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
  20-24.1.2014, No. 509  
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Foreign Policy

Cuba, China underscore strong bilateral ties (Global Times)
Visiting senior Chinese legislator Chen Changzhi met here on Friday with Cuban leaders, vowing to boost ties between the two countries. During the meeting with Cuba's National Assembly President Esteban Lazo, the vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) of China said that his country has been keenly following Cuba's current economic "modernization" drive, and hoping it progresses successfully. Both Cuba and China, as their governments have been founded on socialist principles, should maintain bilateral ties at the highest level so as to increasingly consolidate their mutual trust, Chen stressed. Chen and Lazo also ratified "the friendship that has united the two countries for many years, transcending the test of time." China is Cuba's second largest trading partner after Venezuela. For his part, Lazo said Cuba considered its ties with China to be of a "priority and strategic" character. Lazo, also a member of the politburo of Cuban Communist Party, urged the continuation of regular contact and exchange between the two parties, governments and parliaments. On the same day, Chen also met with Miguel Diaz-Canel, first vice president of the Council of State and the two leaders discussed the current economic and social situation in China and Cuba. ^ top ^

US mulling partnership with China in Congo Inga 3 dam project (SCMP)
In an unusual move, the US government is considering partnering with Chinese state firms in financing the US$12 billion Inga 3 dam in the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the world's costliest and possibly most controversial dams. A Chinese consortium comprising Sinohydro and China Three Gorges Corp, both state-owned enterprises (SOEs), are bidding for the project, according to media reports. If the Chinese consortium wins the contract, this will be the biggest overseas dam contract ever won by Chinese firms. Inga 3 will have a capacity of 4,800 megawatts (MW) and is one of the largest hydropower projects in Africa, according to Peter Bosshard, policy director of International Rivers, a US nongovernmental organisation (NGO) opposed to the project. Bosshard said a partnership for such a massive undertaking between the US and China is unusual. "I am not aware of any other such case," he added. Benoit Tshibangu Ilunga, who runs Congo law firm Tshibangu Ilunga & Partners and is involved in the dam project, told the South China Morning Post that the US government was interested in partnering with the Chinese state firms in the project. […] The Inga 3 dam is part of the Grand Inga plan, an US$80 billion complex of 11 dams and six hydropower projects on the Congo River in the African nation. If the Grand Inga plan proceeds, all its dams will have a combined capacity of 40,000 MW, according to International Rivers. The project would dwarf the world's biggest dam, China's US$28 billion Three Gorges Dam, which has a capacity of 22,500 MW. A group of NGOs, including International Rivers, sent a letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry and Shah last month, urging Washington not to support the Inga 3 dam. "Inga 3 will completely bypass the local population and generate electricity for the Congo mining sector and South African export market. It is likely that the project will be affected by rampant corruption, and may further entrench the country's resource curse," said the NGOs' letter, which also cited environmental risks. Last December, Shah told reporters the US government was considering financing the Inga 3 dam, possibly as part of US President Barack Obama's "Power Africa" initiative, without specifying the amount. Obama announced the US$7 billion Power Africa plan to supply electricity to the continent during his visit to Africa in July last year. If a Chinese consortium wins the dam contract and USAID carries out its intention to finance the dam, the US and China will be partners in the project. The US and China need not compete over Africa, but can co-operate in developing the continent, said Charles Stith, director of the African Presidential Archives and Research Centre at Boston University. "In principle, economic co-operation between China and the US is a good thing and can reduce tension. […] ^ top ^

Chinese VP meets Ecuadorian counterpart on ties (Xinhua)
Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao met his Ecuadorean counterpart Jorge Glas Espinel on Monday. Li voiced his hope that China and the Latin American country could deepen mutual trust and promote cooperation in areas including trade, finance, energy and mineral resources, infrastructure construction, agriculture and aviation. He also called for more bilateral exchanges on culture, education, science and technology, and tourism, and enhanced coordination in international and regional affairs so as to lift the China-Ecuador relationship and overall China-Latin America cooperation to a new level. For his part, Glas said the economies of Ecuador and China are highly complementary. He called for more Chinese investment in his country and more mutually beneficial cooperation in order to push forward the comprehensive development of the relationship. ^ top ^

Chinese president to attend opening ceremony in Sochi (China Daily)
In a brief statement, the ministry said that Xi would be in Russia from February 6-8 for the opening ceremony. It provided no further details. Xi's decision to attend is a positive development for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has staked his political prestige on the success of the Olympics, after U.S. President Barack Obama and his German counterpart Joachim Gauck both said they would not travel to Russia for the Games. To ease fears over possible breaches of security, Putin has ordered safety measures beefed up nationwide after 34 people were killed last month in bombings in Volgograd, another city in southern Russia. About 37,000 Russian personnel are providing security in the Sochi area. Russia's human rights record has also come under close scrutiny with Finland's Sports Minister Paavo Arhinmaki boycotting the opening ceremony over the country's "limitations in the freedom of speech or repressing of sexual minorities". The Sochi Games are the 22nd Winter Olympics and will run from February 7-23. ^ top ^

China, EU begin first round of investment talks (Xinhua)
The first round of negotiations for an investment agreement between China and the European Union (EU) started in Beijing on Tuesday, said Ministry of Commerce spokesman Shen Danyang. This round of negotiations will last for three days, Shen said. An investment agreement between China and the EU will boost bilateral investment growth and can deepen their comprehensive strategic partnership, Shen said. The two sides expect to provide a stable, transparent, predictable and open legal environment with the help of an investment agreement, Shen said. The EU is China's largest trade partner with a trade volume of more than 500 billion U.S. dollars for three years running. China's trade with the EU edged up 2.1 percent year on year to 559.1 billion U.S. dollars in 2013, Chinese customs data showed. An agreement to launch negotiations for an investment agreement was reached at the EU-China Summit of February 2012. In October 2013, the EU's member states gave the European Commission a negotiating mandate and the launch of negotiations was announced at the 16th EU-China Summit on Nov. 21, according to a press release on the EU website. ^ top ^

