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
  13-17.11.17, No. 696  
    Archiv / Archives
Table of contents

Mongolia

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Switzerland

Minister S.Chinzorig requests to expand scope of SDC projects (Montsame)
2017-11-16
Minister of Labor and Social Protection S.Chinzorig met Wednesday Ilaria Dali, Deputy Director for the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC) in Mongolia. The SDC is one of the biggest donor organizations which implements projects, programs supporting Mongolian government policy and actions on labor and social protection and grants financial and methodical assistance. Minister S.Chinzorig pledged to support the projects 'Youth development' and 'Supporting youth employment' which are being implemented by the SDC with aim to supporting business and other initiatives in directions of increasing jobs for youths , improving their leadership skills and supporting employment. He stressed the rate of domestic violence especially against girls is increasing recently and the project 'Combating gender-based violence' by the SDC has significant importance to tackle this issue. Moreover the Minister requested to expand the scope of the projects and extend thier implementation period, if possible. In response Ms.Ilaria Dali pledged to study the possibilites and said that the SDC and Mongolian Government are working for formulation of the third stage strategy on development cooperation. ^ top ^

 

Foreign Policy

Beijing's top US envoy spurns critics of Xi-Trump summit results on North Korea and trade (SCMP)
2017-11-17
China's ambassador to the US dismissed critics who said a presidents' summit meeting in Beijing last week made little headway towards resolving either the North Korean nuclear crisis or bilateral trade issues between the world's two largest economies. Ambassador Cui Tiankai told a US-China Policy Foundation event that US President Donald Trump's first state visit to China, including meetings with President Xi Jinping, was "constructive and fruitful". Cui said the two presidents sent "a very important and strong signal" by reaffirming "their commitment to a denuclearised and peaceful Korean Peninsula, and their determination to implement all the United Nations Security Council resolutions, and seek a diplomatic solution to the problem". Trump also confirmed after returning from Asia on Wednesday that Xi had "pledged to faithfully implement" UN Security Council resolutions on North Korea and to "use his great economic influence over the regime" to achieve the nations' common goal of a denuclearised Korean Peninsula. The ambassador dismissed some observers' complaints that the economic outcome of Trump's visit was "below their expectations". While Trump visited Beijing, the two sides signed more than US$250 billion worth of business deals covering various sectors, including energy, finance and agriculture. Bloomberg reported that the deals contained "little of substance", since they were mostly non-binding memoranda of understanding that could take years to turn into projects of substance. "This is an old-style visit when you pile up all the deals so you can to get a big number," James McGregor, China chairman of the APCO Worldwide consultancy, was quoted. "This is all for show for President Trump to demonstrate his deal-making prowess." "I don't think US$250 billion is a small number," Cui responded. "Of course, some of the deals will have to be implemented … As long as there is sufficient political will, they will be implemented and benefit our two peoples." US President Donald Trump said he had "very candid" conversations in Beijing with President Xi Jinping about the need to reduce the US's "staggering" trade deficit with China. Photo: Bloomberg Trump may have "made it look like he was perfectly satisfied with that $250 billion haul, and the Chinese may think for a little while that they've bought some peace on the trade front," Dan Ikenson, director for trade policy studies at the Washington-based Cato Institute, was quoted by Politico. "I don't necessarily think that's going to happen. For me, we're moving inexorably toward the edge of the cliff." The US and China are beginning one year of negotiations on economic and trade issues after failing to reach a deal during their first Comprehensive Economic Dialogue in July. The Washington discussions were held to ease friction over the US trade deficit, US intellectual property theft concerns, China's flooding of the US marketplace with lower-priced materials such as steel and China market access. Trump said he had "very candid" conversations with Xi about the need to reduce the US's "staggering" trade deficit with China and for the two sides' trading relationship to be conducted on a "fair and equitable basis". "We can no longer tolerate unfair trading practices that steal American jobs, wealth and intellectual property. The days of the United States being taken advantage of are over," Trump said in a speech from the White House. Experts expect the US to take action against China over trade. US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is in the midst of an investigation of China's intellectual property rights under US law that could bring tariffs on China pending the countries' failure to reach a deal. US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is in the midst of an investigation of China's intellectual property rights under US law that could bring tariffs on China if the countries fail to resolve the issue through a deal. Photo: AFP Although Bonnie Glaser of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies accused China during an Asia Society event in New York this week of "pursing its economic interests at the expense of the United States", Cui said that while China would never give up its "legitimate interests", it would "never pursue" its "own development at the expense of others." Cui said China will adopt policies that promote high-quality trade and investment, significantly ease market access, further open the service sector and protect the legitimate rights and interests of foreign investors. "All businesses registered in China will be treated as equals," he said. ^ top ^

Japan police let Hong Kong cargo ship go after possible breach of North Korea sanctions … and it's headed for Singapore (SCMP)
2017-11-17
A Hong Kong-flagged cargo vessel that recently made a port call in Japan may have breached a ban imposed by Tokyo on the entry of third-country ships that had earlier visited North Korea, investigative sources said. According to the sources, a crew member from the vessel Ocean Skipper told Japanese police that the ship called at the North Korean port of Rajin in January and February, loaded tens of thousands of tonnes of coal each time and shipped them to China. If the statement is true, the vessel violated Japan's unilateral sanctions against Pyongyang, which, among other things, prohibit any ship from entering a Japanese port if it made a previous stop in North Korea. But Japanese police allowed the Ocean Skipper to depart without initiating necessary procedures for a criminal case. The vessel's captain could have faced up to three years in prison or 3 million yen (US$26,600) in fines. The crew member was questioned by police at Chiba Port, southeast of Tokyo, where the cargo vessel was docked from November 3. The police also found records of the coal shipments from Rajin to China on the vessel, the sources said. The Ocean Skipper left for Singapore on Monday after loading around 40,000 tonnes of slag, a substance separated from metal ore during the refining process. A ship that enters a port in Japan must relay its latest 10 port stops to the Japan Coast Guard. The ship's call at Rajin was not reported by the Ocean Skipper. Japan imposed an entry ban on third-party ships that called in North Korea after a government decision in February last year. But with more than 50,000 ships entering Japanese ports every year, it is a difficult task for authorities to track the ships' recent port visits. Singapore has suspended trade ties with North Korea in the latest move by a country to implement UN sanctions to curb Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme. A circular by Singapore Customs on its website banned "all commercially traded goods … from or to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), regardless of whether they are imported, exported, transhipped or brought in transit through Singapore" with effect from November 8. DPRK is North Korea's formal name. Singapore Customs sent the notice to traders and agents on Tuesday. It warned violators they can be fined up to S$100,000 (US$74,000) or three times the value of the goods traded, or suffer a jail term of up to two years, or suffer both penalties, for the first offence. Repeat violators will be subject to stiffer penalties. ^ top ^

China, ASEAN aim for long-term peace, stability in South China Sea (Xinhua)
2017-11-16
China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have reaffirmed their commitment to long-term peace and stability in the South China Sea as they announced to start negotiating on the details of a code of conduct in the area. Positive Developments. At the 20th China-ASEAN (10+1) leaders' meeting held Monday in the Philippine capital of Manila, the two sides announced the start of their consultations on the text of the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea, which is considered the most crucial part of the process. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said during the meeting that China hopes the COC could be a "stabilizer" of peace in the South China Sea. "Through consultations on the COC, we hope that all parties could enhance their mutual understanding and trust, and strive to adopt the COC at an early date on the basis of consensus," he said. The announcement followed a string of positive developments in the South China Sea issue over the past year, thanks to joint efforts made by China and ASEAN countries. At the ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting in August, the two sides drew up and adopted a framework of the COC, paving the way for initiation of substantive consultations on the code's text. In a joint communique, ASEAN foreign ministers acknowledged the improved situation in the South China Sea over the past year and said the bloc anticipates "a higher level" of strategic partnership with China. Adding to such positive momentum, China and ASEAN members have established a hotline between their ministries of foreign affairs to manage maritime emergencies, and held a joint exercise on maritime search and rescue. China's Commitment. Premier Li, who just wrapped up his five-day tour to the Philippines, had reaffirmed China's commitment to long-term peace and stability in the South China Sea on various occasions during the trip. In Manila, he attended a series of leaders' meetings on East Asian cooperation and paid an official visit to the Southeast Asian nation. Peace and stability in the South China Sea is closely linked to the development and prosperity of countries in this region, Li said when addressing the 10+1 meeting. China, which has most of its freight of foreign trade passing through the South China Sea, wants peace and stability for that area more than any other country, Li added. China's commitment to the goal of upholding peace and stability in the South China Sea will not change, nor will the country change its policy of peacefully resolving territory and maritime rights disputes through consultation and negotiation with countries directly concerned, said the Chinese premier. At the 12th East Asia Summit on Tuesday, Li told regional leaders that China would firmly safeguard the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea. The initiation of COC text consultations, he noted, fully represents the common will of regional countries that they should properly handle differences through dialogues and negotiations. "It also shows the confidence, wisdom, and capacity of the regional countries to properly settle the South China Sea issue in order to make it a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation," said the Chinese premier. In a joint statement issued following Li's visit to the Philippines on Wednesday, the two countries attributed the stabilizing situation in the South China Sea to joint efforts of China, the Philippines, and other ASEAN members, and pledged to strengthen maritime cooperation in areas such as marine environmental protection and disaster risk reduction. Li's trip was the first official visit to the Philippines by a Chinese premier in 10 years. Pledges from ASEAN. Meanwhile, leaders and experts from ASEAN countries lauded the significant progress made in the COC consultations. ASEAN Secretary General Le Luong Minh said the move will deepen mutual understanding and mutual trust between ASEAN and China and lay a solid foundation for promoting their strategic partnership. "It's a good signal," said Victor Corpuz, a former Philippine military intelligence chief. He said China and ASEAN have the ability to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea without foreign interference. "If they interfere, it will surely make the issue more complex," he added. At the East Asia Summit, leaders from ASEAN countries hailed China's active role in the South China Sea issue, hoping that the related parties can work jointly to safeguard regional peace and stability. Commenting on the Philippines's achievement for its chairmanship this year, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said a major highlight was the COC framework. Singapore will hold the chairmanship of ASEAN next year. Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc also lauded the agreement on the COC framework, saying that Vietnam is willing to promote maritime cooperation with China and safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea. A chairman's statement of the 31st ASEAN summit released on Thursday said the bloc will facilitate the work and negotiation for the conclusion of a substantive and effective COC. ^ top ^

Panama embassy inaugurated in Beijing (Xinhua)
2017-11-16
Visiting Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi inaugurated the Panama Embassy in Beijing on Thursday, five months after bilateral diplomatic ties were established. "The inauguration ceremony is of historic significance," said Varela, adding, "Panama will firmly abide by the one-China principle and develop a friendly cooperation relationship with China." Varela is visiting China from Nov. 16 to 22. This marks the first trip by a Panamanian leader to China since the two nations established diplomatic ties on June 13. "The decision to establish diplomatic ties with China by President Varela is in accordance with the historical trend and serves the state, national and people's interests of Panama," said Wang. There has been new progress every day since the bilateral relations were established. The state visit by Varela and the first meeting between the top leaders from the two countries will open a new era of common development, the foreign minister added. China and Panama signed a joint communique on June 13, in which the government of Panama severs "diplomatic relations" with Taiwan as of that day and undertakes not to have any more official relations or exchanges with Taiwan. ^ top ^

US' anti-China report deserves retaliation (Global Times)
2017-11-16
Another anti-China report has been issued by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission. The commission, created by Congress, has in past annual reports proposed extremely negative policies towards China. This year is no exception. The commission's report recommends that the US invite Taiwan to participate in military exercises and re-implement the US-Hong Kong Policy Act passed in 1992. The commission's report also calls for expanding reviews of Chinese investment in key US sectors and making Chinese State media representatives register as foreign agents. From China's perspective, the commission is one of the most hostile US organizations. It was set up before China joined the WTO in 2001 to monitor the possible impact of China-US trade on US national security. But from the very beginning, the commission has opposed China-US exchanges and those who draft its report obviously hold fixed prejudices against China. The policymaking mechanism in the US differs widely from that in China. Those who draft the annual report do not place US national interests first. They work to advance their own faulty views, even when they know their extreme suggestions will not be adopted. It's disconcerting to see US policies formulated in the fog of political infighting. These anti-China reports seem designed only to generate a negative image of China, which in turn creates a preset bias against China among members of Congress and the American public. The most anti-China views percolate out of the US Congress. Such anti-China sentiments, aided by inflammatory reports from the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, could be exploited by those with ulterior motives. The US system allows the country to lash out at China in any direction. US President Donald Trump has just concluded his China trip with clear and abundant results, while Congress and some media accuse Trump of "kowtowing" to China. Meanwhile, the existing US mind-set toward China prevents the president from truly standing up for his achievements. Some Chinese people have suggested communicating more with the Americans to help them better understand China, while others believe American society is too complex for this to provide meaningful results. And this is the crux of the long-term impasse in China-US relations - while China sticks to principles and normal diplomacy, US diplomacy is at sixes and nines. It's not known if this year's report will have any impact on the US' China policy. Ignoring the report may allow the report to generate its desired effect, while a strong reply may negate its vitriol. No matter what the reaction, there are those in the US who will continue to try to contain and disrupt China. Nonetheless, what determines the trajectory of Sino-US ties is the strength and wisdom of the two countries. After the report's release, there will be more hearings and struggles between different interest groups, all of which only serves to consume US time, energy and resources. Given the realistic need to deal with the West, China should encourage public diplomacy to open on a new track. In the face of a provocateur like the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, the best way to deal with it is to pay it back in kind. ^ top ^

