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
  1-3.2.17, No. 657  
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Foreign Policy

Why is Donald Trump giving Chinese leader Xi Jinping the apparent cold shoulder? (SCMP)
2017-02-03
US President Donald Trump has been busy meeting and calling world leaders since he took office on January 20, but the lines of communication between the Oval Office and Zhongnanhai appear to be quiet. Nor did the new president appear to have sent any personal greetings to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping or the Chinese public on Lunar New Year day, in a break with a tradition established by his predecessors. Instead, a 91-word press statement by Acting Secretary of State Thomas Shannon was released on the website of the Department of State on Lunar New Year's eve on Trump's behalf. However, his daughter Ivanka Trump did attend the Chinese embassy's holiday reception with her daughter on Wednesday. The two watched a music and dance performance accompanied by the Chinese ambassador to the US, Cui Tiankai. Chinese state television reported her appearance in its prime time news bulletin yesterday. The relative lack of contact contrasts sharply with how Trump's predecessor Barack Obama reached out to the Chinese community on such occasions. Obama not only issued a message written in the first person every year beginning in 2010, but he also filmed videos greetings in four of those years. ' The practice of making a personal diplomatic gesture towards China traces back as far as 1976, to the administration of former US president Gerald Ford. Since Trump's inauguration on January 20, he has spoken by phone with top leaders from Australia, Canada, Russia, Japan, Germany, France, Israel, India, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and South Korea, The first foreign leader to meet Trump in person after he moved into the White House was Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May, just a week after he took up the presidency. The last reported interaction between Trump and Xi was in the form of a holiday card. Trump told The Wall Street Journal in an interview published on January 13 that he had received a “beautiful” holiday card from “the chairman”. This came after the two men were confirmed to have spoken by phone in mid-November after Trump was elected earlier that month. Shi Yinhong, director of American Studies at Beijing's Renmin University, said Trump was deliberately giving the Chinese leader a cold shoulder” by calling all other major world leaders but not the Chinese president. “Trump's isolation of Xi implies he wants to show he has the upper hand in the distribution of world power,” Shi said. Shi believed the move underlined the uncertainties that have beset Sino-US ties following Trump's election, but he expected the new leader to address his relationship with China soon after the controversy surrounding his immigration ban subsided. ^ top ^

Steve Bannon: 'we're going to war in the South China Sea... no doubt' (SCMP)
2017-02-02
Only months ago US President Donald Trump's chief strategist predicted military involvement in east Asia and the Middle East in Breitbart radio shows. The United States and China will fight a war within the next ten years over islands in the South China Sea, and “there's no doubt about that”. At the same time, the US will be in another “major” war in the Middle East. Those are the views – nine months ago at least – of one of the most powerful men in Donald Trump's administration, Steve Bannon, the former head of far-right news website Breitbart who is now chief strategist at the White House. In the first weeks of Trump's presidency, Bannon has emerged as a central figure. He was appointed to the “principals committee” of the National Security Council in a highly unusual move and was influential in the recent travel ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries, overruling Department of Homeland Security officials who felt the order did not apply to green card holders. While many in Trump's team are outspoken critics of China, in radio shows Bannon hosted for Breitbart he makes plain the two largest threats to America: China and Islam. ' “We're going to war in the South China Sea in five to 10 years,” he said in March 2016. “There's no doubt about that. They're taking their sandbars and making basically stationary aircraft carriers and putting missiles on those. They come here to the United States in front of our face – and you understand how important face is – and say it's an ancient territorial sea.” Listen: Steve Bannon on Breitbart News Daily, March 2016 (listen at 05:32) China says nearly the entire South China Sea falls within its territory, with half a dozen other countries maintaining partially overlapping claims. China has built a series of artificial islands on reefs and rocks in attempt to bolster its position, complete with military-length airstrips and anti-aircraft weapons. Watch: Trump's top diplomat wants to deny Beijing access to South China Sea islands Bannon's sentiments and his position in Trump's inner circle add to fears of a military confrontation with China, after secretary of state Rex Tillerson said that the US would deny China access to the seven artificial islands. Experts warned any blockade would lead to war. Bannon is clearly wary of China's growing clout in Asia and beyond, framing the relationship as entirely adversarial, predicting a global culture clash in the coming years. “You have an expansionist Islam and you have an expansionist China. Right? They are motivated. They're arrogant. They're on the march. And they think the Judeo-Christian west is on the retreat,” Bannon said during a February 2016 radio show. Listen: Steve Bannon on Breitbart News Daily, February 2016 (listen at 05:58) ' On the day Trump was inaugurated, China's military warned that war between the two countries was a real possibility. “A 'war within the president's term' or 'war breaking out tonight' are not just slogans, they are becoming a practical reality,” an official wrote on the website of the People's Liberation Army. Aside from conflict between armies, Bannon repeatedly focused on his perception that Christianity around the world is under threat. 'He is running a cabal': top Trump adviser Steve Bannon is the man to watch at the White House( In one radio show, used to promote an article incorrectly claiming that a mosque had been built at the North Pole, Bannon focused heavily on China's oppression of Christian groups. “The one thing the Chinese fear more than America … they fear Christianity more than anything,” he said. ' But China is not the only hotspot Bannon sees, and forecasts another ground war for American troops in the Middle East. “Some of these situations may get a little unpleasant,” Bannon said in November 2015. “But you know what, we're in a war. We're clearly going into, I think, a major shooting war in the Middle East again.” He also branded Islam as “the most radical”religion in the world, and moved swiftly since entering the White House to enact policies hostile to Muslims. Some have called Trump's central doctrine a “war on Islam”. ^ top ^

Nation plays bigger role in global health (China Daily)
2017-02-03
From exporting low-cost, effective vaccines to sending doctors to combat outbreaks of disease, China is increasingly benefiting the world with its enhanced medical capacities and expertise, according to an international health expert. Seth Berkley, CEO of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, said Chinese vaccines are "significantly cheaper" than those made by many other countries. Nation plays bigger role in global health The Chinese-made vaccine for Japanese encephalitis, for example, is up to 95 percent less expensive than those produced in the West, he said. Transmitted by mosquitoes, Japanese encephalitis is the leading cause of viral encephalitis in Asia and the Western Pacific. With an average price of 42 cents a dose, the live attenuated vaccine made by the Chengdu Institute of Biological Products is providing lifesaving protection to millions of children in low-in-come countries, including Laos, Nepal and Cambodia, under the alliance's program, Berkley said. The alliance has committed to using 27.7 million doses of the vaccine. In light of this, Berkley hailed China's efforts to move on from being an alliance recipient of vaccines to being a key supplier. The nation's Japanese encephalitis vaccine became available on the global market after the World Health Organization endorsed China's vaccine regulatory body in 2011. Two years later, the product became the first prequalified Chinese vaccine to be licensed for use on children. "We're seeing huge potential for China to supply the global public vaccine market via WHO prequalification, including for emergency outbreaks such as yellow fever and Ebola," Margaret Chan, director-general of the WHO, said last month. During the Ebola outbreaks, China sent 1,200 medical workers to affected regions. Chinese experts also trained more than 13,000 local medics to treat patients in nine countries in Africa. ^ top ^

Commentary: China is an opportunity for Europe, not a threat (Xinhua)
2017-02-02
A senior EU politician said recently that China represents an external threat to Europe, an accusation which is groundless as well as outrageous. As a matter of fact, China's development provides an enormous opportunity for Europe and both sides benefit from strong and stable bilateral ties. The European Union is China's biggest trading partner, and China is the EU's second biggest, following a dramatic increase in trade in recent years. Data from Chinese customs show that bilateral trade reached 2.94 trillion yuan (423.34 billion U.S. dollars) in the first 10 months of 2016, reaching a new high, and overcoming the global trade downturn. China's rapid economic growth has served as an opportunity for the European Union's own growth. With a fragile economy, the rising threat of protectionism and uncertainty in relations with other major world powers, Europe can benefit significantly from strong trade relations with China. China and Europe should also work closer together in global governance issues, with climate change as a primary example. China and the EU played key roles as brokers of the COP21 Climate Agreement in Paris, and were urged to work even more closely for COP22 in Marrakech. With the Paris Agreement having entered into force, China and the EU will need to trust each other more than ever to help ensure that these critical measures are being implemented fully and correctly. Global security is also a core principle of China-EU relations, with Chinese President Xi Jinping calling for a community of shared future, and China showing its commitment to this vision through its involvement in the Iran nuclear talks, mediation for national reconciliation in South Sudan, and the facilitation of peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, among others. In all global issues, China is a partner to the European Union, a sign of the friendship and mutual trust built over the 42 years since diplomatic relations were formally established in 1975. Strong bilateral ties need these twin guarantees to ensure that different political systems and different cultures can still find common ground. International relations are not a zero-sum game, as China has repeatedly shown in its partnerships with Europe. Through strong bilateral ties, China seeks a relationship with the European Union that promotes win-win development and mutually benefiting cooperation. Senior European politicians should be cautious about the statements they make, and safeguard the long-term and steady development of China-EU relations. Biased views will do no good for such development. ^ top ^

Growing concern that Trump's anti-Beijing rhetoric will be the next topic to head his agenda (SCMP)
2017-02-01
As global shares plunged, those who had believed the new US president was only bluffing about introducing controversial proposals on immigration bans during his campaign are certainly taking him seriously now. The two weeks of volatility since Donald Trump took office have fuelled anxiety that investments in China will be the next victims of his hostile, unpredictable policies, analysts say. “It's a fearful time right now,” said Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group. “When we talk to investors, they don't know where to put their money.” International investors have been given a blunt reminder that US presidential pledges can do real harm to the global market. On January 25, strong growth sentiment sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average above the 20,000 milestone for the first time and triggered global rallies. SSIt's a fearful time right now. When we talk to investors, they don't know where to put their money Shaun Rein, managing director, China Market Research Group But two days later, after Trump signed an executive order banning immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, protests were sparked across the nation, and beyond. The result was US indexes suffered their largest loss this year on Monday, and the dollar weakened against all major currencies. The new president has already withdrawn the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation free trade deal, and signed a directive to build a wall along the US-Mexico border to curb illegal immigration, and he's still less than a fortnight in office. For those with investments in China, all the above have reinforced concerns that Trump's anti-Beijing rhetoric will be the next to hit the top of his agenda. ' Trump has vowed to impose a 45 per cent tariff on Chinese imports and label Beijing a currency manipulator. His administration has also angered China by talking tough on Taiwan and the South China Sea disputes – tough stances Rein believes Trump will be maintained in his dealings with China. “He likes to use chaos in order to negotiate,” he said. “My guess is he is going to take a strong stand and criticise China on trade, currency and its military.” And many others share his concerns. In a survey of global emerging market investors conducted by Nomura last week, 41 per cent of those polled expected the first policy implemented by Trump regarding China to be related to trade protectionism. Thirty-two per cent said his first move would be increasing geopolitical pressure, while 26 per cent believed it to be labelling Beijing a currency manipulator. The majority of respondents expecting punitive trade policies, believe Beijing to fight back, with 36 per cent suggesting the government was most likely to cut US imports, ranging from cotton to iPhones and Boeing aircraft. Nomura predicted such a trade war could shave up to 0.3 per cent off China's GDP growth rate this year. ' Looking at the positives, however, Rein is advising his clients to invest in naval weapons companies, which might benefit from China bolstering its navy to tighten its grip on the South China Sea. Food producers in Australia, New Zealand and Europe might also see surging demand from Chinese consumers if agricultural imports from the US were reduced, he adds. “Chinese consumers are still spending a lot,” he said. “There is going to be more tension between America and China. Consumers will have to buy food and commodities from Australia and Europe.” Meantime, tourism in Asian countries could gain from a sharp decline in Chinese travellers heading to the US, Rein said. SSHe [Trump] likes to use chaos in order to negotiate...My guess is he is going to take a strong stand and criticise China on trade, currency and its military Shaun Rein, managing director, China Market Research Group “Many will start to think it's unsafe because they see all the protests,” he said, and worry they are going to be targeted by “ultra-white nationalists who do not like Asians”. But the more optimistic commentators believe Trump would never let the US economy suffer from a deteriorating relationship between Beijing and Washington. Brett McGonegal, chief executive of Capital Link International, expects Trump to adopt a “soft-play” approach when it comes to handling the US' largest trading partner. China's infrastructure, healthcare and fast-growing internet technology sectors will continue to thrive, he adds, especially with the Communist Party eager to maintain growth momentum ahead of the 19th Party Congress this autumn. “Trump has picked the topics that do not largely have economic drawbacks to try to flex his muscles,” McGonegal said. “I don't think it translates into how he is going to handle China.” “If you look at China growing 6.5 per cent and the US growing 2.5 to 3.5 per cent, those two things kind of hold up the whole world's economy. There is no reason to fight over that.” ^ top ^

