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
  2-6.10.17, No. 690  
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Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

China renews call for US help on cybercrime, extradition of fugitive corruption suspects (SCMP)
2017-10-05
China's security chief has renewed calls for Washington to work with Beijing on cybersecurity and to repatriate illegal immigrants and fugitives wanted for corruption. Minister of Public Security Guo Shengkun, who is also one of the top-ranking members of China's cabinet, issued the call at a Sino-US law enforcement and cybersecurity dialogue in Washington on Wednesday. Guo said the two nations should also step up efforts to combat cybercrime and "promote a safe and orderly cyberspace". He also said China was willing to strengthen cooperation with the United States to tackle terrorism, transnational crime and the drugs trade. China and the United States do not have an extradition treaty, a major barrier to Beijing's efforts repatriate Chinese citizens it says are fugitives from corruption investigations at home. Beijing has tried for many years to enlist other countries to arrest and repatriate graft suspects under President Xi Jinping's massive anti-corruption campaign. As part of that quest, China issued about 600 red notices through Interpol last year. It also issued a red notice in April for Guo Wengui, a fugitive businessman in exile in New York and seeking political asylum in the United States. A red notice is a request to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition but Interpol cannot compel any member country to make such an arrest. Chinese police issued an arrest warrant for Guo in April 2014 for allegedly bribing the country's deputy spy chief. Guo fled overseas and began speaking out about alleged corruption in China. He was scheduled to speak at US public policy think tank the Hudson Institute on Thursday but his appearance was cancelled a day before the event was to be held. The cancellation also came on the same day as the Sino-US dialogue in Washington, a high-level communication channel set up after a summit in April between Xi and US President Donald Trump. Chinese analysts said greater cooperation was in both countries' interests but there were huge barriers to a breakthrough on the extradition issue. Yuan Zheng, a US affairs expert from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said any repatriation case between China and the United States would be difficult if it involved politics. "The US has little political trust in China, and US domestic opinion would be strongly against Washington sending back any person who could be mistreated by Beijing," Yuan said. "But there is still hope. Cooperation on illegal immigration might be an easier place for the two countries to start, given Trump's focus on the US' immigration problems." Zhuang Deshui, deputy director of Peking University's Clean Government Centre, said China and the US had different legal systems and definitions of a "political refugee", hampering progress on an extradition treaty. Zhuang said other countries, including the US, were concerned that evidence submitted by China would not meet acceptable standards for overseas courts. There were also worries that suspects would not get a fair trial in China and that allegations could be politically motivated. Rights groups have criticised China for misusing Interpol's red notice system to target exiled Uygurs from Xinjiang, accusing them of terrorism. Among those targeted is Dolkun Isa, general secretary of the Munich-based World Uygur Congress. ^ top ^

China arms Philippine police for counterterrorism mission (SCMP)
2017-10-05
China has given US$22 million in guns and ammunition to the Philippines in a second batch of weapons from Beijing since the United States blocked a planned sale of assault rifles to the Southeast Asian nation last year. The donated weapons – some of which will be used to fight terrorism – include 3,000 M4 rifles, 3 million rounds of assorted ammunition, and 30 sniper scopes. The rifles, valued at US$3.3 million, will go to the Philippine National Police, which needs to restock after some US legislators blocked the sale of about 26,000 M4 rifles last year over concerns about police abuses in the nation's war on drugs. Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the Chinese weapons were initially earmarked for the military, but Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said the police's need was greater. "We are lucky that the Chinese government provided the firearms," Lorenzana said. Handing over the weapons at Camp Aguinaldo on Thursday, Chinese ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua said Beijing had given the Philippines around 5.5 billion pesos (US$300 million) in military and disaster relief assistance in a little over a year, Philippine broadcaster GMA Network reported. "China will continue to provide assistance and grants," Zhao was quoted as saying. "China is a sincere friend and sincere partner [to the Philippines], and will remain so forever." Philippine armed forces spokesman Colonel Edgard Arevalo said the Chinese supplies would help in various operations, including in the southern city of Marawi, where Islamic State extremists seized control four months ago. China's first round of supplies was delivered in June and included more than 3,000 assault and sniper rifles and nearly 6 million rounds of ammunition. The military held on to the sniper rifles but passed the other guns on to the police. Despite long-standing territorial disputes over the South China Sea, ties between China and the Philippines have warmed under Duterte's administration. The strongman received an estimated US$24 billion in investments and loan pledges from China after he visited Beijing in October. China has also been expanding its military engagement in Southeast Asia, including conducting military exercises and arms deals with Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, and Cambodia. ^ top ^

The weapons sales making China a big gun in Southeast Asia (SCMP)
2017-10-05
China is gradually stepping up military engagement with Southeast Asia, building on the firm economic footings it has established in the region. The latest move came on Thursday when China gave 3,000 assault rifles to the Philippines as a gesture of "friendly and cooperative relations". It was Beijing's second shipment of guns to Manila and another sign of a warming in ties between the two countries since President Rodrigo Duterte came to power last year. The rifles, valued at about US$3.3 million, will all go to the Philippine National Police, which US legislators last year blocked from buying about 26,000 M4 rifles from the United States. Other countries in the region are also forging stronger military ties with China. Thailand: The Royal Thai Army is preparing to take delivery of its first batch of 28 VT4 main battle tanks from China, 18 months after agreeing to buy them for US$147 million. The tanks, made by China North Industries, are expected to arrive at the Royal Thai Navy's Sattahip Naval Base next week. Thailand also put in orders for a trio of Type 039A Yuan-class diesel-electric attack submarines in late 2016 and VN1 infantry fighting vehicles in March. Malaysia: Malaysia agreed to buy four Chinese coastal patrol vessels known as littoral mission ships when Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak visited China on November. Two will be built in China and two in Malaysia. The deal is worth about US$277 million. Kuala Lumpur's push to strengthen ties with China comes after the US Department of Justice filed lawsuits implicating Najib in a money-laundering scandal. Najib has denied any wrongdoing and said Malaysia would cooperate in the international investigations. Myanmar: China is Myanmar's biggest supplier of weapons, providing most of its fighter aircraft, armoured vehicles, guns and naval ships. The People's Liberation Army Navy transferred two of its older Type 053H1 frigates to the Myanmar Navy in 2012. In May, the navies of the two countries held their first joint exercises. The drills, involving the guided missile destroyer Changchun, guided missile frigate Jingzhou and supply ship Chaohu, signalled China's growing naval presence in the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. Indonesia: The Indonesian Navy last year signed a deal to buy a Chinese Type 730 shipbourne close-in weapon system. The radar-guided, Gatling gun-style system was installed in an Indonesian frigate to bolster defences against anti-ship missiles and precision-guided munitions. Indonesia also ordered C-802 anti-ship missiles, portable surface-to-air missiles and air search radars from China between 2005 and 2009. In addition, the two countries have agreed to exchange technology for certain kinds of military equipment. ^ top ^

China releases new safety notice to Chinese tourists in India (Global Times)
2017-10-05
The Chinese Embassy in India has issued a third warning in four months to Chinese tourists in India. The warning was posted on the embassy's website on Tuesday, and detailed several situations the embassy handled recently in which Chinese tourists were denied entry or investigated while traveling in India. "Some Chinese citizens visited Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which are restricted areas for foreigners, without gaining permits from India. Some tourists were asked to return upon arrival; some were even arrested or investigated," the statement read. "[Visitors should] not photograph India's border and military facilities and vehicles. While traveling on India's border neighbouring Nepal, avoid visiting border markets, and do not enter the territory of other countries by mistake," it added. On July 7, the Chinese Embassy in India issued its first warning, asking Chinese nationals to reduce unnecessary travel to India, keep a low profile when there, and respect the local laws and law-enforcement personnel. It reissued the warning on August 24. Chinese tourists make up 3 percent of foreign tourists visiting India each year, according to Indian newspaper Business Standard. From January to May 2017, about 119,000 visitors from China visited India, an increase of 9.2 percent year-on-year. Meanwhile, China is becoming one of the most popular destinations for Indian tourists, according to a report by Xinhua News Agency on Monday. It's estimated that the number of outbound tourists from India will reach 50 million overall by 2020, up from 21.87 million in 2016, said the report. ^ top ^

12 unaccounted for after Chinese fishing vessel collides with tanker (Xinhua)
2017-10-05
A total of 12 people were missing after a fishing vessel from the Chinese mainland collided with a tanker of China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region early Thursday in international waters some 400 km north of the Oki Islands in western Japan, according to the Chinese Consulate-General in Osaka. Four of the 16 crew members on board the fishing vessel have been rescued, while 12 others were still missing, said the consulate-general. The Japan Coast Guard has set up a response unit and sent three patrol vessels to the area where the accident happened. The consulate-general immediately set up an emergency response unit headed by the consul general upon receiving the report about the accident. It has sent a working group to the scene to help with the rescue and is keeping contact with the Japan Coast Guard. ^ top ^

US spy planes kept eye on Chinese scientists during research expedition near Guam (SCMP)
2017-10-04
China's most advanced research vessel recently spent nearly a month operating in the backyard of the largest US military base in Asia-Pacific waters "under the nose of US spy planes", according to a marine scientist leading the expedition. The Kexue oceanographic ship had regular low flyovers from US Navy P3-Orion surveillance aircraft while investigating a seamount southeast of Guam between August 5 and September 5, the researcher told the South China Morning Post Guam is home port to the US's fast-attack nuclear submarines that operate in the South China Sea and from the US naval base that is combined with Andersen Air Force Base. From this outpost, B-2 stealth bombers can quickly reach potential conflict areas such as the Korean Peninsula. Xu Kuidong, a lead researcher with the mission who is affiliated with the Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences in Qingdao, Shandong, said the scientists on board were "well aware" of the area's sensitivity. "It is all about the Second Island Chain," he said, referring to a series of archipelagos that stretches from the eastern coast of Japan to the Bonin islands, to the Mariana islands, to Guam and the island country of Palau. The US-controlled islands initially served as a second line of defence against communist countries in East Asia during the cold war. Today they are regarded as a major constraint on China's rapidly expanding marine power and influence in the Pacific Ocean. Caroline seamount is a large table-top mountain rising more than 3,000 metres from the sea floor, with its highest peaks fewer than 30 metres below the surface. Caroline has irregular landscapes such as sheer cliffs and holes which generate powerful, unexpected turbulence that can threaten submarines. The Kexue, laden with cutting-edge equipment, made a large number of "exciting discoveries", Xu said. The researchers found that the seamount used to be an island with a high point 1,700 metres above sea level. The cliffs and holes were created by tidal wave erosion. The team's findings would be shared with the Chinese military and other interest groups in government, Xu said. "There are many efforts going on to breach the Second Island Chain, this is part of them," he said. On a steep mountain slope more than 1,200 metres below the surface, one of Kexue's underwater drones discovered what is likely the planet's longest living organism. It was a black coral about 1.6 metres tall – the height of an average Chinese woman – with "arms" extending nearly three metres across. Another similar-sized black coral found by US scientists in warmer and shallower waters near Hawaii has been shown to be 4,265 years old. The Caroline specimen was likely even older. Although it was about the same size as the Hawaiian sample, it lived at a greater depth and had a relatively poor food supply, so it would have taken longer to grow, Xu said. Since the coral was dead when it was discovered, scientists used carbon dating to age the sample, he said. This and other discoveries, including the observation of many creatures with features previously unseen, will be published in a series of papers in international journals, Xu said. Besides their scientific value, the papers will tell the international community that China meant to "come and play" in this strategic location, he said. The Caroline seamount is located in the midway between Guam and the Federated States of Micronesia, an island country on the other side of the Second Island Chain. According to Tom Matelski, a US Army War College Fellow at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia Pacific Centre for Security Studies in Hawaii, China was seeking to build a military base in Micronesia. Micronesia, with a population of about 110,000, has received a large amount of aid and investment from China since 2003. The money helped build some of the nation's largest farms, schools, bridges and power plants, as well as the residence for the president and other senior government officials. Since Micronesia lacked its own military, it had "outsourced" its defence to the US since the end of the second world war. But in 2015 Micronesian lawmakers introduced a resolution to end the exclusive partnership with the US as early as 2018. If the Chinese military got a foothold on a Micronesian island, "the US could potentially lose their access to the strategic lines of communication that connect the Pacific Ocean to the vital traffic of the East and South China Seas", Matelski wrote in an article published on the website of The Diplomat magazine in February last year. Possession of portions of the Second Island Chain would give China a "springboard against foreign force projection," he said. Xu said the US's concerns were "expected" but unlikely to affect the increase in Chinese activity in this remote corner of the Pacific Ocean. "The P-3s flew low and made some noises, but the Americans knew not to cross the line," he said. "This is international water. They have no right to interfere in our work. "They should get used to the presence of China. This water does not belong to the United States of America, but to the world," Xu said. However, there is little indication that China will build a military base in the area any time soon, he said. In June, Kexue called at the tiny Micronesian island of Pohnpei to resupply, mostly with fresh vegetables from Chinese farms on the main island. Xu said he and his colleagues had not heard of a plan for a Chinese naval base while visiting the island and exchanging information with locals. Maintaining a military outpost would be a difficult and costly task due to the remoteness of the location from China, he said. "But who knows, maybe we will have one in 20 years," Xu said. When President Xi Jinping and Micronesian President Peter Christian met in Beijing in March, Xi said China and Micronesia share "similar viewpoints on many international and regional issues". He urged the two sides to explore the potential for cooperating, particularly in tourism, agriculture, fishing and infrastructure construction, Xinhua reported. Christian said Micronesia would like to coordinate closely with China while dealing with global challenges. ^ top ^

