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
  6-9.6.17, No. 673  
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Foreign Policy

Islamic State kills two Chinese teachers kidnapped in Pakistan, agency says (SCMP)
2017-06-09
Islamic State has killed two Chinese citizens it kidnapped in Pakistan last month, Reuters reported, citing the militant group's Amaq news agency on Thursday. Armed men pretending to be policemen kidnapped two Chinese-language teachers in the Pakistani city of Quetta on May 24. “Islamic State fighters killed two Chinese people they had been holding in Baluchistan province, southwest Pakistan,” Amaq said. Phone calls by the South China Morning Post to the Chinese embassy in Islamabad went unanswered late on Thursday. If confirmed, it would be the latest killing by IS of Chinese citizens, following the killing of Fan Jinghui, a former middle-school teacher in Beijing and freelance advertising consultant, in November 2015. Fan was the first Chinese citizen to be killed by Islamic State. The kidnapping of the two Chinese in Pakistan happened in a remote region of the country, a dangerous but important part of Beijing's new Silk Road. The couple were teaching Chinese at a language centre in Jinnah town in Quetta, the capital city of southwestern Baluchistan province. Militants with guns abducted the pair last month, dragging them into a vehicle and then driving away around noon, China's state television quoted the Pakistan Chinese embassy as saying. After the kidnapping, China's foreign ministry said Beijing would work with Pakistan to “make every effort” to rescue the two Chinese nationals. Lu Kang, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, had said the Chinese government had “maintained close communication with Pakistan since the abduction took place and urged Pakistan to take all necessary measures to secure the early release of the hostages”. A Chinese website affiliated with Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV reported on Monday that the Pakistan military force had pinpointed the whereabouts of the two kidnapped Chinese nationals and exchanged fire with the kidnappers. No group had claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. In the past, Islamist militant factions have kidnapped foreigners inside Pakistan either to obtain a ransom or to get publicity for their cause. The kidnapping has underscored the perils in China's Belt and Road programme, its biggest venture into economic diplomacy, covering some of the world's most dangerous territory. While China is boosting its economic presence and investment in Belt and Road countries – many of which are plagued by unrest –, Beijing is reluctant to send military or security forces to ensure the safety of these projects. It has instead mainly relied on host-country governments to provide protection. But in places like Quetta, which is close to the border of Afghanistan, the protection provided by Islamabad is often limited. For teachers like the kidnapped pair, Pakistan offered an opportunity. The number of Pakistani students studying Putonghua has skyrocketed since 2014, when President Xi Jinping signed off on plans to fund the construction of power and road infrastructure in the country as part of the US$46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The kidnapping came just two weeks after Xi convened a summit with some 30 state and government leaders in Beijing, including Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, to promote Belt and Road, an ambitious trade initiative that aims to revive ancient trade routes along the Silk Road. Baluchistan is in the centre of the China-Pakistan corridor, the biggest single project under the Belt and Road banner. Roads, railways and gas pipelines are planned to link China's far west hinterland of Xinjiang to the China-operated port of Gwadar on Pakistan's southern coast. ^ top ^

Xi, Putin meet on bilateral ties, SCO development (Xinhua)
2017-06-09
Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, pledged here Thursday to enhance bilateral ties and promote the role of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The two heads of state met ahead of the 17th SCO summit in Astana. Noting that the SCO is facing new opportunities and challenges for development, Xi said China and Russia should strengthen communication and coordination, firmly observe the "Shanghai Spirit," boost solidarity among the SCO members, maintain regional security and stability, promote pragmatic cooperation, so as to constantly enhance SCO's influence in the international and regional affairs. Xi urged the SCO to play a bigger role in Afghanistan's peace and reconciliation process, adding that China will assume the SCO rotating presidency after the Astana summit and is willing to maintain close communication and coordination with all parties including Russia, to achieve further development for the SCO. During their meeting on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held in Beijing last month, the two leaders reached an important consensus on maintaining a high-level China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination and enhancing all-round cooperation, according to the Chinese president. Under the current complex international situation, sound China-Russia ties are of great significance to the two countries' development and revitalization, as well as to peace and stability of the world, Xi said. The two countries should strengthen their mutual support on the issues relating to each other's core interests, said Xi, urging more achievements in the alignment of the Belt and Road construction with the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). The Chinese president also urged the two countries to deepen people-to-people and cultural exchanges and strengthen coordination and cooperation in international and regional affairs. For his part, Putin said it is of great significance for Russia and China to maintain frequent high-level interactions. He urged the two sides to step up their communication and coordination in a bid to maintain peace, stability and security in the region and around the world. Russia and China should work together with all sides concerned to boost unity and coordination among the SCO members to enhance the influence of the organization in international affairs, Putin said. Reiterating his congratulation on the success of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, the Russian president said the Belt and Road Initiative has won extensive support in the international community. The two heads of state also exchanged views on the situation in Afghanistan and on the Korean Peninsula, as well as on other international and regional issues. ^ top ^

China tells Iran that given the crisis with Qatar, stability in the Gulf is for the best (SCMP)
2017-06-09
China's foreign minister has told his Iranian counterpart that maintaining peace and stability in the Gulf is best for everyone, after several Arab states cut off ties with Qatar accusing it of supporting Islamist militants and Iran. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt severed relations with the small Gulf Arab state on Monday. Qatar has denied the charges levelled at it. Meeting on the sidelines of a regional security summit in Kazakhstan, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif that peace and stability in the Gulf accords with the common interests of the region and the international community. “China upholds that the relevant countries should appropriately resolve the disputes between them,” the Chinese foreign ministry cited Wang as saying on Thursday. The brief statement gave no other details of their talks over what the Chinese foreign ministry described as “the present situation in the Gulf region”. China has traditionally played little role in Middle East conflicts or diplomacy, despite its reliance on the region for oil. However, it has been trying to get more involved in efforts to end civil wars in both Syria and Yemen, casting itself as an honest broker without the historical baggage of the other permanent members of the UN Security Council. In March, China played host to the Saudi king and Israeli prime minister in quick succession. China has close ties with Iran too. The coordinated move against Qatar dramatically escalates a dispute over its support of the Muslim Brotherhood, the world's oldest Islamist movement, and adds accusations that Doha backs the agenda of regional arch-rival Iran. ^ top ^

China stands for multilateralism, economic globalization: premier (Xinhua)
2017-06-09
Premier Li Keqiang has reaffirmed China's stand on supporting multilateralism and advancing globalization in the direction of fairness, inclusiveness and shared benefits. Economic globalization, liberalization and facilitation of trade and investment have promoted fair competition and innovation, which are beneficial to world peace, stability as well as balanced and sustainable development, Li said during a Wednesday meeting with some participants of the fifth round table summit of the Global CEO Council, according to a press release issued on Thursday. The conversation between Li and the CEOs of around 20 of the world's top corporations, including Dow Chemical, Honeywell, BHP Billiton and Qualcomm, focused on regulatory reform, trade facilitation, innovation capacity building and expansion of market access. Li briefed the CEOs on China's innovation-driven strategies, saying China will adopt regulatory measures toward new industries and business models in an inclusive and prudent way, so as to foster new growth areas and guard against risks. China, with huge market capacity, rich human resources and upgraded industries, will provide broad space for foreign investment, said Li. He said China will continue to ease market access and allow foreign investors easier access to key sectors via a "negative list" approach. China will protect intellectual property rights and create a fair policy environment to become the most attractive destination for foreign investment, said the premier. He welcomed multinational enterprises to grow together with the Chinese economy. The entrepreneurs present at the meeting appreciated Chinese efforts in pushing forward economic globalization and trade liberalization, as well as expanding market access and creating a favorable environment for foreign investors, said the press release. They looked to the great market potential in telecommunication, aviation, high-end manufacturing, e-commerce, logistics, tourism, bio-medical and new energy. They both expressed full confidence in the prospect for China's development and were willing to expand their business in accordance with China's priorities, said the press release. ^ top ^

