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

Press review, if not selected: all SinOptic
  27.2-3.3.17, No. 661  
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Foreign Policy

China pushes for global cyber sovereignty agreement (Global Times)
2017-03-03
China for the first time outlined its policies on global cyberspace cooperation as the country vowed to enhance its military cyber defense capability and push for global legitimization of cyber sovereignty. China has led the way in defining and legitimizing cyber sovereignty since President Xi Jinping put forward the idea at the World Internet Conference in 2015 in Wuzhen, East China's Zhejiang Province. The term refers to the rights of each country to choose how to develop and regulate its own Internet. China and the US differ in the concept of cyberspace governance as the US advocates rulemaking with all Internet participants on an equal footing, while China supports rulemaking with an underlined concept of sovereignty. Long Zhou, an official from the Office for Cyber Affairs under the Chinese foreign ministry, defended China's proposition when asked whether enforcing cyber sovereignty would hurt people's rights. "The concept of cyber sovereignty and the free flow of information are not contradictory," Long said Thursday at a press conference held in Beijing to elaborate on the Cyberspace International Cooperation Strategy which was released the previous day. The principle of cyber sovereignty has been widely accepted by the international community, he said. "The idea of sovereignty is the cornerstone of international relations, and the principle also applies to cyberspace," he said. "The current cyber security situation is severe and citizens alone are not able to deal with cybercrime and cyber terrorism … Only when we apply the rules of cyber sovereignty can we protect human rights and freedom," Long noted. The Cyberspace International Cooperation Strategy, jointly released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Cyberspace Administration, states that enhanced defense capability in cyberspace is an important part of China's endeavor to modernize its national defense and armed forces. It orders that China will expedite the development of a cyber force and enhance capabilities in situational awareness, supporting State activities and participating in international cooperation. China is the victim of a constant flow of cyber-attacks. According to data from the Cyberspace Administration of China, more than 10,000 websites are tampered with every month, and about 80 percent of government websites have suffered attacks, mainly originating in the US. Long refuted accusations that the Chinese government has sponsored cyber-attacks against the US, and stressed that China, too, has major concerns over cyber security. "We are not like some people who always label themselves as victims and point their fingers at others. We firmly oppose and harshly punish hacking activities. This stance is consistent and clear," he said, without naming the US. When asked to comment on the alleged Russian hacking of the US presidential election, Long said China believes that countries should use negotiation and dialogue to solve disputes, instead of resorting to confrontation. "We need mutual trust rather than groundless speculation on these issues," Long noted. The report said defending China's cyber sovereignty, security and development interests is one of the country's strategic goals in global cyberspace cooperation. "China resolutely opposes any country using the Internet to interfere in other countries' internal affairs," the report reads. It also claims that the buildup of cyber weapons and rising use of threats in cyberspace is not conducive to global security and strategic trust. The other goals listed in the strategy report include promoting the rule of law in global cyberspace governance and developing international rules for the Internet. Zuo Xiaodong, deputy director of the China Information Security Research Institute, told the Global Times on Wednesday that the cyber cooperation strategy completes the top-level design of how China envisions the cyberspace, following the release of a strategy on the country's cyber security and another on its informationization development last year. "China wants to be a leader in global governance and cyberspace is part of it … As the Internet becomes a global topic, it has also become a crucial part of foreign relations," Zuo said. ^ top ^

Forget the Great Firewall ... China is beefing up its ability to police all cyberspace (SCMP)
2017-03-03
China plans to bolster its defences in cyberspace while keeping a close eye on the US government's review of its own strengths, a senior foreign ministry official said on Thursday. Cybersecurity has been a flashpoint for Sino-US ties, with the US accusing the Chinese government and military of cyberattacks against US targets. Beijing denies the claims and says it is a victim of hacking. Since taking office, US President Donald Trump has not commented on the cybersecurity feud with China, but last month he scrapped plans to sign an executive order for a US cybersecurity overhaul. China, meanwhile, released a blueprint on Wednesday to increase international cooperation in cyberspace and to strengthen its own cybersecurity systems. “Enhanced defence capability in cyberspace is an important part of China's endeavour to modernise its national defences and armed forces,” the document said. China would also “prevent cyberspace from becoming a new battlefield” and “prevent an arms race in cyberspace”, according to the blueprint released by the foreign ministry and the national internet regulator. Beijing would “expedite the development of a cyber force” and take preventive diplomatic measures by stepping up dialogue with other countries to study new threats that affected international peace and security. Long Zhou, the foreign ministry's coordinator for cyber affairs, said China was paying close attention to the US review of its cybersecurity defences. Beijing also hoped to resume dialogue with the US in the area. “The US policy on cybersecurity is still unclear. So we will wait to find out [if the dialogue will resume],” Long said. When asked about long-standing US accusations of attacks by Chinese hackers, he underscored Beijing's position that it was the “major victim” of hacking. “[China is] unlike other people who always portray themselves as the victim and point the finger at other countries,” he said. Long also warned against the risks of an arms race in cyberspace. “We are concerned about the emerging trend of enhanced deterrence [among other countries]. This is not conducive to international security and mutual trust,” he said. Beijing suspended a cybersecurity working group with the US three years ago after Washington accused five Chinese military officers of stealing trade secrets. The talks resumed a year later. State Councillor Yang Jiechi and Public Security Minister Guo Shengkun met US officials in Washington in December and discussed tackling cybercrime. China, home to the world's biggest number of internet users, routinely censors online content, including blocking international social networking sites such as Facebook. Long said China advocated freedom of speech for its citizens, but stressed the need for regulation in cyberspace. Qin An, director of the China Institute of Cyberspace Strategy, said Trump's America-first agenda and his plans to pull Washington back from its role as the “world's policeman” could mean the US was unlikely to lecture China on its domestic regulation of the internet. But cybersecurity could still be a source of tension between the two countries under the Trump administration, Qin said. He also said the growing importance of cybersecurity to national sovereignty meant there was a need to institutionalise defences against cyber attack. “China and the US should formally establish a cyber force as part of the military, but it should not lead to an arm race,” Qin said. ^ top ^

Chinese companies join boycott of South Korean retailer Lotte over missile shield plans (SCMP)
2017-03-03
Several Chinese companies say they will no longer do business with South Korea's Lotte Group, after it agreed on Monday to provide land to host a US anti-missile system that Beijing sees as a threat to national security. Authorities have also taken law enforcement action over the past few days against South Korea's fifth-largest conglomerate, which has more than 80 supermarkets in China, but did not connect the move to the deployment of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence system (THAAD). Public resentment against Lotte has risen rapidly over the last few days, with protesters in several cities calling for a boycott of the group. The Legal Daily reported on Thursday that officials in Anhui confiscated 30 “illegal radio transmission” units from a Lotte supermarket and fined the company 20,000 yuan (US$2,900). The report said Anhui communications authorities found abnormal signals coming from a Lotte supermarket in Wuhui on Tuesday. In Beijing, a Lotte supermarket was fined 44,000 yuan on Tuesday for illegal advertising, the Legal Mirror reported, adding that it was the first time Beijing officials had penalised a company for such an offence. Sun Jiwen, a spokesman at the Ministry of Commerce, said on Thursday that China opposed the deployment of THAAD. He said China valued economic cooperation with South Korea and would respect the rights of South Korean companies, but that their operations should be in compliance with the law. State media have demanded that Lotte – one of South Korea's major retail operators in China – withdraw its decision to sell a golf course in Seongju county, South Korea to the military to host the THAAD system. Commentary in the Guangming Daily on Thursday said Lotte was “commercially unwise and morally unjust” for making profits from China while undermining its national security. Jiangsu-based financial and retail group Ruixiang said in an online notice on Thursday that its shopping card programme with about 50 Lotte outlets in the province would be suspended. South Korean products were also no longer for sale at Ruixiang's online platform and its supermarkets. Products from Lotte were destroyed, the notice said. “We will not bring the Chinese people any products from an immoral corporation,” it added. Chen Ou, the chief executive officer of cosmetic retail platform Jumei, said on his Weibo account on Tuesday that his group would not sell products from Lotte. Henan-based Huilong Food also announced that it would suspend cooperation with the group. Media also reported that protestors gathered in front of a Lotte Mart in Jilin province, demanding that the group leave China. The public security bureau in Nantong, Jiangsu called on protestors to remain “rational” and said police would crack down on illegal activity. On Thursday, Lotte Duty Free said a cyber attack using Chinese IP addresses had crashed the Chinese version of its website on Wednesday. ^ top ^

China takes another jab at US in war of words over South China Sea (SCMP)
2017-03-03
A senior Chinese politician defended Beijing's right to build facilities on artificial islands in the South China Sea in comments that were seen as a veiled attack on the United States. The remarks on Thursday by Wang Guoqing, spokesman for the country's top political advisory body, came after a US aircraft carrier group was sent to the disputed waters, and the PLA Navy staged combat exercises in the Western Pacific. China and the US have waged a bitter war of words over maritime issues, with Washington accusing Beijing of militarising and obstructing freedom of navigation in the waters through its construction activities. But without naming any particular nation, Wang dismissed such criticism as “much ado about nothing”. “Though peace reigns over the land, the stupid people create trouble for themselves,” Wang said before the opening of the annual session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. “As the world's largest trader and the country with the most coastline along the South China Sea, we care about the safety and freedom of navigation more than any other country,” he said, adding that the facilities China had built were necessary for defence and had contributed to navigational safety and rescue efforts. The US Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group was reportedly patrolling in the waters last week. And yesterday, a number of PLA Navy bombers, jet fighters and early warning aircraft flew east through international airspace above the Miyako Strait near Japan's Okinawa Island, conducting exercises with a Chinese naval fleet in the area, Xinhua reported. China has stepped up its naval presence in the Western Pacific, with the Liaoning aircraft carrier passing through the Miyako Strait last year before going through the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines. China had nearly finished building almost two dozen structures on artificial islands in the South China Sea that appeared designed to house long-range surface-to-air missiles, US officials said last week. Analysts say the US presence in the waters will be strengthened after US President Donald Trump's pledge to increase the defence budget. China finishing buildings that may house missiles in South China Sea, say US officials( Teng Jianqun, from the China Institute of International Studies, said China and the US were in a “dilemma” over the South China Sea. “I don't think the US will compromise on freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, while China is trying to become a maritime power,” he said. Wang also said China still had one of the world's fastest rates of economic growth, with gross domestic product expanding by 6.7 per cent last year despite the global economic downturn. “We definitely have reason to believe that China will remain the strongest engine in the world's economy in the new year,” he said. ^ top ^