Chinese navy docks in London for first official visit to British capital (SCMP)
2017-10-04
A People's Liberation Army naval flotilla called on a London port on Tuesday, the first time that Chinese warships have officially visited the British capital. The 26th Chinese naval escort task force, which includes the guided-missile frigates Huanggang and Yangzhou and the comprehensive supply ship Gaoyouhu, are moored in east London's Docklands and will stay until Saturday. During their five-day visit, the ships will host a series of events, including an open day for members of the British public, a deck reception and a humanitarian rescue symposium with the British navy. The tour is the latest stage of its global voyage after completing an escort mission in the Gulf of Aden and Somali waters in August. Liu Xiaoming, the Chinese ambassador to UK, said the visit was significant in terms of military relations between two countries. "Our two navies will exchange views on a broad range of issues from anti-piracy to humanitarian rescues. I believe such extensive engagement will help deepen the mutual trust and cooperation between our two militaries," Liu was quoted by state-run Xinhua as saying. Armed with cruise missiles, the type 54A frigates Huanggang and Yangzhou can hit targets up to 50km away and are able to destroy ships and submarines with their torpedoes and rocket launchers. The cannon at the front can fire 120 rounds per minute and they can house up to 165 crew members. The frigates have already docked in Belgium, Holland and Denmark as part of a tour of European ports, and are due to sail to France on Saturday. The fleet also spent five days at China's first overseas naval base in Djibouti at the start of May. Li Jie, a Beijing based military expert, said the visit not only reflected China's enhanced ability to project naval power, but also signalled its ambitions to safeguard its interests overseas. "In the past, the Chinese navy always sent big ships instead of small to medium-sized ships. But this time, the two frigates can spend a long time at sea, which shows the Chinese navy's navigational and combat capabilities have strengthened. "And we can also see Beijing shows more and more concern about its overseas interests from the increasing number of naval activities," said Li, who added that Chinese navy is expected to enhance is military relationship with more countries in the future. British Rear Admiral Alex Burton said the visit "reflects the long, strong and very common relationship that both our navies have with the sea". "Many of the security challenges that we face are common to both of us, are common across the globe, from counter piracy to natural disasters, peacekeeping amongst many others," he told The Daily Telegraph. A Royal Navy warship is expected to pay a return visit to China sometime next year while deployed in the Pacific. In October 2001, a flotilla from the China's East Sea Fleet visited Portsmouth on the English south coast – the first time a PLA fleet had visited a British port. However, the Royal Navy accidentally greeted their PLA counterpart with the flag of Taiwan, the self-ruled island that Beijing believes is an inalienable part of China. ^ top ^

China, US to hold first law enforcement, cybersecurity dialogue (Xinhua)
2017-10-03
China and the United States will hold their first law enforcement and cybersecurity dialogue this week. Chinese State Councilor Guo Shengkun, also minister of public security, will travel to the United States from Oct. 3 to 6 to co-chair the dialogue, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang announced Tuesday. The dialogue is one of four high-level communication mechanisms established during the Mar-a-Lago meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump in Florida in April. ^ top ^

Expectations differ as China and Asian neighbours look to Trump visit for clearer picture on US policy (SCMP)
2017-09-03
China and other Asian nations have different expectations for US President Donald Trump's visit next month, but all of them hope it will provide a clearer picture on Washington's strategy in the region. China's neighbours, including Japan and the Philippines, expect Trump to reassert America's strategic presence in the region after a long period of uncertainty over US foreign policy. But that would likely dismay Beijing, which is expecting a push for more coordination to rein in North Korea's nuclear ambitions. Trump will travel to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines from November 3 to 14, and will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vietnam. A detailed itinerary of the trip has not been disclosed, but how much time he spends on each stop will be closely watched as it may offer clues to the US foreign policy agenda. Liu Weidong, a US affairs expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Beijing was hoping Washington would make clear its position on China's place in its regional strategy. He added that China would also be looking for support from Trump on its diplomatic mantras of "no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation". "When the United States makes clear its position on China, the two countries will have a better idea of the direction they're working towards," Liu said. Trump will travel to the region amid uncertainties over US foreign policy since he took office in January. His "America First" policy has triggered concerns about whether the US would continue to maintain a strong presence in the region, particularly from Japan and South Korea, which see the Washington as a counterbalance to Beijing. "Tokyo is eager to show the region that the alliance is robust and that there is a close bond between [Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo] Abe and Trump both to deter North Korea and to send a message to Beijing," said Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University in Japan. For the Philippines, Trump's trip will mark the first bilateral meeting between Washington and Manila since President Rodrigo Duterte took power and ties deteriorated over his brutal anti-drugs campaign, with the nation edging closer to Beijing. Richard Heydarian, assistant professor in international affairs and political science at De La Salle University, said the trip was a "unique opportunity" for strategic contact between Manila and Washington amid security concerns over the armed conflict in Marawi and the ongoing South China Sea dispute. "It is a crucial opportunity for Trump to emphasise and reassert American leadership in East Asia, especially amid growing doubts over Washington's wherewithal and commitment to the region," he said. "Trump has a lot of personal diplomacy heavy lifting to do, especially a precipitous decline in American soft power since his ascent to the presidency." The White House has said trade would be a priority on the trip, along with rounding up support from regional leaders to rein in North Korea. Lee Jung-nam, a China affairs expert at Korea University's Asiatic Research Institute, said if the US and South Korea could reach agreement over the handling of North Korea, it would consolidate ties between the two nations. Unlike his predecessors, South Korean President Moon Jae-in has not emphasised the alliance with the US, and he has called for dialogue with the North. But relations between Seoul and Beijing have deteriorated since South Korea deployed a controversial US anti-missile system to defend itself against threats from the North. "Even though Trump stresses 'America First', the US has never left Asia," Lee said. "The US has been containing China through its Asian alliance, and that has never changed." Chinese observers said Beijing was not worried about the US strengthening its presence in Asia. "Given the tense climate created by North Korea's provocations, Trump's trip and any security reassurance is more of a relief for Beijing than a threat, because the Asian alliance is more about countering North Korea than China," Liu said. Wu Xinbo, an American studies expert with Fudan University, expected Trump to focus more on Northeast Asia to contain North Korea but he would also likely push for cooperation with China to stop Pyongyang from continuing its nuclear weapons programme. ^ top ^

Taiwan keen to avoid becoming a bargaining chip between US and China during Trump's Asia visit (SCMP)
2017-09-03
Taiwan will be keeping a close eye on US President Donald Trump's visit to China next month amid concerns it could be used as a bargaining chip by the two global powers. The island's President Tsai Ing-wen said she had tasked her government with assessing the impact of Trump's visit on the complex triangular ties between Washington, Beijing and Taipei, in which each party has a set modus operandi. "Any adjustment or change to those models will be seen through the interactions of the respective parties," Tsai was quoted as saying in an interview published yesterday by Taiwan's semi-official Central News Agency. "I will observe the interactions between the United States and mainland China, and the overall situation in Asia," she said. Trump is expected to meet President Xi Jinping during his first ever presidential visit to Asia from November 3 to 14. Taiwanese media reports have raised concerns that he might use Taiwan to gain concessions from Beijing on thorny issues such as trade, regional security and North Korea. Before moving into the White House, Trump upset Beijing by questioning the need for the US to observe its one-China policy after making an unprecedented telephone call to Tsai. He later acquiesced after China offered to discuss trade disputes and North Korean issues. Tsai also urged Beijing to consider her proposal to create a new model for handling cross-strait relations after its 19th National Congress which starts in two weeks' time. If the two sides continued to hold on to old thoughts and practices, it would be difficult for them to deal with the ever-changing situation in Asia and the region, she said. Tsai said the same principle applied to the independence-leaning part she heads, the Democratic Progressive Party, which should also consider if there was a need for "new theories" in tackling cross-strait ties. At the DPP congress last month, Tsai said the party should be more practical in handling relations with the mainland and urged its members to think about new ways of dealing with China's rise. She also promised no change to the status of cross-strait relations to ease Beijing's concerns she might declare independence for the island. Beijing suspended contact with Taipei after Tsai refused to accept the one-China principle. Chang Wu-ueh, a professor of mainland studies at Tamkang University in Taiwan, said it would be difficult for Beijing to accept Tsai's proposal for a new model for handling cross-strait relations, especially after Premier William Lai Ching-te last week became the first top official to publicly identify himself as a supporter of Taiwan's independence. "Though the mainland is aware that Tsai rather than Lai is in charge of cross-strait policy, what Lai said will only increase Beijing's mistrust of Taiwan," Chang said. Lai's comments, made during a parliamentary session on September 26, caused a political whirlwind in Taiwan, with opposition Kuomintang politicians lambasting him for creating trouble for Tsai. Chao Chun-shan, adviser to the Cross-Strait Interflow Prospect Foundation, an independent Taiwanese think tank, said the United States would never agree to Taiwan gaining independence. "Lai's comments thus provide [Trump] with a bargaining chip in dealing with the mainland and maximising US interests." ^ top ^

Xi meets US secretary of state (Global Times)
2017-09-30
Chinese President Xi Jinping met with visiting US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Saturday, discussing US President Donald Trump's visit to China later this year. "Currently the most important event in our bilateral relations is President Trump's China visit in November," Xi said. "His visit will be a major opportunity for the development of China-US relations." Common interest overrides differences between China and the US, and cooperation is the only right option for the two countries, Xi said. China and the US should enhance communication and coordination on important international and regional issues, Xi said, stressing that sensitive issues should be properly dealt with through dialogue. Tillerson arrived in Beijing this afternoon and met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Great Hall of the People. Tillerson's main task during the visit is to exchange in-depth views with the Chinese side on "how to strengthen China-US relations, especially [ahead of] US President Donald Trump's state visit to China at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping this year," as well ''major international and regional issues of common concern," Lu said. According to the US Department of State's official website, Tillerson would discuss a range of issues with senior Chinese leaders during his visit, including US President Donald Trump's planned travel to the region, the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and trade and investment. ^ top ^

New China-Europe rail-sea cargo route opens (Xinhua)
2017-09-29
A new China-Europe rail-sea cargo transport route was launched Friday in Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The first train carrying Chinese goods left Urumqi Friday, bound for the Port of Riga in Latvia, via Kazakhstan and Russia. The goods will then be transported to Rotterdam, the Netherlands, by sea. The new rail-sea route will shorten the distance by more than 1,000 kilometers and cut the transportation time from more than 20 days to just 14 days, said Liu Changlin, general manager of an international logistics company in Xinjiang. The new route was launched under cooperation between China and Kazakhstan to further reduce logistics costs. ^ top ^

US President Donald Trump will visit five Asian countries, including China, on trip in November (SCMP)
2017-09-29
The White House announced on Friday that US President Donald Trump will take a five-nation trip to the Asia-Pacific region in November as the US seeks to curb North Korea's growing nuclear threat. The White House said Trump will travel to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines from November 3-14, a trip that will also include a stop in Hawaii. It will be Trump's first visit to the region as president, and it comes as North Korea moves closer to its goal of having a nuclear-tipped missile that could strike the US. The White House said Trump's visit would "strengthen the international resolve to confront the North Korean threat and ensure the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula." Trump has offered fiery rhetoric and a tough stance against the North's nuclear weapons programme, declaring in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly last week that the US would "totally destroy" North Korea if provoked. North Korea responded with pledges to take the "highest-level" action against the US and warned that it might conduct the "most powerful" atmospheric hydrogen bomb test in the Pacific Ocean. Trump is also expected to discuss trade and economic ties to the region and will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vietnam and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in the Philippines. Even as Washington and Beijing grapple with that security crisis in North Korea, Trump has pressed China for more balanced trade with America. Trump has been openly critical of China's large trade surpluses with the United States and last month ordered an investigation into whether Beijing improperly pressures companies to hand over their technology in exchange for market access. His trip to China will come weeks after Chinese leader Xi Jinping is expected to receive a second five-year term as the leader of China's communist party. Trump has sought to forge a personal relationship with Xi, hosting the Chinese president at his Mar-a-Lago resort in April. In a prelude to Trump's trip to China, Trump met Thursday with Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong, who was attending the inaugural dialogue on people-to-people ties in Washington. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan home to mysterious misbehaving communist cadre (SCMP)
2017-10-05
One of the 13 Communist Party members to be barred from China's most high-profile political assembly later this month on the grounds of "improper behaviour" comes from the Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan division, according to a study of official documents by the South China Morning Post. Unlike the 12 other members disqualified from the nearly 2,300-strong 19th national party congress, his or her identity is unknown, highlighting the ruling party's secretive approach towards the three territories where the Communist Party is not a duly registered legal entity. "The identity of the person may never be disclosed," said Professor Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies. Lau said the expulsion may not necessarily be about illegal behaviour, and "it could be simply because of unethical behaviour that fell short of illegality, given President Xi [Jinping's] vow for strict party rules". The five-yearly congress is China's most important political event of the year, when a new generation of senior leaders will be ushered in, though Xi will remain in office. The mystery of the missing representative started when state media published a compilation of sector-by-sector lists containing 2,271 names of attendees from the military and state enterprises as well as provincial and city governments. An online platform run by People's Daily had reported that attendees would also include 29 representatives from the Hong Kong works committee, the Macau works committee and the All-China Federation of Taiwan Compatriots, but a full list of names was not available. In the meantime, the downfall of Chongqing's former party chief Sun Zhengcai prompted a by-election to replace the city's 14 delegates who failed a "qualification assessment". The intrigue increased when a final list of 2,287 names – rather than the 2,300 initially planned – came out last week. None of the names on the list was grouped by sector, leaving journalists and other observers crossing names off a previous list in an effort to figure out who actually represented the areas in question. The results showed that only 28 people would be representing Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan – rather than the 29 originally slated. Whereas the names of the other excluded delegates could be deduced from the original list, there was no such indication available in this case. The Hong Kong and Macau sectors were represented by two groups of people: mainland officials in charge of the two special administrative regions, as well as managers from the state-owned enterprises active in the two cities. They included Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office director Zhang Xiaoming and Bank of China (Hong Kong) chief executive Yue Yi. Those for Taiwan, in contrast, have rather limited if not nominal power, such as the heads of the Federation of Taiwan Compatriots branches in a number of mainland provinces. The operation of the three subsectors had traditionally been a sensitive area, analysts said, pointing to the debacle over Mo Kwan-nin, a Hongkonger who was the deputy chief of Xinhua News Agency's Hong Kong office, the de facto representative of Beijing in the colonial era. Mo's identity as an underground communist was accidentally exposed by a China News Service report during the party's 13th national congress in 1987. Zhang Lifan, a Beijing-based historian specialising in the Communist Party structure, said the low profile and secretive nature of the Hong Kong and Macau units stemmed from their roles in recruiting and uniting "underground party members". The term refers to Hong Kong and Macau residents who were secret communists during and after the colonial era. "The works committees, therefore, cannot be totally transparent or open," Zhang said. "I don't see that changing within the 50 years of status quo promised by Beijing at the time of the transfer of sovereignty." ^ top ^

