SCHWEIZER BOTSCHAFT IN BEIJING
EMBASSY OF SWITZERLAND IN BEIJING
AMBASSADE DE SUISSE EN CHINE

Der wöchentliche Presserückblick der Schweizer Botschaft in der VR China
The Weekly Press Review of the Swiss Embassy in the People's Republic of China
La revue de presse hebdomadaire de l'Ambassade de Suisse en RP de Chine

Press review, if not selected: all SinOptic
  17-21.7.17, No. 679  
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Switzerland

Swatch updates mobile-payment watches for China, linking with UnionPay to keep sales ticking (SCMP)
2017-07-20
Swatch Group, which claims to be the world's largest watch maker, has launched the second generation of its chip-embedded devices that can be used for mobile payments in China, after teaming with UnionPay to offer “Swatch Pay”. The new watches can be linked with credit cards issued by 11 partner banks – including Bank of China, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the country's largest commercial lender, China CITIC Bank and Minsheng Bank – in addition to debit cards. Swatch unveiled its first-generation of watches with payment functions in October 2015, also in partnership with Unionpay, China's dominant currency-clearing company and credit-card issuer. SSThis trend for soaring mobile payment will definitely continue. Obviously, young people who have a penchant for mobile payments are emerging to be the major drivers for China's consumer market Zhou Yuedong, a vice president of ICBC's credit card division Nick Hayek, chief executive of Swatch, told South China Morning Post the watch company has now simplified the activation process, the main barrier for the first-generation of watches gaining market share. He added the company was adding the latest payment function to its wrist watches, rather than embarking on an all-new aggressive go-digital strategy, to attract younger Chinese consumers. “We want to stay in the watches business, not enter the consumer electronics business,” he said. “We have a different strategy than consumer electronics businesses. We offer a watch first and foremost, and have added a simple function to it.” The new generation of watches adds to its previous “Swatch Bellamy” collection, and will be modestly priced at around 580 yuan (US$85) a piece. They will use near-field communication (NFC) technology to enable payment via the watch, instead of a credit card, which uses high-frequency radio waves to register transactions placed in close proximity to a point of sales terminal. Unlike Apple Pay under which transactions are conducted through an online payment process, the Swatch Pay system – based on the Quickpass technology by UnionPay, the mainland's dominant bank card clearing business – is workable even when the watch has run out of battery while no wireless connection is needed. “The watch is a second credit card,” Hayek said. “We want to expand the model to everywhere in the world.” Technically, it is a Bellamy watch embedded with a bank card chip that uses NFC technology to enable a contactless payment. Swatch was the first global watchmaker to create a contactless payment system in partnership with UnionPay and China's Bank of Communications (BoCom) at the end of 2015. At the time, only BoCom's debit card was put in operation using the system. Chinese mainlanders have embraced mobile payment methods, completing transactions worth 38 trillion \yuan (US$5.62 trillion) via mobile devices, ranging from smartphones to wearable devices in 2016 – nearly triple the amount a year earlier. “This trend for soaring mobile payment will definitely continue,” said Zhou Yuedong, a vice president of ICBC's credit card division. “Obviously, young people who have a penchant for mobile payments are emerging to be the major drivers for China's consumer market.” The growing penetration of internet and mobile technologies has largely redrawn the mainland's commercial landscape with mobile payments becoming one of the brightest parts of the new digitalised era. Smartphones and wearable devices are also increasingly embracing digital health, online gaming, video streaming and social media. Hayek denied, however, the company was set to jump on the bandwagon of going fully digital, predicting that few digital technologies can be married with a watch, which many customers simply still view as pieces of jewellery, or functional accessories. The CEO forecasts sales of 150,000 to 250,000 Bellamy timepieces (with the payment function) over the next two years, but models will also be available without it. Swatch, which owns a wide range of brands including Omega, Tissot, Longines and well as its namesake model, has posted average 15 per cent annualised sales growth in China in recent years. “Other global credit card companies are no less than sleeping giants,” Hayek said. “UnionPay understood our model and worked with us to expand both our businesses.” ^ top ^

 

Foreign Policy

UN human rights chief to press Beijing on allowing Liu Xia to leave China (SCMP)
2017-07-21
UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said on Thursday he plans to meet with Chinese officials to push for assurances that the widow of late dissident Liu Xiaobo will be allowed to leave China. Zeid came under fierce criticism from Beijing for his tribute to the Nobel laureate as a “principled champion” who “was jailed for standing up for his beliefs.” A veteran of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, Liu died on July 13 of liver cancer while in police custody at a hospital in northeast China. Zeid told reporters that he intends to meet with Chinese officials soon to discuss the fate of his widow, Liu Xia, who has been under house arrest since 2010. “We are now focused on his wife and trying to ensure that she has freedom of movement,” Zeid told reporters at UN headquarters in New York. “If she wants to leave China, she should be able to leave China.” The UN human rights commissioner rejected Chinese claims that raising human rights concerns amounted to interference in domestic affairs. “We hold up a mirror,” he said of his office's statements on human rights violations worldwide. Chinese officials have claimed that Liu Xia's freedom of movement has not been impeded “but the feeling was that she was being restricted,” said Zeid. “We want to use this moment to assure ourselves that she is able to leave if she wants to.” The United States and the European Union have also called on the government to free Liu Xia, a poet who has stayed out of politics. She has been under police watch since shortly after her husband was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. ^ top ^

100 days down: still no China-US trade deal but all-out row 'unlikely' (SCMP)
2017-07-21
China and the United States have failed to reach a deal on ways to reduce their trade imbalance despite high-level talks in Washington. Observers said relations between the two countries had worsened but China and the US would both take steps to avoid an all-out confrontation between their closely tied economies. The talks on Wednesday followed a 100-day trade deficit reduction plan that came out of a meeting between President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Donald Trump in Florida in April. Officials built momentum for this week's talks by rolling out a series of initiatives, such as resuming US beef exports to China. But the two sides failed to reach a consensus on how to cut the US trade deficit and China's excess steel capacity. They also could not agree on expansion of US access to China's market. In a sign of the discord, the parties cancelled their post-talks press conference and did not produce a joint statement. Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao said it was unlikely that they could “solve all the problems through merely one meeting”. Zhu also said trade imbalances could not be resolved by suspending or reducing imports from China. Instead, the US should increase exports to China. However, when asked if he would slap tariffs on steel imports, Trump said “it could happen”. Pang Zhongying, a senior fellow at the Ocean University of China, said the US had continued to “wave the stick of a trade war to put pressure on China”. “But it did not work. China has realised the concerns of the US and will study future steps to talks,” Pang said. “Both sides need to talk and make effort. Maybe we need a second or third 100-day action plan.” In separate statements after the talks, the US said China acknowledged the need to reduce the trade deficit, while the Chinese delegation said both sides would promote cooperation. Fears of a trade war have risen since Trump lashed out at China last month over what he said was its failure to rein in North Korea's nuclear weapon ambitions. Arthur Kroeber, managing director of Hong Kong-based financial services firm Gavekal Dragonomics, said earlier that trade action against China would lead to more harm for the United States. “We may well see a rise in forceful rhetoric and symbolic action, but moves that would really crimp the economic relationship remain far off,” Kroeber said. He Weiwen, former economic and commercial counsellor at China's consulate general in New York and San Francisco, said Trump's threats on steel seemed to be a response to domestic political pressure. He said Chinese steel accounted for just 3 per cent of US total steel imports, affecting less than 0.2 per cent of jobs in the United States. Mei Xinyu, a researcher at a Ministry of Commerce think tank, said a deal would take a “long time and several rounds of negotiation” because China was still getting used to Trump's tactics of demanding more at the start. Mei said there was a big difference in position between the two countries. “The US wants to reduce trade deficits, but China thinks the gap should mainly be narrowed by economic restructuring in the world's largest economy,” he said. Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute, said US-China relations were at “an unusual stage” because Trump was still short of staff to deal with China and had yet to figure out a clear China policy. “The US side is therefore unable to get the Chinese side to deliver much and unable to decide how to respond. The Chinese side knows this and is making the most of it,” Tsang said. “The key question is what Trump will do. We don't know as he [Trump] does not seem to work within the normal policy making framework and process. Xi and the Chinese government will seek to maximise advantage from this American disarray for as long as possible. When Trump finally thinks that he has been taken for a ride, his reactions may well prove rather disagreeable from Beijing's perspective.” ^ top ^

Chinese defense minister meets Britain's national security advisor (Xinhua)
2017-07-20
Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan Thursday met Mark Sedwill, Britain's National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister. Chang said that China is willing to cooperate with the United Kingdom's military and defense department, contributing to the China-UK global comprehensive strategic partnership for the 21st century. Britain is ready to expand bilateral relations with China and advance collaboration on areas including defense and peacekeeping, Sedwill said. They also exchanged views on the international and regional security situation. ^ top ^

China, US reach consensus (Global Times)
2017-07-20
China and the US have agreed to cooperate in cutting their trade deficit, officials from both countries said Wednesday at the conclusion of the first China-US Comprehensive Economic Dialogue (CED), rendering skepticism by some foreign media outlets over the economic talks. The two countries agreed to work constructively together to address the trade imbalance, Chinese Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao said after the one-day economic dialogue in Washington, DC, the Xinhua News Agency reported. "Both sides agreed that one of the ways to solve the trade imbalance is for the US to expand its exports to China, instead of reducing them," Zhu said, adding that China is not deliberately seeking a trade surplus with the US and is willing to achieve balanced trade. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross also noted the bilateral consensus on the trade deficit. "China acknowledged our shared objective to reduce the trade deficit which both sides will work cooperatively to achieve," they said in a statement, Reuters reported. At a daily briefing on Thursday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang stated both sides agreed on constructive cooperation in narrowing the trade deficit. The two countries discussed a wide range of issues, including trade and investment, the China-US 100-day action plan, a one-year cooperation plan and global economic governance, and reached broad consensus, the spokesperson said. Both countries believe this is an innovative, down-to-earth and constructive dialogue, Lu said. The most significant achievement of the economic dialogue is its acknowledgement of the right direction for Sino-US economic cooperation, and regards win-win cooperation as the underlying principle in developing bilateral trade ties, sets dialogue and negotiations as a basic solution to resolving disputes, and considers keeping key economic policy communication as the fundamental approach to dialogue and cooperation, he elaborated. A Reuters report on Thursday claimed the two countries failed to "agree on major new steps to reduce the US trade deficit with China," and went further by saying the failure casts doubts over "US President Donald Trump's economic and security relations with Beijing." "China and the US have differences but the key is to reach a consensus in principle despite these differences. This will lay a good foundation for both sides to resolve their conflicts and problems in the future," Li Yong, deputy secretary-general of the China Association of International Trade, told the Global Times. "These consensuses mean increasing the size of the pie of common interests to allow both countries to benefit from economic and trade cooperation. In this sense, the dialogue was constructive and a success," Li said. ^ top ^