Taiwan's navy to step up patrols amid tensions in South China Sea (SCMP)
2017-03-02
Taiwan's navy will step up regular patrols around the South China Sea and conduct joint training with the air force in response to mainland China's growing military power in the region, the island's defence minister said on Thursday. “Looking ahead at the transformation of China's strategy and its investment in new weapons equipment, our military will practise new reforms in our training,” Feng Shih-kuan told a parliamentary session. Donald Trump's call to Xi Jinping 'a relief' for Taiwan( “The navy, during its regular South China Sea patrols, will conduct joint training with the air force in protecting fishermen and supply transports, and in humanitarian rescue drills, to expand the combat readiness of our sea and air patrols,” Feng said in presenting the ministry's latest report. Taiwan deploys regular supplies to Itu Aba, its sole holding in the disputed South China Sea, the energy rich waters that is also claimed by China, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei. Feng's remarks come ahead of China's new defence budget for this year, to be unveiled over the weekend at the annual meeting of the Chinese parliament. The figures are closely watched around the region and in Washington for clues to China's intentions. Self-ruled Taiwan is increasingly concerned over China's military threat. Beijing has never renounced the use of force to take back what it deems a breakaway Chinese province. Beijing has regularly flown Chinese military jets over the South China Sea and recently sailed its first aircraft carrier around Taiwan in what it called routine drills. The need for China to practise these drills in bigger air and sea space, particularly in the Pacific Ocean to Taiwan's east, represents “an increase in threat”, Feng said. Trump still has plenty of room to manoeuvre on Taiwan despite one-China pledge, analysts say( “The deployment of this force is done entirely for the security of our country,” Feng said when asked by a lawmaker about the positioning of a surface-to-air anti-missile system, the Patriot Advanced Capability, on Taiwan's eastern coast. ^ top ^

China values South China Sea navigation freedom more than anyone: spokesperson (Xinhua)
2017-03-02
China values freedom and safety of navigation in the South China Sea more than any other country, a spokesperson for the top political advisory body said Thursday. Wang Guoqing, spokesperson for the fifth session of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, made the comment at a press conference, citing the fact that China is a major trading nation and meanwhile the largest littoral country of the South China Sea. Certain countries outside the region have alleged that China threatens freedom of navigation, an entirely "pseudo-proposition," he said. Since China recovered the South China Sea islands at the end of World War II, there has never been a problem with navigational freedom in the region, Wang said. Stressing that the South China Sea islands are an integral part of China's territory, Wang said that it is "perfectly normal" for China to build facilities, including those for necessary defense purposes, on its own territory. International law entitles sovereign states to do so, he added. China, Wang reiterated, resolutely defends the freedom of navigation that every country enjoys in the South China Sea according to international law. "We have set up cooperation mechanisms with many other countries to ensure safe navigation," he said. The civilian facilities China has built on the South China Sea islands, such as lighthouses, have played a positive role in guaranteeing navigation safety and humanitarian rescue, Wang added. ^ top ^

Sanctions not enough to rebuff South Korea over THAAD (Global Times)
2017-03-02
The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system is an important part of the US' military deployment in Asia, which involves an attempt to prevent and contain the rise of China. Only when we recognize the nature of the THAAD deployment can we work out the most effective way to cope with it. Washington's current deployment around China is in a semi-arc shape with its military base headquarters in South Korea, Japan, Guam, Australia and Singapore, forming an island chain. In recent years, the US' military deployment has been enhanced, which, of course, is not merely targeting North Korea. Five years ago, then US defense secretary Leon Panetta said the Pentagon would deploy 60 percent of naval forces to the Pacific region. The US Navy is scheduled to deploy more than half of its aircraft carriers and a large number of cruisers, destroyers, submarines and littoral combat ships to this region. It is far more than what's needed to deal with Pyongyang. The advanced THAAD anti-missile system is just part of the massive deployment. It is mainly used for defense. But, better defense can also lead to better offense, which constitutes a natural military technology development. The South Korean government has played a role in the THAAD deployment, which resulted from the country's right-wing forces' dependence on US military support. That Seoul is subordinate to Washington remains unchanged despite the anti-THAAD forces in South Korea. Moreover, growing concerns about the North Korean nuclear threat and aggravating frustration at Korea's reunification give rise to the right and ultra-right forces in the South Korea. The surge of right-wing politics in South Korea is similar to that in the US and some European countries but is different in that the right-wing forces in South Korea are closely connected to the US. The changes in South Korean social ethos and ideologies have been influenced by the US. Seoul will continue to play a role in Washington's strategy toward China. But, such a role will be more difficult to sustain given Beijing's rise and will never bring peace to South Korea. It has been more than six decades since the end of the Korean War but the security order in Northeast Asia hardly changed, which is a pity not only for the Korean Peninsula but also for Asia as a whole. It is expected that China's rise will bring an end to this troublesome trend. Beijing must adopt some measures to make South Koreans understand that they would be on the losing side if they become part of the US' China strategy. Economic sanctions are not enough to let South Korea feel the pain. Maintaining Sino-South Korean economic and trading development conforms to the bilateral interests of the two nations and is conducive to gaining South Koreans' understanding. In the meantime, Beijing could ask those willing to promote China-South Korea ties to help mitigate the contradiction and friction between Beijing and Seoul, fueled by the THAAD deployment, and prompt reflection within South Korean society. The THAAD deployment gives China a reason to adjust its military deployment in East China, South China and the Yellow Seas as well as near the Korean Peninsula. China's military deployment in these regions should target the US' military presence there, including the deployment of THAAD. China's military drills can also facilitate this objective. We must convey an articulate message to the South Korean people and South Korean companies including Lotte that THAAD will definitely become a target of China's military countermeasures. It is far from being the best choice for Seoul. ^ top ^

Yang, Tillerson reaffirm need for constructive ties (China Daily)
2017-03-02
State Councilor Yang Jiechi and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reaffirmed on Tuesday the importance of a constructive bilateral relationship between their two countries and agreed to further develop ties. During their meeting at the US State Department in Washington, Yang said that in a phone conversation between President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump in February, the two sides agreed to work together to achieve greater results in further developing China-US relations. In line with the consensus reached by the two heads of state and following the principles of no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation, China is willing to ramp up exchanges with the US in all areas and expand cooperation and coordination on regional and global issues, Yang said, according to a Foreign Ministry news release. He also said the two sides should respect each other's core interests and major concerns. The efforts will ensure sustained and healthy development of China-US relations and benefit the people of the two nations and the world as a whole, Yang said. Tillerson said the two presidents have set a positive tone for the development of their ties. He said the US is willing to work with China to look at bilateral relations from a broader perspective and strengthen high-level dialogues and exchanges. In addition, he said the two sides will expand cooperation in various areas and deal with sensitive issues through consultation, according to the news release. In their meeting, Tillerson and Yang affirmed the importance of a constructive bilateral relationship and of regular high-level engagements between the US and China, according to acting US State Department spokesman Mark Toner. "The secretary and the state councilor discussed the importance of improving and maintaining a mutually beneficial economic relationship between the two largest economies in the world," Toner said. They also discussed areas of mutual concern, including the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, according to Toner. He said China invited Tillerson to visit Beijing, and the US diplomat expressed interest in doing so in the near future. Li Haidong, a professor of US studies at China Foreign Affairs University, said the interaction between top diplomats from the two countries could create a favorable environment for a possible meeting between Xi and Trump. "It also helps to ensure the stable development of China-US relations at a time when Trump adjusts Washington's foreign policy early in his presidency," Li said. ^ top ^

China urges joint anti-terror action (Global Times)
2017-03-02
China's foreign ministry said Wednesday it wants to work with the international community to fight terrorists, following the purported release by Islamic State (IS) of a video showing Chinese Uyghur fighters in training. A half-hour video was released on Monday by a division of the IS in western Iraq, featuring militants from China's Uyghur ethnic group, according to US-based SITE Intelligence Group which monitors militant groups online. "We oppose any form of terrorism and proactively participate in international cooperation to crack down on terrorism," Geng Shuang, a spokesperson for China's foreign ministry, told a daily news briefing on Wednesday, noting however that he was not aware of the video. The IS video showed fighters, including heavily armed children, giving speeches, praying, and killing other "informants." Global Times was not able to independently verify the authenticity of the video. Separatists want to establish an independent state called East Turkestan, and they have stirred up tensions in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region by killing hundreds of innocent people in the past few years. "East Turkestan forces are a serious threat to China's security and we are willing to work with the international community to jointly crack down on East Turkestan separatist and terrorist forces," Geng said. The IS had claimed responsibility for the killing of Chinese hostage Fan Jinghui in 2015. Some Chinese Uyghur terrorists have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight for militant groups there, having traveled illegally via Southeast Asian countries and Turkey. Wang Hongwei, a professor at the School of Public Administration and Policy at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times that international cooperation against terrorism is not easy as some countries are using counterterrorism as an instrument of political plot. "The video means there is a concrete threat from the terrorists and we need to strengthen our security forces in Xinjiang," said Wang, denouncing the double standard of Western media on the security in Xinjiang. "It may be a normal act of the terrorists, but it does not mean we should not take it seriously." The release of the video came the same day when a joint counterterrorism drill was held in Xinjiang. The local government of Hotan prefecture in Xinjiang is offering a reward of up to 5 million yuan ($726,744) to people who provide information on terror activities. Li Wei, chief of the Counter-terrorism Research Center at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said it is also possible that the Eastern Turkestan terrorists are just showing off. "[The threatening video] has no big difference from those that had been released by the IS to other countries," Li said. "It may also be that the Eastern Turkestan terrorists are hoping to make international headlines with the help of the more high-profile IS," Li added. ^ top ^