China tested new missile capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads: report (SCMP)
2017-02-01
China reportedly tested a new version of a missile that can carry multiple nuclear warheads last month, amid heightened anxiety over ties with the United States. But one mainland analyst cautioned that such a test would not be tied to the change in American leadership, given the months of preparation it requires. The Dongfeng-5C missile, carrying 10 dummy warheads, was launched from the Taiyuan Space Launch Centre in Shanxi province, and flew to a desert in western China, the Washington Free Beacon reported on Tuesday, citing two unnamed defence officials. The missile is a new variant of the DF-5, an intercontinental ballistic missile that first went into service in the early 1980s. “The [Defence Department] routinely monitors Chinese military developments and accounts for PLA capabilities in our defence plans,” Pentagon spokesman Commander Gary Ross was quoted as saying by the report. For decades, the US has put the estimated number of warheads in China's nuclear arsenal at about 250. But the report suggested that the latest test with 10 warheads meant the actual number could be larger. China also began adding warheads to older DF-5 missiles in February last year, according to US intelligence agencies. The US has about 4,000 stockpiled warheads, according to the US State Department. US defence officials have previously warned that China's rapid development of long-range ballistic missiles, coupled with a lack of transparency about its nuclear capabilities, could bring uncertainty to stability in the region. The administration of US President Donald Trump has signalled it intends to take a tougher stance against China over a range of issues, from the trade deficit to Beijing's military build-up in the disputed South China Sea. But a Chinese military expert from an institute affiliated with the People's Liberation Army said a new test would not have been aimed at Trump. “The test of a nuclear missile requires permission from the highest level – the Central Military Commission. It takes at least one year for the military to get the approval and to prepare for it,” said the expert, who refused to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter. “It is not a random decision to be made just because Trump is now in office,” the expert said. Although China had made steady progress in nuclear arms development in recent years, the government had no plans to drastically adjust its nuclear policy, the expert said. Recent images purporting to show China's Dongfeng-41 missile have surfaced on mainland websites, and reports suggest Beijing has deployed them in Heilongjiang province, which borders Russia. The missile, with a range of 14,000km and a payload of 10-12 nuclear warheads, is considered one of the military's most powerful. The Global Times, a state-run tabloid that carries fiery nationalistic rhetoric, said in a commentary last week the deployment of the DF-41 was a “strategic deterrence tool” and Beijing would “ready itself for pressures imposed by the new US government”. The US defence chief is visiting Asia this week, in the first foreign trip by any of Trump's cabinet secretaries. Retired Marine General James Mattis is due to arrive in Seoul today, and is expected to underscore US security commitments to key allies South Korea and Japan amid mounting concerns over North Korea's missile programme and tensions with China. ^ top ^

Trump slams China and Japan over currencies (SCMP)
2017-02-01
US President Donald Trump on Tuesday lambasted Japan and China for devaluing their currencies, a clear signal of his belief that the two countries are currency manipulators. “You look at what China's doing, you look at what Japan has done over the years. They play the money market, they play the devaluation market and we sit there like a bunch of dummies,” he said in a meeting with pharmaceutical company executives. The remarks prompted the yen to jump to near a two-month high of 112.08 to the US dollar. The yen also strengthened on a news report that Trump's trade adviser slammed Germany for using a “grossly undervalued” euro to gain an unfair advantage over the United States and the rest of the European Union. It now appears almost certain that Trump will take up the issue of dollar-yen exchange rates when he meets Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the White House on February 10. Trump last week accused Japan and China of engaging in trade practises that he said are “not fair” to American companies, while singling out auto trade with Japan as falling into that category. He also said the United States will include a clause preventing currency manipulation in all future bilateral trade deals. ^ top ^

China's new aircraft carrier to be based near South China Sea, as tensions with Washington rise (SCMP)
2017-02-01
China's first home-made aircraft carrier is likely to be based somewhere near the South China Sea to handle “complicated situations”, mainland media has reported. Beijing has yet to officially announce the base of China's second aircraft carrier. The first carrier, the Liaoning, is based in Qingdao, a port in the north that is close to Japan and South Korea. An aircraft carrier base in the southern part of China's coast is likely to enhance the nation's military capability in the South China Sea, where China is building up artificial islands and stirring up tensions with Washington. The new warship is tipped to be named the Shandong, after the province on China's east coast. The country's second carrier was likely to be named the Shandong after the province on China's east coast, according to an article posted on Wednesday on Xiake Dao, a social media account affiliated with the overseas edition of the People's Daily. The article said that “based on existing available information”, the Chinese navy's second aircraft carrier base would be in a southern province. “It will be used to tackle the complicated situations in the South China Sea. The aircraft carrier will probably be based there,” the article said. The Liaoning, which was brought from Ukraine in 1998 and later refitted and renamed after the nation's northeastern province, was part of the navy fleet conducting drills in the South China Sea in December. No official completion date has been given for the aircraft carrier. On Tuesday, a television network in Shandong reported that the aircraft carrier was “taking shape” after two years and nine months of construction, but it did not provide further details, such as when the carrier would be completed. Various Chinese media reports have suggested that the carrier was expected to be completed in the first half of 2017 and would officially join the navy in 2019. The Defence Ministry had earlier said that it was being built in the northeastern port of Dalian, at the same shipyard that refurbished the country's first aircraft carrier. Beijing had yet to officially announce the name of its second carrier, but Shandong was likely to be among the options being considered, according to Xiake Dao. An aircraft carrier in China is required to be named after a province or direct-controlled municipalities. The naming of an aircraft carrier was decided by the State Council or the General Staff Department, the former command organ and the headquarters for the People's Liberation Army. But the department was disbanded in January 2016, and it is still unclear whether the newly formed Joint Staff Department of the Central Military Commission has the right to make such a decision. Despite the new carrier likely to be named the Shandong, the article said there was “very little chance” that it would be based there. Instead, the new carrier was more likely to be based in “a certain province in the south” to handle the complicated situation in the South China Sea, the article said. ^ top ^

Chinese Asian Games athletes to get alternative accommodation after book row (Global Times)
2017-02-01
Chinese athletes attending the 8th Asian Winter Games in Sapporo later this month are to be found alternative accommodation by the organizers. The move follows a row over the original hotel rooms which were found to contain books which denied Japan's history of aggression, including the 1937 Nanjing Massacre, and the forced recruitment of "comfort women" before and during World War II. An estimated 300,000 Chinese were massacred in the six weeks after the Japanese army occupied Nanjing. It was one of the worst atrocities committed by Japan against civilians in the 20th century. To save cost, no athletes' village was built for the event. Instead, two local hotels, including the APA Hotel & Resort in Sapporo, were chosen as official designated reception hotels for those taking part in the Asian Games. Chinese and South Korean athletes were scheduled to stay in rooms provided by the Japanese hotel chain ^ top ^

British think tank involved in Japan-funded anti-China propaganda "keen to attack," says sinologist (Xinhua)
2017-02-01
A British think tank involved in Japan-funded propaganda against China was "notoriously partisan" and "extremely keen to attack," a leading British expert on Chinese affairs said late Tuesday. The comment came after the Sunday Times newspaper released a detailed report on Jan. 29, accusing the Henry Jackson Society (HJS) of being paid by the Japanese Embassy in London to hype up the China threat in Britain and spread propaganda that might damage China-Britain relations. The society was "notoriously partisan, very right wing, and extremely keen to attack," said Kerry Brown, a professor of Chinese studies and director of the Lau China Institute at King's College London. "It is not really very reassuring that any government would be giving funds in this way. But for Japan to be spending money on an organization like this which has such a clear, antagonistic posture, is very surprising. I suspect the only people who will be reached by this are those who are already decided in their minds," he said. The Sunday Times reported that the Japanese Embassy in London had paid the think tank 10,000 pounds (12,570 U.S. dollars) per month to spread anti-Chinese propaganda, including through public figures like former British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind, a former Conservative MP in the British House of Commons who also served as chairman of the parliamentary intelligence and security committee. An official with the Japanese Embassy in London acknowledged on Monday morning that it had received an inquiry letter from Xinhua seeking confirmation and comments on the Sunday Times report, but failed to reply so far. A spokesman from HJS told Xinhua on the same day that "We can never reveal specific details." The British media said that the paid deal to smear China was reached to counter growing cooperation between China and Britain. Last March, the HJS hosted a meeting at the Houses of Parliament to discuss "Maritime Security in Asia: Chinese Sea Power and the East China Sea, a Japanese Perspective." The meeting was chaired by Julian Knight, a Conservative MP for Solihull in the west Midlands, who had earlier visited Japan at the expense of its foreign ministry. The Japanese ministry paid a total of 10,867 pounds (13,660 dollars) for the MP's flight, accommodation and subsistence from Feb. 13 to Feb. 20, 2016, according to official records at the Westminster. Knight claimed the purpose of his visit was to gain an insight into Japanese affairs, including defense. ^ top ^

Beijing's second aircraft carrier 'takes shape' after two years, nine months of construction (SCMP)
2017-01-31
Beijing's second aircraft carrier was “taking shape” after two years and nine months of construction, mainland Chinese media reported – a move likely to further unnerve Taiwan and other neighbours about its growing military assertiveness. Construction of the Shandong, named after a province in China's east coast, began in 2014, the mobile app of Shandong television and radio said in a report seen on Tuesday. The Shandong, mainland China's first indigenous aircraft carrier, was “taking shape”, the report said. It did not give a date for completion or further details. It was being built in the northeastern port of Dalian, the Defence Ministry has said. The country's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was bought from Ukraine in 1998 and refitted on the mainland. In January 2017 a group of mainland Chinese warships, led by the Liaoning, tested weapons and equipment in the South China Sea in what Beijing's foreign ministry described as routine exercises that complied with international law. The group of warships sailed through waters south of Japan and then rounded east and south of Taiwan in December on their way to the southern mainland Chinese province of Hainan. But Beijing is years away from perfecting carrier operations similar to those that the United States has practised for decades. The eventual launch of the Shandong will further rattle self-ruled democratic Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own, as well as Asian neighbours Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam with disputed claims in the South China Sea. Mainland China and Taiwan have been diplomatic and military rivals since 1949 when the Nationalist, or Kuomintang, troops lost the Chinese civil war to the Communists and fled to the island. Bilateral trade, investment and tourism have grown significantly in the past three decades, but tensions have been simmering since the island elected President Tsai Ing-wen from the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party last year. Beijing has vowed to attack if the island declared de jure independence. ^ top ^

