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
  18-25.4.2014, No. 521  
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Foreign Policy

China welcomes Ukraine deal, stresses political settlement (Xinhua)
China on Friday applauded the agreement reached by the Geneva four-way talks on defusing tension in Ukraine, calling for joint efforts to promote a final political settlement to the crisis. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying made the remarks in response to a question at a regular press briefing. The United States, Russia, Ukraine, and the European Union concluded talks in Geneva on Thursday after signing a statement on the de-escalation of tension in Ukraine. It says all sides must refrain from violence, intimidation or provocative actions as part of initial steps to restore order in the country. Hua said China has always adhered to a political settlement to the Ukraine crisis and advocates balancing the interests of all parties concerned. "We hope parties concerned would make joint efforts and take specific measures to implement consensus, promote a final political settlement to the crisis and achieve Ukraine's stability and development at an early date," she said. ^ top ^

Chinese FM to start Latin America trip (Xinhua)
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will pay visits to four Latin American countries from April 19 to 26, said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Friday. Wang will visit Cuba, Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil, Hua told a regular press briefing. During the visit, Wang will meet with President of Council of State of Cuba Raul Castro Ruz, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff as well as his counterparts from the four countries, she said. He will co-chair the first ministerial-level dialogue between China and Brazil with Brazilian Foreign Minister Luiz Alberto Figueiredo Machado, Hua added. She said Wang's visit aims to advance China's relations with Latin American nations. China hopes that Wang's visit to the four countries will enhance high-level exchanges, boost pragmatic cooperation and beef up exchanges and cooperation between foreign ministries of China and the four countries, she said. Noting that China's relations with Latin American countries have made remarkable progress in recent years, Hua said it is in line with the common interests of China and Latin American countries to enhance mutually beneficial cooperation. Hua also mourned the death of Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Colombian writer most famous for his work "One Hundred Years of Solitude." She said Garcia Marquez is the greatest writer of the 20th century and his works are the common heritage of mankind. Garcia Marquez passed away Thursday in his home in Mexico City at the age of 87. He checked into a hospital on April 3 due to "dehydration and bronchial and urinary tract infections." ^ top ^

Chinese premier meets German vice chancellor (Xinhua)
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang met with visiting German Vice Chancellor and Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Sigmar Gabriel here on Tuesday. Li said President Xi Jinping's Germany visit in March has promoted bilateral relations and cooperation. Li also welcomed German Chancellor Angela Merkel to pay an official visit to China this year. He said China, to maintain steady, sustained and sound economic growth, will deepen its reform, balance the relationship between the government and the market, expand market access, adjust economic structure, as well as develop clean energy and energy conservation and environmental protection technology. These measures will bring huge opportunities for companies worldwide, he added. Gabriel said Germany is ready to support China's comprehensive reform, and hopes China will be a destination for investment and technology. Germany will strengthen cooperation with China in innovation and technology research and development to create more opportunities for the two countries, Gabriel said. ^ top ^

Senior Chinese, ASEAN officials vow to enhance maritime, security cooperation (China Daily)
Senior Chinese and ASEAN officials attending two back-to-back meetings that concluded here Tuesday have pledged to further strengthen China-ASEAN cooperation in a wide range of fields such as maritime search and rescue, security and trade. Participating officials agreed to push forward the building of China-ASEAN Maritime Cooperation Partnership and make good use of the China-ASEAN Maritime Cooperation Fund, Vice Foreign Minister of China Liu Zhenmin said at a press conference held after two days of closed meetings. Liu and Thailand's Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs Sihasak Phuangketkeow co-chaired the 7th ASEAN-China Senior Officials' Meeting on the Implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and the 20th ASEAN- China Senior Officials' Consultation (20th ACSOC) in Pattaya of Chonburi Province. Both meetings have proved to be fruitful, the two said. Officials exchanged views on how to improve the efficiency of implementation of the DOC and expand the scope of maritime practical cooperation between relevant departments, Liu said. China suggested setting up three technical committees respectively regarding maritime search and rescue, combating cross- border crimes, and maritime scientific research and environment protection, he said. "These technical committees will facilitate the implementation of the DOC," he added. Maybe within the year, a hotline could be set up for search and rescue at sea, which could be a tangible achievement in the process of implementing the DOC, Liu noted. Chinese and ASEAN officials agreed to strengthen cooperation in defense and security and discuss the regularization of China-ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting, Liu said. "We are suggesting holding an informal defense ministers' meeting this year." Moreover, the officials also reached consensus on enhancing cooperation in non-traditional security such as disaster reduction and relief, combating transnational crimes and maritime law enforcement, Liu said. Thailand proposed hosting a Regional Symposium on Combating Transnational Crimes at Seas in mid-September this year, which will address challenges of maritime security and reflect ASEAN- China's efforts to promote a peaceful and stable environment in an evolving regional architecture, said a Thai Foreign Ministry statement released after the meetings. The senior officials "reaffirmed the importance of the ASEAN- China relations as a pillar of regional peace and stability and committed to achieving better, closer and resilient ASEAN-China Strategic Partnership through building trust, confidence and mutual respect," the statement said. The officials expressed their determination in continuing the efforts to achieve ASEAN-China trade target of 1 trillion dollars by 2020, it said, adding China's initiative to upgrade the ASEAN China Free Trade Area (ACFTA) is an important contributor to such an endeavor. The officials agreed to maintain communication to ensure an early launch of negotiation on an upgraded ACFTA, Liu said. The outcomes of these two meetings serve as groundwork to ensure the success of the upcoming ASEAN Post Ministerial Conference Session with China, to be held in August and the 17th ASEAN-China Summit, to be held in November this year, Sihasak said. Thailand will host the 12th Joint Working Group on DOC back-to- back with the 8th SOM on DOC in October this year to carry forward the momentum of ASEAN-China cooperation, he said. ^ top ^

