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
  24-28.4.17, No. 669  
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Foreign Policy

China-US ties warm up in first 100 days of Trump's presidency (SCMP)
2017-04-28
The first 100 days of Donald Trump's presidency has stabilized China-US ties on dealing with international issues, although the US administration's China strategy is still evolving, Chinese analysts said. On several bilateral issues, Trump has backed down from his initial, hawkish remarks on China before and after he assumed office, and shifted to a more cooperative attitude with China, as seen from his latest policies. Trump realizes that good Sino-US relations are important to the US, who wants to maintain the international order with the least resistance, Jia Qingguo, dean of the School of International Studies at Peking University, said. "China's rise has created a lot of resources. And Trump needs China's help to mobilize these resources to resolve international issues," Jia told the Global Times. Recent efforts by China and the US on the North Korean nuclear issue is widely considered an example of effective cooperation between the world's two major powers on regional security issues. With China considering tougher sanctions while at the same time urging restraint, and the US vowing to achieve peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula with the help of China, North Korea did not conduct its sixth nuclear test on Tuesday, as was widely expected. "The recent cooperation between China and the US finally puts an end to the dreary situation after Six-Party Talks were suspended. Since the talks were suspended, North Korea has stepped up its nuclear and missile tests, as there was no effective constraint from the international community," Liu Yawei, director of the China Program at the Carter Center in the US, told the Global Times. The US hopes to work with China in dealing with bilateral and international affairs, Liu said. "China can even play a leading role when it comes to economic development and international security issues, since the US is stepping back on its foreign involvement." Trump's meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Florida resort on April 6-7 was a key moment for the two countries. Analysts said the first meeting between the two leaders would further pave the way for China-US cooperation in many fields, as Trump praised the "great chemistry" between the two. The fact that Trump has yet to form his sub-Cabinet level foreign policy team, with the post of US ambassador to China still vacant, "has some benefits, as the two leaders can have more direct communication," Liu said. Less than three weeks since their Mar-a-Lago meeting, Xi and Trump have spoken to each other twice on the phone to discuss bilateral ties and regional issues. Former US President Barak Obama had four face-to-face meetings with Xi during his presidency, but Liu said they failed to develop a close personal relationship. "The summit was successful in terms of establishing good personal and official relations, creating a dialogue mechanism, reaching consensus on important issues like the North Korean nuclear issue, and setting up a system to control conflicts in trade and investments," Jia said. Trump's current attitude toward China is a shift from his tough rhetoric during the US election campaign and as president-elect. Trump had frequently accused China of devaluing its currency, and threatened to impose a 45 percent tariff on Chinese products. Before taking office, he even made a protocol-breaking phone call with Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen, and said "everything is under negotiation, including one China." While bilateral ties faced huge challenges, China's pragmatic, flexible and steady diplomacy is believed to have played a key role in stabilizing them. "China criticized Tsai Ing-wen for playing a little trick, and stressed that China considers Sino-US ties a national interest," Wang Jianmin, a Taiwan-affairs expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. He added that whatever rhetoric he used before taking office, as president Trump would have to go back to the international political framework, like the Three Joint Communiqués between China and the US. Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba founder, Jack Ma, met Trump before he took office, and promised to create 1 million jobs over five years in the US. First daughter Ivanka Trump was invited to the Chinese Embassy in Washington to celebrate Chinese New Year with her 5-year-old daughter, Arabella. These are all very pragmatic diplomatic practices, experts said. "Since the Trump administration's China policy continues to evolve, China should play a bigger role in shaping Sino-US ties," said Jia. ^ top ^

What does Trump's tax plan mean for China? Economists are divided (SCMP)
2017-04-28
A day after President Donald Trump's tax plan for corporate America, more questions than answers remain on just how his vision will affect businesses. Economists and analysts also differed over whether the plan will lead to a flood of repatriation from China, exacerbating the capital flight that had only begun to ease after months of draconian government policies. The Trump administration's top economic adviser Gary Cohn and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Wednesday proposed to cut corporate income tax to 15 per cent from 35 per cent and apply a one-time low territorial tax rate on an estimated US$2.6 trillion of offshore profits that American businesses keep overseas. “This will be big in impact,” said Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group in Shanghai. “Many companies leave their profits outside the US because of tax issues.” About one in four American companies operating in China earn at least 25 per cent of their global income from the world's most populous nation, according to the 2017 China business climate survey report of 400 members by the American Chamber of Commerce in China and Bain & Co. A collective repatriation could lead to a stampede of the yuan for conversion into the dollar before fleeing offshore, testing the Chinese currency regulator's ability to stem the capital flight. “While the key is whether the government will let them convert yuan profits out, it's conflicting with China's priority to stem capital outflow,” Rein said. The move could also lure Chinese manufacturers to invest in the US, undermining the competitiveness of China's exports, Tsinghua University's financial research deputy dean Zhu Ning said. “China must speed up its economic transformation and give up its old growth model of relying on exports,” he said. Not everybody agrees. The direct impact of the repatriation incentive might be limited for China, AXA Investment Managers' senior emerging Asia economist Aidan Yao said. “China is not a tax haven like Hong Kong or Singapore where companies park their earnings to avoid high duties,” Yao said. “Most US companies like General Motors would reinvest their earnings in China as they are after the growth and huge market there, so I do not expect a tax repatriation from China-based US companies.” To be sure, if there is anything China's government is skilled at, it is maintaining the capital controls and reining in outflows. Over the past year, the State Administration of Foreign Exchange had tightened capital controls to such an extent that carmaker BMW reportedly complained in March of being unable to remit its profit back to Germany, even through legitimate channels under the regulator's rules. Chinese banks had simply stopped processing cross-border remittances until the government sees net yuan inflow at the end of each month. The requirement was only eased in mid-April when the outflow pressures eased. “Capital control is not a common hinder to profit repatriation,” said Jim Qiao, a corporate accountant at Dezan Shira & Associates. “The deciding factor is your business strategy and focus, but not the duty rate that decides whether you want to repatriate or not.” ^ top ^

Trump-Tsai phone call may happen again, says Taiwan's president (SCMP)
2017-04-27
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said a direct phone call with US President Donald Trump could take place again and urged Beijing to step up to its global responsibility to keep the peace as a large nation. “We have the opportunity to communicate more directly with the US government,” Tsai said on Thursday. “We don't exclude the opportunity to call President Trump himself, but it depends on the needs of the situation and the US government's consideration of regional affairs.” The interview was the first since Trump, as US president-elect, took a congratulatory phone call from Tsai in early December. It was the first contact between leaders of the two sides in nearly four decades and he cast doubt on Washington's long-standing policy of acknowledging Beijing's “one China” policy. Since then, however, Trump agreed to honour the “one China” policy in February and then hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Florida resort earlier this month. Despite this, Tsai said Taiwan's ties with the United States, its biggest political ally and arms supplier, had been improving. Taiwan might need to buy the most advanced stealth jet the US had, she added. “We don't rule out any items that would be meaningful to our defence and our defence strategy and the F-35 is one such item,” said Tsai, in the first remarks by a top Taiwanese official on the matter. As part of arms talks, Taiwan will eventually have to submit a weapons purchase list to Washington. Tsai said, however, that senior officials were not yet in place in the Trump administration to handle the issue. China's Defence Ministry said on Thursday it was resolutely opposed to any country selling arms to Taiwan. Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun made the comment at a monthly news briefing in Beijing when asked about the possible sale of F-35 fighter jets from the United States to Taiwan. Speaking from her Presidential Office as she nears her first year anniversary in office, Tsai urged Xi to act like a leader. “China now needs to have its own sense of responsibility,” Tsai said. “I hope Chairman Xi Jinping, as a leader of a large country and who sees himself as a leader, can show a pattern and flexibility, use a different angle to look at cross-strait relations, and allow the future of cross-strait ties to have a different kind of pattern.” Beijing claims Taiwan as its own under its “one China” policy. Beijing has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control. ^ top ^

China, Cambodia vow to further enhance ties (Xinhua)
2017-04-27
China and Cambodia agreed on Thursday to push forward their comprehensive, strategic partnership of cooperation. Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi, who co-chaired the fourth meeting of the China-Cambodia Inter-Governmental Coordination Committee with Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong, said both sides have earnestly implemented consensus reached between leaders of the two countries and plans set out at the committee's third meeting. China, which has attached great importance to the development of comprehensive, strategic partnership of cooperation with Cambodia, will firmly support Cambodia's development commensurate with its own national condition and help the country maintain stability and improve people's livelihood, Yang said. China welcomes the upcoming visit by Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen and his attendance at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing in May. For his part, Hor Namhong appreciated China's long-term assistance and help to Cambodia's socio-economic development, and welcomed Chinese companies' participation in Cambodia's infrastructure projects. Both sides agreed to boost cooperation in such fields as industrial capacity, traffic, telecommunications, agriculture and water conservancy. They also pledged to expand bilateral trade to 5 billion U.S. dollars by the end of this year, and enhance cooperation in defense and law enforcement as well as in education, culture and tourism. The two countries agreed to strengthen communication and coordination within the framework of the United Nations and China-ASEAN cooperation.  ^ top ^

China eyes better military relations with the U.S.: spokesman (Xinhua)
2017-04-28
China is willing to work with the United States to constructively manage risks and properly handle disagreements in order to propel mutual trust and seek more progress in promoting ties between the militaries, a Chinese defense ministry spokesman said Thursday. Speaking to reporters at a regular press briefing, Yang Yujun expressed hopes that the U.S. military could make joint efforts with the Chinese side to "meet each other halfway and inject positive and constructive elements to Sino-U.S. ties, and contribute to world and regional peace and stability." Quoting Chinese President Xi Jinping who had just visited the United States earlier this month, Yang said military relations make up an important part of bilateral ties between China and the United States, adding that mutual trust in military and security areas forms the basis of strategic mutual trust between the two countries. The Chinese military will resolutely implement the important consensus reached between Chinese and U.S. heads of states, Yang said. It will work to maintain exchanges between the two militaries at all levels, bring into full play their dialogue and consultation mechanisms, carry out the annual exchange programs the two sides have agreed upon, and implement and improve the mutual reporting mechanism on major military operations and the code of safe conduct on naval and air military encounters, he said. ^ top ^