'A satisfactory outcome': Singapore's PM on Hong Kong's seizure of military vehicles (SCMP)
2017-03-01
Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said Hong Kong's decision in January to return nine armoured vehicles it seized in transit from Taiwan months earlier was a “satisfactory outcome” to the diplomatic rift it caused between the Lion City and China. Lee's comments in a BBC HardTalk interview that aired Wednesday were the first time a leader from either country had openly acknowledged that the seizure was a matter between Singapore and the central government in Beijing. Singaporean, Hong Kong and mainland Chinese officials had previously maintained that the matter was between Singapore and Hong Kong customs – which seized the vehicles on November 23. Hong Kong's Commissioner of Customs and Excise Roy Tang Yun-kwong said upon the release of the vehicles on January 23 that they were detained over a suspected breach of local laws governing the import, export and transhipment of strategic commodities. “I would not say we have major problems. We have had some issues and some incidents. The military vehicles were an incident which happened to both of us and we had to handle it,” Lee said in the BBC interview in Singapore with Stephen Sackur. The news anchor had asked if the saga had hurt the island republic's ties with China. “It was a delicate matter for both sides and I think both sides handled it carefully and there has been a satisfactory outcome,” Lee said. The Singaporean leader snapped back at Sackur's suggestion that China was “furious” with his government because of several of its decisions, including its support of the international tribunal ruling last July on the South China Sea territorial dispute that largely went against Beijing. “I think you misparaphrase me... I didn't strongly support the ruling,” Lee said. In a forum with US business leaders in Washington last year, Lee said that for small states, “it is much better to have an arbitration and adjudication based on acknowledged principles than to fight it out and see whose guns are more powerful”. That stance ran counter to China's position that the ruling was “illegal and invalid”. Singapore is not a party to the territorial dispute, which involves China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. Sackur suggested that “the Chinese feel that you are betraying a friendship”, but Lee countered that “what I said was the court had made a strong statement, and there is a difference”. Asked whether the Philippines, which initiated the arbitral proceedings against China, had justice on its side, Lee said “we do not judge specific claims”. “We respect international courts. Decisions are made, they can be scrutinised, they can be examined, they can be criticised,” he said. Singapore's interest, Lee said, were freedom of navigation, respect for the rule of international law and cohesion of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Lee's comments came amid high-level talks in Beijing between Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli this week. Teo said in an interview with Xinhua news agency that common interests between the countries were “much greater” than their occasional differences of views. In the BBC interview, Lee defended the Lion City's longstanding military ties with the US, a facet of the republic's foreign policy that irritates Beijing. Singapore hosts a key US logistics base, and also allows the rotational deployment of American littoral combat ships and P8 Poseidon spy planes. Observers say Singapore serves as a launching point for these US assets into the disputed South China Sea, where the Western power regularly conducts “freedom of navigation” exercises. “We have had this relationship with the US for a long time. We buy a lot of military equipment from them. We train on quite a big scale in the US; our air force is there,” Lee said. “For more than 30 years now, we have hosted American aircraft and ships in the region which pass through and stop in Singapore. “It is the right thing for us to do because we believe that the American presence in the region is positive for the region, and the security presence is positive for the region,” the 65-year-old leader said.[…]. ^ top ^

China's top diplomat in talks with Trump in Washington (SCMP)
2017-03-01
China's top diplomat Yang Jiechi met US President Donald Trump in the White House on Tuesday to discuss “shared interests of national security” and a possible summit between the American leader and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping. The talks on Tuesday could help ease concerns over worsening ties between the two sides, and indicated that holding the first meeting between the Xi and Trump was high on both leaders' agenda, observers said. But uncertainties would still overshadow their ties, given that many senior positions in the Trump administration had yet to be filled, and neither side had discussed specific policies, they said. Yang, a state councillor, is the highest-level Chinese official to visit the US since Trump took office in late January. Later on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Yang and affirmed the importance of “regular high-level engagement” between the two countries and discussed North Korea's nuclear programme, the State Department said in a statement. Also at Yang's meeting with Trump were US Vice-President Mike Pence and Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner. In the meeting, Yang told Trump that the phone conversation between the US president and Xi in early February had “significant meaning” and “has pointed the direction” for their ties, Xinhua reported. Yang also said Beijing was willing to coordinate and cooperate with Washington over bilateral as well as key international issues, according to a foreign ministry statement. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement that the meeting was an “opportunity to begin that conversation and talk to [China] on shared interests of national security”. A senior US administration official said the discussions included the possibility of arranging a meeting between Trump and Xi, but that no date for a summit was set. Yang had separately met Kushner as well as the new US national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, and Trump's chief strategist, Steve Bannon. He was also due to meet Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Observers have said that a summit between Xi and Trump was crucial to set the tone for Sino-US ties. Some had suggested the two leaders could hold unofficial talks before May. Yuan Zheng, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of American Studies, said the talks between Yang and Trump indicated that Sino-US ties were on a better track. “The two nations are coordinating on the future direction of their ties, and are making preparations for a face-to-face meeting between their two leaders,” he said. Zhang Zhexin, a US affairs observer from the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said the Trump-Yang meeting was a “positive sign” for a potential meeting between the two presidents. Huang Jing, an analyst at National University of Singapore, said Yang's visit would ease concerns over the growing rivalry between the two nations. But he said it was too early to say that Sino-US ties were warming, as Trump was likely to get tough on China to channel frustration in the US over domestic issues. “I don't think Beijing should go out of its way to show enthusiasm on a summit with Trump and push for it. Beijing needs to bear in mind that Trump remains an embattled leader and faces all sorts of opposition from within,” he said. “If Xi chooses to go to meet Trump in Washington, it would be embarrassing, and very likely whatever they manage to agree will be subject to fierce internal opposition in the US.” Yang's latest trip is his second to the US since Trump won the presidency. In New York in December, he met Michael Flynn, then Trump's nominee for national security adviser. But shortly after Yang's trip, Trump surprised both China and Washington by breaking decades of protocol and taking a phone call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. ^ top ^

Political advisory body urges inclusion of tai chi on world heritage list (China Daily)
2017-03-01
The Chinese Peasants and Workers Democratic Party (CPWDP) will propose the inclusion of tai chion the UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage List at the upcoming annual Two Sessions, in an effort to protect and promote the traditional sport. As an internal martial art practiced both for self-defense and health, tai chihas spread to more than 150 countries and regions, being adopted by over 300 million practitioners. Despite its popularity, research on tai chiis scarce, and its promotion relies primarily on non-governmental forces. Though tai chiis widely recognized as a symbol of Chinese culture, and was listed as an intangible cultural heritage by Chinese authorities in 2006, its protection and promotion still lag behind foreign athletic practices like yoga, Thepaper.cn reported. "Yoga was listed as a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage in 2016, a status that helps to protect the culture of yoga. Chinese authorities should recommend tai chito UNESCO as soon as possible, as surrounding countries like Japan and South Korea are also keen on the martial art, and may claim it as their own before China makes the move," read an announcement from CPWDP. China has been campaigning for the inclusion of tai chion the UNESCO list since 2008. However, due to UNESCO's strict criteria for intangible cultural heritage evaluation, the application is still pending as of press time. "The biggest problem with Tai Chi's inclusion on the UNESCO list is the lack of accurate translations of tai chitheories and philosophy. For instance, the tai chitheory that man is an integral part of nature is hard even for [Chinese practitioners] to understand, let alone foreign experts," Yan Shuangjun, a tai chiexpert, told Xinhua News Agency in 2014. CPWDP is now calling for the establishment of a national tai chicenter, as well as the introduction of martial arts to universities and medical research facilities. Authorities hope these changes can increase academic research on Tai Chi. Founded in Shanghai in August 1930, the CPWDP now has more than 144,000 members, including many leading intellectuals in the fields of medicine and healthcare. ^ top ^

By signing new agreements, have China and Singapore kissed and made up? (SCMP)
2017-02-28
In a clear sign that China and Singapore are back on an even keel after a series of diplomatic spats, senior officials from both sides signed a number of major agreements on Monday. The agreements on a range of issues, including intellectual property rights and a US$1.4 billion project aimed at boosting transport links between Chongqing and Southeast Asia, were signed after a meeting chaired by China's Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli and Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean. Relations between the two countries have been strained since Singapore voiced support for an international tribunal ruling that dismissed most of China's claims to the South China Sea. Tensions were further ratcheted up in November after the seizure of nine armoured vehicles from Singapore in Hong Kong. The troop carriers had taken part in military exercises in Taiwan. Xu Liping, a researcher at the National Institute of International Strategy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the latest agreements were a sign the two nations have found a way to foster ties, despite their differences. “The meeting reflected that Sino-Singapore relations have returned to normal and showed the two countries are managing relations in a very pragmatic way,” he said. The previous disputes meant China had set out what its core interests were while Singapore was mindful of the mainland's increasing economic, geopolitical and military clout, said Xu. Vice-Premier Zhang said during the meeting on Monday that China attaches great importance to developing relations with Singapore and called on the two nations to deepen mutual political trust, the Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua reported. A council set up by China and Singapore to foster ties has met every year since 2004 apart from 2016, reflecting the strained relationship between the two nations. Li Mingjiang, an associate professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said the high-level meeting on Monday could help ease frictions between the two sides. “Ties between the two countries have not been hurt to a great extent. Communications on different levels still continued last year,” he said. “The frictions are a reflection of a worsening security situation in Asia.” Dai Fan, a Southeast Asian affairs expert at Jinan University in Guangzhou, said the meeting was evidence ties between the two sides had improved. Singapore has considerable investment in China and is a huge market for for the city-state. “Singapore has no other alternative but to attach great importance to Singapore-China relations,” he said. “I believe Singapore will be more careful in developing relations with China in the future.” ^ top ^

