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
  16-20.10.17, No. 692  
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Foreign Policy

Trump in Asia next month: the Darth Vader of trade or just a bull stepping into a China shop? (SCMP)
2017-10-20
In the midst of his 210-minute speech to the National People's Congress on Wednesday, China's President Xi Jinping declared forthrightly: "The Chinese nation now stands tall and firm in the east." The triumphalist statement could be tailor-made as a warning to Donald Trump, who arrives in a week or so for his first Asia tour carrying heavy armour to fight his mission to destroy decades of work on multilateral and regional trade deals and convert the world to bilateralism designed to transform the US's US$500bn trade deficit. Around the Da Nang APEC leaders meeting in early November, he will be visiting five key Asian economies, but nowhere will the fight be clearer than when he drops in on Beijing. From the balmy gardens of Mar-a-Lago in April, Xi and Trump will meet in a miserable wintry chill – the contrast in weather no doubt reflecting the change in mood. Trump's Art of the Deal will come face to face with the Sun Zi's Art of War. We will see how tall and firm China stands in the east. While we still fall short of full-scale trade war, the Trump administration has by now fought so many skirmishes that for most trading partners the warnings are clear and consistent. As Financial Times columnist Ed Luce wrote on Thursday: "Anyone who thinks (Trump) has dropped his vow to rip up the global trading system has not been paying attention." Luce was talking specifically about the wreckage beginning to build around Mexico and Canada's efforts to renegotiate a North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) deal with the US. But he could have been talking about the US abandonment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), threats to unravel the US's trade agreement with Korea, or efforts in Geneva to "kill the WTO from within" by crippling its critically important Dispute Settlement body. For someone like me who believes passionately in the net gains that have come to us all from the past six decades of trade and investment liberalisation, the one source of comfort has been the concerted effort worldwide of trade policymakers to stand firm – and against the US – in their efforts to defend and continue to build on free and open trade and investment. Most prominently, there is mounting evidence that the Da Nang meeting will see the formal signing of a "TPP11" as all of the original signatories except the US gather to endorse what many regard as one of the world's most significant trade liberalising agreements. If the signing occurs while Trump is in town, the slap in the face will be clear. Putting "American First" has left America alone, with APEC's other 20 members pulling together in unison. As Trump flies out on his Asian crusade, he leaves behind a lot of broken crockery around the fractious "renegotiation" of Nafta. Hopes of completing the negotiation by the end of the year have now formally been abandoned. At the end of the fourth round of talks last week, Mexico's foreign minister was clipped: "We have important differences. Are these differences impossible to resolve? We don't know." Canada and Mexico have discovered that US "reform" proposals are in fact poison pills that would destroy Nafta, and set appalling precedents for trade deals elsewhere. First, the US wants a "sunset clause" under which Nafta would terminate after five years unless it were specifically renegotiated. This would quite obviously destroy the ability of all businesses to make long term plans within Nafta. As Luce commented in the FT: "It is like putting a recurring expiry date on a marriage contract. Divorce becomes inevitable." Second, the US wants Nafta's rules of origin – which currently insist that 63 per cent of the value of a car must originate from within Nafta – to be lifted to 85 per cent. Put on one side the reality that such origin rules are a discriminatory and protectionist cancer at the heart of any "free trade" deal, lifting local content rules on such a scale would inflict massive disruption on production chains that have cost billions of dollars to build. Third, the US wants to scrap the Nafta dispute settlement mechanism (even though the US has never so far lost a case submitted to the dispute settlement body), instead letting local courts settle cross-border trade disputes. Trump wants to ensure that no pesky foreign judges can frustrate US efforts to decide on the rights and wrongs of a trade dispute. Given his own controversial corporate history in complying with contracts, foreign trade officials cannot be faulted for preferring Nafta's independent judicial process. Perhaps the most sinister of all of the Trump administration's assaults on the global trading system is the decision to block the appointment of new judges to the World Trade Organisation Dispute settlement body. This body is supposed to have seven judges, but after retirements is now down to five, and by the end of the year will be down to four. It has warned that it will soon be unable to function properly without new judges to replace retirees. The US block is apparently to exert leverage to undermine a process that is seen by most WTO members as one of its most pivotal successes, because in US eyes it rules too often against US companies, and against important aspects of US trade law. The irony here is that the US is by far the biggest user of the WTO dispute settlement process, accounting for almost 20 per cent of the 520 cases brought since 1995. The EU's trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, said last week that the impasse could lead to a breakdown of a system that is central to managing disagreements among the world's trading nations. The question being asked as Trump climbs onto a plane into Asia is whether he is truly preferring bilateral to multilaterals, or whether he is simply bent on destroying a system of trading rules that have helped to integrate the world's economies, drive economic growth, lift people out of poverty, and create tens of millions of jobs. Is this the "Darth Vader" of trade? Or just a bull stepping into a China shop? Either way, he seems bent on inflicting considerable harm in the interests of "America First". ^ top ^

China's reform will lead to sustainable growth: Putin (China Daily)
2017-10-20
Russian President Vladimir Putin Thursday called the ongoing 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Beijing "unprecedentedly open" and said Russia has "great cooperation plans" with China. "We are very closely following the CPC congress, which is unprecedentedly open. We see difficulties as well as possibilities," he said at a meeting of the Russian think tank Valdai Discussion Club here. Putin called China a major propeller of the global economy. Although China's GDP expansion slightly slowed to 6.8 percent in the third quarter of 2017, he believes the ongoing structural reform will lead to sustainable growth. "We have great cooperation plans with China in the areas of space, high-tech and energy. These are the bases for the future development of Russia-China relations," Putin said. The Russian president said he and Xi call each other friends publicly as "this corresponds to the level of our personal relationship," while they defend the interests of their own country. "On each issue we are always able to find a consensus and come to an agreement, which turns out to be beneficial to both countries. We are moving forward, instead of going round," Putin said. ^ top ^

US-India relations could cool down as quickly as they heated up: experts (Global Times)
2017-10-19
The US-India "honeymoon" will not last long, said Chinese experts on Thursday, commenting on reports that the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had said that the US will "dramatically deepen" cooperation with India. The only reason Washington sees New Delhi as a key partner for now is because it is weaker than China and easy to manipulate, said Chinese experts. Tillerson made the remark on Wednesday that the US "will not shrink from China's challenges to the rules-based order and where China subverts the sovereignty of neighboring countries and disadvantages the US and our friends," at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a US think tank in Washington DC, a week prior to a scheduled visit to India, Reuters reported on Thursday. "India and the US should be in the business of equipping other countries to defend their sovereignty, build greater connectivity, and have a louder voice in a regional architecture that promotes their interests and develops their economies," Tillerson added. Although the US State Department claims that the US-India relationship is in response to "negative Chinese influence in Asia," Washington understands that this expression is more political rather than practical, said Hu Zhiyong, a fellow researcher at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of International Relations told Global Times on Thursday. Hu added that "India's lack of efficiency, its corruption problems, and undeveloped military will affect the extent to which the US and India cooperate." In a related note, at least half a million protesters brought Mumbai, India's financial capital, to a standstill on August 9 as they pressed demands for reserved places in the government job quota and college placement amid a slumping rural economy, according to Reuters. Zhang Jiadong, associate professor at Fudan University's Center for American Studies, told the Global Times that India had suddenly become appealing to the US because it felt impossible to overlook the fact that China is getting stronger, so it is seeking an alliance with the relatively weaker India who also sees China as a strong competitor in the region. "The US is surely aware of the fact that Sino-US relations outweigh US-India relations. Tillerson's way of speaking was just to comfort India before Trump's scheduled visit to China in November," said Jiang Jingkui, director of Peking University's South Asian Languages Department. "US policy making in South Asia is centered on Afghanistan, with the focus more on regional stability rather than simply containing China. For that reason, to effectively safeguard Afghan stability, the US still needs China's assistance," Hu noted. "We are pleased to see the US and India or any other countries developing normal and friendly relations between each other, as long as the development is advantageous for regional peace and stability, and enhancing mutual trust of one another," Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang said during a regular press briefing on Thursday. ^ top ^

Panama lifts visa limits for Chinese visitors (SCMP)
2017-10-18
Panama's government will send an immigration and security delegation to China, the country's president said on Tuesday, as part of the lifting of visa restrictions for Chinese visitors. Mainland visitors to Panama will now need an electronic visa stamped in a consulate instead of a restricted visa obtained through a lawyer to visit the country, part of measures the government hopes will promote tourism and investment. The security and migration delegation would travel to China for the opening of the Panamanian consulate, though no date had been set, said President Juan Carlos Varela. In June, Panama established diplomatic ties with Beijing, breaking with self-ruled Taipei in a major victory for Beijing, the second most important customer of its key shipping canal. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said the island would not bow to pressure from the mainland, referring to Beijing's suspension of cross-strait talks and exchanges, and luring away two of its allies – Sao Tome and Principe, and Panama – to force her to accept the "1992 consensus" and its "one China" principle. But she said the old path of confrontation was over and vowed to maintain her commitment to the cross-strait status quo in a carefully worded National Day address last week that avoided provoking Beijing ahead of its Communist Party congress this week. Beijing, which considers Taiwan a wayward province subject to eventual union, by force if necessary, has insisted that Tsai – who took power from the Kuomintang to become the island's president in May last year – accept the consensus, which it sees as the political foundation for cross-strait relations. The consensus is an understanding reached in 1992 to allow the two sides to continue talks as long as they agree that there is only one China, though each can have its own meaning of what that stands for. Tsai's refusal to acknowledge the consensus has been a sticking point since she took office. ^ top ^

China tells Abe to reflect on past aggression after Yasukuni visit (Global Times)
2017-10-17
China on Tuesday told Japan to squarely face and reflect on its past aggression, following Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ritual offering to the notorious Yasukuni Shrine. Abe sent a masakaki tree as an offering to the shrine on Tuesday, which was the date of its annual autumn festival. Abe will reportedly refrain from visiting the shrine in person during the festival. "China's stance on the Yasukuni Shrine issue is clear and consistent," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said at a regular news briefing."China has demanded Japan properly handle the issue and gain trust from its Asian neighbors and the international community through concrete action." South Korea on Tuesday also expressed its worry about Abe's ritual offering to the notorious war-linked Yasukuni Shrine. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Noh Kyu-duk told a press briefing that an irresponsible Japanese politician sent an offering once again to the Yasukuni Shrine beautifying the history of an aggressive war. China has repeatedly expressed opposition to Japanese leaders making offerings while visiting the shrine. The shrine honors 14 Class-A convicted war criminals among 2.5 million Japanese dead from World War II and is regarded as a symbol of Japan's past militarism. Visits and ritual offerings made by proxy to the infamous shrine by Japanese leaders and officials have consistently sparked strong criticism and hurt the feelings of China and South Korea and other countries brutalized by Japan during the Pacific War. Noh urged the Japanese government to show its humble introspection and self-reflection with sincere actions based on a right perception of history. Abe last visited the controversial shrine in December 2013, when his visit enraged China and South Korea and saw a strong backlash from the US, which said it was disappointed with Abe's decision. ^ top ^