China can help Myanmar with its problems (Global Times)
2017-04-2017
Despite significant political changes in Myanmar in recent years, leaders from the country and from China have maintained a high level of mutual trust, as reflected by frequent visits and the consensus reached on a number of issues. In August 2016, Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi paid an official visit to China. In April this year, Myanmar President U Htin Kyaw visited China, and the two sides issued a joint press communiqué saying that the two countries will continue to make the best use of their cooperation mechanism and will strengthen cooperation featuring mutual benefits in various areas. This indicates that the Sino-Myanmar relationship has entered a more stable and mature stage. As one of the key partners in Myanmar's foreign relations, China is the country's largest trading partner and biggest investor. This is not just because China is Myanmar's biggest neighbor, or that there are no territorial sovereignty disputes and that there are high complementarities in their respective economic structures; it is also because the governments and people in both countries have taken practical measures to effectively promote and maintain the bilateral relationship in consideration of their own interests and needs. The comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries has made new achievements continuously, reflecting the fact that the strong bonds between the two countries could benefit bilateral economic cooperation. Myanmar supports China's Belt and Road initiative, while China supports Myanmar's development path based on its own conditions. During the current period when globalization is being challenged by Western countries, China and Myanmar are still in need of globalization to push forward with their economic development and growth. In recent years, Myanmar has taken a number of measures to promote economic reform and opening-up, and has achieved some successful results. However, with the Myanmar kyat devaluing against the US dollar recently, prices have risen sharply, leading to increasing pressure in people's lives and discontent with the government. Against such a backdrop, maintaining close cooperation ties with China has become vital for Myanmar. Most of the investments made by Chinese companies in Myanmar have been successful, contributing greatly to Myanmar's economic development and social progress. The completion of the Sino-Myanmar oil pipeline, from the scientific planning, signing of the cooperation agreement and project launch to the current operation, fully reflects the reciprocal nature of the project for the two countries. From the perspective of the trend, the prospects for Sino-Myanmar cooperation are promising in terms of geopolitical positions, capital, technology, management experience and market orientation. However, the international community and ordinary people often pay more attention to some negative reports or unsuccessful cases, while ignoring many other successful cases. Although many of the Chinese companies' projects in Myanmar were signed while the military government was in power, they were basically operated in accordance with international standards. It is because of this that the former Myanmar government only suspended the Myitsone Dam project instead of abolishing it, and there is still the possibility of restarting the project in the future. The economic cooperation process between the two countries is not only aimed at improving mutual understanding, but also serves to regulate each other's behavior in the interaction process so as to avoid losses caused by irregular behavior which could have a negative effect on the sustainability of bilateral cooperation. Of course, due to various reasons - such as the slow progress of the national peace process, immature social consciousness, interference from international non-governmental organizations and domestic civil society organizations, and a lack of confidence in opening up, attracting foreign investment and promoting win-win results - Myanmar is short of ability and experience in terms of governance, and its domestic investment environment is not very good. However, with the deepening of Myanmar's participation in the regional integration process, China and Myanmar have started to promote their trade liberalization agenda, fostering and enhancing the latter's ability and experience in participating in the regional integration and globalization process. In this way, Myanmar can also enhance its ability to withstand economic risks and attract external investment, laying the foundations for upgrading Myanmar's position in the international community. ^ top ^

China to hold anti-THAAD drills (Global Times)
2017-04-27
China announced Thursday it would conduct live-fire drills and test new weapons to counter a controversial anti-missile defense system the US is deploying in South Korea. Yang Yujun, a spokesperson of China's Ministry of National Defense, said at a monthly press briefing on Thursday that given the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) during the complicated and sensitive situation on the Korean Peninsula, the Chinese military will continue to conduct targeted live-fire drills and put new weapons and military equipment through a combat test to safeguard China's security and regional stability. The military drills will mainly involve the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force and the Rocket Force and simulate counterattack scenarios against the threat of THAAD, said Song Zhongping, a military expert who used to serve in the PLA Rocket Force. Song said the drills will simulate two situations: first, how to move stealthily without being detected by the THAAD radar; and second, how to launch a preemptive strike to remove the threat of THAAD in a war scenario using anti-radiation missiles, surface-to-surface missiles or cruise missiles. The defense ministry announcement came one day after US departed part of the elements of the THAAD missile defense system in southeastern South Korea. Although the US and South Korea have said THAAD is a purely defensive measure against North Korean threats and does not target any other country, China and Russia are concerned that the system's powerful radar can penetrate their territory and undermine their security. Zhu Feng, an international relations professor at Nanjing University noted that the THAAD deployment has further complicated the situation. "If not properly handled, Pyongyang might believe that it could exploit the differences between China and the US and South Korea on THAAD and proceed with its missile and nuclear programs," said Zhu. On Wednesday, China and Russia conducted their third joint anti-missile press conference in Moscow. Cai Jun, deputy director of the combat division of the Joint Staff Department of China's Central Military Commission, said the THAAD deployment aims to weaken the strategic capability of China and Russia, and the two countries will take further action to safeguard their security interests. "Unilaterally strengthening an anti-missile system is a move to achieve absolute military advantage, which would escalate tensions, trigger regional confrontation or even spark an arms race," Cai said at the press conference. In May 2016, China and Russia conducted their first joint computer-simulated anti-missile drill. "It is possible for the Chinese and Russian militaries to cooperate on anti-missile missions based on mutually owned weapon systems. For example, China has bought S300 and S400 missiles from Russia," Song noted. ^ top ^

Merkel: Germany backs Belt and Road Initiative, wishes China's forum success (Xinhua)
2017-04-26
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday that her country supports the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative and wishes success for the Belt and Road Forum on International Cooperation to be held in Beijing next month. Merkel made the remarks while meeting with visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who came here to attend the Chinese-German Strategic Dialogue on Diplomatic and Security Affairs, as the two countries are marking the 45th anniversary of the ambassador-level diplomatic relations. Merkel spoke highly of the recent development in bilateral ties, saying she wished the two nations' comprehensive strategic partnership could be enhanced through a trove of important high-level exchanges this year. Due to the schedule conflict, the chancellor will send Minister of Economic Affairs Brigitte Zypries to attend the Belt and Road forum in the middle of May. The Group of 20 (G20) summit, to be held in Hamburg in July, will achieve positive results with the support of China, she added. For his part, Wang said he hoped both sides will take the anniversary celebration to advance the bilateral exchanges to a new high. In the coming high-level exchanges of visits, the two countries are expected to deliver their explicit endorsement for multilateralism, the UN Charter and the peaceful settlement of international conflicts, said Wang. He added the two nations shall, on these occasions, agree on safeguarding free trade, promoting open economy and facilitating the sound development of globalization. As the last presidency of G20 summit, China is ready to support Germany to host this year's meeting, further the international cooperation through bilateral strategic collaboration, and offset the global uncertainties with the stable Beijing-Berlin relationships, said the top Chinese diplomat. The two leaders also exchanged views on the European Union's implementation of its obligations stipulated in Article 15 of the protocol on China's accession to the WTO, as well as other issues of common concern. In accordance with the article, WTO members should cease the surrogate country approach in anti-dumping investigations on China after Dec. 11, 2016, which expires exactly 15 years after China's admission. ^ top ^

Chinese envoy advises against "regime change" in Syria (Xinhua)
2017-04-26
External players of the Syria crisis should draw lessons from Iraq and Libya if they are mulling a "regime change," said China's special envoy on Syria on Tuesday. Ambassador Xie Xiaoyan underscored that the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is in nature Syria's internal affairs which should be left for the Syrian people to decide. "External forces do have a role to play, but there is a line beyond which is meddling in the internal affairs of another country," Xie told reporters in Brussels. "It is not our job to make prejudgment and it is not our duty to decide the future of that particular person," he said. "Past experiences have told us the mere change of regime will bring disaster for a country, the case being Iraq, Libya, and elsewhere." "Just look at these two countries, have peace and stability returned? Have people benefited from the removal of figures like Saddam Hussein or Gaddafi?" he questioned. Laying out China's stance on the Syria issue, he said China has four-fold concerns: maintaining the cease-fire agreement, fighting terrorism, improving the humanitarian situation, and ensuring political settlement through peace dialogue. The diplomat said that the Syria crisis is a complicated issue and that there won't be a quick fix. Nonetheless, he argued that all parties involved should have confidence and resolve to find a final solution which "takes into consideration of the interests of the different factions." "Along the way, little by little, step by step, consensus will be increased, progress will be made," he said. ^ top ^

China to provide S. Sudan with financial, food aid amid famine: envoy (Global Times)
2017-04-26
The Chinese government has decided to provide 5 million US dollars to South Sudan through the World Food Program to help the country better respond to famine, said a Chinese envoy at UN on Tuesday. Given the severity of famine facing South Sudan, China has also decided to provide 8,750 tons of food through bilateral channels to assist the country, said Wu Haitao, China's deputy permanent representative to the UN at a Security Council meeting. Since July last year, the security, economic and humanitarian situation has worsened markedly and no part of the country is immune from conflict, David Shearer, special representative of UN Secretary-General in South Sudan briefed the council earlier. After hearing Shearer's briefing, Wu said that "the political settlement is the only way out for the issue of South Sudan." He called on the international community to contribute to efforts for all parties in South Sudan to abandon military means, cease hostilities and immediately get back to the track of political settlement. Wu also said "it is important for the Security Council to send out more positive and enthusiastic messages." He said the council must encourage all parties in South Sudan to actively engage in the dialogue process to stay committed to peace, stability, and development. "The international community must provide timely and effective assistance, to assist South Sudanese people to overcome their current difficulties," he added. South Sudan has been shattered by a civil war that broke out in December 2013. A peace deal signed in August 2015 led to the formation of a transitional unity government in April but was again devastated by fresh violence in July 2016. Tens of thousands of South Sudanese have been killed, with more than 2 million displaced and another 4.6 million left severely food insecure since December 2013. ^ top ^