New ship to serve in Sansha (Global Times)
2017-01-31
A new ship completed its maiden voyage on Monday from Shanghai to China's southernmost island city of Sansha where it will serve. The 32-meter vessel weighs 498 tonnes. It has endurance of 45 days and is able to resist gales with speed of more than 60 kilometers per hour, according to its captain Yin Minzeng. It was designed to help extinguish fires on the sea, tow vessels that lose power and assist law-enforcement vessels. In addition, it will provide supplies for islands of Sansha. Sansha City was established in 2012 to administer islets and reefs in the Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha islet groups as well as waters in this area. ^ top ^

EU urges China to investigate reports of torture of lawyers detained in '709 crackdown' (SCMP)
2017-01-27
The European Union has called on China to promptly investigate reports of torture of three detained mainland human rights lawyers. The EU was “aware of recent information regarding the serious mistreatment of detained human rights lawyers Li Heping, Wang Quanzhang and Xie Yang” – mistreatment that would “amount to torture” if verified, the European Union's European External Action Service said on Saturday. Xie, who is expected to soon face trial on subversion charges, was beaten, and deprived of sleep, water and medical care by interrogators who vowed to torture him until he “went insane”, according to a statement by his lawyers this month. The interrogators also threatened harm to his family, the statement quoted Xie as saying. Li and Wang were also subjected to various forms of torture while under residential surveillance, including electric shocks that made them faint, the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group said last week. The three lawyers were all detained in July 2015 during a nationwide round-up known as the “709 crackdown”. About 300 rights lawyers and activists were detained, sentenced or questioned in the sweeping campaign. Four were jailed in August for between three to seven years on subversion charges while eight others, including Xie, Li and Wang, are awaiting trial after roughly 18 months in detention. The EU said it expected the Chinese authorities would investigate “without delay” the accounts and allegations of torture in all three cases. Citing China's Criminal Procedure Law, the EU also called for those responsible for any mistreatment or torture of the detainees to be punished. “In the meantime, all necessary measures to ensure the safety and well-being of these individuals need to be taken,” it said. Despite being prohibited by law, forced confessions are common in the mainland's justice system, rights groups say. The EU statement cited the United Nations' Committee Against Torture's review of China in December 2015, which said the committee had “serious concern” over reports about the practice of torture and ill-treatment in China's criminal justice system. Li Chunfu, another lawyer held in the 709 crackdown, was released on bail in a frail state this month. He spent more than 500 days in detention and has since been diagnosed with schizophrenia. The EU said the release of Li Chunfu and another lawyer, Xie Yanyi, was “a positive step”. But it also called for the release of lawyers and human rights defenders who remained in detention, including Jiang Tianyong. Jiang disappeared mysteriously on his way back to Beijing from Changsha, Hunan province, in November and his whereabouts were not known for nearly a month until he was finally confirmed to be under heavy guard at a residential site in Henan province, on suspicion of subversion. ^ top ^

China 'steps up preparedness for possible military conflict with US' (SCMP)
2017-01-27
China is stepping up preparedness for a possible military conflict with the US as the Donald Trump presidency has increased the risk of hostilities breaking out, state media and military observers said. Beijing is bracing itself for a possible deterioration in Sino-US ties, with a particular emphasis on maritime security. The People's Liberation Army said in a commentary on its official website last Friday, the day of Trump's inauguration, that the chances of war have become “more real” amid a more complex security situation in Asia Pacific. The commentary written by an official at the national defence mobilisation department in the Central Military Commission said the call for a US rebalancing of its strategy in Asia, military deployments in the East and South China Seas and the instillation of a missile defence system in South Korea were hot spots getting closer to ignition. Will Donald Trump aggravate the China-US arms race? “'A war within the president's term' or 'war breaking out tonight' are not just slogans, they are becoming a practical reality,” it said. The official People's Daily said in another commentary on Sunday that China's military would conduct exercises on the high seas regardless of foreign provocations. China's sole aircraft carrier Liaoning passed through the narrow Taiwan Strait last month. The commentary referred to remarks by the US secretary of state Rex Tillerson hopeful that the US should stop China's access to artificial islands it has built in disputed areas of the South China Sea. New White House spokesman Sean Spicer told a press conference on Monday that the US would prevent China from taking over territory in international waters in the South China Sea. Spicer told the press “the US is going to make sure that we protect our interests there,” when asked about US President Donald Trump's position on the South China Sea. “It's a question of if those islands are in fact in international waters and not part of China proper, then yeah, we're going to make sure that we defend international territories from being taken over by one country,” he said. Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying responded by telling the US “to be cautious in what it says and does, so as to avoid harming the peace and stability in the region.” The Chinese military is constantly prepared for possible military conflict whoever serves as US president, but Donald Trump's possible “extreme approach” against China was dangerous, according to analysts. Ian Storey, a senior fellow at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore, said some of the comments from Trump's key advisors and appointees suggest that the US may pursue a more hardline policy against Beijing in the South China Sea over the next four years. “As it's highly unlikely that China will compromise its sovereignty claims in the face of US pressure, we can be sure that the dispute will increasingly become a risky point of contention between Beijing and Washington,” he said. The comments come as President Xi Jinping is overseeing massive reforms within China's military to improve its fighting capabilities. A huge reshuffle is also underway in the military's top brass. Vice-Admiral Shen Jinlong, commander of the South Sea Fleet, is to replace retiring Admiral Wu Shengli as chief of the PLA Navy. Admiral named to head PLA's new Southern Theatre Command( Meanwhile, Vice-Admiral Yuan Yubai, the former North Sea Fleet commander, has been promoted to head the Southern Theatre Command, which focuses on the South China Sea. “Promoting naval officers to command theatres is aimed at utilising them to the maximum and getting ready to win wars,” Song Zhongping, a military affairs commentator at Phoenix TV, said. The navy has been the focus of recent developments within the PLA, with massive investment and the construction of large numbers of ships, Song said. China is involved in other disputes beyond the South China Sea, particularly with Taiwan. Sovereignty disputes with Japan in the East China Sea and concerns over the deployment of the missile shield in South Korea are other potential flashpoints. ^ top ^

EU confidence in China ties grows (China Daily)
2017-01-26
President Xi Jinping's commitment to globalization and opening-up at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, has bolstered European officials' confidence in expanding economic ties with the country, said Hans Dietmar Schweisgut, the European Union's ambassador to China. The Delegation of the European Union to China saw encouraging signs in the speech because it "sent a clear message that China will continue its process of opening-up", he said at a news conference in Beijing on Wednesday. "A speech is a speech; actions are actions. But a speech by the president of China is a bit more than a normal speech, so we are very much confident that this will indeed lead to further opening-up," said Schweisgut. "Our hope is that we will see concrete progress in seeing this translated into real opening on the ground." The EU is looking forward to China's further loosening of restrictions on market access and investment in sectors like automobiles, information and communication technology, banking and financial services, and utilities, Schweisgut said. Ma Yu, a senior researcher at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation in Beijing, said: "China should further advance negative lists to better protect investment from the EU, as well as to give European companies the right to acquire or merge with domestic companies, instead of only building joint ventures." A negative list says which economic activities are prohibited, while all others are considered to be allowed. China attracted 813.2 billion yuan ($118.2 billion) in foreign direct investment last year, with investment from the EU surging by 41.3 percent, said the Ministry of Commerce. "President Xi's speech in Davos focused not only on globalization but also on inclusive growth. This is an important concept, which we would also like to focus on more in Europe because open markets and trade have produced huge benefits worldwide," Schweisgut said. There has been a globalization backlash in many parts of the world, however, he said. The EU needs to address the concerns of citizens who feel that they have been left behind, leading to rising inequality and insecurity among some, he added. "But we do believe this should not go in the direction of protectionism,... and we do believe in international cooperation and strengthening economic ties, especially with China," Schweisgut said. China is the EU's second-largest trading partner, behind the United States, and the EU is China's biggest trading partner. In 2016, Sino-EU trade declined by 3.1 percent year-on-year to $547 billion. "With President Trump now taking US trade policy in a protectionist direction, China as well as the EU need to defend their trading rights and the open economy," said Fredrik Erixon, director of the European Centre for International Political Economy in Brussels. "The best way to do so is to push ahead with agreements that are significant and consequential, that are based on a positive agenda for trade." Since 2013, China and the EU have been negotiating on a comprehensive agreement on investment. Once it enters into force, it will replace the existing bilateral investment treaties between China and EU member states. "The next step will be to agree on the core provisions of the agreement and exchange offers. That we hope will happen in 2017," Schweisgut said. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Wenzhou building collapse kills five (China Daily)
2017-02-03
Five people were killed when four residential buildings collapsed on Thursday morning in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, according to the local government. An estimated nine people from two families were buried in the accident, which occurred around 8 am, the provincial government said. The residential buildings, four to five stories tall, were in Dahui village, Wencheng county. Three hundred rescuers from the city and the county, including police officers, firefighters and medical workers, were carrying out a rescue operation, but had made little progress as of 1 pm. "The scene is quite chaotic, as if the place had been leveled by an earthquake," a rescuer said by telephone. "We have to work very carefully because the ruined buildings are still attached to standing homes." Two people were pulled from the rubble at around 3 pm, but both had no vital signs after being sent to hospital. Another three victims were discovered later. A 63-year-old survivor, who was buried in the debris, called for help using a cellphone, China Central Television reported. The rescue is continuing, the local authority said. Investigators have yet to confirm the cause of the collapse. Xinhua contributed to this story. ^ top ^