India ready for talks with China to end border stand-off, but Beijing digs in heels (SCMP)
2017-07-20
India on Thursday said it was ready to hold talks with China about both sides pulling back their forces to end the stand-off in the Himalayas, but Beijing has insisted its rival withdraw troops first. The two sides have been locked in an escalating confrontation for more than a month in the southernmost part of Tibet in an area also claimed by Indian ally Bhutan. The crisis was triggered when Chinese teams began building a road onto the Doklam Plateau, known as Donglang in Chinese. India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said in Parliament in New Delhi that a 2012 agreement required China and India to settle the boundary issue with Bhutan. “If China unilaterally changes the status quo of the tri-junction, it becomes a matter of security concern for India,” she said, referring to the area where the three countries meet. Swaraj said China had been demanding that India move its troops out of the area. “If China wants to discuss the matter, both sides should withdraw their forces and talk,” she said. ' The Chinese foreign ministry has said the road work was being carried out on own territory, and urged India to pull back troops “promptly and unconditionally”. Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Indian troops had illegally entered Chinese territory. “The withdraw of Indian border forces from the border which they have illegally entered is the foundation and pre-requisite of any meaningful talks,” Lu told a daily press conference. Liu Youfa, the former Chinese consul general in Mumbai, on Wednesday told China Global Television Network there were only three options for the Indian forces: withdrawal, captivity, or death. “When people in uniform get across the border to move into the territory of the other side, they naturally become the 'enemies', who will have to face three consequences,” Liu said. The first scenario was “the best result for both sides to avoid an eventual confrontation”. Ni Lexiong, a Shanghai-based military affairs commentator, said Beijing was unlikely to accept New Delhi's demand to stop road construction as that would set a precedent for other countries to oppose other controversial projects China was carrying out, such as man-made islands in the South China Sea. “So China has demanded India pull back before any talks can take place,” Ni said. Rajeev Ranjan Chaturvedy, a research associate at the Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore, said New Delhi viewed the road construction as worsening mistrust among the neighbours. “China's 'my way or the highway' approach has complicated problems further,” he said. Sun Shihai, an adviser to the Chinese Association for South Asian Studies, said the two sides should be wise enough to look beyond the dispute, identify their core interests and begin talking. Although China and Bhutan have been negotiating the precise border for decades without serious incident, the tiny Himalayan kingdom turned this time to help from New Delhi, which sent troops across the border from the northeast state of Sikkim, according to India. China retaliated by closing a nearby mountain pass that Indian pilgrims use to reach Mount Kailash, a sacred Hindu and Buddhist site in Tibet. Beijing has also presented to reporters historical documents it says prove China's claims to the plateau. ^ top ^

China offers to mediate between Israel and Palestine (Global Times)
2017-07-21
China has offered to establish a new, trilateral dialogue mechanism with the Palestine and Israel to settle their conflicts, and seeks to defuse tensions in the Middle East by pushing forward the Belt and Road initiative, President Xi Jinping told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Beijing. "China regards both Palestine and Israel as important partners along the Belt and Road, and stands ready to carry out mutually beneficial cooperation in line with the idea of promoting peace with development to support Palestine hasten its development," Xi said, according to the Chinese foreign ministry. Abbas visited China from July 17 to 20, the Xinhua News Agency reported. During the meeting, Xi also said China is planning to hold a seminar with experts on Palestine and Israel to generate ideas for a peaceful resolution of the issue. China stands for "promoting peace with development" as it pushes for the Belt and Road initiative in the Middle East. Poverty is a key reason for the radicalization of Arab youth in the region, so development and peace are interdependent and mutually promoted, and we should simultaneously push peace and development, said Hua Liming, a Middle East studies expert and a former Chinese Ambassador to Iran. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang also met with Abbas, and said that "peace and development are preconditions and guarantee each other." Xi said we should "uphold a common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security concept," and "China proposes to launch the China-Palestine-Israel trilateral dialogue mechanism and coordinate and push forward major projects to aid Palestine." China has delivered humanitarian aid to Palestine, but because some areas are under Israeli control, Chinese goods cannot enter these areas. That's why China proposes to launch a trilateral dialogue mechanism because the further development of Palestine needs Israel's cooperation, Wu said. "Israel cares more about its security, but in order to make security sustainable, we must help Palestine's development and promote mutual exchanges, so development should be in both sides' common interest," Wu said. "Together with Palestine, China is prepared to develop the Belt and Road and support qualified Chinese companies invest and cooperate in Palestine to achieve mutual benefits and win-win results," Xi said. China is ready to cooperate with Palestine in developing industrial parks, training and building a solar power station to help Palestine become more self-reliant, Xi said. Greater involvement China is becoming increasingly active in Mideast issues, including the Palestinian issue. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said at a press conference Thursday that "the Palestinian issue is a crucial issue in the Middle East. The region can achieve peace and development only when this issue is reasonably and justly solved." "Disputes and conflicts in the Middle East, such as the Saudi Arabia-Qatar dispute, Syrian civil war and the Islamic State, have already interrupted the Belt and Road initiative. Therefore, many Middle East problems concern China," said Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs at the Renmin University of China. "Mediating in the conflict between Palestine and Israel is a good opportunity for China to contribute more in the region," Wang said. Although Israel and Palestine are small, they are geographically important, so they are China's key partners in pushing the Belt and Road initiative, Hua said. Compared with the US and Russia, China's advantage in the region is "we have no enemies and we never choose sides, but we need to be very careful when mediating the issue. Do not widen the existing conflict," said Chu Yin, an associate professor at the University of International Relations. ^ top ^

Chinese FM calls for dialogue, greater role of GCC on Qatar diplomatic crisis (Xinhua)
2017-07-21
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in Beijing Thursday, calling on all parties to address their differences within the framework of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). "All sides should continue restraint and conduct face-to-face talks as soon as possible, so as to avoid escalation of the situation, send out a positive signal in addressing the crisis through political and diplomatic means, and reassure the role of the GCC," Wang said. Calling the GCC "a mature regional organization which has successfully solved many disputes," Wang expressed confidence that the Gulf countries have the capability to manage the current situation and address their differences within the GCC. Opposing all forms of terrorism is the common consensus of the international community. The Gulf countries can find a way to resolve the crisis through candid talks, on the basis of jointly fighting terrorism, mutual respect, non-interference in each other's domestic affairs, and staying committed to their international obligations, he said. "China appreciates and supports Kuwait's mediation efforts," Wang said, calling on the international community to help create conditions to resolve the crisis at a regional level. As a sincere friend of Arab countries, China stands ready to play a constructive role in promoting peace talks if necessary, Wang said. Al Thani said that Qatar is willing to launch constructive talks with all sides on the basis of respecting sovereignty, non-interference in domestic affairs and complying with international law, so as to gradually establish mutual trust and address differences fundamentally. The Qatari foreign minister commends China's objective position on the crisis, saying that Qatar stands ready to maintain communication and coordination with China, and hoping that China will continue to play a positive role. The two foreign ministers also exchanged opinions on bilateral ties and agreed to strengthen pragmatic cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative and facilitate people-to-people exchanges. ^ top ^

Philippine politicians to learn CPC methods (Global Times)
2017-07-20
The Philippines' ruling political party is working with the Communist Party of China (CPC) to learn from the latter's experience in training and managing Party members, media reported. The Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) is in discussions with the CPC for cooperation on party building, including having the members of PDP-Laban learn the ways and ideology of the CPC, the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper reported Wednesday. Philippine Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, who is also PDP-Laban president, and two dozen members of a Philippine delegation visited Xiamen in East China's Fujian Province in June for forums and meetings, said the newspaper's report. The PDP-Laban reached an agreement with related departments of the Chinese government last December, which states that it would send party members to "policy training" at the Party School of the CPC Fujian Provincial Committee, the report said. The Manila Standard newspaper on Wednesday quoted Chinese officials as saying that the Philippine delegation seeks to learn the CPC's design and program and how the CPC guides the Chinese people and Party members toward their goals and targets. Established in 1982, PDP-Laban was a minority political party under the former Aquino administration and Rodrigo Duterte became its chairman when he ran for president in 2016. The PDP-Laban has formed coalitions with most of the other parties in the Philippines to become the dominant political party since Duterte's election. "Duterte wants to build a united and effective Party to resolve problems such as corruption and the wide wealth gap, which the CPC has dealt with," Chen Xiangmiao, a research fellow at the National Institute for the South China Sea, told the Global Times on Thursday. Chen noted that political families have long dominated the Philippines which stunts the development of the Philippine political party system. Duterte also wants to use China's experience to enhance the PDP-Laban's mass base for the party to win again in 2022, he added. The Party school education system of China began in the 1930s and has blossomed into a system that trains CPC cadres based on their abilities and the requirements of different positions, said Su Wei, a professor at the Party School of the CPC Chongqing Municipal Committee, who added that its successful Party management experience can help the PDP-Laban. Su told the Global Times that many Party schools in China have launched both master's and doctoral degree programs to promote Party officials' theoretical knowledge. ^ top ^

Wayward Nobel Peace Prize should just be canceled (Global Times)
2017-07-20
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai Wednesday condemned China's treatment of Liu Xiaobo, another peace prize winner, after his death from liver cancer last week, according to Reuters. She condemned "any government who denies people's freedom." But does the 20-year Pakistani education activist truly understand the real situation in China? She may believe what she said, however, as the Western media asked her to make such comments specifically on China, she has been turned into a tool. In fact, the Nobel Peace Prize has been used by the West to vent its hostility toward China. The Nobel Peace Prize has shown increasing preference for those that embrace Western values, and has become increasingly political. Of prize winners in the past century, the majority are from Western Europe or North America, according to statistics from the Nobel committee's website. Is it because Europeans and Americans make more contributions to world's peace? Of course not. Right after Liu was awarded the peace prize in 2010, a commentary piece in the Guardian questioned his qualification for the prize "because he is a champion of war, not peace." But this was overlooked by the West, intentionally, because what matters is his pro-colonialism and subversion attempt of China, which caters to Westerners. In fact, the Nobel Peace Prize committee has made numerous controversial decisions. Its award to then US president Barack Obama in 2009 confused not only the majority of the world, but Obama himself, as he was just eight and a half months into the White House. The Dalai Lama, also a laureate, has long engaged in anti-China separatist activities under the guise of religion. The committee's decision to award Le Duc Tho, a Vietnamese diplomat, and the award to former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger aroused a storm of criticism in 1973. Alfred Nobel wrote in his will that the peace prize shall be awarded to "the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses." However, as China's foreign ministry said, the prize was wrongly awarded to criminals who attempted to split China, sabotage national unity and subvert State power, for the purpose of achieving their political agenda. Clearly this has run contrary to the will of Nobel and the purposes of the peace prize. The Guardian said the peace prize is an award for politics of a certain kind. That's true. Since the peace prize has deviated from its original intent and turns to represent just Western values, it's time to just cancel the prize altogether. ^ top ^

Nobel laureate Malala condemns China over Liu's death in custody (SCMP)
2017-07-18
Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai condemned China's treatment of her fellow peace prize-winner Liu Xiaobo following his death of liver cancer in custody last week. Liu, 61, was jailed for 11 years in 2009 for “inciting subversion of state power” after he helped write a petition known as “Charter 08” calling for sweeping political reforms in China. Liu's incarceration meant he was unable to collect his Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, and he became the second winner of it to die in state custody, the first being Carl von Ossietzky in Germany in 1938. Liu's wife Liu Xia remains under effective house arrest. “I condemn any government who denies people's freedom,” Yousafzai, 20, a Pakistani education activist who came to prominence when a Taliban gunman shot her in the head in 2012, said at a school in the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri. “I'm hoping that people will learn from what he (Liu) did and join together and fight for freedom, fight for people's rights and fight for equality,” she said. Yousafzai's trip to Nigeria was aimed at raising awareness of education problems in Africa's most populous country where over 10.5 million children are out of school, more than anywhere else in the world. The issue is felt more severely in the mainly Muslim north. The south has over the decades seen greater investment and a system of schools started by Christian pastors affiliated with British colonists. Nigeria needs to “increase spending on education and they need to make it public, the rate of spending planned and how much they're spending,” said Yousafzai. Since her first trip to Nigeria three years ago, the proportion of the budget allocated to education has dropped from above 10 per cent to around 6 per cent, she said. The eight-year Islamist insurgency of Boko Haram, whose name roughly means “Western education is forbidden,” has compounded problems with education in Nigeria's north. The militants have destroyed hundreds of schools and uprooted millions, forcing them into refugee camps which often lack the most basic necessities, let alone decent schooling. On Monday, Malala called on Nigeria's acting president, Yemi Osinbajo, to call a state of emergency for the country's education. “Nigeria in the north has been suffering through conflicts as well and extremism,” she said. “So it is important in that sense as well that they prioritise education in order to protect the future.” ^ top ^