Top Japanese official to attend China 'New Silk Road' summit (SCMP)
2017-04-25
The secretary general of Japan's ruling party said on Tuesday he will attend China's New Silk Road summit in May, a sign Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to improve ties with Beijing amid tensions over North Korea's missile and nuclear programmes. But an adviser to Abe said Tokyo remained cautious about the China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, created at least in part as a way to fund the Silk Road plan. “Given the international situation starting with North Korea, mutual understanding between Japan and China is vital,” Liberal Democratic Party secretary general Toshihiro Nikai was quoted by Jiji news agency telling a news conference, adding he would attend the May 14 to 15 China summit. Concerns have grown that a sixth North Korean nuclear test could be imminent and that the test, or another long-range missile launch, could occur around the 85th anniversary of the foundation of the North's Korean People's Army on Tuesday. North Korea conducted a big live-fire exercise on Tuesday to mark the foundation of its military, media reported, in defiance of US warnings against such action. Nikai, a ruling party heavyweight and second to Abe in the party, is known for his close ties to China. Japan's ties with China have long been plagued by the bitter legacy of the second world war and mistrust over present-day regional rivalry. But Japan, like the United States and South Korea, wants Beijing, North Korea's main backer, to pressure Pyongyang to abandon its missile and nuclear programmes. Japan's trade minister, Hiroshige Seko, is also considering attending after receiving an invitation, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference, while Sadayuki Sakakibara, chairman of the business lobby Keidanren will also go. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in announcing a list of those attending the summit earlier this month, which includes many Asia leaders, did not mention officials from Japan, South Korea or North Korea. Chinese President Xi Jinping has championed the “Belt and Road Initiative” to build a new Silk Road linking Asia, Africa and Europe, investing billions of dollars in infrastructure projects. Japan, following Washington's lead under then-US President Barack Obama, did not join the AIIB, partly from concern it was a vehicle to boost China's regional clout and a potential rival of the Asian Development Bank, the Manila-based institution dominated by Japan and the United States. The AIIB and ADB signed an agreement in May last year setting the stage for joint financing projects. “We remain cautious about the AIIB and need to examine its transparency even more closely since China plays a dominant role in its governance,” Masahiko Shibayama, an adviser to Abe, said. ^ top ^

Belt and Road brings boon for satellite services (Global Times)
2017-04-25
China's sprawling Belt and Road initiative is set to give a shot in the arm for homegrown satellite services providers, which have been gaining competitiveness relative to their foreign counterparts in recent years. And although China has yet to join the top global powers in terms of cutting-edge communications technology, domestic satellite communications firms might turn out to be trendsetters in the future, just like indigenous telecommunications equipment vendors such as Huawei and ZTE, which have gradually upgraded their mobile communication systems over the years from 2G to 5G. In fairness, the use of satellite communications equipment in China - where there is extensive optical-fiber broadband penetration - is relatively limited, unlike in developed markets such as Europe and the US. In these countries, it's common for people to put up satellite dishes, thus making satellite communications equipment almost a daily necessity. In many countries and regions along the route of the Belt and Road, however, there are neither wide-ranging optical-fiber networks nor enough affluence to afford satellite communications equipment and services. Nevertheless, the implementation of the Belt and Road initiative that comprises the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road still offers a big opportunity for various satellite communications equipment vendors and services providers. To be specific, satellite communications services will be indispensable for Chinese enterprises seeking to build infrastructure in countries and regions along the route where there are no adequate networks on the ground. It's worth pointing out that high-throughput satellites are capable of passing data back and forth between base stations in a fast and efficient manner. There will also be great demand for emergency communications in countries along the route, and satellite communications services are surely among the top choices. In addition, for distance education to be enabled in areas such as African countries, there seems to be no choice other than satellite communications services. On top of that, satellite communications are vital along maritime routes, with vessels such as fishing boats being miles away from land. All this points to the tremendous opportunities that are available, and it makes sense for Chinese satellite communications firms given that Chinese enterprises looking to gain a foothold in markets along the Belt and Road route would naturally prefer to use homegrown satellite communications equipment and services, owing to national security concerns. It should also be mentioned that the offerings of existing satellite communications technologies by indigenous businesses have already come close to being able to match those of their foreign counterparts. The advantage is compounded by the lower prices for homegrown offerings. The countries and regions that can be considered key markets for domestic satellite communications firms are Pakistan, the five Central Asian countries and African countries. Chinese offerings might be more sensitive in countries such as India. Admittedly, China still lags behind developed economies in terms of the capability to invent disruptive satellite communications technologies or make revolutionary breakthroughs. But China's domestic satellite communications firms have been growing at an accelerating rate, and are getting stronger in their research and development capabilities. The rise of Chinese telecommunications equipment vendors could be an analogy for China's future rise in the satellite communications space. Back in the 2G era, domestic firms were generally preoccupied with efforts to imitate and catch up with their global counterparts, but they've now risen to become genuine industry behemoths. The transition from being a follower to a leader is highly likely to be repeated in the arena of satellite communications. Certainly, it will take time for homegrown satellite communications equipment and services to be well received in markets along the Belt and Road, and they will have to go much further than simply being taken for granted by Chinese businesses envisioning an expansion along the route. But the opportunities along the Belt and Road route could lead to the eventual rise of China's satellite communications strength. ^ top ^

China hoping for French election result that brings stability, not more uncertainty (Global Times)
2017-04-25
European shares rallied on Monday and the euro briefly soared to a five-month high following the outcome of the first round of the French presidential election. France is a pillar of the political stability and economic recovery of the European continent and the country's presidential election will be a test for the unity and stability of the eurozone. The market has been closely watching the election, which is seen as a barometer for French political and economic conditions. Following Brexit last year, which dealt a blow to EU integration and brought intense market volatility, investors are hoping for a bit of stability in the EU. In a multi-polar world, China is also hoping for EU stability and would be more comfortable engaging with an EU that is capable of dealing with its own internal politics and advancing its own integration process. In this case, an outcome of the French election that threatens the stability of the eurozone and the political and economic stability of the EU is not a scenario China wants to see. Eurozone unity and EU stability is vital from a global perspective, but whether or not that prospect materializes depends on the choice of the French people and which candidate wins in the final runoff. Monday's upbeat sentiment came after the independent centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen won the first round of the presidential election on Sunday, qualifying the two candidates for a final runoff in early May. The market had feared that Le Pen and far-left politician Jean Luc Melenchon, both of whom are euroskeptics, would make it to the final face-off, which would raise the possibility of "Frexit" - or France leaving the EU. Sunday's result allowed investors to breathe a sigh of relief as it reduced the chance of more Brexit-like shock and chaos. Macron, a former economy minister, is a stalwart of globalization and most favored by the market given his promises to adopt a policy for a stronger EU. He is now widely expected to win in the final round of the election next month. But Le Pen, who seeks to ditch the euro and may pull France out of the EU as well, still has a chance to win in the deciding vote, which could increase uncertainties. However, regardless of who wins, the result will definitely reshuffle France's political and economic landscape and may set a new tone for the political and economic relations between China and France. China is France's No.1 trading partner in Asia and No.5 globally while France is China's No.4 trading partner in the EU and No.3 overseas investment destination. The two economies are quite complementary. No matter who wins, China hopes France will have the courage to reform itself and maintain stability. Above all, France should show more confidence and sincerity to engage with a stronger China, both politically and economically. The country should put protectionism aside and promote a relationship with China that is truly reciprocal. ^ top ^

China pushes for all-round cooperation with Iran: vice premier (Xinhua)
2017-04-23
Visiting Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong said here Saturday that China is willing to strengthen all-round cooperation with Iran and achieve tangible results in various sectors. The vice premier made the remarks during a meeting with Iranian Vice President Sorena Sattari in Iran's capital Tehran. Liu said that the relations between China and Iran, which provide mutual support at crucial moments and on major issues, have maintained steady momentum of development. In January 2016, Chinese President Xi Jinping paid a state visit to Iran and formulated a strategic plan with Iranian leaders on China-Iran relations, she said. "Over the past year, the two sides have achieved significant progress in their cooperation in politics, trade, energy, agriculture and culture," Liu said. Under the frame of the Belt and Road initiative, which will benefit the region and beyond, China will further promote the comprehensive strategic partnership with Iran, strenghthen cooperation in the traditional sectors such as energy, tap the potential of cooperation in emerging sectors of capacity, connectivity and industrial parks, and expand cooperation in science and technology, education, culture, medicine and health, Liu added. The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative, known as the Belt and Road Initiative, was proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013 with the aim of building a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along ancient trade routes. For his part, Sattari said the relations between Iran and China have made considerable progress in recent years. Iran always places its relations with China as a high priority of its foreign policy, the vice president said, adding that Xi's historic visit to Iran in 2016 helped boost significant progress in bilateral relations. Sattari expressed the hope that the two countries could further promote the Belt and Road initiative and strengthen cooperation in various fields. After the meeting, Liu and Sattari witnessed the signing of a series of cooperation documents in the fields of science and technology, culture and art. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

New chill falls over academic speech in China (SCMP)
2017-04-28
A retired teacher at the Chinese Academy of Governance, a training school for government officials, was publicly criticised for talking to foreign media, marking a new height in Beijing's intolerance of freedom of expression among academia. The teacher, who was not identified, was removed from his position as a vice-chairman of a society, according to a statement by the school's leadership. It said a regulation had been drafted that required teaching staff to obtain approval before they talked to the media. Reviews of applications for interviews with “non-mainstream domestic media and foreign, or overseas, media” would receive especially strict scrutiny, it said. The policy change was contained in a self-criticism by the school leadership published on the website of the Communist Party's graft watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. The statement said the teacher gave two interviews to overseas media in March and July last year, and his “wrong ideas” had caused a “bad influence”. The crackdown on unauthorised media interviews is part of a broader move by the school, formally known as the China National School of Administration, to more closely toe the party's ideological line. The school now views its classrooms, website, publications, academic forums and media interviews it grants as “ideological battlegrounds”. ' As such, the school will review all its publications to ensure they adhere to the party line, and strictly supervise speeches and lectures by staff. The school has also demanded every academic department develop two new lessons in the first half of this year featuring Chinese “President Xi Jinping's key speeches”. It urged teaching and research wings to heed the warning and “resolutely eliminate 'noises' in class”. The academy was established in 1994 under the direct administration of the State Council. Council Secretary General Yang Jing is the head of the school, while its executive deputy chief is Ma Jiantang, the former chief of the National Bureau of Statistics. Similar ideological campaigns have been rolled out across the mainland, as the leadership seeks to tighten its grip on schools and intellectuals, while silencing criticism. Universities were told in May 2013 to avoid seven topics, including universal values, civil rights and press freedom, which are deemed Western imports. Last December, Xi called for colleges and universities to show allegiance to the party, and two months later, graft-busters launched inspections of 29 prominent universities to determine whether they were toeing the party line. Schools under the administration of local authorities have been told to enhance ideological work as well. Shantou University, which was founded in 1981 with donations from the Li Ka Shing Foundation and which is known for its international outlook, was accused by party inspectors last month of doing a poor job of following party thinking and resisting illegal religious “infiltration”. The latest World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders ranked China fifth last out of 180 countries, coming only ahead of Syria, Turkmenistan, Eritrea and North Korea. ^ top ^