China vows to boost ties with Saudi Arabia amid growing turmoil in Middle East (SCMP)
2017-11-16
China on Thursday vowed to strengthen its cooperation with Saudi Arabia at a time when the Middle Eastern kingdom is facing a political shake-up at home, and heightened tensions with Lebanon and Iran. No matter how the international and regional situation changed, China's determination to deepen strategic cooperation with Saudi Arabia would not change, President Xi Jinping told Saudi King Salman in a telephone conversation, according to a report by China's state broadcaster CCTV. "China supports Saudi in its efforts to safeguard its sovereignty and achieve greater development," Xi was quoted as saying. King Salman told Xi that Saudi Arabia was willing to become China's "important partner" in the Gulf. The kingdom also intended to play a role in China's "Belt and Road Initiative" and cooperate with Beijing in the energy and financial sectors, he said. The CCTV report did not mention the international or regional situation, but the telephone call came after a large-scale corruption purge in Saudi Arabia and the sudden resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, which sparked a new round of political crises in the region. Earlier this month, dozens of Saudi princes and officials were detained on corruption charges, a move that is believed to have helped Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to consolidate his power. And two weeks ago, Hariri abruptly resigned after travelling to the Saudi capital Riyadh, prompting fears of a renewed conflict. Lebanese President Michel Aoun this week accused Saudi authorities of "detaining" Hariri, but Riyadh said he was free to leave the kingdom "when he pleases". Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia has a long-running rivalry with Shia-led Iran, which supports Lebanon's main political power broker, Hezbollah. According to a Reuters report, although Saudi Arabia regarded Hariri as an ally, he was likely pressured into quitting because he was unwilling to confront Hezbollah. Saudi Arabia was also seen as a protagonist in leading 11 other nations to sever diplomatic ties with Qatar earlier this year. Describing itself as a friend to Saudi Arabia and Iran, China has bolstered its presence in the region by forging closer ties with both countries. For its part, Saudi Arabia has been seeking to boost oil sales to China, which is the world's largest crude oil importer. During King Salman's first official trip to China in March, the two countries signed deals, including some in the oil sector, worth a combined US$65 billion. ^ top ^

Pakistan pulls plug on dam deal over China's 'too strict' conditions in latest blow to Belt and Road plans (SCMP)
2017-11-16
Pakistan has decided to cancel a US$14 billion infrastructure agreement with China because it could not accept the hyper strict conditions, local media reported, in another setback to Beijing's overseas ambitions. The exclusion of the Diamer-Bhasha dam from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) framework, a key element to Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative, was because China's hyper strict conditions for funding the project were "not doable and against our interests", Pakistan's Express Tribune quoted Water and Power Development Authority chairman Muzammil Hussain as saying on Thursday. The harsh conditions included China taking ownership of the project, the operation and maintenance costs and pledging to build another operational dam. The project will go on ahead, however, as Pakistan has decided to finance the project – which will generate 4,500 megawatts (MW) of hydropower – itself. The decision comes only a few days after Nepal called off a US$2.5 billion hydropower plant awarded to a Chinese state-owned company, which was also part of the Belt and Road Initiative. China and Pakistan are due to hold a meeting about the CPEC on November 21. The two sides have prioritised about 15 thermo energy projects valued at US$2.2 billion. Although the South Asian countries like Pakistan and Nepal need and welcome China's investment to improve their infrastructure, specialists warned that the latest setbacks are a reminder that China should be more cautious when it promotes sensitive projects like hydropower in other countries. "Hydropower projects are particularly complicated and sensitive," said Sun Shihai, a specialist on China's relations with South Asia at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Factors such as the environmental impact, resident relocation, the competing interests of upstream and downstream regions – particularly for international rivers – can seriously affect a project. Sun highlighted the example of the Myitsone dam project involving a Chinese firm in Myanmar that was suspended over environmental concerns. In the case of the Diamer-Bhasha dam, which is on the Indus River in the region of Gilgit-Baltistan, and borders the Pakistan-occupied part of the disputed territory of Kashmir, India's objections contributed to the difficulty Pakistan had raising money from international institutions. "India has strongly opposed the CPEC because it includes projects in the disputed region. So there are many more factors China should take into consideration." said Sun. However, Zhao Gancheng, a South Asia studies expert at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, said as the US$46 billion CPEC has already set a few major projects in motion, arguing that the rejection of individual projects was not yet a major problem for the Belt and Road Initiative. The project intends to build infrastructure and trade links connecting countries across Asia and in Africa. "It will not be a big surprise if similar problems happen in China's future overseas projects. And that would not change the big picture," said Zhao. "There is a common misinterpretation internationally that the Belt and Road is something China would want to push forwards at all cost. But in fact, all projects are commercial so they have to be justifiable economically, and agreed mutually," he said. ^ top ^

China hopes Zimbabwe remain stable: FM (Global Times)
2017-11-16
China said it hopes the situation in Zimbabwe remains stable, and promised Chinese friendly policies to Zimbabwe will not change. Zimbabwe's military leaders seized control of the capital and ousted President Robert Mugabe. The two sides are trying to reach a deal on the future of the country. Mugabe, who has been president of the country for 37 years, is now under house arrest. China has always paid close attention to the situation in Zimbabwe, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said during a press conference on Thursday. "We wholeheartedly wish the political situation in Zimbabwe will remain stable, and problems will be solved properly and in a peaceful manner," Geng said. As to China's investment in the African country, Geng said that bilateral cooperation will continue. "China-Zimbabwe friendly cooperation is an all-round one and benefits people of both countries. China's friendly policies toward Zimbabwe will not change," Geng said. China will continue to develop friendly cooperation with Zimbabwe under the principle of mutual benefits, cooperative and a win-win situation, he said. ^ top ^

China, Philippines sign 14 deals, enhance positive momentum in ties during premier visit (Xinhua)
2017-11-15
China and the Philippines on Wednesday signed 14 cooperation deals as leaders of the two countries pledged to strengthen "positive momentum" in bilateral relations. After meeting with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told the press in Manila that the Chinese-Philippine relations have improved and both sides hope to "work together to make up for the time that we might have lost." Li is the first Chinese premier to pay an official visit to the Philippines in a decade. He came to the Philippines at a time the bilateral ties are warming up, a development that has continued since Duterte came to office last year. Li said Duterte's visit to China in October last year was an "ice-breaker" and he has come this time to carry forward the traditional friendship. The two leaders witnessed the signing of the 14 cooperation agreements on infrastructure financing, bridge construction, bond issuance, drug rehabilitation, climate change, intellectual property protection, industrial capacity cooperation. The leaders also announced the start of work for two river bridges in Manila and two drug rehabilitation centers in Mindanao. Looking forward, Li said China commends the Philippines' Ambisyon Natin 2040 development strategy and is happy to be involved in the Philippines' large-scale infrastructure programs. Cooperation strategies, spanning five to 10 years, in areas like infrastructure can be discussed and formulated to send out a message that the China-Philippines relations will continue to go forward, he said. Li pledged 150 million yuan (22.7 million U.S. dollars) in grants from the Chinese government to assist the reconstruction of war-torn Marawi in the southern Philippines. The Philippine government in October declared victory over Islamic State (IS)-linked extremists in Marawi, ending nearly five months of fierce fighting that left many parts of the city destroyed. Li said he believed that with Duterte's leadership the rebuilding of Marawi will be completed at a very early day and local people will enjoy an even better life. For his part, Duterte thanked China for aiding the Philippines in its takeover and rebuilding of Marawi and the assistance given to boost the Philippines' "Build, Build, Build" infrastructure development initiative. "I am pleased to note the positive turnaround and vigorous momentum of Philippines-China relations," Duterte said. "Practical cooperation in many areas is bringing in an early harvest of tangible benefits." He said the joint efforts to improve ties have secured peace, stability, and development in the region. ^ top ^

China, EU need "greater wisdom" for old problems: Chinese premier (Xinhua)
2017-11-15
China and the European Union (EU) should strive to solve their old problems with greater wisdom, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said here Tuesday. Li made the remarks when meeting with European Council President Donald Tusk on the sidelines of a series of leaders' meetings on East Asian cooperation in the Philippine capital of Manila. China and the EU are an important force for safeguarding world peace and stability and for promoting economic development and prosperity, Li said. Noting that both China and the EU have seen their development entering a new and critical phase, Li urged the two sides to maintain the current positive momentum in bilateral relations by substantiating their consensus reached at the China-EU leaders' meeting on the basis of mutual respect and equal treatment. To that end, he said the two sides should also push forward their negotiations for an investment agreement and enhance people-to-people exchanges. China and the EU, Li said, should strive to solve their long-standing problems with "greater wisdom." In particular, the Chinese premier urged the EU to fulfill its obligations under Article 15 of the Protocol on China's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), so as to make sure that relevant legislations accord with the WTO rules. He also called on the EU to show its support for trade liberalization and investment facilitation. According to Article 15, WTO members should have stopped using the surrogate country approach to conduct anti-dumping investigations on China by Dec. 11, 2016. Meanwhile, Li noted that the cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries is conducive to the comprehensive and balanced development of China-EU relations and to the process of Europe's integration as well. The China-CEE cooperation framework, known as the "16+1," is a platform created in April 2012 by China and 16 CEE countries. The Chinese premier told Tusk that the China-CEE cooperation is open and transparent, and that China welcomes the EU's continuous participation. Lauding the smooth progress made by the EU and China in their cooperation, Tusk said the bloc is willing to carry out the consensus reached by the two sides and optimize its economic and trade ties with China. He added that the EU will also enhance people-to-people exchanges with China and strengthen cooperation on regional and international affairs. The EU, he said, is pleased to see that the China-CEE cooperation could be conducive to the European integration process. The two sides also exchanged views on international and regional issues of common concern. Li arrived in the Philippines on Sunday to pay an official visit to the country and attend the leaders' meetings on East Asian cooperation. ^ top ^

China, Vietnam sign cooperation pacts in bid to play down South China Sea tensions (SCMP)
2017-11-14
China and Vietnam have signed a series of deals to increase cooperation as the two nations move to play down tensions over their rival claims to parts of the South China Sea. The deals were signed on Monday as Chinese President Xi Jinping wrapped up a state visit to Vietnam, his first since the last month's Communist Party national congress. However, analysts said the maritime disputes were still likely be a source of friction between the two neighbours. Xi landed in Hanoi on Sunday after the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Da Nang. He later held talks with senior Vietnamese officials, including President Tran Dai Quang, before heading to Laos. The 12 cooperation pacts include agreements on building a border trade cooperation zone and setting up a working group on e-commerce cooperation. The pacts are in addition to 83 deals worth US$1.94 billion signed before Xi's trip. These involve more than 30 Chinese companies in sectors including textiles and agricultural products. Beijing and Hanoi also agreed to manage and control their differences over South China Sea disputes and refrain from moves that would affect stability in the disputed waters, according to a joint communique released after Xi's trip. Strained relations between the two nations led their foreign ministers to cancel a meeting on the sidelines of a regional forum in the Philippines in August. Beijing was concerned about Hanoi's more vocal protests over its claims in the South China Sea and its increasingly close ties with the United States. Fan Changlong, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, also cut short his trip to Vietnam in June after Vietnam started drilling for oil in disputed waters. The drilling stopped after Beijing's protests. Vietnam's Communist Party sent a message of congratulations to China following the conclusion of the party's national congress last month. Vietnam's Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong said Xi had personally contributed to Sino-Vietnamese ties, but the statement did not use the words "brotherly Chinese people" – which was used in a greeting sent to Beijing after the last congress five years ago. Timothy Heath, senior international defence research analyst at RAND, said the change in the tone reflected Vietnam's concerns about China and their competing claims in the South China Sea. "Vietnam has good reason to be cautious about its future with China. The country seeks to gain the economic benefits promised by the 'Belt and Road Initiative' and greater trade with China, but Vietnam is also wary of China's assertiveness," Heath said. "Hanoi is perhaps worried that Beijing will insist on controlling more water and islands in the South China Sea as a price for the economic benefits gained from trade." Diplomatic observers said the signing of the latest deals indicated that both nations were papering over differences regarding the energg-rich waters. "The thorniest issue is how Beijing and Hanoi can reach a mutually acceptable path to jointly exploit resources at sea," said Zhang Xuegang, a Southeast Asian affairs specialist at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. Heath said it remained to be seen how many of the deals signed would be realised as Hanoi was also eager to sign agreements with the US and Japan. "Hanoi is eager to ... ensure Vietnam is not too dependent on China," he said. Bui Thu Hien, a China expert at the Institute of Chinese Studies at the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences, said the trade deficit was another issue China and Vietnam had to tackle. "I hope China can import more of Vietnam's products and reduce the lopsided bilateral trade relations," she said. Last year, Vietnam's exports to China reached US$21.97 billion, up 28.4 per cent; while imports from China amounted to US$49.93 billion, up 0.9 per cent; narrowing the trade deficit by 13.67 per cent to US$27.9 billion. ^ top ^

China-led regional trade pact tries to make ground as restyled TPP pushes on without US (SCMP)
2017-11-14
The leaders of the 16 countries that signed up to a China-led trade pact sought to make progress on the deal during an Asean business summit in the Philippines capital Manila on Tuesday. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a regional free-trade agreement supported by the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, along with China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. However, after 20 rounds of negotiations, the details of the deal remain under discussion. The talks in Manila come just days after the 11 nations still allied to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreed to rename and push on with their pact, which the United States abandoned in January. Following talks on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Da Nang, Vietnam, the countries on Saturday said they would proceed with the deal under the new name, the Comprehensive Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). For economic reasons alone, ensuring RCEP becomes the dominant trade agreement in the region is a priority for Beijing. According to a 2016 study by researchers at Nankai University, a RCEP "win" would be worth about US$88 billion a year to China, while a CPTPP victory would cost it US$22 billion a year. If both deals succeeded, China would gain US$72 billion a year. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said in March 2016 that he hoped to complete the talks on RCEP before the end of that year. In his speech on Tuesday in Manila, he did not set any specific targets, but said the countries involved should push ahead with their talks "in a more proactive manner". The problem for China is that the seven countries that are aligned to both deals – Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam – might, after the progress made on the sidelines of the Apec summit, now favour the CPTPP over the RCEP. Malaysia's Trade Minister Mustapa Mohamed acknowledged the shift in a speech last week in Vietnam. "RCEP was a priority after the TPP almost collapsed without the US," he said. "RCEP was a priority when we thought the TPP was not going anywhere, but in the past few months, there has been some pick up in momentum for the TPP." In contrast, consensus on the RCEP still seems a long way off. During talks on the issue in South Korea last month, the ministerial representatives agreed only on what subjects the 16 countries should discuss. Zhang Jun, director general of the Department of International Economic Affairs under China's foreign ministry, said on Tuesday that although the revival of the CPTPP was not a setback for the RCEP, the China-led pact was "facing challenges". Jose Cuisia Jnr, a former governor of the central bank of the Philippines, told the South China Morning Post on the sidelines of the Asean Business and Investment Summit, that the RCEP had the potential to be a "more successful trade agreement" than the CPTPP because of the presence of China and India. But there were still plenty of difficulties that needed to be tackled, he said. "There are different standards and regulations. They have to come to an agreement on how to standardise [them]. Those are the barriers," he said. Huo Jianguo, vice-chairman of the China Society for WTO Studies under China's commerce ministry, said it was important for the leaders of the RCEP nations to get together as negotiations were in need of a boost. "The trade deal is more than just a matter of economic opening up," he said. "There are lots of geopolitical considerations involved." China was trying to be proactive in pushing forward the RCEP but other major economies, like Japan, were less enthusiastic and appeared to favour the CPTPP, he said. Zhou Shijian, a senior researcher at the Institute for International Relations at Tsinghua University, said, however, that the biggest stumbling block for the RCEP came from India. Huo agreed, saying China's giant neighbour was concerned about opening up its service industries, and was reluctant to accept foreign investment in its manufacturing sector. Preeti Saran, India's top diplomat for Asia, said earlier that the country remained committed to the RCEP, but wanted a "balanced" outcome. ^ top ^