Chinese patrol ship to be based at disputed islands in South China Sea (SCMP)
China is to base a 5,000-tonne marine patrol ship at disputed islands in the South China Sea, a government newspaper said yesterday, a move that is likely to fuel territorial disputes with its Asian neighbours. The China Ocean News, which is published by the State Oceanic Administration, said the vessel would be based at the small town of Sansha on one of the Paracel Islands and that a regular patrol system would be set up from the base gradually. Sansha was established two years ago to administer areas of the South China Sea that are also claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines. The decision to base the patrol boat in the area was part of an agreement between Sansha and the maritime authorities in Hainan, the report said. The agreement covered search-and-rescue missions, marine conservation and overseeing safe navigation in the area, the newspaper said. China's biggest patrol vessel is a 4,000-tonne ship, suggesting it will build a bigger vessel to carry out the patrols from Sansha. Meanwhile, the China State Shipbuilding Corporation, one of the country's two shipbuilding giants, said yesterday it was to build a 10,000-tonne marine surveillance ship. It will be the world's biggest marine patrol ship, bigger than the Japanese coastguard's 7,000-tonne Shikishima PLH 31 vessel. A mainland maritime expert denied the move to build bigger patrol vessels was aimed at challenging the authority of neighbouring countries involved in territorial disputes with China. "What China has done is to defend the country's rights and interests because it needs more bigger ships to oversee maritime security in the huge area covered by the South China Sea," said Professor Wang Hanling, a maritime expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "The establishment of a patrol system and other improvement works at Sansha reflects that Beijing is trying to narrow the disadvantage it has in maritime development, which was neglected over the past six decades." Beijing has said it has 27 patrol ships, all of at least 1,000 tonnes, patrolling disputed waters in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, with some equipped with light weapons and helicopters. Another 36 larger vessels have been under construction since 2012, according to a Xinhua report. The State Oceanic Administration has increased surveillance around the Diaoyu islands since the Japanese government, which calls them the Senkaku islands, bought some of the disputed territory two years ago. Among the vessels patrolling in the area are China's largest patrol ship, the Haijian 50; its sister ship, Haijian 83; and Haijian 66, the mainland's fastest surveillance vessel. ^ top ^

Chinese leaders meet senior U.S. envoy (Xinhua)
Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao and State Councilor Yang Jiechi on Wednesday met separately with visiting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns. Noting that this year marks the 35th anniversary of the establishment of China-U.S. diplomatic relations, Li called on the two countries to implement the important consensus of their presidents and stick to the direction of building new-model relations between major powers. Li urged the two countries to actively expand pragmatic cooperation, properly manage differences and sensitive issues, advance multiple-tier and all-round exchanges and seek positive growth of China-U.S. relations. Burns said good China-U.S. relations matter not only to the two countries, but also to the whole world. He underscored U.S. commitment to advancing positive and all-round cooperation with China and building new-model relations between major powers. In his meeting with Burns, Yang said China-U.S. relations are faced with new important opportunities this year, calling for stronger trust and cooperation, proper settlement of differences and new progress in China-U.S. relations. Burns said the United States would like to strengthen dialogues and cooperation in bilateral and multilateral spheres, manage differences and advance new-model relations between major powers. Burns arrived in Beijing on Tuesday on the second leg of his three-nation tour after a stop in Republic of Korea. He will travel to Japan on Thursday. ^ top ^

Chinese president meets French parliamentary speaker (Xinhua)
Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Speaker of French National Assembly Claude Bartolone here on Thursday, calling for a closer relationship between the two countries. Recalling the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and France half a century ago, Xi said the two countries will hold a string of activities to celebrate the historic event and that Bartolone's visit is a good way to kick-off for the celebration. In 1964, despite all kinds of barriers, Chairman Mao Zedong and General Charles de Gaulle took the groundbreaking decision to establish ambassador-level diplomatic ties. France thus became the first major western power to set up official diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China. During Thursday's meeting, Xi said he hopes China and France will take advantage of the celebration to make 2014 a real "China-France Year" and open a new chapter in the bilateral relationship. Talking on the future of the bilateral ties, Xi said China and France should respect and trust each other, treat their relationship from a strategic and long-term perspective, and respect each other's core interests and major concerns to make the bilateral relationship even more stable and predictable. He proposed China and France fully tap the potential for cooperation in nuclear energy, aeronautics and astronautics, urbanization, energy saving, and environmental protection, among others, in pursuit of reciprocal and win-win results. The two should also take their due international responsibility for promoting multi-polarization and democracy of international relations, safeguarding the outcomes of WWII as well as the hard won world peace, enhance communication and coordination in international affairs and make joint efforts to address global challenges, said the Chinese president. Xi also called on the two sides to increase people-to-people exchanges to make the China-France friendship more sustainable. Bartolone said the French side pays great attention to China's reform and measures for development over the past year, and highly appreciates China's increasing role in the world. Saying he agrees to President Xi's proposals on the bilateral relationship, the speaker noted that the French government, parliament, and political parties all cherish the relationship with China. The French National Assembly stands ready to work together with the Chinese side to make more contribution to the practical cooperation between the two countries in trade, environmental protection, tourism and other fields, Bartolone said. ^ top ^

Geneva II conference has great significance: Chinese FM (Global Times)
The Geneva II conference has great significance, said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Thursday. "The meeting hosted by the United Nations (UN) yesterday is important to both the 20 million Syrian people and other countries in the world," Wang, who was attending the conference Wednesday in the Swiss city of Montreux, told UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. He noted that Geneva II, which aimed to end the three-year-long conflict that killed some 130,000, made achievements in three aspects. "First, it recognized that military measures are doomed to fail and advocates political resolution; second, it started the process of peace talks, bringing conflicting parties together and urging them to continue the dialogue; third, it pooled efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to Syria, aiming to help relieve sufferings of refugees," said the minister. "In China we have an old saying: the future is bright, the road is winding," he continued. "A political resolution to the conundrum will be found sooner of later, as long as everyone stick to the path of peace talks." To ensure continuity of the talks, Wang suggested that UN provide a supporting follow-up mechanism, before reiterating China's support to the major role UN played in mediation. Ban said he totally agreed with Wang's comments on the conference. He also expressed appreciation for China's construction role in supporting the political process, its contributions to the humanitarian aid and efforts to destroy chemical weapons in Syria. He hoped that China could continue give support to resolving the Syria conflicts. The officials also exchanged opinions on the security and stability in Asia. As next year will see the 70th anniversary of world Anti-Fascist War, they reached consensus on preparation of commemorative events. ^ top ^