Why Trump's threat to withdraw from Iran nuclear deal is a concern for China (SCMP)
2017-10-17
China is calling on the United States to preserve the Iran nuclear deal reached in 2015, after US President Donald Trump slapped new sanctions on the nation while threatening to tear up the agreement. In a speech on Friday, Trump refused to certify the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, accusing Tehran of committing "multiple violations" of the deal despite international inspectors saying it had complied with it. The president's actions threaten the accord to ease sanctions on Iran, which was negotiated by the US, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom to curb Tehran's nuclear ambitions. That could further destabilise the economic and security situation in Iran, which has close links with China. The two countries have economic, trade and energy ties, with China relying on oil imports from Iran while Tehran looks to China for investment, particularly stemming from its sprawling belt and road trade and infrastructure plan. Here are some of China's main economic links to Iran. Bilateral trade: China has become Iran's top trading partner thanks to sizeable oil and gas exports. China imported 3.34 million tonnes of oil from Iran in August – the highest monthly level since 2006. During a trip to Iran after the 2015 nuclear deal was signed, Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed in a wide-ranging, 25-year plan to increase bilateral trade with Iran by over tenfold to US$600 billion in the next decade. Iran is a major food importer, while oil is its top export. "The China-Iran friendship... has stood the test of the vicissitudes of the international landscape," Xi was quoted as saying at the time. Energy projects: Chinese companies have financed major energy projects in Iran, including developing huge oil fields in Yadavaran and North Azadegan. In July, state-owned China National Petroleum Corp took a 30 per cent stake in a project to develop South Pars in Iran – the largest natural gas field in the world. Beijing also inked a US$3 billion deal to help upgrade Iran's oil refineries in January. That includes a contract between China Petroleum and Chemical Corp, or Sinopec, and the National Iranian Oil Co to expand Iran's major Abadan oil refinery, which is more than a century old. Belt and road projects: Located at a pivotal point on China's "Belt and Road Initiative", Iran has become a major part of the expansive infrastructure investment plan. One key project is a US$2.56 billion high-speed railway from Tehran to the eastern city of Mashhad, with China providing a US$1.6 billion loan to fund the electrification of the 926km line. That was the first foreign-backed project in Iran after the 2015 nuclear deal was signed. Export-Import Bank of China said it had financed some 26 projects in Iran, providing around US$8.5 billion in loans. Chinese companies have been involved in highway building, mining and producing steel in the nation. And China Export and Credit Insurance Corp, or Sinosure, also signed a memorandum of understanding with Iran in May to help Chinese companies invest in Iranian projects ^ top ^

France urges China and EU to unite to protect Paris climate deal (SCMP)
2017-10-16
China and the European Union should set aside differences on trade and strengthen cooperation on climate change to "act as a shield" to protect the landmark Paris climate accord, France's environment minister said. In an interview with the South China Morning Post, French Minister for Ecological and Inclusive Transition Nicolas Hulot also urged China to step up its efforts towards a greener economy and take a lead role alongside France to implement the international climate accord reached in the French capital two years ago and now under threat from the US' withdrawal. "It is China and the EU that have taken the leadership role on climate issues and they have to continue to play the leadership role in the implementation of the Paris Agreement … And if they coordinate they will be able to cover much larger areas," he said during a brief trip to Hong Kong on Monday. Hulot, a well-known French environmental campaigner, was appointed in May by French President Emmanuel Macron to the post overseeing climate and energy policy. His remarks come amid growing doubts over repeated pledges by Chinese and EU leaders that the Paris climate pact is irreversible despite US President Donald Trump's decision to pull the US, the world's second-largest carbon emitter, out of the deal. The EU and China failed to agree an official climate statement during a bilateral summit in June over a long-standing trade spat, underlining their tense relationship and casting a shadow over their commitments to fighting global warming together in the absence of the US. Hulot played down the strains between China and the EU and said: "It is the paradox of climate change because it is a constraint for the world but it is an opportunity as well because we have to act together. We are going to either win together or lose together. "We will have to make sure questions regarding climate will come first and the differences [on other strategically important issues] should not hinder our efforts to discuss and cooperate on climate change." He said China, the world's top carbon polluter, should do more and move faster to cut its reliance on dirty coal and set a good example for the rest of the world to follow. "China should continue to do what it's been doing in terms of energy efficiency, renewable energy, a circular economy. It's important for China to be even firmer and bolder on climate change together with the EU" in the wake of the US withdrawal, he said. Hulot, who helped Macron map out an ambitious climate plan, said trade tensions between the EU and China had not affected ties between France and China, and climate was "a definite link" between the two countries despite differences on other economic and security issues. Strengthening climate cooperation in terms of diplomacy, the economy, finance and technology transfer would be high on Macron's agenda when he made his first trip to China in January, he said. France and China held their first senior official dialogue on the low-carbon economy in June and companies from both countries were teaming up on various projects related to energy efficiency, sustainable cities, the shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy, carbon markets and green financing, Hulot said. "In a world where we often have differences, I've seen since the Paris Agreement the sort of closeness and proximity between France and China and how we helped each other on climate issues and our climate cooperation has reinforced dialogues in other aspects," he said. "We will reinforce the coalition with those countries that have the most ambition over climate change, such as China, which is one of our main partners on climate. Nothing will prevent France and China continuing to work even further." The minister said the US' retreat from the Paris deal was not a catastrophe even though it dealt a heavy blow to the global effort on climate change and had caused difficulties for poor countries most vulnerable to global warming. In response to comments by senior White House officials who said the US might reconsider its stance on the Paris agreement if other countries agreed to accommodate Washington's concerns over economic costs and energy security, Hulot said the Paris deal was not renegotiable. He said it was not useful to confront Trump on climate change after Macron had done everything possible to change Trump's mind but to no avail. "We should instead work with some US states, such as California, a lot of American cities and a large part of the economic community, which will largely compensate for the withdrawal of Trump," he said. France will host a climate summit in December and Hulot said he hoped this would be a big step China and France could work on. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Why China's Xi Jinping is unlikely to anoint a successor (SCMP)
2017-10-20
The man once tipped to become President Xi Jinping's successor, Guangdong party boss Hu Chunhua, is likely to become a vice-premier in March but his prospects of inclusion in the Communist Party's top echelon of power, the Politburo Standing Committee, are fading, sources have told the South China Morning Post. Meanwhile, Chongqing party boss Chen Miner, another rising star who is widely seen as the president's protégé, is expected to win promotion to the 25-member Politburo but will probably not make it into the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, sources familiar with top-level party discussions said. Hu is already a Politburo member while Chen is now a Central Committee member -- one rank lower in the party hierarchy. The Politburo Standing Committee sits on top, making it the highest decision-making body in Chinese politics. If Hu, 54, and Chen, 57, do not win promotion to the Politburo Standing Committee next week, after the party's national congress concludes on Tuesday, it would contain no putative heir in the position to take over from Xi after he completes his second five-year term as party general secretary in 2022. Another contender, 54-year-old former Chongqing party chief Sun Zhengcai, suffered a spectacular fall from grace this year. He was expelled from the party last month and is now facing criminal prosecution for corruption. Such arrangements, if confirmed, will inevitably add to speculation that Xi plans to carry on beyond his second term. But sources said it was premature to draw such a conclusion. Rather, they said, it reflected Xi's dissatisfaction with the party's present power transition mechanism. While it provides some certainty and stability, it also has some problems. Leadership transitions in China have historically been a difficult and risky process. Mao Zedong changed his chosen successor three times, with the first two dying in controversial circumstances. Deng Xiaoping, after pushing aside Mao's last pick, Hua Guofeng, ditched two of his own protégés before endorsing a third, Jiang Zemin. Only in 2002 did the party leadership transition begin to have any resemblance to an institutionalised process. That year Jiang stepped down for Hu Jintao, Xi's predecessor. Hu Jintao had been a Politburo Standing Committee member for 10 years by then, having been elevated to that position by Deng in 1992 as Jiang's "designated successor". Even then, Jiang only vacated the powerful chairmanship of the Central Military Commission two years later. In 2012, Hu handed over all his party positions to Xi, who had been promoted to the Politburo Standing Committee in 2007 and became vice-president the following year. Xi publicly praised Hu's "high ethics" for making a clean break possible. Sources said that while the practice of a having a "designated successor" waiting in the wings could give a sense of stability, it also put premature pressure on that person. Both Xi and Hu Jintao had to play the role of a cautious heir-apparent for years, taking care not to reveal too much of themselves or upstage their seniors. "It also makes the heir-apparent an easy target," one source said. "Other factions could set up traps to undermine him. People looking for advancement would seek to curry favour with him." There was a risk a strong candidate could end up competing with the incumbent leader for influence. A weak heir-apparent, on the other hand, would create openings that would encourage factional rivalry and jockeying for power. "Sun Zhengcai's case, and the timing of its revelation, is a strong indication that Xi wants to break away from the designated successor system and reform it," the source said. While details of Xi's plan were not immediately clear, the general idea was to eventually choose a successor from several possible candidates in a bigger pool, based on their performance. "Xi is in no hurry to settle on the issue for now," the source said. "His priority and focus is how to make use of his second term to achieve his goals. A lot of things can happen in five years." The party's 19th national congress opened on Wednesday and will close on Tuesday. The new party Central Committee it elects will have its first plenum meeting the following day and officially produce the new line-up for the Politburo and the Politburo Standing Committee – thus completing the party's leadership reshuffle. The party leaders will then discuss and decide on personnel changes at the state level at the Central Committee's second plenum in the spring, just ahead of the annual meeting of the National People's Congress in March, which will formally endorse the proposed changes. Both Hu Chunhua and Chen are most likely to be in the 25-member Politburo when the new list is unveiled next Wednesday, but would have to wait until March to have their new government posts confirmed. Hu Chunhua, who has been the party chief of Inner Mongolia and Guangdong, has already garnered rich experience at the provincial level, preparing him for the vice-premier role. Chen has been praised for his work on poverty alleviation and innovation in his previous post of Guizhou party chief. He was transferred to Chongqing in July to steady the boat after Sun's shock removal – a move seen by political pundits as a show of leadership confidence in Chen. ^ top ^

Premier: Embrace new Thought (China Daily)
2017-10-20
Premier Li Keqiang pledged in a panel discussion on Thursday to fully put into practice the spirit of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China and Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. Li, also a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the 18th CPC Central Committee, took part in the discussion among the delegation of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. He vowed to strongly adhere to the CPC Central Committee, with General Secretary Xi as its core, and safeguard its unified leadership. The report Xi delivered to the congress summarized the achievements and experiences over the past five years, setting guidance on securing a decisive victory in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and striving for the great success of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, Li said. The report is also a political declaration and action plan to direct the Party and people of all ethnic groups to move forward the socialism with Chinese characteristics to a new era, he said. "Historic achievements made in the opening-up and reform, as well as socialist modernization since the 18th CPC National Congress, fundamentally stemmed from the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Xi as its core," Li said, adding that the Central Committee has promoted historic transformation in the courses of the Party and the country. Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, the latest achievement for the Sinicization of Marxism, is a crucial part of socialism theories and a guiding thought that the Party should uphold for a long term, Li added. Li called for taking development as the basis and key to solve problems in the country, adhering to new concepts of development, deepening the supply-side structural reform and continuously promoting opening-up and reform. He called to further transform the government's functions and stimulate market vitality and social creativity. He said more entities should be encouraged to start up businesses and promote innovation while more jobs, higher-quality education and medical care should be provided. Also on Thursday, another Standing Committee member, Wang Qishan, joined discussions in the delegation from Hunan province. Wang said the Party can achieve one victory after another because it has always integrated basic principles of Marxism with the essence of Chinese traditional culture and local conditions. He called on the delegates to wholeheartedly learn the new era thought and align it with their own work. Another member, Zhang Gaoli, pledged his support for the new era thought in discussions of the Shaanxi delegation on Thursday. Members Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng and Liu Yunshan also pledged their support when they joined panel discussions in their own delegations on Wednesday. ^ top ^