China's top graft-buster Wang Qishan: will he stay or will he go? (SCMP)
2017-10-04
The future of Chinese anti-graft tsar Wang Qishan has become one of the hottest conversation topics in Beijing ahead of the Communist Party's national congress this month. Wang – party chief Xi Jinping's right-hand man in an ongoing anti-corruption campaign that has claimed the scalps of many senior officials – has managed to maintain a relatively low profile in the past five years despite being viewed by many as China's second most powerful man. But even though he's rarely spoken in public, the spotlight is now firmly on him, with most attention focused on whether he will retire in this month's leadership reshuffle. According to the party's unwritten retirement rules, Wang, who turned 69 in July, is destined for retirement. But opinion in political circles is split, with some suggesting he might retain his seat on the Politburo Standing Committee after the party's five-yearly national congress, expected to open on October 18. If that happens, Wang will shatter a convention followed since 2002 that has seen all members of the party's highest decision-making body aged 68 or older at the time of a party congress step down. The unwritten rule formed the basis for the first orderly power transition in Chinese Communist Party history in 2002, when Jiang Zemin retired as party chief at the age of 74 along with every other member of the Politburo Standing Committee apart from Hu Jintao, Jiang's successor, and was also strictly followed in the two subsequent leadership reshuffles – in 2007 and 2012 However, its validity was questioned last autumn, when a senior official publicly dismissed it as "mere folklore". As a key Xi ally, Wang – the youngest of the five standing committee members over the age of 68 this year – is widely regarded as the most likely to benefit from any relaxation of the rule. China's constitution limits every president and premier to two five-year terms, but there are no hard and fast rules for party jobs. However, the informal retirement age for Politburo Standing Committee members has also effectively limited those in the party's top jobs, including the general secretaryship, to two five-year terms. The party leadership's position on Wang's political future or his own preference are not known, and there is a similar lack of clarity about what task he might be given if kept on. But one thing is certain: Wang remaining a member of the Politburo Standing Committee would benefit Xi if he decides to seek a third term as party chief at the following leadership reshuffle in 2022, when he would also be 69. "If Wang sets an example [for retirement], Xi could follow it," Beijing-based commentator Zhang Lifan said. Legal underpinning Professor Andrew Nathan, a political scientist at Columbia University in New York, said Wang's fate was in Xi's hands. "Xi seems to have enough power to change the rules of the game if he wishes to do so," he said. "As far as I can see, Xi continues to trust and rely on Wang to carry out the anti-corruption campaign, and that makes Wang an important part of Xi's power base. I think Xi will want him to continue." However, multiple well-connected sources, who preferred to remain anonymous, told the South China Morning Post Wang was more likely to retire. Zhuang Deshui, deputy director of Peking University's Clean Government Centre, agreed that Wang's retirement this year would make more political sense. "It's not fair to attribute the whole campaign to one individual," Zhuang said. "The campaign is going forward with or without him. It's just it might proceed faster with him. "However competent he is, he needs to retire one day. We still need to respect the law of nature. Mao was very competent, but he would have made fewer mistakes if he had retired earlier." If Wang does stay on, he could remain China's top graft-buster or, in a less likely scenario, become premier and play a key role in guiding the country's economy. There has also been talk he could be named chairman of the National People's Congress, China's legislature. Speculation about Wang's future role increased last month, when he met Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and US President Donald Trump's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, in Beijing. Wang met regularly with world leaders when vice-premier, but has not had a government role for five years. Political scientist Chen Daoyin, an associate professor at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said that if Wang stayed on as secretary of the party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) he would be able to create a legal underpinning for its graft-busting operations. "He used to talk of curing the symptoms first so as to win time to cure the disease," Chen said. "If he stays, he could help direct China's anti-corruption drive on the legal track." Xi's anti-graft campaign has been effective but also controversial, because the formidable and secretive CCDI answers only to the party. That means its operations, including the detention and interrogation of corruption suspects, fall outside regulation by Chinese laws. In the past two years, Wang and his team started to address the elephant in the room, drawing up plans for a national anti-corruption super body that would consolidate the powers of various state agencies, be answerable to the law and report to the National People's Congress, China's top legislature. Pilot programmes have been set up in Beijing and the provinces of Shanxi and Zhejiang, with the national body expected to start work in March. But Chen added that Wang remaining at the CCDI would also have negative implications. "The anti-corruption campaign has escalated into a campaign to safeguard the party's political primacy, and it has reached all aspects of public life," he said. "Whether it's his intention or not, Wang's way of ruling the party has grown into an oppressive atmosphere across the nation." As well hunting down corrupt officials, the CCDI under Wang has sought to bolster support for the top leadership among the party's 90 million members. Two years ago it even banned "irresponsible comment" on the party's central leadership, including comments made privately. In an article in the party mouthpiece People's Daily three years ago, after some Chinese lawyers argued that party members should be allowed legal representation during CCDI investigations, Wang wrote that joining the party meant voluntarily giving up some civil rights to ensure loyalty to it. A year later, in a speech to CCDI inspectors that was leaked online, Wang, who studied history at Northwest University in Xian, criticised young Chinese for their lack of attachment to the country's history. "If the young generation have better knowledge of China's history, they wouldn't think the moon is rounder in foreign lands... they wouldn't lack pride in China's traditions and culture," he said. That remark surprised liberals, many of whom remember Wang as an early advocate of the utility of studying Western ideas and someone who pushed for market-based economic reforms. Wang becoming premier is regarded as a much less likely outcome, but one that has backing in business and intellectual circles given the economic challenges China faces. Wang's record as an economic troubleshooter stands out among Chinese officialdom and many regard him as the ideal man to tackle problems ranging from slowing growth, industrial overcapacity and zombie state-owned enterprises (SOEs) to resistance to reform from vested interests and the need to rein in capital outflows and home prices. In the 1980s, Wang helped spearhead the reform of China's rural economy, which lifted millions of peasants out of poverty and came to be regarded by many academics as one of China's most successful reforms. […] Then, in the aftermath of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, when he was head of China Construction Bank, he played a key role in the first big overseas initial public offering by an SOE – which led to China Mobile's listing in Hong Kong and New York. In his 2005 book One Billion Customers: Lessons from the Front Lines of Doing Business in China, journalist turned businessman James McGregor detailed the tough stance Wang had taken earlier with joint venture partner Morgan Stanley over the control of investment bank China International Capital Corp (CICC), one of the two bookrunners for the offering, along with Goldman Sachs. When then Morgan Stanley Asia chairman Jack Wadsworth argued that the US investment bank should have the final decision-making power at CICC, Wang retorted: "Don't give me that American big-power bully attitude. You can do the technology, but for direction and strategy, you should listen to me." "We're the experts and we know the business," Wadsworth insisted. "So does Goldman Sachs," Wang replied, "and I have the market." The next year Wang was appointed vice-governor of Guangdong, where he led the clean-up after the bankruptcy of Guangdong International Trust & Investment Co, China's second-largest state-owned investment group. Then, developing a reputation as China's "fire brigade chief", he was parachuted into Beijing as the capital's mayor in 2003 to lead its fight against the Severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) epidemic that claimed 190 lives in the city. In the years that followed he went on to lead Beijing's preparations for the Summer Olympic Games it hosted in 2008. In March 2008, five months before the Games opened, Wang was appointed one of China's four vice-premiers. Just months into his five-year vice-premiership, Wang's economic expertise was again called upon when he was made director of an ad hoc group and tasked with leading the State Council's efforts to fence China off from the damage caused by the global financial crisis. In his 2015 memoir Dealing with China: An Insider Unmasks the New Economic Superpower, former US treasury secretary Henry Paulson recounted a meeting with Wang in the US in June 2008, in the middle of the crisis, when he was pressing China to open up its banking system and economy to more competition. He said Wang replied: "You were my teacher but look at your system, Hank, we aren't sure we should be learning from you any more." Paulson, a former Goldman Sachs chief executive, first met then Construction Bank chief Wang on one of his more than 70 trips to China while working for the US investment bank. "He's a man of enormous capabilities," Paulson told The Wall Street Journal. "He understands markets, he understands people. He knows how to communicate. I don't speak Chinese, he doesn't speak English, but he's very easy for me to communicate with." Professor Yuan Gangming, an economist at Beijing's Tsinghua University who was one of the first Chinese to earn in PhD in that field in the post-Mao era, said Wang stood out from most senior Chinese officials because of his understanding of the economy. "We grew up in the same environment and we were both in the front line of the market economy in reform and opening up," said Yuan, who was an economics researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in the late 1980s. Wang, who was then working in Beijing's top office overseeing rural reform, was a frequent visitor to the academy. "He enjoyed hanging out with us young economic scholars a lot," Yuan said. "You can say he was curious, trendy and energetic. "I hope he can be the premier but I'm afraid that's not too likely. If he were the premier, China's economy would not be in such a mess." Yuan said Wang's economic views in the 1980s, mostly learned from Western classics, were more pro-market than most officials who later rose to the State Council, including former premier Zhu Rongji and former finance minister Lou Jiwei. Wang's interest in Western ideas and culture has, in more recent years, seen him recommend to colleagues the American political television drama House of Cards and French political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville's mid-19th century classic The Old Regime and the Revolution, on the causes of the French Revolution. But Nathan said Wang's interest in Western ideas should not be mistaken for a soft stance on China's one-party dictatorship. "We seem to make the mistake over and over again of thinking that if high communist officials can speak some English or want to shake up conservative SOEs, then it means that they are soft on one-party dictatorship," Nathan said. "Wang believes... that the regime is on an arduous pathway to making China great again, that the regime faces enemies at home and abroad, et cetera, et cetera – on these important questions I think his view is the same as Xi's." Professor Lanxin Xiang, a historian at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, wrote in the South China Morning Post four years ago that Wang's interest in de Tocqueville's book revolved around what was known as the "de Tocqueville puzzle" – that revolution rarely occurred when social conditions were at their worst, but started when conditions were dramatically improving, particularly during a period of reform. The friendship between Wang and Xi seems to date back to at least as early as the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, mainland media have reported, and a close friend of Wang's in the 1980s, Huang Jiangnan, said Xi and Wang had been close in the early stages of reform and opening up, despite having very different jobs. "Xi was a county party boss in Hebei [in the mid-1980s], but he always sat in on our meetings in Beijing," said Huang, then a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences who worked closely with Wang on rural reform. "They had a lot of interaction and cooperation then." Huang, Wang and two other young researchers with a keen interest in economics – Weng Yongxi and Zhu Jiaming – were dubbed the "four gentlemen of reform" in the 1980s for advocating market reforms that addressed some of the problems of central planning. However, after Beijing's crackdown on the 1989 pro-democracy protests and a subsequent purge of liberal bureaucrats, Wang was the only one of the four to remain an official Huang said Wang had been deeply influenced by his father-in-law, former vice-premier Yao Yilin, who was a revolutionary veteran. "Wang respected Yao a lot," he said. "I believe he has been influenced by Yao in handling crises and his dedication to serving the country." Yao, a first-generation communist revolutionary, was regarded as a party conservative. He advocated a cautious approach to market-based economic reform in the 1980s and was among the main supporters of the crackdown on the 1989 pro-democracy protests. Huang recalled that Wang's wife, Yao Mingshan, had not received gifts, even from very close friends, and had no interest in jewellery. She had not even joined the Communist Party, opting to instead join one of the eight minor parties set up to window dress China's political diversity. They have a negligible role in policymaking. "That's why [fugitive tycoon] Guo Wengui is still not able to present some hard evidence against Wang," Huang said. Guo, now living in the US, has accused members of Wang's family of corruption since May. He has presented no solid evidence to back up his claims, but they have been widely discussed among Chinese intellectuals and business leaders. "It looks pretty obvious to me he's trying to discredit Wang and the whole anti-corruption campaign," Huang said. "If Wang retires this year, people will think the whole campaign is in question." "If Wang retires this year, the signal would look like he retired because of Guo's accusations. And the party would not accept such logic in public opinion," Chen said. "If the legitimacy of the anti-graft campaign is gone, so will be the party's legitimacy to rule, which was built on the graft-busting campaign." As the heat of the Beijing summer fades, and with the party congress just weeks away, Wang's political future remains uncertain. But his future role in the leadership was no less bewildering five years ago, when it was rumoured he might head the State Council, the legislature, the main political advisory body, or the party's graft-busters. His eventual appointment as anti-corruption tsar surprised many, because he had no experience in party organs. "Look it up, before the 18th party congress, nobody, inside or outside the party, domestic or abroad, anticipated that I would become the CCDI chief," he told officials in a speech, a video of which was leaked online. Wang was not the first senior Chinese official to suggest that the appointment process for top party and government jobs was unpredictable. "A person's fate is dependent on both his diligence and the progress of history," Jiang told an audience of professors in 2009, six years after he stepped down as president, according to another video leaked online. Jiang was promoted from Shanghai party boss to party general secretary just weeks after the June 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protests. "Comrade Deng Xiaoping told me, 'the party has decided that you be the general secretary'," Jiang said. "And I said 'please invite other talents. I'm not being humble. What am I, a party secretary of Shanghai, to do in Beijing? But Deng insisted, saying 'the party has decided'." ^ top ^