'Better left untouched': Philippines and Vietnam wary of Trump offer to mediate South China Sea disputes (SCMP)
2017-11-13
US President Donald Trump's offer to mediate the long-standing territorial disputes in the South China Sea could antagonise Beijing and overshadow his relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The maritime disputes have long been a sore point in China's relations with the United States, Vietnam and other Asia-Pacific countries, with Beijing insisting the disagreements must be resolved through negotiations with the countries directly involved, and Washington, which is not a claimant, has no role to play in the talks. Trump's offer in Hanoi on Sunday came just hours before Xi started his second state visit in three years to the former communist ally, which has emerged in the past year as the most vocal opponent of China's expansive claims and militarisation of artificial islands in the contested waters. "If I can help mediate or arbitrate, please let me know," Trump said at a meeting in Hanoi with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang. "I'm a very good mediator and arbitrator." Like his hardline speech on Friday to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum in Da Nang, where he lashed out at China's "territorial expansion", Trump acknowledged again that China's position on the South China Sea was a problem. But his Vietnamese counterpart did not respond directly to Trump's offer. Instead, Quang said: "It is our policy to settle disputes in the South China Sea through peaceful negotiations" with "respect for diplomatic and legal process in accordance with international law". Beijing's claim to the energy-rich South China Sea covers almost 90 per cent of the waters and overlaps those of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was equally wary of confrontation, saying the dispute was "better left untouched". "We have to be friends. The other hotheads would like us to confront China and the rest of the world on so many issues," Duterte said, returning home from Apec to host the Asean and East Asia summits in Manila. "The South China Sea is better left untouched, nobody can afford to go to war." Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said that while he would not speak for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Manila would continue its bilateral negotiation with Beijing. "We thank [Trump]. It's a very kind and generous offer because he is a good mediator. He is the master of the art of the deal," Cayetano said. "Not one country can just give an instant reply because mediation involves all of the claimants and non-claimants." The South China Sea is a busy and important waterway where about 30 per cent of global maritime trade and about half of all global oil tanker shipments pass through annually. Trump's take on China in Vietnam was a sharp change in tone from just days earlier in Beijing where the US leader boasted of his personal bond with Xi and avoided confrontation in public on contentious issues, including the South China Sea. Observers said that sudden shift was a reality check for US-China relations. They said Trump's remarks, which gave few clues as to what he planned to do next, would reinforce Beijing's suspicion that Washington intended to meddle in South China Sea affairs and stir trouble to contain China. Despite Beijing's repeated protests, the Trump administration has carried out four freedom-of-navigation patrols close to Chinese-controlled islands this year, including one last month. "China does not want the US to mediate in the South China Sea disputes because of its concerns about US meddling," said Wu Xinbo, a US affairs specialist at Fudan University in Shanghai. Wu said Washington had refused to heed Beijing's concerns and cease the patrols, and Trump's latest remarks on the maritime disputes seemed to be an attempt to stoke tensions to counter China's expanding influence in the region. "Vietnam has pinned its hopes on Washington to rein in China, and Trump's latest offer shows they are colluding on the South China Sea issue," he said. Hanoi's warming ties with Washington and its surging anti-China sentiment will also hamper Xi's fence-mending visit to Vietnam. In July, China pressured Vietnam to stop drilling for oil in a disputed area, taking relations to a low. Xi's last visit in 2015 was overshadowed by violent anti-Beijing protests over another oil stand-off in the South China Sea the previous year. Bui Thi Thu Hien, a China expert from the Institute of Chinese Studies at the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences, said Vietnam, as the smaller neighbour, was concerned that China would become more assertive after Xi's consolidation of power at the Communist Party's national congress last month. "With China's rise, its competition with other major powers is inevitable, which could lead to regional instability that affects all countries," she said. Alexander Vuving, a China expert at the Daniel K Inouye Asia-Pacific Centre for Security Studies in Honolulu, said that despite Beijing successfully appealing to Trump's ego and softening Trump's rhetoric on China last week, there was little change to the fundamentals of US-China relations. He said that although Trump and Xi appeared to have good personal ties, Beijing's relations with Washington would be tested at the Asean and East Asia summits in the Philippines by the US leader's embrace of a quadrilateral alliance with Japan, India and Australia. "[The resumption of the four-way alliance] is the budding element of a new regional security architecture [targeting China]," Vuving said. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Human rights in China under Xi Jinping 'worst since Tiananmen crackdown': Amnesty (SCMP)
2017-11-17
After five years in prison and three more confined by guards at home, Chinese human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng could take no more. With the help of friends and a willing driver, Gao escaped his state security captors on August 13 and found shelter in the home of a stranger who made him pork dumplings – the first real meal he had eaten in years. Gao's freedom was short-lived, however. Less than three weeks later, the police tracked him to the city of Jiexiu in Shanxi province and searched house-to-house until they found him, Li Fawang, a supporter who helped him escape, said. Gao's whereabouts are now unknown. Gao's plight shows what activists say is a drastically deteriorating situation for rights campaigners under the rule of President Xi Jinping, who emerged from a party congress last month as the most powerful Chinese leader in a generation. With China's economy continuing to boom and its global influence on the rise, Xi is more than ever convinced that China requires a highly authoritarian, one-party system, analysts say. At the same time, a growing alienation from politics among young Chinese is pushing the party to reinsert itself into its citizens' daily lives. "The outlook for human rights is grim and we see no sign of improvement," said Maya Wang, Human Rights Watch's Hong Kong-based researcher, who described the current repression as the worst since 1989's bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests centred on Beijing's Tiananmen Square. "We feel we haven't hit bottom yet." Wang and others point to the growing number of secret detentions and closed-door trials and the disregard for due process. The authorities are also increasingly willing to ignore health problems among political prisoners, who campaigners say already face solitary confinement or harsh conditions locked up with hardened criminals who dish out beatings and other abuse. The United States under President Donald Trump does not appear to be offering much support. Trump's failure to raise human rights during his visit to Beijing last week "lent the Chinese government legitimacy when it is one of the worst human rights offenders", Wang said. China's government rejects accusations of human rights abuses, insisting it runs the country according to law and that no outsider has the right to challenge its "judicial sovereignty". Yet it also dismisses the suitability of a multi-party system or Western notions of "universal rights", warning such notions threaten to undermine Chinese society and undo its economic achievements. The situation had worsened since the party congress, said Thailand-based Chinese campaigner Wu Yuhua, also known as Ai Wu. "Conditions are deteriorating, with prisoners of conscience suffering from torture, degradation, harassment and discrimination," Wu said. "I'm very pessimistic about the prospects for human rights in China." For many rights activists, the death of imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo from liver cancer in July was a low point. His widow, Liu Xia, had been held a virtual prisoner in her Beijing home throughout Liu's sentence, despite never being charged. Since his death, she has had virtually no contact with friends or family and the authorities will not say where she is currently held. Other lesser-known cases also testify to the party's determination to crush dissent. Writer and rights campaigner Yang Tongyan died at the age of 56 earlier this month after he was released on medical parole in August, shortly before completing a 12-year sentence on a subversion charge. He had already served 10 years for criticising the 1989 crackdown. Yang's death underscored "an alarming lack of accountability for the pattern of deaths of activists released on medical parole", Amnesty International said, likening it to the 2014 death from organ failure of campaigner Cao Shunli, who activists said was denied treatment in custody. Health worries also afflict long-time activist Huang Li, who operated a website that documented the often-futile efforts of ordinary Chinese to seek help over land seizures, lay-offs and local graft. Huang, who was detained last November, is not expected to go to trial until next year, according to his lawyer Sui Muqing. In his mid-50s, Huang suffers from ailments including kidney and heart disease and has been barred from buying better food and other supplies from the jail commissary, Sui said. "The detention centre is entirely unable to meet his basic medical needs," Sui said. Huang's mother said she feared her son would not last more than another year behind bars. Retribution is also handed out to activists' family members. The teenage son of Beijing lawyer Wang Yu had been blocked from leaving the country, forcing him to set aside plans to study in Australia, his father said. Wang was detained in a nationwide round-up of lawyers and other activists on July 9, 2015, then released but placed under close surveillance in Inner Mongolia and only recently allowed to return to Beijing. Meanwhile, concern remains high for Gao, 53, who had won international renown for defending members of the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement and fighting for farmers' land rights. His public denunciation of the torture he said he had suffered in detention appears to have made him a particular target for abuse. When Gao was released from prison in August 2014, the formerly outspoken lawyer could barely walk or speak, raising concerns that one of the most inspirational figures in China's rights movement had been permanently broken. Years of abuse and poor nutrition have caused his teeth to fall out, forcing him onto a liquid diet. While under extra-legal house arrest, he was constantly watched by dozens of uniformed and plain-clothes officers stationed directly outside his rural home in northern China's Shaanxi province. Despite that, he managed to communicate sporadically with the outside via messaging apps, even releasing a book about his time in prison, three years of which were in solitary confinement. "I felt so sorry that I wasn't able to keep him protected," said Li, the friend who helped Gao slip away from his captors. Li was detained for more than a month after Gao's recapture. A second friend who helped in the escape, Zhao Chongguo, continues to be held. Under Xi, repression against minority groups has also been ratcheted up, with unconfirmed reports of hundreds of Muslim Uygurs and Kazakhs thrown into political re-education centres. Tibetans also face onerous restrictions and government intrusions, including the inability to travel abroad. Conditions could get worse still, activists say. "Xi is determined to control society at all costs and doesn't care what anyone says," long-time activist Hu Jia, who lives under tight surveillance in Beijing, said.
"His ultimate goal is to preserve Communist Party rule and if someone strives for freedom, they will lose their freedom." ^ top ^

China's propaganda chief warns against 'seduction' of Western values (SCMP)
2017-11-17
Western countries are trying to push their culture and political values onto others, seducing them into abandoning their own, China's propaganda chief warned on Friday, saying the country must follow its own path. Chinese President Xi Jinping has overseen a sweeping crackdown against civil society since assuming office five years ago, tightening control over society, media and the internet. Xi has pledged to promote what the ruling Communist Party refers to as core socialist values, which stress, among other things, patriotism, Chinese traditional culture, the rule of law, harmony and prosperity. Huang Kunming, who was appointed to the post following last month's party congress at which Xi further cemented his grip on power, wrote in the official People's Daily that there was an intensifying "surge and collision" in the world between different values. "There are especially some Western countries who use their technological advantages and dominance of discourse that they have accumulated over a long period to peddle so-called 'universal values'," he wrote. Such countries, which Huang did not name, "are trying to seduce people into 'beautifying the West' and 'being compliant with the West', weakening or even abandoning their identification with their own spiritual culture", he said. China's special cultural traditions, unique historical destiny and national situation mean it has to protect its own values rooted in its culture. And only by promoting core socialist values can the Chinese people stand tall in the "forest of the world's people", Huang said. China has long railed against those it says try to impose Western concepts on the country, such as competitive multi-party democracy or the separation of powers, and the Communist Party brooks no challenge to its power. On the eve of the party congress, Xinhua attacked Western democracy as divisive and confrontational. China's constitution enshrines the party's long-term "leading" role in government, although it allows the existence of various other political parties under what is called a "multi-party cooperation system". But all are subservient to the Communist Party. Activists who call for pluralism are regularly jailed and criticism of China's authoritarian system silenced. ^ top ^

China aims to be world-leading space power by 2045 (China Daily)
2017-11-17
China plans to grow into a global leader in space technology by 2045, according to a route map drawn up by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, the major contractor of the country's space programs. The following are the milestones China is expected to achieve in the following three decades. 2020: Long March 8 carrier rocket, a medium-size launch vehicle, will make its debut. The application of the new rocket will significantly lower the cost of sending a satellite into low-medium orbit, boosting the country's ability to provide commercial launch services. 2025: Suborbital spaceflight will be realized. Suborbital spaceflight reaches an altitude between 20 and 100 kilometers, often described as between the highest altitude an airplane can reach and the lowest level a satellite operates. A suborbital carrier vehicle is able to fly in suborbit, allowing common people to go into space, Lu Yu, a senior rocket engineer from CAST, was quoted as saying by China News Service. 2030: The 100-ton heavy-lift carrier rocket will be launched. According to the plan, the heavy carrier rocket will have a carrying capacity of 100 tons, compared with the 20-ton-level rocket used currently. Lu said the heav-lift carrier rocket will provide strong support for the country's manned lunar-landing mission and the Mars probe's return journey. He said China will by then join the ranks of world-leading countries in space transport capabilities. 2035: The reusable carrier rocket will be developed. The route map shows an intelligent carrier rocket equipped with advanced power will be widely used in space transport by 2035. By then, common people will be able to take reusable carrier vehicles to travel in space, Tang Yagang, the director of carrier rocket development at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, was quoted as saying by China News Service. 2040: The nuclear-powered space shuttle will be built. It will enable large-scale resource exploration in space and mining on asteroids, as well as the building of space solar-power stations. Lu said between 2040 and 2045, a future generation of carrier rockets will be used in longer-term and multiple space trips. 2045: China will become an all-round world-leading country in space equipment and technology. By then, it will be able to carry out man-computer coordinated space exploration on a large scale, Wang Liheng, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, told China News Service. Lu Yu forecast that by 2045, with advanced space transport capabilities, China will be able to carry out large-scale exploration on planets, asteroids and comets in the solar system, as space exploration enters a stage of rapid development. ^ top ^