Senior CPC leaders urge implementation of Xi's thought (Xinhua)
2017-10-20
Senior Communist Party of China (CPC) leaders Thursday called for efforts to fully comprehend and implement Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. "The Thought represents the latest achievement in adapting Marxism to the Chinese context, and is an important component of the system of theories of socialism with Chinese characteristics," said Li Keqiang when joining a panel discussion at the 19th CPC National Congress, which opened Wednesday. Li said that Xi's "new era" thought is a long-term guide to action that the Party must adhere to, which must be fully understood and carried out so as to comprehensively implement the spirit of the congress. When joining another panel discussion, Wang Qishan called for attentive study and grasp of Xi's "new era" thought, and faithful implementation of the strategic goals set at the congress. Xi's "new era" thought must be studied, understood and put into practice in a steadfast manner in order to break new grounds in the great cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era, Zhang Gaoli said while joining a separate panel discussion. Li, Wang and Zhang are all members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee. The Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era builds on and further enriches Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the Theory of Three Represents, and the Scientific Outlook on Development, according to a report delivered by Xi to the 19th CPC National Congress on Wednesday. The report listed 14-point fundamental principles of the Thought, ranging from ensuring Party leadership over all work to promoting the building of a community with a shared future for mankind. ^ top ^

'Thrilling' report from 'saviour of socialism': cadres gather to heap praise on Xi Jinping (SCMP)
2017-10-19
During the first two days of the party congress, various delegations have held discussions about Xi Jinping's work report. The panels, some of them open to non-mainland media, are important occasions for politicians to publicly demonstrate their unflinching loyalty to General Secretary Xi and to heap praise on the powerful leader. Xi summed up his accomplishments and unveiled his own political philosophy – "socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era" – in a 3½-hour speech at the opening session of the congress on Wednesday. The report was followed by a wave of enthusiasm and flattery. Here is how some of the most prominent politicians reacted to Xi's speech. Beijing party chief Cai Qi, a close associate of Xi, offered extravagant praise for the president during a closed-door discussion by the delegation from the capital. "General Secretary Xi Jinping has the great plans, forward-looking vision, and firm beliefs of a Marxist politician, philosopher, theoretician and strategist," Cai said. Cai described Xi's "socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era" as the third historic leap forward in China's application of Marxist-Leninism, after Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping Theory. Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong, who worked under Xi when they were both officials in Zhejiang province, said Xi's leadership is the "fundamental factor" behind China's recent achievements. Ying added that the points made in Xi's report were "scientific, accurate and perfectly consistent with reality". General Xu Qiliang, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, meanwhile said the party congress was a historic event that marked the country's march into a new era. Party secretary of the eastern province of Jiangsu, Li Qiang, said he felt "warmth and affection" for Xi's report after giving it a careful read. Shanghai party chief Han Zheng, who could be about to enter China's power apex – the Politburo Standing Committee – said the "thrilling" report had set the direction for China's rejuvenation. Li Hongzhong, party boss of Tianjin and a front runner in the race to enter the decision-making Politburo, said Xi's report was "magnificent, visionary and a pioneer of the era". "It's a political manifesto by the party to remember its original goals and march on with historical responsibility," Li said. "It's a glorious chapter of Marxism." Chen Miner, a rising star who became the party chief of Chongqing in July, praised Xi by name several times in his seven-minute speech at the municipality's panel on Thursday. Seen as an ally of Xi, Chen is one of China's most closely watched rising political stars. "The more I study General Secretary Xi's report, the deeper I feel his thoughts are," Chen said in the discussion, which was open to the media. "The more I discuss it, the more abundant I feel its content is." Liu Shiyu, chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, said Xi had saved socialism by bringing down high-ranking officials who intended to "usurp the party leadership and seize state power". He also described Xi as a saviour of the Communist Party. "The central leadership of the party with General Secretary Xi Jinping as the core has saved the party, saved the military and saved the country over the past five years – and in the world, saved socialism," Liu said. But Guangdong party boss Hu Chunhua – once tipped to take a leadership role alongside disgraced Chongqing chief Sun Zhengcai – was more restrained. Hu also praised Xi's report at a closed session on Wednesday. But in a session that was open to the media on Thursday, he was more low-profile than other prominent politicians – he did not make any opening remarks, only answering two questions from reporters in a question-and-answer session. ^ top ^

A kinder, gentler new anti-corruption system for China? (SCMP)
2017-10-19
Chinese graft-busters road testing a new anti-corruption procedure insisted on Thursday that the system would protect the rights of those under investigation even though they won't have access to a lawyer. In his work report to the Communist Party's national congress on Wednesday, President Xi Jinping said the party was abolishing its much-criticised secret interrogation practice known as shuanggui, and replacing it with a system called liuzhi, or "detention". Rights advocates said suspects subject to shuanggui had been tortured and forced into confessions, and they were unlikely to be treated any better under the new one if denied access to legal representation. But on the sidelines of the congress on Thursday, officials running pilot liuzhi programmes in Zhejiang and Shanxi provinces since March said corruption suspects were now fairly treated. Under shuanggui, party discipline inspectors have sweeping powers to interrogate suspects. However, Zhejiang anti-corruption chief Liu Jianchao said supervisory officials and police officers now took part in the process. "They watch each other to make sure no law or regulation is violated," Liu said. "The suspect will get to see a lawyer after the case is handed over to the judiciary." He also said liuzhi would be triggered only when subjects were suspected of criminal violations. Under shuanggui, officials can be interrogated for any discipline violations deemed serious, such as having extramarital affairs. Shanxi anti-corruption chief Ren Jianhua said the system was more effective because it pooled the resources of the party and prosecutors. Ren said that between April and September the number of people disciplined in Shanxi rose by 21.9 per cent year on year. The new system is also being tested in Beijing and is expected to be rolled out nationwide next year. It is part of a much bigger overhaul of the anti-corruption process that will begin with the introduction of an anti-graft law, possibly in March. The legislation will lay out rules for the liuzhi system and the network of supervisory commissions that will oversee its implementation. The commissions will be led by a National Supervisory Commission, a state agency administered by the same people running the party's graft-buster, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. But unlike the CCDI, which only investigates party members, the new institution will oversee all state employees, including judges, police officers and public school teachers. The new law is expected to impose a 90-day limit on interrogations, but critics say it fails to address the key problem of the existing system. Maya Wang, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, said that by denying access to family and lawyers during an investigation, the new system was unlikely to offer better protection to suspects. "We are afraid that liuzhi is only a legal version of shuanggui," Wang said. "The change is about strengthening the power to detain government officials, but little about eliminating the abuses of the old practice." The CCDI has disciplined more than 1.4 million cadres since Xi launched an anti-graft campaign in 2012, but critics claim that without checks and balances, the agency has simply been enforcing loyalty to Xi by bringing down his opponents. ^ top ^

'Coup plotters foiled': Xi Jinping fended off usurpers to 'save Communist Party' (SCMP)
2017-10-19
The head of China's securities watchdog has applauded President Xi Jinping for "saving the Communist Party" by foiling a coup plot by former political heavyweights. Addressing a panel on the sidelines of the party's national congress in Beijing on Thursday, Liu Shiyu, chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, accused a string of disgraced cadres of plotting to seize the reins of power. Among those named was the former party boss of megacity Chongqing, Sun Zhengcai, once a front runner for a place in the inner circle – the Politburo Standing Committee. "[Xi] addressed the cases of Bo Xilai, Zhou Yongkang, Ling Jihua, Xu Caihou, Guo Boxiong and Sun Zhengcai. They had high positions and great power in the party, but they were hugely corrupt and plotted to usurp the party's leadership and seize state power," Liu said, becoming the first senior official to accuse Sun of trying to take over the party. Xinhua said late last month that Sun had been expelled from the party and handed over to judicial authorities for further investigation. The announcement came two months after his downfall but no details of the investigation were released. Liu said Xi had taken great effort over the past five years to tackle corruption, which "seriously endangered the party's ruling foundation and ability to govern". "Xi Jinping, with the historical responsibility as a proletarian revolutionist... cleared up huge risks for the party and the country," he said. "The central leadership of the party with General Secretary Xi Jinping as the core saved the party, saved the military and saved the country over the past five years... He saved socialism." Wang Qishan, the country's top graft-buster and the man widely seen as the country's second most powerful man, reportedly told China's top political advisory body late last year that some cadres had tried to take over the party. "More seriously, some even sought to... seize party and state power, engaging in activities to split the party, and seriously threatening the nation's political stability," People's Daily quoted Wang as saying. The report came out on December 1 but the speech was dated October 31. Wang also said the central authorities managed to punish Zhou, Bo, Guo, Xu and Ling, so as to eradicate a number of conspirators and ambitious schemers within the party, the report said. As a former member of the Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou is the highest ranking official to have been convicted of corruption in the party's history. Bo, Guo, Xu and Ling were all former or serving party leaders. Xu died in 2015. ^ top ^

Xi Jinping's leadership reshuffle revealed: meet the pair poised to become two of China's most powerful men (SCMP)
2017-10-19
President Xi Jinping's trusted ally Li Zhanshu stands a good chance of becoming chairman of China's parliament while Communist Party organisation chief Zhao Leji is likely to head its corruption watchdog, sources have told the South China Morning Post. Li is widely expected to be elevated to the Politburo Standing Committee – the ruling party's top echelon of power – on Wednesday, a day after the party's 19th national congress closes in Beijing. Most observers had predicted he would succeed Wang Qishan as anti-corruption tsar. But two well-placed sources told the Post that Li would, instead, most likely head the National People's Congress (NPC) – theoretically the highest organ of state power in China – when current chairman Zhang Dejiang retires in March. Whether Li would also take over the Hong Kong and Macau affairs portfolio currently overseen by Zhang is not clear. "Li Zhanshu will succeed Zhang Dejiang," a source familiar with the situation said, adding that Zhao would also be promoted into the Politburo Standing Committee and was likely to succeed Wang Qishan in leading anti-corruption work. The moves were confirmed separately by another source. While they may come as a surprise to some, they reflect Xi's new policy direction for the next five years laid out in his maiden party congress speech on the opening day of the congress. The president stressed the need to tighten supervision of party members and institutionalise anti-corruption work. He also highlighted the need to improve "law-based governance" by improving "the Chinese socialist system of laws" – meaning the institutionalisation of the party's power through legislation. To achieve those goals, Xi plans to set up a central leading group "to exercise leadership over the [anti-graft] initiative". He also plans to introduce a national supervision law and set up a national supervisory commission. All those plans would heavily involve the NPC and the party's graft watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI). Having Li – director of the party Central Committee's General Office and effectively Xi's chief of staff – head the NPC would smooth the work, political analysts said. Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute at the University of London, said Li becoming China's top legislator would ensure "strong support for Xi" from the NPC in the next five years. "The NPC may not be a key pillar of power in the sense of the British House of Commons or the US Congress, but having it under a trusted subordinate means Xi is putting himself in a strong position to make [legislative] changes," he said. Tsang said Li had proved in the past that he could effectively carry out Xi's instructions. Chen Daoyin, a political scientist at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said Li's connection with Xi could also strengthen the power of the NPC. "Thanks to Xi's backing, Li could turn this role into something much more than a rubber stamp if he is made the NPC chairman," Chen said, adding that Li, 67, could be elevated to No 3 in the party hierarchy after his ascension. Li was one of the key officials who accompanied Xi to Hong Kong in July for celebrations marking the 20th anniversary of its return to Chinese sovereignty. Professor Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, said Xi had clearly spelled out political directions for Hong Kong during that visit. "Whoever takes over from Zhang Dejiang will only be an implementer," he said. "I believe Xi will continue to watch over Hong Kong affairs. But given the strong ties between Xi and Li, if Li takes charge of Hong Kong affairs, he will understand the president's thinking better [than others]." Promoting party personnel chief Zhao, at the relatively young age of 60, into the Politburo Standing Committee to lead the anti-graft effort would enable Xi to ensure the continuity of his anti-corruption campaign and speed up the institutionalisation of party supervision, a source said. "Given Zhao's age, he could end up serving two terms on the Politburo Standing Committee," he said. "His role in the party will rise. This will help to establish continuity and to deepen the anti-corruption work. His experience as the party's organisation chief will be valuable for the new job." The source said that as the new head of the CCDI, Zhao stood a good chance of being named head of the new national supervisory commission that is expected to be established early next year. Both Chen and Tsang agreed with that assessment and said they expected Zhao would lead the powerful new commission. Chen said Zhao could wield huge political power if he became the head of both the CCDI and the national supervisory commission. Tsang was more cautious and said Zhao still needed to prove himself to Xi. "Five years is an eternity in politics," Tsang said, "I doubt that Xi has already decided if Zhao will serve one term or two as head of disciplinary affairs. He will be judged on how well he can maintain party discipline and rally the rest of the party to support Xi." ^ top ^

