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
  7-11.3.16, No. 613  
Startseite / Homepage   Archiv / Archives
Table of contents

DPRK

Mongolia

^ top ^

 

Switzerland / Mongolia

Foreign Minister legs University of Bern (Montsame)
2016-03-07
After taking part in the 31st session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Mongolia's Minister of Foreign Affairs L.Purevsuren March 3 got au fait with Mongol studies at the Institute of Religious History (University of Bern) in Switzerland. Purevsuren was told details about a history of Mongol studies, researches and training program by Martin Tauber, the rector of the University of Bern; Dr Jens Schlieter; and Prof. Karenina Kollmar-Paulenz, a deputy director of the Institute of Religious History. He also got familiarized with books about Buddhism in Mongolia, Mongolian history and culture, being collected for over 40 years by a Swiss scholar Ernst Richard. The FM met teachers and students involved in Mongol studies, modern and classic Mongolian language, and told them that the government of Mongolia wants to boost Mongol studies abroad within a recently-approved “Propaganda abroad” national program. Then he gave the students and teachers some textbooks and research materials for training and research on Mongol studies. The University of Bern launched Mongol studies course in the academic years of 1999-2000. As of present, about 20 Swiss and other foreign students are studying for bachelor and master degrees. There are three students for PhD degree as well. The course's training program includes subjects such as culture of Mongolian knowledge, the history of Mongolian culture, history in 13-20th centuries, the ties between Mongolia and Tibet, classical and modern Mongolian language, Tibetan and Sanskrit languages. ^ top ^

 

Foreign Policy

Human rights should not be politicized: Chinese diplomat (Global Times)
2016-03-11
Chinese diplomat Fu Cong stressed in Geneva on Thursday the need to depoliticize the human rights forum so as to safeguard the Human Rights Council's (HRC) integrity. "We must maintain the credibility and authority of the international human rights mechanism and reverse the current trend to politicize human rights," he said following the release of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein's annual report. "We should also insist on making national governments as the main driving force to mainstream human rights issues," Fu added, while urging the High Commissioner to refrain from making subjective comments which are not backed by factual evidence. "China is a country governed by law. Fighting crime by law is our judicial sovereignty. Nobody is above the law," said Fu, who is the deputy permanent representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva and other international organizations in Switzerland. The diplomat called out rampant prison abuse in the United Staets, especially in the Guantanamo facility, while deploring widespread gun violence and deep-rooted racism prevalent in the country. Fu also called out large-scale eavesdropping carried out by US authorities, drone attacks killing innocent civilians and the conduct of US troops on foreign soil. Referring to the issue of "comfort women" during WWII, Fu said: "We advise the United States and Japan to deeply reflect on themselves rather than interfere in the internal affairs of other states in the pretext of human rights." The remarks were made during an interactive dialogue with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on his annual report, part of the 31st HRC session which ends on March 24. ^ top ^

China becomes leading world exporter of cultural goods: UNESCO (Xinhua)
2016-03-11
China became the world's leading exporters of cultural goods in 2013, outpacing the United States, a UNESCO report showed on Thursday. A new report by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) pointed out that the total value of China's cultural exports stood at 60.1 billion U.S. dollars; more than double that of the United States' 27.9 billion dollars. "Trade in cultural goods totaled 212.8 billion U.S. dollars in 2013, nearly double the amount in 2004. This is further evidence of the critical role cultural industries play in today's global economy," said Silvia Montoya, director of the UIS. With advanced countries were still dominating imports of cultural goods, emerging markets bolstered their exports of cultural products with Turkey and India strengthened their position in recent years, joining the world's top 10 exporters of such goods. Art and crafts were among the 10 most traded cultural goods. Statues, statuettes and paintings also gained ground with their share of the trade in art and crafts was worth 19 billion dollars in 2013, the report showed. As to gold jewelry, widely considered as "safe harbor in uncertain times," its sales totaled 100 billion dollars over the period. However, trade in movies shrunk by 88 percent from 2004 to 2013 and traded musical goods also suffered a setback over the period. Meanwhile, audio-visual services as a whole steadily gained ground, the report said. The downturn in the trade of print products, reflected by the decline in newspapers, books held their ground as an important cultural export in some regions, growing by 20 percent from 2004 to 2013, it added. ^ top ^

More Chinese bases abroad? Beijing 'willing' to build facilities to protect overseas interests (SCMP)
2016-03-09
China will build essential infrastructure to better protect its growing offshore interests, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Tuesday. Analysts said the comments suggested Beijing was planning more supply bases around the world after setting up its first naval supply depot in Djibouti. “We are willing to try to build some necessary infrastructure and support facilities in the regions of Chinese interests,” Wang said on the sidelines of the annual session of the National People's Congress. “It is a pressing task for Chinese diplomacy as the massive scale of China's interests overseas require effective protection by Beijing.” Asked about the Djibouti base, Wang said the move was “reasonable, logical and compatible with international norms”, adding that China would not take the old path of expansionism and not be engaged in any form of power ­politics. Zhang Chun, an expert on Africa at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, said that if China was planning more overseas bases, they would not be in the US mould. “China is trying to change many people's traditional understanding of bases. Chinese overseas supply depots would be so different from US naval bases overseas because the Chinese facilities would have a win-win effect on the host countries,” Zhang said. But he said it was “very difficult” for Beijing to convince the world that its long-term overseas strategy was a departure from the US approach. “China needs more time and to make more of a contribution to Djibouti and other countries where China is planning overseas naval supply depots,” Zhang said. The defence ministry confirmed last month that work had begun on facilities in Djibouti. The base would focus on logistical tasks rather than projecting power, the ministry added. Wang said there were at least 30,000 Chinese businesses operating in other countries, and millions of Chinese working in all corners of the globe. Last year, China's non-financial outbound direct investment reached US$118 billion and China's overseas assets were valued in the billions of US dollars. But the greater reach of Chinese companies has raised security issues. Chinese naval vessels had to evacuate 613 Chinese citizens and 279 foreigners from Yemen in April as security worsened in the country. All the Chinese nationals were shipped to Djibouti's military base and flown back home. The Chinese navy has also taken part in international anti-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden since late 2008. Since November, Malaysia has allowed the Chinese navy to use its Kota Kinabalu port. One day after the Kota Kinabalu agreement, China also secured usage rights to land for state-owned China Overseas Port Holding Company at the port of Gwadar in Pakistan – situated at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, just outside the Strait of Hormuz. Wang said China was also strengthening ties with Iran, Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries under President Xi Jinping's “One Belt, One Road” initiatives. “China has never been an onlooker on the Middle East. We always support Arab countries' independence and liberation,” Wang said, adding that China would neither seek political ­influence, nor enlist proxies in the region. Liu Zhongmin, an expert on the Middle East at Shanghai International Studies University, said Wang's comments were an attempt to underscore that China would stick to its principle of nonintervention in the internal affairs of other countries even though China was going to play a role as a “middleman” to promote peace talks in the Middle East. ^ top ^

China's base programme: Beijing 'willing' to build facilities to protect overseas interests (SCMP)
2016-03-08
China will build essential infrastructure to better protect its growing offshore interests, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Tuesday. Analysts said the comments suggested Beijing was planning more supply bases around the world after setting up its first naval supply depot in Djibouti. “We are willing to try to build some necessary infrastructure and support facilities in the regions of Chinese interests,” Wang said on the sidelines of the annual session of the National People's Congress. “It is a pressing task for Chinese diplomacy as the massive scale of China's interests overseas require effective protection by Beijing.” Asked about the Djibouti base, Wang said the move was “reasonable, logical and compatible with international norms”, adding that China would not take the old path of expansionism and not be engaged in any form of power ­politics. Zhang Chun, an expert on Africa at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, said that if China was planning more overseas bases, they would not be in the US mould. “China is trying to change many people's traditional understanding of bases. Chinese overseas supply depots would be so different from US naval bases overseas because the Chinese facilities would have a win-win effect on the host countries,” Zhang said. But he said it was “very difficult” for Beijing to convince the world that its long-term overseas strategy was a departure from the US approach. “China needs more time and to make more of a contribution to Djibouti and other countries where China is planning overseas naval supply depots,” Zhang said. The defence ministry confirmed last month that work had begun on facilities in Djibouti. The base would focus on logistical tasks rather than projecting power, the ministry added. Wang said there were at least 30,000 Chinese businesses operating in other countries, and millions of Chinese working in all corners of the globe. Last year, China's non-financial outbound direct investment reached US$118 billion and China's overseas assets were valued in the billions of US dollars. But the greater reach of Chinese companies has raised security issues. Chinese naval vessels had to evacuate 613 Chinese citizens and 279 foreigners from Yemen in April as security worsened in the country. All the Chinese nationals were shipped to Djibouti's military base and flown back home. The Chinese navy has also taken part in international anti-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden since late 2008. Since November, Malaysia has allowed the Chinese navy to use its Kota Kinabalu port. One day after the Kota Kinabalu agreement, China also secured usage rights to land for state-owned China Overseas Port Holding Company at the port of Gwadar in Pakistan – situated at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, just outside the Strait of Hormuz. Wang said China was also strengthening ties with Iran, Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries under President Xi Jinping's “One Belt, One Road” initiatives. “China has never been an onlooker on the Middle East. We always support Arab countries' independence and liberation,” Wang said, adding that China would neither seek political ­influence, nor enlist proxies in the region. Liu Zhongmin, an expert on the Middle East at Shanghai International Studies University, said Wang's comments were an attempt to underscore that China would stick to its principle of nonintervention in the internal affairs of other countries even though China was going to play a role as a “middleman” to promote peace talks in the Middle East. ^ top ^

China trying to play bigger role in existing int'l order: FM (Xinhua)
2016-03-08
China is trying to play a bigger role in existing international order and system, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Tuesday. "China is not trying to build a rival system. On the contrary, we are trying to play a bigger role in the existing international order," Wang told a press conference. China has become more active in its external relations and its international status has been on the rise. Last year saw a multiple enhancement of China's power in international institutions. The country now has the third largest quota and voting power in the International Monetary Fund. Its currency Renminbi has been included in the SDR basket. China has become a member of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. China makes the second biggest contribution to the United Nations. As it grows in strength, Wang said, China needs reasonable development space and a corresponding say in international affairs. "In my view, this is something quite normal." According to the minister, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the BRICS bank are supplements to and improvements on the existing financial system. Wang said China has the confidence in finding a path to a great power status different from the one followed by traditional powers. "China will not play the bully. Rather, we will abide by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter," he said. China will not engage in zero-sum games. Rather, the country will pursue win-win cooperation with all countries of the world, he added. ^ top ^

Chinese FM accuses Japanese gov't, leaders of "double dealing" (Xinhua)
2016-03-08
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Tuesday accused the Japanese government and leaders of "double dealing," saying that there is little ground for optimism in bilateral relations despite signs of improvement. On one hand, the Japanese government and leaders say all the nice things about wanting to improve the relations. On the other hand, they are making troubles for China at every turn, Wang said. "This is what I would call a typical case of double dealing," Wang told a press conference on the sidelines of the annual session of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature. "Thanks to the efforts of wise people on both sides, there are signs of improvement in the China-Japan relations, but there is little ground for optimism," he said. "Of course we want to see the China-Japan relations truly improve, but as a saying goes, to cure diseases, you have to address underlying problems," the foreign minister said. For the China-Japan relations, the underlying problem is that the Japanese politicians in power have wrong perceptions about China, Wang said. The Japanese side should give a serious thought on whether to view a growing China as a friend or a foe, as a partner or an adversary, he added. ^ top ^

China's Belt and Road Initiative not expansionism: FM (Xinhua)
2016-03-08
The China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative should not be seen as expansionism, but rather an open initiative, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Tuesday. "The Initiative is China's idea, but the opportunities it has created belong to the world," Wang told a press conference on the sidelines of the national legislature's annual session. The Belt and Road Initiative refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt that links China with Europe through central and western Asia, and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road connecting China with southeast Asia, Africa and Europe. The Initiative is a response to the need for development and cooperation among Asian and European countries, and it shows that China is in a rapid transition from a mere participant in international system to a provider of public goods, Wang said. In building the Belt and Road Initiative, China follows the principles of wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefit, Wang said, noting that it is "an open initiative, not some form of Monroe Doctrine or expansionism." Wang said notable progress has been made over the past years in the Initiative, citing development in four areas. More than 70 countries and international organizations have expressed interest in the Belt and Road Initiative, and over 30 countries have signed agreements with China to jointly build it. The financial architecture is basically in place. The China-proposed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has started operation and the first group of projects financed by the Silk Road Fund has been launched. A connectivity network has taken shape, most notably the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and the China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor. A freight train now links China with Europe. All-round progress has been made in industrial capacity cooperation.China has institutionalized such cooperation with nearly 20 countries. ^ top ^

China will not accept 'tainted' arbitration on South China Sea (China Daily)
2016-03-08
China will not accept "tainted" arbitration on the South China Sea issue as a ruling by The Hague on a complaint lodged by the Philippines is going to be announced later this year, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Tuesday. "This so-called arbitration has become tainted and China is not going to humor it," Wang told a news conference during the ongoing annual session of the National People's Congress. The Philippines filed the arbitration case in early 2013, which is still ongoing. China has refused to be involved in the proceedings, maintaining that the rows should be settled by the countries directly involved through consultation and negotiation. In 2006, the Chinese government exercised its right under Article 298 and made a declaration that excludes compulsory arbitration, and over 30 other countries have made similar declarations, Wang said. "In legal terms, these declarations must be respected by other parties," he said. By not accepting the arbitration case, the Chinese government is acting entirely in accordance with the law, whereas the Philippines' practice is unlawful, unfaithful and unreasonable, the minister said. "Some people are trying to make waves (in the South China Sea) and some others are showing their forces." Wang said. "History will prove who is merely a guest and who is the real host." ^ top ^

Beijing enlists trawlers to help protect maritime rights in disputed waters (SCMP)
2016-03-07
China is encouraging its fishermen to venture into the South China Sea by offering subsidies and security training, a government official said on Monday. Luo Baoming, the Communist Party chief of southern province Hainan, said China's rights in the hotly contested body of water were underscored by the traditional activities of Chinese fishermen there. “Given the current situation in the South China Sea, fishermen have to protect their normal fishing operations in the region, because it is our ancestors' fishing place,” Luo said at the annual parliamentary session in Beijing. There were more than 100,000 fishermen in Hainan, which administers China's vast claims in the sea, Luo said. The Hainan government had provided resources such as shipbuilding and fuel subsidies to those involved in pelagic fishing, Luo said. It had also provided training in self-defence. He said some Chinese fishing boats operated in high seas and displaced up to 400-tonnes of water – meaning they were bigger than some naval warships from Southeast Asian countries. Hainan's fishermen have documented proof of their navigation routes in the South China Sea dating back 600 years. China has been known to use civilian ships as government proxies, often to harass foreign vessels, especially US naval ships, in the South China Sea. Last October, when the US destroyer Lassen passed near the newly built artificial island on Subi Reef in the South China Sea, it was escorted by several Chinese naval warships and smaller vessels including merchant ships and fishing vessels. The fishing boats were “provocative”, crossing and sailing close to the Lassen's bow, the US military website DefenceNews reported. Encouraging fishing vessels to take part in protecting maritime rights is very common among other Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam and the Philippines, because it's not banned by international law and the law of sea,” said Professor Wang Hanling, of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. He said Chinese authorities had discovered some Vietnamese soldiers had posed as fishermen to collect intelligence near some Chinese controlled islets in the South China Sea. Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie said that fisherman could play the most influential role in protecting a country's maritime interests because they were the people most knowledgeable about the areas under dispute. “In peacetime, fisherman can provide first-hand and the most up-to-date intelligence to the navy, while in wartime, they are the best at logistical tasks such as supplying food and water.” China's moves to exert its claims in the South China Sea have come under mounting criticism from neighbours in the region, prompting the United States to send military vessels to the area for regular patrols. Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Monday China did not want to see any country showing off their military prowess in the South China Sea. “The situation in the South China Sea is pretty stable. We certainly don't want some countries coming here to show off their military prowess, as this would not help maintain stability in the area,” Wang told reporters on the sidelines of a panel discussion at the National People's Congress in Beijing, China Central Television reported. Wang's remark came after the US Navy said its aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis strike group had been closely watched by the Chinese navy when it started operating in the South China Sea last week. Last month, Admiral Harry Harris, the head of the US Navy's Pacific Command, said that the Pentagon would increase missions in the area to exercise its freedom of navigation in international waters. Beijing says the operations are a provocation and challenge its territorial sovereignty. “There is no problem with free navigation in such a large sea area, and not a vessel has so far complained about navigation freedom,” Wang said. ^ top ^

