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
  4-8.9.17, No. 686  
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Table of contents

Mongolia

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Switzerland

China welcomes Switzerland to mediate in Korean Peninsula nuclear crisis (Xinhua)
2017-09-06
China said on Tuesday it welcomes Switzerland to play a mediator role in resolving the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue. Swiss President Doris Leuthard said on Monday that the neutral country is prepared to act as mediator to help resolve the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, including by hosting ministerial talks. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a daily press briefing that China has noticed the statement made by Switzerland. "China welcomes and encourages all ideas and suggestions that are conducive to easing tensions and confrontation, boosting mutual trust, restarting dialogue at an early date and resolving the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue," said Geng. "We also welcome countries to play a constructive role in resolving the issue," he said. Geng said the mainstream opinion of the international community is for the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue to be resolved via dialogue and negotiation in a peaceful way. "We hope relevant parties can heed the rational voices of the international community and keep calm, rather than be provocative and fan the flames," he said. "Military actions are not an effective choice and sanctions are not the fundamental way out for the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue," Geng added. The DPRK launched its sixth and largest nuclear test on Sunday in violation of UN Security Council resolutions, which has been widely condemned by the international community. ^ top ^

 

Foreign Policy

ASEAN welcomes China's proposal to further enhance, integrate economic, trade ties (Xinhua)
2017-09-08
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Friday welcomed China's proposal to synergize the Belt and Road Initiative with the bloc's development strategy to further enhance and integrate China-ASEAN economic and trade ties. In a joint statement issued by the trade ministers from ASEAN member states and China at the end of their meeting, the ministers said that China's Belt and Road Initiative aims "at create trade, financial, and culture networks stretching from East Asia to Europe and beyond, focusing on key areas of industrial development, financial integration and reform, and infrastructure construction." "In this relation, the ministers underscored the importance to ensure that the initiative is a win-win collaboration formula," the statement read. The statement noted the progress made in the discussion on the proposed joint statement between China and ASEAN on further deepening the cooperation of infrastructure connectivity. The ministers also noted the developments in the ASEAN-China connectivity cooperation and the outcomes of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held in Beijing this May. Moreover, the ministers expressed appreciation for China's efforts to organize the first China International Import Expo in 2018. They encouraged the active participation of the 10 ASEAN member states in the event. The ministers also welcomed the continued "strong levels" of trade and investment between China and ASEAN, noting that China maintained its position as ASEAN's largest trading partner since 2009 and continued to be ASEAN's fourth largest external source of foreign direct investment (FDI). ASEAN data showed that merchandise trade between ASEAN and China reached 368 billion U.S. dollars in 2016, accounting for 16.5 percent of ASEAN's total merchandise trade. Moreover, it showed that FDI flows from China to ASEAN amounted to 9.2 billion dollars in 2016, accounting for 9.5 percent of total ASEAN's FDI. China's Belt and Road Initiative, valued at about 1 trillion U.S. dollars, aims at getting some 60 countries to invest in infrastructure projects to develop land and maritime routes following the old Silk Road network that once connected China to Central Asia and Europe. ASEAN economic ministers kicked off a four-day meeting in Manila on Thursday to discuss ways on how to further strengthen economic ties and further integrate trade and investment in Southeast Asia. ASEAN economic ministers will also meet their counterparts from Australia, Canada, China, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Russia, and the United States to exchange views on global and regional economic developments and discuss trade agreements and economic cooperation mechanisms with these partners. ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. ^ top ^

Xi exchanges views with Macron over Korean Peninsula, bilateral ties (Xinhua)
2017-09-08
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday held a phone conversation with his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, stressing China's persistence on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Xi said the Korean Peninsula issue can only be solved through peaceful means, including dialogue and negotiation. He expressed hope that France would play a constructive role in easing up the situation and restarting dialogue over the nuclear issue. ^ top ^

Chinese embassy's provisional liaison office unveiled in Myanmar capital (Xinhua)
2017-09-08
The Chinese embassy to Myanmar on Friday officially unveiled the interim liaison office in Nay Pyi Taw, becoming the first foreign embassy in Myanmar to have opened such an office in the country's new capital. Present at the office's unveiling ceremony were Chinese Ambassador to Myanmar Hong Liang and Myanmar Minister of State for Foreign Affairs U Kyaw Tin, among others. Speaking at the ceremony, Hong said the Chinese side attached importance to the opening of the liaison office as to further develop ties with Myanmar. As both countries are friendly and close neighbors as well as advocators of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, China and Myanmar are closely cooperating to jointly build the Belt and Road, foreseeing broad prospects of development in the future, Hong added. U Kyaw Tin expressed his belief that the opening of such an office will play a vital role in promoting the two countries' relations, saying that Myanmar welcomes other foreign diplomatic institutions to also open their liaison offices in Nay Pyi Taw. ^ top ^

Nepal and China fast track rail link in aftermath of Sino-Indian border row (SCMP)
2017-09-07
China and Nepal agreed on Thursday to ramp up plans for a cross-border railway amid public assurances from China that Beijing would work hard to avoid conflict with New Delhi. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also said Beijing hoped Nepal could be a bridge between China and India, following a bitter border stand-off between the two Asian heavyweights. After talks in Beijing with Nepalese Foreign Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara, Wang said China and India should work hard to make sure their ties do "not derail, become confrontational or get out of control". "[China and India] should see each other as partners and an opportunity for development, instead of sticking to the old mindset of perceiving each other as a rival or threat," he said. Mahara also met Premier Li Keqiang and State Councillor Yang Jiechi on Thursday. His trip is his fourth in two years and comes as China tries to expand its influence in the landlocked Himalayan country. Wang said China had no intention of "bullying" a small country. "We do not interfere with Nepal's internal politics, nor do we attach political strings to our cooperation with Nepal or require Nepal to pick a side in its foreign policy," he said. Wang said officials from Nepal and China had agreed to fast track a feasibility study for the construction of a railway between the two countries. In addition, the two countries agreed to rebuild two highways and three border ports linking Nepal and China, after much of the infrastructure was destroyed in a deadly earthquake in 2015. Nepal and China also struck a memorandum of understanding on energy cooperation to help Nepal diversify its sources of energy, Wang said. Mahara, who is also Nepal's deputy prime minister, said Nepal would open a new consulate in Guangzhou. He said Kathmandu appreciated Beijing's policy of non-interference. Chinese Vice-premier Wang Yang made a four-day official visit to Kathmandu last month while China and India was still at loggerheads on the Doklam plateau in the Himalayas. At the time, Mahara was quoted by local media as saying that Nepal "will not get dragged" into the border dispute, nor be influenced by either China or India. While it has maintained a neutral position on the China-India dispute, Kathmandu has slowly increased exchanges with Beijing in recent years as it has sought to counterbalance New Delhi's dominance in the region. As part of that delicate balancing act, Nepalese Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba visited India late last month. At the same time, China is rolling out optical fibre networks in Nepal, spelling an end to India's internet service monopoly in the country. ^ top ^

Pakistani minister's visit to Beijing comes at tricky time after China's 'terrorist' declaration (SCMP)
2017-09-07
Pakistan's foreign minister is expected to begin his visit to Beijing on Friday, at what could be an awkward time for China, after Xi Jinping signed a leaders' declaration at a recent summit of emerging economies that named Pakistan-based groups as terrorists. Islamabad reacted strongly to the declaration, released at the conclusion of the summit between China, Brazil, India, Russia and South Africa, with its defence minister rejecting allegations that Pakistan was a safe haven for terrorists. Despite the heated words, observers said the long-term relationship between China and Pakistan was unlikely to be damaged. The contention surrounded the status of certain Pakistani militant groups, including Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. Islamabad has long rejected categorising them as terrorists, but the BRICS nations expressed concern at the "threat posed by terror groups, including those based in Pakistan". Before departing for Beijing, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said the nation would continue to face "embarrassment" if terror groups were not reined in. That pitted him against the hardline Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir, who said Pakistanis "reject" the BRICS declaration. Pakistan was not a "safe haven" for terrorists, he said, adding that the government had taken action against all such groups based on its soil. Pang Zhongying, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing, said Pakistan's ties with China would remain stable due to their mutual concerns regarding India's influence in the region. He cautioned against a misinterpretation of the BRICS declaration. "Statements of this sort are a combination of views from all parties concerned, so it should not be seen as China's view per se," he said. Last month, US President Donald Trump, in a televised address to announce his Afghanistan and South Asia policy, hit out at Pakistan for providing safe havens for "agents of chaos" that kill Americans in Afghanistan. He also warned that Islamabad had "much to lose" by harbouring terrorists. Veerle Nouwens, a researcher on Asia Studies at Britain's Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, said Asif was mainly looking for Beijing's help on security matters. "Trump's singling out of Pakistan for harbouring terrorist organisations has led to a downturn in US-Pakistan relations. Pakistan will be looking to China to discuss not just their economic relationship, but how to proceed with matters of regional security, like Afghanistan," Nouwens said. China's ambassador to Pakistan has urged Islamabad on several occasions to improve security, especially in Baluchistan province, where China, under its "Belt and Road Initiative", is building a port and funding roads to connect its western regions with the Arabian Sea. In June, Islamic State militants active in Pakistan killed two Chinese teachers kidnapped in Baluchistan. ^ top ^

Distracted US leaves window of opportunity for Beijing to expand power in South China Sea (SCMP)
2017-09-06
As Kim Jong-un's antics in North Korea capture global attention, China is quietly moving to bolster its grip on disputed territory in the South China Sea. Last month, a Philippine lawmaker released photos he said showed Chinese fishing, coastguard and navy vessels surrounding a Philippine-occupied isle in the Spratly island chain, preventing planned repairs to a runway. Vietnam in July halted drilling in an area leased to Spain's Repsol SA, amid reports it did so under Chinese duress. The incidents suggest China is taking advantage of a perceived vacuum left by the United States in Southeast Asia as Donald Trump's administration focused on Chinese trade tensions and North Korea's missile and nuclear tests. While the US is still conducting what it calls "freedom of navigation" naval operations in the South China Sea, testing China's claims to exclusive access – it plans to conduct two to three such manoeuvres in the next few months, according to The Wall Street Journal – and a rear admiral publicly criticising Beijing for its behaviour, the intensity of its actions and statements on the waters has faded since Trump took office. Doubts over the future of US commitment could make some Southeast Asian states reluctant to publicly challenge China on their own. While the US is occupied with developments further north, China may have the opportunity to expand its presence in the South China Sea in a way that becomes impossible to unwind, giving it the strategic advantage over time. "China knows that Trump is very focused on North Korea, and not too worried about Southeast Asia," said Jay L Batongbacal, director of the Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea at the University of the Philippines. "There is a willingness on their part to push things as far as they can." The recent actions are a far cry from the clashes at sea that occurred in mid-2014 when China dragged an oil rig into waters also claimed by Vietnam. After an international outcry, Beijing withdrew the rig several months later. When a 2005 agreement to share the area's resources expired in 2008, the Philippines and Vietnam opposed China's so-called nine-dash line – marks on a map covering more than 80 per cent of the South China Sea – as a basis for joint exploration. Now, under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Beijing and Manila are negotiating a deal for the Sampaguita gas field at Reed Bank as a starting point. Without strong support from the US or Southeast Asian nations, Vietnam could find itself less able to push back against China's efforts to drill in other areas. Vietnam is concerned about a potential US pullback in the region. "We are watching them with worry," said Tran Viet Thai, a deputy director general at the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam in Hanoi, where the country's diplomats are trained. "We want to see the positive contribution of the US to regional stability and international security." China's focus is on pushing joint explorations that tie countries' economic fortunes together and take the focus off strategic ambitions. Standing alongside Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano in Manila in July, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi said joint exploration was an idea "full of political wisdom". According to a 2013 estimate by the US Energy Information Administration, the South China Sea has about 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas rated as proved or probable reserves. The latest tensions are over exploration block 136-03, which is located around 560km southeast of Ho Chi Minh City and which China calls Wanan Bei-21. It's not the first time the area has been an issue. In 1994, Chinese warships blocked a Vietnamese oil drilling rig from working in the area, and in 2011, Vietnam said a Chinese fishing boat rammed a PetroVietnam ship conducting a seismic survey. The BBC reported in July that Vietnam had terminated drilling by Repsol "following strong threats from China". Repsol confirmed the suspension in an earnings call in July but said it would not comment further. Asked about the matter on July 25, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China urged the relevant party to stop its "unilateral actions that infringe upon China's rights". Vietnam has asked China to stop military drills in the Gulf of Tonkin and act in accordance with international law, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said in a statement on the ministry's website on August 31. She said in a statement in late July that Vietnam asked parties to respect its rights in the waterway. "It will be critical to watch how China responds to other drilling activities," said M Taylor Fravel, associate professor of political science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a member of the board of directors for the National Committee on US-China Relations. Other Vietnamese blocks overlapping China's claims involve ExxonMobil Corp, Murphy Oil Corp and KrisEnergy Ltd, according to Jean-Baptiste Berchoteau, an Asian upstream research analyst for Wood Mackenzie. KrisEnergy spokeswoman Tanya Pang said the company has no current drilling activity in the area. Murphy Oil did not respond to a Bloomberg request for comment. "We are not conducting drilling operations and have not received any similar such request," Exxon spokesman Aaron M Stryk said in a statement. "At this time, we are working very constructively with our partners and the government of Vietnam to develop the Ca Voi Xanh field." The foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China have now endorsed a framework for a code of conduct in the South China Sea. Exploration done in accordance with Philippine law "would be a constructive development for future foreign relations within Southeast Asia," said Albert del Rosario, a former Philippine foreign secretary. "Respect for the rule of law by China would be welcomed not only by Asean but by the responsible community of nations." For now, the lack of public comment from Vietnam on Block 136-03 is probably recognition that "it's not a good time to rock the boat", said Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. "There is a growing uneasiness about China and the way it has been behaving in the region," Koh said. Still, for now, "Vietnam sees that it has to give the code of conduct a chance to work". ^ top ^