Chinese environmental minister admits country will struggle to hit pollution target this year (SCMP)
2017-10-05
China faces difficulties in meeting its smog-fighting target for this year, its environmental protection minister has admitted. Li Ganjie was speaking during a visit to four heavily industrialised provinces in northern China, where the country's air pollution problem is especially acute. China has pledged to cut average concentrations of hazardous airborne particles known as PM2.5 by more than 15 per cent compared with last winter in 28 northern cities. "Currently the air pollution control work is challenging and complex," Li said during a tour earlier this week to Hebei, Shanxi, Shandong, and Henan provinces, according to a statement posted on the ministry's website on Wednesday. He said air quality has fluctuated, with some areas seeing a significant slowdown in improvement, and even a worsening. "The completion of the annual targets for air quality control faces huge difficulties," Li said. In the capital region – which includes Beijing, surrounding Hebei province and the city of Tianjin – air quality worsened in the area's 13 cities during August, with a 5.4 per cent increase in concentrations of PM2.5 compared with the previous year, according to the most recent ministry data. Air quality in China's 338 largest cities on average deteriorated in the first six months of 2017, ministry data showed, with 74.1 per cent of all days during the period experiencing clean air, down 2.6 percentage points from a year earlier. Li urged local governments to step up enforcement of environmental laws and regulations. China has promised to close twice as many factories and enforce bigger emission cuts in coming months in a bid to avoid a repeat of the near-record levels of choking smog that enveloped key northern regions at the start of the year. Li was named as China's new environment minister in June, promising a "protracted battle" to clean up the nation's notoriously polluted air, water and soil. ^ top ^

China's new Type 055 missile destroyer to upgrade reaction capability of weapons, improve country's navy (Global Times)
2017-10-05
Media have reported that China's new missile destroyer equips more than 100 Vertical Launching Systems (VLS), which experts said on Thursday could upgrade the rapid-reaction capability of weapons. A report published by CCTV on Tuesday showed that China's new Type 055 guided-missile destroyer has had 112 VLS cells installed, surpassing the US Navy's Arleigh Burke-class destroyers in quantity. "The number of VLSs shows the combat and rapid-reaction capability of [China's] warships," military expert Song Zhongping told the Global Times on Thursday. "Since recharging a VLS is relatively difficult, the more VLSs a vessel takes, the stronger and quicker its reaction," he said. According to Song, China's previous destroyers could only equip limited numbers of launching cells, so the Type 055 could upgrade rapid-reaction capabilities of weapons, Song said, noting that increasing the number of launching tubes and cells of vessels is the necessary road for China's large warships in the future. The Type 055 destroyer, the Chinese navy's first 10,000-ton domestically designed and produced vessel, was unveiled at Jiangnan Shipyard (Group) in East China's Shanghai on June 28, the Xinhua News Agency said. The destroyer is the first of China's new generation destroyers. It is equipped with new air defense, anti-missile, anti-ship and anti-submarine weapons. The vessel marks a milestone in improving the nation's navy armament system and in building a strong and modern navy, said Xinhua. "The Type 055 destroyer will form China's anti-missile system together with the 052D destroyer, which has been commissioned. China will also be able to build a Chinese version of the Aegis missile defense system with the inclusion of the Type 055," Song told the Global Times in a previous interview. ^ top ^

China's performance artists feel the chill from official disapproval (SCMP)
2017-10-05
One woman, a performance artist from Taiwan, tied herself up with bras, but left her nipples exposed. Another artist, a Romanian woman in a bathing suit, had someone write the Chinese characters for "control" and "art" across her buttocks. But, for the most part, the annual OPEN international performance art festival, held in a secret venue in Beijing out of sight of China's increasingly active censors, was a relatively tame and quiet affair this year. Only 15 acts performed last month at the long-running festival, which drew an audience of just around 40 people, most of them the artists themselves or event staff. The reason was a lack of publicity for the two-day event. The organiser, Chen Jin, said he had been concerned about police raids, knowing that the timing of the festival, ahead of a major Communist Party congress, was just too sensitive. "Performance art is the freest art form. It doesn't have any rules, and this might have scared them the most," Chen said, referring to the authorities. At its peak in 2009, Chen said, the festival had an eight-week run with more than 300 Chinese and foreign artists. But it has waned in recent years, mostly due to fears of a backlash from censors. Last year, organisers were forced to cancel the event halfway through due to repeated police raids, Chen said. Performance artists have been in the vanguard of China's art scene since it opened up to Western ideas and values in the 1980s, testing the limits of the law and social norms. But increased pressure on many forms of art, which comes as President Xi Jinping has been shoring up Communist Party control over all aspects of society, has had a chilling effect on the performance art scene in particular. In 2014, Xi urged all artists to "carry forward the banner of socialist core values". Xi, who is expected to consolidate his power during the congress in October, said artists should "use real-life images to tell people what should be confirmed and applauded, and what must be opposed and denied". Madeleine O'Dea, author of a new book on dissident artists in modern China, said the country's contemporary art scene was now experiencing a period of retrenchment. "I definitely feel like things are getting worse and worse," O'Dea said at a book-signing in Beijing last month. In 2015, an art exhibition on feminism in Beijing was banned. The year before, the 11th Beijing Independent Film Festival was shut down on its opening day. China's culture ministry declined to comment. Chen's quiet festival stands in contrast to the Art and China after 1989 exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, due to begin on Friday. The exhibition will feature the works of about 70 artists, most of them born in China, including the dissident artist Ai Weiwei, and delve into what would be considered sensitive topics in China – from civil rights to disillusioned coal miners. Ai, whose work spans everything from sculpture to architecture, is also known for his performance art – including the dropping and smashing of an ancient Chinese urn. Other significant Chinese performance artists in the last two decades include Zhu Yu, whose act featured him biting into what he claimed to be a stillborn human baby, and Ma Liuming, whose explicit explorations into sexual identity ran counter to a ban on public nudity. In contrast, full nudity was noticeably absent at this year's OPEN festival – even behind closed doors. Beate Linne, 50, a German artist whose work often features nudity, said she stayed covered up because of the timing of the festival. "It's not nice to the organisers because there might be some consequences," said Linne. One aspiring performance artist whose work went viral in July – a sex toy placed on top of a flagpole at the art school he was attending – has apparently felt some of those consequence. The 27-year-old artist, Ge Yulu, lost a job offer at a university because of his act, according to friends who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation. Ge declined to be interviewed by Reuters. Ge's act sparked spirited discussion online about whether it was a tasteless prank, or real art. One veteran performance artist, however, deemed it worthy. "It was a brave attempt from a young student that came with consequences," said He Yunchang, a 51-year-old Beijing-based artist. He in 2010 allowed a medical doctor to make a metre-long incision from his neck to his thigh in a performance called "One-Metre Democracy" in which most the audience voted for the procedure. He said he was resigned to the government crackdown. When asked if he planned to stage performances in the future, he smiled and said, "I am already dead inside." ^ top ^

Xi Jinping tells Chinese defence firms to aim higher and catch up on weapons technology (SCMP)
2017-10-04
President Xi Jinping has ordered Chinese defence firms to speed up weapons development and aim to do better than the world's most powerful militaries, a documentary aired on state media revealed. His list of areas to work on included supercomputing, ballistic missile defence and satellite navigation systems, according to one of eight episodes in the Powerful Military series shown on state broadcaster CCTV on Monday. China has also been cultivating young scientific talent specialised in advanced military hardware as it tries to modernise the People's Liberation Army, according to the documentary. Dozens of advanced warships went into service last year as China stepped up its weaponry hardware to meet its goal of having a blue-water navy capable of operating globally. Xi – who also chairs the Central Military Commission – said in the documentary that scientists and weapons developers should aim to catch up to, and even surpass, the technology of other countries. "The importance of weaponry development has increased as military technologies continue to be upgraded in recent years," Xi said. "It's impossible to win a battle if there is a weaponry gap." China's anti-ballistic missile technology is catching up to that of the United States, the documentary said, citing tests conducted by Senior Colonel Chen Deming and his research team. "So far only two countries in the world can successfully intercept ballistic missiles – the United States and China," the documentary said. Chen has been involved in China's anti-missile tests over the past three decades, including one in the country's northwest in 2010, which was reported for the first time by Xinhua on July 25 last year. That was 10 days after South Korea announced it would deploy a US missile shield to defend itself against threats from the North, despite protests from Beijing. Meanwhile, the documentary noted that 40 per cent of the Beidou satellite navigation system research team were students from the PLA's National University of Defence Technology. And dozens of undergraduates from the university's computer department were part of the Tianhe-2 programme – the world's fastest supercomputer from 2013 to 2015. Shanghai-based military expert He Qisong said the documentary showed China's mission to develop advanced military technologies that eclipsed those of other countries – especially the United States. "Actually, many innovative technologies involving satellite and computer research are all being worked on by undergraduates and graduates – meaning these young people will be working on Xi's goal to build a combat-ready fighting force into the future," he said. He added that China had put a lot of funding into defence research and development over the past three decades. ^ top ^

Xi Jinping clears decks for top-level changes to China's military (SCMP)
2017-10-03
China's ongoing military leadership reshuffle, which has seen two heavyweights in the powerful Central Military Commission (CMC) lose their commands in the past month, will help President Xi Jinping shake up the body, which controls the People's Liberation Army (PLA), and increase his dominance of it, analysts said. The ousting of General Fang Fenghui, former head of the CMC's Joint Staff Department, and General Zhang Yang, former head of the commission's Political Work Department, from the functional posts that gave them CMC membership is further proof that Xi, who also chairs the CMC, is cementing his control over the military. In late August, the Ministry of National Defence revealed that General Li Zuocheng, a decorated veteran of the Sino-Vietnamese war, had replaced Fang as chief of the Joint Staff Department. Then, on September 8, the army mouthpiece PLA Daily carried a report referring to Admiral Miao Hua, formerly the PLA Navy's political commissar, as head of the Political Work Department. Xi promoted Li to full general and Miao to the equivalent naval rank in 2015 and both men are seen as being firmly in his camp. Fang and Zhang were also left off the list of members of the military delegation to next month's five-yearly Communist Party congress, while Li and Miao will be among those in attendance. "The CMC's Joint Staff Department head is the man who oversees the PLA's battle operations, while the Political Work Department chief takes care of ideological education," a Beijing-based retired senior colonel, who asked not to be named, said. "Xi can only implement reforms when he really controls both the barrel of the gun and the pen, so he should assign men he trusts to the two important jobs," he said. In an unprecedented military overhaul launched in 2015, Xi announced that the PLA, the world's biggest army, would shed 300,000 troops, taking their number down to two million. He also scrapped the PLA's four former headquarters – General Staff, General Political, General Logistics and General Armaments – and established 15 functional departments to divide their powers. The PLA's seven military commands were also reshaped into five theatre commands. Sources close to the military told the South China Morning Post that Xi would use the party congress, due to open on October 18, to restructure the CMC. Several scenarios are being discussed in military circles, including one version that would see the 11-member CMC trimmed to just the chairman and four vice-chairmen. Another would give the commanders of the five theatre commands CMC membership, along with two to four vice-chairman, but not include the chiefs of the land force, air force, navy, rocket force and strategic support force. The current CMC comprises one chairman, two vice-chairmen, and eight regular members: the defence minister, the heads of the four former headquarters, and the commanders of the air force, navy and rocket force. Defence Minister General Chang Wanquan, 68, is expected to retire at the annual meeting of the National People's Congress early next year due to his age, while the other seven regular members have all seen younger generals assume the functional titles that gave them CMC membership. However, they all remain members of the commission, at least for now. "There is also a third plan, to expand the CMC membership by allowing the commanders of the ground force, air force, navy, rocket force and the five theatre commands to join, as well as two to three vice-chairmen," one source said. "Whatever option is chosen, the first thing Xi will do is to root out the harmful influence left by the two disgraced CMC vice-chairmen, Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou." Guo and Xu became the most senior military officers probed for buying and selling military ranks and other forms of corruption in the sweeping anti-graft campaign launched by Xi soon after he became party general secretary in November 2012. Since then, at least 13,000 military officers involved in corruption have been punished, PLA Daily reported this month. Guo, 75, was sentenced to life imprisonment in July last year and Xu died of cancer at the age of 72 in 2015 while in custody and under investigation for graft. Several sources close to the army told the Post that both Fang and Zhang had also been taken away by the CMC's Discipline Inspection Commission on the same day and were now facing corruption investigations. "As a Shaanxi native and distant relative of Guo, Fang was cultivated by the former CMC vice-chairman, while Zhang came from Xu's camp. The two quickly veered to Xi after realising their former bosses were targeted by him," said a source close to former G "The probe against Zhang also led to the [party's] Central Discipline Inspection Commission sending more than 50 investigators to Guangzhou to question senior officers with ranks of division head or above on suspicion of giving bribes to Zhang." Xi served as a CMC vice-chairman alongside Guo and Xu for more than two years to November 2012. They annoyed him by taking over the army's staff affairs, right from under the nose of Hu Jintao, his predecessor as party chief, and stacking the CMC with their supporters five years ago. The web of corruption they created expanded to every corner of the army, prompting Xi to declare a war to rid it of their harmful influence. "Rooting out the harmful influence of Guo and Xu is one of the key reasons Xi needs to reform the CMC," Beijing-based military expert Li Jie said. "The structure of the commission also needs to fit the ongoing military overhaul, with thousands of senior officers being laid off." The retired senior colonel said officers like Fang and Zhang had been kept on for the past five years as "transitional leaders" because Xi needed them to support the ongoing miliary reform before younger generals like Li and Miao were experienced enough to take over the top positions. "All senior military officers need a certain process to train and gain experience," he said "From a frontline post like division head, then commander of a local troop and army corps, as well as a theatre command, otherwise, he can't have the comprehensive military skills and strategic vision to master a top position in the CMC." Li, 63, was promoted to commander of the former Chengdu Military Command in 2013. Last year, he was further promoted to head the land force, which was established in January last year. Miao, a political officer who spent four years in the former Lanzhou Military Command, became the navy's political commissar in late 2014. Shanghai-based political commentator Chen Daoyin said Xi was intent on reforming the CMC to strengthen his hand against those in the party opposed to his new political thinking. "Xi hopes his political ideas will be in included in the party constitution at the upcoming congress, like those of his predecessors Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, and become part of the party's political guidelines, but it seems there are some different voices inside the party against him," Chen said. "The removal of Fang and Zhang and reform of the CMC could remind his opponents that Xi has absolute dominance in the army, which helped put the Communist Party in power." ^ top ^