How China's new anti-graft super body will work, and why calling a lawyer won't be an option (SCMP)
2017-11-17
When five China-based executives of British pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) – a Briton and four Chinese nationals – were found guilty in 2014 of bribing doctors to use its drugs, Beijing portrayed it as a symbolic case that upheld the dignity of the law. But it was viewed somewhat differently by Shi Fulong, a lawyer based in Changsha, Hunan province, who represented another GSK employee detained in the investigation. "They said it was a large-scale bribery case so they rejected my requests to meet my client," said Shi, whose client, a Chinese national, was eventually released without charge. "The law gives the authorities the power to reject lawyers' requests for meetings with their clients on such grounds," he said. "Very unfortunately, that power is usually abused." A new anti-corruption law, expected to come into force next year, looks likely to make denial of access to a lawyer the norm in such cases. According to a draft of the bill, it will give Chinese graft-busters the legal grounds to detain any individual suspected of involvement in corruption for months – including those suspected of giving or receiving bribes – and block their access to lawyers during their detention. The national supervision law, released in draft form on November 6 and expected to take effect in March, will establish a new anti-graft super body – the national supervisory commission – and give the commission and its local branches special detention powers when targeting corruption suspects. There could still be minor adjustments to the draft bill, which is open for public comment until December 5, but senior officials have spelt out that suspects subject to the new form of detention, known as liuzhi, will not have the right to meet lawyers and that the duration of their detention will be at the sole discretion of the commission or its local branches. Members of the foreign business community in China and legal scholars have warned the new law could result in further abuse of power. "This is a worrisome trend and would be frowned upon by the foreign business community," said James Zimmerman, the office managing partner at international law firm Sheppard Mullin's Beijing office and a former chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China. "The right to counsel and judicial oversight are critical components of a modern, developed legal system and very much necessary to check potential abuses by the authorities. Any form of prolonged detention without the right to counsel is a step in the wrong direction." Beijing has expanded its war on corruption to those giving bribes, including foreign businesses, in recent years. The GSK case, which saw the company hit with a record three billion yuan (US$488 million) fine, was among the most notable. Chinese legal scholars said that if a similar case occurred after the enactment of the national supervision law, the suspects could be placed under liuzhi, which has been officially translated as detention but is literally somewhere between detaining and impeding. And the net will be cast wider, with the bill broadening the definition of corruption to include paying bribes to government officials, executives of state-owned enterprises, judges, doctors, professors and anyone on China's public payroll. "The concept of liuzhi is of concern because it seems to extend the features of shuanggui [a Communist Party disciplinary measure] to non-party persons, denying such persons the limited protections of the Criminal Procedure Law during the course of an investigation for criminal liability," said Lester Ross, a lawyer in the Beijing office of American law firm WilmerHale and a former head of the American Chamber of Commerce in China's policy committee. "This should be of concern to citizens of China as well as citizens of foreign countries and their employers." For decades, the party's powerful anti-graft watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), has used shuanggui – a secretive process that literally means confessing matters at a certain time at a certain location – to hold suspects for months without charge, while not being answerable to any law. It has been the main tool used in tackling corruption in the world's second largest economy since President Xi Jinping launched his signature war on graft in 2013. But shuanggui, which has been slammed by legal scholars and activists as fertile soil for the abuse of power, will finally come to an end in March, when anti-graft investigations will be subject to the new law. State media say the legal basis of liuzhi will solve a "long-pending legal dilemma". The draft of the new supervision law does not explicitly ban detainees' access to lawyers, but Beijing has made it clear that the new supervisory commissions will not be answerable to the Criminal Procedure Law, which grants suspects such rights in cases involving the police, prosecutors and courts. An article posted by the CCDI's official social media account in July said the principle of the party leading the country's legal system needed to be firmly upheld, warning against "the trap of law" and the "the trap of democracy". The special treatment was necessary for investigations to be "effective", said Zhejiang province anti-graft chief Liu Jianchao, who has headed one of three provincial supervisory commission pilot programmes. "If he's a member of the Communist Party, we still need to call him a comrade during the detention," Liu said while attending the party's national congress last month. "These are not criminal or judicial arrests and they are more effective … he could meet a lawyer after he is handed over to the prosecutors. " Liu said the approval process for liuzhi was more stringent than that for shuanggui, and it would only be approved if an investigation might lead to suicide, collusion or other undesired outcomes. But the new law also says liuzhi does not need to be approved by prosecutors – as is the case with arrests by the police – or anyone other than the supervisory commission. Jiang Mingan, a law professor at Peking University frequently consulted by the authorities on anti-corruption legislation, said limiting detainees' access to legal counsel owed much to the extreme difficulty of collecting evidence in corruption cases. "These cases are heavily dependent on the suspect's confession," Jiang said. "If he remains silent under the advice of a lawyer, it would be very hard to crack the case." However, Jiang said the way liuzhi broadened the targets of the anti-corruption crackdown fuelled fears of further abuse. "I think the detention of potential bribe payers should be applied very cautiously and the requirements should be higher than for those on the receiving end," he said. "There should be plenty of evidence before they do that and I think that should be added to the law." Jiang said other flaws in the new law included its lack of clarity on the approval procedure for liuzhi and the prevention of sleep deprivation, which has been used to put pressure on detainees to confess. He also said that while people could sue the police or other government departments if they broke the law, there were no such legal grounds for someone to sue the commission. The national supervision law is expected to give the commission and its local branches unprecedented investigative powers, but apart from the ban on legal counsel, liuzhi looks a lot like criminal detention. Evidence gathered during liuzhi, like that from criminal investigations, will be able to be presented in court, the draft bill says, and time spent in liuzhi could be subtracted from jail terms following conviction. The commission will be able to order the police to make public appeals for information, ban travel by suspects and use technology such as wiretaps to aid investigations. The national commission and its local branches will also rank highly in the political hierarchy. In the three pilot programmes, the supervisory commissions have been headed by the party's provincial anti-graft chief, and new Politburo Standing Committee Zhao Leji, who succeeded Wang Qishan as head of the CCDI last month, is expected to head the national supervisory commission. "The police were already a very strong player in the political landscape, with very few detainees found to have been innocent," said Shi Pengpeng, a law professor at China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing. "The anti-graft chief is seated in the [Politburo] Standing Committee, making the commission's rank higher than that of the police. Its supervision powers cover all judges and prosecutors. My concern is there won't be effective constraints on its power." Further swinging the balance against the prosecutors is the fact that under the new law, charges can be dropped only if the supervision committee grants its approval to do so. The new commission will integrate the anti-corruption powers of bodies including the CCDI, the State Council's Ministry of Supervision, the Supreme People's Procuratorate's anti-corruption bureau and the National Audit Office, and will be given more independence, operating parallel to the cabinet, legislature and supreme court. State-controlled media have praised it as an "integrated and effective" institution to fight corruption, with some comparing it with Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), which has been credited with protecting clean governance in the city for more than four decades. However, former ICAC investigator Lam Cheuk-ting said the two graft-fighting bodies were not comparable. "I don't think that [liuzhi] is a common practice in countries that respect the rule of law," said Lam, now a Democratic Party lawmaker in Hong Kong. "I think the right to legal counsel is a basic human right. "The success of the ICAC in the past decades has not been dependent on one institution alone, but also on judicial independence and press freedom to supervise and balance. But I don't see that on the mainland now." ^ top ^

Forced medication and electroshock: 'abuse rampant in Chinese gay conversion therapy' (SCMP)
2017-11-16
When Chen Shuoli was sent to a mainland clinic last year to undergo "therapy" to convert him from gay to straight, he was forced to swallow unknown medicine, ­according to an account he gave ­Human Rights Watch. "The nurses always asked me to open my mouth and she would use a stick to check around to make sure I actually swallowed the pills," Chen, 35, said. So-called conversion therapy is given to both homosexuals and bisexuals and carried out in public hospitals and private clinics,according to Human Rights Watch. The group on Wednesday published a report based on the ­accounts of 17 interviewees, including Chen. None of them used their real names. Such conversion therapy runs counter to the Mental Health Law adopted in 2013, under which facilities cannot admit individuals who do not suffer from a mental disease. Homosexuality was ­declassified as a mental disorder in 2001. Chen's ordeal was not the worst of its kind. Zhang Zhikun, a Shenzhen-based transgender person, underwent the process in 2012, and was given electric shocks. "I was asked to sit down on a chair, with my hands both tied to the chair arms with leather strips. Then the nurse and the doctor attached pads to both of my wrists, my stomach and my temples. These pads are connected to a machine through cables," Zhang was quoted as saying in the report. They put on a gay porn film for her to watch, and minutes later, "they switched on the electric current. They repeated the electroshock about six or seven times during the session", she said. A total of five interviewees reported the use of electroshock, Human Rights Watch said. Boris Dittrich, advocacy director for the group's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights programme, said the technique was commonly used during such conversion therapy sessions on the mainland, so "people start ­associating gay sex with pain". The mainland has an ­estimated 70 million members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. A survey of nearly 30,000 LGBT Chinese by the United Nations Development Programme last year found that more than half of them were ­discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. None of the interviewees would have undergone the process were it not for family and social pressure, the report found. Under guidelines by the ­National Health and Family ­Planning Commission, local ­governments must investigate any practices or incidents occurring in hospitals and clinics that violate the Mental Health Law. The law stipulates that ­diagnosis and treatment of mental ­disorders must comply with diagnostic standards. "Because same sex attraction is not a disorder, the law renders conversion therapy illegal," the report said. One interviewee ­recalled escaping. "There was one evening, I walked very quietly to the yard, so quiet I could hear my own breaths. My heart was beating so fast. I climbed over the wall. And then I started running like crazy." ^ top ^

China releases website for missing, stolen cultural relics (Global Times)
2017-11-16
China recently announced a new online platform for providing information on stolen or lost cultural relics and it has released more than 200 pieces of information on related relics as of Thursday. The Stolen (Lost) Cultural Relics Information Publishing Platform of China had its launch ceremony held on Thursday in Xi'an, Northwest China's Shaanxi Province. The website was released jointly by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH) and the Ministry of Public Security (MPS), news website thepaper.cn reported. The organizers of the platform want to provide more concrete evidence to help China reclaim lost or stolen relics from overseas, and to provide information for a crackdown on any related crimes as well as to control the relics market, , said thepaper.cn. It could also be used as a way to get the public to join the protection work on relics. People are also encouraged to provide clues on helping find the relics, it said. The Global Times on Thursday got a look at the nearly 200 bits of information the website published on lost or stolen relics and, in addition to names, photos and ages of the relics, it gives the time and location of the disappearance of the item. More than 10 million Chinese cultural relics have yet to be returned. ^ top ^

China accused of holding up to 30 relatives of exiled Uygur leader (SCMP)
2017-11-15
The authorities in China's far western region of Xinjiang have detained up to 30 relatives of an exiled ethnic Uygur leader, Rebiya Kadeer, the rights group Amnesty International said on Tuesday. It was not possible to independently verify the report. Xinjiang, where hundreds have died in recent years in violence between majority Han Chinese and ethnic Uygurs who call Xinjiang home, is under tight security and independent reporting there is difficult. Uygurs are a mostly Muslim people who speak a Turkic language. A Xinjiang government news department official declined to comment, saying she was unaware of the report. China's foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Kadeer is a former political prisoner in China accused of leaking state secrets in 1999. She was later allowed to leave on medical grounds and lives in the United States. She is president of the World Uighur Congress. Amnesty said that among those detained were Kadeer's sisters, brothers, sons, grandchildren and extended relatives. Some of her relatives have been detained or jailed previously in Xinjiang. The rights group said in an emailed statement that it was unclear when they were taken away and that they were "presumed" to be held at a so-called education centre and risked torture. "These facilities are known to arbitrarily detain Uygurs and other Muslim minorities for six to 12 months or more," it said. "Forced to study Chinese laws and policies, many of those detained are targeted because they may have been found praying, owning religious books, have travelled abroad, or have family members living abroad," it said. The Chinese government routinely denies accusations of rights abuses in Xinjiang, although it has admitted a problem with torture of detainees and has pledged to stop mistreatment of prisoners. Xinjiang, on the borders of Central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan, is one of China's most sensitive domestic issues and where China says it faces its own war on radical Islam and militancy. Rights groups and Uygur exiles say the unrest is more a product of Uygur frustration at Chinese controls on their culture and religion. China denies any repression. ^ top ^

