running a marathon is a challenge, not just of my physical ability, but, more importantly, my will.” Shen is part of a growing field of businesspeople from the China's wealthier ranks taking a run at the 42km race, which is often described as the summit of a runner's achievements. Among them are Soho China property developers Zhang Xin and her husband Pan Shiyi, who crossed the finish line of the Paris marathon on April 12. Other leaders of the pack include Mao Daqing, former vice-president of Vanke Group, the mainland's biggest real estate developer. Mao founded a group in October to promote the marathon to high-flyers in real estate and finance, and has already enlisted more than 20 top executives to his club. In an interview with the Chongqing Morning Post in late March, Mao, a veteran of 22 marathons, said running the races made him “stand higher, see farther, eliminate all distractions and start to seriously examine himself”. Shoyoo's Shen said the thought of running a marathon had not occurred to him before this year, and he initially just wanted to see why his friends were so excited about the challenge. But now it was much more than that. “Running a marathon is like running a company – sometimes it's extremely tough, and you want to stop and even give up,” Shen said. “But when you really start to work on it, it's not as hard as you imagined, and you find yourself closer to your goal with each step.” Shen said he planned to go even further and sign up for the annual three-day,120km race in the Gobi Desert, a challenge he was taking with his EMBA classmates. Interest in marathons is high among other EMBA students, with more than 700 executives from Asia's 20 business schools setting up a club early last year during the Xiamen International Marathon in Fujian province, People.com.cn reported. Wang Daqing, a veteran runner and general manager of E-Race Sports, said marathon running was like a tag for social elites. “[By running a marathon], they can show to people that they have the ability to manage their company as well as arrange time for training,” Wang said. “At the same time, rising health costs are reminding the middle class that being in good health is as important as their career.” There are an estimated 2 million recreational runners – excluding university students – on the mainland, and interest in the sport is so great that they are flooding events with applications. The Shanghai International Marathon drew more than 40,000 applications in four hours in November, and less than half of those runners – just 18,000 – were allowed at the starting line. The organisers of the Xiamen marathon were so overwhelmed by interest that they had to call off registrations one day after they started in November, with all 25,000 spots taken, the Xiamen Evening News reported. The Beijing International Marathon, which became the mainland's first international marathon in 1981, attracted so many applications last year – more than 60,000 – that the organisers had to set up a lottery system to halve the field. “It was like booking a ticket for the peak Lunar New Year travel season,” Beijing runner Wu Wenlong said. “I had three laptops working together just to secure a spot for the Beijing marathon, and I knew that many people went to internet cafes just to use the higher internet speed.” Competition is keen for the few spots in part because of the way the races are organised. As a part of the central government's efforts to streamline administration, the Chinese Athletic Association (CAA), which oversees all marathons in the country, announced earlier this year that local governments can now organise their own races without permission from the CAA. CAA vice-chairman Du Zhaocai said the change “would help to boost the popularity of marathons and other related sports on the mainland”. Fewer than 60 marathons were held in 2014, and the number is expected to more than double this year, in addition to those organised by non-government organisations and private companies, the athletics association says. ^ top ^

Vice Premier demands better water diversion project management (Xinhua)
2015-04-24
Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli has called for better management of the south-north water diversion project. The project is a glorious mission that must be accomplished, Zhang said during a two-day visit to Nanyang City of central China's Henan province. Local governments should attach great importance to water pollution control and environmental protection so that water stays clean, he said. There should be balanced use of different kinds of water and a habit of water conservation, he added. Zhang also emphasized relief for families that have to be relocated due to the project, noting the need to ensure their employment and welfare. ^ top ^