How are 19th CPC National Congress delegates elected? (Xinhua)
2017-10-02
In about one year, 2,287 delegates have been elected to attend the upcoming 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), to be held in Beijing from Oct. 18. The elections started in November 2016 after the CPC Central Committee stated the quota of delegates, their qualifications and the election procedure. According to requirements, nominees must be highly qualified politically and ideologically, have good work and life styles, be competent in discussing state affairs, and have been successful in their work. The election was competitive with more than 15 percent of the preliminary nominees eliminated during the process. Party committees at various levels encouraged wider participation of grassroots-level CPC members in the nomination process. Besides media coverage, lectures, and leaflets, they also used video connections, text messages, messages on instant messaging service WeChat, and telephone talks to include more Party members into the process. Those in remote regions such as Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region even took mobile ballot boxes to towns and villages for voters. All grassroots-level Party committees were included, with 99.2 percent of Party members participating, 1.2 percentage points higher than the figure for the 18th CPC National Congress. The electoral units then conducted thorough investigations of nominees, listening to the opinions of both their supervisors and the public. After passing the investigations, the delegates, elected from across the country when local Party committees held their congresses this year, will need to pass a further check to get final approval to attend the congress. Compared with the delegates to previous CPC national congresses, this year's list features more from frontline production and manufacturing, minority ethnic groups, and women. Among them, 771 delegates are from frontline production and manufacturing, including workers, farmers, and technicians, accounting for 33.7 percent of the total, up by 3.2 percentage points from five years ago. These delegates not only come from traditional industries like manufacturing, transportation, steel and coal, but also from sectors such as finance, the Internet, and social organizations. The representation of female CPC members and members from ethnic minority groups is also rising, reaching 24.1 percent and 11.5 percent of the total respectively. The average age of the delegates is 51.8, about 0.2 year younger compared with the 18th CPC National Congress, and about 70.6 percent of them are under the age of 55. ^ top ^

Chinese 'leader-in-waiting' joins chorus of condemnation of former high-flyer Sun Zhengcai (SCMP)
2017-10-01
Hu Chunhua, the man once tipped to take over China's reins as a leader alongside disgraced Chongqing chief Sun Zhengcai, has thrown his weight behind Beijing's decision to expel the former high-flyer. Chairing a meeting of senior cadres on Saturday, the Guangdong provincial party boss passed on details of the investigation and dismissal of Sun, urging Communist Party members to learn a lesson from the case, according to official media reports. He also called for loyalty to Xi and the party's central leadership "everywhere, at all times, and in all matters". "The meeting called on attendees to firmly support the party's decision to probe Sun Zhengcai," Nanfang Daily reported on Sunday. "It fully underlined the resolution of the party's central leadership to rule the party strictly." Hu – like Sun before he came under investigation in July – is seen by many as a possible future leader of China. Both men were promoted to the 25-strong Politburo in 2012, when President Xi Jinping came to power. They were also widely seen as outgoing president Hu Jintao and premier Wen Jiabao's preferred candidates to eventually succeed Xi and Premier Li Keqiang. Beijing-based political commentator Zhang Lifan said Beijing's decision to bring down Sun also underlined Xi's rejection of the party's informal succession rules, under which state leaders decide who succeeds their successors – rather than who follows immediately in their own footsteps. "Rejecting such rules will not only affect Sun, but also Hu Chunhua," Zhang said. "Hu Chunhua's political future will not be easy." The announcement of Sun's expulsion came less than three weeks before the party's five-yearly congress and changing of the leadership guard. Xinhua reported on Friday that Sun had been handed over to prosecutors on corruption charges. It earlier cited the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection investigation as saying that he had "seriously violated party discipline and rules" and his communist "belief was shaken". He was accused of a long list of wrongdoings – from nepotism to leaking party secrets – it said, without providing details. Since the announcement of Sun's expulsion, many individuals and organisations have expressed their support for the decision and publicly criticised the once rising star. Hu Chunhua's comments were mild compared with those of many cadres who described Sun's behaviour as "shocking". In Chongqing, the party committee said there were serious lessons to be learned from the case, while in Jilin province, where Sun had previously been party chief, cadres accused their former leader of "ignoring the development of Jilin and thinking only about his political future". In Beijing, the municipal party committee claimed Sun's discipline violations started in the nation's capital, where he rose from an agricultural researcher to become the secretary general of the capital's party committee. Hunan province's leadership referred to Sun as a "double-faced man", a Chinese expression for a political chameleon. ^ top ^

Xi Jinping tells Communist Party to keep innovating and contributing to Marxism (SCMP)
2017-10-29
Chinese President Xi Jinping has called on the ruling Communist Party to continue innovating and developing Marxism as it prepares to enshrine his thoughts in the party's charter next month. Speaking to dozens of party leaders at a study session on Friday, Xi said the country should make original contributions to Marxist theories based on its history and experience. "[We] must centre on what we are doing now, listen to the people, respond to real needs … combine the basic Marxist theories with China's specific reality in a better way," state-run Xinhua quoted Xi as saying. "[We] must persistently use the latest achievements of the Sinicisation of Marxism to equip our minds, consolidate our hearts and soul." The address came less than three weeks ahead of the party's 19th National Congress, which will see Xi's political theories added to the party charter. Sources have told the South China Morning Post that Xi's name will be incorporated as well, meaning he will be elevated to the same status as former paramount leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. The speech is the latest sign that Xi will be accorded this status after just five years in power. In the Communist Party lexicon, the theoretical legacies of former leaders are all celebrated as the "latest achievements of the Sinicisation of Marxism". Party theoreticians and Marxist scholars have been applauding Xi's thoughts on governance as such achievements since early last year. At the gathering, Xi also called for deeper understanding of contemporary capitalism, including its structural problems. "These views help us to correctly understand the development and fate of capitalism, and accurately grasp the new changes and characteristics of contemporary capitalism," he said. ^ top ^

All delegates to 19th CPC national congress elected (China Daily)
2017-09-29
A total of 2,287 delegates have been elected to attend the upcoming 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), according to an official statement released Friday. The 19th CPC National Congress will be held in Beijing starting Oct 18. The delegates, who were elected from across the country when local CPC committees held their congresses this year, will need to pass a qualification check to get final approval to attend the national congress, according to the statement. The delegates were elected in accordance with the Party constitution and CPC Central Committee requirements, the statement said, adding that the process adhered to the Party leadership combined with democracy. The delegates are composed of outstanding CPC members who are highly-qualified ideologically and politically, have good work and life styles, are competent in discussing state affairs, and have made remarkable achievements in their work, said the statement. "The structure of the delegates has met the proportion requirements of the CPC Central Committee, and CPC members are well represented," the statement said. The delegates include not only Party leaders, but also CPC members from frontline production and manufacturing, minority ethnic groups, female members, and those from various sectors including the economy, science and technology, national defense, politics and the judicial sector, education, publicity, culture, health care, sports and social management, it said. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Lessons in history show how the truth hurts (SCMP)
2017-10-06
It's in the nature of great countries and empires to do horrible things. So if we deny our own cultural and racial heritage on the basis that our forefathers, or even grandfathers and fathers, had done unspeakable deeds, we would end up having no nationality to speak of. I recently watched "the 10 most evil empires in history" on YouTube. There are the obligatory Imperial Japan, the Ottomans, Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia and the Mongols. The French and the Belgians also made the list. Surprisingly, the No 1 spot was reserved for the British Empire, which according to the clip spanned 1783 to 1997, the last date presumably being the handover of Hong Kong as its last significant colony back to China. It's not my purpose here to debate which empires are the worst in history. But what interests me is that, by and large, none of those peoples deny their nationalities. Many Mongolians and Turks are rather proud of their glorious past. Some Japanese and Germans may be ashamed of their imperial legacies, but few would deny they are Japanese or German. As for the Brits and French, many still think they brought civilisation to the rest of the world, never mind those hundreds of millions dead. This brings me to Hong Kong, and all those people who say they are not Chinese. Yes, Mao Zedong and his communist friends did horrible things. The past 200 years of our history is not something to write home about. Still, I am Chinese and so are you. You may have the additional identity of being a Hong Kong person, but that doesn't negate your being Chinese. When you go overseas, people will ask and then identify you as Chinese, even if you deny it. Here's an interesting online comment made by an Englishman: "re: 'I am not Chinese syndrome in HK'. As a Brit, please allow me to say this: Hey HKers, please do not put our Union Jack on your flag, you are not part of us. We have nothing to do with you and we don't want you. If you can betray your own country China you sure can betray Britain 1 fine day. Please go away. Thank you. "These misfits are not getting any sympathy from the majority of people but contempt for their lack of self-respect and low self-esteem... misguided, ignorant, unthinking..."Sorry, but the truth hurts! ^ top ^

Pro-Beijing lawmakers move to end filibustering in Legco's Finance Committee (SCMP)
2017-10-06
The days of using long-winded debates to block Hong Kong government funding requests could soon be over as the Legislative Council's pro-establishment camp is close to finalising a plan to restrict filibustering in its finance committee. The delaying tactic has been used often by pan-democrats to block proposals, but sources have told the Post that the government's allies in Legco will present their plan to stop filibustering "very soon". The finance committee will hold its first meeting after the summer recess on Friday. Incumbent chairman Chan Kin-por and vice-chairman Michael Tien Puk-sun are expected to keep their posts. Chan, who had floated proposals for restricting filibustering in July, confirmed to the Post that four of his suggestions had drawn consensus from the pro-Beijing camp. The first places a limit on non-binding motions proposed by each lawmaker on an agenda item to one. The motions grind proceedings to a halt because each one can elicit a vote, plus a debate if passed. The second measure bans lawmakers from requesting meeting adjournments. Under the current rules, they are allowed to request both an adjournment and the discussion of an item. Each lawmaker can speak once for up to three minutes to debate whether the meeting should proceed. Thirdly, any unruly lawmakers who are dismissed by the chairman can no longer return to the meeting room on the same day. They will be free to enter in the next session of the meeting. Finally, the pro-establishment camp wants to ban debates over motions to shorten the duration of the voting bell, which currently lasts for five minutes. Changes to procedures of the finance committee require a simple majority, meaning the pro-establishment camp could change the rules even if the pan-democratic camp had not lost six lawmakers who were disqualified for improper oath-taking. However, previous attempts failed because of enormous opposition. In October of 2012, veteran Beijing loyalist Ip Kwok-him's motion to limit the number of non-binding motions drew more than one million amendments from the pan-democrats. The heavy workload of scrutinising the amendments paralysed the secretariat operations, forcing Ip to retract his motion. Yet, Chan was confident that changes could be made this time, saying the camp would table the proposals "very soon" and get them passed in the near future. "It is no longer what it used to be," Chan said, adding he could just rule them out if the pan-democrats tabled a million amendments. He said his past rulings had paved ways to reject any "trivial" amendments, without having to be scrutinised one by one by the secretariat. Chan said the proposals would be discussed in a special committee meeting so as to avoid filibustering by the pan-democrats in the regular meetings on Fridays. Charles Mok, a pan-democrat legislator, criticised the pro-establishment camp as "unreasonable and unethical" for taking the advantage of their plight, saying the loss of six lawmakers had reduced their ability to challenge their political rivals. "Their move would not help [Chief Executive] Carrie Lam in mending rifts, and would worsen the relationship between the executive and legislative branches," Mok said, warning that they might be forced to "get tough" against the government if their monitoring power in Legco was endangered. The pro-government camp is also pressing rule changes for full council meetings, which require support from both geographical and functional constituencies. It wants the quorum requirement – not less than half of all members – to be applied only partly instead of throughout council meetings, so as to minimise the chances for pan-democrats to filibuster by using quorum calls. But the camp does not expect such changes to be made before March, when two seats are expected to return to the opposition side in the by-elections, given the long list of important bills that need to be handled first. ^ top ^