China blocking bogus overseas phone numbers (Global Times)
2017-10-19
China's industry and technology regulator said that it would intercept any overseas phone calls using a number that is the same as one used by the public security and procuratorial offices, by the end of the year, to increase its efforts to combat telecommunication fraud. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) told the news website thepaper.cn on Wednesday that some wrongdoers had been copying the numbers of government organizations to carry out fraud over the phone, and to get tough on these illegal activities, it will come up with measures to block those phone numbers "to ensure people's privacy and security." The ministry has broadened its surveillance and interception system and has intercepted 116 million fraudulent overseas calls since it started in March, which protected 22,000 potential victims and saved up to 98 million yuan ($ 14.79 million) in possible losses. In addition to its surveillance and intercept activities, the ministry said that it used texts and other means to warn people about the scams and it has cooperated with other government bodies, including the Ministry of Public Security (MPS), in cracking down on telecommunications fraud and raising public awareness. "Intercepting overseas numbers does not present any real technical difficulties for the government since it only requires the establishment of a pool of applicable numbers," Xiang Ligang, CEO of cctime.com, a Chinese telecom portal, told the Global Times. The government has said it is giving priority to the telecom fraud crackdown and has done a great deal in that area, ever since the Xu Yuyu case, which shocked society in 2016, according to Xiang. Xu, who had been accepted by the Nanjing University of Posts and Telecommunications, was told by an anonymous person that she could get a (non-existent) scholarship if she would send 9,900 yuan, money she had set aside for tuition, to a third party. When she discovered the truth of the scam she suffered a cardiac and respiratory arrest and died in August 2016. In response, the MPS instituted a special action to fight against telecom fraud that same year, with more than 88,000 suspects being identified by last August, the Xinhua News Agency reported on September 3. ^ top ^

China to standardize elderly care services (Global Times)
2017-10-19
The Chinese government has released draft rules on elderly care institutions to standardize practices and services. The Ministry of Civil Affairs rules will be online for public consultation until Nov. 12. The draft requires nursing homes to provide telecommunications services, including but are not limited to telephone and the Internet. If residents have problems with telecommunications services, institutions should provide professional staff to help them. Staff should treat the elderly with politeness and patience, keeping the private information of residents and visitors confidential. The environment and facilities must be safe and protect resident privacy, the draft said. Outsourcing services should be commissioned to qualified organizations, and withdrawal systems established. Nursing homes should make public service programs and charging standards, and set out rules for addressing complaints. Complaints should be responded within 10 working days. The draft also requires nursing homes to offer hospice services. Hospice services providers should receive training before offering services. China had more than 230.8 million people aged 60 or above at the end of 2016, 16.7 percent of the total population, according to a report released by the Ministry of Civil Affairs. By international standards, a country or region is considered an "aging society" when the number of people aged 60 or above reaches 10 percent or more. The country had 140,000 nursing homes holding a total of more than 7.3 million beds at the end of 2016, with a year-on-year increase of 20.7 percent and 8.6 percent respectively. However, there are only 31.6 beds for every 1,000 senior citizens. ^ top ^

Xi warns party to tackle challenges as China moves into new 'modern socialist' era (SCMP)
2017-10-18
Chinese President Xi Jinping mapped out a confident vision of China's rise as a global power by 2050, opening a twice-a-decade party gathering on Wednesday by reaffirming the Communist Party's continued control and pledging the start of a "new era". In one of his most important political addresses since taking power five years ago and underscoring his own pivotal role since then, Xi declared China had entered a new phase to create a "modern socialist country", a declaration analysts saw as a prelude to the omnipresent party-state under his governing philosophy. "Right now both China and the world are in the midst of profound and complex changes," he told more than 2,300 delegates at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. "China is still in an important period of strategic opportunity for development. The prospects are bright, but the challenges are severe." In an all-encompassing, 3½-hour speech that will set the tone for the country's development over the next decade, Xi urged the party to tackle these severe challenges, from widespread corruption and imbalances in the economy to mounting social unrest and a long list of other social and environmental woes. Despite criticism of his tightening grip on power and narrowing space for civil society, Xi signalled his confidence that relatively high economic growth combined with deepening reforms and better income distribution, a continuing crackdown on corruption and the shaping of its political system on its own terms would engender the party's legitimacy. Xi appeared to be more ambitious than his predecessors, as he unveiled a two-stage plan to transform China into a "great modern socialist country" by mid-century. Under the plan, China will realise a moderately prosperous society by 2020 and socialist modernisation by 2035. China would become a modern socialist power that was "prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious and beautiful" by 2050. Observers said this was the first time the party had set out a post-2020 plan. Amid widespread speculation that his development philosophy will be enshrined in the party's constitution at the end of the week-long congress – giving him the same stature as Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping – Xi said the country had formed "thoughts on socialism with Chinese characteristics for the new era". In separate panel meetings with provincial delegates, Politburo Standing Committee members Zhang Dejiang, Liu Yunshan and Yu Zhengsheng labelled these ideas as "Xi Jinping's thoughts on socialism with Chinese characteristics for the new era", hinting at their impending elevation into the constitution. In a politically choreographed show of unity, former presidents Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao followed Xi as he walked into the hall, flanking him at the rostrum while dozens of party elders rarely seen in public in recent years were seated in the same row. Xi conceded during the televised event that the survival of one-party rule would be decided largely by the fight against corruption, which remained "grave and complex" despite the much-touted success in snaring a long list of corrupt officials. "The people resent corruption most … Only by intensifying efforts to address both the symptoms and causes of corruption … can we avoid history's cycle of rise and fall and ensure the long-term stability of the party and the country," he said. Xi struck a nationalistic chord throughout his speech, calling for the party to not only safeguard China's sovereignty but also to assert itself in every possible aspect of Chinese people's lives in an ideological crusade to crush any attempts to undermine the party leadership or copy Western-style democracy. "No one political system should be regarded as the only choice, and we should not just mechanically copy the political systems of other countries," he said. Xi also pledged further controls on the media and the internet while strengthening the country's soft power, such as building more think tanks "with Chinese characteristics" and promoting so-called socialist moral values. "The great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is no walk in the park or mere drumbeating and gong-clanging. The whole party must be prepared to make ever more difficult and harder efforts," he said. Stressing that a nation would prosper only if its youth were allowed to thrive, he said: "To all our young people, you should have firm ideals and convictions, aim high, and have your feet firmly on the ground." He also said China would push for innovation and give priority to projects such as genetic technology. Xi listed his bold military reforms, the strengthening of one-party rule, poverty reduction, and Beijing's controversial push for artificial island construction in the disputed South China Sea as topping his trophy list over the past five years. He also touted China's "Belt and Road Initiative" to revive trade along the old Silk Road and maritime routes as having "created a favourable environment for the country's overall development". He stressed the party's absolute control of the armed forces, adding that the aim of military reform was to realise modernisation by 2035 and to transform the People's Liberation Army into a world-class outfit by 2050. "A military is built to fight," he said. Military analysts said Xi was yet again underlining his ambition to turn the PLA into a modern fighting force with a combat capability comparable to its US counterpart. "This is a new 15-year plan initiated by Xi to use the country's growing economic clout to push for a stronger PLA, which is aimed at making China a global military power like the US around 2049," Hong Kong-based military observer Liang Guoliang said. Amid concerns and suspicion about the intention behind China's rise and his plan to build a world-class military in the next three decades, Xi pledged that Beijing would never seek regional hegemony or an expansionist policy at the expense of other countries. "China will never advance itself at the expense of the interests of other nations, but we will never give up our lawful rights," he said. "No one could expect us to swallow consequences that damage our sovereignty, security and developmental interests." At the same time, "China will continue its efforts to safeguard world peace, contribute to global development, and uphold international order", he said. Xi highlighted the mounting uncertainties and challenges facing the world, such as regional and economic instability, a widening wealth gap, terrorism, major epidemics, cyberspace insecurity and climate change. In a reference to rising protectionism and anti-globalisation sentiment in the United States and Europe, and America's declining global leadership under President Donald Trump, Xi said: "No country alone can handle all sorts of challenges that humanity faces and no country can slide back into isolation." Setting out a new relationship with Hong Kong, he said the high degree of autonomy that the city enjoyed would be coupled with the central leadership's "comprehensive jurisdiction". Without naming Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and her ruling pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, Xi vowed to crush any attempts to separate Taiwan, which Beijing considers a breakaway province, from the mainland. Beijing would not allow "any individual, any organisation, any political party, at any time or by any means, to split any single piece of the Chinese territory", he vowed, to rapturous applause from the delegates. Xi pledged that China would continue to open up, grant greater market access to foreign investors, make state-owned enterprises bigger and stronger, deepen financial reforms and fend off systemic financial risks. "Development remains the foundation and the key to all the problems China faces," he said. He also raised the need for wealth distribution, environmental protection and poverty reduction, identifying the widening income gap as one of the grave issues that had not been adequately addressed. He promised to extend land-use contracts for farmers for another 30 years after expiration, to motivate them to invest in collectively owned land. Christopher Balding, associate professor at Peking University's HSBC Business School in Shenzhen, said it was a bit confusing to read into a speech packed with political slogans and clichés. "One of the things that's going to be very interesting is, what does it mean going forward and how do [the slogans] play out in practice for China's development? Right now I don't think anybody really knows," he said. ^ top ^

CPC creates Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era (Xinhua)
2017-10-18
The Chinese Communists mainly represented by Xi Jinping have created Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, leading Party officials said Wednesday. "The Thought is the biggest highlight of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and a historic contribution to the Party's development," said Zhang Dejiang when joining a panel discussion at the congress opened Wednesday. "This important thought represents the latest achievement in adapting Marxism to the Chinese context, and is an important component of the system of theories of socialism with Chinese characteristics," Yu Zhengsheng said while joining another panel discussion. Liu Yunshan said the elevation of the Thought into the Party's guiding principle is of great political, theoretical and practical significance. All members of the Party should study hard Xi's "new era" thought in terms of its historical background, scientific system and practical requirement. Zhang, Yu and Liu are all members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee. The Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era builds on and further enriches Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the Theory of Three Represents, and the Scientific Outlook on Development, according to a report delivered by Xi Jinping at the opening of the congress. The report listed 14-point fundamental principles of the Thought, ranging from ensuring Party leadership over all work to promoting the building of a community with a shared future for mankind. Xi unveiled Wednesday morning a two-stage plan to make China a "great modern socialist country" by mid-21st century. According to the new plan, the CPC will basically realize socialist modernization in the first stage from 2020 to 2035, before developing China into a "great modern socialist country" that is "prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious and beautiful" after another 15 years. "As China enters a new era, the CPC must write a new chapter of 21st century Marxism with a broader vision to achieve the goals set at the milestone congress," said Chen Shuguang, a professor with the Party School of the CPC Central Committee. Zhou Yezhong, vice president of Wuhan University and a professor of law, who heard Xi's report via live broadcast, said the new thought brings the understanding of socialism with Chinese characteristics to a new height, and it turns a new page of times. "The core status and authority of Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, must be firmly safeguarded," said Pei Chunliang, a delegate to the congress. ^ top ^

