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
  18-22.1.16, No. 606  
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Table of contents

DPRK

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Switzerland

China, Switzerland to step up anti-corruption cooperation (China Daily)
2016-01-16
China and Switzerland pledged to strengthen cooperation in battling corruption during the visit of Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter to Beijing. The two sides also agreed to beef up cooperation in innovation, the economy, global financial governance, and people-to-people exchanges as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi held talks with Burkhalter Friday. "We applaud Switzerland's position that it will not offer safe havens for fleeing corrupt officials," Wang said. China has invited Switzerland to take part in this year's G20 preparation work on anti-corruption and finance, according to Wang. This year's G20 summit will be held in China's eastern city of Hangzhou in September. The two countries will also hold dialogues on anti-corruption efforts, strengthen cooperation in repatriating fugitive suspects and illegal assets, and strive to ink a deal on judicial assistance in criminal matters. The two sides agreed to take advantage of Switzerland's strength in innovation and China's strategy of innovation-driven growth, according to Wang. They also decided to work jointly on the "Belt and Road" initiative, which was proposed by China in 2013 to connect the vibrant East Asian economic circle and the developed European economic circle to tap market potential. The two foreign ministers also pledged to step up efforts to facilitate visas to promote people-to-people exchanges. More than one million Chinese citizens traveled to Switzerland last year. The two sides agreed to strengthen communication and coordination in regional and international affairs, including counter-terrorism and cyber security. Hailing the sound development of bilateral ties over the past 65 years, featuring equality, innovation and a win-win spirit, Wang said he expects the two countries to enhance mutual trust and push all-round cooperation to a higher level. Burkhalter said Switzerland attaches great importance to ties with China and stands ready to cooperate more in fields such as finance, technology, innovation, education, water resources and the G20. Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi also met with Burkhalter on Friday afternoon. ^ top ^

 

Foreign Policy

Chinese premier, German chancellor pledge better ties, cooperation on Syria (Xinhua)
2015-01-21
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang held a telephone conversation Thursday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on further strengthening bilateral ties and seeking solutions to the ongoing Syrian crisis. After exchanging New Year greetings with Merkel, Li spoke highly of the progress made in strengthening Sino-German ties last year, vowing to maintain high-level exchanges with the country and enhance pragmatic cooperation in various areas. In particular, China will strive to achieve tangible results in the conjoining of China's "Made in China 2025" and Germany's Industry 4.0 strategies, and actively build partnerships with markets in third-party countries, he said. The premier noted that the two countries will continue to closely cooperate and coordinate in international affairs. He said the fourth round of China-Germany inter-governmental consultations to be held later this year would inject fresh impetus into the deepening of Sino-German ties and cooperation. Li also urged Germany to push for the European Union (EU) to fulfill as scheduled the commitments reached in China's WTO Accession Protocol signed in 2001 to properly settle trade disputes between China and the EU. He expressed the hope that Germany would continue playing an active role in pushing forward the negotiations in China-EU investment agreements. Merkel agreed that notable progress have been made in Sino-German ties and cooperation in various fields last year. Germany is ready to work with China on better conjoining the development strategies of the two countries and enhancing pragmatic cooperation in various fields including exploring third-party markets. The German chancellor said she was looking forward to her upcoming China visit for the fourth inter-governmental consultation, which she will co-host with Li. Germany is ready to do its part to push forward China-EU relations and cooperation, Merkel said. On the humanitarian situation in Syria, Premier Li said China has been closely watching Syria and has been delivering as much humanitarian assistance as possible to the country. It is a common responsibility of the international community to ease Syria's humanitarian situation, Li said, urging the international community to work closely together to find a fundamental solution for Syria through a political settlement with multi-pronged approaches. The premier also called for support from various sides for the United Nations in its leading role in mediating and pushing for peace talks among relevant parties, so as to end the crisis in Syria and allow Syrian refugees to return to their homeland as early as possible. Merkel said the international community highly values and appreciates China's efforts to help alleviate Syria's humanitarian situation. She expressed the hope that China would maintain its constructive role on the issue. Germany is willing to strengthen cooperation with China to seek solutions to the Syrian crisis, the chancellor said. ^ top ^

Experts deem mega port project 'milestone' in Sino-Algerian ties (Global Times)
2016-01-22
The project of building a mega port by an Algerian-Chinese joint venture is positively perceived by Algerian experts, who deem this project a milestone that marks rising level of bilateral cooperation. According to Mohamed Achir, professor and researcher in economics at the University of Tizi-Ouzou, the announced project of the new centre transshipment port of Cherchell, is "ambitious." On the one part, the project marks another orientation in terms of funding Algeria's public investment amid current financial crisis. Aside from the financial interest, the professor notes that "Algeria will benefit advantages from such partnerships, including the mastery of the management of mega projects thanks to the Chinese experience in the matter." Moreover, Achir added that this project will provide an international integrated logistics platform set on an industrial area of 2,000 hectares, which will create a ripple effect for driving investment and export-oriented industrial projects. It can also be an ideal stopover for regional and international maritime traffic that will serve the South Asian region and Africa, concluded the professor. Researcher and teacher of economics at the University of Bejaia, Mohand-Amokrane Zoreli, said this mega commercial port project will certainly have many benefits for Algeria. Economically, professor Zoreli told Xinhua reporter that "the current context in Algeria is characterized by the crucial and inevitable challenge of diversifying exports in order to gradually get rid of the dependence on oil income, and this should be marked in the economy agenda of Algeria. "This port will for sure be one of the most competitive in the Mediterranean basin; it will greatly provide the desired geopolitical and strategic place for Algeria in the Mediterranean region," Professor Zoreli assumed. He concluded that "a mega port like this would help avoiding economic crises given that it would ensure smooth flow of foreign trade, as a strong heart that has the capacity to curb the risk of heart attack." Algeria and China on Sunday inked a 3.3-billion-US-dollar deal to build the new center transshipment port of Cherchell, some 55 km west of the capital Algiers. The agreement was signed between Algeria's Transport Ministry, China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) and China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) in Algeria on January 17. Under the deal, the two sides will create a consortium company to build the port. The project is planned to complete within seven years and gradually put into service within four years with China's Shanghai Ports Group ensuring its management. ^ top ^

Indonesia, China launch Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway project (Xinhua)
2015-01-21
Indonesia's first ever high-speed railway project kicked off Thursday in Walini, West Java Province, marking a major achievement in railway cooperation between China and Indonesia. Chinese State Councilor Wang Yong, who attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the project, read a congratulatory message from Chinese President Xi Jinping to Indonesian President Joko Widodo at the ceremony. Xi said in the message that the successful launch of the project not only set a new record in pragmatic cooperation between China and Indonesia, it will also become a new model for bilateral cooperation in various fields, particularly in infrastructure and production capacity. In the message, Xi expressed the hope that the two sides further strengthen their joint efforts to ensure the smooth construction and due completion of the project, adding that as the first high-speed railway in Indonesia and Southeast Asia, the project will greatly benefit local economic development. On the same occasion, Joko Widodo said "This is a great project jointly pushed by Indonesian and Chinese governments," and he expects further cooperation between Indonesia and China could be more intense. "I hope this project could bring benefit to local people both in the short and long term," said Joko Widodo, adding that the project is part of the nation's efforts to pursue competitiveness. Chinese State Councilor Wang Yong said that the Jakarta-Bandung Railway will not only open a new chapter for the development of the High Speed Train in Indonesia, but will also further boost bilateral relations. "China hopes to take the project as an opportunity to actively participate in the development of Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway economic belt, and enhance the bilateral cooperation in various areas including investment, production capacity, electricity, finance, in an effort to promote common development and prosperity of the two countries," said Wang. The high-speed railway, linking the capital Jakarta and the fourth largest city of Bandung, has a distance of approximately 150 km. Travel time between the two cities will be cut from more than three hours at present to less than 40 minutes once the project is finished. China Railway Co. Ltd signed a deal last October with Indonesian state-owned enterprises to form a joint venture in constructing and operating the railway. After inauguration, the Indonesian president, the Chinese state councilor and West Java Governor Ahmad Heryawan inspected the readiness of equipment to carry out the project. Conveying a brief summary of the high-speed railway project in the event, the president director of Indonesia-China joint firm to run the high-speed train KCIC (PT Kereta Cepat Indonesia-China), Hanggoro Budi Wiryawan, said that the project is expected to be ready to serve in early 2019. "The project would use local components up to 63 percent, employ 39,000 workers during the construction period with employment priority on domestic workers," said Hanggoro. ^ top ^

Chinese and Indian fighter jets face off amid regional turf war (SCMP)
2016-01-21
In a dogfight mirroring the geopolitical intrigue on the ground, Asian fighter jets will jockey for billion-dollar military contracts and international clout when they take to the skies at the Bahrain Air Show that opens on Thursday. This will be the first time India's home-made Tejas combat plane makes an appearance at a foreign air show, seeking to offer an alternative to the JF-17 Thunder built jointly by rivals China and Pakistan. The debut is being closely watched as it comes on the heels of intense Indian diplomatic manoeuvres that forced Sri Lanka to back out of a deal to buy the Chinese-Pakistani jet, putting the kibosh on the already sputtering plans to broaden JF-17's market. So far Myanmar and Nigeria are said to be the only ones to have bought JF-17, or FC-1 Xiaolong, as it is known in China. Following that deal in July last year, Sri Lanka was the brightest hope after Malaysia last month denied media reports it was considering buying the jet. India's efforts to peddle military aviation have been no less bumpy. In October, Ecuador scrapped a contract for its Dhruv military helicopters after reporting that four of the seven it had bought had crashed and the rest were grounded. “India is keen to demonstrate the credibility of Tejas and offer it as an alternative to the JF-17. But it's still a work in progress, albeit in the final stages, before it enters squadron service. The air show will be an opportunity to prove its mettle,” said C. Uday Bhaskar, retired commodore and director of the Society for Policy Studies in New Delhi. Both Tejas and JF-17 are light, low-maintenance, and cheaper alternatives to Russian and Western jets. The first Tejas prototype flew in January 2001 while the first JF-17 prototype in 2003. But their flight paths couldn't have been more different. While JF-17 is in service and ready to be bought, Tejas has been plagued by delays. More than three decades in the making, it is yet to be inducted. Efforts to speed up Tejas' induction and put it out on the international market have picked up under the Narendra Modi government, which is looking to encourage domestic military production as part of its 'Make in India' campaign to revive economic growth and wean the country off expensive defence imports. “The Sri Lanka experience has given this issue a certain urgency and visibility that Delhi has internalised,” said Bhaskar. Colombo was expected to sign a deal to purchase up to 12 JF-17s during Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's state visit there this month. Considered a done deal, there was, however, no mention of JF-17 during the trip. After Sharif left, Sri Lanka's defence minister denied that JF-17 was even discussed. It is still not clear if the deal has been canned for good and none of the parties involved will officially say India had a part in nixing it. […] India has been concerned about an increasing Chinese presence in Sri Lanka since two Chinese submarine calls in Colombo last year. The incident was the final straw in India's relations with former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, whose China tilt had strained his ties with New Delhi. The JF-17 deal was first mooted by the Rajapaksa government. Colonel R Hariharan, a former Indian military intelligence officer, however, sees wider geopolitical factors at play in Sri Lanka's JF-17 saga. “This is an example of the US not allowing China to expand its influence in certain areas where it might not be in conjunction with US global interests, such as the Indian Ocean region. The US last year similarly pressured Turkey to cancel its agreement to buy Chinese missiles,” said Hariharan, now associated with the Chennai Centre for China Studies. “Indian navy air recce assets have increased with US aircraft. This defence co-operation is growing. So both India and the US have a common interest in keeping out China-Pakistan defence promotion in the Indian Ocean region.” ^ top ^