Unite and seize opportunities, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says in National Day speech (SCMP)
2017-10-01
Hong Kong's leader said on Sunday the city could continue to contribute to mainland China as long as it stayed united, just hours before thousands of residents took to the streets to oppose the central and local governments' "authoritarian rule". The remarks by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on the 68th anniversary of the People's Republic of China came at the start of the city's National Day celebrations on Sunday, marked by a flag-raising ceremony in the morning and a firework display over Victoria Harbour in the evening. But while some enjoyed the celebrations, thousands of others vented their anger over the imprisonment of prominent activists, including Joshua Wong Chi-fung, for their roles in unlawful protests in 2014, as well as the disqualification of pro-democracy lawmakers over their oath-taking antics last year. Protesters demanded the justice secretary step down for what they claimed was his role in eroding the city's rule of law. In her first National Day speech since taking office in July, Lam did not echo recent warnings by central government officials against calls for Hong Kong independence. Instead, the chief executive claimed the city had benefited and taken part in national reform and progress over the past two decades as a special administrative region of China. She recalled visiting Beijing as a student leader in 1979, and how she was impressed with the country's advances since then. Lam was addressing more than 3,000 officials and dignitaries from the city, the mainland and foreign countries at a cocktail reception in the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai, to celebrate the 68th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. Lam and Beijing officials had earlier criticised activists for advocating Hong Kong's separation from China, after pro-independence banners and posters on university campuses in the city last month surfaced and triggered a heated row. But in her seven-minute speech on Sunday morning, Lam did not mention the saga, choosing instead to invoke the words of President Xi Jinping used during his visit to Hong Kong in July. "President Xi Jinping visited Hong Kong to join us in celebrating the 20th birthday of the Hong Kong SAR … [he] stated clearly that Hong Kong has always had, and will continue to have the strong backing of our motherland," she said. Lam also cited the president's remarks that China's prosperity would not only help Hong Kong in overcoming challenges, but would also provide opportunities for the city "to seek new impetus as well as an expanded scope for such development". "During the past three months... I have been deeply impressed by the strength bestowed upon us by our country and the immense opportunities," Lam added. She said that on her overseas visits to countries such as Britain and Singapore, she saw great interests in China's trade strategy, the "Belt and Road Initiative", while in meetings with mainland officials, she had observed that they recognised and valued Hong Kong's advantages. "As long as we capitalise on our strengths, stay focused, seize the opportunities before us and stand united, I am sure that Hong Kong can reach even greater heights. "I also believe that this 'Pearl of the Orient' of our country will continue to shine, contributing to the development of our country and becoming an even better place to live in," Lam concluded. In an interview with state-owned agency China News Service, former chief executive Leung Chun-ying, who was also at Sunday's event, said Hong Kong would continue to contribute to China and benefit from its development, claiming it was the country's most internationalised and open city. In his first interview since stepping down as chief executive on June 30, Leung also said that as a director of two non-profit-making companies named after Beijing's belt and road plan and the "Greater Bay Area" project, he hoped to foster deeper exchanges between Hong Kong, mainland China and southeast and central Asian countries. Leung is now a vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, China's top political advisory body. Before the cocktail reception, Lam was among 2,400 officials and guests who attended a special flag-raising ceremony at the Golden Bauhinia Square outside the convention centre. Other guests included former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li, Beijing's liaison office chief Wang Zhimin, Executive Council members, the city's lawmakers and Lam's husband, Lam Siu-por. But former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, who was convicted of misconduct in public office in February this year, did not attend. On Tuesday, Tsang pleaded not guilty to another count of accepting an advantage in his position from January 2010 and June 2012. The trial is expected to last 25 days. A group of protesters from the political groups League of Social Democrats and Demosisto marched to the Golden Bauhinia Square to protest against the local "autocracy's political prosecution", which they said had led to the jailing of prominent activists such as Occupy leader Joshua Wong Chi-fung. The League of Social Democrats called for the release of mainland activists and Liu Xia, widow of the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. She is under house arrest. In a statement, Demosisto said its protests were met with revulsion by some in the public. It added that a few protesters had been injured as they were expelled by security guards at the event site. ^ top ^

 

Macau

Macau journalists are concerned about press freedom and access to official information, survey shows (SCMP)
2017-09-29
A pioneering study has revealed significant levels of concern about press freedom and access to official information among journalists in Macau working in Portuguese and English-language media. The head of the journalists' group that carried out the study last year called for greater cooperation with fellow professionals in Chinese-language media, citing information suggesting this larger group faces "a tougher environment, more challenges, restraints and pressure" in carrying out their work. The first report of its kind, compiled by the Macau Portuguese and English Press Association, distilled the results of a detailed survey of 44 working journalists in the world's richest gaming destination. Three quarters of those surveyed said they had experienced a degree of "political, economical, social, cultural or institutional restraint" while working. Titled "A depiction of the freedom of the press and access to sources of information for working journalists in Macau's Portuguese and English speaking media outlets", the report also highlighted significant restrictions on access to information in the judicial and executive branches of administration in the former Portuguese enclave. Respondents pointed to a number of flaws and inadequacies within the government spokesperson system, characterising the culture as one of "opacity, which poses a number of obstacles for journalists to perform their priceless social role". In a statement accompanying the report, José Carlos Matias, president of the association's board of directors, referred to "some disturbing incidents" that took place after the survey was completed. The survey was conducted between July and November last year. "Most notable, externally, were decisions by the local authorities to deny entry to Hong Kong journalists who were coming to Macau to cover the aftermath of Typhoon Hato and the recent legislative elections," he said. "These decisions have become a commonplace and signal a worrying trend, which hinders the free movement and deals a blow to freedom of the press of our colleagues from Hong Kong." Matias described the survey as a first step towards a wider depiction of freedom of the press and access to information in Macau. He said it would be followed by a refined approach to better assess internal and external constraints, such as self-censorship. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Pro-China activists jailed for damaging Japanese-era statues in Taiwan (SCMP)
2017-10-06
A Taiwan court has jailed four pro-China activists for vandalising a pair of stone komainu or lion-dog statues dating back to the Japanese colonial period. The Shilin District Court sentenced Lee Cheng-lung and his female accomplice, Chiu Chin-wen, to five months in prison, and two others to four months' imprisonment. They have the right to appeal to a higher court. Lee and Chiu, both members of the China Unification Promotion Party, were initially arrested on the spot on the evening of May 28 for smashing the century-old stone statues, located at the entrance to the Yixian Elementary School in Taipei's Beitou district, with hammers. The vandalism left the statues partially missing their front legs. The pair broadcast their assault live over Facebook, during which Chiu called the statues "garbage left by imperial Japan" and said it was inappropriate for them to be outside the school. Angered by a court's decision to keep Lee and Chiu in detention, Wang Chi-bin and Lu Chen-yuan, also members of the same party, went to the junior school two days later and inflicted further damage to the statues with a wooden stick. Due to the statues' historical significance, the school's principal decided to press charges. Resembling statues that typically stand guard at the entrance of a shrine, the komainu statues, standing on both sides of the school entrance, have long been cherished for protecting the pupils' safety. Earlier in June, Lee and Chiu were indicted for decapitating a bronze statue of a Japanese civil engineer Yoichi Hatta at a park in Tainan. The pair, who confessed to the vandalism during questioning, told police that they cut off the head because they did not agree with the historic treatment of Hatta. Hatta, who was stationed in Taiwan from 1910 to 1942, during which time he oversaw the construction of key civil engineering projects, is widely lauded for his contribution to Taiwan's development. The vandalism happened in the early morning hours of April 15, only three weeks before an annual service to commemorate Hatta was to be held at the park, which was commissioned in 2011 to honour his contributions to Taiwan. ^ top ^

No reason for Singapore to cut military ties with Taiwan, sources say (SCMP)
2017-10-05
Singapore has no reason to end its military training programme with Taiwan even though the city state has strengthened military ties with Beijing, sources and observers say. The city state will step up defence cooperation with China, but it is not in Singapore's interest to give up its military ties with Taiwan because of pressure from Beijing, they said. Project Starlight was set up in 1975 in a deal between Singapore's late prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and Taiwan's then premier Chiang Ching-kuo. Given the city state's limited land and airspace, the two sides agreed to allow its armed forces to train in Taiwan. The project has been under close scrutiny from Beijing, especially after Taiwan's pro-independence President Tsai Ing-wen took office. In November, Beijing demanded Singapore respect its one-China policy and end military ties with Taiwan after nine armoured troop carriers were intercepted in Hong Kong for not having an import licence. The vehicles were en route to Singapore from the Taiwanese port of Kaohsiung after being used in a military exercise under Project Starlight. The project is likely to be suspended, the South China Morning Post has reported, citing sources close to the Chinese military, after Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong visited China in early September. But Taiwan's Foreign Minister David Lee said on Monday that the self-ruled island had been assured by the city state that the military agreement would remain in place. A diplomatic source said it was not in Singapore's interest to succumb to pressure from Beijing. Singapore has already said it respected the one-China policy, the source said, and it expected Beijing to respect its sovereign right to conduct military training wherever it deemed appropriate. Nicholas Fang, executive director of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said although military ties between Singapore and Beijing were growing, it was not a zero-sum game. "It's not something that, to be my friend, you must be the enemy of other countries," Fang said. "I think we will definitely explore and enhance military training collaboration with China. But as far as the Singapore government is concerned, I think there won't be any change in terms of its current training relationship with Taiwan." During Lee Hsien Loong's visit to China, Beijing and Singapore reaffirmed a commitment to boost military cooperation, which included staging more military drills. Simon Tay, chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said Singapore was using Taiwan's facilities to train its troops, but Project Starlight should not be seen as a joint exercise. "Singapore wishes to say that we are permanent friends, if we really are friends," he said. "I think our strategy must be to remain possible friends with everybody. Of course, different kinds of friends. So with China I am glad to see we are going to train together." ^ top ^

Taiwanese warned over taking up political posts on mainland China (SCMP)
2017-10-05
Taipei's cross-strait affairs agency has warned that any Taiwanese nationals serving in official, military and political posts on mainland China would be subject to penalties under the island's law. Chiu Chui-cheng, vice-chairman of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, made the remarks in a statement on Thursday after a Taiwan-born professor was named as a delegate to the Communist Party's upcoming national congress. But anyone who gave up their Taiwanese nationality to become a mainland citizen would not be in breach of the law if they took up such a post, Chiu said. Lu Li-an, 49, deputy dean of Fudan University's College of Foreign Languages and Literature in Shanghai, courted controversy when she was elected as one of 2,287 delegates to attend the party congress that begins on October 18. Her role as a delegate was revealed by Economic Daily News on Wednesday, leading critics to accuse the government of turning a blind eye to the case. The report cited sources from the Shanghai Taiwan Compatriots Friendship Association – of which Lu is president – as saying that Lu was one of 10 Taiwanese delegates to the party congress. But there was intense media interest in Lu because she was the only one of the 10 to have been born and educated in Taiwan – the others were either born on the mainland or they are second-generation Taiwanese based there. Chiu said Lu would not be subject to any penalties since she no longer held Taiwanese nationality. "Our understanding is that Ms Lu was born and studied in Taiwan... After she went abroad for further studies, she and her husband pursued their careers on the mainland and later acquired mainland nationality," Chiu said. He added that Lu had served in mainland government and political posts for many years and had applied using mainland status to visit Taiwan for exchange activities in the past few years. "We respect her choice regarding her nationality," Chiu said, confirming she had not broken the rules. Taiwanese can be fined up to NT$500,000 (US$16,400) for doing so. Those who have held government, security and military roles in Taiwan are also restricted from visiting the mainland for up to five years after leaving those posts. Lu, who was born in Kaohsiung, studied English literature at National Chengchi University in Taipei before she moved to the United Kingdom in 1990, earning a doctorate in English literature at the University of Glasgow. While there, she met her husband – who was born on the mainland but is ethnic Taiwanese – and the pair moved to Shanghai in 1997. She has since been an academic at Fudan University, and politically active – becoming an executive member of the Shanghai Women's League and a member of the city's Political Bureau in 2003, posts she continues to hold. ^ top ^

 