Former vice Party chief of Sichuan stands trial (Global Times)
2015-04-24
Former vice chief of Sichuan provincial committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Li Chuncheng, stood trial on Thursday in a court in Xianning City, central China's Hubei Province. The Xianning Municipal Intermediate People's Court held the public trial. Li, present in court with his defense counsel, was prosecuted for accepting bribes and abuse of power. Representatives of the procuratorate were present in court to support the public prosecution. In the morning session, a court investigation was held on "the facts of Li's accepting bribes and abuse of power," as well as the circumstances of sentencing. Prosecutors pointed out that between 1999 and 2012, Li abused his power to seek profits for others in land development and project contracts, and illegally accepted money and goods directly or through his wife, which constitutes the crime of accepting bribes. Prosecutors presented bank materials, accounting credentials, project contracts, pictures, witnesses' testimonies, the defendant's statement and self-defense and judicial authentication among other evidence. Both prosecutors and the defendant cross-examined the evidence in court. Li did not object the allegation. The presiding judge said both sides had fully voiced their opinions on the presented evidence. A collegial panel will discuss the case and decide according to the law. Both sides also presented their view on the conviction, sentencing, evidence and application of the law during the court debate. The court began hearing the case at about 8:30 a.m. The presiding judge announced an adjournment at noon and the trial continued in the afternoon. More than 60 people, including deputies to people's congresses, political advisors, court supervisors, journalists and ordinary citizens observed the trial. Investigation of the case was completed by the Supreme People's Procuratorate and the case was transferred to Xianning People's Procuratorate on Feb. 11. for prosecution. Prosecutors filed the charges on March 19 to the court, which formed the collegial panel. The court sent Li a copy of the statement of charges and informed him of his legal rights. The collegial panel held a pretrial meeting of prosecutors, the defendant and defense attorneys to hear opinions. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

HK Border Street sees jump in visitors (SCMP)
2015-04-17
A border street running between Hong Kong and eastern Shenzhen has seen an influx of shoppers and visitors since a new policy restricting travel took effect this week. About 12,000 people a day from the mainland requested a special travel pass to visit Chung Ying Street, known for its parallel trading activities. The number of visitors and shoppers reached 14,000 on Sunday, rising 12.7 percent year-on-year. The new policy reduces visits by Shenzhen residents to Hong Kong to once a week. The goal is to crack down on parallel trading activities, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said. "Parallel traders" buy their supplies in Hong Kong, which does not charge a goods and services tax, and then sell them on the mainland in small quantities to avoid paying import duties. The trading focuses mainly on packaged foods, infant products, cosmetics and personal care items. Previously, Shenzhen residents would cross the border many times a day or week carrying commodities back to the mainland. On the Shenzhen side of Chung Ying Street this week, traders with large and small carts gathered, nearly occupying a whole square and selling their Hong Kong goods. In the inspection hall, scores of people carrying empty carts lined up, waiting to enter the border area to shop. Although Shenzhen residents now have fewer permits to travel to buy products in Hong Kong, sellers in the Hong Kong commodity shops say their businesses have not suffered. "The new 'one visit per week' policy has had little influence on our business so far," said a shopkeeper surnamed Yu. "The business is almost the same compared with last week. Probably, the effect of the policy has not appeared yet." Apart from parallel trade, counterfeit products are commonly sold on the border street. Hong Kong Customs found more than 1,300 suspected infringing products on Tuesday, including handbags, wallets, perfumes, mobile phones, watches and about 45,000 cigarettes, valued at HK$420,000 ($54,180). ^ top ^