China, Saudi Arabia upgrade diplomatic ties as Riyadh seeks new allies (SCMP)
2016-01-20
China and Saudi Arabia have vowed to elevate their ties to form a comprehensive strategic partnership as President Xi Jinping continues touring the Middle East and seeking greater presence in the region. Observers say it is China's first time establishing such a partnership with a western Asian nation, as the Arab state – once a staunchly anti-communist nation and a close ally of the United States – diversifies its diplomatic ties. Xi kicked off his trip in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday and visited Egypt on Wednesday. He will wrap up his tour in Iran, just days after economic sanctions on the country were lifted last week following its agreement to roll back the scope of its nuclear activities. During Xi's two-day stay in Riyadh, China and Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil importer and producer respectively, signed 14 agreements and memoranda of understanding, including massive oil deals and pacts to speed up China-Gulf region free-trade talks and build a nuclear reactor. A joint statement by the two states said China supported Saudi Arabia's counterterrorism efforts and would step up cultural and religious exchanges. They would also set up a high-level committee to guide bilateral cooperation. In another agreement on Tuesday, Beijing signalled its support for Yemen's Saudi-backed government, which is fighting Iran-allied Houthi militia. Saudi Arabia weighs significantly in China's energy security. In 2014, Beijing bought nearly 50 million tonnes of crude oil from it – 16 per cent of its oil imports and the most from a single country. But its importance to China has been weakened as Beijing diversifies its energy sources. By October, oil trade between the two nations had dropped more than 10 per cent year-on-year, with Russia occasionally overtaking Saudi Arabia as China's top monthly oil supplier. Still, the Middle Eastern nation remains crucial to China as it features prominently in the country's “One Belt, One Road” strategy, through which Beijing is promoting trade and infrastructure cooperation. A politically, economically and religiously influential country at the crossroad of the “Silk Road Economic Belt” and the “Maritime Silk Road”, Saudi Arabia is one of the most important destinations in the initiative. At the same time, pressured by falling oil prices, the Middle Eastern country is also looking into alternatives to drive its economy. The move would provide Chinese firms with businesses opportunities, according to Chinese Academy of Social Sciences­researcher Wang Jian. Saudi Arabia is home to holy sites of Islam and is the religious centre for Sunni Muslims. Most Chinese Muslims, who number about 30 million, are Sunni. “China should take advantage of Saudi Arabia in the area of ­anti-terrorism,” said Gong Zheng, a researcher at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations. The upgrading of bilateral ties comes as relations fray between Saudi and the US. Riyadh is Washington's closest ally in the Gulf region. It established diplomatic ties with Beijing only in 1990. […] Domestic oil production in the US has surged in recent years with the development of shale – or natural – gas. The Saudi regime, after the Arab Spring pro-democracy movement, has also come under increasing US criticism for its poor human rights records. Beijing and Riyadh had military ties even before official diplomatic ties were established. China sold up to 60 intermediate-range ballistic missile DF-3s to Saudi Arabia in 1988, and has reportedly also provided it with more advanced medium-range DF-21 ballistic missile systems. Xi's Middle East tour comes after Saudi Arabia and Iran severed ties following Riyadh's execution of a Shiite cleric. Observers are watching how Beijing will strike a balance between the two states; China is expected to downplay political issues while focusing on economic matters. “The visits to Saudi Arabia and Iran exemplify this approach,” said Mary Gallagher, associate professor of political science at the University of Michigan. “China tries to placate both sides through its oil purchases and infrastructure development plans for central Asia.” But with declining Chinese growth, Beijing's economic diplomacy may also be less effective, at least in the short run, she said. ^ top ^

Detained Swedish NGO worker Peter Dahlin's colleague refutes accusation that his group endangered China's security (SCMP)
2016-01-20
A colleague of detained Swedish NGO worker Peter Dahlin has refuted Chinese state media's accusation that his Hong Kong-registered group was carrying out works that undermined China's state security. Dahlin, 35, a co-founder of the Chinese Urgent Action Working Group, has been detained since January 3. His Chinese girlfriend Pan Jinling disappeared around the same time, according to Michael Caster, Dahlin's co-worker in the group. State news agency Xinhua on Tuesday accused Dahlin of setting up the non-profit organisation – registered in Hong Kong under the name Joint Development Institute Limited – with Chinese rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang to carry out activities that “endanger state security”, including helping the teenage son of detained lawyer Wang Yu flee abroad. “I violated Chinese law through my activities here,” Dahlin said on state broadcaster CCTV. “I have caused harm to the Chinese government. I have hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.” State media said state security organs and police authorities jointly “smashed” the “illegal group” and accused it of receiving overseas funding to train and fund many “agents” to carry out “criminal activities that harmed state security,” without stating which laws they broke. On Wednesday, Caster refuted state media's portrayal of Dahlin as a foreign agent on a mission to destabilise China. Rather, the group's priority was to empower Chinese citizens with legal knowledge, he said, adding that the group was funded by a variety of publicly available and competitive grants from the European Union and embassies. “It's absurd to claim Peter was engaged in malicious efforts to attack or discredit China,” said Caster, who has returned to the United States but remains involved in the group. “It is equally absurd to accuse Peter or China Action of manufacturing or escalating conflicts inside of China. “If anything, it was a matter of trying to decrease the number of petitioners and to discourage people from engaging in collective action or resistance, and to rely on the development of Chinese law.” Caster said the apparent forced confession of Dahlin was “sending a very strong message both to the domestic rights defenders and international community that any engagement in the rule of law and human rights that challenges the ability of the government to exert monopoly over what the rule of law and human rights are will be targeted and face reprisals”. Xinhua reported that Dahlin and Wang Quanzhang, from Beijing Fengrui law firm, registered Joint Development Institute Limited (JDI) in Hong Kong in 2009 and suggested that they colluded in fuelling people's grievances against the government. Wang and four colleagues from Fengrui have been detained since July amid an unprecedented crackdown on rights advocates. They were formally arrested this month on the charge of “subversion of state power”. Caster said Wang's rights defence work at Fengrui had nothing to do with his group as Wang, although he remained a director at JDI, had minimal involvement from 2014, after he joined Fengrui. “It's really false to make the connection between China Action and Fengrui, because there really is none,” he said. “Claiming Peter's involvement … appears to be an attempt to compound the charges against those human rights lawyers.” Caster also rejected state media's suggestion that his group funded activist Xing Qingxian to help Bao Zhuoxuan, the 16-year-old son of detained lawyer Wang Yu, flee the country. The attempt last October failed and the boy was repatriated from Myanmar. Caster said that while his group has funded Xing in setting up a legal aid station in Sichuan province, the partnership ended in early 2014 and the group played no role in assisting Bao. A Swedish foreign ministry spokeswoman said its embassy staff in Beijing visited Dahlin on Saturday and found him “feeling well considering the circumstances”. The ministry had no information on what offence Dahlin was suspected of, she said. Speaking to reporters in Beijing on Dahlin's case as well as the disappearance of two Hong Kong booksellers, Swedish citizen Gui Minhai and British citizen Lee Bo, Hans-Dietmar Schweisgut, ambassador of the European Union to China, said their ordeals “caused grave concern”. “We do hope it's not representing a new normal yet. But we do see an extremely worrying trend,” Schweisgut said. ^ top ^

Swede confesses to lawsuits against Chinese government requested by overseas NGO (Global Times)
2016-01-20
Chinese police recently busted an organization which had been receiving overseas funds to conduct activities that endanger national security in the name of human rights, detaining several people, including a Swedish citizen. Peter Dahlin, a Swedish citizen working with the Chinese Urgent Action Working Group (China Action), was placed under "criminal compulsory measures," according to Chinese law, on suspicion of "endangering national security," media reported on January 13. Dahlin, together with lawyers from the Beijing-based Fengrui Law Firm, established an organization and had allegedly been receiving substantial funds from seven overseas organizations, the Xinhua News Agency reported Tuesday. They set up over 10 "legal aid centers" in the Chinese mainland to train unlicensed lawyers and support a few petitioners to defame China and sensationalize social issues. The organization, Joint Development Institute Limited, was established in Hong Kong in 2009 and failed to get mainland approval. The organization hired and trained others to gather, fabricate and distort information about China, providing "China's human rights report" to overseas organizations, Xinhua reported. Dahlin confessed that "almost all the reports came from online resources … I cannot guarantee the authenticity of the reports." He said that an unnamed overseas NGO required his organization to file at least 96 lawsuits against the Chinese government every year. ^ top ^

Vietnam warns Beijing over oil rig activities in South China Sea (SCMP)
2016-01-20
Vietnam said China has moved an oil rig into disputed waters in the South China Sea in a move that could result in a repeat the 2014 stand-off between the communist neighbours. Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh said in a statement posted on the ministry's website late on Tuesday that Vietnam has raised concerns with China over the movement of Haiyang Shiyou oil rig, and has demanded that China stop any drilling and remove the oil rig from the area where the two countries' continental shelves overlap that have not been demarcated. “Vietnam demands that China not conduct any drilling activities and withdraw Hai Duong 981 oil rig from this area,” he said, using the Vietnamese name for the oil rig. “Vietnam reserves all its legal rights and interests in the area in accordance with international law,” he said. The oil rig was at the centre of a stand-off between the countries in May 2014 when China parked the rig off Vietnam central coast. It was towed away more than two months later, but the incident sparked deadly anti-China riots in Vietnam and plunged bilateral relations to their lowest point in years. The move of the oil rig into disputed waters also comes as more than 1,500 delegates from Vietnam's ruling Communist Party gather in Hanoi on Wednesday for a once every five-year congress that will select the country's new leaders and set development plans for the next five years. ^ top ^

China, GCC vow to reach comprehensive FTA within 2016 (Xinhua)
2016-01-20
China and the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) are committed to working closely to conclude a comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) within 2016, the two sides announced Tuesday. In a joint press release, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce and the GCC Secretariat said China and the GCC resumed their FTA talks on Sunday and "substantively concluded in principle the negotiations on trade in goods" on Tuesday. The two sides added that they have decided to accelerate the negotiation process and hold the next round of talks in the second half of February. The announcement came as Chinese President Xi Jinping is in Riyadh for the first state visit to Saudi Arabia by a Chinese head of state in seven years. During Xi's talks with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on Tuesday, the two leaders welcomed the restart of the China-GCC FTA talks, saying they were "delighted" to see the substantive progress that has been made. They also agreed to establish the FTA as soon as possible. China and the GCC, which includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, began their FTA talks in July 2004, and the process was suspended in 2009. ^ top ^