Economy

German ambassador warns China to stop denying European firms access to its markets (SCMP)
2017-10-06
Germany's ambassador to China has urged Beijing to push for greater progress on market reforms, warning that a lack of reciprocity in access between China and the European Union would be unsustainable. Michael Clauss, who represents Europe's biggest manufacturing economy, also called into question the sustainability of China's economic model, saying too much Communist Party control would hinder China's push to upgrade its manufacturing sector. "We have heard a lot of promises, but apparently not much has been achieved in terms of actual implementation of reforms," Clauss told the South China Morning Post. China's ruling party is set to hold a twice-in-a-decade congress later this month during which an announcement will be made on a new leadership line-up as well as the policy direction for President Xi Jinping's second term in office. The European Union Chamber of Commerce in China – which has said its companies have been "suffering from accumulated promise fatigue" from the Chinese authorities – is one of the foreign business groups urging Xi to follow up his anti-protectionism speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January with action by opening up the country's market to foreign businesses and relaxing restrictive government policies. Chinese buyouts of Europe's critical and hi-tech businesses have become one of the most contentious issues among the bloc, in particular in Germany, France and Italy. In Berlin, the takeover of German robot maker Kuka by China's biggest home appliance maker Midea Group has stirred controversy amid fears that the country's key technologies will fall into foreign hands, while China protects its own companies against offshore takeovers. Last month, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker floated the proposal of screening foreign investments to avoid takeovers in Europe's strategic sectors. "Germany and the EU as a whole are in favour of free trade and we are completely open to foreign investments, including from China," Clauss said. "However, there is little reciprocity on the Chinese side. There is now a growing debate in Europe about whether this lack of reciprocity is sustainable. "No one expects full reciprocity overnight, but we would like to see China starting to move in this direction." While it would take time for the bloc to make a final decision on what to do, Clauss said "improvement on market access by the Chinese government was likely to influence this debate". Relations between Beijing and Brussels have become closer in the wake of US President Donald Trump's criticism of Nato, his open support for Brexit, and his decision to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement. "China-EU relations have become more important recently," Clauss said. "We share common interests, particularly on global issues such as combating climate change, support for a strong United Nations and a free global trade system based on WTO rules." But Clauss, who has been Germany's ambassador to China since 2013, also expressed doubts about China's attempt to portray itself as the new champion for globalisation through its "Belt and Road Initiative". "We welcome the Belt and Road Initiative, because it strengthens globalisation. But it is globalisation with Chinese characteristics, meaning it's a sino-centric project. We want to participate in developing this project on an equal basis." He also said China's reluctance to open up and its efforts to divide the European Union could prevent the two sides forming a closer partnership. "For this trend to continue China will need to open up further. Lack of progress regarding market access or increasing restrictions in cyberspace have caused some doubts in this regard." Clauss said China had been able to maintain its economic success despite its tight control over state firms, private companies and markets, but it would need to make a much bigger push in opening up its economy as it moved to upgrade its manufacturing sector. "China was picking the low-hanging fruits. But the difficulty will start now as it moves higher up the ladder into innovation and hi-tech industry," he said. The German diplomat said China's economic success would increasingly depend on innovative technologies and business models as it pushed its "Made in China 2025" strategy to boost manufacturing and home-grown products. "In light of this, many observers believe that the current balance between state and market forces leans too much towards the state and the party," he said. "According to the German experience an open and rules-based economic system is a prerequisite for economic success." The Communist Party has moved to strengthen its presence in business in recent months. Foreign companies have faced "political pressure" to revise the terms of their joint ventures with state-owned partners to allow the party final say over business operations and investment decisions, Reuters reported. Party units are also being set up in private companies, and articles of association in state-owned enterprises' Hong Kong-listed units altered to include explicitly the role of the party in management decisions, according to a report in the Financial Times. Echoing German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel's call for China to follow a "one-Europe" policy, Clauss said "we expect China not to interfere with the decision-making process of the EU through individual member states". China has tried to draw smaller European nations into its orbit by forming the "16+1" platform created in 2012 for Beijing to discuss economic and political issues with the 16 states in Central and Eastern Europe, including both EU and non-EU states. Such tactics have proven to be a success for Beijing. In June, Greece blocked an EU statement at the United Nations criticising China's human rights record. Last year, opposition from countries like Hungary and Greece prevented the EU from issuing a statement that directly criticised Beijing's activities in the South China Sea after it lost a landmark case over a territorial dispute in an international court. ^ top ^

World Bank raises East Asia growth forecasts, sees geopolitical risks (SCMP)
2017-10-04
The World Bank raised its economic growth forecasts for developing East Asia and the Pacific for this year and 2018, but added the generally positive outlook was clouded by risks such as rising trade protectionism and geopolitical tensions. The Washington-based lender now expects the developing East Asia and Pacific region, which includes China, to grow 6.4 per cent in 2017 and 6.2 per cent in 2018. Its previous forecast in April was for 6.2 per cent growth in 2017 and 6.1 per cent growth in 2018. Excluding developed economies such as Japan and South Korea, the higher rate is led by China, whose growth projection was revised up 0.2 point to 6.7 per cent, the bank said in its latest East Asia and Pacific Economic Update. "The economic outlook for the region remains positive and will benefit from an improved external environment as well as strong domestic demand," the World Bank said in the report released on Wednesday. The outlook, however, faces risks from rising trade protectionism and economic nationalism, which could dampen global trade, as well as the possible escalation of geopolitical tensions in the region, the bank said. Increasingly hostile statements by US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in recent weeks have raised fears of a miscalculation that could lead to war, particularly since Pyongyang conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on September 3. "Because of the region's central role in global shipping and manufacturing supply chains, escalation of these tensions could disrupt global trade flows and economic activity," the World Bank said. That could be accompanied by financial market volatility that would likely hamper economic growth in the region, and there could also be a "flight to safety" that spurs capital outflows, the bank said. The World Bank said it now expects China's economy to grow 6.7 per cent in 2017 and 6.4 per cent in 2018. Its previous forecasts were for China to grow 6.5 per cent in 2017 and 6.3 per cent next year. China's economic growth is projected to moderate in 2018-19 as the economy rebalances away from investment and external demand towards domestic consumption, the bank said. The World Bank cut growth forecasts for several countries in Southeast Asia including Myanmar and the Philippines, while raising forecasts for Malaysia and Thailand. "Businesses in Myanmar appear to have delayed investments as they wait for the government's economic agenda to become clearer," the bank said. It cut Myanmar's growth forecasts by 0.5 percentage points for both 2017 and 2018, to 6.4 per cent and 6.7 per cent, respectively. "These projections do not factor in any longer term impact of the ongoing insecurity in Rakhine state, which if it persists could have significant adverse effects by slowing foreign investment." More than half a million Rohingya have fled from a Myanmar military crackdown in Rakhine state launched in late August that has been denounced by the UN as "a textbook example of ethnic cleansing". In the Philippines, a delay in a planned government infrastructure programme has softened the economic growth prospects, the World Bank said. It added that Malaysia's growth is gaining a lift from higher investment and a recovery in global trade, while Thailand's growth forecasts have been revised higher due to a stronger recovery in exports and tourism. ^ top ^

EU targets China with tough rules on cheap imports (SCMP)
2017-10-04
The EU reached a landmark agreement on Monday on tough new rules against cheap imports in a move that risks embittering already tense relations with Beijing. The European Commission, EU national governments and members of the European Parliament had been in talks since July on new rules to calculate import duties and curb unfair trading practices, especially from China. "Europe stands for open and fair trade, but we are not naive free traders. Today we strengthened our anti-dumping rules," European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said. Juncker insisted that the measure was "not about any country in particular", and "simply about making sure that we have the means to take action against unfair competition". But the EU has been under intense pressure from major industries in Europe to keep strong trade defence measures due to China's public subsidies and excess production, especially in steel and other metals. "We believe that the changes agreed today to the legislation strengthen the EU's trade defence instruments and will ensure that our European industry will be well equipped to deal with the unfair competition they face from dumped and subsidised imports," EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said after talks ended in the eastern French city of Strasbourg. The new measures are intended to offset the consequences of granting China market economy status at the Word Trade Organisation that will make it more difficult to prove illegal trade practices by Beijing. The topic is so sensitive that China shocked the EU at a summit in June by refusing to endorse a joint statement on climate change out of dissatisfaction on the status issue. When China joined the World Trade Organisation in 2001, it was written into the terms of the deal that member states could treat it as a non-market economy for 15 years. Under this regime, the EU and other WTO powers retained powers to unilaterally establish fast and tough anti-dumping rules without infringing WTO rules. The deadline passed late last year, but the European Union intended to grant the new status once these new rules were in place. Beijing has said previously that the refusal to grant China market economy status is an example of "covert protectionism" and "double standards" by the West. ^ top ^

 

DPRK

'Calm before the storm': Trump meets generals and stokes war fears over North Korea, Iran (SCMP)
2017-10-05
After discussing Iran and North Korea with US military leaders on Thursday, US President Donald Trump posed for a photo with them before dinner and declared the moment "the calm before the storm." "You guys know what this represents?" Trump said after journalists gathered in the White House state dining room to photograph him and first lady Melania Trump with the uniformed military leaders and their spouses. "Maybe it's the calm before the storm," he said. What storm? "You'll find out," Trump told questioning reporters. The White House did not immediately reply to a request to clarify Trump's remark. Earlier in the evening, while seated with the top defence officials in the cabinet room, Trump talked about the threat from North Korea and preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. "In North Korea, our goal is denuclearisation," he said. "We cannot allow this dictatorship to threaten our nation or our allies with unimaginable loss of life. We will do what we must do to prevent that from happening. And it will be done, if necessary, believe me." During his speech to the United Nations General Assembly last month, Trump said the United States would "totally destroy" North Korea if needed to defend itself or US allies. The president on Thursday also had tough words for Iran, saying the country had not lived up to the spirit of an agreement forged with world powers to curb its nuclear programme. A senior administration official said on Thursday that Trump was expected to announce soon he would decertify the landmark agreement. Trump has filled top posts within his administration with military generals, including his chief of staff, retired General John Kelly, and national security adviser, Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster. McMaster, who normally dresses in civilian clothes at the White House, wore his uniform for the meeting. Without being specific, Trump pressed the leaders to be faster at providing him with "military options" when needed. "Moving forward, I also expect you to provide me with a broad range of military options, when needed, at a much faster pace. I know that government bureaucracy is slow, but I am depending on you to overcome the obstacles of bureaucracy," he said during their cabinet room meeting. ^ top ^

China, Russia conclude naval exercises following North Korea nuclear test (SCMP)
2017-10-05
China's navy returned to its military port after charting previously unfamiliar waters in the second stage of its annual joint naval drills with Russia. The naval exercises, which took place not far from Russia's border with North Korea, followed Pyongyang's sixth and largest nuclear test on September 3 that came despite tougher international sanctions and calls for the hermit nation to halt its nuclear programme. They also took place days after the US conducted bombing drills with South Korea over the Korean peninsula that were intended as a show of force against the North's nuclear and missile tests. The exercises also symbolise the two countries' growing maritime cooperation. The Chinese fleet returned to Qingdao on Tuesday morning after sailing around 4,900 nautical miles to conduct week-long exercises with the Russians in the Sea of Japan and the Sea of Okhotsk, according to a Wednesday report in the PLA Daily, the Chinese military's official mouthpiece. Their exercises involved coastal drills near Vladivostok between September 18 and 21, then sea exercises that from September 22 to 26, the Russian defence ministry said. The exercises marked the first time the Chinese navy conducted a drill in unfamiliar waters in the Sea of Okhotsk, north of the Japanese island of Hokkaido. It also saw the two fleets conduct complex submarine exercises and anti-submarine drills for the first time. Other drills included cooperative rescues of hijacked ships and ships in distress, as well as air defence exercises. The Chinese vessels taking part in the exercises included the missile destroyer Shijiazhuang, a missile frigate, an integrated supply ship, a submarine rescue vessel, as well as shipborne helicopters and submersible rescue vehicles, the PLA Navy said. This was the eighth joint exercise between China and Russia, which have conducted annual naval drills since 2012. It further consolidates the development of the two nation's strategic partnerships, while "deepening the friendly and pragmatic cooperation between their forces and enhancing the ability of the two navies to cope with maritime security threats," the PLA Daily reported. While state media argued that the exercises were "unrelated to the regional situation" the joint drills took place amid increasingly fraught tensions over the Korean peninsula. The latest exercise not only allowed China to train in unfamiliar waters, analysts said it also shows China's naval prowess and growing cooperation with Moscow. "There's a need for the PLA Navy to show off its fighting capabilities in case there is a military conflict in the area," Beijing-based military analyst Li Jie told the South China Morning Post last month. ^ top ^