Worldwide memorials held including in Hong Kong to remember Liu Xiaobo (SCMP)
2017-07-20
Friends and supporters of the late dissident Liu Xiaobo gathered worldwide on Wednesday to mark the traditional Chinese observance of the seventh day since his death, amid a censorship crackdown in mainland China and growing concern over the fate of Liu's widow. Liu Xia was last seen in official pictures attending her husband's sea burial last Saturday. Her whereabouts were unknown on Wednesday. There were reports that she had been sent by mainland authorities to the southwestern province of Yunnan. The global memorials were part of an online campaign initiated by a “Freedom for Liu Xiaobo Action Group” formed by Liu's supporters, who called on fellow supporters across the world to hold memorials on the seventh day of Liu's death as a gesture to say “no” to “the Beijing dictatorship”. The Chinese believe that the spirit of a newly deceased person will return home to bid final farewell to their beloved ones on the seventh day of his or her death. There were memorials in Vancouver, Boston, Melbourne, London and Hong Kong, according to the action group. The democracy fighter died in custody last Thursday in a hospital in Shenyang, Liaoning province, where he had been treated for weeks for terminal liver cancer. He was jailed for 11 years in 2009 for writing the pro-democracy manifesto Charter 08. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. China did not allow him to attend the prize presentation ceremony. The world's media spotlight focused on his empty chair. Liu's friends were reportedly under house arrest in mainland China as they prepared for the memorials. Some were detained after staging ceremonies at the seaside – an allusion to Liu's controversial sea burial which supporters saw as a deliberate attempt by the government to deny them a place of pilgrimage. Ye Du, a Guangzhou-based writer and family friend of Liu, tweeted on Wednesday: “Police brought two cartons of cigarettes and a watermelon to my apartment, saying it was an order coming from their superiors to watch me and stop me from approaching the riverside or the shore.” Another family friend, Beijing-based activist Hu Jia, said police had stepped up surveillance on him since last Friday. “They told me that the measures against me won't be loosened until [July 20]. But I'm not sure if I will be free afterwards.” Two of Liu's supporters, Dalian-based Jiang Jianjun and Wang Chenggang, went to the seaside to lay flowers and light some candles, but were taken away by police. Jiang's wife, Han Jinmei, said police told her Jiang had been placed under 10 days of administrative detention for mourning Liu. “I don't understand why it is illegal now to mourn a deceased person,” Han told the Post. In Hong Kong, hundreds assembled at a coastal park outside the Legislative Council and government headquarters complex for a memorial organised by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China. Police put the figure at 1,500 at its peak. A huge banner reading “Remembering Liu Xiaobo – Free Liu Xia” was hung at a booth where people queued up to sign a condolence book. An empty chair was put on the stage. People laid flowers in front of a portrait of Liu. Speaking in a recorded video screened during the vigil, Norwegian Nobel Committee chairwoman Berit Reiss-Anderson said: “Liu Xiaobo was a representative of ideas that resonate to millions of people all over the world and in China too. These ideas cannot be imprisoned and they can never die.” She also urged people to follow Liu's example and conduct protests “in a dignified and non-violent manner”. A participant, Poon Tat-keung, 53, said he was moved by Liu's struggle for democracy in China. He added people should voice out and continue to pursue Liu's cause. “If nobody voices out, everyone will suffer. Nobody can survive [the suppression of] a totalitarian government with their own strength.” Alliance vice-chairman Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong said: “Tonight as we mourn Liu Xiaobo, we do not simply review his life, but also think about how we can further his beliefs.” In response to questions about Liu, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Wednesday that countries appealing about Liu's case did not represent the majority of the international community. “Those who really speak up on this incident may not even take up one-tenth of the total member countries of the United Nations,” he said. ^ top ^

A Chinese policy instrument is buying into a Vancouver mountain, and Canadian naivete is an inadequate response (SCMP)
2017-07-19
A Chinese company with gold-plated political connections is buying into a Canadian mountain. And not just any mountain: Grouse Mountain, whose ski slopes famously look down on Vancouver. The Shanghai-based China Minsheng Investment Group (CMIG) isn't buying the entire mountain of course, but the sale of the ski operation by the Canadian McLaughlin family does include 500 hectares of privately owned land. CMIG's pending purchase was revealed by the Globe and Mail last week. Reports on Tuesday said CMIG was a 40 per cent stakeholder in the newly formed buyer, GM Resorts Limited Partnership. The CBC quoted a CMIG spokesman as saying it would be a “silent investor”. The total asking price was C$200 million (US$159 million) – well below the threshold for federal foreign investment review - but the symbolic significance is obvious. With its ski slopes floodlit at night, Grouse is like a north star when viewed from below, a literal guiding light that can be seen from just about anywhere in Vancouver. From up top, the ski slopes and hiking trails boast incredible views of the city and sea. Grouse Mountain isn't world-famous like nearby Whistler - but it is Vancouver's mountain. ' Whistler, too, recently ended up in foreign hands, when US-based Vail Resorts bought Whistler Blackcomb Holdings for C$1.4 billion last October. So is this just the way of the world? Is the sale of Grouse to simply a more-modest version of the Whistler-Vail deal? This way of thinking betrays a polite kind of Canadian naivete that verges on the quaint. I'm not suggesting outrage is justified. Nor is the purchase demonstrably nefarious. However, even a cursory examination of what CMIG is all about suggests the Grouse deal is quite a different proposition to Whistler's sale, regardless of the “silent investor” protestation. Yes, CMIG is a privately owned firm, but it exists and was created at the pleasure of the Chinese state: CMIG sprang from the brow of Premier Li Keqiang when he ordered it created in 2014. Fifty-nine big Chinese firms dutifully stumped up 50 billion yuan (US$7.4 billion) in starting capital and it was away. So China Minsheng Investment cannot be understood purely as a product of market forces, at least, not as Canadians generally understand them. It serves Chinese government policy, and its goals, explicitly stated on its corporate website, are those of the state. “As a representative of Chinese private capital, CMIG serves the national 'Belt and Road Initiative' and 'Going Global' strategy, bringing out financial wisdom and industrial strength, focusing the power of capital, building a globalised industrial platform,” it says, namechecking various government policies. “By fully utilising the technology, brand, and resource advantages of developed countries, and the tremendous opportunities of 'Going Global and Bringing in' brought by the development potentials of countries along the 'Belt and Road Initiative' route, CMIG guides Chinese private capital to go abroad together, and promotes industrial upgrading and economic transformation.” Look beyond the jargon and the purpose of CMIG is clear. It's not just about profit. It's a tool of Chinese national strategy and economic development. This isn't always incompatible with Canadian priorities, public and private. But China Minsheng is most certainly not analogous to some US ski company, or to western investment firms that are creatures of supply and demand. On its website, CMIG extols the Communist Party, explaining that it was “90 years ago, thanks to a group of advanced Chinese intellectuals who spread Marxism on Chinese soil with Prometheus-like courage, our nation became independent and prosperous”. “In the next stage of our work, we must actively display the vanguard and exemplary spirits of the Chinese Communist Party, realise the core values of 'Five Concepts, Four Senses and Three Loves' advocated by Chairman Dong [Wenbiao], and contribute to the development of China Minsheng Investment, and to the implementation of national strategies. “With the dream faraway, we are on the way.” The polit-speak isn't unusual for a big Chinese company, but there should be no illusions about the company's role. The part purchase of Grouse cannot be viewed simply as a private firm, like any other, getting into the ski business. It's part of a global acquisitions strategy endorsed and guided by the Chinese state. In this respect, CMIG is the yin to Anbang Insurance's yang. Both firms took to foreign acquisition like it was a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos. The main difference is that Anbang's foreign activities – including the purchase of a chain of BC retirement homes, and Vancouver's Bentall Centre for a record-setting C$1billion – were apparently not conducted with the happy endorsement of the Chinese state, and Anbang's chairman Wu Xiaohui now sits behind bars for reasons unclear. Another key difference – the provenance of CMIG's capital and ownership is well known, while Anbang's is a near-total mystery. But like Anbang before it, CMIG has been growing at an explosive rate. It now boasts assets of 260 billion yuan, according to the state-owned China Daily. And CMIG isn't just big, it is a behemoth in the making. Company president Li Huaizhen told the SCMP last year that it seeks a valuation of 1 trillion yuan by 2019. That's an ambitious five-year goal for a company started from scratch, but its political purpose and backers make it a good bet, I reckon. Its investments around the world so far include the purchase of Sirius International Insurance Group last year for US$2.6 billion, and a pledge of US$5billion to develop an industrial park in Indonesia. Through a subsidiary, it spent US$88 million in May on an 80 per cent stake in an under-construction luxury condo development in San Francisco, setting a price record in the process. In London, CMIG has been buying up property in the financial district, including Societe Generale's UK headquarters for £84.5 million (US$110 million) in September. And now a big stake in Grouse Mountain. I doubt the good folk at CMIG know a mountain from a mogul, and the long-term strategic purpose of buying into a small ski resort in a coastal location that is seen as particularly vulnerable to global warming isn't instantly obvious. But I'd bet those 500 hectares of private land (further distinguishing Grouse from Whistler, which leases Crown land) have a lot to do with it. CMIG did not respond to the SCMP's questions about the deal. Canadians, mostly good capitalists, tend to accept that they are beholden to market forces. But as the Grouse sale demonstrates, they are also increasingly beholden the forces of Chinese state policy. This can be beneficial – certainly to the McLaughlins – but it's a process that demands clear-eyed scrutiny. ^ top ^