Year of the Rooster to bring multiple missions (Global Times)
2017-02-03
China is set for the first working day of the Year of the Rooster as the week-long Spring Festival holiday ends Thursday. It will be an energetic start for people and their families to achieve their dreams, and the nation will take a step closer towards the dream of creating "quanmian xiaokang," a moderately prosperous society in an all-round way by 2020. However, this year's steps are set to be challenging, particularly for the Communist Party of China, which was founded in the Year of the Rooster, 1921 to be precise. The Party will convene its 19th national congress this year, and it needs to accomplish several missions so that the Year of the Rooster is one of good luck. After lifting more than 700 million people out of poverty in the past 38 years, the country still has about 45 million people living in poor conditions. Poverty relief is high on the agenda for governments at all levels. Not a single family living in poverty will be left behind, but the closer the country gets to fully eliminating poverty, the more difficult the final steps become. China's 13th Five-Year Plan outlines priorities for national development from 2016-2020 and proposes support for poor villages to develop signature products and services. Guidelines were also issued calling for enhanced collaboration between developed eastern regions and under-developed western regions to meet poverty-reduction targets. These efforts have been translated into encouraging signs. At least a further 10 million people will become members of the well-off society this year. This year is also a crucial year for pushing forward reform across the board. Hundreds of measures were designed and released during the past four years to address issues such as urbanization, innovation and the market's role in resource allocation. Now the roadmap has taken shape and the focus for the coming years will be on delivery. Supply-side structural reform will continue to be an economic goal for 2017, including cutting excess capacity, implementing agricultural reforms, boosting the real economy and nurturing new growth. The restructuring of China's economy and the upgrading of industry is expected to generate huge new demand. Time is of the essence for reforms in state-owned enterprises as well as in finance and social security. Such sectors concern the development of the country, whose GDP growth stood at 6.7 percent in 2016, a three-decade low, but outpacing most other major economies. In major political reform, China will establish a national supervisory commission and create a law on national supervision. Amid efforts to build a clean CPC, the fight against corruption has gained "crushing momentum," netting both "tigers" and "flies," with no letup expected in the future. On the global stage, China will stick to its commitment to encourage globalization and cooperation, despite difficulties. In troubled times with a sluggish world economy and a changing geopolitical order, the wise choice is to move forward together. China is preparing for a host of events of global significance this year, including a Belt and Road forum for international cooperation in Beijing in May, and the ninth BRICS leaders' summit, in southeast China's coastal city of Xiamen in September. The attitude of openness, inclusivity and sharing is in sharp contrast to the retreat into protectionism and isolation from certain western countries. This year will be a test of the wisdom needed to maintain sustained, stable and better growth in China-US relations. Although the Trump administration has yet to formulate its China policy, the general trend of cooperation is irreversible and the only right choice for both countries. Any conflict or trade war could deal a blow to the development of the world's two largest economies. The bottom-line is respecting each other's core interests. Believing in a shared destiny for mankind, China will continue to expand its circle of friends. As Michael Moller, head of the United Nations Office at Geneva, put it: "If things go well for China and the Chinese people, the chances are it's going to go well for a lot of other people around the planet." Coincidentally, the first working day of the Chinese new year is "lichun," or the beginning of spring, the first of the 24 solar terms in the Chinese ancient calendar. As we wave goodbye to winter, China stands with the world in wishing for a great spring ^ top ^

Rising demand for face masks transforms Shandong village (China Daily)
2017-02-03
Every cloud has a silver lining - even clouds of smog, as factory owners in an eastern Chinese village have discovered. Dadian, just north of Jiaozhou, Shandong province, is home to 300 factories churning out those thin, ubiquitous face masks that can be seen on anyone from nurses to shop assistants to subway commuters. Concern over air pollution has helped fuel a multibillion-yuan industry for manufacturers and suppliers of raw materials, with orders for face masks skyrocketing when the National Meteorological Center issues red or orange alerts for smog. "We can make 20,000 face masks a day, but our orders are often double our capacity," said Gao Jian, a factory boss in Dadian. The demand has seen this once remote, impoverished village become a busy manufacturing base in just over a decade. Its factories produce over 1 billion masks a year, generating annual revenue of 1.1 billion yuan ($160 million). The village supplies 80 percent of China's standard face masks and also ships its products to the United States and Japan. "We have a complete industry chain from raw materials to textile processing to distribution," said Jiang Xiubin, head of the Dadian Face Mask Manufacturers Association. Business was tough in the 1990s, he said, with traders having to travel 36 hours by train to promote their masks in Lanzhou, Gansu province. However, in 2000, Beijing was hit by a sandstorm, leading to surge in demand for the village's products. Sales soared again in 2003 when the nation was hit by SARS. Dadian had just 23 workshops at the time, and laborers had to work around the clock to meet orders. That year, the local industry made 20 million yuan. Since then, business has continued to flourish, with the peak season being August, when some parts of the country are regularly affected by sandstorms and smog. However, the village's face masks have come under scrutiny after false claims by advertisers that they can protect against air pollution. Dadian's factories have never claimed their masks are effective against hazardous PM2.5 particles, and even state as much on their packaging, Jiang said. Yet he added that it was hard to prevent retailers from spreading misinformation to boost sales. Although Jiang was unwilling to link the village's rapid development with environmental issues, he conceded that the face mask industry has "benefited a lot" from pollution. "Before I opened my factory, my family's annual income was about 40,000 yuan. In 2013, I made 90,000 yuan from making 300,000 masks," he said. "But if it came down to it, I'd prefer to live in a better natural environment than make more money in smog." ^ top ^

Hong Kong police check CCTV footage for clues on missing tycoon (SCMP)
2017-02-02
Hong Kong police are checking roadside surveillance footage around the city to try to trace the movements of missing mainland billionaire Xiao Jianhua as they investigate his disappearance from the luxury hotel where he was staying on Lunar New Year's Eve, the Post has learned. The Canadian consulate in Hong Kong, meanwhile, confirmed that Xiao was a Canadian citizen. More details of the tycoon's disappearance emerged on Thursday as a senior government source with knowledge of the case told the Post that the founder of Beijing-based Tomorrow Group left the Four Seasons Hotel in Central “smoothly” with two female bodyguards and six other unidentified people in plain clothes at around 3am last Friday. The group was picked up by two cars, driven by two men, at the main entrance. It was 3pm when Xiao crossed the border into Shenzhen in a vehicle at Lok Ma Chau. “Police are investigating where Xiao went and with whom he met during the 12-hour gap,” the source said. “Officers are trying to get as much CCTV footage as possible, from private buildings and the government, so as to join the dots and map out his routes before he left the city.” The source did not disclose the model of the cars that picked up Xiao and the others at the hotel, or whether Xiao left for Shenzhen in the same vehicle that picked him up. One woman was left behind at the Four Seasons Hotel, as Xiao checked in with three women but was last seen leaving the building with two, the source said. Concerns over the fate of the 46-year-old, high-profile tycoon were raised after overseas Chinese media reported that mainland agents had taken him from Hong Kong on Friday. It is understood that Xiao's wife reported his disappearance to police via her lawyer on Saturday, but withdrew it the next day because Xiao contacted her to say he was safe. The source declined to say whether the woman staying behind at the hotel was Xiao's wife. Police are still awaiting a reply from mainland authorities for an update on Xiao's situation. “The force needs to know if Xiao is safe at the moment even though his family member withdrew the missing person case,” the source said. “Officers will also investigate whether someone had committed offences and breached our law on Hong Kong soil.” A full page advertisement in Xiao's name appeared on the front page of local Chinese-language newspaper Ming Pao on Wednesday denying Xiao had been “captured” and taken back to the mainland. It claimed the tycoon was “currently receiving treatment overseas” and would “meet the press very soon after the treatment is finished”. “I think the Chinese government is a civilised government and [respects] the rule of law – the public should not misunderstand!” the advertisement said. However, an aide told the Post later that Xiao was on the mainland and sources said he was assisting in investigations over the stock market turmoil of 2015 and the case of a former top spy. Tomorrow Group issued a statement earlier saying that Xiao, as a Canadian citizen, enjoyed the consular protection of Canada. ^ top ^

Chinese tycoon 'helping inquiries' into 2015 stock market turmoil and case of former top spy (SCMP)
2017-02-01
A Chinese billionaire who disappeared mysteriously from his luxury Hong Kong hotel over the Lunar New Year weekend is now on the mainland and “assisting investigations” into the stock market turmoil of 2015 and the case of a former top spy, several sources have told the South China Morning Post. A source familiar with Xiao Jianhua's movements said the founder of Beijing-based Tomorrow Group was “persuaded” to cooperate rather than coerced by mainland agents who visited him at his serviced apartment in the Four Seasons Hotel last Friday. It remains unclear in what capacity the mainland agents came to Hong Kong, or which agencies they represented. But the case has sparked fears that the agents might have been acting beyond their jurisdiction in crossing the border to carry out law enforcement work, thereby violating the city's rule of law. The investigation is said to be focused on manipulation that contributed to panic selling during the 2015 market rout. The investigation is also believed to be related to disgraced former vice-minister of state security Ma Jian, who came under suspicion of violating Communist Party discipline – a euphemism for corruption – earlier that year. Xiao's company took out a full-page advertisement in a Chinese-language newspaper yesterday, reprinting a statement it released a day earlier claiming he was “receiving treatment overseas”. Xiao claimed in the newspaper ad to be a Canadian passport holder, although this has not been confirmed. He has also claimed to have a diplomatic passport. Antigua and Barbuda named him ambassador-at-large in 2015, according to a report on news portal Caribbean360. A source close to the tycoon said Xiao was currently on the mainland and could communicate directly with his family. Another source said the actions of Xiao, whose Tomorrow Group is behind many large merger and acquisition deals, have had a “significant impact” on the mainland economy. Sources told the Post earlier Xiao, 46, left the hotel on Friday. Police officers examined the hotel's CCTV footage which did not show any scuffles involving Xiao and his two women bodyguards. The hotel refused to comment, citing an active police investigation. Xiao was regarded as having close ties to families and relatives of mainland political heavyweights, which helped him amass billions of yuan through deals. Beijing launched a massive crackdown on corruption and economic crimes more than four years ago, and more recently has sent agents abroad to bring suspects back to the mainland. Hong Kong police on Wednesday said reports that it was involved in the operation on Friday were “purely speculative and carried no truth”. The Security Bureau said earlier the Basic Law authorised only local authorities to carry out law enforcement in the city. A bureau spokesman said police had contacted mainland authorities for information. ' Xiao's case echoes the disappearance of five Hong Kong book sellers a year ago, sparking questions about whether Beijing was flouting Hong Kong's Basic Law and breaching the city's autonomy. The issue could surface in the coming chief executive race, and aspirants were yesterday asked to comment. Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, a chief executive contender and former security minister, said the case reflected the long-standing lack of a a deal between Hong Kong and the mainland on transfer of fugitives and reciprocal judicial assistance. “The government has failed to solve these problems for a long time,” Ip said. “After I left the government, there was no follow-up on the issue.” Another contender for the city's top job, retired judge Woo Kwok-hing, cited Article 28 of the Basic Law, which states that no Hong Kong resident shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful arrest, detention or imprisonment. Woo said more facts were needed before deciding on an action. A spokesman for John Tsang Chun-wah, a front runner in the leadership race, said the former finance minister was not clear about the case, but only Hong Kong officers could enforce the law in the city. A spokesman for Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the former No 2 official understood public concerns over the matter and everything should be handled in accordance with the law. The Chief Executive's Office refused to comment. ^ top ^