China slams Abe's Davos implication (Global Times)
China Thursday refuted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's recent appeal for more transparency in China's military budget, stating that it is Japan that should increase transparency and explain its own military buildup. "China's defense policy is transparent and has been published in its white papers and on other occasions," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang on Thursday told a regular press briefing in response to Abe's speech to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, a day earlier. "We must... restrain military expansion in Asia, which could otherwise go unchecked," Abe told the annual meeting of global business and political leaders, following his government's custom of not naming China in such references. In response, Qin urged Japan to explain to Asia and the international community the real purpose of amending its pacifist constitution, which has been in existence since 1947. The Abe government has been trying to revise it so as to greenlight the expansion of Japan's military forces. In December, Abe's cabinet approved a critical defense policy package comprising new defense program guidelines, a five-year defense buildup plan and the national security strategy. Japan vowed to seek more "proactive" roles for its military forces abroad and to set new guidelines on arms exports, signaling a major shift from its previous restrictive stance. "Abe tends to depict China as a threat at whatever occasion he attends. His purpose is to worsen Sino-Japan relations and damage China's image in the international community, as well as tear apart economic development in the Asia-Pacific region," Lü Yaodong, a research fellow of Japanese politics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. During the Davos speech, Abe also called for dispute resolution through "dialogue and the rule of law, and not through force and coercion." Qin said that Japan cannot on one hand refuse to admit mistakes and continue to denigrate China, and on the other hand indulge in empty rhetoric to advocate dialogue, as it is the Japanese leader that is shutting the door to dialogue. Liu Jiangyong, a vice director of the Institute of Modern International Relations at Tsinghua University, said it is inappropriate for Abe to cast blame for political issues at an economic forum. "Abe is trying to distract people's attention by claiming it is others' fault," Liu told the Global Times. Abe also defended his visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, saying that the shrine honors the dead of World War I and the 1868 Meiji war, not just war criminals or others who died in World War II. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who is currently attending the international conference on Syria in Montreux, Switzerland, described Abe's argument as futile, which only serves to expose Abe's erroneous perception of history. Even today, the Yasukuni Shrine still represents the notion that the aggression of Japan in World War II was "just," the Pacific War Japan launched was "self-defense" and the trial at the Far East International Military Tribunal was "illegitimate," as well as honoring 14 Class-A war criminals, Wang noted. South Korea Thursday also said that it is a complete contradiction to talk about forging friendly ties while continuing visits to the shrine. Liu said Abe is unlikely to change his stance even though he sensed the pressure and isolation from the international community. "His explanation reveals that he doesn't think he's wrong and he would do it again," Liu said. Tensions between China and Japan have been rising since Tokyo announced in September 2012 the "nationalization" of the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. Chinese air force planes have been regularly patrolling the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), which covers the Diaoyu Islands, air force spokesman Shen Jinke said Thursday. On a recent patrol, multiple Chinese aircraft were sent to "monitor, identify, track and warn" multiple foreign military planes that had entered the ADIZ, established two months ago, Shen added. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

Policy stresses rural reform (Global Times)
China pledged to ensure national food security, deepen rural reform and accelerate the modernization of its agricultural industry by suggesting a slew of key work points in the year's first policy document released Sunday. The document, dubbed the "No.1 Central Document," was issued by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council. It has focused on rural and agricultural issues for 11 consecutive years. This year's work points stress the importance of maintaining agriculture as the foundation of the national economy and eliminating the shortcomings of the current agricultural system and mechanism. The document suggested eight points, such as improving the national food security system and strengthening the protection and assistance for agriculture, to deal with China's "three rural issues" - agriculture, countryside and farmers. The "three rural issues" encompass a set of daunting problems, which include obstacles to realize large-scale, standardized production and address the farmers' low income and deficiency in social welfare. This last could threaten China's stable economic development. Li Guoxiang, a deputy director of the Rural Development Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), told the Global Times Sunday that this year's document has covered all urgent problems pertaining to China's countryside, and will perform as the country's most crucial and comprehensive guide for rural work in 2014 and beyond. "The document addresses the priority to ensure national food security and the consolidation of urban and rural development. It also aims to improve farmers' livelihoods by stressing the need to deepen rural land reform and upgrade the agricultural management system," Li said. Farmers' creativity will be respected, and efforts to experiment with innovative agricultural methods that suit the local circumstances will be supported with the precondition that a "bottom line" is maintained, the document stated. An opinion piece from the Xinhua News Agency interpreted the bottom line as not ruining the collective ownership of rural land, not diminishing the farmland and grain output and not hurting the interests of farmers. A new system, which allows farmers to get subsidies directly from the government when the market price of their products falls short of the pre-set target price, will be rolled out in the country, the document said. China Central Television (CCTV) interpreted that the authorities will also explore a system which links farmers' production with their subsidies, and both systems have the potential to increase farmers' income. A major obstacle for farmers in increasing their productivity is the difficulty of achieving large-scale, standardized production, Zhang Yuanhong, another agricultural expert at CASS, told the Global Times Sunday. "It's hard for farmers to obtain financing to support mass production due to the lack of governmental subsidies and agriculture-targeted commercial channels," Zhang said. The document, in response to that problem, said farmers could use their land as collateral for funding on condition that the ownership and use of the land remain unchanged. That, CCTV said, will allow farmers to consolidate large parcels of land and aid industrialized agricultural development. Also, when the farmers' land is expropriated, the document said, they should not only receive compensation for the land, but also be assisted with their housing, social welfare and career training needs. A long-term mechanism for sustainable development needs to be established, the document said, adding that the farmers and authorities should consider the restraints of limited land and scarce water when furthering agricultural development. Zhang said sustainable social and economic development in rural areas should also be a crucial part of the long-term mechanism. "The country should make sure that farmers can make a profit by working in agriculture, and educate them with advanced management and technological skills," Zhang said. "Also, rural infrastructure, such as water pipelines, electricity grids and entertainment facilities need to be developed to retain farmers in the countryside and attract urban residents to participate in agricultural activities." The document also said that the central and local governments will increase their efforts in supporting agricultural insurances, and increase the insurance coverage of rice, wheat and corn. ^ top ^

Virus adapting (Global Times)
As the world's largest annual human migration begins ahead of Chinese Lunar New Year, containing the spread of the latest H7N9 bird flu faces extra challenges from a more virulent, infectious strain. Health authorities are concerned by the resurgent strain, with about 30 new cases reported in the first 18 days of 2014, mostly in eastern coastal regions like Zhejiang, Guangdong and Fujian provinces. Two H7N9 avian flu patients, including a doctor, died in Shanghai on Monday after they were confirmed on Sunday to have been infected with the disease. So far about 150 cases of H7N9 bird flu have been confirmed on the Chinese mainland since the first human cases of H7N9 avian influenza virus emerged in late March near Shanghai. After the summer lull, the virus is expected to become more active in winter and spring, and popular public transportation like coaches, trains and aircraft could create favorable circumstances for the epidemic to spread, according to Li Lanjuan of the Chinese Academy of Engineering. Li is China's leading bird flu researcher and a member of the H7N9 prevention and control group. The virus might be spread by migrants returning to their rural homes from developed eastern regions, she warns. […] Mutant strain - A variation of an amino acid on the H7 gene has made the H7N9 strain more infectious to mammals, according to research by a Chinese team published in the Lancet in April 2013. "We have found another variation in a key amino acid," Liang said. "If we get one more variation of a specific amino acid then human-to-human transmission will become much more likely." The team recently identified a new partial variation of the virus, demonstrating its capacity to adapt to its environment. "It increased the risk of human-to-human transmission and brought more difficulty in treatment," Liang said. "In spite of this, there's no reason to panic," said a member of the team drafting a thesis on the new results. "We can confirm that the H7N9 flu virus has not shown scaled variation and human-to-human transmission." The National Health and Family Planning Commission said on Friday that an epidemic was unlikely. "Current cases are scattered, and no mutation of the virus has been identified so far that could affect public health," said a statement from the commission. "The virus is still spreading from birds to humans, and the chances of a large human H7N9 outbreak are slim," the statement said. Cases will keep coming as the country's urban and rural fowl markets are scattered, the commission noted, while transport and trade of poultry will intensify around the lunar new year. The commission urged local health departments to strengthen monitoring and step up treatment of patients while carrying out detailed prevention and control measures and timely risk evaluations. […] Poultry is easily infected by H7N9, and the risk cannot be contained simply by closing live poultry markets, Li Lanjuan said. "Some deaths were caused by delays in seeking medical advice, as the virus quickly attacks the lungs," said Li, urging people to mind their health during the holidays and go to hospital if they have a fever or a cough. ^ top ^