Beijing backs code to prevent conflict at sea along with US and Japan (SCMP)
China is among 21 countries to have approved a charter aimed at preventing unintended military conflict at sea. Japan, the United States and the Philippines also adopted the agreement, which sets out a communications mechanism for when naval vessels meet unexpectedly in busy sea lanes in the Asia Pacific region. The agreement reportedly includes a ban on the radar locking of weaponry on vessels of other nations in peacetime. The move comes amid rising territorial friction between China and its neighbours. The Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea was approved unanimously at the Western Pacific Naval Symposium in the port city of Qingdao. It comes after more than 10 years of discussion since such a charter was first proposed by Australia. PLA Navy chief Admiral Wu Shengli said the code was important to avoid misjudgment and called for candid communications among the militaries to manage their differences. "We have to respect and learn from history and should resolve maritime disputes through peaceful means, refraining from taking radical action that will seriously affect regional stability," he said. With sea lanes increasingly militarised as major Asia-Pacific powers flex their muscles in a series of disputes, navies will now fire off green, yellow or red flares according to the situation. Japan's Kyodo news agency said the code included the ban on radar locking - a move usually carried out before an attack. Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said in Tokyo yesterday the code - which is not legally binding - included specifications urging "restraint on the use of weapons and using various means to make contact". The risks of an unintended conflict were highlighted in January when Tokyo alleged that a Chinese frigate locked its radar on a Japanese destroyer in the East China Sea. In December, the US military cruiser Cowpens had to take evasive action in the South China Sea to avoid hitting a warship supporting China's first aircraft carrier, Liaoning. Defence analysts said Beijing opposed the code when it was first proposed because it would have been legally binding. But it had been encouraged to adopt the protocol to reduce fears over its territorial ambitions. Masafumi Iida, an analyst at the National Institute of Defence Studies in Japan, said: "This may be the first positive step by the Chinese navy in accepting the rules of navigation and the laws of developed nations." Yue Gang, a retired colonel, said the risk of "miscalculations" at sea was rising because of mutual suspicion between China and its neighbours. "The root of it is the lack of political trust among the nations," he said. Gary Li, an analyst at IHS Maritime, said the code would help reduce tensions in incidents similar to the one involving USS Cowpens. But he said: "I'd expect a certain amount of flexibility in exercising the agreement. "I would not expect any one side to adhere completely to it during any territorial dispute, although these confrontations would now be within a framework of measures." ^ top ^

Obama says disputed East China Sea islands within scope of US-Japan security treaty (SCMP)
US President Barack Obama has assured Japan that tiny islands in the East China Sea at the heart of a territorial row with China are covered by a bilateral security treaty that obligates America to come to Japan's defence. Obama gave the assurance in remarks published by the Yomiuri newspaper on Wednesday, hours before he was due to arrive in Tokyo for a visit aimed at reaffirming strong US-Japan ties in the face of rising tensions over China and North Korea. “The policy of the United States is clear – the Senkaku islands are administered by Japan and therefore fall within the scope of... the US-Japan Treaty of Mutual Co-operation and Security,” Obama said, referring to the disputed islands known as the Diaoyus in China and the Senkakus in Japan. “And we oppose any unilateral attempts to undermine Japan's administration of these islands,” he said. Obama's visit to Japan is the first stop on a four-nation Asia tour. He will seek to assure key allies such as Japan and South Korea that their alliance is as strong as ever, while trying not to damage ties with an increasingly powerful China. In written replies to questions from the Yomiuri, Obama said he had told Chinese President Xi Jinping that all nations had an interest in the peaceful resolution of East China Sea disputes. Japanese and Chinese naval vessels and coastguard ships have played cat and mouse around the disputed islets since Japan's government purchased the formerly privately-owned territory in 2012. Japanese fighter jets scrambled against Chinese planes a record 415 times in the year up until March, 36 per cent more than the previous year, Japan's Defence Ministry said recently. Obama said any disputes should be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy, not intimidation and coercion, and also commended Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's efforts to strengthen Japan's military and deepen co-ordination with US forces. In a sign of the delicate balancing act that Washington now faces in Asia, he said he believes the United States and China can work together on issues of mutual interest, such as a strong global economy and the denuclearisation of North Korea. “In other words, we welcome the continuing rise of a China that is stable, prosperous and peaceful and plays a responsible role in global affairs,” he said. “And our engagement with China does not and will not come at the expense of Japan or any other ally.” Obama reaffirmed Washington's commitment to the security of Japan and South Korea, and said it would stand firm in its insistence that a nuclear North Korea was unacceptable. “The burden is on Pyongyang to take concrete steps to abide by its commitments and obligations, and the United States, Japan and South Korea are united in our goal – the complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula,” he said. ^ top ^

Chinese premier eyes stronger China-Britain cultural exchanges (Xinhua)
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday lauded the progress of China-UK cultural exchanges, urging joint efforts from both sides to expand people-to-people exchanges and enhance mutual understanding. Li made the remarks while meeting with British Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who is here to co-chair the second meeting of the China-UK high-level cultural exchange mechanism with Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong. Calling the mechanism one of the three pillars for China-UK ties, together with economic, financial and strategic dialogue, Li said it has helped to facilitate bilateral cooperation in various areas and cement the China-UK partnership. He urged both sides to work on high-quality projects in their cultural exchanges, expand cooperation in education, health, youth and tourism, to boost peoples' understanding and consolidate public opinion on bilateral ties. Hunt, in his turn, said his country hopes to strengthen exchanges with China, and make full play of the role of cultural exchanges. Liu and Hunt, the two countries' presidents of the mechanism, co-chaired the second meeting of China-UK high-level cultural exchange mechanism earlier on Wednesday, focusing on the subject of sharing experience and enjoying a common future. Premier Li and British Prime Minister David Cameron sent congratulatory letters to the meeting, noting appreciation for its work. "China-UK ties have come to an important period that links the past and the future," Li said in his letter, calling on both sides to hold in-depth dialogues, build consensus and make new contributions to a brighter future for China-UK ties. The China-Britain mechanism for high-level cultural exchanges was launched by Liu and Hunt in London in April, 2012, with the aims of helping to strengthen cultural ties between both countries, create more opportunities for direct communication between the two peoples and bring more trade opportunities. ^ top ^

Philippines apologizes for 2010 Manila hostage crisis (Global Times)
The Philippine government offered an apology and compensation for a hostage crisis in Manila nearly four years ago, in which eight Hong Kong residents were killed. "The Philippine Government expresses its most sorrowful regret and profound sympathy, and extends its most sincere condolences for the pain and suffering of the victims and their families," said a joint statement issued by the government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) and the Philippine government on Wednesday. Chief Executive of the Hong Kong SAR Leung Chun-ying and Philippine President Benigno Aquino III came to a mutually satisfactory conclusion to the crisis, and both governments have agreed with the four demands of the victims and their families for an apology, compensation, sanctions against responsible officials and individuals, and improving tourist safety measures, according to the statement. Hong Kong's government has lifted sanctions against the Philippines since the apology. Hong Kong government in January announced that the sanction which became effective on February 5 by suspending 14-day visa-free treatment for holders of diplomatic and official passports of the Republic of the Philippines, after the Philippines failed to offer an apology. Leung said that the bilateral relations between the city and Philippines will be normalized. The Philippine government has also assured the Hong Kong government that such an incident will not occur again. While the compensation amount offered by Manila has not been disclosed publicly, media reports said it was around HK$20 million ($2.6 million). On Aug 23 2010, a sacked Philippine police officer hijacked a bus with 21 Hong Kong tourists on board. The hostage taker got shot in a bungled police rescue. Survivors and relatives of the victims have been demanding an apology from the Philippine government, an offer of compensation, punishment for the officials responsible for the bungled police operation and improvements in tourist safety. But the Philippines had never met their demands before Tuesday. The victims' families said they too were satisfied with the Philippine government's apology and compensation. ^ top ^