Xi'an school that exclusively uses ancient texts under local govt investigation (Global Times)
2017-04-27
The authorities in Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, have launched an investigation into a private school that was reportedly deviating from the national curriculum and exclusively teaching children classic texts. The school, which opened after the Spring Festival this year, is called Runzhi Xuetang and is located in an apartment complex for the aged in Chang'an district. Before the school was suspended by local education authorities it had around 20 students, Chinese Business View reported on April 20. A Chang'an resident surnamed Han told the newspaper that he was shocked when he found out his friend had taken his child out of a normal school to send them to Runzhi Xuetang where students mainly study Chinese classics such as The Analects of Confucius. "The child is under 10 years old, isn't it crazy to let such a little child quit school and only read classic books all day?" Han said. Han said that the school cannot provide a comprehensive education due to its narrow focus. The Chang'an authorities have launched an investigation into the school and asked it to temporarily shut down after receiving a report from Han. They also punished the school for having an unlicensed kitchen, Chinese Business View reported. Waste of time The director of the school and owner of the apartment, surnamed Ji, told Chinese Business View that students' lives have improved since they started to study in his school. Regular schools overwhelm students with too much homework, Ji said. "Isn't it unbelievable that a Chinese person could have never read The Analects?" Ji asked. He said that public primary schools' courses are highly repetitive and a waste of time. Ji said that at first some volunteers at the nursing home would bring their children with them while they worked. They then started to hold classes, eventually founding the school. Gradually, word spread and more children joined in, mostly those of people in the volunteers' social circle. The students are all between the ages of 10 and 12 years old, according to Ji. Ji said that some of the volunteers are certified teachers and offer their tutoring for free. Besides Chinese classics, Ji says they also teach English works including Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. But Ji did not mention whether the school itself is certified. All private educational institutions must receive government approval in China. Two pupils were able to recite passages from The Analects to the Chinese Business View reporter who visited Runzhi Xuetang. However, Liu Xu, an experienced middle-school teacher, said that memorization without understanding is no good for students. The Chinese Business View report said that all the textbooks used in Ji's school use complicated language well beyond what most children of that age are expected to understand. Liu pointed out that one cannot learn much from a book that one struggles to read. Compulsory courses China's top education authority warned local governments to pay special attention to home-schooled children in February, stressing that compulsory education is, as the name implies, compulsory. Chinese law says that all children must take part in the compulsory education system that covers at least nine years, five to six years of primary school and three to four years of middle school. Parents must gain approval from their local education department if a child has to drop out of school, warning that compulsory education cannot be replaced by home schooling without permission, says a document released on the Ministry of Education website on February 22. As more parents are growing dissatisfied with public schools and turning to traditional methods of schooling, local education departments have been told to pay close attention to private schools, read the document. "Many parents choose home schooling or private schools as they disagree with the philosophy and methods of public schools, which attach a lot of importance to exams," Chu Zhaohui, a research fellow at the National Institute of Educational Sciences, told the Global Times. Some parents also think public schools cannot provide their children with a tailored education, Chu said. However, Chu noted that the quality of private schools is not very high in general as many of them do not employ qualified teachers or follow official curriculums. Moreover, they focus too much on traditional values and fail to implement developed teaching methods, which can harm students' long-term development, according to Chu. Miu Jiaodong, an expert in education at Nanjing Normal University, told the Xinhua News Agency that traditional culture education can be a supplement to modern education which focuses on facts and overlooks students' moral cultivation. ^ top ^

Chinese restaurant staff jailed for cooking with 'gutter oil' (SCMP)
2017-04-27
Owners and staff members at three restaurants in eastern China have been jailed for using waste cooking oil to make hotpot, according to a news website. More than 10 people working at the eateries in Wenzhou in Zhejiang province were given sentences ranging from eight months to just over 2½ years, 66wz.com reported. The restaurant owners were given the stiffest jail terms, according to the article. The group was arrested last year in a government's food safety campaign. Some suspects were caught by police fetching waste oil, also known as “gutter oil”, from backstreet drainage near the restaurants. They reprocessed the waste oil at small workshops in remote suburbs and sold it back to the restaurants for a low price. The business was carried out under the instructions or consent of the restaurant owners for months, the report said. There were no immediate indications that the convicted would appeal against their sentences. Chinese media have regularly reported on cases of “gutter oil” being used in restaurants and Sichuan food eateries which use a lot of chilli oil have often been involved. A large Sichuan hotpot sometimes contains more than a 1kg of chilli oil. The report said some of the restaurants in Wenzhou were very popular, generating revenue of more than 1.5 million yuan (US$200,000) a month. ^ top ^

Xi Jinping ally appears sidelined with NPC committee role (SCMP)
2017-04-27
A close ally of Chinese President Xi Jinping has been assigned to a largely nominal position at the nation's top lawmaking body, despite widespread expectations he might take on higher roles. Xia Baolong, 64, was appointed deputy director of the Environmental and Resources Conservation Committee on Thursday. The position is largely a titular one with limited decision-making power at the National People's Congress. The appointment effectively caps Xia's career, as he will reach the retirement age for his government level next year. Xia stepped down as Communist Party boss of Xi's power base Zhejiang province on Wednesday. A Zhejiang source earlier told the South China Morning Post Xia had a chance to succeed 69-year-old Meng Jianzhu as head of the party's Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission. Xia became known for taking a hardline approach to governing in 2015 after he ordered a campaign to tear down hundreds, perhaps thousands, of crosses from the roofs of churches in the city of Wenzhou, known as China's Jerusalem due to its large number of Christians. The campaign was later expanded across the province. Xia's watch, Zhejiang became entrusted by the top leadership with hosting some of the nation's most important global events, including three sessions of the World Internet Summit, with Xi personally joining one, and last year's G20 Summit, which was held in China for the first time. Xia was Xi's deputy when Xi was party secretary of Zhejiang from 2003 to 2007. Many of Xi's former subordinates at Zhejiang have been given some of the party's most important positions. Cai Qi, who worked with Xi in both Fujian province and Zhejiang, is now mayor of Beijing and a front runners to enter the 25-strong Politburo in the upcoming power reshuffle this fall. ^ top ^

Ex-president Hu Jintao's son formally named mayor of city in eastern China (SCMP)
2017-04-26
The son of the former Chinese president Hu Jintao has formally been named the mayor of a city in eastern China. Hu Haifeng has been confirmed in the post in Jiaxing in Zhejiang province. He had been acting mayor since March last year and was elected to the role by the local people's congress on Tuesday, the Jiaxing Daily reported. The move comes after Deng Xiaoping's grandson, Deng Zhuodi, quit his post as a county Communist Party deputy secretary in the Guangxi region in July last year. Late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping's influence over grandson lives on in his favourite game (The younger Hu had worked as deputy chief of the party in Jiaxing since 2013. Public information given about the sons and daughters of Chinese leaders is often limited in China. US President Donald Trump's daughter, Ivanka, may grab the headlines, but not a single picture has formally been publicly released of President Xi Jinping's daughter, Xi Mingze. Only a minority of the sons and daughters of leaders take government office, although many are influential in the business world. Among those taking a government position are the minister of transport, Li Xiaopeng. He is the son of China's former premier Li Peng. The younger Hu graduated in computer science at Beijing Jiaotong University and studied for an Executive MBA at Tsinghua University. He headed Nuctech, a Tsinghua University-owned company formed in the 1990s. The firm has a near monopoly on security check equipment at airports, subways and public venues in China. The company was involved in a corruption investigation in Namibia, but no allegations of wrongdoing were levelled at Hu. He became the party secretary of the Yangtze Delta Region Institute in Jiaxing, a government-backed think tank, in 2010. It is unclear what job Deng Xiaoping's grandson, Deng Zhuodi, will take on next after leaving his local government position last year. He took part in a bridge competition in Beijing last month. His grandfather was also a passionate player of the card game. ^ top ^

Trial of China human rights lawyer delayed, say supporters (SCMP)
2017-04-25
A Chinese court postponed the trial of a prominent human rights lawyer on Tuesday, his supporters said, in a case that has sparked international concern after allegations he was tortured. Xie Yang, who had worked on numerous cases considered politically sensitive by the ruling Communist Party, was among hundreds of legal staff and activists detained in a crackdown in the summer of 2015. Dozens of supporters and several diplomats gathered at the court in the central city of Changsha for the start of Xie's trial, believed to be on charges of “inciting subversion of state power”, but were told the case would not be heard on Tuesday. Last-minute delays in sensitive trials are not uncommon even though Chinese law requires courts to give a defendant's family and lawyers three days notice of any changes, said Amnesty International China researcher Patrick Poon. A new date was not provided. Xie, who was arrested in the so-called “709 crackdown”, claims police have used “sleep deprivation, long interrogations, beatings, death threats, humiliations” on him and the European Union has voiced concern over his case. Eleven countries, including Canada, Australia and Switzerland, also cited his case in a letter to Beijing criticising China's detention practices. “We are following this case very closely and our human rights counsellor is in Changsha today,”a Beijing-based EU spokesman said. Xie is being represented by a court designated advocate after he was denied the right to pick his own defence, his former attorney Chen Jiangang said. The new lawyer, He Xiaodian, could not be reached for comment. Chen said He had contacted Xie's family on Monday night to advise them not to go to the courtroom. “But they did not get any clear information saying the trial date was different,” he said. Court officials had confirmed to Xie's wife, Chen Guiqiu, that the trial would start on Tuesday, she said in a statement last week. Chinese President Xi Jinping has overseen a tightening of controls on civil society since assuming power in 2012, closing avenues for legal activism that had opened up in recent years. While the government initially targeted political activists and human rights campaigners, it has increasingly turned its attention to the legal professionals who represent them. Among Xie's clients were Chinese activists who supported Hong Kong democracy. He was indicted in December on charges of “inciting subversion of state power” and “disrupting court order”, according to the US-based charity Chinese Human Rights Defenders. ^ top ^