How 'New Citizen' trials highlight lack of rule of law on mainland China (SCMP)
Xu Zhiyong said his dream was that China would be "a country with freedom, justice and love". "Under democracy and the rule of law, everyone will be freed from oppression, enjoy justice and be able to live in truth", the legal scholar said in a December 2012 interview. But as Xu and five supporters from his social initiative, the New Citizen movement, prepare for trial this week, their supporters say it looks increasing clear that his vision will not soon materialise. Legal experts said the activists appeared set for unfair trials and would almost certainly be convicted in a show of determination by the government that any public display of opposition would not be tolerated. If convicted, they could each spend up to five years in prison. "The expected sentencing of Xu is a message to activists, intellectuals, entrepreneurs and NGOs that there is no place for civil society in Xi Jinping's China unless it walks in lockstep with the party and the government," said Nicholas Bequelin, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch. Xu, 40, founded the New Citizen movement in May 2012 to push for social equality and the rule of law, but the drive has been seen by the authorities as a threat to social stability. He was detained in July and formally arrested a month later on the charge of "assembling a crowd to disrupt order in a public place". Prosecutors indicted him last month. Police accused him of "organising, masterminding and implementing" at least five protests last year to demand that government officials disclose their assets, and at least two others to seek equal education rights for migrant children in Beijing. Xu's trial is set for tomorrow at the Beijing No1 Intermediate People's Court. The trial of fellow activist Zhao Changqing will take place on Thursday at Beijing's Haidian district court while those of activists Ding Jiaxi, Li Wei, Zhang Baochang and Yuan Dong are slated for Friday at the same court, their lawyers said. Analysts said that the authorities have over the past year stressed the need to step up control over the internet and escalated crackdowns on freedom of expression by targeting activists and online opinion makers. The prosecution of the New Citizen activists appears to be part of that drive, they said. Teng Biao, a legal scholar who has known Xu since his university days, said the authorities have been wary of Xu's campaigns during the past 10 years. And Xu's New Citizen movement - with its extensive network and ability to mobilise campaigns - combined with his writings on his political ideals "have made them feel he is posing a huge threat", Teng said. Legal experts and lawyers representing the activists said the arrangement to have defendants of the same case tried separately is unfavourable for their defence and that it breaches court regulations that defendants from a single case should be handled by the same court. The timing of the trials - just a week before the Lunar New Year - was also seen as designed to lessen their impact as most of the defendants' supporters would be busy travelling for the holidays. Xu's lawyer Zhang Qingfang said judges at a pre-trial meeting refused Xu's request that witnesses and the co-defendants named in his case be allowed to testify in court. Xu is planning to remain silent in protest. "There seems no prospect of a fair trial since the facts are seriously in dispute and yet key witnesses will not be allowed to testify in court," said China law expert Jerome Cohen at New York University. "The trial will thus be a farce." Fellow activists and lawyers said Xu was not the "ringleader" of street protests and in some cases had no knowledge of the events. "He is not very supportive of street campaigns and lots of times he wasn't even informed," said activist Hu Jia. Eva Pils, a China law expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said “if a legal expert of Xu Zhiyong's stature announces he will preserve silence at the trial due to the unfairness, and if the defence lawyers in the (activists') trials view the upcoming trials as pieces of theatre in which they are merely asked to act a part, this tells you that the trials are not seen as a meaningful opportunity to engage in real defence.” Legal expert Cohen feared the government's targeting of moderate campaigners such as Xu would deter people from speaking out. “Eventually such pent-up grievances may lead to the more radical expression of dissatisfaction,” he said. ^ top ^

Ding Xuefeng, mayor in Shanxi tied to Zhou Yongkang, reportedly detained (SCMP)
A mayor from Shanxi province has been detained, apparently as part of the investigation into an aide of the former security tsar Zhou Yongkang, a mainland newspaper reported. The Beijing News, quoting an unnamed retired government official, said Ding Xuefeng, the mayor of Luliang, was taken away late last month, along with several businesspeople. The newspaper quoted another source close to Ding as saying he was implicated in the corruption investigation against the deputy national police chief Li Dongsheng, who is closely linked to former Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou. Li had helped Ding's political career advancement, the paper reported. The South China Morning Post reported in August that President Xi Jinping and other top party leaders had authorised an investigation into Zhou, who retired last year, as part of broad nationwide anti-corruption campaign. A spokesman for the propaganda office in Luliang declined to comment on the allegations against Ding. "We are not familiar with the situation," he said. The retired official told The Beijing News that Ding, who is the deputy party secretary of the city, was absent from a party committee meeting on December 30. His last public appearance was on December 25 when he attended a briefing on the city's road infrastructure and an anti-flooding scheme. Rumours have been rife in recent weeks that authorities were about to formally announce an investigation into Zhou's affairs. ^ top ^

Xu Zhiyong set for Wed trial: lawyer (Global Times)
Chinese activist Xu Zhiyong is scheduled to stand trial on Wednesday at Beijing No.1 Intermediate People's Court, Xu's lawyer confirmed with the Global Times on Monday. Zhang Qingfang, Xu's lawyer, said the trial starts at 9 am but would not give more details. Xu, an activist and legal scholar, was allegedly detained in August 2013 under the charge of "assembling a crowd to disrupt public order." Xu was previously a lecturer at the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunication, and was a well-known human rights lawyer and founder of the Open Constitution Initiative, or Gongmeng, which provided legal aid for families affected by the tainted milk powder scandal of 2008. He was also allegedly detained in July 2009 after the Beijing Civil Affairs Bureau raided his office and claimed that his non-profit Gongmeng Law Research Center had been running illegally. Gongmeng was co-founded by Xu Zhiyong, Yu Jiang and Teng Biao in 2003 after they submitted a petition letter to the NPC advocating abolition of the repatriation system. The petition was triggered by the tragedy of Sun Zhigang, who was taken to a shelter in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province by police after failing to present proper identification in March 2003. He was beaten to death by shelter employees. His death sparked a national discussion over the system. ^ top ^