HK unveils more democratic election reform plan for 2017 (Global Times)
2015-04-24
The Hong Kong government on Wednesday unveiled an election reform blueprint for the Special Administrative Region's (SAR) next top leader through universal suffrage in 2017. The plan, announced by the Chief Secretary Carrie Lam at the Legislative Council (LegCo), lowered the criteria for one to become a potential candidate for chief executive. Under the proposal, a potential candidate needs to get the support of at least 120 and no more than 240 members of the nominating committee, which is composed of 1,200 people from four constituencies. The requirement is down from the previous 150-vote threshold. Lam said the election method is more democratic and offers greater competition. She said that people from different camps, including the pan-democracy group, will have a chance to become a candidate under the method. According to Lam, the five to 10 people recommended will be reduced to two to three selected through a secret ballot as official candidates. The 5 million eligible Hong Kong voters will then elect the region's top leader from the candidates through a "one person, one vote" system. Lam described universal suffrage for the first time in Hong Kong history as "not only a great leap forward for Hong Hong's constitutional development, but also an historic moment for our country." Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying also said earlier on Wednesday that it is an important milestone for Hong Kong's democratic development, and the package is in line with the Basic Law, the SAR's constitutional document, and China's top legislature's decision on August 31 last year. However, the plan will only be reviewed by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) to further proceed after being endorsed by a two-thirds majority of all 70 members of the LegCo in June. It's the third step in Hong Kong's "five-step" process of constitutional development and also viewed as the most challenging step for Hong Kong to realize universal suffrage in 2017, due to concerns that some pan-democratic members will veto the plan. Speaking before the legislature, Leung urged pan-democrat lawmakers to support the reforms, adding that it could be years before the electoral reform undergoes another step forward. While Lam was announcing the blueprint, around 17 LegCo members walked out, vowing to veto the plan. They are against public opinion and some will gradually change under pressure from their supporters, LegCo member Chung Shu-kun told the Global Times, expressing optimism over the proposal's approval. In a poll conducted in January by Hong Kong University's opinion center, over 56 percent said they would agree with the reform plan of "one person, one vote" and over 60 percent said they would accept the plan if it is improved after 2017. Hong Kong people want universal suffrage, said LegCo member Tien Puk-sun, noting that Lam's report clearly stated that the electoral method could be modified and improved by order of the chief executive after 2017. Tien said he will remind the public of that point when speaks before them. There will be chances to improve the plan and voters will realize the pan-democrats are not taking any practical steps by simply requesting "true democracy," Tien said. On Wednesday afternoon, a group of 41 LegCo members expressed their support for the plan, Xinhua reported. The plan was made under a framework issued by the NPC on August 31 last year. The NPC allowed the nomination of two to three candidates by a "broadly representative" nominating committee under universal suffrage from 2017 onward. Thousands of protesters, arguing that the NPC decision would not bring "true democracy," immediately occupied major roads in the city. The movement lasted over two months. The movement was illegal and for most Hong Kong people it brought inconvenience and affected businesses and had a negative impact on tourism, and people were less confident in pan-democrats, said Tian Feilong, a visiting law scholar at Hong Kong University. "I think it is unlikely that another long-lasting protest like the 'Occupy Central' will take place again," Tian said. ^ top ^

Hong Kong competition law could force prices down, says commission head (SCMP)
2015-04-24
Hong Kong's new competition law will bring tangible benefits to consumers by tackling price fixing and lowering prices in distorted markets, the head of a new watchdog says. Dr Stanley Wong, who was appointed chief executive officer of the Competition Commission last September, said it was a unique challenge to enforce the law when people had questioned its necessity in the world's freest economy. In his first one-on-one interview, the Canadian lawyer told the South China Morning Post yesterday: "We know from studies that cartels generally make prices 10 per cent higher than otherwise." When pharmaceutical companies colluded to fix vitamin prices in the 1990s, Hongkongers were overcharged by an estimated US$178 million. Overseas jurisdictions have been active in prosecuting price fixing of liquid crystal displays used on the screens of computers, mobile phones and televisions, as well as car components. All such prosecutions would affect consumers, and it was expected that prices for related products would drop when cartels were stopped, Wong said. He said the commission was mandated by law to pursue any cases involving products sold in the city. The priority would be to prosecute four types of core anti-competitive conduct: price fixing, market allocation, output restrictions and bid-rigging. Price recommendations by professional and trade bodies would be a concern, as they could be seen as a type of price fixing. Wong said he was tired of arguments that such a practice ensured quality of service. "Frankly it's nonsense," he said. The Hong Kong Travel Industry Council has already decided to drop its decade-old practice. At present, travellers on group tours pay a fee before departure. They are then charged service fees for escorts, local guides and drivers at the end of the tour at a level capped by the council. Wong applauded the move and dismissed claims that consumers could be charged more after the change. "Let the consumers choose. Some tour guides are better than others. Why should I be paying exactly the same price? That may be great for the tour guide, but not necessarily for consumers," he said. The commission is now gearing up for the full implementation of the Competition Ordinance, which was passed in 2012 and expected to take full effect before the end of this year. Wong said he did not have a "target list" for prosecutions but would study areas of public concern. "We can't focus on markets and goods that only benefit a handful of consumers," he said. "We are not going to be focusing, putting all our energies into luxury goods. But obviously if there's a problem with food distribution, which affects everybody, we will look at it." ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Free-trade zone in mainland China may lead to brain drain in Taiwan (SCMP)
2015-04-23
Fujian's new free-trade zone could be a big draw for Taiwan's businesses but might also lure some of its best and brightest to work on the mainland, according to analysts. The Fujian FTZ is one of three launched on Monday with the goals of cutting red tape and opening up the economy further to the world. The other new zones are in Guangdong and Tianjin, in addition to the existing one in Shanghai. Visiting the Xiamen section of the Fujian zone yesterday, Premier Li Keqiang was quoted by People's Daily as saying: "The wheel of streamlining government bureaucracy must first clear the way for business operations to prevent time being wasted." But, some Taiwan analysts say the zone could drain the island of some of its best talent. "Taiwan will not only face the risk of hollowing out economically, but will also see a faster brain drain to mainland China now that Beijing has opened three other free-trade zones, with the one in Fujian targeting the island," said Dr Wu Hsin-hsing, a professor of international business at Ming Chuan University in Taipei. Lin Chien-fu, a professor of economics at National Taiwan University, said that if Taiwan failed to swiftly find ways to tackle the impact of the free-trade zone "it's feared a new wave of mainland fever will take place,with local firms flocking to grasp the opportunities on the mainland to survive". Analysts said Taiwanese businesses would inevitably be attracted to the zone, especially because the island's own fledgeling free economics zone devised in late 2013 had stalled in the legislature due to protests from the opposition. Philip Yang, the president of the Taiwan Association of International Relations, said the Fujian zone would form part of Beijing's "Maritime Silk Road", a scheme aimed at forging closer trade ties with the region. Taiwan's involvement in the zone would ensure that the island shared in the benefits of the new trade initiative, he said. Hsueh Ching-te, the vice-chairman of the Pingtan Association of Taiwanese Businessmen on the mainland, was also positive about the benefits of the zone. "Customs clearance will be much faster and fruit shipped in the morning from Taiwan will now be put on shelves in Pingtan in the afternoon thanks to the simplified procedure," he said. Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council said Taiwanese firms should be able to explore business opportunities through the mainland's FTZs, but "we still need further assessment of the actual impact", including how to maximise the island's economic interests. It also reminded businesspeople of the risks in investing on the mainland. ^ top ^