China watchful of Japan's activities in South China Sea (Xinhua)
2016-03-07
A Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Monday that China is paying close attention to Japan's moves in the South China Sea. "Japan illegally occupied China's islands in the South China Sea during World War II, and we are highly vigilant of Japanese action there," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing. Hong's remarks came after media reports said that Japan's maritime self-defense force plans to send a submarine and two warships to Subic Bay in the Philippines for a port call next month. The warships will then proceed to Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam. "Cooperation between interested countries should be conducive to regional peace and stability," Hong said, stressing that other countries' sovereignty and security interests should be considered. At the briefing, Hong also said that China and ASEAN members will hold a meeting on the Declaration on Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the South China Sea from Wednesday to Friday in Manila. "The Chinese side will clarify its views on effective implementation of the DOC to all concerned parties," said the spokesman. ^ top ^

China consolidates Xisha Islands in South China Sea (Global Times)
2016-03-08
Observers said China is strengthening its sovereign control over the South China Sea following an announcement Monday by officials of the southernmost Hainan Province of the building of piers and restoration work on the Xisha Islands. "The construction of piers on Qilian Yu and restoration of Beidao Island are now underway. The improvement of infrastructure has protected the islands' ecological environment, while the restoration work has significantly strengthened the islands' capability against waves and erosion," Xiao Jie, mayor of Sansha city, who is also a delegate of the current National People's Congress, told a conference in Beijing on Monday. The city was officially established in 2012, with its seat of government in Yongxing, the largest island of the Xisha chain in the South China Sea. Xiao's response came after Hong Kong-based Ta Kung Pao reported on Monday that China is planning to reclaim land on Qilian Yu, a subgroup of the Xisha Islands. According to Ta Kung Pao, Qilian Yu's land area is expected to be expanded from 1.32 to 15 square kilometers, while an airport and cross-sea bridges will be built as links to Yong-xing Island. "The island construction on Qilian Yu will improve China's influence in the South China Sea, as well as to maintain regional stability," Liu Feng, a Hainan-based expert on South China Sea studies, told the Global Times on Monday. Chen Xiangmiao, a research fellow at the National Institute for the South China Sea, told the Global Times that the on-going construction work is for civil use alone. Apart from that, some islands do not have standardized infrastructure, which has prompted the government to carry out construction work to improve the residents' livelihood, Chen noted. As a subgroup of islands under Sansha city's administration, Qilian Yu currently has up to 300 residents, most of whom are living on its third biggest island, Zhaoshu Island, the Hainan Daily reported. "The lack of space is one of the biggest obstacles to Sansha city's development. Qilian Yu's future construction may focus on land reclamation to expand its land area," Liu said. According to Liu, facilities will be built on the islands for environmental protection and scientific research, while tourism and fishery resources in the region will be developed. "Some of Sansha's government agencies are also likely to be stationed on the islands once construction is completed, which makes it easier for governance," Liu said. Meanwhile, transportation among the islands is a priority plan. Piers and ferry boats may become the primary means to connect the islands, Liu added. "By promoting tourism, infrastructure and fishery projects on the islands, China will have greater influence in the South China Sea, as to spur development and stability in the region," Liu said. At Monday's conference, Luo Baoming, the Party chief of Hainan Province, reiterated China's sovereignty over the South China Sea, claiming that some fishermen's activities in the region are mainly for "protecting their livelihood." "Fishermen only account for a small portion of Hainan's population. To protect their livelihood, they need self-defense training," Luo told the conference. Meanwhile, Li Guoliang, vice governor of Hainan, said that 45 base stations were established in the South China Sea, with its network covering 15 islands. He also recommends that China increase its investment in telecommunication infrastructure in remote regions to maintain national strategy and interests. "Due to current tensions in the South China Sea, we should strengthen island construction for civil use as a powerful response to the Western media's hype about the islands' militarization, and to improve China's influence in the region," Liu told the Global Times. ^ top ^

PLA officers make rare public show of disappointment at military budget increase (SCMP)
2016-03-07
Military officers have taken the rare step of publicly registering disappointment at the increase in China's defence budget. Military figures and analysts said the “surprisingly low” budget increase indicated President Xi Jinping was not scared of offending senior military officials and was demonstrating his ability to control the army through economic means. The National People's Congress announced on Saturday that the defence budget would grow 7.6 per cent this year to 954 billion yuan (HK$1.1 trillion). That compared to a budget increase last year of 10.1 per cent and was the first single-digit increase since 2010, when it grew 7.5 per cent. Major General Qian Lihua, former head of the foreign affairs office of the Ministry of National Defence, told a panel discussion of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Committee yesterday that compared to last year's increase, this year's represented a “big reduction”. “Some Western media predicted that China's defence budget might increase up to 20 per cent before the opening of the NPC and CPPCC. The result is not only much, much lower than Western [media]'s prediction, but also a certain distance from my early expectation.” Retired rear admiral Yin Zhuo, who like Qian is a national political adviser, said the growth in defence spending should be commensurate with the national economy – but it also needed to be proportional to the country's “security need”. “We should not let our military's development stall... because the security challenges at our peripherals, especially at sea, have been increasing,” he told China National Radio. Yin said China would not compete with the United States in building armaments, or for power status, but the current share of defence spending to GDP – which he put at 1.5 per cent – was still too low. “I think 2 to 2.5 per cent would be optimum,” Yin said. “And we are slashing 300,000 military personnel – additional resources are needed to resettle these veterans.” At Thursday's opening of the CPPCC another delegate, Lieutenant General Wang Hongguang, former commander of Nanjing Military Command, said the People's Liberation Army needed its budget to grow 20 per cent this year to cover its ongoing modernisation and challenges in the South and East China seas. Xi, chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission, announced in September that 300,000 mostly non-combat troops would be cut from the PLA – part of an effort to overhaul the world's largest army into a streamlined, modern force. That announcement followed the downfall of two of the former CMC vice-chairmen Xu Caihou and Guo Boxiong, and former deputy head of the army's logistics, Gu Junshan, in Xi's anti-graft campaign. “It was a smart move to launch the anti-graft campaign ahead of the troop reduction, because some supercilious senior military officials were scared after the downfall of so many big tigers,” a source said, adding that Xi wanted to show the army he was in control of their livelihoods. “Unlike Deng Xiaoping, who cut 1 million troops in the 1980s, Xi is a military leader with a civilian background, so he has to use the anti-graft campaign, which is supported by the public, and financial means to build his personal prestige. The source said the lower than expected budget growth sent a message that, amid the economic slowdown, Xi would no longer be giving sweeteners to the army. Both Wang and Qian highlighted challenges for the military, such as learning new operational concepts following its overhaul from seven military area commands into five theatres, and challenges in the East and South China seas, where China has territorial disputes with neighbours and the US is showing increasing involvement. Macau-based military observer Antony Wong Tong said Xi's approach was “high risk”. “He is giving the PLA more tasks, but on the other hand, he is offering them fewer resources.” “It's possible such a move could backfire if Xi fails to push all the senior officials in the army to listen to him.” ^ top ^

US to blame for escalating tension in South China Sea, China claims (SCMP)
2016-03-05
The United States – not China – is militarising the South China Sea, according to the spokeswoman for China's legislature. Fu Ying said the US was massively escalating its military level in the region and American patrols near Chinese-held islands in the South China Sea were raising tensions. She made her comments on Friday ahead of the opening of the National People's Congress in Beijing. US officials have accused China of militarising the region through massive land reclamation work on islands in disputed areas of the South China Sea. Fu said the claim that China was militarising the region could lead to a “miscalculation of the situation”. “If you take a look at the matter closely, it's the US sending the most advanced aircraft and military vessels to the South China Sea,” she said. “The US has made it clear that it will deploy 70 per cent of its navy to the Asia-Pacific region under its strategy of pivoting to Asia. The US has stepped up military moves with its alliances and its military presence in the Asia -Pacific region. Isn't this militarisation?” Her comments came as American media reported that the US Navy had dispatched an aircraft carrier and several ships accompanying it to the South China Sea in recent days. The carrier USS John C. Stennis, arrived in the South China Sea on Tuesday, The Washington Post reported. It was accompanied by the cruiser USS Mobile Bay and the destroyers USS Stockdale and USS Chung-Hoon, Navy Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for US Pacific Fleet, was quoted as saying. Aside from the carrier group, the Japan-based USS Antietam, a cruiser, was also patrolling the South China Sea, Doss said. The USS McCampbell, a destroyer, and the USS Ashland, an amphibious dock landing ship, completed similar patrols last week, the report said. Shi Yinhong, an international relations expert at Renmin University, said: “It's clear the US' deployment is targeting China... From now, there will only be more military actions in the region as the US responds to China's ongoing island construction. It's a constant exchange as tension continues to escalate.” ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Nuke security law to be made (Global Times)
2016-03-11
China's nuclear security law has been included in its legislation plan, which analysts believe would strictly regulate the booming industry, as well as provide legal grounds to maximize the energy structure. "By coming up with a nuclear security law, public concern over nuclear security will be addressed and China's commitment to the international community will be fulfilled," Yuan Si, deputy head of the Environmental Protection and Resources Conservation Committee of China's National People's Congress (NPC), said at a press conference during the third session of the 12th NPC on Thursday. Yuan's remarks come on the heels of a statement made by Nur Bekri, head of the National Energy Administration and deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission, on Sunday that "there is no clear timetable for the construction of inland nuclear power plants." "We are still carrying out extensive research and soliciting public feedback," said Nur. A lack of a law on nuclear security in China is incompatible with its status as a nuclear state. The legislation will not only regulate the safe use of nuclear energy but also safeguard national security in a broader sense, He Zuoxiu, a theoretical physicist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told the Global Times. "The new regulation may include rules to cope with terrorist activities against nuclear facilities, or to set up non-nuclear zones, where certain areas will be nuclear-free," He said. "As China promotes low carbon energy to reduce pollution form coal-fired generators, the nuclear security legislation is timely, and can specify the requirements for building and running nuclear power plants," Zhou Dadi, vice director of the China Energy Research Society, told the Global Times. The Chinese mainland operates 30 nuclear power-generating units with a total capacity of 28.31 gigawatts. 24 more units with a total capacity of 26.72 gigawatts are under construction, ranking first in the world, Xu Dazhe, director of the China Atomic Energy Authority, said at a press conference in January. Zhou said the nuclear power plants account for only 2 percent of the country's total power requirements while the average global proportion is 14 percent, adding that China is in a great position to develop its nuclear projects. The legislation may also curb the rapid expansion of nuclear power plants which has led to safety and public concerns, experts said. The Chinese government put the brakes on nuclear power plant approvals after the Fukushima accident in Japan in 2011, calling for safety checks on nuclear power plants. Approval procedures were restarted in 2012 under pressure from increasing domestic demand for power. ^ top ^

Proposal to expand role of China's armed police force would strengthen Xi Jinping's power: analysts (SCMP)
2016-03-10
A proposal submitted to the National People's Congress seeks to expand the role of the armed police and put the force more firmly under the command of the Central Military Commission – a move analysts say would consolidate the power of Xi Jinping. Sun Sijing, political commissar of the armed police and a legislator attending the National People's Congress in Beijing, had proposed a legal amendment that would clear the way for the changes, PLA Daily reported this week. The amendment was aimed at ensuring the highest power of command was “firmly in the hands of the Communist Party's central leadership, the CMC and [CMC] Chairman Xi”, it said. The amendment has been under discussion since last June, according to the PLA Daily. Sun, speaking to the South China Morning Post on the sidelines of an NPC session yesterday, said the armed police were increasingly being used for disaster relief and maritime law enforcement operations and that their expanding duties should be defined in law. The current armed police law, passed in 2009, states that the 660,000-strong force is under the dual leadership of the State Council and the CMC. It also requires the leadership to be shared by central and local commanders. The force is used by local governments to maintain domestic security, fight terrorism and manage social unrest. Experts said Sun's proposal was a result of incidents that stemmed from the complex leadership of the force. In 2012, the now-disgraced Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai reportedly sent a convoy of armed police to seize his one-time ally Wang Lijun, who had gone to the US consulate in Chengdu in an attempt to defect. The incident set off one of China's biggest political scandals in decades. Reports have also suggested the party's former security tsar Zhou Yongkang attempted to mobilise the armed police force against the top party leadership in 2012. Zhou was jailed for corruption last year. “The local government used armed police to besiege the US consulate and the rumours of a coup [in 2012] were also related to the armed police,” said Zeng Zhiping, a military law expert at the Nanchang Institute of Technology in Jiangxi. “Such incidents would surely make the top leaders insecure. The force could be used against them at some time.” Chen Daoyin, an associate professor at Shanghai University of Politics and Law, said there were many problems with the force's present command system. “It could trigger a crisis especially when there are conflicts between leadership of the government and the military,” he said. The leadership of the armed police was reshuffled in 2014, when its commander and political commissar were replaced by officers from the People's Liberation Army. But Sun denied the proposal had anything to do with Zhou Yongkang, saying it was needed because the force was performing more duties. Zhang Guibai, a member of the armed police force, said the current law was insufficient for the force. “A law amendment could help the force do a better job in maintaining social stability and protecting maritime rights.” ^ top ^

Foreign online publishing on govt blacklist (Global Times)
2016-03-10
China's media watchdog on Wednesday cited a government catalogue which bans foreign investment in online publications to justify recent disputes over a new regulation expected to take effect on Thursday. According to an article published Wednesday in a newspaper affiliated with the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT), an anonymous official from the administration said the Catalogue for the Guidance of Industries for Foreign Investment specifically puts foreign investment in online publishing on the blacklist. The catalogue was jointly released by the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Commerce in 2015. Other industries on the list include books, newspapers and magazines, digital publication and audiovisual products, the official said. The clarification comes after China released a new regulation on February 4 that prohibits foreign businesses from publishing online content. Joint ventures between Chinese and foreign firms should first seek the approval of the SAPPRFT before publishing content online, including text, photos, games and animation. The rules have sparked heated discussions, with many foreign firms fearing that the regulation may damage their interests. The new regulation does not specify what organization will be affected but Reuters quoted an expert as saying that Apple Inc's online music, video and bookstore services may be targeted. Luo Ping, dean of the Phoenix School-Communication University of China, said that the regulation is a necessary measure to protect the country's information security. "Good foreign works are still allowed in China through domestic enterprises," said Luo, adding that the move is not meant to suppress foreign enterprises. "Banning foreign investments in online publishing services is aimed at protecting the nation's ideology and culture security," Wang Sixin, a media law professor at the Communication University of China, told the Global Times on Wednesday. Wang added that it will help prevent our local culture from being affected by overseas cultures. Moreover, the official from the SAPPRFT stressed that online publishing service providers within the People's Republic of China must have their servers and storage equipment located in the Chinese mainland. Wang pointed out that the servers and storage equipment could store large amounts of information such as distribution channels and customers' consumption habits. He said such information could be used for economic data and is thus crucial to the country's economic security […]. ^ top ^