Source confirms missing tycoon is in mainland China, not 'receiving treatment overseas' (SCMP)
2017-02-01
A source close to missing billionaire Xiao Jianhua told the South China Morning Post that the tycoon is currently in mainland China. The source, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter, said Xiao could communicate only with his family. “His family members can communicate with him. That's not bad, at least we know he is safe and well.” The latest information about Xiao contradicted an advertisement in his name that appeared on the front page of a local Chinese newspaper on Wednesday morning. Refuting earlier media reports that said he had been arrested in Hong Kong, the full-page statement printed in Ming Pao denied that Xiao had been “captured” and taken back to the mainland. It claimed the tycoon was “currently receiving treatment overseas” and would “meet the press very soon after the treatment is finished”. “I think the Chinese government is a civilised government and [respects] the rule of law – the public should not misunderstand!” it said. The advertisement was part of a series of puzzling events concerning the whereabouts of Xiao, 46, a high-profile tycoon said to have close ties to powerful politicians in Beijing. Overseas Chinese media earlier reported that mainland agents had taken the businessman from Hong Kong back to the mainland on Friday. Earlier this week, Xiao's Tomorrow Group responded with two statements in his name via its WeChat account rejecting those claims. The two statements – along with the rest of the group's posts – were later removed from the account. The Wednesday advertisement said Xiao had always loved his country and had never been involved in any situation that might damage the country's interests or the government's image, or supported any opposition organisation. It added that as a Canadian citizen, Xiao enjoyed the consular protection of Canada, and as a Hong Kong permanent resident, he was covered by the city's laws. The statement said Xiao held a “diplomatic passport” and enjoyed diplomatic protection, though it did not specify which country had issued the passport. Hong Kong police have been looking into the tycoon's disappearance. A government source with knowledge of the investigation said Xiao was last seen at a luxury Hong Kong hotel last week. The source said the businessman left the Four Seasons Hotel on Friday morning accompanied by an unknown number of people. Another source said Xiao left Hong Kong for Shenzhen at about 3pm on Friday. This information, as well as a statement from Hong Kong police saying that Xiao had entered the mainland on Friday contradicted claims in the advertisement and in Tomorrow Group's earlier statements that the tycoon was “overseas". Lawmaker James To Kun-sun of Democratic Party said the Hong Kong government had yet to come forward to clear doubts about the incident two days after it was reported by overseas media. He urged officials to clarify as soon as possible whether the government had any involvement in the incident, whether Xiao was a Hong Kong permanent resident, and whether he had been forced to leave the city under duress. But lawmaker Starry Lee Wai-king, chairwoman of pro-Beijing party the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), said that it was not fair to comment on the case at the moment as the person of interest had not come forward. Speaking on Commercial Radio on Wednesday, Lee said Xiao's case did not seem to involve cross-border law enforcement, but admitted that the notification mechanism between the mainland and Hong Kong on such events should be enhanced. The incident comes about a year after five Hong Kong booksellers disappeared, triggering fears of mainland agents acting outside of their jurisdiction. ^ top ^

China to expand environmental inspections (Global Times)
2017-01-30
China's environmental inspections will cover all provincial regions this year, according to the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP). Inspectors will monitor local conditions and push local governments to fulfill their responsibilities, the MEP said. China launched central environmental inspections in 2016, when inspection teams were dispatched to 15 provincial areas including Beijing and Shanghai. Last year, inspectors looked into 33,000 cases and imposed fines totalling 440 million yuan (about 64 million US dollars). A total of 720 people were detained and close to 6,500 were held accountable for environment-related wrongdoing. China is fighting pollution and environmental degradation after decades of growth left the country saddled with problems such as smog and contaminated soil. ^ top ^

China Focus: Xi's Lunar New Year speech inspires nation (Xinhua)
2017-01-27
The President's latest appeal for diligence and hard work has sparked heated discussion and spread inspiration and confidence across the nation. Xi Jinping, who is also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, extended Spring Festival greetings to all Chinese Thursday at a reception in Beijing on behalf of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and the State Council. The reception was presided over by Li Keqiang. Other leaders including Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan, Wang Qishan and Zhang Gaoli were also present. This year's Spring Festival, or Chinese Lunar New Year, falls on Jan. 28. Addressing the event, Xi lauded China's continued economic growth as well as the deepened reform it underwent in 2016, pointing to improved lives of the people, advanced rule of law and strict governance of the CPC, as well as progress made in the war against poverty. China's rural population living in poverty decreased from 770 million to 55.75 million between 1978 and 2015. An additional 10 million people shook off poverty last year, and China aims to help at least another 10 million become members of the well-off society this year. For decades, poverty alleviation has been a top priority on China's policy agenda. Just this week Xi said, during an inspection tour to north China's Hebei Province, that fighting poverty is the fundamental task in building an all-round moderately prosperous society. But he said poverty alleviation is getting more and more difficult as it nears the end. His words were echoed by Tang Jianzhen, an official in charge of poverty alleviation and development with the Henan Mongolian Autonomous County in northwest China's Qinghai Province. "Although we managed to get ourselves off the national list of impoverished counties, the task to ensure all residents take their rightful place as citizens of a well-off society remains daunting," he said, "We should not feel at ease now." In his address, Xi also stressed that China highly values true affection and righteousness. He said everyone should treat others with honesty and sincerity, and be open and above board in life. He also called on the nation to salute those diligent, brave Chinese as well as the nation's heroes, model workers, veterans and all who contribute to the country's development. "The Chinese people have great dreams, but also have a great spirit to work hard and endure hardship to realize such dreams," Xi said. He said he hoped that under the leadership of the CPC, all of the people in the country can roll up their sleeves to work hard for the goal of building a moderately prosperous society, achieving the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, and building a community of shared destiny for all humanity.[…] ^ top ^

Chinese liberal think tank's days were numbered, director says (SCMP)
2017-01-27
The sudden removal from the internet of a prominent private think tank lead by liberal economist Mao Yushi was likely long-planned by the authorities, rather than the result of an individual incident, his associate said. The official website of Unirule Institute of Economics, a 24-year-old think tank, and a handful of its social media accounts were shut down last Friday afternoon by Beijing's municipal internet censor. The government accused Unirule's website of disseminating news without a proper licence, but the think tank said the authority had “the obvious aim of silencing Unirule totally”. The group is just the latest victim of an intense push by the central authorities to silence the liberal intellectuals, as part of a wider push to cement its rule. In July, Chinese media administrators sacked Du Daozheng, an influential former cadre known as a reform thinker, from Yanhuang Chunqiu, an outspoken political magazine he founded. For 20 years, Du's magazine published articles critical of the Communist Party, and he had the support of many party members, including Xi Jinping's father, Xi Zhongxun. Authorities in October shut down a flagship website known as The Consensus Net, which carried articles by scholars from across the political spectrum. ' With its strong belief in the market economy, the institute regularly challenges the government on its economic policies and has published reports about the reform of state-owned enterprises, anti-trust and land reforms. Its researchers include a handful of prominent economists formerly with the government's top think tank, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Unirule founder Mao is one of the country's leading economists and a winner of the Milton Friedman Prize for advancing liberty in 2012. He has been a vocal critic of the country's former leader Mao Zedong, from whom the Communist Party still seeks legitimacy. Just a few days before Unirule was taken offline, Mao Yushi openly criticised top judge Zhou Qiang for rejecting the “erroneous” Western ideas of judicial independence. But Sheng Hong, the think tank's director, said he believed the web shutdown was not triggered by any particular incident. “All our [online] media outlets are gone, it's a move against the whole institute, not a decision based on any particular incident or what Mao [Yushi] said about Zhou.” What happened to Unirule suggested Beijing wanted to put think tanks under its control, according to Xiong Wei, a Beijing-based legal activist who also runs a think tank. “Unirule is undoubtedly the country's most influential think tank in the private sector and it blazed the trail,” he said. “But Beijing only wants think tanks under its control.” Another think tank was ruled illegal after its leading member was arrested by Beijing police. Guo Yushan, a social activist, had expressed support for the Occupy Central movement in 2014. Guo's think tank published studies on tax reform, urbanisation and environmental conservation, among other issues. Unirule has also wielded influence in government policies, though in a somewhat different way. In a notable case, a legal amendment draft in 2009 that would further strengthen the government's control over land was suspended after Unirule published extensive reports that lashed out at the bill's flaws. “Unirule seldom praises the government, because there's already enough compliments,” Sheng Hong said. “We only give a heads up when they do poorly.” The institute is still operating and it would not try to tune down its critical views, Sheng said. “Criticising the government is the second most boring thing to do after praising it,” he added. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

Road to reach last two towns in Tibet (Xinhua)
2017-02-02
A road will finally reach the last two towns in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region this year, according to a regional official. "All towns in the region will have highway access in 2017," said Sonam Chosphel, an official with Tibet Transport Department. "Gyalasa and Gandeng in Medog County are the last two roadless towns." Medog is China's last roadless county, and ended its isolation from the outside in 2013 with the opening of a highway. Last year, Tibet invested 40 billion yuan (5.8 billion U.S. dollars) in transport construction, up 90.7 percent year on year, and its total length of operating highways reached 82,000 km. "This year, the region will spend 52 billion yuan building or upgrading high-grade roads, national or regional key highways, and rural roads, with operating highways surpassing 90,000 km," Sonam Chosphel said. The roads linking the Medog County seat to the two towns began construction in 2015 and will be completed at the end of the year. ^ top ^

5-magnitude quake hits Tibet; no casualties reported (Xinhua)
2017-02-01
A 5.0-magnitude earthquake jolted Zhongba County in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region at 6:07 p.m. Wednesday (Beijing Time). No casualties were reported. The epicenter was monitored at 30.67 degrees north latitude and 83.34 degrees east longitude. The quake struck at a depth of 8 km, according to the China Earthquake Networks Center. The epicenter, 124 kilometers from the county seat and 757 kilometers from Lhasa, is in an uninhabited zone and therefore the moderate quake caused no injuries and death of people and livestock, Wei Xince, deputy county governor, told Xinhua by phone. Local authorities were checking damages to roads and makeshift livestock pens in the summer pasture. Zhongba, which is in the western-most of Xigaze prefecture and borders Nepal, covers an area of 45,900 square kilometers and has a population of 24,800. It has an average altitude of over 5,000 meters. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Graft-buster issues guides on election rules amid suspicions of foul play in chief executive race (SCMP)
2017-02-03
The city's anti-graft watchdog has produced an information leaflet and a booklet with guidelines stating it is unlawful to dissuade someone from running in an election by offering benefits, amid suspicions of foul play in the city's coming leadership race. The Independent Commission Against Corruption's new “Reminder to Electors/Candidates' Supporters” highlights the relevant rules and distinguishes between lawful and unlawful actions in the run-up to the chief executive election in March. The information booklet says, for example, that “it is an offence for any person who corruptly offers an advantage to another person as an inducement or a reward for that person to stand or not to stand as a candidate in an election”. ' According to recent rumours, former finance chief John Tsang Chun-wah was offered a senior position with the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank in exchange for not fighting for the top post. Tsang did not comment on the speculation directly, but hinted that some people had been trying to dissuade him from running. Another such rumour was that Beijing's Liaison Office in Hong Kong was lobbying on behalf of former chief secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. The rules say that this is unlawful only if the lobbying involves an “advantage” such as money or a gift, or the use of force or a threat. “The law does not restrict the means engaged by candidates' supporters to support any candidates. However, the candidates' supporters must not incur any election expenses without the prior written authorisation of the candidates they support,” ICAC programme coordinator Lily Chung said. The rules also state that donors contributing HK$1,000 or more must supply their name and address, and a receipt must be issued by the candidate, otherwise the money cannot be used for the election campaign and must be donated to charity. The receipt must be submitted with the candidate's election return. Lam Chuek-ting of the Democratic Party, who as a lawmaker has an automatic vote in the Election Committee, said this rule could make it more difficult for some candidates to raise funds. “While this rule is not new, it would create pressure for donors to candidates who are not seen as favoured by the establishment, as some donors may not want their support to certain candidates to be made public,” Lam, who used to work at the ICAC, said a supporter could not make multiple donations of $999 to get round the HK$1,000 rule. “But if a family of five all support one candidate, they can each make a HK$1,000 donation,” Lam said. He added that the guidelines were generally existing rules. The 10-page bilingual leaflet also covers scenarios concerning free dinners arranged by candidates' helpers, and inviting a candidate to join a regular seminar. It will be sent to all members of the Election Committee together with the polling notice, while the 200-page booklet is available on the ICAC website. The chief executive election will be held on March 26 this year. The anti-graft body has set up a 24-hour hotline for complaints about suspected corrupt and illegal conduct related to the election at 2526 6366. There is also a hotline number 2920 7878 for public inquiries during the election. ^ top ^