China builds world's fastest wind tunnel to test weapons that could strike US within 14 minutes (SCMP)
2017-11-15
China is building the world's fastest wind tunnel to simulate hypersonic flight at speeds of up to 12 kilometres per second. A hypersonic vehicle flying at this speed from China could reach the west coast of the United States in less than 14 minutes. Zhao Wei, a senior scientist working on the project, said researchers aimed to have the facility up and running by around 2020 to meet the pressing demand of China's hypersonic weapon development programme. "It will boost the engineering application of hypersonic technology, mostly in military sectors, by duplicating the environment of extreme hypersonic flights, so problems can be discovered and solved on the ground," said Zhao, a deputy director of the State Key Laboratory of High Temperature Gas Dynamics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. The ground tests will significantly reduce the risk of failure when test flights of hypersonic aircraft start. The world's most powerful wind tunnel at present is America's LENX-X facility in Buffalo, New York state, which operates at speeds of up to 10 kilometres per second – 30 times the speed of sound. Hypersonic aircraft are defined as vehicles that travel at speeds of Mach 5, five times the speed of sound, or above. The US military tested HTV-2, a Mach 20 unmanned aircraft in 2011 but the hypersonic flight lasted only a few minutes before the vehicle crashed into the Pacific Ocean. In March, China conducted seven successful test flights of its hypersonic glider WU-14, also known as the DF-ZF, at speeds of between Mach 5 and Mach 10. Other countries including Russia, India and Australia have also tested some early prototypes of the aircraft, which could be used to deliver missiles including nuclear weapons. "China and the US have started a hypersonic race," said Wu Dafang, professor at the school of aeronautic science and engineering at Beihang University in Beijing who received a national technology award for the invention of a new heat shield used on hypersonic vehicles in 2013. Wu has worked on the development of hypersonic cruise missiles, a near space vehicle, high-speed drones and other possible weapons for the People's Liberation Army. He said there were a number of hypersonic wind tunnels in mainland China which had helped ensure the high success rate of its hypersonic weapon tests. The new wind tunnel will be "one of the most powerful and advanced ground test facilities for hypersonic vehicles in the world", said Wu, who was not involved in the project. "This is definitely good news for us. I look forward to its completion," he added. In the new tunnel there will be a test chamber with room for relatively large aircraft models with a wing span of almost three metres. To generate an airflow at extremely high speeds, the researchers will detonate several tubes containing a mixture of oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen gases to create a series of explosions that can discharge one gigawatt of power within a split second, according to Zhao. This is more than half of the total power generation capacity of the Daya Bay nuclear power plant in Guangdong. The shock waves, channelled into the test chamber through a metallic tunnel, will envelope the prototype vehicle and increase the temperature over its body to 8,000 Kelvins, or 7,727 degrees Celsius, Zhao said. That is nearly 50 per cent hotter than the surface of the Sun. The hypersonic vehicle therefore must be covered by special materials with extremely efficient cooling systems inside the airframe to dissipate the heat, otherwise it could easily veer off the course or disintegrate during a long-distance flight. The new tunnel would also be used to test the scramjet, a new type of jet engine designed specifically for hypersonic flights. Traditional jet engines are not capable of handling air flows at such speeds. Zhao said the construction of the new facility would be led by the same team that built JF12, a hypervelocity denotation-driven shock tunnel in Beijing capable of duplicating flight conditions at speeds ranging from Mach 5 to Mach 9 at altitudes between 20 and 50 kilometres. Jiang Zonglin, lead developer of the JF12, won the annual Ground Test Award issued by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics last year for advancing "state-of-the-art large-scale hypersonic test facilities". Jiang's JF12 design "uses no moving parts and generates a longer test-duration and a higher energy flow than more traditionally designed tunnels", according to the American institute. According to state media reports, the JF12 tunnel has been operating at full capacity with a new test every two days since its completion in 2012 as the pace of hypersonic weapon development increased significantly in recent years. In an article published in the domestic journal National Science Review last month, Jiang said the impact of hypersonic flights on society could be "revolutionary". "With practical hypersonic aeroplanes, a two-hour flight to anywhere in the world will be possible" while the cost of space travel could be cut by 99 per cent with reusable spacecraft technology, Jiang wrote. "Hypersonic flight is, and in the foreseeable future will be, the driver of national security, and civilian transportation and space access," he added. The escape velocity, or the minimum speed needed to leave the Earth, is 11 kilometres per second. ^ top ^

Want to escape poverty? Replace pictures of Jesus with Xi Jinping, Christian villagers urged (SCMP)
2017-11-14
Thousands of Christians in an impoverished county in rural southeast China have swapped their posters of Jesus for portraits of President Xi Jinping as part of a local government poverty-relief programme that seeks to "transform believers in religion into believers in the party". Located on the edge of Poyang, China's largest freshwater lake, Yugan county in Jiangxi province is known equally for its poverty and its large Christian community. More than 11 per cent of its 1 million residents live below the country's official poverty line, while nearly 10 per cent of its population is Christian, according to official data. But as the local government redoubles its efforts to alleviate poverty, many believers have been told to take down the images of Jesus, the crosses and the gospel couplets that form the centrepieces of their homes, and hang portraits of Xi instead – a practice that hearkens back to the era of the personality cult around late chairman Mao Zedong, whose portraits were once ubiquitous in Chinese homes. Under Xi, the ruling Communist Party has made ending poverty by 2020 a top priority. The campaign is not only crucial to the political legacy of the country's most powerful leader since Mao, but also serves to consolidate the party's control over the grass roots of society, who despite their vast numbers have been largely neglected in China's decades-long pursuit of economic growth. In Yugan, the officially atheist party is competing for influence with Christianity, which has spread rapidly in both poor rural villages and prosperous cities since the end of the Cultural Revolution more than 40 years ago. By some estimates, Christians in China now outnumber the 90 million members of the party. A local social media account reported over the weekend that in Yugan's Huangjinbu township, cadres visited poor Christian families to promote the party's poverty-relief policies and helped them solve their material problems. The officials successfully "melted the hard ice in their hearts" and "transformed them from believing in religion to believing in the party", the report said. As a result, more than 600 villagers "voluntarily" got rid of the religious texts and paintings they had in their homes, and replaced them with 453 portraits of Xi. The report had disappeared on Monday afternoon, but the campaign was confirmed by villagers and local officials contacted by the South China Morning Post. Qi Yan, chairman of the Huangjinbu people's congress and the person in charge of the township's poverty-relief drive, said the campaign had been running across the county since March. He said it focused on teaching Christian families how much the party had done to help eradicate poverty and how much concern Xi had shown for their well-being. "Many poor households have plunged into poverty because of illness in the family. Some resorted to believing in Jesus to cure their illnesses," Qi said. "But we tried to tell them that getting ill is a physical thing and that the people who can really help them are the Communist Party and General Secretary Xi." Huangjinbu is home to about 5,000 to 6,000 Christian families, or about a third of the total, according to Qi. "Many rural people are ignorant. They think God is their saviour … After our cadres' work, they'll realise their mistakes and think: we should no longer rely on Jesus, but on the party for help," Qi said. He said the township government had distributed more than 1,000 portraits of Xi, and that all of them had been hung in residents' homes. A resident of another township in Yugan, surnamed Liu, said that in recent months many of his fellow villagers had been told to remove religious artefacts from their homes. "Some families put up gospel couplets on their front doors during the Lunar New Year, some also hang paintings of the cross. But they've all been torn down," he said. Many believers did not do so voluntarily, Liu said. "They all have their belief and, of course, they didn't want to take them down. But there is no way out. If they don't agree to do so, they won't be given their quota from the poverty-relief fund," he said. But Qi dismissed claims that the funds were contingent on the religious posters being removed. "We only asked them to take down [religious] posters in the centre of the home. They can still hang them in other rooms, we won't interfere with that. What we require is for them not to forget about the party's kindness at the centre of their living rooms." It was not an either-or situation, Qi said. "They still have the freedom to believe in religion, but in their minds they should [also] trust our party." Under Xi, the party has tightened its grip on religious freedom throughout the country, ranging from removing crosses on Christian churches in eastern China to suppressing Islamic practices in the Uygur heartland of Xinjiang in the name of fighting terrorism and separatism. In Jiangxi, besides the removal of religious posters from people's homes, several crosses have been removed from churches since the summer – including the one in Yugan county – continuing the trend that started in Zhejiang province. ^ top ^

China puts massive island airport project on hold over environmental fears (SCMP)
2017-11-14
Work has stopped on a controversial 100 billion yuan (US$15 billion) airport island reclamation project at one of China's top tourist resorts, in a rare win for the environment. The State Oceanic Administration confirmed that it ordered a halt on July 25 to reclamation for the artificial island off the coast of Sanya in Hainan province. The SOA told NGO Friends of Nature last week that the project's environmental impact assessment (EIA) report was not approved before construction started on the 26 square kilometre island in Hongtang Bay earlier this year. The massive project is being built next to the Sanya Coral Reef National Nature Reserve and a habitat for the protected Chinese white dolphin, and has attracted controversy since its plan was unveiled three years ago. Backed largely by HNA Group, the artificial island is one of the Hainan government's pet projects and is meant to help absorb the ever-rising tide of tourists heading to the area's resorts. Work got under way on the project in April, the same month the project's EIA report was released for public feedback. Friends of Nature responded by filing a complaint with the administration in May about threats from the construction to the environment and over work starting without approval. In a letter to the NGO on Friday, the SOA said it conducted technical assessments, solicited public opinion and held a public hearing on the report, identifying "quite a number of problems" with the document. An SOA spokesman told the South China Morning Post that construction would not restart until another EIA report was approved. "Of course they can only resume work when all the problems are sorted out," the spokesman said. Ge Feng, director of legal and policy advocacy at Friends of Nature, said the group complained to the SOA about the lack of approval for the project, the potential damage to the sea floor ecosystem and the risk of burying coral reefs. In the EIA report, the authors admitted that the project would cost the Chinese white dolphin some of its habitat, though it was "not a significant" area compared with the species' overall maritime range. The government originally planned to have the airport up and running on a trial basis by the end of 2020, according to earlier reports. Ge said such a concrete reaction from a state-level department after filing a complaint was uncommon. "It's rare. I hope there will be more in the future," Ge said. Nevertheless, there has been a flurry of development in the bay since the Hainan government released its plans for the airport scheme. There are already 10 five-star hotels and a seven-star hotel in the area, and a number of holiday home projects are also being built. Pang Jun, from Renmin University's School of Environment and Natural Resources, said it used to be common for work to start on a project without environmental approval. "But such cases have been on the decline in recent years as the top leadership has attached more importance to environmental issues, emphasised quality growth and played down gross domestic product," Pang said. The new airport, which will have four runways and three terminals, is just one of the facilities to be built on the artificial island. It will also include a seaport operation area, an international aviation business area, and an industrial zone to support the airport, according to Sanya's tourism commission. The airport would be able to handle about 60 million passengers each year, about the same number of visitors to the province as a whole last year. ^ top ^

China helping push carbon emissions to all-time high (SCMP)
2017-11-14
World carbon emissions are set to rise two per cent this year to a new record, scientists said on Monday, dashing hopes that global emissions had already peaked. Carbon emissions had been roughly flat from 2014 to 2016, but will increase this year mainly due to a rise in China after a two-year decline, the scientists said. Their data, presented during negotiations among almost 200 nations in Germany about details of the 2015 Paris Agreement climate accord, are a setback to a global goal of curbing emissions to avert more downpours, heatwaves and rising sea levels. "The plateau of last year was not peak emissions after all," the Global Carbon Project, a group of 76 scientists in 15 countries, wrote of the findings. Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry, the bulk of man-made greenhouse gases, were on track to gain two per cent in 2017 from 2016 levels to a record high of about 37 billion tonnes, it said. "Global CO2 emissions appear to be going up strongly once again … This is very disappointing," said lead researcher Corinne Le Quere, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia in Britain. Glen Peters, another leader of the study at the CICERO Centre for International Climate Research in Oslo, said China's emissions were set to rise 3.5 per cent, driven by more coal demand amid stronger economic growth. China, the top greenhouse gas emitter ahead of the United States, accounts for almost 30 per cent of world emissions. US emissions were set to decline by 0.4 per cent in 2017, a smaller fall than in recent years, also reflecting more burning of coal. Coal's gains were linked to a rise in the price of natural gas that made coal more attractive in power plants, Peters told Reuters, rather than the effects of US President Donald Trump's pro-coal policies. Trump plans to pull out of the Paris Agreement. European Union emissions were set to decline by 0.2 per cent, which is less of a fall than in previous years. However, EU climate commissioner Miguel Arias Canete told reporters on the sidelines of UN climate talks in Bonn that the 28-nation bloc has been steadily reducing its emissions and has one of the most ambitious climate plans. "If other countries were as ambitious as us, perhaps emissions would not have risen so much," he added. Worldwide "we are probably in the level-to-upwards direction for emissions in the next years rather than level or downwards," Peters said, because of stronger global gross domestic product growth. Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit think-tank who was not involved in the study, said carbon emissions per unit of GDP were falling. This year "might well prove a small blip on an otherwise flattening emissions curve", he said. ^ top ^

China eyes more talented civilian personnel in military (Xinhua)
2017-11-10
China has revised a regulation on civilian personnel in the military in a bid to attract more talented people to work for the country's armed forces. The revised regulation, made public Friday, was jointly issued by the State Council and the Central Military Commission (CMC). With 11 sections and 62 articles, the regulation states the duties, status, assignments and treatments of relevant personnel. According to the revision, civilian personnel in the military refers to those who work in management or professional technical posts and are not in active service. They would perform their duties of civilian positions in peace time and would be work on active service if necessary, the regulation said. The State Council and the CMC first issued a regulation on the issue in 2005. "The revision of the regulation is aimed to expand the scope of posting civilian personnel, optimize the personnel structure, save human resource costs and attract more talented people to the military," according to a statement issued by the military and civilian personnel bureau under the CMC Political Work Department. The revised regulation is also expected to help build a high-quality and professional talent pool for the military, it said. Noting that it was a common practice among modern armies to actively recruit civilian staff, the statement said China needs to improve its civilian personnel institutions to optimize the structure of its military force. It said the revision was meant to solve problems with human resource policies regarding civilian personnel, such as understaffing, unscientific management, unclear career paths, and unattractive salary and welfare, which had resulted in difficulties in recruiting and retaining high-level personnel for the military. "The reform will break institutional barriers, promote civilian-military integration and provide good channels and a platform for outstanding people, including academic, technological and management elites, to work for the country's military," according to the statement. "With clear stipulations regarding the civilian personnel's status, selection and promotion, career development and fostering and management systems, the revised regulation will reshape the civilian personnel system," it said, stressing the principle of Party leadership and the standard of capability of winning wars. The statement said drafters of the revision had visited relevant military units, military authorities as well as central Party and governmental agencies to solicit opinions to make sure that the revision had pooled the knowledge and consensus of various parties. According to the regulation, channels to recruit and select civilian personnel for the military should be expanded and the procedure should be conducted according to strict standards. "Civilian personnel should be included in the training system of all military personnel and the assessment system for their political and professional performances should also be improved," the document said. The requirements regarding ideological and political education, organization, confidentiality, overseas visits and archives for civilian personnel are the same as those prescribed for soldiers and officers in active service. The regulation also stated policies on the removal and dismissal of staff. It further said "special measures" were allowed in the selection, assignments and treatment of certain civilian personnel in cases when high-level or special elites were urgently needed. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Poverty in Hong Kong hits record high, with 1 in 5 people considered poor (SCMP)
2017-11-17
The number of Hongkongers living in poverty continued its upward trend and hit a record high last year, with one in five people living below the poverty line, the latest official figures revealed on Friday. The city's poverty line is drawn at half the median monthly household income according to household size. For 2016, it was HK$4,000 (US$512) for one person, HK$9,000 for a two-person household and HK$15,000 for a three-person household. A food expenses report by Oxfam said that a person should spend at least HK$1,696 on food each month to meet basic nutritional needs. The Hong Kong Poverty Situation report for 2016 showed that 1.35 million of the city's 7.35 million residents were considered poor, up from 1.34 million in 2015. Hong Kong only began measuring poverty among its residents in 2009, and last year's figures are the highest in terms of absolute numbers. "The ageing population and the smaller family size have constantly pushed up the poverty rate and population," Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said as he made public the annual report on Friday. Cheung, who spearheads the Commission on Poverty, reiterated the figures in the annual study might be overestimated as only income, but not assets, were measured in the study. After taking the government's cash interventions into account – such as the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance and the Old Age Living Allowance – the number of impoverished Hongkongers fell to 996,000, which is 25,000 fewer than in 2015. This brought the poverty rate for 2016 to 14.7 per cent, down from an overall rate of 19.9 per cent. Cheung said he believed the poverty rate among senior residents would see an improvement next year, given that a number of new government initiatives would take effect then. These included the introduction of a life annuity scheme in the middle of next year and the revamp of the Low-income Working Family Allowance Scheme. The annuity scheme provides an option for retirees to invest a lump sum in exchange for a guaranteed monthly income for the rest of their lives. The allowance, which has received lukewarm response since it was launched last year, would see more relaxed eligibility requirements and an increased subsidy amount. Sham Shui Po in Kowloon remained the poorest district in Hong Kong, with 24.6 per cent of its residents falling below the poverty line. This was followed by Kwun Tong – 24.3 per cent – and Kwai Tsing, with a poverty rate of 24.1 per cent. ^ top ^