China blocks VPN services that let users get round its 'Great Firewall' during big political gatherings in Beijing (SCMP)
2016-03-09
The authorities in China have intensified their crackdown on VPNs, internet connections that bypass the country's firewalls and online censorship, during the two main political gatherings of the year in Beijing this month. Virtual private network users and one provider said services had been disrupted or blocked during the National People's Congress and a meeting of China's main political advisory body. Astrill, a popular paid VPN service provider, said in a short statement: “Due to political meetings in Beijing there's increased censorship, so access to VPN may be restricted at this time. Please be patient while we are working to fix this.” Users of other services, such as Cloud Ark VPN and ExpressVPN, have also complained about outages or slowdowns in the speed of their internet connections, particularly on mobile phones. Some mainland service providers, including Xiaoyao, have also reported the suspension of services. Foreigners living in China said the disruption has affected their daily life and business. One Twitter user wrote on his account: “@astrill, I did not sigh up for a two year contract for this … already without VPN for one week in China! Has affected my business, not happy.” Some tech-savvy young people in China have also expressed frustration. They rely on the services to carry out activities such as posting photographs on Instagram, watching video streams on Youtube, playing online games or checking the Twitter updates on South Korean pop stars. One white-collar worker from Shenzhen on business in Beijing, who asked not to be named, said the disruption to the VPN service seemed greater in the capital as it was working in their home city on Monday. China has been championing the concept of “cyber sovereignty”, the idea that each country has the right to control its domestic internet space. The Great Firewall has blocked accesses to 135 out of 1,000 sites in one ranking of the world's top websites, including Google, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, according to Greatfire.org, an organisation that monitors online censorship in China. Critics say the censorship not only limits freedom of speech, but also damages the nation's ability to innovate. China's top leadership has attached high importance to innovation to drive future economic growth. One person wrote on social media that firewalls meant that people in China were unable to watch a match between a computer and a grandmaster in the board game Go. “The artificial intelligence has been so developed that AlphaGo is going to beat the best human player, but we're still searching for a working VPN service that allows us to watch the livecast,” they wrote. ^ top ^

Needy clauses: Would China's proposed charity law be a gift to the disadvantaged? (SCMP)
2016-03-09
One number speaks volumes about the present state of the “traditional Chinese virtue” of helping the poor. Last year China ranked 144 among 145 countries for charitable behaviour in a survey by non-government organisation Charities Aid Foundation. That's despite the stellar growth in wealth across the country, to the point where China has world's highest number of billionaires – 596 according to wealth-ranking Hurun Report – and the biggest middle class on the planet – 109 million according to financial service company Credit Suisse. China's top legislative body will on Wednesday begin deliberating the country's first charity law, which some observers say could go some way to reversing that reluctance to give. But others suggest that much more than a new law is needed to bring life to the third sector and unleash funds for needy causes. And there's no doubt that the need for charities is huge. China has more than 85 million disabled people who require help. Civil Affairs Minister Li Liguo said there were also 70 million rural people in poverty and 160 million elderly and “left-behind” children trying to survive on their own. More money is being channelled to fill the social gaps – National People's Congress spokeswoman Fu Ying said about 100 billion yuan in domestic and overseas donations was spent on these kinds of causes in 2014, 10 times the total in 2006. But it's still far from enough. Part of the problem is the administrative barriers to setting up a charity on the mainland. At the moment all charitable groups must be affiliated with a government organisation before being registered with the Ministry of Civil Affairs. If passed, the law would scrap that requirement. Another issue is the lack of public trust in charities. The reputation of the sector as a whole took a battering five years ago with the Guo Meimei saga. Guo, a young woman, falsely claimed to work for the state-backed Red Cross Society of China and openly flaunted her wealth and extravagant lifestyle on social media. In the aftermath, the organisation was criticised for poor management and misuse of donations. Zhang Gaorong, assistant director of China Philanthropy Research Institute, in the past donation drives were usually organised by employers. This approach had been phased out “but we have yet to build enough other channels that people trust”, he said. Xue Gang, who has helped care for second world war veterans for more than a decade, said misappropriation was a big problem and non-government charities were in chaos. “Misused of donations has always been a serious issue,” Xue said. […] He said some organisations simply neglected essential procedures, leaving themselves unable to account for their activities. A third problem is the example being set at the top. China's richest man, Wang Jianlin, and billionaire Jack Ma both donated less than 0.3 per cent of their total net worth last year, according to a report by the Ash Centre for Democratic Governance at Harvard Kennedy School. China's most generous billionaire, Zhejiang businessman Wang Miaotong, donated 5.6 per cent, which was still not high by Western standards. Wahaha Group chairman Zong Qinghou, who also numbers among the mainland's super-rich, said the proposed charity law could loosen more of those purse strings. […] Under existing rules, corporate contributions of up to 12 per cent of a company's total profit in the year of the donation are tax free. The draft law would allow contributions beyond the cap to be carried over to the following two years. But Zong says all donations should be exempt from tax, no matter how big or small. “[Above all] the donations should be truly used on charity,” he said. Zhang said another key controversy in the draft law was that charity organisations could only launch online public donation appeals on websites designated by local governments. “The selection of websites by the government apparently gives room for power rent seeking,” he warned. “Also, the internet is changing fast. Will governments be able to keep up?” An additional barrier would be the ban on organisations launching public donation drives within two years of registration. […] For Wang Qicheng, a 36-year-old self-made billionaire from Zhejiang, said for him, charity is a long-term commitment – with or without a law. “Celebrities need to be involved in philanthropy because they can influence more people,” Wang said. “But with more incentives, I believe more people would be willing to give money to the needy. It's especially the case with those who hesitate because they're worried whether their money would be used as they wanted.” ^ top ^

Local govt says book seizure was lawful operation (Global Times)
2016-03-09
The local district government in Ningbo, East China's Zhejiang Province said Tuesday that the local publication watchdog's confiscation of a lawyer's books on suspicion that they were "illegal publications" was a regular law enforcement operation and the results of the investigation will be released through proper channels. Yuan Yulai, a lawyer at Zhejiang Zhixing Law Firm, filed a lawsuit against the culture, radio, television, news and publication bureau of Ningbo's Jiangdong district on Monday, after 14 books he bought online and that were published by Taiwan or Hong Kong publishers were seized by the bureau's law enforcement officers and local police on March 4. An official surnamed Zhang from the district's publicity department told the Global Times on Tuesday that the bureau's operation was conducted in accordance with laws. Zhang said the seized books are undergoing further identification and the results of this process will be released through the proper channels. "Local law enforcement departments have recently conducted a joint inspection of the publications on the market. We have registered the evidence of suspected illegal publications for preservation, and further investigation is underway," said Zhang. However, Yuan argued that the operation's procedure was illegal because the law enforcement officers confiscated the books, which goes against the country's Law on Administrative Penalty. According to that law, administrative organs may obtain evidence through sampling. Under circumstances where it is likely that the evidence may be destroyed, lost, or difficult to obtain at a later point, administrative organs may - with the approval of their leading members - first register the evidence for preservation and make a timely decision on its disposition within seven days. "If they had merely registered the evidence for preservation, I would still have these books in my hand and would have no need to file a lawsuit," said Yuan. Yuan demanded that the bureau return his books, also noting that the officers had no right to forcibly examine his mail. ^ top ^

China clamps down on illegal, harmful publications, information targeting children (Xinhua)
2016-03-08
The government has launched an eight-month crackdown on the making, selling and disseminating of illegal and harmful children's publications. The nationwide campaign, which lasts from February to September, aims to uncover books, cartoons and games, being sold around primary and middle schools, which are deemed harmful to children, according to a circular posted on the National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications' website on Tuesday. Publications that promote heresy, superstition, obscenity, violence, instigate crimes, or are found to contain content which is "horrific or cruel," are to be relocated, according to the circular. The campaign will also clean up online social networks that disseminate harmful online games, novels, music, cartoons, to children and the youth, the circular said. Such websites and applications will be shut down, banned, and operators will be held accountable, it added. ^ top ^

Micro-financing helps millions of Chinese women (Xinhua)
2016-03-08
Nearly 5 million Chinese women received micro-financing worth 247.8 billion yuan ($ 38.1 bln) in 2015, the All-China Women's Federation said on Tuesday. Central and local government subsidies contributed more than 21.37 billion yuan to this sum. China began issuing micro-financing to women to encourage entrepreneurship and poverty reduction in 2009. The loans have helped boost the economy in underdeveloped western and rural regions, according to the federation. Another policy benefiting rural women is free screenings for breast and cervical cancer, a program that has also been implemented since 2009. In 2015, more than 50 million rural women have received free cervical cancer examinations and about 7 million breast cancer tests, the federation said. The government also provided medical assistance for 41,693 poverty-stricken women suffering severe diseases in the past year. ^ top ^

Guizhou maps the way forward to relieve poverty (China Daily)
2016-03-08
Guizhou province, which has more people living below the poverty line than any other, is fighting an uphill battle to help its remaining 5 million impoverished residents rise, national legislators from the southwestern province said on Monday. "Poverty relief is the most pressing issue for Guizhou, and it weighs heavily on my mind," said Chen Min'er, a National People's Congress deputy and the province's top leader. This is partly because of the abject level of poverty that haunts the remaining poor, Chen said. "In this final phase of poverty reduction, the work has become harder and harder," Chen told reporters after a panel discussion during the ongoing annual session of the country's top legislature in Beijing. During the past five years, the mountainous province has lifted 6.56 million people out of poverty. By the end of last year, the number living in dire straits plummeted to just under 5 million, according to Chen. The central government has pledged to get 70 million people living below the poverty line out of their difficult circumstances by 2020. The poverty line is 2,300 yuan ($365) in annual income, measured in 2010 value. Chen said he remained confident about facing the tasks ahead. He said his positive outlook comes from the province's poverty alleviation experience so far, combined with the "targeted poverty-relief policies" of the central government. One in three residents used to live below the poverty line in Guizhou, but today the rate has shrunk to 14.3 percent, which is a great feat, he said. As some people have yet to be weaned from dependence on government financial assistance, Long Changchun, another legislator, said that in addition to providing funds, it is equally important to kindle a strong desire among the poor to pursue better lives. "We found that in Qiandongnan, the southeastern part of Guizhou, 93.8 percent of the people mired in poverty have a high-school education," Long said. "They can be guided to pursue a better life for themselves." Governor Sun Zhigang said Guizhou must resettle 1.3 million rural poor now living in inhospitable areas, to places with better infrastructure and ecology. Li Min, vice-chairman of the standing committee of the provincial people's congress, said that to crack the hard nuts, Guizhou needs to undertake compound measures, such as transferring the poor to more profitable industries and providing medical aid for the needy. With this approach, the number of people who really have to be lifted out of poverty through providing pensions will shrink to 1.6 million, he said. ^ top ^

Communist Youth League needs to 'keep in touch', says its secretary (SCMP)
2016-03-08
A senior official with the Communist Youth League has warned that the significance of the league will dwindle if it fails to keep in touch with young people, following stern criticism of its self-serving attitude and tendency of becoming “aristocratic”. Luo Mei, a secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League, said that the organisation's “value of existence” – like that of the Communist Party – depended on the needs of the people. “[The youth league] exists and is able to develop because the people need it, because China's development needs it. If the ordinary people don't need [it] anymore, it will lose the point of existing,” Luo told the South China Morning Post on the sidelines of the national political advisory body's annual sessions in Beijing on Monday. The Communist Youth League, once the cradle for promising young cadres and future political high-fliers, has been accused by inspectors from the party's top disciplinary watchdog of being overly “bureaucratic, administrative, aristocratic and entertainment-oriented.” The watchdog did not elaborate on these terms, but the accusation of the league's “aristocratic” tendencies has prompted much speculation, especially under the context of the downfall of the league's alumni Ling Jihua, a one-time top aide to former president Hu Jintao, and the apparent low-key profiles of other once rising league stars. Some observers have understood the criticism as a reference to the belief among some officials that joining the league's central committee, or becoming part of the so-called tuanpai faction, as alumni are known, automatically opened the door to a promising political career. Luo refuted that, saying it was a “misperception” among members of the public. “The party charter and league charter state clearly that the league is the reserve force and the aide of the party. What it means is that the league is the reserve force of the party organisation and the socialist cause, not of party officials. We've never regarded it as an exclusive cradle for officials,” she said. Luo said the criticism of the league's “aristocratic” tendency was referring to the league's lack of contact with the mass of ordinary, grass-root youth and its focus on “outstanding youth with some achievements”. She said such a focus was necessary in the past, but now the league should pay more attention to migrant workers, young entrepreneurs and the so-called “ant tribe” – referring to the millions of young Chinese so known for crowding together in slums in large cities. “As a youth organisation, if it does not keep in touch with the young, help them, pay attention to their concerns or mingle with them, they won't sense its existence and therefore there is indeed no point for it to exist,” Luo said. ^ top ^

Advisor mulls freedom of speech proposal (Global Times)
2016-03-07
A national political advisor was considering making a proposal to the national legislature in a bid to ensure citizens' legal right to self expression after a report about his remarks on this topic was blocked on China's social media, he told the Global Times on Sunday. Jiang Hong, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee and a professor from Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, said "it was completely unacceptable" that a Thursday report on him had been blocked on social network platform WeChat. Jiang said the reportedly blocked article - published by caixin.com on Thursday - stated that citizens' right to expression must be safeguarded, news site caixin.com reported on Saturday. Thursday's article is still available on caixin.com, though the news site's link to Saturday's report of the blocking incident was invalid as of press time. Jiang told the Global Times on Sunday that the blocking of news reports is not "isolated and occasional." "We see many cases of deleting posts and blocking websites on the Internet," said Jiang, who expressed concern about whether such moves are made in accordance with laws and regulations. Jiang said that he has chosen to raise the issue of content blocking now because he is certain that the content in the blocked report in question did not violate any laws or regulations. "That being the case, we need to think about whether decisions to block some content in the past were made on legal grounds or not," Jiang said, noting that much still needs to be done to ensure that citizens' right to expression is duly respected. On Tuesday, China Discipline Inspection Daily, a newspaper affiliated with China's top Party disciplinary watchdog, weighed in with an old saying that a thousand yes-men cannot compare with one person who criticizes frankly. "The Communist Party of China has long encouraged free expression within the Party, including the reflection of various viewpoints, especially opposing ones," said Jiang, who is also a member of the Revolutionary Committee of the Chinese Kuomintang, one of China's eight non-communist parties. Jiang explained that it is normal to hear different opinions and voices in China's complex society. During the two sessions, representatives from all circles will conduct in-depth and valuable discussions, and nobody will be punished for making bold proposals, Wang Chuanbao, a professor at the Nanjing Institute of Politics, wrote on news site thepaper.cn on Friday. Ge Jianxiong, a member of the CPPCC, said that making use of "expression" is his duty as a national political advisor, the Beijing Youth Daily reported on Thursday. Ge noted that online debate of a Party disciplinary regulation banning Party members from making groundless comments on the Party's leadership has been fueled by a somewhat exaggerated interpretation of the regulation's scope and implications. He said that when giving a speech, he acts only within the confines of the Constitution and the CPPCC regulations. ^ top ^

China to pursue ethnic fusion (Global Times)
2016-03-07
Experts believe multi-ethnic settlements could help promote cultural exchanges and curb terrorist activities, though its implementation faces many difficulties, after Premier Li Keqiang said Saturday China will pursue the program to strengthen ethnic fusion. At the opening meeting of the Fourth Session of the 12th National People's Congress on Saturday, Premier Li said in the annual report on the work of the government that the establishment of multi-ethnic settlements will push through to improve exchanges and fusion among different ethnic groups. "Multi-ethnic settlements will assuage ethnic tensions in regions inhabited by ethnic minorities," Niu Fengrui, director of the Institute for Urban and Environmental Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. Multi-ethnic integration was a key issue raised by President Xi Jinping at the second central work conference on Xinjiang in 2014, who called for the region to build communities for residents of different ethnic groups to boost understanding by living, working, and studying together. Xinjiang built a residential community outside the city of Hotan in 2014 to help foster economic and social integration among different ethnic groups, which consists of 600 housing apartments and 600 greenhouses, the Xinjiang Daily reported. Though promising, experts said that the implementation of multi-ethnic settlements will not be achieved in a short run. "Unlike Singapore which has an ethnic quota in the distribution of public housing, Xinjiang does not have a compulsory policy for reallocation, as it may spark extremism and sour relations between different ethnic groups," Turgunjan Tursun, a research fellow at the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. Echoing Tursun, Niu said that Xinjiang's ethnic composition is way more complicated. As China's biggest administrative region by land area, Xinjiang is home to 22 million people, with up to 46 percent Muslim Uyghurs, followed by 39 percent Han and 7 percent Kazakh. Meanwhile, "cultural differences, language barriers and misunderstanding among different ethnic groups have also hindered the progress of multi-ethnic settlements," Turgunjan added. "Instead of multi-ethnic settlements, the government should rely more on incentives that can tangibly benefit all groups, especially ethnic minorities, to promote ethnic fusion," Niu said. Turgunjan said the government should build more facilities such as supermarkets which would cater to minorities' special needs, bilingual schools as well as religious sites, while encouraging Han people to move to areas inhabited by ethnic minorities by creating more job opportunities. ^ top ^