Public helped shape policies (China Daily)
2017-04-25
The Government Work Report for 2017 drew upon the wisdom of the public offered in more than 2,000 suggestions selected from hundreds of thousands of messages submitted in an annual online poll. The poll, called Share Your Thoughts with Premier Li (Keqiang), was conducted from Dec 20 to March 16 through the State Council's website and 28 other websites. It was the third time that such a poll had been carried out. Netizens left more than 400,000 messages as part of the poll, exceeding the numbers left in the two previous polls, conducted in 2015 and January 2016, according to an analysis report released on Monday by the State Council website's operational center. Public helped shape policies A majority of the messages were left in Chinese, but some 2,165 messages were left in foreign languages, according to the report. During this year's two sessions, 2,071 messages were selected and reported to the State Council team that drafted the Government Work Report, Wang Yao, deputy editor-in-chief of the operational center of the State Council's website, said on Monday. The top three topics for the Chinese messages were livelihood and social insurance, housing, and education. The top three topics for the messages left in foreign languages were the environment, education and diplomacy. Liu Yingjie, head of the information department under the State Council's Research Office, said that the team has "adopted a wide range of netizens' suggestions" during the process of drafting and revising the Government Work Report for 2017. The suggestions adopted in the report are on issues that have drawn wide attention from the public, according to Liu. They include cutting excessive fees imposed on companies, preventing housing prices from rising too quickly in some cities and action on environmental pollution such as smog. This year's Government Work Report, Liu said, has been called practical by many because it has taken advice from people from across the country, including from a large number of netizens, and has answered the public's concerns. Chinadaily.com.cn was among the websites that helped gather the public's suggestions online for the poll, and was among the three websites that received the largest number of messages in foreign languages. ^ top ^

Vending machines selling HIV test kits on university campuses (China Daily)
2017-04-24
As the HIV/AIDS epidemic begins to hit more young Chinese, the nation's health and education authorities are installing vendor machines selling home HIV test kits on university campuses to help raise awareness and fight the disease. To date, 10 Chinese universities in Sichuan, Yunnan, and Heilongjiang provinces, Beijing, and Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region have joined the initiative many call "progressive" in a country where sex largely remains a taboo subject and systematic sex education is still lacking. "We cannot wait to take action, but it's hard to do so, especially on university campuses. Otherwise we put the young students' health at risk," said Shen Jie, deputy director of the Chinese Association of STD and AIDS Prevention and Control, which led the initiative. "More universities are talking with us to install such machines on campus as an alternative option for students seeking HIV testing, which should be normalized anyhow," she added. Many students are reluctant to visit the HIV testing clinics run by the health authorities, even though a visit is free, she said. Privacy and fear of discrimination largely keep them away. In recent years, China has seen a rapidly increasing HIV epidemic, particularly among young students aged 15 to 24, mostly via unprotected gay sex, said Wu Zunyou, head of the National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention. Over the weekend, a story made national news headlines that 106 university students tested positive for HIV in a single district in Yuelu, Changsha, capital of central Hunan province, in recent years, local public health institutions revealed. Most of those infected were gay men. Nationwide, during the first nine months of last year, more than 2,300 students in this age range were detected with HIV, roughly four times greater than in 2010. In the vendor machine projects, the home test kits are on sale on campuses alongside snacks and beverages, according to Liu Peng, who's responsible for the association's program. "There is more privacy this way." The kit uses urine and costs 30 yuan ($4.38) and one can check the result over the Internet after sending back the sample of urine to designated labs run by public health authorities. No ID information is required, he added. "Roughly 100 samples were sent back from our campus during the first several months," said Zhang Jihong, head of the health center at Southwest Petroleum University in Chengdu, Sichuan province. As a pioneer, the university first joined the initiative in June 2016. The two vending machines selling the kits are at the health center and the stadium, both frequented by students. "I never saw anyone buy the kit but I did see the kit packages in our dormitory toilets. And that somewhat serves as an alert to me that the disease is actually all around and we need self protection," said a sophomore surnamed Du. Shen Jie agreed. "The fact that more universities became willing to join us well demonstrates an ever-increasing public awareness of AIDS control," she said. The positive trend has been seen among the general public and with the authorities as well. The country will promote HIV home testing among the people to detect as many sufferers as possible for early treatment, said Wu Zunyou. The home test kits have become largely available now at e-commerce platforms and will be on sale at pharmacies soon, he added. ^ top ^

Pilot jury program may be extended (China Daily)
2017-04-24
A pilot program for jurors in Chinese courtrooms may continue for an additional year. Shen Deyong, vice-president of the Supreme People's Court, applauded the achievements of the pilot program, launched in 50 courts in 10 provincial regions, including Beijing, Hebei and Chongqing, in April 2015, but he also said that some problems need more time to be solved. Last year, 81,772 cases in the 50 courts relied on jurors, of which 64,917 were civil disputes and 11,642 were criminal matters, a draft proposal to extend the pilot program said. Courts were encouraged to hear jurors' opinions on cases involving the public interest or that might influence society, the draft said. It was submitted to the National People's Congress Standing Committee on Monday. "In the pilot program, we hoped jurors would share their opinions on the facts of the case instead of legal issues, but so far we have no system to clarify the difference between the two," he said. "Meanwhile, we hoped that jurors would be selected randomly instead of chosen from a group of candidates recommended by local communities and authorities, but in reality we found it harder to find those with professional backgrounds, such as medicine or architecture, through a random selection." "That's why some legal experts and NPC deputies suggested that we continue to use recommended candidates," he said. Extending the pilot also aims to increase public participation in legal proceedings and improve the credibility of court rulings, Shen added. In 2015, the top court decided to rethink the selection procedure and allow more people from different walks of life to take part in court hearings. It increased the minimum age for jurors from 23 to 28 but lowered educational requirements for the pilot program. Before the pilot, jurors in China were mainly chosen through recommendations, unlike the jury system in the United States, for example, which randomly creates a large jury pool that lawyers whittle down to a smaller number of acceptable jurors to hear a case. ^ top ^

Discovery of vast, toxic pits spurs national inspection in China (SCMP)
2017-04-21
The Ministry of Environmental Protection is organising a nationwide inspection of polluted soil after massive acidic sewage pits were found in Tianjin and Hebei province. A green group discovered the polluted pits in Tianjin's Jinghai district and in Dacheng county in Hebei. The pits cover more than 350,000 square metres, and the group said on social media it feared the sites had made water and soil in the region unsafe. Members of the Chongqing Liangjiang Voluntary Service Centre, which is based in Chongqing, said preliminary tests showed the sewage in all the pits was strongly acidic. Tian Weiyong, head of the monitoring department at the Ministry of Environmental Protection, said on Friday that the ministry was organising a nationwide inspection of problematic soil and would seriously punish any offenders. “The sewage pits in Tianjin and Hebei involved at least two ¬offences, evading supervision and avoiding responsibility by... discharging dangerous waste illegally,” Tian was quoted by Xinhua as saying. The pits in Tianjin were formed in the 1970s after local brick and tile factories dug away earth nearby. The green group speculated that tanker trunks later dumped sewage into these pits, according to China Youth Daily. The district had completed treatment for the pits in 2014, yet the problem reoccurred last year. Retreatment work was expected to be completed in July, the newspaper reported. A statement by the Langfang municipal government, which administers Dacheng county in Hebei, said the pits there formed gradually over the years and had been contaminated by illegally dumped acid waste in 2013. Previous efforts to treat the pits failed and the county government had earmarked a further 38 million yuan (US$5.52 million) for the project, the statement said. It added that two officials in charge of environmental protection in the county had been suspended pending an investigation. The environmental ministry launched an inquiry this month in 28 cities in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, a pollution hot spot, and found that more than two-thirds of the companies investigated had violated environmental rules, Tian said. More than 4,000 firms had been investigated as part of the campaign, and 2,808 were found to have violated environmental rules, representing 69 per cent of the total. The ministry has traditionally struggled to impose its will on powerful industrial enterprises and on growth-obsessed local governments. The mainland imposed total fines of 6.63 billion yuan for environmental violations in 2016, up 56 per cent compared to the previous year, the ministry said in a statement yesterday. ^ top ^

 

Beijing

Demolition of 1000's of illegal stores leaves Beijing migrants with unsure future (Global Times)
2017-04-25
It was a windy day in Beijing. Gu, a 31-year-old woman from East China's Anhui Province, moved her store's shelves outside its demolished facade at the bottom of an apartment building in Chaoyang district, trying to shift the last few bottles of wine and boxes of cigarettes she had in stock. While Gu sold her remaining items, her two-year-old daughter played on her own behind the shelves, not worried about what will happen to her family or where she will go to kindergarten, in Beijing or her mother's hometown. Gu came to the capital three years ago and opened her shop with the help of relatives, but after her business was hit by the local government's recent demolition drive, she has lost what she worked so hard to establish. "My family is now living with those products in a basement. Hopefully we can sell our stock in a week and find other jobs. Or we might have to return to our hometown as my daughter needs to go to school soon," Gu told the Global Times on Monday. Gu's shop was demolished in early April, and many other migrants are in the same boat as the Beijing government takes aim at businesses opened at street-level without permits. The drive to enforce building codes dovetails with the government's policy to cap the capital's population at 23 million by 2020, according to its draft overall plan for 2016-2030 released in March. It says the Beijing government will work to solve the problems caused by overcrowding by "optimizing the population structure and improving population quality." The small alleyways running off Tuanjiehu Road once hosted dozens of businesses located in converted first floor-homes, but now they make a desolate scene with shop doors blocked up with concrete and a few struggling to go on by serving customers through windows. A restaurant selling dishes from Northwest China's Shaanxi Province now hands out noodles from behind a barred window as two staff members pass out menus. "My restaurant was torn down yesterday and though we are trying to do take-out for the next few days, we will shut down if we can't make money," said Sun Jing, the owner of the restaurant, which has been open for about 10 years with annual profits reaching up to 400,000 yuan ($58,087). "The demolitions are forcing out all of my migrant workers, who have no savings or homes here and earn about 3,000 yuan a month," Sun said. Small businesses like Sun's make up about 35 per cent of the city's economy but only 7.5 per cent of its tax revenues, according to 2011 figures, the most recent available, the London-based Financial Times reported. "Those small businesses, called 'low-end industries' were widely constructed in Beijing and some other cities since reform and opening-up started in 1979. It was always illegal but the government turned a blind eye," said Niu Fengrui, a research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "It was actually a gray area over which government and street committees failed to exercise management, while those businesses, at the same time, offered lots of job opportunities for newcomers to the cities," Niu said. While the two restaurant workers tried to drum up business, many of Sun's long time customers came forward to ask what is going. "Are you still open? When you will be closed?" Sun said that she will try to find a new home for the restaurant, legal and cheap. Small businesses function as "venues for living necessities for nearby residents," and governments cannot simply demolish them and offer no other alternatives for the community, Yin Zhi, dean of the Urban Planning and Design Institute of Tsinghua University, told the Global Times. In the first three months of 2017, 6,091 businesses and 11.8 million square meters of illegal buildings in Beijing have been demolished, respectively meeting 38 and 29 percent of the city's annual targets, Li Sufang, the deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Development and Reform, told the media in April. Along with the demolitions, the city government has relocated migrants and wholesale markets to other cities or counties, with a38 markets in the city center being moved, said Li, without specifying how many people were involved. Beijing has benefited from the clustering of resources in the city as a consequence of the market economy and administrative preferences, but it has also suffered from the "urban diseases" this has brought including overcrowding and congestion, said Wang Xiaolu, deputy director of the National Economic Research Institute of China Reform Foundation. The drive to solve "urban diseases" is behind the demolition, Yin said, adding that improving official management also is part of the 2030 plan. ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