 

Economy

IMF official says China's growth slower but safer (Xinhua)
2015-04-20
China's economy slowed to a safer and more sustainable range, marking the transition to its economic "new normal", said a senior official of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In a recent interview with Xinhua, Steven Barnett, a division chief in the Asia and Pacific Department of the IMF, said China's economic growth which moderated to 7 percent in the first quarter, the slowest pace since 2009, is in line with what IMF expects China's growth range which stands between 6.5-7 percent. "We think this marks the transition what in China is being called 'new normal'. We will call you get on a slower but safer and more sustainable growth path," he said on the sidelines of the World Bank-IMF Spring Meetings. In IMF's biannual World Economic Outlook (WEO) report released on Tuesday, the Washington-based lender forecast China's economy would ease to 6.8 percent in 2015 from 7.4 percent in 2014. The growth is expected to cool to 6.3 percent in 2016. For China, the main risk is the failure to implement the reform agenda to address financial risks, rebalance the economy and tap new sources of growth," the report warned. "We see it will continue in a safe range in the end... How fast China can grow depends on how successful China is in implementing the reform agenda," Barnett said. He singled out key areas where reforms should be accelerated, including liberalizing the financial sector, giving private business equal treatment with the state-owned companies and beefing up the social security system. "We think China still has policy space to support growth if needed," he noted, saying one is to accelerate the reduction of social security contributions, and the second relates to strengthening the social security system. "These will help boost consumption by boosting labor market and income, and accelerate the shift away from investment towards consumption as a driver of growth," he said. ^ top ^