Ministry: US report on Chinese military pure speculation (China Daily)
2017-06-09
The Ministry of Defense has accused the US of speculation over China's military development, playing up the so-called China threat, and disrupting cross-Straits relations. "China is committed to peaceful development and defense-oriented security policies," ministry spokesman Wu Qian said in an online statement on Wednesday. The statement came in response to the United States Department of Defense's annual report to the US Congress on China's military development, which was published on Tuesday. In recent years, Wu said, the People's Liberation Army has actively participated in peacekeeping, escorts, disaster relief and other overseas missions. The Chinese military has also enhanced public safety and received universal praise from the international community, he said, adding that the country "neither seeks military expansion nor a sphere of influence, and will always be a firm force in maintaining world peace". Regarding the East China and South China seas, Wu said China will resolutely defend its national sovereignty and security, as well as regional peace. However, he said, the US has "intensified the situation" by continuing to strengthen military deployment in the region, dispatching ships and aircraft to conduct close-up reconnaissance. The PLA's budget is public and transparent, while China's military reform and the development of military equipment and cyberspace security are reasonable and justified, he said, adding that accusations made in the US report are "pure speculation". At the same time, China has noted the report includes a chapter on China-US military relations. "Healthy and stable military relations are of mutual interest ... and require both sides to work together," Wu said. "We hope the US will view China's defense construction and military development in a rational and objective manner." ^ top ^

Singapore's foreign minister to visit China amid strained ties (SCMP)
2017-06-08
Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan will pay an official visit to China from Sunday to Monday as the two nations try to mend their frayed ties. Trade and economic cooperation will be the focus of the trip, but Beijing will take the chance to urge the city state to refrain from commenting on issues such as sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea, observers said. Beijing expressed dismay last year after Singapore said nations should respect the international tribunal ruling that rejected most of China's claims to disputed waters in the South China Sea. Singapore's prime minister was not invited to attend the ''Belt and Road” international summit in Beijing last month. Chen Gang, a researcher on regional affairs at the National University of Singapore, said Balakrishnan's visit to China was a sign the two nations were trying to repair ties. “China and Singapore want to enhance cooperation on trade and security,” Chen said. Du Jifeng, a Southeast Asian affairs expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Beijing would tell Singapore not to meddle in regional issues that directly affect China's core interests. “Beijing understands Singapore has to develop relations with other countries, but Beijing certainly hopes Singapore's moves will not hurt China's interests, especially in the South China Sea and on Taiwan affairs,” said Du. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said on Wednesday that Balakrishnan was invited by his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi to visit Beijing. ^ top ^

China highlights right to health during UN rights body discussion (Xinhua)
2017-06-08
China on Tuesday said that the highest attainable standard of health was a fundamental right for everyone and that all states bore the responsibility to promote universal and equal access to health services. Speaking during a panel discussion at the ongoing 35th Human Rights Council session here, Gong Xiangguang, a senior official from China's National Health and Family Planning Commission, said that providing an efficient health system for all citizens was a key priority for the Chinese government. He said that the lack of resources long suffered by the health system in China had been resolved. "Important reforms have been undertaken in order to improve the public health service system. In the last 10 years, life expectancy in China has consistently risen and mortality rates at birth have fallen," he said. The Chinese government particularly stressed preventive measures and effective cure policies for all epidemics, while subsidies have also been raised to address a wide range of diseases, Gong said. A public health project on combating AIDS has been implemented. "Another key goal of China is the improvement of legislation and regulations in the domain of public health emergencies," he said. Kate Gilmore, Deputy UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a keynote speech to the panel discussion that states were legally obliged under international law to enable people to realize their right to health, which was a prerequisite for the fulfilment of all other human rights. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization, said that a government's ability to provide adequate health and social measures depended on having fundamental health capacities in place. "The right to health depends on regulatory authorities that keep water, air, food and medicines safe, and protected populations from exposure to harmful chemicals," she noted. She also stressed that legislation was one of the best ways to confer population-wide protection against threats to health, and universal health coverage operated as a significant poverty reduction strategy and, thus, as a nation-building strategy, it was one of the most powerful social equalizers among all policy options. ^ top ^

Unlike 'flip-flopper' Trump's US, a united EU won't be a pushover, China told (SCMP)
2017-06-08
A European Union under a strong coalition of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron will be a tougher customer for Beijing to deal with than the United States under “flip-flopper” Donald Trump, according to a veteran European business advocate. Joerg Wuttke, the former president of the European Chamber of Commerce in China also told the South China Morning Post that Beijing should stop playing divide and rule in Europe – a rare public complaint that runs counter to Beijing's rhetoric. Premier Li Keqiang said during his visit to Brussels last week that China supported a “united, stable, prosperous and open Europe”. But Wuttke, the chamber's president emeritus who first came to China in 1982, said Beijing had “played tricks” at the belt and road forum in the capital last month in a bid to increase its influence. He added that China would start putting more effort into dealing with France and Germany following Britain's decision to leave the European Union. China failed to obtain endorsement from European Union members of a trade statement at the forum last month, a setback in its push for the high-profile economic diplomacy project. European diplomats at the time said China had not left enough time for the draft statement to be discussed and negotiated, and as a result the EU members had refused to sign it. “China played tricks to persuade EU countries to sign the trade statement. They lobbied foreign ministries in Europe instead of the Beijing-based EU ambassadors who are well connected,” Wuttke said. “It was hard for ... foreign ministers [to have enough time to communicate] over the weekend. Beijing didn't give enough time for discussion and took the approach of 'take it or leave it'.” That “taste of bullying” from China met with resistance from the European delegates, according to Wuttke. And the situation did not improve at a summit in Brussels last week. China and the EU had been widely expected to forge closer ties and take the lead on global free trade and tackling climate change. After Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, China and Europe were expected to issue a separate communique reaffirming their commitments under the pact. But the statement was scrapped at the last minute because agreement could not be reached due to a trade dispute. In addition, Beijing and Brussels made little progress on other issues – from a bilateral investment deal to steel overcapacity to China's longed-for “market economy status”. Brussels is particularly wary of the so-called 16+1 mechanism being promoted by Beijing – a scheme that will boost its trade and investment presence in central and eastern European countries, long seen as an area under Berlin's sphere of influence. German ambassador to China Michael Clauss told the Post earlier this year that China's deals with the poorer EU nations were “somewhat inconsistent with a commitment to a coherent and strong EU”. The Belgrade to Budapest high-speed railway project, planned as China's “express lane” to Europe, is being reviewed by Brussels to see if the bidding process is up to European standards. “China is active in splitting the EU with programmes such as 16+1,” Wuttke said. “China will now put more focus on France and Germany, which are becoming more important than ever.” Macron's recent victory in the French presidential election has minimised the risk of disintegration of the EU, and Merkel has vowed to work with him to hold Europe together. “Merkel and Macron get along very well. China may face a far more coordinated European response. The leadership in Europe may become stronger in economic terms from Germany and in security terms from France,” Wuttke said. “President Trump is a flip-flopper, while the EU is predictable but difficult to negotiate with from China's point of view. But it is unwise for China to antagonise the EU, especially on bigger issues, because China needs the EU's technology – primarily through open investment access in the EU.” ^ top ^

China shows US its military muscle with patrol off Hong Kong waters amid rising maritime tensions (SCMP)
2017-06-08
China conducted a “routine” air and naval patrol of the waters off Hong Kong on Monday, in an apparent show of military power just days after a “dangerous” encounter between Chinese and American military aircraft near the island. Military analysts believe the maritime patrol by the Hong Kong Garrison of the Chinese People's Liberation Army – in the lead-up to the 20th anniversary of the city's handover from Britain to China – clearly targeted US military manoeuvring in the disputed waters of the South China Sea. The patrol, involving the Qinzhou and Huizhou destroyers and three helicopters, was part of normal monitoring and tracking of suspicious activity in Hong Kong waters and airspace and dealing with emergency situations, according to a statement from China's Ministry of Defence. Warships from Ngong Shuen Chau naval base headed toward the East Lamma Channel via Victoria Harbour on surveillance patrol, while aircraft from the Shek Kong barracks intercepted suspicious objects as per emergency guidelines. In particular, the exercise tested China's home-grown Beidou satellite navigation system and other military communication and command systems. The joint air and sea patrol came as the Pentagon accused Beijing of militarising its artificial islands in the contested South China Sea with warplane hangars and weapons, in its annual assessment of China's military on Tuesday. Tensions between Beijing and Washington over the maritime dispute have resurfaced in recent weeks. In late May, the US Navy conducted its first freedom of navigation operation since President Donald Trump took office, with the guided missile destroyer USS Dewey sailing within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands. Last week, China's defence ministry accused the US armed forces of posing a danger in the South China Sea, while the Pentagon said two Chinese J-10 fighter jets conducted an “unsafe and unprofessional” intercept of a US Navy surveillance aircraft in international airspace just 240km southeast of Hong Kong. Military experts said it was rare for US surveillance aircraft to fly so close to Hong Kong on an intelligence mission, underscoring the tension between the two militaries. Ni Lexiong, a Shanghai-based military expert, said the latest air and naval patrol was clearly Beijing's response to Washington's insistence on its right to conduct freedom of navigation operations in the area. The renewed tension between Beijing and Washington in the South China Sea has laid bare the complexity of the China-US relationship, despite earlier indications that ties between the two powers were growing warmer after the first summit between Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, in April. Although Trump may still need Beijing's help to rein in North Korea and its nuclear threat, there is no indication Washington intends to retreat from the Asia-Pacific region, Ni said. “The recent tensions have yet again shown the US has vital strategic interests in the South China Sea and it also wanted to contain China's military rise in the region,” he said. At the annual regional Shangri-La Dialogue security forum over the weekend, US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis accused China of displaying contempt for other nations' interests and undermining regional stability by seeking to militarise the South China Sea. Ni said the PLA patrol near Hong Kong also appeared to be aimed at purported pro-independence sentiment in the city. “The message is clear and loud,” he said. “Hong Kong, as part of China, is also under the threat of military reconnaissance and surveillance by other countries.” ^ top ^