Lifting China-Saudi ties to comprehensive strategic partnership an irresistible trend: Xi (Xinhua)
2016-01-20
Chinese President Xi Jinping met here Tuesday with Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, hailing the tie-lifting between China and Saudi Arabia as an irresistible trend. Xi told Salman that the elevation of bilateral ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership, which the president and King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud jointly announced in a statement earlier in the day, represents a new phase in the relations between the two countries. He also said the Chinese side is willing to expand the scale of oil trade between the two countries, and discuss and promote bilateral cooperation in areas of new energy, clean energy, nuclear energy and security. Xi said that Saudi Arabia stands at a key junction along the "Belt and Road", that the two countries should discuss aligning their development strategies, and that they should actively participate in the interconnectivity and intercommunication in the Middle East and the Gulf region. Xi said the situation in the Middle East has global impacts, and the Chinese side supports the exploration efforts by regional countries in finding development paths that suit their own domestic situations, and calls for more consultation and coordination among countries in the region to build a Middle East with lasting peace, stability and prosperity. Salman welcomed Xi's historic visit to Saudi Arabia, acknowledging that the two sides share similar position on important global issues and have wide-ranging common interests. He said the Saudi side is willing to enhance mutual political support with China, deepen cooperation in commerce and trade, energy and security. Saudi Arabia is willing to participate in building interconnectivity and intercommunication in the region under the frame work of the "Belt and Road" initiative and hopes to become as a vital corridor in China-Africa economic cooperation, Salman said. The prince also expressed his country's willingness to strengthen coordination with China in achieving regional peace and stability. Xi arrived in Saudi Arabia earlier Tuesday, the first leg of his three-nation tour to the Middle East that will also cover Egypt and Iran, as the world's second-largest economy seeks closer political and economic ties with the region. ^ top ^

Feature: Egypt joyfully awaits "great, friendly" Chinese president (Xinhua)
2016-01-20
"It's going to be like a festival when our nation welcomes the Chinese president," Egyptian photographer Izaq Hanah told Xinhua in downtown Cairo on Tuesday, a day before Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives for a three-day visit. Along the main streets around the landmark Tahrir Square in central Cairo are fluttering Chinese and Egyptian national flags. Meanwhile, local newspapers front-paged with Xi's photo and his signed article are displayed in the most noticeable place at newspaper stands, big and small, in city alleys. "I knew about the Chinese president's visit three days ago, and I am looking forward to that. He (President Xi) is a great and friendly man," said Hanah. "And I know the relationship between Egypt and China is very good." Bilateral relations were lifted to a comprehensive strategic partnership, when Xi received visiting Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi in Beijing in 2014. The two leaders met again when Sisi was in Beijing to attend events marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. As China and Egypt celebrate this year the 60th anniversary of the establishment of their diplomatic ties, Xi's visit is set to breathe new life into the friendly exchanges between the two peoples, which, according to the Chinese president, date back to more than 2,000 years ago. In his signed article published on Egypt's Al-Ahram newspaper, Xi hailed Egypt as "the gift of the Nile," saying that he was "marveled at the Nile... and was amazed by the wisdom and strength of the Egyptian people." The Chinese culture, for its part, has inspired the Egyptian people as well, and seems to be continuing doing so. At Tahrir Square, an Egyptian student from Cairo's Ain Shams University proudly showed Xinhua his collection of Chinese books from his schoolbag. Among them was "Zhijiang Xinyu" (New words of Zhijiang), a book compiling Xi's political thoughts when he served as the party chief of China's Zhejiang province from 2002 to 2007. The young man, identifying himself as Mohamed, said he also has a Chinese name Wang Shuai, and that he started to learn the Chinese language three months ago. The desire for the exchange of cultures and minds, such as in this young man, is likely to form a sound basis for productive collaboration between the two civilizations in the future. Mohamed Mustafa, 22, said it is urgent for Egypt to learn from China,particularly China's experiences in setting up a good system. Egypt has just gone through a difficult period, he said. "Now, everything is turning for the better for our country, and we hope that China can help us." The Chinese president has indeed much to offer. In his signed article, Xi further introduced his signature "Belt and Road" initiative, inviting regional countries in the Middle East to expand cooperation with China in such areas as energy, trade and investment, infrastructure and high technology so as to achieve common prosperity. "China welcomes Egypt and other Arab countries to get on board the fast train of its development, and hopes that our respective development and growth could be well aligned and mutually reinforcing," Xi wrote. Experts on Middle East estimated that the "Belt and Road" initiative may help generate more jobs for populous countries in the region, while assisting smaller economies in building service platforms with characteristics like financial centers, clearance centers, air transit hubs and trade ports. Majdi Amer, Egyptian Ambassador to China, told Xinhua earlier that with China's proposal of common development, Egypt can export more to China and receive more tourists from China. "People from many countries -- China, Germany, America and Britain, were afraid to come to Egypt in the past years. But we are stable now," said 55-year-old Abdulah Haroun, who runs a papyrus shop. "If I were given the chance, I would tell the Chinese president that I wish him to bring more Chinese tourists to Egypt," Haroun said in a jubilant mood. ^ top ^

China looks to move career barriers for top foreign talents (China Daily)
2016-01-20
Zhang Jianguo, director of the State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs, said China will further enhance its attractiveness to global talent in the coming five years. "We will encourage establishing a recruitment mechanism within research institutions, colleges and universities that will take job applications from around the world," said Zhang. "We will also draft a regulation to guide foreign experts to participate in national science and technology programs, as well as being leaders of important research projects." "We will also encourage foreign experts to participate in the selection of China's science and technology awards equally with their Chinese colleagues," Zhang said. Gao Xiang, spokesman of the administration, said barriers exist for three reasons-limitations created by bureaucracy, lack of transparency in current policies and the Chinese language barrier. "In the past, some jobs in China could only be taken by Chinese employees within their own system. Some research projects were not open for applications from foreign talents," Gao said. "There have been some changes in certain research institutes or universities, yet it is not a formalized government policy-not to mention that many foreign talents have little understanding of the changes." Gao said another area of complaint involves the language. "In China, even if some foreign talents can apply for research project funds, they must submit papers in Chinese. This is a disadvantage for them," said Gao. Ralf Altmeyer, a German virologist who is managing director at the Helmholtz Institute of Biotechnology at Shandong University, agreed. Requiring Chinese as a working language does create challenges for foreign experts doing scientific research, Altmeyer said, suggesting that application forms be made available in English. Wang Huiyao, president of the Center for China and Globalization, a Beijing think tank, added that other barriers should also be removed to keep foreign talents in China. "Many foreign scientists and researchers might have very limited information, say on education for their children," he said. ^ top ^

China slams Philippines illegal plans for Zhongye Dao Island (Xinhua)
2016-01-19
China on Tuesday said plans by the Philippines to build on Zhongye Dao Island in the South China Sea were illegal. "China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands, including Zhongye Dao Island," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei at a regular press briefing in response to a question about the Philippines' intention to install a civil aviation satellite tracking system on the island. The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines on Monday announced that it planned to build the tracking system and seven civil aviation radar stations. The tracking system will be used to monitor civil and commercial flights in the region, according to an official. "Any action by the Philippines on Chinese territory is illegal," Hong said. Philippine officials on Monday said that they had received two intimidating radio warnings from the Chinese Navy when they flew a civil plane to Zhongye Dao Island on Jan. 7. According to the report, China also expelled other civil and military planes that flew over the region. Philippine officials claim they felt "threatened" about freedom of flights in the region. "This sort of language is an alarmist talk, which intends to exaggerate regional tensions with ulterior motives," Hong said. China firmly opposes the Philippines' illegal occupation of Chinese territory in the region, Hong said, noting that the Philippines had despatched troops and begun construction on eight reefs around the Nansha Islands including Zhongye Dao since the 1970s. ^ top ^

Xi Jinping to walk fine line on Middle East visit (SCMP)
2016-01-19
China aims to evenly weigh the interests of Saudi Arabia and Iran as Beijing deepens its role in the region, a top Chinese diplomat said ahead of President Xi Jinping's first Middle East tour. Xi will arrive in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, becoming the first Chinese president to visit the kingdom since 2009. He is also scheduled to visit Egypt and Iran. The trip comes at a tricky time – Riyadh and Tehran severed diplomatic relations earlier this month over the storming of Saudi Arabia's embassy in Iran after the kingdom executed a prominent Shiite Muslim cleric. The last state visit to Iran by a Chinese president was in 2002. “China has always maintained a just and balanced stance and is dedicated to promoting peace and stability in the Middle East,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Ming on Monday. “China calls for parties involved to resolve conflicts and disputes to promote regional stability, which suits the mutual interests of countries in the region, China and the international community.” Zhang, who visited Saudi Arabia and Iran earlier this month, said Xi would “exchange opinions on regional disputes with country leaders”. China intends to sign an action plan to enhance its comprehensive strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia over the next five to 10 years, and establish a strategic partnership with Iran. In an article published in Al Riyadh newspaper in Saudi Arabia, Xi called for the expansion of bilateral trade and energy cooperation, and the setting up of a free-trade system between China and the Gulf Cooperation Council. Mainland diplomatic observers said Beijing did not want to be seen as taking sides in the dispute, and would call for restraint and dialogue to resolve tensions. “These countries know what the focus of relations with China is and they do not expect China to take sides,” said Li Guofu, director of the Centre for Middle East Studies at the China Institute of International Studies. “China has been maintaining friendly relations with Middle East countries, but beware, China is not a conciliator. All Beijing has done is to urge peace through... talk and not merely in China's interests alone.” Xiao Xian, professor of Middle Eastern studies at Yunnan University in Kunming, said Beijing valued relations with Riyadh because of its economic and political influence in the region, while ties with Iran were valued for its strategic significance. Egypt's ambassador to Beijing Magdi Amer said China was expected to lend Egypt's central bank US$1 billion to help shore up its foreign reserves. China is also due to sign a US$700 million agreement with the state-owned National Bank of Egypt to provide a line of credit to finance future projects. A detailed itinerary of Xi's trip has not been released but it is expected to wrap up on Sunday. ^ top ^

'Islamic State hackers' attack top tier Chinese university's website urging holy war (SCMP)
2016-01-18
One of the most famous universities in China says its website has been hacked by a group or person claiming to be linked to the militant organisation Islamic State. The hackers put a photograph and audio in support of holy war, or jihad, on a Tsinghua University website for teachers and students, the Legal Evening News said. A member of staff at the college's computer management centres confirmed to the South China Morning Post that the hacking had taken place, but declined to give further details. It may be the first time that hackers linked to the militant group have attacked a web site based in China. The hackers left a message in English on the site, according to the newspaper report. “Everything is OK in the end. If it's not OK, then it's not the end”. The comments were signed “Islamic State Hacker”. The affected website has been shut down by the university to “prevent further spreading of the message”, the Legal Evening News said. Other websites on the Beijing university's server, including its homepage, remained unaffected. Tsinghua is one of the top state universities in China and is involved in many defence and national security research projects. Its websites have often been the target of cyber attacks, but it is not clear why it should be singled out by Islamic State. China's government says Islamic militants blamed for a serious of violent attacks in the country's Xinjiang region in recent years have links to IS. The university's websites are regarded as better maintained and protected than many government websites. Tsinghua was one of the birth places of information technology in China with one of the strongest cybersecurity technical teams. A technician at the university involved with the investigation told the Legal Evening News the website might have used a relatively weak password, which compromised its security. It is unlikely that Islamic State hackers had acquired the advanced technology to break Tsinghua's firewall, the technician said. China was declared one of 18 enemy states by Islamic State last year. ^ top ^

