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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
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  11-15.2.19, No. 755  
    Archiv / Archives
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Table of contents

DPRK

Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

'Like pulling teeth': In trade talks, China and US said to be far apart on structural changes by Beijing (SCMP)
2019-02-15
Chinese and American trade negotiators remain far apart on key issues, including a US demand to ensure Beijing honours any commitment to equal market access and intellectual property protection – an issue Washington sees as crucial in reaching a deal to end the trade war, sources said on Thursday. "There are already significant doubts about what China is putting on the table," one of the sources, who is familiar with negotiations, told the South China Morning Post. Over the course of trade talks, China has been recycling the same sort of offers like a "broken record", the source said, adding that it was a "bad record" that no one on the US side wanted to listen to. Beijing is offering only "cosmetic, non-impactful offers" on issues crucial to the US, such as industrial government subsidies, said the person, who likened the current negotiations in Beijing to "pulling teeth". China's stonewalling on substantive issues has been met with frustration, said the source. Negotiators are also discussing the possibility of eliminating the 10 per cent punitive tariffs Washington has imposed on US$200 billion of Chinese products, while leaving the 25 per cent tariffs on US$50 billion of Chinese imports unchanged, two other sources said. In return, Beijing could pledge to make structural changes that would better protect the intellectual property of foreign companies doing business in China, would expand access to Chinese markets and reduce hefty state subsidies, one person said. In addition, purchase promises such as US$200 billion of US semiconductors over six years – reported by The Wall Street Journal to have been aired this week in Beijing – would be received well by the US departments of Commerce and the Treasury, which could tout them as victories in US President Donald Trump's mission to lower the trade deficit, one of the sources said. But hardliners within the administration, including US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, are expected to push back against elements of a deal that don't address structural concerns. With the March 1 expiration of the 90-day trade war ceasefire just two weeks away, the latest negotiations have picked up where the last round, in late January in Washington, left off. Jointly chairing the talks are Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He, Lighthizer and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. But both sides have been open about the fact that a final deal will need to brokered by the nations' two leaders. Indeed, one of Beijing's primary objectives in sending Liu to Washington in late January was to play for time and to secure an agreement from Trump for a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the first source said, adding that getting Trump "into the same room as an authoritarian leader" was a proven method of exerting leverage. Another source said that during in Washington, China raised the idea of setting up a parallel dialogue aimed at resolving the extradition case of Huawei chief financial officer Sabrina Meng Wanzhou. Huawei, a Chinese telecommunications giant, faces criminal charges in the US and is increasingly being excluded from the 5G market in Western countries. It is not clear whether the company's status is a prominent issue in the Beijing talks. Creating a framework to monitor China's implementation of structural industry reform is a top priority for the US team, especially Lighthizer. The US has repeatedly said China does not have a good track record when it comes to implementing its commitments, and its reluctance to trust Beijing has left the countries far apart in their negotiations, a source close to the US government said. The US delegation has repeatedly insisted that any deal on structural reform must be verifiable and monitored. Under a verifiable mechanism, if China failed to deliver on its promises by an agreed period, the US would immediately impose or raise the tariffs on Chinese products. Beijing, however, has used the softer phrase "implementation mechanism" to describe the framework for monitoring China's actions, and resists the idea of giving the US power in this regard, the sources said. The source added that China refused to accept an overhaul of its economic model as a condition for proving its commitment to reform. Another source familiar with China's position said it worries that the US would use the verification mechanism to make additional demands on the technology front, which is at the centre of a growing rivalry between the two countries. If a deal to end the trade talks cannot be reached by the March 1 deadline, the US has said it will increase its punitive tariffs on US$200 billion of products to 25 per cent from the current 10 per cent. Hopes for a breakthrough in the trade war are increasingly riding on the potential for Trump and Xi to have face-to-face talks in the coming months. Bloomberg, citing unnamed sources, said on Wednesday that Trump was weighing whether to extend the trade war truce's expiration date by 60 days. However, Larry Kudlow, the director of the White House's National Economic Council, said on Thursday that "no decision" had been made on extending the tariff truce beyond March 1. "I've talked to the group [in China]," Kudlow told reporters. "They're covering all the ground. They're hard at it. They are going to meet with President Xi, so that's a very good sign. They're just soldiering on. The vibe is good. I can't give you details." ^ top ^

Ambassador to China Anna Lindstedt sent back to Sweden after Gui Minhai reports (SCMP)
2019-02-14
The Swedish embassy in Beijing says its ambassador has been sent back to Stockholm after reports emerged that she was involved in arranging a meeting between Gui Minhai's daughter and Chinese businessmen said to be trying to secure the release of the bookseller. The embassy on Thursday said Anna Lindstedt had returned to Stockholm on Wednesday to meet Swedish foreign ministry officials. A Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs spokesman said an internal investigation was under way into "information concerning incorrect action in connection with events taking place at the end of January". "As part of this investigation, the ambassador is currently in Stockholm for meetings with the [ministry]," the spokesman said. In January the ministry said Lindstedt would be leaving the post in Beijing to become Sweden's "ambassador for the 2030 Agenda", a role promoting sustainable development goals. "Once the internal investigation has been concluded, we will return to the issue of this appointment," the spokesman said. The ministry statement came after Angela Gui, the daughter of detained Swedish book publisher Gui Minhai, said on Wednesday that Lindstedt had helped to arrange for her to meet the Chinese businessmen in a bid to organise a visit to see her father. Angela Gui wrote on online publishing platform Medium that Lindstedt asked her to travel to Stockholm on January 24 because there was "a new approach" to her father's case. She was introduced to two businessmen who offered to help secure her father's release from prison in China but that she would have to keep "quiet" about it for a month. One of the businessmen said he could arrange a visa for her to visit her father, and the two businessmen told her that they had already started to negotiate in her father's case – action taken without Angela Gui's prior knowledge. She said one of the men asked her why she had not told him everything she knew on the case. "You have to trust me, or you will never see your father again," Angela Gui quoted the man as saying. She accused the businessmen of being manipulative and said the meeting took place without the knowledge of the Swedish foreign ministry. "I'm not going to be quiet in exchange for a visa and an arbitrary promise that my father 'might' be released. Threats, verbal abuse, bribes, or flattery won't change that," she wrote. Gui Minhai, 54, a Chinese-born naturalised Swedish citizen, was embroiled in the mysterious saga of missing booksellers in Hong Kong. Between October and December 2015, five associates of Causeway Bay Books and Mighty Current publishing house vanished, one after another, from Thailand, Hong Kong and mainland China. Mighty Current published racy books on the lives of Chinese leaders, and the men's unexplained disappearance raised fears they had been taken away by agents from mainland China because of the books' content. All five later reappeared in custody on the mainland and were investigated for their "illegal business" of delivering about 4,000 banned books from Hong Kong to 380 customers across the border since October 2014. Gui, owner of the store and the publishing house, was released in October 2017 from a sentence he was serving for his involvement in a fatal 2003 hit-and-run accident. He was rearrested three months later over allegations of leaking state secrets abroad. Sweden has criticised Beijing's handling of Gui's case but China insists it will "allow no interference" in the issue. ^ top ^

Taho-gate has stained Duterte's Philippines-China love affair (SCMP)
2019-02-14
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. A single, seemingly trivial, incident can trigger a cascade of reactions that expose long-simmering tensions and prompt far-reaching consequences. This is particularly true in geopolitics. As Barabara Tuchman masterfully demonstrated in The Guns of August (1962), the first world war was the destructive upshot of a confluence of personal miscalculations and trivial mistakes. What is most frightening is that no one intended it, and no one saw it coming. In the same vein, contemporary Philippine-China relations could well be undermined by seemingly random, isolated events. Despite President Rodrigo Duterte's efforts to mend long-frayed ties, widespread resentment has been teeming beneath the surface. The Filipino president's tireless pursuit of rapprochement with Beijing has, paradoxically, only reinforced anti-China sentiments in his country. A recent incident, involving a 23-year-old Chinese national publicly insulting a Filipino law enforcer, only underscores the danger lurking over the horizon. The incident took place reportedly after a lowly Filipino officer, Willam Cristobel, reminded the Chinese national, Jiale Zhang, of a rule against bringing drinks on to the metro system. When the Chinese student was caught on camera throwing a soy pudding (a Chinese-Filipino sweet snack called taho) on the bewildered law enforcer, there was immediate nationwide uproar. The instinctive interpretation of many Filipinos was straightforward: utter and unmistakable national humiliation. In their eyes, the condescendingly rude Chinese national and the helplessly humiliated Filipino policemen essentially symbolised the current state of Philippine-China relations. What followed could be termed the "Taho incident" or "Taho-gate". Leading statesmen and personalities were quick to condemn her actions as demonstrative of a broader political phenomenon. Senator Ping Lacson, a staunchly independent-minded former police chief, portrayed the incident as "a big insult to us [Filipinos]" and how it "highlights our pitiful condition" as a nation. "As Filipinos, we must be united. Even if our country is small, weak and poor, let us not allow them to treat us this way. Let's stand by it," the tough-talking senator said, calling on officials to take swift and decisive action. No less than the vice-president of the Philippines, Leni Robredo, also chipped in, declaring "What happened is not just disrespect against our police but also our country." Ahead of the midterm elections in May, opposition leaders have seized on the opportunity to portray the incident as indicative of the dangers of Duterte's seemingly obsequious policies towards China. After all, the Filipino president has never lost the chance to express his "love" for the Chinese leadership, portraying them as his "protector" and even going so far as quipping about turning the Philippines into a "Chinese province". Recent months have also seen a growing public backlash against the influx of illegal Chinese workers and online casinos into the Philippines, which has jacked up property prices and deprived many locals of desperately needed jobs. Prominent senators such as Grace Poe have also openly opposed Chinese entry into strategic sectors and locations in the Philippines. The most prominent cases are China Telecom's entry into Philippines telecommunications sector as well as the prospective purchase of a large shipping yard by Chinese companies at Subic Bay, the former site of American bases. Recognising the political implications of the "Taho incident", even the presidential palace has chipped in. "The president [Duterte] is always outraged by any kind of oppression," argued presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo, assuring the public that Duterte wants the authorities to take all necessary actions, including the immediate deportation of the Chinese national if deemed appropriate. At stake, however, is not only the ongoing Philippine-China rapprochement, but also the future of people-to-people relations as well as people of Chinese descent living in the Southeast Asian country. Among archipelagic Southeast Asian nations, the Chinese minority has historically enjoyed a privileged status in the Philippines. Unlike in neighbouring countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam, there has been almost no history of anti-Chinese pogroms in the Philippines for several centuries. The Filipino-Chinese minority is immensely diverse, but, as a socio-ethnic group, it controls much of the country's wealth. Moreover, many of them have seamlessly integrated into the fabric of the political and cultural elite – in contrast to many of their counterparts in neighbouring countries, who have had to play down their Chinese background to climb the social ladder. Many of the Philippine's presidents and celebrities have been either of full or partial Chinese descent, including the powerful Cojuangco clan, which has produced two presidents, a billionaire, and a mega-celebrity, Kris Aquino. Yet, this hyper-privilege status has also nurtured deep resentment among many Filipinos, including the non-Chinese elite, many of whom openly embrace and propagate anti-Chinese prejudice with increased impunity. What's particularly worrying is the fact that people from Mainland China, Taiwan, and Chinese-Filipinos are often mistakenly portrayed as a monolithic group in the Filipino imagination, despite the immense diversity of the Chinese diaspora. Meanwhile, authoritative surveys show that anti-China sentiments are deep and almost unmoved. According to the Social Weather Stations' report, China has consistently garnered negative net ratings among Filipinos and stands at the bottom of the list of preferred international partners throughout the years. Three years into Duterte's presidency, diplomatic relations with China have entered a "golden age", but deep-seated grievances against China and the Chinese diaspora continue to linger among Filipino elites and broader society. This only shows the fragility of the ongoing rapprochement. ^ top ^