Messages of support appear online for dissidents tried for seeking greater official accountability (SCMP)
Activists and internet users yesterday expressed sympathy and support for venture capitalist Wang Gongquan and prominent rights advocate Xu Zhiyong after authorities announced that Wang, detained for months for organising protests, confessed he had erred in aiding Xu's social campaigns. According to a microblog post from the Beijing No 1 Intermediate Court late on Wednesday, the day when Xu went on trial there, Wang admitted that he and Xu had "organised and incited criminal activities to assemble a crowd to disrupt order in a public place" and was released on bail. Xu and seven other activists from his New Citizen movement are being tried this week and next on charges of "assembling a crowd to disrupt order in a public place". Supporters say this is the government's way to show its determination to crush the social initiative that last year called on officials to disclose their assets. Wang has been detained since September. Yesterday, the trial of one of the dissidents, Zhao Changqing, was adjourned after he complained of flawed legal procedures that gave him little chance of a fair trial, his lawyer Zhang Xuezhong said. He "sacked" Zhang in a tactical move that would prevent a hasty trial before Lunar New Year. Another activist, Hou Xin, one of four who unfurled a banner in Beijing last March demanding that officials declare their assets, also stood trial yesterday and told the court she was innocent because she was merely exercising her civil rights, her lawyer Ding Xikui said. Xu, 40, refused to offer a defence in court on Wednesday in protest against the court barring witnesses and co-defendants from testifying. But his lawyer said he gave a speech in which he accused the government of "obstructing China's path to democracy and constitutional rule" by cracking down on his movement. The Beijing Times quoted a Beijing TV report as saying Wang confessed to breaking the law in funding and supporting Xu's activities and pledged to sever his ties with him. Xu and Wang, who has participated in and funded Xu's civil rights campaign for years, received a deluge of sympathy and support from fellow activists and internet users. "Facing this illegal prosecution and unjust court, silence is the only choice and [Xu's] last defence," one Twitter user posted. Many say Wang's confession was understandable given the pressure he was under. "Confession equals surrender … but it is a political tool used by the communists against dissidents," another Twitter user wrote. Teng Biao, a legal scholar who worked with Xu and Wang on social campaigns, believed that Wang must have been under extreme mental stress. "We don't know whether he has been physically tortured, but for someone so firm in his democratic and liberal beliefs to behave like this, there was bound to be a lot of mental pressure on him," Teng said. ^ top ^



Beijing convicts 364 corrupt officials (Global Times)
Courts in Beijing gave sentences to 364 officials convicted of corruption, infringement, taking bribes and dereliction of duty in 290 cases in 2013, according to the Beijing High People's Court. Nearly 300 cases involving some 438 officials were filed in the past year, with 200 charged with of taking bribes, 132 with corruption, 34 with abuse of power and 21 with neglect of duty, according to the Beijing Municipal People's Procuratorate. Featured among the convicts are high-ranking officials including Liu Zhijun, former railways minister, who was given a suspended death penalty on suspicion of corruption and abuse of power in July 2013. Also on the list was Tian Xueren, former vice governor of Northeast China's Jilin Province who was sentenced to life imprisonment for pocketing over 19 million yuan ($3 million) in bribes in November 2013. ^ top ^

Beijing law sets stiff targets for PM2.5 levels (Global Times)
A measure to reduce PM2.5 pollution in Beijing has been included in a new draft law, marking the first time the requirement would be legally binding in any part of China. Beijing people's congress reviewed the draft pollution and prevention law Saturday during the annual two sessions of the municipal legislative and consultative bodies. The municipal government signed an agreement with the central government in 2013, promising to improve air quality by 2017. The city will dedicate 760 billion yuan ($125.63 billion) to cope with heavy smog, Beijing Mayor Wang Anshun said at a group meeting of Saturday's conference. "If we can't make the target by that time, top leaders joke that heads will roll," Wang said. The draft features more punishment clauses, accounting for one-third of the total, which will increase financial penalties for violating the law, so people dare not discharge pollutants, said Liu Jigang, vice-director of the Beijing Municipal People's Congress Standing Committee. Citizens will also be able to file lawsuits against the polluting company for compensation directly if they are not satisfied with the conciliation of environmental watchdogs. Authorities will take legal responsibility if they fail to investigate or punish polluters. Violators will receive administrative punishment or even criminal sanctions. The municipal government should improve the public reporting system for pollution and reward those whose information is proved. Beijing Municipal Environment Protection Bureau (EPB) has said that the fines will be higher than the cost of the cleanup for polluters. There will be no upper limit for repeat offenders, Liu said, the Beijing News reported. "Making lowering PM2.5 a legal target is of great significance," said Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs (IPE), a Beijing-based NGO. "The previous regulations and laws usually focus on emission reduction, but this doesn't necessarily mean PM2.5 will be lowered." Statistics from the EPB show that annual average PM2.5 is 98.5 micrograms per cubic meter in 2013, 2.56 times the national annual standard of 35 micrograms. In 2013, every week saw on average one day with severe smog, the Xinhua News Agency reported. Wang declared an "all-out effort" on Thursday to tackle air pollution by cutting coal use by 2.6 million tons and transforming 300 polluting companies this year, Xinhua reported. Lowering PM2.5 in Beijing cannot be achieved by Beijing alone since Beijing's air quality is influenced by its neighbors, including Tianjin, Hebei and Shandong provinces, said Wu Dui, a professor with China Meteorological Administration. "These neighboring cities should also join the fight against pollution," Wu said. Also included in the draft are restrictions on open-air barbecues and a requirement that drivers must switch off engines while idling in areas such as parks, hospitals and schools. ^ top ^

Beijing, Hebei mull population transfer (Global Times)
Beijing and Hebei Province have reached an agreement to transfer 5 million people from Beijing to neighboring areas in Hebei, in order to relieve pressure on resources and reduce the population in the capital, according to recent comments from an expert. "Hebei Province wants to receive these people, but Hebei also lacks suitable land for construction," Zheng Xinli, vice director with China Center for International Economic Exchanges, told the Economy & Nation Weekly recently. Some scholars suggest building a new district outside Beijing's sixth ring road. The new district would include areas of Beijing's Daxing district, Wuqing district in Tianjin and Langfang in Hebei Province, which would have enough space for more than 5 million people, said the magazine. "Transferring 5 million people is ridiculous since it goes against the law of free migration," said Wang Zhenyu, a research fellow with the China University of Political Science and Law. "Beijing is crowded because more resources are located here," Wang said. "The key to reducing the population is relocating some of advantageous industries to other areas." The Beijing Municipal Commission of Urban Planning told the magazine this month that they are discussing modifications to the capital's general plan from 2004 to 2020, which has been in operation for 10 years. According to the plan, the total population in Beijing should be 18 million by 2020. However, Beijing's official population had reached 20.69 million by 2012. Nearly 5 million migrants, about 70 percent of the total migrants in Beijing, live in Beijing's rural areas, which are not well planned or managed, according to the magazine. Beijing has signed agreements with Tianjin and Hebei Province for special projects including the construction of new airports, traffic facilities, environmental protection and urbanization, the magazine reported, saying the three areas are becoming closer in terms of policy-making. Zhu Zhengju, head of the Hebei Provincial Department of Housing and Urban-rural Development, has agreed to support the special projects. Zhu said that Hebei Province has advantages in terms of land resources. "The 14 cities and counties in Hebei Province are near Beijing and have vast land resources and enough labor, which could provide conditions to accept people from Beijing and might be an option for Beijing," Zhu was quoted by the magazine as saying. In mid-2013, the Ministry of Land and Resources conducted a survey in a bid to choose eligible medium-sized cities in Hebei Province for preferential policies that would attract some of Beijing's population and industries. Baoding, Zhangjiakou and Chengde were potential choices. ^ top ^