Vietnam voices second protest over China drills in disputed seas (SCMP)
2017-09-06
Vietnam has delivered a sharp rebuke to China over military drills in the South China Sea, the second such warning in a week as tensions rise between the countries over the disputed waterway. China and Vietnam have long traded barbs over the strategic and resource-rich sea, which Beijing claims most of. Tensions have flared in recent months, with Vietnam suspending an oil exploration project operated by Spain's Repsol in an area off its coast claimed by Beijing. A meeting between top Vietnamese and Chinese generals over border issues was abruptly cancelled in June, with both sides citing a sudden scheduling conflict. Hanoi condemned Beijing's latest military drills in the Paracel Islands, a contentious archipelago claimed by both sides. "Vietnam strongly rejects China's move and seriously requests China to respect Vietnam's sovereignty over the Hoang Sa archipelago," foreign ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said late on Tuesday, using the Vietnamese name for the Paracels. China said last week it was conducting "regular military training in the relevant maritime area located in the northwest of the South China Sea", where the Paracels are located, claiming jurisdiction over the zone. The two countries fought a brief but bloody skirmish over the Paracels in 1974. More than 70 Vietnamese soldiers were killed and China has had de facto control over the islands since then. Vietnam repeated calls last week for Beijing to halt its activity in the area and foreign affairs officials in Hanoi met with Chinese embassy staff to clarify Vietnam's position. Some US$5 trillion in annual shipping trade passes through the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas deposits. Tensions between Vietnam and China over the sea came to a head in 2014 when Beijing moved an oil rig into waters claims by Hanoi. The move sparked weeks of deadly anti-China protests across Vietnam. Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia also have competing claims in the sea. ^ top ^

Xi, Modi stress stable, cooperative China-India ties (Xinhua)
2017-09-06
Chinese President Xi Jinping said Tuesday healthy and stable relations between China and India are in line with the fundamental interests of their people. China is willing to work with India on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence to improve political mutual trust, promote mutually beneficial cooperation, and push Sino-Indian ties along the right track, he said. Xi made the remarks when meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the southeastern city of Xiamen after the ninth BRICS summit. The Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence are: mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence. The principles were endorsed by China and India in the 1950s, and have been widely accepted as norms for relations between countries. China and India should see each other as development opportunities rather than threats, Xi said, adding that peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation are the only right choice for the two countries. India should see China's development correctly and rationally, he said. Modi agreed that India and China should not see each other as rivals and should instead make cooperation the focus of bilateral relations. He said India is ready to work with China to develop stable ties. Modi said he expects the leaders of the two countries to maintain close communication and play a leading role in developing the ties. Xi said the leaders of China and India have in recent years reached wide consensus on how to advance bilateral ties, agreed on building a closer partnership, and set long-term development goals. Much progress had been achieved in advancing the ties, he said. The meeting came after a military stand-off lasting more than two months with more than 270 Indian troops with two bulldozers crossing the boundary in mid-June into the Dong Lang (Doklam) area, which is Chinese territory, to obstruct infrastructure construction. On Aug. 28, China confirmed that India had withdrawn personnel and equipment from Doklam, and said Chinese armed forces would strengthen patrols and defense of the area to resolutely safeguard sovereign security. Xi said the two sides should maintain mutual respect, seek common ground while shelving differences, and safeguard peace in border areas. China and India are the world's largest emerging market and developing countries. Xi said the two have great potential in economic and social cooperation. They should seek synergy in development strategies, cooperate more on infrastructure development and connectivity, and continue people-to-people exchanges. China and India should also strengthen coordination on global affairs to strive for a fairer and more just world order, he said. Modi said the two sides should advance mutual political trust, expand practical cooperation, increase people-to-people exchanges, and jointly protect regional peace and stability. He congratulated Xi on a successful BRICS summit. Modi said the world is undergoing fast changes and the BRICS countries need to step up cooperation under such circumstances, adding that the Xiamen summit played a key role in this regard. ^ top ^

BRICS to contribute more to global governance (Xinhua)
2017-09-06
Changes in the global landscape call for a solidified, stronger BRICS with better contribution to the global governance as the bloc of five emerging economies enters its second decade. The 9th BRICS annual summit which was wrapped up on Tuesday in Xiamen has attracted worldwide attention to how Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa will shape the bloc's future course amid challenges and uncertainties stemming from global economic sluggishness, increased anti-globalization sentiments in Western countries, regional security and geopolitical blackswans, among others. The bloc representing some 44 percent of the world population and 23 percent of the world economic volume is striving towards a stronger identity, a leading platform for South-South cooperation and a larger role in global governance. Former Goldman Sachs chief economist Jim O'Neill, who coined the acronym BRIC (made BRICS by South Africa's participation later), said the bloc's economic performance has exceeded his expectations. "Sixteen years later the BRICS share of the global GDP (gross domestic product) is bigger than every scenario I projected," he noted. Currently, the bloc's five economies together contribute more than half to global growth, serving as a major economic powerhouse. "BRICS is at the center of solutions needed for international financial system reform," said Sergey Karatayev, deputy head of the Center for Economic Research at the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies, citing the increased voting rights of China and India in the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. According to the BRICS Leaders Xiamen Declaration released on Monday, the bloc will strive towards broad partnerships with emerging markets and developing countries, noting that the dialogue and cooperation with non-BRICS countries will be "equal-footed." "With the BRICS demands, many global governance structures are undergoing a gradual reform," commented Srikanth Kondapalli, professor at the Center of East Asia Studies under the New Delhi-based Jawaharlal Nehru University. "BRICS has acquired certain momentum in international relations," he added, highlighting the bloc's increasingly more unified voice in international affairs. "It has advocated dialogue and peaceful resolution of disputes, in addition to lifting any curbs on trade and investments," he said. "It tries to protect the interests of developing countries," he added. The just-concluded 9th BRICS Summit was a show of Chinese wisdom on South-South cooperation and global governance, leaving behind "BRICS Plus" as one of its most important legacies. During the Xiamen Summit, China held the Dialogue of Emerging Market and Developing countries, where leaders of the five BRICS Plus countries of Egypt, Guinea, Mexico, Tajikistan and Thailand, were invited to join the BRICS leaders. Iqbal Surve, Chairman of South Africa BRICS Business Council told Xinhua on the sidelines of the summit that he personally welcomes the BRICS Plus initiative. "That can only benefit the people of those countries," he said. As Chinese President Xi Jinping put it in a Chinese saying, "It's easy to break one arrow but hard to break ten arrows bundled together." BRICS Plus is expected to expand the coverage of BRICS cooperation and enhance the strengths of the bloc in the international community. Xi is now proposing a grand vision of global governance - stressing stability and mutual prosperity, Robert Lawrence Kuhn, chairman of the Kuhn Foundation and a longtime China expert and observer, told Xinhua via email during the summit. "Properly positioned, BRICS can facilitate the continuing emergence of the largest developing countries to participate fully in a new kind of global governance, which humanity so badly needs in the 21st Century," said Kuhn. Professor Kondapalli from Jawaharlal Nehru University believes there is plenty of potential to tap in intra-BRICS cooperation. "The total trade between the five BRICS countries accounted for only 4.9 percent of the total foreign trade of these countries," and "much of the trade is of low-end products," he said. In addition to deepening economic and trade cooperation, increased cultural cooperation and people-to-people exchanges are deemed necessary for building a more stable and solid BRICS bloc. "People-to-people exchanges are the pillar of all the bilateral and multilateral exchanges. It is the cultural capital of a country that has attraction and lays foundations of understanding between the peoples," said B.R. Deepak, sinologist and professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University. Deepak added that it is needed to institutionalize such mechanisms as cultural festivals, media and film exchanges, and BRICS scholarship programs. There are also calls for the bloc's foreign ministers to meet regularly as part of its mechanism building efforts to further coordinate the bloc's voice on global political, security and economic issues. ^ top ^

Xi says Belt and Road Initiative not geopolitical tool (Global Times)
2017-09-03
Chinese President Xi Jinping said Sunday the Belt and Road Initiative is not a tool to advance any geopolitical agenda, but a platform for practical cooperation. It is not a foreign aid scheme, but an initiative for interconnected development which calls for extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, Xi said while delivering a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the BRICS Business Forum scheduled for Sept. 3-4 in the southeastern coastal city of Xiamen. "I am convinced that the Belt and Road Initiative will serve as a new platform for all countries to achieve win-win cooperation and that it will create new opportunities for implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development," he said. China hosted the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in May which was attended by 29 heads of state or government and more than 1,600 representatives from more than 140 countries and 80-plus international organizations. ^ top ^

What South China Sea rivals can learn from the Doklam border dispute (SCMP)
2017-09-03
Just as imperceptibly as China and India were locked into a standoff in mid-June on a narrow plateau near the China-Bhutan-India trijunction area in the Sikkim Himalayas, so the standoff was wound down imperceptibly with deft diplomacy by both sides. On August 28, a week before President Xi Jinping was due to host Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Xiamen for the ninth BRICS summit, New Delhi and Beijing began implementing the terms of their disengagement understanding, commencing with the withdrawal of Indian troops and equipment from the Chinese side of the border. The offending Chinese road construction activity that had constituted a "significant change in the [security] status quo" in India's view and triggered its trespass across the border in the first place, is likely to be withdrawn in the days ahead. The plateau in question, the Dolam Plateau in the Doklam area, once again reverts to its former status as the subject of a legal dispute between China and Bhutan, under the effective control of China, and holding an important security interest to India. A host of questions abound regarding the timing of the denouement. Did Xi blink in order to remove a dark cloud over the impending BRICS summit as well as the forthcoming 19th National Party Congress? Was Modi read the riot act that forced him to move first? Was Bhutan a silent bystander through gritted teeth all along? Larger questions abound regarding the motivation and chosen course of action by both parties. What prompted Beijing to build a road of marginal military value in a sensitive security zone where it suffers obvious tactical disadvantages? How wise was it for New Delhi to militarily intervene on Thimpu's behalf to uphold the latter's feebly-articulated claims of sovereignty over a patch of territory that had all along been under Beijing's effective control? Shouldn't New Delhi have made its point and withdrawn much earlier, as it has in previous instances along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) – its undefined border with China? There are no questions on one issue though: the assemblage of Sino-Indian boundary management protocols, which are intended to confer peace and tranquillity to the border areas as well as serve as a crisis management mechanism, held-up impeccably throughout the standoff. Two provisions in particular played an outsize role: the requirement that border personnel on both sides be lightly armed and exercise maximum self-restraint in case of untoward encounters at the border; and the limits on armed force deployments as well as ceilings on tanks, large calibre infantry guns, and surface-to-surface missiles to their rear within designated zones. Together, these provisions ensured that the face-off between Chinese and Indian border personnel was limited to fisticuffs at worst, and helped extend the noteworthy streak – now almost 42 years – of not a single life being lost in anger along their Himalayan border. The successful application of China-India boundary management protocols bears wider relevance to the South China Sea, East China Sea and the Western Pacific, where such mechanisms operate rudimentarily at best. First and foremost, boundary or crisis management measures with China are a confidence-building measure. Each of the five agreements that China and India have signed were arrived at during warming phases of their post-1988 relationship. Each instilled confidence in the others' intentions and provided a fillip to their larger boundary dispute resolution-related discussions. For a code of conduct in the South China Sea or a maritime communication mechanism in the East China Sea to take shape, a period of political quiet and trust must first be engendered in Asean (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and Japan's respective relationships with Beijing. China-Japan relations currently are not at this stage yet. Second, devising boundary or crisis management mechanisms with China requires patience and perseverance. There is no single authoritative Sino-Indian document. Rather, there is a compendium of documents interspersed over a two decade-long period that lay out the range of protocols. Expecting an initial agreement to deliver foolproof returns during its first test-by-crisis, as the United States anticipated during the April 2001 EP-3 Spy Plane Incident, is to vest too much authority in any one document. Third, boundary or crisis management mechanisms with China are a work in progress. Each of the five such agreements – in 1993, 1996, 2005, 2012 and 2013 – that India has initialed with China builds upon the previous one/s, with the latter three aimed at incrementally plugging gaps that have arisen. In the 2013 agreement, a 'no tailing' clause was added to prevent face-offs that were tending to occur due to aggressive tailing by one patrol of a rival patrol. In a similar vein, China and India should draw up an additional protocol that forbids construction-related activity in close proximity to the two sides' understanding of the LAC. With Beijing increasingly mirroring New Delhi's habit of building light infrastructure which has led to recurring standoffs in recent years, the time to devise this patch is now. Beijing and New Delhi should also establish greater geographic separation between their border forces, while paying due consideration to parameters such as the nature of terrain, the existing state of road communication and other infrastructure, and the time taken to induct/de-induct troops and armaments for either side during a military emergency. Finally, Sino-Indian boundary and crisis management arrangements are voluntary and depend entirely on good faith. Although the provisions are prescriptive, they do not contain binding verification mechanisms. While either party is at liberty to disregard provisions that do not suit its interests, the tendency has in fact been for both parties to treat the arrangements as a 'gentleman's agreement' that is deserving of utmost respect. The claimant states in the South China Sea and Asean, too, would gain by endowing suppleness within the provisions of their bilateral consultation mechanism and code of conduct, respectively, rather than stack all their chips in a single, highly legalistic, results oriented document. It would lend stability and sturdiness to their maritime crisis management interactions. Richard Heydarian says China's and the Philippines' weighing of resource sharing marks an upward turn for two nations once awash in acrimony China and India face a host of challenges at the boundary and beyond, which are made no easier by the trust deficit in ties. The success of the boundary management protocols is on the other hand an underappreciated facet of the depth and resilience in ties. Their success during the Doklam crisis is a testament to this resilience. Beijing's rival claimants in Asia's seas and strategic competitors in the Western Pacific would be well-advised to pay attention to these crisis management lessons. ^ top ^