China, EBRD vow to build strong partnership (China Daily)
2016-01-16
Premier Li Keqiang said on Friday China is willing to strengthen investment and financing cooperation with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The visit by Suma Chakrabarti, president of the EBRD, marks China's entry into the bank and opens a new chapter for their cooperation, said Li when meeting with Chakrabarti in Beijing. On Dec. 14, the EBRD announced that its board of governors had approved a request by Chinese authorities for China to join the bank as a non-recipient country. After going through a series of legal procedures domestically, China will become a shareholder of the EBRD. China will work with the EBRD to provide support for cooperation between China and Europe, said Li. He said China will resolutely push forward financial reform, boost economic growth by deepening reforms and let the market play a decisive role in allocating financial resources. China will accelerate market-oriented financial reform and establish a regulatory framework to accommodate development of the modern financial market and guard against systemic risks, he said. "China has no intention of stimulating exports via competitive devaluation of currencies," he said, adding that China is capable of keeping the yuan's exchange rate basically stable at an appropriate and balanced level. Chakrabarti said China's achievements in the economic and social sectors in the past 30 years have provided experience for international development cooperation. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Charity workers in China say NGOs being 'pulled out by the roots' (SCMP)
2016-01-22
A slew of crackdown on non-government organisations on the mainland in the past couple of years, culminating in Swedish NGO worker Peter Dahlin being paraded on state TV this week, has left many charity workers feeling jittery about their future. State media on Tuesday accused Peter Dahlin, 35, of setting up Chinese Urgent Action Working Group with rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang to carry out activities that “endanger state security”. It also accused the Hong Kong-registered group of receiving overseas funding to carry out “criminal activities” without stating which laws they broke. Some of the country's most progressive, independent NGOs have been targets in the government's latest crackdown on civil society. Although the authorities have always kept a close eye on the sector, critics say in the past couple of years, the crackdown has noticeably stepped up, with NGOs closed and their workers detained, arrested or jailed. Guo Yushan, founder of the nongovernmental think tank Transition Institute, was held for nearly a year before he was released in September. His organisation, which conducted research on social and economic issues, was closed by the Beijing authorities in 2013. In September 2014, Liren, an NGO that had run two dozen rural libraries across China closed down, citing pressure from the local government. In March last year, five women activists who planned to demonstrate against sexual harassment on public transport were detained for more than a month. In June last year, Guo Bin and Yang Zhanging two activists who used to work for anti-discrimination NGO Beijing Yirenping were detained for “illegal business activities.” The Yirenping office was also raided and closed in March. Earlier this month, Chinese police formally arrested four labour activists on the charge of “disturbing social order”. State media accused them of “accepting financial support from overseas organisations” and “inciting workers to assemble a crowd and stir up trouble”. Critics also worry that a proposed law on the management of foreign NGOs, if enacted, would drive out many groups operating on the mainland and harm domestic non-government organisations that rely on them for funding and help. The law requires foreign NGOs to be registered with the police and insists that they “must not endanger China's national unity and national security”. The bleak situation has made workers at independent NGOs unaffiliated to the government feeling despondent about their future. A worker at a domestic NGO who declined to be named for fear of reprisals, said government control and harassment had always been around butthe room for carrying out its birthright advocacy work has narrowed drastically in the past few years. And the situation hit rock bottom when they started detaining and arresting people in 2014. “In the past two years, people's personal safety has become endangered,” he said. “The best response to this is to carry on as normal... but we're mentally prepared for the worst.” His group, like many independent NGOs, cannot get government or domestic funding as their work does not go along with the government's agenda so it has no choice but to rely on foreign funds. But the reliance on overseas funding places these groups in a “dangerous position” as they are vulnerable to be accused of accept foreign money to “destabilise” the country, as in Dahlin's case, said Professor Chan Kin-Man, a sociologist at Chinese University of Hong Kong. “You want to advocate for social and policy changes, so you bring up the shortcomings and this enables them to accuse you of subversion,” Chan said. Another former worker for a foreign NGO said the “grey area” which existed before the Xi Jinping administration has been cracked down on and now “the space has markedly tightened and doing meaningful NGO work in China is getting more and more difficult.” “Several years ago, they were mainly just harassing NGOs, but now, they want to completely pull them out from the roots,” said a veteran NGO worker, whose group has been closed down. As of 2013, there were around 547,000 registered civil groups in China, of which most were government-affiliated groups. ^ top ^

Hangzhou denies pastor change related to church demolition protests (Global Times)
2016-01-22
The Christian Council of Hangzhou in East China's Zhejiang Province on Thursday slammed accusations that a recent change in a church's leadership was revenge for protests of church demolitions in the province. A notice on the replacement of the senior pastor of Chongyi Protestant Church - the biggest church in Hangzhou - was issued by the Christian Council of Hangzhou on Monday. It stated that senior pastor Joseph Gu would be replaced by Zhang Zhongcheng, permanent deputy chairman of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches of Hangzhou. "It is a normal personnel adjustment. It is not because [the pastor has] made any mistakes," an anonymous official at the council told the Global Times on Thursday, stressing that Gu - who is also president of the Christian Council of Zhejiang - will work full time at the provincial council in the future. The response came amid speculation among church followers, especially those in Zhejiang, where a number of churches have been demolished or have had their crosses removed. Some questioned whether the replacement was an act of revenge against Gu, who has allegedly voiced opposition to the province's relocation of church crosses. The "three revise and one demolition" campaign, which aims to "revise" old neighborhoods and old industrial sites and remove "illegal" structures by 2015, began to attract public attention in 2014 when religious structures - especially churches - were targeted. Photos of an alleged open letter from the Zhejiang Christian Council in July 2015 said that the province has relocated over 1,200 crosses, including those at licensed churches, and that the campaign has "severely harmed" the feelings of millions of believers in the province. In April 2014, hundreds of church faithful protested a demolition order against the Sanjiang Church in Yongjia county, Wenzhou, Zhejiang, but the church was ultimately torn down. A number of churches in Wenzhou allegedly had crosses removed from their rooftops in 2015, while in Wenling, Zhejiang, some 15 churches were told to demolish their "illegal structures" before September 1, 2015. China bans the construction of buildings without the prior acquisition of necessary documents and approval from local authorities. ^ top ^

$93m gay app deal raises questions over future of LGBT services (Global Times)
2016-01-21
A Chinese game developer's recent announcement that it will purchase a US-based gay social networking app has boosted Chinese gay Internet companies' confidence as well as triggered a new round of discussion on the status of the gay community. Shenzhen-listed Chinese game developer Beijing Kunlun Wanwei Technology announced on January 11 that it will spend about $93 million on 98.4 million shares of the Los Angeles-based Grindr Holding Co. The Grindr app allows users to meet others in their area, and is geared toward gay and bisexual men. "The announcement of the deal does not only bring LGBT-related stocks into the A share market, more importantly, it sends out a signal that the gay community is everywhere, both in the economy and society," Li Kui, chief brand officer of danlan.org, a gay information website, told the Global Times. With more and more LGBT-focused Internet companies taking off in China in recent years, the community is becoming more visible. However, some think that this visibility and greater acceptance may mean that many gay-oriented services will become obsolete. Danlan.org, originally a gay information website set up in 2000, has developed several Internet products aimed at gay people including Blued, a social networking app. Danlan claims it has a total of 5 million registered users. The company is currently focusing on its HIV prevention and anti-discrimination campaigns on one hand and developing the company commercially on the other, according to Li. "We will make more commercial decisions this year, on advertisements and membership fees. To have the company listed on the stock market is our ultimate goal," Li said. Like other Internet companies, more and more gay websites are developing their mobile presence. Feizan.com, established in 2010 and dubbed the "gay Facebook," has also developed a dating app called ZANK. […] Jiang Hui, one of the early members of Aibai Culture and Education Center (ACEC) which runs the gay information website aibai.com, said that ACEC has evolved from just providing information to training teachers and firms. […] Starting two years ago, ACEC began to teach middle school teachers about sexology and gay issues so their students can make better, safer decisions. An increasing number of students nationwide are HIV positive. According to a report by China Youth Daily, more than 14,000 people aged 15 to 24 contracted HIV in 2015, up 10 percent year on year. The majority contracted the virus through unprotected gay sex. ACEC is also working on helping more enterprises to be gay-friendly. They have organized training for human resources professionals to promote gay rights, as well as to encourage them to recruit more gay people, Jiang said. Some companies said that the success of gay-oriented companies improved the public's understanding of the LGBT community, but increasing acceptance does not mean China no longer needs products geared towards the gay community. "It's just like women's products. We understand women, but still have women-focused apps and websites. Different groups have different needs, and the existence of gay products has nothing to do with social acceptance in this sense," Ling said. Jiang however believes that the gay market actually allows the community to hide themselves from others, and that a fair and tolerant society does not separate people based on their sexual orientation. "I have doubts about some gay products, such as gay fashion, gay nursing homes and even gay finance. Their existence is based on the idea gay people cannot be treated equally," Jiang said. With China becoming a more tolerant society, many such products may not find their market, he added. However, many are still prejudiced toward the LGBT community, such as associating all gay people with HIV and not recognizing same-sex marriage, gay rights activists said. In that sense, some professional LGBT services are still needed in China, such as legal consultation on discrimination, child adoption and AIDS prevention, Jiang said. ^ top ^

Party polices uni teachers' in-class remarks (Global Times)
2016-01-21
The Communist Party of China's (CPC) inspector at the education ministry said the Party has strengthened management and inspection of university teachers' "inappropriate remarks" in classrooms, according to information posted on the top disciplinary watchdog's official website on Wednesday. Wang Liying, a discipline inspector sent to the Ministry of Education by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) of the CPC, said in an interview that great importance has been attached to the improvement of Party members' political alertness and political judgment, noting that "the current political ecology is yet to be purified." The Party has repeatedly emphasized ideological education in universities in recent years. At the end of January 2015, following the education ministry's release of a notice on enhancing ideological education in universities, China's Education Minister Yuan Guiren warned the country's universities and colleges to maintain political integrity, the Xinhua News Agency reported. "Never let textbooks promoting Western values appear in our classes," the minister said. The notice and Wang's remarks can be seen as a signal to university professors and instructors, warning them that they are required to stay in tune with mainstream socialist values, Yin Yungong, an expert on the socialist system at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Wednesday. When asked about the reasons for re-emphasizing ideological education, Yin said that the Party's ideological education program in universities is presently facing serious problems. "The problem is that many teachers now do not feel ashamed to mock mainstream values," Tang Zhongbao, an associate professor at the School of Marxism of Jiangnan University, told the Global Times on Wednesday. "The information spread by university teachers in classrooms may create negative impressions of the Party and the government among students," Yin said, referring to a report published by Liaoning Daily in November 2014, which pointed out that many teachers gave Marxism the cold shoulder and advocated Western values. Yin warned that such arguments from teachers could contribute to irrational thinking and behavior by students. "Management of teachers' improper remarks ensures that students will not be led astray, are taught how to behave rationally and unemotionally, and learn how to understand social realities in a correct way," Yin said. "Such management will not influence the freedom of academic research," Yin claimed. Tang suggested that there should be more detailed regulations specifying in black and white terms which topics are prohibited in classrooms. The central authorities in January 2015 state that ideology-based instruction in colleges is "a strategic project that can consolidate the foundation [of values] and shape the spirit," the Xinhua News Agency reported. ^ top ^

