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
  9-13.1.17, No. 655  
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Switzerland

Interview: President Xi's Davos attendance to show China a stability factor, key decision-maker in int'l community (Xinhua)
2017-01-12
Chinese President Xi Jinping's attendance at the upcoming World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos will show that China is a stability factor in the global community and a key global decision-maker, an Austrian expert said. "China remains a major player in economic stability on a global level, and that his attendance will be a very important confidence-building measure," Gerd Kaminski, a scholar and director of the Austrian Institute for China and Southeast Asia Studies, said in a recent interview with Xinhua. Xi's attendance will show China is a trustworthy partner, contributing both economically and politically on an international scale, Kaminski said. Xi's visit will also serve as a powerful demonstration against current pessimism towards China. As even in Austria, newspapers have recently reported on allegedly weakening economic situation in China and made various subsequent inferences, added the Austrian expert. The world is currently going through uncertain times, with the U.S. President-elect Donald Trump recently bringing about some anxieties, as well as further uncertainties in Europe such as looming elections that threaten further nation-state exit from the European Union, said the expert. Kaminski believes that Xi will show that China is indeed the driving force behind the global economy. China remains as a powerful supporter of European integration, something Kaminski believes will in part be shown through Xi's attendance at Davos. Xi is also expected to introduce the achievements of foreign policy that China has gained in recent years. The diplomatic activities have been fully generated under Xi's leadership, noted Kaminski. ^ top ^

Spotlight: Xi's Switzerland visit to deepen bilateral partnership, advance China-EU cooperation, boost world economic confidence (Xinhua)
2017-01-12
Chinese President Xi Jinping's upcoming visit to Switzerland and his scheduled attendance at the 47th World Economic Forum (WEF) are expected to deepen China-Switzerland partnership, advance China-Europe cooperation as a whole, and reduce uncertainties through injecting confidence and solidarity into the international business community. Switzerland has become China's first and the only strategic partnership named after 'innovation,' one of the five development concepts outlined in China's 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020) Xi, as a leader of a responsible power, will share Chinese governance wisdom and the concept of peaceful development and win-win cooperation, and explore ways of boosting world economic confidence and faciliate global governance reform.

The Chinese president will pay the state visit on Jan 15-18 to Switzerland, a European country that has maintained traditional friendship with China over the past six decades since the two established the diplomatic relations in 1950. The highlight of China-Switzerland ties is innovation and creativity. The two countries established a strategic innovative partnership during then-President Johann Schneider-Ammann's state visit to China in 2016. Switzerland has become China's first and the only strategic partnership named after "innovation," one of the five development concepts outlined in China's 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020), which also include coordination, green development, opening up and sharing. Wang Yiwei, a professor at Renmin University of China in Beijing, said the word of innovation has precisely defined the direction for the future development of the relations between China and developed countries. "The practice that Switzerland is taking the opportunity of China's pursuit of building a new type of major-country relationship has demonstrated an example for other Western countries," he said. Currently, China-Switzerland relationship is gaining a good momentum. More than 20 governmental dialogue and consultation systems function well, and bilateral trade volume has increased against the sluggishness and gloominess in the global economy with many achievements in economic and trade cooperation. In 2016, China Construction Bank, a leading Chinese state-owned lender, set up its branch in Zurich, Switzerland, marking the official launch of the RMB clearing business in the world's largest offshore financial center. The bilateral relationship has always taken its place in the front ranks of China-European countries. Switzerland was among the first European countries to recognize China's market economy status, the first Western countries to establish diplomatic relationship with the People's Republic of China, the first European continental countries to ink a free trade agreement with China, and one of the first countries to set up industrial joint ventures in China and apply for a membership of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a China-initiated multilateral bank.

Against the backdrop of changing global landscape, weak economic recovery and the rise of de-globalization ideology, the WEF set the theme of its 2017 annual meeting as "Responsive and Responsible Leadership." Xi's attendance at annual WEF meeting, the first time attended by a Chinese president, has drew worldwide attention and high expectations. Xi was invited to deliver a keynote speech at the opening ceremony, which implies the importance attached by the organizers to China. The US Time magazine reported that "with the prospect of a protectionist US and a diminished Europe, the political and business leaders gathered at Davos may see little choice but to look to Xi for global leadership." From the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road to the five development concepts, from China's prescription yielded at the G20 Summit in Hangzhou to the free trade advocacy at the APEC Summit in Lima, China is actively playing an increasingly important role in global economic governance. Wang said "at the decisive moment of the turning point of the international community, Xi's attendance is to boost confidence in globalization, and guide the process towards more open, inclusive, balanced direction that will benefit all parties." It is expected that China will offer perspectives and proposals and exert active efforts to drive economic globalization toward more inclusive development, and all parties will have an objective and in-depth understanding of China's economy.

Xi is also expected to deliver a speech at the UN headquarters at Geneva on joint efforts to build a "community of shared destiny" for mankind. Changes and uncertainties in global political and economic landscapes have led to confusions worldwide. Xi's visit to Geneva, one of the world's most active multilateral diplomatic centers, not only represents China's firm support for the United Nations and multilateralism, but also helps chart the course for the future evolution of global order. Michael Moller, director-general of the United Nations Office at Geneva, believes Xi's visit to the UN agency will convey a message that under an increasingly complicated situation, only unity and joint efforts can lead the international community out of difficulties. "Xi's speech is expected to make clear that no country can nowadays maintain its well-being alone through protectionism and populism, and that win-win cooperation featuring mutual benefits is the one and only correct choice," said Chen Fengying, a research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. The notion of a "community of shared destiny" featuring joint development and common future is the essence of the Chinese diplomacy. "The world expects that Xi will further expound and share the inclusive and forward-looking idea," first put forward during meetings at the United Nations in September 2015, said Chen Xulong, an expert with the China Institute of International Studies. During his stay in Switzerland, Xi will also visit the World Health Organization in Geneva and the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne. The exchanges, including signing of cooperation documents on the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative with WHO, will help boost the development of global health. "The visits highlight that China has got a better understanding of global governance and has an increasingly high aspiration to participate and take a lead in cooperation worldwide, " said Cui Hongjian, director of the European department at the China Institute of International Studies. Experts believe Xi's in-depth exchanges with leaders at the start of 2017 will contribute more Chinese insight to promoting peace, enhancing world governance and tackling global challenges. ^ top ^

China in touch with Donald Trump's team and open to meeting at Davos, says senior official (SCMP)
2017-01-11
Beijing is open to a meeting with US president-elect Donald Trump's team at this month's World Economic Forum, a senior Chinese official has said. “China has good contacts with the present US government, and also has a smooth communication channel with Trump's team,” deputy foreign minister Li Baodong said on Wednesday. Li was responding to a query on the possibility of a meeting between President Xi Jinping and Trump's team members when they attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, from January 17 to 20. State Councillor Yang Jiechi met retired general Michael Flynn, the US president-elect's nominee for national security adviser, and other Trump team members in New York last month. As the first Chinese head of state to attend the winter gathering of political and business leaders in Davos, Xi was keen to promote economic globalisation along a more inclusive path, and to discuss how to weather the global economic difficulties that lay ahead, Li said. Trump's inauguration is on January 20. Xi will attend the Davos forum as part of a state visit to Switzerland from January 15 to 18. World Economic Forum executive chairman Klaus Schwab said “someone from the transition team representing the new [Trump] administration” would attend the forum, according to Reuters. US Vice-President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry would also be there, Schwab said. “During the annual meeting in Davos, China is willing to exchange ideas with all parties [at the forum],” Li said, adding that bilateral meetings were still being discussed. “As long as both sides have the time and will, we are willing to arrange for meetings.” Commenting on why Xi had broken with past practice of sending the premier or other top officials to Davos and decided to attend himself, Li said the head of state's decision came after “years of invitations from WEF executive chairman Klaus Schwab”. Xi attached great importance to global trade, Li said, adding that the president would deliver a speech during the opening ceremony and have “candid, open” exchanges with all parties at the forum to address issues in the global economy. Foreign businesses in China have criticised Beijing for restricting their market access and giving domestic rivals an unfair advantage over them. China has also been accused of dumping its excess manufacturing capacity on the global market. Li said China had always been opposed to trade protectionism. Xi would share experiences of China's economic reforms during the forum and let the world have an “objective understanding” of the Chinese economy, he said. China has long regarded the World Economic Forum as a global platform to voice its views. Chinese premiers have led delegations and spoken at previous years' events – either the winter session in Davos or the summer one in Tianjin or Dalian. Last year, Vice-President Li Yuanchao attended the Davos forum instead of Premier Li Keqiang. At that time, Chinese capital markets were reeling from a failed attempt to stem dramatic swings in its stocks and struggling with massive capital flight. ^ top ^

Xi Jinping to be first Chinese president to attend Davos World Economic Forum (SCMP)
2017-01-11
President Xi Jinping this month will become the first Chinese head of state to attend the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, which this year will dwell on the rising public anger with globalisation and the coming U.S. presidency of Donald Trump. Xi will take centre stage at the Jan. 17-20 forum with China presenting itself as a champion of globalisation. The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Tuesday confirmed Xi's widely expected attendance at the annual gathering of global political leaders, CEOs and celebrities in the Swiss Alps. Davos will end just as Trump takes office, having won the White House in part with promises to pull the United States out of international trade deals and hike tariffs against China and Mexico in a protectionist campaign he says will help bring back industries and jobs to America. WEF executive chairman Klaus Schwab said he expected Xi to show how China would take a “responsive and responsible leadership role” in global affairs at a turning point in history, with the world needing new concepts to face the future. “Every simplified approach to deal with the complex global agenda is condemned to fail. We cannot have just populist solutions,” Schwab told a news conference in Geneva, referring to the rising anti-globalisation tide epitomized by Trump's victory and Britain's vote last year to exit the European Union. The Chinese president will be in Switzerland from Jan. 15-18 for a state visit and to attend the Davos meeting, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular press briefing. He will also visit the United Nations offices in Geneva, and the offices of the World Health Organization and the International Olympic Committee, Lu said. Other global leaders, including WEF regular German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, will not be in Davos this year. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was also absent from the line-up published on Tuesday, but there were many presidents, prime ministers and central bankers among the 3,000 participants, along with 1,800 executives from 1,000 companies. The United States will be represented by Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry, days before they leave office, and “someone from the transition team representing the new [Trump] administration”, Schwab said. Xi led a forum of Asia-Pacific leaders in Peru in November in vowing to fight protectionism, just days after Trump won the U.S. election having pledged to pull out of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal. Foreign businesses in China, however, have long complained about a lack of market access and protectionist Chinese policies. These include a Made in China 2025 plan that calls for a progressive increase in domestic components in sectors such as advanced information technology and robotics. ^ top ^

Chinese President Xi Jinping to pay state visit to Switzerland next week (Global Times)
2017-01-07
Chinese President Xi Jinping will pay a state visit to Switzerland on January 15, where he and wife Peng Liyuan will meet with Swiss President Doris Leuthard in Bern, the capital. ^ top ^

 

Foreign Policy

Chinese president urges greater cooperation on security with Vietnam (Xinhua)
2017-01-13
Communist Party chiefs of China and Vietnam agreed in Beijing on Thursday that two countries should expand cooperation in various fields including maritime exploration and put ties on the right track. Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, held talks with General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) Central Committee Nguyen Phu Trong at the Great Hall of the People. Xi hailed the growth of the all-round strategic cooperative partnership, citing progress in friendship, political trust, cooperation and cultural exchanges. Likening the two countries as "comrades and brothers," Xi said China views relations with Vietnam strategically and from a long-term perspective, and hopes that the two countries will properly manage and control disputes. Xi suggested cementing political trust through close contact between top leaders and parties to offer strategic guidance. He proposed expanding military and security cooperation, and coordinating on global issues. The two should advance people-to-people exchanges, in particular among the youth, and boost cooperation in education, culture, media, tourism and sports, Xi said. With regard to maritime disputes, Xi urged both sides to increase communication and consolidate mutual trust, in order to lay a solid political foundation for the settlement of disputes and work together on maritime exploration and cooperation. Trong also spoke of expanded maritime cooperation and achievements in trade, investment, tourism, defense, security and non-governmental exchange. Trong's visit comes as both countries celebrate the 67th anniversary of diplomatic relations. It is Trong's first China visit since he was re-elected chief of the CPV last January, and his first foreign trip in 2017. He is also the first foreign leader China has received this year, which reveals the importance both sides attach to their partnership. Trong congratulated Xi on China's achievements under the leadership of the 18th CPC Central Committee. Hailing the visits between himself and Xi in 2015, Trong said the progress in relations between the two countries and parties is exciting. Healthy Vietnam-China ties are in the fundamental interests of parties, nations and peoples, he said. It is the top priority of Vietnam's foreign policy to enhance partnership with China. Vietnam hopes to combine its "Two Corridors and One Economic Circle" plan with China's Belt and Road Initiative, he said. Xi promised support for Vietnam in hosting the 2017 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings. Trong arrived in Beijing earlier on Thursday for a four-day official visit. ^ top ^

Chinese tabloid says US needs to 'wage war' to block off South China Sea islands (SCMP)
2017-01-13
Blocking Chinese access to islands in the South China Sea would require the United States to “wage war”, an influential Chinese state-run tabloid said on Friday after US Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson suggested the strategy on Wednesday. Tillerson told his confirmation hearing before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he wanted to send a signal to China that their access to islands in the disputed South China Sea “is not going to be allowed”. He did not elaborate. The US would have to “wage a large-scale war” in the South China Sea to prevent Chinese access to the islands, the Global Times said in an English language editorial. The newspaper, which is known for writing strongly-worded, hawkish and nationalist editorials, is published by the ruling Communist Party's flagship paper. It does not reflect Chinese policy. “Tillerson had better bone up on nuclear power strategies if he wants to force a big nuclear power to withdraw from its own territories,” the paper added. The editorial also said that Tillerson, an Exxon Mobil Corp chairman and former chief executive, was the most likely of US President-elect Donald Trump's cabinet picks to be vetoed by congress. “It is suspected that he merely wanted to curry favour from senators and increase his chances of being confirmed by intentionally showing a tough stance toward China,” it said. The paper did not elaborate on either point. A similar article was also carried in the paper's Chinese language website, which receives thousands of hits every day. There were also legal questions over any US attempt to block China's access, the editorial said, asking if this might mean that Vietnam and Philippines also should be denied entry. China claims most of the energy-rich South China Sea through which about US$5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. Neighbours Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims. The US has previously called on China to respect the findings of the arbitration court in The Hague earlier this year, which ruled in favour of the Philippines, rejecting China's territorial claims in the strategic waterway. Democratic US President Barack Obama's administration conducted periodic air and naval patrols to assert the right of free navigation in the South China Sea. These have angered Beijing, but seeking to blockade China's man-made islands would be a major step further and a step that Washington has never raised as an option. ^ top ^