China sets date to unveil Communist Party's new leadership line-up (SCMP)
2017-10-18
The new leadership of China's ruling Communist Party will finally be unveiled on Wednesday next week, with the party announcing its twice-a-decade national congress will conclude on October 24. As the run-up to the congress entered the final stage on Tuesday, delegates met behind closed doors for the most important gathering of the preparations – to select the presidium, a body convened temporarily to drive the agenda of the week-long meeting. In a show of hands, 2,280 party delegates approved 243 members of the party elite to dictate the procedure and even decide how many days the congress will run. But the real power brokers within the presidium are the 42 members of its standing committee, the congress's core body with the final say on who will be named among the 200 or so members of the Central Committee, the party's governing body for the next five years. Landing a seat on the Central Committee is a prerequisite for progression to the party's highest ranks – the Politburo and the innermost Politburo Standing Committee. During the congress, delegates will be presented with a shortlist of candidates for the Central Committee. There will be more candidates for the seats available and the delegates will vote to determine the least-favoured nominees A final vote will then be held at the end of the congress in which all of the remaining candidates will be guaranteed a seat on the Central Committee. The presidium's standing committee has the final say on the shortlist for the final round of voting. It also reveals which party elders still wield influence behind the scenes of China's opaque world of politics, even though that influence has waned during President Xi Jinping's administration. In addition to the 24 incumbent Politburo members, the presidium's standing committee also includes all the retired party elders who once sat on the Politburo's Standing Committee. First among the elders is former president Jiang Zemin. Others include Xi's immediate predecessor, Hu Jintao, and former premiers Wen Jiabao, Zhu Rongji and Li Peng. The eldest of the old guard is Song Ping, at 100 years old. The only retired and surviving former Politburo Standing Committee member who did not make it to the presidium's standing committee is Zhou Yongkang, the country's much-feared former security tsar who is now serving a life sentence for corruption, abuse of power and leaking state secrets. The gathering on Tuesday also revealed that 2,280 delegates would attend the congress – seven fewer than the number on a list state media published in late September. This means the seven – whose identities were not immediately clear – were disqualified at the eleventh hour. Their disqualification is the work of another body – a 22-strong committee with the task of vetting the delegates. That body is led by Wang Qishan, the party's formidable discipline tsar who has spearheaded an unprecedented war on corruption in the past five years. The congress is expected to see about half of the party's existing Central Committee members replaced. Once finalised, the new Central Committee will endorse the line-up of the country's top decision-making bodies – the Politburo and its Standing Committee – at its first full meeting the day after the congress closes. Xi, who has already emerged from his first term as the most powerful leader in decades, is expected to further strengthen his hold on power by stacking the key leadership positions with his loyalists and having his political theory written into the party's constitution. ^ top ^

Enlightened Chinese democracy puts the West in the shade (Xinhua)
2017-10-17
As crises and chaos swamp Western liberal democracy, it may be instructive to examine the "Chinese democracy" and ask how the system which sets the current standards for development and progress measures up. The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) is a good chance to analyze the unique socialist organization from historical and global perspectives. Every five years CPC delegates meet to draw up the strategy for both Party and country in the lustrum to come. This year, the primary objective is "Xiaokang," the first centenary goal. A mere three years into the future, the establishment of a moderately prosperous society in 2020 will be the culmination of 100 years of work by the CPC. The second century goal to commemorate the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 will see the fulfillment of the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation. The CPC consulted with eight other non-Communist parties and prominent figures without party affiliation in August when opinion and advice were canvassed on a draft report to the congress. This well-established practice of institutional consultation is just one of the ways the CPC ensures the democratic nature of decision-making. This CPC-led multiparty cooperation and consultation system, an entirely new type of political system inaugurated in 1949, is very different from the two-party and multiparty systems in Western countries or the one-party system practiced in some others. Unlike competitive, confrontational Western politics, the CPC and non-Communist parties cooperate with each other, working together for the advancement of socialism and striving to improve the people's standard of living. The relationship maintains political stability and social harmony and ensures efficient policy making and implementation. As the leading party, the CPC takes advice from other parties on major policies, plans, revisions to the law and other matters, allowing members of other parties to hold official posts. Institutionalized consultative democracy is important in China, whose basic political systems also include the people's congresses and self-governance at the grassroots level such as village committees. The Chinese system leads to social unity rather than the divisions which come as an unavoidable consequence of the adversarial nature of Western democracy today. Endless political backbiting, bickering and policy reversals, which make the hallmarks of liberal democracy, have retarded economic and social progress and ignored the interests of most citizens. The Constitution of the People's Republic of China states that "the multiparty cooperation and political consultation system under the leadership of the Communist Party of China shall continue to exist and develop for a long time to come." In parliamentary or presidential politics, parties obtain their legitimacy in turn through ballot boxes, causing frequent regime change and often a complete about-face in policy. What progress has been made is often lost and inefficiency reigns. At 96 years old, the CPC with 89 million members represents the interests of the majority of the people and is dedicated to serving the people, with people-centered development deeply rooted in Party culture. The diversity of the Party is clearly demonstrated by the extensive representation of different walks of life among the more than 2,200 delegates to the national congress. As parties in the West increasingly represent special interest groups and social strata, capitalist democracy becomes more oligarchic in nature. The cracks are beginning to show, with many eccentric or unexpected results in recent plebiscites. Under the leadership of a sober-minded, forward-looking CPC, Chinese-style democracy has never been healthier and China has absolutely no need to import the failing party political systems of other countries. After several hundred years, the Western model is showing its age. It is high time for profound reflection on the ills of a doddering democracy which has precipitated so many of the world's ills and solved so few. If Western democracy is not to collapse completely it must be revitalized, reappraised and rebooted. The CPC has led the nation to unparalleled growth and staggering achievements, particularly in the reduction of poverty. It may be fairly described as a transformational miracle, bringing prosperity and optimism that were unimaginable a mere four decades ago. After five years of intensive reform, an unprecedented anti-corruption campaign, and the maturation of rule of law, a confident CPC, remaining true to its founding tenets, is set fair to keep the country on the right course "for a long time to come." ^ top ^

China to build giant facial recognition database to identify any citizen within seconds (SCMP)
2017-10-13
China is building the world's most powerful facial recognition system with the power to identify any one of its 1.3 billion citizens within three seconds. The goal is for the system to able to match someone's face to their ID photo with about 90 per cent accuracy. The project, launched by the Ministry of Public Security in 2015, is under development in conjunction with a security company based in Shanghai. The system can be connected to surveillance camera networks and will use cloud facilities to connect with data storage and processing centres distributed across the country, according to people familiar with the project. However, some researchers said it was unclear when the system would be completed, as the development was encountering many difficulties due to the technical limits of facial recognition technology and the large population base. At present, similar systems operate on a smaller level, including police databases and city or provincial ID pools. But these operate separately and are on a much smaller scale. There is also a national database of police suspects and people of interest to the government. These may continue to be used independently after the national system is established. The core data set for the national system, containing the portrait information of each Chinese citizen, amounts to 13 terabytes. The size of the full database with detailed personal information does not exceed 90 terabytes, according to technical documents on the ministry's website and a paper written by police researchers. Chen Jiansheng, an associate professor at the department of electrical engineering at Tsinghua University and a member of the ministry's Committee of Standardisation overseeing technical developments in police forces, said the system would have to be built on an unprecedented scale because no country had a population as big as China's. The system was being developed for security and government uses such as tracking wanted suspects and public administration, he said. Commercial application using information sourced from the database will not be allowed under current regulations. "[But] a policy can change due to the development of the economy and increasing demand from society," Chen said. Giving commercial sectors access to the database under proper regulation would create new business opportunities by helping to improve customer service, he said. Chinese companies are already taking the commercial application of facial recognition technology to new heights. With a smile or blink of the eyes to a camera, students can now enter their university halls, travellers can board planes without using a boarding pass and diners can pay for a meal at KFC. Some other restaurants have even offered discounts to customers based on a machine that ranks their looks according to an algorithm. Customers with "beautiful" characteristics – such as symmetrical features – get better scores than those with noses that are "too big" or "too small" and those that get better scores will get cheaper meals. Some public lavatories in Beijing also use facial recognition so that the automatic dispensing machines will deny toilet paper to people who ask for it more than once within a given period. Facial recognition could supersede other personal identification methods that are used to make payments such as scanning fingerprints or QR codes on a mobile phone. But the government project has prompted controversy among artificial intelligence experts. Cheng Mingming, a professor of computer science at Nankai University in Tianjin, said that despite the scale of the project, technological advances meant that all the information could be stored in small, portable drives – which raised the risk of data theft. He said a palm-sized commercial hard drive nowadays could store 10 terabytes or more of data and you could "pack it in a suitcase and board a flight". "If the facial data and related personal information is stolen and put on the internet, it will cause big problems," Cheng said. For instance, due to the rapid advance of facial recognition technology, a person or organisation could take a photo and identify strangers at a party or on the street without their knowledge, Cheng said. But a network security vendor for the Ministry of Public Security dismissed the possibility. "To download the whole data set is as difficult as launching a missile with a nuclear warhead. It requires several high-ranking officials to insert and turn their keys at the same time," the vendor said. The 1.3 billion-person facial recognition system is being developed by Isvision, a security company based in Shanghai. Isvision confirmed to the South China Morning Post that it had won the contract last year but declined to provide details. "The progress of development is confidential. At present we have no information for public disclosure," a company spokesperson said. Isvision security cameras with facial recognition capabilities were first deployed in Tiananmen Square as early as 2003, according to the company's website. The system was connected to the police database of suspects, capable of recognising and tracking potential targets in a large crowd. The company has also set up similar systems for law enforcement authorities in Xinjiang and Tibet, where riots have broken out from time to time because of serious ethnic conflicts. According to Fan Ying, a researcher at the ministry's population management research centre in Beijing, the project team has encountered "unprecedented challenges" due to the government's high demands for speed and accuracy. When a photo, gender and age range are inputted, the system is required to find a match within three seconds with an accuracy level higher than 88 per cent. Fan and colleagues tested the facial recognition algorithm developed by Tsinghua University, a world-leading institute in this field of research, and they were disappointed with the results. They found that the accuracy of the photo that most closely matched the face being searched for was below 60 per cent. With the top 20 matches the accuracy rate remained below 70 per cent, Fan and collaborators reported in a paper published in the domestic journal Electronic Science and Technology in May. "It cannot solve problems with real-life applications," they added. The system developed by Isvision will use an algorithm developed by SeetaTech, a start-up established by several researchers from the Institute of Computing Technology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. SeetaTech confirmed to the SCMP its involvement in the national facial recognition project but declined to comment further. A researcher at the Institute of Computing Technology familiar with the project said some huge technical hurdles remained. "Among 1.3 billion people, some totally unrelated people have faces so alike even their parents cannot tell them apart," the researcher said. "Currently the access to the database is limited to a few security companies with very close ties with the Ministry of Public Security. "More access will definitely lead to higher risk of [data] leakage." The researcher warned that the cost of the convenience facial recognition could bring to everyday life was "sacrificing security". ^ top ^