Top Chinese legislator meets U.S. House majority leader (Xinhua)
Top Chinese legislator Zhang Dejiang on Thursday met with the United States House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Zhang, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), said during the meeting that China-U.S. relations are of great importance to the two countries' peoples as well as to world peace and development. He called for joint efforts in building a new type of bilateral relations between the two major countries, as agreed by the two countries' leaders. He noted that increased friendly contacts between the NPC and the U.S. Congress will help increase common ground, reduce misunderstanding, strengthen cooperation and handle differences. He said that the two sides should play positive roles in advancing sustainable and healthy development of ties. Cantor said the United States and China enjoy broad common interests and China's rapid growth benefits the two peoples. He voiced hope that the U.S. House of Representatives can communicate more with the NPC and make more efforts for a stronger bilateral relationship. ^ top ^

China ratifies judicial assistance treaty with Argentina (Xinhua)
China's top legislature on Thursday ratified a treaty with Argentina on mutual judicial assistance in criminal affairs. During its bimonthly session, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) approved the pact, which was submitted by the State Council, or the cabinet. The treaty was signed in Buenos Aires by the foreign ministers of the two countries on June 25, 2012. The 24-article treaty covers issues such as the scope of application and restrictions of such assistance, rules on lodging requests for judicial assistance, and dispute resolution. Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong said in a report to the NPC Standing Committee that the treaty will help promote cooperation between the two countries in judicial fields as well as bilateral ties. ^ top ^

Mayor of Tokyo tries to ease ties in Beijing (SCMP)
The governor of Tokyo said yesterday on a visit to Beijing that he hoped his trip to the capital would help mend strained ties between China and Japan. "Relations between Japan and China are tense and there's great significance in the people of Beijing asking me to come here," Governor Yoichi Masuzoe told reporters after arriving for a three-day visit. He said improving ties would be a step-by-step process. "You can't do everything immediately, but there are a number of things we can do: for instance, meet about environmental problems, co-ordinate exchanges between students studying abroad," he said. "By adding these things together, we can improve relations between both countries." Analysts said last week that the mayor's visit to the capital might open an alternative channel of communication between the two countries. Diplomatic ties between China and Japan have been weighed down by the territorial dispute over the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, which are known as the Senkakus in Japan. Beijing was also angered by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to Yasukuni war shrine last December, which houses convicted war criminals. Meanwhile Yang Yujun, a spokesman at the Ministry of Defence in Beijing, declined to comment yesterday on whether the People's Liberation Army was ready for a potential military conflict with Japan over the Diaoyus. At a regular press briefing, Yang said Beijing always stuck to a "tit-for-tat" rule to safeguard its territorial integrity, hinting that China would not start any military action, but would fight back if provoked. ^ top ^

China, Denmark eye closer relationship (Xinhua)
Chinese President Xi Jinping held talks with Danish Queen Margrethe II here on Thursday and the two heads of state voiced their hope to elevate their bilateral ties. Queen Margrethe II is paying a state visit to China from Thursday to Monday at Xi's invitation, her second China trip as queen. In September 1979, she visited China as the first Western head of state to do so after China adopted its reform and opening-up policy. During Thursday's talks, Xi said Queen Margrethe II's two visits have witnessed the historical process from the beginning to the comprehensive deepening of China's reform and opening-up, and pushed the development of the bilateral ties over the past 35 years. The Chinese side is highly appreciative of the contribution Queen Margrethe II and the Danish royal family has made to the friendship between the two peoples, said the president. Hailing good relationship and fruitful cooperation between the two countries, Xi noted that China has become Denmark's biggest trading partner in Asia and the second-largest overseas destination for investment. The total trade volume between Denmark and China was more than 107 billion Danish krone (19.85 billion US dollars) in 2013. Xi said China and Denmark's joint efforts along with other countries to transport Syria's chemical weapons to ensure their destruction has set a good example of cooperation in international affairs. China is undergoing an important period of advancing a new type of industrialization, IT application, urbanization and agricultural modernization while Denmark has rich experience and technological advantages in these areas, Xi said. He suggested the two sides cooperate more in trade, investment, agriculture, medical care, food security, energy conservation and people-to-people exchanges, especially exchanges between the youth of the two countries. Xi also proposed the two sides make joint efforts to advance the relationship between China and Europe at large. "The Chinese side stands ready to work together to lead the China-Denmark comprehensive strategic partnership to a new height, " said the Chinese leader. Queen Margrethe II said she was impressed by the great changes that have taken place in China and hopes that her visit will deepen the good relationship, enhance mutual understanding and friendship and advance the reciprocal cooperation between the two nations. After the talks, Xi and Queen Margrethe II witnessed the signing of a series of cooperative documents, involving maritime technology, energy conservation, and poverty elimination among other fields. On Thursday, Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi met with Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard, who is accompanying the queen on the China tour. The two officials exchanged views on the bilateral relationship as well as regional and global issues of common concern. ^ top ^

China applies to host 2024 WPNS (Xinhua)
The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) navy has submitted applications to host the 2024 meeting of the Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS), a navy commander said on Thursday. Ding Yiping, deputy commander of the PLA navy, said at a press conference that the PLA navy will continue to engage in WPNS activities hosted by other countries, which he believes will promote mutual understanding and pursue win-win results. The announcement was made after China successfully hosted the 2014 meeting of the WPNS from April 22 to 23 in the naval port of Qingdao. The Qingdao meeting was the first time that China, one of the symposium's 12 founding members, has hosted the biennial event. The WPNS was established in 1987 with the goals of promoting pragmatic cooperation between the navies of its member countries, strengthening mutual understanding and trust, and jointly safeguarding regional maritime security. The WPNS held its first meeting in 1988. Comprising navies whose countries border the Pacific Ocean region, the WPNS now has 21 member countries and four observers. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