Law won't restrict NGOs' legitimate activities: NPC spokeswoman (Global Times)
2016-03-05
China needs a specific law to regulate overseas non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the legislation is not aimed at restricting NGOs' lawful activities in the country, a spokeswoman for the annual session of China's top legislature said on Friday. The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) has already reviewed the draft law on overseas NGOs twice, Fu Ying said at a press conference ahead of the fourth session of the 12th NPC, noting that the full text of the draft law has been published online to solicit opinions not only from within the country but also from overseas NGO representatives and foreign institutions. During the second reading of the draft law in April 2015, China's legislature made amendments to allow overseas NGOs to open offices with approval from the State Council, or China's cabinet, the NPC said in a statement on its website. The law governing overseas NGOs in China has attracted broad attention from home and abroad, as some are concerned that the law may tighten scrutiny of overseas NGOs in China. The draft law says that overseas NGOs will be required to register with the Ministry of Public Security (MPS). The MPS will also regulate their activities and funding. According to Fu, the MPS is also in charge of drafting the law. She explained that it is only reasonable as the MPS manages the registration work of all foreigners. The draft law shows that the government is taking a cautious attitude toward overseas NGOs, an area still considered sensitive by some people, according to Chen Liangzhong, CEO of Operation Earth, a domestic NGO committed to the global conservation of wildlife. Statistics show that there are more than 7,000 overseas NGOs in the country, mainly in sectors such as environmental protection, science and technology, education and culture, which have brought useful expertise and funding to the country, according to Fu. The spokeswoman called the NGOs an important means of exchange with foreigners. She said a law in this area is needed to specify which activities are illegal and therefore should be prohibited. She also mentioned that some overseas NGOs have helped combat desertification at her hometown in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. "There are various NGOs, which should be treated differently based on their sectors," Chen told the Global Times on Friday. "For instance, rules should be more flexible for those related with environmental protection and protection of endangered species." "While there are regulations governing NGOs in China, many issues remain ambiguous and it is still quite difficult to register an NGO," Chen noted. "I hope the law will make things clearer and simpler." ^ top ^

Key takeaways from China's 13th five-year plan and annual reports (SCMP)
2016-03-05
At China's annual meeting of its top legislative body, three draft reports are usually submitted for delegates to discuss and approve. They comprise the premier's government work report, the National Development and Reform Commission's economic development report, and the Ministry of Finance's budget report. The documents provide a review of the past year and explain how the central authorities will govern the country in the coming year. This year's plenary session will also review and approve the proposed 13th five-year plan for the period from 2016 through to 2020. Here are the five key points to take away from the draft plan and reports. 1. Growth target set at 6.5 to 7 per cent This year's proposed target for gross domestic product expansion has been set at a range between 6.5 per cent to 7 per cent. The range, rather than a specific number, reflects China's dilemma between pursuing economic growth and pushing ahead with reforms. “There will be more and greater difficulties for us this year. The challenges are bigger,” Premier Li Keqiang said in his annual work report on Saturday. “We should be fully prepared for a hard battle.” Li said he aimed to keep average growth in the five years from 2016 above 6.5 per cent. The target would require strong macro policies this year as the economy was expected to bottom out. Innovation would be the top driving force for future growth, according to Li's work report. By 2020, 60 per cent of China's economic growth would come from improvements in technology and science, he said. Beijing would also intensify efforts in supply-side reform to provide momentum for sustainable development. The efforts were aimed at “improving the economy's quality and efficiency, and further generating market enthusiasm and public creativity”, Li said. 2. Hong Kong, Macau to play bigger roles in China's economic development; Taiwan policies to be maintained Beijing will “elevate Hong Kong and Macau's positions and roles in China's economic development and opening up” according to their “distinctive strengths”, Li said. In its draft 13th five-year plan, also released on Saturday, China pledged to support Hong Kong in furthering its status as a global financial, shipping and trading hub. It would also support the city in grooming its innovation and technology sector as well as other new industries. Beijing vowed to “act in strict compliance with China's constitution and the basic laws of Hong Kong and Macau” – a statement that reflected its emphasis on national authority. “We pledge our full support to the chief executives and governments of the two regions as they conduct governance in accordance with the respective laws,” Li said. He added that Beijing would adhere to previous policies on Taiwan, “firmly oppose secessionist activities” and maintain peaceful development of cross-strait ties. 3. Further interest rate liberalisation; government-managed floating system to stay China has pledged to further liberalise interest rates and stick to a government-managed floating system. Beijing aimed this year to keep the yuan generally stable on a “reasonable and balanced level” and to control “abnormal flow of cross-border capital effectively”, according to the annual report of China's top economic planner, the National Development and Reform Commission. It would keep liquidity “reasonably adequate”, expecting a moderate increase in the social financing scale, the commission said. M2, which measures money supply, was expected to rise 13 per cent, compared with last year's targeted 12 per cent and the actual growth of 13.3 per cent. 4. China to boost overseas defence The premier also pledged to improve China's ability to protect its citizens and businesses abroad. China would ensure that the G20 summit in Hangzhou this September would go smoothly, Li said. Beijing would “participate constructively” in seeking solutions for global issues, he added. The government has budgeted 954 billion yuan (HK$1.13 trillion) for defence spending this year – a 7.6 per cent increase from last year. This compared with the 10.1 per cent increase that was budgeted last year. 5. Slack officials warned, blundering ones to get second chance, rewards for innovators Li warned officials against neglecting their duties. China has been facing a situation in which many cadres chose not to perform their duties at all for fear of making mistakes and getting hauled up amid the country's ongoing corruption crackdown. Li warned that the Communist Party would have zero tolerance for officials who slacked off on their jobs. There was room for correction for those who made mistakes and rewards for innovators, he said. “[We will] encourage and support reformers and innovators to make our cadres willing and daring to do their jobs, and do the jobs well,” the premier said. Local governments were ordered to be more transparent by taking advantage of traditional and new media. They should provide timely responses to public concerns, keeping the public informed on the work they were doing and how they were going about it, he said. ^ top ^

 

Beijing

Beijing should 'punish two-faced Taiwan entrepreneurs' who profit from business on Chinese mainland while supporting independence (SCMP)
2016-03-11
Beijing should set up a “reward and penalty scheme” for all Taiwanese entrepreneurs doing business on the mainland to single out those with pro-independence tendencies, says a top government advisor on cross-strait affairs. Calling Taiwanese investors doing business on the mainland while supporting the mainland-sceptic Democratic Progressive Party “two-faced”, Li Yihu, a key advisor on Beijing's Taiwan policies, said such businessmen should be punished. “Some 'green' businessmen from Taiwan make money on the mainland but also support pro-independence activities in Taiwan,” Li said, referring the “green camp” of pro-independence parties that takes its name from the colour of the DPP's flag. “There should be a system of rewards and punishments to address the problem of 'two-faced' businessmen,” Li said. In an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post, Li, who is also a National People's Congress delegate, said Beijing should start a data base about Taiwanese businessmen's activities on the island. Li, however, did not elaborate on how the mainland should punish businessmen who supported the island's independence activities. The dynamics of cross-strait relations look set to change following the landslide victory of DPP chairperson Tsai Ing-wen and her colleagues in the island's parliamentary and presidential elections in January. Beijing has sought to press Tsai to clarify her interpretation of the “one China” policy, also known as the “1992 consensus”. Last week, President Xi Jinping made his first public remarks on cross-strait relations since Tsai's victory, saying that Beijing would “resolutely contain Taiwan secessionist activities in any form”. Taiwanese analysts said Beijing's recent reiteration of the “1992 consensus” and its “one-China” core value was a pre-emptive move to prevent Tsai from misreading its stand on talks with the island's incoming government. But Li, who is also dean of Peking University's Taiwan Studies Institute, said it was also necessary for the mainland public to fully understand the 1992 consensus. Many on the mainland had only a superficial understanding of the crucial political concept, Li said, resulting in incidents such as that involving Taiwanese pop star Chou Tze-yu. “Most mainlanders just know the term '1992 consensus' but don't know its connotation and historical background,” Li said. Chou, a Taiwanese teen pop star, had to apologise for waving the island's flag on a TV show after the mainland public accused her of being a pro-independence Taiwanese, which in turn caused many swinging voters in Taiwan to vote for the DPP. “Many mainlanders think that waving a Republic of China flag equals supporting Taiwan independence,” Li said. But under the 1992 consensus reached between Beijing and the then ruling Kuomintang (KMT) in Taiwan, the two sides are allowed to have different definitions on what “one China”means. The two parties consider that one China is a single country that lies on both sides of the Taiwan strait. The KMT considers itself the rightful leader of the country, which it calls the Republic of China, while Beijing's position is that it is rightful leader of a country it calls the People's Republic of China. The DPP's position has been that both are sovereign states on either side of the strait. The consensus is a tacit understanding under which the two sides agreed to shelve their political differences in order to seek common grounds. Beijing regards the 1992 consensus as the sole political agreement between the mainland and Taiwan, and the foundation for the cross-strait relationship to continue. Besides the 1992 consensus, Li said mainland authorities also needed to improve what he called “an information asymmetry” between people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait through new media and social platforms to prevent future misunderstanding and incidents like Chou's. Li said that Beijing believed Tsai would not make any unexpected of critical moves like her predecessor, Chen Shui-bian, but mainland authorities did not rule out the possibility that she would seek independence through a referendum or the courts. “She is a scholar turned politician who is able to overcome many political crises skilfully,” Li said. “Beijing sees her as a real rival who is not easy to deal with.” Taoyuan mayor Cheng Wen-tsan, a close-ally of Tsai and a former government spokesman under the DPP administration between 2000 and 2008, said he “won't worry about future cross-strait relations”. “President-elect Tsai has clearly stated that she will not change the cross-strait status quo. She also said she recognises the historic fact of the talks in 1992 and that she will seek common ground [with Beijing] based on the current constitution of the Republic of China,” Cheng said. Tsai will not overturn the existing agreements signed by the two sides, he added, meaning that she had no plan to change the status quo. ^ top ^

 

Guangdong

Chinese province turns to state firms to buy up its unsold homes (SCMP)
2016-03-06
Guangdong is eying large state-owned enterprises as potential buyers for its large inventory of unsold commercial homes, the province's top official said yesterday. “[The provincial government] is planning to let large state-owned enterprises purchase commercial housing on a large scale, and [reserve them] exclusively for public rental housing,” said Guangdong governor Zhu Xiaodan at a panel meeting of Guangdong delegates at the national legislative sessions in Beijing. An oversupply of new homes in smaller cities on the mainland has become increasingly serious in the past year, prompting the government to include destocking in its five economic targets for 2016. By the end of 2015, Guangdong had 160 million square metres of unsold homes. The national figure stood at 720 million square metres. President Xi Jinping said the reduction in property inventory was one of “four battles of annihilation” that China must win to revive its economy – the other three were digesting over-capacity, lowering the cost for companies in the real economy, and guarding against and relieving financial risk. Zhu vowed to reduce Guangdong's inventory of commercial housing by more than 20 million square metres in about three years. The cycle of destocking would be reduced from 17 to 15 months, he said. Guangdong issued a blueprint on supply-side reforms in January, vowing to divide cities in the province into four categories, each carrying out different targets to destock unsold homes. Shenzhen, which had zero inventory and a high demand for homes, will step up property market regulation. Zhu said the government had shut down 2,333 under-performing enterprises last year, and the province faced serious challenges in maintaining economic development. Zhu said Pearl River Delta cities would recruit more Hong Kong students for internships as part of Guangdong's plan to boost youth exchanges between the province and Hong Kong. Guangdong would also offer financial incentives to lure young people from Hong Kong to open startup companies in the province's thirteen free-trade zones, and government-backed youth groups in the province would seek better connections with counterparts in Hong Kong. Guangdong authorities organised more than 100 youth exchange activities last year targeting more than 30,000 youngsters from the province, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, he said. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

Tibet authorities to invest $75 million in sky burial site protection (Global Times)
2016-03-10
Southwest China's plateau region of Tibet will spend 490 million yuan ($75 million) over the next five years on the repair and protection of sky burial sites, a traditional Tibetan funeral practice, local authorities said Wednesday. Sky burial is a Tibetan and Mongolian tradition, whereby the dead are fed to predatory birds so that their souls may ascend to heaven. A total 156 sky burial sites will receive funding. The government will invest 165 million yuan this year on 47 sites, mostly close to lamaseries. Each site will be assigned 3 million to 5 million yuan to finance repair and protection work, according to the regional civil affairs department. Wild dogs, burial waste, bumpy roads and a lack of facilities are affecting the traditional practice, said Xu Jiali, deputy head of the regional civil affairs department who had visited 60 burial sites in the preliminary investigation. The funding will cover the construction of roads, fences, reception rooms, mortuaries and furnaces, said Xu. Cremation is the most common funeral practice in China. But according to Regulations on Funeral and Interment Control, cremation is not practiced in areas inhabited with ethnic minorities who have their own funeral customs, which should be respected. ^ top ^

Tibet's first KFC finally opens for business, years after the US fast-food giant embarked on mission to gain foothold in the region (SCMP)
2016-03-09
American fast-food giant KFC has opened its first restaurant in Tibet, the venue's property manager said on Wednesday, more than a decade after the chain's first attempt to establish a foothold ended in controversy […]. The opening comes despite campaign groups expressing alarm over the store's presence when it was announced in December, and the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader and Nobel laureate, previously declaring that the cruel treatment endured by chickens raised and killed for KFC violated Tibetan values. China has ruled majority Buddhist Tibet since the 1950s, where rights groups accuse it of political and religious repression. Beijing insists that Tibetans enjoy extensive freedoms and that it has brought economic growth to the region, and accuses the Dalai Lama of separatism. The official Xinhua news agency said that more foreign brands were “hoping to do business in the region” as its infrastructure improved. KFC entered China in 1987, and now has more than 5,000 outlets in over 1,100 locations across the country, most of them company-owned, its parent Yum Brands says on its website. It has said it intends to spin off its China operations into a separate company […].Yum declined to comment on Wednesday about the opening, but after plans for the restaurant were announced in December, a Yum representative said it would “provide employment opportunities, and support the development of the regional supply chain” and “incorporate local design elements”. Images of the interior posted online showed a large image of the Potala palace – once the residence of the Dalai Lamas – and triangle motifs labelled with Tibetan mountain names in English, among them Qomolangma, the local designation for Everest. ^ top ^

Tibet hoping to become a top global destination (China Daily)
2016-03-08
In a bid to attract more tourists and become one of the world's top destinations during the next five years, the Tibet autonomous region would like to shorten the time it takes to issue travel permits to foreigners. Currently, foreign travelers need Tibet travel permits to tour the region, in addition to a Chinese visa. This extra requirement is based on Tibet's unique ethnic traditions, cultural heritage, reception capacity and ecological protection needs. Without the permits, which must be applied for through an authorized travel agency, foreigners can't board a flight or train to Tibet. "Tibet will be more open to domestic and foreign tourists in the next five years. We will simplify the procedure for foreigners to obtain travel permits and cut the waiting time," said Hong Wei, deputy director of the Tibet tourism development commission and a deputy in the Tibet delegation to the National People's Congress. Hong spoke during a group discussion at the NPC's annual session. The reform of travel permits is still being studied and there are no hard details at the moment, an official with Tibet's publicity department said on Monday. Padma Choling, head of the standing committee of the regional people's congress, said at the session that Tibet has no plans to completely abolish permits for foreign travelers because its natural environment is complicated and the purpose of the permits is mainly to ensure the safety of the travelers. "It takes at least 15 days for foreigners to receive their permits after submitting all the documents if they are not refused entry. I hope it can be cut to less than a week in the future," said Xu Bin, manager of a travel agency based in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. He said he has received many inquiries from foreigners during the past eight years who were very interested in visiting Tibet. Li Yiqiang, deputy director of Shannan prefecture, said the number of foreigners visiting the prefecture in 2015 increased by more than 30 percent over the previous year. "Allowing more foreign visitors to come to Tibet can help the locals out of poverty by getting them involved in providing tourism services," he said. ^ top ^