Handshake with Chinese president Xi Jinping among reasons John Tsang decided to run for Hong Kong leadership (SCMP)
2017-02-03
An unexpected handshake from President Xi Jinping in 2015 was among the reasons John Tsang Chun-wah decided to run for chief executive, the former financial secretary revealed on Thursday. The disclosure came as Tsang and another front runner, former chief secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, escalated their veiled attacks on one another ahead of the nomination period for the election race, which is due to start on February 14. Xi shook Tsang's hand at an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank meeting in Beijing in June 2015, which was interpreted by some as a nod for him to become the city's next leader. ' “It was one of the factors but of course that was not all,” said Tsang in a television interview when asked if the handshake had prompted him to run. Tsang said he had been honoured to receive the offer of a handshake from Xi, describing it as “definitely a good thing”. In September last year another handshake with Xi at a G20 summit in Hangzhou also got tongues wagging in Hong Kong about whether Xi had given Tsang his backing. The ex-finance chief is seen as an underdog in the race to secure nominations from members of the 1,200-member Election Committee that will choose the chief executive, as a number of them, along with several chambers of commerce in the city, have signalled their backing for Lam, who is widely believed to have won Beijing's blessing. Tsang, who would need the help of pan-democrats to gain the required 150 nominations to enter the race, on Thursday launched a broadside at Lam, whose supporters mostly come from the Beijing-friendly bloc of politicians. “We are now looking for reconciliation in society,” he said. “Self-reflection might be needed for anyone who only manages to bag support from one end of the spectrum.” A day earlier, Lam was the one on the offensive when she suggested Tsang had ruined the relationship between the legislative and executive branches of government by not addressing queries from lawmakers in the Legislative Council. Without naming Tsang directly, the former No 2 official said she had been the one who resolved conflicts between the government and lawmakers when the pair were in office. ' She was referring to the saga last December in which Tsang said at a Legco panel meeting that he would not answer questions from four lawmakers who the government had wanted to disqualify from Legco through a judicial review of their oaths of office, citing advice from the Department of Justice. The government immediately made a U-turn on answering the queries after Tsang's shock announcement caused a backlash. Tsang on Thursday said Lam had been informed of the legal advice he received on the matter. Meanwhile, Lam courted controversy on Thursday after she called on voters to brush off any institutions that might try to intervene in the leadership race, amid concerns that Beijing's liaison office in Hong Kong had been canvassing votes for her. “If anyone gets the impression that some institutions are trying to intervene, these people should tell those institutions that they are people with independent thinking and do not need other bodies to change their views,” she told RTHK. But information technology sector lawmaker Charles Mok argued it should be Lam to stop such meddling. “How can we believe a chief executive can resist Beijing's interference when she cannot even stop it in her own election campaign?” he said. New People's Party lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun, a local delegate to the National People's Congress, dismissed Lam's comments as “unrealistic” and said it was impossible for a pro-establishment figure to ignore calls from mainland officials. The two candidates continued to canvass support on Thursday as they visited the Federation of Trade Unions separately, but both stopped short of promising a law to standardise working hours for employees. Lam said labour issues needed to be handled carefully or they could sour relations between employers and employees and give rise to social disputes. Tsang said every trade had its own work requirements and standardising working hours for all trades might not be the best approach. FTU chairman Stanley Ng said the union's stance was clear but it would look at the election platforms of candidates before deciding who the union would support. Tsang also met information technology sector voters on Thursday, while Lam successfully invited Joseph Yam Chi-kwong, the former chief executive of the Monetary Authority, to be her campaign's senior adviser. Separately, Dennis Kwok, who helped coordinate the 326 pan-democrats who have votes in the upcoming election, said the bloc was more likely to nominate Tsang and another contender, retired judge Woo Kwok-hing, who were both short of nominations ^ top ^

Post-Occupy surge in young voters during Hong Kong's 2016 Legco elections (SCMP)
2017-01-31
Turnout among those aged 18 to 20 rose by 16 percentage points, but older voters still dominated ballot. Voters aged between 18 and 20 clocked the biggest surge in the turnout rate during last year's Legislative Council elections, up 16 percentage points on the 2012 polls, new figures have revealed. But despite that bounce, elderly and middle-aged people still easily cast the lion's share of votes. September's polls had 150,763 more voters aged 61 or above than five years earlier, dwarfing the number of new voters aged between 18 and 40 by 11,447. It was the highest turnout since direct elections began in 1991. Some 58 per cent of the electorate – 2.2 million people – cast a vote, up 5 percentage points from 2012. The Legco elections were the first since the pro-democracy Occupy protests in 2014, and returned six young lawmakers advocating self-determination for Hong Kong, including student activist Nathan Law Kwun-chung. ' Numbers released by the Registration and Electoral Office showed 65 per cent of Hongkongers aged between 66 and 70 voted in September, as that age group continued to top the turnout rate table. Generally youngsters lag behind the overall turnout. But bucking that trend, 59 per cent of people aged between 26 and 35 voted, 1 percentage point above the average. The turnout rate reflects a group's number of votes cast as a share of its registered voters, and so comparisons between different elections' turnout rates do not reflect total votes cast by each group, which go up and down as demographic changes alter the group's size. Analysis shows that the turnout rate for all four age groups under 35 surged from 2012. The turnout rate of those between 18 and 20 – all of them first-time voters – soared 16 percentage points to 58 per cent in the 2016 elections. The second-largest rise was among the 31-35s, whose turnout rate increased from 49 per cent in 2012 to 59 per cent last year. The 21-25 group was up 9 percentage points to 55 per cent, and the 26-30s up 8 percentage points to 59 per cent. By contrast, the eight age groups above 35 all recorded only small turnout rate growth from 2012, between 2 and 5 percentage points, equalling or falling below the overall average. The turnout levels – and number of people in these groups – had been higher to begin with, though. ' Political scientist Dr Chung Kim-wah, of Polytechnic University's Centre for Social Policy Studies, said it was a universal pattern for elderly and middle-aged people to vote in higher and steadier numbers, while turnouts of young voters tended to fluctuate, and could rise and fall upon individual events. Comparing the situation in Hong Kong to the 2008 US presidential election, when Barack Obama mobilised many young voters, Chung said the Occupy movement of 2014 was the turning point for Hongkongers, and a political awakening for the new generation. “They now care about politics; want to devote themselves to social movements; and want to change the game rules,” Chung said. “But it remains to be seen whether their passion, and the trend [of the rising turnout], can be sustained.” ^ top ^

 

Economy

What signals does Chinese premier send via Bloomberg column? (China Daily)
2017-02-02
China reiterates its support for economic openness as Chinese Premier Li Keqiang wrote in a Bloomberg column on Thursday, echoing President Xi Jinping's recent speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos that called for advancing globalization and rejecting protectionism. What signals did the Chinese premier send via the article? How is the world's second largest economy pressing ahead to face the challenges against the backdrop of a sluggish global economy and rising anti-globalization sentiment? Here is an abstract of the article titled, "How China plans to face a world of uncertainties."
ECONOMIC OPENNESS We remain convinced that economic openness serves everyone better, at home and abroad. The world is a community of shared destiny. It's far preferable for countries to trade goods and services and bond through investment partnerships than to trade barbs and build barriers.
GLOBALIZATION Economic globalization has enabled the creation and sharing of wealth on an unprecedented scale. There are problems, too, more on the sharing side. These can be addressed, but only if countries work together to ensure that a rising tide really does lift all boats.
RED TAPE To make doing business in China easier, the state is consolidating administrative reviews and focusing more on compliance oversight, risk preparedness, and providing services.
STRUCTURAL REFORM In 2016, China shed more than 65 million and 290 million tons of inefficient steel and coal-mining capacity, respectively. We plan to raise those numbers to 140 million and 800 million tons within the next three to five years to restore healthier fundamentals to those industries.
NEW DRIVERS Services, which have surpassed manufacturing as a share of the economy, keep consolidating their lead. Consumption now contributes more than 60 percent of the growth to China's gross domestic product.
INNOVATION Entrepreneurship and innovation are taking root. Meanwhile, new business models are thriving, transforming many previously unimaginable services into daily conveniences. The mobile-internet-enabled sharing economy is only one obvious case.
CHINA'S ROLE In a world with a plethora of uncertainties, China offers an anchor of stability and growth with its consistent message of support for reform, openness and free trade. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Mongols should be free in their own land (UB Post)
2017-02-02
The recent decision to ban rural residents from moving to Ulaanbaatar under the guise of tackling air pollution targets the poor and economically vulnerable, and resembles a step backwards to Soviet times. The nomadic way of life is deeply entrenched in Mongolian culture and history, and today, this freedom of movement extends to being free to move to the city to pursue opportunities that life in the countryside cannot bring. Reports indicate around 40,000 people move from the countryside to Ulaanbaatar every year – the vast majority are herder families who can no longer sustain their livelihoods on the steppe. For many, moving to Ulaanbaatar is their last resort: a coping strategy when a dzud has claimed their animals and the declining agricultural market has hit, or when they can simply no longer sustain their herding lifestyle, leaving them forced to move to the capital. It's no doubt that rural migration to Ulaanbaatar is leading to numerous socio-economic issues. The overpopulation and the rapid spread of the ger district has led to intense strain on infrastructure and housing, and has also led to worsening air pollution and congestion. The decree announced by Mayor of Ulaanbaatar S.Batbold last month to ban rural residents moving to the city's ger districts until January 1, 2018, under the guise of tackling air pollution, is a move that will have social and economic consequences for Mongolia. In announcing the plan, the Mayor stated, “Even though freedom of movement is a constitutional right afforded to every citizen, the threat of air pollution in the capital has reached a point where it could potentially affect national security.” Even though the Mayor acknowledged freedom of movement as a constitutional right, in the same breath he also deemed air pollution as the overarching threat and put it under the banner of “national security”. Let's be clear – while national security is a broad term, it's not as if a blanket of smog magically appeared in Ulaanbaatar and suddenly become an urgent “national security” issue overnight. Worsening air pollution has been a problem for many years, and government inaction and ignorance at both local and national levels is at the heart of its insidious spread. While the decree did come with some type of framework (people excluded from the ban include those who require long-term medical care, those who already own an apartment, and those with a mortgage), it was incredibly light on details and lacked crucial information on how it will be carried out. Will inspectors be set up on the peripheries and question every car entering the city? What's the punishment if someone does move to the city and is caught? Have local governor's offices in rural provinces been informed, or even consulted? Will public awareness campaigns be held in rural provinces to alert people to the change? The fact that the ban was announced on January 9 and came into force the very next day, without any adjustment time, is a telling example of policy-on- the-run and short-sightedness by the government. Even more alarmingly, the voices meant to speak up for migrants and the vulnerable have been almost silent. The UB Post contacted a UN representative in Mongolia, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and Amnesty International Mongolia for comment on their concerns for migrants and the vulnerable. The United Nations was the only organization to respond. In a statement, the UN said it would monitor the implementation of the decree, adding, “We trust that the needs of the migrants and society as a whole will continue to be met during the implementation of this decree and the UN stands ready to support the government in this regard.” While it is promising that the government is being proactive by taking action on air pollution, and people have a right to claim their rights to clean air, banning people from moving to the city is not the answer. A better short-term approach is focusing on installing filters in stoves, upgrading buildings with electrical heating, installing more air filters and implementing a health strategy and awareness campaign. To discourage migration to the city, the government should promote rural industrialization: improving infrastructure at the province level, moving government services out of the city, and creating labor intensive industries and technologies through small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Some Mongolians have described the ban on movement as a dark step backwards to Soviet times, when freedom and freedom of movement was controlled by the government. Even though freedom of movement and the freedom to choose one's place of residence is enshrined in Mongolia's Constitution, and in several international conventions that Mongolia is party to, it's clear that these rights can disappear when inaction reaches a breaking point. While the ramifications of this ban are yet to be felt, let's not be coy: this ban targets the poor – namely rural, economically vulnerable herders. With looming dzud conditions expected to affect 150,000 herders in the coming months, is the government going to turn these herders away when they arrive on the outskirts of UB looking for shelter? Or for those who find a way to sneak in, could we see the forced evictions of several thousands of people over the next 12 months? Let's hope that if that time comes, that the voices representing the poor and vulnerable are loud enough to be heard. ^ top ^