China, Russia agree on measures to counter S. Korean anti-missile shield (SCMP)
2017-01-13
China and Russia have agreed to take further unspecified countermeasures in response to a US plan to deploy an anti-missile system in South Korea, the state-run news agency Xinhua reported on Friday. The countermeasures “will be aimed at safeguarding the interests of China and Russia and the strategic balance in the region”, Xinhua said, citing a statement released after a China-Russia security meeting. The two nations held an anti-missile drill last May after Washington and Seoul began discussions over installing the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system to counter any threats from North Korea. THAAD is now due to be deployed on a South Korean golf course, unsettling Moscow and Beijing, which worry that the system's powerful radar will compromise their security and do nothing to lower tensions on the Korean peninsula. China and Russia said in October they would hold a second drill this year. “China and Russia urged the United States and South Korea to address their security concerns and stop the deployment of THAAD on the Korean Peninsula,” Xinhua quoted the statement as saying. North Korea's drive to develop nuclear weapons capability has angered China, Pyongyang's sole major diplomatic and economic supporter. However, Beijing fears THAAD and its radar have a range that would extend into China. South Korea's trade minister said on Thursday it might complain to China about actions perceived to have been taken in retaliation for its decision to deploy the US anti-missile system. ^ top ^

Beijing 'may retaliate' if US tries to block China's access to South China Sea islands (SCMP)
2017-01-13
The US cannot follow through on secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson's suggestion to block Chinese access to its artificial ­islands in the South China Sea, Chinese analysts said on Thursday. Any attempt to do so would only prompt China to step up its military build-up and even establish an air defence identification zone in the disputed waters, they added. In his confirmation hearing before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, Tillerson said China's “illegal” building of islands and installation of military assets was “akin to Russia's taking Crimea” from Ukraine. “We're going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops and, second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed,” he said. But Yuan Zheng, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of American Studies, said he did not think the US would dare to go through with Tillerson's suggestion. “I don't think the US will stop China from accessing its own islands in the South China Sea,” he said. “China is not Cuba, and the South China Sea is not the Caribbean. The South China Sea is not under the US sphere of influence. It's China's territorial waters.” China might set up an air defence identification zone if the US tried to block China's access to the islands, Yuan said. Wu Xinbo, from Shanghai's Fudan University, said rising American military pressure “could be used to justify China's military deployment”. Wu said the US had few options other than to continue or intensify its “freedom of navigation operations” with their warships in the waters. Yuan and Wu said Tillerson probably took a hardline stand against Beijing at the hearing to make up for his lack of diplomatic experience. “Such tough talk can only negatively affect Sino-US relations,” Yuan said. “But he's saying what Congress loves to hear.” China would also retaliate if, as Tillerson also indicated, the US unilaterally upgraded punishment of Chinese companies violating UN sanctions against North Korea, the observers said. Tillerson accused China of not being “reliable” and not using its full influence to put pressure on North Korea over its nuclear and missile programmes. He supported “secondary sanctions” on Chinese entities found to be violating the sanctions. “If China will not comply with the UN sanctions, then it's appropriate for the United States to consider actions to compel them to comply,” Tillerson said. Zhang Tuosheng, director of the Centre for Foreign Policy Studies at the China Foundation for International and Strategic Studies, said Tillerson's comments reflected Washington's waning patience towards the North Korean problem, but the approach might not work. “If the Trump administration is going to implement such policies, the situation on the Korean peninsula is bound to worsen,” Zhang said. Wu said the Obama administration had already imposed secondary sanctions on a Chinese company in the border city of Dandong in Liaoning province over its business dealings with North Korea. But China would not accept further conditions that exceeded the requirements of the existing UN resolutions. “If the US unilaterally raises the terms of the UN sanctions and penalises Chinese companies, China will oppose such moves and even retaliate,” Wu said. Tillerson said Washington needed to reaffirm its commitment to Taiwan and also accused Beijing of failing to live up to ­global agreements on trade and intellectual property. But Tillerson also stressed the “deeply intertwined” nature of the world's two biggest economies. “We should not let disagreements over other issues exclude areas for productive partnership,” he said. Yuan said Tillerson's words partially reflected his “weak­nesses in diplomacy and lack of public service”. Wu said the Trump administration would only learn diplomacy through experience, and that many uncertainties remained. “Their diplomacy is still far from mature,” he said. Oh Ei Sun, an international affairs specialist at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University, said he did not expect the Trump administration to punish Chinese companies over North Korea's nuclear programme. He also said the US could not deny China access to the South China Sea. Li Mingjiang, associate professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said China would retaliate if the next US administration acted on Tillerson's suggestions, but added that both sides would be extremely cautious. “Stopping China's access to the South China Sea could lead to a war between the two nations. I don't think the tension is up to that point now,” Li said. “China will also take action against the US if Washington penalises Chinese companies over North Korea.” ^ top ^

Trump's secretary of state nominee Tillerson wants to deny Beijing access to South China Sea islands (SCMP)
2017-01-12
US president-elect Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of state set a course for a potentially serious confrontation with Beijing on Wednesday, saying China should be denied access to islands it has built in the contested South China Sea. He also affirmed Washington's commitment to the defence of Japan in the event that China attempts to seize the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. In comments expected to enrage Beijing, Rex Tillerson told his confirmation hearing before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee that China's “illegal” building of islands and putting military assets on those islands was “akin to Russia's taking Crimea” from Ukraine. Asked whether he supported a more aggressive posture toward China, he said: “We're going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops and, second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed.” The former Exxon Mobil Corp chairman and chief executive did not elaborate on what might be done to deny China access to the islands it has built up from South China Sea reefs, equipped with military-length airstrips and fortified with weapons. Tillerson also said Washington needed to reaffirm its commitment to Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a renegade province, but stopped short of Trump's questioning of Washington's long-standing policy on the issue. “I don't know of any plans to alter the 'one China' position,” he said. Tillerson said he considered China's South China Sea activity “extremely worrisome” and that it would be a threat to the “entire global economy” if Beijing were able to dictate access to the waterway, which is of strategic military importance and a major trade route. He blamed the current situation on what he termed an inadequate US response. “The failure of a response has allowed them just to keep pushing the envelop on this,” Tillerson said. “The way we've got to deal with this is we've got to show back up in the region with our traditional allies in Southeast Asia,” he said. Democratic President Barack Obama's administration conducted periodic air and naval patrols to assert the right of free navigation in the South China Sea. These have angered Beijing, but seeking to blockade China's man-made islands would be a major step further and a step that Washington has never raised as an option. Tillerson's words also went beyond Trump's own tough rhetoric on China. Obama has sought to forge a united front in Southeast Asia against China's pursuit of its territorial claims, but some allies and partners who are rival claimants have been reluctant to challenge Beijing. Tillerson called China's South China Sea island-building and declaration of an air defence zone in waters of the East China Sea it contests with Japan “illegal actions.” “They're taking territory or control, or declaring control of territories that are not rightfully China's,” he said. Regarding the Senkakus, Tillerson said the US had “made a commitment to Japan in terms of a guarantee of their defence,” when asked about the US response to any Chinese attempt to take the islets by force. Tillerson said Beijing's unilateral declaration in 2013 of an air defence identification zone overlapping Japanese airspace over Senkakus was “illegal.” Tillerson also said the United States could not continue to accept “empty promises” China had made about putting pressure on North Korea over that country's nuclear and missile programs. He said his approach to dealing with North Korea - which recently declared it is close to carrying out its first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile - would be “a long-term plan” based on sanctions and their proper implementation. “China has proven a willingness to act with abandon in the pursuit of its own goals which at times has put it in conflict with American interests. We have to deal with what we see, not what we hope,” Tillerson said. “It has not been a reliable partner in using its full influence to curb North Korea,” he added. Asked if Washington should consider imposing “secondary sanctions” on Chinese entities found to be violating existing sanctions on North Korea, Tillerson said: “If China is not going to comply with those UN sanctions, then it's appropriate... for the United States to consider actions to compel them to comply.” He accused China of failing to live up to global agreements on trade and intellectual property, echoing past remarks by Trump, who has threatened to impose high, retaliatory tariffs on China. But Tillerson also stressed the “deeply intertwined” nature of the world's two biggest economies. “We should not let disagreements over other issues exclude areas for productive partnership,” he said. ^ top ^

Chinese envoy calls for support to counter-terrorism efforts in Africa (Xinhua)
2017-01-12
A Chinese envoy Thursday called on the international community to support countries in Central and West Africa in their counter-terrorism efforts. Wu Haitao, China's deputy permanent representative to the UN, made the appeal at the Security Council meeting on peace and security in Africa. Although the overall situation in Central and West Africa remains stable, security problems and humanitarian situation in the region "remain very serious," he said. "Repeated terrorist attacks and displaced civilians, together with violent crimes -- all pose a threat to security and stability of the region," he added. Noting that African counter-terrorism efforts constitute a very important component of international counter-terrorism endeavors, Wu said the international community should actively assist countries in the region in their capacity building to fight terrorism and to enable the multinational joint task force to effectively conduct operations to further eliminate the sources of terrorism in the region. The international community must respect the leading role of the regional organizations in addressing problems and make good use of the unique expertise and advantages of those organizations "with a view to building synergies and promoting proper solutions to regional hot-spot issues," he said. The international community should provide financial and technical assistance to those countries on the basis of respecting their sovereignty so that they could truly build their capacities to promote economic and social development, Wu said. China is ready to work with the international community and countries concerned to support countries in Central and West Africa in their efforts to achieve lasting peace and common prosperity and make contributions to peace and development in Africa. ^ top ^

Chinese FM wraps up five-nation Africa visit, hails "new changes" in cooperation (Xinhua)
2017-01-12
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi wrapped up his African tour on Thursday that carried him to Madagascar, Zambia, Tanzania, Republic of Congo and Nigeria, at a time when China-Africa cooperation is going from strength to strength. The foreign minister's visit was in keeping with China's nearly three-decade-long diplomatic tradition of making Africa its first overseas destination each year. Such a tradition signifies that "China always regards developing countries as the cornerstone of its diplomacy and Africa its priority," Wang said during the visit. China announced 10 major cooperation plans which are aimed at helping Africa realize industrialization and agricultural modernization, at the Johannesburg summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). China also promised 60 billion U.S. dollars as funding support to see these plans through. The implementation of these plans has constituted a new driving force for the China-Africa cooperation, Wang said while in Zambia. The cooperation has witnessed a fast growth since then, with many Chinese companies coming to Africa to invest and establish plants. From the Dec. 2015 Johannesburg summit to July, 2016, the agreements signed in various fields between China and Africa were valued at over 50 billion U.S. dollars. Wang said in this process "three new changes" has emerged in terms of China-Africa cooperation. A government-led pattern has gradually evolved into one where the market plays a major role. General merchandise trade has been gradually upgraded to production capacity cooperation, processing and trade. There is also a gradual shift from basic project contracting to investment, construction and operation. Many China-funded mega projects in Africa were completed in 2016, paving way for materializing the ambitions laid out at the summit. Among them are the 752.7-km Ethiopia-Djibouti Railway, Nigeria's 186.5-km Abuja-Kaduna standard gauge railway and Tanzania's 680-meter-long, six-lane Nyerere Bridge, the largest cable-stayed cross-sea bridge in East Africa. China, Zambia and Tanzania will work to revitalize the Tanzania-Zambia Railway, built with Chinese assistance in the 1970s and a monument to the China-Africa friendship. Through comprehensive reform of the management system, effectively linking the railway to ports and building an industrial economic belt along the railway, it is hoped that the 1,860-km railway line will gain renewed vigor and contribute to helping Tanzania, Zambia and other African countries realize independent and sustainable development. In Madagascar, Wang said that China welcomes African countries to join the Belt and Road Initiative. China has already started to explore cooperation opportunities with a number of African countries, especially those on the eastern coast of Africa and has achieved positive progress in this regard. With the deepening of cooperation, the African continent will get more development benefits from this cooperation, said Wang. As Africa's largest island and an important country, Madagascar is geographically nearest to China among African countries. Madagascar had direct links with the ancient maritime silk road in history, which make it a natural extension of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. The Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by China in 2013, aims to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk Road trade routes. It has won support from over 100 countries and international organizations. China would help the Republic of Congo build a special economic zone (SEZ) in the harbor city of Pointe Noire, Wang said. The Pointe Noire SEZ would draw upon China's rich experience in development, and turn into a flagship program for China-Africa production capacity cooperation. The current complexity in global politics and economics has brought many uncertainties to the peace and development of the African continent, as well as new opportunities, Wang said while in Nigeria. China has the desire and capacity to make new contributions to Africa's peace and development through deepening its cooperation with the continent, he said. "Unlike other development partners, the Chinese are investing in infrastructure and industries which could help propel Tanzania to middle income status by 2025," Gaudence Mpangala, professor at the Ruaha Catholic University in Iringa Region, told Xinhua. ^ top ^

China, Japan, ROK discuss trade, investment in FTA negotiations (China Daily)
2017-01-12
Delegates from China, Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) discussed goods and services trade and investment as they met in Beijing on Wednesday for the 11th round of trilateral free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations. Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen led the Chinese delegation, the Ministry of Commerce said in a statement. Since their launch in November 2012, China-Japan-ROK Free Trade Agreement negotiations have been carried out. The three parties agreed that the establishment of a trilateral FTA will help give full play to their advantages, unleash the economic vitality of the three countries and boost regional prosperity and development. In November 2015, leaders from the three nations reiterated in a joint statement that they should accelerate the FTA negotiations. China is the largest trading partner of Japan and the ROK. The three countries, whose combined GDP accounts for around 20 percent of that of the whole world, would constitute one of the three largest economic blocs, along with the European Union and North America, both of which already have FTAs among themselves. ^ top ^