Xinjiang launches app to receive security tip-offs (Global Times)
2017-04-27
The public security bureau in Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, launched a mobile app to encourage locals to report security threats, which was hailed by experts as an innovative move toward multi-dimensional anti-terrorism work in the region. The app named baixing anquan, meaning "safety for the public," was officially launched on Tuesday, aiming to better safeguard social stability and security, xinjiangnet.com.cn reported. Urumqi citizens can upload texts, pictures and video clips onto the app if they notice any suspicious activity that might pose a threat to social stability and security, said Huang Bo, an investigator at the city's public security bureau, the report added. "Safeguarding security and stability takes more than police, and the app is an innovative step in the multi-dimensional fight against terrorism, and will achieve good results," a Beijing-based criminal investigation expert surnamed Liu told the Global Times. Tip-offs will be rewarded with cash, while the source of such information will be protected automatically, read an advertisement released on the Urumqi police's official WeChat account on Thursday. The app is currently only available on android systems, in both simplified Chinese and Uyghur languages. The app can only be activated after users submit their real names, identification card numbers, and details related to job or occupation. "Everyone with this app can contribute to the cause of safeguarding social security and stability … I feel empowered and more involved," a local businesswoman told the Global Times on Thursday on condition of anonymity. "In particular, the source protection mechanism makes me feel safe," said the woman. The details of how the city police will process these citizen reports have not been disclosed. When asked if such apps could encourage people to spy on each other, or even to frame someone up, Liu said that "Nowadays, the phone number registration requires real name, and so does the app. That provides double security to prevent the abuse of the app." ^ top ^

China's Uygur youth urged to love motherland and learn Mandarin to avoid 'terrorist' label (SCMP)
2017-04-27
Young members of China's Uygur Muslim minority should “love the motherland” and learn Putonghua to help fight a perception they are “terrorists”, Uygur members of the ruling Communist Party said in state media on Thursday. Sporadic violence, from knife attacks to riots to car bombs, have hit China's far western region of Xinjiang in recent years. Most incidents are said to have been carried out by Uygurs, a mostly Muslim, Turkic-speaking minority who call the region home. The government has responded with displays of military might, including regular “anti-terror” police rallies in various cities, most recently in the regional capital of Urumqi on Tuesday. Four senior Uygur officials, writing in a front-page article in the official Xinjiang Daily newspaper, asked young people to reflect on why Uygurs were labelled “terrorists”. “A small group of devils create violence and terror in order to split the motherland and destroy ethnic unity,” they said. “Because of this, we regularly face round-upon-round of safety checks, sometimes we finding it hard to stay in hotels or to rent housing.” Young Uygurs should reflect on how the party had created a “harmonious, prosperous, happy and safe” life for minorities in Xinjiang, they said, adding that a failure to grasp the nation's common language of Putonghua was a “disgrace”. “Siblings, the great motherland has granted us a blessed, heavenly life, how can we follow those devils to abandon our motherland?” they said. Rights groups say restrictions on the culture and religion of Uygurs, combined with policies encouraging the Han minority to live and work in the region, foster tension that bubbles over into violence. Beijing denies any repression and blames attacks on groups spreading “splittism” and “religious extremism” in the region. Officials have also launched a propaganda campaign, asking people to “warmly love the party, motherland, and the big family of the Chinese people” and “oppose splittism, extremism and violence”. Such campaigns are common, but in the current effort, an unusually large number of Uygur officials have come forward to ask fellow Uygurs to do more to support counterterrorism and to weed out “two-faced” people. The new party secretary of the region, Chen Quanguo, has also beefed up already expansive security, increasing identification checks and expanding a network of police posts. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

China urges EU to stop interfering in Hong Kong, Macao affairs (Xinhua)
2017-04-27
China on Thursday urged the European Union to stop interfering in Hong Kong and Macao affairs and to contribute more to China-EU relations. The European Commission and European External Action Service issued their 2016 reports on the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) and the Macao SAR Wednesday. China has always objected the EU annual reports on Hong Kong and Macao since their return to the motherland, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a daily press briefing, adding that it is well known that "one country, two systems" has made remarkable achievements. "We urge the EU to halt interference in Hong Kong and Macao affairs, and contribute more to the China-EU relations," Geng said. He said that the SAR system has been effective under the Constitution and the basic law of the two SARs. China will stick to "one country, two systems," "Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong," "Macao people governing Macao,"and a high degree of autonomy, said Geng. ^ top ^

Disqualified Hong Kong pro-independence lawmakers Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung charged with unlawful assembly (SCMP)
2017-04-26
Two Hong Kong independence advocates who were disqualified as lawmakers last year were on Wednesday arrested and charged for trying to force their way into a meeting of the city's legislature in November. Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching, who lost their Legislative Council seats for distorting their oath of office during their swearing-in ceremony, were charged with unlawful assembly and attempted forced entry. They are expected to appear at Eastern Court on Friday, according to the pair, who spoke to the media outside Central Police Station after being released on bail of HK$3,000 each. Leung said the charges related to the chaos outside a Legco conference room on November 2, when they tried to storm a meeting after being barred from entering the chamber. They and their assistants had scuffled with security guards. The pair would not go into details of the case, but Leung said it was unlikely they would plead guilty on Friday, as they were being “unreasonably” prosecuted for trying to attend a meeting as newly elected lawmakers. However, a police source said: “When three or more persons assemble together and conduct themselves in a disorderly manner, causing fears that they will commit a breach of peace, it's an unlawful assembly regardless of their social status.” Leung said at least three of their former assistants were also arrested. Leung and Yau were picked up from their homes at about 7am, according to a Facebook post by Yau at about 10am. The localist pair made headline news around the world when they first took their oaths at the inaugural meeting of the new Legco on October 12 last year. They used pro-independence slogans and language deemed insulting to China, earning themselves a ban from retaking their oaths at subsequent meetings. Within a week, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying took them to court, and they were disqualified on November 15. The case also prompted an interpretation by the national legislature to make such oath-taking offences punishable by disqualification. The new case against them stems from November 2, when the duo forced their way into the Legco chamber and used their own microphones to read out their oaths a second time, as security guards tried to stop them. Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen rejected their oaths, adjourned the meeting and moved to a smaller conference room to continue. The charges laid on Wednesday relate to what happened after that, when Leung and Yau headed to the smaller room. The group they belong to, Youngspiration, issued a statement on Wednesday saying it was prepared for “more arrests and legal challenges” but would fight back. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Former KMT chairman Lien Chan to visit mainland (China Daily)
2017-04-26
Former chairman of the Chinese Kuomintang (KMT) Lien Chan will soon visit the Chinese mainland, a mainland spokesperson said Wednesday. Lien will attend a remembrance ceremony in northwest China's Shaanxi province, said Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesperson with the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council. He will also participate in another ceremony in north China's Shanxi province to honor Emperor Yandi, a legendary ancestor of the Chinese nation, and visit Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and Zhejiang province. Zhang Zhijun, head of Taiwan Work Office of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, will meet with Lien, Ma said. ^ top ^

Taiwan resident 'in good condition' (China Daily)
2017-04-26
Taiwan resident Lee Ming-che, who is under investigation for endangering national security, was "in good physical condition", the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office said on Wednesday. Lee was detained on suspicion of jeopardizing national security, and some groups in Taiwan have used the case to stir up trouble, the office said earlier this month. He is in good physical condition and is being given good medical care, said Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, at a regular news briefing on Wednesday. "Lee's medical needs have been taken care of. He has also written a letter explaining the situation to his family," Ma said. The suspect's legal rights are being protected during the investigation," Ma said. The mainland has always encouraged exchanges between people from both sides of the Straits and has issued mainland travel permits for Taiwan residents, Ma said, adding that every year more than 5 million Taiwan residents visit. During the briefing, Ma also urged the Taiwan authorities to adhere to the 1992 Consensus. The mainland has always maintained hope that the two sides will adhere to the 1992 Consensus, which serves as the foundation of cross-Straits relations. However, the relationship changed on May 20, when the Democratic Progressive Party in Taiwan denied the consensus, Ma said. "If the Taiwan authorities sincerely want to restore the communication mechanism across the Straits, they should return to the common political ground - the 1992 Consensus," he said. Ma also confirmed the upcoming visit to the mainland of Lien Chan, former chairman of the Kuomintang in Taiwan, and said he is expected to meet Zhang Zhijun, head of the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office. When asked about a mainland citizen who left his tourist group while traveling in Taiwan earlier this month, Ma said the tourist has returned to Xiamen, Fujian province. "The related mainland tourism authority and travel agency have conducted investigations on the tourist and the tour group leader," he said. Ma urged mainland tourists to observe a revised regulation on travel in Taiwan, which was made public on April 13. ^ top ^

 