China builds fighter hangars and fixed weapons positions on South China Sea outposts, US says (SCMP)
2017-06-07
China was constructing 24 fighter-sized hangars, fixed-weapons positions and other military-related infrastructure on each of three major Chinese-occupied features in the disputed South China Sea as of late last year, the US Defence Department said on Tuesday. “China's Spratly Islands outpost expansion effort is currently focused on building out the land-based capabilities of its three largest outposts – Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief Reefs – after completion of its four smaller outposts early in 2016,” the Pentagon said in an annual report to Congress on military and security developments involving China. “Once all these facilities are complete, China will have the capacity to house up to three regiments of fighters in the Spratly Islands,” whose ownership is disputed between Beijing and its smaller neighbours such as the Philippines and Vietnam, the report said. No substantial land has been reclaimed at any of the seven Chinese-held outposts since Beijing ended its artificial island creation in the Spratlys in late 2015, according to the report. “In 2016, China focused its main effort on infrastructure construction at its outposts on the Spratly Islands,” it said. Last year, China “reached milestones” of landing civilian aircraft on its airfields on Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief reefs for the first time, as well as landing a military transport aircraft on Fiery Cross Reef to evacuate injured personnel, it said, cautioning that Beijing was attempting to force a shift in the status quo in the disputed sea. “Although its land reclamation and artificial islands do not strengthen China's territorial claims as a legal matter or create any new territorial sea entitlements, China will be able to use its reclaimed features as persistent civil-military bases to enhance its presence in the South China Sea and improve China's ability to control the features and nearby maritime space,” it said. The report also touched on the July 2016 international tribunal ruling at The Hague that rejected China's claims to almost the entire South China Sea with its self-declared maritime border known as the “nine-dash line”. Beijing did not accept the ruling. “Since the arbitration ruling, China has downplayed its rhetoric on the nine-dash line in official media,” it said. Regarding the Senkaku Islands, a group of East China Sea islets controlled by Japan but claimed by the mainland and Taiwan, the Pentagon said that last year Beijing continued to use law-enforcement ships and aircraft to “patrol” near the islands in an attempt to undermine Japan's administration of them. Last September, Japan and China resumed talks on setting up a communication line to “de-conflict” air and maritime traffic in the waters but made little progress, it said. The United States affirmed the Senkakus, called Diaoyu on the mainland and Tiaoyutai in Taiwan, are covered by Article 5 of the Japan-US security treaty, the report said, meaning that Washington would defend Tokyo in the event of emergencies over the islands. Referring to Beijin's defence spending, the report said the Pentagon estimates Beijing's military-related spending exceeded US$180 billion in 2016, larger than the US$144.3 billion defence budget for 2016 China announced in March that year. The gap stemmed from Beijing's “poor accounting transparency” and the fact that “China's published military budget omits several major categories of expenditure, such as R&D (research and development) and the procurement of foreign weapons and equipment,” according to the report. Citing data showing China's defence outlays growing at an average of 8.5 per cent a year in inflation-adjusted terms from 2007 to 2016, the report said, “Chinese leaders seem committed to increases in defence spending for the foreseeable future, even as China's economic growth slows.” The Pentagon said China was the world's fourth largest arms supplier from 2011 to 2015 with more than $20 billion in sales, $9 billion of which was to Asia-Pacific nations, primarily Pakistan and also Bangladesh and Myanmar. Sub-Saharan Africa was China's second-largest regional arms market. “China's ability to remain among the world's top five global arms suppliers hinges largely on continued strong sales to Pakistan and demand for its armed unmanned aerial vehicles,” it said. ^ top ^

Pakistan port on China's radar for naval base, Pentagon report says (SCMP)
2017-06-07
China is expected to build a naval facility in Pakistan, its second overseas military base after one in Djibouti, according to a US Department of Defence report released on Wednesday. In its 2017 report to the US Congress on China's military and security development, the Pentagon said the People's Liberation Army Navy was strengthening its overseas presence with more facilities and operations. Its first base in Djibouti, on track to be completed this year, was only a beginning, it said. “China most likely will seek to establish additional military bases in countries with which it has a long-standing friendly relationship and similar strategic interests, such as Pakistan, and in which there is a precedent for hosting foreign militaries,” the report said. “This initiative, along with regular naval vessel visits to foreign ports, both reflects and amplifies China's growing influence, extending the reach of its armed forces.” The report also said Beijing was the world's fourth-biggest arms seller, with continued strong sales to Pakistan and dominance in drone supplies to the Middle East and North Africa. Mainland military experts said the country's ever-growing overseas interests made offshore bases a necessity. “Offshore Chinese investment is growing and there are more Chinese companies and citizens active overseas. That will increase with the 'Belt and Road Initiative',” Xu Guangyu, a senior PLA arms control adviser, said. “In the future, China will need at least 10 to 20 ports around the world, in all oceans and continents.” Xu said that unlike US offshore facilities, the Chinese bases would not be used to project military power but to resupply vessels. “China will build good relationships with the host countries first and settle the issue through friendly bilateral negotiations,” he said. “And it is most likely that security companies, rather than the Chinese military, will be commissioned to take care of security at the ports.” Beijing-based military analyst Li Jie said Gwadar Port in Pakistan, where China has a 40-year concession, could potentially be the PLA Navy's next offshore site. The port is strategically significant, located on the Arabian Sea and only 600km east of the Strait of Hormuz to the Persian Gulf, through which passes about 35 per cent of the world's oil shipments. It is a key piece in the belt and road scheme, with plans to link it to Xinjiang in China by rail, road and oil and gas pipelines through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. “China usually bundles military and civilian uses in a project,” Li said. “Gwadar, which is in a friendly country, could be a good start.” The Pentagon report also said mass land reclamation in the disputed Spratly Islands had stopped. Instead, the Chinese military was building major facilities on China's bigger islands. China's defence ministry expressed “resolute opposition” to the report, saying it “hyped up the China threat theory”. The ministry said China followed the path of peaceful development and its defence spending was “open and transparent”. ^ top ^

China rejects B&R 'conditional cooperation'as Japan shows interest (Global Times)
2017-06-07
China welcomes any country to join the Belt and Road initiative, but it will not make concessions to those which make demands to serve their own interests, Chinese experts said, in response to reports on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Monday remarks that Tokyo will consider conditional cooperation with the initiative. At a forum on Monday in Tokyo on Asia's future, Abe said that China's Belt and Road initiative "has the potential to connect the East and the West as well as diverse regions in between." He added Japan is ready to cooperate with the cross-continental development scheme under the initiative with certain conditions, Japan's Kyodo News reported. Abe stressed that it is "critical for infrastructure to be used by all, and to be developed through procurement that is transparent and fair," Kyodo News reported. The conditions listed by Abe also included "harmony with a free and fair Trans-Pacific economic zone," alluding to the terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade pact, to which Japan is a signatory but China is not, according to the report. When asked to comment on Abe's remarks, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a daily press briefing on Tuesday that the Belt and Road initiative could become a new platform and test field for China and Japan where the two countries can realize mutual development and win-win cooperation. China welcomes Japan to discuss cooperation on the development scheme under the initiative, and hopes that Japan's statement or aspiration to improve relations between the two countries will be fully implemented in policy and action, she said. The shift in Abe's attitude toward the Belt and Road initiative reflected Tokyo's increasing concerns that it will be left out in the Asia-Pacific region, especially after the US' exit from the TPP, Gao Hong, deputy director of the Institute of Japanese Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Tuesday. Abe's conditions are seemingly altruistic, but in fact are political bargain chips for its own interests, showcasing Tokyo's covert reluctance to admit China's leading role in the initiative, Gao noted. Echoed with Gao's remarks, Liu Junhong, a research fellow in Japanese Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said that the US' exit from the TPP has been a blow to Japan's economic growth and strategy. He said the initiative schemes, which have been welcomed by over 130 countries, are too big and promising to ignore. China confidently welcomes cooperation, even with Japan or India, which have expressed skepticism, and Beijing will use that confidence to prevent any country from sabotaging agreements reached under the initiative, Gao said. ^ top ^