Amid Hong Kong political sagas, Beijing says 'one country, two systems' is not under threat (SCMP)
2017-11-15
Two key mainland Chinese officials overseeing Hong Kong affairs have assured the city's largest group of barristers that Beijing has not tightened the "one country, two systems" policy in light of two highly contentious political issues. They urged the 30-strong Hong Kong Bar Association delegation visiting Beijing on Tuesday to have "confidence" in the governing policy allowing the city a high degree of autonomy, as they sought to ease fears over impending legislation to curb disrespect for China's national anthem and a planned joint checkpoint for a high-speed, cross-border railway. The two contentious issues were raised by the barristers when they met Zhang Xiaoming, the new director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, and Basic Law Committee chairman Li Fei who specialises in the city's mini-constitution. The association's chairman, Paul Lam Ting-kwok, said he had expressed their concerns about the implementation of one country, two systems in light of the city preparing to adopt a national anthem law recently endorsed by the country's top legislature, and the so-called "co-location" arrangement on the Hong Kong side of the express rail link to Guangzhou. "Their message is that … they hope Hong Kong people will have confidence in the one country, two systems principle," Lam said. He told reporters that Zhang had spent some time discussing President Xi Jinping's remarks about Hong Kong during last month's Communist Party Congress, during which he called for the melding of Beijing's "comprehensive jurisdiction" over the city with its high degree of autonomy in a natural or "organic" way. "Zhang said the central government values the one country, two systems principle and is determined to keep it going; Beijing has never tightened the principle," Lam said. The meeting came as hard core Hong Kong fans once again jeered the national anthem at the start of a game between the home team and Lebanon at the Hong Kong stadium in Happy Valley on Tuesday night. Hundreds of them booed and yelled expletives as March of the Volunteers rang out across the stadium, ignoring dozens of security guards urging them to show respect. Under new legislation recently approved by the National People's Congress Standing Committee, anyone who maliciously modifies the lyrics, or plays or sings the anthem in a distorted or disrespectful way in public can be detained for up to 15 days or imprisoned for three years under mainland China's criminal code. An addition to Annexe III of Hong Kong's Basic Law, or mini-constitution, has set the stage for the city to implement its own version. The Hong Kong government has said it will act on it "by way of appropriate local legislation" consistent with the city's constitutional and legal regime. Opposition lawmakers and their supporters are also worried that the local government's plan to set up joint immigration and quarantine facilities at the West Kowloon terminal of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link would erode the city's high degree of autonomy by allowing mainland Chinese officials to exert their authority on Hong Kong soil. Lam quoted Li as saying that many countries also had national anthem laws, and that neighbouring Macau had already passed its own legislation after its handover to Chinese rule. The barristers' visit is to be followed by Li Fei's trip to Hong Kong starting on Wednesday. He is due to speak on Hong Kong's "role and mission" under the Chinese constitution as well as the city's own Basic Law. "I think his key mission is to convey the central government's latest message for Hong Kong in the wake of President Xi's report made during the 19th party congress," an NPC delegate speaking on condition of anonymity said. Only one opposition lawmaker, Ip Kin-yuen of the education constituency, has agreed to join the forum. Li is also scheduled to visit two construction sites involving cross-border infrastructure: the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge and the West Kowloon terminus of the high-speed rail, a government source said. ^ top ^

Hong Kong teachers 'stop pupils from handing out' pro-independence fliers (SCMP)
2017-11-14
Student activists' revival of a citywide campaign to promote Hong Kong's separation from China on Tuesday drew responses from police and education authorities, with a school halting pupils from handing out pro-independence materials near its campus. The movement's organisers said 10 secondary schools handed out fliers and stickers advocating separatism before lessons began, while materials such as banners were put up at two tertiary institutions. One of the two was Caritas Institute of Higher Education in Tseung Kwan O, according to the Facebook page of a pro-independence group affiliated with pupils at the school. After classes let out, pupils from several schools came together to mend two street booths where they had handed out their materials to passers-by. At a footbridge near Long Ping MTR station, four members of co-organiser Studentlocalism distributed separatist-themed fliers for an hour close as evening approached. The pupils, studying in Forms Five and Six, erected a banner bearing the message "Hong Kong Independence". The group included organiser Studentlocalism convenor Tony Chung Hon-lam from Buddhist Mau Fung Memorial College, located in Tin Shui Wai. A plain-clothes police officer at the site marked down the personal information of the pupils as well as those of two Post journalists covering the event. He also monitored the event, which ended peacefully after an hour with no scuffles. The activities drew mixed reactions from passers-by, with some declaring support for independence, some ignoring the pupils, and a middle-aged man questioning those distributing fliers about their activities. Police presence could also be felt at a booth in Kwun Tong and a venue in Wan Chai, which was cancelled. The convenor of the campaign's other organiser, Hong Kong National Front, explained the cancellation was due to students backing out at the last minute. A police spokesman said the force would deal with any act that might constitute a criminal offence under the law. Earlier, pupils from 10 secondary schools handed out pro-independence fliers and stickers at school entrances before classes began. The Front's convenor said two pupils at Tung Wah Group of Hospitals Lo Kon Ting Memorial College in Yuen Long, a government-funded school, were told by a teacher and the school principal to stop after they had distributed most of their materials. A TWGH spokeswoman said that while the school-sponsoring body did not agree with independence for Hong Kong, it respected "students' right to express their opinions". But she added these views must be expressed in a way that did not affect the school's educational principles and teaching. Promoting any political message on campus was inappropriate, she said. The spokeswoman added that pupils had to follow school rules while on campus, and should consult their parents on activities outside school. However, most educators the Post spoke to acknowledged it was difficult to determine whether school entrances were considered part of campuses or not. Studentlocalism posted pictures on Facebook of pupils holding fliers near their schools, without showing the face of the students or naming the schools. It only identified their districts in broad terms, such as Sha Tin and Kwai Chung. Unlike a similar leaflet campaign in September last year, which fizzled after schools warned the activists to stop, the new fliers stated that an independent Hong Kong was the only way to protect Hongkongers. Earlier fliers were less direct, encouraging pupils to think about Hong Kong's future after 2047 – when Beijing's promise of a high degree of autonomy for the city is set to expire – and proposing independence as an option. Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said activists should not use schools as a platform to promote individual political views and urged them to stop the movement. An Education Bureau spokesman said late Tuesday that independence advocacy violated the Basic Law, the city's mini-constitution. He said the bureau appealed to the education sector to curb independence activists from conveying a message against the Basic Law. "We hope that pupils can learn under a peaceful and safe environment without interference," he said. The spokesman added the bureau trusted the professionalism of schools in handling political matters and would provide support for them according to the situation. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Beijing bars Taipei from United Nations climate talks, island says (SCMP)
2017-11-14
Taiwan's environment minister was stopped from attending an annual UN climate meeting under pressure from Beijing despite having credentials as a non-governmental participant, the island said. Environmental Protection Agency Minister Lee Ying-yuan was planning to attend a United Nations climate change meeting in Germany, the island's foreign ministry said in a statement late on Monday. "Due to China's interventions, environmental protection minister Lee was unable to enter the UNFCCC meeting," it said, referring to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The meeting is the latest in a number of international events self-ruled Taiwan has not been able to take part in because of opposition from Beijing, which objects to the island being accorded anything akin to the status of an independent state. Relations between Beijing and Taipei have nosedived since Tsai Ing-wen was elected the island's president last year. Beijing believes she wants formal independence for Taiwan, a red line for Beijing. Tsai says she wants to maintain peace with the mainland but will defend Taiwan's democracy and security. Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrew Lee said Tsai believed climate change was an important issue and the island would endeavour to take part in international meetings to address it. "We will ... adhere to the president's position that Taiwan definitely won't be absent from international efforts to counter climate change," Lee said. Since 2009, when Taiwan announced its intention to take part in UN climate change meetings, the government has helped officials get credentials for talks as non-governmental observers to attend the international meeting. This year, Taiwan was shut out of an annual UN World Health Assembly meeting in Geneva, which the island also said was due to Beijing's coercion and threats. ^ top ^

 

Economy

With China's third largest bike sharer bankrupt, riders worry about money tied up in deposits (SCMP)
2017-11-17
Beijing white-collar worker Scarlet Sun considers herself a two-time victim of the spectacular rise of China's bicycle-sharing industry – where millions of the country's citizens have been able to grab a bike anytime, anywhere for the equivalent of a few US cents per ride. Sun, already a user of China's top two bike-sharing firms Ofo and Mobike, only tried a third provider this month when she urgently needed a ride and newcomer Bluegogo's signature blue-and-white bicycles were the only option available. "I immediately downloaded the app and paid 199 yuan as deposit. When I finished using the bike, I applied for a refund of my deposit because I didn't want to put my money in three different bike-sharing apps," she said. When the same thing happened a few days later – and Sun had 398 yuan tied up in deposits – she called the Bluegogo hotline but nobody answered. Sun's experience offers a glimpse into the bike-sharing industry's biggest casualty this year, with the Tianjin-based start-up that boasted 20 million registered users at its peak facing closure due to a shortage of cash, according to Li Gang, Bluegogo's founder and CEO, who revealed the company's troubles in an emotional open letter released to the media. Bluegogo's troubles trace a familiar trajectory for China's start-ups, where anything that catches on and attracts venture capital funding invariably invites me-too competitors. Like the car-sharing wars in recent years – which pitted Didi and Kuaidi against each other before they merged to cut billions of yuan in losses – bike-sharing saw more than 40 players emerge in a little over one year, leading to intense competition in ride subsidies which triggered the closure of smaller players. "In a cutthroat market like bike sharing I am too naive and so far no progress has been made on fundraising," Li wrote in the letter, the authenticity of which was confirmed to the South China Morning Post by a venture capitalist close to the Li family. China's bike-sharing platforms attracted US$2 billion in funding over the last 18 months, making it one of the most popular industry investments for private equity, venture capitalists and angel investors. At the top of the heap are Mobike and Ofo, two Beijing-based companies each valued at more than US$1 billion, making them unicorns in a field with many smaller competitors. In his letter Li said the company "looked like it was cursed since June", with plenty of investors praising it but not a single commitment for new funding since June. "Short of diversified capital backing and robust financial plans, even the best bike sharing business model would seem feeble," he wrote, adding that the recent chill in the industry was to blame as it scared away Bluegogo investors, ruining any chance for a merger and acquisition deal. Calls by the Post to the company's main line didn't get through while attempts to reach Li were unsuccessful. Images posted on social media showed the company's dark and empty office in Chengdu. Meanwhile, market leaders Mobike and Ofo are operating normally, according to representatives for each of the companies. Bluegogo's exit is further chilling an industry built upon cash burning, and may have a knock-on effect on other smaller players, according to analysts. "The competition is so cruel that no second-tier players would survive without cash injection. The clock is ticking for them to secure the meagre market share left after Mobike and Ofo," said Shi Rui, an analyst with independent research firm iResearch. Riders uncertain about the prospects of their bike-sharing provider may be prompted to apply for refunds of their deposits, sparking the equivalent of a bank run that could result in cash-flow problems for operators. Changzhou Youon Public Bicycle System, the first of China's bike-sharing platforms to go public, kicked off a much-anticipated consolidation last month by announcing a takeover of Hello Bike, a one-year-old company based in Shanghai. The rapid proliferation of dockless bicycle rentals has caused headaches for city authorities, not just in China but globally, as users park them indiscriminately, blocking the way for pedestrians and traffic. Bicycles have been found dumped in rivers, abandoned on open land and hanging in trees, to name a few examples. Founded last year, Bluegogo had raised US$90 million from venture capital investors including Blackhole Capital, and operated around 600,000 bikes across China. At its peak, the company had daily bookings of 3 million. ^ top ^