4 Chinese nationals still missing following S. Korea shipwreck (Xinhua)
The Chinese embassy on Friday confirmed a fourth Chinese citizen aboard a South Korean ferry ship, which capsized in waters off South Korea's southwest coast Wednesday. Earlier in the day, the embassy said that a Chinese schoolgirl, along with another two Chinese nationals, one male and the other female, was also on the ill-fated ship from the western port city of Incheon to the southern resort island of Jeju and remained unaccounted for two days after the maritime disaster. A total of 28 passengers have been officially listed as dead so far, 179 have been rescued and 268 are missing. The passengers aboard the ship included 325 students and 15 teachers from Danwon High School in Ansan, a Seoul suburb, which, according to the Chinese embassy, is home to a lot of Chinese people. ^ top ^

Central govt cuts public expenses (China Daily)
China's central government will spend less on overseas visits, vehicles and receptions, popularly known as the "three public consumptions," this year amid the country's frugality campaign, said the Ministry of Finance (MOF) on Friday. The central government will use 7.151 billion yuan (about $1.148 billion) on such items in 2014, slightly down from last year's actual spending of 7.154 billion yuan, the MOF said. The budget includes 1.976 billion yuan for traveling overseas, 4.127 billion yuan for the purchase and maintenance of government vehicles and 1.048 billion yuan for official receptions, according to the MOF. According to the budget, the central government will spend 161 million yuan less on official receptions, and 126 million yuan less on purchase and maintenance of government vehicles. Spending on overseas visits will increase by 284 million yuan from what was actually spent on this area in 2013. This year's budget was also 818 million yuan, or 10.3 percent, less than that of 2013, said the MOF. In 2013, the central government spent 815 million yuan less than its original budget on the "three public consumptions." A senior official of the MOF's budget department attributed the cut-backs mainly to the implementation by central government departments of austerity rules put forward by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC). In December 2012, the newly elected CPC Central Committee issued the "eight-point rules," requiring government officials to strictly practice frugality and clean up undesirable work styles, including formalism and extravagance. ^ top ^

China to launch some nuclear power projects (Global Times)
China's nuclear-related stocks rallied on Monday after the Chinese government said it will embark on construction of some nuclear power projects. According to a statement posted on the government's website Sunday, Premier Li Keqiang said it is now the time to launch a batch of major power generation projects so as to help enhance energy self-sufficiency and upgrade energy structure. The construction of nuclear power plants in eastern coastal regions will be started "at the appropriate time," said Li. "This is good news for the whole ­nuclear power sector and our company as well, as we also develop and sell materials applied in nuclear radiation," a PR representative with Shenzhen Woer Heat-Shrinkable Material Co told the Global Times Monday. Shares of Shenzhen-listed Woer saw the biggest surge after the announcement, jumping 6.59 percent during trading on Monday. It closed at 9.26 yuan ($1.49) per share, up 1.76 percent, while the Shenzhen Component Index nudged down by 1.37 percent. Shanghai-listed Shanghai Electric Group, which has long been devoted to develop new energy such as nuclear power, also saw its share price rise by 1.82 percent to 3.92 yuan at close on Monday. Han Xiaoping, chief information officer at energy portal, said that Li's remarks cannot generate long-lasting positive effect on the capital market, but indicate the government's determination of developing nuclear power. "The government is likely to accelerate the approval and construction of nuclear plants. And companies from industries like equipment manufacturing, engineering construction and power distribution will benefit from the construction in terms of capacity relief," Han told the Global Times Monday. According to a report released by the World Nuclear Association ­earlier in April, China's planned reactors will lift the country's nuclear capacity to at least 58 gigawatt electric (GWe) by 2020, then 150 GWe by 2030. There are 20 nuclear power reactors in operation in China, and 28 under construction, said the report. The Chinese government hopes the cost-efficient nuclear power can replace coal-fired plants for the sake of environmental protection, Lin Boqiang, director of the Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University, told the Global Times on Mnday. Overseas nuclear power companies have already seen massive potential in China, flocking into the market in great numbers. Delegates from the Canadian Nuclear Association reached a cooperation agreement on nuclear power development with a nuclear enterprises alliance in Haiyan, East China's Zhejiang Province, on April 11. US-based Westinghouse Electric Co reportedly plans to sell its third-generation WestinghouseAP 1000 reactors to Chinese companies and may sign contracts next year. Li emphasized in the statement that the strictest international ­safety standards will be applied to the projects before they get approved. The government has hardly approved construction of new nuclear reactors since its ban on inland nuclear reactor construction in 2012, following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011, said Han, noting that this created difficulties for many domestic nuclear companies and some even suffered capacity pressure. Lin noted that the surplus capacity pressure is unlikely to be relieved soon, as the government still appears to be very prudent with the approval of new nuclear plant projects, making enterprises to wait for several years for final construction of new reactors. Domestic major nuclear power companies may find some opportunities overseas with their gradually mature technologies and price advantage, said Han. ^ top ^

China forbids bypassing authorities to file complaints (Xinhua)
A Chinese government regulation, made public on Wednesday, forbids citizens to bypass authorities to file complaints. Central government departments will not take complaints about issues that should be handled by provincial governments or that are being processed by them, said Zhang Enxi, spokesman with the State Bureau for Letters and Calls, about the new regulation. At local level, citizens should go to government departments that are authorized by law to handle relevant issues and governments at higher levels will not take their complaints if they jump rank, according to the regulation, scheduled to take effect on May 1. "The purpose of this regulation is to clarify the jurisdiction, regulate the procedure and improve the efficiency of handling petitions," Zhang said. "It is expected to help citizens file petitions in a stepwise manner." The governments will also turn down petitions that fall in the authorities of legislative bodies and judicial departments. However, a few exceptions are left at the central level. They include complaints about corrupt officials of provincial and central governments, petitions about issues that should be addressed across provinces and sectors, as well as those that are not properly handled by provincial governments. "Letters and calls" is a unique petitioning system installed inside China's administrations to help people express their opinions and solve problems. The new regulation requires petition offices to follow protocol in taking citizens' petitions and record their cases in a national database. Those that do not handle petitions properly and force citizens to turn to authorities of higher levels will be warned and punished if causing serious outcomes, according to the regulation. Many complaints are filed each year in China, in which petitioners generally see injustice in land acquisition, social security, education, healthcare or environmental protection. "With the rapid economic and social development in China, people's awareness of protecting their rights is growing and their interests and appeals are diversifying, a fact that has pushed up the number of petitions," said Yan Jirong, a professor with Peking University's School of Government. Moreover, some cases that undermined judicial justice and independence have impaired the public's confidence in the judiciary and fueled the rise of petitions, Yan said. Some petitioners have taken their grievances to a higher level if they failed to get satisfactory feedback from local petition offices, but officials often try to stop them from raising such cases with their superiors, which triggers a number of confrontations. In the past few months, several new rules were issued to reform the petitioning system and smooth the channel. In February, the State Bureau for Letters and Calls hailed a set of new rules highlighting the rule of law and protection of petitioners' rights. Last month, a circular from the State Council prohibited putting petitioners under any form of confinement and promised to set up a system to dissolve conflicts and disputes by lawful means. "Stopping petitioners from jumping rank does not mean leaving petitions unanswered. We just want to better distribute them so that problems can be solved better and more efficiently," Zhang said. ^ top ^