China reiterates its normal relations with Venezuela (Xinhua)
2019-02-14
China on Thursday reiterated its normal state-to-state relations with Venezuela. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying made the comments at a news briefing when asked about recent remarks by the U.S. special envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams that China may stop supplying loans to Venezuela considering its repayment ability. "The pragmatic cooperation between China and Venezuela is based on principles of equality, mutual benefit, common development and commercial rules, and is legitimate and beneficial to both peoples," Hua said. "China will continue to adhere to such principles in carrying out exchanges and cooperation with Venezuela in various areas," Hua added. ^ top ^

China condemns terrorist attack in Iran (Xinhua)
2019-02-14
China said Thursday that it condemns the suicide terrorist attack in Iran that killed dozens Wednesday and expressed condolences to the victims. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying made the remarks at a routine press conference when asked to comment on the attack whick killed 27 people and injured 13 others in Iran's southeastern Sistan and Baluchestan province on Wednesday. "We condemn this attack. We express our condolences to the victims and sympathy to the bereaved families and the injured," said Hua. ^ top ^

Poland should ensure ties not damaged by US interference: Chinese embassy (Global Times)
2019-02-14
The Chinese embassy in Poland on Wednesday urged the country to continue providing a fair, just and transparent investment environment for Chinese companies and to ensure that China-Poland ties are not disrupted or damaged by US provocations. "We hope Poland will uphold principles of independence and make objective and just decisions," read a statement released on the embassy's website on Wednesday night. The statement said China has noticed that certain individuals from the US have been trying to disrupt China's relations with other countries through threats or offering inducements. They especially smear and suppress Chinese companies with fabricated charges without evidence. Such bullying behavior is ridiculous and immoral, it read. "Healthy and stable China-Poland ties cater to the shared interests of the two countries and our peoples," read the statement. China and Poland have seen rich achievements in cooperation in different aspects under the Belt and Road Initiative and the 16+1 cooperation framework in recent years, which has brought practical benefits to both peoples. In the future, China-Poland cooperation will continue to have great potential and broad prospects. Chinese Ambassador to Poland, Liu Guangyuan, told the Global Times in an interview in December 2018 that Chinese companies are very attentive to social responsibility, as they promote localization, operate legally and participate in public welfare. "They have contributed to the social and economic development of Poland." In January, Poland arrested a Chinese businessman who formerly worked at China's telecommunication giant Huawei on espionage allegations. Poland also announced it was considering banning Huawei products from public bodies over security concerns, Reuters reported. A New York Times article published in late January implied that US officials had gone to countries such as Germany and Poland to ask their local counterparts to ban the Chinese telecoms equipment provider, which is the largest of its kind worldwide. ^ top ^

White House executive order that would bar Huawei from US will be released within days, US officials say (SCMP)
2019-02-14
The White House is preparing a sweeping executive order that could bar Chinese companies from selling equipment for use in future US telecommunications networks, claiming Beijing could exploit the technology to carry out cyber intrusions and espionage. The draft order in its current form does not name China, or any individual companies, say current and former officials who have read it. But the main target of the order, expected to be released in days, is Huawei, the world's largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer and one of the largest producers of consumer electronics. The order would not affect US consumer electronics companies whose products incorporate components from China, the current and former officials say. Huawei's attempts to penetrate the US market have alarmed intelligence agencies for years. The order is certain to further inflame tensions with Beijing as the Trump administration seeks to conclude a trade deal with China. US officials insist the proposed executive order is unrelated to the trade negotiations. But in hopes of limiting the fallout, the White House cancelled plans to hold a ceremony where Trump would sign the directive in public. Huawei has repeatedly denied any role in China's sophisticated digital espionage. Despite US denials of a tie-in to the trade talks, the Chinese may view the targeting of Huawei, based in Shenzhen, China, as a pressure tactic to gain concessions. It could stiffen Beijing's resolve to resist what it sees as American efforts to contain China's growing economic and political clout. The United States and several allies have moved on multiple fronts against Huawei over the last year. The campaign has included criminal prosecutions and high-level pressure on other governments to ban Huawei systems and equipment, which are widely used in Europe and Africa. The direct impact of the proposed executive order is largely symbolic, since major US telecommunications carriers have largely shunned Huawei routers, switches and other hardware under pressure from intelligence agencies. Smaller carriers that bought and installed Huawei equipment, in part because of its low cost, would not be required to remove it, according to industry officials. But excluding China from fifth generation, or 5G, networks is of critical importance, US officials argue. Those networks will carry far more data, extending wireless communications into self-driving cars and other areas of everyday life, making compromise of data potentially even more damaging. In a new effort to allay US concerns, Huawei's founder, Ren Zhengfei, said the company would rebuff any Chinese government requests to disclose confidential information about its foreign customers and their communication networks. "We would definitely say no to such a request," he told reporters last month in Shenzen. The planned executive order demands an investigation, likely to be carried out by US intelligence agencies and the Department of Homeland Security, into the risk from telecommunications equipment from countries considered US adversaries. A number of Chinese and Russian firms are likely to be examined. But once the investigation is complete, a process likely to take several months, it is virtually certain to recommend barring Huawei from the US on national security grounds, according to officials and industry lobbyists who have seen the directive. The CIA and the National Security Agency, which focuses on digital espionage, have studied Huawei's operations for over a decade. But current and former US officials say the spy agencies have no "smoking gun" showing conclusively that Huawei executives have helped Chinese security services penetrate America's wireless networks. Some attempts to penetrate overseas telecommunications networks that employ Huawei equipment have been traced to China, according to current and former US officials familiar with the intelligence. But Huawei's involvement is unclear. The officials cite other reasons Huawei should be excluded from the US telecom backbone, including alleged links between company executives and the Chinese Communist Party, allegations that Huawei has sought to evade international sanctions on Iran and North Korea, and recent allegations that a Chinese intelligence operative was on the company's payroll in Poland. "Should there be a cost associated with the fact that they've done all these sorts of things?" asked a senior US official, who spoke about the company in return for anonymity. "The answer is that now there is starting to be a cost. Their past is starting to catch up with them." In December, Canada arrested Huawei's chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of the company's founder, at the request of the US Justice Department on charges that she helped Huawei evade sanctions on Iran. US authorities have started extradition proceedings against Meng, who is also deputy chairwoman of the board at Huawei. She has denied any wrongdoing; a hearing is set for March 6. The FBI and Justice Department are also reportedly investigating whether Huawei stole trade secrets from US companies. Last summer, the US barred the use of equipment from Huawei and other Chinese companies in Pentagon and other government telecommunications networks, and prohibited the sale of Huawei cellphones on military bases. This week, on a trip to Europe, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo urged officials in Hungary and Poland, Nato members that bought heavily from Huawei, to cut off purchases, warning that the Pentagon would have to scale back military cooperation unless they complied. "We've made clear that if they make a certain set of decisions, that it will be more difficult for the … Department of Defence to work alongside of them – that is, we'll never put our equipment in a place which would present risk to our technology from having Chinese technology co-located alongside of it," Pompeo told reporters Tuesday. Trump is also considering taking a potentially more damaging action against Huawei – blocking US companies from selling or exporting critical components to it, just as the administration did last April with ZTE, China's second-largest telecom company after Huawei. The move against ZTE, for sales that violated sanctions on North Korea and Iran, paralysed the company since it relied heavily on San Diego-based Qualcomm for semiconductor chips. After Chinese President Xi Jinping appealed directly to Trump, the Commerce Department lifted the ban on ZTE in July after the company agreed to pay a US$1 billion fine and overhaul its leadership. But a similar move against Huawei would be far more explosive, industry analysts say. It would disrupt the company's supply chain, which is heavily dependent on US components. It also would threaten the smooth operation of China's domestic wireless networks, which are heavily dependent on Huawei, analysts said. Chinese telecom sales to the United States are tiny. Huawei has effectively been blacklisted by Washington for several years and made little market headway beyond limited sales in rural markets. A House intelligence report in 2012 warned that deploying Huawei equipment could make US infrastructure vulnerable to spying and cyberattacks from Beijing. The executive order would signal that Washington views the risks as far more serious. "It could inhibit Huawei's upcoming 5G competitiveness," said Derek Scissors, a China expert at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative-leaning think tank in Washington. US industry lobbyists say Trump may back down against Huawei, just as he did with ZTE, to get a trade deal with China before new tariffs are due to kick in on March 2. But some telecom executives are publicly supporting stiffer action against Huawei. At a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing Wednesday on the proposed merger of Sprint and T- Mobile, the chief executive of T-Mobile, John Legere, reassured lawmakers that Huawei and other Chinese telecom equipment would not be used in the merged company's networks. "There is no Huawei or ZTE equipment in the network of T-Mobile," he said. "There will not be any. … In fact, we've had a litigious relationship with them, and we are, frankly, very supportive of the United States government's increased action." The Trump administration is looking at tougher export controls to thwart China's access to tech supply chains and some administration officials and lawmakers are pushing more broadly to decouple the US economy from China's. Huawei is less dependent on US suppliers than ZTE, but people familiar with Huawei's business say it bought about $12 billion in chips and other products from Qualcomm and other American companies last year. A ZTE-like ban would clearly hurt and could slow China's push to roll out 5G at home and abroad. But analysts say it also could propel Beijing to seek supplies from other countries and develop its own supply chain. Some industry analysts question the strategy if it hurts US suppliers and pushes China to speed up its own manufacturing capabilities. ^ top ^