AIIB to focus on infrastructure, cooperate with existing multilateral institutions (China Daily)
2015-04-20
The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) will focus on infrastructure and cooperate with existing multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and the Asia Development Bank (ADB), China's vice finance minister said Friday. "This bank is just focusing on infrastructure. This purpose couldn't be removed anymore and anytime," Zhu Guangyao said of the China-proposed new multilateral institution at the Atlantic Council, a Washington D.C.-based think tank, on the sidelines of the ongoing spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. There's "a real gap" in infrastructure investment in Asia, Zhu said, noting that India and other Asia countries are now facing the same challenge of infrastructure bottleneck. With initial subscribed capital of 50 billion US dollars and planned authorized capital of 100 billion dollars, China is aware that the bank and its members alone cannot bridge the funding gap, Zhu said. The AIIB is intended to play a complementary role alongside existing multilateral development banks, and China welcomes the World Bank and the ADB to increase infrastructure investment, Zhu said. The heads of the World Bank and the IMF also said Thursday that the two organizations are willing to strengthen cooperation with the AIIB to unleash the huge potential in the region. "Infrastructure needs in the developing world are enormous. They are enormous in Asia for AIIB. Our full expectation is that we will continue to work closely," said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim at a press conference. Asia's overall national infrastructure investment needs are estimated to be 8 trillion dollars between 2010 and 2020, the ADB said. Representatives of the 57 prospective founding countries of the AIIB, which were finalized Wednesday, will gather in Beijing later this month to discuss the mandate of the bank, Zhu said. The bank must be operated on the basis of the rule of law, Zhu said, in anticipation of conclusion of the negotiations on the mandate in two or three months. "We agree with high standards, and opinions will be gathered through negotiations and reflected in the formal legal document," he said. Zhu noted the board of the AIIB will discuss detailed policy guidance for projects evaluation with the bank's executive management teams, and the bank could draw some useful experience from the World Bank and the ADB. Zhu also reiterated China's commitment to the current global financial order created by the World Bank and the IMF in the capacity of the Bretton Woods institutions, noting China is a key member of the IMF and the World Bank. China's role in the current international financial system is constructive and "we make contributions," he said. "We want to improve. We want to enhance the capacity of the current system rather than any intention to overthrow it." Zhu strongly urged the U.S. Congress to quickly approve the long-delayed 2010 IMF quota and governance reform to reflect the growing role of emerging market economies in the global economic structure. "It's five years, too long time, too much delay. That has damaged the reputation of the IMF, damaged the reputation of the G20 and also damaged the image of the United States," he said. The G20 remained "deeply disappointed" with the continued delay in IMF quota and governance reform, finance ministers and central bank governors of the G20 agreed Friday. ^ top ^

China beefs up tax services to spur investment in Belt and Road (Xinhua)
2015-04-20
China's taxation authority unveiled ten measures on Monday to improve taxation services for investors to serve the Belt and Road Initiative. The measures will protect investors' interests, promote development and achieve a win-win outcome, said the State Administration of Taxation (SAT). Tax guides will be published and training courses will be held to enable investors understand the tax policies of different countries, SAT said. Talks will continue on tax agreements with relevant countries and the consultation mechanism on tax will help investors avoid double taxation and mitigate other risks. SAT will encourage and guide more intermediaries such as accounting firms to get involved with the Belt and Road Initiative as their professional assistance is needed. To enhance taxation transparency, SAT said it encourages countries to make full use of the financial account information exchange system. It also plans to offer training courses for countries along the Belt the Road. The Belt and Road Initiative refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, international trade and infrastructure projects proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping when he visited Central Asia and Southeast Asia in September and October of 2013. The Belt and Road routes run through the continents of Asia, Europe and Africa, connecting vibrant East Asia economic circle at one end and developed European economic circle at the other. ^ top ^