China prevents prominent human rights lawyer Mo Shaoping from meeting German minister (SCMP)
Police blocked a prominent human rights lawyer from meeting Germany's deputy chancellor in Beijing, the lawyer said yesterday, in the latest example of curbs on government critics. Deputy Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel was unable to meet Mo Shaoping and other members of Chinese civil society in the capital on Tuesday, though he declined to comment on why the planned talks at the German embassy did not take place. Gabriel had told reporters travelling with him to China that he would meet critics of the Chinese government, saying he believed that European politicians had an obligation to show support for such dissidents. But police came to Mo's office and said they had received orders "from above" that Mo was not allowed to attend, Mo said. "They must have understood that I had been invited and so came over to say that I could not go," he said. "This is typical. It's not the first time it's happened." Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said he was unaware of the incident. "I believe that Germans, as a very rigorous people, know how to be [good] guests in other countries," Qin told a daily news briefing. "We uphold the principle of mutual respect and equality in dealing with differences to be able to increase dialogue and understanding. This is the … necessary path to take." Two years ago police blocked Mo, who defended jailed Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo in his 2009 trial, from attending a Beijing dinner hosted by German leader Dr Angela Merkel. Merkel is due to visit China again in July. ^ top ^

Prosecutors use new media to boost transparency (China Daily)
The top prosecuting department will use new media such as micro blogs and mobile phone messaging to release information on major cases to improve transparency, the Supreme People's Procuratorate said on Wednesday. "We will hold regular press briefings and release timely information on proceedings about major cases and important judicial interpretations on the official website, or through new media platforms like micro blogs and mobile phone messaging to boost transparency," said Yan Li, a press officer for the procuratorate. Over the past five years, the procuratorate has held few news briefings and seldom publicized information on major cases on its official website. "The measures are aimed at upholding people's rights to know and to participate in judicial matters, as well as improving social communication in the age of new media," she said. On April 15, the procuratorate launched an official account on a mobile messaging application to enhance openness. The top prosecuting department also launched its mobile news portal run by information portal after opening its micro blog on three platforms -, and - last month. The procuratorate said the move is also expected to encourage prosecuting departments at each level to adapt to the new communication environment. Tian Wei, a lawyer from the Beijing Lawyers Association, said that the communication platform will allow people to learn more about major cases and provide public scrutiny to avoid any miscarriage of justice. ^ top ^

Biggest sandstorm in 10 years hits northern Chinese city Dunhuang (SCMP)
Schools were closed and visibility was reduced to just 20 metres in places as the strongest sandstorm to strike the northern Chinese city of Dunhuang swept in. The sandstorm hit the city, in Gansu province, at 1.40pm on Wednesday, bringing strong winds and a sudden drop in temperature, and continued to rage for hours, forcing many people to wear masks. School sent circulars to parents warning them to keep their children at home on Wednesday afternoon, and there were fears that the sudden change in weather could affect crops. The weather forecasting station of Jiuquan city, which administers Dunhuang, issued a 'red alert', forecasting that visibility would be below 50 metres until at least the evening. Forecasters warned that on Thursday and Friday torrential rain would hit parts of Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi and Anhui provinces. Dunhuang is situated near the Gobi Desert, which stretches across Inner Mongolia and northern China, producing enormous sandstorms that frequently reach Beijing. The Gobi is one of the world's most abundant sources of dust, with sandstorms frequently occurring in the spring, peaking in April. ^ top ^

Thousands in Wuhan see taps shut for a day amid 'stinky water' contamination (SCMP)
Hundreds of thousands of residents were affected as Wuhan suspended three water plants after detecting high levels of pollutants in the drinking water, just days after a benzene scare in a neighbouring province. The authorities in Wuhan, Hubei province, found that the water contained ammonia and nitrogen exceeding the national safety standard, but the exact figures were not revealed. Excessive ammonia and nitrogen would cause tap water to smell bad, an environment protection bureau official said. The Changjiang Times newspaper said the incident affected more than 300,000 residents in a 260 square kilometre area, while water supply to more than 100 food production factories were suspended as well. The official, who chose not to be named, said they were investigating whether the pollution was coming from the Yangtze River, which along with its tributaries supply hundreds of mainland cities with water. “We cannot rule out the possibility that the source is outside Wuhan. The provincial environmental authorities have sent four inspection teams to the upper reaches of the Yangtze,” he said. The Wuhan city government announced on Weibo today that one plant in Baihezui had resumed operations this morning, along with the Guomian plant in Hanyang, which restarted supplies at 10.30am. But another, Yushidun in Dongxihu district, remained closed due to water source contamination. The bureau official said the pollutants usually came from residential sewage, but the exact cause of the recent contamination was unclear. An inconvenienced resident in Dongxihu said the water supply stopped on Wednesday evening. This morning the tap started flowing again, though with weak water pressure, he said. “This is quite rare. We have not been bothered by a tap water suspension for years,” he said. But the resident said he was not worried because the regional water supply was “ample”. “The Yangtze River flows fast … Pollutants will likely be washed away [by the currents] soon,” he said. This comes days after benzene was found in the tap water of Lanzhou, Gansu province, on April 10, forcing the city of 3.6 million people to turn off supplies in one district. Other residents were warned not to drink tap water for a day and the incident caused panic-buying of bottled water. The chairman of the city's main water supplier, Lanzhou Veolia Water Company, has apologised for the incident. The company is partly owned by a subsidiary of French utility Veolia Environment. Chairman Yao Xin “bowed and expressed his apology” at a news conference organised by the Lanzhou government, Xinhua reported on Tuesday. ^ top ^