MPs joining the donation campaign to save the economy (gogo Mongolia)
2017-02-02
Parliament members have started joining the donation campaign that aims to save the economy. Today MP J.Batzandan announced to donate his three months` salary to the state budget. He said that rich people should join the donation campaign. Also, politicians with offshore account should donate their hidden money too. Donating is a patriotic initiative. Public want us to spend the donation wisely. Thus, it should be monitored. On Jan 31st, economist B.Osorgarav has initiated the donation campaign among the people and donated MNT 10 million, 10 horses and his golden ring. Following, MP B.Delgersaikhan agreed to donate MNT 100 million, noting that the Government is scheduled to repay the Development Bank`s USD 580 million bond in March, 2017, however, the country is in a deep state of economic crisis. Moreover, MP N.Oyundari has expressed her support for this initiative and promised to donate certain amount of money to the state budget. ^ top ^

National Security Council recommendation on air pollution (Montsame)
2017-02-02
The National Security Council's recommendation on air pollution was approved on January 10, 2017. The following is the overview of the recommendation. The State Great Khural (Parliament) of Mongolia needs to acknowledge that air, water and soil pollution has reached disaster levels, and make necessary amendments to the relative legislation to improve the legal environment for operating in a state of emergency and establishing disaster zone, quarantine measures, population resettlement, rehabilitation and urban re-planning. Creation of legal environment to implement the relocation of central government bodies, the railway, universities and related infrastructures, and the legal environment to establish the duties and accountability system of all government bodies, officials in charge, business enterprises and citizens to implement relative laws and to reduce air and environmental pollution have become necessary. Providing the necessary legal environment for ensuring participation and cooperation of citizens and enterprises in reducing environmental pollution and discussing air and environmental pollution upon including the issue in agenda of every parliamentary session, and when necessary, upon convening extraordinary sessions is recommended. Holding an extraordinary session in the first quarter of the 2017 to discuss this recommendation and to finalize the National plan on air and environmental pollution reduction is expected. As for the Government of Mongolia, submitation of the draft laws and rulings of this recommendation, as well as the draft national plan to the State Great Khural are expected by February 20, 2017. Also, developing a detailed executive plan for the National plan on air and environmental pollution reduction, reorganizing the National Committee for Air Pollution Reduction and emergency operation principles are recommended. Hold quarterly Cabinet meetings to discuss air and environmental pollution, when necessary to hold special meetings are expected. Citizen's Representative Khurals of Aimags and the Capital City (Local Parliaments) discuss local environmental pollution issues at Citizen's Representative Khurals of aimags and the Capital City and developing and implementing special plans are needed. Also, all enterprises, organizations and individuals needs to be called upon actively participating and cooperating in environmental pollution reduction. Secretary of the National Security Council is expected to summarize the proposals made during the extended meeting of the National Security Council to be delivered to the Cabinet Secretariat of the Government for inclusion in the National plan for air and environmental pollution reduction. And oversee the general implementation of the recommendations issued by the National Security Council on environmental pollution. ^ top ^

Project for the poor and herders to continue (Montsame)
2017-02-02
During yesterday's cabinet meeting, the Government backed to establish an agreement on additional financing of 'Project for Market and pasture management development' between the Government of Mongolia and International Fund for Agricultural Development and decided to send the draft to relevant Standing Committee for its consent. The project was implemented in 89 soums of Arkhangai, Bulgan, Gobi-Altai, Khovsgol and Khentii in 2011-2016 and gave support to 120 herders' groups and 455 female-dominated groups. Additional USD9.06 million planned to be spent for poverty reduction and livelihood improvement of poor citizens and herders through creating value chain in aimags and soums involved in the project prior. Within the project, pasture capacity and grazing will be controlled and evaluated and pastureland will be properly utilized based on social responsibility and joint involvement. Moreover, measures will be taken to increase prices of agricultural raw materials and the project will give financial and non-financial support to groups of herders and women and connect them with buyers and producers. The additional finance of USD9.06 million has a term of 25 years, including a grace period of 5 years with 1.25 per cent interest and 0.75 per cent service charge. ^ top ^

Mongolia to cooperate with World Bank (Montsane)
2017-02-02
At its regular meeting on February 1, the Cabinet resolved to discuss a draft on General funding program between the Government of Mongolia and International Development Association of World Bank with corresponding Parliamentary committees. The General funding program reflects the sources for USD 79 million loan which was allotted by the Association for Mongolia in 2015-2017. The Government plans to spend the loan on realizing projects and programs aimed at supporting employment, strengthening legal environment on macro economy and finance sectors, improving energy distribution capacities and supplying western region energy demands with renewable energy. ^ top ^

Government actions to be audited (Montsame)
2017-02-02
On February 1, D.Khurelbaatar, Auditor General of Mongolia presented a plan and program as well as a letter on performance audit on the activities of the government in 2017 to the Prime Minister J.Erdenebat and ministers of the government. D.Khurelbaatar said “We are going to carry out the audit in compliance with international standards and legislations and regulations. I believe that disciplining mutual responsibility will be recognized during this time”. The audit organization plans to perform the audit on the actions of the government in the first half-year, in particular; - implementation of general guidelines for social and economic development of 2016, outcomes and fulfillment of the investment projects and measures financed by state budget in 2016 and result of realization of debt management of the government. ^ top ^

Law to combat domestic violence comes into effect (Montsame)
2017-02-01
Starting today, the revised Law to Combat Domestic Violence comes into effect. The Parliament approved the law in December, which identifies domestic violence as a crime, making it subject to criminal punishment and providing for a more comprehensive response to the domestic violence and for integrated victim services. The fact says that 94 persons have died and 4102 persons have been injured for the last six years due to domestic violence and besides, the number of registered cases of violent actions tends to increase year by year behind closed doors. New law aims to enhance the victim protection system by placing the safety of victims first; establishing a team of specialists to provide counseling; protecting people from repeated violence and abuse; and strengthening cooperation among relevant agencies. The law also extends the mandate of protection for victims of domestic violence to shelter houses, social welfare services, and psychological and other health care providers. The revised law requires every citizen to report child abuse and domestic violence. For example, neighbors are obliged to inform on violation cases and those who do not report the violence, will face fines. The scope of law enforcement does not limit relations between family members, it also involves the divorced and cohabitants. ^ top ^

National air pollution reduction program to be implemented (Montsame)
2017-02-01
The Prime Minister J.Erdenebat has approved an order to establish a working group responsible for the implementation of the recommendation on "Air pollution of Ulaanbaatar city" by the National Security Council. The working group is composed of Governor of the Capital and Mayor of Ulaanbaatar city, state secretaries of all ministries and heads of relevant agencies. The head of the working group, D.Oyunkhorol, Minister of Environment and Tourism presented about the arrangements carried-out by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism to the Prime Minister on January 31. The working group had finished formulating a draft of the “National Program to reduce air pollution”, which will be implemented in two stages, short /2017-2018/ and mid /2018-2021/ terms. The program envisages cessation of raw coal consumption of households and public entities, decreasing the number of air polluting sources by 80 percent and reducing the amount of particles and sulfur dioxides in the air by 50 percent. The Environment Minister continued to say "Currently, the working group is conducting a research with a view to establish “Information center for eco-friendly technologies” in Bayanzurkh, Sukhbaatar and Chingeltei districts to promote advanced technologies decrease air pollution to the public". Also, in pursuance to a direction of the Prime Minister, the working group has been drawing up amendments to corresponding laws and taking public suggestions online in order to indicate the responsibilities concerning environmental protection, air pollution reduction and rehabilitation and increase public participation, apart from a bill on establishing a fund against air pollution. From February 1, air pollution monitoring will be organized in Ger district areas to examine the burning wastes of households below the poverty level. ^ top ^

Housing price fall brings opportunities to investors (Montsame)
2017-02-01
Mongolia's construction sector constitutes about 4.0 percent of the national GDP. The sector have had its ups with annual growth of 10-16 percent and is now having its downs impacted by the restrictions in connection with the housing mortgage loans. Only a quarter of Mongolia's 859.1 thousand families are living in housing apartments connected to central heating and power networks. Also, some 204.5 thousand families (40 thousand a year approximately) in Ulaanbaatar are expected, pursuant to the government's action plan, to move from Ger districts to housing apartments in the next five years, according to a study provided by the Ministry of Construction and Urban Development. Currently, the construction companies are managing their marketings, by receiving old apartments or cars as advance payment and offering more viable options to their customers. Some companies are taking no pre-payment at all and instead are giving out apartments on conditions with monthly lease. Nevertheless, the current drop of properties' price may be an opportunity for businesspeople who are interested in investing in the construction sector of Mongolia. ^ top ^

Cooperatives-best option for job creation and industrialization (Montsame)
2017-02-01
Today, the 5th forum of National cooperatives was organized under the theme “Business development gate for cooperatives” by the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Heavy Industry, Mongolian National Confederation of Cooperatives together with cooperatives' unions and cooperative supporting organizations. Minister of Food, Agriculture and Heavy Industry P.Sergelen noted that new cooperative movement has been developing for over the past 20 years, changing its characteristics and basic principles dramatically compared to cooperatives in socialist regime. “Cooperative development is beneficial proper option to create many jobs in short term with minimum cost and boost industrialization in a country like Mongolia, which has low population and small market. Therefore, the Government approved 'Social scale program to develop cooperatives-II' and has been implementing it with a view to improve collaboration between cooperatives and supportive institutes, increase cooperatives' contribution to society through creating favorable legal and economic environment, to develop small and medium enterprises intensively and improve competitiveness." There are over 4200 cooperative nationwide. During the forum, some representatives of cooperatives expressed their appreciation that delivering incentives for animal skin, wool and cashmere through cooperatives have been effective way to support cooperatives and favor for cooperatives' participation in stock exchange trade. ^ top ^