China launches three more free trade zones (Xinhua)
2015-04-21
Three new free trade zones (FTZ) began official operation on Tuesday as China seeks to draw more international commerce. The new zones were established 18 months after the first FTZ was unveiled in the financial hub Shanghai, which was designed to help streamline the overloaded administrative approval system and encourage innovation and internationalization. Officials expect the new FTZs in Tianjin, Guangdong and Fujian will boost economic reform, promote trade and facilitate investment in new areas as the world's second largest economy moves away from an unsustainable export-dependent model. Provincial-level officials attended the launching ceremony at the three zones Tuesday, when dozens of business licenses were ceremonially granted to registered enterprises. Some businesses have already experienced the increased efficiency of working in the new zones. Liu Qiya, the chief financial official with Tuwei Tongli Electrical Technology based in Xiamen, an open coastal city of Fujian, said his company was granted an operational license for the zone just three days after the application was submitted. The same procedure in other parts of the province could take weeks. Antonio Fossanti, CEO of the Italian RDS, said the reason his retail company chose to operate in the Tianjin zone is the one-stop solution of problems concerning policy, customs, trade and marketing. According to a detailed plan released on Monday, the new zones will be based on the Shanghai FTZ but catered to utilize their geographical locations. By its first anniversary, the Shanghai zone had seen nearly 12,000 registered enterprises lured by a better trade and investment environment. The Tianjin zone aims to better integrate the northern municipality with Beijing and Hebei Province. It will prioritize modern service industries, including shipping, culture and equipment manufacturing. The Guangdong zone will deepen economic cooperation between the mainland and neighboring special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macao. It will have three bases in the cities of Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Zhuhai. The Fujian zone will focus on developing economic cooperation between the mainland and Taiwan. It will cover three areas in Xiamen, Fuzhou and Pingtan, a new industrial park targeting investment from Taiwan. The Shanghai zone, which has been more than quadrupled in size since it was established, will continue to strive for "the greatest openness" to facilitate investment and trade with currency convertibility and a sound legal environment. It will also further open its service and manufacturing industries. All zones must adhere to the negative list, which details 122 prohibited or restricted areas for foreign investment, ranging from Internet news services, production of radio and television programs to non-ferrous metal mining. This number has been reduced from 139. Foreign investors will be subject to the same rules and regulations for new investment as domestic firms. Experts believe that these fresh zones are strategically important for the "belt and road" initiative, which aims to better connect Asia, Europe and Africa, as a way to boost investment and consumption. Shao Yu, Shanghai-based chief economist of the Orient Securities Co.,Ltd., said the four FTZs will be crucial "supporting points" for the belt and road initiative. "More opening-up moves are needed in regions such as southwestern Yunnan and Tibet for the new strategic layout," he said. Wang Shouwen, assistant minister of commerce, said the new zones will not just copy the Shanghai zone but also break fresh ground in areas such as investment administration, trade regulation and financial systems. The replication of successful reform measures is a common strategy in the reform and opening-up drive. The Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, founded in 1980, has been rolled out along the entire east coast over the past three decades. That zone allowed foreign investment to develop the manufacturing industry, a driving force behind the economic boom of previous decades. FTZ fever has caught the attention of officials across the country, with many pushing for their regions to be included in the next batch of FTZs. However, observers warn that the central government must ensure that the FTZs are used to pioneer reform measures, and that their policies are correctly implemented. Foreign business groups have said that the Shanghai zone brought improvements but they expected "more tangible benefits" of financial reforms, such as full convertibility of the yuan. ^ top ^

China's factory activity falls at fastest pace in a year, survey suggests (SCMP)
2015-04-24
Factory activity on the mainland contracted at its fastest pace in a year in April, a private survey showed, suggesting that economic conditions are still deteriorating despite increasingly aggressive policy easing by the central bank. The flash HSBC/Markit Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) fell to 49.2 in April, below the 50-point level that separates growth in activity from a contraction on a monthly basis. After a brief rebound in February, the index has now been back in negative territory for two consecutive months. Economists had forecast a reading of 49.6, equal to March's final reading. "The growth momentum remains weak in April, which calls for further policy easing," said Zhao Yang, chief China economist at Nomura in Hong Kong. "The next step might be a cut in interest rates and I expect they will do that this quarter." The sharp decline in employment in March moderated and export orders rose for the first time in three months, but most of the news was bad. New orders declined further to a one-year low of 49.2 from March's 49.8, pointing to softer domestic demand. Meanwhile, declines in input and output prices, which had appeared to moderate in March, showed signs of accelerating again, signalling intensifying deflationary pressures which are a key worry for the country's policymakers. The weak PMI adds to a growing number of signs that the economy is decelerating more rapidly than most had expected. Premier Li Keqiang has flagged the labour market as key, pledging last month to step in to support the economy if the slowdown hurts jobs and wages. GDP expanded 7 per cent in the three months through March from a year earlier. Highlighting the strains on the country's traditional growth drivers, revenue at state-owned enterprises declined 6 per cent to 10.3 trillion yuan (HK$13 trillion) in the January to March quarter from a year earlier, the finance ministry said yesterday. Profits fell 8 per cent, weighed down by steel, non-ferrous metal, coal and petrochemical industries. The central bank lowered the level of cash banks have to keep, or the reserve requirement ratio, by one percentage point on Monday, allowing banks to boost lending by about 1.2 trillion yuan. "Although momentum appears to have weakened recently we don't see a reason to be overly concerned," said Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics in Singapore. "Monday's cut to the reserve requirement ratio will have come too late to have much impact on [this] reading but should help shore up activity over the coming months and we also expect policymakers to roll out more support measures to ensure that growth doesn't slip much further." ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