The Young Guns of China: Beijing steps up efforts to recruit a new generation of soldiers (SCMP)
China's military has used annual budget increases of more than 10 per cent to buy precision-guided weapons, fighter jets and its first aircraft carrier.Now it is seeking to upgrade its recruits to operate them. For Wu, a 20-year-old journalism student at a university in Beijing, that means his college fees are paid and he has an extra 3,500 yuan (HK$4,390) a year to live on. Wu, identified only by his surname because he is forbidden from speaking publicly, takes extra lessons on war strategy alongside regular classes. He will join the People's Liberation Army as a trainee officer when he graduates in 2016. "In the past, our weapons were quite primitive so you didn't need too much knowledge," Wu said. "You just used a gun and that was okay. Now there's a need for better quality people." China is following the example of the US Reserve Officers' Training Corps by increasing incentives for bright minds to serve in the armed forces. President Xi Jinping, the head of the Central Military Commission, has made an army that's better prepared for combat a priority as China becomes more assertive in territorial disputes. Beijing plans to fold developers of military hardware into listed state-owned companies, sources said, giving them access to capital markets as it prioritises hi-tech defence capability. "Their biggest difficulty right now is recruiting and retaining technical non-commissioned officers," said Christopher Johnson, of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "They're getting all these shiny new pieces of gear and if you're operating off a conscription system those guys are two years and out. By the time you train them up, they are already leaving." Wu said officers were expected to serve longer than the minimum two years required of regular recruits. Males are registered for military service when they reach 18, but are exempt if they are in full-time school or the only worker in their family providing means of subsistence, according to the Military Service Law. The recruitment of soldiers this year would run to August, said a notice on the government's official recruitment website. A series of beneficial policies had "inspired the patriotic enthusiasm" of college students to join the army, the PLA Daily reported. The proportion of graduates signing up for the military reached about 10 per cent in most places during the recruitment period last year, it said. The number of students applying online to join the military passed 200,000 last August, Xinhua reported. Recruitment campaigns include drives at universities. Last August, female astronaut Liu Yang answered questions from high school students at Renmin University in Beijing to promote sign-ups. The PLA was reforming its academies to cultivate junior officers capable of "leveraging technology in all war-fighting functions for joint operations", the US Defence Department said in last year's review of China's military that was submitted to Congress. China's Ministry of Defence didn't respond to questions sent by fax about the focus on college recruiting. "The Chinese People's Liberation Army are not Boy Scouts with red-tasseled spears," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said last month in response to a question on Beijing's rising military spending and capacity. The central government is boosting defence spending by 12.2 per cent this year to 808 billion yuan. But while China's military spending has roughly kept pace with economic growth in recent years, the 2.3 million-strong PLA must keep up with rising wages in the civilian sector. That was likely to make things more expensive for the PLA, though there wasn't enough data to estimate how much, said Andrew Erickson, an associate professor at the US Naval War College. China should enhance the attractiveness of being an officer and pay salaries "significantly higher" than civil servants, Du Renhuai, a professor at the PLA Nanjing Institute of Politics, wrote in the PLA Daily. "Their economic, political and social status should be at the forefront of society," he added. Chinese students now expect a monthly salary of 6,564 yuan after graduating, according to a survey by New York-based employer branding firm Universum. That compares with about 4,000 to 5,000 yuan a month that student Wu expects he will earn when he joins up. While Wu said he could earn more in the private sector, he said the army also took care of food and lodging. "It solves the problem of employment after you graduate," said Wu. "Competition for jobs in China is quite fierce. Being enlisted in the army is stable." Other perks include granting sought-after residency permits, known as a hukou, to those who graduate in Beijing. But an officer, who gave only his surname Liu, said the recruitment programme mostly attracted students from the countryside. Liu, 25, received an extra 500 yuan a month in living expenses while a defence student at a university in Wuhan, before joining the army in 2011. "To some in poor areas it is quite attractive, but you can't say it's attractive for everyone," he said. "I joined for a simple reason - to serve my country." Efforts to boost the quality of recruits had been hampered by a decline in health, with 60 per cent of applicants from colleges failing the physical fitness examination and some being overweight, China Daily reported. Improving pay and quality of recruits may also have a side benefit as Xi campaigns to curb corruption within the army. In the most high-profile military corruption case since the Communists came to power, former Lieutenant-General Gu Junshan was charged with embezzlement, bribery and abuse of power. Gu, 57, entered the military from middle school after being raised in a village in Henan province. "If you pay people better they're less likely to feel the need to seek other sources of income," said Andrew Scobell, a political scientist with the Rand Corporation. "There are all these incentives to try and attract the kinds of people they need." For student Wu, the rewards are only part of the appeal. "If some people want to earn lots of money they can realise their ideals, but I believe I can realise my own ideals by being in the army and helping to protect the country," he said. ^ top ^

Revised green law imposes stiffer penalties (SCMP)
The mainland yesterday passed amendments to an environmental protection law imposing tougher penalties on polluters in the most sweeping revisions to the code in 25 years. The highly anticipated amendments follow a two-year debate among scholars, the government and state-owned enterprises over the changes. The revisions enshrine environmental protection as the overriding priority of the government, but limit which NGOs can play a role in monitoring polluters. The amendments were passed by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, a largely rubberstamp body, and take effect on January 1. Xin Chunying, deputy director of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee, told a news conference the law would deliver "a blow … to our country's harsh environmental realities". The changes give legal backing to Beijing's war on pollution and formalise a pledge made last year to abandon a decades-old growth-at-all-costs economic model that has spoiled much of the water, air and soil. Although enforcement is likely to be patchy, the law will give the Ministry of Environmental Protection the authority to take stronger punitive action, including shutting down and confiscating the assets of polluters. It also ensures information on environmental monitoring and impact assessments are made public. "On the whole, there are many bright spots," said Ma Jun, head of the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs, an independent environmental group. "The biggest breakthrough is... [they] have used an official document to talk about disclosure of environmental information and public participation. This, in fact, establishes some of the public's basic environmental rights." The rules also impose an "ecological red line" that will declare certain regions off-limits to polluting industry and formalise a system by which local officials are assessed according to their record on pollution, including meeting targets. "The new law is stricter than the previous version, but this is still not the fundamental solution," said Wang Canfa, an environment law professor with the China University of Political Science and Law. "The key lies in enforcement. There were also penalties in the previous versions, but some law-enforcement bodies just ignored violations" because the polluters had ties with them, Wang added. "China needs to devote more human and other resources for environmental protection organisations for this to work," said Yue Xin, a researcher with the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences. One of the most fiercely contested parts of the law was a clause designed to prevent most environmental NGOs from filing lawsuits against polluters. The first draft said lawsuits could only be filed via the government-affiliated All-China Environmental Federation, though the final version allows other government-registered organisations that have been operating for at least five years and are registered with the civil affairs departments of governments in certain cities to launch legal action. ^ top ^