Beijing announces strict new curbs on heavy industry to combat smog (SCMP)
Beijing has banned new heavily polluting industrial plants and expansions of existing ones in the first local clean air act on the mainland aimed at tackling smog. Violators of pollution discharge limits will also face stiffer penalties. The city's regulation on air pollution prevention, which will take effect from March 1, states that tackling the tiny particulate pollutants that cause smog is at the centre of Beijing's clean-up campaign, according to the document posted on the municipal government's website. The announcement came as Beijing's weather bureau issued another blue alert for smog - the lowest of four levels - last night, forecasting pollution will linger until tomorrow. Beijing mayor Wang Anshun said last week that the capital would spend 760 billion yuan (HK$970 billion) in the fight against smog after the city pledged in September to cut levels of PM2.5, particulate matters smaller than 2.5 microns, by 25 per cent by 2017. The city would set caps for coal consumption and emissions of major air pollutants under the regulation. New and expanded projects including oil refining, cement, coking, and steel would be banned. All thermal plants powered by fossil fuels would have to switch to clean energy. Law enforcers would be empowered to penalise frequent violators at multiple times the regular fine of up to 500,000 yuan. However, Dr Yang Fuqiang, a senior adviser to the Natural Resources Defence Council, said the overall fine rates were still "rather low" and may not be able to successfully deter polluters. "Beijing has set quite specific rules for all kinds of pollution sources - industrial facilities and vehicles - and the standards are also quite tough, but some elements are still missing to make the regulation more biting," said Yang. For instance, the regulation did not adopt a provision that allowed a daily penalty for violations, which had proved most effective in deterring polluters in other countries. Li Xiaojuan, director of the legal office of Beijing legislature's standing committee, explained to delegates that Beijing would adopt the item after it was included in the national air pollution prevention law, which was now under revision. However, the regulation left little space for public supervision, as it still did not allow public interest litigation against polluters and mentioned little about pollution data transparency, according to Yang. "Beijing could have been more aggressive in taking a lead in tackling the city's notorious air pollution," said Yang. ^ top ^



Shanghai mayor vows progress on free-trade zone this year (SCMP)
Shanghai's mayor promised substantial progress on the city's free-trade zone this year, saying it was the city's No 1 task and a national strategy that must be given priority.At the annual meeting of the city's legislature, which opened yesterday, Yang Xiong underscored the significance of making the yuan fully convertible inside the 28.8-square-kilometre testing ground for economic reforms in the country. "All the city's strength and resources must be fully utilised to ensure the successful running of the zone, because it is an important national strategy," Yang said. "We will seek substantial progress with pilot reforms." The mainland's first free-trade zone was launched in late September with the aim of allowing the yuan to be convertible on the capital account, meaning for investment and financial transactions. The details of the zone have yet to be announced. Non-convertibility of the yuan is the main obstacle preventing Shanghai from competing with global financial centres like Hong Kong and New York. The Shanghai experiment is crucial as the mainland strives to shift its focus from manufacturing to the service sectors, including finance and commerce. In 2009, the State Council, China's cabinet, endorsed Shanghai's blueprint to transform itself into a global financial centre, posing a threat to Hong Kong as the established regional magnet for international capital. But Shanghai's attempts to attract foreign businesses and investors have received the cold shoulder because of the numerous regulatory hurdles to setting up in the city. The city's growth has slowed in recent years. In his report, Yang forecast growth in Shanghai's gross domestic product would fall to 7.5 per cent this year from 7.7 per cent last year. He told the lawmakers the local government would "make an all-out effort" to implement all the approved planning liberalisations inside the free-trade zone. ^ top ^

Shanghai free trade zone to be policed for copyright infringements (Global Times)
China will keep a close eye on the Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone (FTZ) to combat cross-border crimes on intellectual property right (IPR) infringements and production of counterfeit goods. The FTZ, inaugurated on September 29, 2013, has a high level of openness. This means it could be subject to the risk of fueling criminal infringement of IPR, said Chai Haitao, deputy director of the Office of the National Leading Group on the Fight against IPR Infringement and Counterfeiting, at a briefing Tuesday. The Chinese police will pay close attention to new changes regarding the production and sale of counterfeit and inferior goods in the FTZ, even though no obvious sign of such crimes has emerged yet, said Gao Feng, political commissar of the Economic Crime Investigation Department of the Ministry of Public Security (MPS). In a year-long crackdown on counterfeiting in 2013, Chinese police solved 55,180 cases worth 172.9 billion yuan ($28.6 billion) and apprehended 59,222 suspects. The MPS took part in Operation Hurricane, an Interpol-led campaign against counterfeiting and illicit trade, and solved 2,914 cases in June 2013. "A huge global chain of counterfeit products and cross-border criminal networks has emerged," Gao said, noting that the collaboration between China police and its US counterpart is leading the international law enforcement cooperation. "Crackdowns on IPR infringements in China are very welcomed by foreign companies that suffer the infringements, because they can get a considerable reward from the crackdown since China is a large market for their products," said Jin Baisong, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation. He noted that China's strong manufacturing industry makes criminal networks include it as part of their "industrial chain." ^ top ^