China is making preparations for manned lunar landing (Xinhua)
2017-06-07
China is making preliminary preparations for a manned lunar landing mission, said Yang Liwei, deputy director general of China Manned Space Agency, here on Tuesday. It will not take long for the project to get official approval and funding, Yang said during a group interview at the Global Space Exploration Conference (GLEX 2017). When asked whether he has any plan to step onto the Moon, Yang, China's first astronaut, showed great excitement. "If I am given the opportunity, no problem!" he said. Wu Yansheng, president of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), also said that China is working on a manned lunar landing plan. The mission will consist of a manned spaceship, a propulsion vehicle and a lunar lander. The manned spaceship and the lunar lander will be sent into circumlunar orbit separately, according to Wu. ^ top ^

SCO meeting set to be guided by new imperatives (Global Times)
2017-06-06
After the momentous success of the May 14-15 Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, the focus of global attention now shifts to the annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), which this year will take place in Astana from Thursday to Friday. The SCO needs to continue to ensure that its discussions, which generally are understandably not made public, are not perceived as a threat by other interested actors such as the US and Europe. Probably the best way to build a positive impression internationally is to release the general conclusions of the summit via the media in a timely fashion, while keeping sensitive details confidential. If this can be achieved, and the media kept onside, then there is no reason for the SCO to be seen in a negative light. Rather, it may soon come to be seen as a key platform for further development of the burgeoning Belt and Road initiative which has recently attracted so much positive attention in the international media. 2017 looks like being a year of transformation in world affairs. While in the US the Trump administration has struggled to find its feet both internationally and domestically, Chinese President Xi Jinping has continued to lay out his vision for a new style of economic globalization which will benefit all nations involved. First, Xi seized the opportunity to set the agenda with his inspirational speech in January at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Then, with momentum already gathered, the Belt and Road Forum made a huge impact on global consciousness via expanded coverage in the international media. This means that the June meeting of the SCO has even greater importance than previous summits. There is a chance not only to build on the progress made so far, but also to work toward the settlement of a range of crucial issues facing the participants. Not least among these are questions relating to the SCO's membership and geographical focus. At present, the organization's raison d'etre is Central Asia. Apart from China and Russia, the other four members (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan) are all located in this increasingly important region. India and Pakistan are expected to officially become full SCO members at the Astana summit. Absorbing these two South Asian nations would expand the remit southwards, toward the Indian Ocean. It also has the potential to alter the internal dynamics of the organization. There therefore needs to be special attention paid to ensuring that the new members are integrated smoothly, minimizing sources of friction through suitable internal mechanisms. Other significant regional players, notably Iran and Turkey, are also waiting on the sidelines to see if they will be given the chance to become full members. Thus, discussions about the future composition and aims of the organization are likely to be key in Astana. Nevertheless, for the time being the SCO's focus clearly remains Central Asia. Of course, the region is at the heart of the Belt and Road initiative, which was introduced by President Xi in September 2013 in Kazakhstan. Up to now, the organization has been very effective in enabling cooperation and defusing possible tensions between its six members. In particular, the SCO has permitted China to expand its economic activity in Central Asia without antagonizing Russia. Indeed, contrary to some observers' expectations, cooperation between the two powerhouses has been enhanced. Assisted by productive negotiations in the SCO, Russia and China have been able to identify the synergies in their respective positions. Win-win outcomes have been achieved chiefly in the areas of energy and natural resources. China needs resources, while the other five members are glad to be suppliers of oil, natural gas and other materials through pipelines and other routes. At the same time, China has been able to begin delivering much-needed infrastructure, such as railways, roads and power plants, to the other five SCO members. This is key to China's policy of "going global" in order to resolve problems of overcapacity domestically by finding overseas markets for Chinese companies. The next step for the SCO is to establish similar cooperation with its new sister organization, the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). This was founded by Russia in 2014 and launched in January 2015. Apart from Russia, the EAEU also includes SCO members Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as Belarus and Armenia. Thus, the opportunity and need for coordination of the two organizations via discussions in Astana is clear. Other issues that face the leaders of the six states during their meetings relate to the further expansion of the Belt and Road initiative to create a trans-Eurasian trade and cooperation zone. For instance, connecting Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region with the nations of Central and Eastern Europe obviously requires improved transport links between Central Asia and Russia. In particular, there is the question of Chinese companies building high-speed railways such as the project now underway to connect Moscow and Kazan. Expanding rail and road networks is clearly in the interests of all parties, but it needs to be done in a coordinated fashion so that inefficiencies can be eliminated and misunderstandings avoided. For instance, Iran is now in the process of developing its rail network. Some of the new sections may be used to transport goods between Russia and India via the Iranian port of Chabahar. Enhancing trade is one of the primary goals of the Belt and Road initiative, but projects need to be integrated as far as possible to maximize the benefits of new infrastructure. ^ top ^

How the Gulf row is blocking China's new Silk Road (SCMP)
2017-06-06
A worsening rift between several Gulf Arab nations along China's modern Silk Road trade route will make it harder for China to manage its ties in the region, according to analysts. Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates all cut diplomatic ties with Qatar on Monday, citing Doha's alleged links to terrorism. The nations also said they planned to cut air and sea traffic, while Saudi Arabia announced it would shut its land border with Qatar, cutting the gas-rich nation off from the rest of the Arabian peninsula. Qatar denies that it funds extremist groups. The nations are involved in Xi Jinping's ambitious “Belt and Road Initiative”, which stretches across 65 countries and encompasses Asia, Africa and Europe. The Arab peninsula is the top source of oil for China, the world's biggest oil importer. Global prices rose in early trading on Monday. Pang Zhongying, a senior fellow at the Ocean University of China in Qingdao, Shandong province, said the spat among the Middle East nations would make it more complicated to manage ties with the region. “China has a huge economic interest in the Middle East,” he said. “With the belt and road and other initiatives it is using to expand geopolitical influence in the region, China may need to think about adjusting its “non-interference” diplomatic motto.” Zhu Bin, an analyst at Southwest Securities, said: “These countries' cutting of their diplomatic relationships with Qatar marks the beginning of a new round of chaos, even conflicts and war, in the Middle East.” Saudi Arabia is China's top trade partner in the region, and China is now Saudi Arabia's largest oil customer. In 2015, Saudi Arabian exports to China totalled US$5.61 billion and its imports were worth US$23.97 billion. Last year, total trade topped US$42 billion. The figures for Qatar in 2015 were exports of US$5.24 billion and US$3.7 billion in imports. But for most of the countries involved in the new rift, China is an important source of imports rather than a major export partner. The region is seen as a critical partner along the new Silk Road, partly due to its strategic position between Asia and Europe. The area is also significant for its energy resources, and Chinese firms are winning contracts in infrastructure projects across the Middle East. In June 2015, ICBC became the first Chinese bank with a retail presence in Saudi Arabia when it opened a branch in Riyadh. A month earlier, China established a yuan clearing centre in Qatar - the first in the Middle East. Earlier this year, China and Saudi Arabia signed a memorandum of understanding on investment cooperation valued at US$65 billion, including joint efforts in energy and finance. China has also signed a partnership with Saudi Arabia for the manufacture of CH-4 unmanned drones. Last year, China's Cosco Shipping Ports invested US$400 million in building a container terminal in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. The region has been receptive to the plan. Last month, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih praised the initiative at Beijing's new Silk Road summit, saying “the potential offered by this unique initiative is immense and promising”. The United Arab Emirates was interested in reaping the benefits from the road, Dubai International Financial Centre's governor Essa Kazim told The Financial Times last month. Last year, Qatar became a key partner to promote the initiative, pledging to play an active role. China has traditionally stayed out of political issues in the Middle East, preferring not to pick sides to maintain good relations with all its trade partners. But that may be changing as its links with the region strengthen. In April 2015, a Chinese frigate helped evacuate 225 foreign nationals from Yemen - the first time China's military has helped other countries evacuate their people from a danger zone. Last year, Beijing appointed its first special envoy for the Syrian crisis, seen as a move to get more involved in Middle Eastern diplomacy. In China's first - and vague - Arab policy paper issued at the start of last year, it reiterated its commitment to peace and stability in the region. ^ top ^