Economy

Xi Jinping summons China's financial watchdogs in rare move, warning them to watch out for risks (SCMP)
2017-04-27
In an unusual move, President Xi Jinping on Wednesday summoned the country's finance industry watchdogs and ordered them to take stock of financial risks and uphold regulatory vigilance, reflecting his deep concern about dangers facing China's economy. “We must not neglect a single risk factor or... hidden danger,” Xi was quoted as saying by Xinhua. “Safeguarding financial security is a strategic and fundamental matter for China's social and economic development.” Xi's remarks, made at a “group study meeting” of the 25-member Politburo of the Communist Party, come as Beijing cracks down on the financial industry, runs after tycoons, addresses stock market irregularities and reins in off-balance-sheet operations of banks. Xi is trying to reduce risks in the financial sector that could lead to crisis or even social disorder ahead of a key party conference this autumn, taking a lesson from the stock market rout in the summer of 2015 that wiped out trillions of yuan in value and undermined Beijing's credibility. “This is such a politically important year that the Chinese leadership wants no outbreak of any financial risks,” said Larry Hu, chief China economist of Macquarie Securities in Hong Kong. At the meeting, Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People's Bank of China, Guo Shuqing, chairman of China Banking Regulatory Commission, and Liu Shiyu, chairman of China Securities Regulatory Commission, reported on financial risk controls in their realms. Chen Wenhui, a vice chairman of China Insurance Regulatory Commission, attended the meeting. The chairman of the insurance commission, Xiang Junbo, was put under disciplinary investigation earlier this month, and The Beijing News reported that Xiang was being probed because of his early ties while chairman of the Agricultural Bank of China to Guo Wengui, a Chinese tycoon in exile. According to a Xinhua statement summarising the meeting held in the leaders compound of Zhongnanhai, Xi requested the regulators to enhance regulation and to properly deal with “risk points”, or weak links in the financial world. In addition, Xi told the country's senior cadres to acquire “financial knowledge” and stressed that the communist party must step up its role in “leading financial work”. Xi's concerns about losing control of the financial sector appear well founded. China has seen a rising debt level equivalent to 261 per cent of gross domestic product and signs of financial stress across sectors, in addition to house price bubbles and capital outflows following the US Federal Reserve's interest rate increases. The finance industry is also tainted by high-level corruption. In addition to Xiang, China Banking Regulatory Commission assistant chairman Yang Jiacai and China Securities Regulatory Commission vice chairman Yao Gang were also investigated in recent years. Last week, China's securities regulator levied a 499 million yuan fine on a former official checking and approving initial public offering applications who leaked inside information to his mother-in-law and sister-in-law to make hefty profits. Chen Zhiwu, a professor of finance at the University of Hong Kong, said that financial risks were just peripheral phenomenon while the core issue was China's credit expansion aimed at propelling growth. “China has accumulated much financial risk during previous rounds of economic stabilisation efforts,” he said. “It's unfair to just point the finger at banks.” ^ top ^

Chinese president warns Politburo to be on guard against financial risks (SCMP)
2017-04-26
Chinese President Xi Jinping ramped up the rhetoric about financial risks on Tuesday, making a rare repeated call for the authorities to keep a lid on the threats. Xi told a meeting of the Communist Party's Politburo that China faced challenges overhauling its economy but the authorities should ensure there were no systemic financial risks, Xinhua reported, citing a statement. The government should attach great importance to preventing and controlling financial risks and improving coordination between the various regulatory authorities, the statement said. It is rare for “financial risks” to be mentioned twice in a single official document from such kinds of meetings, but the warnings are in line with the party's risk aversion agenda ahead of a major reshuffle later this year. The statement added that the government should step up punishment of illegal activities in the industry and do more to ensure the financial sector could help the industrial economy. Liao Qun, chief economist at China Citic Bank International, said he was not surprised by the official line. “This simply shows the severity of tightening financial regulation in recent months,” Liao said. A chill wind has swept through China's banks, stock markets and insurance companies this year, as top regulators in the financial sector have cracked down on violations of regulatory rules and officials abusing their power for personal benefit. In some cases, watchdog cadres have been targeted. Former China Insurance Regulatory Commission chairman Xiang Junbo was put under investigation for violating party discipline earlier this month. Xiang, who had extensive ties in banking and insurance, is one of the highest-ranking cadres to fall in the financial industry. According to a report from Chinese financial media outlet Caixin, Guo Shuqing, chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, told a meeting last week that he would step down if the banking sector became a mess on his watch. “We need to seriously chastise individuals and institutions for their wrongdoings, ” Guo was quoted as saying. “For those with severe violations, we need to penalise them heavily to warn others.” The Politburo meeting came a few days after China reported GDP growth of 6.9 per cent for the first three months of the year. That rate was faster than last year's average of 6.7 per cent and well above the 6.5 per cent target for this year. But the growth rebound was largely due to debt-fuelled spending led by the government. Meanwhile, many Chinese companies are turning to shadow banking for financing as Beijing gradually tightens checks on direct-funding channels like bank loans and bonds, creating extra risks for regulators. Now that regulation is on the government's radar, economists are wondering whether the Chinese leadership will still be committed to long-term restructuring plans such as reform of state-owned enterprises. “The current improvement of China's economy is partly cyclical,” the Xinhua statement said. “Restructuring the Chinese economy is still a long shot with plenty of challenges ahead.” ^ top ^

 

DPRK

China must be ready for worsened NK ties (Global Times)
2017-04-27
That China strictly implements the UN Security Council resolutions that sanction North Korea is seen by all. If Pyongyang continues with its nuclear and missile tests, China is bound to support more harsh resolutions on this country. The relationship between China and North Korea has already been severely affected. Since Kim Jong-un became the leader of North Korea, there have been no leadership meetings between the two sides. Although they maintain smooth diplomatic communication, strategic mutual trust between the two is scarce. As the situation in the Korean Peninsula worsens, Beijing-Pyongyang ties may further deteriorate. China should ready itself for unfriendly activities by North Korea. The past friendship between the two was the result of Northeast Asian geopolitics in the last century. It also fitted the national interests of the two countries at that time. The current bilateral relationship should be a normal country-to-country one first, and they can form a close friendship based on that. But the precondition is that China's national interests shall not be violated and Beijing shall not pay the price for Pyongyang's extreme policies. The issue around the peninsula generally is the conflict between the US and North Korea. But Pyongyang carries out nuclear tests only 100 kilometers from the Chinese border, and this threatens the security of Northeast China. North Korea's development of nuclear and missile technologies also intensified the situation in Northeast Asia, giving Washington an excuse to enhance its military deployment in the region. This means China cannot be a bystander. China should be firm in opposing North Korea's nuclear programs. Although Beijing and Washington have different strategic calculations, they share common interests in opposing Pyongyang developing nuclear and missile technologies. Beijing imposes pressure on Pyongyang to safeguard its own national interests rather than working for Washington. Some Chinese people worry this would render China with no cards to play in the face of the US and South Korea and it could lose its strategic buffer in Northeast Asia. At least for now, what North Korea is doing goes against China's strategic interests. From a long-term perspective, China takes the initiative of Sino-North Korean ties. As long as North Korea abandons its nuclear programs, bilateral ties can easily go back to normal. If the North Korean nuclear issue boils over, a war on the peninsula is unavoidable. The war will bring more risks than the tough sanctions on Pyongyang could to China. If China does not tackle the conundrum now, it will face more difficult choices in the future. The nature of China's sanctions is different from that of the military threat from the US and South Korea. As long as North Korea holds the slightest rationality, it will not end up militarily confronting China. As long as China breaks Pyongyang's illusion that it can ease Beijing's sanctions through diplomatic means, China will establish its authority toward North Korea. China aims to suspend both North Korea's nuclear tests and military exercises by the US and South Korea. China should make clear to the US and South Korea that China is not key to solving the North Korean nuclear issue. Nor will China articulate its North Korea policy based on their interests. Beijing hopes to maximize the interests of all stakeholders. But if it fails in the end, it still has the capability to strike back at any side that crosses the red line. ^ top ^

China praises new US tone on NK (Global Times)
2017-04-27
Beijing on Thursday welcomed an apparently softer tone by the Washington on the North Korean nuclear and missile crisis, according to Chinese foreign ministry. "We have noted these expressions and the message conveyed in these expressions hoping to resolve the Korean nuclear issue peacefully through dialogue and consultation," Geng Shuang, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, told a regular press conference. "We believe this message is positive and should be affirmed." The Trump administration said on Wednesday it aimed to push North Korea into dismantling its nuclear and missile programs, which are in violation of UN Security Council resolutions, through tougher international sanctions and diplomatic pressure. "The US seeks stability and the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. We remain open to negotiations towards that goal. However, we remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies," it said in a statement. The US stance, which appeared to signal a willingness to exhaust non-military avenues despite repeated warnings that "all options are on the table," came in a statement following an unusual White House-hosted briefing. The statement from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats described North Korea as "an urgent national security threat and top foreign policy priority." Tillerson will chair a ministerial meeting of the UN Security Council on Friday that is expected to discuss tougher sanctions, which US officials say could include an oil embargo, banning North Korea's airline, intercepting cargo ships and punishing Chinese and other foreign banks doing business with Pyongyang. China has long promoted dialogue to resolve the "Korean nuclear issue" as North Korea has repeatedly threatened to destroy the US which in turn has warned that economic sanctions in ending North Korean provocations. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will attend an open ministerial meeting on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue held by the UN Security Council Friday, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said Thursday. Wang said Wednesday that all parties concerned shall implement the resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council concerning North Korea in a comprehensive and complete manner. "Here I want to emphasize that all the resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council concerning the DPRK so far have, as always, included two aspects - opposing Pyongyang to have nuclear weapons and taking measures to deter its nuclear and missile activities on the one hand, and on the other, highlighting the peaceful settlement of the issue by avoiding the actions that may aggravate tensions and resuming the six-party talks as early as possible," he said. ^ top ^

Air China to resume flights to Pyongyang after three-week suspension (SCMP)
2017-04-25
Air China, the only Chinese carrier with regular services to North Korea, will resume the flights between Beijing and Pyongyang on May 5 after a three-week suspension, state media reported on Tuesday. The flagship carrier will have two direct flights from Beijing to Pyongyang every week, departing on Monday and Friday, China Central Television reported. Flights connecting the two cities have been suspended since April 14 amid fears that conditions facing the Korean Peninsula has become more volatile because of Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic tests. But an Air China spokesman said at that time that the suspension was mainly on ticket sales and was only temporary. Air China started regular flights from Beijing to Pyongyang in 2008. North Korea conducted a big live-fire exercise on Tuesday to mark the founding of its military in a show of force amid growing concern over the North's nuclear and missile programmes. Fears had risen in recent weeks that North Korea would conduct another nuclear test or long-range missile launch in defiance of UN sanctions. But instead of a nuclear test or missile launch, Pyongyang deployed a large number of long-range artillery units in the Wonsan region on its east coast for a live-fire drill, South Korea's military said. North Korea has an air base in Wonsan and missiles have also been tested there. China – North Korea's sole major ally, which nevertheless objects to its weapons development – has repeatedly called for calm. China's envoy for Korean affairs, Wu Dawei, was in Tokyo on Tuesday. “We hope that all parties, including Japan, can work with China to promote an early peaceful resolution of the issue, and play the role, put forth the effort, and assume the responsibility that they should,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters in Beijing. ^ top ^