Xi meets Putin, calling for promoting world peace, development (Xinhua)
2017-09-03
Chinese President Xi Jinping met with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Sunday, calling for joint efforts to promote world peace and development. Putin is in the southeastern Chinese coastal city of Xiamen to attend the ninth BRICS summit scheduled for Sept. 3-5. "I hope President Putin will have a beautiful memory of the trip to Xiamen, and I believe we will start the next golden decade of the BRICS countries," Xi said. It was the fourth meeting between the two leaders this year. ^ top ^

North Korean nuclear crisis casts a shadow over China's BRICS summit (SCMP)
2017-09-02
The North Korean crisis will inevitably pop up when leaders from the five emerging economies meet in Xiamen, even though they will still focus on boosting growth for developing nations, observers said. The BRICS summit involving Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa will kick off on Sunday in the Chinese coastal city of Xiamen, six days after Pyongyang fired a missile over Japan, rattling the whole region. Both China and Russia are key trade partners for North Korea, and will be the most affected by the latest United Nations sanctions on the regime, especially China which accounts for about 90 per cent of North Korea's trade. Shi Yinhong, a prominent Chinese international relations expert from Renmin University in Beijing said: "The most possible discussion on North Korea will appear in bilateral talks between China and Russia". While other members like India and South Africa – and some of the guest nations such as Mexico – may not be as interested inthe issue as China and Russia, their views about the North Korean nuclear crisis may well be included in the final declaration, Shi said. Despite being economically isolated, North Korea exports about US$3 billion worth of products and maintains trade relations chiefly with China, India, Pakistan, Burkina Faso, Russia, Thailand and the Philippines, according to Observatory of Economic Complexity. China provides North Korea with most of its food and energy supplies and accounts for upwards of 90 per cent of North Korea's total trade volume, according to a report by Council on Foreign Relations in July, a US think tank. Bilateral trade between Russia and North Korea has been decreasing for the last four years, from US$112.7 million in 2013 to US$76.9 million in 2016, but it more than doubled to US$31.4 million in the first quarter of 2017 in year on year terms, according to Russian Federal Customs Service statistics. Zhang Liangui, an international relations professor at the Central Party School, said both China and Russia do not want the North Korea crisis to intensify. "Russia has said no more new sanctions when other countries wanted to impose new ones after Pyongyang's latest missile launch," Zhang said, adding Beijing has also opposed to unilateral sanctions and hit back at claims that China should do more to rein in Pyongyang. Brazil and South Africa were less-vibrant destinations for North Korean exports, which were valued at US $15.6 million and US $0.65 million respectively in 2015, according to UN trade data. India was North Korea's third largest trading partners in 2015-16, but both New Delhi and Beijing have changed their relationship with the increasingly bellicose nation since Kim Jong-un's regime insisted on developing its nuclear programme against the wishes of the international community. China, North Korea's major lifeline, has suspended all imports of coal, iron ore and seafood two weeks ago, following the UN's decision to back new sanctions. Beijing had already announced a suspension of coal imports in February. In April, India banned all trade with North Korea – with the exception of shipments of food and medicine – in line with UN resolutions. But analysts said China would not let the issue hijack the theme of the meeting, which it wants to strengthen the platform for economic cooperation of emerging economies. "On the whole, the BRICS summit has its own agenda to follow, and the North Korean problem is unlikely to be treated as a major issue," Shi added. Luiz Pinto, a joint fellow at the Brookings Doha Centre and Qatar University, said the issue would not be highlighted by China and Russia. "The last round of sanctions was approved in the Security Council of the UN, meaning that one way or another it was supported by China and Russia." ^ top ^

China, Tajikistan step up intelligence contacts to fight terrorism (SCMP)
2017-09-01
China's foreign ministry on Friday announced an agreement with Tajikistan to establish exchanges of security intelligence as part of an upgrade to diplomatic relations during a state visit by Tajik President Emomali Rahmon to Beijing. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Rahmon on Thursday established a "comprehensive strategic partnership" between the two countries, according to a statement released on the foreign ministry's website. The two sides agreed to bolster efforts to combat the threats of terrorism, separatism and religious extremism, as well as international criminal groups and drug trafficking by launching professional intelligence exchanges, the posting said. "Both sides will strengthen communications between defence, security and law enforcement departments and deepen intelligence exchanges," it said. China's plan to rebuild the ancient Silk Road by reconnecting trade routes from its borders into Central and South East Asia, dubbed the "Belt and Road" initiative, has raised new security concerns for the country and its companies. Beijing has worked to deepen security cooperation with countries in Central Asia and elsewhere to make up for shortfalls in its own intelligence and security measures to combat terror groups and other threats in the region. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a security bloc established in 2001 by China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to fight radical Islam, has expanded to now include nearly twenty states as members or partners. China agreed in September last year to finance and build several outposts for Tajik border guards and other facilities along the porous 1,345-km border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

China's religious groups brace for tighter rules 'to curb extremism' (SCMP)
2017-09-08
Organisers of unsanctioned religious activities in China face fines of up to 300,000 yuan (US$46,000) under ramped-up regulations due to come into effect early next year. The State Council, China's cabinet, endorsed revisions to the 2005 Regulation on Religious Affairs on Thursday, ushering in changes that are meant to tighten local controls on faith communities, clamp down on overseas training and eradicate extremism. Analysts said they were disappointed by the conservative amendments that could see more frequent and tougher monitoring of religious groups. The changes apply across the spectrum, from Christianity to Buddhism and Islam, and come amid a high-profile push to "sinocise" foreign religious traditions in China. Organisers of unapproved religious events had been subject to fines of up to three times the cost of the activities but from February those penalties will be between 100,000 yuan and 300,000 yuan. Anybody providing a venue for an "illegal religious event" will face a fine of between 20,000 yuan and 200,000 yuan. Licences will be revoked if education facilities are used to for religious activities outside sanctioned religious schools. State-run Xinhua said the changes were to counter problems in religion at home and abroad. "The ordinance further regulates religious affairs management by protecting the sanctioned, curbing the illegal and extreme, fighting infiltrations and cracking down on criminals. [It will] also strengthen monitoring over religious property, regulate religious information on the internet while spelling out legal liabilities," Xinhua said. A second-generation Protestant from Guangzhou said her church of more than 400 people was preparing to skirt the changes. She said the church had switched from WeChat to WhatsApp for communication and members were meeting in smaller groups, but the congregation would continue to take part in overseas Christian conferences. "It is our right to travel. I'll just make sure to state that the purpose of my trip is tourism. We will refer to these events online as shopping trips or buffet tours instead," she said. "They can stop us from gathering but our faith within is unshaken." China has long sought to control religious bodies but authorities in some parts of the country such as Zhejiang have been more tolerant of churches. Professor Yang Fengguang from Purdue University said the changes would affect all religions but Protestant Christian house churches "are the big elephant in the room". "The hardliners won. The final version looks more restrictive than the revised draft that was made public for soliciting comments," said Yang, who estimates there are about 93 million Protestants in China. "The long-delayed ordinance was announced all of a sudden without any warning... There must have been internal disagreement and discussion [in finalising] it." Carsten Vala, an associate professor of political science at Loyola University Maryland, said China was trying to isolate religions from their international communities so they would be easier to control. Religions with overseas roots, such as Christianity, Islam and Tibetan Buddhism, were more likely to be targeted in the suppression, Vala said. ^ top ^

Fugitive Chinese tycoon Guo Wengui seeks asylum in the US (SCMP)
2017-09-08
Chinese tycoon Guo Wengui has applied for political asylum in the US, his lawyer confirmed, adding that it could take longer than the average time of two to three years for the US government to grant the controversial billionaire asylum status. Thomas Ragland, a Washington-based lawyer representing Guo, told the South China Morning Post in an interview on Thursday that Guo, who has lived in New York for more than two years, "formally requested [an asylum application] as of yesterday". "The average time to process the application from filing to interview is two to three years," said Ragland, who is with the law firm of Clark Hill PLC. "This case is complicated and it could take even longer than that." The decision will involve the immigration services unit of the US Homeland Security Department, the US State Department and other government agencies, Ragland added. The Homeland Security and State Department could not immediately be reached for comment. News that Guo had asked the US for asylum was first reported by The New York Times. An asylum application from Guo, whose tourist visa expires later this year, was received on Wednesday by a government processing centre in Vermont, the Times reported. "Asylum offers a level of protection that is different from having a visa status," Ragland was quoted. "Visas can be cancelled or revoked." Guo's intention to seek US asylum came to light in late August, when a leaked audio clip published on YouTube indicated Guo had asked former US President Obama's homeland security chief to help him extend his US stay. Leaked audio indicates fugitive tycoon Guo Wengui asked former Obama homeland security chief to help him extend stay in US. In the recording, former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told Guo: "I want to help you. You're someone I want to help. You and your family. You and your lovely wife and your two children." Johnson is now a partner at the New York law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. "I am the only member of Barack Obama's cabinet that has met with Donald Trump," Johnson was heard saying in the recording. "I wrote him a personal letter yesterday." It's unclear now whether Johnson's offer was directly linked to Guo's asylum application. When asked by the Post if any former or current US government officials had offered Guo asylum in the past, Ragland responded: "not that I'm aware of". Ragland added that Johnson is no longer in the government. "[Johnson] expressed his interest in helping, but not any sort of offer," Ragland said. "He is not in the position to make an offer anyway." No extradition treaty exists between the US and China. The two sides need to engage in bilateral talks to repatriate any overseas fugitives back to their home country. China intensified its international manhunt of fugitive corrupt officials in March 2015 with an operation dubbed Sky Net, aimed at restricting their financial channels. In April, the global police organisation Interpol issued a "red notice" for Guo, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a news briefing in Beijing. A red notice is an international alert for a wanted person. The property magnate also faces massive lawsuits in the US. As of August, the total amount of lawsuit claims in the US against Guo by mainland Chinese plaintiffs, who are unable to recover their assets in China, was up to US$5.3 billion. Chinese conglomerate HNA Group, owner of Hainan Airlines, has filed a defamation lawsuit against Guo in New York state, seeking at least US$300 million. The lawsuit filing calls Guo's statements linking the company to corruption involving Chinese leaders "baseless" and "meritless". Ragland said the processing of the civil lawsuits is "unrelated" to the asylum application and "handled by lawyers other than me". "Whether he was granted asylum or not, it does not really affect those lawsuits," Ragland said. "Decisions on those cases will be made by different courts in the civil context." ^ top ^

Mao Zedong's grandson among the 'princelings' not invited to China's party congress (SCMP)
2017-09-07
A grandson of Mao Zedong is among the "princelings" from China's People's Liberation Army who have not been invited to the upcoming 19th party congress. Major General Mao Xinyu is one of five senior military figures descended from or with close family ties to revolutionary generals or former state leaders who will miss out on China's most important political event, which is held just once every five years. As the congress also provides a platform for the party to announce its new leadership line-up, those who do not attend are effectively ruled out of any future promotions within the military. Where once a familial link to a former leader was almost a guarantee of a seat at one of China's top tables, under the leadership of President Xi Jinping – who is also chairman of the Central Military Commission – such associations would appear to carry less weight. However, Macau-based military watcher Anthony Wong Dong suggested that while the absence of so many princelings from the delegates list was notable, it did not necessarily mean that Xi was seeking to sever dynastic threads, but rather that he did not know enough about the people concerned to trust them with key roles. "Rather than deliberately suppressing [the influence] of the descendants of party veterans, Xi might simply think they are not reliable enough, or that they don't have the right skills to lead the army." A total of 2,300 delegates from all sectors will attend the party congress where they will vote to select the powerful Communist Party Central Committee and the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. A list of the 300 PLA delegates set to attend was released on Wednesday. The other princelings that were excluded are: General Liu Yuan, the son of former President Liu Shaoqi; Admiral Liu Xiaojiang, the son-in-law of the party's former General Secretary Hu Yaobang; General Zhang Haiyang, a son of former Central Military Commission Vice Chairman General Zhang Zhen; and General Liu Yazhou, the son-in-law of former President Li Xiannian. At the last party congress in 2012, 41 members of the military delegation, which includes figures from the People's Armed Police, were elected to the 200-strong Central Committee, which is regarded as the political core of China's Communist Party. Membership of the committee is also a prerequisite for anyone aspiring to an elite position on the Central Military Commission, the body that runs the world's largest army. Of the 41 delegates five years ago, just 12 will take their seats in Beijing on October 18. Of those 12, five are expected to retire at the end of the meeting, which means there will be 34 fresh faces among the PLA contingent on the Central Committee. In 2012, there were 27 new arrivals. Since 2012, Xi has removed at least three members of the military contingent of the Central Committee. They are: General Wang Jianping, the former Commander of the People's Armed Police; General Tian Xiusi, the former Political Commissar of the Air Force; and Lieutenant General Yang Jingshan, a former commanding chief of Tibet Military Region. ^ top ^