China's state-owned firms must take leading role in world markets, says chief regulator (SCMP)
2017-11-17
China's state-owned enterprises (SOEs) need to end their dependence on overseas resources and acquire a "leading role" in global markets if they are to earn the description of "world class", the head of the country's state asset regulator has said. China has vowed to revamp its lumbering state sector in a bid to create a number of "world class" firms capable of dominating their sectors and meeting state objectives. Xiao Yaqing, chairman of China's State-Owned Asset Supervision and Administration Commission, said in remarks published on Friday that SOEs must first acquire "leading positions in the allocation of global resources" to meet ambitions. Xiao told Peop le's Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper, that a number of government-owned enterprises "remain dependent on overseas resources". "If this situation doesn't change, it is hard to say that they have become world-class enterprises," he said. While SOEs have boosted global market share in recent years, they still lag international counterparts when it comes to "adding value", promoting innovation and developing brands, he added. "World class enterprises are those that have a leading role and an international say in the development of their global sectors," he added. "You cannot just say 'world class' yourself. The industry must recognise it. The market must recognise it." China launched its latest round of SOE reforms in 2015 in a bid to ease crippling debts, shut down "zombie" enterprises and make more efficient use of state capital and resources. But while lip service has been paid to reducing direct government interference and creating "independent" market players, the rhetoric of reform is now dominated by the concept of "Party building", with China aiming to turn SOEs into agents of state power at home and abroad. China has long been concerned about its dependence on overseas supplies of commodities like crude oil, copper and iron ore, and has urged firms to acquire overseas upstream assets as part of a "Going Out" strategy launched in 1999. However, the government has now sought to put those overseas acquisitions under greater scrutiny amid concerns that many purchases may have been severely overvalued. Xiao said preventing losses remained a major priority when it came to the management of state assets. Though the performance of China's SOEs has improved this year, Xiao said the tough restructuring process had to continue. "As soon as they emerge from the quagmire, even a brief pause in reform could see old problems re-emerge and new problems appear, and competitors could catch up or widen the gap further," he said. ^ top ^

China's economic growth slows in October after Xi Jinping omits target from congress speech (SCMP)
2017-11-14
From home construction to industrial output, China's economic momentum broadly cooled last month as the country continues to shift focus from national growth targets towards more sustainable development. The figures come about a month after Chinese President Xi Jinping notably stopped short of putting a number on long-term growth in his epic speech to the Communist Party's national congress, opting instead to focus on the environment and "growth quality". Nonetheless, after reporting 6.9 per cent growth for the first six months, China remains on course to report its first full-year acceleration in growth since 2010, despite the government's determination to rein in the credit juggernaut and debt piles that have been blamed for financial fragility and damaging growth prospects. But concerns about how the world's second-biggest economy can rebalance itself remain. A research report by the European Central Bank published earlier this month argued that a "swift rebalancing" of China's economy, with aggressive structural changes, would knock three percentage points off its growth over three years and slow expansion in the euro zone by 0.3 percentage points. "China intends to strike a balance between growth, debt and leveraging," Zhou Hao, chief emerging market economist at Commerzbank, wrote in a note. According to figures released on Tuesday by the National Bureau of Statistics, China's fixed-asset investment rose 7.3 per cent in the first 10 months, slowing from 7.5 per cent growth in the year through September. Meanwhile, despite the weeklong national holiday in the month, retail sales growth in October slowed to 6.2 per cent from 6.5 per cent in September. Industrial output expansion also eased to 6.2 per cent in October from 6.6 per cent a month earlier, the bureau said. The data came a day after the People's Bank of China released a slew of credit figures showing bank loans and aggregate financing almost halved in October from September. New yuan loans totalled 663 billion yuan (US$99.62 billion) in October from 1.27 trillion in September, while aggregate financing, a broad measure of credit, dropped to 1.04 trillion yuan from 1.82 trillion yuan, the central bank said on Monday. While Beijing would not neglect economic expansion completely during Xi's second five-year term, under his economic policies of "deleveraging" and "supply-side structural reforms" it was likely to tolerate lower growth and put an end to freewheeling credit and debt, analysts said. Louis Kuijs, chief Asia economist at Oxford Economics, said a faster decline in housing sales and construction – an immediate result of Beijing's efforts to contain a housing price bubble – might weigh on future growth. The country's red-hot property market, which has been a major growth driver in previous years but which is also viewed as a major source of financial risk, is cooling. Home sales in October fell 8.6 per cent year on year, while housing construction starts dropped 2.9 per cent. "Policymakers remain focused on reducing financial risk and deleveraging part of the financial system while aiming for a gradual easing of credit growth," Kuijs wrote in a note. Meanwhile, the broad-based softening of China's growth momentum last month could be a result of seasonal factors and short-term disruptions. Liu Xuezhi, a macro analyst at Bank of Communications in Shanghai, said industrial output in October was greatly affected by the heightened environmental protection efforts ahead of and during last month's party congress, especially in the provinces surrounding Beijing. The government's pro-growth efforts had ebbed as "actual economic growth stands firmly above the full-year target and the government hopes to press ahead with capacity reduction" and financial deleveraging, he said. China's relatively strong performance in 2017 is an important contributor to global economic recovery, and as a result, fears about a possible economic hard landing have largely waned. For its part, Beijing remains typically upbeat about the latest figures. "The economy continues to operate in a reasonable range in terms of production, employment, inflation and corporate profitability," statistics bureau spokeswoman Liu Aihua said in Beijing. "The growth momentum remains good, laying a solid foundation to achieve the full-year targets." ^ top ^

 

DPRK

China pushes military drills freeze to end North Korea stand-off (SCMP)
2017-11-17
China said on Thursday a "dual suspension" proposal to handle North Korea was still the best option, after US President Donald Trump said he and Chinese President Xi Jinping had rejected a "freeze for freeze" agreement. North Korea's rapid progress in developing nuclear weapons and missiles has fuelled a surge in regional tensions as United Nations-led sanctions appear to have failed to bite deeply enough to change its behaviour. China and Russia have proposed that the United States and South Korea stop major military exercises in exchange for North Korea halting its weapons programmes. Beijing formally calls the idea the "dual suspension" proposal. Trump said after his return from Asia on Wednesday that he and Xi had agreed that they would not accept a "freeze for freeze" idea, which China's foreign minister announced in March. Asked how China understood Trump's remarks and whether he agreed with the characterisation of what Trump said he agreed to with Xi, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that only through talks that addressed all sides' legitimate security concerns could there be a peaceful resolution. "We believe that the 'dual suspension' proposal is the most feasible, fair and sensible plan in the present situation," Geng told a daily news briefing. "Not only can it relieve the present tense situation, it can also resolve all parties most pressing security concerns and provide an opportunity and create conditions to resume talks – and find a breakthrough point to get out of trouble," he added. The "dual suspension" is just a first step and not the end point, Geng added. "We hope that all sides can conscientiously treat and proactively consider China's proposal, and at the same time we welcome relevant parties to put forward proposals that can benefit the promotion of a peaceful resolution for the peninsula nuclear issue." Asked at a regular briefing if Trump stood by his remarks as to what he had agreed with Xi, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders on Thursday replied: "Both sides made their positions clear. They are different, but we agreed that there are going to be different positions and therefore it's not going to move forward." North Korea has said it needs to develop its weapons to protect itself from what it sees as US military aggression. It also sees US-South Korean military exercises as joint preparations for invasion. South Korea and the United States, which has about 28,000 troops based in South Korea, say their exercises are "defensive in nature". ^ top ^

Donald Trump again urges halting North Korea's nuclear programme through 'maximum pressure' (SCMP)
2017-11-16
US President Donald Trump repeated his administration's goal of removing nuclear weapons from North Korea through a campaign of "maximum pressure" and hinted at punitive measures against trading partners in Asia. "We have to denuclearise North Korea. We have ended the failed strategy of strategic patience and as a result we have already seen important progress including tough new sanctions from the UN [Security] Council," Trump said a day after returning from Asia. "We made it clear [in China] that all options remain on the table" to force Pyongyang to end its nuclear weapons programme." The hardline comments on North Korea underscored Trump's top priority on his 12-day trip, during which he put efforts to halt Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme on top of his agenda in talks with China's President Xi Jinping, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korea's President Moon Jae-in. Amid negotiations with Xi, Trump's insistence on action against Pyongyang may have helped spur China to send an envoy to North Korea, said Orville Schell, director of the Asia Society's Centre on US-China Relations in New York. Song Tao, the head of the Communist Party's international liaison department, will visit Pyongyang as a special envoy of President Xi Jinping, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday. "You do have to ask, in Beijing what did [Trump] finally get? We don't know everything that was talked about, whether something may have been discussed, and this trip by Song Tao would be a result of some of the things they talked about in Beijing," Schell said in a panel discussion in New York. Schell was on the Japan, South Korea and China legs of Trump's trip, accredited as a writer for Vanity Fair and the Asia Society's online publication ChinaFile. Emphasising the goal of denuclearisation multiple times, Trump repeated positions that have caused friction with China, including the expansion of a US missile defence system in South Korea and a rejection of a "freeze-for-freeze" agreement whereby the US would scale back joint military exercises with the country around the Korean peninsula. "The United States welcomed the decision of Moon to remove the payload restrictions on missiles to combat the North Korean threat and together we reaffirmed our commitment to a campaign of maximum pressure," Trump said. The US president added that he was aiming to reduce his country's "staggering trade deficit with China" and, later in his speech from the White House, threatened "trade action" to cut the country's trade deficit. At about US$350 billion, China has the largest trade surplus with the US. Tough talk on the deficit may signal greater confrontation between Trump's administration and China. "We will never again turn a blind eye to trading abuses, to cheating, economic aggression or anything else from countries that profess a belief in open trade but do not follow the rules," said Trump. "We will take every trade action necessary to achieve the fair and reciprocal treatment that the United States has offered the world for decades." Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia at the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said at the Asia Society panel discussion: "Many people, including the president, continue to talk about what they refer to as China's predatory trade practices and there are people … who are doing work studying the ways in which China is pursing its economic interests at the expense of the United States. "I believe we are going to see trade actions by the US against China," Glaser said. "We're going to see something on intellectual property, which is the special 301 investigation that is ongoing. We might see something on steel overcapacity." In August, under Trump's order, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer initiated an investigation into China's intellectual property rights under Section 301 of the US Trade Act of 1974. The investigation is to "determine whether acts, policies and practices of the Government of China related to technology transfer, intellectual property and innovation are unreasonable or discriminatory and burden or restrict US commerce", according to a statement from the USTR's office. The inquiry could bring tariffs on China if the two sides fail to reach an agreement to solve the dispute after Lighthizer concludes the process and releases the results. The US Commerce Department has also been conducting an investigation into the impact on national security of foreign imports of steel and aluminium since March, an inquiry that may result in punitive tariffs on imports of the metals from China. Other comments Trump made in his White House speech referred to commitments with Australia, Japan and India to guarantee navigation rights in the Asia-Pacific region. "We made it clear [at an Asean summit] that no one owns the ocean," the president said. "Freedom of navigation and overflight are critical to the security and prosperity of all nations." ^ top ^

Three US carriers lead naval drill aimed at N.Korea (Global Times)
2017-11-12
Three US aircraft carriers, accompanied by South Korean warships, launched a joint naval drill on Saturday in a fresh show of force aimed at deterring North Korea. The four-day exercise in the western Pacific involves three aircraft carriers - USS Ronald Reagan, USS Nimitz and USS Theodore Roosevelt - and seven South Korean vessels including three destroyers, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported. It is the first time three carriers have been involved in drills in the region in a decade, the report added. "The exercise is aimed at enhancing deterrence against North Korea's nuclear and missile threats and showing off preparedness to fend off any provocative acts by the North," a South Korean defense ministry spokesman said. North Korea regularly denounces such military drills as rehearsals for an invasion and sometimes conducts its own military maneuvers or missile tests in response. The US warships will carry out air defense drills, sea surveillance, defensive air combat training and other operations, the US Navy said. The exercises come on the heels of Trump's visits to Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing last week, and the question of how to counter Pyongyang's nuclear threat was a key topic. On Friday, the last day of Trump's visit to Beijing, China's foreign ministry spokesperson said the Chinese and US presidents have reached important consensus on properly addressing the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue. "They reaffirm their strong commitment to realizing the denuclearization of the Peninsula, upholding the international non-proliferation regime and resolving the issue through dialogue and negotiation," Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a briefing on Friday. "They stand ready to jointly explore a way to achieve the lasting peace and stability of the Peninsula and Northeast Asia with other relevant parties," she added. At a summit in Seoul, Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed to increase the deployment of US military assets around the Korean Peninsula to step up pressure on the North. In a speech to the South Korean parliament, Trump warned North Korea not to underestimate the United States, while offering leader Kim Jong-un a better future if he gives up his nuclear ambitions. ^ top ^

China seeks closer dialogue with Japan, South Korea to tackle threat from Pyongyang (SCMP)
2017-11-11
China on Saturday vowed to strengthen coordination with its neighbours in dealing with the North Korean issue, as US President Donald Trump complimented Beijing on helping to rein in Pyongyang. The situation on the Korean peninsula dominated discussions at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in the central Vietnamese city of Da Nang. In a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he hoped China would continue implementing sanctions backed by the United Nations against North Korea. Abe also said China and Japan agreed to deepen cooperation on Pyongyang, and hailed a "fresh start" to ties between Beijing and Tokyo. "At the end of the meeting, President Xi said this is a meeting that marks a fresh start of relations between Japan and China. I totally feel the same way," he said. Abe said he had proposed visiting China at an appropriate time, which would then be followed by Xi visiting Japan. According to Norio Maruyama, press secretary for the Japanese foreign ministry, Japan had discussed North Korea at meetings with other state leaders to "deliver the message that we consider important at this time". "We consider dialogue for the sake of dialogue meaningless. But we need to raise the pressure … so that North Korea finds it necessary to come back to the negotiating table," he said. Xi said stable Sino-Japan relations was important to the region, but added that Japan needed to do more to improve mutual trust between the two nations, Xinhua reported. In a separate meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Xi said the situation on the Korean peninsula had reached a "pivotal" stage, Yonhap news agency reported. After the meeting, South Korea's presidential office said that the two nations would strengthen strategic dialogue and continue discussions next month when Moon was expected to visit China. The leaders "shared the view on the need to stably manage the current security conditions on the Korean peninsula in relation to North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes, and agreed to seek to peacefully resolve the North Korean nuclear issue through dialogue", the office said. The sabre-rattling has complicated China's relations with South Korea. Earlier in the year, Seoul deployed a US missile defence system, which Beijing regards as a threat to its security, but which Seoul feels is necessary in light of the provocation by Pyongyang. On October 31, the two countries agreed to normalise relations, and Seoul said last week it was not considering any additional deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system. Xi said China was willing to work with South Korea to improve bilateral ties, but called on Seoul to make responsible decisions about THAAD. Officials are seeking to resume an annual summit between China, Japan and South Korea, which was scheduled for July but postponed as Beijing and Tokyo locked horns over maritime sovereignty in the East China Sea, and China and South Korea squabbled over THAAD. Lian Degui, a professor with the School of Japanese Studies at Shanghai International Studies University, said Trump's visits to China, Japan and South Korea sent a signal that the US needed cooperation among the three countries to tackle the North Korean nuclear issue. "There are signs of cooperation and improving relations between China, South Korea and Japan. We hope the trilateral summit will resume soon," he said. But Cui Zhiying, an international relations professor at Tongji University in Shanghai, took a more cautious view. "Better not to be too optimistic. Despite South Korea promising to amend its relationship with China, we need to see how Seoul is going to handle the THAAD [issue]." Also on Saturday, the US and South Korea launched a joint naval drill in a show of strength against North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The four-day exercise in the western Pacific involves three US aircraft carriers – USS Ronald Reagan, USS Nimitz and USS Theodore Roosevelt – and seven South Korean warships including three destroyers. And after his fiery speech in Da Nang on Friday, Trump arrived in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi on Saturday, where he described Xi as a "good man" who "wants to do right". He added that he hoped China would continue to ratchet up the pressure on its restive neighbour. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