Senior US diplomat in China quits after Trump pulls out of Paris climate pact (SCMP)
2017-06-06
David Rank, the chargé d'affaires of the US Embassy in Beijing, has left the State Department over the Trump administration's decision to quit the 2015 Paris agreement to fight climate change, a senior US official said on Monday. A State Department spokeswoman confirmed Rank's departure, but said she was unable to verify Twitter posts that said he resigned as he felt unable to deliver a formal notification to China of the US decision last week to quit the agreement. “He has retired from the foreign service,” said Anna Richey-Allen, a spokeswoman for the department's East Asia Bureau. “Mr Rank has made a personal decision. We appreciate his years of dedicated service to the State Department.” Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, President Donald Trump's pick as the next US ambassador to Beijing, is expected to take up the post later this month. A tweet from China expert John Pomfret quoted unnamed sources as saying that Rank had resigned as he could not support Trump's decision last week to withdraw from the Paris agreement. Another tweet from Pomfret said Rank called a town hall meeting to announce his decision to embassy staff and explained that he could not deliver a diplomatic note informing the Chinese government of the US decision. A senior US official confirmed the account given in the tweets, but added that after Rank announced his intention to retire on Monday in Beijing, he was told by the State Department to leave his post immediately. The official spoke on condition of anonymity. The US State Department also accepted the resignation of its top personnel officer on June 1, who had been among its few remaining senior Obama administration political appointees, another US official said. Arnold Chacon had served as the director general of the foreign service and director of human resources. The official said Chacon had tendered his resignation when Trump was inaugurated on January 20, along with all presidential appointees, who serve at the pleasure of the president and secretary of state. It was not immediately clear whether he would be offered another post at the department. Other than Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, his deputy John Sullivan and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Tom Shannon, the third-ranking US diplomat, most of the State Department's senior posts are currently vacant or filled by acting officials. Chacon and Rank, a career foreign service officer who took over the post of deputy chief of mission in Beijing in January 2016, could not immediately be reached for comment. Jonathan Fritz, the embassy's economics counsellor, would serve as chargé in his place, Richey-Allen said. Rank had been with the department for 27 years and served as the political counsellor at the US Embassy in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012. Trump's announcement on Thursday that he would withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord, saying the agreement would undermine the US economy and cost jobs, drew anger and condemnation from world leaders and heads of industry. ^ top ^

China dismisses US call for 'full accounting' of Tiananmen crackdown (SCMP)
2017-06-06
The United States should reject its “prejudices” and stop making groundless accusations, China's foreign ministry said, after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for a full accounting of the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing. China's Communist Party rulers sent in tanks on June 4, 1989, to quell the protests in and around Beijing's Tiananmen Square and has never released a death toll. Estimates from human rights groups and witnesses range from several hundred to several thousand. On Sunday, the 28th anniversary of the crackdown, Tillerson reiterated a US call for China to make a full accounting of those killed, detained, or missing. “We urge China to cease harassment of family members seeking redress and to release from prison those who have been jailed for striving to keep the memory of Tiananmen Square alive,” he said in a statement on the State Department's website. In a short statement in English, carried by China's state-run Xinhua news agency late on Monday, China's foreign ministry said the government had “already made definitive conclusions on the political turbulence in the late 1980s”. “The US side ignored objective facts, made groundless accusations of the Chinese government year after year and interfered in China's internal affairs,” Xinhua said, citing the ministry. “China is firmly opposed to the US activities and has made solemn representations to the United States,” it added. “We urge the US side to discard prejudices, rectify wrongdoings and safeguard the steady development of China-US ties through real actions.” China and the United States frequently clash over human rights issues, although the Trump administration has been criticised by rights groups for downplaying the issue. Tillerson said the United States views the protection of human rights as a “fundamental duty of all countries”. “We urge the Chinese government to respect the universal rights and fundamental freedoms of all its citizens.” Public discussion of the events of 1989 in mainland China is taboo, although every year thousands of people join a vigil in Hong Kong to commemorate the event. ^ top ^

June 4 blackout: China's Weibo blocks overseas users from posting video and photos (SCMP)
2017-06-04
Millions of overseas users of China's biggest Twitter-like social media platform were blocked from posting pictures or video on their feeds on Sunday, the 28th anniversary of the bloody June 4 Tiananmen Square crackdown. Users within the country were also prevented from changing their profile information and adding visuals to comments on other people's posts on the Sina Weibo platform, which hosts more than 80 per cent of all microblogging activity on the mainland. Sina Weibo suddenly announced at about 11.09am on Saturday that it was upgrading its system and the restrictions would remain in place until Monday. “[We] appeal to users for understanding and forgiveness for the inconvenience caused,” the company said. Each year, commemorations are held around the world to remember the hundreds, if not more than 1,000, student protesters killed in Tiananmen Square by troops sent in to suppress the pro-democracy movement in 1989. But the event is not marked on the mainland, where discussion of the crackdown has been suppressed for nearly three decades. One overseas Weibo user said the anniversary would have passed unnoticed on the mainland if not for the uploading restrictions. “[I] seriously doubt someone from the inside is using this method to coerce people to reflect each year. Otherwise how many people would care to remember it?” Britain-based microblogger Aga_huiguiDCbabadehuaibao said. An hour after the upgrade was announced, Australia-based Weibo user Susu_Zhuanjiehaodadekengwozhankadiya posted that users with overseas IP addresses could no longer post photos. “Had it not been for this ban and its timing, I would not have realised it was [the date],” the user wrote. “Regardless who was right or wrong, [I] sincerely hope this incident can be recognised [by the authorities].” ^ top ^

Zambia 'agrees' to release 31 detained Chinese citizens (Global Times)
2017-06-05
Zambia agreed to release all 31 detained Chinese citizens, said an official from the overseas Chinese association in Copperbelt Province in Zambia on Monday. Overseas Chinese Association chief Wang Xin told the Hongxing News, a news site affiliated with Chengdu Business Daily, that he was told by an employee at the Chinese Embassy in Zambia that the Zambian government agreed to release the 31 detained Chinese citizens if they leave Zambia on Monday. He added the 31 will be allowed to return to the country in the future. China's foreign ministry said Zambian authorities arrested the 31 employees of seven China-owned mining companies on Thursday for illegal mining. The ministry said Zambian authorities have failed to follow correct law enforcement procedures, and have not provided strong incriminating evidence. Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a news conference on Monday that China has lodged solemn representations with the Zambian Embassy in China, and urged the Zambian side to release innocent people, deal with the issue properly, and provide humanitarian treatment to detained people. Hua said that China has always requested its citizens and companies to obey the laws and regulations in other countries, and doesn't protect illegal behavior. Hua said that China has dispatched a work team to Zambia and provided consular protection to the detained people, and urged the Zambian side to improve the conditions for these people. However, China strongly objects to any selective enforcement action against Chinese citizens. A detained pregnant woman traveled from China to visit her husband, who works at one of the companies. There are growing concerns over her health. Her husband was not arrested because he was not working on the day the 31 Chinese nationals were taken into custody, a local newspaper said. Lin Songtian, director-general of the Department of African Affairs of the Foreign Ministry, on Sunday urged Zambia to release the detainees. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

China's top legislator stresses law enforcement on pollution management (Xinhua)
2017-06-08
China's top legislator Zhang Dejiang has called for better law enforcement on pollution management during an inspection tour of northwest China's Shaanxi Province from Tuesday to Thursday. Zhang, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, headed a team to provincial capital Xi'an, Xianyang and Hanzhong to inspect solid waste management. During his visit to a village in Hanzhong, Zhang urged the local authority to accelerate the work of domestic garbage classification and management in rural areas. Zhang also visited industrial parks and high-tech enterprises, where he stressed the importance of hazardous waste management, recycling and reuse of solid waste. He said that the local authorities and enterprises should step up efforts to prevent and control solid waste pollution. ^ top ^

Three workers detained by police for taking photos, videos of factory (Global Times)
2017-06-07
Police have detained three people in East China's Jiangxi Province for filming and secretly taking pictures in a factory. Ganzhou's public security bureau told the Global Times Tuesday that they have detained factory employees Su Heng, Li Zhao and Hua Haifeng for taking photos and video in the factory. The bureau added that they have seized the hard drives and laptops used to store images and video. The factory's name has not been disclosed. Police received a tip from someone in the factory that an employee was acting suspiciously while taking pictures around the factory. The employee disappeared when police arrived, the bureau said. Police later found and detained Su and the two others. Police said the three confessed others had asked them to start working at the factory. They then collected information about the factory and were allegedly paid by foreign organizations for the information. Su said they have been collecting information about factories this way since 2010. The Associated Press (AP) reported that the US State Department has urged China to release three "activists" arrested while investigating a factory that produces shoes for Ivanka Trump and other brands. "We urge China to release them immediately and afford them the judicial and fair trial protections to which they are entitled," Alicia Edwards, a State Department spokesperson, said. She added the US remains concerned about "the pattern of arrests and detentions," and noted that labor activists are instrumental in helping American companies understand conditions in their supply chains and holding Chinese manufacturers accountable to Chinese labor laws, AP reported. ^ top ^