Guangdong governor talks up free-trade zone for Qianhai, Hong Kong and Macau (SCMP)
A proposal to create a free-trade pilot zone encompassing Hong Kong, Macau and parts of Guangdong had got the backing of Beijing, the province's governor, Zhu Xiaodan, said yesterday. "We hope [the proposed free-trade pilot zone] would take from Shanghai's free-trade zone," Zhu said. Without offering an exact timetable for realising the proposed zone, he said: "I hope we don't have to wait until the end of the year." Like the Shanghai zone, it would be a place to test new regulatory approaches, public policy or economic policy programmes as well as facilitating trade and business transactions. The province had received positive feedback from the top leadership and government departments after it submitted draft plans, Zhu said on the sidelines of a meeting on intellectual property, held in Guangzhou. The proposal would be finalised and submitted to the State Council as soon as possible, he said. Zhu added that the zone would aim to make life easy for investors and residents, so they could "live life as conveniently as in Hong Kong". Unlike Shanghai's free-trade zone, which has an international focus, Zhu said Guangdong's would focus solely on the Pearl River Delta area and was intended to transform and upgrade the region's economy from low-end manufacturing to high-end industries. Zhu said in September the zone would take advantage of Hong Kong's position as a financial hub to boost regional growth. Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said at the time he was looking into the plan. Guangdong party chief Hu Chunhua raised the idea of a free-trade zone connecting the development zones of Qianhai, Hengqin and Nansha with the two special administrative regions last year. If approved, it would cover an area of more than 1,000 square kilometres. The Shanghai free-trade zone, initiated in September, is 29 square kilometres in area. Tianjin and Xiamen are considering setting up similar zones. During yesterday's meeting, Zhu stressed the importance of the protection of intellectual property to the development of the province's economy. He said Guangdong urgently needed to develop hi-tech industries.. ^ top ^



China's police chief stresses Xinjiang stability (Xinhua)
Chinese Minister of Public Security Guo Shengkun has called for improved combat ability and precautionary measures to fight terrorism to ensure sustained social stability in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in northwest China. Violent and terrorist activities are anti-humanity and anti-society in nature, said Guo during his study tour of Xinjiang from April 20 to 21. He asked local police to effectively carry out anti-terror measures and address both the symptoms and root causes in the fight. Guo called for efforts to make training of police forces more real-combat oriented to improve their abilities. Local police should improve their work styles to solve problems for residents and become friends with people from various ethnic groups, he said. During his tour, Guo visited local police stations and communities in Urumqi, Kashgar, and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. Guo's remarks came after knife-wielding assailants killed 29 civilians and injured another 143 at a railway station in the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming in March. Evidence linked the attack to terrorists from Xinjiang. Xinjiang was also hit by violent terrorist attacks in the past year. In an incident last June, rioters killed 24 people at the region's Lukqun Township. ^ top ^



Macau's request for more space inspires similar dreams in Hong Kong (SCMP)
A request by Macau for more space on the neighbouring mainland island of Hengqin has brought a call for Hong Kong to follow suit and seek to expand into Shenzhen or Guangzhou. Macau Chief Executive Dr Fernando Chui Sai-on said five square kilometres allocated on the island for joint cross-border development was not enough and "we have decided to officially request more land on Hengqin from the central government". Dr Bill Chou Kwok-ping, an associate professor of political science at the University of Macau, said that was sensible given the size of Macau - 31 square kilometres - and its population of about 610,000. Announcing the Hengqin New Area, as the district is known, in 2009, then vice-president Xi Jinping hailed it as a "demonstration area" for co-operation between Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau. In the same year, Macau paid about HK$1.2 billion to rent a square kilometre for 50 years for an extension of the University of Macau that opened last year. City University political scientist Dr James Sung Lap-kung said Hong Kong could consider a similar mode of development. "Renting land in neighbouring mainland cities will be a good option," he said. "Like it or not, there is a need for deeper integration between Hong Kong and Guangdong if Hong Kong is to further develop." While Hong Kong is also co-operating with Shenzhen to develop its Qianhai district, Sung said the pace of that development was too slow. Dr Chung Kim-wah of Polytechnic University said the Hengqin model could be "too politically sensitive" for Hong Kong. ^ top ^



Sean Lien, son of KMT honorary chairman, wins Taipei mayoral primary (SCMP)
Sean Lien Sheng-wen, son of Kuomintang honorary chairman Lien Chan, has won a primary election to become the Taiwanese ruling party's election candidate for mayor of Taipei, a post seen as a stepping stone towards the presidency. He is expected to be formally named this week as the KMT's candidate. But there is no guarantee his comfortable win in the KMT primary election will be repeated at the November 29 polls, with various surveys showing Lien ahead of Ko Wen-je, a popular doctor and independent candidate, by just 4-5 percentage points, local media and analysts said. Lien, 44, beat his main opponent, legislator Ting Shou-chung, 59, by 13 percentage points to secure his candidacy. "I will never let my supporters down if elected mayor of Taipei," Lien said yesterday after the KMT announced the primary's results. He called for party unity so that the KMT could continue to control the capital, Taipei - one of the three KMT strongholds along with the central city of Taichung and nearby New Taipei City. "A divided party would mean disaster" in the November polls, Lien warned, adding that he had sought conciliation with Ting. The KMT, headed by mainland-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou, is reported to be racked by infighting that threatens to divide the party and reduce its chances in the so-called seven-in-one local government and council elections, including for Taipei mayor, in late November. The infighting was reported to have been caused by Ma's attempt to revoke the post of parliamentary speaker of long-time party rival Wang Jin-pyng. Accusing Wang of influence-peddling, Ma instructed the KMT disciplinary committee in September to expel Wang, who later took the case to court and won. Despite calls by some KMT legislators for party unity, Ma last month insisted on launching an appeal against the district court's ruling in favour of Wang. Lien yesterday thanked those who supported him in the primary and said he would do all he could to canvass further support ahead of the mayoral race. The primary saw Lien garner 10,647 votes against 4,765 for Ting, who had sought the KMT nomination for the mayoral poll at least three times. Legislator Tsai Cheng-wen, an ally of Lien, still got 148 votes despite withdrawing from the race a day before the primary. Another aspirant, Taipei city councillor Chung Hsiao-ping, took just 107 votes in the race, which saw turnout of just 41 per cent of Taipei's 37,860 eligible KMT voters. The KMT primary comprises voting by members (30 per cent of the results) and a public opinion poll (70 per cent) conducted several days ago. Lien won 40 per cent of support from eligible Taipei voters in the opinion survey, compared with Ting's 37 per cent, but his comfortable lead in voting by members allowed him to beat Ting easily. Meanwhile, the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party - which has been asked by some members to support independent Ko in the race - is expected to announce its nominee by mid-June. The latest opinion survey by the United Daily News in Taipei recently showed Lien led Ko 45-39 per cent if the two were to contest the mayoral election. ^ top ^