Dalai Lama not religious leader: official (Global Times)
2016-03-08
The Dalai Lama was not a religious leader after he betrayed his country, a senior official from the Tibet Autonomous Region said in Beijing on Monday, which experts believe is a reconsideration by the central government of the status. "He was no longer a religious leader after he defected his country and betrayed its people," Baima Chilin, deputy Party chief of the autonomous region, told the press at the fourth Session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC). "If the Dalai Lama wants to return to China, he must give up 'Tibet independence,' and must publicly acknowledge Tibet and Taiwan are inseparable parts of China and that the People's Republic of China is the only legitimate government" said Baima Chilin. Xiong Kunxin, an ethnic studies professor at the Minzu University of China, told the Global Times that Baima Chilin's remarks show the central government's attitude towards the Dalai Lama's identity, who had long been considered a religious leader. "The reconsideration came about after the central government realized the Dalai Lama's commitment to oppose the Chinese government, and his support of separatism was unlikely to change," Zhang Yun, a researcher at the Research Center on Tibetology, told the Global Times. The legitimacy of the Dalai Lama's status as a religious leader was no longer acknowledged by the central government as he has failed to fulfill his obligation to inherit and spread Buddhism and continued his separatist activities, said Xiong. Also at the meeting, Wu Yingjie, deputy Party chief of Tibet, said contact between entertainment celebrities and the Dalai Lama and his clique is unacceptable, adding that they need to take responsibility for their behavior. A report on tibet.cn in February said mainland actor Hu Jun attended religious activities in northeastern India, where two major members of the Tibetan government-in-exile were seen in the same picture with them. At the meeting, delegates from Tibet wore badges of portraits of China's leaders, including Chairman Mao Zedong and President Xi Jinping. Another Tibet official explained that it has been their habit after the 50th anniversary of the founding of the autonomous region in 2015. ^ top ^

Chinese central government to continue financial support for Tibet (China Daily)
2016-03-07
China will continue to roll out preferential financial policies to boost economic and social development in Tibet over the next five years, according to financial authorities on Monday. Monetary and credit policy support will be fine tuned during the 2016-2020 period, according to a circular issued by the central bank and regulators of China's banking, securities and insurance sectors. Financial institutions will be encouraged to open branches in Tibet and more direct financing and financial bonds are expected to help enterprises in Tibet, especially small and micro businesses, according to the circular. More financial support for infrastructure, agriculture and environment protection is promised, as well as policies to improve farmers' incomes, according to the circular. ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

Poverty rates remain high in Xinjiang: CPPCC advisor (Global Times)
2016-03-10
Poverty relief in some areas of Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region will be one of the most difficult tasks of the next five years, as China seeks to raise the living standards of its remaining 50 million poor people nationwide, the country's former poverty alleviation head said Wednesday. Some "special" types of poverty in Xinjiang - particularly those in southern Xinjiang, in the region's alpine areas and in areas along China's borders - are very difficult to overcome, Fan Xiaojian, a national political adviser and head of the advisory committee of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, told a press conference during the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Even though the poverty rate in Xinjiang decreased from 32 percent to 15.8 percent during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15), it still remains relatively high, leaving Xinjiang with one of the highest poverty rates in China, Fan said. The Xinjiang regional government said the region's poverty-stricken population has been reduced to 1.85 million thanks to industrial development, modern agriculture and urbanization, the Xin-hua News Agency reported in January. The per capita annual income of Xinjiang farmers in counties classified as the most impoverished increased to 6,690 yuan ($1,080) last year from 3,543 yuan in 2011, Xinhua reported. A total of 110 billion yuan will be handed out in Xinjiang in 2016 to help fund and guide 100 projects related to employment, housing, agriculture and poverty-relief, Xinhua reported. Meanwhile, Fan said that 50 million people will be lifted out of poverty across the country by 2020. He noted that this mission will be the toughest challenge of China's poverty alleviation campaign, both because China is experiencing downward economic pressure and because the remaining 50 million impoverished people have suffered severe poverty for a long time. As China transitions to the "new normal" of slower economic growth, poverty relief is an important way to increase domestic demand and boost growth, according to a statement issued after a meeting of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee in November 2015, Xinhua reported. "Precision" poverty relief - a targeted approach to fight poverty in specific conditions - should be the order of the day, the statement said. ^ top ^

Xinjiang recruits more than 10,000 grassroots civil servants in six years (Global Times)
2016-03-09
Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region has recruited about 12,300 civil servants at grassroots level in the past six years, said local authorities on Wednesday. According to Yang Yong, Party chief of the regional human resources and social security department, Xinjiang has lowered its threshold for civil servants recruitment since 2009, and set up special posts in less developed areas and the southern part, employing more workers, farmers, community staff and village heads. Governments also recruited graduates from police schools. "In recent years, we have been obsessed with problems like civil servant shortage and lack of professionals," he said. The situation is especially serious in the southern part of the region. A total of 7,320 civil servants were employed last year in Xinjiang, including 83 percent at grassroots level. Among these posts 36 percent were especially for people from ethnic minorities. ^ top ^

Terrorism drops in Xinjiang (Global Times)
2016-03-09
Xinjiang saw a sharp drop in the number of cases involving violence and terrorism in 2015, as the autonomous region continues to pursue a crackdown on terrorism, a top Xinjiang official said in Beijing on Tuesday. "Xinjiang is heading toward a stable security situation," Zhang Chunxian, Party chief of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, told the press during the fourth Session of the 12th National People's Congress. Xinjiang still faces a severe and complicated counter-terrorism situation, which requires the continuous campaign against terrorists, Zhang said, applauding the efforts to arrest terrorists in an attack at a coal mine in the region. On September 18, 2015, a coal mine in Baicheng county, Aksu Prefecture was attacked by a group of armed men, killing 11 people, the Xinhua News Agency reported. Religious extremism has dramatically dropped in Xinjiang, while the current counter-terrorism campaign has been attracting extensive support among people of various ethnic groups in the autonomous region, Zhang noted. "The number of terror cases dropped due to efforts to crack down on terrorist activities and to destroy the hotbed for terrorism," Li Wei, an anti-terrorism expert at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times on Tuesday. Li added that rising international terrorism contributed greatly to terrorism in China. "Religious extremism created hatred among different ethnic groups under the guise of religion," Abudulrekep Tumniyaz, deputy director of the Xinjiang Islamic Association, told media on Tuesday, noting that Islam, as a religion of "peace, unity, tolerance and caring," is opposed to extremism. The counter-terrorist campaign has helped protect the rights and interests of the public, Nayim Yasen, director of the Standing Committee of the Xinjiang People's Congress, told the media at the conference. "To effectively prevent and counter terrorist activities is an important way to protect human rights," Yasen noted. In counter-terrorism work, human rights as well as freedom of religion and ethnic customs should be respected, he added. "Since a terror incident in Urumqi on July 5, 2009, different ethnic groups have become increasingly separated," a Xinjiang-based scholar told the Global Times on condition of anonymity on Tuesday. The scholar also pointed out that what should be done next is to increase mutual trust among different ethnic groups, which has been harmed by a series of terror attacks in recent years. ^ top ^

Xinjiang underground preaching sites shut down: Islamic leader (Global Times)
2016-03-08
There is at least one official preaching site or class in almost all of Xinjiang's 14 prefectures, each of which train at least 50 people, said Abudulrekep Tumniyaz, deputy director of the Xinjiang Islamic Association. He said that in the city of Hotan, preaching classes have been set up to educate 150 people. The clerics are not only taught the Koran but government policies on religion as well, said Tumniyaz, who is also dean of the Xinjiang Islamic Institute, a Urumqi-based college that offers bachelor's degrees and short-term courses. China has 10 Islamic institutes including one in Beijing. Tumniyaz noted that his college began to enroll more high school graduates in recent years and they have decided to further expand enrollment. The institute's five-year course is made up of 70 percent religious studies and 30 percent general knowledge, including studies on political affairs, Tumniyaz added. Since the graduates eventually become Islamic clerics, Tumniyaz stressed that political studies weigh less but remain a crucial part. He called for local religious leaders to serve as good examples for followers in religious, political and legal affairs, especially as the nation strives to eliminate poverty in the next five years. "As a patriotic religious leader, I have been thinking about how to unite religious people under the guidance of the regional government and Party committee, and how to upgrade their professional skills in religious, political and legal affairs," Tumniyaz said. Tumniyaz added that some of the 29,000 religious leaders in Xinjiang have made achievements in their respective fields and should be adopted as role models for their followers, not only in religious guidance but also in secular life. Xinjiang launched a campaign to promote correct Islamic religion culture in 2014 by educating believers every Djumah Day, "so that [believers] can form one head with one heart," Tumniyaz said. "Xinjiang residents are now fully aware that terrorism, separatism and extremism do not involve religion nor ethnicity. Terrorism-related videos are long gone under our strict crackdown. It is time to gradually work to remove them from the people's mind," he said. As a deputy of the 12th National People's Congress, Tumniyaz said he proposed over a dozen of bank branches in Xinjiang as some local residents have complained about the scarcity of banks and the inconvenience of traveling to neighboring counties. ^ top ^

Xinjiang allocates major funds to improving livelihood (Global Times)
2016-03-05
The government of northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region will continue to allocate large sums of money in 2016 toward enhancing local livelihood, authorities said. A total of 110 billion yuan (about 17 billion US dollars) will be handed out this year to help steer 100 projects covering employment, housing, agriculture, poverty-relief and other fields, according to the Standing Committee of the regional Party Committee. About 10,000 villages in Xinjiang will receive 500,000 yuan each to "improve livelihood," according to the committee. Meanwhile, 600 million yuan will be used for poverty relief in 1,200 poor villages, and 24 billion yuan will be used to build houses for 300,000 rural herdsmen. The funding is part of the region's seventh "Livelihood-building Year," an initiative started by the regional government. About 600 billion yuan has been mobilized in the past six years thanks to the high-profile initiative, which has been credited with helping improve the livelihood of the local population. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Hong Kong government plans tougher penalties for people smugglers (SCMP)
2016-03-11
Hong Kong is readying tougher penalties for the first time in four decades against snakeheads smuggling illegal immigrants into the city, as part of a new drive to stem the influx of asylum seekers. A government source told the Post that the maximum penalty could be more than quadrupled to 14 years under amended legislation to be introduced as soon as possible. The Legislative Council will discuss the proposal on April 12. Under the current Immigration Ordinance, anyone who arranges the passage of illegal immigrants to Hong Kong from the mainland, Macau or Vietnam already face 14 years' imprisonment and a maximum fine of HK$5 million. But snakeheads smuggling other nationalities face a lesser charge of aiding a person to land or remain in Hong Kong unlawfully, which carries a three-year sentence and HK$25,000 fine.The Security Bureau is now seeking to amend the regulation to cover illegal immigrants of all nationalities. “The ordinance commenced in 1979 when there was a flow of Vietnamese and mainland Chinese. But things have changed over the decades,” the government source said. “We need stiffer penalties as the trend of syndicates arranging the smuggling of South Asians into Hong Kong is alarming.” The number of non-ethnic Chinese illegal immigrants intercepted doubled last year to 3,819 with almost 60 per cent from Vietnam. The rest came from Pakistan, Bangladesh and India. More than 400 were arrested in January alone this year. Many of them snuck into Hong Kong by boat. According to the Immigration Department, Hong Kong is now saddled with a backlog of 11,082 applications on asylum and torture grounds that need to be screened. Half of the applicants are illegal immigrants.The department arrested 232 claimants for taking up jobs last year, which they are not allowed to while waiting for their applications to be processed.Police pose with the boat used for smuggling at a media briefing on illegal immigrants being smuggled into Hong Kong from South East Asia in Chek Lap Kok. The influx of asylum seekers, especially from the Indian subcontinent, has caught the government's attention recently and prompted a review of the asylum system. The government is already planning to impose visa restrictions on citizens of countries considered the biggest source of illegal immigration to Hong Kong. It is understood that several people-smuggling syndicates are operating in Hong Kong, offering a one-stop service to bring immigrants from their home countries to the city via the mainland for up to HK$50,000 per head. “A HK$25,000 fine means nothing to snakeheads as they earn HK$500,000 per boat trip,” the source said. “We also see the amendment as a means to curb the growing number of asylum seekers in Hong Kong, as many of them sneak into the city unlawfully and lodge claims when they face deportation.” The source said the tougher penalties would also apply to boat owners and crew members involved in people-smuggling activities. Security panel member and newly-elected legislator Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu, a barrister from the Civic Party, said while the courts had been taking illegal immigration seriously, stronger penalties were still warranted. “Smuggling is a global problem. I believe a stiffer penalty would be more threatening,” Yeung said. ^ top ^

HK youth to see job benefits from new high-speed rail link (Global Times)
2016-03-10
Legislators from Hong Kong hailed the importance of the high-speed railway connecting Hong Kong and the mainland, which will be especially crucial for the younger generation facing employment challenges in Hong Kong. "The 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) showed support from the mainland for younger generation in Hong Kong and Macao for entrepreneurship in the mainland - which will help deal with the problems facing our young people," Michael Tien Puk-sun, a Hong Kong delegate of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC), told the Global Times. Tien explained that Hong Kong's economy has a structural problem, citing legal and financial services as major GDP engines but contribute less to the job market. With the 13th Five-Year Plan, young people from Hong Kong will be able to make full use of the mainland's support policies to start businesses in the mainland, he said. "Thanks to the high-speed railway, people will be able to live in Hong Kong and travel half an hour to work in Shenzhen, considering Hong Kong residents' dislike for relocating," Tien said. Begun in 2010, the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong high-speed railway is scheduled to be completed and operational by 2018. Tien added that what is more important is how to further facilitate exchanges by granting joint border control to ease entry-exit between the mainland and Hong Kong. In his bill, Tien recommended that more mainland cities be granted individual travel permits to Hong Kong. "Instead of setting a quota on the cities issuing personal travel permits, there should be a quota on the total number of tourists to Hong Kong and a different quota may be set for each month to ease the pressure on local tourist services at specific times of the year," he said. Meanwhile, Peter Wong Man-kong, another NPC delegate from Hong Kong, suggested promoting traditional Chinese culture to enhance a sense of identity among Hong Kong residents, especially among the younger generation, who lack an education in Chinese history and culture. "Most young people in Hong Kong have faith in our country, but under the influence of Western ideology and some deliberate agitation from the West to make Hong Kong chaotic, some young people are against not only the government but also traditional Chinese culture," Wong told the Global Times. ^ top ^

Hong Kong, mainland China and Macau 'remain committed' to city's third runway, says transport minister (SCMP)
2016-03-09
Despite the controversy surrounding Hong Kong's planned third runway system, the city's transport and housing secretary said that the parties involved “remain committed” to achieving their goals. Critics say that the project, which has yet to begin construction, will lead to clashes with Shenzhen and Macau flight paths and cause regional airspace problems that could affect flights in the area. At a ceremony marking the establishment of Hong Kong Airline's new flight training centre, transport minister Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said that Hong Kong, mainland China and Macau's aviation authorities recently met, and that “so far the dialogue has been very positive”. “As far as the airspace is concerned, there has been ongoing discussion among the three jurisdictions,” Cheung said, adding that the three sides are working to enhance airspace management in the region. “We are now proceeding smoothly through technical discussions as to how to implement those measures which are to be conducted, to be introduced,” he said. Cheung did not disclose when construction of the runway would begin, but said that it would be after “some procedural issues” are resolved. The Hong Kong Airport Authority is in charge of the project. “The three sides remain committed to achieving those objectives because the optimisation of PRD (Pearl River Delta) space is important to all airports in the region,” Cheung said. “Unless we are able to achieve optimisation, the expansion of various airports within the PRD will be affected,” he added. Ben Wong, chief operating officer at Hong Kong Airlines, said that the airline expects to see 7 million passengers in 2016, up from 5.6 million in 2015. He added that the drop in mainland tourists would not affect business operations “too much”. Wong said the travelling needs of mainland passengers were “continuously going up”, adding that he thinks this will continue for the rest of the year. ^ top ^