Overseas forces must stop politicizing Liu Xiaobo's wife (Global Times)
2017-07-18
After Liu Xiaobo's death, overseas forces and some Western media outlets have shifted their attention to his wife Liu Xia. Calling for the Chinese government to set Liu Xia free, these forces are deliberately making up new excuses to politicize the issue. It is mainly Western forces and dissidents exiled overseas that are actively hyping up the issue. Some Westerners lack understanding of, and are suspicious about China's rise. Dissidents in exile lost the bet and thus bear a deep grudge against China's political system. The thought of "China's collapse" is their only sustenance. These dissidents in exile are much more maniacal than Western anti-China forces. Western forces were happy to see that people existed that would volunteer to confront China. Mainstream US society usually ignores them. When issues come up, media outlets such as the Voice of America (VOA) would summon them. These people can hardly have a decent life in the US. They consider that speaking on the VOA is a big deal. Some others don't even have the opportunity to speak on the VOA, so they are reduced to have their voices heard on Twitter. They don't care about Liu Xiaobo's life, only the attention they can get. Many begrudged Liu being granted the Nobel Peace Prize. These people are boosting their image by taking advantage of his illness. When Liu Xiaobo died, they tried to shift the attention to his wife Liu Xia. Again, their real focus is to attract attention. To a large extent, Liu Xiaobo was taken hostage by external public opinion. As an intellectual, he has the ability to judge. When seeing China's rapid development in recent years, couldn't he realize his mistake in stubbornly confronting China's political system and denying China's path? But since the West had crowned him, dissidents and exiles pressured him, he had no other choice except to persist. These overseas forces now start to "kidnap" Liu Xia. They immediately define her situation as being "persecuted" and have raised various demands on the Chinese government, turning Liu Xia's situation into a sensitive issue. These people are seeking their own political and personal gains. They are reluctant to bridge the gap between Chinese and Western values, but are trying to instigate bigger waves at the cost of the rest of Liu Xia's life. They are so dedicated to their show, yet regrettably, they have few listeners. China has shown the world its vitality and potential with its GDP growth of 6.9 percent in the first half of 2017. Cooperation with China is the real theme for the West. Liu Xiaobo is just a tool used by Western countries to maintain their sense of superiority and a bargaining chip to win more benefits from China. Liu Xiaobo has gone. Western forces and dissidents in exile can let go of Liu Xia. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Beijing asks official Catholic body to localise faith (SCMP)
2017-07-21
China has asked its officially sanctioned Catholic body to interpret the Vatican's teachings and dogmas to conform with the mainland's developments and traditional culture, as part of its push to localise religions. Top political adviser Yu Zhengsheng, the fourth-ranked member of the Communist Party, met leaders of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association on Wednesday as it celebrated its 60th anniversary at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Yu called on the association to adhere to the sinicization of the religion, Xinhua reported. “Interpretations of the teachings and dogmas should match the needs of China's development and the great traditional culture... and proactively fit into the Chinese characteristics of a socialist society,” Xinhua quoted him as telling the group. Yu also hoped the association would strengthen training for followers and clergy, and ensure the leadership of the church was held firmly in the hands of those who loved the nation and religion. Chinese President Xi Jinping called for the sinicization of religions in late 2015. At a key national religious work conference last April, he said localisation of faith was an important step to guide religions to fit socialist society. However, some Catholic scholars doubt whether Beijing can exert much influence over the interpretation of Catholic teachings and rules. Anthony Lam, executive secretary at the Holy Spirit Study Centre in Hong Kong, said although the mainland church was administered independently from the Vatican, it still followed the teachings of the Catholic Church. The mainland church could at most show more support in activities for government policies, he said. “Sinicisation is largely a political slogan,” Lam said. “The teachings and dogmas are the core of the belief, and they cannot be changed according to the will of the government.” Beijing has refused to accept the authority of the pope over mainland Catholics after it broke off diplomatic ties with the Vatican in 1951. Relations showed signs of improving last year as the two sides worked on a deal over the appointment of senior clergy on the mainland. In an interview with the Vatican Insider website last year, Cardinal John Tong Hon, the bishop of Hong Kong, said Catholic beliefs and Chinese culture shared “natural resonances”. But he also warned against forced sinicization that violated Catholic teachings. “It must not be used as an excuse for content that goes against the gospel to be included in the Church,” he was quoted as saying. ^ top ^

University in China apologises after students forced to do internships at Foxconn (SCMP)
2017-07-21
A university in northern China has issued a public apology after it was accused of forcing students to do internships at the electronics manufacturer Foxconn. One second-year student at Shenyang Urban Construction University said she was told she might not be able to graduate if she did not complete a three-month placement at a Foxconn plant in Yantai in Shandong province, according to K618.cn, a news website run by the Communist Youth League. Chinese universities were told last year by the Ministry of Education to provide choices of internships that were relevant to students' majors, but they could choose where they did their placements. Shenyang's education authorities ordered the programme to stop on Thursday after it set up a team to verify the report. Shenyang Urban Construction University issued a public apology early on Friday morning and said students were free to have their summer holidays. “We apologise for the problems and negative social impact caused by this activity. We want to apologise sincerely to the students, parents and the public,” the statement said. The student complained that interns were crammed into small rooms during training, according to the news website report. “There were two rooms – with 300 of us in each – that were no bigger than 150 square metres,” she was quoted as saying by the news website. “That was an improvement from the first couple of days when there were 700 of us in one room.” The 700 students, who were mainly from the university's information and machinery schools, were expected to work at the Foxconn plant from July 15 to October 15, she was quoted as saying. The student also complained about inadequate meals, the report said. “We weren't given enough food and when we tried to ask the canteen for more, we were told off by Foxconn staff,” she said. A third-year student at the same university also complained that they were forced to do internships at companies where the pay was low or the work wasn't relevant to their majors, according to the report. “We have to do internships at a company of the university's choosing. We were paid 300 yuan [US$44] to 500 yuan a month. The most was 1,500 yuan a month, but some interns weren't paid at all,” the student said. She added that her internship, not at Foxconn, mostly involved cold-calling plus handing out fliers and that she had to cover her accommodation costs during the four-month placement. Taiwanese company Foxconn, which is the biggest assembler of electronic devices for Apple, employs more than a million workers in its factories across China. It made global headlines when it installed nets around staff dormitories after a number of worker suicides in 2010. ^ top ^

Graft fight escalates in first half of year (China Daily)
2017-07-21
About 210,000 people have been disciplined by anti-graft agencies across the country in the first half of this year, an increase of nearly 30 percent over the same period last year, according to China's top graft-buster. The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the country's top anti-corruption body, published the results of disciplinary efforts in the first half of 2017 on Thursday. Of those punished, 38 officials were at the provincial level-slightly fewer than the 41 punished in the same period last year. The anti-graft efforts have achieved remarkable results since late 2012, when a nationwide fight against corruption began, said Zhuang Deshui, deputy head of the Research Center for Government Integrity-Building at Peking University. The results show that the anti-graft system has worked and that no corrupt behavior escapes the notice of the authorities, Zhuang said, adding that the relentless effort and a zero-tolerance stance on punishing corrupt behavior have been validated. According to announcements from courts at all levels, more than 30 officials at or above provincial level were convicted in the first half of this year, exceeding the total number convicted in 2016. Among them, Zhao Liping, a former senior political adviser in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, was executed in May for homicide, firearms possession and taking bribes. He became the first government official at the provincial level to be executed since the big anti-graft push began. Zhuang said the work of going after powerful "tigers" (senior officials) as well as lowly "flies" (grassroots government functionaries) has sped up. Putting the tigers into "cages" is a priority for law enforcement bodies, he said; therefore the sentences were comparatively intense in the first half of the year. As "tigers" are sentenced to jail, lowly functionaries are also forced to face the music. According to the CCDI's statement on Thursday, 129,000 people punished in the first half of this year were at the village level or worked in companies and other nongovernmental organizations. Anti-graft agencies nationwide have also reported more than 320 cases in which lower government functionaries were held accountable for misconduct or dereliction of duty. All of this is the result of a Communist Party of China ordinance on the accountability of Party members that took effect a year ago, said Du Zhizhou, deputy head of the Research and Education Center of Government Integrity at Beihang University in Beijing. Responsibility comes with public power, Du said. ^ top ^

Offensive Audi ad reminder of women's unequal status (SCMP)
2017-07-20
When I was a kid, my grandpa often took me to a countryside fair that gathered twice a week. What excited me most was to watch the variety of livestock on sale. Usually buyers would examine the face, fur and limbs of a cow or donkey, and never forget to check their teeth. This was to know how old the animal was and whether it was healthy, I was told. What brings back this old memory is a recent video advertisement of automaker Audi for its online shop for secondhand cars. In the 34-second long commercial, a happy couple was taking an oath at their wedding when the bridegroom's mother suddenly cut in. The middle-aged lady examined the nose, ears and teeth of her daughter-in-law, and finally walked away satisfied, making an OK gesture after she made sure that every part of her daughter-in-law was authentic. Her move stunned everyone present. Then came the theme of the ad: "An important decision must be made carefully. Assured by official certification." The video, which was reportedly played in China's cinemas, went viral on social media and was immediately greeted by overwhelming ridicule and anger for its explicit contempt toward women. Weren't the slaves on sale checked in this way centuries ago? So what if the bride had plastic surgery? Is there anything wrong with her pursuit of beauty? As a woman, I wonder how bad the taste of the famous automaker can be to approve such an offensive ad idea, and how ignorant, or arrogant precisely, this company is to fail to foresee this fierce backlash. Maybe for Audi, the ad is simply funny enough to attract viewers since a lack of respect for women is still ubiquitous in this country. The commercial is annoyingly absurd, but unfortunately it is revealing that after centuries of fighting for gender equality, women still can't even get their basic human rights recognized. Recently in China, the TV series The first half of my life became an instant hit. It told how a housewife in Shanghai strived to stand on her own feet after she was cheated on by her husband and got divorced. In this process, she was helped by many men and was eventually admired by a man far more excellent than her ex-husband. There arises a question: why does a woman need to become independent? Is it for herself or just to meet better guys? Sadly, not long ago, another hot TV series prompted the public to discuss whether it is necessary for a woman to keep her virginity until getting married. That's what we still dwell on in the 21st century, let alone gender equality. Chairman Mao Zedong commended women as "holding up half the sky." But while today's women can make as much of a contribution, if not more, to society than men, they enjoy far fewer rights. In her 2014 speech, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson said women should be able to make decisions about their own body and be afforded the same respect as men, but she also admitted sadly there is "no one country in the world where all women can expect to receive these rights," which are basic human rights. The reality reminds us once again that there is a long way to go for women. ^ top ^

Chinese president calls for 'every possible effort' to solve grievances of petitioner (China Daily)
2017-07-20
He said officials must treat the handling of public petitions as important work in keeping abreast of public events, pooling people's wisdom, protecting the public interest and improving social solidarity. Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, made the remarks in a written instruction conveyed to the eighth national conference on petition work, which was held in Beijing on Tuesday and Wednesday. He urged Party committees, government agencies and officials to handle people's legitimate appeals lawfully, in timely fashion and in the local areas, address the root causes of issues, and build a stronger grassroots system. The construction of the legal institutions and related systems for addressing public petitions should be improved, Xi said, calling for efforts to make petition work more forward-looking, systematic and targeted. Speaking highly of petition work in recent years, the president said those handling petitions have helped solve large numbers of problems concerning the immediate interests of the people and played an important role in safeguarding the country's reform, development and stability. Xi ordered Party committees to enhance leadership over the work, show support and care for those handling petitions, and build a high-quality team that are loyal to the Party, dedicated to serving the people and good at working with the general public. At the two-day event, model individuals and units were awarded for their contribution to the work and certificates of merit were presented to those who had handled petitions for more than 25 years. China has established a system to handle appeals and petitions from the public, including citizens seeking government redress in cases ranging from illegal land acquisition, social security, education, to healthcare and environmental protection. China unveiled a set of reforms on the petition system in 2014, vowing to expand petition channels to facilitate public grievances, punish officials for malpractice and promote rule of law in handling petition cases. As the reform has gone deep, remarkable progress has been made in the petition work in the past three years, with a steady drop in the number of petitions and improved public trust in the work. Petitioners now have a variety of channels to file petitions, through hotlines, WeChat, mobile apps and other online formats. They can inquire and follow the development of their cases and give feedback on the handling by local petition departments. According to guidelines issued by Chinese authorities in early 2014, officials are required to accept petitions in a face-to-face manner at intervals ranging from one day in six months for provincial-level officials and one day every week at township-level. Those found to have showed indifference or hampered people's interests in petition handling, refusing or delaying petitions, will be seriously punished. Local governments also improved the assessment of officials regarding the handling of petitions, by placing more stock in the effectiveness of settlements and petitioners' satisfaction with their cases. To promote rule of law in handling petition cases, Chinese authorities issued another regulation that defines the responsibilities of the Party and state organs in handling petitions in October 2016. Such agencies should ensure sufficient funding and personnel for dealing with petition letters and visits, and work to prevent and reduce conflicts that result in petitions, according to the regulation. It highlighted supervision over the handling of petitions, stating that agencies should conduct at least one relevant annual inspection accordingly. Officials will be held accountable if improper decision-making or neglect of duty cause major petition incidents or damage people's interests. Senior supervisors will undertake joint liability if their subordinates harm other people's interests. ^ top ^