60 accounts closed over their content (China Daily)
2017-06-08
Sixty social media accounts will be shut down for disseminating commercial speculation, vulgar content and other reasons, according to a statement released by the Beijing Cyberspace Administration on Wednesday. Seven social media platforms, including Sina Weibo, WeChat, Tecent and Baidu, provided the accounts, most of which dealt with celebrity gossip-including the well-known China's No 1 Paparazzi Zhuo Wei, which has released information about celebrities' private lives and sex scandals many times. Some of the other offenses listed by the administration included publishing fake information or releasing personal celebrity information to gain public attention. Some of the information had negative social impacts, it said. The administration said internet service providers should increase their control of information released by users and immediately stop the spread of information deemed illegal based on the cybersecurity law that took effect on June 1. The new law, adopted in November by the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, aims to better shield key information infrastructure and citizens' personal information against hackers and data thieves. The law will not infringe on privacy or restrict free speech online, the administration said, adding that it targets information made public by internet users, not personal communications. On Wednesday afternoon, Sina Weibo released a statement that social media is an important platform for communications between celebrities and their fans. Accounts that spread rumors should be shut down to protect the rights of the celebrities and Sina Weibo users, it said. In April, Sina Weibo account Liuyishou posted an article saying that two actors-Li Yifeng and Yang Mi-had an extramarital affair. Li's studio released a statement rejecting the rumor. Although Liuyishou posted an apology, the article had been reposted more than 100,000 times and had damaged the public image of both Li and Yang, the statement said. In 2013, judicial authorities said for the first time that spreading rumors on the internet could be punished as a crime of provoking trouble. But that has not deterred some from starting and spreading rumors. "Some rumors not only disturb public order but undermine the core values of society," said Qiao Xinsheng, professor of law at Wuhan-based Zhongnan University of Economics and Law. ^ top ^

China to enhance transparency of government information (Xinhua)
2017-06-06
China will gradually increase the publishing of government information to enhance government transparency, according to a draft amendment on the issue Tuesday. The draft was released by the State Council to gather public opinion on the amendment. According to the draft, administrative bodies at all levels should publish a guide on government affairs and catalogue more information. The guide should feature the categories and compiling methods of government information as well as how to get it, and should include basic information and contacts of bodies that publish on government affairs, for public supervision purposes. The catalogue should have the references, names, overview and date of the government information shown to the public, according to the draft. Publishing government information should become normal, the draft added. The draft serves as an amendment to a set of rules on publishing government information that took effect on May 1, 2008. ^ top ^

Prominent Chinese rights activist charged with subversion after six months in detention (SCMP)
2017-06-06
The Chinese authorities have formally charged a prominent rights activist with subversion of state power after holding him incommunicado for six months, his wife said on Tuesday. Jiang Tianyong defended high-profile dissidents and practitioners of Falun Gong, the banned spiritual movement, before he was disbarred in 2009. He continued to speak out against government crackdowns on rights lawyers. Jiang disappeared in November 2016 after travelling to Changsha in central China to provide advice and support to a fellow rights lawyer, Xie Yang. The authorities confirmed they were holding Jiang on suspicion of inciting subversion in December. On Monday, six months later, the longest a suspect can be held without charge under Chinese law, his father received an official charge notice in the post, according to Jiang's wife, Jin Bianling, who now lives in the United States. The notice, dated May 31, said Jiang was detained on suspicion of subverting state power, a more serious crime, and was held in Changsha City Number One Detention Centre, according to photos of the document seen by Reuters. The notice is the first official confirmation of Jiang's whereabouts that she or his parents have had in six months, Jin said. Jin said she was worried about Jiang's treatment in custody and believes the authorities may be attempting to force him to confess. No one answered the publicly listed phone number for the Changsha detention centre. Jin said in May that Jiang may have been tortured until he was unable to stand. The authorities released a video of Jiang walking in shorts to refute the claim, which she said was unconvincing. China has vowed to deal with problems of torture, beatings and forced confessions in its criminal justice system. “The crimes he [Jiang] is suspected of keep changing,” Jin said. “It seems Jiang Tianyong has not admitted to any crimes, so they are going to keep torturing him until he confesses.” Jiang's family and lawyers have been unable to speak to him, but state media released a number of interviews with Jiang in March in which he appeared to confess to having helped fabricate accounts of Xie Yang being tortured. Xie later denied he was harmed during a public trial in early May, where he admitted to charges of subverting state power. Jin said that the state media accounts of what Jiang said were either themselves fabricated or evidence of Jiang being pressured by the authorities into giving false testimony. ^ top ^

9.4m students to sit China's college entrance exam (China Daily)
2017-06-06
A total of 9.4 million Chinese high school students will sit the 2017 national college entrance examination, known as the Gaokao, due to kick off Wednesday, the Ministry of Education said. Some 3.72 million of these students are expected to enroll in undergraduate degrees following the examination, an increase of nearly 10,000 compared to 2016, according to the 2017 enrollment plan issued by the ministry. The ministry has instructed local education departments to prepare for the upcoming exam, which generally lasts for two days, with some highly competitive regions adding a third day. Emergency plans should be in place for extreme weather conditions, natural disasters and disease outbreaks that could occur during the exams, the ministry said. Other measures include heat control and noise abatement in and around examination venues to create an optimal environment for students. A report released by China Education Online, www.eol.cn, showed that the number of students taking the exam has declined from its peak of 10.5 million in 2008, and has remained stable at around 9.4 million since 2014. The number is expected to remain steady or drop slightly in the future, due to various factors including a decrease in the school-aged population, the report said. ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

First rails laid for Xinjiang's third link to outside (China Daily)
2017-06-06
Workers started laying tracks on Saturday for a 1,213-kilometer railway linking the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region with neighboring Qinghai province. The railway, which will connect Korla in Xinjiang and Golmud in Qinghai, is the third rail artery linking the region with neighboring provinces, and the first direct rail link between Xinjiang and the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Golmud is a major city on the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, which connects Lhasa, capital of the Tibet autonomous region, with Xining, the capital of Qinghai. The new line will offer a much shorter connection between Lhasa and Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang. Currently, the total rail distance between the two cities is about 4,000 kilometers, including a detour to Lanzhou, capital of Gansu province. The new line will cut the journey by more than 1,000 km. First rails laid for Xinjiang's third link to outside The line will cut travel time between Golmud and Korla from 26 hours to 12 hours. The rails will carry passengers, traveling at a speed of 120 km per hour, as well as freight. About 708 km of the new line are in Xinjiang. Some parts of the railway need to be built in high-altitude areas and places with little human activity, which have posed difficulties during construction, said Huang Kejun, the railway project manager. His team plans to complete the laying of 291 km of track this year. Construction of the this railway began in 2014 and has proceeded faster than planned. The project is scheduled to take five years, at a cost of 37.6 billion yuan ($5.53 billion). Its Qinghai section will begin operations by the end of next year. Xinjiang already has two railways connecting the region with other parts of China. One links Urumqi with Lanzhou; the other connects Ejin Banner in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region with Hami in eastern Xinjiang. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Cadre from Xi Jinping's graft squad joins Beijing's Hong Kong office (SCMP)
2017-06-09
A man who worked on President Xi Jinping's reform task force has joined the leadership of Beijing's office that oversees Hong Kong affairs. Mainland press reported the switch on Thursday after Pan Shengzhou's name was quietly added to the website of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO). He will run discipline inspection within the office. In 2009 Pan, a Shandong native and a farming expert, became deputy chief of the Policy Research Office of the Communist Party's Central Committee. In 2013, he also became deputy director of the general office of the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reforms, a powerful team founded and chaired by Xi to oversee changes to the country's political, economic and defence systems. In 2016 he was on the central committee's 25-member publicity team, which was tasked with speaking about the party congress's decisions in different parts of the country. At the HKMAO he will represent the party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), the nation's top graft-buster. He is the second person sent from the CCDI to the HKMAO, after Li Qiufang, who is reportedly expected to retire soon. Professor Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, a semi-official think tank, said he expected Pan to help Xi better understand local affairs, if the two had had a working relationship. He also noted that Pan had been on the publicity team, “the group that has the most authoritative grasp of the central government's policy”. “We are now having more and more officials from outside taking the helm at the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office,” Lau said. “It may be a good thing to have a fresh eye to put Hong Kong in the context of the country's overall situation.” He said he did not think the move signalled Beijing's tightening grip over Hong Kong. Veteran China-watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu went further, describing Pan as Xi's “anointed messenger”. “He will be there to continue Xi's anti-corruption campaign,” Lau said. Last year, the CCDI sent officers to the HKMAO, as well as other agencies, as part of Xi's ongoing drive covering all party and central government organs and state enterprises. In October, the graft-buster said the HKMAO leadership was “not strong enough”, and the implementation of the central leadership's decisions “not firm”. It urged the office to watch for “corruption risks” and step up monitoring on the use of funds. Tian Feilong, a mainland scholar from Beihang University focusing on the Basic Law, said he believed Pan would help Hong Kong better position itself in the mainland's 'Belt and Road' economic blueprint.^ top ^