 

Beijing

What will China build in Xi Jinping's dream city? IT, biotech, new energy and new materials (SCMP)
2017-10-20
Xiongan, the area outside Beijing that was hand-picked by Chinese president Xi Jinping as the dream city for his "thousand-year" plan to transform the capital, will be developed into a high-technology hub and showcase of the country's latest innovations, said the Communist Party chief of the district. The district will seek out companies engaged in information technology, biotechnology, new energy and new materials, providing them with various incentives and benefits to invest and establish operations in Xiongan, said Chen Gang, the district party chief in Hebei province. "Although a lot of companies want to squeeze in, we will be selective" in granting them approvals, Chen told the South China Morning Post on the sidelines of the party's twice-a-decade meeting in Beijing. "We will also help some local companies transform, because there's still a local population of 1.28 million people in the Xiongan area, who may not all be able to perform hi-tech jobs." Xiongan sits at the geographic centre of Xi's master plan to integrate Beijing with the port city of Tianjin and with the surrounding Hebei province into a single region for development. Known as the Jing-Jin-Ji plan, it's one of the president's two main development initiatives, along with his ambition to recreate the new overland and maritime Silk Road, dubbed the Belt & Road Initiative. Xiongan comprises three existing rural counties measuring a combined 100 square kilometres - Xiong, Rongcheng and Anxin - and will eventually expand 20-fold to cover 2,000 sq km, the same size as Shenzhen. If Xiongan matches Shenzhen in size, it's also comparable to the southern Chinese city in prestige. Every Chinese leader had his hand-picked dream city: Deng Xiaoping chose Shenzhen as the site for China's experiment with market economy, and Jiang Zemin turned Pudong from paddy fields into mainland China's financial centre, while Hu Jintao tried to turn Binhai in Tianjin into a new growth area during his tenure. Xiongan is no exception. With Xi's imprimatur, the area may see total investments of as much as 2.4 trillion yuan (US$362 billion) over the next two decades, while 4.5 million people move in from Beijing as state enterprises, universities and research institutions relocate there, according to Morgan Stanley's estimates. For now, the district is still an economic backwater, with weak infrastructure, little financial and industrial support, even though land prices have soared multifold, as speculators jumped in since the president announced his plan in April. "We will start with a blank sheet of paper," said Chen. The comprehensive strategic planning of the new district is still under preparation, and the government "has no time table" for announcing it, because "it's a thousand-year strategy," he said. To attract companies with the best cutting-edge technology, Xiongan will offer premium public services including housing, education, and medical services to compete with Shenzhen and other cities that are also vying for talent and investments. Hebei's governor Xu Qin, a political rising star and former Shenzhen party chief, also give a long "to do list" to strengthen innovation in the province, leveraging on Xiongan's prestige as an answer to Xi's clarion call. "We welcome big data, internet technology, mobile technology and biotech companies," Xu said. "We will coordinate local resources and companies to integrate with these advance tech companies." Kuang-Chi Group, a Shenzhen-based technology conglomerate started by five PhD scholars, is Xu's ideal tenant in Xiongan. The company, founded in 2010, is involved in metamaterial, telecommunication, aerospace, smart-city infrastructure, artificial intelligence and digital health technologies, according to its website. It registered a branch last month in Xiongan to conduct research on new materials. Other companies that have been approve to establish in the area include China Mobile, Baidu, Tencent Holding, and the Post's owner Alibaba Group Holding. ^ top ^

Security in high gear as Beijing locks down for Communist Party congress (SCMP)
2017-10-16
Beijing has redoubled security on public transport and bars have closed suddenly to "prepare for Halloween" as the capital counts down the last days to the start of the Communist Party's five-yearly national congress. State television said more than 2,000 party delegates from across China have converged on the capital for the meeting, which is due to begin on Wednesday and is expected to go for about a week. Many bars and clubs, most of them in Beijing's nightlife district of Sanlitun, announced they would be closed for about 10 days from this week, with some citing "force majeure" and others promising to reopen in time for Halloween at the end of the month. Among those suspending operations over the period are nightclubs Circle Club and Sir Teen, both in Sanlitun. Vics, another well-known club near the Worker's Stadium, said it would be closed for renovations to prepare for Halloween on October 31. By Sunday night, most major live music venues in the capital had announced a suspension of business between Monday and October 25. Modernista, a live music bar in downtown Beijing, said in an online post that its suspension was "due to security measures taken during the upcoming Chinese national congress". It would reopen "for a fantastic Halloween weekend", it said. Meanwhile, subway commuters might have to head out earlier on Tuesday as all stations step up security. In addition to checks on their bags, all passengers would be subject to security scans, the city's subway management company said. The added measures were tested at the Longze station in Beijing's suburbs on Monday, videos and pictures posted online showed hundreds of people queuing outside station entrances during the morning rush hour. Beijing Mass Transit Railway Operation Corporation said security would be upgraded at all stations from Tuesday and passengers were advised to avoid rush hours and carrying liquids. In the past, security scans of both luggage and passengers took place at only a handful of key stations in the central business district. In a meeting in July, Minister of Public Security Guo Shengkun urged all provincial police chiefs to proactively step up security checks around the party congress and "nip threats in the bud". Party mouthpieces continued to drum up the authorities' achievements, with People's Daily and the PLA Daily running six-page reports on key political events since last party congress in late 2012. No date has been announced for the end of the congress but a spokesman for the event is expected to release further details of arrangements on Tuesday. President Xi Jinping, who is also the party's general secretary, will deliver a report on his vision for the party over the next five years. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

Tibet to continue opening up: regional officials (Xinhua)
2017-10-19
Senior officials from Tibet Autonomous Region in southwest China said Thursday that the region will continue opening up in the future. Tibet is a world-class tourist destination, receiving more than 300,000 overseas travelers last year, and the number will continue to grow, said Palbar Tashi, head of the regional publicity department and a delegate to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Tibet will continue to encourage exchanges with other provincial regions across the country, said Losang Jamcan, chairman of the standing committee of regional people's congress, also a CPC delegate. There have been increasing interactions among different ethnic groups in Tibet and ethnic solidarity has been strengthened, he added. There has been remarkable development in Tibet in the past five years and people's livelihoods have been greatly improved, said Qizhala, chairman of the regional government. Tan Haiyu, a delegate from Nagqu Prefecture in northern Tibet, said that in the public hospital where she works infrastructure spending in the past five years was almost ten times of that during the previous 50 years. "An even greater number of people will have access to quality medical services," said Tan. ^ top ^

No restrictions on overseas travel for Tibetans: regional CPC chief (Xinhua)
2017-10-19
Wu Yingjie, Communist Party of China (CPC) secretary of Tibet Autonomous Region, said on Thursday that there are no restrictions on overseas travel for Tibetans, including monks and nuns. Wu made the remarks while answering questions from the media, after a panel discussion of the report of the 19th CPC National Congress. ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

Xinjiang maintains overall social stability: CPC delegate (Xinhua)
2017-10-19
Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region has maintained overall social stability after a set of measures were taken this year, a senior official said Thursday. The measures included a crackdown on terrorist activities, mobilization of the masses and strengthening of border control, according to Xu Hairong, Party secretary of Urumqi, the regional capital. The crackdown targeted terrorism in its early stages, said Xu, a delegate to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. Thanks to the measures, the region has maintained overall social stability and harmony, he said. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

CPC successfully deals with emerging issues in Hong Kong, Macao (Global Times)
2017-10-19
The principle of "one country, two systems" and the rule of law must be insisted upon in the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions to assure the progress that has been made during the past five years, experts said Tuesday. "The past five years witnessed unprecedented challenges in work related to Hong Kong and Macao, especially Hong Kong," read an article published by the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council in Qiushi Journal, the flagship magazine of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee. The article said that by firmly sticking to the "one country, two systems" principle, the Party successfully dealt with problems that emerged during these years while maintaining the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong and Macao. It added that the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core has firmly defended national sovereignty, security and interests when dealing with Hong Kong and Macao affairs since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2012. "'One country, two systems' lays the foundation of Hong Kong's and Macao's stability and development. However, the principle was challenged by several incidents in recent years," Zhao Lei, a professor from the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, told the Global Times on Tuesday. During the Occupy Central movement in 2014, Hong Kong students boycotted classes, hit the police and broke into the Hong Kong government headquarters, paralyzing the transportation system of the Asian financial hub and disturbing the normal life of residents. In the most recent case, pro-independence posters appeared at Hong Kong universities in September. Pro- and anti-independence students confronted each other over each other's posters. The problem emerging in recent years is because Hong Kong's status as an international financial hub has been challenged by the fast-growing Chinese mainland. Some people in Hong Kong felt the gap and blame the mainland for the situation, Zhao said. "The central government, however, is striving to provide Hong Kong with opportunities for its development. For example, the economy of Hong Kong which serves as the 'super-connector' of the Chinese mainland with other countries, will see a great leap by harnessing the opportunity of the Belt and Road initiative," Zhang Dinghuai, a professor at the Contemporary Chinese Politics Research Institute of Shenzhen University, told the Global Times. At the Fifth Session of the 12th National People's Congress of China in March, Premier Li Keqiang said the central government will draw up plans for the development of a city cluster in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area to capitalize on the distinctive strengths of Hong Kong and Macao, elevating their roles in the development and opening-up of China's economy. The Qiushi article also said that people in Hong Kong and Macao are cheerful about the country's prosperity, proud of being Chinese, sincerely respect the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping at the core and full of expectations for the Chinese Dream. Despite the disagreement of a small group of Hongkongers, the majority are welcoming and have benefited from the "one country, two systems" principle. They feel deeply connected to the motherland, Zhao said. In July, China's first aircraft carrier Liaoning held an open house in Hong Kong for the 20th anniversary celebrations of the region's return to the motherland, attracting over 4,000 visitors and triggered a souvenir-buying spree. The rule of law and enhancing people-to-people exchanges are also important for dissolving potential threats, the experts said. ^ top ^

Theresa May wants 'one country, two systems' respected in wake of Hong Kong barring activist from entering city (SCMP)
2017-10-19
Britain wants to ensure the "one country, two systems" model under which Hong Kong is guaranteed a high degree of autonomy from Beijing for half a century is respected, Prime Minister Theresa May has said. Speaking in parliament on Wednesday, May vowed Hong Kong and China would continue to be pressed about the barring of activist Benedict Rogers from the city, in response to a question from a lawmaker. China's ambassador to Britain on Tuesday was summoned to the British Foreign Office to explain the Rogers' incident, and ministers said they would write to Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to express further concerns. The prime minister, responding to a question from MP Fiona Bruce during a weekly question and answer session, stated: "We want to ensure that the model of one country and two systems is preserved and continues to operate. On the specific case and the specific issue that she has raised, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary informs me that the Foreign Office has raised this issue at various levels in relation to Hong Kong and China, and we will continue to do so." Bruce, who chairs the UK Conservative Party's Human Rights Commission, also raised questions on Tuesday to Foreign Office staff. "Does the Prime Minister share the great concerns that were expressed in this House on Wednesday, including by ministers, about the implications for the one country, two systems model in Hong Kong of the recent refusal of the authorities there to allow Ben Rogers, a UK national, entry?" she asked. "Will the Prime Minister confirm that the government will work with the Hong Kong and Chinese authorities to ensure that the democratic freedoms in the one country, two systems model are honoured and preserved?" "One country, two systems" is the governing formula under which Beijing has run Hong Kong since the city was handed from British to Chinese rule in 1997. Under it, the city gets certain freedoms not enjoyed by people on the mainland. Rogers, deputy chairman of the same commission, was refused entry to the city upon arriving at Hong Kong International Airport on October 11. He was then put on a plane to Thailand, where he had flown from, and returned to London. Rogers, commenting on May's response, said: "This is about Hong Kong and its freedoms and autonomy … I am delighted that this continues to be raised at the very highest levels." Concerned about the "erosion" of the "one country, two systems" model, Bruce cited Rogers' being barred, the disappearance of five Hong Kong booksellers, and the jailing of pro-democracy leaders, including a democratically elected representative. Britain warned in its latest six-monthly report on Hong Kong that "important areas" of the "one country, two systems" model were coming under "increasing pressure." As for the British government's letter, a spokesman for Carrie Lam said: "The Chief Executive's Office has not received any letter [or] email from the UK government on the matter so far." ^ top ^