Shrinking migrant population underscores necessity of policy change (Xinhua)
2016-01-20
China's migrant population, people who leave their hometown to seek employment or education elsewhere, decreased for the first time in about 30 years in 2015, a change that surprised demographers and economists. The country's migrant population dropped by 5.68 million to 247 million people at the end of last year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). "The decline means a negative growth of migrant workers, a group that accounts for the majority of the migrant population," said Li Xunlei, chief economist with Haitong Securities. The negative growth came one year earlier than expected. Growth in the number of migrant workers entering the city has declined by 2 million per year since an annual peak of 12 million in 2010, Li said. China's working-age population, which was defined as people aged between 16 to 60, fell by a record 4.87 million to 911 million in 2015, the fourth consecutive year of decline, the NBS data showed. As labor, capital and technology are key to economic growth, Li forecast a dropping migrant population coupled with a shrinking labor force will slow economic growth. An affluent and cheap labor force used to be conducive to China in attracting investment and boosting exports. But a decreasing labor pool has resulted in increased labor costs, prompting an outflow of investment. Consumption, another driving force for economic growth, also dragged by work-age population decline, Li said, given labors, especially those who are between 25 and 45 years old, formed the main body of consumers, be it in real estate or auto consumption. China's shift to a two-child policy did not help a lot so far, as NBS data showed the country's newborn population dropped 320,000 from 2014 to 16.55 million last year, instead of an expected rise, according to Huang Wenzheng, a demographer. The situation is so grim that another demographer, Liang Jianzhang, recently suggested China should encourage women to allow routine artificial insemination, according to a China Daily report on Wednesday. Li expected China to raise fiscal-deficit-to-GDP ratio to 3 percent or higher in 2016 from the 2.3 percent for 2015 in an effort to shore up growth. A 3-percent deficit ratio is normally considered a red line not to be crossed, but opinions favor a higher ratio as it enables the government to cut taxes, encouraging more production. ^ top ^

Poverty in Guizhou alleviated by Internet (China Daily)
2016-01-19
With the booming development of e-commerce and big-data technology, Guizhou province aims to lift millions out of poverty as China makes a five-year dash to help all of its 1.3 billion people have sufficient means for a comfortable life. Provincial lawmakers have passed the country's first local law on big data, promising support for the industry's development. Passed during a recent meeting of the provincial people's congress, the draft stipulates that big data providers should avoid harming State interests and protect the privacy of individuals and businesses. In Guizhou's five-year plan (2016-20) to develop its society and economy, big data and big poverty alleviation are highlighted as two major strategies, according Vice-Governor Liu Yuankun. "This means we will make full use of big data technology to reduce poverty," Liu said. According to the province, more than 3 million of the remaining 6.23 million people living below the poverty line are expected to be lifted out of poverty by the end of 2017, and all by 2010. With the help of big-data technology, a "poverty alleviation cloud" has been built, Liu said. The cloud is an electronic platform that pools all updated information about residents living below the poverty line, such as location, reason for low income, subsidies received and what alleviation project covers them. "By following the data stored in the cloud, we are able to deliver more precise and targeted help," Liu said. Rough estimates show that the province lifted 1.3 million out of poverty in 2015. "The Internet has helped Chinese people overcome poverty" said Chris Nebe, CEO of Monarex Hollywood, who is currently filming a documentary about Guizhou. ^ top ^

'They tore through everything': Labour activists increasingly targeted in civil rights crackdown in China, say supporters (SCMP)
2016-01-15
About a dozen police barged into Wu Rongpu's apartment in the early hours and dragged away his labour activist wife, leaving their one-year-old daughter screaming. “They came into the room and tore through everything they could” looking for evidence of Zhu Xiaomei's work for a small Chinese workers' rights organisation. Last week, just over a month after she was detained, authorities formally arrested her on charges of “gathering a crowd to disturb social order”, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years in jail. Zhu, 36, came to the Chinese authorities' attention for her role as a labour activist in Panyu in the southern province of Guangdong. The region's bustling ports and factories have made a huge contribution to China's transformation into the world's second-largest economy. But as the country's growth slows and factories shut at an alarming rate, they have become ground zero for an explosion in strikes and worker protests. According to data from Hong Kong-based rights group China Labour Bulletin, there were 2,774 across the country in 2015 – more than the previous four years put together – with unpaid wages the most common grievance. As China's manufacturing hub, Guangdong has been hard-hit by the country's growth slowdown and had almost twice as many strikes and protests last year as any other province. Unions represent one of the government's greatest fears: that economic dissatisfaction, a widening crack in one of the key pillars of the ruling Communist Party's claim to legitimacy, might lead to an organised political movement. […] The authorities have spent hundreds of billions of dollars trying to prevent a similar scenario by propping up failing companies to avoid mass unemployment. They also tightly control tools such as social media to stop people organising effectively and have cracked down on groups that threaten to gather in large numbers, whether in front of a factory or in Tiananmen Square. The accusations against Zhu also come as Beijing wages a widening campaign against civil society, including the mass detentions of human rights lawyers. Zhu, her husband said, only wanted to help employees protect their rights. But in early December, authorities detained her and two other members of the Panyu Workers Service Centre, along with at least four other activists. Chinese state media vilified them, with the official Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily saying they had “plotted behind the scenes to organise and control labour strikes” that “seriously disturbed social order” and “trampled on workers' rights and interests”. Their work, it said, targeted the government, using funds provided by foreign organisations, including the China Labour Bulletin. But a factory employee who worked with Zhu and requested anonymity said that she “taught us how to not break the law, taught us legal knowledge”. “She gave so much, but society has repaid her with this kind of slander,” the worker added. The tactics have not stopped demonstrations: more than 60 strikes were reported nationwide in the first week of January alone. Independent groups such as Zhu's actually help to resolve strike actions, according to China Labour Bulletin campaigner Geoffrey Crothall, by negotiating with angry workers and encouraging them to focus on “reasonable” demands. “It's completely the opposite from what the government is pretending is happening,” he said. The state-run All-China Federation of Trade Unions is the country's only approved union and the only group legally allowed to collectively bargain on workers' behalf. But many employees feel that it has not “adequately represented” them, Friedman said. “It's a typical practice to have the HR manager also serve as the union chair, which creates an obvious sort of conflict of interest,” he said. Clothes and toys lie scattered around Wu's apartment. For over a month, he has balanced being the single parent of two children with fighting for his wife's freedom. They met at Hitachi Metals, where she was his supervisor. She fought the company for workers' right to establish a union, a decision that cost her her job and started her on the path to activism. Since her detention, Wu has seen her only a few times, and when he brought their daughter to the detention centre to nurse, he said, she barely recognised her own mother. […] ^ top ^

 

Shanghai

Former Shanghai vice mayor expelled from office, Party (Xinhua)
2016-01-19
Former vice mayor of Shanghai Ai Baojun was expelled from the Communist Party of China (CPC) and removed from office for "serious discipline offenses," authorities said Tuesday. The decision was approved by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council. Ai's illicit earnings have been confiscated and the case has been transferred to judicial organs, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) said. Investigations found that Ai, who is also former member of the standing committee of CPC Shanghai committee, seriously violated the Party's political discipline, cheating the Party organization and confronting the investigation. Ai was also accused of violating organizational discipline, accepting assets and seeking interests for others by taking advantage of his post, as well as not reporting his personal issues to the organization. Ai violated discipline for clean governance, seeking benefits for his relatives' businesses and trading powers for sex. He seriously violated the Eight-point regulation for frugality, joining private clubs and playing golf. He also embezzled public assets by taking advantage of his post and sought interests for others, acts that are suspected of being criminal offenses. The CCDI said as a senior official of the Party, Ai lost his faith and seriously violated the Party's discipline. Moreover, he did not cease his wrongdoings even after the 18th National Congress of CPC. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

China compiles database of 'living Buddhas'... and guess who's not on the list? (SCMP)
2016-01-20
China's communist government has compiled a database of 870 “verified” living Buddhas and left the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama off the list. The database of Tibetan holy men was launched by the government on Saturday, saying it was the first that could be accessed and searched by members of the public. Anybody claiming to be a living Buddha who is not on the list should be considered a fake, according to a statement on the website of the State Administration for Religious Affairs. China's government considers the Dalai Lama a separatist intent on splitting the nation. He rejects the allegation, saying he merely wants greater autonomy for the region. The Dalai Lama fled into exile after a failed rebellion against Beijing's rule in 1959. Living Buddhas are worshipped by Tibetan Buddhists who believe in the reincarnation of their spiritual leaders. China's leaders have attempted since the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) to oversee the selection of the four most influential living Buddhas in Tibet, including the Dalai Lama. People wishing to the search the database for a living Buddha have to provide a mobile phone number to receive a verification code. A limit is set of five inquiries a day. Information given includes the holy man's secular name, religious name, date of birth, religious division, phone number, the location of his temple and his “living Buddha licence number”. ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

New city to rise in southern Xinjiang near the separatist hotbed (Global Times)
2016-01-22
Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region will set up a city to fight separatism, stabilize the border and promote economic development, the 14th division of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) confirmed with the Global Times on Thursday. The State Council has approved the plan to set up county-level city Kunyu administered by the 14th division of the XPCC, several employees of the division in Hotan prefecture told the Global Times, without further discussing the plan. Kunyu is 75 kilometers from Hotan in southern Xinjiang's Hotan prefecture inhabited by people belonging to the Uyghur ethnic minority and also a hotbed for terrorism, separatism and extremism, the XPCC website said. Establishing the city of Kunyu secures the border area, preserves national security and develops the economy, according to an article released on the official website of XPCC in 2015. The 14th division is responsible for cracking down on terrorism, separatism and extremism in Xinjiang. Fighting separatism in Hotan is serious and complicated, according to the website. Kunyu's strategic position is significant since it is also located 440 kilometers away from Kashgar, which borders India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the website said. In August 2014, the Xinhua News Agency reported that 37 civilians were killed and another 13 injured in a terrorist attack in Shache county, Kashgar prefecture. As an important component of the autonomous region, the XPCC is a special social organization that handles its own administrative and judicial affairs within the reclamation areas under its administration, consistent with the laws and regulations of the state and the region, said Xinhua. Since it was formed 60 years ago, the XPCC has reclaimed ecological oases from the desolate Gobi desert, launched Xinjiang's modernization, built large-scale agriculture, industrial and mining enterprises, and established new cities and towns with the help of residents from all ethnic groups. ^ top ^