US, North Korea balk at using back channels to discuss a halt to Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme (SCMP)
2017-10-05
The US and North Korea have three direct back-channels to talk about American prisoners and broad bilateral relations, but have not used them for formal negotiations on Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme, analysts say. The channels include Pyongyang's representative at the United Nations in New York, informal dialogue between US civilian experts and North Korean diplomats in a third country, and the Swedish embassy's representing the US's interests in Pyongyang. Douglas Paal, vice-president for studies at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, said in an email to the South China Morning Post that the three channels have not been used for formal US-North Korea bilateral talks because "the North is not quite far enough in its weaponisation to believe it has enough leverage to force concessions from the US". "The US believes its new sanctions need to bite before the North will yield," Paal said. "But the moment is coming faster than most estimate will be needed for the sides to realise they need to talk seriously." There are no formal diplomatic relations between the two countries. After two self-claimed successful intercontinental ballistic missile tests and the sixth nuclear test in July and September, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho told world leaders at the UN summit on September 23 in New York that his nation is "finally only a few steps away from the final gate of completion of the state nuclear force". Although US State Secretary Rex Tillerson acknowledged that the US has its own direct channels of communication with North Korea during a visit to Beijing last Saturday, he did not describe the channels in detail. "We have a couple, three channels open to Pyongyang. We can talk to them. We do talk to them," Tillerson said, adding that the US is "probing" whether North Korea wants to negotiate or complete its nuclear weapon programme first. "We ask [North Korea], 'Would you like to talk?'" Tillerson said. "We have lines of communication to Pyongyang. We're not in a dark situation, a blackout." Paal said he had been approached by North Korean intermediaries to arrange talks between North Korean officials and US experts with Republican ties in a neutral location such as Switzerland but declined the request. "The North is not yet serious about talks, so there was no point in me getting on a plane for hours to hear what I can hear in Washington," Paal told the Post. "There is a point in North Korean diplomats getting out and shopping, touring, etcetera." Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, told the Post in an email that the parties have "no need for extra help to build communication channels". "The problem is that North Korea doesn't want to talk about denuclearisation, which is what the Trump administration wants to discuss," Glaser said. "Pyongyang essentially wants to be recognised as a nuclear weapons state. There is a large gap between the two sides." Tillerson mentioned the first channel, the so-called "New York channel" through North Korea's delegation at United Nations headquarters, on September 20 in New York during the UN summit. Since Trump took office in January, the US and North Korea began using the New York channel primarily to discuss the issue of American prisoners held in North Korea. The US's North Korea envoy, Joseph Yun, met North Korea's diplomat at the UN, Pak Song-il, in late July in New York for a closed-door discussion, AP and The Washington Post reported. Glaser said the New York channel is "always available" if the North Koreans want to contact US officials. The second channel – known as "Track 1.5" diplomacy – having US civilian experts who represent the US government and North Korean officials hold informal talks in a third country – has been used in the recent past. Suzanne DiMaggio, a civilian nuclear expert at the Washington-based New America Foundation, helped establish an unofficial channel with North Korea last year. In early May, DiMaggio met Choe Son-hui, the head of the North Korean foreign ministry's North America bureau in Oslo, Norway. Following the informal talks with DiMaggio, Choe Son-hui told reporters in Beijing that Pyongyang was open to dialogue with the US under the "right conditions". "If conditions are met, we will hold dialogue (with Washington)," Choe was quoted as saying. The third channel – allowing the Swedish government to represent the US in Pyongyang – lets the US potentially negotiate via one of the seven European Union countries with embassies in the reclusive state. Sweden has represented the US's interests in North Korea, for instance, "in the American prisoners case," Paal said, referring to Swedish diplomats in Pyongyang having consular access to US prisoners held in North Korea. Sweden provides consular protection for US citizens in North Korea, according to the website of the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang. Kim Eng Tan, a senior director of sovereign ratings at S&P Global Ratings, played down the impact direct negotiations between US and North Korea might have on resolving tensions. "They want to have their nuclear weapons capability without constraints on their trading activity," Tan told reporters in New York. "For as long as they cannot achieve this goal, it will be to their advantage to raise tensions. I don't think they want a war more than others, but they sure are going to put pressure on the US to try to achieve their goal." Experts including Su Mi Terry, who served as a senior North Korea analyst in the CIA under former President George W. Bush, have said Trump's habit of demeaning North Korean leader Kim Jong-un by calling him "Little Rocket Man" has strengthened what was already Kim's strong resolve to follow through with his nuclear weapons programme. "You see Kim Jong-un's statement which came out after Trump made his UN speech," Terry said. "I've never seen anything like that, where he says he takes it personally, writing in the first person on the front page of Rodong Shimbun (an official North Korean government newspaper) and putting his name to it. "There's no way Kim Jong-un is going to back down from that," Terry said. "If he was going to back down he would not have made it so personal." Terry was referring to Kim's response to a threat Trump made in his speech to the UN General Assembly last month to "totally destroy" North Korea. Kim said in his response carried by state media: "I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged US dotard with fire." ^ top ^

China calls for calm over North Korea as US flexes military muscle and clock ticks down to key congress (SCMP)
2017-10-02
The United States is preparing to flex its military muscle while China has called for restraint over the crisis on the Korean peninsula, just two weeks out from a key political meeting in Beijing. The biggest American aircraft carrier based in Asia, the USS Ronald Reagan, powered into Hong Kong waters on Monday, a day after US President Donald Trump tweeted that his top diplomat was "wasting his time" trying to talk to Pyongyang. Trump's missive took direct aim at US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's commitment in Beijing on Saturday that the US would keep channels open for dialogue with North Korea. Trump tells Tillerson he's wasting his time negotiating with North Korea's 'Little Rocket Man'( The US president's comment appeared to narrow the prospects for talks, a point that could be underlined later this week when the US supercarrier Ronald Reagan is expected to head to waters off the Korean peninsula for joint exercises with the South Korean navy. South Korean media reports said the warship would take part in the drills in the middle of this month. Rear Admiral Marc Dalton, the aircraft carrier's strike group commander, said only that the vessels would conduct "scheduled operational training" with a "partner in the region". But with preparations under way for a changing of the leadership line-up at the Communist Party's five-yearly national congress this month, Beijing has continued to call on all parties to exercise restraint. "We hope all parties remain restrained and avoid provocations, and prevent confrontation and tension from rising," the foreign ministry said in a statement on Monday. It also said it had given permission for the carrier's port call in Hong Kong, despite the "highly sensitive nature of the current situation on the Korean peninsula". Analysts said the unresolved tensions on the peninsula had made the central leadership "nervous". Zhang Tuosheng, director of the Centre for Foreign Policy Studies at the China Foundation for International and Strategic Studies, said Beijing wanted the congress to go smoothly but there was little it could do to ensure the crisis did not detract from the gathering. "Beijing wants the congress to be successful. [It is] an important meeting that will lay the groundwork for China's future development. But what Beijing can do now [in terms of North Korea] is very limited, unless the US and South Korea stop joint naval exercises," Zhang said. "North Korea is gradually approaching the threshold of becoming a nuclear country. Nobody can be sure that it won't test a hydrogen bomb again when Beijing holds the party congress. What Beijing can do now is call on all parties involved to exercise restraint." Nevertheless, analysts said military exchanges between China and the US appeared to warming, with Dalton saying he would visit the People's Liberation Army's Hong Kong garrison during his stopover. The last US aircraft carrier to visit the city was the USS George Washington in 2014 – Beijing rejected a request for the USS John C Stennis to stop in Hong Kong in April last year as the South China Sea became a flashpoint between the two countries. Liang Yunxiang, an international relations specialist from Peking University, said the warship's visit this week was a sign that China and the US had established some trust. "In this sense, the two countries might have reached a tacit agreement not to intensify the already tense situation on the Korean peninsula," Liang said. He said Beijing was worried that Pyongyang would try to "make trouble" by launching a missile during the party congress, given Pyongyang slapped Beijing in the face with a test as China hosted an international summit in Xiamen last month. Liang said Beijing believed "the problem now is not the US, but North Korea". Dalton also took aim at the missile tests, saying the North's two launches over Japan and last month's nuclear test had made his strike group "feel tremendous responsibility to defend the US and its allies in the region". ^ top ^

As UN sanctions bite, North Korean workers leave Chinese border hub (SCMP)
2017-10-02
North Korean workers have begun to leave the Chinese border city of Dandong, after the latest round of sanctions seeking to restrict Pyongyang's ability to earn foreign currency income, local businesses and traders say. Almost 100,000 overseas workers, based mostly in China and Russia, funnel some US$500 million in wages a year to help finance the North Korean regime, the US government says. Dandong, a city of 800,000 along the Yalu River, which defines the border with North Korea, is home to many restaurants and hotels that hire North Korean waitresses and musicians. Their colourful song and dance performances are a tourist attraction. Thousands of workers, most of them women, are also employed by Chinese-owned garment and electronics factories in Dandong, with a significant share of their wages going straight to the North Korean state. The Wing Cafe used to advertise its "beautiful North Korean" waitresses on its shopfront by the Yalu. The sign is now gone, and cafe staff said the waitresses had returned home in recent weeks after their visas expired. "There have been changes in government policy," the manager of another restaurant said. "It's not convenient to say more." Videos circulating on Chinese social media appear to show hundreds of North Korean women waiting in line to clear immigration at Dandong's border gate. A group of around 50 North Korean women were waiting to cross the border on Friday morning. Four traders, who deal in goods ranging from iron ore and seafood to ginseng and alcohol, said the sanctions had all but crippled the usual trade. More stringent customs checks and patrols by Chinese border police had also made it harder to smuggle goods across the border, according to the traders. "The impact has been huge. Dandong's economy has always counted on border trade," one Chinese trader said. In response to Pyongyang's sixth and biggest nuclear test last month, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution on September 11 prohibiting the use of North Korean workers, strengthening an August 5 resolution that put a cap on the number of workers allowed overseas. Successive rounds of UN trade sanctions have now banned 90 per cent of Pyongyang's US$2.7 billion of publicly reported exports. The September 11 sanctions also ordered the closure of all joint business ventures with North Korea and added textiles to a list of banned exports, which already included coal, iron ore and seafood. In a statement on Thursday, China's Ministry of Commerce ordered the implementation of the new sanctions across the country within 120 days. The sanctions allow workers to serve out existing contracts. Businesspeople in Dandong, through which most of trade between the two countries flows, said contracts could not be renewed and new visas were not being approved. A Chinese supervisor at a factory making electronic wiring for cars said that while most of its 300 North Korean workers were on multiyear contracts expiring at different times, those who arrived in Dandong after August 5 had already been forced to leave. He did not say how many. The sanctions have come as a rude jolt to Dandong businesses and traders who had long rolled with North Korea's unpredictability but believed their neighbour's economic reliance on China would keep its belligerence in check. Dandong is one of the larger cities in Liaoning province, whose rust-belt economy has struggled under national campaigns to curb industrial overcapacity and ease pollution. Liaoning was China's worst performer in the first half of this year, registering GDP growth of 2.1 per cent, compared with the national rate of 6.9 per cent, according to official statistics. "The economy hasn't been doing well here for the past two years," one trader said. "This is making a bad situation worse." ^ top ^

Russian firm appears to be offering new internet connection to North Korea (SCMP)
2017-10-02
Russian telecommunications firm TransTeleCom appears to have begun providing a new internet connection to North Korea, supplementing an already existing link from China, 38 North reported. The new connection appeared in internet routing databases on Sunday, according to the report. "The addition of Russian transit would create new internet path out of the country, increasing its resilience and international bandwidth capacity," said Doug Madory, who analyses global internet connectivity at Dyn Research. The US Cyber Command has been carrying out denial of service attacks against hackers from North Korea which was due to end on Saturday, The Washington Post reported earlier. TransTeleCom could not be immediately reached to comment on the report. The 38 North website is a project of the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Prime Minister U.Khurelsukh meets IMF Representative (Montsame)
2017-10-05
Prime Minister U.Khurelsukh said Thursday that his Cabinet will ensure continuity of achievements of the previous Cabinet, including the Extended Fund Facility of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The Prime Minister met Neil Saker, IMF Resident Representative to Mongolia, to hand over to him a formal letter addressed to Christine Lagarde, IMF Managing Director. U.Khurelsukh informed that the ruling Mongolian People's Party (MPP) will form a new Cabinet, the structure of which will not be altered this time. "The economic situation of Mongolia is better off than it was in 2016 when the previous Cabinet was established. We have seen an economic growth, with the inflation rate being a one-digit number," said the Prime Minister, acknowledging the role of the IMF in the positive outcome. For his part, Saker congratulated the Prime Minister on his appointment as the new PM of Mongolia and pointed out the IMF program will not only stabilize the Mongolian economy, but also will open the door for a concrete growth. It was the first meeting of U.Khurelsukh after assuming the office of Prime Minister. ^ top ^

Prime Minister U.Khurelsukh receives state seal (Montsame)
2017-10-04
The newly appointed Prime Minister Mr U.Khurelsukh received the State Seal from his predecessor Mr J.Erdenebat on October 4. Erdenebat Jargaltulga, 29th Prime Minister of Mongolia, congratulated his successor and wished success in his term. Prime Minister U.Khurelsukh pledged to ensure continuity of the achievements of the previous Cabinet, acknowledging its efforts put into recovering the economy. The 30th Prime Minister of Mongolia U.Khurelsukh was born in 1968 in Ulaanbaatar. Following his graduation from the 2nd school in 1985, U.Khurelsukh pursued to political science, legal science and public administration at the University of Defense (graduated in 1989), the Institute of State Administration and Management Development (graduated in 1994) and the National University of Mongolia (graduated in 2000).
Professional background:
1989-1990 Political officer in the 152nd military unit
1991-1994 Political official in the Central Committee of the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP)
1994-1996 Advisor in the MPRP working group in Parliament
1996-1997 Director of 'Development of Young People' center of the MPRP
1997-1999 President of Social Democratic Youth Union
1999-2000 Social Policy Advisor in the MPRP working group in Parliament
2000-2005 President of Social Democratic Youth Union
2000-2007 Member of the MPRP Administrative Board
2000-2008 Member of Parliament
2004-2006 Member of Cabinet and Minister for Emergency Situation
2006-2008 Member of Cabinet and Minister of Specialized Inspection
2007 President of Mongolian Left Wing Federation
2008-2012 Secretary-General of Mongolian People's Party (MPP)
2012-2013 Member of Parliament
2014-2015 Deputy Prime Minister
2016-2017 Deputy Prime Minister. ^ top ^

U.Khurelsukh becomes 30th Prime Minister of Mongolia (Montsame)
2017-10-04
A plenary meeting of the State Great Khural appointed Khurelsukh Ukhnaa as the 30th Prime Minister of Mongolia on Wednesday. The appointment of the new PM was included in priority agenda of the plenary session. During the discussion, questions and stances were put forward by MPs S.Erdene, D.Terbishdagva, O.Baasankhuu, O.Batnasan, Z.Narantuya, D.Erdenebat, J.Batzandan, Kh.Nyambaatar, D.Khayankhyarvaa, D.Battumur, Ch.Ulaan, S.Javkhlan and Ya.Sanjmyatav. After the approval, Prime Minister-designate U.Khurelsukh expressed his position with several statements. "Mongolia is still suffering from economic difficulties. The repayment of several bonds including Chinggis Bond will start next year. Otherwise, the economic situation will deteriorate further," U.Khurelsukh said. "We mainly focused on the mining sector last years. But it is wrong attitude. We must develop a multi-pillared economy, and in order to do so, we should advance the land farming and animal husbandry. If the economic situation allows, I will not scant money from teachers, physicians and children," he said. "Dubai Agreement should be inspected. This matter should be resolved in compliance with Mongolian laws and regulations. The Tavan Tolgoi project should be moved forward as well," he said. Following the question and answer session, the Parliament voted up the appointment by 100 percent. 47 MPs are attending the Wednesday plenary session. ^ top ^

 

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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