5 main religions in China agree to sinicize (Global Times)
2017-09-07
Leaders of China's five main religious groups have agreed Wednesday to sinicize their religions by integrating religious doctrines into Chinese culture. Leaders from five religious communities - Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Christianity - reached a consensus at a forum in Beijing that "the direction of religions is to integrate them with Chinese culture," the Xinhua News Agency reported. Chinese believers in Christianity can understand it in the context of Chinese culture, language and thought, Fu Xianwei, the chairman of China Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches, said on the forum. Theology shall reflect Chinese culture, Fu said. Catholicism in China is preparing the five-year plan of the religion's sinicization to guide local churches, Ma Yinglin, the chairman of the Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church in China, also said, China News Service reported. Catholicism in China has been seeking to sinicize the religion in terms of priesthood, system, protocol and oratorio since the founding of China, Ma said. "Only by sinicizing religion can Islam be prosperous and healthy," Mu Kefa, the deputy chairman of the China Islamic Association, said during the forum. Islam shall be alert to extremism and terrorism, he said. ^ top ^

UN conference on desertification opens in Inner Mongolia (Xinhua)
2017-09-06
The 13th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 13) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) opened Wednesday in Ordos City in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. More than 2,000 delegates from 196 parties and more than 20 international organizations attended the two-week conference with the theme "Combating Desertification for Human Well-being." The main task of the session is to seek solutions for the UN sustainable goal of "achieving a land degradation neutral world by 2030" and to develop a new UNCCD strategy framework for the 2018-2030 period. Zhang Jianlong, head of the State Forestry Administration, said China has made some progress in containing desertification and set a goal to improve 50 percent of the desertified land that can be controlled by 2020. Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD, said substantial achievements have resulted from the great efforts made over the past years, and more are expected with the new strategic framework formed at the Ordos session. ^ top ^

 

Beijing

There are 2.4 million rental bicycles in Beijing, and the city says enough is enough (SCMP)
2017-09-07
Beijing's municipal government has imposed a moratorium on the 15 bicycle-renting services and applications operating in the Chinese capital, barring them from putting any more vehicles on roads that are already choking with 2.4 million two-wheeled rental conveyances. Local authorities of the city, with more than 20 million residents, said it would step up efforts to ensure rental bicycles are only parked in designated, approved spots, according to the government's announcement posted on Weibo, a Twitter-like service. The announcement makes Beijing the 11th city after Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and others to tighten the leash around more than 40 bicycle-rental companies that have sprouted all over the country, with an estimated 16 million rental bicycles in Chinese cities, according to the transport authority. While they vastly add to the "last mile" convenience to city commuters, the ride-anywhere and park-anywhere business models of most of these services mean they're almost always parked haphazardly, which soon become an unsightly public nuisance to the cityscape. The service is the latest to have taken over China's "sharing economy," a business model built around smartphone-enabled applications that shared resources from bicycles to prams and even battery chargers and umbrellas. Bicycle renting's growth had been explosive in the past year, with up to 106 million people using various smartphone-enabled services as at the end of June, according to August data by the China internet Network Information Centre, the Chinese government's online industry research facility. Leading the pack are two bicycle renters backed by two of China's largest internet companies. Mobike is backed by Tencent, the operator of the dominant Chinese social network, while Ofo is backed by Alibaba Group Holding, which runs the world's largest online shopping platform, and owns the South China Morning Post. The two Beijing-based services -- each a "unicorn" with its business valued at more than US$1 billion -- are fighting for market share and dominance by flooding city streets with their bicycles, each identifiable by a unique colour, to attract new users. Changzhou Youon Public Bicycle System, the first of the ride-sharing companies to raise funds through an initial public offering, has tripled in value less than a month since its August 17 listing. Youon's shares rose to as much as 100.30 yuan each on August 31. It now carries a market cap of 7.76 billion yuan (US$1.2 billion) at a price of 80.85 yuan on Thursday. ^ top ^

Beijing under pressure to deliver blue sky for party congress as smog arrives early (SCMP)
2017-09-04
Beijing's annual smog season has arrived earlier than expected, the government said on Sunday, suggesting the clock is now ticking if there are to be blue skies over the Chinese capital for the upcoming 19th party congress. "Combating severe air pollution needs to be made our most important job right now," the Ministry of Environmental Protection said in a statement on its website. "[However] the air condition this autumn and winter does not allow for any optimism," it said. The air quality index in Beijing has been rising steadily since Thursday, and on Saturday broke through 200, the level at which even perfectly healthy people can start to feel unwell. At an emergency meeting convened by the Beijing government on Saturday, officials vowed to reduce air pollution from factories, vehicles and even outdoor barbecue sites. While the recent rise in air pollution was not unfamiliar, the peaks had arrived earlier than in 2015 and last year, when they were not seen until mid-September, the government said. Beijing's air pollution problem has traditionally worsened with the onset of autumn and winter, as demand for heating soars across the city and coal-fired power plants ramp up their production. Despite that trend, the ministry suggested the latest smog was caused by climate change, saying that the shrinking sea ice in the Arctic and the changing water temperature in the Pacific might have diminished the southerly winds that are needed to disperse pollutants. With the Communist Party congress – at which Xi Jinping is fully expected to be re-elected as general secretary – now just six weeks away, the authorities in Beijing are racing against time to ensure grey skies do not overshadow the biggest event in Chinese politics for the past five years. Environmental protection has been high on Xi's agenda and many would-be senior post-holders are likely to be judged on their performance in helping to achieve the president's green goals. Thousands of companies in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region have been punished in recent months for violating environmental regulations in a sweeping crackdown that began in April. "The severity of this year's environmental protection campaign is unprecedented," said Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs. "Air quality improved in the summer time, but... there can be no let off in the effort to tackle pollution." Authorities in the capital will be keen to ensure the party congress, expected to start on October 18, enjoys the same crystal blue skies that were seen in the capital for the APEC summit in 2014 and the 2015 military parade held to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the second world war. In the run-up to those events, the city embarked on a programme of drastic anti-pollution measures, including the temporary closure of factories and construction sites, and the imposition of strict traffic controls. Ma said that while those measures were introduced only about a month ahead of the respective events, the central government had this year begun ramping up its controls much earlier. This included the environment ministry setting air quality targets specifically for the autumn and winter seasons in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region. In a "battle plan" unveiled last month, the ministry pledged to cut the average levels of airborne particles known as PM2.5 in the area by more than 15 per cent year on year for the October to March period. As part of those efforts over the coming months, more polluting factories will be closed and outdated coal-fired heating systems will be replaced, it said. "We need to complete all the tasks... [to] ensure continuous improvement in the air quality and welcome the... 19th party congress with excellent results," minister Li Ganjie said. ^ top ^

Pioneering Xi has transcended Western thinking, says China's Foreign Minister (SCMP)
2017-09-02
Chinese President Xi Jinping is a diplomatic pioneer whose ideology has transcended centuries of Western international relations theory, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Friday, lauding Xi ahead of a Communist Party congress. China has become more assertive in its foreign policy under Xi, who has touted his global Belt and Road Initiative and sought to position China as a pillar of globalisation. China has also extended its global military reach, opening its first overseas base in Djibouti and using its expanding navy to take a more assertive stance in maritime disputes with neighbours. Xi's "diplomatic thought" is a compass for foreign relations under new conditions and had become a marker of China's soft power, Wang wrote in an article in the Study Times, the official paper of the Central Party School that trains officials. "It also innovates upon and transcends the past 300 years of traditional Western international relations theory," said Wang, who has been taking an increasingly high profile as China expands its presence on the global stage. Wang credited Xi with seeking friends and partners not allies, putting aside differences to seek common ground, and doing away with the "cold war thinking" of "he who is not my friend is my enemy". With the resolution of a "reformer and a pioneer", Xi had answered the call of the times to "put forward many new ideas that his predecessors had not", Wang said. Wang credited China with successes under Xi, including promoting talks and denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula, as well as helping to counter global threats posed by international terrorism, climate change and cyber security issues. Since assuming office almost five years ago, Xi has consolidated power. He now heads a group leading economic reform and has appointed himself commander-in-chief of the military, although as head of the Central Military Commission he already controlled the armed forces. The party will open a once-every-five-years congress on October 18, at which a new Standing Committee, the pinnacle of power in China, will be constituted. Diplomatic sources believe Wang could take over later this year as China's top diplomat from State Councillor Yang Jiechi, 67, Wang's predecessor. ^ top ^

Reading between the lines: what to watch for at China's most important political event (SCMP)
2017-09-01
The date for China's much anticipated 19th party congress has finally been set. The country's most important political event – held only twice a decade – will begin on October 18, setting the stage for the second term of President Xi Jinping, who has already emerged from the past five years as the country's most powerful leader in decades. It will be closely watched by observers both within and outside China as Xi's power is put to the test and the trajectory of the world's second-largest economy is set for years to come. That will include the unveiling of the country's new leadership line-up and its policy direction for the next five years. So what are the key areas to watch at the party congress?
1 Leadership reshuffle
The leadership line-up is one of the key factors that will shape Xi's influence over the next five years. There are many uncertainties, and each comes with its own implications. One of the biggest questions surrounding the reshuffle is whether Xi will signal a possible successor by elevating a younger leader (or two) into the new Politburo Standing Committee, the top decision-making body within the party, as happened at the mid-term congresses of the two presidents before him. The absence of any heir-apparent will be widely read as a sign of Xi's intention to break with the convention of the past two decades and stay on for a third term. But some experts have argued that this might not necessarily be a sign that he intends to stay on. It could instead be a case of Xi wanting to avoid any deviation from his authority, allowing him to focus on more urgent issues than grooming a successor – such as dealing with economic threats. Another key person to look for in the line-up is Wang Qishan, Xi's powerful ally who has spearheaded an unprecedented war on corruption that has felled some 1.2 million corrupt or disloyal officials – including the president's high-ranking political rivals. At 69, Wang is due to step down according to an informal retirement convention, but speculation has been rife that he might stay. Bending the rule – which has already been dismissed by the party as pure "folklore" – for Wang not only means Xi retains a key ally on the Standing Committee, but it also sets a precedent for Xi to stay beyond the unwritten age limit for a third term. The third thing to watch out for amid the leadership reshuffle is whether the Standing Committee will be reduced in size. Currently there are seven seats, but cutting it down to five would help Xi further concentrate his power by making it easier for him to secure a majority – he would only need two allies instead of three. The size of the Standing Committee is not fixed and has swung between three and 11 in the past nine decades.
2 Xi's political theory
Every key Chinese leader since Mao Zedong has had their political theory enshrined in the party's constitution as a "guiding ideology" – a symbolic practice formally recognising their ideological contribution and standing within the party. How Xi's theory will be mentioned in the work report he delivers on the first day of the congress will be closely watched. If it is recognised as a guiding ideology of the party at the mid-term congress, he will be the first leader to achieve this so early in his tenure. Moreover, if that theory is summarised into a banner term bearing his name, that would place him on a par with Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, who left behind "Mao Zedong thought" and "Deng Xiaoping theory".
3 Road map for the next five years
In the report, Xi will also set out the party's priorities and general policy directions for his second term. A wide range of areas will be covered – from the economy, political system, culture, people's livelihood, ecology, defence and foreign policy to the party's own development. These will all be discussed in very broad-brush terms, but observers would closely scrutinise the report for any departures from previous reports to find the slightest shift in policy or priorities.
4 Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan affairs
A section of the report is likely to be dedicated to policies on Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Although there is unlikely to be any change in Beijing's fundamental stance, the exact wording in this section might reveal whether it will take a tougher approach against the rise of pro-independence sentiment in both Hong Kong and Taiwan in coming years. Also, as Zhang Dejiang, head of the National People's Congress, is due to retire, the question of who will take over his position and portfolio overseeing Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan affairs will also be one to watch.
5 Possible revamp of the Central Military Commission Apart from the party's leadership reshuffle, the Central Military Commission (CMC), the overall high command of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), is also due for a shake-up at the congress. The current composition of the CMC is based on the old structure of the PLA. That was before China's military went through an unprecedented overhaul during Xi's first term, and many observers wonder whether the CMC will also be revamped to fit the framework of the new military system.
6 Anti-corruption campaign
Xi has made it clear that his signature campaign to crack down on corruption and political disloyalty within the party will very much continue in his second term. But the question is, who will spearhead this campaign in the coming five years, given the uncertainty over whether top graft-buster Wang Qishan will step down? And if Wang does retire, or is appointed a new portfolio, can his successor be as tough and unrelenting in the corruption campaign?
7 Xi's status within the party
Another thing to look out for is whether Xi's status within the party leadership will be further raised – embodied, perhaps, in a new title. During a key party meeting late last year, Xi was elevated to "core" leader, placing him above his immediate predecessor Hu Jintao, who never attained that status. Recent descriptions of Xi by state media have certainly raised eyebrows – a documentary aired on CCTV referred to him as "the supreme leader", while a Xinhua commentary called him "the supreme commander". ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