In rare move, Trump summons entire US Senate to White House for North Korea briefing (SCMP)
2017-04-25
Top Trump administration officials will hold a rare briefing on Wednesday at the White House for the entire US Senate on the situation in North Korea. All 100 senators have been asked to the White House for the briefing by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said White House spokesman Sean Spicer on Monday. While administration officials routinely travel to Capitol Hill to address members of Congress on foreign policy matters, it is unusual for the entire Senate to go to the White House, and for all four of those officials to be involved. Wednesday's briefing was originally scheduled for a secure room at the Capitol, but President Donald Trump suggested a shift to the White House, congressional aides said. Washington has expressed mounting concern over North Korea's nuclear and missile tests, and its threats to attack the United States and its Asian allies. Trump, who called the leaders of China and Japan during the weekend, told UN Security Council ambassadors on Monday that “the status quo” is not acceptable, and said the council must be ready to impose new sanctions. Congressional aides suggested the briefing was being held at the White House to underscore the message to North Korea that Washington is serious about wanting a shift in policy. A senior Trump administration official said the flurry of activity around North Korea was “not a part of something choreographed” and cautioned against over-interpretation. Senators said they were happy to be hearing from the White House. “It's (the location) their choice,” said Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “I hope that we hear their policy as to what their objectives are, and how we can accomplish that hopefully without dropping bombs.” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said the administration should be telling senators it had a “red line,” if it has one. “By 2020, if nothing changes inside of North Korea, they'll have the technology, they'll have a breakthrough, to develop an ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) that can reach America. I hope this president will say that's a non-starter,” Graham said. The briefing will take place at 3pm Wednesday, EDT. ^ top ^

Xi urges calm on N.Korea during phone call with Trump (Global Times)
2017-04-24
Chinese President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Donald Trump on Monday discussed bilateral ties and the situation on the Korean Peninsula over the phone, promising close contact to allow for the prompt exchange of views on major issues of mutual concern. China strongly opposes actions that violate United Nations Security Council resolutions, Xi said, adding that China hopes the parties concerned will exercise restraint and avoid actions that aggravate tensions on the peninsula, the Xinhua News Agency reported. It was the second phone conversation between the presidents since Xi visited Trump in Florida on April 6. Xi noted that if the parties shoulder their responsibilities and meet each other halfway, they can solve North Korea's nuclear issue and achieve denuclearization, according to Xinhua. Tensions on the Korean Peninsula are mounting, with South Korean and US media reporting that North Korea is preparing its sixth nuclear test on Tuesday, the 85th anniversary of the founding of its military. North Korea has reportedly evacuated citizens living near the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, where it conducted the fifth nuclear test in September 2016. South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported Sunday that the UN Security Council will hold meetings on the North Korean nuclear issue on Friday, which may be North Korea's excuse for its latest provocation. Normal life Amid tensions, life in Chinese cities bordering North Korea has been going on as normal, though residents expressed concerns about what will happen next on the peninsula. A resident of Yanji, Northeast China's Jilin Province, surnamed Guo told the Global Times that she is worried about reports of upcoming nuclear tests. Yanji is the capital of the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture and is located just 10 kilometers from the border of China and North Korea. "We felt the earth shake during North Korea's last nuclear test, and it plans to soon test again? Seniors and children will panic," said Guo. The Punggye-ri nuclear test site is roughly 100 kilometers from Chinese border cities, including Yanji and Tumen in Jilin Province, which experienced seismic activity during the fifth test. A primary school in Yanji evacuated its students after the September 2016 test, news portal sohu.com reported. A resident of Dandong, Northeast China's Liaoning Province, which is also near the North Korean border, told the Global Times that he fears Mount Changbai volcano may erupt due to man-made earthquakes across border. The mountain straddles the border between the countries. The resident, surnamed Zhang, also said that if the situation deteriorates, there may be a flood of North Korean refugees to China. Another Yanji resident told the Global Times that he's concerned about possible pollution risks brought by North Korean nuclear tests. "They [the North Koreans] are now short of everything - from food to energy as well as technology. How will we find out if their nuclear test pollutes the air, soil and especially groundwater?" Zhang said. Foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a press conference after North Korea's fifth nuclear test that China's Environmental Protection Ministry will monitor radiation along the China-North Korea border to ensure the safety of Chinese citizens. Li Guowei, 54, a resident in Yanji, told the Global Times that "this is not the first time we have heard this news and it won't be the last. Our lives have to go on." Li said that despite the trouble North Korea has created, he has some sympathy for the North Korean people who want to protect their country, as "their hands are tied by reality." "They have a strong backbone but this cannot help them develop the country's economy," said Li. The Global Times reporter saw a group of North Koreans checking into a hotel in Yanji, and a hotel employee confirmed with the Global Times that there have been delegations from North Korea visiting the region regularly for business or to see relatives in China. Yanbian has a large population of ethnic Koreans. About 70 percent of Jilin's 1 million ethnic Koreans live there. It is also a gathering place for South Korean students and businesses. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Mongolia and China Cooperation Council held its meeting (Montsame)
2017-04-27
A meeting of Cooperation Council between Mongolia and China for mineral resources, energy and infrastructure was held successfully on April 26 in Beijing, China. The council meeting was attended by over 50 officials, including head of the Mongolian side of the council, Minister of Mongolia, Head of the Cabinet Secretariat J.Munkhbat, Minister of Road and Transport Development D.Ganbat, Minister of Mining and Heavy Industry Ts.Dashdorj and Minister of Energy P.Gankhuu and other officials from the Mongolian side and Vice chairman of National Development and Reform Commission of the People's Republic of China Ning Jizhe. Mr. Ning Jizhe noted that Mongolia has been a trusted partner of cooperation for a long time and has had close relations at regional level. He noted the two countries have great possibilities and capabilities in economic and investment cooperations. Minister J.Munkhbat said “- Comprehensive strategic partnership of the two countries has been developing intensively last years and frequent mutual visits and meetings have given significant stimulus to the cooperation. Mongolia is ready to collaborate with China to implement big projects that were indicated in the Government action plan of Mongolia”.
The meeting agenda included the following issues:
- to implement Tavantolgoi project together with Shenhua Group in a complex way covering mining, railway and processing activities and hold meeting of the working groups of the two parties
- to cooperate in establishment of copper smelting plant and export its product to Chinese market
- to cooperate with Chinese companies in projects of production of synthetic natural gas
- to implement 'Kherlen River' project due to insufficient water supply in Gobi to establish coal processing plant at Tavantolgoi, Tavantolgoi power plant and copper concentration plant
- to elevate the status of border stations as an international, including Gants mod and Gashuunsukhait, shifting into 24-hour operation
- to jointly implement projects to construct railways in route 'Khoot-Bichigt”, Eastern corridor and Northern corridor
- to increase the number of air gates
- to collaborate in the project “Energy export complex” based on Shivee-Ovoo coal mine
- to increase number of border stations to pass oil products imported from China
- to expand agreement term of CNY swap with the People's Bank of China and increase the amount.
The representative of ministries and companies of the two countries expressed their positions and exchanged views on current state of the relevant sectors and cooperation possibilities within these issues. PM J.Erdenebat will attend the 'Belt and Road' Summit in Beijing in May and during the meeting, some issues discussed at the council meeting are expected to be resolved and significant cooperation documents to be signed. ^ top ^

Cabinet approves 100 million USD ADB project to reform the banking system (UB Post)
2017-04-25
Cabinet has reached an agreement with Asian Development Bank (ADB) to launch a 100 million USD project to implement the systemic reform of the banking system. The project is called Reviving the Banking Sector, Enhancing Financial Stability. The project is being financed with a 15-year loan from the ADB, with no payment required from the Mongolian government for the first three years. There will be 12 measures undertaken as part of the project, including the establishment of an asset management company to address the increasing amount of non-performing loans in the sector. Laws will be amended in order to ensure financial stability in the sector, and regulation and governance of commercial banks will be strengthened. The amount of non-performing loans in the Mongolian banking system has significantly increased. As of 2016, the amount of non-performing loans had reached 1.7 trillion MNT, or 14.2 percent of all loans. The volume of non-performing loans in 2016 was the highest it has been in the past six years. ^ top ^

MPs to initiate law to establish rehabilitation fund (Montsame)
2017-04-25
On April 24, Head of a lobby group in the parliament to back responsible mining MP A.Undraa and Member of Parliament M.Oyunchimeg attended a consultation meeting on improving the legal environment of extractive industry. The MPs involved in a tour to Canada to study best practices for improving legal environment and in an international leadership program to USA on mine closure and rehabilitation. Attendees of the meeting were Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Canada to Mongolia Ed Jager, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of USA to Mongolia Jennifer Zimdahl Galt and representatives of a SESMIM project to strengthen extractive industry management of Mongolia. The MPs noted that due attention should be paid to avoid passing laws, which is problematic to implement and they also expressed their intention to initiate a law, that legalizes establishment of a rehabilitation fund from mining income and spending the fund for rehabilitation. The Ambassadors said they will cooperate to resolve issues regarding the legal environment of extractive industry. ^ top ^

Residential relocation to be restricted starting on April 26 (UB Post)
2017-04-24
A 60-day restriction on residential relocation will be applied across Mongolia from April 26 to June 27, ahead of the presidential election. Head of the General Authority for Intellectual Property and State Registration R.Sodkhuu issued the order on April 20, in accordance with Article 66 of the Election Law, which states that all movement between districts and provinces will be restricted for 60 days prior to regular and irregular parliamentary, presidential, and provincial elections. The restriction will take effect at 6:00 p.m. on April 26 and end at 8:00 a.m. on June 27, when polling stations for the presidential election have closed. R.Sodkhuu instructed all residential registration departments across the country to expedite applications for changes of residence before the restriction takes effect. ^ 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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