Event in Xinjiang to pave way for Olympics (China Daily)
2016-01-21
China's 13th National Winter Games, which are being hosted in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region from Wednesday to Jan 30, will significantly help China promote winter sports in its western regions and achieve the goal of 300 million participants before the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, a top sports official said. Previous National Winter Games, first introduced in 1959, were all hosted by Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces in the northeast, where winter sports have enjoyed huge popularity. "Hosting the 13th National Winter Games in Xinjiang is a strategic move for China's winter sports, which will be further promoted to western and southern China. It will also help China gain more experience in organizing winter sports events to prepare for the Beijing Winter Olympics," Liu Peng, China's sports minister, said at the ceremony. In July, Beijing and co-host Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, won the right to host the 2022 Winter Games. Liu said the National Winter Games is also a good opportunity to spot young talent to participate in the Olympics. More than 1,380 athletes from 54 provincial and municipal teams will compete for 97 gold medals in Xinjiang. Many events, such as figure stating and short-track speed skating, have divisions for young athletes. Xinjiang's favorable natural conditions for winter sports produced a lot of talent about 20 years ago, but because of a lack of training facilities, athletes gradually fell behind those in northeastern provinces, said Li Guangming, a top official of the Xinjiang Sports Bureau. A new world-class ice complex in a southwestern suburb of Urumqi will be the venue for all ice-related events, including speed and figure skating, curling and hockey. "We expected to see local Xinjiang athletes, especially those from ethnic groups who are naturally talented in sports, thrive after top winter sports infrastructure was in place," said Gao Zhidan, deputy director of the organizing committee in Urumqi. This is the first time Xinjiang will host a national sports event, and the organizer has "paid extra attention" to the security of the Games, according to Li Xuejun, another deputy director. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Hong Kong University class boycott continues amid anger over interference (SCMP)
2016-01-22
About 100 students continued to support a class boycott for a second day at the University of Hong Kong, with many calling for an escalation of the campaign. They gathered at the university's Pok Fu Lam campus to attend a forum discussing changes to the governing council, which has been criticised for inviting political interference in academic freedom. The campaign came after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's much-opposed decision to appoint a highly controversial figure, former education minister Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, as the council's chairman, despite calls for him to reconsider the move. The appointment happened after the council's equally controversial decision to reject the promotion of a pro-democracy law professor, Johannes Chan Man-mun, to a key managerial post. The boycott, which is set to last at least one week, aims to force the council to form a committee to review the council structure. Students question whether the chief executive should continue to be the university's chancellor by default, whether he should have the power to appoint council members and whether members appointed from inside the university should account for at least half of council members. Benny Lam Kin-ping, 19, an engineering student, said he would continue to boycott all his classes until the council responded to student demands. “The boycott is just the first step to raise students' awareness,” said Lam. He added that students should consider escalating their campaign, staging other activities such as a hunger strike. Winnie Chan Wing-yue, 20, studying government and law, said the boycott would exert more pressure on the council if more people joined. She also believed that there should be some kind of escalation later, such as storming council meetings to express students' demands. “We have come to a point where the violence of the system is more serious than the violence of students' actions,” said Chan, when asked whether an escalation of the campaign would invite criticism from the public. ^ top ^

Government insists 'one country, two systems' not threatened as Legco holds out over extra high-speed rail funding (SCMP)
2016-01-19
The principle of “one country, two systems” will not be sacrificed for economic efficiency, the transport minister insisted on Tuesday. But lawmakers still didn't green-light extra money for the city's portion of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong rail link. The placement of immigration checkpoints serving both Hong Kong and the mainland at the link's West Kowloon terminus remained a concern for lawmakers. Some said having mainland officials working in the special administrative region undermines the separation of the two systems. The government had said that issue should be dealt with separately from the request for extra funding. “The government repeatedly stressed co-location arrangements will be implemented in compliance with the Basic Law and the principle of 'one country, two systems',” said Secretary for Housing and Transport Anthony Cheung Bing-leung at the Legislative Council, as he tried to urge lawmakers to endorse its request for extra money to finish the railway project, which had been delayed to 2018. “[The government] will not, for economic efficiency, sacrifice 'one country, two systems'. “The government is still negotiating with mainland authorities on a feasible plan. As to how co-location arrangements will be implemented in the future, it still needs consensus of the community.” Discussion over extra funding will continue this Saturday. Including the meeting yesterday, the Public Works Subcommittee had so far met three times to discuss extra funding for the project. After securing the endorsement of legislators in the subcommittee, the government still had to secure the approval from the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council. The MTR Corporation is currently short HK$19.6 billion to complete the railway project and has sought the amount by March. To keep the project running, the government last year proposed asking the Legislative Council to approve the extra cash by February. The government would recoup almost exactly the same amount through a special dividend from the MTR Corp, subject to its shareholders' approval. The government expected the HK$65 billion it earlier allocated to MTR for the project would run dry by July. If funding was not approved, the government said the project would be suspended, at an estimated loss of HK$4.8 billion. New People's Party lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun said the government had to explain the arrangement for joint checkpoints to the public sooner or later. “How will you implement [the immigration facilities]? When are you ready to talk about it? You must have a timetable,” he said. “Today, you can't say. In finance committee, are you going to talk about it there?” ^ top ^

Chinese authorities finally confirm missing Hong Kong bookseller Lee Bo is in mainland China after his associate is paraded on state television (SCMP)
2016-01-19
Hong Kong police have written to Guangdong security officials asking for a meeting with Lee Bo after they were finally informed that the missing local bookseller was on the mainland. Police said late on Monday night they had received a written reply to their enquiries about Lee, who disappeared from Hong Kong last month, prompting suspicion that he had been spirited away by mainland agents for selling books critical of China's ruling Communist Party. Also enclosed in the correspondence from the Guangdong Provincial Public Security Department was a letter from Lee to the Hong Kong government, which police said was similar to the last one received by the bookseller's wife. In that letter, Lee had reiterated he was helping with investigations and blamed one of his missing associates, Gui Minhai, for getting him involved in the case. A source told the Post there was no mention of three other booksellers whose whereabouts remain unknown. The mystery of the missing booksellers has triggered a diplomatic tussle, with Sweden demanding “openness” from Beijing and mainland officials still keeping everyone in the dark. The closest to an explanation came on Sunday night when Gui, a naturalised Swedish citizen who went missing three months ago, was paraded on state television admitting his involvement in a fatal car accident on the mainland 12 years ago. While many were highly sceptical about the official explanation of Gui's detention, two of his friends, including a mainland-born publisher who is also a Swedish national, cast serious doubts on CCTV's claim that the missing bookseller had turned himself in last October. But both of them – dissident poet Bei Ling and publisher Jin Zhong – said they had heard in the past that Gui had killed a young woman in a drink-driving accident in 2003, as reported by China Central Television on Sunday. “We encourage the Chinese authorities to show us much openness, and provide information and contact between the Swedish authorities and the detainee,” Sweden's deputy minister for finance, Per Bolund, told the Post on the sidelines of the Asian Financial Forum in Hong Kong yesterday. In his CCTV appearance, Gui said he had decided to escape from China after receiving a suspended two-year jail term in 2004 in Ningbo (寧波), Zhejiang (浙江) province. The sentence required him to remain on the mainland. Gui said he was overwhelmed by guilt and decided to turn himself in, contradicting reports suggesting he might have been kidnapped by Chinese agents while on holiday in Pattaya, Thailand. While Gui said that he hoped Swedish authorities would not get involved in his “own problems”, Bolund insisted Beijing should “enable Swedish authorities to meet Gui Minhai himself”. He added: “I really hope that the Chinese authorities would see this need and that it would be the easiest way to resolve all these questions that have arisen.” Bei, co-founder of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre, believed Gui was kidnapped in Pattaya. He came to that conclusion after conducting an investigation with Gui's friends, including reviewing security camera footage of Gui's Pattaya condominium. They found that four Chinese men had entered Gui's house about two weeks after he disappeared and tried to take away his computer. He added that Gui's daughter, Angela, wanted to visit the detained publisher on the mainland. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying yesterday admitted ^ top ^

Experts sceptical at Gui Minhai's 'illogical' surrender (SCMP)
2016-01-19
A person on a suspended jail term on the mainland cannot leave the country without official permission and authorities would not only keep a close watch on anyone fleeing but make a real effort to track them down, say legal experts. Once the law caught up with the offender, he would have to serve his sentence in prison. This was why legal eagles and observers said they found it mystifying, and unconvincing, that Gui Minhai had eluded arrest for more than 12 years and decided to turn himself only now and – of all places – while in a foreign land. Gui – one of the five missing shareholders and staff of publishing house Mighty Current which is linked to Causeway Bay Books – disappeared in mid-October after he was last seen at his apartment in the seaside town of Pattaya in Thailand. On Sunday night, he appeared in a recorded interview broadcast by China Central Television, in which he said he had surrendered out of guilt for killing a 23-year-old student while drink-driving in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, in 2004. The confession contrasted starkly with the widely held suspicion that he was abducted by mainland law enforcement agencies in Thailand for selling books that are banned by China. Professor Fu Hualing, a legal expert on the mainland criminal justice system, said he found it “totally illogical” for Gui to turn himself in now, after being on the run for so long. “It is very shocking that after so many years Gui voluntarily went back,” said Fu. “A person, after so many years, suddenly finds his conscience and wants to return. What I can say is we have an official story but what else … is anybody's guess.” Fu said the personal freedom of people on a suspended prison term would be curtailed and they could not leave the country lawfully without official permission. Should the person violate the condition, as in Gui's alleged case, he or she would be placed on the wanted list immediately and would have to serve the original sentence in jail. Mainland lawyer Duan Wanjin said it was also the duty of mainland authorities to supervise the people on suspended terms and compile a report on them if they breached any terms, such as fleeing the country. The question then was: why did it take the authorities so long to seek Gui's return? “If no such report was filed before, it would be inappropriate for the authorities to take action against him now,” said Duan, who once assisted a businessman who was “unlawfully detained” by three Hong Kong men in the city before being taken across the border in 2013. Civic Party leader Alan Leong Kah-kit, a senior counsel, found it bizarre that Gui could have turned himself in at the mainland's liaison office in the city or even the foreign ministry here but instead chose to return via Thailand. Senior counsel Edward Chan King-sang said the CCTV footage of Gui admitting he had fled from a suspended two-year jail term would not pass muster in a real court of law as evidence of a confession. He said the case had a negative impact on the rule of law in the city and that it would be a breach of the “one country, two systems” principle if Lee Bo, another missing bookseller, had been spirited away from the city by “powerful departments”, as suggested by mainland daily Global Times. ^ top ^