Philippines won't raise South China Sea legal victory vs. China at ASEAN (SCMP)
2017-01-11
The Philippines won't raise its recent arbitration victory against Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea during Asian summit talks that it will host this year, Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. said Wednesday. Yasay said pressing last year's ruling at the annual meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations “is just simply counter-productive.” The Philippines intends to raise the ruling, which invalidated China's historic claims under a 1982 U.N. treaty, in bilateral talks with Beijing in the future, Yasay said, stressing that the arbitration decision is final and won't be changed by discussions at international conferences. “We are not going to raise this issue... because there is really no useful benefit,” Yasay said at a news conference. “This is a matter that we will be raising with China at some future time in bilateral talks and to do and involve others in the discussion of this decision is just simply counter-productive for our purposes.” “Now if any country would like to pursue their respective claims against China with respect to a disputed territory in the South China Sea, they can do so and perhaps use the decision of the arbitral tribunal as a precedent-setting case in pursuing the matter,” he said. The Philippines was previously one of the most vocal critics of China at the annual ASEAN meetings as Beijing asserted its vast territorial claims in the South China Sea. After China took control of disputed Scarborough Shoal in 2012 and blocked Filipinos from the rich fishing area, then President Benigno Aquino III brought his country's territorial disputes with Beijing to international arbitration. China ignored the Philippine case and refused to recognize the outcome, which was heavily in favor of the Philippines. President Rodrigo Duterte, who succeeded Aquino in June, has taken dramatic steps to mend strained relations with China. He has also taken an antagonistic stance against the administration of outgoing President Barack Obama after the U.S. leader criticized his deadly crackdown on illegal drugs. As host of the ASEAN meetings this year, the Philippines is in a position to influence their focus and the joint communiques issued at the end of the conferences. China, the U.S. and Russia and other Western and Asian nations will join expanded meetings later in the year. Yasay said the Philippines will push for the faster completion of a long-delayed “code of conduct” between China and ASEAN to discourage aggressive actions that could ratchet up tensions in the South China Sea, a busy waterway for world trade. The Philippines wants the framework of the nonaggression pact to be completed within the first half of this year, Yasay said. The prospects for the signing of a legally binding regional code remain unclear. Philippine diplomats have said negotiations over the code have been stalled in the past by China while it covertly turned disputed reefs into artificial islands which can now be used by Beijing to better defend its territorial claims. ^ top ^

China urges Japan to take concrete steps to confront past militarism (Xinhua)
2017-01-09
China on Monday called on Japan to take concrete steps on historical issues to earn the trust of countries in Asia victimized by Japanese militarism in World War II. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang made the remarks at a press briefing when commenting on the recent "comfort women" row between Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK). Lu said it is basically a dispute between the ROK and Japan, but the conscription of "comfort women" was a grave crime of Japanese militarism committed against people in several countries during World War II. Therefore, China thinks it necessary for Japan to reflect thoroughly on this. He said that if the Japanese side sincerely wants to deal with its history, it must take concrete steps on historical issues to win the trust of people in Asia and the world. When it comes to historical issues, Lu said that Japanese leaders tend to avoid the important and dwell on the trivial, while shirking the main responsibility, which makes it unlikely for people to believe the sincerity and honesty of the Japanese side or give them credit. Recently, the Japanese leader visited Pearl Harbor, the site of a shock attack by Japan on Dec. 7, 1941 that killed thousands of U.S. soldiers and civilians, while ignoring Japan's neighboring countries that were seriously devastated by Japanese militarism. Moreover, following the Pearl Harbor tour, a number of Japanese senior officials visited the notorious war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which honors 14 Class-A convicted war criminals. Lu said that such moves by the Japanese side showed that Japan is evasive about key historical issues. Japan has decided to temporarily recall its ambassador to the ROK to protest against the erection of a new "comfort women" statue near its general consulate in ROK's southern port city Busan, a Japanese government spokesman said on Jan. 6. The ROK said that it was regrettable for Japan to recall its senior envoys over a statue symbolizing Japan's wartime sex slavery victims. The statue represents women forced into sexual slavery in Japanese military brothels before and during World War II and was first erected in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul in 2011. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Prominent Chinese university bans staff from criticising Communist Party in class (SCMP)
2017-01-12
A leading university in southern China has banned its teachers from criticising the constitution and leaders of the Communist Party in class, the latest sign of tightening ideological control on the country's college campuses. The guidelines issued by the president's office at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou last Wednesday listed ten things teachers are prohibited from doing in classrooms. The three items that top the list are “criticising the constitution”, “criticising Chinese Communist Party leaders” and “spreading religion and superstition”. The university's publicity department confirmed to the South China Morning Post the guidelines had been issued, but refused to give more details. The Communist Party has sought to further tighten its control of academia in recent years with a series of ideological campaigns targeting professors, their academic work and the curriculum. President Xi Jinping vowed at a high-level meeting last month to turn universities into “strongholds of the party's leadership” which “firmly uphold the correct political direction”. Although professors have been told before by the authorities which topics to steer clear of in their teaching, the guidelines issued by Sun Yat-sen University shed light on how colleges themselves are tightening up control of their teaching staff to toe the party's line. The issues the central government has previously ruled out of bounds include the “seven don't mentions” listed in a circular in 2013. These ranged from constitutional democracy, universal values, civil society and media independence. Sun Yat-sen University, founded over nine decades ago by the revolutionary leader who helped overthrow the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) and end China's imperial rule, is viewed as among the few arguably more liberal universities on the mainland. A student draped in a rainbow flag came out as lesbian at the college in July 2015 and urged the university's president to join her call for equal rights during her graduation ceremony. Another student activist lodged a law suit against the ministry of education last year over school textbooks that describe homosexuality as a mental disorder. Other areas banned in the classroom under the new guidelines at Sun Yat-sen University include “using phones during classes” and “entering the classroom after drinking”. The aim was to “strengthen the teachers' professional standards, promote and instil good teaching morale and increase their sense of sacredness and awe in classroom teaching”, according to a notice about the issuance of the guideline's posted on the university's internal website. Guo Weiqing, a professor of politics at Sun Yat-sen University, said he had just learned about the measures, but was not sure how his teaching would be affected as he did not know how strictly they would be would be enforced. Many outspoken professors who dare to openly criticise the Communist authorities or its leaders have been punished by the authorities. Deng Xiangchao, a communications professor at Shandong Jianzhu University, was forced to retire this month after criticising Mao Zedong publicly on the eve of the anniversary of the late leader's birthday. ^ top ^

China to start intellectual property rights pilot reform (China Daily)
2017-01-12
The central government has decided to implement measures to improve intellectual property rights management and promote the nation's capacity for innovation, according to a guideline on a one-year pilot reform, which was released by the State Council on Thursday. The guideline introduces the one-year pilot reform of intellectual property rights protection in certain regions, which will be selected by departments including the State Intellectual Property Office, the State Administration for Industry and Commerce and the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television. The pilot reform will be carried out in regions that have been pioneers in intellectual property rights applications and enforcement, including patents, trademarks and copyrights, and have made enormous achievements in innovation, or have national innovation demonstration zones. According to the guideline, efforts will include a comprehensive and effective management system of intellectual property rights, which will better serve the public and promote innovation-driven development. The pilot reform will be extended further after a joint review by those departments under the State Council. The State Intellectual Property Office accepted 1.1 million patent applications in 2015, a year-on-year increase of 18.7 percent. The number ranked first in the world for highest number of patents accepted. The office granted 263,000 patents in 2015, 100,000 more than the previous year. ^ top ^

Premier strengthens anti-corruption measures (China Daily)
2017-01-12
Premier Li Keqiang pledged to boost clean government with effective anti-corruption measures at a recent State Council meeting, according to a statement released on Wednesday. The meeting was presided over by the premier on Jan 6. The government has taken a number of measures to fight corruption by restricting power and cutting red tape, according to the statement. Lazy and sloppy officials were major targets in the anti-corruption campaign. These measures will proceed with further efforts to cut red tape and eliminate opportunities for bribing officials. A list stipulating officials' powers and responsibilities will be issued to put the government under the spotlight and public supervision. According to the statement, the meeting urged governments at all levels to eliminate corruption in key areas, especially those concerning people's interests, with zero tolerance for disciplinary violations in major projects, resources development, equity exchanges, as well as funding for poverty alleviation efforts, medical care and affordable housing projects. ^ top ^

China's fifth bird flu outbreak hits goose farm in Hunan province (SCMP)
2017-01-12
China's Ministry of Agriculture said on Wednesday that a bird flu outbreak, the country's fifth since last October, hit a goose farm in southern Hunan province, killing 1,054 birds. The outbreak in Yuanjiang, a city of more than 700,000 people, was confirmed as a case of the H5N6 strain of the virus, the ministry said in a statement on its website. The local government culled a further 2,067 birds after the outbreak, which the Ministry of Agriculture said had been brought under control. The case brings China's total poultry cull since October to more than 175,000 birds as South Korea and other neighbouring countries battle their own major outbreaks. China has confirmed 106 cases of human H7N9 bird flu infections, and 20 deaths in total in December, the National Health and Family Planning Commission said on Wednesday. Poultry trade has been suspended or restricted in several provinces following human infections. The Ministry of Agriculture said in December that the recent outbreaks of bird flu had been handled in a “timely and effective” manner without spreading and have not affected chicken products or prices. ^ top ^

China prosecutes 48 former provincial-level officials in 2016 (China Daily)
2017-01-09
China in 2016 launched prosecution proceedings against 48 former officials of provincial level or above, according to the Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPC). The accused include Ling Jihua and Su Rong, former vice chairmen of the country's top political advisory body, and Guo Boxiong, former top general and vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, the SPC said. China has also launched investigations into 21 officials of provincial level or above, including Wang Min, former Communist Party of China chief of Liaoning Province; Wang Baoan, former head of the National Bureau of Statistics; and Lyu Xiwen, former Beijing deputy Party chief, it added. ^ top ^

China takes global lead in clean energy: report (SCMP)
2017-01-07
China's overseas investment in renewable energy projects jumped last year by 60 per cent to a record US$32 billion, marking its leadership in the global market for clean energy, a report said on Friday. In 2016, China finalised 11 foreign deals worth more than US$1 billion each, and is expected to pick up the pace this year, according to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA). On Thursday, China announced it would sink at least US$361 billion into renewables by 2020, key to the country's transition away from polluting coal power. “Renewable energy will be the pillar for China's energy structure transition,” said Li Yangzhe, deputy head of the National Energy Administration, the official Xinhua news agency reported. Overseas investments last year ranged from lithium battery makers in Australia and Chile to an electricity distribution deal in Brazil and the building of a solar cell factory in Vietnam. China now owns five of the six largest solar module manufacturing firms in the world, according to the report. On the domestic front, the world's second-largest economy has already emerged as a renewables powerhouse, outstripping the United States. China poured more than US$100 billion into domestic renewable energy – wind, solar and hydro – and related sectors in 2015, more than double the US investment, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “The US is already slipping well behind China in the race to secure a larger share of the booming clean energy market,” said IEEFA director Tim Buckley. “With the incoming (US) administration talking up coal and gas, prospective domestic policy changes don't bode well,” he said in a statement. US President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to restore America's flagging coal industry, and has appointed several fossil fuel executives and lobbyists to key posts in his administration. China's emerging dominance of the clean energy sector also extends to jobs. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that China holds 3.5 million of the 8.1 million renewable energy jobs globally, compared to less than 800,000 in the United States. China's National Energy Administration said the nation's renewables sector would generate at least 13 million jobs by 2020. Ulf Moslener, a professor at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, agreed that China has emerged as “the world leader on renewable energy,” with clear advantages over rich-nation competitors such as the United States and Germany. “Standard solar modules are no long rocket science,” he said. “It will be really hard to compete with China on the cost side.” The same applies to wind energy. But US and European entrepreneurs “should still have an advantage” when it comes to high tech, Moslener said, pointing to thin-film solar and cutting-edge engineering services as examples. In 2016, China boosted its overseas influence by establishing the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank. It is also funnelling billions into the New Development Bank, set up by the BRICS nations Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. All the bank's initial loans were for renewable energy projects. Add in its established overseas investment banks, and “China is clearly building the financial capacity to drive global mergers and acquisitions”, the IEEFA report concluded. In 2015, China overtook the United States as the largest market for electric vehicles, and today two Chinese firms – BYD Auto and battery maker CATL – are challenging US firm Tesla for leadership of the sector. ^ top ^

Independence for China's new super graft-buster 'impossible', Communist Party watchdog officials say (SCMP)
2017-01-10
The authority of a new overarching Chinese anti-corruption super agency will be on par with other state institutions, senior anti-graft officials said on Monday, but independence from the Communist Party was out of the question. The remarks came a day after the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection – the party's anti-graft watchdog – made setting up the new national supervision commission one of its top priorities this year. The new commission will integrate various government and prosecutorial anti-corruption departments into the CCDI, which is a party organ. The new body will be empowered to cover all public office bearers and civil servants. CCDI deputy chief Wu Yuliang said on Monday that any idea of setting up an anti-corruption agency without the party's leadership was impossible. “It is like my feet are bigger than yours, and you propose cutting my feet so I could fit your shoes. It would be the same as taking my life. It would be impossible,” Wu said, citing a Chinese idiom. The CCDI also said at the end of a key three-day meeting on Sunday that one its tasks for this year was to push for national legislation for the new commission. The concept was to be tested in three pilot areas – Beijing, Zhejiang and Shanxi – with members of these provincial commissions to be selected by the end of this month, state media reported last week. Late last month, the party's top echelon also called for a road map and timetable for the reform, suggesting the body would be formed soon. As with the executive government, the appointments to the provincial commissions would be made by provincial legislatures, and thus could be held accountable by those bodies. They will also merge a handful of government departments tasked with fighting and preventing corruption. But the new agency would share the same offices and largely the same personnel as the CCDI, deputy supervision minister Xiao Pei said. Xiao also said the new agency would oversee civil servants and other personnel with public authority, from school staff to legislative ­employees. Zhu Jiangnan, an expert on Chinese politics at the University of Hong Kong, said the overhaul would give the already powerful CCDI more power. “The new supervision commission is essentially a way to further strengthen the CCDI, because the supervision commission will work with the CCDI, and the former anti-graft bureau under the procuratorate will move to the supervision commission,” Zhu said. Dan Hough, an expert on corruption with the University of Sussex, in Britain, said anti-graft departments still needed more ­independence. ^ top ^