Arrest of academic Uygur Ilham Tohti shows gloves are off when it comes to dissent (SCMP)
The detention of outspoken Uygur scholar Ilham Tohti shows Beijing has moved from a carrot and stick approach in the restive region to a crackdown on any dissent, analysts say. Xinjiang party boss Zhang Chunxian was known for his populist image and media savvy when he took over from hardliner Wang Lequan in 2010 following a massive riot. His priorities have included accelerating economic development and increasing trade with Central Asian countries. But analysts say that since the third party plenum in October, Zhang has been adopting a hardline approach, exemplified by Tohti's arrest. The English-language official Global Times newspaper yesterday ran an editorial saying China must punish the "brains" behind terrorists and fight against those who preach with "malicious intent". "Being a Uygur has made Tohti special, and he and the West seem to be taking advantage of this," it said, accusing the economist who teaches at Beijing's Central University for Nationalities of giving "aggressive" lectures. "Freedom of speech and thought is encouraged on campus. But freedom has boundaries. Teachers with malicious intent should not be allowed to freely preach to students," said the editorial. "The authorities must resolutely crack down on the terrorists, as well as the 'brains' behind them." The editorial noted the "particularly close link between Tohti and the West", illustrated by the US State Department's "concern" over the fate of the academic. Tohti, 44, was suspected of "committing crimes and violating the law", a Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Thursday. Lin Bao-hua, a Taipei-based political commentator also known by his pseudonym, Ling Feng, said Tohti was taken away from his Beijing home just few days after Zhang wrapped up his sixth plenary session with the regional government. Lin noted that Zhang's recent speeches no longer mentioned economic development but highlighted the importance of maintaining stability. "Zhang's speeches tell us that Beijing has decided to use overwhelming political means to make Xinjiang under its control," Lin said. Xinjiang media reported that President Xi Jinping gave a policy speech about Xinjiang during a Politburo Standing Committee session in Beijing on December 19. The speech came just days after 14 Uygurs and two police officers were killed in a riot in Xinjiang. Details of Xi's speech were not revealed, but Zhang immediately organised six conferences with various officials about carrying out the instructions as soon as he returned from Beijing, according to Xinjiang Daily. Jiang Zhaoyong, a Beijing-based expert on ethnic issues, said that since the third plenum Beijing had adjusted its Xinjiang policy to focus on stability. In the past, Beijing encouraged the Xinjiang government to boost economic development in a bid to improve the living stands of Uygur and other minorities, which they believed would improve relations between Han majority and the Uygurs. "But now economic development obviously is not the top issue," Jiang said. The Xinjiang government on Friday announced a draft for this year's budget, with spending for fighting terrorism doubled to 2 million yuan (HK$2.54 million). Xinhua reported that the money would be used to combat the "three evil forces" of terrorism, separatism and extremism. A Beijing-based Xinjiang expert said all scholars, especially Uygurs, were warned not to contact the World Uygur Congress, a Uygur exile group, because it was defined as a separatist organisation that encouraged "the independence of Xinjiang". Another Urumqi-based Uygur scholar said his institution "had repeatedly remind everyone not to make any comments on Tohti's detention because it was a "very sensitive and complicated case". ^ top ^



Taiwan leader criticizes Japanese administration's visit to Yasukuni shrine (Global Times)
Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou criticized Japanese leaders' visit to the Yasukuni shrine last year, likening the move to "rubbing salt into others' wounds", in an article posted on his personal Facebook page on Sunday. In the article narrating his recent visit to a former "comfort woman", Ma Ying-jeou said the Japanese leaders' Yasukuni visit revealed their apparent unrepentance to the mischief "comfort women" of its neighboring countries suffered, which was regretful. Ma added, 69 years have passed since the end of the World War II, yet the wounds left on those "comfort women" are indelible. The existence of "comfort women" keeps reminding Asian countries of the horrible crimes the Japanese invaders committed. Ma paid his third visit to 93-year-old Cheng Chen-tao on Saturday in southern Taiwan's Pingtung county, after his previous visits in 2009 and 2012 respectively. Cheng is one of the five former "comfort women" who remain alive on the island. Previously, Ma said he is not only disappointed, but also puzzled by the Japanese leader's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine. The Yasukuni shrine honors Japanese war dead including convicted World War II war criminals. Hundreds of thousands of women in Asia were forced into sexual slavery by Japanese invaders during that time. ^ top ^



China injects liquidity ahead of holiday (Xinhua)
China's central bank injected short-term liquidity into the country's large commercial banks on Monday to ensure the stability of the country's monetary market ahead of the Spring Festival. The People's Bank of China (PBOC) said in a posting on Sina Weibo, Chinese version of Twitter, that it did so through Standing Lending Facility, a tool created by the PBOC to provide a large amount of funding to banks when they face a liquidity squeeze. The PBOC did not specify the exact amount of the liquidity injection, but added it will continue to provide short-term liquidity support via reverse repurchase (repo) on Tuesday. The central bank has not injected funds through reverse repos since December 24, 2013. It also urged financial institutions to strengthen liquidity and asset management to safeguard monetary market stability before the Spring Festival, which falls on Jan. 31 this year. The Spring Festival, or Chinese Lunar New Year, is the country's most important traditional holiday for family reunions. Ahead of the holiday, commercial banks usually have to increase cash supply to meet the needs of surging consumption around the holiday. ^ top ^

China approves 12 more free trade zones (Xinhua)
China's central government has given the nod to 12 free trade zones (FTZs) following the one in Shanghai, amid a spurt of nationwide enthusiasm for such schemes. Tianjin Municipality and Guangdong Province have been green-lit to set up FTZs, a source with knowledge of the approval told Xinhua-run Economic Information Daily on Wednesday, refusing to leak the remaining 10. After consent from the cabinet, a group of central government departments will conduct a joint survey of the proposed zones, and hammer out specific establishment plans in a process that may last more than a year, said the source. So far, Tianjin and Guangdong have completed the survey part, which the other 10 have just started, according to the source. Provincial regions including Zhejiang, Shandong, Liaoning, Henan, Fujian, Sichuan, Guangxi and Yunnan, and cities including Suzhou, Wuxi and Hefei have all said that filing FTZ applications is high up their 2014 priority list. "China sets no limits on FTZ numbers and no timetables on building them, as long as they meet the requirements of an FTZ," added the source. Huo Jianguo, head of a research institute with China's Commerce Ministry, said the emerging FTZs could be testing grounds for further opening-up policies, and serve as the bright spot of the country's economic development. Last September, China established the Shanghai FTZ, the first of its kind, as a national strategic trial to further tap market forces and push market-oriented trade and investment reforms. ^ top ^

Li calls for open, cooperative global economic system (China Daily)
In a message to commemorate the 35th year of China's attendance at the Davos World Economic Forum, Premier Li Keqiang called for a more open and innovative global trade and economic system to achieve common prosperity. "China, as a responsible major country, will be firmly committed to the path of peaceful development," Li said in his message to the international conference on Wednesday. "China will make a greater contribution to expanding the common interests of mankind, and play a constructive role in advancing the lofty cause of world peace and development." Commenting on this year's theme of reshaping the world, Li said it is important to "institute and improve an open, cooperative and win-win global economic and trade system". Foreign Minister Wang Yi is leading a Chinese delegation to the forum that will be attended by thousands of world political and economic leaders. During the four-day discussion, China's reform and economic outlook, and the East Asia security situation are high on the agenda. Li called on the international community to "embrace the spirit of solidarity in difficult times, discard zero-sum practices, and join hands to meet common challenges, urging developed and emerging economies in particular to bring out their respective strengths to drive global economic growth by acting as the "double engines" of the global economy. "This way, we will open up a new prospect of economic globalization featuring win-win cooperation," Li said. Richard Solomons, CEO of InterContinental Hotels Group, said that as an international business it has a duty to help shape global debate on the key issues facing companies and government. Solomons, a newcomer to the winter forum in Davos, said holding the forum's annual meeting of "new champions" in Dalian and Tianjin shows China's standing and its importance to the global agenda. "We see the launch of the Chinese dream and reform agenda as a positive sign that China's new leadership wishes to inspire its citizens in coping with the challenges in continuing domestic reform, while simultaneously focusing on the quality of development and environmentally sound urbanization." China has a hugely important role in the conversation on "reshaping the world", he said. "The World Economic Forum is an excellent platform for China and other major players around the world to do just that, and to inform the debate around balancing needs versus international obligations." Daniel Gros, director of the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels, said a forum like Davos obviously cannot change the world but it can be a useful venue for political leaders to discuss the challenges the world economy faces. "That is what it does in an excellent way. And every participant in Davos knows that China is the big story in the world's economy and there is almost no discussion in which China does not figure prominently." ^ top ^