Consolidating sovereignty over Hong Kong imperative for central government (Global Times)
2017-06-06
Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress, reminded Hong Kong of the urgency in comprehensively and accurately implementing the policy of "one country, two systems" and the Basic Law in Beijing late last month. At a high-ranking symposium to commemorate the 20th anniversary of implementing the Basic Law, Zhang put forward the central government's most severe and detailed guidelines so far. The return of Hong Kong's sovereignty from Britain to China has been conducted in a peaceful way. The policy of "one country, two systems" has been carried out in the territory and the central government promises the city a "high degree of autonomy" as well. Those arrangements prove practical, humanitarian and popular with locals, but some structural political contradictions have not been resolved in this immigrant city. Even in the colonial era, many Hong Kong residents had been divided into pro- and anti-Beijing factions, of which the latter has become today's opposition. Hong Kong returned to China 20 years ago and during that period the mainland rose and its economy expanded significantly. In the meantime, the opposition has turned to separatism. Separatists belong to the radical opposition camp and have never represented the majority of the locals. Yet, with the support of overseas hostile forces, today's separatism has shifted the local political spectrum toward radical opposition. The Hong Kong government may not have properly coped with some local economic problems such as the existing wealth inequality and income distribution during the economic integration between the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong, causing discontent within the city. Some local opposition forces make use of the situation to propagate their political ideas. They tend to misinterpret the related policies and laws to restrict the central government's power over Hong Kong. Worse than this, radical opposition has instigated protest marches, and even violent clashes with the police. Some opposition advocate so-called "self-determination" for shunning China's sovereignty over Hong Kong. At this point, Zhang said, "under no circumstances should the central government's powers be confronted in the name of a high degree of autonomy." Against the separation of powers concept raised by the opposition, Zhang pointed out, "Hong Kong's political structure is neither separation of powers nor led by the legislature or judiciary. It is an executive-led one, with the chief executive as the core." There is no power-sharing between the central government and Hong Kong. According to the Basic Law, the Hong Kong chief executive is appointed by the central government. Furthermore, Beijing will "go into further details" about consolidating its sovereignty over Hong Kong in several areas, such as local political reform, the central government's power over the chief executive, and its authority to appoint and dismiss key officials. Zhang also said China will not turn a blind eye to those attempting to break the territory away from the country. Zhang's speech at the symposium was not only a reiteration of China's previous statement but gave a warning to foreign powers and the local radical opposition, while clarifying some interpretations of China's policy in Hong Kong. His standpoint will be followed by a number of specific policies, measures and actions. Reviewing what has happened in the past few years, Hong Kong residents can judge for themselves if they have benefited from a series of political disputes or social chaos.^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Handle Taiwanese rights activist's case with care, Tsai urges Beijing (SCMP)
2017-06-04
Leaders in Taiwan used the 28th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown to call on Beijing to handle the case of a detained Taiwanese human rights activist with care. They also urged Beijing to promote democratic reforms to match its place as one of the world's powers. “It is true that China is rising, but it would be a great regret if democracy was absent during this process,” President Tsai Ing-wen said on Sunday, adding that the world's respect came with democracy. Tsai said Taiwan was willing to share its democratic experience with the mainland, including how it transformed from an authoritarian regime. She also called on Beijing to deal with activist Li Ming-che in a “civilised way” so he could return to Taiwan safely. “Li Ming-che has been held [on the mainland] for two months. It might be a small matter for the Chinese mainland, but it is a big issue for all Taiwanese,” she said. Former president Ma Ying-jeou, who has issued a statement every year since the 1989 crackdown, also urged Beijing give justice to those who were wronged in the crackdown, saying it would promote democracy. He also called on Beijing to deal with Li's case in line with international practice, and allow Li's relatives to visit him because “people across the Taiwan Strait” were watching developments. Li, 42, a former employee of Tsai's independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, went missing on March 19 after he entered Zhuhai from Macau. The mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office said on May 26 that Li had been formally arrested on subversion charges. The office said Li was arrested by security agencies in Hunan province on suspicion of subverting state power. It said Li had frequently visited the mainland since 2012, allegedly collaborating with individuals to set up illegal organisations and to organise and carry out seditious activities to try to overthrow the country's political system. The office claimed that Li and others had confessed to engaging in activities that endangered national security. Li's wife, who is seeking help from both the Taiwanese government and international rights groups, has not been allowed to see her husband. She said she had no confidence in courts on the mainland, claiming they are not the same as those of civilised countries. Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council also asked Beijing to give a clear account of Li's case as until now, Beijing had yet to provide further information or evidence about the subversion charges. ^ top ^

 

Economy

China supports Belt and Road Initiative with capital market reform (Xinhua)
2017-06-06
China's securities regulator has reformed the capital market to support the Belt and Road Initiative. Since 2014, the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) has taken measures to facilitate mergers and acquisitions of listed companies, CSRC vice chairman Jiang Yang said Tuesday. The commission has streamlined approval of merger and acquisition. At present, 90 percent of mergers and acquisitions of listed companies do not need CSRC approvals, Jiang said. CSRC has also reformed the pricing mechanism, increasing the number of payment instruments for mergers and acquisitions, and reinforced supervision, he added. "Those measures proved to be quite effective, as mergers and acquisitions have become a most efficient and vibrant part of the capital market," he said. Between 2013 and 2016, listed Chinese companies completed 349 cross-border mergers and acquisitions with total value of 386 billion yuan (57 billion U.S. dollars). CSRC will continue to deepen market-oriented reform for mergers and acquisitions in support of the Belt and Road Initiative, he said. The commission will step up building a multi-layer capital market to support the equity financing and encourage companies from countries along the Belt and Road to issue yuan-denominated bonds in China. CSRC will also support domestic financial institutions to expand their business networks to Belt and Road countries. ^ top ^

 

DPRK

North Korea launches warship-killing cruise missiles in latest gesture of defiance: Seoul (SCMP)
2017-06-08
North Korea fired what appeared to be several land-to-ship missiles off its east coast on Thursday, South Korea's military said, the latest in a fast-paced series of missile tests defying world pressure to rein in its weapons programme. The launches come less than a week after the United Nations Security Council passed fresh sanctions on the reclusive state, which said it would continued to pursue its nuclear and missile programme without delay. The warship-killing cruise missiles were launched Thursday morning from the North Korean coastal city of Wonsan and flew about 200km, South Korea's Office of Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has been briefed on the latest launch, the military said, declining to give further details. ' “North Korea launched multiple projectiles that appear to be short-range land-to-ship cruise missiles today morning off east coast from the region of Wonsan,” the office said in a statement, adding that Seoul and Washington were analysing the launches for further information. Thursday's launch is the fourth missile test by North Korea since Moon took office on May 10 pledging to engage in dialogue with Pyongyang, saying sanctions and pressure alone have failed to resolve the growing threat from the North's advancing nuclear and missile programme. South Korea said on Wednesday it will hold off on installing remaining components of a controversial US anti-missile defence system until it completes an assessment of the system's impact on the environment. Under third-generation leader Kim Jong-un, North Korea has been conducting such tests at an unprecedented pace in an effort to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of hitting the mainland United States. In the three earlier launches, North Korea tested different kinds of ballistic missiles, two medium-to-long range missiles as well as a short-range Scud class weapon. The launches of the apparent anti-ship missiles on Thursday follow Kim's order to develop North Korea's own ballistic missile that precisely strikes targets such as enemy vessels, reported in its state media late last month. The isolated country, which has conducted dozens of missile tests and tested two nuclear bombs since the beginning of 2016 in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions, says the programme is necessary to counter US aggression. ^ top ^