China's party watchdog puts loyalty above all else (SCMP)
2017-01-09
The top priority of the Communist Party's anti-graft watchdog this year will be to enforce the ruling body's political discipline and standards ahead of a major power reshuffle in the party's top ranks. At the end of a three-day meeting on Sunday, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) said it had to ensure political rules and discipline relating to the power transition were obeyed. The plenum was the CCDI's last key meeting of its current term and ended with seven areas of focus for this year's work. According to a communique released after the meeting, the fifth item on the list – after institutional reform and before routine inspections – was maintaining a tough stand against corruption. The gathering, attended by President Xi Jinping, backed the need to uphold “centralised leadership”. The call for party solidarity and loyalty to the top comes ahead of theparty's five-yearly national meeting – its 19th party congress – due in the second half of the year. Zhuang Deshui, a clean governance specialist at Peking University, said the CCDI's call was aimed at ensuring political loyalty during the power transition. “The power transition is the most important task this year. They want to make sure vote-rigging and office buying do not recur,” Zhuang said. “It's also about having everyone toe the party line.” In the internal elections at the party congress, up to five seats on the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee could be ­vacated, if the body's size and retirement rules remain unchanged. Up to half the seats on the 25-strong Politburo will also be available. Since the last power transition in 2012, corruption cases brought by the CCDI have claimed a handful of former Politburo members. While critics say the party's anti-corruption campaign selectively targets Xi's political opponents, the party has insisted that many of the senior corrupt cadres were disloyal to the organisation. In a keynote speech to party leaders in October, Xi said that in addition to their corruption, Zhou Yongkang, Bo Xilai, Guo Boxiong, Xu Caihou and Ling Jihua “all engaged in political conspiracy activities”, according to a copy of the address published by party journal Qiushi last week. Of the five, all except Ling were Politburo members before 2012. By endorsing a report, the plenum also confirmed for the first time that Ling's aide, Wang Zhongtian, was investigated. Wang, also a member of the CCDI, was one of Ling's deputies at the general office of the Central Committee, the party's nerve centre handling daily paperwork and logistics for top leaders. Wang was moved from the office in 2015 and reassigned to a committee to oversee hydro projects. He was removed from that job in February and has not appeared in public since. The plenum also saw the appointment of rising star Li Shulei as a deputy of the CCDI. Li, 52, was the anti-graft chief of the capital. ^ top ^

Xi urges judicial, law enforcement organs to better deal with risks, challenges (Global Times)
2017-01-12
President Xi Jinping has urged all judicial and law enforcement agencies to improve their capabilities by innovating mechanisms and methods to better guard against and handle risks and challenges. Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the remarks in an instruction presented to a central conference on political and legal work held in Beijing Thursday. Xi hailed the agencies' contributions to national security and social stability, and the role they have played in social and economic development. The president stressed that 2017 would be an important year for the Party and the state, and asked judicial and law enforcement agencies to make the protection of national political security, especially the security of the regime and system, their top priority. Xi instructed the agencies to improve their prediction and early warning systems to ensure a safe and stable social environment for the 19th National Congress of the CPC, which is scheduled for the second half of this year. Full commitment to judicial system reform is needed so that the quality, efficiency and credibility of judicial services continue to improve, Xi said. All Party committees must focus on security and stability, Xi said adding that their work will help lead judicial and law enforcement development. Xi's instructions were read out by Meng Jianzhu, head of the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the CPC Central Committee. At the conference, attendees stressed that judicial and law enforcement agencies should make the best of modern technology to ensure security and stability, and they should address problems at the source. The agencies should strive to raise the credibility of the judicial system, make the public feel safer and more satisfied, as well as create a sound social and legal environment for the building of an all-round moderately prosperous society, the attendees said. ^ top ^

 

Beijing

Act earlier to ease smog's grip on Beijing, scientists urge authorities (SCMP)
2017-01-09
Ordering polluting factories to shut down well before smog looms would go a long way to easing the effects of choking air contamination shrouding northern China, a team of mainland scientists has found. Beijing and surrounding regions have been engulfed in repeated waves of pollution in recent weeks, prompting the authorities to issue smog alerts, order manufacturers to halt production and impose traffic restrictions on private cars. But it has all been to little effect. That was because the action came too late, the researchers, led by professor Wang Yuesi from the Institute of Atmospheric Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said in a statement on Friday. Much of the smog comes from heavy industry south of Beijing. It is usually dispersed by winds from the north but when those winds abate, can be carried north to the capital by warm air from the loess plateau. When it reaches Beijing, it plunges rapidly to ground level and mixes with local vapour and vehicle exhaust, causing “explosive growth of secondary particulate matters”, according to the researchers. By the time the government imposes the curbs on vehicles and factories, pollutants have already built up in the atmosphere about 500 metres to 1km above the heavy industry sites south of Beijing, according to radar echoes examined by Wang and colleagues. Therefore ordering factory shutdowns and car curbs after the smog was on the horizon would have little effect. The researchers suggested that heavy industry be shut down when weather forecasts indicated the winds would carry the pollution north. If heavy emitters in source areas could cease production beforehand, severe pollution could be prevented. “Pre-warning should be implemented two or three days ahead of the heavy haze coming, and the regional stationary emissions especially the elevated sources should be controlled and reduced in advance,” Wang and his colleagues said. The method, coupled with local emission control, would efficiently lower the peak values of contaminants, they said. The researchers said the suggestion had been submitted to the Ministry of Environmental Protection. Kang Ling, senior engineer with Peking University's College of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, said the team's suggestion made sense, but it would not be as effective in clearing the air as the northerly winds. “Human intervention has so far had little effect. To drive smog away, we still rely almost exclusively on wind,” Kang said. Dr Hu Yongtao, senior research scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology's School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, said introducing the curbs two or three days earlier could reduce potential peaks in pollution. But the study had limitations. “It only explains one certain type of pollution episode in Beijing, and that there are also gaps in their hypothesis and theory which need further research by other means,” Hu said. For example, the mechanism that sent pollutants in higher altitudes to lower levels was not known. “It is tricky to know what exact actions should be taken during certain types of episodes and how to quantitatively implement them,” he said. The accuracy of smog forecasts was also a factor. Forecasts were reliable up to 120 hours but not beyond that, and within that period there could be mistakes, Hu said. “Even with much longer lead time, unless you 'empty' the entire city and the region as was the case during the 'Apec blue', [the pollution would not go away],” he said. “Ultimately air quality improvements must come from solid long-term pollution control.” ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

Three terrorism suspects shot dead in Xinjiang (SCMP)
2017-01-10
Three suspected terrorists were shot dead on Sunday night in China's restive Xinjiang region while resisting arrest, its government said. The shootings took place in Hotan while security officers were pursing the suspects and encountered violent resistance, the regional government said on its official news website. The three were suspected of carrying out an attack two years ago in Pishan county in Hotan prefecture, but no details were given. Pishan has experienced some of the heaviest levels of attacks in the region. The fatal shootings came less than two weeks after an attack in Karakax county in Hotan prefecture when a car rammed into the county government compound. Police shot and killed the three attackers, who were wielding knives and managed to detonate a home-made explosive device, the state-run news agency Xinhua reported. Xinjiang has been hit by a series of violent attacks in recent years, which the authorities blame on Islamist separatist rebels. The region's Communist Party chief, Chen Quanguo, staged a massive show of force in an anti-terrorism exercise last week. He took the post last year and introduced a policy of sacking officials where attacks took place. The Communist Party boss in Hotan prefecture and county chief in Karakax are under investigation for disciplinary breaches and alleged dereliction of duty after last month's attack. Chen previously worked in Tibet and has built a reputation as a hardliner. Observers have warned his tough approach could inflame further unrest among the region's Muslim Uygur ethnic minority group. Measures introduced by the authorities include residents handing over their passports to the police and requiring officials' permission to travel. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

John Tsang neck and neck with Carrie Lam in poll for Hong Kong's next leader
2017-01-13
Two of the top contenders in Hong Kong's leadership race are running almost neck and neck in public opinion, according to a survey commissioned by the Post, with Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah slightly ahead of No 2 official Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. Tsang scored a lead of 4.4 per cent over the chief secretary in the poll of 1,024 people conducted by Chinese University's centre for communication and public opinion between January 4 and 10, but the gap narrowed considerably with a sampling error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. Nearly half of respondents said Lam stood a higher chance of winning the top job. Seen as Beijing's preferred candidate, Lam is expected to resign on Thursday to prepare for her campaign while Tsang, who has more sympathy in the pan-democratic camp, is still waiting for Beijing to accept the resignation he submitted a month ago. This is the first such survey since the chief secretary became embroiled in the controversy over a deal she made with Beijing to build Hong Kong's own version of the capital's famed Palace Museum. Lam's announcement on December 23 that the museum was a done deal sparked a storm that is proving a severe leadership test for her. She is under fire for keeping the project secret and failing to consult the public on building it at the West Kowloon Cultural District at a cost of HK$3.5 billion, to be funded by the Jockey Club. But it appears the museum row has not shaken Lam's popularity. In the Post survey, 23.2 per cent of respondents picked her as their preferred city chief, compared with 23.9 per cent of those responding to the same question in another survey, conducted by the same centre and commissioned by the Hong Kong Economic Journal between December 12 and 16. The financial secretary is backed by 27.6 per cent in the Post survey, down from 32.6 per cent in the previous poll. Putting the two surveys together, the gap between the two officials has narrowed from 8.7 percentage points to 4.4. “The narrowing gap is because of the slip in Tsang's level of support,” said Professor Francis Lee Lap-fung, who advised the pollsters. “This may be because of the delay in Beijing's approval of his resignation, which has put him in an embarrassing situation.” Asked who had the highest chance of winning, some Tsang backers turned to Lam. Only 19.9 per cent expected Tsang to win, while 45.5 per cent picked Lam. “Some Hong Kong people are realistic. If they know someone has a lower chance of winning, they may not support him or her,” Lee said. Some 9.7 per cent of respondents supported lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who has already launched her campaign. Two potential candidates, retired judge Woo Kwok-hing and former Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, received 12.6 per cent and 7.9 per cent support respectively. When it came to leadership criteria, more than half of the respondents, or 50.9 per cent, chose “ability to heal the rift in society” as the most important quality. “Vision for Hong Kong's long-term development” came second, and “personal integrity” was third, selected by 49.8 per cent and 43.7 per cent of interviewees respectively. They were allowed to pick up to three qualities. “Solving the housing affordability problem” emerged as the biggest expectation of most, with 63.6 per cent listing it as the issue that should top the next leader's agenda. “Tackling income inequality” and “focusing on the economy” came second and third, and restarting the city's stalled political reform process was only the fourth choice. Tsang's camp, Lam's office and Ip declined to comment on the findings, while Woo said he would continue to build his support base. ^ top ^

Carrie Lam spells out 'achievable new vision' for Hong Kong ahead of expected city leadership bid (SCMP)
2017-01-12
Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, widely expected to resign ahead of a run for Hong Kong's top job of chief executive, on Thursday morning set out what she described as an eight-point “achievable new vision” for the city. Atop the list for a city that has become politically polarised and whose best days pundits claimed to be over was a rallying call by Lam to play to the city's “strengths with determination and confidence”. At what is seen as her farewell speech as Hong Kong's No 2 government official, Lam also identified the need to promote a diversified economy to create better jobs. She listed nurturing young people to create a wider pool of talent as her third priority, with balanced development for quality living and supporting the disadvantaged and an inclusive society also mentioned. Safeguarding the principle of 'one country, two systems' was the seventh goal, and seizing the many opportunities ahead came eighth. Lam's remarks on Thursday echoed sentiments she shared in November last year, when she stated she had no further political ambitions and appeared to choke with emotion in articulating her vision for Hong Kong. She did not reply to resignation questions before stepping into a conference venue at Science Park, where a closed-door meeting titled “Serving the Evolving City” was held. Organised by the efficiency unit under her office, the meeting was attended by other major officials including labour minister Matthew Cheung Kin-chung and development minister Paul Chan Mo-po. Lam stated her eight-point vision for Hong Kong at the meeting. Ronny Tong Ka-wah, convenor of political group Path of Democracy, said the chief secretary did not during the meeting give any hint of a possible resignation or of running in the city leadership contest. “She gave an hour-long speech on how she looks at governing Hong Kong,” he said. “It was a rather in-depth speech explaining how she looks at what the government in Hong Kong should do.” The former lawmaker said he had been invited to speak on a legal topic. The imminent move by the city's No 2 official will be seen as an indication she has Beijing's blessing to run for chief executive. As she walks out of government headquarters in Admiralty on Thursday evening to make a public announcement that she is leaving the administration she has served since 1980, it remains unclear when Beijing will approve the resignation of her potential rival, John Tsang Chun-wah, as financial secretary. Executive councillor Ip Kwok-him said the time it was taking the central government to approve Tsang's resignation, which was submitted on December 12, sent a very clear signal that Lam was the preferred candidate. But Lam will stop short of confirming her candidacy for the chief executive race after tendering her resignation. Instead, she will go on leave and wait for Beijing's formal approval, the prerequisite for kicking off her election campaign. A source familiar with Lam's campaign said she was likely to hold a press conference early next month to announce her bid and unveil her manifesto. Another source familiar with Beijing's handling of Hong Kong affairs said the central government, in processing Tsang's resignation, was taking into account the possibility of other officials throwing their hats in the ring. “It will consider the resignations in a comprehensive manner. Hong Kong people will get the subtle message when they note the differential treatment as events unfold,” the source said. Tian Feilong, a mainland legal academic, said Hongkongers would be left with a perception the government had already anointed Lam if it approved both resignations on the same day. Older and less educated Hongkongers opt for Carrie Lam, while young and better educated choose John Tsang, survey finds “It would be the best-case ­scenario for the central government to persuade Tsang to withdraw his resignation. The second best would be approving Tsang's resignation two or three days ahead of Lam's,” Tian said. The Election Committee's 1,194 members, a quarter of whom are from the democratic camp, will decide who will govern Hong Kong in the next five years on March 26. A source close to Tsang's camp said he might declare his candidacy on Sunday if his resignation was approved today. But a pro-establishment politician who is well connected with mainland authorities expected the State Council to approve Tsang's resignation next week. A person familiar with Tsang's campaign preparations said the outgoing finance minister might not organise a big rally to announce his bid, because this year, unlike 2012, most Election Committee members were still sitting on the fence in the absence of a clear signal from Beijing. ^ top ^