A refreshing forecast: breathing '70s quality air may be only 13 years away for China (SCMP)
2017-07-20
By 2030, Chinese residents may again breathe air as fresh as it was some four decades ago – but only if work continues on switching to cleaner energy sources, according to a new study by scientists from China, France and the United States. A paper published in the journal Science Advances on Wednesday said China's worst form of air pollution – known as PM2.5 – may have peaked a few years ago at an average of about 60 micrograms per cubic metre of air. By 2030, as more people in rural areas moved into cities with access to cleaner, more efficient energy sources such as natural gas and electricity, and used less coal or hay for cooking and heating, the average PM2.5 level could be cut by nearly 5 micrograms, the study said. That modest-seeming change is just substantial enough to bring air quality back to pre-1980 levels, when the nation had just started its economic boom, according to the researchers' calculations. The study's lead scientist, Tao Shu of the college of urban and environmental sciences at Peking University, said that this model only factored in urbanisation, and that many other forces were driving further cuts in China's pollution levels. Other drivers included the government imposing heavier penalties on polluters, the adaptation of new production technologies that consumed less energy, and the widespread replacement of fossil fuels by alternative power sources such as wind, solar and nuclear plants, Tao said. These measures had already led to a recent decline in the emission of pollutants such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, a major cancer-causing chemical; sulphur dioxide, an acid-rain trigger; and nitricoxide, an important raw material for smog formation, according to data the research team collected from environmental monitoring stations across the country. “China has a painful history of pollution, but the darkest days are behind us,” Tao said. “We have strong evidence to support this conclusion. It makes us feel generally optimistic about the future.” By 2030, more than 70 per cent of the people on the mainland will be living in cities, compared with less than 60 per cent at present, according to an estimate by Tao and his colleagues. Calculating the health impact of urbanisation-related environmental improvements, the researchers found that nearly one million premature deaths could be prevented by people breathing cleaner air. China's situation might look familiar to older people living in Europe, according to Wang Jingfu, a professor of chemistry with a laboratory for green engineering and technology at Tsinghua University in Beijing. Wang, who was not involved in Tao's research, said he believed the situation in China today was similar to that of Germany before the 1970s. The country was in a period of severe environmental deterioration after going through decades of intensive economic development to rebuild after the second world war. “The Germans had had enough of the pollution. The government implemented a series of measures to save the environment. By the 1990s, the situation was vastly different,” Wang said. “This is also happening in China with results to be seen and felt in a decade or two. It is possible to cut pollution while maintaining economic growth with the use of new technology,” he said. Tao said the scientists' findings did not mean smog was no longer a worry. In megacities such as Beijing and Shanghai, residents would face slower improvements in air quality because large populations made it difficult to reduce certain pollutants. “Clean air will not just sit there and wait for us,” Tao said. “We still have many years of hard struggle ahead.” ^ top ^

Secrets 'still safe' on WhatsApp, despite service disruptions in China (SCMP)
2017-07-20
Mainland WhatsApp users reported partially restored functions on Wednesday after experiencing trouble using the instant messaging tool on Tuesday. Some users now appear to be able to send sound clips and photos, after reports of service disruptions a day earlier. Security experts said despite the service disruption, so far it does not appear communications security had been compromised. Tests with South China Morning Post reporters stationed in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou showed different results, with Shanghai users experiencing the most difficulties. A spokeswoman with Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, declined to comment on the service disruption on the mainland. The Post's staff members in Guangzhou on Wednesday had no issues sharing text messages, videos, pictures or sound clips with local or overseas WhatsApp users. But in Beijing, while reporters could receive most multimedia content, photos were a problem. Some pictures sent from overseas users could be displayed only as pixelated previews and couldn't be downloaded in full. Two users in Shanghai failed to send or receive pictures using local mobile networks. One also failed to register on WhatsApp with a local number. Foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said he had no information on the issue when asked by reporters on Tuesday, Associated Press reported. Gerardo Salandra, co-founder of the Artificial Intelligence Society of Hong Kong, said secured communications on WhatsApp had yet to be compromised despite the service interruptions. “The government is blocking WhatsApp on a network level, meaning they can see something was sent, but not what it is,” said Salandra, who added that the best way to avoid interruptions of service on the mainland was to install a virtual private network. Professor Keith Martin, a cryptography and cybersecurity expert at Royal Holloway, University of London, agreed that it was possible for the government to block the transmission of images and videos on WhatsApp, but that it still could not read messages. Martin said that on WhatsApp, text messages were sent directly between users in encrypted form, but images and videos needed to be uploaded to an internet database before being downloaded to the receiver's phone. “It's definitely possible someone is blocking the internet address where the large files are retrieved from,” Martin said. “It feels like someone is sending a signal to people – maybe we can't stop WhatsApp completely, but we can interfere with it.” Additional Reporting by Josh Ye and Viola Zhou ^ top ^

China rolls out TV series eulogising Xi Jinping ahead of key congress (SCMP)
2017-07-18
A documentary series extolling President Xi Jinping's ideas and achievements in pushing for reforms is airing on state-run TV in China as the country's propaganda apparatus steps up efforts to burnish his image ahead of a key Communist Party congress this autumn. The 10-episode series, Carrying Reform through to the End, started airing at 8pm on the state broadcaster CCTV on Monday. The programmes will also be replayed on local TV channels the following day and streamed on online media platforms. The series debut came after China's broadcast regulator banned TV stations from airing programmes such as costume dramas during the “major propaganda period” ahead of the party congress. The state broadcaster said the documentary series would focus on the spirit of Xi's important speeches and his governing ideas and reflect how his administration “made solid progress on the comprehensive deepening of reforms”. The episodes will cover the president's ideas and achievements made on the economy, politics, social management, culture, the environment, the army and the party's self-governance. The party's 19th national congress, to be held in the last quarter of this year, is expected to see Xi's political theory written into the party's constitution as part of its “guiding ideology”. A formal report will also give an official verdict on Xi's first term in office. “Comprehensively deepening reform” was one of Xi's main slogans during his first term in power, along with a sweeping campaign against deep-rooted corruption that has seen some 1.2 million officials punished. Xi was eulogised in Monday's programme as a great reformer who inherited and further developed the “opening up and reform” policies of the late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping. Xi was seen visiting Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan and Guangzhou three weeks after he ascended to the helm of the party in late 2012, following in the footsteps of of Deng's famous southern tour in 1992. The programme also featured Xi setting up a central leading group on deepening reforms at the party's third plenum in 2013 where he pledged to give market competition a “decisive role” in the economy and to strengthen judicial independence in a vaguely worded reform blueprint. Wu Qiang, a former lecturer in politics at Beijing's Tsinghua University, said the documentary was clearly aimed at strengthening the personal cult around Xi to pave way for the autumn congress. He said the scale and extent of propaganda appeared to exceed the presidencies of Xi's two predecessors. “In the era of Jiang Zemin, there were also similar documentaries introducing his “three representatives” theory, but never so direct [in praise of the leader],” he said. “Hu Jintao is widely seen as a weak leader and he could never have done something like this to build his own authority,” he added. The documentary is likely to dominate the prime-time TV schedules in the coming weeks, but Chinese TV viewers will find their choice of soap operas and other entertainment programmes increasingly limited in the lead up to the autumn congress. The country's broadcast regulator has banned CCTV and provincial TV stations from airing entertainment shows such as costume dramas during the period ahead of the 19th party congress and the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army on August 1. Stations were told to prioritise the purchase and broadcast of a list of “recommended” propaganda TV shows, most of which portray positive images of the PLA, police, firefighters or other civil servants. The notice, issued by the television department of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television on June 27, circulating online in early July, triggered strong criticism among internet users, many of whom resorted to sarcasm to vent their anger over the changes. ^ top ^

Party members told to give up religion for Party unity or face punishment (Global Times)
2017-07-18
The head of China's top religious affairs regulator said that Party members should not seek value and faith in religion, and that those who have religious beliefs should be persuaded to give them up, with experts saying this is meant to maintain Party unity. "Party members should not have religious beliefs, which is a red line for all members … Party members should be firm Marxist atheists, obey Party rules and stick to the Party's faith … they are not allowed to seek value and belief in religion," Wang Zuoan, director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) wrote in an article released in the Qiushi Journal on Saturday, the flagship magazine of the CPC Central Committee. Officials who have religious faith should be persuaded to give it up, and those who resist would be punished by the Party organization, Wang wrote. He added that Party members are also forbidden from supporting or getting involved in religious affairs in the name of developing the economy or diversifying culture. "It is important that Wang constantly reminds Party members not to have religious beliefs. Some people who claim to be scholars support religious beliefs in the Party, which has undermined the Party's values based on dialectical materialism," Zhu Weiqun, chairman of the Ethnic and Religious Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, told the Global Times on Tuesday. Once the Party's values are damaged, Party unity as well as the Party's basic policy to regulate religions would be sabotaged, Zhu said. Wang also stressed the need for a firm political direction in managing religious affairs. "Religions should be sinicized … We should guide religious groups and individuals with socialist core values and excellent traditional Chinese culture and support religious groups to dig into their doctrines to find parts that are beneficial to social harmony and development," Wang wrote. "Some foreign forces have used religion to infiltrate China, and extremism and illegal religious activities are spreading in some places, which have threatened national security and social stability," Wang added. "Guiding religions to suit to China's development is a core policy to solve China's religious problems. The moves evolve with traditional Chinese values over years and meet the demand of socialist development," Su Wei, a professor at the Party School of the CPC Chongqing Committee, told the Global Times. Some foreign forces have used religions, including Christianity and Islam, two non-local religions, to deliberately spread their political views in China, Su said, adding that some religious doctrines shall be adjusted to match Chinese ethics and customs. Su also noted that the regulation banning Party members from having religious beliefs would be permanent, but may involve more work in Northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and Gansu Province as well as Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region. ^ top ^

4,800 held in China since March for stealing personal data (SCMP)
2017-07-18
Police have arrested more than 4,800 suspects nationwide since March for stealing personal information, the Ministry of Public Security said. In the more than four months of operations, police said they had resolved more than 1,800 cases involving some 50 billion pieces of stolen personal information, according to a statement released on Monday. The main source of stolen data was staff at companies and public institutions illegally obtaining and selling information, the ministry said, but there was a growing trend of hackers stealing data from internet enterprises and service providers. Police said that some of the stolen personal data was used by other criminals for targeted fraud or extortion. A report yesterday by Shanghai internet outlet Thepaper.cn illustrates the internal risks faced by mainland companies. The report, citing Jinzhou city police, said staff from a Hebei province branch of a courier service bribed an employee at a Hubei branch to gain access to the company system and obtain personal information to sell on the black market. The stolen personal data included information such as a list of those who bought certain health care products. The bribed staffer in Hubei was arrested after the company noticed her frequent log-ins to the customer information system. One of the supervisors at the courier firm was also arrested later, after police found that he was selling clients' data as well. ^ top ^