China postpones New Zealand tourism campaign amid concerns of diplomatic dispute (SCMP)
2019-02-12
China has postponed a major tourism campaign in New Zealand days before its launch and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's visit to Beijing has been further delayed as concerns mount of strained ties over China's growing influence in the Pacific. Ardern on Tuesday acknowledged there were "complexities" in the relationship with China, but dismissed concerns of a rift with New Zealand's largest trading partner. "Our relationship with China is a complex relationship and sometimes it will have its challenges," Ardern told state broadcaster TVNZ. New Zealand said on Tuesday that an event to launch the China-New Zealand Year of Tourism 2019 in Wellington next week was postponed by the Chinese, while Ardern said that the dates for her trip to China, planned for the end of last year, had still not been finalised. "I have been issued with an invitation to visit China, that has not changed. We continue to find dates that would work," she said. Ties with China have been tense under Ardern's government, which has openly raised concerns about Beijing's growing influence in the South Pacific and rejected Chinese telecoms giant Huawei's first local bid to build a 5G mobile network. Opposition National Party leader Simon Bridges blamed Ardern and her deputy Winston Peters for "steadily deteriorating relations" with China, saying ties were at their worst ever. Opponents and local media reports questioned if an Air New Zealand flight that was recently refused entry to China may be a part of the deteriorating relationship, although the airline, the government and Chinese authorities have all said it was due to an administrative issue. Ardern also dismissed claims that the Huawei ban had had an impact on diplomatic ties and insisted that New Zealand was not pushed into the decision by other countries. "Some of the issues of Huawei have been raised a couple of times. But actually the decision around 5G and how that is rolled out is governed by a regulation, a process that checks that whatever decision we make is in the best interest of New Zealanders data and security," she said. Huawei faces international scrutiny over its ties with the Chinese government and suspicion Beijing could use its technology for spying. No evidence has been produced publicly and the firm has repeatedly denied the claims, but the allegations have led several Western countries to restrict Huawei's access to their markets. Last year, New Zealand issued a defence policy statement in which it said China's rising influence in the South Pacific could undermine regional stability, and alluded to tension in the disputed South China Sea, sparking a complaint from Beijing. ^ top ^

Banned Chinese billionaire donor Huang Xiangmo says Australia is a 'giant baby' (SCMP)
2019-02-12
The billionaire and major political donor Huang Xiangmo has likened Australia to a "giant baby" with "simple folk customs" while hitting out at a decision to cancel his visa. Huang also criticised Australia's domestic spy agency for acting contrary to Australian support for the "One China" policy, and urged it to instead investigate journalists who he said may be "serving foreign intelligence agencies" and had stolen "classified information to gain attention and a spotlight". The Chinese tycoon was effectively blocked from re-entering Australia when his permanent residency visa was revoked and a citizenship bid was rejected. The Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation had reportedly cited his chairmanship of a pro-Beijing lobby group, the Australian Council for the Peaceful Reunification of China, which acts as part of a global influence network under the direction of the united front work department of the Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee. Huang spoke out against his treatment in Global Times – a tabloid arm of the Communist Party's official newspaper group, People's Daily. Huang said it was an "objective fact" that Australia was a "giant baby", according to the interview, published on Tuesday in Global Times' English language edition. "The history of Australia has determined the innate characteristics of a giant baby," he said. "This is an objective fact and it does not mean Australia has to feel inferior." "The growth of a giant baby takes time, and Australia still has a long way to go. I fully understand this." Some China observers, including Foreign Policy magazine's Asia editor, James Palmer, said Huang may have been attempting to describe Australia as an "infant giant", rather than a "giant baby". Huang said he had first moved to Australia with his family for the beautiful scenery and "simple folk customs". Huang said Australia was also showing signs of growing "racism and populism". "I firmly believe, and I also hope that Chinese compatriots, especially the Chinese media, will also recognise clearly that the mainstream of Australian society, including the Australian media, could not be represented by some reports or reporters," he said. "It's just we cannot be the 'silent people' any more and we should speak out, to let the world see Australia's real public opinion, and avoid the country's return to the White Australia policy and far-right populism." Reports in Chinese state media have suggested that Huang is planning to contest the government's decision to revoke his visa through the administrative appeals tribunal. Huang has played a significant role in Australian politics, as a huge donor to both major parties. He gave A$5,000 (US$3,500) to the Labor senator Sam Dastyari to cover the senator's "legal bills". Dastyari later allegedly warned Huang that he was under surveillance, though the senator continues to deny this. Huang used his interview with Global Times to point out that his donations were within Australian law. He said his donations had been "calmly accepted" by the major parties and had not been refunded. "As for my consideration for agreeing to donate, I admit it partly comes from the Chinese habit of treating other people in a nice manner and not accustomed to saying no," he said. "But more importantly, I hope to promote Chinese people's legal involvement in politics." He said he may have been the victim of a "party struggle" but he couldn't know with certainty. "However, I estimate that behind some media's bizarre collaborative reports and bold claims of obtaining intelligence secrets that should not be obtained, there seems to be some strange power operating in a dark place outside the law," he said. "It will take time to gradually reveal the secret. I am confident that some organisations in Australia will need to apologise to me when the day of truth comes." ^ top ^

Beijing insists on 'indisputable sovereignty' over South China Sea islands as US warships test troubled waters (SCMP)
2019-02-12
China voiced its "strong dissatisfaction" with the United States on Monday, after Washington sent two warships to disputed waters near islands in the South China Sea and as negotiators prepared to resume talks on ending the trade war between the two countries. Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the PLA Navy warned the USS Spruance and USS Preble against approaching Chinese-claimed territory in the Spratly Islands. She demanded the US "immediately stop its provocative actions" after the two US guided-missile destroyers conducted what Washington called "freedom of navigation" exercises in the area. China's warning came as officials from both sides were in Beijing to prepare for more trade talks this week. They will try to reach a deal before a March 1 deadline after which the US has threatened to increase tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese imports. Beijing lays claim to most of the energy-rich South China Sea, as do several of its neighbours, including Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan. "The relevant actions of the US warships violated Chinese sovereignty and undermined peace, security and order in the relevant sea areas," Hua said. "The Chinese side expresses strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition." An unnamed US official told Reuters on Monday that the two destroyers conducted a freedom of navigation exercise – the second by the United States in the region this year – within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef, where Beijing has reportedly built military facilities. Hua said the warships also neared the Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratlys, which is under Manila's control. "China has indisputable sovereignty over islands in the South China Sea, including the Second Thomas Shoal, Mischief Reef and the adjacent waters," Hua said. "China has always respected and safeguarded freedom of navigation and flight based on international laws in the South China Sea, but resolutely opposes any country falsely using these harm the sovereignty and security of coastal countries." Tensions came to the fore in September, when a Chinese warship and US destroyer came within 45 yards of collision in the waters, renewing concerns about the risk of US-China confrontation. The USS McCampbell destroyer conducted a "freedom of navigation" operation within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Islands five weeks ago to "challenge excessive maritime claims", according to the Pacific Fleet, a move that also prompted protest from Beijing. Speaking at a meeting of the Atlantic Council in Washington last week, Admiral John Richardson, chief of US naval operations, called for firmer rules governing naval encounters in disputed waters such as the South China Sea. Hua said on Monday that China and states in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) had worked to ensure the peace and stability of the South China Sea, a situation that was improving. "Under such circumstances, the US insistence on provocation, creating tensions and destroying the peace and stability of the South China Sea is unpopular," she said. "China urges the US to immediately stop such provocative actions and earnestly respect the efforts by regional countries to maintain the peace and stability of the South China Sea." While China and the Asean have drafted a code of conduct in the waters, analysts said the document lacked teeth because it was not legally binding. Tensions over the waters that Beijing claims have continued to be a sticking point in the region, particularly after the Philippines' 2016 success at an international tribunal challenging the legality of those claims. ^ top ^

China hits back at European Union's claim it has 250 spies working in Brussels (SCMP)
2019-02-10
China has dismissed as "groundless" claims made by the European Union that it has hundreds of spies working in Brussels, the bloc's de facto capital. The Chinese mission to the EU issued a statement on Sunday in response to a report published a day earlier on the website of German television company Welt that said EU diplomats and military officials had been warned of "about 250 Chinese and 200 Russian spies" operating in the Belgian city. The report cited information from the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU's diplomatic arm. "We are deeply shocked by the groundless and unfounded reports," the mission said on its website. "China always respects the sovereignty of all countries, and does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries." Beijing is committed to maintaining healthy and stable ties with the European Union, it said, adding that relevant parties should "treat China and China-EU relations in an objective and fair manner, and not make irresponsible remarks". According to the Welt article, most of the spies work either within embassies or local units of companies based in their home nations. Diplomats were even advised to avoid certain parts of the city, including a popular steakhouse and cafe within walking distance of the headquarters of the European Commission and EEAS. The EU's claims are the latest in a wave of espionage allegations made against Beijing. On Friday, the Chinese embassy in Vilnius hit back at what it termed "ridiculous" allegations of spying made by Lithuania. The Baltic country's intelligence services last week accused China of recruiting its citizens to engage in espionage activities and influence public opinion on issues such as Tibetan and Taiwanese independence. "As China's economic and political ambitions in Lithuania and other Nato and EU countries increase, the activities of Chinese intelligence and security services have become increasingly aggressive," the agencies said in their annual report. The former Soviet state has also joined other European countries in expressing concern about the activities of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei. The head of Lithuania's State Security Department Darius Jauniskis said last week that his agency was analysing the potential "threat" posed by Huawei, whose technology is being used to build the country's new 5G network. On January 11, police in Poland arrested Huawei's sales director and Polish national Wang Weijing on spying charges. Although security services said the arrest was not linked to Huawei, US intelligence agencies have been warning America's allies of the company's alleged links to Beijing. The US has said Huawei's equipment could provide back doors into foreign networks for Chinese government spies, though it has yet to produce any evidence to support the allegation, which the Chinese firm has repeatedly denied. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