Hong Kong legal heavyweights warn against Beijing interpretations of Basic Law (SCMP)
2017-01-10
Beijing should avoid interpreting Hong Kong's mini-constitution in matters that could be handled by its own independent court system under “one country, two systems”, the city's justice secretary and Bar Association head said on Monday. The comments came as Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li stressed that the city's courts would rule impartially even in high-profile cases, as he said the government also needed to uphold the rule of law. In his last address at the legal year opening ceremony as secretary for justice under the current administration, Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung weighed in on the need for the National People's Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) to interpret the Basic Law in November after localist lawmakers took their oaths to insult China. “I am confident that the rule of law in Hong Kong does and will remain well and alive after the interpretation,” Yuen said. “For future purposes, may I also venture to suggest that matters that can be properly handled within Hong Kong's legal or judicial system should be left to be dealt with at the Hong Kong level as much as possible.” Such an approach, he said, “is certainly not a disrespect” to the NPCSC's jurisdiction. “Instead, it is the best way to demonstrate that the 'one country, two systems' policy does work robustly and successfully, and that the institutions devised under the Basic Law, including the judicial system, possess the quality and competence to meet such challenges as they arise,” he said. Echoing the justice minister, Bar Association chairwoman Winnie Tam Wan-chi said where there was no ambiguity for Hong Kong courts to seek clarifications of the Basic Law from the NPCSC, “the court is best left to adjudicate the case independently, exercising its own power of interpretation”. She added while one could “empathise with the political need perceived by the central government” to exclude Legislative Council separatists that disavow the Basic Law, the city's rule of law and independence of the judiciary should not give way to political expedience. Tam also commented on the Mong Kok riot that rocked the city in February by drawing a parallel with the racially inspired protest in Charlotte in the US state of North Carolina last year, saying that violent acts could fly in the face of the social justice to be sought. Meanwhile, she said the two localist lawmakers-elect disqualified recently by the local courts had defeated their backers' support by adopting offensive antics during their swearing-in. The Court of Final Appeal, headed by Ma, is expected to examine the case involving Youngspiration duo Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching, instigated by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. Ma did not venture into discussions about the interpretation, due to the pending appeals. In his speech, he insisted that the law be applied equally to all defendants regardless of background. “In highly charged or high-profile cases, all parties are treated in exactly the same way by the courts as in any other type of case. There is no added value or distinctions,” he said. Ma also stressed that the government had the responsibility to uphold the rule of law. “Though the role of the judiciary [is crucial], it is not the only relevant institution which has a stake in its advancement,” Ma said. “The government also plays an important role in upholding the rule of law, as do the Bar [Association] and Law Society.” “Our judges … are answerable to the community in which they serve,” Ma said, “and I can assure everyone in the community that each of them will continue to discharge without compromise their constitutional duty and responsibilities.” On the issue of a shortage of judges, he admitted it was difficult to hire quality lawyers. “It becomes extremely important that the quality of the judiciary remains of the highest possible standard,” he said. “I would rather there be a shortage of judges rather than to compromise on quality.” ^ top ^

Former Hong Kong chief secretary Anson Chan to attend Donald Trump's inauguration (SCMP)
2017-01-09
Hong Kong's former No 2 official Anson Chan Fang On-sang has accepted an invitation to attend US president-elect Donald Trump's inauguration ceremony on January 20 in Washington. The former chief secretary, an outspoken pro-democracy figure, yesterday issued a statement saying she was delighted to be invited, and called on the new United States administration to support the democracy movement in Hong Kong. But another democracy icon of the city, Martin Lee Chu-ming, was not invited, while Hong Kong's first chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, a key figure in helping China improve ties with the US, was tight-lipped about whether he had received an invitation. In November, Trump upset Beijing by accepting a congratulatory phone call from Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen after his election win. The act broke more than three decades of the protocol Washington had been following since it switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979. Days later, Trump further irked Beijing by questioning whether Washington should be bound by the one-China policy. It remains unclear if Chan was invited by Trump's incoming team or the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. Chan will clarify who issued the invitation to her at a press conference on Tuesday and fly to Washington Monday next week. Ross Feingold of consultant firm DC International Advisory said it would be “premature” to view Chan's attendance as a signal that the Trump administration would take a more vocal approach to electoral reform in Hong Kong. Martin Lee, founding chairman of the Democratic Party, confirmed he was not invited while a spokesman for the Office of Former Chief Executives said Tung Chee-hwa would “not comment on the matter”. ^ top ^

Protesters link government's Palace Museum 'exhibition' to memory of bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown (SCMP)
2017-01-09
Controversy surrounding a proposed Hong Kong museum project continued to snowball on Monday as demonstrators took advantage of a government “exhibition” depicting Beijing's Palace Museum to remember the bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown. The Hong Kong government has been slammed with public criticism since Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on December 23 announced the city would build its own version of Beijing's Palace Museum at the West Kowloon Cultural District, without going through a public consultation exercise. The government has since denied that a massive wall display of Beijing's Palace Museum between Central and Hong Kong MTR stations was an advertisement for the museum plan. The government instead labelled it as an “exhibition”. However, taking advantage of the publicity surrounding the museum controversy and the imagery between the MTR stations, Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China staged a protest urging Beijing to vindicate the 1989 student movement and release all political prisoners. The alliance organises an annual candlelight vigil to commemorate the crackdown. “When we see the palace, what pops up in our mind is not the relics, but the tanks outside it,” alliance secretary Lee Cheuk-yan said. Lee was previously banned from entering the mainland following the crackdown. “We would never forget the moment when the tanks entered Tiananmen Square with [army] shooting at unarmed citizens and students.” Publicity drummed up by the museum row and the huge images of the palace, Lee said, had given them the opportunity to “recreate what happened in Tiananmen Square” 28 years ago, allowing Hongkongers to get more of an idea of the history. While some commuters, including a number of mainland tourists, made curious glances at the protesters, sporadic disputes also broke out between protesters and supporters of the Hong Kong museum plan. MTR staff built a human chain to ensure smooth passage for travellers. Separately, Financier Conscience, a group of pro-democracy financial practitioners also protested at the same venue, condemning Chief Secretary Lam for neglecting “procedural justice”, and urged the government to shelve the museum plan. Lee said it was “totally unacceptable” for the government to build the Palace Museum without consulting Hongkongers, and accused the plan of being dictated by Beijing. Meanwhile, pan-democratic lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching on Monday reported the museum case to the graft-buster by accusing Lam of misconduct in public office. Mo suggested there might be a transfer of benefits after the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority admitted that it had engaged architect Rocco Yim Sen-kee months before it officially approved the museum plan. ^ top ^

Nathan Law attacked at Hong Kong International Airport by pro-China protesters (SCMP)
2017-01-09
Legislator Nathan Law Kwun-chung made a police report on Sunday night about being assaulted by pro-China protesters at the airport upon his return from Taiwan, where he had attended a seminar by a local pro-independence political party. A dozen protesters showed up at Hong Kong International Airport in preparation for Law's return at about 9.30pm after attending the two-day forum in Taipei with fellow Hong Kong lawmakers Edward Yiu Chung-yim and Eddie Chu Hoi-dick as well as student activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung. Protesters confronted Law with banners and accused him of being a traitor colluding with the pro-independence camp in Taiwan. Some of them threw plastic drink bottles and hurled liquid at the lawmaker. They also clashed with security guards and airport staff in order to get to Law, whose shirt was torn. The lawmaker's glasses also flew off in the chaos, and at one point, he slipped and fell on some stairs. He later sought treatment at North Lantau Hospital. Law has filed a police complaint. The case is being treated as an assault with personal injury. No one has been arrested so far. Outside the arrival hall, protesters turned on the journalists covering the incident. Three male crew members, aged 27, 30 and 41, were allegedly pushed and assaulted at about 10pm on Sunday. The two younger members were treated for minor injuries at North Lantau Hospital. Police were called in, and two men aged 53 and 71 were arrested on suspicion of assaulting the media crew. The younger man was released on bail pending further investigation, according to police. The other man was being held for questioning and had not been charged. No clashes were reported when Joshua Wong returned to the city earlier that day, at about 1pm, though he was met by about 20 protesters at the airport. The lawmakers and Wong had been followed by pro-China demonstrators over the weekend. Protesters appeared at the Hong Kong airport on Friday night when they left for Taipei. During their two days in Taipei, they were also constantly besieged by anti-independence activists. Wong was almost assaulted at Taipei's Taoyuan International Airport when he arrived on Saturday morning and was greeted by 300 demonstrators. Before he and the others returned on Sunday, protesters in Taipei hurled stones at them, though no one was injured. The forum was held by Taiwan's New Power Party, which denounced the protesters at Hong Kong airport, calling the incident an act of senseless violence. Law said he would arrange a press conference on Monday. ^ top ^

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam urged to come clean on architect for Hong Kong Palace Museum (SCMP)
2017-01-08
Pressure is mounting on Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to explain why a top architect was “engaged” to work on plans for the controversial HK$3.5-billion Hong Kong Palace Museum before culture chiefs responsible for the site on which it would be built were told about it. Lam – who is expected to resign as Hong Kong's No 2 official to run in the chief executive election in March – also got an early taste of the election politicking ahead as the two declared hopefuls for the top job stressed the need for top officials to “respect public opinion”. Ahead of Monday's launch of a public consultation on the museum plan, Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan – who is deputy chairwoman of the Legislative Council body which monitors projects in the West Kowloon Cultural District – warned she may seek to invoke Legislative Council special powers to question Lam. The latest twist in the row centres on architect Rocco Yim Sen-kee, who is facing questions over a possible breach of professional ethics in relation to the project. Lam's potential rivals, pro-Beijing lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and retired judge Woo Kwok-hing, said on Sunday that the row over the museum underlined how important it was for officials to “respect public opinion”. Neither Yim nor Lam had responded to media questions by Sunday night. Lam will not be at Monday's public consultation event as she is attending the launch of celebrations to mark the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to China. However, Yim, West Kowloon culture hub chief Duncan Pescod and vice-chairman Ronald Arculli will attend. The controversy deepened on Saturday with the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority confirming that it had asked Yim to assess whether the site could “accommodate a multi-purpose venue and museum” months before its board decided not to build a “mega performance venue”, approved the Palace Museum plan and chose Yim as its “design consultant”. On Friday, Lam said the “mega performance venue” plan was scrapped because of cost issues, not to make way for the museum. But Chan claimed the latest revelation showed Lam had “lied”. “Lam should explain... who asked the authority to skip all the proper steps and appoint Rocco Yim without the consent of the board,” she said, adding that she believed it was impossible for the authority not to know the site could be used to build the museum before it decided to drop the performance venue plan. Speaking separately, Woo Kwok-hing said the secretary's handling “has dealt a blow to the Hongkong people”. “How could she have not followed the established procedures … of conducting consultation?” Woo asked. Regina Ip said if she became chief executive, she would “respect public opinion before big policies are introduced”. Meanwhile, workers removed stickers of a white tank from the moving walkway in front of the wall displays of Beijing's Forbidden City between the Central and Hong Kong MTR stations, which were erected on Friday. The stickers were a reference to the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown. Meanwhile, John Tsang Chun-wah's expected bid for the city's leadership remains in limbo as Beijing has yet to approve his resignation as financial secretary tendered almost a month ago. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Taiwan 'feeling the squeeze' as Nigeria tells island to close trade office (SCMP)
2017-01-13
Taiwan registered a strong protest on Thursday after Nigeria ordered it to close its trade office in the nation's capital, Abuja, as analysts observed that Taipei's diplomatic space is shrinking under pressure from Beijing. A statement from Taiwan's foreign ministry accused Nigeria of collaborating with Beijing to make it look like Taipei had suffered another diplomatic setback, as the mainland attempts to limit its friends and allies overseas. Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama said on Wednesday that his government had ordered Taiwan to close its office in Abuja and open a smaller one with a skeleton staff in Lagos. His comments came as mainland China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi was visiting the country. The Taiwanese foreign ministry statement said: “The Republic of China [Taiwan's official title] and Nigeria do not have diplomatic relations and what Nigeria did in collaborating with mainland China by saying that it is no longer recognising Taiwan as a country and was ending formal ties with us … is unreasonable. “The foreign ministry seriously objects to and condemns the unreasonable actions by the Nigerian government,” it said. The statement urged Nigeria to consider the consequences of its move, as the two sides had agreed to establish trade missions in each other's territory. Onyeama told a press conference with Wang on Wednesday that the aim of closing the trade office in Abuja was to highlight Nigeria's commitment to its ties with China and the one-China principle. “Taiwan will stop enjoying any privileges because it is not a country that is recognised under international law, and under the position we have taken internationally we recognise the People's Republic of China, the one-China policy,” he was quoted as saying by Xinhua. The dispute with Nigeria came after the tiny African nation Sao Tome and Principe severed its ties with Taiwan last month, leaving the number of countries with formal diplomatic ties with Taipei at 21. Beijing considers Taiwan a breakaway province and puts pressure on any countries attempting to forge ties with the island or its leaders. Mainland analysts said that under former president Ma Ying-jeou, Taiwan was able to exploit Ma's warm relations with Beijing to pursue a policy of “pragmatic diplomacy” with countries that it lacked formal ties with. “The core problem is how Taiwan handles relations with mainland China. During Ma Ying-jeou's time, Ma dealt with Beijing in an appropriate manner, so Taiwan's international space got widened a bit,” said Hu Lingwei, a Taiwan affairs analyst from the Shanghai Institute of East Asian Studies. “But the situation changed after Tsai Ing-wen became president, since she took a totally different approach to Beijing.” Zheng Zhenqing, an associate professor of Taiwan studies from Tsinghua University, said the closure of Taipei's Nigerian trade office clearly showed that Taiwan's international space had shrunk. “The reasons are simple: Beijing distrusts Taipei, and Tsai Ing-wen persistently refuses to acknowledge the 1992 consensus,” Zheng said. “Taiwan will lose more international space if Tsai does not accept the consensus in the future,” The 1992 consensus is an agreement between Taiwan and the mainland that there is only one China, but that each side is free to define what “China” stands for. Liu Guoshen, director of the Taiwan Research Institute at Xiamen University, said that Taiwan's future international ties depended on its relationship with Beijing. “Taipei has the chance to broaden its international space if it manages to have friendly ties with Beijing,” Liu said. “It's difficult for Taiwan to broaden the international space they want if Beijing has a trust deficit towards them.” ^ top ^