As Asean chair, Philippines faces dilemma over what agenda to push (SCMP)
2017-02-26
After taking over the chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) this year, the Philippines has again found itself at the centre of regional politics. Manila is under growing pressure to ensure unity among member states and reassert the centrality of the organisation body in defining security. The South China Sea disputes, in particular, will certainly test the Philippines' ability to lead the group and balance competing interests. This was evident during the bloc's foreign ministers meeting last week in Boracay, where Southeast Asian countries expressed unanimous concern over “very unsettling” militarisation of maritime disputes, especially the decision of certain claimant states to place advanced weapons systems on disputed land features in the South China Sea. There are also growing worries over Sino-American tensions in the area. Early this month, a Chinese military surveillance aircraft intercepted a US Navy P-3C Orion surveillance aircraft flying over the disputed waters, raising the prospect of an aerial collision between the two superpowers. Not long after, America deployed the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier as part of what it calls routine operations in the waters. Asean is scrambling for a unified and coherent response. As bloc chairman, the Philippines faces a dilemma. It can use its leverage to place its preferred issues at the centre of the discourse, but if it wants to be seen as a responsible chairman, Manila should respect the diverse interests of member states, not all of whom see eye-to-eye on issues that concern sovereignty. The Philippines' own roller coaster foreign policy is emblematic of the profound strategic dilemma faced by other Southeast Asian nations as they try to effectively respond to emerging security challenges. From mid-2012 to mid-2016, the Philippines, then under the Benigno Aquino administration, strongly advocated putting South China Sea disputes at the heart of the bloc's agenda. From the perspective of Aquino, Asean should stand united in criticising any unilateral and coercive action, which undermines regional security. In particular, the Philippines sought to expedite talks over a legally binding Code of Conduct to regulate the behaviour of all claimant states, in accordance with shared regional norms and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The Aquino administration also sought to rally regional support for its landmark arbitration case against China at The Hague. China boycotted the court proceedings, dismissing the ruling as baseless and without legal merit. Meanwhile, certain bloc members, particularly Cambodia, vehemently opposed raising the issue in regional discussions. In the end, Asean (under the chairmanship of Laos) didn't mention the award which was handed in any joint statements. To be fair, the body has expressed its “full respect for legal and diplomatic processes” and its recognition of “universally recognised” principles of international law and UNCLOS. Naturally, everyone wondered what Manila would do when it took up the chairmanship. Since his inauguration, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, however, has taken a radically different approach. He swiftly reopened communication channels with China to ease tensions and revive bilateral investment. Duterte refused to raise the arbitration award in a multilateral forum, arguing the case involved only the Philippines and China. ' Instead of calling for compliance with the award, the Duterte administration urged “patience and sobriety”, emphasising the need for dialogue and diplomacy. He also sought to shift the regional agenda towards combating transnational crime and terrorism, where there seems to be a regional consensus and a shared sense of urgency. More specifically, Duterte seeks regional cooperation on combating the proliferation of illegal drugs, maritime piracy, and the intrusion of extremist groups, particularly the so-called Islamic State and its offshoots, into Southeast Asia. His administration is interested in greater intelligence sharing and tactical cooperation among Asean countries to tackle such transnational terrorist groups. The Philippines is expected to promote an initiative in this regard, specifically the proposed Manila Declaration to Combat the Rise of Radicalisation and Violent Extremism. Duterte is also seeking to step up regional efforts in fighting illegal drugs, the centrepiece of his domestic policy. The Philippines will also likely promote economic integration and infrastructure connectivity among member states, as the deadline for the establishment of a Common Market approaches. The South China Sea disputes will be part of the regional agenda, with the Philippines aiming to fast-track the negotiation of a framework for a Code of Conduct. However, Manila is more interested in promoting less divisive and sensitive issues that are closer to Duterte's heart, namely fighting terrorism and transnational crime. ^ top ^

China overtakes US as Germany's top trade partner (SCMP)
2017-02-25
China overtook the United States last year to become Germany's biggest trading partner for the first time, official data showed, a shift likely to reassure Berlin as worries grow over US President Donald Trump's protectionist leanings. The figures compiled by the federal statistics office Destatis and seen by AFP yesterday showed that the total volume of trade between China and Germany climbed by 4 per cent to just under €170 billion (HK$1.4 trillion) in 2016. France remained Germany's second-largest trading partner while the US slipped to third place, as bilateral trade contracted by 5 per cent to €165 billion. The development comes as German firms and the government brace for a protectionist backlash under Trump, who has pledged to rip up free trade deals and threatened to slap punitive tariffs on German carmakers. Berlin has struck back at Trump's complaints of an “unfair” trade imbalance with Germany, with Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel retorting that the US should “build better cars” if it feared German competition. But analysts cautioned against reading too much into the latest trade rankings, pointing out the change was mainly due to strong demand for imports from China. The US, meanwhile, remained by far the biggest buyer of German goods, with exports totalling nearly €107 billion in 2016. Imports from the US to Germany on the other hand amounted to just €58 billion. By contrast, Germany imported €94 billion worth of goods from China, compared to exports of €76 billion, which was a 7 per cent increase on the year before. “As long as the title of biggest trading partner is mostly determined by imports, it doesn't take away fears that protectionist measures under Trump could hurt the German economy,” ING-DiBa bank analyst Carsten Brzeski said. While Gabriel has urged Germany to respond to challenges posed by Trump by building closer trade ties with other countries, particularly in Asia, Brzeski said this was easier said than done. “If things get tougher under Trump, companies will look at external destinations but no other countries right now have the same size and purchasing power as the US,” the economist said. “It will not be that easy.” ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Officials' relatives may be banned from business 'nationwide' (Global Times)
2010-03-17
The People's Daily, the flagship newspaper of the Communist Party of China, published an article on its front page on Shanghai's strict implementation of a policy banning officials' relatives from business, a rare move that observers said points to the possibility of a nationwide rollout of the policy. The article, published Wednesday, said that Shanghai authorities have required 137 officials' relatives to withdraw from private businesses. A total of 11 officials had their positions adjusted, 10 were removed from their posts, while one resigned. Zhu Lijia, a professor of public management at the Chinese Academy of Governance, told the Global Times that the publication of the article on the front page of the People's Daily, the Party's mouthpiece, signals that the policy may be implemented nationwide. China is piloting a top-down campaign against "family corruption" in Beijing, Chongqing and Shanghai municipalities and also in South China's Guangdong Province and Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. "The policy has brought notable results in pilot cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, and serves as an effective move to combat corruption," said Zhu. The Party chiefs in the pilot regions are required to set an example to other officials in preventing their family members from running private businesses. The campaign was first tested in Shanghai. Family members covered by these new limitations include officials' spouses, children and their children's spouses. A commentary published by Xiakedao, the official WeChat account of the People's Daily's overseas edition, said that the new inspections in 2016 probed 331 newly appointed bureau-level and above officials, in addition to 1,802 officials who were probed in 2015. Moreover, the policy also covered officials at vice-bureau-level and above in public institutions such as universities and medical research centers. According to the Procuratorial Daily, a newspaper under the Supreme People's Procuratorate, 80 percent of the government corruption cases involve the officials' family members. Many of the highest-profile corruption scalps, including Zhou Yongkang, ex-security chief and Bo Xilai, former Chongqing Party chief, were all linked to family corruption. ^ top ^

Prosecutors refute media reports of torture of detained lawyer (Global Times)
2017-03-02
Reports of detained Chinese lawyer Xie Yang having been tortured are groundless, the People's Procuratorate in Hunan Province confirmed with the Global Times. Xie was put under compulsory custodial measures on July 11, 2015 for inciting subversion of State power and disrupting the court order. He was arrested on January 9, 2016. The reports claiming that Xie was tortured during custody were fabricated by Jiang Tianyong, a former lawyer in Beijing, who was previously punished with "criminal compulsory measures" for illegally holding national secrets and subverting the State power, the Hunan procuratorate said. The fabricated news catered to the "taste of Western media," in a bid to discredit the Chinese government and judicial authorities, Jiang told the Global Times. Jiang said that he decided to pressure the police when Xie was put under custody and approached Xie's wife surnamed Chen to make up stories together. Xie must have been tortured as both his attorneys and family members were banned from visiting Xie, Jiang told Chen in September 2016. According to the Law of Criminal Procedure, if a case involves State secrets, terrorism and huge bribes, lawyers need to obtain the approval from the investigative organs before meeting with suspects. "It's legally possible that suspects who are involved in inciting subversion of State power are not allowed to be visited during investigation. But I didn't speak it out," Jiang noted. He said that he started to instigate lawyers' family members to cause trouble and organize interviews with foreign media, when he felt he was in trouble after Zhou Shifeng, a lawyer formerly managing the Fengrui Law Firm, was arrested along with other lawyers. "To make those reports more convincing, I told Chen how to write them: if some policemen smoke at nights, the story would be written like 'Xie being fumigated by police,'" Jiang told the Global Times. Xie told the Global Times that his attorneys told him about foreign media reports fabricated by Jiang during their meeting in January. Xie's co-inmate surnamed Ye also confirmed with the Global Times that he never heard Xie was tortured. "Instead, Xie always boasted that he had four dishes every day." ^ top ^