Missing Hong Kong bookseller says he turned himself in for 2003 drunk driving death on state (SCMP)
2016-01-18
One of the five booksellers who had mysteriously disappeared in recent months appeared in an interview on state media on Sunday night, saying he had surrendered to the mainland authorities after being on the run for more than 12 years. Gui Minhai, a China-born Swedish national and co-owner of Mighty Current publishing company – which specialises in books banned on the mainland – appeared on CCTV, admitting he had been fleeing from a suspended two-year jail term since causing the death of a 20-year-old university student while drunk-driving in Ningbo, Zhejiang province in 2004. One of the conditions of the sentence was that he stayed in mainland China. “I was afraid of going to jail, and there was no way I could develop on the mainland, so I thought I better run,” Gui said. He surrendered to mainland Chinese police in October last year. “I have to shoulder my own liability, and I'm willing to be punished,” Gui said, while sobbing. During the recorded interview, which the state broadcaster claimed was filmed in a detention centre, Gui also asked that the Swedish authorities to stay away. “Even though I am a Swedish national, I truly feel that I am still Chinese and my roots are still in China. So I hope that the Swedish side would respect my personal choice, rights and privacy and let me solve my own problems,” he said. The CCTV report also stated Gui Minhai had been involved in other criminal activities, and the related persons were also being investigated. Xinhua also carried the report at about the same time last night. Almost two weeks ago the Swedish ministry for foreign affairs announced it was taking a “serious view” over Gui Minhai's disappearance, summoning the Thai ambassador and launching an investigation both in Thailand and mainland China. […] According to the state media report, Gui Minhai was involved in a fatal drunk driving incident on a Ningbo highway in 2003. Records showed the CCTV carried reports of the crash in April 2005, when it said Gui was 46, and was a director from a Ningbo firm. But the reports from the state media, both CCTV and Xinhua, last night said Gui was born in May 1964 in Ningbo, meaning he was 40 in April 2005. Apple Daily reported Gui's daughter had released a statement saying she had no way to confirm the authenticity of the reported drunk driving case and she had never heard of such case from parents. The statement says she wants to pay a visit to her father soon and to find a lawyer for him, and hoped officials from the Swedish government could go with her. In another subtle new dimension to the mystery surrounding the case, the second Chinese character of Gui's name (min) in the state media reports was different from the one commonly used in Hong Kong media, even though both the characters in both versions shared the same pinyin. Within an hour of the interview being broadcast, the online publication Headline Daily announced the wife of fellow missing bookseller Lee Bo had received another letter from her husband. The report claimed she had received a two-page handwritten letter from Lee Bo, stating he was fine and healthy and the investigation by the mainland authorities had made 'good progress'. The report went on to state Lee Bo had claimed in the letter he had found out Gui Minhai had a 'complicated personal history', was 'involved in other crimes' and was a 'morally unacceptable person' and he had been implicated as a result of Gui Minhai's behavior. Mrs Lee has been contacted by the South China Morning Post but has not replied to calls. Gui Minhai first came to the attention of the media when he went missing from his home in Pattaya, Thailand, on October 17. At around the same time, missing reports were made for three other members of the bookstore's staff – manager Lam Wing-kei, Lui Bo, general manager of the publishing house and Cheung Jiping, the publishing house's business manager Gui was last heard of when he sent an email on October 15 to printers asking them to get ready for a new book. Lee Bo said he feared the four might have been detained by mainland authorities as the book Gui was sending to print probably touched on sensitive issues. “I suspect all of them were detained. All four went missing at the same time,” Lee said. He added that phone calls to them were either unanswered or went dead. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Netizens flood Facebook to fight Taiwan independence (Global Times)
2016-01-22
Comments and stickers calling Taiwan an inalienable part of China continued to flood the Facebook pages of the island's "president-elect" Tsai Ing-wen, as well as a number of pro-independence media outlets Thursday, as an online crusade by members of an Internet forum gathered strength. It is the latest episode in a series of clashes between netizens across the Straits since the beginning of Taiwan's general elections, in which Tsai, chairwoman of Taiwan's independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), won a landslide victory on Saturday. Members of the forum Di Ba, hosted by Internet giant Baidu, started posting the comments on Wednesday, even though the Facebook site is blocked in the Chinese mainland. Analysts believe that the online campaign reflects how mainland youth perceive the Taiwan question and China as a country. They also called on the netizens to show restraint. Starting at 7 pm Wednesday, comments and stickers from mainland netizens began to flood Tsai's Facebook page and the pages of Taiwan-based SET News and Apple Daily. As of Thursday night, one of Tsai's posts had drawn over 43,000 comments. The "crusade" was surprisingly well-organized. Participants were separated into different groups and were given different tasks such as designing stickers or collecting information. The Di Ba slogan for the campaign said that "when Di Ba goes into battle, nothing will grow." Organizers of the campaign warned its members before the "battle" started to be civilized, stressing that their aim is to show their disapproval of Taiwan independence without targeting all Taiwan residents. […] The crusade was launched as a counterstrike after Taiwan netizens flooded mainland actor Lin Gengxin's Facebook page with comments earlier this week. Lin implied on Saturday in a post on his Sina Weibo account that Taiwan pop singer Chou Tzu-yu's apology for waving the island's flag on a TV show lacked sincerity. As of press time, the campaign has received over 710,000 hits on Sina Weibo. Several video streaming platforms broadcast the campaign live but were later shut down. One of the platforms, Douyu TV, gathered over 100,000 viewers minutes after the broadcast started. Taiwanese news site SET News responded in a humorous way by saying that "the stickers are so funny" and that the mainland netizens "work so hard." Many netizens, including some who participated in the campaign, later expressed their appreciation of SET News' composure in dealing with the incident. Yang Xuedong, a research fellow at the Central Compilation and Translation Bureau, told the Global Times that "the campaign could be seen as an emotional expression from the young public. It is a show in the name of political appeal. They want people to see their existence and hope to attract people's attention." The outpouring may not affect the government's judgment and decisions in the short-term, Yang said, adding that he was concerned that this kind of campaign may push the Taiwan public away and make it more difficult for people across the Straits to communicate with each other Yang's opinion was echoed by Yu Guoming, deputy dean of the School of Journalism and Communication at the Renmin University of China, who said that the emotional battle will not benefit China in the international relations sphere.  ^ top ^

China's PLA forces carry out landing drills near Taiwan outpost days after elections (SCMP)
2016-01-21
The People's Liberation Army based in the Fujian provincial city of Xiamen – 10km opposite one of self-ruled Taiwan's outposts – has carried out live-fire exercises and landing drills just days after the pro-independence opposition party won elections in Taiwan. Military experts said the drills were aimed at sending a “political warning” to Taiwan's president-elect Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of Democratic Progressive Party, that Beijing would never give up using “non-peaceful means” to solve cross-strait issues. In a report late on Wednesday, the China Central Television's military channel said the 31st Group Army, based in southeastern Xiamen, had carried out the drills in “recent days”, although it did not give an exact location. It showed amphibious armoured vehicles ploughing through the sea towards a landing spot, helicopters firing missiles at locations on shore and soldiers parachuting down from helicopters. The report made no direct mention of Saturday's Taiwan election. The mainland's Defence Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Taiwan's Defence Ministry said it was “aware of the information”, but declined to comment further. Xiamen lies opposite to Quemoy, an island controlled by Taiwan since Kuomintang military forces were defeated by the Communists and fled to Taiwan in 1949. Until the late 1970s, Quemoy was a place that was regularly shelled by Beijing. “All military drills have simulated enemies,” Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, said. “The drill not only shows off the 31st army group's progressive combat power in joint operations, but is also a warning to Tsai's future administration that the PLA is ready to use its non-peaceful means, including military force, to solve cross-strait problems.” Arthur Ding Shu-fan, a professor at Taiwan's National Chengchi University, said the PLA's drills were being used as a “political warning” to make Tsai recognise the “1992 consensus” – an understanding the mainland was using to test whether she would abide by the “one China” principle. “It's just a political warning sent by Beijing to Tsai and her DPP,” Ding said. “I don't think the military drills will have any significant impact on the Taiwanese public as polls in recent years show many Taiwanese, especially the younger generation, don't believe Beijing would use military means to solve Taiwan problem. “It is because the young generation of Taiwan, who were born in 1990s, didn't experience the Taiwan Strait crisis in 1996.” Beijing carried put a series of missile tests in the Taiwan Strait between July 21, 1995 and March 23, 1996 after then-Taiwanese president Lee Teng-hui raised his “two-state theory”, saying that mainland China and Taiwan were separate states. Despite the missile tests, Lee successfully became Taiwan's first directly elected president on March 23, 1996. The mainland considers Taiwan a wayward province, which needs to be brought under its control – by force if necessary. Since Tsai Ing-wen and her DPP won by a landslide in the presidential and parliamentary elections, Beijing has warned against any moves towards independence and said it would defend the country's sovereignty. Yet in her victory speech Tsai vowed to maintain peace with the mainland, and Beijing's state-run media has also noted her pledges to maintain the “status quo”of the cross-strait relationship. ^ top ^

'Gong the billionaire': Beijing's probe into Taiwan affairs official may be linked family (SCMP)
2016-01-21
The corruption investigation into a senior official responsible for Taiwan affairs may be linked to development projects in Fujian), according to sources. Gong Qinggai, deputy director of the Taiwan Affairs Office at the State Council, is being investigated for “serious disciplinary violations” – a euphemism for corruption – the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said on Tuesday. The Beijing News, quoting a businessman close to Gong, said his wife and son were Hong Kong permanent residents. Gong, 57, was seen as a rising star when he was sent to the Taiwan Affairs Office in 2013. He was the first Minnan, or southern Fujian, native at the department and speaks the same dialect as Taiwanese. Taiwanese media reported that when Gong led a mainland delegation to Taiwan in 2014, he volunteered to interpret between Taiwanese fishermen and his mainland colleagues. Beijing has yet to announce why Gong was investigated. But his experience from 2010 to 2013 as director of administration of the Pingtan Comprehensive Pilot Zone, a project for cross-strait business cooperation in Fujian province, may come under the microscope. “In Beijing's eyes, Pingtan spent too much money as dozens of billions was input every year, but achieved too little,” a source close to Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council said. Gong said in November 2012 that foundations had been laid for further opening of the Pingtan Zone and that more than 100 billion yuan (HK$120 billion) of investment had been made. Gong's comment came only two years after he took on the project. He started the project from scratch in 2010, according to the news website Caixin.com. “Land in Pingtan was sold in a swift fashion, and land deals were speculated, but there is barely any construction there,” said a source close to the Fujian government. The probe into Gong might also have been triggered by the parents of his daughter-in-law, according to the Beijing Youth Daily. Gong's son was married to the daughter of a mid-level cadre in Quanzhou, the city with jurisdiction over Gong's hometown Shishi, the report said. However, the marriage turned sour when the younger Gong caught his wife cheating. The incident had caused a grudge between the two families ever since. Gong was known by some in Jinjiang, a county-level city where he spent the first 24 years of his career, as “Gong the billionaire”. He had reported more than a billion yuan in personal wealth, most of which was shares and benefits of his son, said the newspaper. ^ top ^

Taiwan's president-elect Tsai Ing-wen faces crisis as cabinet quits en masse (SCMP)
2016-01-19
Taiwan's entire cabinet resigned on Monday afternoon, risking a shutdown of the island's government and handing president-elect Tsai Ing-wen her first test in managing a crisis. Tsai, who won the election on Saturday and steered her Democratic Progressive Party to a legislative majority, will be inaugurated on May 20. The shake-up adds another demand to her already crowded list of tasks before taking over. Outgoing Premier Mao Chi-kuo led the departure of the 44 cabinet members and vowed he wouldn't remain even after outgoing President Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang rejected his resignation. The KMT, which suffered its worst loss in the election, also ­entered a new round of infighting after its losing presidential ­candidate and chairman, Eric Chu Li-luan, resigned to take ­responsibility. Meanwhile, the island's key ally, the US, sent former deputy secretary of state William Burns to meet Tsai. Washington also intends to send Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Beijing this week. Tsai told Burns she would shoulder the responsibility of maintaining regional peace and stability, the Central News Agency reported, in a veiled reference to how her administration would handle its relations with the mainland. Her administration would maintain close, friendly relations with the United States and promote cooperation with Washington in all areas, especially economic and industrial matters, the agency quoted her as saying. Under Taiwanese law, the vice-premier becomes the acting head of the cabinet if the premier steps down. Mao's deputy, Simon Chang San-cheng, assumed that role on Monday, but it's unclear for how long. Chang told reporters all cabinet members would follow Mao in stepping down, and he had his own career plans. Tsai previously rejected an ­offer by Ma to hand over control of the Executive Yuan so she could appoint the premier of her choice and form a new team, smoothing the way for the new leadership.The resignations appear aimed at forcing her hand, with cabinet spokesman Sun Li-chyun saying Mao “hoped” the majority party would take charge of forming the council. Analysts said Tsai must also tackle other imminent problems in the next four months, which included getting acquainted with the changed face of parliament politics, rewarding allies who helped her win power, and handling relations with the mainland. She is expected to outline her cross-strait policy during her inauguration speech, said Tung Cheng-yuan, a professor at the Graduate Institute of Development Studies at National Chengchi University. That speech will indicate how Tsai plans to maintain goodwill with Beijing while keeping her supporters and much of the public happy by emphasising Taiwan's sovereignty and distinct identity. “She may have to oversee the passage of a bill in parliament on the oversight of future agreements with China before her inauguration,” Tung said. The issue has blocked the ratification of a trade pact already signed with Beijing. But Lin Cheng-yi, research fellow at Taiwan's Academia Sinica, said the newly formed New Power Party, which is wary of close ties with the mainland, will become a key minority group deciding legislative bills. At KMT headquarters, an emotional Eric Chu stepped down as party chairman during the party's central standing committee meeting to take full responsibility for the crushing defeat. It remains unclear who will succeed him. There was a proposal by some KMT stalwarts to make Chu stay, but it failed to win committee approval. “Making Chu stay would create massive harm for the KMT,” said Lee Cheng-hao, executive director of the KMT's Youth Committee. The party should focus on solving a shortage of capable young successors. ^ top ^