HK$350,000 'in actual notes' deposited in Donald Tsang's wife's account, prosecution reveals (SCMP)
2017-01-13
HK$350,000 bundle of cash withdrawn from the account of Bank of East Asia chairman David Li Kwok-po formed part of a larger payment in yuan that a former Hong Kong leader made to a media boss he is accused of accepting an advantage from, a jury heard on Thursday. Prosecutors told the High Court HK$350,000 was withdrawn from the account bank chief Li, a former executive councillor, 35 minutes before the same amount – in cash – was deposited in the account of ex-chief executive ­Donald Tsang Yam-kuen by Tsang's wife, Selina Tsang Pou Siu-mei. During Tsang's trial on charges of misconduct in public office and accepting an advantage as chief executive – all of which he denies – prosecuting David Perry QC also ­described a 2012 tenancy agreement for the luxury Shen­zhen property at the centre of the trial as a “smoke screen''. Perry told the court the money was withdrawn from Li's account at the Central branch of the bank at 9.20am on July 16, 2010. “As a matter of pure common sense and ordinary inference, the prosecution say there's a clear connection,” Perry said. “It takes a bit of time to count that sort of money, HK$350,000 in cash.” The amount was part of the 800,000 yuan (HK$895,000), Tsang and his wife allegedly paid in November the same year to a Hong Kong company – the majority shareholder of which was media boss Bill Wong Cho-bau. Tsang, 72, is accused of failing to disclose his ties with Wong and a Shenzhen property owned by Wong's mainland company, which Tsang planned to make his temporary retirement home after stepping down as leader in 2012. It was alleged that between 2010 and 2012, the former chief executive failed to make known to the Executive Council his relationship with Wong, when the council was tasked with granting the licence applications by Wave Media, of which Wong was the major shareholder. Perry also alleged Tsang, through various bank accounts, moved HK$1 million into the same Bank of East Asia joint ­account beginning in July 2010. Between July and September that year, there were 36 occasions where Hong Kong dollars was turned into Chinese yuan, before a sum of 800,000 yuan was eventually paid to Wong's East Pacific Holdings in November. On Thursday, Perry also attacked a set of 2012 tenancy documents, including a lease signed on February 21 that year, saying that they were a “smoke screen”. The prosecutor had argued earlier that while Tsang's interest in the property appeared to date all the way back to 2010 – the year the digital audio broadcasting licence in question was granted – most of these documents did not surface until the media and public glare fell on his private life in February 2012. The prosecutor told the jury that a mistake on the lease for the property, in which 800,000 yuan was mistaken for 8 million was because the document had been prepared “in haste and panic''. A supplementary agreement also stated that the amount covered “basic decoration”, Perry said. “You have to decide if what we've seen... was basic decoration,” Perry told the jury, two days after they were told the design of the flat supposedly contained a range of facilities including a library, a greenhouse and a calligraphy room. The trial continues on Friday before Mr Justice Andrew Chan Hing-wai. ^ top ^

Rising uncertainty as Taipei sends ships, jets after Beijing's carrier enters Taiwan Strait (SCMP)
2017-01-12
The risk of uncertainty in the Taiwan Strait is rising, both sides of the waterway said after Taipei scrambled navy ships and fighter jets in response to a passage through the area by Beijing's aircraft carrier. The mainland's Liaoning combat group entered the southwest section of Taiwan's air defence identification zone around 7am on Wednesday and sailed north along the median of the strait, a line set by the United States in the 1950s to delineate areas controlled by Taipei and Beijing. Taiwan's defence ministry said the Liaoning completed its passage through the Taiwan Strait at 6.30am on Thursday and continued its way back to its base on the mainland. A mainland navy spokesman also issued a statement on Thursday morning confirming that the aircraft carrier had completed its passage through the strait. The fleet had been vigilant to ensure safety during the passage, he added. The carrier's passage through the strait is one of a series of naval exercises that have unnerved Taiwan, which Beijing claims as a breakaway province, and various neighbours. Taipei responded by sending navy vessels and jets to “surveil and control” the passage of mainland ships through the strait, Taiwan's defence ministry said. Also on Wednesday, Chang Hsiao-yueh, head of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, said this year would be a challenging one for ties with the mainland. Taipei would closely monitor the potential impact of Donald Trump's inauguration as US president and the 19th Communist Party Congress on cross-strait relations, Chang said. “I want to emphasise our government has sufficient capacity to protect our national security. It's not necessary to overly panic,” he said. “Any threats would not benefit cross-strait ties.” In Beijing, Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Ma Xiaoguang also pointed to more uncertainties ahead for cross-strait ties. But other officials downplayed the Liaoning's recent drills. Vice-foreign minister Liu Zhenmin said the aircraft carrier had long conducted such drills. “The Taiwan Strait is an international waterway shared by mainland China and Taiwan, so the Liaoning's transit through the strait after exercises is normal and will not affect cross-strait relations,” Liu said. He said the People's Liberation Army Navy conducted exercises at this time every year. Liu also said the drills were safe and did not affect the security of any countries in the region. Analysts said more confrontation was expected in the Taiwan Strait given Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen's reluctance to acknowledge the 1992 consensus and Trump's unpredictability. Huang Kwei-bo, a diplomacy specialist from National Chengchi University in Taipei, said Beijing and Taipei were unlikely to make any compromises within the next four to five months. “Trump has also added new uncertainties to cross-strait relations,” Huang said. Hu Lingwei, a Taiwan affairs expert from the Shanghai Institute of East Asian Studies, said the aircraft carrier's passage was more than a military. “The Liaoning's transit through the Taiwan Strait is a signal from Beijing to Taipei and the world at large that the mainland will never give up unifying Taiwan by force, although this is Beijing's last resort,” Hu said. ^ top ^

Taiwan to end nuclear power before 2025 (China Daily)
2017-01-12
Taiwan will shut down all its nuclear power generation facilities ahead of 2025 in an attempt to build a "non-nuclear home," according to a revised document on electricity. Authorities should work out plans to actively promote the proper disposal of low-level radioactive waste, said the revised document approved by the island's legislative body on Wednesday. The document focuses on promotion of renewable energy, allowing the green energy suppliers to directly sell electricity to consumers. ^ top ^

Chinese state tabloid warns of Beijing 'taking revenge' if Trump ditches one-China policy (SCMP)
2017-01-09
State-run Chinese tabloid Global Times sounded a warning to US President-elect Donald Trump on Sunday only hours after Taiwan's president transited Houston, saying that China would seek to “take revenge” should Trump renege on the one-China policy. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen met senior US Republican lawmakers during her stopover in Houston en route to Central America, where she will visit Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador. Beijing had asked Washington not to allow Tsai to enter the United States and that she not have any formal government meetings under the one China policy. “Sticking to (the one China) principle is not a capricious request by China upon US presidents, but an obligation of US presidents to maintain China-US relations and respect the existing order of the Asia-Pacific,” the Global Times said in an editorial. The influential tabloid is published by the Communist Party's official People's Daily. 'Donald Trump is ignorant and one-China negotiations won't happen', state media says( Trump triggered protests from Beijing last month by accepting a congratulatory telephone call from Tsai and questioning Washington's long-standing position that Taiwan is part of one China. He has said that he will not meet Tsai. The Global Times said Beijing did not need to feel grateful to Trump for not meeting Tsai, but added: “If Trump reneges on the one-China policy after taking office, the Chinese people will demand the government to take revenge. There is no room for bargaining.” China is deeply suspicious of Tsai, who it thinks wants to push for the formal independence of Taiwan, a self-governing island that Beijing regards as a renegade province, ineligible for state-to-state relations. Tsai will travel through the United States again on her way back from Latin America on January 13 with a stopover in San Francisco, according to her presidential office. The second stop over will occur before Trump's inauguration on January 20. The Global Times, whose stance does not equate with government policy, also targeted Tsai in the editorial, saying that the mainland would likely impose further military pressure on Taiwan, warning that “Tsai needs to face the consequences for every provocative step she takes”. “The mainland should mobilise all possible measures to squeeze Taiwan's diplomacy as well as deal a heavy blow to Taiwan's economy,” it said. “It should also impose military pressure on Taiwan and push it to the edge of being reunified by force, so as to effectively affect the approval rating of the Tsai administration.” ^ top ^

Senior official urges Taiwan social organizations to oppose "Taiwan Independence" (Xinhua)
2017-01-09
Top political advisor Yu Zhengsheng on Monday urged Taiwan's social organizations to oppose Taiwan independence and help integrate the two sides across Taiwan Strait. Yu, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), made the remarks when meeting with delegates to a forum attended by social organizations of Taiwan compatriots. Yu said cross-Strait ties are facing a serious challenge as the Taiwan authority refuses to recognize the 1992 Consensus. He urged social organizations of Taiwan compatriots to safeguard the 1992 Consensus, the political foundation for peaceful cross-Strait development, and resolutely oppose Taiwan independence in any form. The top political advisor also called for promoting the economic and social integration of the two sides. Yu welcomed more Taiwan youngsters to the Chinese mainland for exchanges to deepen their understanding of the mainland. ^ top ^

 

Economy

With rising costs at home and hostile peers abroad, China's trade troubles set to stay (SCMP)
2017-01-13
Rising protectionism and sluggish external demand will weigh on China's trade this year, the Ministry of Commerce warned on Thursday, hours after US president-elect Donald Trump raised the prospect of a “border tax” under his administration. While China's trade ministry didn't respond directly to Trump's comments, Sun Jiwen, a spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce, painted a dark picture for the country's US$2 trillion export machine on Wednesday, citing rising costs at home and hostilities abroad. “In 2017, the trade situation remains complicated and severe. External demand is weak, trade protectionism is exacerbating, the unstable and uncertain factors are increasing, and downward pressure on trade is piling up,” Sun said. He also said China had been fulfilling its duties as a World Trade Organisation member in the last 15 years, disputing allegations in a report by the US Trade Representative to Congress. “It's normal for China and the US to have trade disputes,” Sun said, but added that any differences should be solved through dialogue. Sun added that his ministry would use all possible methods to help “stabilise” the country's trade situation. China will release trade data for December on Friday. Economists forecast that exports fell 4 per cent last month from the same period in the previous year, down from a rise of 0.1 per cent during November. Imports are expected to have risen 3 per cent last month, softening from an increase of 6.7 per cent in November. The belligerence from Trump on China's economic policies, including labelling China a currency manipulator and talking of imposing a punitive 45 per cent tariff on its products, are adding fresh uncertainties to the country's trade outlook. In his first press conference since last July, Trump said he planned to launch a “border tax” on companies that move production outside of the United States, a scheme that would favour exports over imports. The border tax under discussion is a plan hatched by Trump's transition team and by Republican lawmakers. It would effectively subsidise US exports but levy a tax on imports into the country. Ding Shuang, head of China economic research at Standard Chartered, said that Trump's border tax, if put in place, would mainly affect Mexico, putting pressure on US manufacturers to scrap plans to move production overseas. Such a tax would not have a huge impact on China, according to Ding. Jin Baisong, a former researcher with the Ministry of Commerce, was critical of the idea of a US border tax, saying that any protectionist proposals of that nature would violate the rules of the World Trade Organisation. “[Trump] should not blame other countries for the economic problems of the US,” Jin said. Even without possible problems with Trump, China has been losing its low-cost advantage as the world's factory. “With the rising costs in labour, land and other resources... China's traditional advantages in low-cost manufacturing are disappearing,” Sun said. ^ top ^

China's record new loans in 2016 beat expectations but raise debt fears (SCMP)
2017-01-13
Chinese banks extended a record 12.56 trillion yuan (HK$14.1 trillion) of loans in 2016 as the government encouraged more credit-fuelled stimulus to meet its economic growth target, despite worries about the risks of an explosive jump in debt. Top leaders pledged last month to stem the growth of asset bubbles in 2017 and place greater importance on preventing financial risk, even as some financial experts warned the nation's debt load was nearing crisis levels. In December alone, mainland banks extended 1.04 trillion yuan in net new yuan loans, far more than economists expected, central bank data showed yesterday. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected new lending would fall to 700 billion yuan from November's 794.6 billion yuan. New bank loans last year surpassed the levels of Beijing's massive credit-led stimulus during the global financial crisis in 2009, according to Reuters calculations based on central bank data. The 2016 total was 8 per cent above the previous all-time high of 11.72 trillion yuan set just the year before. Despite the country's ever-more frantic pace of credit creation, however, some analysts say Beijing is getting less and less bang for its buck, with every yuan of stimulus proving less efficient in generating the same amount of economic growth, while adding to the risk of rising defaults and non-performing loans. “Let's say credit growth in China right now is about 13 per cent but GDP growth is around 6.7-7 per cent,” said Commerzbank senior emerging market economist Zhou Hao in Singapore. “From a longer-term perspective, you're using the same level of credit growth but you have lower real economic growth, so the credit is becoming less productive and less efficient.” Lending continued to be driven heavily by robust mortgage growth despite measures rolled out by local governments late in 2016 to cool sizzling housing prices and avert property bubbles. Household loans accounted for half of total new yuan loans in 2016, while corporate loans accounted for 48 per cent. Medium-to-long-term loans accounted for 78 per cent of total new loans, while short-term loans accounted for 11 per cent. ^ top ^