China can't dodge its duties over North Korea, South China Sea, says US (SCMP)
2017-06-05
China cannot use its economic power to dodge its international responsibilities in the South China Sea and in deterring North Korea, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned on Monday. Tillerson said after holding talks with the Australian government that Washington wanted a productive relationship with Beijing, but said China must pull its weight on important diplomatic issues. “We desire productive relationships,” he said after annual discussions with his Australian counterpart Julie Bishop in Sydney. “But we cannot allow China to use its economic power to buy its way out of other problems, whether it's militarising islands in the South China Sea or failing to put appropriate pressure on North Korea. “They must recognise that, with a role as a growing economic and trading power comes security responsibilities as well.” President Donald Trump, who frequently denounced China on the campaign trail, has turned to Beijing to help rein in North Korea's weapons programme, prompting concerns among Asian allies that the US might go easy on the South China Sea territorial dispute. But Tillerson echoed comments by Pentagon chief Jim Mattis on Saturday in voicing opposition to China's construction in the area, which is subject to overlapping claims. “The US and Australia reaffirmed our commitment to freedom of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the seas, particularly the South China Sea and elsewhere, to ensure unimpeded flow of lawful commerce in a rules based order,” he said. “We oppose China's artificial island construction and their militarisation that features in international waters.” China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, despite partial counter claims from Taiwan and several Southeast Asian nations including the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam. It has rapidly built reefs into artificial islands capable of hosting military planes. Tillerson added that Australia and the United States “speak with one voice in calling for North Korea to abandon its illegal nuclear weapons programme”. “China and other regional partners should also step up their efforts to help solve this security situation which threatens not just that region, but really presents a threat to the entire world,” he said. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

President departs for Kazakhstan to attend SCO Summit (Montsame)
2017-06-08
The 17th Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit of the Council of Heads of State will be held from June 8 to 9 in Astana, Kazakhstan. President of Mongolia Ts.Elbegdorj left from the Chinggis Khaan International Airport today to attend the 17th SCO Summit. President Ts.Elbegdorj will be giving speech expressing the position of Mongolia during the summit and meet with delegates from other counties. He is also scheduled to participate in the "Astana Expo-2017”. Mongolia is one of the four observer states of SCO. ^ top ^

Parliament approved resolution regarding Bank of Mongolia's loss of MNT 3 trillion
2017-06-08
A Parliamentary working group revealed that Bank of Mongolia (BoM) has an accumulated loss of MNT3 trillion. The working group examined the activities of BoM in 2012-2016 and concluded that necessary measures have to be taken immediately. Today, 8 June, the parliamentary resolution on measures to be taken in connection with the examination to BoM was adopted during its plenary meeting. Law on Central Bank regulates if there is a deficit between the sum of the Bank of Mongolia's assets and the sum of its liabilities, the Parliament should resolve it so that the Government covers the loss by issuing Government securities. In other words, the loss should be recovered by state budget; however, it is impossible to cover the loss from state budget due to budget overload. Therefore, the parliamentary resolution targets to cover the loss and charge liability to relevant officials found guilty. An international audit organization also audited the BoM activities and proved the loss of MNT3 trillion, noted MP D.Damba-Ochir. The working group head MP T.Ayursaikhan said '- MNT3 trillion is a huge amount of money that equals to 50 per cent of the total state budget. There is no possibility to cover the loss from the state budget. I am not saying that the previous governor of BoM N.Zoljargal should bear the responsibility for all, but due liability should be imposed on him”. According to him, 45 companies among which received loans within the Price stabilization program, have not spent the loan for the actual purposes. These companies would be forbidden to participate in any bid for three years in compliance with their contracts”. MPs blame previous authorities of BoM for conducting actions breaching relevant laws and abusing their positions, including overspending money for the social protection of its staff. “BoM takes international audit on its activities every year and 2016 report concluded deficit of MNT3 trillion. This loss is composed of several parts" explained current BoM officials in response to MPs questions. ^ top ^

Constitutional Court to discuss Erdenet ownership dispute (UB Post)
2017-06-08
The Constitutional Court has opened a case to investigate and resolve the dispute regarding the ownership of Erdenet Mining Corporation, in response to multiple formal complaints filed with the court. On February 10, Parliament approved a resolution to nationalize Erdenet Mining Corporation, following a probe that wdeclared a 400 million USD transaction with private investors to buy Russia's 49 percent stake in the company to be illegal and financed by illegal loans. The resolution invalidated an earlier government decision that authorized the sale of 49 percent of both Erdenet Mining Corp. and Mongolrostsvetmet LLC to Mongolian Copper Corporation. “Mongolrostsvetmet's 49 percent stake in Erdenet Mining Corporation was never owned by the Mongolian government. By nationalizing the 49 percent that was bought by a foreign country, Parliament and Cabinet have violated property rights and the Constitution,” read a statement sent to the Constitutional Court. The court has conducted preliminary probes into the matter, and has determined that Parlia- ment's resolution to nationalize the mine is potentially in violation of six sub-articles in the Constitution. These include specific articles regarding ownership, such as Article Five, subsection three, which states, “The State shall recognize any forms of public and private property, and shall protect the owner's rights by law.” The Constitutional Court also cited Article 16, subsection three of the Constitution as another potential violation committed by Parliament. The subsection states, “Illegal confiscation and requisitioning of the private property of citizens shall be prohibited. If the State and its bodies appropriate private property on the basis of exclusive public need, then there shall be [fair] payment for compensation and cost.” According to analysts, depending on the court's interpretation of the specific articles and how they tie into the dispute surrounding Erdenet, Mongolian Copper Corporation could be given back their stake in EMC or receive compensation. ^ top ^

Consumer confidence index on the rise (UB Post)
2017-06-08
The consumer confidence index of the nation increased by 6.9 points to become 78.1 in the first quarter of 2017 compared to the same period last year, reports the National Research and Advisory Service Center. The consumer sentiment index also increased by 6.9 points to become 112.9, contributing to the overall increase in the consumer confidence index. The present situation index surged from 18.9 to 25.9, marking the first time it has increased in the last two years. An improvement in business and employment were the main factors credited for the increase. The last time the consumer confidence index was above 100, the average growth of the economy was 13 percent. When the index was last recorded to be lower than 100, the average growth of the GDP was only 4.6 percent. According to economists, this is evidence that the consumer confidence index is very influential on the overall performance of the economy. ^ top ^

Indian USD 1 billion loan may be spent on infrastructure development of Mongolia (gogo Mongolia)
2017-06-05
Prime Minister J.Erdenebat met with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi during his attendance at the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) 2017 on June 2. The Mongolian PM informed that the Mongolian side is interested in dedicating the USD 1.0 billion soft loans from India to promoting infrastructure development, instead of financing railway projects as agreed previously. The change has to be looked through by the Indian side accordingly with internal regulations, and the Indian side will try to settle the matter as much in favor of Mongolia as possible, said Mr. Modi. The Government of Mongolia intends to dedicate the funds to building oil processing plants and supporting other import-substituting productions. During this meeting, the heads of governments discussed opening a general education school with professional Indian teachers in Ulaanbaatar on the financing of the Indian Government's non-refundable aid. The new school is expected to pave the way for Mongolians to preparing highly-skilled professional cadres for communications and information technology sphere in cooperation with India, which leads the world in training the best IT specialists. In 2016, the bilateral trade turnover was USD 27 million, in which imports constituted USD 24.8 million and exports, USD 2.2 million The Indian Prime Minister expressed interest of India in buying minerals, especially, coking coal, fluorspar, copper concentrate, uranium and iron ore, as well as cashmere and wool. The dignitaries reassured the mutual interest in promoting bilateral trade, the current state of which is below the level of cooperation that the two countries can potentially achieve. ^ top ^

FDI in Mongolia reaches USD 178.1 million (Montsame)
2017-06-06
Foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow in Mongolia averaged USD 178.1 million as of April 2017, which was down by 39 percent compared to the same period of last year. As for the FDI outflow from Mongolia, it increased by 15 percent to USD 4.4 million. The net flow amounted to USD 173.8 million, which is 40 percent less than last year. Bank of Mongolia informed that the Balance of Payment showed USD 75.2 million surplus at the end of April. The Minister of Finance previously stated “By joining the International Monetary Fund's Extended Fund Facility financial arrangement, basic economic and fiscal conditions, such as the growth of foreign investors' confidence, increased future investments, improved credit rating and decreased interest expense are expected”. Therefore, the FDI is expected to grow in the future. Within the framework of the IMF Extended Fund Facility program, the Bank of Mongolia has received the first stage deposit of USD 38.6 million in May. ^ 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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