Ghost cities haunt stability dream in China's far west (SCMP)
2017-09-04
The future of economic development in China's far western Xinjiang region lies behind the shattered glass door of a welcome centre on the outskirts of the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar. Inside, a dusty model depicts a modern urban development with wide, tree-lined boulevards and a pair of twin skyscrapers – but outside the project remains a ghost town reflecting Beijing's struggle to bring prosperity to the restless region. Dubbed "Shenzhen City" after the bustling southern port city that financed it, the more than 200,000 square metre development is part of a government project to stabilise Xinjiang with massive economic stimulus. Beijing has paired promises of wealth with strict controls on personal and religious freedoms in an effort to quell ethnic strife between the country's Han majority and the region's mostly Muslim Uygur minority. But outside the welcome centre, where a broken LED sign flashes out an investment hotline number like an SOS, the plan for a vibrant oasis on the western edge of the Taklamakan Desert stands like a mirage. The landmark buildings' half-finished silhouettes jut out of a rubble-strewn construction site, surrounded by withered trees and grass. Several such ambitious projects around Kashgar have stagnated despite government plans to bring the poverty-stricken region's economy on a par with the rest of the nation. To do so, Shenzhen and 18 of the country's other wealthiest cities and provinces have been required to pump a fraction of their GDP into Xinjiang under a "pairing assistance" programme. The rationale is "if you can improve people's economic conditions, they will become less politically restive" according to Enze Han, a lecturer on politics at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies. "[But] if you look at the ground, the story in Xinjiang is a failure," he said. In 2010, a year after deadly riots in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi killed around 200 people, authorities rolled out the "pairing assistance" programme to raise the region's per capita GDP to the national average within five years. By the end of 2015, cities such as Beijing and Shanghai had invested some US$8.5 billion in the region, according to state-run Xinhua. But President Xi Jinping shifted the focus back to security in 2014 after Uygurs perpetrated a series of violent attacks across the country, killing dozens. Two years later, the gap between Xinjiang and the rest of the country had only grown, with its per capita GDP expanding about 18 per cent more slowly than the nation as a whole during the five-year period after the assistance programme began, according to calculations by AFP using government statistics. Another project lies largely abandoned across town: Guangzhou New City, a 1.5 million square metre "urban centre" in suburban Kashgar funded by the wealthy southern province of the same name. When the development opened in 2012, promotional materials promised 20,000 jobs and housing for up to 80,000 people, roughly 15 per cent of Kashgar's population. But local officials had to beg businessmen to come, said Lal Muhammad, a Pakistani trader, who signed a three-year lease for US$1,000, which he soon abandoned. "Few people came. Very few," he said, adding that the ubiquitous police checkpoints encircling the city had made it difficult for customers to come and go. "The project is a flop." There is no easy answer as to why the Kashgar projects have stumbled. Ji Yeon-hong, a Xinjiang expert at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said that while fears of violence deterred economic investment and development, the projects "seem unrelated to what the local population needs". Shenzhen City was stopped because its "prospects were not good", a project manager surnamed Yang said without elaborating. But a 2014 prospectus by the Shum Yip Group, a company involved in the development, said "frequent terrorist violence" made it difficult to attract labour or businesses. "Some shops have closed because of Kashgar's stability maintenance problems," said Zou Zebin, the owner of a high-end furniture store, one of the few remaining shops in Guangzhou New City. Xinjiang's ever stricter security may also be negatively affecting businesses, according to Adrian Zenz, an expert on Chinese security at Germany's European School of Culture and Theology. "Regular businesses and manufacturing there are no longer competitive due to the added expenses caused by security measures," he said. But Zou believes the "cities" can still replicate their namesakes' success, as Kashgar is a key part of China's "Belt and Road Initiative", a massive global infrastructure project to revive the ancient Silk Road. "The country's investment in Xinjiang is really big," Zou said. "I think in three years, we'll see the benefits." ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Who is Chris Wong? Mystery signature appears on posters at heart of Chinese University spat (SCMP)
2017-09-08
A mysterious "Chris Wong" seems to have taken responsibility for the controversial pro-independence posters put up anonymously at Chinese University after the students' union said it would remove any material without a signature by Friday morning. The name appeared in white on the school's so-called "democracy wall" following an open confrontation on Thursday evening between local and mainland students over posters put up on the boards at the university's Cultural Square. The groups were competing for space to paste posters expressing opposing points of view on Hong Kong independence. The union, which manages the wall, decided to remove by 8am on Friday any posters that had been pasted on top of other messages, as well as those that had been put up anonymously. It also cleared three out of the four boards that had been blanketed with pro-independence posters to make room for other messages. No one claimed responsibility for the posters that read: "Fight for our Homeland. Fight for Hong Kong Independence" and a large black banner, both of which were put up on Monday or earlier. The banner was later removed by the university management, but a similar one was put up the next day. The union stationed students at the square, which it manages, to thwart more removal attempts by the staff. Early Friday morning, the Post found a "Chris Wong" signature dated "September 5" at one corner of the board blanketed with the posters. The union said it would not remove posters with signatures, although it admitted that it would be difficult to track down who "Chris Wong", a common name, was. Students taking English composition tests in public examinations are required to use "Chris Wong" as their signature in the letter writing section to avoid revealing their identity to the markers. "I of course do not believe the writer is really called 'Chris Wong'. I think the choice of the name is nothing different from 'a group of Hongkongers'," union committee member Martin Yip said. "We have no right to check if the signatures are valid or demand that students to write down their student ID. Protecting writers' privacy is one of the concerns of us," union committee member Edward Sher said. Sher admitted that they would not be able to trace the owners of most of the posters on the wall, which was now filled with messages expressing different views. Meanwhile, a group of 10 masked mainland students were seen busy putting up posters saying "CUSU is not CU" on the wall on Friday morning. They said the union did not represent the university. "Don't advocate your own views under the name of CU. You do not have even 50 per cent of the votes, what eligibility do you have to speak for the majority?" a poster signed by "Chancy" stated. "The student union has no right to represent us. They tried to marginalise us, who hold different views," one member of the group, a year-four student surnamed Li, told the Post. Li said she personally opposed Hong Kong independence and accused its supporters of coming up with only slogans but no practical plans. But she said she agreed with how the "democracy wall" was being run now, with space being given for different opinions. An argument broke out when Demosisto member Derek Lam Shun-Hin walked by and reportedly insulted the masked mainland students. A passer-by who claimed to be a CU alumnus urged Lam to apologise. Both sides dispersed after a brief standoff. At noon on Friday noon, the union launched a "one man one letter" campaign, urging students to sign a petition urging the university's office of student affairs to explain why the pro-independence materials were removed. "The school can suppress speech on Hong Kong independence today, then it can suppress other speech supporting democracy and freedom in the future... Only with unity can we be victorious over the 'high walls'," the promotion leaflet read, calling on students with different political stances to act together. ^ top ^

Petition to oust Occupy co-founder Benny Tai from university post attracts 80,000 signatures (SCMP)
2017-09-07
More than 80,000 people have signed an online petition calling for the University of Hong Kong to oust Benny Tai Yiu-ting, the controversial law lecturer who co-founded the pro-democracy Occupy Central protests in 2014. On Wednesday, pro-government legislator Junius Ho Kwan-yiu, who organised the online campaign, threatened to sue the university if it refused to take action against Tai, whom he accused of promoting "lawbreaking under the name of civil disobedience". Ho, also a former Law Society president, demanded the university launch an enquiry into Tai's conduct. He said that if he does not receive a satisfactory reply from the university by next Thursday, he may consider taking legal action. He cited the University of Hong Kong Ordinance which allows the university council to sack a teacher "after due enquiry into the facts and... on the findings of such enquiry there exists in the opinion of the council good cause for such termination". Ho had written to the university council once last month over the same issue but received no reply to date. Last Tuesday, he launched the petition calling on the university to sack Tai, and as of 6pm on Tuesday when the campaign closed, a total of 80,623 people had signed. "Now I have the support of over 80,000 people. I don't think a responsible university governing body would just put it aside and ignore such a serious request," said Ho. He argued he was not interfering with the university's internal affairs, saying: "The University of Hong Kong is a publicly funded university and it has a public duty to ensure that the teaching quality and the performance of its staff members would be up to the public's expectations. "Is it not absurd that someone who calls on people to break the law can teach law in the university? Do we want to see such a lecturer to continue corrupting the minds of the young people?" In March, Tai and his fellow Occupy protests founders – Dr Chan Kin-man and the Reverend Chu Yiu-ming – were charged for their roles in the Occupy protests that brought parts of downtown Hong Kong to a standstill. The District Court will hear the case again on September 19. Ho urged the university to suspend Tai, pending the trial. In a statement issued on Wednesday, a university spokesman said: "In general, we have due procedures for taking actions against students and staff if we think they have infringed the regulations of the university. " Tai did not reply on Wednesday to requests for comment from the South China Morning Post. But he said in a radio interview last month that he did not ask people to break the law arbitrary and that his original idea was for the older protesters, not young people, to bear the legal responsibilities of civil disobedience. ^ top ^

Letter from a Hong Kong prison misses the point on freedom (SCMP)
2017-09-06
One of the most talked-about events of the past week has been the online publication of "Letter from Prison" from jailed Occupy protest leader Alex Chow Yong-kang. It has been circulated thousands of times and collected many more likes. Maybe we are witnessing the birth of a new contribution to the venerable prison literature of the past century. "Without democracy," Chow wrote, "any talk about the rule of law is a luxury." So I guess the appeal court that has jailed him for seven months is a kangaroo court, no? He then cited author George Orwell: "In a world of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." Hong Kong, he implies, has become such a place. "At a time of proliferation of lies," he wrote, "we must be courageous to tell the truth to society. Do not be afraid of the powerful and rich and keep silent. We ought to know silence, cynicism, apathy and resignation are the biggest accomplice to all sins and injustice." Quite, but I would add that some people keep silent because they are afraid of going against public opinion, or some fiery segments of it. Also Orwell never said or wrote the words Chow quoted; you just can't trust what you read on the internet. I suspect the (mis) quote probably morphed from something a 20th century Marxist, the Italian Antonio Gramsci, once wrote: "To tell the truth, to arrive together at the truth, is a communist and revolutionary act." You can find it in his collected works. The whole point of Orwell's famous novel, 1984, is that in a world of universal deceit and political oppression, not only can you not say a true word, you can't even think it. Here in Hong Kong, though, a young protest leader serving a minor sentence can write and publish whatever he likes from prison and be treated like a hero. His message is freely broadcast to all four corners of the world. He tells us we are being deceived and lied to, but that he and his comrades know the truth and are not afraid to tell us. Isn't that the whole point of a free society, that you can believe in and fight for Jesus, Mohammed, or the Goddess of Democracy and what not, and think anyone who doesn't agree with you is either a doofus or a knave? ^ top ^