China's overseas investment soars to record, study suggests (SCMP)
2017-01-12
China's foreign direct investments soared 40 percent to a record US$190 billion in 2016 from a year earlier, according to a study released on Wednesday by the Berlin-based Mercatur Institute for China Studies and the Rhodium Group. Chinese investments in the European Union rose 77 per cent to over US$37 billion in 2016, with Germany accounting for 31 percent of total Chinese investment in Europe, according to the study by the institute and Rhodium, a consultancy specialising in Greater China and India. Chinese investors were particularly interested in acquiring technology and advanced manufacturing assets, the report said. At the same time, European investments in China totalled just US$8.5 billion, dropping for a fourth straight year, the report said. It said the decline reflected slowing economic growth, looming overcapacity and lower margins in the Chinese market, as well as persistent formal and informal market access barriers for foreign companies in China. “The growing gap in two-way investment flows is fuelling European perceptions of a fundamental lack of 'reciprocity' between the EU and China,” the report said. European leaders were increasingly concerned that the sale of core industrial technology could pose risks to Europe's industrial base given new Chinese policies that viewed overseas deals as a way to displace foreign companies in China and elsewhere, it said. Germany is reviewing its powers to block foreign acquisitions and pushing for European measures to safeguard key technologies after a spate of Chinese takeovers, but experts say changes will be limited given the government's commitment to free trade. ^ top ^

Trump, Jack Ma talk about job creation for US (Global Times)
2017-01-10
A meeting between Alibaba Group Chairman Jack Ma and US President-elect Donald Trump on Monday signals that Trump, whose tough stance on China has cast dark clouds over China-US trade relations, left a door open for pragmatic cooperation with Chinese companies, Chinese experts said. The Chinese billionaire reportedly held a meeting with Trump in New York on Monday to discuss how the Chinese e-commerce giant could create jobs by allowing US businesses to sell products in the Chinese market. This was the first meeting of the US president-elect with a high profile businessman from China, following a barrage of tough rhetoric and actions, including threats to impose a 45 percent tariff on Chinese goods and selection of China critics for trade positions. Though details of the meeting as to what was specifically discussed remain sketchy, it is a positive signal for China-US trade relations under Trump, following the recent turbulence, according to Bai Ming, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation. "This is a sign that Trump is leaving the door open for pragmatic cooperation with Chinese firms, which he thinks could help the US economy and create jobs," Bai told the Global Times. Bai said Trump's tough rhetoric on China was meant for voters and might have been aimed at gaining some leverage in future trade negotiations with China, but "he is a businessman and if he sees an opportunity that could benefit the US economy, he would take it." And for Alibaba, as it looks to expand its business in the US, Monday's meeting was a positive step for the company to "pave the way" for its business plans under a Trump administration, according to Mei Xinyu, an associate researcher with the Ministry of Commerce. "Alibaba is based in China, but has a worldwide platform; the company has to handle its relations with the US government well, because it's a very important market for the Chinese tech firm," Mei told the Global Times on Monday. It is important that Alibaba strikes a balance between expanding overseas and strengthening its base in China, Mei noted. Bai said the meeting also offers a pattern that other Chinese companies can follow in expanding to the US under Trump. "They have to stress how many jobs you can create in the US in talking with Trump," he said. Ma might have picked up some tips from Masayoshi Son of Japan's Softbank Group, a major stakeholder of Alibaba, in dealing with Trump, according to Bai. Son met with Trump in early December last year and announced a $50 billion investment in the US that aims to create 50,000 jobs. ^ top ^

Why you shouldn't believe the horror stories about China's economy (SCMP)
2017-01-09
Everyone loves a horror story, and there are a number of real chillers doing the rounds just now about China, the yuan, and the looming risk of a financial collapse. These stories differ in detail, but generally they share a similar plot. It goes something like this: rich Chinese are losing faith in their economy and the yuan. As growth slows and debt mounts, Chinese fearful of an impending crisis are shifting their wealth offshore and into foreign currencies. These outflows are putting pressure on the yuan, which is weakening in response. In turn this weakness is prompting more and more mainland Chinese to try to preserve their capital by seeking safety in foreign currencies. The result is a self-reinforcing feedback loop that threatens to precipitate the very crisis those fleeing the yuan hope to escape. It's a gripping tale. Happily, like all good horror stories, it springs more from imagination than from fact. That's not to say it has no basis at all in reality. Clearly China's growth is slowing, debt does continue to rise relative to gross domestic product, the yuan's exchange rate against the US dollar did weaken last year, and the domestic economy has seen net capital outflows. But none of this portends the imminent financial death spiral the more blood-curdling China-sceptics describe. Yes, China's growth has slowed as the easy gains from playing catch-up with more developed economies have been exhausted. Yes, total debt has ballooned to somewhere around 250 per cent of GDP, up from 150 per cent following the financial crisis, with much of the capital misallocated to unneeded steel mills, uninhabited ghost cities, and unwanted white elephant infrastructure projects. And yes, as a result, the returns earned by real economy investments have deteriorated. It is also true that the yuan has weakened against the US dollar. Between the beginning of 2014 and the end of 2016, the Chinese currency declined 13 per cent. And it is true that wealthy Chinese have sought to ship money offshore. Even though Beijing still maintains controls on cross-border capital flows, the inventive have found numerous ways around the restrictions. These have ranged from buying a gold Rolex in Macau on a UnionPay debit card and immediately pawning it, to – at the other end of the scale – buying trophy assets like New York hotels or English Premier League football clubs under the guise of outward direct investment. But both the extent of the yuan's decline and the scale of capital flight have been exaggerated. Over the last three years, while the yuan has fallen 13 per cent against the US dollar, the Canadian dollar has fallen 20 per cent, the British pound has dropped 21 per cent, and the euro has slumped 24 per cent. In other words what we have seen is not broad-based yuan weakness, but US dollar strength. In fact, over the last six months, the yuan has remained stable against the People's Bank of China's (PBOC) reference basket of currencies. Similarly, the drawdown in China's foreign reserves from almost US$4 trillion in mid-2014 to roughly US$3 trillion today has been overstated. If we assume that China held half its foreign reserves in non-US dollar currencies, then the 28 per cent appreciation of the US dollar against a basket of major currencies implies that the US dollar value of the non-US portion of China's reserves would have fallen by US$438 billion even without any drain on the reserve pot. As a result, net outflows have been much smaller than the fall in headline reserves. In November, for example, the net outflow was closer to US$40 billion than the US$69 billion that the slump in the US dollar value of China's reserves suggested. Still, US$40 billion is a lot of money to watch going out the window in a single month. Despite that, there is little evidence that capital flight is gaining pace. The recent increase in net outflows is not the result of a pickup in flight capital. Instead it has largely been caused by a slowdown of inflows into the yuan as Chinese exporters have retained their revenues offshore to take advantage of the US dollar's strength. Of course, if there were to be a marked acceleration in outflows from here and a steep fall in the yuan, the combination could badly dent confidence in Beijing's ability to maintain financial stability. However, the authorities have plenty of tools available to forestall any such run on the yuan. In recent weeks they have tightened their scrutiny both of individual foreign exchange purchases and of outward investments by Chinese companies. There is talk that the government is twisting the arms of state-owned companies to repatriate foreign currency earnings held offshore. And on Thursday the PBOC engineered a liquidity squeeze in the Hong Kong market that saw the overnight interest rate on offshore yuan hit 80 per cent – more than enough to deter any foreign players planning to borrow the currency in order to sell it short. In a nutshell, the scare stories about the devastating consequences of a weakening yuan and gathering capital flight are just that: stories. The spectre of a financial crisis in China – at least this year – is illusory, nothing more than a figment of the storytellers' overactive imaginations. ^ top ^

 

DPRK

Japanese coast guard rescues 26 North Koreans from sinking ship (SCMP)
2017-01-12
Japan rescued 26 North Koreans after they abandoned their sinking cargo vessel in the East China Sea, the coast guard said on Thursday. Japan Coast Guard patrol boats plucked the ship's entire crew out of the water in the early hours of the morning after they had abandoned the vessel and taken to life boats. A distress signal was received on Wednesday from the 6,558-tonne Chong Gen which began sinking about 60km southwest of Fukue island in Nagasaki prefecture, the spokesman said. The ship finally sank before dawn some 27km from the island. The coast guard cited the crew as saying the ship was transporting rice from North Korea's port of Nampo on its west coast to the east coast city of Wonsan. That route entails travelling around the southern end of the Korean peninsula. “We rescued all the crew members safely and no one was injured,” the coast guard spokesman said. “We are investigating the cause of the accident by interviewing them on our patrol ship offshore,” he added. The spokesman said no decision has been made on what to do with the crew as the two countries have no diplomatic relations. ^ top ^

US sanctions sister of North Korea's Kim Jong-un over human rights abuses (SCMP)
2017-01-12
The United States slapped sanctions on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's sister on Wednesday over alleged serious human rights abuses and censorship activities that it said were carried out by Kim's regime. Kim Yo-jong, the younger sister of leader Kim and vice director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department of the Workers' Party of Korea, was among seven North Koreans and two entities blacklisted by the Treasury Department. “Today's action exposes individuals supporting the North Korean regime and underscores the US government's commitment to promoting accountability for serious human rights abuses and censorship in North Korea,” said John Smith, acting director for the department's Office of Foreign Assets Control. “The North Korean regime not only engages in severe human rights abuses, but it also implements rigid censorship policies and conceals its inhumane and oppressive behaviour,” Smith said. In July, the United States imposed sanctions on Kim Jong-un and other North Korean officials for what it said were “notorious abuses of human rights”, the first time Washington has put the North's leader on the blacklist. As was the case in July, the latest sanctions freeze property and other assets of those designated within US jurisdiction and prohibit Americans from conducting transactions with those on the list. Given the improbability that Kim Yo-jong or the others possess any assets in US territory, the action is seen as mainly symbolic and part of measures the United States has been taking to increase pressure on North Korea. The six other individuals include Kim Wong Hong, head of the Ministry of State Security that engages in torture and inhumane treatment of detainees during interrogation and in the country's network of political prison camps, according to the department. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Mongolia celebrates 25th anniversary of Constitution (Montsame)
2017-01-13
An honorary meeting dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the democratic Constitution of Mongolia was held at the Great Hall of the State House of Mongolia on January 13. The Speaker of Mongolian Parliament M.Enkhbold delivered opening remarks at the event, mentioning the significance of the first Constitution of Mongolia and the history of how the Constitution laid the foundation of the today's democratic society and economy. The Constitution of Mongolia ratified on January 13, 1992 with a signature of the first president of Mongolia P.Ochirbat and went into force on February 12, 1992 and was amended twice in 1999 and 2001 respectively. It consists of six chapters and divided into 70 articles. Previous three Constitutions had been adopted in 1924, 1940 and 1960. Afterwards, Mr Enkhbold awarded the Red Flag Order of Labor Merit to B.Demberel, R.Yondondemberel, D.Naidan, P.Nyamsuren, D.Purevdorj, Sh.Tsendjargal, D.Shagdar, and P.Enkhsaikhan. The same day, Mr. M.Enkhbold delivered a congratulatory message to Mongolians on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the democratic Constitution of Mongolia. On January 13, numerous other events were held, such as a wreath-laying ceremony at the Statue of D.Sukhbaatar, a ceremony to pay tribute to the Monument of Chinggis Khaan, an exhibition of archival documents at the State History Museum and a traditional wrestling competition at the National Wrestling Palace. ^ top ^

UNFPA preserves dignity first for women and girls affected by the near DZUD (UB POST)
2017-01-13
According to the Water, Climate and Environmental Research Institute reports dated on 03 January 2017, the winter condition has become difficult in 127 soums of 17 aimags and 2 districts of Ulaanbaatar city and directly affecting the lives of nomadic, herding households in Mongolia. In response, UNFPA takes the lead in addressing the special needs of women and girls in the affected communities via procuring of 2,465 Dignity Kits amounted of 160,000,000 MNT. These Dignity Kits were handed over by UNFPA today to NEMA for immediate distribution to the aforementioned areas. The UNFPA signature Dignity Kits are designed and assembled to help women and girls maintain an acceptable level of hygiene, sanitation, health and well-being within the context of humanitarian situations. Dignity kits include such items as sanitary supplies, clothes, socks and underwear; laundry soaps and bath soaps; towels; and toothbrushes and toothpaste. Additionally, they also included a torch with batteries so that women will have the ability to travel or move about safely at night, as well as an emergency whistle in cases of distress – it has been proven that women and girls are particularly vulnerable to gender-based and sexual violence in the wake of natural disasters among other challenges. “Unfortunately, the needs of women and girls are often not prioritized and even forgotten in the Dzud. The needs of women and girls might be secondary when affected families face economic pressures from the loss of livelihood and have to cope with limitations of resources such as the lack of disposable income. Further, environmental impediments to mobility due to the heavy snow, bars access to necessary everyday items that women and girlsneed,” says Naomi Kitahara, UNFPA Representative. “However, UNFPA believes that women are the backbone of Mongolian society and that preserving their dignity, their sense of well-being and their health should come first. This is essential to surviving such a disaster and to successfully moving forward.” UNFPA assistance in distributing these Dignity Kits in the affected areas is also part of our efforts aimed to ensure a strong capacity of the NEMA, which is the leading agency to coordinate and manage the disaster response interventions in the country. NEMA is a central national agency which effectively responds to emergencies and coordinates response interventions. It is important that special needs of the women and girls are placed at the heart of the disaster preparedness and response actions. ^ top ^