Corruption in Hong Kong? Top Beijing official 'studying' situation and vows 'no area left unchecked' (SCMP)
2016-03-08
China's new anti-corruption chief overseeing officials dealing with Hong Kong affairs is looking into whether there has been any corruption in the system. Li Qiufang, the first official from the Communist Party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection to join the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council since January, told Hong Kong media yesterday that her new role was to ensure anti-corruption efforts would extend like a“blanket”. Li's position – created more than 18 years after the handover and even overseeing Beijing's liaison office in Hong Kong – prompted questions over the probity of the so-called “Hong Kong and Macau system”, the central government's institutions dealing with the two special administrative regions. “The commission's supervision is a blanket,” explained Li, who attended a panel discussion among Hong Kong and Macau delegates to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference yesterday. “We will leave no stone unturned.” Asked if any corruption had yet been uncovered, she said she was “new in the job” and “studying” the situation. Contravention of disciplinary rules carries significant political consequences for mainland officials, from sacking to incarceration. Li was speaking to the media before she met the Hong Kong delegation to the CPPCC yesterday. Two officials from the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office's exchange and legal departments attended the meeting. Li did not take reporters' questions afterwards, but CPPCC standing committee member Chan Wing-kee said Li listened and did not speak during the meeting. “The central government attaches great importance to the Hong Kong and Macau delegations,” Chan said. “It is normal for a leader of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office to come.” Asked if Li's appearance showed there could be corruption among mainland officials overseeing the two cities' affairs, CPPCC delegate and Hong Kong lawmaker Tam Yiu-chung said: “I think she was here to familiarise herself with Hong Kong and Macau affairs and to know who's who.” “It was a good opportunity for her to meet dozens of delegates and listen to them,” Tam added. “Her focus is on disciplinary issues in the system.” In January, Li, 61, was appointed head of the discipline inspection group stationed at the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office and a member of the office's leading members' group of the Communist party. The office was among the seven central government agencies where the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection set up its discipline inspection group in January. The move was seen as part of the party's efforts to step up its anti-corruption drive in state and party organs. ^ top ^

Hong Kong's leading celebrities warned against fraternising with 'splittist' Dalai Lama (SCMP)
2016-03-08
Hong Kong celebrities were warned on Monday to stay away from Dalai Lama and his staff by a senior official of Tibet. Renowned singer Faye Wong, actor Tony Leung Chiu-wai as well as mainland actor Hu Jun were pictured attending a Buddhist assembly in India with members of the Tibetan government-in-exile last month. Wu Yingjie, deputy party secretary of Tibet (西藏), described the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader in exile as a “defector, separatist, and [one who is] jeopardising Tibet's stable development” to reporters during the annual parliamentary session. The 14th Dalai Lama fled to India when he was 23 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959 and has since lived there. His followers formed a self-claimed Central Tibetan Administration in Dharamsala, which is accused by Beijing of trying to split Tibet from the mainland. “We firmly oppose all celebrities, however influential they are, and whatever purpose they have, to make any contact with the 14th Dalai clique, or even help him spread his ideas,” said Wu on the sideline of the National People's Congress. The celebrities were attending an event on February 14 commemorating the 92nd anniversary of the birth of the late predecessor of the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Tibetan Buddhism's third-highest spiritual leader, the Karmapa's office said. Two senior Dharamsala officials photographed sitting together with the celebrities were identified by media as its home minister Drolma Gyari, and parliament speaker Penpa Tsering. The administration said the event was not political, and the Karmapa's office said the encounter was “coincidental”. State-backed media in China had criticised the celebrities. Wong and Leung did not comment. Hu wrote a statement on his social media account saying he did not know there were any separatists present. “As celebrities, especially superstars, they are public figures that bear certain social responsibilities,” Wu said. “We hope the celebrities to take the responsibility for their own deeds.” ^ top ^

Why are there so few women in Hong Kong politics? (SCMP)
2016-03-08
There is an oft-cited adage that says no woman ever gets married or pregnant during her time in Hong Kong's legislature. That observation may be lighthearted. But it hints at a negative perception that for women a career in public office may require big personal sacrifices. This idea's effect on women's participation in politics is debatable. But the fact remains women are still under-represented in Hong Kong's legislature, with just 11 women among Legco's 70 members – a number that has changed little over the years. But evidence of change comes in the growing number of women taking the helms of parties across the political spectrum. Suzanne Wu Sui-shan, 35, and 43-year-old Rosanda Mok Ka-han were recently elected chairwoman of the Labour Party and Association for the Democracy and People's Livelihood respectively, bringing to eight the number of the city's 11 major political parties led by women. And now the question is whether the number of women leading political parties will impact on the number of women entering politics. Emily Lau Wai-hing was the first woman in the city's history directly elected to the colonial legislature in 1991. More than two decades on, the Democratic Party leader still only has 10 female colleagues in Legco. That's just four more than in 1995, despite the chamber's expansion from 60 to 70 members in 2012. And women made up 14.6 per cent of district councillors in 1999, to 17.2 per cent last year. Veteran Lau said Hong Kong voters had never discriminated against female candidates, but said perhaps it was the Chinese traditional culture which deterred political participation by women. “Voters are gender-blind,” she said. “What they care about is really your personal capacity, experience and whether you can represent them.” She admitted not telling her family about her decision to run for office until the election, and that it drew mixed responses. “That is a cultural issue. Some people still hold the thinking that we should leave the work of public affairs – which requires frequent exposure – to men,” Lau said. “They don't want to see their own family members doing it, but strangely they are happy to see female candidates running in elections.” Less than 30 per cent of Democrats are now women, said Lau, adding the party has been trying hard to attract and retain female members with the hope that there would eventually be more female candidates standing in polls. Another female political heavyweight looking for more women to join her male-dominated party is Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who founded the pro-establishment New People's Party a few years ago. The minister-turned-lawmaker said the huge gap between the experience of district councillors and lawmakers had stopped many women from taking a further step in their political careers. “You could still give birth or get married if you are a district councillor,” Ip said. “But you have to make a lot of sacrifices – including lots of time and private time – to be in Legco, which is like living in a fishbowl.” She said some women might be discouraged due to having traditionally-minded partners opposed to having a spouse with the high profile which results from public office. “You can see most of the female members in Legco are not married. They are widowed, divorced or single,” Ip, whose husband died before she came to office, said. Ip, formerly the city's first female secretary for security, said her gender was an advantage in that role. […] As well as shifts in attitudes, both Lau and Ip said the government could increase female representation by providing more childcare services in the community as well as family-friendly policies to empower women. They also said the Women's Commission, which the government established 2001, should take a more proactive approach. Others say the issue needs to be addressed by changing political structures and methods. According to the United Nations, the percentage of women in parliament has almost doubled in the past two decades globally, with 22 per cent of all national parliamentarians women. Rwanda had the world's highest proportion of women parliamentarians at 63.8 per cent. Bolivia had 53.1 per cent and Cuba 48.9 per cent. A UN report issued by its Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 2014 recommended the Hong Kong government introduce temporary special measures to expedite the representation of women in politics. Democrat lawmaker Dr Helena Wong Pik-wan, a political scientist who has researched the women's movement and political participation, said the government could look for inspiration in places like South Korea or Scandinavia to encourage political parties to open up to women. For instance, a gender quota system in South Korea stipulates that women must account for more than 50 per cent of proportional candidates for municipal council elections, with female-male alternative order on the nominee list. Wong also highlighted a structural problem she said was crucial in disadvantaging women in Hong Kong politics: the existence of functional constituencies, a problem also raised by CEDAW. Wong, a lecturer at the Polytechnic University's General Education Centre, said all Legco's functional constituency seats are currently taken up by men – except the so-called “super seats”, which are still considered directly elected as the winner would be returned by general voters after securing enough nominations from district councillors. […] ^ top ^

'Street politics could tarnish Hong Kong's image,' NPC chairman Zhang Dejiang warns (SCMP)
2016-03-07
Hong Kong should avoid politicising its economic problems and resorting to “street politics” as it will tarnish the city's image and scare off foreign investors, the state leader overseeing Hong Kong affairs warned yesterday. National People's Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang (張德江) also praised Hong Kong people for being intelligent, and said they understand that the city's success was built on its economic achievement and its proximity to the mainland. “The opportunity must not be lost, because it might not come back again,” Zhang was quoted as saying in a closed-door meeting with about 30 Hong Kong deputies to the NPC yesterday morning. Zhang was speaking a day after Beijing pledged in a draft of its latest five-year plan that Hong Kong will play a bigger role in the nation's development. Backing will be given to boost the development of the city's technology sector and the legal and arbitration services, the plan reads. Citing Zhang, NPC deputy Maria Tam Wai-chu said: “Hong Kong's status was obtained by its economic achievements … Therefore, boosting the economy comes first; and economic problems should not be politicised.” Last month, hundreds of protesters clashed with police in a violent disturbance in Mong Kok, and Beijing officials branded the rioters as “radical separatists”. In a by-election three weeks later, localist Edward Leung Tin-kei, 24, who was arrested in relation to the mayhem, stunned pundits by winning more than 66,000 votes, coming third. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying concluded his four-day visit to the capital last night. Before leaving Beijing, Leung had a meeting with Zhang and said the NPC chairman was “shocked” by the Mong Kok riot. “He was shocked that such a violent and anti-social incident could happen in a lawful and civilised society,” Leung said. “[Zhang] also said it pained him to see many policemen and journalists getting hurt during the incident.” Leung added that the chairman recognised the SAR government and the police's handling of the riot, saying it was “decisive”. Another NPC deputy Brave Chan Yung said Zhang made reference to the riot during the meeting. “Zhang said that with an intelligence quotient as high as 130, could Hong Kong people not be clear on what is good for Hong Kong, and whether they could have good days ahead if the city descends into chaos?” Chan said. Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, Hong Kong's sole representative on the NPC's standing committee, added that “Zhang said the Mong Kok riot was not only about Mong Kok, as young people in many countries are unhappy” with their problems such as employment and housing. Fan said Zhang also praised Leung and his government for demonstrating a sense of responsibility in the face of various challenges. On Friday, Zhang said in a meeting with Hong Kong delegates to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the nation's top advisory body, that Hong Kong must maintain an environment that is good for business and “not to appease acts that challenge the rule of law”. Commenting on Zhang's call for Hong Kong to seize economic opportunities offered by the mainland, Ivan Choy Chi-keung, political scientist at Chinese University, believed it indicated that Beijing doesn't wish to keep accommodating to the city. […] ^ top ^

Second bookseller Cheung Chi-ping arrives in city after detention in mainland China (SCMP)
2016-03-07
A Hong Kong bookseller detained on the mainland returned to the city on Sunday morning and said he did not require any police or government assistance. He also requested the missing persons file on him be dropped. The return of Cheung Chi-ping, one of five booksellers who went missing on the mainland last year, came two days after the return of his boss Lui Por, a general manager of Mighty Current, a publishing house which specialises in books critical of the Chinese Communist Party. Cheung worked as Lui's assistant. “Hong Kong Police met with [Cheung] who has returned to Hong Kong from the mainland this morning,” an official police statement said. It was nearly identical to the one released on Friday upon Lui's return, read. “Police continue to follow through with the other two missing person cases with the Interpol Guangdong Liaison Office of Guangdong Provincial Public Security Department for further details,” the statement added. It was understood that Cheung was not handed over to Hong Kong police by mainland law enforcement officers, and instead used his Hong Kong ID card to return from Shenzhen at Lo Wu immigration control point shortly after 7am. “He told officers that he did not need any assistance from police or the Hong Kong government and he also requested police cancel his missing persons report,” a source said. The source said the other missing booksellers, including Lee Po, were still on the mainland. Hong Kong legislator Albert Ho Chun-yan believed the two men's [Cheung and Lui] refusal to co-operate with Hong Kong police could be a deal they struck with the mainland authorities in exchange for their early release. Ho, a Democrat, conceded there was little the Hong Kong side could do now. “Now they have rejected the government's offer for assistance, this can save the trouble for Hong Kong government and police will have a good excuse for making no progress. The issue could gradually die down. But the public confidence in 'one country two systems' has been greatly affected,” said Ho. Cheung, Lui and another associate, Lam Wing-kee, all went missing while on the mainland last October. In the same month, Mighty Current shareholder Gui Minhai vanished in unexplained circumstances while he was in Pattaya, Thailand. Their associate Lee Po disappeared from Hong Kong in December, leading to fears that Chinese agents had kidnapped him in the city and raising concerns. Lee met with Hong Kong police in an undisclosed location last week and had also asked them to drop his case. He also said he did not need any help from the Hong Kong government and would return home when a mainland investigation involving his associate, Gui, was over. On Sunday afternoon, Causeway Bay Books, the “upstairs” bookstore opened by the missing booksellers in Lockhart Road in the heart of Causeway Bay, remained closed with no one answering the doorbell at the entrance. A shelf which used to display some of the politically sensitive titles sold at bookstore remained empty. While a handful of tourists who walked passed the area took photos of the bookstore with their smartphones, they became visibly alert when approached by a Post reporter and were hesitant to speak. “That's the bookstore,” a father was heard telling his son when they walked passed it. ^ top ^

 

Macau

Anti-corruption drive not only reason for decline in Macao's gambling: NPC deputy (Global Times)
2016-03-11
The Chinese mainland's anti-corruption campaign is not the only reason for the slowdown in Macao's gambling industry, a deputy to the national legislature from Macao told the Global Times Tuesday during the two sessions. Lao Ngai Leong, president of the Association of Returned Overseas Chinese Macao and a member of the National People's Congress, said that one reason for the downturn in Macao's gambling business is the downward pressure on China's and the world's economy. Macao has became the world's largest gambling center in 2006 and one of the world's richest cities with the highest GDP per capita by purchasing power parity as of 2013, according to the World Bank. Gross gaming revenue in June 2015 dropped by 36.2 percent to 17.4 billion patacas ($2.93 billion), the 13th straight month of declines, according to data released by Macao's Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau. China UnionPay has tightened regulations against money laundering, as China has strengthened its crackdown on corruption and prevented gambling with public funds, said Lao. Besides, visitors to Macao can only enter with an exit-entry permit to Hong Kong and Macao, Lao added. Chui Sai On, the chief executive of Macao, said he expects revenue from gaming to drop to 200 billion patacas ($25 billion) in 2016, the Financial Times reported in November 2015. Echoing Lao, Kou Hoi In, a member of Macao's Legislative Assembly, told the Global Times on Thursday that when the global economy performs poorly, Macao is also affected but that its economy remains stable. "Gambling is and always will be the engine that runs Macao," Kou said. "Although gambling business revenue is declining, it is not that low. It is impossible for it to continuously rise. After reaching its peak, it would slide and then stabilize, at which time diversified development should be considered," said Kou. Appealing to the gamblers has become a priority for casinos that once relied on the wealthier gamers for most of their revenues. New casinos set to open in 2016 will include features like a miniature Eiffel Tower, intended to draw in China's burgeoning middle class, Reuters reported. ^ top ^