National Anti Corruption Center should stop unlawful detention (Englishnews)
2015-04-21
The Speaker of Parliament, Z.Enkhbold, received Deputy Director of the National Anti Corruption Center Ts.Nyamdorj to discuss several cases involving the National Anti Corruption Center for the direct repression and detention of people. The Speaker pointed out that the National Anti Corruption Center is using Article 68 of the Law of Criminal Procedure instead of using clauses 65 and 67 when detaining people in cases under investigation. According to Clauses 65 and 67 it is possible to use asset pledges or guarantees instead of detention, and the Speaker reminded Ts.Nyamdorj that there are legal actions stipulating external investigations. The Speaker said that there is a need to implement newly approved laws and to end the unlawful method of detaining people, and to pursue new approaches to carrying out the law. ^ top ^

Proposal submitted to raise quotas for female political candidates (Englishnews)
2015-04-21
One important issue stressed during the presentation by Member of Parliament S.Odontuya at the national forum on “Women's Development and Participation” was the participation of women in the political decision making process. Sixty percent of graduates of universities and institutes in Mongolia are women, but only 30 percent of mid-ranking managers are women and only 15 percent of high-ranking managers are women. One recent study showed that 70 to 80 percent of the work load in Mongolia sits on the shoulders of women. When women polled in the study were asked if women's involvement in decision making was insufficient, 86.2 percent answered yes. "In order to include women in the decision making process, we need to raise the quota of women nominees to 30 percent," MP S.Odontuya said during her presentation. The national level of unemployment among women is now 6.6 percent. Among employed women, 55 percent are private entrepreneurs who aren't included in state social insurance and other compensation provided by the state. There are also salary discrepancies for women, with male employees receiving higher salaries than their female counterparts. Participants in the national forum stressed that the government should put more attention on policy concerning the wage gap. Concluding the forum, participants appealed to Parliament to discuss and approve the new draft law regarding families and domestic violence, the election law, to approve and implement articles about gender equality in the law on political parties, and to tighten up responsibility for violence against women and children. In their appeal to the government, participants said the issue of gender equality should be addressed through legislation, and that each article of the gender law should address equality at economic, political, social, and cultural levels and be discussed by Parliament. They also called for the planning of real measures dedicated to the improvement of living conditions for women and for government to organize implementation of those measures. Political parties were called on to have 50 percent of their nominees for Parliament and local area elections be made up by female nominees. ^ top ^

Bill on working out and submitting of laws and resolutions discussed (Montsame)
2015-04-23
The discussion was co-organized by the parliamentary Standing committee on justice and the Union of Mongolian Law­yers (UML) with a support from a project called "Backing the legislation actions with civil participation", co-implement­ed by the Parliamentary Office and the UNDP. A head of the Standing committee D.Ganbat made the opening remarks, saying that their committee and the par­liamentary session had already backed this bill, and that a working group, led by Ts.Nyamdorj MP, has been set up to prepare it for the first discussion. He also emphasized that the draft aims to regu­late relations in drawing up draft laws and resolutions, to propagandize adopted laws, to manage and control an imple­mentation of laws.
He was followed by B.Boldbaatar, the secretary-general of the Parliamentary Office and director of the above project. "People criticize that many laws, adopted by parliament, have not been realized properly, their implementation is rather poor because the laws generally did not reflect the public views. This has been considered and reflected in the bill," he said.
Other speeches were given by Ts.Uugangerel, the Vice Minister of Justice, and by D.Batsukh, the UML's president. A "Process of drawing up draft laws and resolutions, submitting and adopting them” report was sounded by B.Baasandorj, chief adviser to the Stand­ing committee on justice. ^ top ^

L.Purevsuren participating in Asian-African ministerial meeting (Montsame)
2015-04-23
Foreign Ministers of 37 countries are discussing draft documents on develop­ing good governance, combating corrup­tion, public-private partnership (PPP), climate change, needs of landlocked de­veloping countries, education, tourism, inter-citizen ties, UN peacekeeping op­erations and gender equality in a scope of intensifying the political, socioeconimic and cultural relations between the two continents. The conference has been an impor­tant step toward the Non-Aligned Move­ment and the Group of 77. Mongolia's participation in the meeting has an im­portance in terms of contributing to the regional cooperation, expressing a po­sition, and taking a support from these mechanisms on related issues. The Ministerial Meeting will last until April 24. ^ top ^