 

Macau

33 members of Macao's sixth Legislative Assembly sworn in (Xinhua)
2017-10-16
The 33 newly elected and appointed members of the sixth Legislative Assembly of China's Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) were sworn in here on Monday, with Ho Iat Seng being reelected by the new members as the Legislative Assembly's new president. Witnessed by Macao SAR Chief Executive Chui Sai On, the 33 lawmakers took their oaths during an inauguration ceremony held at the SAR government headquarters. In line with the Basic Law, the new Legislative Assembly is composed of 33 seats, including 14 directly-elected seats, 12 indirectly-elected seats and seven others which are appointed by the SAR chief executive. The lists of the directly-elected and indirectly-elected members have been announced after the Legislative Assembly election was held on Sept. 17. The appointed members were revealed on Sept. 27. ^ top ^

 

Economy

Who'll be the next boss of China's central bank? That's just what the governor wants to know (SCMP)
2017-10-19
China's central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan turned the tables on reporters on Thursday when asked who might replace him when he steps down after 15 years in charge. "Who do you think?" the 69-year-old replied with a smile. The veteran banker is expected to announce his retirement soon, bringing to an end a long and illustrious career at the People's Bank of China (PBOC). Since taking office in late 2002, Zhou has helped to steer China's financial reforms and monetary policy, and in doing so has become one of the most influential economic figures in the world. In that time he has worked with three chairs of the United States' Federal Reserve, namely Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke and incumbent Janet Yellen, whose own four-year term ends in February. As China continues to raise its profile on the global stage and push for greater use of the yuan, Zhou's successor will have big shoes to fill. But who that person might be remains a closely guarded secret. One possible candidate is Jiang Chaoliang, party secretary of central China's Hubei province. His credentials include working as an assistant to Dai Xianglong, Zhou's predecessor at the central bank, as chairman of the Bank of Communications – the country's fifth-biggest lender – and as vice-chairman of China Development Bank. However, when asked by the South China Morning Post if he was in the running to succeed Zhou, Jiang said: "I am the party secretary of Hubei. If you want to ask anything about finance, please ask the finance people." In the room where the finance delegation congregated on Thursday morning, Zhou was seen sitting with Guo Shuqing, chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, who has also been touted as a future PBOC chief. But as the speculation mounts as to who might take over at the central bank, all that is known for certain is that Zhou will soon be stepping down. After years of false rumours about his pending departure, when asked by Reuters on Thursday when he would leave he said: "Soon". ^ top ^

China's Communist Party makes big inroads into foreign-funded firms (SCMP)
2017-10-19
About 70 per cent of foreign-funded firms in China have set up Communist Party branches, an official said on Thursday, as the party extends and strengthens its presence and control over all sectors of society. As of the end of last year, 106,000 companies receiving foreign investment in China had set up party units, according to Qi Yu, the deputy head of the party's Central Organisation Department. The latest figure has more than doubled since 2011, when 47,000 foreign-invested companies doing business in China had established party organisations. The phone makers Samsung and Nokia told Reuters in August they had party units in their China operations. The latest figure comes amid greater efforts to increase the number of party branches in all enterprises since the last party congress five years ago when President Xi Jinping came to power, Qi told a media briefing on Thursday. Party branches had been set up in 67.9 per cent of the country's 2.73 million private enterprises by the end of last year. That equates to a 30 percentage point rise, according to the government. Xi has tried to increase the role of the party in all aspects of life in China since taking office and he pledged to continue this process during his speech on Wednesday at the opening of its five-yearly congress in Beijing. Xi has also tried to expand the party's presence in areas where it has previously had a limited role, such as in private and foreign joint-venture companies and the boards of listed firms. Qi dismissed some foreign businesses' concerns that the party's growing presence in their companies could affect their operations. He said party branches could aid foreign companies' business and development by helping them better understand government policies and by guiding them in obeying the country's laws and regulations. "Setting up grass-roots party organisations in companies in China has always been a common practice and is in accordance with China's laws and regulations," Qi said. He added that many foreign joint ventures and firms "highly approved of" the party presence in their companies. "Some senior executives at foreign-invested companies say party organisations can help them understand China's policies in a timely manner, resolve labour disputes and provide positive energy for their companies' development. The majority of them welcome and support party organisations carrying out activities in their companies," Qi said. But analysts said foreign companies were concerned about the role of the branches. "We should have no concern on party members, but party organisations that form an impact on the structure of companies," said Lester Ross, a managing partner of WilmerHale, a US law firm representing the interests of many foreign businesses. "The key question is, what does the party organisation do? If it has a voice in term of governance, then there will be a problem." Under China's company law, firms should set up party branches according to the requirements of the party charter, which demands grass-roots cells be set up – including in companies and schools – if there are at least three party members in an organisation. Ross said the move reflected a long-standing principle that the party must lead everything in China and also its fear that people working in foreign companies are "harder to keep track of, harder to monitor and harder to organise". It was a continuation of a push for trade unions that was not very successful, he said, because "they did not serve the workers' interests". The party had in recent years put great emphasis on addressing the "weakening, watering down, hollowing out and marginalisation" of party leadership and party building in state-owned companies, Qi said. About 147,000 state-owned enterprises, 93.2 per cent, had established party organisations by the end of last year. ^ top ^

Xi vows wider 'open door' policy amid foreign demands for more market access (SCMP)
2017-10-18
Chinese President Xi Jinping has again promised greater market access to foreign investors to shore up confidence in his country amid louder complaints from Washington to Brussels about Beijing's protectionism. In his marathon speech at the start of the Communist Party's twice-a-decade national congress on Wednesday, Xi said China would significantly lower the threshold for entrance to China's markets, protect the legal interests of foreign businesses in China, and treat locally registered companies in an equal and fair way. "Opening leads to progress while closing only leads to backwardness," Xi told the 2,000-plus party delegates at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. "China won't close its opened door – the door will only be opened wider and wider." Xi has made similar pledges at other conferences and forums, and the commitments this time in his most important political speech so far suggests the ruling party and the state apparatus will take them more seriously. China has already taken some steps to open its market wider to foreign players. Beijing has promised to let US credit rating agencies do businesses on their own in China and lift the ceiling for foreign holdings in financial joint ventures. It might also allow foreign electric-vehicle makers such as Tesla to set up wholly owned factories in China. At the same time, US and European mistrust of Beijing's promises persists. Last month US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross publicly urged Beijing to "guarantee fair and reciprocal treatment for US firms". The European Union Chamber of Commerce in China also said in August that Beijing must take concrete steps to give fair market access to foreign firms. In response to Xi's speech, chamber chairman Mats Harborn said words should be followed by action. "When met with repeated promises, we can only deliver a familiar response: while it is positive that market opening and creating a level playing field remain on China's agenda, we now expect the authorities to begin the process of implementing policies that will lead to necessary improvements, both for business and China as a whole," Harborn said. Other concerns for the foreign business community include China's boycott of South Korean firms in response to Seoul's decision to go ahead with a US anti-missile system, pressure on overseas companies to hand over trade secrets, and Beijing's demands that foreign firms set up computer servers in China. Those concerns have been reflected in part in China's foreign direct investment inflows which have stagnated at about US$120 billion a year, with the lion's share coming from Hong Kong. "[Xi's] promises are once again meant to ease the worries of foreign investors," ING chief greater China economist Iris Pang said. "It is still a sign of marketing." The president's pledges to business were a small part of his 3½-hour speech, which was based on the idea of making China a "great modern socialist country" under one-party rule by 2050. Xi said China would push ahead with its "Belt and Road Initiative", a drive to promote China's offshore influence through trade and investment. Xi also said China would continue to promote liberalisation of trade and investment to create an "open and inclusive" global economic system. In a broad reference to the Chinese economy, Xi said China would pursue quality and efficiency in growth but made no mention of the national growth rate. Louis Kuijs, head of Asia economics at Oxford Economics, said many "would feel it is hard to square the commitment to opening up and to levelling the playing field on one hand with the approach to strengthen the link of state-owned enterprises to make it stronger and dominant". Larry Hu, head of greater China economics at Macquarie Capital, said that under Xi in the coming years China might tolerate "another leg down" in economic growth in return for fixing structural problems and making growth more sustainable. ^ top ^

China-led AIIB ushers in Afghanistan as China seeks to expand its influence (SCMP)
2017-10-16
The China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has formally granted Afghanistan full membership, taking the lender's membership to 80. The Afghan finance ministry said on Saturday it received a certificate of membership from the Beijing-based multilateral bank on the sidelines of a meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Washington. The AIIB, an institution created under Chinese President Xi Jinping's administration to boost China's global influence, approved Afghanistan's membership in March. With a registered capital of US$100 billion, the bank is expected to have about 90 members by the end of this year. It aims to give financial support to infrastructure projects in Asia and is widely seen as China's answer to the US-led World Bank and Japan-led Asian Development Bank. Also in Washington, Afghan Finance Minister Eklil Hakimi spoke to AIIB president Jin Liqun about support for solar energy and railway links between Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Iran and China, the Afghan ministry said. "[The deal] paves the way for the implementation of major national projects," the ministry said. The deal comes as Afghanistan continues to be riven by conflict, almost 16 years after the Taliban regime was toppled. In August US President Donald Trump said the United States would send more soldiers to the country. China has sought to expand its influence in the Afghanistan through economic and diplomatic channels. Beijing has been quietly brokering talks between Kabul and the Taliban forces, and has made a few preliminary investments in the country. But Chinese investors have hit some brick walls. State-owned China Metallurgical Group grabbed headlines in 2008 when it won the rights to develop the Mes Aynak copper mine, but the project has been repeatedly delayed and the mine is not fully operational. According to data from China's Ministry of Commerce, China's outstanding investments in Afghanistan were only US$425 million as the end of July. ^ top ^

 

DPRK

CIA chief says North Korea is months away from perfecting nuclear weapon capabilities (SCMP)
2017-10-20
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Mike Pompeo said on Thursday that North Korea is months away from perfecting its nuclear weapons capabilities. "They are close enough now in their capabilities that from a US policy perspective we ought to behave as if we are on the cusp of them achieving" their objective of being able to strike the United States, Pompeo told a national security forum in Washington. But he said there's a difference between having the ability to fire a single nuclear missile and the capability of producing large amounts of fissile material and developing an arsenal of such weapons. Pompeo said intelligence on North Korea is imperfect, and "when you're now talking about months, our capacity to understand that at a detailed level is in some sense irrelevant," he said. "We are at a time where the president has concluded that we need a global effort to ensure Kim Jong-un doesn't have that capacity," Pompeo told the forum, organised by the Foundation for Defence of Democracies think tank. He said China has done more than expected to reduce trade with its wayward ally but can do more. Beijing has also communicated around the world it is intent on helping the US resolve the issue. "We all want to resolve this without" resorting to military activity, the CIA chief said, but added President Donald Trump is prepared to use force if necessary to ensure Kim "doesn't have the capacity to hold America at risk." North Korea has accelerated its weapons tests. In July, it twice launched a long-range missile that could potentially reach the US mainland. In September, it conducted its most powerful atomic explosion yet. Dire threats traded by Trump and Kim have further stoked fears of war. Former CIA Director John Brennan voiced concern late on Wednesday about Trump's tweets and said the prospects of a military conflict on the Korean Peninsula "are greater than they have been in several decades." "I don't think it's likely or probable, but if it's a 1-in-4 or 1-in-5 chance, that's too high," Brennan said at Fordham University in New York. ^ top ^