China's environmental crime arrests soar in 2018 (SCMP)
2019-02-14
China arrested 15,095 people for environmental crimes in 2018, up 51.5 per cent from a year earlier, the country's top prosecuting body said on Thursday, as it worked to improve compliance among local governments and enterprises. China has been trying to make better use of its police and judicial authorities to redress the damage done to its skies, soil and water by four decades of breakneck economic growth. In 2018, authorities also prosecuted 42,195 people for a range of environmental offences such as illegal deforestation and land occupation, as well as unlawful mining and fishing activities, said Zhang Zhijie, a senior prosecutor with China's Supreme People's Procuratorate. The number of prosecutions was up 21 per cent on the year, although they were still relatively small compared to the total number of environmental violations, which reached 130,000 in the first nine months of 2018 alone. "We are punishing crimes, with the purpose not to impose simple criminal punishments on suspects and defendants, but to repair social relations, restore environmental damage and demonstrate a favourable course of development," Zhang told reporters at a briefing. President Xi Jinping vowed last year to use the full weight of the state to resolve long-standing environmental problems. Beijing has encouraged courts and police departments to establish dedicated environmental divisions, and other regulatory bodies are also under pressure to play a bigger role in punishing polluters. Environment minister Li Ganjie said at a meeting last month that fines of 15.28 billion yuan (US$2.26 billion) were meted out for environmental offences over the course of last year, up 32 per cent from 2017. ^ top ^

Party theory learning app a hit in China (Global Times)
2019-02-14
Learning Party theory through phone applications has apparently become a new trend in China, as Xuexiqiangguo, an educational application developed by the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, has been a hit on operating systems in China, including Apple's IOS and Android platforms. The application was made available online on January 1. It is not limited to CPC members. The application provides access to xuexi.cn, a website run by the Publicity Department, and serves as an authoritative source for the public to learn Party theory, history, as well as the country's current political and military affairs. Data provided by Qimai Technology Limited, a Beijing-based application data analysis firm, on Thursday, shows that the application, which means "learning to build a strong country," has topped the Apple's Chinese free app chart since Tuesday. This is not the first time for the app to take the top spot in the last 30 days, as it also received the most downloads from January 22 to 25, company data shows. The Apple's app store did not show the total number of downloads for the app, and the rating and comment functions were unavailable as of press time. But the app's Android version was downloaded 17.4 million times on the Huawei app store on Thursday, with an average rating of 4 out of 5. The government website of the eastern Chinese city of Weihai said that as of February 12, 183,000 residents in the city have registered with the app. And as of January 10, more than 360,000 CPC members in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region have been using the application, according to Xinjiang Daily. The application also has a pointing system to encourage use and visits, which has caused a point comparison trend among users. "We [My husband and I] compare points with each other every day, which has become a fun daily routine. Now I have got 990 points on it," said Wang Qingling, a civil servant in Weihai, according to the Weihai government website. Using the application requires the registration of users' phone numbers, and also provides a social media application function, allowing users to add friends through phone numbers. A quiz mode includes traditional Chinese poetry, and important Party knowledge such as materials released at the 19th National Congress of the CPC. The application also provides updates on Chinese leaders' interactions with their international counterparts and key speeches and reforms. News feeds from 18 Party and State news agencies, including People's Daily, the Xinhua News Agency and People's Liberation Army Daily are available on the app. Positive comments overwhelmed the Huawei store. Some users also proposed that developers add a large screen projecting mode for group study. ^ top ^

Police in Chinese Muslim heartland banned from drinking alcohol – even off duty (SCMP)
2019-02-14
Ningxia Hui autonomous region in northwestern China, which has a large Muslim population, has banned all of its police officers from drinking alcohol under any circumstances, on or off duty, according to a local government notice. The "Ningxia public security organs alcohol prohibition order", issued a few days ago, was published on the official Weibo accounts of several police stations across Ningxia. The notice said that any member of the policecaught drinking alcohol, whether they were an officer or an auxiliary police worker, would be "investigated and strictly dealt with according to regulations". "This prohibition order not only bans us from drinking alcohol over the Lunar New Year period, but has no definite end date. Now it looks like it will be in place long-term," an anonymous auxiliary police officerin Ningxia told Shanghai-based news outlet Thepaper.cn on Wednesday. Another officer, from Ningxia traffic police, confirmed to Thepaper.cn that he had received the notice on February 3. In a post on Tuesday from its official WeChat account, the Yinchuan traffic police department said it would "strictly implement" the new policy and "deeply recognise its no-tolerance stance". Yinchuan's traffic police chief Kang Jun said in its notice that the department would aim to cultivate "meaningful interests and hobbies" among staff and "eliminate the culture of 'drinking at the table'". Ningxia has a large number of Chinese Muslims, who make up 34 per cent of its population, but the government notice did not mention whether the ban was related to the Islamic practice of not drinking alcohol. Many people have argued that the ban is excessive and arbitrary. "Surely this is unreasonable, they are still not allowed to drink when they return home from work?" read one top-rated comment on the news platform NetEase. "If the whole country pushed an anti-alcohol law like Ningxia, I bet the share prices of the alcohol manufacturers would drop," another person wrote. State news agency Xinhua reported in 2017 that local alcohol bans for government workers during official functions had been implemented in provinces and regions including Guizhou, Heilongjiang, Jilin, Zhejiang, Anhui, Jiangsu and Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. Those tightened guidelines had targeted the traditional culture of boozy office banquets in state firms, as part of President Xi Jinping's high-profile anti-corruption drive. Expensive drinks such as Maotai were commonly presented as gifts or served at official gatherings, which tarnished the image of Chinese government workers, claimed state media. ^ top ^

China's two-child policy under fire as parents' bank account frozen for having third child (SCMP)
2019-02-13
China's family planning policies have been criticised after a couple's bank account was frozen over unpaid fines imposed for having a third child, despite the country's falling fertility rates. The couple, from China's eastern province of Shandong, failed to meet the deadline to pay the "social maintenance fee" of 64,626 yuan (US$9,500) to the local authority, the local court said on Sunday, and were denied access to the 22,987 yuan in their account as a result. Shandong was reported to have the most newborns nationally in 2017, according to state news agency Xinhua, but a recent report by the 21st Century Business Herald suggested the birth rate in the province may have dropped sharply in 2018, with many cities reporting declining figures. China's National Bureau of Statistics recorded a drop in the number of new births in 2018 to 15.23 million, from 17.23 million in 2017. Some social media users appeared confused by the local government's action while others expressed sympathy for the family. "Is the country joking? It's urging people who don't want to give birth to give birth but punishing those who want to," one commenter wrote on the Chinese microblogging platform Weibo. "Taking all the money away from the family, do you want the whole family to die? What about protecting the rights of the baby?" another wrote. Stuart Gietel-Basten, a professor of social science and public policy at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said the Shandong case was nonetheless in line with existing law. "While the actions in Shandong seem counterintuitive, it is important to remember that birth control restrictions are still in place," he said. "Remember, too, that social maintenance fees for out-of-quota births are an important source of local revenue and that a family planning apparatus still exists with jobs to do." Gietel-Basten also said many people still believed the two-child policy was holding back fertility and that a relaxation of the cap may cause a baby boom in the country. But Jiang Quanbao, a professor of demography at Xi'an Jiaotong University's Institute for Population and Development Studies, said falling fertility rates in the wake of the two-child policy appeared to show the majority of Chinese couples only wanted to have one or two children. "But I guess China will soon (maybe this year) cancel the two children policy and couples can have as many children as they want," Jiang said. China's notorious one-child policy, introduced in 1980, was relaxed in 2014 and abandoned altogether in 2016. The number of births rose at first but fell again after peaking at 17.86 million that year. Alarmed by their ageing and gender-imbalanced populations, local governments in Liaoning, Tianjin, Xinjiang and Hubei since 2017 have been rolling out policies and welfare benefits – such as flexible working hours and subsidised maternity costs – to encourage couples to have second children. Speculation about a further relaxation of the two-child policy intensified last year when the national post office issued a stamp for the year of the pig featuring two pigs and three piglets. Chinese President Xi Jinping also dropped the usual reference to "family planning" during the Communist Party's five-yearly national congress last year. But the National Health Commission dampened expectations last month, saying a proposal to remove all references to family planning from China's statute books had been rejected. The proposal, by some members of the National People's Congress in March last year, had been turned down by the central government on the grounds that the policy had its roots in the Constitution and removing it would not be appropriate. ^ top ^

State Council releases vocational education reform implementation plan (Xinhua)
2019-02-13
China has vowed to cultivate more quality laborers and skilled workers by reforming its vocational education systems, according to a plan for implementing the reform issued by the State Council, or China's cabinet. Vocational education and training systems will be reformed to match with science and technology development trends and market demands and to promote economic modernization and higher quality employment, the official documents note. All sectors of society, especially enterprises, are encouraged to support the country's vocational education, it says, adding that major companies are welcome to run vocational schools and offer high-quality programs. The plan details measures to improve national systems and policies relating to vocational education and lift the quality of both secondary and higher vocational education in the country. Moreover, China will establish national standards for vocational education and ensure standards regarding teaching, education materials and teachers are well met, aiming to nurture and pass down "craftsmanship," according to the document. Under a trial system set to be implemented from 2019, students at vocational colleges, as well as universities that mainly offer undergraduate programs in applied areas, will be awarded an academic certificate plus diplomas of vocational skills of various levels. In five to ten years, operators of China's vocational education institutions, which are now mostly government-run, will be diversified and include more entities or personnel from non-government sectors, according to the plan. ^ top ^