Macao submits diversified development report to central gov't (Global Times)
2016-03-10
Macao has submitted its report on diversified economy development to China's central government earlier this month, the special administrative region's (SAR) authorities said Wednesday. Office of the Chief Executive of the Macao SAR said the report combined suggestions from government units and civil society to boost Macao's diversified economy development. The report considers Macao's comparative advantage and negative factors, especially its part in China's 13th five-year plan, the "Belt and Road" initiative, and regional economic integration, to find out its future opportunities. The report emphasizes the diversified economy development by cultivating new industries with potentials, medium- and small-sized local enterprises, and encouraging professionals and young people to start up. It also suggests that Macao should realize its position as a world tourism and leisure industry center, and a platform for commercial cooperation between China and Portuguese-speaking countries. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Recognise 'one China' or risk deep rift in cross-strait ties, Beijing think tank warns Taiwan's Tsai (SCMP)
2016-03-10
Official exchanges between Beijing and Taipei may be halted if the administration of president-elect Tsai Ing-wen hesitates to recognise the 1992 consensus, a top mainland Taiwan affairs adviser warned on Wednesday. “If Taiwan's leader [Tsai] fails to make a clear position on the 1992 consensus in her inauguration speech on May 20, it will have a great impact on the cross-strait relationship and future development,” Li Yihu, dean of Peking University's Taiwan Studies Institute, said at a press briefing organised by the State Council Information Office. Li said the impact would include the suspension of all official and semi-official exchanges, including talks between Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office, Taipei's Mainland Affairs Council and both the non-governmental intermediaries, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait and the Straits Exchange Foundation. The warning followed President Xi Jinping's first public remarks on cross-strait relations since the island's main pro-independence opposition party won both presidential and legislative elections in January. Warning against Taiwan independence, Xi said on Saturday that Beijing's policy on Taiwan would remain clear and consistent irrespective of the “change in Taiwan's political situation”. Liu Guoshen, head of Xiamen University's Taiwan Research Institute, said political and economic cross-strait exchanges would be harmed if Tsai and her Democratic Progressive Party sought independence through a referendum. “Beijing is now facing very strong internal pressure on opposition to Taiwan independence, especially from netizens who say they will punish Tsai and other political parties with strong anti-mainland sentiment,” Liu said. “That's why Beijing has to push Tsai to make a clear declaration on her policy on the mainland, saying it should stick to the 'One China' policy, or the 1992 consensus.” The consensus refers to a tacit understanding reached between Taipei and Beijing in 1992 that there is only “one China” but each side has its own interpretation of what that China stands for. “Beijing would allow Tsai to use her own wording to define the '1992 consensus'. The key rule is, she should stick to the one-China principle,” Li said. ^ top ^

Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou stresses importance of 1992 Consensus (Global Times)
2016-03-10
Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou said Wednesday that the 1992 Consensus is the political foundation for both sides of the Taiwan Strait and helps build a "cross-Strait bridge" for peaceful exchanges. Any future leader can make use of this bridge, but only by accepting the common political foundation, Ma said at the 25th anniversary of Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation. The 1992 Consensus is not only a consensus between both sides of the Taiwan Strait, but also accepted by most people in Taiwan, Ma said. On the basis of the 1992 Consensus, both sides conducted 11 high-level talks and signed 23 agreements on various areas, making the exchanges closer and closer. In the past eight years, total volume of cross-Strait trade topped 1 trillion US dollars, with Taiwan seeing surplus of nearly 500 billion US dollars. "Without trade with the mainland, Taiwan may see a huge trade deficit," Ma said. The "infrastructure" for cross-Strait relations is basically in place, but agreements on goods and service trade are yet to be reached. Ma said he hoped the two agreements would be passed soon, or else Taiwan may be marginalized in regional economic integration. Ma said he hoped future leader could continue to safeguard peaceful cross-Strait relations and maintain the status-quo, but should not take current relations for granted. An effective path for addressing cross-Strait relations has been explored, and the path should be maintained for the interests of people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who won Taiwan's leadership election in January, remains ambiguous about her stance on the 1992 Consensus. ^ top ^

Mainland shows determination, goodwill in cross-Strait relations (Global Times)
2016-03-08
A clear message was sent out from the top legislature's annual session that the Chinese mainland has strong determination and sufficient goodwill in the development of relations across the Taiwan Strait. A report delivered by Premier Li Keqiang Saturday said the mainland will continue to adhere to the 1992 Consensus as the political foundation for cross-Strait ties and will promote exchanges in diverse fields with Taiwan compatriots. Later that day, President Xi Jinping expounded on the mainland's firm stance when joining a group of lawmakers from Shanghai. "Only by accepting the 1992 Consensus and recognizing its core implications can the two sides have a common political foundation and maintain good interaction," Xi said. The 1992 Consensus clearly defines the nature of cross-Strait ties, and is the basis for the peaceful development of cross-Strait ties in the long run. Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who won Taiwan's leadership election in January, remains ambiguous about her stance on the 1992 Consensus, just stating that she wishes to "maintain the status quo." Chang Wu-yueh, head of the graduate institute of China studies at Taiwan's Tamkang University, said that Xi's words reiterated the significance of the 1992 Consensus in the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations "Without this foundation, it will be extremely hard to maintain the status quo. Meanwhile, the mainland has steadfast determination to address the issue of 'Taiwan independence'," Chang said. In his speech, Xi vowed to resolutely contain "Taiwan independence" secessionist activities in any form, safeguard sovereignty and territorial integrity and never allow the historical tragedy of national secession to happen again. "Our policy toward Taiwan is clear and consistent, and it will not change along with the change in Taiwan's political situation," Xi told legislators. Teng Che-wei, head of the Taipei-based non-governmental organization Cross-Strait Public Affairs Association, said that neither side of Taiwan Strait should sabotage the common foundation, or else exchanges across the Strait will suffer. "Tsai has been emphasizing the status quo, but status quo cannot be grown in the air. There must be concrete measures to maintain it," Teng said. Xi also said the Chinese mainland will further promote cross-Strait cooperation and exchanges in all fields, deepen economic and social integration, and enhance the sense of a community of common destiny. The peaceful development of cross-Strait ties needs not only high-level interactions, but also mutual understanding and mutually beneficial exchanges at the grassroots level, according to Chang. "The mainland hopes that bonds between people on both sides of the Strait are not influenced by political divergence and exchanges in all aspects can continue to improve," he said. Micky Chen, chairman of the Management Institute in Taipei, said economic and trade exchanges between two sides of the Strait showed strong momentum in recent years and are still moving forward. Last year, tourists from the mainland accounted for 40 percent in total tourists to Taiwan. The mainland is also Taiwan's largest destination of investment and export. "In recent years, the economic and trade ties is becoming more and more intertwined with other facets of cross-Strait relations, including educational and cultural exchanges," according to Chen. Xi said the results of the peaceful development of cross-Strait ties should be safeguarded by compatriots from both sides. A latest achievement of cross-Strait ties is the return of the head of a 1460-year-old marble Buddha statue back to the mainland 20 years after being stolen. In 1996, the statue's head was chopped off and disappeared from a tower in north China's Hebei Province. In 2014, a follower in Taiwan bought the statue's head at auction and donated it to Master Hsing Yun, founder of the Fo Guang Shan Monastery in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan. Hsing Yun decided to reunite the head and the body, and escorted the statue's head to Beijing late last month himself. The head of a Buddha statue can be chopped off, but the spirit of the Buddha cannot. It's just like the cross-Strait ties, Hsing Yun said. "The sea cannot sever our historical bond, nor can it cut off our connection and blood lineage," he said. "The common Chinese cultural traditions cannot be chopped off by external forces." ^ top ^

Xi Jinping's long-term strategy behind a cross-strait rail line (SCMP)
2016-03-07
Beijing's inclusion of cross-strait high-speed rail network in its new five-year plan reflects President Xi Jinping's long-term strategy on Taiwan, analysts said ­on Sunday. The 126km line from Pingtan – a pilot free-trade zone area set up by Beijing in Fujian province in 2013 to boost trade with Taiwan – to Taipei would be the world's longest rail tunnel if the proposal is realised. According to the 13th five-year plan from 2016 to 2020, the project is scheduled to be completed in 2030. “The Pingtan-Taipei section is part of the Beijing-Taipei high-speed rail line that has been studied for more than a decade. The mainland part has been completed while the Taiwan part is awaiting Taiwan's approval,” Pingtan Experimental Development Zone head Zhang Zhaomin said at a National People's Congress panel discussion yesterday. “There is no technical barrier to the cross-strait rail line. We have gathered advice from experts cross the Taiwan Strait and they have done research and met every year over the past decade.” The project is controversial in Taiwan but Taipei-based political commentator Wang Shing-ching said the island could be won over if the mainland could convince the public it could be built. “In Taiwan, the public has focused on the technical issues so far, but people with a long-term strategic view of cross-strait ties could be convinced [of its value],” Wang said. “The project indicates the mainland is confident that [pro-independence] Democratic Progressive Party chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen will not clearly deny the '1992 consensus' on her inauguration speech on May 20 to become Taiwan's president.” Taipei-based cross-strait expert Professor Arthur Ding said political differences between Beijing and Taipei were still the biggest obstacles for the project. On Saturday, Xi told Shanghai NPC delegates that Beijing's policy on Taiwan had remained clear and consistent irrespective of the “change in Taiwan's political situation”. They were his first public remarks on cross-strait ties since Tsai and the DPP won presidential and legislative polls in January. Chang Ling-chen, from National Taiwan University, said Xi's remarks reflected his determination to cement progress on cross-strait political ties by 2020. ^ top ^

 

Economy

Chinese firm wins $1.3b rail contract in Chicago (Global Times)
2016-03-11
China's train making giant has won a $1.31 billion deal to build rail cars for Chicago, its second major supplier deal in the US. CRRC Corporation's contract is not only the largest rail car order in Chicago's history but also the largest railcar export project by a Chinese enterprise in a developed country, according to a statement the CRRC sent to the Global Times on Thursday. Analysts said winning the bid for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) rail car project is a sign that China's rail technology has advanced over the years and is now in a leading position in the world. According to the CRRC, the city of Chicago awarded the contract to build 846 railcars to CSR Sifang America, a subsidiary of the CRRC. The CTA's base order is for 400 cars, with an option to purchase the balance in the future. The CTA launched its bid in 2014 in an attempt to replace half of the city's old rail cars, according to a CRRC statement. There are 8 underground rail lines in Chicago. The CTA said the new cars will have stainless steel bodies, LED lighting and signages, and AC power propulsion for a smoother, quieter ride. The new rail cars, once delivered, will significantly reduce the average age of CTA rail cars and are expected to save the CTA about $7 million annually in reduced maintenance costs and reduced use of power. As part of the bid, CSR Sifang has also pledged to build a brand new rail car assembly facility in Chicago, the first of its kind in 35 years. The facility is expected to generate 170 jobs, and represents an investment of $40 million. Prototype models are expected to be complete in 2019, and the cars will go into service in 2020, the CRRC said. "Building factories overseas helps the company fend off costs caused by pollution and resource consumption," Wang Mengshu, a railway expert at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, told the Global Times Thursday. Meanwhile, the company faces challenges as the demand for railway projects in the US is not as high as expected, experts said. "The US may not be the ideal market for railway exports," Zhao Jian, a railway professor at Beijing Jiaotong University told the Global Times on Thursday. "Demand for railway projects is not big in the US, as the US railway system is already mature." China is involved in multiple overseas rail projects currently under construction, including a $5.5 billion project in Indonesia, a 470 kilometer-long railway between China and Laos, an 800 kilometer-long railway in Thailand, and a 300 kilometer-long railway between Hungary and Serbia, according to a statement posted on the website of the State Council Information Office on February 3. Wang noted that China's rail technology is in a leading position compared to other countries, which lures a growing number of partners around the world. "The next step is to improve rail track maintenance by offering advanced training to local workers," said Wang. The Chinese government has taken a series of measures to boost railway construction. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang stated in this year's government work report that the government will invest more than 800 billion yuan ($123 billion) on railway infrastructure development this year. This is similar to the 824 billion yuan investment in railway infrastructure construction in 2015, but significantly higher than investment before 2013, according to a report Moody's sent to the Global Times on Thursday. The CRRC, a merger of former rivals China CNR Corporation and CSR Corporation, won its first US contract in October 2014 when CNR was awarded a $567 million deal to supply 284 subway train cars to Boston, Reuters reported on Thursday. The CTA did not respond to inquiries about the new facility as of press time. ^ top ^

Mainland China's stock markets should learn from Hong Kong: central bank adviser (SCMP)
2016-03-11
A prominent economist and former central bank adviser has urged Beijing to “learn from Hong Kong” to rectify its financial markets to prevent them endangering people's livelihoods and hurting prospects for a consumption based economy. Li Daokui, now a Tsinghua University professor, urged the government to reform the stock market with the same commitment it had shown fighting “tigers and flies” in its anticorruption campaign. He was speaking at yesterday's meeting of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). “The volatility of China's financial markets have become a direct threat to China's economic development, transformation and upgrading and China must win this tough fight to stabilise the stock and currency markets,” Li said. “I suggest setting up specialised securities procuratorates and financial courts, to strengthen law enforcement and avoid interference from local institutions of the listed companies,” he said. Authorities have cracked down on market wrongdoing and arrested high-ranking officials, hedge fund managers and some big retail investors, after China's stock market benchmark surged by 130 per cent in 9 months to its peak in mid-June before crashed by more than 40 per cent in the following two months. After the market rout in July and August, Yao Gang, the former deputy chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC), and his subordinate Zhang Yujun, the former CSRC assistant chairman, were taken away by party discipline inspectors, but the results of their investigation remains unknown. Analysts broadly believe the probe will touch on a power struggle at a higher level. Xu Xiang, a legendary hedge fund manager, and several senior officials with China's biggest brokerage Citic Securities, were also arrested late last year. There has been no announcement on how that investigation is progressing. “The rushed campaign to salvage the markets last year exposed problems ranging from insider trading to corruption,” said Harrison Hu, an analyst at a state-owned brokerage in Shanghai. “However, these problems are rooted in China's bureaucracy, and cannot be sorted out only with reforms in the securities markets.” Li also suggested learning from Hong Kong's experience in fighting short-sellers in 1998 and 1999, using a public “stabilisation fund” to bolster the markets when panic selling sent the financial markets into free-fall. Francis Leung, a senior investment banker in Hong Kong and a CPPCC member, said Beijing should not pin high hopes on a “stabilisation fund”. “The Hong Kong government used the measure only once, and it was an extreme case. I think the fundamental problem with the mainland market is how to strengthen law enforcement and make it more transparent,” Leung said. There were now 100 million retail investors on China's stock markets, half of whom lost 25,000 yuan in January, Li said. China's financial structure had become unprecedentedly complicated, with a great number of banks and enterprises holding stocks, Li said. Most worrying, the vicious interaction between the stock and currency market is directly challenging stability of the whole financial system, he added. ^ top ^

China's looming battle with the middle-income trap (SCMP)
2016-03-06
Premier Li Keqiang declared in his state-of-the-union address the nation faced “a difficult battle” to keep annual GDP growth at a minimum of 6.5 per cent in the next five years. The remark on Saturday highlights the struggle China faces to avoid being caught in the “middle-income trap”. After decades of breakneck expansion, China's growth is faltering at a rate much faster than expected. Last year's economic growth of 6.9 per cent was the lowest rate of increase since 1990. The world is now watching just how rapidly China can continue to expand – and just what the government needs to do to keep the nation's economy ticking over. The ambitious target of 6.5 per cent GDP growth set in the 13th five-year plan shows that the nation's leaders are prioritising expansion, even as they look to strike a balance between short-term stimulus and structural reform for sustainable growth. By 2020, the country's plan is to have doubled gross domestic product and per capita income from levels a decade earlier in a push to transform China into a “moderately prosperous society”. Meeting the goals is central to the political agenda of President and Communist Party chief Xi Jinping. Xi's envisaging of the “Chinese Dream” is a cornerstone of his policy for the next five years but whether it can be realised or not comes down largely to one factor: growth. Most economists believe meeting the 6.5 per cent target will be a challenge. […] Economists say that locking China in to 6.5 per cent growth will increase the risks of a financial crisis. To achieve the target, they say, China will barely be able to slow investment. And that means debt will keep climbing to even more dangerous levels. Economist Yu Yongding estimated that without fundamental changes in China's economic structure, by 2020, corporate debt would hit 200 per cent of GDP. Long-term predictions for China's GDP growth near 2020 range from 4 to 7 per cent, a wide enough gap to imply vastly different domestic and international policy shifts. But more economists forecast a rate of around 6 per cent. The International Monetary Fund is tipping 6.2 per cent in the coming five years, saying China's economy will be 44 per cent bigger in 2020 than in 2014. One of the gloomiest outlooks is from Harvard University professors Lawrence Summers and Lant Pritchett, who see growth falling to around 4 per cent. While the estimates vary there is consensus that China's continued slowdown is a structural inevitability. For decades, the country has relied on cheap labour and natural resources to get ahead. But the workforce is set to decline as society ages rapidly – labour costs in China have already risen beyond those of developing economies such as Thailand, Indonesia and Mexico. Another consensus is that China's slowdown is a result of the sheer size of the economy. Even if it were to grow at 6 per cent, it would be expanding by roughly 1.5 times the size of the entire economy of Singapore or Malaysia each year. Economists say that growing anywhere near 6 per cent in the long term would require efficiency and productivity reforms that would undercut growth right now. Those reforms would certainly involve pain but they are something the authorities should do over the next five years. Some analysts, including billionaire investor George Soros, have warned that the Chinese economy is so beset with distortions and weaknesses that it is heading for a hard landing. They criticise the government for doggedly pursuing its pro-growth policy and plans to double the size of the country's economy, saying slower expansion could help ward off a major crunch. The Economist Intelligence Unit has estimated the risk of a hard landing sometime between 2016 to 2020 at a worryingly high 30 per cent. Xu Shaoshi, head of the China's planning agency, said on Saturday that there would be no hard landing. Nevertheless, Hong Hao, managing director and chief China strategist at Bocom International, said the risk of a hard landing could not be ignored. This could come from corporate defaults, local government defaults or a burst in the property bubble. […] Fears were reinforced when Finance Minister Lou Jiwei said the country had a 50 per cent chance of heading in that direction in the next five to 10 years. Mellahi said this could happen if China failed to realise goals for social prosperity and urbanisation and if the economy failed to move into high innovation gear. However, Wang said even if China grew only 4 per cent a year, it would become a high-income country in less than 10 years, avoiding the trap ­altogether. […] ^ top ^