Audio-sharing platform removes religious content (Global Times)
2017-03-01
Some religious contents on a popular audio-sharing platform in China have been removed after being notified by the government that the platform lacked qualification to examine religion-related programs. A user named "xiaodelan shuwu" on Ximalaya FM, a Shanghai-based platform, claimed on social networking app WeChat on Monday that their uploaded programs about Christianity had been removed from their account without notice. After the user sent queries to the platform via e-mail, he was told that his contents are about "foreign religion" and the platform is not qualified to examine any religion-related content. Other listeners also claimed that the religious programs they were following disappeared on Tuesday. An app user named "liuyue wodetian" posted on Weibo that he couldn't access many of the programs he liked, while another user "niuniuanni anniestaya" said she felt lucky that she had downloaded some audio programs yesterday. An employee from Ximalaya FM said on Tuesday that they started to withdraw the religion-related content on their platform on Monday after being told by the government that they lacked qualification to audit these programs. "We will continue to remove batches of religious content from the platform in the coming days, including those related to Buddhism and Christianity," the anonymous employee said. The employee said that users should wait for further notice on their website about when the religion-related programs will be allowed to be uploaded again. The Cyberspace Administration of China did not respond to a request for comment as of press time. Wang Sixin, a law professor at the Communication University of China, said on Tuesday that the businesses have higher risk in dealing with religious programs as religion remains a sensitive subject in China, adding that the withdrawal of the religion-related audio pieces echoes recent policy tightening for online programs. Wang told the Global Times that the timing was also important because China is preparing to hold the annual sessions of its top legislature and top political advisory body. The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television issued a document on December 2016 strengthening the regulation of video and audio programs on social media platforms, the Xinhua News Agency reported. Platforms must monitor if their contents are suitable according to "various requirements for managing video and audio programs," the press and publication regular said. ^ top ^

Xi Jinping joins calls for more control of financial risks (SCMP)
2017-03-01
The top leadership in Beijing vowed to crack down on financial irregularities to ward off risk, hinting at policy priorities ahead of the upcoming annual parliamentary sessions. In a financial work meeting on Tuesday, Communist Party chief and Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a message about establishing a system to coordinate financial regulation, to safeguard against systemic risks. Xi also ordered that the pace of economic reform be sped up. The message came ahead of annual sessions that begin on Friday, in which lawmakers and advisers will gather in Beijing to discuss key policies at a time China is facing economic and financial headwinds that could send ripples through global markets. Xi called for an examination of the defects in the nation's financial regulations, and for changes to them that would make “reference to international standards”. He also vowed to “unswervingly crack down on illegal activities”, according to a statement after the meeting posted on a government website. Xi's emphasis on minimising financial risks represents a priority that has been talked up recently. Financial regulators have vowed to dig deeper into shady deals in the capital markets to target “big crocodiles”, or tycoons who have amassed enormous wealth behind the curtains. “The meeting's message today is in line with the Central Economic Work Conference in December, but it was more focused and gave more details,” Lu Zhengwei, the chief economist with the Industrial Bank, said. ' “China is facing heavy external pressure this year, which has forced Beijing to take more of a focus on domestic issues in order to better counter external challenges,” he said. The stock market meltdown in the summer of 2015 put the spotlight on consolidating China's current hodgepodge of financial regulations. But worries have arisen since then that there is lack of consensus among top decision makers, which has delayed the roll-out of a revamped financial regulation regime. In the work meeting, the People's Bank of China reported to top leaders on its handling of financial risks. “The inconsistencies in the current financial regulation system have led to leeway, while the new financial products that were created quickly in the last few years have caused risks to spread across the board,” Wen Bin, the chief economist with China Minsheng Bank, said. Xi also talked about dealing with “zombie” companies – underperforming entities that have stayed in business because of state support. Xi stressed the need to remove idle capacity in the manufacturing sector and explore effective ways to handle the debts of the zombie companies in a fair way. China recently resumed a programme to allow companies to swap their debt for equity, to avoid abrupt bankruptcies and massive job losses which could endanger social stability. But there are concerns that the resolve to deal with some zombie companies may be lacking. “With the recovery of demand and prices in manufacturing sectors such as steel and coal, some small companies with low technology, high pollution or high energy consumption have come back to life, and the resolution to address overcapacity by local officials and shareholders may not be as firm as before,” Wen said. ^ top ^

China, Singapore vow more "Belt and Road" cooperation (Xinhua)
2017-02-27
China and Singapore on Monday pledged to strengthen cooperation in the "Belt and Road" Initiative. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with his Singaporean counterpart Vivian Balakrishnan on the sidelines of a series of high-level cooperative meetings between the two countries. Stressing the significance of building "a partnership of all-round cooperation keeping with the times", Wang called on both sides to beef up "Belt and Road" cooperation, facilitate regional integration, and promote the building of a closer community of common destiny between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Wang also said he hopes Singapore, a coordinator of China-ASEAN ties, will play a constructive role in helping push for greater development of China's relations with the ASEAN, and promote regional peace, stability and prosperity. Noting that Singapore attaches great importance to its ties with China, Balakrishnan said the country is willing to become China's long-term reliable cooperation partner. Singapore welcomes Chinese companies to participate in the bidding of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail program, he added. Singapore is willing to maintain close communication and coordination with China in regional and international affairs, and jointly safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea and the region, he said. ^ top ^

Judicial efficiency improved through reform: top court (Xinhua)
2017-02-27
The efficiency of Chinese courts has been improved by 20 percent since 2013, the Supreme People's Court (SPC) announced Monday. The SPC Monday released two white papers on judicial reform and court transparency from 2013 to 2016, recording progress made in fields including judicial accountability, trial mechanism and adjudicative power operation. According to the SPC, over 26 million court documents have been posted on China Judgement Online, the court document website, and the site has clocked up six billion hits by users from over 200 countries and regions. China's courts have improved the way in which they protect human rights, preventing and correcting cases in which people were unjustly, falsely or wrongly charged or sentenced. From 2013 to 2016, courts nationwide overturned 34 cases, involving 54 people, deemed to be miscarriage of justice, according to the SPC. To improve litigation, nearly all courts in China have established supporting systems, the SPC said. The top court also pledged to improve how cases are filed and legal aid accessed. ^ top ^

Courts declare innocence of 3,718 defendants during 2013-16: white paper (Global Times)
2017-02-27
Chinese courts declared 3,718 defendants innocent and accepted 16,889 cases demanding State compensation worth 690 million yuan ($100 million) between 2013 and 2016, said a white paper issued by China's Supreme People's Court's (SPC). The white paper on judicial reform of Chinese courts issued on Monday said that in order to prevent injustice or wrong cases, the Supreme Court requires courts at all levels to declare innocence of defendants when there is insufficient evidence to prove they are guilty, news site thepaper.cn reported. It added that judges will be held accountable for any misjudgment. Courts at all levels corrected 11 wrong cases involving 17 people in 2016 alone, which is the highest in history, said a deputy president of the Supreme People's Court, adding that 23 wrong cases were corrected during 2013 to 2016. The case of Nie Shubin was also included in the white paper. Nie was convicted in 1995 of raping and murdering a woman surnamed Kang on the outskirts of Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei Province and was executed the same year at the age of 21. The Supreme People's Court in December 2016 revoked the conviction on the grounds of insufficient evidence and unclear facts. After the ruling, Nie's family filed a claim of more than 13.9 million yuan in compensation with the Hebei Provincial Higher People's Court and demanded a public apology for the young man. The white paper said that the SPC has also provided explanations regarding State compensation, which is helpful in completing the procedures for applying for compensation and setting a standard of compensation, said the report. China launched judicial reforms in 2014 to promote the rule of law. The total number of legal cases filed from May to December 2015 reached nearly 10 million, up 29.5 percent from the previous year, after the SPC simplified the filing system in April. ^ top ^

Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei regional dream rapidly becoming a reality (China Daily)
2017-02-27
For years, Cai Jinlian in Hebei province envied her sister, Cai Jinrong, who lived a much better life than her, just 1 kilometer away in Beijing. The two sisters grew up in the mountain village of Lishuigou in Hebei, but Cai Jinrong married a farmer about 30 years ago and moved to a village that is within walking distance of Lishuigou but administered by Beijing. She enjoys clean tap water and lives in a two-story villa. However, Cai Jinlian, who never leaves Lishuigou, was still drinking well water two years ago and she had to pay long-distance call charges to talk with her sister. The road to her rundown bungalow is badly potholed. But the gap is narrowing. Cai Jinlian now has running water, and long-distance fees for calls within Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei have been lifted, while her road is soon to be reconstructed. "I heard talk about integrated development for years. To my surprise, real changes have begun to take place in recent years," Cai Jinlian said. Sandwiched between Beijing and Tianjin, geographically, Hebei lags far behind in terms of its economy and public services. In 2013, its per-capita GDP was about 40 percent that of the two cities. Since central authorities ordered coordinated development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region in February 2014, progress has been made on transportation, industry and the environment. The national strategy addresses unbalanced development, tackles pollution and seeks a new means of growth. It demands that local authorities abandon their old mindset and look at the bigger picture. Hebei has extended and repaired 12 highways connecting the province with Beijing and Tianjin in the past three years, according to Zhao Kezhi, Party chief of Hebei. In December 2015, a rail link opened between Tianjin and Hebei's Baoding, meaning passengers no longer had to pass through Beijing. And there are plans for at least 20 more intercity railways. Hebei has been struggling to cut excess industrial capacity in steel, concrete and glass. From 2014 to 2016, it attracted investment of 1.1 trillion yuan ($160 billion) from Beijing and Tianjin, more than half its total inflow. Last year, 1,300 high-tech firms from the two cities opened in Hebei. High-tech companies from Beijing have now set up more than 3,000 subsidiaries or branches in Hebei and Tianjin. To control its population and address congestion, Beijing has closed 1,300 factories and moved more than 300 markets from downtown to the outskirts or neighboring areas. A concerted effort to address air pollution has also proved effective. Concentration levels of PM2.5 - particulate matter measuring 2.5 microns or less in diameter that is hazardous to health - are down by about 33 percent compared with 2013 levels, but air pollution is still severe and smog is a frequent issue. All coal in and out of Tianjin, the largest port in northern China, will be carried by rail starting in September, cutting diesel fumes from road haulage. "Tianjin port will focus on container services, while Hebei will develop its bulk cargo business for steel and coal, in line with environmental standards," said Zhao Mingkui, vice-president of the port. "Clearly, Hebei is the weak link, but it also has the most potential," said Party chief Zhao Kezhi. Closing the gap involves farming out Beijing's noncapital functions, including manufacturing, logistics and wholesale markets, transforming the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region into a new growth pole, he said. "The past three years have been a good start," said Wu Hequan, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering and deputy head of a committee of expert consultants on the region's coordination. If concerted efforts continue to lead to tangible results, the region may outdo the Yangtze and Pearl river deltas in overall economic strength by 2030, he said. ^ top ^