High-flier in Chinese politics under investigation ahead of power reshuffle, sources say (SCMP)
2017-07-17
A top contender for a role in China's next leadership is being investigated by the anti-graft agency of the Communist Party, according to people familiar with the matter. Sun Zhengcai, at 53 the youngest member of the party's 25-strong Politburo, is suspected of “serious violation of party discipline”, according to a source in Chongqing. He was removed as party boss of the city on Saturday. The development could have a significant impact on the upcoming leadership reshuffle in the autumn. Sun was seen as having a strong chance of being named to the Politburo Standing Committee. Sun was now in the middle of an investigation “at the conversation level”, the city's propaganda chief told senior editors in Chongqing on Saturday, according to the source. The internal briefing did not state whether he had been placed under official investigation. Sun was replaced by Guizhou's party chief, Chen Miner, a trusted protégé of President Xi Jinping. Sun was not present at the handover announcement, in a break with protocol that adds to evidence that he is the subject of an investigation. Another source from Chongqing said the handover ceremony was abruptly announced the night before, after the city's major leaders had finished work. A third source said earlier that Sun had been taken away by the party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. Sun was seen attending a high-level finance work meeting in Beijing held on Saturday, video footage of state-run CCTV shows. He was seated with other Politburo members but was the only one not seen in a close-up shot. Regarded by some as a protégé of former premier Wen Jiabao, Sun had been viewed as a front runner for a seat on the Politburo Standing Committee at the upcoming 19th national congress. The party boss of Chongqing, one of China's four largest cities, traditionally sits on the Politburo. Chen is a close associate of Xi, having served as his propaganda chief in Zhejiang province. Analysts said Chen, 56, was now better positioned to ascend to the top ranks and become a possible successor to Xi. “He is now [likely] very hopeful of entering the Politburo, and it's even possible that he would replace Sun as a leading contender for the top job,” Beijing-based political commentator Zhang Lifan said. Chen Daoyin, an associate professor at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said Chen could end up following the same career trajectory as Xi, who was named Shanghai party boss shortly before he was promoted to president-in-waiting in 2007. ^ top ^

China stages 'hasty' cremation of Liu Xiaobo and has his ashes scattered at sea (SCMP)
2017-07-17
Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, who died in custody on Thursday, was cremated and had his ashes scattered at sea on Saturday in a state-choreographed service that friends and activists said was aimed at preventing supporters from honouring him. “It was a deliberate move by the Chinese government to hastily arrange the funeral so no one could visit his body, which would evoke the most memories,” said activist Hu Jia. “It's humiliating to a Nobel winner.” Bao Tong, a former top aide to late Communist Party leader Zhao Ziyang, said the rush to hold a funeral and cremation was because authorities were “afraid of uncontrollable consequences”. After a short memorial service, the Shenyang city government held a press conference for foreign media at which Liu's eldest brother, Liu Xiaoguang, expressed his gratitude to the party – which imposed the 11-year jail term on his sibling and denied him overseas treatment – for catering to the family's wishes on medical care and funeral arrangements. He described the funeral as “perfect”. Liu Xiaobo's widow, Liu Xia – who was not at the press conference and can be seen in official video footage of the service being supported by her brother, Liu Hui – wished to thank the media for their “heartfelt” care, Liu Xiaoguang said. He added that Liu Xia was frail and needed medical attention. The 56-year-old has been under house arrest since 2010, after her husband was jailed in 2009 on subversion charges for his part in drafting pro-democracy manifesto “Charter 08”. There have been mounting calls for her to be allowed to leave China. A Shenyang official said Liu Xia was “free” but needed time to mourn alone. Friends said they had not been able to contact her. Bao said she should be allowed to leave as “Xiaobo no longer poses a threat”. The activist died aged 61 of multiple organ failure after being diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer in May and released from jail on medical parole. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 while he was in Jinzhou Prison, Liaoning province. News of the funeral came at around 8am, when Shenyang officials revealed his body had already been cremated in the morning, 40km away from where foreign media were directed. Officials held the second briefing attended by Liu Xiaoguang at 4.30pm, announcing that the late dissident's ashes had been scattered at sea. Human rights activists said they believed the sea burial was done to avoid having a proper grave for Liu. Dissidents and friends of the family said they were shocked to see his older brother thanking the government as they watched the conference live online. Seated between two officials, Liu Xiaoguang said: “From the medical treatment to the scattering of the ashes, the Chinese Communist Party and the government handled everything completely according to the relatives' wishes.” He praised the authorities and said their treatment had been “humane”, but did not take questions from the media. Writer and family friend Ye Du said Liu Xiaoguang “knew nothing about him as he cut ties with Liu Xiaobo after the June 4, 1989 protests”. Liu was earlier jailed for his part in the Tiananmen Square protests. Ye said “friends” shown at the funeral service appeared to be state security officers. Some activists, including Hu, were reportedly barred from leaving their homes to attend the funeral. In Hong Kong, about 2,500 people, according to police numbers, clad in black and holding white flowers or candles, marched to the central government's liaison office on Saturday night to commemorate Liu. The rally began at Chater Garden in Central, where the democracy campaigner and human rights activist's famous statement, “I Have No Enemies” was read out. The march was organised by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China. One of the marchers, surnamed Chong, was undeterred by the heat and intermittent rain as he took part with his son. “Not giving a person due respect even after they have died is not what civilised societies do,” Chong said. “China often says it's a strong country, but where does it show its strength? Why is it so afraid of people with different opinions?” Another marcher, surnamed Kwok, said she did not believe Liu's family would have wanted him to be cremated so fast, or for his ashes to be scattered at sea. “[Liu] shouldn't have been jailed and he shouldn't have died,” she said, adding that for the authorities to say they had acted in accordance with the family's wishes was “so chilling and evil”. ^ top ^

Prominent Chinese rights activist Xu Zhiyong released from prison (SCMP)
2017-07-16
Xu Zhiyong, one of China's most prominent rights activists, was released from prison on Saturday morning, according to the Beijing Municipal Administration of Prisons, after serving a four-year sentence that prompted international criticism. His lawyer Zhang Qingfang said he hoped Xu would be allowed to live as a free man. Zhang told Reuters he had brought Xu up to speed with “events on the outside”, including the death of fellow activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Liu Xiaobo. He said Xu was “upset” on hearing the news. Xu's release coincided with a memorial and cremation service held for Liu, who died of multiple organ failure at the age of 61 on Thursday. He had been serving an 11-year prison sentence, but was released on medical parole in May to be treated for liver cancer. Xu, whose “New Citizens' Movement” advocated working within the system to press for change, was detained in 2013 and subsequently convicted of “gathering a crowd to disturb public order”. One of the group's main demands had been for officials to publicly disclose their assets, a demand taken against the backdrop of the ruling Communist Party's own efforts to crack down on deep-seated corruption under President Xi Jinping. Zhang said that Xu, who had been incarcerated on the outskirts of Beijing, was in good physical shape and had few immediate plans beyond spending time with his family. At the height of his activism, Xu attracted hundreds of supporters who participated in activities related to the movement. He first gained prominence in 2003 after helping victims of tainted baby formula and migrant workers without access to health care and education. It prompted a crackdown from the Communist Party, which swiftly crushes any perceived challenges to its rule. “The idea of the New Citizens Movement is not to overthrow, but to establish,” Xu wrote in a 2010 essay. “It's not one social class displacing another social class, but allowing righteousness to take its place in China.” Xu refused to defend himself at his trial in 2104, and remained silent as a way to protest what Zhang said was a controlled legal process where a guilty outcome was a foregone conclusion. As international rights groups and foreign governments call for China to guarantee freedom for Liu Xiaobo's widow, Liu Xia, Xu's supporters have also expressed concern as to whether he will remain under close surveillance or effective house arrest. Some said on social media they were blocked by security guards and plainclothes officers from entering Xu's apartment compound on Saturday. Other high-profile and politically sensitive prisoners released from prison, including rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang and journalist Gao Yu, remain closely watched by Chinese authorities. “I hope he will be completely free,” Zhang said. Xu taught law at a Beijing university and ran in a local election. He became prominent over a drive to abolish “custody and repatriation” powers, a form of arbitrary detention used by local governments to sweep homeless people off the streets. ^ top ^

Silence amplifies friends' fears about the fate of Nobel laureate's widow Liu Xia (SCMP)
2017-07-15
Friends and relatives of late Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo said on Friday they had not been able to contact his widow Liu Xia despite mounting international calls for her to be allowed to leave the country. The 56-year-old painter, photographer and poet has been isolated since the laureate's death on Thursday in a Shenyang hospital. Supporters have also not been able to contact members of the laureate's family. But state media said Liu Xia was “a free person” who just wished to be left alone. Close friends said they were worried for her well-being, with reports that she had already lost both parents in the last year and had suffered from depression and a heart condition. “I have heard nothing from her. I'm very worried about her. She is a fragile woman, I fear she might have been driven mad,” said a close friend who refused to be named because she was visited by security agent yesterday. Another friend, Zhang Huanping, said she had also not heard from her. “Xiami, your pain, persecution, loneliness and helplessness go without saying,” Zhang tweeted, referring to Liu Xia by her nickname. Liu Xia has been under house arrest since 2010 and only reunited with her husband last month when he was released on medical parole. Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said he had no information about Liu Xia, but added that the entry and exit of Chinese citizens would be handled in accordance with the law. “Let's not make any prejudgements here,” he responded, when pressed on whether Liu Xia was allowed to leave the country. Steffen Seibert, spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said Germany would continue to push for a “humanitarian solution” for Liu Xia. Seibert said Germany supported such a solution for the couple “and that will not end from one day to the next with the very regrettable death of Liu Xiaobo”. Citing a government source, state-run China News Service said Liu Xia was “in fact a free woman who just doesn't want to be disturbed”. “Liu is free now but is grieving from losing her loved one. It is the family's wish and common sense to leave her undisturbed to handle Liu Xiaobo's funeral,” the report said. Activist and close family friend Hu Jia said he did not expect Beijing would allow her go overseas. Hu said he was under house arrest to prevent him from travelling to Shenyang. “Her fate is tied with Liu Xiaobo,” Hu said. “Now that Xiaobo is gone, all attention would be channelled to her but we shall continue to push for her evacuation out of China...This is his diying wish to have her to live without fear.” Other supporters of Liu have reportedly been taken away by police as authorities proceed with funeral arrangements, according to other activists. Friends said the authorities suggested Liu Xiaobo's family have his body cremated in Shenyang and his ashes scattered at sea. Berit Reiss-Andersen, chairwoman of Nobel Peace Prize committee, said her visa to China to attend Liu's funeral had been rejected amid speculation that Beijing was trying to avoid a publicity around Liu's funeral. In Hong Kong, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor sent her condolences to Liu Xia, saying she believed Beijing would handle the case “in a legal and compassionate way”. Protesters outside the central government's liaison office chanted: “Mourn Liu Xiaobo! Free Liu Xia!” ^ top ^

1960s great famine books removed for expired copyrights (Global Times)
2017-07-17
Several books about the great famine in China in the 1960s have been pulled out of China's online platforms because of their expired copyrights, the publisher said Monday. Written by Yang Xianhui, the books Memory of Jiabiangou, Memory of Gannan and Records of Dingxi Orphanage were removed or listed as out of stock on major Chinese e-commerce stores. A staff member from the books' publisher, Guangdong Flower City Publishing House, told the Global Times on Monday that "the electronic editions of the three books were removed from the shelves since April because their copyrights expired in 2017." He said the publisher will probably seek to renew their copyrights with the author. The author could not be reached for comment as of press time. The books narrate stories from Northwest China's Gansu Province during the Three Years of Natural Disasters (1959-61). Electronic and printed versions of the books could not be found on Amazon China, wenxuan.com, Taobao and dangdang.com. Several copies of Memory of Jiabiangou are still available on jd.com. An employee from a Xinhua Bookstore branch in Beijing, the country's largest State-owned bookstore chain, also told the Global Times "those three books are sold out." About 2.5 million Chinese died from nutrition disorders during the Three Years of Natural Disasters, including those caused by a food shortage and famine, according to an article published in 2013 in the Red Flag Manuscript, a magazine under the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), while a 2011 book from a publishing house under the CPC put the death toll at 10 million. ^ top ^

 