Memorial event for Liu Xiaobo held on Hong Kong beach, calls for release of his widow (SCMP)
2017-09-03
Dozens of Hong Kong residents took part in a memorial event on Sunday afternoon to commemorate the late Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, and urge Beijing to free his widow Liu Xia. Liu Xiaobo was jailed for 11 years in 2009 on subversion charges for his part in writing a pro-democracy manifesto known as "Charter 08". He died in a Liaoning hospital on July 13. The memorial came a day after human rights activist Frank Lu Siqing revealed that Liu Xia has returned to her Beijing home. Lu said he spoke to Liu Xia on the phone for half an hour on Saturday after calling her at her home in the Chinese capital. Liu Xia has been under house arrest since 2010. Friends and supporters had been concerned about her whereabouts since her husband's death from liver cancer. The memorial event on a pebble beach in Sai Kung started with a moment of silence to remember the late dissident. The event's organiser Lee Cheuk-yan, secretary of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic and Democratic Movements of China, then gave a short speech, criticising Beijing for its "cruelty" in keeping Liu Xia under house arrest even after her husband's death. "Liu Xia has been taking medication for depression for seven years. She is innocent, but she was kept under custody because of her love for Liu Xiaobo, a foe in the eyes of Beijing," Lee said. "Liu Xia lacks the freedom to contact with the outside world, and to seek a cure for depression. Freedom is the best cure for her... and we are very worried about her situation. "What kind of regime is this, that it is so afraid of a man [like Liu Xiaobo], so much so that it is also afraid of his widow?" Lee said. Two activists also read an excerpt of a speech written by Liu Xiaobo and a poem, called The Empty Chair, written by Liu Xia in 1999. It was followed by more than 20 Hong Kong residents calling for the widow's freedom by forming the words "Free Liu Xia" out of pebbles and stones on the beach. The event concluded with Lee and other activists pushing a wooden chair, which was placed on a floating platform, into the sea. Lee said the action symbolised their respect for Liu Xiaobo and their call for his widow's freedom, as the dissident was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize while in jail and was represented by an empty chair at the ceremony in Oslo. The event was held on an unnamed beach at the end of Hiu Po Path near the Clear Water Bay country park, southern Sai Kung. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Taiwanese rights activist to stand trial in mainland China (SCMP)
2017-09-07
A Taiwanese rights activist held in mainland China will soon face trial after he was held incommunicado for more than 170 days, according to his wife, in a case that has deepened cross-strait tensions. NGO worker Lee Ming-cheh went missing during a visit to the mainland in March and the Chinese authorities later confirmed he was under investigation for suspected activities "endangering national security". Lee's wife Lee Ching-yu said she had received a call from a man claiming to be her husband's lawyer on Wednesday telling her his trial was imminent. China's Taiwan Affairs Office confirmed there would be a trial in Yueyang in southern Hunan province, without specifying a date, according to local media. Beijing has repeatedly ignored Taipei's requests for an explanation of Lee's whereabouts and specifics of the allegations against him. Relations between the two sides have deteriorated since President Tsai Ing-wen took office in May last year and Beijing has cut off all official communication with Taipei. China sees self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory to be reunified and wants Tsai to acknowledge the island is part of "One China", which she has refused to do. Lee Ching-yu said in a statement that the man who called her asked her to go to mainland China immediately because her husband's trial was about to start. She added that until she spoke to her husband she would not accept he had made any confession to the Chinese authorities. Despite the likelihood he would soon be jailed, Lee said she considered the possibility of seeing her husband "a ray of hope" and would apply for travel documents on Thursday. She attempted to fly to Beijing in April in a bid to "rescue" her husband, but the Chinese authorities revoked her travel permit, preventing her from making the trip. Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council on Wednesday urged China to give Lee the necessary travel documents and to guarantee her personal safety. "The actions so far by the mainland have only continued to deepen the suspicion Taiwanese people have towards China," it said in a statement. Lee's campaign for support for her husband has gained international attention. She was planning to meet with the United Nations Human Rights Commission this month in Geneva. She also testified at a congressional hearing in the United States in May on detained activists in China. Lee Ming-cheh, who works for an NGO at a community college in Taipei, has long supported civil society organisations and activists in China, according to Amnesty International. He had shared "Taiwan's democratic experiences" with his Chinese friends online for many years and often mailed books to them, the Taiwan Association for Human Rights said. Beijing deeply distrusts Tsai's traditionally pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party and is ratcheting up the pressure on her government. Although it is a fully fledged democracy, Taiwan has never declared formal independence from the mainland and Beijing has threatened a military response if it ever did. ^ top ^

Taiwan's new premier sworn in, promises to be pragmatic, down-to-earth (SCMP)
2017-09-08
Taiwan's new Premier William Lai and his cabinet were officially sworn in on Friday, ushering in a new political era that he vowed would be "down-to-earth and pragmatic". Speaking at the handover ceremony at the Executive Yuan, Lai said his primary task was to develop the economy and improve people's well-being rather than to build political momentum ahead of the next election. The 57-year-old premier was referring to speculation that his appointment was a ploy to lift the sagging fortunes of President Tsai Ing-wen's Democratic Progressive Party before next year's nationwide local elections, or even to build his own political capital for a potential run at the presidency. Neither was his mission to further the interests of a particular party faction, the former mayor of Tainan said, hitting back at media conjecture that he was working solely to advance the DPP's New Tide faction of which Tsai is a leader. "The new cabinet is neither 'combative' nor 'election-oriented' as some media have called it," he said. "Instead, it is down-to-earth and pragmatic." Lai urged his new cabinet members to roll up their sleeves and get to work immediately because they do not have the luxury of a "honeymoon period", let alone a "trial period". "We must make great strides in deepening Taiwan's reform and transformation based on the foundation established by Premier Lin Chuan," Lai said, referring to his predecessor who quit over the weekend. Lai has asked a majority of Lin's cabinet ministers to stay on, including Cabinet Spokesman Hsu Kuo-yung, Mainland Affairs Council Minister Katharine Chang, Defence Minister Feng Shih-kuang and Foreign Minister David Lee. A medical doctor by training, Lai hails from the northern city of New Taipei. His father was a coal miner who died in a workplace accident when Lai was only an infant. As the youngest child of a poor family, Lai was encouraged to pursue education, majoring in rehabilitation medicine at National Taiwan University before travelling abroad to obtain an advanced degree from the School of Public Health at Harvard University in the United States. Returning to Taiwan in the 1980s, Lai first practised medicine at National Cheng Kung University Hospital in Tainan and then ventured into politics. He started as a campaign aide and worked his way up to being a representative in the now disbanded National Congress before serving four terms as a legislator. Lai became Tainan mayor in 2010 and was reelected in 2014. ^ top ^

 

Economy

Disillusioned Chinese students learn that overseas study no longer guarantees a good job (SCMP)
2017-09-06
Overseas study was once regarded by young Chinese as the golden ticket offering better job opportunities, but returnees nowadays are increasingly expressing disappointment at the lower salaries and less competitive positions provided for them, a Hangzhou newspaper has reported. The average starting salary for students coming back from their studies overseas have dropped from 10,000 yuan (US$1,530) to 6,000 yuan, narrowing the edge against students educated within China. The lower salaries have coincided with an increase in those returning home from abroad in recent years. In 2007, only 44,000 people returned to the mainland, yet in 2016, the number rose nearly 10-fold to 432,500. In comparison, the number of people choosing to study abroad only rose threefold during the same period, from 144,000 in 2007 to 432,500 in 2016, according to the report. Most of those returning were not satisfied with what was on offer, with 28 per cent of them earning less than 6,000 yuan and 40 per cent of them have between 6,000 to 8,000 yuan, according to a random survey consisted of 50 people done by the newspaper Dushikuaibao. The lowest salary offer was 3,500 yuan per month. The salaries are meagre when compared with the high cost of studying abroad, which has risen to an average 300,000 yuan as universities look for extra revenue from international students. The newspaper highlighted the case of Lin, 26, a woman who was only identified by her surname. After completing six years of study in Australia she decided to look for a job on the Chinese mainland this year. Though Lin's International English Language Testing System score was not especially high, she managed to get an offer from Monash University in Melbourne, majoring in finance, an area that her family thought could help secure a good job after graduation. Her family sold their house and gave her 1.2 million yuan to help fund her studies. "After knowing my parents sold their house, my feelings were complicated, and I said to myself I must study hard to repay their sacrifice," Lin was quoted as saying. But unexpected problems further disrupted Lin's graduation plan. She failed one course but, because she neglected a notification that she had to attend a hearing, she missed the chance to appeal and was forced to transfer to another university. "The only good choice for me at that time was to study a master's degree in the same major but in another university, which could save my credits previously earned in Monash University," said Lin. The report did not mention Lin's second university in Australia. In 2017, Lin finally graduated and soon returned to China to seek a job. "I cannot wait any more. I wanted to work! I have already spent six years of my parents' money, and some of my classmates have been working for two to three years," said Lin. But reality taught Lin a harsh lesson. At one interview, a company hiring official asked Lin what contacts she had that would help her in the job. She said this dented her confidence because she had none in China. Lin finally found a job that requires her to meet clients and pass out product samples, but the report did not mention the company she works for nor her exact salary. ^ top ^

Why does China still have a 'pegged' currency, like those of Iran, Laos, Belarus? (SCMP)
2017-09-05
China should finally free its currency from the US dollar peg to which it has been tied for more than 30 years, a leading Chinese economist said. As the world's second-largest economy, it was no longer appropriate for the country to have an exchange rate system akin to those used by Iran, Belarus, Ethiopia, Uzbekistan or Laos, Yu Yongding, was quoted as saying in an interview published on Monday by China Securities Journal. The long time advocate for a market-based exchange rate system – he was an adviser to the People's Bank of China when in 2005 it first announced plans to free the yuan from the dollar – said it was time for the current "soft pegging" system to be discontinued. "The time to turn to a free float [yuan] exchange rate is basically ripe after more than 20 years of trials," the senior research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said. The present economic conditions – stable economic growth, reduced capital outflows and lower expectations of a yuan depreciation – were ideal for Beijing to complete "the historic mission" and let the market, not the central bank, finally decide the currency's value. China's exchange rate system can be traced back to 1994, when Beijing unified several existing values and "pegged" its currency at 8.70 yuan to the US dollar. In 2005, the government said it wanted to liberalise the currency and promptly devalued the currency by 2 per cent. Despite that first move, China has never fully succeeded in removing its ties to the US dollar. The government continues to maintain strict controls on the yuan's movement – allowing it to appreciate or depreciate just 2 per cent from a "midpoint price" set daily by the central bank. Earlier this year, the People's Bank of China adopted a "counter cyclical factor", which gives it – rather than the market – even greater ability to control the currency's value. In August 2015, Beijing again devalued the yuan by 2 per cent in a move originally aimed to better align the exchange rate with the market. However, the move, which came amid a stock market rout, amplified fears about China's economy and caused an exodus of funds, Yu said. "It was an important attempt towards a floating system, and the direction was correct," he said. "In hindsight, had China chosen a better time or... insisted on liberalisation amid heightened yuan depreciation expectations... [it] would have basically completed its exchange rate reform by now." Beijing's heavy handed control of the yuan has made it a target for criticism among its trading partners. US President Donald Trump has accused Beijing of manipulating the value of its currency to gain trade advantages, though the US Treasury has yet to formally label China a currency manipulator. The International Monetary Fund, which awarded nominal reserve currency status to the yuan last year, has also pressed China to continue with its yuan liberalisation. China's central bank has said repeatedly it was moving towards a "managed floating yuan exchange rate system" and was engineering a gradual appreciation of the yuan against the dollar. On Tuesday, it raised the official yuan midpoint for the seventh straight session, to 6.537 per dollar, the strongest level since May 18, 2016. But that is not enough for Yu. As the world's largest commodity trader and holder of the world's biggest foreign exchange reserves, it was no longer right for China to allow its currency to be linked to the US dollar, he said. It was time for the "relevant authorities" to seize the opportunity and set it free, he said. ^ top ^

 

DPRK

South Korea braces for Pyongyang's next missile test on anniversary celebration (SCMP)
2017-09-08
South Korea is closely watching North Korea over the possibility it may launch another intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) as soon as Saturday when it celebrates its founding anniversary. Seoul's Unification Ministry spokeswoman Eugene Lee said on Friday that Pyongyang could potentially conduct its next ICBM tests this weekend or around October 10, another North Korean holiday marking the founding of its ruling party. North Korea has previously marked key dates with displays of military power but now its tests appear to be driven by the need to improve missile capabilities. The North is just coming off its sixth and the most powerful nuclear test to date on Sunday in what it claimed was a detonation of a thermonuclear weapon built for its ICBMs. The country tested its developmental Hwasong-14 ICBMs twice in July and analysts say the flight data from the launches indicate the missiles could cover a broad swathe of the continental US, including major cities such as Los Angeles and Chicago, when perfected. North Korea fired the ICBMs at highly lofted angles in July to reduce ranges and avoid other countries. But South Korean officials say the next launches could be conducted at angles close to operational as the North would seek to test whether the warheads survive the harsh conditions of atmospheric re-entry and detonate properly. In Washington, US President Donald Trump reiterated on Thursday that military action is "certainly" an option against North Korea, as his administration tentatively concurred with the pariah nation's claim to have tested a hydrogen bomb. A senior administration official said the US was still assessing last weekend's underground explosion but so far noted nothing inconsistent with Pyongyang's claim. "Military action would certainly be an option," Trump told a White House news conference. "I would prefer not going the route of the military, but it's something certainly that could happen." Pressed on whether he could accept a scenario in which the isolated nation had nukes but was "contained and deterred," Trump demurred. "I don't put my negotiations on the table, unlike past administrations. I don't talk about them. But I can tell you North Korea is behaving badly and it's got to stop," he said. North Korea broke from its pattern of lofted launches last month when it fired a powerful new intermediate range missile, the Hwasong-12, over northern Japan. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un then called the launch a "meaningful prelude" to containing the US Pacific island territory of Guam and called for his military to conduct more ballistic missile launches targeting the Pacific Ocean. South Korean experts say that the launch was Pyongyang's attempt to make missiles flying over Japan an accepted norm as it seeks to test new projectiles in conditions close to operational and win more military space in a region dominated by enemies. Kim, a third-generation dictator in his 30s, has conducted four of North Korea's six nuclear tests since taking power in 2011. His military has maintained a torrid pace in testing weapons, which also include solid-fuel missiles built to be fired from road mobile launchers or submarines. In accelerating his pursuit of nuclear weapons targeting the US and allies South Korea and Japan, Kim is seen as seeking a real nuclear deterrent to help ensure the survival of his government and also the stronger bargaining power that would come from it. Washington, Seoul and Tokyo have been pushing for stronger sanctions to punish Pyongyang over its nuclear activities, such as denying the country oil supplies. China and Russia have been calling for talks, saying sanctions aren't working against North Korea. ^ top ^