Chinese congress names Xi associates to fill top economic jobs (SCMP)
2017-02-24
Three officials who were either protegees of Chinese President Xi Jinping or a top aide of a close ally, have been named ministers. The ministers were appointed on Friday as personnel in the highest echelons of government, the Communist Party and the military continue to be reshuffled ahead of the party's five-yearly national congress late this year. The National People's Congress appointed He Lifeng, 62, who worked under Xi in Fujian province, as director of the National Development and Reform Commission, Xinhua reported, confirming an earlier report by the South China Morning Post. The commission is known as the mini cabinet because of its extensive powers, from setting petrol prices to approving airport construction. Zhong Shan, a former deputy to Xi in Zhejiang province, was named minister of commerce. Zhong, 62, was Zhejiang's deputy governor under Xi for four years more than a decade ago. Zhang Jun, a deputy of the party's anti-corruption watchdog, was appointed minister of justice. Zhang, 61, has worked under the party's anti-graft chief Wang Qishan since 2012, and was a deputy director of the Supreme People's Court before 2012. Like Xi's associates, Wang's proteges have grown in influence in the government and the party. Zhang's appointment brings to four the number of serving ministers who have worked under Wang, an official widely seen as a close ally of Xi. Official provincial media also reported the Shandong governor Guo Shuqing had stepped down from his provincial party posts, backing up mainland media reports of his imminent return to the national capital to head the country's banking regulator. In addition, the NPC confirmed that former Chongqing mayor Huang Qifan is moving on to a new position, also confirming reports by the SCMP. Huang, 64, has been named a deputy of the NPC's financial committee. Huang resigned in December amid rumours that he might be promoted to oversee financial policy. ^ top ^

 

Shanghai

Shanghai's new smoking ban takes effect (China Daily)
2017-03-02
A new regulation prohibiting smoking at all indoor public venues and work areas in Shanghai took effect on Wednesday, a measure expected to shield people from the health risks of secondhand smoke. The ban was approved by the Shanghai Municipal People's Congress, the city's legislative body, in November. It extended the smoking ban to artistic performance and sports venues, open areas at maternity and infant hospitals, and bus stops. Under the regulation, individuals caught smoking in prohibited areas will be fined from 50 to 200 yuan ($7.35 to $29.40) and organizations that violate the regulation or fail to stop smoking will be fined 2,000 to 30,000 yuan. In 2010, the city limited smoking to designated areas in some indoor venues, including restaurants, entertainment venues, railway stations and airports, but experts and researchers said that fails to protect people from passive secondhand smoke. The latest figures from the Shanghai Health and Family Planning Commission showed the rate of smoking in prohibited areas fell to 8.5 percent by the end of last year from 18.6 percent in 2010. Last year, 23.3 percent of people in Shanghai aged 15 to 69 smoked. "This figure shows the importance of implementing such a regulation, and it also reflects the necessity to ban smoking in all public areas," said Wu Jinglei, director of the commission. A man surnamed Chen said he supports the new regulation, which he said is especially good for children's health. He said that last week, he saw a man ignore the no-smoking sign in a hot-pot restaurant and light up with children sitting around him. "Management and staff should take responsibility and stop people from smoking. Individuals have little impact," Chen said. The manager of King of KTV, surnamed Cai, said: "We have prepared for the new smoking ban for two months, including informing customers about the new policy and arranging staff to patrol indoor areas and prevent smokers. We will do everything we can to follow the new regulation." The manager said the venue may refuse service to customers who insist on smoking, and may call law enforcement officers to solve any problems. The city's health promotion department plans to educate the public about the health risks of smoking and promote the new regulation. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

China-appointed Panchen Lama praises nation's religious, social policies (SCMP)
2017-02-28
A youth named by China as the second-highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism, but reviled as a fake by many Tibetans, has praised the Communist Party's religious policies in Tibet in a Lunar New Year message, saying they made him feel “very happy”. Although officially atheist, China selected Gyaltsen Norbu as the 11th Panchen Lama in 1995 in a drive to win the hearts and minds of Tibetans. Tibet's current spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing brands a dangerous separatist, had announced his own choice of a six-year-old boy, but he was taken away by the authorities and has since vanished from public view. In a message to mark the Tibetan lunar new year, carried by the United Front Work Department which helps oversee religious groups, China's Panchen Lama discussed six months of Buddhist activities he carried out in Tibet last year. “My deepest impression after the inspection tour was that Tibet's ethnic and religious policies have been carried out very well,” he said in comments carried late on Monday. “At the same time, the party has formulated a series of special beneficial policies and the vast majority of Tibetans have received real benefit. After seeing this I felt very happy,” he said. He added that he visited herders where he got to understand the changes that have taken place for Tibetans. “This has made me even more confident in Tibet's tomorrow,” he said. China has gradually exposed its Panchen Lama in public roles in the hope he will achieve the respect commanded by the Dalai Lama among Tibetans and globally. He made his first trip outside mainland China in 2012,when he visited Hong Kong. Chinese troops marched into Tibet in 1950. China routinely rejects criticism of its rule there, saying it has brought much-needed development to a remote region and that it respects Tibet's culture and religion. After the Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959, the 10th Panchen Lama stayed on and was initially seen as a collaborator. It later emerged that his criticism of Beijing had earned him more than a decade spent either in prison or under house arrest. Freed in 1977, he was politically rehabilitated the following year, and died in 1989. ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

Bloody Islamic State video puts China in cross hairs (SCMP)
2017-03-01
Islamic State militants from China's Uygur ethnic minority have vowed to return home and “shed blood like rivers”, according to a jihadi-tracking firm, in what observers said marked the first IS threat against Chinese targets. The threat came in a half-hour video released on Monday by a division of Islamic State in western Iraq, and featuring militants from China's Uygur ethnic group, said the US-based SITE Intelligence Group, which analysed the footage. China has for years blamed exiled Uygur “separatists” for a series of violent attacks in its western Xinjiang region – the Uygur homeland – and warned of the potential for militants to link up with global jihadist groups. In the video, a Uygur fighter issued the threat against China just before executing an alleged informant. “Oh, you Chinese who do not understand what people say. We are the soldiers of the Caliphate, and we will come to you to clarify to you with the tongues of our weapons, to shed blood like rivers and avenge the oppressed,” a SITE translation read. A traditionally Muslim group, many Uygurs complain of cultural and religious repression and discrimination by China. The video appeared to be the Islamic State's “first direct threat” against China, said Michael Clarke, a specialist on Xinjiang at Australian National University. “It is the first time that Uygur-speaking militants have claimed allegiance to IS,” he added. The video showed that China was now “very firmly a target of jihadist rhetoric” Clarke said, marking a shift from years past when it rarely figured in statements by global jihadist groups. But Clarke said the video could also indicate a possible split among Uygur fighters, as it included a warning to those fighting with the al-Qaeda-aligned Turkestan Islamic Party in Syria. Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Wednesday that he had not seen the video, but that “East Turkestan terrorist forces have been posing a severe threat to China's security”, referring to Xinjiang militants. He called for international cooperation “to combat such terrorist forces”. China maintains tight security in Xinjiang but a drumbeat of deadly unrest has continued. A knife attack last month left eight dead, including three attackers, police said. The video was released on the same day China staged the latest in a series of mass rallies by armed police in Xinjiang, meant to show resolve in crushing security threats. ' More than 10,000 officers gathered on Monday in the regional capital Urumqi – the fourth such show of force this year in Xinjiang. In one violence-wracked corner of Xinjiang, authorities are offering rewards of up to 5 million yuan (US$730,000) to those who expose terror plots or “kill, wound, or subdue” any attackers. The Islamic State video showed fighters, including heavily armed children, giving speeches, praying, and killing other “informants”. It also featured images of Chinese riot police guarding mosques, patrolling Uygur markets, and arresting men in what appears to be western China. The Chinese flag is pictured engulfed in flames. Clarke said the hints of a Uygur split could “intensify the threat to China”, as they indicated Uygur militants might be able to tap into the capabilities of both Islamic State and al-Qaeda. Western analysts have up to now expressed doubts about the strength of Uygur militants, with some saying China exaggerates the threat to justify tough security. A US think tank said in July that Chinese religious restrictions on Muslims may have driven more than 100 to join Islamic State. Authorities have banned or strictly controlled the observance of certain Muslim practices, such as growing beards, wearing headscarves, and fasting during Ramadan, calling them symbols of “Islamic extremism”. “When we see the government involved in a very heavy crackdown, it hasn't really ever solved the problem, it hasn't made it go away,” said Raffaello Pantucci, director of security studies at the Britain-based Royal United Services Institute. “In some cases it has made it worse.” ^ top ^