Shanghai

Why Shanghai's best-known liberal bookshop is closing down (SCMP)
2017-07-16
The owner, founder and customers of Shanghai's best-known liberal bookshop are counting down the days to its closure as ideological control in China becomes stricter. The Jifeng Bookstore's last branch in the city, which opened at the Shanghai Library metro station four years ago, is due to shut its doors at the end of January, when its lease expires. Long regarded a cultural landmark in China's financial capital, Jifeng is known for its high-quality academic books on politics, philosophy, law and history, topics that are also explored by well-known scholars at regular seminars held in a large room at the shop. Taobao tightens rules over sale of books and magazines published outside China (Yu Miao, who bought a majority stake in Jifeng five years ago from founder Yan Bofei, said the library had decided to resume the premises for its own use and he had encountered “non-commercial” interference that had stymied efforts to find an alternative location. “Some projects, including cultural/creative centres, invited us to open a bookshop at a favourable price or even rent-free,” said Yu, an entrepreneur in his mid-40s. “But the local culture departments made it clear they did not want Jifeng to move in when the landlord attempted to apply for a licence.” Yan opened the first Jifeng Bookstore at Shanghai's South Shaanxi Road metro station in 1997 and went on to open a string of other branches over the next decade or so. But rising rents and decreasing sales due to competition from cut-price online booksellers eventually forced their closure. The selection of books for sale on Jifeng's rows of black, wooden bookshelves still reflects Yan's tastes. The former Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences philosophy researcher, now in his 60s, said “every book has values and a stance”, as did the booksellers who chose them, and he highly recommended speeches on liberalism, propositions such as constitutionalism and solid research on current politics. “Our original target was very simple: we wanted to disseminate some progressive knowledge,” he said. “But those simple thoughts were misunderstood and probably regarded [by the authorities] as a base for opponents.” Jifeng's existence has been threatened before, in 2008 and 2012, when high rents at South Shaanxi Road prompted doubts about its future and public campaigns of support. A slogan from the 2008 campaign complained that the metro station could “only accommodate Haagen-Dazs, not [German philosopher Juergen] Habermas”. But the Chinese authorities have further strengthened ideological control since Xi Jinping became Communist Party general secretary in 2012. Zhang Xuezhong, a Shanghai-based scholar, said Jifeng's impending closure was in line with a series of moves by the Chinese authorities to tighten ideological control. “It has a negative impact on Shanghai's image as an international hub but the authorities are more concerned about political stability,” he said. “They don't want to see freer social or cultural events.” Jifeng used to hold seminars at its old South Shaanxi Road headquarters but the frequency picked up after the move to the Shanghai Library metro station in 2013, with 150 to 200 events held every year. Objections by the authorities have resulted in roughly half a dozen cancellations a year. Five seminars were called off last year, on topics ranging from the South China Sea to constitutionalism and the fate of entrepreneurs and intellectuals in modern China. Two seminars cancelled this year were to have been led by historian Qin Hui and law professor Tong Zhiwei. Qin planned to give a lecture on issues arising from globalisation while Tong was scheduled to talk about reform of the mainland's supervision system. Qin, a history professor at Beijing's Tsinghua University, attracted attention at the end of 2015 when his book Out of Imperialism, on the history of China's attempts to form a government that abided by the constitution, was pulled from mainland bookshop shelves without a reason being given. Government pressure appears to be mounting, with five seminars called off in less than two weeks. “After we send out the notices on seminars, the authorities would pay attention to them and call me if they think it is inappropriate,” Yu said. “They would say the topic or the speaker has some problems, but not explain those problems.” Chow Po-chung, an associate professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who has held two seminars at Jifeng, said he opted for milder topics so they could proceed smoothly. “I know some seminars by scholars were halted previously,” he said. “I planned to talk about political philosophy and freedom but picked a mild, literary topic as I worried it would be halted.” Yu said the authorities had accused the bookstore of engaging in “enlightenment” in recent years. “Maybe they have concerns about such a place, where people can discuss and rethink many social issues, and whether this will break through what they promote and the constraints on thought they impose on you,” he said. Chow said the seminars had also supported the growth of civil society and the pursuit of a better society. “All the actions of civil society need moral resources and knowledge, including overseas experiences, historical references and learning from philosophy,” he said, “The question is where the knowledge comes from and where we can discuss it. You can see there's almost no place in Shanghai apart from Jifeng.” Yu Shiyi, a Jifeng fan who's studying for a master's degree at East China Normal University, said the bookshop's closure would leave a hole in many people's lives. “For many of Jifeng's readers, it has become a part of their life and attending its seminars on the weekend has become indispensable, just like eating and watching movies,” he said. “It's very disappointing for intellectuals.” Jifeng fans have expressed their feelings about its closure in notes posted on a big board at the entrance to the bookshop, which also counts down the number of days it has left. “The days were busy and repetitive at the metro station but time could stop because of the bookstore. I wish it could become an eternal landmark, just like one of my old friends who never separate,” one note read. Another said: “Persist in independent thinking and a sense of democracy. Jifeng promoted social progress. Will always support you.” Jifeng is holding a series of 20 seminars before its closure, with topics including Chinese philanthropy, education and China's 1911 revolution, but some of its posts about them on the WeChat messaging service and Weibo microblog platform have been censored. If all goes according to plan, Jifeng will not disappear from the mainland market altogether, with Yu Miao planning to open Jifeng Bookstores in other cities in eastern China. But, he said, until he saw the authorities' reaction to the Jifeng sign going up on the opening day of a new shop, he would not know whether those plans would ultimately bear fruit. The plans were already in place when Jifeng announced on April 23 – World Book Day – that the days of its Shanghai store were numbered. And Yu Miao said he would be willing to open a Jifeng store in Shanghai again if the authorities relaxed their grip, because such a venue was essential for society and culture to develop. “Let's see how long the contrariness and absurdity can be maintained,” he said. “In my opinion, it won't last for long.” ^ top ^

 

Tibet

Was China's military drill in Tibet really just an exercise in logistics? (SCMP)
2017-07-19
China has moved tens of thousands of tonnes of military vehicles and equipment into Tibet since it became locked in a border dispute with India, according to state media. The vast haul was transported to a region south of the Kunlun Mountains in northern Tibet by the Western Theatre Command – which oversees the restive regions of Xinjiang and Tibet, and handles border issues with India – the PLA Daily, the official mouthpiece of China's military reported. The project took place late last month and involved hardware being moved simultaneously by road and rail from across the entire region, the report said. On Monday, state broadcaster CCTV reported that Chinese troops had taken part in a military exercise using live ammunition on the Tibetan plateau. The location was not far from where Chinese and Indian forces remain locked in a stand-off over a disputed border area at the tri-junction with Bhutan. The PLA Daily report did not say whether the movement of the military equipment was to support the exercise or for other reasons. Ni Lexiong, a Shanghai-based military commentator, suggested it was most likely related to the stand-off and could have been designed to bring India to the negotiating table. “Diplomatic talks must be backed by military preparation,” he said. Another observer told the South China Morning Post earlier that the show of strength was likely a warning to India. “The PLA wanted to demonstrate it could easily overpower its Indian counterparts,” said Beijing-based military commentator Zhou Chenming. Wang Dehua, an expert on South Asia studies at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said the scale of the troop and equipment movement showed how much easier it now was for China to defend its western borders. “Military operations are all about logistics,” he said. “Now there is much better logistics support to the Tibet region.” In a reference to a comment made by India's defence minister Arun Jaitley that “this is not India in 1962”, Wang added that “China is also different from [how it was in] 1962”. Despite China's military superiority in the Sino-Indian border war of 1962, logistics difficulties contributed to it pulling back and declaring a unilateral ceasefire. Now, however, the military can “easily transport troops and supplies to the frontline, thanks to the much improved infrastructure including the Qinghai-Tibet railway and other new roads connecting the plateau to the rest part of China”, Wang said. ^ top ^

 

Economy

Vietnam is in, France is so not, as 200 million Chinese tourists prepare to hit the road by 2020 (SCMP)
2017-07-20
Chinese tourists are expected to make 200 million outbound trips in 2020, a 48 per cent increase from last year's 135 million, led by Hong Kong, Thailand, South Korea and Japan as the most-visited destinations, according to a Thursday report by CLSA. Vietnam is poised to become more popular than its former colonial master France, after a series of terror attacks last year in Europe deterred Chinese travellers. The cosmetics, gaming, luxury and online sectors are likely to be the biggest winners, with spending expected to grow 64 per cent to US$429 billion in 2021 from last year's level. “While 2016 was challenging, impacted by terrorist attacks in Europe and weaker spending in the US, the tide turned in the third quarter, we believe largely driven by wealthy Chinese consumers,” CLSA analysts Oliver Matthew and Jon Oh wrote in a report, their fifth tracking China's outbound tourism trends since 2005. “Other driving factors affecting Chinese tourist numbers included being given extra holidays, eased travel restrictions, and greater desire for experiencing different cultures and activities.” Top destinations stand to gain from the spending power by Chinese tourists. Hong Kong was still the number one destination for mainland Chinese tourists between 2013 and 2017, followed by Thailand, South Korea, Macau and Japan. The CLSA study polled more than 400 experienced international Chinese travellers across 25 cities with an average age of 35 years and earning monthly income of 20,000 yuan (US$2,900). “After two years of decline in total mainland visitor arrivals, Hong Kong is experiencing a rebound, helped by a new rail link and more appealing events-based tourism,” the report said. The city may receive 66 million visitors in 2020, up from last year's 57 million, with each visitor spending an estimated US$1,900 in total on each trip, CLSA said. Safety remains a serious consideration for mainland travellers, with 70 per cent of respondents citing safety as their prime consideration, followed by cost and sightseeing opportunities. That's helped Vietnam overtake France last year as the 10th-most visited destination for the Chinese. A policy by the Chinese government, which allowed foreign tourists to use the country's third-largest land port on the border with Vietnam to enter Southeast Asia, has also increased tourism, with 4.66 million crossing the China-Vietnam border in the first half, up nearly 42 per cent from last year, Xinhua News Agency said separately. Political tensions have also come into play, with a marked decline by mainland visitors to South Korea and Taiwan, for instance. Over the past three years, 32 per cent of respondents spent more than 6,000 yuan per trip on shopping abroad, 3 percentage points below 2015 and a dramatic 10 percentage points down on 2014. The drop was partly due to the weaker yuan, which weakened 7 per cent against the US dollar last year, but also because of tightened scrutiny on luggage at Chinese customs, the report said. “Yuan depreciation and stricter customs checks are among the factors weighing on overseas shopping – but as Chinese travellers become more sophisticated, shopping continues to be less important a tourism driver than in the past,” said the report. Some participants also commented that shopping for others while on holiday has lost a lot of its appeal, with many international goods now readily available on the mainland. Sectorially, gaming, cosmetics, luxury and online sectors are expected to benefit most from Chinese tourism, with luxury sales particularly estimated to reach 35 per cent of global sales by 2020. Online travel companies that help Chinese tourists book their hotel, rent cars or arrange other services are going to be biggest winners, it added, as 80 per cent of overseas Chinese travellers now make their bookings online. ^ top ^