Chinese navy keeps firm focus on northern shores as North Korean tensions rise (SCMP)
2017-09-07
China's navy has remained firmly focused on protecting its northern shores in the last two years – shifting its attention only briefly at the height of tensions in the South China Sea. But military observers said the People's Liberation Army Navy was also conducting more drills further afield to raise its international profile and extend its reach. Since the start of 2015, the navy has carried out most of its reported drills in the Bohai and Yellow seas off North Korea and Japan. It shifted focus to the South China Sea last year after a Hague tribunal ruled against China's territorial claims in the area in July 2016. But as the crisis on the Korean peninsula came to a simmer late last year, the Chinese navy looked north again and centred exercises in the Yellow Sea. Since late July, it has carried out several known sets of drills in the Yellow Sea. The first was a three-day exercise marking the 90th anniversary of the PLA's founding. A second, four-day, drill was conducted a week later after Pyongyang's second intercontinental ballistic missile test on July 28. Land and air force personnel also carried out exercises near the area, including one on Tuesday simulating a missile attack. The navy conducted at least seven exercises in the Bohai and Yellow seas in 2015, according to Chinese media reports, which may only partially reflect military activities. Shanghai-based military analyst Ni Lexiong said the exercises in the Bohai and Yellow seas were meant to safeguard the country's political centre. "[Beijing] is now under growing threat from the Korean peninsula, so the Chinese navy must demonstrate and improve its defence and combat abilities," Ni said. "The exercises are also messages to the United States that Beijing does not want to see a war near China's coast." Collin Koh, a maritime security expert at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University, said the Chinese military was also responding to shows of force by the US Navy and its allies off the peninsula in recent months, especially those by US carrier strike groups. Koh and Ni both said the PLA Navy was gradually sailing further afield, including a six-month trip this year to more than 20 countries involved in Beijing's "Belt and Road Initiative". Koh said the three factors were driving the offshore push. "One is to protect China's overseas interests, especially... those related to energy security and trade in the Middle East and Africa," he said. "[Another reason] is to generally project force as a way to promote China's stature as a global maritime power; and the third is to contribute more public common goods in its more active role as a global security actor." But Beijing-based military observer Zhou Chenming said analysts should not read too much into some of the naval exercises. "Some exercises were set to train personnel rather than send a specific message to other countries, and many factors, such as tides and maritime conditions, were considered before deciding on a final location,," Zhou said. ^ top ^

Xi and Trump condemn North Korea's latest nuclear test and vow a coordinated strategy to end threat (SCMP)
2017-09-07
President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump on Wednesday evening by phone condemned North Korea's latest nuclear bomb test and pledged to more tightly coordinate their efforts to remove the nuclear threat from the Korean Peninsula. The two presidents denounced North Korea's September 3 nuclear test as a "provocative and destabilising action", according to a White House statement. Pyongyang's current path is "dangerous to the world" and "not in its own interest", they were quoted. Xi said China remains determined to resolve the crisis through peaceful talks, China's Xinhua news agency reported, adding that Beijing attaches importance to Trump's visit to the country later this year. Trump said he is deeply concerned about the situation on the Korean Peninsula. Emphasising that China has a crucial role in resolving the crisis, he said he wants to communicate more closely with Beijing to find a solution as soon as possible. On Wednesday evening, Trump also spoke with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and British Prime Minister Theresa May by phone to discuss North Korea issues, according to the White House. Trump reiterated with the two leaders his earlier statement that now is not the time to talk with North Korea, and made clear that "all options remain open", including "using all available diplomatic and military capabilities", to defend the US and its allies against North Korean aggression, the White House said. Trump's defence secretary Jim Mattis also assured his South Korean counterpart on Tuesday via phone that any North Korean threat to US allies would be met with a "massive, effective and overwhelming" military response, the Pentagon said on Wednesday. Meanwhile, North Korea has threatened to send "more gift packages" to the US, euphemistically referring to its nuclear arsenal. Han Tae Song, Pyongyang's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, on Tuesday said North Korea's missile and nuclear tests, including the latest underground test of what it claimed was a hydrogen bomb, "are a gift package addressed to none other than the US. "The US will receive more gift packages from my country as long as it relies on reckless provocations and futile attempts to put pressure on the DPRK," the diplomat added at a UN-sponsored conference on disarmament. A North Korea foreign ministry spokesman also blasted the US for leading the push for the international adoption of fresh sanctions after the underground nuclear test, South Korea's Yonhap News agency reported. "In the face of the US scheme of putting pressure through sanctions, we'll respond in our own ways," the spokesman said. "And the US will be fully responsible for the catastrophic consequences that follow." New sanctions apparently sought by the US and South Korea include cutting off oil supplies to Pyongyang. The US wants the UN Security Council to impose an oil embargo on North Korea, ban the country's exports of textiles and the hiring of North Korean labourers abroad and subject leader Kim Jong-un to an asset freeze and travel ban, according to a draft resolution seen by Reuters on Wednesday. Yonhap also reported that South Korean President Moon Jae-in sought Russia's support for an embargo on oil shipments to North Korea during his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, saying a cut in oil supplies was inevitable. At the UN Security Council, the US could have to contend with China's and Russia's power to veto a proposed oil cut-off. The Chinese delegation to the UN could not be immediately reached for comment. Xinhua reported that China and Russia agreed to "keep close communication and coordination" to deal with the Korean Peninsula predicament during an emerging markets summit over the weekend in the southeast coast city of Xiamen. Putin told reporters at the summit that he opposed levelling more "useless and ineffective" sanctions against North Koreans. "They'll eat grass, but they won't abandon their programme unless they feel secure," Putin was quoted by Bloomberg. China also demanded on Wednesday the "immediate" halting of the deployment of a US missile defence system in South Korea. Washington and Seoul have pushed for the swift application of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence system, better known as THAAD, to deter the North's missile threat. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular news briefing in Beijing: "China demands that the US and the ROK [South Korea] respect the security interests and concerns of China and other regional countries, with an immediate stop to the deployment process and removal of the equipment." THAAD gives South Korea the ability to intercept and destroy short- and medium-range ballistic missiles inside or outside the atmosphere during their final phase of flight, according to the Pentagon's Missile Defence Agency. China has strongly and consistently opposed THAAD deployment, worrying it "poses serious threats to China's strategic security", Cui Tiankai, China's ambassador to the US in Washington, said in late July. The deployment of THAAD also faces resistance to some extent in South Korea. South Korea's defence ministry announced on Monday that it is ready to complete the deployment by installing four more THAAD launchers, Yonhap reported. A THAAD battery is known to require at least six rocket launchers, also involving a fire control and communications unit. Two truck-mounted launchers and a powerful X-band radar are in operation at the THAAD base in Seongju, about 300km south of Seoul. Yonhap reported on early Thursday morning that about 400 South Korean protesters clashed with police who tried to clear the way for the deployment of the four additional THAAD rocket launchers. Local residents have protested out of fear their town may turn into a primary target for North Korean attacks. They also worry that electromagnetic waves emanating from the cutting-edge radar could cause health and environmental problems. With police removing hundreds of protesters from the site, the additional THAAD launchers were expected to be deployed by Thursday, Yonhap reported. ^ top ^

Russia won't recognize NK's nuclear status (Global Times)
2017-09-07
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia will not recognize North Korea's nuclear status, but stressed that further sanctions the US wants are useless. Resolving the North Korean nuclear crisis is impossible with sanctions and pressure alone, Putin said after meeting his South Korean counterpart on Wednesday, reiterating the need for dialogue to achieve progress. Putin met South Korean President Moon Jae-in on the sidelines of an economic summit in Vladivostok amid mounting international concerns that their shared neighbor plans more weapons tests, possibly a long-range missile launch ahead of a key weekend anniversary, Reuters reported on Wednesday. "Pyongyang's missile and nuclear program is a crude violation of UN Security Council resolutions, undermines the non-proliferation regime and creates a threat to the security of northeastern Asia," Putin said at a joint news conference. Moon said "the Russian president expressed his full support for South Korea's efforts to handle issues related to North Korea," Reuters reported. However, Putin also said at a press conference on Tuesday at the BRICS Summit 2017 in China that "further sanctions would be useless and ineffective," and that such measures are a "road to nowhere." Putin also said foreign intervention in Iraq and Libya had convinced North Korea that it needs nuclear weapons to survive, and "they will eat grass but will not stop their [nuclear] program as long as they do not feel safe." "Putin blames the US' previous behavior for scaring Pyongyang and causing the current crisis. So when sanctions and deterrence are useless, the US should engage in dialogue to at least make North Korea feel safe," said Chu Yin, an associate professor at the University of International Relations. But other countries might have all miscalculated North Korea, Chu said. "Pyongyang's motivation to develop nuclear weapons is to prevent other major powers from controlling North Korea's destiny, so maybe it will not give up even the US promises not to attack it." ^ top ^

China remains persistent in denuclearizing Korean Peninsula (Xinhua)
2017-09-07
Chinese President Xi Jinping told his U.S. counterpart, Donald Trump, in a telephone conversation late Wednesday that Beijing remains persistent on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. During the phone conversation, Xi and Trump exchanged their views on the current situation on the peninsula. Xi said China has been adamant in preserving international nuclear non-proliferation regime, maintaining peace and stability on the peninsula, and resolving the nuclear issue through talks. The Chinese president said the general direction should head toward a peaceful settlement of the issue, adding that dialogue combined with a set of comprehensive measures is best for seeking a long-term solution. Trump said Washington has been deeply concerned over the ongoing situation on the Korean Peninsula, and attaches importance to China's essential role in resolving the issue. He pledged to step up communication with the Chinese side in a bid to find a solution as early as possible. Also during the phone talks, Xi noted that exchanges and cooperation between China and the United States in various areas have been moving forward. He added that the two countries' diplomatic, security and economic teams have maintained close communication, and the two sides are preparing for the first round of dialogue on social and people-to-people exchanges, as well as on law enforcement and cybersecurity. Xi said China attaches great importance to Trump's visit to China later this year, hoping both sides can work together to ensure the visit a success. For his part, Trump said it is very important for him to keep close communication with Xi and strengthen coordination over major international and regional affairs. The U.S. leader said he is looking forward to visiting China and meeting Xi again this year. ^ top ^

China demands "immediate stop" to THAAD deployment (Xinhua)
2017-09-06
China on Wednesday demanded an immediate stop to deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) in the Republic of Korea (ROK). "China is seriously concerned," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a regular news briefing, reiterating China's opposition to the deployment of THAAD by the U.S. and the ROK. ROK has announced its intention to deploy four more THAAD launchers on Thursday. THAAD will not help resolve security concerns of relevant countries. Rather, it will undermine the regional strategic balance, harm regional security interests, including China's, and increase tensions on the Korean Peninsula, Geng said. "China demands that the U.S. and the ROK respect the security interests and concerns of China and other regional countries, with an immediate stop to the deployment process and removal of the equipment," the spokesperson said. China's position is clear, consistent and resolute, he said. ^ top ^

China detects rising radiation levels in areas close to North Korean nuclear blast site (SCMP)
2017-09-06
Chinese scientists are considering whether a small but gradual increase in environmental radiation picked up by monitoring stations close to the border with North Korea is related to the nuclear test carried out over the weekend. The changes could be down to environmental factors and unrelated to the nuclear test, but the trend was "worthy of attention", said a scientist who sits on a panel that advises the Chinese government on emergency responses to radioactive hazards. The radiation level in Changbai Korean autonomous county – the closest Chinese urban area to the Punggye-ri test facility – climbed gradually from an average of 104.9 nanograys per hour immediately after the test on Sunday to 108.5 on Tuesday, according to figures released by China's environment ministry. By Wednesday morning the average level in the county, which lies about 80km west of the blast site, had risen to 110.7 with a peak of 112.5. Nanograys per hour is the standard unit for measuring the absorption of radiation by human tissue. Similar upward trends were reported by monitoring stations in other regions, including in Antu county at the foot of Changbai Mountain and in Yanbian Korean autonomous prefecture further north. At Punggye-ri, the estimated 100 kiloton blast triggered several large landslides, according to satellite images released on Wednesday by the US-based Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Earlier, a research team at the University of Science and Technology of China traced the locations of the five most recent tests carried out by North Korea to a single mountain, which they warned was now at risk of imploding. In such an event, the radioactive material currently trapped underground would be released. Guo Qiuju, a professor of radiation protection at the school of physics at Peking University, said it was too early to be certain what had caused the rising trend at the monitoring stations as radiation levels change over time even under normal conditions. The public had no need to panic as no suspicious trace elements were detected by the government on Tuesday, she said. "If something bad had happened I would be one of the first to be informed," she said. "I have not received the call so far." The current radiation levels were far below anything that could be regarded as a risk to people's health, she said, "but if the figures keep going up it may require a closer look". Guo explained that it was considered normal for readings to fluctuate within a 20 nanogray range due to the effects of wind, rain and cosmic rays. For instance, radioactive materials floating high in the atmosphere could be carried down into the soil by rain, she said. Several regions close to the test site had recorded rain in the past few days, according to Chinese weather authorities. Despite Guo's reassurances, the owner of a restaurant in Changbai close to a monitoring station said the blasts had left many of the county's near 100,000 residents scared. "After the jolt on Sunday the street has been quiet. People prefer to stay indoors with their mobile phones, expressing their fears on WeChat," he said. "We hope that heaven will hear our prayers and keep the devil away from our land." ^ top ^