Air forces join Xinjiang counter-terror drills (Global Times)
2017-02-28
Air and land forces staged joint counter-terrorism drills on Monday around the Tianshan Mountains in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Directed by the Xinjiang Armed Police Corps and an unidentified army unit, eight helicopters and 10 civilian planes rapidly transported four groups involving thousands of armed troops. The groups conducted patrols in designated areas, including the prefectures of Kashgar, Hotan and Aksu, on Monday. The three prefectures are located in southern Xinjiang, an area mainly populated by ethnic Uyghur people, where terrorists have frequently attacked, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Daily reported on Tuesday. The joint counter-terrorism operations are capable of rapidly deploying troops anywhere in the autonomous region, PLA Daily reported. An unidentified official from the Xinjiang Armed Police Corps was quoted as saying that the exercises have achieved the goal of transferring a counter-terrorism force in Xinjiang. Their Monday operation included tactical training in the region's mountains, highlands and desert areas, said the official. "The joint drills were problem-solving-oriented and can effectively protect regional security and stability, since the air force, including helicopters, was not in place in previous counter-terrorism operations in Xinjiang," said Li Wei, an anti-terror expert at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations. Li told the Global Times that "a full-scale and all-weather counter-terrorism force lives up to not only the global counter-terrorism combat trend but also to the specific requirements in Xinjiang, since the region features a complex landscape." "Operations involving the armed police force and army is the trend and will become standard practice in the future," Li noted. "The operations can substantially help different forces cope with the joint combat system, examine their combat readiness, and provide valuable information for decision-makers," Wang Guoxiang, a Beijing-based counter-terrorism expert, told the Global Times. However, given that the current equipment needs an upgrade, it is hard to achieve a real-time surgical strike across the region, Wang said, adding that "since the forces are equipped with medium-sized tactical transport helicopters, the operations will be more significant in real combat situations." As part of efforts to maintain regional stability, the local government of Hotan prefecture is offering a reward of up to 5 million yuan ($726,744) to people who provide information on terror activities, read a notice it issued on February 22. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Regina Ip 'squeezed out' of Hong Kong chief executive race (SCMP)
2017-03-01
Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee pulled out of Hong Kong's chief executive race on Wednesday, declaring she had been “squeezed out” of a “restrictive” electoral system with only 1,194 voters tasked to pick the city's next leader. The New People's Party chairwoman, who was similarly forced to drop her first bid for the top job in 2012 because of insufficient support, announced her failure to secure the 150 nominations required to formally qualify for the race, just hours before the deadline to hand them in. Watch: Regina Ip withdraws from Hong Kong leadership contest She conceded the number of entry tickets she had secured during her 77-day campaign was “far behind what was needed”. “I lagged behind because I am an independent,” she said. “I hoped to be an open-minded pro-establishment candidate... who could win support across the spectrum. It is difficult, but I have no regrets.” Ip, 66, who announced her intention to run on December 15, blamed it on the election system. “I failed to get in again because of the limitation of our system. Our Election Committee has only 1,194 votes,” she said. “So when you have four candidates – basically all from the pro-establishment camp – competing, I have been squeezed out.” Carrie Lam qualifies for Hong Kong leadership race just short of winning post( Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, seen as Beijing's favoured candidate, entered the race with 580 nominations – nearly four times the threshold requirement. She was joined by former finance minister John Tsang Chun-wah and retired judge Woo Kwok-hing, who bagged 165 and 180 votes respectively. However, Ip stopped short of saying she had been treated unfairly, despite reports that central government officials had actively canvassed votes for Lam behind the scenes. On her future relations with Beijing's liaison office, the lawmaker said she had many friends and acquaintances there and predicted her working relationship would continue. But, she noted: “I am not their subordinate. I am an elected public representative. I think relations are based on mutual respect. If you respect me, I will respect you. Don't you think?” Ip said she had hoped for a dramatic reversal of fortune that never materialised. “I didn't bag any extra votes and even lost some in the past few days,” she recalled, noting four of her nominators had ditched her at the last minute to back Lam. She refused to reveal how many nominations she had secured, only saying she had won support from the business and religious sector as well as a pan-democrat. It was assumed she had secured some 20 nominations, mostly from her own party members and advisers. Ip, who joined the government in 1975, has transformed herself from a once disliked minister into one of Hong Kong's most popular female politicians. In 2003, she tried to push through national security legislation, despite widespread public suspicion and opposition. After half a million people took to the streets in protest, Ip quit the government and went to further her studies at Stanford University. She returned to Hong Kong in 2006 to set up her think tank, the Savantas Policy Institute, which was seen as a platform to build up her political support base. She won a seat in the legislature in the 2008 election and in 2011 founded the New People's Party. Ip did not rule out a comeback in the 2022 chief executive election. Asked if she would join a future cabinet, she replied: “I enjoy being a popularly elected lawmaker more.”^ top ^

Carrie Lam storms ahead in Hong Kong leadership race (SCMP)
2017-03-01
Former chief secretary secures 579 nominations from Election Committee, just 22 short of winning. Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, the front runner in Hong Kong's leadership race, has displayed her dominant advantage over her rivals, even as an influential Beijing loyalist warned against speculating that President Xi Jinping may prefer another candidate for chief executive. Those spreading rumours that popular underdog John Tsang Chun-wah was Xi's choice, based on the handshakes they had exchanged, were taking advantage of Hongkongers' lack of understanding of mainland politics “to their own ends”, according to Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, the city's sole delegate to the National People's Congress Standing Committee. Her warning came as former chief secretary Lam, whom Fan openly supports, secured nearly four times the minimum number of nominations required to qualify as an official candidate. Lam on Tuesday submitted 579 nominations from the 1,194-member Election Committee that will pick the city's next leader on March 26, just 22 short of the final number of votes she will need to win the race. Lam, widely seen as Beijing's preferred choice, lags behind former finance minister Tsang in the popularity stakes, but enjoys solid backing among pro-establishment forces who dominate the committee that will pick the winner, regardless of mass appeal. But the counter-narrative among Tsang's supporters is that despite the evidence of official backing for Lam through Beijing officials, Xi might think differently. “In Hong Kong, there are newspapers that keep on saying John Tsang is the choice of Mr Xi because they have shaken hands and that Carrie Lam is just the choice of [National People's Congress chairman] Zhang Dejiang and [the director of Beijing's liaison office in Hong Kong] Zhang Xiaoming,” Fan told the Post. Chief executive contender Carrie Lam sets sights on 'black box' think tank, demanding action and transparency( Fan, a senior adviser to Lam's campaign, was referring to the much-publicised handshakes Xi offered to Tsang at the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank meeting in 2015 and at the G20 conference in Hangzhou last year. Tsang himself has described the handshakes as “a very strong sign of encouragement”. Fan said the rumours based on the over-interpretation of the handshakes had prompted Zhang to hold a recent meeting in Shenzhen to clarify that Lam was the only candidate with Beijing's blessing. “Anyone who has any understanding of Chinese politics will know that today in China, no major decision can be made by anybody except Mr Xi,” she said. “[Those who spread the rumours] are obviously making use of the lack of understanding of most Hong Kong people on Chinese politics to their own ends.” Lam's relations with the pan-democrats have been upset by reports that Beijing's liaison office has actively lobbied for her from behind the scenes. But Fan said Lam was blameless as she was not in a position to ask the liaison office to halt such lobbying. Carrie Lam tries to shed 'CY 2.0' label with final manifesto, but old complaints prove hard to shake( She argued that Election Committee members could easily resist such lobbying. She said Beijing wanted someone competent and strong to provide a bridge between the city and the mainland, and protect national security, instead of “a nice guy or woman smiling at everybody”. Fan, who has been critical of outgoing Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, remained confident that Lam would not follow in the footsteps of the unpopular incumbent, saying the front runner had a “totally different” personality from Leung, who was unable to cultivate cordial relations with the pan-democrats. On Tuesday, Tsang's campaign office said he had no comment to make on Fan's remarks.^ top ^

China urges UK to stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs (Global Times)
2017-02-25
China on Friday urged the United Kingdom to stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs after the UK government released the latest Six-Monthly Report to Parliament on Hong Kong. "Over the past 20 years since the return of Hong Kong, the Chinese central government has been comprehensively implementing the principles of 'one country, two systems,' 'Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong,' and its high degree of autonomy, strictly following the Constitution as well as the Basic Law, and fully supporting the Chief Executive and the Special Administrative Region (SAR) government in administering law-based governance," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said on Friday night. He said Hong Kong continues enjoying prosperity and stability, and that Hong Kong residents enjoy every right and freedom they are entitled to in accordance with the law. Geng said Hong Kong is China's Special Administrative Region and that Hong Kong affairs are China's domestic affairs in which no foreign country has the right to interfere. "The British government has been releasing the so-called Six-Monthly Report to Parliament on Hong Kong on a regular basis since the return of Hong Kong, which we consistently and firmly oppose," he said. "We ask the British side not to release the relevant report and not to interfere in Hong Kong affairs," said the spokesperson.^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Taiwanese independence and unification factions clash as island commemorates 1947 massacre (SCMP)
2017-02-28
Supporters of Taiwan independence and cross-strait unification clashed on Tuesday at a Taipei hall built in memory of the nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek, as the island commemorated the 1947 massacre in which Chiang was blamed for killing thousands of Taiwanese 70 years ago. Claiming the late Chiang should be held responsible for the massacre, a few hundred pro-independence activists marched to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in an attempt to tear down the bronze statue of Chiang. “Take down the [statue of the] perpetrator who massacred our people,” shouted the activists. “No more worship of the dictator.” They encountered a group of pro-unification activists who had occupied part of the memorial in a bid to re-fly a Taiwanese flag lowered to half mast to mark the 70th anniversary of the tragedy known by locals as the “228 incident”. Fist fights erupted as members from both camps traded barbs over what each viewed as the faults of the other side and whether the late KMT leader was accountable for the massacre 70 years ago. The clash, which left several people injured, was finally ended by police who blocked the two groups from continuing the melee. While the pro-unification activists hailed Chiang as a hero for “saving Taiwan” and “maintaining the historic link” between the island and the mainland, the pro-independence activists said independence-leaning President Tsai Ing-wen should remove the last vestiges of Chiang's memory because he was a “killer”. “The Tsai Ing-wen government should never have allowed those unification people to rally at the memorial and worship the dictator,” said organiser Tsai Ting-kuey, chairman of the Free Taiwan Party, after the group threw eggs at the memorial and burned a large Taiwanese flag. As many as 28,000 people, mostly Taiwanese, were killed during a military suppression of an uprising which started on February 28, 1947. Chiang was reported to have decided to send nationalist troops from China to suppress the unrest at the request of the then local KMT government led by Chen Yi. The unrest, which lasted weeks until it was suppressed, was caused by dissidents frustrated by the high-handed policies of Chen. Two years later, Chiang's nationalist forces were defeated by the Chinese communists in a civil war on the mainland and fled to the island in 1949, where he set up an interim government and declared martial law that led to the arrest of a great number of dissidents, including communist members, until the martial law was lifted in 1987. The facts of the military suppression were concealed for many years during the period of martial law, as families of the victims have stated. In a commemoration activity in Taipei yesterday, Tsai promised the families that her government would set up an independent agency to locate the perpetrators and to carry out tasks to promote transitional justice. She said some people thought it was more important to develop the economy than spend time sorting out the past, but she believed social justice was equally important as it could achieve public reconciliation. She was referring to the ideological struggles between the pro-independence and pro-unification camps. Elsewhere in Taiwan, various activities, including church congregations and concerts, were held to commemorate the incident, but reports of vandalism, such as damaging statues of the Chiang and monuments in memory of the incident, were reported in several local counties, indicating public division over the issue is far from being bridged. ^ top ^