GDP growth remains 7.7% (Global Times)
China's economy grew 7.7 percent in 2013, a 14-year low but which is considered steady growth while the government continues to push forward economic restructuring. In the fourth quarter, the country's overall economic growth was 7.7 percent year-on-year, slower than the previous quarter's 7.8 percent. This left the growth for the whole of 2013 unchanged from the revised rate of 7.7 percent in 2012, but higher than the official target of 7.5 percent. "This is not an easy task," Ma Jiantang, head of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), said at a press conference in Beijing on Monday. "Faced with increasingly complicated external and internal conditions, the overall national economy still showed stable and moderate growth in 2013 thanks to the new leadership's commitment to reform." Besides the higher comparison base over the same time in 2012, economic growth in the final three months of 2013 was mainly dragged by sluggish fixed-assets investment amid strict control over fast-growing local government debt, said Tang Jianwei, a macroeconomic analyst with the Bank of Communications in Shanghai. Figures from the NBS indicate that fixed-assets investment growth fell to 19.6 percent year-on-year in 2013 from 20.2 percent in the first three quarters of 2013. Ma said that investment will see steady progress in 2014 due to rural urbanization and inadequate supply in sectors including environmental protection, railways and subways. Echoing Ma, Li Daxiao, director of research at Yingda Securities, predicted that China will see a controllable drop in fixed-assets investment to 19.3 percent in 2014, as many companies in China will continue to be confronted with severe overcapacity. Manufacturing overcapacity has long been regarded as a drag on the economy, but the situation is improving as the central government is stepping up efforts to encourage cost-effective and energy saving production lines, as well as optimizing industrial structure. According to the NBS, last year's GDP was 56.9 trillion yuan ($9.4 trillion), about 46 percent of which was contributed by the value added by tertiary industry, surpassing the share held by the secondary industry for the first time. ^ top ^



Foreign Minister meets with Chinese Vice-President (
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia, L.Bold met Vice-President Li Yuanchao during his official visit to China on Friday January 17th. At the meeting both parties emphasized that bilateral relations and cooperation are successfully growing and exchanged views on further bilateral cooperation on a number of fields including politics, economics, culture and humanities. Talks were also held on certain regional and global issues. China`s Vice-President Li Yuanchao stated that the Republic of China is giving a priority to its neighbors, in particular Mongolia, and exercising a trusted, open-hearted and mutually beneficial policy. Foreign Minister L.Bold said that “The Government of Mongolia is working closely with China for an enriched and enlarged strategic partnership between Mongolia and China with new meaning.” Foreign Minister L.Bold also met China`s State Councilor Yang Jiechi. At the meeting the parties discussed a wide range of issues on bilateral relations and cooperation as well as regional and global issues. The Foreign Minister met the Secretary-General of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), Dmitry Mezentsev. Foreign Minister L.Bold expressed Mongolia`s willingness for further active cooperation with the organization and exchanged suggestions over the activities of the Organisation. On Friday Foreign Minister L.Bold received the Beijing based foreign Ambassadors to Mongolia and introduced the priorities, targets and the current development of the foreign policy of Mongolia. At the meeting ambassadors from over 40 countries were present. The Foreign Minister`s visit will continue until January 21st when he will continue on to the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of China. ^ top ^

Japan, Mongolia eye security cooperation to promote peace in Asia (
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj agreed Friday to boost cooperation in promoting peace and stability in East Asia, amid threats from an assertive China and North Korea"s nuclear and missile development. During a 20-minute telephone talk, Abe also called for a "multilayered and strategic" dialogue to enhance bilateral ties with Mongolia, the Japanese government said. On the economic front, Elbegdorj praised Abe"s economic policies, saying they have had "good effects" on the global economy, according to the government. The "Abenomics" policy mix consists of bold monetary easing by the Bank of Japan, massive fiscal stimulus and a growth strategy. ^ top ^

President pays working visit to Liechtenstein (
President Ts.Elbegdorj paid a working visit to the Principality of Liechtenstein between January 19th and 21st. The President met and exchanged views on bilateral relations and cooperation with the reigning Prince of Liechtenstein, Hans-Adam II, the Prince Regent Alois, the Prime Minister of Liechtenstein, Adrian Hasler and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Education and Culture of Liechtenstein, Aurelia Frick. Liechtenstein is the largest banking and financial center in Europe with its banking sector making up 25 percent of GDP. The President of Mongolian and representatives of Liechtenstein emphasized that bilateral relations between Mongolia and Liechtenstein are based on common values such as legislative power and human right. Both parties added that there are no differences in the value of these and agreed that bilateral relations have been enriched because of the visit. Mongolia established diplomatic relations with the Principality of Liechtenstein 16 years ago. Former Presidents of Mongolia N.Enkhbayar and N.Bagabandi had also conducted official visits to the Principality. During the meeting by President Ts. Elbegdorj, he invited the reigning Prince of Liechtenstein, Hans-Adam II and the Prince Regent Alois of Liechtenstein to make a visit to Mongolia. The President`s visit to Liechtenstein comes just before the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. ^ top ^

Foreign Minister visited Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia, L.Bold, visited Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and Khorgos Port between January 18th and 19th as a part of his visit to the People"s Republic of China. Foreign Minister L.Bold met the Vice Chairman of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Shi Dagang, for talks over opportunities for bilateral cooperation, in particular, to increase regional neighboring economy and trade and encourage ties between the two countries. At the meeting authorities of Khovd province, that neighbors with China in the South and East, were present and made the suggestion to activate bilateral border check-point activities and to ease related regulations to the officials of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Foreign Minister L.Bold also visited Qinghua Energy Group. The Group built a refined coal chemical industrial zone in Yining county, 90 km away from the Khorgos Port in Xinjiang. The Foreign Minister was informed that the Qinghua Energy Group"s coal-to-natural gas (CTG) project was completed and put into operation in 2013. The Foreign Minister was also introduced to the activities of a Urumqi based Micro Financial Service company, Tian, run with the investment of Khas bank in Mongolia. On Monday, Foreign Minister L.Bold was invited to the Diplomatic Academy in Beijing and gave the suggestion to cooperate on providing qualified professionals and to share experiences with the Autonomous Region. ^ top ^


Mrs. Ludivine Candiotti
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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