Standing Committee discusses state policy on forests (Montsame)
2015-04-23
S.Oyun MP said the main objectives of this policy will lie in preserving a bal­ance of eco-system, stopping the for­ests degradation, forests rehabilitation, extending the forested areas through organizing tree-planting campaigns, and in establishing a sustainable forest man­agement that aims at appropriate and stable use of forest reserves. The committee members asked a working group about the expected results from the adoption of the policy document, if there are any regulations that set out the areas where dead trees can be col­lected and about a quota of trees to be logged, that concern the measures to be taken in cases of the forest fires coming from outside the borders. They recom­mended coordinating the policy with min­ing activities and charging illegal loggers with direct arrest and imposing appropri­ate amount of fine rather than just seizing their trucks, and including them in tree-planting works. A working group was set up at this meeting to prepare the submitted to par­liament documents for their readings, in­cluding draft amendments to the Law on Forests, draft amendments to the Law on Environment Protection, to the Law on Government's special fund, and to the Criminal Law. The group will be led by J.Batzandan MP. ^ top ^

Mongolia and Belarus host Consultations at Deputy Foreign Minister-level (Infomongolia)
2015-04-24
On April 23, 2015 the third round of consultations between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus and Mongolia was held in Ulaanbaatar. The Belarusian delegation was headed by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Valentin Rybakov and Mongolian side by Deputy Foreign Minister Navaan-Yunden OUYNDARI, where Ambassador of Belarus to Mongolia Stanislav Chepurnoy as well as representatives of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry and Belarusian diplomatic mission in Ulaanbaatar also took part in the consultations. The sides discussed a wide range of issues related to the development of bilateral relations, including exchange of high-level visits, expansion of political, economic, scientific, educational and cultural ties, widening of the legal base of bilateral cooperation, interaction in the international arena and regional issues. During the meeting, parties considered issues related to the preparation of the III Joint Mongolia-Belarus Commission Meeting on Trade and Economic Cooperation to be held in June 2015. Also, the program of the visit also includes meeting with Deputy Minister for Construction and Urban Development of Mongolia, Chairperson of Mongolian part for the Joint Mongolia-Belarus Commission, G.Baigalmaa as well as visits to a number of industrial enterprises of Mongolia. The visit will last until April 25, 2015. ^ top ^

MIGA and Mongolian Government commit to further collaboration (Montsame)
2015-04-23
At a signing ceremony held on Sat­urday, Mr J.Erdenebat, Minister of Fi­nance, said, “We appreciate MIGA's commitment to help Mongolia bring much-needed foreign direct investment into the country and we look forward to fruitful collaboration.” MIGA Executive Vice President and CEO Keiko Honda, “These important agreements pave the way for us to sup­port private sector investment that will help Mongolia diversify its economy and contribute to the country's infrastructure development.” The parties discussed a number of areas where MIGA could potentially support foreign investments, including the energy and financial services sector. MIGA was created in 1988 as a mem­ber of the World Bank Group to promote foreign direct investment into emerging economies to support economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve people's lives. MIGA fulfills this mandate by of­fering political risk insurance and credit enhancement to investors and lenders. ^ top ^

FM at Asian African Summit 2015
2015-04-23
The summit has brought together high level delegates from 30 countries such as His Majesty Abdullah II ibn al- Hussein, the King of Jordan; Mr Joko Widodo, the President of Indonesia; Mr Xi Jinping, the President of the People's Republic of China; Mr Kim Yong-nam, the Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK); Mr Hassan Rouhani, the President of Iran; and Mr Shinzo abe, the Prime Minister of Japan. They are discussing issues of overcoming chal­lenges to the ties between the two con­tinents and widening the cooperation. In frames of the summit, Mr Purev­suren has met with his colleagues from Iran, Myanmar, India, Tunisia, Sweden; also with the Presidents of China and Indonesia, the Deputy Premier of the Republic of Korea, and Vice FM of the N.Korea. ^ 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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