 

Economy

New home sales in China's first-tier cities slide in February as curbs have effect (China Daily)
2017-03-02
New home sales in China's first-tier cities declined last month as a result of strict purchase curbs, but analyst said transaction volumes are likely start rising again as deals in these cities are driven by supply, not demand. Statistics from Centaline Property showed that the transacted area of new homes in Shanghai fell 6.7 percent month-on-month to 363,000 square meters in February, domestic news portal nbd.com.cn reported Wednesday. That was the lowest figure for any February in the past six years. New home sales in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province also sank last month. At least 804 new homes were sold in the month, tumbling around 50 percent from the previous month, latest data from the Urban Planning, Land & Resources Commission of Shenzhen showed. Yan Yuejin, research director of the Shanghai-based E-house China R&D Institute, said new home transactions would rebound in spite of cities' strict regulations. The reason, he said, is that transactions in first-tier cities rely on supply instead of demand. "If developers rush to roll out new homes, both the volumes and prices will bounce," he said. About 20 cities across China rolled out limitations on home purchases starting October 2016 to stabilize local property markets. Also, since the start of 2017, banks in cities like Beijing, Guangzhou and Qingdao, East China's Shandong Province have tightened their mortgage policies, discounting mortgage rates as much as 10 percent off the official benchmark rate, down from 15 percent previously, according to media reports. Data from the National Bureau of Statistics on Feuburay 22 showed that new home prices remained stable in first-tier cities in January. ^ top ^

China refrains from mega economic stimulus plan: official (China Daily)
2017-03-01
China will not flood the economy with government investment as it pursues more stable, healthy economic growth, an official with the top economic planner said Wednesday. "Instead, it will focus on supply-side reform for a modest expansion of aggregate demand," said Li Pumin, secretary general of the National Development and Reform Commission, at a news conference. Li made the remarks when answering a question on whether China would roll out a major stimulus plan like in 2008. "Stimulus plans are used to prop up weak demand with government investment under special circumstances," he said, adding it was different from the scale of fixed-asset investment (FAI). It was reported that 23 provincial-level regions had announced FAI volume totaling some 45 trillion yuan (about $6.54 trillion) for 2017, stoking concern of a gigantic stimulus plan. Li dismissed the worries by saying FAI volume is the aggregate rather than newly-added investment and includes investment from the public and private sector. The FAI volume of 32 provincial-level regions rose 7.9 percent year on year to 60.65 trillion yuan in 2016 and is likely to hit 65 trillion yuan, Li said. After China's economy entered a "new normal" stage, the major difficulties were a by-product of supply rather than demand, he said. The addition of excessive production capacity and redundant projects will be forestalled, and more efforts will be made to meet demand with effective supply, he added. China is trying to transition its export- and investment-driven growth model into one that draws strength from consumption, innovation and the service sector. Consumption contributed 64.6 percent to China's GDP growth in 2016, up 4.9 percentage points from 2015, official data showed. Meanwhile, China has decided to adopt a "prudent and neutral" monetary policy this year to keep liquidity at an appropriate level and avoid large injections. Official data released Wednesday showed that China's manufacturing purchasing managers' index expanded for the seventh month in a row to hit 51.6 percent in February, further evidence that the world's second largest economy is stabilizing amid the uncertain global outlook. ^ top ^

 

DPRK

Chinese, NK officials to meet amid halt in coal imports (Global Times)
2017-02-28
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will meet North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Ri Kil Song in Beijing, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Tuesday. The North Korean official will visit China from Tuesday to Saturday at the invitation of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a daily news briefing on Tuesday. Geng said Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin and Assistant Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou will also hold talks with Ri. "The two sides will exchange views on China-North Korea ties, as well as international and regional issues of common concern," said the spokesman. On Tuesday, Kong will meet Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov on the situation in the Korean Peninsula and other issues of common concern, Geng said. Last week, China announced the suspension of coal imports from North Korea for the rest of 2017 in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2321. The suspension will run from February 19 to December 31 this year. The Korean Central News Agency, North Korea's state-run media outlet, ran a critique of China on Thursday. Without directly mentioning its name, it criticized China for having "unhesitatingly taken inhumane steps" to suspend imports of North Korean coal, which will have a negative impact on the lives of North Koreans. The article also said that Beijing's criticism of Pyongyang's recent missile test and the suspension are "dancing to the tune of the US" and tantamount to the actions of the enemy state. The thinly veiled article refers to China as "a neighboring country, which often claims itself to be a 'friendly neighbor,'" and accused Beijing of essentially abandoning North Korea by cutting off imports of coal in compliance with UN sanctions. ^ top ^

Suspects wanted for Kim's murder include NK officials: South Korea (Global Times)
2017-02-27
South Korean intelligence believes suspects wanted for the murder of the half-brother of North Korea's leader include several officials who worked for North Korea's foreign and security ministries, according to lawmakers in Seoul. Kim Jong-nam was killed earlier this month at a Malaysian airport by assassins using VX nerve agent, a chemical capable of killing in minutes and listed by the United Nations as a weapon of mass destruction. South Korea is acutely sensitive to developments in its unpredictable nuclear-armed neighbor, and intelligence agency officials have briefed lawmakers on the sensational killing of the estranged half-brother of the North's leader Kim Jong-un. North Korea has not acknowledged the victim is Kim Jong-nam. But South Korean and US officials believe Kim, who had criticized his family's control of the isolated state, was assassinated by agents of the North. "Among the eight suspects in this case, four are from the ministry of state security and two who actually took action are from the foreign ministry," Lee Cheol-woo, one of the lawmakers briefed by South Korean intelligence, told reporters. "That is why it is a case of terrorism led by the state, directly organized by the ministry of state security and the foreign ministry," Lee added. Malaysian police have identified a total of eight North Koreans as suspects or as wanted for questioning. These include a North Korean embassy official believed to still be in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia's Health Minister Subramaniam Sathasivam said on Sunday that Kim Jong-nam died within 15-20 minutes of being assaulted by two women who are believed to have smeared VX on his face. Kim was at Kuala Lumpur International airport to catch a flight to Macao. The women, Indonesian and Vietnamese citizens, are in police custody and have told officials from their respective embassies that they believed they were taking part in a TV prank. Another South Korean lawmaker briefed by the intelligence agency, Kim Byung-kee, said the North Koreans had operated in three teams. Two teams, each including officials from both North Korea's state security and foreign ministries, were responsible for hiring women in Indonesia and Vietnam and bringing them to Malaysia to carry out the attack. The third team provided "support." He said South Korean intelligence said the North's embassy official in Kuala Lumpur, Hyon Kwang-song, was linked to the state security ministry and part of the support team. Malaysian police have said they may issue an arrest warrant for the diplomat if he does not cooperate, but it is unclear if they can do so given he has diplomatic immunity. The one North Korean in police custody, Ri Jong-chol, was also believed to have been part of the support team, said Kim Byung-kee. Malaysian authorities have not commented on the roles that any of the North Koreans played in the killing. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Bank of Mongolia to be inspected (Montsame)
2017-02-24
The Economic Standing Committee of Parliament has established a working group to examine Bank of Mongolia activities in 2012-2016. The working group will hold examination from February 23 to April 30, inspecting results of its programs, projects and actions including 'Price stabilization program' as well as its loss, and make conclusion, said MP T.Ayursaikhan. “- Bank of Mongolia issued MNT 8 trillion in 2012-2016. The bank had a loss of MNT2.3 trillion for the last four years, mentioned in its report. However, newly appointed authorities of the central bank stated that the bank's loss reached MNT4 trillion. The Government refunds the loss of the central bank through issuing securities and it becomes big burden on the state budget. Therefore, the reason of all mistakes and wrong actions should be found and the guilty officials should take responsibility' he said. Current economic obstruction is relevant to actions of Bank of Mongolia, noted MP Ts.Davaasuren. Mongolian national currency rate against dollar has increased to over MNT2400 for the last four years while it was MNT1450 in 2012. It means 'Tugrug' currency has been devaluated by 70 per cent. “- In the framework of 'Price stabilization program', a total of MNT3 trillion was issued and USD3 billion was outflowed abroad. Tens of billions was spent in the name of providing its employees with apartments. Outstanding loan was MNT200 billion in June 2014 and increased to MNT900 billion in one year. All these mishandling should be examined and corrected” The Bank of Mongolia used to have a profit of MNT120 billion till 2012, but it has been experiencing deficits since 2012. ^ 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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