Shock in China after Zhang Yimou film set during Cultural Revolution is pulled from Berlin festival (SCMP)
2019-02-12
The abrupt withdrawal from the Berlin Film Festival of renowned director Zhang Yimou's new film, set in the Cultural Revolution, has sparked outrage and speculation in China over what may have triggered the move. One Second depicts a man who escapes a prison farm in northwestern China in the 1970s – because he desperately wants to see a film – and an orphan he meets along the way. Zhang, who was sent for re-education during China's sociopolitical movement from 1966 until 1976 – known as the Cultural Revolution – has said that he wanted to pay tribute to the cinema of those troubled times in his latest work. The film's producers announced on Monday that for "technical reasons" the movie could not be shown at the 10-day festival, which began on Thursday. Industry insiders confirmed the film had acquired an initial release permit from Beijing but said regulators might have changed their minds and asked for further cuts because of the sensitivity of the subject. According to the festival's press office, the movie, which was scheduled for its world premiere on Friday, was pulled from the competition "due to technical difficulties encountered during post-production". The last time Zhang, who has won numerous accolades including the Golden Bear and Golden Lion awards, had trouble with the film regulators was decades ago. In 1994, his epic To Live was banned in China, even though it won awards in Cannes that year. He was fully "rehabilitated" by the Communist Party in 2008 when he was appointed director of the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games. The news of the film's withdrawal attracted more than 160 million views on Weibo – China's version of Twitter – with many people expressing shock that even Zhang, one of China's most influential filmmakers, would face censorship hurdles after committing to an international festival release. Numerous online commenters attributed the move to government pressure. "Just see what kind of story it tells and you know why it happened," one user commented. "Admitting the Cultural Revolution is a mistake but banning people from showing the mistake via an artwork and even prohibiting it from participating in international competitions … what kind of practice is this?" asked another internet user. China's top leadership has acknowledged that the decade-long period of political and social chaos started by late chairman Mao Zedong was a disaster. Countless politicians, intellectuals and civilians were driven to their deaths and cultural relics and artefacts were destroyed. Historians say that somewhere between 500,000 and 2 million people lost their lives as a result of the Cultural Revolution, but it remains a highly sensitive subject in Chinese society. A general manager from a Beijing-based film distributor, who did not want to be identified, said the movie had obtained a "dragon seal", an official number that acts as a release permit issued by the film regulator. But, to be shown in cinemas, it still needed a final permit document. "In practice, it's very common that a film which has the dragon seal fails to acquire the final document as scheduled, such as Youth," he said, referring to a movie by another acclaimed Chinese director Feng Xiaogang which was also set during the Cultural Revolution and met with a similar fate. Youth, which chronicled the lives of a group of adolescents in a military art troupe during the period, was to have been released during the National Day holidays in 2017 but was delayed by two months because of objections from the censors. Recently, China's wildly popular epic dramas have encountered official resistance following criticism in state media about their content. Several channels responded by pulling dramas like Story of Yanxi Palace and Ruyi's Royal Love in the Palace. A source from a Guangzhou-based film production company said government control over epic dramas tended to be tighter than other genres, but that it was not uncommon for a movie to go through several rounds of censorship if it was about sensitive historical subjects. Beijing last year tightened its ideological grip by shifting regulation on all media, including film censorship, from the State Council to the party's propaganda department. The agency previously regulating the press, publication, radio, film and television under the State Council has been streamlined into the National Radio and Television Administration. The Shadow Play, a film by Lou Ye shot in 2016, is another film that has been delayed and is now scheduled for release in April. The film was shown in the Berlin festival's Panorama section and tells the story of a policeman who witnesses the death of an official in a coastal Chinese town and embarks on an investigation to find the truth. When asked about the delay, Lou told mainland media the film had failed to get clearance from the authorities. ^ top ^

China's top procuratorate to further protect minors (Xinhua)
2019-02-12
China's Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP) on Tuesday unveiled measures to ensure better judicial protection of minors. As part of a five-year reform plan, the SPP will standardize an integrated working mechanism encompassing the arrest, prosecution, investigation and prevention of juvenile crime. The SPP plans to explore criteria for dealing with juvenile delinquents according to the severity of the crime rather than age. Education for juvenile delinquents should be enhanced to prevent recidivism, according to an SPP statement. Education for minors accused of misconduct and those who are on the brink of crime will be strengthened as well, while family education will also be developed. For juvenile victims, the SPP is going to promote a "one-stop" inquiry and legal aid mechanism. In addition, an information database for criminals committing sexual assault against minors and a system for inquiry upon their employment will also be established. Amid China's latest efforts to better protect minors, a department specializing in juvenile cases was set up by the SPP. ^ top ^

China's Xi Jinping goes back to Marx and the classics to push a modern green agenda (SCMP)
2019-02-11
Chinese President Xi Jinping has turned to Karl Marx and Chinese classic teachings to justify his battle against pollution. Qiushi, the Communist Party's journal, published in its January issue a speech Xi delivered in May in which he quoted extensively from Marx and Chinese classics such as the I Ching, or Book of Changes, and Tao Te Ching to stress that human must live in harmony with nature. "To learn from Marx, [we] must learn Marxist thought on human and nature," Xi said. "If mankind conquers nature with science and creativity, nature will take revenge on mankind," he added, paraphrasing Marx and fellow writer Friedrich Engels. Xi went on to cite Engels' Dialectics of Nature, saying that the ancient inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Greece, Anatolia all saw their homelands become deserts after turning too many forests into fields. Xi also cited the I Ching, a foundation text for feng shui masters, to make his point on the significance of preserving the environment. He said also that Chinese thinkers such as Lao Tzu and Mencius highlighted the need to conserve the environment. Although Xi gave the speech nine months ago, its full text was only made public by Qiushi. Xi may be more focused on conservation than any state leader in the country's past. He has made it a key part of officials' appraisals and last year named it as one of the three "battles" – along with political and financial risks and poverty alleviation – the country has to fight. Conservation was also named as one of five target areas for achieving the president's "great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation". Xi's focus on the environment was also highlighted by a political earthquake in two provinces in recent years – shake-ups that were carried out in the name of environmentalism. In Shaanxi province in the country's northwest, a provincial party chief and a handful of other officials have been sacked for corruption in the past two years, with state media accusing them of ignoring Xi's instructions to demolish a string of villas encroaching on the Qin Mountains. And in neighbouring Gansu to the west, the provincial party boss was sacked in 2017, castigated on state television for turning a deaf ear to Xi's repeated instructions to handle a pollution site. Xi also vowed to make an example of other unnamed top officials who condoned pollution. "Certain regional chiefs were not only exempted from punishment but were promoted despite frequent ecological problems under their watch," he said. "[We] must resolutely a handful of typical cases who did damage to the ecology." Xi's emphasis on conservation comes after decades of breakneck economic growth that has raised incomes for many but at a huge cost to the environment and human health. Demand is growing for the damage to be reversed, and Xi's environmental policies could go some way towards that – if he can deliver on them. And while the US has withdrawn from the Paris Agreement on climate change, Xi has pledged that China will keep its commitments and continue to invest in renewable energy and phase out carbon fuels as sources of energy. Chen Daoyin, a Shanghai-based political scientist, said that by hearkening back to Marxism and traditional Chinese culture, Xi was trying to legitimise his green policies. "He is trying to elevate his policy preference to the level of philosophy, which is the science of all science," Chen said. "He shows a strong preference for resorting to the ideology of communism and Chinese traditions for legitimacy of his policies." ^ top ^

Actor hit by accusations of academic plagiarism (Global Times)
2019-02-10
A Chinese TV actor, who also has a PhD from Beijing Film Academy and is a postdoctoral candidate at Peking University, found himself in hot water recently after allegations of plagiarism, which kicked off a new wave of discussions over academic misconduct in China. Sina Weibo user "PITDyazhounuedaiboshizuzhi" on Saturday accused Zhai Tianlin, 32, who most recently appeared in China's 2019 Spring Festival Gala on China Central Television, of plagiarism on Sina Weibo. The user uploaded a paper by Zhai, which was published in an academic journal in August 2018, to a plagiarism software platform. The similarity score for the 2,783-word article was 40.4 percent after it was put through the China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI), a similar platform to Google Scholar, according to the Weibo post. Zhai has been mired in controversy since he asked in a live video in August 2018 what the CNKI was. "As someone with a PhD, how could he not know what the CNKI is? And how could he have never used it for referencing academic works?" wrote a shocked netizen. The video sparked questions over the originality of Zhai's academic works. Some netizens claimed Zhai had sought out essay-writing services, a practice regarded as academic misconduct. The posts stirred heated debate in Chinese cyberspace, with many netizens saying that it is unfair to industrious students who work hard to obtain a degree. They called for strict rules on academic misconduct. Another netizen commented that anyone with the title of scholar should devote themselves to research, but those who wear the veneer of a scholar are just "hateful." "According to the laws on higher education, there are principles about academic performance but no specific punishment for offenders. Students suspected of plagiarism are always punished according to the regulations of their own academic institution," said Zhi Zhenfeng, a legal expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing. Zhi noted that the Beijing Film Academy holds responsibility for investigating the allegation and should release its findings as soon as possible. Zhai's supervisor is also responsible for the failure in supervision and instruction if Zhai is confirmed to have violated academic integrity, he said. "The key to stamp out academic misconduct is to investigate and deal with cases immediately," Zhi said. ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

China issues Turkey safety alert after Ankara's 'vile' statements about treatment of Uygurs in Xinjiang (SCMP)
2019-02-13
China has told its citizens in Turkey to be on the alert as a dispute between the two nations over the treatment of Uygurs in the Xinjiang region escalates. The Chinese embassy in Ankara advised residents and tourists travelling to Turkey to "be wary and pay attention to their personal safety". Turkey on Sunday described China's treatment of its Muslim ethnic Uygur people as "a great embarrassment for humanity", prompting a strong rebuke. Beijing said that the Turkish criticisms were "vile", and that Turkey should have a proper understanding of the legal efforts made by China to fight terrorism and extremism within its borders effectively. China has already issued warnings to Canada and Sweden – where relations with Beijing have nosedived – in a move analysts described as an expression of displeasure. China and Canada have been at loggerheads since the arrest on December 1 of Huawei executive Sabrina Meng Wanzhou, whom the US wants to extradite on fraud charges. Meng has since been released on bail in Vancouver. In January, against the background of Meng's situation, China issued a warning of the risk of travelling to Canada, hours after Ottawa issued a similar alert. A notice by the Chinese foreign ministry said citizens should be aware of the risk of being "arbitrarily detained at the request of a third nation" in Canada, and urged caution when making travel plans. In December, China issued a travel alert warning its citizens about the risks of visiting Sweden. The two sides have long been at odds over human rights, but in early September a group of Chinese tourists claimed they had been mistreated by the Swedish police, an incident that generated a fierce backlash. China and Sweden are also at odds over Beijing's detention of Gui Minhai, a Chinese-born Swedish citizen and publisher of books critical of China's leadership. "The statement made by the Chinese embassy is a countermeasure on the Turkish government," said analyst Li Mingjiang, an associate professor at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. "It is a message telling the Turkish government that you should not say too much about the internal affairs in China, otherwise economic relationships, tourism, this sort of thing, could be affected." Analysts said that while there was a potential risk for Chinese citizens in Turkey, the situation was not grave. "People making transfer flights in Istanbul will not have to worry," said Shi Yinhong, professor of international relations at Beijing's Renmin University. "But there may be increased risk for Chinese tourists travelling deep into the country from Muslim groups such as the Turkestan Islamic Party after Turkey's strong stance." "I think it will have an impact on a very small number of tourists," Li said. ^ top ^