Oil supplies to North Korea could be cut as China's frustration with ally's failure to communicate grows (SCMP)
2017-09-05
China is likely to support tougher sanctions against North Korea, including cutting crude oil exports, but Beijing will not completely sever the energy exports to ensure the regime of its ally did not collapse, according to Chinese diplomatic analysts. The assessment came after North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test and claimed it had detonated a hydrogen bomb on Sunday, overshadowing a summit of emerging market economies summit held in China. The test has increased Beijing's frustrations with Pyongyang as it has ignored the call to stop nuclear weapon development, and reflected the fact that communications between the two nations seem to have broken down. North Korea used to inform China at least a few hours ahead of its plan to launch nuclear test, but a Beijing-based Asian diplomat said the practice has stopped since Pyongyong's fourth test in January 2016. China was not notified about the fifth nuclear test last September even though a senior official from Kim Jong-un's regime visited Beijing shortly before. The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not say whether Beijing was informed by Pyongyang before the latest test, but diplomatic observers said communication between the two sides have been increasingly difficult as Pyongyang continues to defy Beijing with its nuclear programme. "It is a flat-out lie for people to say that North Korea does not hold grudges against China," Zhang Liangui, a professor of international strategic research at the Central Party School, said. "North Korea has rejected all of China's initiatives and it has become reluctant to listen to Beijing." Shi Yuanhua, a professor in Korean studies at Fudan University, said given that differences between Beijing and Pyongyang are widening, North Korea may not have been willing to inform China before it conducted the test. The test has prompted the United Nations Security Council to discuss tougher measures against North Korea. The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said at an emergency session on Monday that North Korea was "begging for war". Both observers and the Asian-based diplomat said there was a possibility that Beijing would back cutting off crude oil supplies to North Korea as a punishment. China cut off oil supplies to North Korea for three days in 2003, and forced it back to negotiation table, the diplomat said. The New York Times, citing a senior official in the US government, said Washington was pressing China and other members of the UN Security Council to cut oil and other fuel supplies to North Korea. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has also said it was time to discuss cutting off oil supplies to North Korea, the Yonhap News Agency reported. Jia Qingguo, an international relations expert at Peking University, said Beijing should consider oil sanctions after the latest test. "This act has hurt China's national interests and damaged regional stability," he said. Wang Sheng, a professor who studies Korean affairs at Jilin University, said China would support tougher sanctions by the UN, including oil "because this is seemingly the only way to show pressure at this moment". China accounts for about 90 per cent of North Korea's foreign trade. It does not give public details of its crude oil exports to North Korea, but the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency suggested that North Korea imported 520,000 tonnes of crude oil from China in 2015. UN data indicates that China exported 218,087 tonnes of refined oil products to Pyongyang. Russia's President Vladimir Putin has said his country, the other major trade partner of North Korea, only supplied 40,000 tonnes of oil and oil products to North Korea each quarter. China has already banned imports of coal, seafood, iron and iron ore from North Korea in compliance with earlier UN sanctions, which is expected to cost the regime about US$1 billion. But experts said China was still reluctant to push for harsher sanctions against Pyongyang because it did not want to see the regime collapse. This could trigger an influx of refugees to Chinese cities on the border. China also fears that the North could come under the control of South Korea, a US ally, if the regime falls. "The Chinese government should carefully measure to what extent the oil sanctions should be enforced," Jia said. Wang said China would still stress the need for peace talks between the US and North Korea to resolve the crisis. "There will be sanctions, but it will not be a full cut of oil supplies. China is not looking for the collapse of the regime. It just wants to push for peace talks, so cutting North Korea's lifeline in oil does not fit China's aim," Wang said. However, Zhang doubted whether tougher sanctions were useful as the latest nuclear test showed North Korea was isolating itself from the international community. "North Korea doesn't really care about what China said it would do to them because they know China's stance very well," he said. "The outlook of having this issue resolved is dim. It will very much depend on whether the US decides to take military action."" ^ top ^

How China responded to previous North Korean nuclear tests (SCMP)
2017-09-04
China has frequently been urged by other countries – including the United States and Japan – to do more to rein in North Korea – but after Pyongyang's five previous nuclear tests it has not gone further than issuing condemnations and supporting UN sanctions. On Monday Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, said it had been made clear to North Korea that China opposed the latest test – the most powerful yet – and reiterated China's support for talks to reduce tension on the Korean peninsula. The response was broadly in line with the measured response to previous tests. Here's how Beijing responded to those tests. October 2006 : Pyongyang's first nuclear weapons test was on October 9, 2006 – a move that triggered swift international condemnation. The test produced an explosion of less than one kiloton, or the equivalent of about 1,000 tonnes of TNT. On the same day, China quickly responded and called the test a "flagrant and brazen" violation of international opinion and said it "firmly opposes" North Korea's conduct. A foreign ministry statement said: "China strongly calls on North Korea to conform to its denuclearisation commitment, stop all the activities that might further de-stabilise the region, and back to the Six Party talks" [which also included Russia, the US, Japan and South Korea}. Six days later on October 14, the UN Security Council unanimously imposed a series of economic and commercial sanctions. May 2009 : After saying it would leave the Six Party Talks, Pyongyang conducted a bigger test one month later on May 25, 2009, with an estimated yield of between two and eight kilotons. On June 12, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted new sanctions against North Korea and encouraged UN member states to search North Korean cargo. China's ambassador to the UN that the time, Zhang Yesui, said China voted in favour of the resolution because North Korea's actions were in "disregard for the international community's common objective". However, Zhang stressed that diplomatic means should be employed rather than merely imposing sanctions, and the resolution should not "adversely impact the country's development, or humanitarian assistance to it". He also cautioned against the use of force when inspecting North Korean cargo. February 2013 : The first test after Kim Jong-un came to power happened on February 12, 2013 and was far larger than earlier experiments. Experts estimated that the bomb was between six and seven kilotons. The blast coincided with South Korea's national elections and Barack Obama's State of the Union address. The same day, Chinese foreign ministry said it strongly opposed the test. The Chinese foreign minister at the time Yang Jiechi contacted the North Korean ambassador to protest, a rare move between two nations. In early March, the UN Security Council unanimously approved fresh sanctions against North Korea, which targeted at North Korean diplomats, cash transfers and access to luxury goods. It also imposed asset freezes and travel bans on three individuals and two firms linked to North Korea's military. January 2016 : The fourth test happened on January 6 last year – causing a magnitude 5.1 earthquake beneath the test site. Kim claimed it as a "spectacular success" and said the blast had been caused by a hydrogen bomb – far more powerful than the atomic bombs previously tested. However, this claim was greeted with scepticism by outside observers. The same day Chinese foreign ministry condemned the test, saying it had not known about it in advance. It also urged Pyongyang to support denuclearisation measures and stop any activities that might worsen the situation. The UN Security Council unanimously adopted harsh sanctions in response on March 2, imposing some of the strongest measures ever used to pressure Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons programme. September 2016 : North Korea's fifth test on September 9 created a 5.3 magnitude quake and an explosion of about 10 kilotons. In response, the Chinese foreign ministry said all related parties should adopt measure that suited everyone's interests, adding that any developments that were only good for one party would be a "dead end". Later in the year the UN Security Council voted to tighten sanctions on Pyongyang. However, China's UN ambassador said after the vote that the measures "were not intended to produce negative consequences on [North Korea's} humanitarian situation". ^ top ^

5 revealing things you may not know North Korea has imported from China (SCMP)
2017-09-02
China is widely known as North Korea's primary trading partner – a status it attained as the Hermit Kingdom increasingly isolated itself from the world. The two communist countries' friendly ties have been strained by accusations that China is sustaining the development of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme, which more and more poses a threat to the US and its allies in the region. Although China has agreed to stop buying North Korean iron, lead and coal as part of UN-approved sanctions last month, North Korea continues to be a major importer of Chinese goods. Imports from China represented 85 per cent of North Korea's overall US$3.47 billion in imports in 2015, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity, a US-based trade monitor. A South China Morning Post examination of North Korea's imports from China from the start of 2016 through mid-2017, showed that its importing of five rarely discussed items – out of more than 800 categories of imported goods – is about much more than mere survival. (1) Gaming equipment North Korea announced through its state-run media outlet Arirang Meari last week that the country's new shooting simulation video game – in which US soldiers are the enemy – has "become very popular" as tension rises with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump recently exchanging escalatory threats with overtones of war. The video game "Hunting Yankee" was the latest used by Pyongyang as propaganda to cultivate patriotism, which followed the war-themed games "Confrontation War," "Guardian" and "Goguryeo Battlefield", also released earlier this month. It was unclear whether these games were designed to be played on computers or phones. Given that most North Koreans do not own their own computers for personal home use, the importing of "video game controllers and gaming equipment inside indoor entertainment venues" from China could offer a glimpse into the closed country's gaming and entertainment culture. North Korea has spent over US$2 million on purchases of entertainment items under this category in the past 1.5 years. This grouping includes not only hand-held game consoles but also pool tables, dice and card games and coin operated electronic game machines, according to Chinese customs data. The quantity of imports in this category, however, is in sharp decline as the number fell from 7 million pieces in the first quarter of 2016 to just above half a million pieces in the latest quarter of 2017. (2) Surveillance cameras The world was taken by surprise when it first learnt that North Korea had bought 85,570 surveillance cameras from China from 2009 to 2011, according to South Korea's Chosun newspaper. But it will now come as no surprise to observers that North Korea imported nearly 20 times that number in the 1.5 years to mid-2017, reflecting a trend toward tighter monitoring of activity within the country. A total of 1,669,725 units were recorded under the "surveillance cameras, projectors and TV antennas" group of Chinese exports to North Korea. No breakdown was provided that would show how many of those items were surveillance cameras. Pyongyang replaced or newly installed more surveillance and security infrastructure in the country's border region with northern China last December, according to Daily NK, a South Korean website that claims to have a network of informants in North Korea. The reason for the move was damage to facilities from a flood last September, but also to address attempted defections from the country. "Border control has actually grown a lot tighter ever since President Xi Jinping and Kim Jong-un both came into power, the countries became increasingly strict towards handling defection, and therefore both sides have increased surveillance and patrolling around the border area," said Sokeel Park, director of research and strategy for Liberty, an NGO based in both Seoul and the US, which rescues North Korean refugees hiding in China and resettles them in South Korea or the US. (3) Telephones In case surveillance cameras are not sufficiently effective in monitoring North Koreans, analysts believe Pyongyang has increased imports of phones to increase ways of spying on its people. In the past year, a growing trend has been observed in the country's imports under the category of "telephones, including those for cellular networks or for other wireless network" – meaning both corded and mobile phone devices. North Korea imported 144,891 units of Chinese phones in the first quarter of 2016, but the number recorded in the past three quarters was kept at more than 400,000. Pyongyang bought 426,500 Chinese phones from April to June this year. Some analysts believe the phones may be used for more than communication. "By giving citizens new networked technologies like mobile phones and tablets, the government is able to automatically censor unsanctioned content and observe everything citizens are doing on their devices remotely," Nat Kretchun, who authored a report titled "Compromising Connectivity" this year on North Korea's digitalisation, told Reuters. Reuters reported in 2015 that North Korea's official mobile phone network, Koryolink, had around 3 million subscribers in a country of 24 million. Yet, many North Koreans living near neighbouring northern China still smuggled in phones on Chinese networks to bypass state control and speak to foreign contacts or access outside information, according to human rights group Amnesty International. (4) Amusement park amenities At least six known amusement parks reported opening in North Korea between the 1970s and 2012. North Korea acquired "merry-go-rounds, swings, target boards for shooting, and other playground amenities" in the second and third quarter of 2016 and in the second quarter of 2017, according to the customs data. It was unclear whether these new imports would go to old parks or be placed at new ones, but North Korea's parks are built primarily for tourists, and even its tumultuous relationship with the outside world has not deterred its ambitions of developing its tourism industry. North Korea aimed to have the number of incoming visitors hit one million by the end of this year, although South Korean sources have estimated that 100,000 tourists visited the North in 2015, with 90 per cent being Chinese. Traditionally, only a few thousand Western tourists were understood to be visiting the closed kingdom annually, through registered travelling tour companies. (5) Musical instruments North Koreans' love for music seemed to have remain undimmed regardless of the turning of political tides as imports of musical instruments from China havebeen on increase in the past nine months. There are seven music-related categories on the long list of Chinese imports in North Korea: "piano and other keyboard instruments; string instruments such as harp, violin and guitar; wind instruments; percussion; electronic instruments such as electronic guitar and keyboard; music boxes, fairground organs and accordions; and small parts of music instruments". The category seeing the greatest number of imports among musical instruments was "music boxes, fairground organs and accordions", with 68,670 products being imported from China to North Korea in 1.5 years. In contrast, just 300 wind instruments and 503 pianos were sent into the country in the same period. Although there are no breakdowns to show which imported instrument is most popular, all teachers were required to play the accordion in the 1990s, according to journalist Barbara Demick's seminal book on North Korean life, Nothing to Envy, published in 2009. The box-shaped instrument was known as the "people's instrument" since it was portable enough to carry along when doing hard labour in the fields, where some would sing North Korean folk songs while others would play the instrument, according to the book. The premier state instrumental ensemble, The Unhasu Orchestra, which primarily uses Western instruments, is the country's most visible classical music organisation and has performed internationally. Kim Jong-un's wife, Ri Sol-ju, was a singer for the orchestra. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

 

 

Mr. Valentin Jeanneret
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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