North Korea nuclear test site has signs of 'Tired Mountain Syndrome' after five blasts (SCMP)
2017-10-18
North Korea's nuclear test site may be suffering from the geological condition "Tired Mountain Syndrome" following the latest in a series of atomic blasts, but it is unlikely to be abandoned, an expert website said Wednesday. The last five of Pyongyang's six nuclear tests have all been carried out under Mount Mantap at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in the north-west of the country. Three small earthquakes have been detected in the immediate area since the most recent test on September 3, Pyongyang's most powerful by far. The first, soon after the blast, has been widely attributed to some form of cave-in, with two much weaker tremors taking place in late September and last week. Some reports have suggested that the site may no longer be suitable for further underground nuclear testing as a result. Tired Mountain Syndrome is a name for the effect of below-ground nuclear blasts on the surrounding rock, which is extensively fractured and becomes increasingly permeable. The respected 38 North website said there could be concern about the phenomenon at Mount Mantap, with the area affected by the September 3 test potentially extending as far as 1.4 kilometres from the detonation point. But it added: "US nuclear test history at the Nevada Test Site provides evidence that such post-test tremors are not unusual." The earthquakes were therefore "not surprising", said analysts Frank Pabian and Jack Liu. No expectations should be raised that nuclear testing at the site would be abandoned, the analysts said, pointing out the US facility was not closed until a general moratorium on nuclear testing in 1992, and Punggye-ri has two more so-far-unused tunnel complexes. "There is no valid reason to assume that the Punggye-ri test site is unable to contain additional underground nuclear tests," they said. Tensions have soared in recent weeks following Pyongyang's nuclear test as US President Trump engages in an escalating war of words with the North's leader Kim Jong-un. The North's missile and nuclear capabilities have made significant progress under Kim, who told party officials this month that the country's atomic weapons were a "treasured sword" to protect it from aggression. ^ top ^

Crippled by sanctions, North Korea may not last a year, defector says (SCMP)
2017-10-17
A former North Korean government official who defected to the US says North Korea is struggling against tough sanctions – and doubts the hermit state can last a year. "The sanctions that the White House has imposed on North Korea are of a historic level," said Ri Jong-ho, who ran the international network of North Korean businesses that funnels hard currency to Pyongyang before leaving North Korea for the US last year. "Never before has the country faced such tough sanctions. I don't know if North Korea will survive a year with these sanctions. People will die." North Korea's provocative behaviour is a result of Pyongyang's "desperate" need to force a diplomatic opening with the US, Ri told an Asia Society event in New York, adding that one of the government's priorities is to sever Washington's ties with South Korea. "Right now the leadership of North Korea have deployed missiles aimed at the US and are doing these provocations, but they desperately want relations with the US," he said. "The North Korean leader wants to stay in power for a long time. He believes he must have friendly relations with the US to do that. They didn't want South Korea involved in the talks. "They just wanted two-way talks. What the North Korean leadership wants is to know how to warm relations with the US." "One can interpret recent actions and declarations regarding North Korea's nuclear and missile testing in two ways. "It should either be taken at face value or seen as an effort to extract maximum concessions should there be arms control negotiations in the future," Paul Stares, a senior fellow for conflict prevention and director of the Centre for Preventive Action at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations, told the South China Morning Post. "What should be clear by now, however, it that any such negotiation would be about the size of the North Korean nuclear arsenal, not its existence. They are not going to give it up. Period." Ri also said North Korea's relations with China had soured because of Kim Jong-un's purge of his uncle Jang Song-thaek and other officials close to Beijing. Kim's hatred of Beijing intensified after China's President Xi Jinping visited Seoul before Pyongyang on his first trip to the Korean peninsula. Xi's decision was prompted by the deaths of "thousands" allied with Jang and, by extension, China, Ri said. Kim Jong-un took Xi's decision as an insult and in July 2014 convened a meeting of high-ranking officials where the North Korean leader "called president Xi a 'son of a bitch' and called the Chinese people 'sons of bitches'", Ri said. "Now China has blocked trade, which has never happened before, so this is the very worst point of their relationship." Ri's comments were in stark contrast to the scepticism he had previously cast on United Nations sanctions meant to stop North Korea's nuclear weapons programme. Since defecting last year, Risaid that Pyongyang had managed to circumvent most of the restrictions – often with help from Chinese entities. "I can see the North Korean economy like it's in the palm of my hands," Ri said. "[North Korea] has to buy the raw materials in order for them to produce [their weapons] and they have to export products [to support this programme]. They are in a very difficult position, so they need to resolve that." While in Dalian, Ri served as head of the Korea Daehung Trading Corporation, which is managed by Office 39, a clandestine organisation under direct control of Kim's family. Office 39 is responsible for procuring for the Kim government hard currency that is critical to support the economy and ensure the loyalty of party elites. In July, Ri told The Washington Post that he oversaw the implementation of tactics North Korea used to bypass UN sanctions. Some of the circumvention methods included having China-stationed North Korean officials like Ri hand-deliver bags filled with millions of US dollars in cash to captains of North Korean vessels heading back to home ports from China, Ri told the newspaper. Another tactic was changing the names of companies targeted by UN sanctions, Ri said. UN sanctions have been piling up on North Korea since 2006, after six-nation talks involving North Korea, China, the US, Japan, South Korea and Russia broke down. The most recent sanctions, passed in August and September, effectively cut all trade with North Korea except for humanitarian deliveries and limited quantities of oil. Prompted by North Korea's most recent nuclear detonation, on September 3, the UN Security Council unanimously passed less than a week later the latest resolution put forward by the US. That resolution aims to cut North Korea's imports of refined petroleum products by 55 per cent and ban the supply of natural gas and natural gas derivatives to ensure they aren't used as substitutes. Moreover, banning North Korea's textile exports and remittances by overseas North Korean workers to Pyongyang, the resolution would cut US$1.3 billion in revenues annually. The US agreed to allow some oil shipments to keep flowing to North Korea to secure China's approval. Previous UN sanctions on North Korea stopped short of controls on oil and fuel, also at China's behest, owing to concerns that such moves might destabilise the country and leave Beijing with a refugee problem. China shares a 1,400km border with North Korea along the Yalu River. Ri defected in 2014 from his last posting, in the northeastern Chinese port city of Dalian, travelling with his family to South Korea. A North Korean official reaffirmed Pyongyang's commitment to developing a long-range intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching "all the way to the east coast of the mainland US," on Monday, telling CNN that the rogue nation was currently not interested in diplomacy with the US until it achieved that goal. ^ top ^

Tillerson: US diplomacy with North Korea will continue until 'the first bomb drops' (SCMP)
2017-10-16
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Sunday that President Donald Trump had instructed him to continue diplomatic efforts to calm rising tensions with North Korea, saying "those diplomatic efforts will continue until the first bomb drops". Speaking on CNN's State of the Union, Tillerson downplayed messages that Trump had previously posted on Twitter suggesting Tillerson was wasting his time trying to negotiate with "Little Rocket Man", a derogatory nickname Trump has coined for North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un. Trump "has made it clear to me to continue my diplomatic efforts", Tillerson said. Still, the comment came as the South Korean military is preparing for another possible missile launch by Pyongyang, with several media reports in Seoul citing unidentified officials as saying North Korean missile vehicles "kept appearing and disappearing" from the map. Trump had also said cryptically during a dinner with military leaders that observers were witnessing "the calm before the storm". "This is a unique president," said the former Exxon-Mobil chief, commenting on a crescendo of rumours about his vexed relationship with the White House. "I don't think there's any doubt that everyone sees him as the most unique president in modern history." Tillerson also sought to shore up perceptions that the US remains committed to the Iran nuclear deal. On Friday, Trump said he would not certify Iranian compliance with the deal and threatened to withdraw. "Let's see if we cannot address the flaws within the [Iran] agreement by staying within the agreement, working with the other signatories," Tillerson said. "We want to take the agreement as it exists, fully enforce that agreement." The secretary of state denied that the seeming gap between his department and the White House risked sowing confusion abroad. Hillary Clinton warned in an interview recorded earlier this week that the administration was risking a "nuclear arms race" by sowing confusion. "Rest assured the Chinese are not confused in any way about the American policy in North Korea," Tillerson said. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Parliament continues discussion on appointment of Ministers (Montsame)
2017-10-19
The Parliament appointed two Ministers of the new Cabinet by Thursday noon. In particular, Ts.Tsogzolmaa has been appointed as Minister of Education, Culture, Science and Sport and Kh.Badelkhan--as Minister of Construction and Urban Development. The Parliament convened a regular plenary meeting on October 19 to continue the discussion on appointment of the Ministers of Prime Minister U.Khurelsukh's Cabinet. The plenary meeting continues with the profile of J.Bat-Erdene, candidate for Minister of Road and Transport Development. ^ top ^

Eight Ministers of new Cabinet appointed on Wednesday (Montsame)
2017-10-19
The Parliament extended its irregular plenary meeting on October 18 to appoint three more Ministers. In specific, the Parliament appointed Ch.Khurelbaatar as Minister of Finance, Ts.Nyamdorj as Minister of Justice and Home Affairs and S.Chinzorig as Minister of Labor and Social Protection late Wednesday. During its morning and afternoon session, the Parliament appointed U.Enkhtuvshin as Deputy Prime Minister and G.Zandanshatar as Head of the Cabinet Secretariat, N.Tserenbat as Minister of Environment and Tourism, N.Enkhbold as Minister of Defense, and D.Tsogtbaatar as Minister of Foreign Affairs. As such, eight Ministers of Prime Minister U.Khurelsukh's Cabinet have been appointed. Parliament meeting convenes on Thursday morning to discuss the profiles of the remaining seven ministerial candidates. ^ top ^

Magnitude 5 earthquake strikes off Selenge aimag (GoGo Mongolia)
2017-10-19
Last night, an earthquake with a magnitude of 5 occurred in Selenge aimag and Darkhan city. On Dec 19 at 01:46 a.m, an earthquake with magnitude 5 struck off an area which located 3 kilometers North from the center of Tushig soum, Selenge aimag, reports the Astronomy and GeoPhysics Research Center. The Emergency Management Agency of Selenge Province has taken immediate measures and there were no destruction and fatalities reported. ^ top ^

President Kh.Battulga seeks to restore capital punishment (Montsame)
2017-10-17
President Kh.Battulga has set up a group of attorneys working on restoration of the capital punishment in Mongolia. This update in the President's website comes after devastating news concerning a 5-year-old rape case shocked the society this week. The President sees that Mongolian society has not progressed to the level at which capital punishment could be abolished, and capital punishment abolition should only be on agenda when individuals are mature and the society is stable enough. Mongolia put moratorium on the capital punishment in 2012, until when aggravated murder and child rape crimes were liable to death penalty. The Parliament of Mongolia adopted a revision to the Criminal Code in 2015, which came to effect on July 1, 2017. Capital punishment was formally removed in the revised Criminal Code. ^ top ^

 

Julia Tran, Valentin Jeanneret and Aurèle Aquillon
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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