China urges int'l community to adhere to one-China principle (Xinhua)
2016-01-17
The foreign ministry on Saturday urged the international community to continue to abide by the one-China principle after the Taiwan leadership election. "We hope and believe that the international community will adhere to the one-China principle, oppose 'Taiwan independence' in any form and support peaceful development of cross-Strait relations through concrete actions," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said in response to questions on Taiwan-related diplomatic situation in the future. Tsai Ing-wen, candidate of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), won Taiwan's leadership election on Saturday, according to the final result of ballot counting released by the island's election commission. Hong said the leading officials of the Taiwan Work Office of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council have already released a statement on the result. The Taiwan question falls in China's internal affairs, said Hong. There is only one China in the world, and both the mainland and Taiwan belong to one China, he said, adding that China's sovereignty and territorial integrity brook no division. The result of Taiwan leadership election will not change the basic fact or the consensus of the international community, the spokesperson said. The Chinese government sticks to the one-China principle, opposes "Taiwan independence", "two Chinas", "one China, one Taiwan," he said, adding that this stance remains unchanged and will not change no matter what happens in Taiwan. On the key issue of safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity, the Chinese government is rock-firm and will never tolerate any secessionist activity of "Taiwan independence", Hong said. ^ top ^

 

Economy

Fears grow over Chinese economy as new jobs dry up in tech sector (SCMP)
2016-01-22
Leading technology companies in China – previously touted as a source for new jobs – are hiring fewer people, fueling concerns about unemployment as the country continues to cut overcapacity in traditional industries. Management of the Shenzhen-based Tencent has ordered a recruitment freeze, sources from the internet giant told the South China Morning Post. The company reportedly stopped hiring from HR agencies three months ago. It recruits staff both independently and through HR firms. Tencent's move, alongside other similar ones in Baidu and Alibaba, have fuelled fears of widespread unemployment. Millions of jobs are expected to be slashed in industries with excess capacity as the world's second largest economy carries out structural reforms. Each of the three internet giants employs tens of thousands of people. The Chinese government has pinned much hope on its online sector and internet entrepreneurs to create jobs. China's internet companies are seen as significant players in driving the country's new economy. However, analysts have expressed concerns that the jobs created by the online sector may still fall far short of what is required to keep the economy afloat. In September Alibaba announced that it would cut the number of its university graduate recruits – reportedly from 3,000 to 400 – after its boss, Jack Ma Yun, had revealed in April that the group would not be increasing staff headcount. In October Baidu executive vice-president Liu Hui was reported to have written to its human resources department to tell it to freeze the hiring for experienced people because of the bleak business outlook. The news was later confirmed, although Baidu said the hiring of university graduates would not be affected. Cao Lei, director of Hangzhou-based China E-Commerce Research Centre, one major reason was over-hiring of internet companies in the beginning of last year. “The central government's Internet Plus plan (a drive to support economic growth by integration of Internet technologies with traditional businesses) announced in March has led to a frenzy of expansions of the sector, with many hiring more staff than needed,” he said. China's stock market rout and pessimistic expectations for the overall economy have also led them to be cautious in personnel investment, he noted. “There were also many acquisitions and merges in the industry last year, like 58.com and ganji.com, and ctrip.com and qunar.com, which led to job cuts in some overlap departments,” he added. On the other side, some 3 million workers would be laid off in the coming few years from five industries running on excess capacity, a report by investment bank China International Capital Corporation estimated. The industries included the coal, iron and cement sectors, which together employ more than 10 million people. Professor Liu Erduo, of Renmin University's School of Labour and Human Resources, said less than half of those laid off from the traditional sectors would be able to fill the jobs created in the new sectors. Unemployment rate, which stands at 5.1 per cent, would likely rise by at least 1 percentage point this year, he said. “Various social problems could result. But the situation should not be as serious as that in the 1990s, because today, most of the younger generation are their family's only child and they will likely rely on their parents if they're unable to find a job,” Liu said. Orient Securities chief economist Shao Yu estimated that the government would have to set aside about 40 billion yuan (HK$47.5 billion) to tackle rising unemployment this year. […] ^ top ^

China rejects US report on worsening investment climate (Global Times)
2016-01-21
China on Thursday rejected a recent US report claiming that business environment in China is worsening, saying China will continue to create a favorable environment for foreign investment. "China will continue its policy of using foreign capital and protecting foreign enterprises' rights," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei at a regular press briefing in response to a question about the report by the American Chamber of Commerce in China. China has great potential for economic growth and is willing to share the benefits from its development with the rest of world, Hong said. According to the recent report, a quarter of respondents said they had already or planned to remove some departments from China, mainly due to rising labor costs, network supervision and anti-monopoly investigations. However, relative to other developing markets, China is still well-positioned. The country remains a top-three investment priority for 60 percent of the respondents, and the top priority for about 25 percent of members. A total of 60 percent of the enterprises still enjoy profits. According to data from China's Ministry of Commerce, China received 120 billion US dollars of foreign investment in 2014, more than any other country, and continued to be the leading destination among developing countries for 23 consecutive years. The data showed that in the first 11 months of 2015, 23,648 enterprises with foreign investment were established, and the use of foreign investment was 7.9 percent more than the same period in 2014. Foreign investment flow into China for 2015 is estimated at a record high of 126 billion US dollars, according to the data. ^ top ^

 

DPRK

China supports UN response on N.Korean nuclear test (Global Times)
2016-01-16
China said on Friday that it supports the UN Security Council to make a "necessary response" to the nuclear test conducted by North Korea, but the resolution should not stir confrontation. The nuclear test went against UN resolutions as well as the denuclearization goals for the Korean Peninsula. The authority of the UN and the nuclear non-­proliferation system should be maintained, said Foreign Minister Wang Yi. China will conduct close communication and coordination with all members within the Security Council, he said. Wang said China knows parties have differences on the proposed new Security Council resolution, but the international community should make joint efforts toward a "unified and clear" direction. "Instead of stirring confrontation, we should firmly advance the goal of denuclearization; instead of causing chaos on the peninsula, we should look for ways to maintain the long-term stability and security; instead of going toward the opposite directions, we should push all parties back to the Six-Party Talks," he said. The Six-Party Talks, which involve China, North Korea, South Korea, the US, Russia and Japan, were launched in 2003, but stalled in 2008. Pyongyang quit in 2009. Separately, the World Economic Forum withdrew its invitation for North Korea to attend its annual Davos meeting due to the nuclear test, a move Pyongyang said was "based on unjust political motivations." ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

President at WEF in Davos (Montsame)
2016-01-21
The leader of Mongolia Ts.Elbegdorj has arrived in Switzerland to take part in the 46th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF), which kicked off January 19 in Davos. Mr Elbegdorj will attend a discussion themed “Global water shortage and adequacy: Accelerating world water programme” and a sub-meeting titled “Mining and metallurgy: Policy tendency”. On Wednesday, the President received Mr Klaus Schwab, the founder and CEO of the WEF. The sides discussed a cooperation between Mongolia and the WEF and exchanged views on organizing the East Asian Economic Forum in Ulaanbaatar. Mr Schwab said he will visit Mongolia in 2017 by invitation of the Mongolian President. A measure called “Mongolian night” will be organized January 22 with aims to present Mongolia's economic and investments environment and developmental goals. ^ top ^

Bank of Mongolia reports (Montsame)
2016-01-20
The Bank of Mongolia (BoM) has reported that money supply (M2) reached MNT 10.1 trillion at the end of December 2015, showing an increase of MNT 241.1 billion or 2.5% from the previous month and a decrease of MNT 585.6 billion or 5.5% compared to the previous year. At the end of December 2015, currency issued in circulation reached MNT 706.7 billion, decreasing by MNT 3.9 billion or 0.5% against the previous month and by MNT 103.0 billion or 12.7% against the previous year. Loans outstanding amounted to MNT 11.7 trillion at the end of December 2015, decreasing by MNT 193.5 billion or 1.6% against November, by MNT 806.8 billion or 6.5% against 2014. Principals in arrears reached MNT 861.2 billion at the end of December 2015, decreasing by MNT 38.3 billion or 4.3% against November of 2015 and increasing by MNT 591.7 billion or 3.2 times against 2014. At the end of December 2015, the non-performing loans over the bank system reached MNT 824.9 billion, showing a decrease of MNT 24.9 billion or 2.9% against the previous month and an increase of MNT 199.3 billion or 31.8% compared to the previous year. In 2015, 41.7 million shares were traded at the Mongolian Stock Exchange, valuing at MNT 898.6 billion. Total turnover increased by MNT 702.3 billion or 4.6 times and total number of stocks decreased by MNT 10.6 million units or 20.2% against the previous year. ^ top ^

Cabinet meeting in brief (Montsame)
2016-01-19
From the state reserve, “UAZ-22069” Russian-made vehicles will be given to hospitals of some provinces where the wintering is worsening. - The cabinet meeting on Monday allowed Minister of Finance B.Bolor to approve a schedule of delivering these vehicles and to allot 600 million Togrog from the governmental reserve. - The cabinet backed a draft 6th report of Mongolia on implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and obliged FM L.Purevsuren to deliver the report to the UN Secretary-General. - A rule on state monitoring over combating fires was amended due to some requirements, in connection with adoption of a new version of the law on fire safety. - A rule on transporting tangible cultural heritage was approved as an appendix. This rule prevents structural and financial difficulties in transportation of the cultural heritage, and makes rights and duties of the sides clearer. - The cabinet amended a governmental resolution on some measures to be taken in structures and functions of state budgetary organizations. By doing so, the "one-window" center for Mongolians residing in South Korea will operate at the Ministry of Labor. - The cabinet approved in principle a general agreement on the financial cooperation to be established between the governments of Mongolia and Hungary. The draft agreement will be consulted with a related Standing committee of parliament. ^ top ^

 

Mrs. Mirjam Eggli
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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