Money supply increased by MNT 2 trillion (gogo Mongolia)
2017-02-01
The Bank of Mongolia (BoM) held its first press conference of the year yesterday to answers to journalists' questions. Beginning with data on the past year, the BoM noted that as of the end of December 2016, inflation in Mongolia stood at 1.1 percent nationwide and 0.5 percent in Ulaanbaatar. Rises in the price of meat and vegetables were the main factor for the figure for the capital city. As for interest rate indicators, the weighted average interest rate for MNT loans was at 19.7 percent, savings weighted average interest rate 13.1 percent, policy interest rate 14 percent and inter-bank lending rate 15.5 percent. According to the BoM, the central bank's securities balance is MNT 578 billion, and foreign exchange auctions amount USD 189 million. Money supply reached MNT 12.075 trillion, which is an increase of MNT 2 trillion from the same period of the previous year. According to the review of the monetary situation, Mongolia's foreign trade balance showed a surplus of MNT 1.559 billion at the end of last year, and total export amounted to USD 4.9 million and imports to USD 3.36 million, with China the destination of 79 percent of exports and Russia 1.1 percent. After the statistical news, the head of the Monetary Policy Department of the BoM answered journalists' questions. "Monetary policy is determined depending on the current domestic and external economic and market conditions. Therefore, it is not possible for us to predict the conditions of the exchange market. According to the recent economic growth outlook, we will implement the monetary policy towards supporting the economy as the economic growth has declined and inflation is relatively low," said N.Urgamalsuvd regarding monetary policy in 2017. The BoM says that the US dollar exchange rate has been stable since the beginning of this year due to the increased foreign exchange flows. The pressure on the currency market has decreased with net flows of USD 28 million. The sharp depreciation of the tugrik last year was due to the activities of currency traders, says the Bom. Therefore, they established a working group tasked with creating domestic market infrastructure, or in other words, a currency market platform. It will take about 1-2 years. The "Gold-2" programme is one of the works the BoM will carry out in 2017. This programme will be implemented in five areas over two phases: 2017-2018 and 2018- 2020. Last year, 28 tonnes of gold was turned over to the BoM, and it is expected that more gold will be submitted in 2017. Furthermore, the BoM said that they cannot provide detailed information regarding the extension of the swap agreement with the Chinese government and loan negotiations with the IMF since both negotiations are on-going. ^ top ^

Air pollution protests gather momentum: “We are choking to death” (UB Post)
2017-02-01
The signs at Saturday's air pollution protest were stark: “Our children are sick and dying from air pollution”, one read. “End the smog before it ends you”, and “We are slowly dying.” More than 1,000 protestors, from the young to the old, turned out at Sukhbaatar Square to demand the government act on dangerous levels of air pollution. The “Booj Ukhlee” protest, which roughly translates to “choking to death” or “feeling extremely frustrated and angry”, was the third demonstration organized by a grassroots group of concerned citizens called Moms and Dads Against Smog (MDAS). Organizers have collected 10,000 signatures on a petition, which calls on the government to implement a sustainable program with measurable results to reduce air pollution in the short, medium and long term. Air pollution-related diseases are the top three causes of premature death in adults in Mongolia. In children, pneumonia caused by air pollution is linked to 15 percent of deaths, and hospitals are full of sick kids. Seventy percent of PM 2.5, fine dust particles in the air, in Ulaanbaatar comes from coal-burning stoves in the ger district, with power plants, vehicles and industry making up the rest, according to a World Bank report. In recent weeks, the anti-pollution message has spread internationally with demonstrations being held as far as New York City, Chicago, New Jersey and Virginia in the United States to Budapest in Europe where people are advocating for Mongolians' right to breathe fresh air. Ulaanbaatar's PM 2.5 level is more than seven times higher than safe limits determined by the World Health Organization (WHO) and this figure is predicted to significantly increase over the next 10 years unless drastic change occurs. It's no secret that dirty air is the capital's most compelling problem. But for the first time, real momentum has gathered, which has put air pollution firmly on the national political agenda and spurred the government to act. Last Friday, the Ulaanbaatar City Council approved a three-month air pollution reduction plan that includes installing more filters in stoves in the ger district, introducing better heating standards for apartments, creating new residential areas, and carrying out heating and technical upgrades at schools and kindergartens. This adds to last month's move by Ulaanbaatar Mayor S.Batbold who announced a temporary ban on rural residents moving to Ulaanbaatar. ^ top ^

Intensified farming supplying 30 percent of urban milk consumption (Montsame)
2017-01-31
Prime Minister J.Erdenebat visited a cattle farm and a herder's home in Tuv (Central) province on Sunday. Thirty out of the total 1,472 dairy farms in Mongolia are located in Bayanchandmani soum of Tuv aimag. The intensified farming used to supply only up to 10 percent of the domestic milk consumption of urban areas 5-6 years ago. The share of farms in supply of milk increased to 30 percent as of today, as the number of dairy farms rose. The Premier visited “Montarimal” LLC's farm, which sells over 370 tons of milk, 7 tons of meat and more than 50 breeding cattle every year. The Montarimal became the best farm of Mongolia in 2011. Starting off with 12 cows in 1992, the Montarimal is now operating with more than 300 cows of Holstein, Alatau and Normande breeds from Canada, France, Germany, Czech and China. The farm has a fodder mill, incorporating 25 ha field with irrigation, and 200 ha without irrigation. The farmers grow beet, oat, sudangrass and pea. The fodder meal production meets the cattle farms' needs, said the director R.Tsogtbuyan. The farmers expressed their consent to the idea that Mongolia should somehow limit the dairy imports to protect the domestic productions. PM J.Erdenebat said, while mentioning that the wintering conditions have gotten critical in more than half of the country's territory, the Government has been taking actions to support the herders. “The herders also have to try their best to overcome the difficulties. As for intensified farming, the Montarimal and similar companies are not facing as much difficulties in the winter. I got familiar with the operation of this model farm. However, there are still number of things to improve. The government will put more efforts in this direction”, he added. ^ top ^

10'000 Mongolians demonstrated against air pollution (gogo Mongolia)
2017-01-30
Second demonstration against air pollution under slogan "We are mad ass hell" was held at Sukhbaatar square on Jan 28th, demanding officials to take immediate actions on reducing air pollution for the well-being of children. Over 10,000 residents have attended the demonstration and signed applications that have submitted to the Application standing committee of State Great Khural. Air pollution has soared to hazardous levels in the most areas of Ulaanbaatar city, exceeding 120 times the limit, as compared with the World Health Organization safe level of 25. Today levels of PM2.5 particulates, which are the most hazardous to health, are reaching 3000 micrograms per cubic meter in heavily polluted areas of the city. Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia is home to about 1,372,000 residents. Every winter, residents of Ulaanbaatar city are suffering from hazardous levels of air pollution caused by rising ger districts, where people live with no access to central heating system and rely on coal-burning stoves to survive temperatures that fall below minus 35 degrees Celsius. 80 percent of air pollution comes from those ger district households. Result of the study conducted by the end of 2015 reveals that Ulaanbaatar city has 214 thousand ger district households, of which 30 percent of them burn items that are extremely harmful to human health such as, animal fat, plastic ware and old tires. Those are families with low income, fighting with cold to survivie. Demonstration organizers have promised to demonstrate again if the Government of Mongolia and City Governor`s Office won`t respond to their application. At the first demonstration that was held on Dec 26th, 2016, over 4000 Mongolian parents gathered at the Sukhbaatar Square to raise their voices against air pollution and collected more than 2700 applications. ^ top ^

China hopes Mongolia has learned its lesson after Dalai Lama's visit (UB Post)
2017-01-28
China said it hopes that Mongolia has learned its lesson and will honor its commitment not to invite the 14th Dalai Lama to return after his visit in November led to strained relations between the two neighbors. Foreign Minister Ts.Munkh-Orgil spoke over the phone with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on January 24. Ts.Munkh-Orgil told Foreign Minister Wang that Mongolia considers Tibet to be an inseparable part of China under the “One China” policy and that the governing of the autonomous region is a Chinese internal affair. Minister Ts.Munkh-Orgil said Mongolia believes that mutual respect is the basis of the development of bilateral relations, and added, “The Government of Mongolia regrets that the Dalai Lama's visit at the invitation of Gandan Monastery negatively affected relations between the two countries.” “The Dalai Lama's furtive visit to Mongolia brought a negative impact to China-Mongolia relations. We hope that Mongolia has taken this lesson to heart,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a statement published on the Chinese Foreign Ministry's website. Minister Wang noted that China hopes Mongolia will “scrupulously abide by its promise” not to invite the Dalai Lama again. Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying stated during a January 25 press conference that the telephone call from Minister Wang was made at the request of the Mongolian Foreign Ministry. Hua went on to state that Mongolia's commitment to prohibit any future visits from the Dalai Lama is of “fundamental interest” to the countries and two peoples to ensure sustained and steady growth of China-Mongolia relations on the basis of respecting the One China principle. ^ top ^

Presidential election planned for June 26 (Montsame)
2017-01-26
The Standing Committee on State Structure backed a parliamentary resolution on designating the date for the upcoming Presidential Election. The resolution suggests that voters in Mongolia will cast their ballots in the Presidential election on June 26, 2017. The parliament passed the resolution on the designed election date on Thursday's plenary meeting. Mongolian nationals living outside the country will register their votes on June 10 and 11. In an interview with MONTSAME, Chairman of the General Election Committee Ch.Sodnomtseren noted that the date of balloting is being announced in accordance with the Law on Elections as it provides that the election date must be settled at least 150 days prior to the election. The law also provides that elections should be held in the last week of June. Pursuant to the Constitution of Mongolia, a presidential candidate must be a citizen of Mongolia, aged 45 years or more, must have lived in Mongolia for the five years to the candidature, and be a member of a political party that has at least one seat in parliament. Current president Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj was elected to office in 2009 as the fourth president of Mongolia and symbol of the nation's unity and was re-elected in 2013. ^ top ^

Mongolia to decide on Stand-By deal with IMF (Montsame)
2017-01-25
According to the Minister of Finance, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission will probably resume their activity in Ulaanbaatar on the negotiation of Stand-By Arrangement sometime this week. Mongolia officially requested financial aid from IMF on September 30, 2016. The representatives of IMF came to Mongolia on the request, having met with the heads of Bank of Mongolia, Ministry of Finance and corresponding Parliamentary standing committees. The mission revisited last month to negotiate on the Stand-By program, but delayed due to public holidays. Therefore, the next potential meeting is projected to discuss the guidance on which IMF program needs to be implemented, and what changes are needed in Mongolia. Whether if Mongolia will be included in the Stand-By arrangement or not would be made clear in this meeting, along with the initial amounts of loan. After their previous visit, Minister of Finance B.Choijilsuren said “The Stand-By program can be launched before the Lunar New Year”. Also, the Minister of Foreign Affairs noted in his interview for Bloomberg Mongolia “The Government is planning to settle the negotiation for the Stand-by program with IMF by February”. The reason behind the rushed talks before the Tsagaan Sar or the Lunar New Year, which will be observed late February is the expected payment of USD 580 million of Development Bank bonds due in March. Although the exact amount is unclear, the first deputy governor of the central bank, O.Erdembileg said during the discussion on the state guidelines on monetary policy for 2017 held in October 2016, “Around USD 400 million loan will be available with the Stand-By program. The Government is negotiating for other sources for investment”. Even if the government successfully negotiates with IMF on Stand-By program, there's probably still a need of other investment sources to repay its debts. The Finance Minister said that the initial plan to pay the USD 580 million notes is yet to be released. ^ top ^

Ms. Corinne Estermann
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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