Speaker M.Enkhbold meets the Cuban and Kazakhstani ambassadors (UB Post)
2017-01-12
The Speaker of Parliament, M.Enkhbold, received the ambassadors of Cuba and Kazakhstan to exchange views on ongoing and upcoming cooperation on projects in Mongolia. During his meeting with Ambassador of Cuba to Mongolia Raul Delgado Concepcion, Speaker M.Enkhbold thanked the Government of Cuba for granting a number scholarships to Mongolian students. The Speaker stated that he hopes direct cooperation between the National University of Mongolia and the University of Havana will have a great impact on developing educational cooperation between the two countries. He said he was pleased that Cuban specialists in genetics, biotechnology, and veterinary medicine are coming to Mongolia to share their knowledge and experience with Mongolian researchers and students. The Speaker asked Ambassador Concepcion to help support the training of Mongolian athletes who hope to participate in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Ambassador Concepcion said that he hopes proposals on cooperation between the two countries will be successfully implemented during his five-year mission in Mongolia, and highlighted that Cuba is focusing on matters discussed by the nation's leaders during President Ts.Elbegdorj's 2016 visit to Cuba. He said he would concentrate on helping Mongolian boxers see great achievements in the 2020 Olympics. He added that he will work to develop tourism for both Cuba and Mongolia. In his meeting with Ambassador of the Republic of Kazakhstan to Mongolia Kalybek Koblandin, Speaker M.Enkhbold noted that October's Kazakhstan-Mongolia business forum held in Ulaanbaatar was of importance to developing economic cooperation between the two countries. Ambassador Koblandin pointed out that the Kazakhstan-Mongolia business forum is expected to be organized annually, and the next forum is scheduled to take place in Kazakhstan. He noted that a regular meeting of the Mongolia-Kazakhstan Intergovernmental Commission is scheduled to be held in January. The Ambassador asked the Speaker to focus on launching a direct flight between Ulaanbaatar and Astana, opening a Kazakhstani consulate in Bayan-Ulgii Province, resolving issues concerning the location for a new residence for the Kazakhstani Embassy in Ulaanbaatar, and Mongolia's participation in Astana EXPO-2017. The Speaker of Parliament stated that if the two nation's state authorities negotiate on technical affairs for launching a direct flight, he will be ready to support the decision made, and emphasized that the foreign affairs ministries of the two countries will discuss the opening of a consulate. He said that Mongolia may participate in Astana EXPO-2017 with the assistance of the Mongolian National Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Speaker M.Enkhbold pointed out that he has spoken with ministers and state authorities about resolving issues concerning the location of a new embassy residence, and that the embassy will be eligible to begin construction at the location approved by state authorities. Ambassador Koblandin stressed that Kazakhstan is ready to sign a cooperation document between Nur Otan, the ruling political party in Kazakhstan, and the Mongolian People's Party. ^ top ^

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China permitted to open a representative office in UB (The UB Post)
2017-01-09
On January 5, the Board of Directors of Mongol Bank made the decision to issue Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) a license to open a representative office in Ulaanbaatar. As stated in the current Banking Law, if a foreign bank requests beginning operations in the country, the issue must be discussed by Parliament and the Cabinet. If the request is to open a representative office, the Board of Mongol Bank has the authority to issue a license. Representative offices are not allowed to conduct banking operations and only serve as legal representatives of the bank. Since 2008, ING Group, Bank of China, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation have been issued licenses to operate representative offices in Mongolia. ICBC is considered the the largest bank in the world in terms of its total assets and market capitalization. It ranks number one in The Banker's Top 1000 World Banks rankings, and first on the Forbes Global 2000 list of the world's biggest public companies. ^ top ^

Who will be the fifth President of Mongolia? (The UB Post)
2017-01-09
Last year, the world watched as the most astounding presidential election in recent history unfolded in the USA. Mongolia will choose its fifth president this year. The Presidential Election Law forbids media outlets from organizing polls in an election year. This week, Ikon.mn published a poll conducted from December 12 until 31 among Mongolia's top three political parties. In the poll, 12,418 people were asked: Who will you support in the presidential election? The poll indicated that the top contenders from the Mongolian People's Party, which holds 65 out of 76 seats in Parliament, are Speaker of Parliament M.Enkhbold (2,430 votes) and Vice Speaker Ts.Nyamdorj (2,233 votes). The pair collected nearly 80 percent of all 5,951 votes cast within the party. Other notable runners from the Mongolian People's Party were decorated wrestler and legislator B.Bat-Erdene (379 votes), former Prime Minister S.Batbold (343 votes), and Member of Parliament N.Enkhbold (337 votes). More people voted in the Democratic Party, with 6,142 votes cast in total. The top prospects of the Democratic Party were former prime ministers R.Amarjargal (2,922 votes) and N.Altankhuyag (2,104 votes). Other notable contenders were former Ulaanbaatar Mayor E.Bat-Uul (538 votes), Member of Parliament L.Bold (274 votes) and former Prime Minister Ch.Saikhanbileg (222 votes). The third party eligible to nominate a candidate for the Presidential Election 2017 is the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party. 3,025 members of the party were asked: Who will you support in the presidential election? A resounding 71.6 percent, or 2,165 people, said they would support former President N.Enkhbayar. The eligibility of N.Enkhbayar in the upcoming presidential election is also a debated topic. N.Enkhbayar was not allowed to run in the parliamentary elections of 2016 as he was convicted for corruption in 2012. The former president was released through a presidential pardon in the same year. From the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party, 2012 presidential candidate N.Udval came in second with 450 votes. The current law demands state office holders vying for the presidency to hand in their job before the election year, which means the Speaker and Vice Speaker cannot run for office under the current law. Last week, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on State Structure agreed to discuss amendments to the Presidential Election Law. During the meeting, the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party's legislator O.Baasankhuu said such an action goes against principle and is unconstitutional. He also demanded that opposition legislators be present during the discussion of the amendment. Key Powers of the President of Mongolia •Nominate a candidate for the office of Prime Minister, who is then approved or rejected by Parliament. •Veto Parliament's legislation (which can be overridden with a two-thirds majority vote in Parliament) •Approve judicial appointments •Appoint the Chief Judge of the Supreme Court of Mongolia •Chair the National Security Council •Act as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces •Nominate the Prosecutor General, the official in charge of implementing the laws, who is then approved or rejected by Parliament ^ top ^

Prime Minister reports on food security (Montsame)
2017-01-07
“Food security is an essentially important area of focus for every country. The Government of Mongolia sees that ensuring a secure supply of food and safe living conditions are imperative in promoting a healthy Mongolian citizen”, said Prime Minister J.Erdenebat during his food security report to Parliament on January 6. “In the frameworks of relevant laws and regulations adopted by the Parliament, the Government has been functioning to ensure safety in raw material preparation, food production, transportation, storage, trade and consumption”, said the Prime Minister before proceeding to present relevant statistics on the current food demand, consumption and supply of the country. In 2015, Mongolia suffered harvesting loss due to extreme weather which led to import 69 percent of wheat demand, 52 percent of vegetable and 20 percent of potatoes. But the 2016 harvesting results show that Mongolia can fully supply its domestic demand of flour, potatoes and vegetables this year. In accordance with food security indicators, 78 percent of basic food commodities demand was fulfilled by domestic production in 2016. Reflected in the current Cabinet's 2016-2020 action plan is a national program themed 'Healthy food - Healthy Mongolian' which will soon be formulated. The Prime Minister's report continued with the current state of food security regulations and rules and the result of the inspection by the Specialized Inspection Agency of Mongolia in regard to food safety. “Ensuring food safety is an issue that matters to everyone, and requires coordination between government and non-government organizations working in the sector and active participation of private sectors. There's a need to improve public awareness on food safety”, remarked the Prime Minister. Then, he introduced the measures the Cabinet is planning to realize in regard to food security. The Cabinet's upcoming actions include creating and utilizing an integrated registration database in order to ensure the implementation of food law, food security law and the organic food law; boosting the implementation of the food law and the food security law; proposing draft bills on enriched food and functional food; formulating and realizing the 'Healthy food – Healthy Mongolian' national program; organizing 'The first campaign on meat and milk' in order to ensure stable supply of healthy food in every season; regularizing proper production and sanitary practice in food processing factories, and adopting a relevant instruction; realizing organic food law, and promoting the production and trade of organic foods; taking measures directed at upgrading public awareness and knowledge on food safety; and resolving the issue of standard storage of perishable fragile food items. “The Government has constantly paid attention to food security issue. Furthermore, we will work towards securing food safety, and supplying population demand with healthy, safe food”, concluded Prime Minister J.Erdenebat. ^ top ^

Mission duration to be extended for Mongolian diplomats (Montsame)
2017-01-07
During its January 6 session, the Parliament held a preliminary discussion on a draft bill on the revision of Law on Diplomatic service, and the draft bill was decided to be submitted to the Parliament by a majority vote. The bill reflects an extension of Mongolian diplomats' tenures with one year, meaning that if the bill is approved, the duration of Mongolian diplomatic mission will be 4 years. Practically, it takes considerable amount of time for diplomats to settle down in a country, establish positive and professional relations with the government officials in the country, familiarize with their work and level their functions. Therefore, with due consideration of international reference, diplomatic mission length is proposed to be 4 years in the draft bill. Moreover, the draft bill includes more clauses concerning the incentives and family members of diplomats such as refixing the rate of salary of diplomats every three years, and maintaining vacancy for the spouse of the diplomats if he or she is a public worker. During the discussion, some Parliament Members made inquiries regarding the draft bill from Foreign Minister Ts.Munkh-Orgil, and expressed supportive stances regarding the social protection issue of Mongolian diplomats. As such, the Parliament voted up the proposition of the draft bill on the revised Law on Diplomatic Service of Mongolia. ^ top ^

Mongolia to repay USD 580 million loan in first quarter of 2017 (Montsame)
2017-01-07
“Mongolia will pay back a loan of USD580 million in the first quarter of this year. The Government has found a solution to repay the loan without delay, not causing pressure to the economy or imposing burden on the people. We will repay it on time” stated Prime Minister J.Erdenebat. On January 06, in his speech addressing to a two-day seminar of Chairmen of Citizens representative meetings and Governors of provinces and the capital city, the Prime Minister also made a denial to information about Government's intend to sell 49 per cent of Tavantolgoi deposit with USD400 million and it would be sold to one company. “I state that this information is false. The Government has established a working group, whose suggestions and conclusions will be submitted to the Parliament for discussion. We will not be making decisions that do not meet the interest of Mongolian people regarding this world scale deposit” said PM J.Erdenebat. ^ top ^

Governors of provinces and capital city sign cooperation agreement (Montsame)
2017-01-07
On January 06, a two-day seminar of Chairmen of Citizens representative meetings and Governors of provinces and the capital city concluded in cooperation agreements between the Governors of provinces and the capital city and each Cabinet member. PM J.Erdenebat attended the seminar on the second day to give them topical information and instructions. “- Saving regime should also be followed in local areas. The Government made restrictions on official trips abroad. However, one can conduct visits abroad only with a view to attract foreign investment or that is significant to economic cooperation. The visits should be profitable enough to cover the costs of those visits up to several times” said PM. Over 170 soums out of total 330 have no ambulance and the PM promised to provide all soum hospitals with an ambulance. He also noted that provinces should take measures to prevent from air pollution caused by smoke as an air pollution problem is not apparent in the capital city only. The Prime Minister also instructed the authorities to spend 50 per cent of donations from companies and business enterprises for local development on measures to increase job vacancy as well as make preparations to start works including constructions and road buildings no later than April 1. ^ top ^

Minister of Agriculture reports on SME Development Fund loans (The UB Post)
2017-01-06
During a meeting of Parliament's Economic Standing Committee, Minister of Food and Agriculture P.Sergelen reported on the implementation of the SME Development Fund law and developments in the agriculture and light industry sectors. Minister P.Sergelen said, “Between 2009 and 2016, 745.5 billion MNT in discounted loans were issued through the SME Development Fund. Of the loans issued, 83.5 percent were used to increase cash flow and to buy equipment. This has resulted in an average 20 to 30 percent increase in the revenue of enterprises.” He went on to report that discounted loans with interest rates of one to three percent and a maturity period of three years were issued to SMEs through the Soum Development Fund. He high- lighted that these loans helped establish 9,272 new factories, expanded 13,909 factories, created 32,900 jobs, and helped retain 20,700 jobs nationwide. The Ministry of Food and Agriculture also reported that 2,000 factories are operating in the food manufacturing sector, employing 13,000 people. Production in the food production sector reached 941.1 billion MNT in November 2016. The Ministry highlighted that 78 percent of the nation's eight primary food products are being produced domestically. In terms of light industry, there are a reported 2,000 factories employing 35,000 workers. Production in the light industry sector reached 1.1 trillion MNT in 2016, a 15.2 percent decrease compared to the same period in 2015. After Minister P.Sergelen's presentation, the Head of SME Policy Implementation at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, M.Dondogdorj, answered a few questions regarding SMEs. What is the current state of SMEs? Sales are important. Some SMEs have large amounts of their product in storage. Some manufacturers have told us that they have reached a point where they have to sell their products at break-even prices. During the Economic Standing Committee meeting, we gave the committee members directions to promote cross-border trade. Mongolia has 14 border crossings, and we have discussed using these to promote crossborder trade. Secondly, a Mongolian-Chinese expo will be organized this coming fall. There is a need to increase the competitiveness of products. We are focusing on this. Compared to other loans, SME loan repayment has reportedly been good. What is the repayment rate? The repayment of the SME loans has been at 97 to 98 percent. Has the number of SME owners increased? In terms of numbers, there has not been a dramatic increase. The majority of the loans were issued to SMEs that employ one to nine workers. Will the SME loans be continued? How much will be issued this year? In the 2017 state budget, 24 billion MNT was allocated for SME loans. In 2016, 74 billion MNT was allocated for SME loans. ^ top ^

Ms. Annina Burri
Embassy of Switzerland
 

The Press review is a random selection of political and social related news gathered from various media and news services located in the PRC, edited or translated by the Embassy of Switzerland in Beijing and distributed among Swiss Government Offices. The Embassy does not accept responsibility for accuracy of quotes or truthfulness of content. Additionally the contents of the selected news mustn't correspond to the opinion of the Embassy.
 
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