Beijing targets foreign firms in internet crackdown (SCMP)
2017-07-20
China is tightening control over foreign companies' internet use in a move some worry might disrupt their operations or jeopardise trade secrets as part of a crackdown on technology that allows web surfers to evade Beijing's online censorship. In a letter to corporate customers seen by The Associated Press, the biggest Chinese internet service provider says virtual private networks, which create encrypted links between computers and can be used to see sites blocked by Beijing's web filters, will be permitted only to connect to a company's headquarters abroad. The letter from state-owned China Telecom said VPN users were barred from linking to other sites outside China – a change that might block access to news, social media or business services that are obscured by its “Great Firewall”. The letter repeats an announcement from January that only VPNs approved by Chinese authorities are allowed. That has prompted fears of possible loss of trade secrets or information about customers or employees among companies that question the reliability of Chinese encryption services and whether authorities might read messages. Regulators announced a crackdown in January to stamp out the use of VPNs to circumvent web censorship. ' Authorities have tried to reassure companies they won't be affected, but if the rules in the China Telecom letter are enforced, they could hamper activity ranging from gathering information for business deals to employees working on business trips. Companies cite internet controls as among the biggest obstacles to doing business in China. In a survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in China last year, 79 per cent of companies that responded said web filters hurt them by blocking access to information and business tools. It was unclear how many companies received China Telecom's letter. The American and European Chambers of Commerce in Beijing said their members had not reported receiving it. The letter, which bears no date, said VPNs were for “internal office use only” and only can connect to a company's headquarters abroad, not to any other websites. That would block users from seeing business news or other information sources that are shielded by the filters. Companies are required to provide the identities of every employee who uses a VPN, according to the letter. Lester Ross, a lawyer in Beijing for the firm WilmerHale, said he had not heard of the China Telecom letter. But he said the conditions in it described to him by a reporter would be disruptive if enforced. Without VPNs to bypass web filters, “then it is just impossible to do business under the constraints that apply officially”, Ross said. “You're either making it unenforceable or they are damaging business to an extraordinary extent.” A Western diplomat who asked not to be identified further due to the sensitivity of the issue said companies had told his government they were worried the controls might lead to weaker data security and trade secrets being leaked to Chinese competitors. The diplomat said some were hesitant to invest more in China due to that. China Telecom and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, which announced the January crackdown, did not respond to requests for information about the letter. Authorities have never disclosed whether they read communications sent over Chinese VPN providers. “Despite the fact that people get used to the system, protection of confidentiality is always a concern,” Ross said. “They've never guaranteed privacy of communications.” Beijing has announced restrictions on VPN use over the past decade but did little to enforce them, possibly to avoid disrupting business or access to information for scientists and academics. The VPN crackdown coincides with a Cybersecurity Law that took effect on June 1 and tightens control over data. It limits use of foreign security technology and requires companies to store information about Chinese citizens within the country. On Tuesday, users of Facebook's WhatsApp messaging service, which normally operates freely in China, were no longer able to send images without using a VPN. That coincided with official efforts to suppress mention of Liu Xiaobo, the imprisoned Nobel Peace laureate who died last week and whom social media users have commemorated by exchanging images of him. Already, companies increasingly limit VPN access to employees such as media managers “with a critical business need” to see a banned website, according to Jake Parker, vice-president of China operations for the US-China Business Council. Companies can avoid the need for a VPN by leasing a circuit from China Telecom or other state-owned providers that connects directly to their headquarters abroad. Prices start at more than US$1,000 per month. The information ministry tried to reassure commercial users in a statement reported last week in a Shanghai newspaper, The Paper. “Foreign trade enterprises and multinational companies that need a cross-border line for their own office use can lease one from an authorised telecoms enterprise,” said the statement. It said the January notice “will not affect normal operations”. ^ top ^

 

DPRK

US calls for Chinese navy's help to rein in North Korea (SCMP)
2017-07-21
The US Navy's top officer asked his Chinese counterpart to exert influence on North Korea to help rein in its advancing nuclear and missile programmes, a US official said on Thursday. Chief of US naval operations Admiral John Richardson spoke with his Chinese counterpart Vice-Admiral Shen Jinlong via a video teleconference. “Richardson voiced his concern about the nuclear and missile programmes and emphasised that China should use its unique influence over North Korea,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. The call lasted for an hour and the two talked about the need to “work together to address the provocative and unacceptable military behaviour by North Korea”, the US Navy said in a statement. US President Donald Trump said last month Chinese efforts to persuade North Korea had failed. Trump has hoped for greater help from China to exert influence over North Korea, leaning heavily on Chinese President Xi Jinping. The two leaders had a high-profile summit in Florida in April and Trump has frequently praised Xi while resisting criticism of Chinese trade practices. North Korea said earlier this month that it had conducted its first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile and that it had mastered the technology to mount a nuclear warhead on the weapon. The United States has remained technically at war with North Korea since the 1950-1953 Korean War ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty. The past six decades have been punctuated by periodic rises in antagonism as well as rhetoric that has stopped short of a resumption of active hostilities. Tensions rose sharply after North Korea conducted two nuclear weapons tests last year and carried out a steady stream of ballistic missile tests. ^ top ^

S.Korea proposes rare talks with the North (SCMP)
2017-07-17
South Korea on Monday proposed military talks with North Korea, the first formal overture to Pyongyang by the government of President Moon Jae-in, to discuss ways to avoid hostile acts near the border. There was no immediate response by the North to the proposal. The two sides technically remain at war, but Moon, who came to power in May, has pledged to engage the North in dialogue as well as bring pressure to impede its nuclear and missile programs. The offer comes after the North claimed to have conducted the first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) earlier this month, and said it had mastered the technology to mount a nuclear warhead on the missile. "Talks and cooperation between the two countries to ease tension and bring about peace on the Korean Peninsula will be instrumental in pushing forth a mutual, virtuous cycle for inter-Korea relations and North Korea's nuclear problem," the South's Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said. China welcomed the proposal, saying cooperation and reconciliation between the two countries is good for everyone and could help ease tensions. "We hope that North and South Korea can work hard to go in a positive direction and create conditions to break the deadlock and resume dialogue and consultation," Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang told a daily press conference. The South Korean defense ministry proposed talks with the North on July 21 at Tongilgak to stop all activities that fuel tension at the military demarcation line. Cho also urged the restoration of military and government hotlines across the border, which had been cut by the North last year in response to the South imposing economic sanctions after a nuclear test by Pyongyang. The South also proposed separate talks by the rival states' Red Cross organizations to resume a humanitarian project to reunite families separated during the 1950-53 Korean War in closely supervised events held over a few days. The South Korean Red Cross suggested talks will be held on August 1, with possible reunions over the Korean thanksgiving Chuseok holiday, which falls in October this year. ^ top ^

China applauds proposal for military, Red Cross talks between ROK, DPRK (Xinhua)
2017-07-17
China on Monday responded to a proposal by the Republic of Korea (ROK) to hold inter-Korean military and Red Cross talks with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), urging the the two sides to work together to break the stalemate. "China believes it is in the fundamental interests of both sides to improve ties through dialogue, and promote reconciliation and cooperation," said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang at a press briefing. "It also helps to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula and boost the peace, stability and security of the region." The ROK on Monday proposed holding inter-Korean military talks on Friday at Tongilgak, a building on the DPRK side of the truce village of Panmunjom, to ease military tensions along the border. Separately, the South Korean Red Cross suggested holding dialogue on the reunion of families separated by the 1950-1953 Korean War, on Aug. 1 in Peace House, a building on the ROK side of Panmunjom. China hopes the two sides would work together towards a positive direction and pave the way for resuming dialogue, Lu said. "We also hope all parties concerned in the international community would give understanding and support for it, and play constructive roles in properly settling the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue," he added. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Today marks 25th anniversary of State Great Khural (Montsame)
2017-07-20
Today is marking the 25th anniversary of the first day of operation of Mongolia's first fully-functioning democratic parliament. On July 20, 1992, the State Great Khural officially started operating as a permanent legislature of Mongolia. In July of 1990, Mongolians elected their first free and democratic legislature called the People's Great Khural, which later legalized formation of the People's Little Khural. During the fifth session in 1992, the People's Little Khural passed a dozen laws on parliamentary election and a law on the State Great Khural, and ended the functions of the People's Little Khural. So, the first parliamentary elections were carried out on June 28. In the following month, on the 20th, President of Mongolia Punsalmaagiin Ochirbat opened the first session of the State Great Khural, the current legislative body of Mongolia. On this day 25 years ago, the parliament passed the law on authorization of full powers of members of the parliament and 76 parliamentarians took oaths. The first speaker of the State Great Khural was Mr N.Bagabandi, who then became the second president of Mongolia. ^ top ^

Japanese delegation visits Mongolia to strengthen bilateral relationship (theubpost)
2017-07-20
Speaker of Parliament M.Enkhbold received Speaker of the House of Representatives of Japan Tadamori Oshima on Tuesday at the State Palace to discuss a wide range of cooperation issues between the two countries. During their meeting, Speaker M.Enkhbold highlighted that Japan is the most important country of Mongolia's third neighbors, and noted that since the 1990s, Japan has helped Mongolia develop democracy and overcome challenges, during challenging economic times in Mongolia. He expressed gratitude to Japan for granting a soft loan under the International Monetary Fund's extended fund facility program, which is being implemented in Mongolia to deal with the nation's economic challenges. The Speaker emphasized that collaboration between the legislatives of the two countries is of significant importance to strengthening bilateral cooperation, and promoted more cooperation between interparliamentary groups. He noted that Parliament will focus on successfully implementing a midterm program, signed in March, for the development of the economic partnership between the two countries. The mid-term program is considered the main guideline of cooperation between the two nations for the next four years. M.Enkhbold underlined that trade turnover between the two countries in 2016 had increased and that the two countries will take measures to strengthen cooperation between entrepreneurs of Japan and Mongolia, and eliminate challenges such as double taxation. He added that the new Mongolian airport in Khushig Valley, built with Japanese financing, is about to commence operations. M.Enkhbold spoke about a joint coal chemistry complex project, which was previously discussed with Japan's Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, and reported that a Japanese task force has already conducted a study for the project and asked Speaker Oshima to pay more attention to the project. Speaker Oshima stated that as both countries pursue freedom and democracy, the countries have formed an enduring friendly tie. He said that promoting business, people-to-people, organizations, and legislative relationships will be of great importance to strengthening bilateral relations. He added that the two sides need to constantly meet in dealing with challenges on trade and economic cooperation such as double taxation and transportation, and work to create a fair and transparent investment environment to expand bilateral economic cooperation. Oshima noted that he will instruct Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy under the ministry to focus on implementing the coal chemistry project in Mongolia. Speaker Oshima also met with Prime Minister J.Erdenebat to discuss some aspects of bilateral relations and cooperation between the two nations. During the meeting, the Prime Minister thanked Speaker Oshima for helping Mongolian athletes who will participate in the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics by holding a joint training with Japanese athletes, and stated that the government of Mongolia is supporting the stance of Japan on becoming a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Speaker Oshima asked Prime Minister J.Erdenebat for Mongolia's assistance in bringing back Japanese citizens abducted by North Korean agents. He also asked J.Erdenebat to support the Japanese bid to host Expo 2025, under the theme “Designing Future Society for Our Lives”, in Osaka, Japan. On Tuesday, Japan's Speaker met with President Kh.Battulga to exchange views on some issues of bilateral relations and cooperation between the two countries. ^ top ^

President Kh.Battulga issues decree on mobilization of army personnel for firefighting (Montsame)
2017-07-18
Today July 18, President of Mongolia Kh.Battulga issued a decree on “Involvement in forest and steppe firefighting actions”. By the decree, General Staff of the Armed Forces (Lieutenant General D.Davaa) was authorized to mobilize personnel and equipment of the armed forces to operations of forest and steppe firefighting, occurred in territories of Selenge, Tuv, Khentii and Bulgan aimags and the damage elimination operations. The General Staff of the Armed Forces was also assigned to provide personnel of armed forces, who are to participate in the firefighting, with professional management and ensure safety measures are strictly adhered to. ^ 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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