Next stop Xinjiang for one of China's rising political stars Wang Junzheng (SCMP)
2019-02-12
Beijing has sent a trusted senior cadre – with a track record of versatility and economic development – to join the highest decision-making body of China's highly sensitive Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. Wang Junzheng, 56, has been appointed to Xinjiang's 14-member Communist Party standing committee, according to an official statement on Monday. His new role was not specified in the two-paragraph announcement. Analysts said he was expected to assume a leadership role in the party's regional political and legal affairs commission – a critical body in the implementation of China's "stabilising measures" in Xinjiang, which include the controversial "re-education camps" where up to 1 million people from the Muslim ethnic minority group are reportedly being held. In a move that may have paved the way for such a role for Wang, the incumbent head of Xinjiang's political and legal affairs commission – Zhu Hailun, 61 – was elected deputy head of Xinjiang's People's Congress in January. It is standard practice in China for deputy provincial level cadres to step down and take up such positions on reaching 60. Dr Alfred Wu, an associate professor at Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, said that while there were other vacancies in both Xinjiang's political and legal affairs commission and its united front work department, Wong's legal experience made it likely he would take up the role vacated by Zhu. A source familiar with Wang told the South China Morning Post he was among a group of cadres who had won the trust of President Xi Jinping. Wang's career has been on a fast track of rotation and promotion. He reached vice-provincial level when he was only 49 and, five years later, became an alternate member of the Central Committee – the party's highest organ of power – at the 19th party congress in October 2017. He moves to Xinjiang from the northeastern province of Jilin, where he was a member of the provincial party standing committee and party chief of Changchun, the provincial capital. It was not all smooth sailing for Wang in Jilin, where his career was overshadowed by last year's Changchun Changsheng vaccine scandal. National outrage followed the revelation that one of China's biggest vaccine makers, Changsheng Bio-tech, had systematically forged data in its production of rabies vaccines and had sold ineffective vaccines for diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus that were given to hundreds of thousands of babies – some as young as three months old. Heads rolled. Sackings included Jilin vice-governor Jin Yuhui, who had overseen food and drug regulation; Li Jinxiu, a former Jilin food and drug chief; Changchun mayor Liu Changlong; and Bi Jingquan, deputy director of the State Market Regulatory Administration in Beijing. In a farewell speech published in People's Daily on Monday, Wang apparently made a veiled reference to the scandal and admitted some shortcomings. "Because of my constraints, I could have done better on some issues … and have failed to meet the expectations of the Party and people," he said. Alfred Wu said the Xinjiang posting showed Wang's career had not been seriously affected by the Changchun vaccine scandal. "Going to Xinjiang is both an opportunity and a challenge for Wang. If he can prove himself in stabilising Xinjiang, he will go further [in his career]," Wu said. Xinjiang is Wang's fourth provincial posting. He began his political career in Yunnan, southwestern China, where he spent nearly two decades working with many ethnic minority groups. He was the legal chief of Kunming, the provincial capital of Yunnan, from 1988 to 2000 and also served as vice-president of the Yunnan Higher People's Court from 2005 to 2007. In 2009 Wang became party chief of Lijiang, a tourist city in Yunnan where the economy thrived under his watch. "More importantly, he struck a balance between tourism development and environmental conservation and was noticed by the leadership," a source said. Wang left Yunnan in 2012 when he was promoted to provincial vice-governor of Hubei in central China. He later became party chief of the city of Xiangyang in Hubei province and was promoted to provincial party standing committee member in 2013. After three years in Hubei, Wang headed north to Jilin, becoming Changchun party chief in January 2016. Wang was born in the eastern province of Shandong. He graduated from Shandong University with a bachelor's degree in socialism studies and a master's in the same subject from Renmin University in Beijing in the 1980s. He attained his doctorate in management from Tsinghua University in 2006. ^ top ^

China releases video of 'dead' Uygur poet Abdurehim Heyit but fails to silence critics (SCMP)
2019-02-11
China's state media has released a video to counter claims that a prominent Uygur poet and musician had died – hours after his reported death prompted Turkey to condemn Beijing's crackdown on the Muslim ethnic minority group as "a great shame for humanity". The 25-second video, published late on Sunday night, featured a man said to be Abdurehim Heyit who claimed to be in the process of an investigation and "in good health". The video was released hard on the heels of a strongly worded statement from Turkey's foreign ministry that denounced China's "reintroduction of concentration camps in the 21st century and the policy of systematic assimilation" in its western region of Xinjiang. The statement called for the closure of the internment camps where nearly 1 million ethnic Uygur Muslims are reportedly held. Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Monday described the Turkish statement as "vile". Turkey's foreign ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said his country had learned of the "tragic" death of Heyit and respectfully commemorated him and others who "lost their lives defending their Turkish and Muslim identity". "We have learned with deep sorrow of the passing away in his second year of imprisonment of the distinguished folk poet Abdurehim Heyit, who was sentenced to eight years in prison for one of his songs," Aksoy said. "This tragedy has further reinforced the reaction of the Turkish public opinion towards serious human rights violations committed in the Xinjiang region." In an apparent attempt to counter reports of Heyit's death, China Radio International's Turkish language service uploaded a video on Sunday with Turkish and English subtitles on its website and Twitter, purportedly showing the poet alive and well. "My name is Abdurehim Heyit. Today is February 10, 2019," said the man in a black and white jumper before a grey, padded wall. "I'm in the process of being investigated for allegedly violating the national laws. I'm now in good health," he said, and took a moment of pause to purse his lips before adding: "and have never been abused." At the Chinese foreign ministry's regular Monday press conference, spokeswoman Hua said she had also watched the Sunday video clip. "This proves he is not only alive but also in very good health. The Turkish authorities' unfounded accusation against China, based on the lie about the false death, is extremely wrong and irresponsible," Hua said. She added that recent visits by some – unnamed – foreign diplomats and journalists to Xinjiang, had "witnessed local people's wholehearted smiles" that could "rebuke false accusations" about the region." But instead of quelling criticism, the Sunday video has drawn rebuke from activists and analysts. "He seemed distressed in the video as if he was having trouble finding his next words to say with trembling lips. That is not the Abdurehim Heyit we have known," said Alip Erkin, an Australia-based Uygur activist. Heyit is widely celebrated for his performances on the dutar, a traditional long-necked, two-string lute. "[The] video itself should be evidence of his wrongful and secret detention for expressing Uygur values in his songs, not as some sort of diplomatic victory for China," Erkin added. Some observers said the short clip resembled past "confession" videos of rights advocates and dissidents released by the Chinese government. "This video has the feel of a Chinese [government] forced TV confession, typically used on people with a voice: They are disappeared and coerced by police torturers to self-incriminate on TV [and] to pretend they're OK," tweeted Magnus Fiskesjo, associate professor of anthropology at Cornell University, author of a paper on China's televised confessions. Patrick Poon, China researcher with Amnesty International, was also sceptical about the video. "It's simply unclear when and where Abdurehim Heyit took the video," Poon said. "If the Chinese government is genuine in proving that he's still alive, the easiest and most direct way of doing so is to allow him to talk to his family, friends and journalists directly, without any interference." Before the video was released China's embassy in Ankara defended its policy in Xinjiang and called the Turkish foreign ministry statement a "serious violation of the facts" and "completely unacceptable". "We hope the Turkish side will have a correct understanding of the efforts made by China to legally deploy measures to effectively fight terrorism and extremism, withdraw its false accusations and take measures to eliminate their harmful effects," the embassy said in a lengthy response on its website. Although Beijing is facing a growing outcry from the United Nations and Western governments over its treatment of Uygurs, majority-Muslim countries have largely avoided speaking out on the issue – until Turkey broke the silence on Saturday. In December, Pakistan – a close ally of China – defended Beijing over the criticism, saying the issue was being "sensationalised" by foreign media. China has also doubled down on a propaganda drive to defend its narrative of the camps, which it claims are "vocational training centres" where people live a colourful life and learn job skills in an effort by the government to combat "religious extremism". In late December, diplomats from 12 countries with large Muslim populations were escorted on a highly controlled tour of Xinjiang. Turkey was not among the group. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Fugitives should only be extradited to Taiwan, not mainland China, Hong Kong opposition lawmakers and lawyers' group urge government (SCMP)
2019-02-14
Hong Kong's pro-democracy lawmakers and the head of the Bar Association want the government to work out an extradition arrangement with Taiwan instead of changing the law to include mainland China, Macau and other parts of the world. Their main concern is that the mainland might take advantage of the change to seek the transfer of people in Hong Kong who are wanted across the border, and the lawmakers have little faith in the legal system there. But security minister John Lee Ka-chiu dismissed their counterproposal during a meeting on Wednesday with members of the Civic Party, and made clear the government would proceed with a plan to introduce a case-by-case approach for extradition requests from jurisdictions that did not have a treaty with Hong Kong. The extradition issue has been in the spotlight since the high-profile case of a young Hong Kong woman, Poon Hiu-wing, who disappeared in Taiwan during a holiday with her boyfriend Chan Tong-kai last February. When Chan returned to Hong Kong alone, Poon's worried parents told police. Taiwanese police found the woman's decomposing body in Taipei last March. Taiwanese authorities suspect Chan may have killed her. They asked Hong Kong to send him back to them to help in investigations, but he remains in Hong Kong because there is no extradition arrangement. Instead, Chan faces charges in Hong Kong related to possession of Poon's bank card, smartphone, camera and large sums of cash. The convener of the democratic camp, Claudia Mo Man-ching, said opposition lawmakers had deep sympathy for Poon's family, but felt strongly that any new case-by-case extradition arrangement should apply only to Taiwan. She said the camp would oppose extending the transfer of fugitives to the mainland. "The democrats are extremely worried that this new proposed extradition arrangement could prove a Trojan horse for Hong Kong, and may lower the judicial barrier under our 'one country, two systems' principle," Mo said, referring to the framework under which Beijing governs the city. Legal sector lawmaker Dennis Kwok of the Civic Party cautioned that the change could open a floodgate of requests to hand over fugitives to the mainland and jeopardise Hong Kong's status as financial and legal hub. Bar Association chairman Philip Dykes warned that if Hong Kong went ahead with the case-by-case approach, there could be a knock-on effect for its relations with 20 countries which already had extradition arrangements or others in discussion to have the same. China would be allowed to request the extradition of nationals of those countries who were in Hong Kong, he said. He stressed that any extradition agreement must ensure that fugitives sent from Hong Kong would face a legal system of comparable standard in the jurisdiction requesting their transfer. Dykes questioned whether the mainland fitted that criteria. Hong Kong's two laws related to extradition, the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance, exclude the transfer of fugitives to or from "any other part of the People's Republic of China". The government has proposed establishing a case-by-case extradition mechanism with any jurisdiction that does not have a treaty with Hong Kong. Dykes and Mo said Hong Kong could make a special arrangement to kick-start a formal deal with Taiwan. Mo added that opposition lawmakers were open to an arrangement that would either be on a one-off or long-term basis. But security minister Lee rejected having a special arrangement with Taiwan. During a meeting with the Civic Party and Mo, he said the proposed mechanism would plug the loophole exposed in the Taiwan case. He also dismissed a suggestion to set a time limit on the mechanism so it would expire at some point after the Taiwan case was dealt with. While the security chief did not reveal Beijing's view of Hong Kong's willingness to talk with Taiwan, a source said Lee and a top aide gave their vote of confidence to the mainland's legal system. It will be an uphill battle for the pro-democracy camp to press on with its proposal, as it holds only 25 of the 69 seats in the legislature, including the Civic Party's five lawmakers. The government is expected to table the bill in April, and push it through before the legislature's summer break in July. Pro-Beijing lawmaker Martin Liao Cheung-kong, a barrister, called the pan-democrats' suggestion to negotiate with Taiwan impractical. "It is already difficult for Hong Kong and Taiwan to develop normal communications, let alone seal a deal between governments," Liao said, referring to sensitive cross-strait relationships. New People's Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, a former security minister, also dismissed the pan-democrats' idea. Pointing out that Beijing was in charge of Hong Kong's foreign affairs, she said it would be tough to set any agreements between the city and Taiwan. Another former security minister, Lai Tung-kwok, sought to allay critics' concerns that Hong Kong's courts would be pressured to extradite fugitives who were political dissidents, calling for faith in the city's judicial system. "We have to fully trust judges to decide only on legal perspectives, that's the foundation of our legal system," he said. Fugitives would receive no less legal protection before being handed over and would be free to seek asylum based on torture claims. ^ top ^