EU Ambassador: We were assured there will be stability and continuity (Montsame)
2017-11-17
The first week of November was a European week in Mongolia with the annual visit of a group of Ambassadors and senior diplomats of the European Union to Ulaanbaatar and the entry into force of the Mongolia-EU Framework Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation on November 1 as well as the establishment of a Delegation (and Embassy) of the European Union. On November 1, the EU Ambassador Mr Hans Dietmar Schweisgut led the EU group that included 18 non-resident Ambassadors of the EU Member States to Mongolia from Beijing as well as the seven resident Ambassadors. They addressed recent developments and existing issues in bilateral relations. The visit was timely, as Mongolia had undergone a major political change—the appointment of a new Cabinet. During the annual visit, the non-resident and resident Ambassadors of EU Member States come together and jointly organize meetings with the Government. "It is an extremely valuable stock-taking exercise where we can discuss freely and openly where we stand and what our problems are and how they can be solved. Especially at this time, it is important to understand the direction of the new Government," said Ambassador Schweisgut as he sat down with the Mongol Messenger on what may well be his last official visit to Mongolia. "For us it was very interesting to get a feeling on whether if there will be continuity in Government policies and new initiatives in some areas based on the Government action program", said the Ambassador on the purpose of the visit. "We got a message that there will indeed be continuity and stability from all government members that we met. We got some interesting insights." The annual visit also presents an opportunity to hold bilateral meetings for the EU Member states. "The visit is a very useful opportunity for both sides as we can go back with a feeling that we can tick off a number of problems and found new initiatives to pursue." During this visit, the EU Ambassadors held meetings with the President, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ministers and State Secretaries from the Ministries of Labor and Social Protection, Environment and Tourism, Mining and Heavy Industry and Food, Agriculture and Light Industry, Deputy Minister of Finance, Governor of the Bank of Mongolia, heads of international organizations and representatives of other institutions. EU Ambassador to be appointed earlier next year One crucial purpose of the visit was the signing of an Agreement on the Establishment and Privileges and Immunities of the Delegation of the European Union to Mongolia between the Government of Mongolia and the EU and the European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC). Addressing this, the Ambassador stated, "The opening of a Delegation marks a new phase in our relationship. We have come to a point where our relationship is so intense that we feel we need a Delegation to interact with the Mongolian Government and other stake holders on a daily basis. With the entry into force of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, it is a good occasion to reinforce our relationship by appointing an Ambassador to Ulaanbaatar." At present, there are seven EU Member States with resident missions in the country. The EU Delegation will be located in the Embassy of Italy. A new Ambassador will be appointed earlier next year. Asked to elaborate on the priority areas of engagement for the EU Delegation, Ambassador Schweisgut touched upon the broad relations the EU shares with Mongolia with emphasis on three areas. "First of all, the EU appreciates Mongolia's bright and well-functioning democracy as we share same values and respect for human rights. Mongolia is a like-minded partner on many issues related to international governance. Secondly, Mongolia is playing a very important geostrategic role in East Asia. This is also why we want to reinforce our relationship with Mongolia since the EU has become much more engaged in Asia in recent years. Thirdly, we have much potential to utilize when it comes to economic relations, trade and investment. There is still a lot to be done." He continued, "We know that the Government of Mongolia, after having agreed with the IMF on a programme, is looking forward to a new period of growth. We hope this will materialize. This is why we have stepped up our development cooperation with Mongolia." The EU Delegation will be engaging in all these areas, with the addition of academic exchange and people-to-people relations. "We have a lot of work cut out for the new Delegation in Mongolia," he added. We have the conditions to discuss new projects and opportunities Furthermore, one condition that set a perfect background for both the visit and the signing of agreement on establishment of a Delegation was, as aforementioned, the entry into force of the Mongolia-EU Partnership and Cooperation Agreement on November 1. The now effective Agreement replaces the 1993 Agreement on Trade and Economic Cooperation between the European Economic Community and Mongolia. Discussing this upgrade of framework for bilateral cooperation, the Ambassador pointed out, "The 1993 agreement was the first step in the early period of bilateral relationship. It came very shortly after Mongolia became a democracy and, the EU wanted to show that it values Mongolia as a member of the club of democracies. But it became clear years later that the Agreement was no longer sufficient. We felt that a stronger framework which covers all areas of cooperation was needed." The negotiations on the new Agreement began in 2010 and concluded in 2013. Asked to comment on the length of ratification by 28 Member States of the EU which was four years, the Ambassador said, "It is quite a long time, but if you have to ratify something in 28 states, it would take a longer time. It wasn't particularly surprising that the ratification took some time." The Ambassador points out that despite of the ratification procedure, bilateral relations have moved forward in the meantime pursuant to a provision in the Agreement that from the moment it was signed, it would be provisionally applied. "We didn't really have to wait until the entry into force to start implementing it. We have new instruments such as GSP+ which opens a duty free access to the European market for majority of products produced in Mongolia. We started our human rights dialogue." Now that the Agreement is in force, covering everything from political relations to economy, trade and investment, the environment, climate change, social development, and development cooperation, it offers a very good basis for intensification of bilateral relations. "It also has the mechanisms to carry out such relation: the annual Joint Committee Meetings, a Special Committee on Trade and Investment. We have a clear and firm framework to advance our relations," said the Ambassador. The Agreement's entry into force is understood to mark the beginning of a new era in the bilateral relationship. Looking at the future of Mongolia-EU relations, Ambassador Schweisgut reflected, "The new phase means that we have established a strong relationship of mutual trust and common political will to move forward and to achieve more." "The EU is a modest economic partner when you compare it to the main partner which is of course China. But we can see that there are some interesting positive developments which would open up new opportunities." As the Ambassador stressed, one of the major requirements to increase investment will be longer term stability and predictability in the business and investment climate which would continue to make Mongolia an attractive place to invest. "The economy is picking up again, trade and investment figures are improving, so I think we have the conditions to discuss projects, how to increase trade, how to create new investment opportunities for SMEs," the Ambassador said. Mongolia and the EU have cooperation programmes and projects with a focus on issues such as employment creation, facilitation of value chains, especially in the area of agriculture. "There are plenty of opportunities, but we need the necessary conditions and stable and forward-looking climate to implement." There is a stronger realization to address policy inconsistency Ambassador Schweisgut previously served as Ambassador of Austria to Mongolia between 2003 and 2007. He was appointed the Ambassador of the EU in 2014. With this in consideration, I decided to inquire into the Ambassador's insights into Mongolia. Before he was appointed Austrian Ambassador, he first came to Mongolia in September, 2003, to participate in the Fifth International Conference on New and Restored Democracies, which was the first major international conference Mongolia hosted. Interestingly, the Ambassador presented his credentials earlier than he did in China which is "very unusual". Recalling his first day in Mongolia, the Ambassador said, "I also remember that I hadn't expected to go to Mongolia so quickly, I was transferred from Tokyo to China at that time. I didn't have any warm clothes, so when I came in September, it was a bit chilly. One of the first things I had to do was go to the cashmere store." He then remembered his arrival as the EU Ambassador in 2014, and said, "One of the things which struck me was how much Ulaanbaatar had changed in those 10 years. There were modern, high-rise buildings and more traffic jams. The difference is spectacular when I compare it to the first time I came." The Ambassador told me that the best thing about Mongolia is the Mongolian people. "Every time I come here, I meet warm, intelligent, friendly, outward looking people. It is always such a pleasure to be here and have the feeling that when you come back you have friends." He then adds natural beauty as addition feature that makes Mongolia a spectacular country. Ambassador Schweisgut has travelled in Mongolia on a few occasions and been to quite a few aimags during his private visits during the summer. The Ambassador continued to share his insights into Mongolia. "Mongolia is quite unique in terms of its history and culture. The Mongolian people are justifiably proud. I think there is still a very strong connection between the Mongolian people and nature. There is a way of life still much rooted in nature and a very special civilization and culture which makes Mongolia very attractive." Sharing his opinion on how Mongolia can work its way towards a better future, Ambassador Schweisgut names political stability, predictability and the right economic policies as means through which Mongolia, given its mineral and agricultural resources, can develop to be a more prosperous country. "Over the past decade, we have seen insufficient consistency. Had we seen more consistency in policy implementation, some of the negative developments could have been avoided," he said. The Ambassador then informs that he got a message this time that there is awareness that policy inconsistency has indeed been an obstacle and there is a stronger realization that this needs to be addressed. ^ top ^

Basic guideline approved to develop Ulaanbaatar in 2018 (Montsame)
2017-11-17
At its 1st irregular meeting on November 16, Citizens' Representatives' Khural approved a basic guideline on developing socio-economy of the capital city in 2018. The basic guideline reflects over 400 policy actions in five chapters. The chapter 'Economic growth to every household' of the guideline includes actions to select plants to be located in Industry and Technology Park in Baganuur, Nalaikh and Emeelt and commence constructional works. An implementation of the first stage constructional works in the park is predicted to create over 4000 jobs. In the chapter 'Urban development and infrastructure', a goal was reflected to decentralize and develop Ulaanbaatar city from one-centered into multi-center city. Infrastructural constructional works will be commenced in Selbe and Bayankhoshuu sub-centers. Within the re-planning project, deteriorated flats and houses were dismantled and new apartments for 301 households were built this year in Khan-Uul and Bayangol districts instead. The guideline says to complete constructions of apartments for 816 households next year. 'Environment and green development' chapter says to recycle garbage and commence a construction of industry to produce energy and heat by burning of 150-200 thousand tons of garbage. In addition, greenery of the city will be expanded and a micro-garden will be established in every district. 'Social development' chapter reflects many activities, including building ten model primary health care units with the support of Asian Development Bank in the framework to increase sufficiency of health service. Maintenance works of hospitals in Ulaanbaatar city will be completed. Also it is planned to improve sufficiency of school and kindergarten and to begin constructional works of 30 general educational schools with a total of 18690 seats in 2018. In correlation to the guidelines, administrative team of S. Batbold, Governor of the capital city and Mayor of Ulaanbaatar, will plan next year's budget of Ulaanbaatar city and submit it to the Citizens Representatives' Khural. ^ top ^

To do lists of the Cabinet in 2018 (GoGo Mongolia)
2017-11-15
Today, Mongolian Parliament approved the State Budget of 2018, Social Insurance Fund Budget of 2018 and Health Insurance Fund Budget of 2018. Regarding the budget approvals, Minister of Finance Ch.Khurelbaatar answered journalists' questions and introduced the key changes to the State budget at the Government House. Some indicators of the State budget of 2018: 4.2 percent GDP growth 8 percent budget deficit share in GDP in 2018, decreased from 9.5 percent of 2017 Cabinet plans to bring this indication down to 4.5 percent in 2020. Minister of Finance emphasizes the importance of decreasing the state budget deficit share in GDP as a good sign. In 2018, the Cabinet plans to: Improve economy and reduce debt induced pressures Supplementary revenue will be transferred to the previous debt payments Increase investors' involvement in stock exchange Reduce interest rates of commercial banks Reduce Government bond trade and improve debt management Continue fiscal stability Revive foreign investors' faith and accelerate big project implementations Support private sector by flexible tax policy Reform the tax system to become more transparent, simple and fair. ^ top ^

Parliament adopts 2018 State Budget Bill (Montesame)
2017-11-14
During its irregular plenary meeting on November 14, the Parliament made the final hearing on the 2018 State Budget Bill and adopted with 92.3 percent vote. The Bill on the 2018 State Budget was submitted to the Parliament by Prime Minister U.Khurelsukh on October 27. In compliance with the relevant law, the 2018 Budget Bill must be adopted within November 15, therefore, the plenary meeting convened on Tuesday, a day designated for meetings of Parliamentary standing committees. In the beginning of the discussion, Speaker M.Enkhbold introduced the bill to the Parliament. In the 2018 Budget, revenue is projected to be MNT 7.2 trillion, constituting 23.8 percent of GDP, expenditures MNT 9.6 trillion, or 31.8 percent of GDP, whereas the deficit amounts to MNT 2.4 trillion or 8 percent of GDP. When drafting the bill, the Cabinet focused on assessing possible risks in budget revenue, taking a realistic approach to revenue, utilizing every possible source and broadening revenue base. The 2018 State Budget reflects major expenditures including rebuilding of Central Wastewater Treatment Plant, implementation of 'Mothers with salary' program, increase of pensions in correlation with inflation rate and granting bonus to public servants for their accountability and excellence. ^ top ^

 

Aurèle Aquillon and Valentin Jeanneret
Embassy of Switzerland
 

The Press review is a random selection of political and social related news gathered from various media and news services located in the PRC, edited or translated by the Embassy of Switzerland in Beijing and distributed among Swiss Government Offices. The Embassy does not accept responsibility for accuracy of quotes or truthfulness of content. Additionally the contents of the selected news mustn't correspond to the opinion of the Embassy.
 
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