 

DPRK

Seoul's unilateral sanctions against DPRK should not undermine China's interests: FM (Xinhua)
2016-03-09
China on Wednesday said Seoul's unilateral sanctions against Pyongyang over its recent nuclear test and satellite launch should not undermine China's legitimate interests. The ROK announced unilateral sanctions just days after the UN Security Council adopted a resolution to curb the DPRK's nuclear and missile program. The ROK has banned third-country ships that have stopped at DPRK ports in the past 180 days from entering ROK waters, among other punitive measures. "Unilateral sanctions are not a solution to the problem and should not undermine China's legitimate interests," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said at a regular news briefing. "Facing the sensitive and complicated situation on the Korean Peninsula, China urges all sides to act in a cautious and calm manner to avoid escalation of tension," Hong said. He called on all parties to do more that contributes to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula following DPRK leader Kim Jong Un's statement that his country's nuclear warheads "have been standardized to be fit for ballistic missiles" through miniaturization. Asked to confirm if China had provided the DPRK with HOWO trucks allegedly used in the latter's artillery battery, Hong said China has always implemented UN resolutions and fulfilled its international responsibilities. "China will continue to control items prohibited by Security Council resolutions," the spokesperson said. Asked if a DPRK cargo ship that was reportedly banned from entering Rizhao port in east China has to do with the UN resolution, Hong said "I have no information, but China will implement Resolution 2270." Resolution 2270 not only touches on sanctions against the DPRK but also calls for the resumption of the six-party talks to resolve the Korean Peninsula nuclear problem through dialogue, Hong said. The spokesperson urged comprehensive and balanced implementation of the resolution. ^ top ^

We won't tolerate instability: Beijing's warning to Washington and Pyongyang (SCMP)
2016-03-09
China will not sit by and watch the Korean peninsula's fundamental stability be disrupted, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said yesterday, in a reference analysts said was aimed not only at Pyongyang's recent provocations but also at Washington's military manoeuvring in the region. The top diplomat also warned that “false belief” in resolving the North Korean nuclear crisis through sanctions and suppression was “irresponsible” while insisting negotiation was the way forward. “At the moment there is some sabre-rattling in the Korean peninsula and the situation is a bit explosive. If the tensions worsen, or even get out of control, it would be a disaster for all parties,” Wang told a press conference on the sidelines of the annual National People's Congress. “As the largest neighbour of the peninsula, China will not sit by and see a fundamental disruption to stability [there], and will not sit by and see unwarranted damages to China's security interests.” China has been under intense pressure to impose stricter punishment on North Korea for its recent nuclear test and missile launches. It has agreed to a new round of United Nations sanctions against Pyongyang, but critics remain sceptical of Beijing's willingness to faithfully carry out the measures. In response to the provocations, South Korea said it was considering deploying a US missile system – the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence. This has drawn protests from Beijing, which believes Washington wants to use the system as a proxy to extend its surveillance on China. On Monday, the US and South Korea conducted a massive military exercise involving 315,000 troops, prompting Pyongyang to threaten a nuclear attack. In an apparent reference to the military deployment, Wang said yesterday that all relevant parties should “act with reason and constraint” and “refrain from aggravating tensions”. “The ultimate solution to the peninsula problem requires comprehensive measures. False belief in sanctions and suppressions is in fact irresponsible to the peninsula's future,” Wang said. Wang said China would be open to any suggestion that could bring the issue back to the negotiating table, and called for replacing the armistice agreement on the Korean peninsula with a peace treaty. Wang's remarks showed that China considered both Pyongyang's provocations and US-South Korea military manoeuvring as threats to its security interests, said Sun Xingjie, an international relations specialist at Jilin University. China has long been a key political and economic supporter of the reclusive state. But bilateral ties have strained since Kim Jong-un took power in 2012. In a further sign of declining relations, Wang described bilateral ties as a “normal state-to-state relationship with a deep tradition of friendship”. In the past, leaders from both countries boasted a relationship as close as “lips and teeth” that was “mutually dependent with friendship consolidated by blood”. President Xi Jinping had been pushing to avoid labelling the relationship in this way since he took power in 2012, according to professor Jin Canrong, foreign affairs expert at Renmin University. “North Korea enjoyed so much special favour from China in the past, which it took for granted,” said Jin. “They depended on China but never listened to China.” Sun from Jilin University said that efforts to “normalise” ties were aimed at revising a distorted relationship. “The DPRK never cares about China's core interests, or even shows it any respect. How can one treat an ally like that? Despite the frustrations, China would never abandon its wayward neighbour because of its geopolitical significance and strategic weight, said Professor Lee Jung-nam of the Asiatic Research Institute, Korea University. “If the [North Korea] seeks development and security, we are prepared to help and provide support. But at the same time, we have an unwavering commitment to the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula,” said Wang. “We will not accommodate [North Korea's] pursuit of nuclear and missile programmes,” he told the reporters. ^ top ^

China highly concerned about stability on Korean Peninsula: FM spokesman (Xinhua)
2016-03-07
China is highly concerned about keeping stability on the Korean Peninsula and firmly opposes any move that will stir up trouble on the peninsula, a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry said on Monday. Spokesman Hong Lei said that China is "highly concerned" about the start of joint military exercises between the United States and Republic of Korea (ROK) and the reaction from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). The United States and ROK kicked off the annual exercises on Monday, bringing a record number of American troops and military assets into the Korean Peninsula. The DPRK has issued a warning of "all-out offensive" in response to the largest-ever joint ROK-U.S. military exercises. "The Korean Peninsula and China are linked by mountains and rivers and China is highly concerned about keeping stability on the peninsula," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei told a daily news briefing. "China firmly opposes any move that will stir up trouble in the Korean Peninsula," Hong said. He urged "restraint instead of provocative moves." Korean Peninsula tensions were discussed during a China-Russia meeting on Northeast Asian security in Moscow last week. According to Hong, the two sides expressed grave concern over the push by the United States and ROK for deploying anti-ballistic missile systems in the ROK, saying the move would intensify tensions, harm the strategic balance in the region and directly undermine the security of China and Russia. China and Russia are both firmly against such move, said Hong. ^ top ^

ASEP9 preparation committee reports (Montsame)
2016-03-07
A national committee of preparation for the 9th Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership (ASEP9) Meeting delivered a report on a course of the works. It was sounded by N.Enkhbold MP, members of the committee, and by B.Boldbaatar, a secretary-general of the Parliamentary Office. Boldbaatar said official invitations for the ASEP9 have been sent to representatives including Speakers of parliaments, upper and lower houses of the legislative bodies. Some delegates of 20 countries have officially announced about their participation in the meeting, and that "asep9.parliament.mn" website has been opened to give all related information. Addressing heads of diplomatic missions in Mongolia, N.Enkhbold said the Mongolian parliament attaches a great importance to the ASEP9, at a high level of political content and preparation, and hoped that parliamentary delegates of the countries the diplomats represent will actively participate in the meeting. The ASEP9, to be run this April 21-23, will be the first in the series of meetings that will take place within the ASEM Summit. ^ top ^

US, S.Korea launch largest ever combined military drills (Global Times)
2016-03-07
The US and South Korea are scheduled to launch their largest ever joint military exercises on the Korean Peninsula on Monday, a sign of growing tensions in the region and coming hard on the heels of tough new UN Security Council-approved sanctions on North Korea. Analysts said the scale of the exercises indicates a shift in mentality from the US on how to resolve the nuclear issues on the Korean Peninsula and warned that pressuring North Korea too hard would not be conducive to the denuclearization process and peace of the peninsula. According to South Korea's Yonhap News Agency, the US will send more than 15,000 troops to the joint military drills. South Korea is set to commit some 300,000 soldiers, more than double its usual deployment. The drills will be twice the size of last year's, South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo said, the BBC reported. Key Resolve will include Operation Plan 5015, a wartime plan jointly adopted by Seoul and Washington in June 2015 to prepare for pre-emptive strikes against Pyongyang if necessary and destroy its weapons of mass destruction, according to the Korea Times. Foal Eagle - a field exercise also involving US strategic assets, including a naval fleet led by an aircraft carrier and nuclear-powered submarines - is also expected to be far bigger than before and will last until April 30. Nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis will take part in the annual drills. This year's amphibious maneuvers - known as the Ssangyong exercises - will be larger and more elaborate than ever before, with 7,000 US troops practicing coming ashore aboard Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and from landing craft from the USS New Orleans, The Telegraph reported. In addition, the drills will for the first time simulate scenarios in which the North Korean regime has collapsed, according to the Telegraph. Seoul says the drills are defensive in nature but Pyongyang has slammed them as a preparation for war. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ordered his military to be on standby for pre-emptive nuclear strikes last week. "The scale of the drills shows that the US believes it is necessary to raise pressure on North Korea given the latest developments in its nuclear and missile programs. The US also wants to test its Operation Plan 5015 to see if it is truly capable of tackling the new situation on the peninsula," Zheng Jiyong, director of the Center for Korean Studies at Fudan University told the Global Times Sunday. "The drills show that the US and South Korea have lost their patience with North Korea. It is a sign that the US believes dialogue alone will not persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear programs and is considering other options, including military ones," Zheng said. "The joint exercises between the US and South Korea will make it more difficult for North Korea to give up its nuclear programs. The current situation is very sensitive, [such moves] could create chaos on the peninsula or even the entire Northeast Asia," Zheng noted. South Korea will announce this week its own tougher sanctions on North Korea, a Seoul government official said on condition of anonymity. The Seoul official did not elaborate on the South's separate sanctions. Yonhap reported they would include banning any ships which have previously docked in the North Korean ports. A group of North Korean individuals and organizations believed to be involved in weapons development will also be added to a blacklist, it said, citing a government source. In February, in an unprecedentedly tough move, the South announced the total shutdown of a jointly run industrial park in North Korea, saying Pyongyang had been using it to fund its nuclear weapons programs. ^ top ^

No light at end of N Korea nuclear tunnel: Chinese ambassador to Japan (SCMP)
2016-03-06
China's top envoy to Japan suggested on Sunday that there was only a slim chance of a resumption in six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear programme. “It is like a tunnel. I feel we haven't found the end yet,” ambassador Cheng Yonghua said on the sidelines of the annual political advisory body meeting. Following North Korea's nuclear test and rocket launch earlier this year, China last week backed the United Nations' “toughest” sanctions yet on Pyongyang. But Beijing has also urged its neighbour to give up its nuclear weapons programme and return to six-party talks, which also include South Korea, Japan, Russia and the United States. Six rounds of the talks were held between 2003 and 2007 before North Korea pulled out and resumed its nuclear programme. “At the moment we have not yet found a mechanism better than the six-party talks,” said Cheng, who was also Chinese ambassador to South Korea from 2008 to 2010.“When the talks were on, we made some gains. When they're off, problems keep occurring one after another.” Cheng said the six-party talks could help lay out a safe and stable blueprint for Northeast Asia. He urged all parties to go back to the negotiating table to resolve the problems through dialogue. Cheng also said the prospect of a meeting between President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Nuclear Security Summit in the US in the end of this month depended on the leaders' schedule and whether the two sides could move towards improving bilateral ties. “The reason we can't improve our relations lies in how Japan looks at China's development,” he said. Japanese media speculated last year that Cheng, who has spent six years in Japan as China's ambassador, would succeed Wu Dawei as special representative for Korean peninsula affairs. Wu was China's top negotiator in many of the six-party talks. When asked about his next role, Cheng said his present mission was his existing job. ^ top ^

China calls for restraint after DPRK expresses intention to use nuclear weapons at any time (Xinhua)
2016-03-04
China on Friday called for caution and restraint as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) top leader Kim Jong-un said its military should be ready to use nuclear weapons at any time. Kim's remarks came just two days after the UN Security Council adopted a resolution to curb the DPRK's nuclear and missile program following its nuclear test and satellite launch. "As the current situation on the Korean Peninsula is complicated and sensitive, China hopes relevant sides can exercise restraint and take caution in words and deeds to avoid further tension," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said at a regular news briefing. The UN Security Council reiterated its demands that the DPRK abandon all nuclear weapons and other nuclear programs as well as weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs. Wednesday's resolution includes a ban on all exports from the DPRK of coal, iron, iron ore, gold, titanium ore, vanadium ore and rare earth metals. It also banned the supply of all types of aviation fuel, including rocket fuel, to the DPRK. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Ulaanbaatar to host first int'l forum on Nomadic Tourism (Montsame)
2016-03-11
Minister of Environment, Green Development and Tourism N.Battsereg, at his third meeting with Mr Taleb Rifai, the Secretary-General of the UN World Tourism Organization, has finalized some issues on tourism cooperation. Decisions were made based on the review of the meeting, held in January in Madrid, Spain. The first-ever International Nomadic Tourism Forum will take place in Ulaanbaatar this October 13-15. The sides also shared views on setting up preparation working groups that would develop the concept and program of this international event, aimed at making Mongolia a leading power in “on the track of Nomads” brand of tourism and creating globally compatible tourism products and services. They also agreed on sending 6-12 tour specialists to train and work at the Asia-Pacific Department of the UNWTO. Mr Taleb Rifai invited the Ministe Battsereg to participate in the Sixth Meeting of the Tourism Working group, which will be held in Iran this April, and in the First Tourism Ministerial Meeting, to kick off in China in May. ^ top ^

Prime Minister receives 21 outstanding women (Montsame)
2016-03-10
In the occasion of International Women's Day, Prime Minister Ch.Saikhanbileg welcomed 21 distinguished women from various sectors at the State House on March 7 and conveyed warm greetings on behalf of the Government of Mongolia. The Premier also extended “warm greetings to respectable mothers, grandmothers, and thousands of Mongolian women and girls out there”. Mongolian government has been putting efforts on ensuring gender equality, by implementing the National Gender Equality Programme, Law Against Family Violation, Law on Gender Equality, Law Against Human Trafficking and Medium-term Strategy of Government on Gender Equality (2013-2016), said the PM and added that the government will continue to make commitments to ensuring the rights of girls and women. ^ top ^

General rule on mortgage loan and financing approved (Montsame)
2016-03-04
At its irregular meeting on Friday, the cabinet discussed some measures to be taken in connection with an approval of the law on reserve and fund of future pensions, and then approved a general rule of mortgage loan and financing. In conjunction with the approval of the law on future pensions, obligations were given to the Finance Minister and the Minister of Population Development and Social Welfare to formulate a bill on the 2016 budget for fund of the future pension, to submit the bill to parliament and to establish a contract with the Bank of Mongolia on granting mortgage loans to people. The cabinet considered as necessity to reduce interests of mortgage loans for people to purchase apartments in remote districts, in all aimags and regions of the re-planning areas. ^ top ^

 

Mrs. Laura Scaperrotta
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.
 
Page created and hosted by SinOptic Back to the top of the page To SinOptic - Services and Studies on the Chinese World's Homepage