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam tells critics there's no room for compromise on any threats to city's stability (SCMP)
2019-02-14
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has told her critics not to expect any room for compromise when it comes to the city's "one country, two systems" governing formula and threats to long-term stability. The chief executive also said the 19 months since she took on the top job had seen constant tests to her "political wisdom, patience, forbearance and ability to build community consensus". Lam shed light on her experience as leader when she addressed guests on Wednesday during a presentation on voters' picks for the 10 most important events of last year. Three contentious political issues made the list, including the introduction of a bill criminalising insults to the national anthem, in fifth place, disqualification of localist election candidates (sixth), and the ban on the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party (10th). "Unavoidably, there came some malicious criticisms, and some people who do not fully understand the new constitutional order have some negative views towards me," Lam said. "But to safeguard the one country, two systems principle, and to ensure the long-term stability of Hong Kong, I'm afraid there is hardly room for compromise." One country, two systems has been in place since Hong Kong's handover from British colonial rule in 1997, and sets out the limits of the city's autonomy as part of China. Lam quoted her inauguration speech on July 1, 2017, by saying: "I will, as I always have, rise to the challenges and firmly take action in accordance with the law against any acts that will undermine the country's sovereignty, security and development interests … in fulfilment of the mandate from the central government and our community." She said her duties as chief executive were to implement one country, two systems, uphold the city's mini-constitution, defend the rule of law, and promote a deep and positive relationship between mainland China and Hong Kong. Her ability to carry out these tasks had been tested "time after time", she said. The top 10 presentation was organised by more than 20 local media organisations with the support of about 60 community groups. Now in its 21st year, the exercise saw about 140,000 people vote on 20 highlights shortlisted by the organisers. Taking first place was the opening of a cross-border high-speed railway to Guangzhou, followed by the launch of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, the world's longest sea crossing. Coming third was a citywide public consultation exercise on options to free up land for housing. Lam acknowledged that the two cross-border infrastructure projects had spawned concerns among critics, but said figures showed they had quickly become popular. As of Sunday, 7.9 million passengers had taken the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link since its opening in late September. For the bridge, which opened in October, 7.5 million people had made the crossing. The chief executive added that the opening of the two links was timely, coming ahead of the announcement of a blueprint next week for the development of the "Greater Bay Area", a project to turn Hong Kong, Macau and nine cities in neighbouring Guangdong province into an innovation, technology and economic hub with global ambitions. ^ top ^

 

Macau

Chui appoints president, members of Macao chief executive election management committee (Xinhua)
2019-02-11
Macao's current chief executive Chui Sai On appointed the president and members of a management committee for the coming election of the new chief executive of the special administrative region (SAR), the government of the Macao SAR said on Monday. A latest gazette released by the SAR government said that Chui has appointed Song Man Lei, Judge of Macao's Court of Final Appeal, as the president of SAR chief executive election management committee. He also has appointed Deputy Public Prosecutor Chan Tsz King, Judge of Intermediate Court Tong Hio Fong, Director of Public Administration and Civil Service Bureau Kou Peng Kuan, and Director of Government Information Bureau Chan Chi Ping as members of the management committee. According to the Basic Law of the Macao SAR, the chief executive, with a five-year tenure for each term, shall be elected by a 400-member committee. The election for members of chief executive election committee is scheduled for June 16, 2019. According to Macao's law on the election of chief executive, the current chief executive should also appoint a management committee with a president and members in 15 days after the date of election for members of chief executive election committee is published. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

US 'must use all military and diplomatic means' to defend Taiwan against Beijing (SCMP)
2019-02-14
A group of US scholars has called on President Donald Trump to be ready to deter aggression by mainland China against Taiwan, maintain a strong military presence in the Western Pacific and help the self-ruled island develop a strategy in tackling expansionist Beijing. In a 53-page report released by the Task Force on US-China Policy – a group of China 17 specialists formed by the Asia Society – Washington was reminded of the long-standing American policy of insisting on a peaceful resolution to the question of Taiwan's future and the extent of the self-governing island's dependence upon US military power. The panel of experts said the United States should not break with nearly 50 years of practice and challenge Beijing's one-China policy, a move that would inflame tensions across the Taiwan Strait or, worse, precipitate military force from mainland China. The report said: "Washington must maintain a strong and credible military presence in the Western Pacific to convince Beijing that the United States still has serious military options," despite China's rapid military expansion and development of advanced weapons. The report, "Course Correction: Toward an Effective and Sustainable China Policy", addressed the gulf in military forces between Beijing and Taipei and said it was necessary for Washington to "assist Taiwan in developing asymmetric capabilities to hold off the massively superior mainland military until the United States can bring forces to bear". "Robust shore batteries, improved air defences, mobile response units, and sea mines to counter landing craft can all pose major problems for an invading People's Liberation Army (PLA) force," the report said, suggesting that Washington ensure that Taiwan is properly equipped for self-defence. Beijing considers Taiwan a wayward province that must be brought back to the mainland fold, by force if necessary. It has suspended official exchanges with Taiwan, staged a series of war games around the island and wooed away five of its allies since Tsai Ing-wen, of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, was elected president in 2016 and refused to accept the one-China principle. Beijing insisted that cross-strait exchanges could only be resumed after the Tsai government accepted that Taiwan was a part of China. The panel, which included Susan Shirk, a former US deputy assistant secretary of state in president Bill Clinton's administration, and Orville Schell, director of the non-profit Asia Society's Centre on US-China Relations, called for greater dialogue between all parties concerned with Taiwan's future and empowerment of Taipei on the international stage. Washington should look for a resumption of dialogue across the strait, they said. It must allow high-level official visits between the US and Taiwan, explore further trade and investment liberalisation with Taiwan, and continue to push for increased participation for Taiwan in international organisations and activities for which statehood is not a requirement. Since Trump took office in January 2017, he has adopted an "America first" policy as a means of countering Beijing's ambition to expand militarily, commercially and diplomatically across the Indo-Pacific region. He signed the Taiwan Travel Act, which allows high-level diplomatic exchanges between Washington and Taipei, has overseen two batches of weapons sales and authorised spending that will help Taiwan improve its defences – much to the annoyance of Beijing. Wang Kung-yi, a professor of political science at Chinese Culture University, said that while calls from American scholars and congressmen were good for Taiwanese morale, "they certainly would fuel concerns from Beijing, which might further increase its pressure on Taiwan". Last week, US senators asked House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi to invite Tsai to address a joint meeting of Congress, an invitation that would anger Beijing as China and the US seek to negotiate their way out of a messy and costly dispute over trade tariffs. Taiwan said there were no plans for such a visit. ^ top ^

 

Economy

China's big data sector to expand rapidly in 2019 (Xinhua)
2019-02-14
China's big data sector will maintain speedy growth in 2019, a recent report has said. Core industries in the sector are expected to be worth more than 720 billion yuan (about 106.3 billion U.S. dollars) this year, according to a report on the sector's outlook released by the think tank CCID. The report said China's big data sector will register growth between 25 percent and 30 percent, facilitating the transformation and upgrading of regional economic structure. Following regions in eastern China where the sector booms, southwest China's Sichuan and Guizhou provinces and Chongqing Municipality will become front-runners, the report said. As part of the development of the digital economy, China is accelerating the integration of big data and the real economy, said Wei Kai, a researcher with the China Academy of Information and Communication Technology. To maximize the use of big data, the country should make efforts to establish all-in-one big data platforms and effective mechanisms for data management, Wei added. China's big data sector aims to increase its annual sales to 1 trillion yuan by 2020 from an estimated 280 billion yuan in 2015, said a plan released in 2017 by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. The sector also targets a compound annual growth rate of around 30 percent for its sales in 2016-2020, according to the plan.^ top ^

 

DPRK
What North Korea is actually like: view of a US author in Pyongyang (SCMP)
2019-02-15
When Travis Jeppesen, a 37-year-old writer and art critic, spotted the ad offering a one-month study programme in North Korea, he didn't hesitate. Not that he was any wide-eyed naif: he had visited four times before. But he was done with package tours, with being shuttled from monument to tedious monument. If he were to return to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), it would have to be for a different sort of trip. Enter Tongil Tours. Newly founded by Alek Sigley, a geeky, North Korea-obsessed Australian, in 2016, Tongil was looking to carve its own niche in the North Korea travel market – specifically with educational programmes. Sigley's marquee project was what Jeppesen would stumble across: a one-month trip learning Korean at Kim Hyong Jik University of Education in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang. See You Again in Pyongyang is the outcome of Jeppesen's trip. Spending mornings learning basic Korean from the flirtatious Ms Pak and afternoons trying to understand this riddle of a country, Jeppesen descends below the political patina coating North Korea. He is joined at the Sosan Hotel, which serves them as university housing, by Sigley and a younger man, Alexandre, another veteran of the North Korea tour circuit. Each is there for different reasons, but they all share the same desire: to better understand this seemingly inscrutable cavern of a country. During their month, they become increasingly frustrated with the place, the people and occasionally each other. Linguistic progress, it is hinted, reflects social insight: Jeppesen learns rapidly as he weaves incisive analysis through the book. Alexandre, meanwhile, lags behind, irritated and reactive. The two keep the more fluent and (it is suggested) politically sympathetic Sigley at a safe distance throughout. Jeppesen befriends his Korean guides – those who have arranged the visit – and it is through this assortment of characters that he views the seismic changes taking place in North Korea. The bubbly and entrepreneurial Min, for example, toggles between three settings: dully parroting the regime in public, eagerly trying to get rich in private, and mourning the freedoms of her adolescence in Cuba in solitude. She sings Barbie Girl at karaoke, dances salsa and mambo, and complains about her colleague at work who constantly plays World of Warcraft on the clock. To be North Korean is to live multiple lives, yet Min's is more fractured than most. Her colleague, the silent Roe, is more of an enigma than Min. Jeppesen tried hard to figure him out. When Roe comments on the "country bumpkins" they meet on a beach, Jeppesen hints at an inferiority complex – Roe is not from Pyongyang. He has had to climb his way up a very slippery ladder through the grit and hard work that some of his high-born colleagues have avoided. He is the more anxious and neurotic of the Koreans, occasionally revealing this rigidity, such as the moment he criticises Alexandre's vocabulary: Roe knows "four thousand three hundred seventy-three words" in English. Their boss, the influential Comrade Kim, is as much a product of the North Korean system as the "ordinary" people he derides. He embraces the fledgling capitalism tolerated (if not encouraged) by the regime and, by paying kickbacks to his contacts at the Foreign Ministry, he engages in business deals overseas: cosmetics, luxury foods, high-end clothing. He speaks half a dozen languages, he has lived abroad and he is an alumnus of the ultra-prestigious Pyongyang University of Foreign Studies. He is, in short, a staunch member of the "cosmopolitan" North Korean middle class. Jeppesen presents Kim Jong-un's North Korea as a society in chaotic flux. Gone is the hyper-disciplined, goose-stepping Stalinism of decades past (if it ever existed). In this North Korea, normal teens rave to techno with crystal meth, policemen beat citizens and extort bribes, and USB sticks loaded with foreign films and music flood the ubiquitous black markets. In befriending Min, Roe and Kim, Jeppesen rubs shoulders with the donju, the new business elite getting rich through trade with China – and beyond. When Alexandre jokes about opening a French-Korean fusion restaurant – "Kimchi Baguette" – in Pyongyang, Min gets so excited she practically starts laying the concrete. Jeppesen's book is, by its very nature, anecdotal, but there is also some good analysis. His section on North Korean art ("Norkorealism") is as entertaining as it is original, countering the simplistic view that all DPRK art is just a knock-off of Soviet socialist realism: "The North has fostered its own realism … that extends into daily life in ways that other totalitarian aesthetic systems could only dream of," he writes. He delves into North Korean identity and its painful roots in a "never forget" world view. He even notes the role multi-generational fear and childhood trauma have played in shaping the country's collective psyche. The book belongs to what might be termed the "North Korea travel memoir" genre. Its unique subject matter differentiates it from other travel memoirs: with North Korea, readers know so little, journalistic misinformation is widespread, and the country is so reclusive that every memoir must be a history, sociology and international-relations textbook rolled in one. The genre, as a whole, has a terrible reputation. Taking advantage of the lack of general access, opportunistic visitors can inflate a short-term package holiday into an Asian Heart of Darkness, and many do. Often wildly ignorant, superficial and patronising, such books fill the market. Judged against this company, Jeppesen does a good job. He is remarkably self-aware, tiptoeing around the cliched canon with sensitivity. He portrays North Koreans neither as mindless, brainwashed drones, nor as helpless, abject figures whose humanity comes to light only via neo-colonial sympathy. There are, admittedly, some mawkish metaphors on the impending spiritual awakening of those around him (he lectures the confused Koreans about how Socrates's wisdom was knowing he knew nothing). And he inflates standard tourist fare a bit much (four chapters on the Sinchon Museum of American War Atrocities is probably excessive). Ultimately, though, if living in North Korea is walking a tightrope, writing about North Korea is walking another, and Jeppesen does a good job finding balance. Even during his more preachy moments, he understands that North Korea and its people are not his to explain: "missing [are] the stories of the faces we see around us … because in the end, they are not our stories to tell." See You Again in Pyongyang is one of the better – albeit personal and anecdotal – introductions into what today's North Korea is actually like. Those interested in seeing past the headlines would do well to read it. ^ top ^

South Korea disputes Donald Trump's claim Seoul has agreed to pay extra US$500 million for US troops to remain (SCMP)
2019-02-13
South Korea's presidential Blue House pushed back on Wednesday against comments by US President Donald Trump that suggested Seoul had agreed to pay US$500 million more towards maintaining US troops in the country. Trump said at a cabinet meeting in Washington on Tuesday Seoul had agreed to pay US$500 million more as part of an agreement sharing the cost of keeping roughly 28,500 American troops stationed in South Korea. "They were paying about US$500 million for US$5 billion worth of protection," Trump said. "And we have to do better than that. So they've agreed to pay US$500 million more." Under the previous agreement – which lapsed amid disagreements in December – South Korea contributed 960 billion won (US$857 million) in 2018. South Korean and American officials initialled an agreement on Sunday under which Seoul would increase its contribution to just under 1.04 trillion won (US$927 million), an increase of about US$70.3 million. Kim Eui-kyeom, a spokesman for the presidential Blue House in Seoul, said when asked about Trump's US$500 million figure that it "shouldn't be taken as a fait accompli". Kim said the figure had been one of Washington's demands during the negotiations. The agreement signed on Sunday must still be approved by South Korea's parliament. Kim said it was valid for only one year, with the possibility of an extension for another year if both sides agreed. "Both sides will consider whether a raise is needed and it's also possible that they would agree to maintain the current level," Kim said. The two sides had struggled to reach a breakthrough, despite at least 10 rounds of talks since March, amid Trump's repeated calls for a sharp increase in South Korea's contribution. Trump said in his cabinet comments on Tuesday the relationship with South Korea was "great" but that the US spent "a tremendous amount of money" defending its ally. Meanwhile, in Washington on Tuesday, Republicans and Democrats joined together to tout the alliances between Japan, South Korea and the United States, hoping to reinforce the trilateral relationship amid an intensifying feud between Tokyo and Seoul. Members of the House of Representatives and Senate from both parties introduced resolutions in the two chambers affirming Congress' strong support for ties between the three countries and the critical importance of cooperation. Relations between Japan and South Korea have chilled recently due to disputes over their wartime history, including Japan's 1910-1945 colonisation of the Korean peninsula, as well as allegations of provocations by each country's military. The dispute threatens regional efforts to rein in North Korea's nuclear programme, just weeks before US President Donald Trump is to hold a second summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Vietnam on February 27-28. "With so much at stake … it is critical that we maintain a responsible path forward," Democratic Representative Eliot Engel, chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee and a co-sponsor of the measure, said in a statement. The measures were introduced by Engel and Representative Mike McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, as well as top Senate Foreign Relations Democrat Bob Menendez and the leaders from both parties of the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs Asia subcommittees. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

State Secretary meets Cuban Ambassador (Montsame)
2019-02-14
State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs D.Davaasuren met with Cuban Ambassador Raúl Delgado Concepción on February 13. At the meeting, the sides exchanged views on actions to be implemented in pursuant to the 3rd Consultative Meeting between the Foreign Affairs Ministries of two countries, held on January 18-19, 2019. They also shared views on marking 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between two countries which will fall in 2020. The Cuban Ambassador informed about timely issues occurring in Latin America.  ^ top ^

MOU signed for Project Management Consultancy for oil refinery (Montsame)
2019-02-11
Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Engineers India Ltd, a PSU under the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, and the Government of Mongolia through Mongol Refinery State Owned LLC was signed on February 10, on the sidelines of PETROTECH-2019 event at Greater Noida, UP, India. The MoU is for Project Management Consultancy services for construction of an oil refinery plant in Mongolia by EIL. Government of Mongolia is in process to set-up 1.5 MMTPA greenfield crude oil refinery in Sainshand province, under Line of Credit (LoC) extended by Government of India. EIL has carried out Detailed Feasibility Study for the project. It has been pre-qualified and subsequently shortlisted for providing project management consultancy services to Mongol Refinery for the project. The MoU was signed by Dr Altantsetseg Dashdavaa, Executive Director, Mongol Refinery State Owned LLC and Mr R.K.Sabharwal, Director (Commercial), EIL in the presence of Shri Dharmendra Pradhan, Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas & Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, and the Mongolian Minister of Mining and Heavy Industry D.Sumiyabazar. ^ top ^

 

LEW Mei Yi
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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