China and India urged to forge closer economic bonds (SCMP)
Government-level talks between China and India are needed in building a complementary economic relationship to unlock the Asian giants' full potential to create an economic superpower bloc, says an Indian business leader. "We both have large population, we both have tremendous economic disparities, which also give us great market potential," Ratan Tata, former chairman of India's salt-to-steel conglomerate Tata Group, told the South China Morning Post on the sidelines of the Boao Forum for Asia. But achieving business synergy would depend on how well the Chinese and Indian governments manage the relationship, said Tata, who was recently appointed to the board of the forum. Former Vice-Premier Zeng Peiyan, former Japanese prime minister Yasuo Fukuda, former Singapore prime minister Goh Chok Tong and former US secretary of the treasury Henry Paulson are among the other members of the 15-member board. "We [China and India] can create an economic superpower," Tata said. "China has developed technology that India could use, while Chinese investment in industries such as infrastructure and telecommunications would help create jobs and boost India's economic growth. This requires the endorsement of both governments. "But there is no great desire for the two governments to work together. For example, there is no trade agreement to intensify bilateral traffic." India's trade deficit with China in the first three months of this year totalled US$5.9 billion, according to China's customs data. Figures released by India's ministry of commerce and industry showed the trade deficit in March widened to a five-month high of US$10.5 billion as exports contracted. Economic growth in China and India has been slowing, though to a much greater extent in India. China's current annual target is about 7.5 per cent while India's growth rate has slumped to about 5 per cent from double-digit figures of past years. "If we can join forces and make [China's economic growth rise to] 8 per cent or 8.5 per cent, and [India's economic growth rise to] 6 or 7 per cent, that would be a win-win situation for us," Tata said. "Can we do that with Europe? I doubt it. Can we do that with the United States? Maybe, more than with Europe, but still, compared with China, [the opportunity is] very low." There is no market barrier between the two countries in policy terms, but Tata said some Indian companies fear Chinese competition. "I believe India fears China will overrun India's economy [if more Chinese business is allowed in]," Tata said. "But it would help India to have China as an investor. Having the Chinese build telecoms or other infrastructure would create jobs. It would be a threat to competing Indian companies, but to the country, it would be a growth issue." Tata Group's presence in China includes a joint venture with Chinese carmaker Chery Automobile, with which it produces the premium car brand Jaguar Land Rover that the Tatas own. It also sources equipment from Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei. "Our experience with Huawei is excellent," said Tata, who was impressed by a recent visit to Huawei's China headquarters. Greater co-operation between Chinese and Indian companies cannot take place without the support of the two governments, said Tata, adding that a free-trade treaty is needed to boost economic relations between the two countries. Border tension between the two has hindered an economic and political relationship between the neighbours, which fought a brief war in 1962 in the high Himalayas over conflicting territorial claims. "For historical reasons at the government level, relations are not as friendly as they should be between India and China," Tata said. With a new government expected to take charge in New Delhi after the five-week parliamentary elections that started on April 7, Tata said he could not comment on whether there would be any changes in Sino-Indian ties. "I would hope the two governments sit together" and address each other's importance, he said. ^ top ^

VAT reform exemption exceeds 220 billion yuan (China Daily)
Chinese businesses saved 220.3 billion yuan ($35.5 billion) as of the end of March, due to a pilot plan to replace turnover tax with value-added tax (VAT), an official said on Tuesday. Yang Yimin, a department director of the State Administration of Taxation (SAT), said the VAT reform had covered nearly 3 million businesses so far. VAT is levied on the margin between production cost and commodity price on the market. It is favored partly because it can reduce double taxation and lift burdens for Chinese firms, especially smaller ones. Following regional experiments since the beginning of 2012, China began piloting the VAT reform in transportation and some modern service sectors throughout the country on Aug 1. The scope of the reform was then expanded to railway transportation and the postal service from Jan 1. From January to March, 18,648 businesses in the two sectors benefited from the preferential policy with tax exemption near 2.5 billion yuan, according to Yang. Yang said the SAT is working with other authorities on plans to expand VAT reform to more sectors, including telecommunications, construction, real estate and living services. Living services refer to services that meet people's daily needs, such as catering, accommodation, hairdressing and photography. "China will strive to complete VAT reform covering all merchandise and services by 2015," said Yang. ^ top ^

China allows private capital into government-led projects (Xinhua)
China will allow private capital to fund some infrastructure and energy projects that were previously dominated by the government and state-owned enterprises, according to an official statement issued on Wednesday. The move aims to accelerate reform of the country's investment and financing mechanism and to push forward the diversification of investing entities, said the statement, released after a State Council executive meeting presided over by Premier Li Keqiang. In the first batch, the government will roll out 80 pilot projects in several fields, including transportation infrastructure, new-generation information infrastructure, major clean energy projects, oil and gas pipelines, coal, chemical and petrochemical industries. The projects will be open to public bidding, and the government encourages the participation of private capital in the construction and operations of those projects through joint ventures, sole proprietorship and franchise. ^ top ^

Xiaomi to enter 10 new countries as expansion accelerates (SCMP)
Xiaomi, the four-year-old smartphone maker that outsells Apple in China, plans to enter 10 more countries this year as it accelerates international expansion. Sales will start in nations including India, Brazil and Russia, Lei Jun, Xiaomi's founder and chief executive officer, said in Beijing yesterday. The other markets announced by Lei are Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam. The maker of smartphones, televisions and routers is broadening its range of consumer electronics and expanding overseas to build on existing sales in its home market of mainland China as well as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore. Xiaomi keeps costs down by selling directly to consumers online and Lei has set a goal of boosting sales fivefold to 100 million phones in 2015. "You can certainly call this an acceleration," president and co-founder Bin Lin said after the event. "It's our mission and our belief that this model should be able to achieve some level of success outside China." The company recorded 1.5 billion yuan (HK$1.88 billion) in orders during a one-day web sale in mainland China on April 8, and is now the nation's third-largest e-commerce site, the company said. Xiaomi's Mi3 smartphone sells for 1,999 yuan, or less than half the 4,488 yuan price of Apple's iPhone 5c. Compared with the 5c, for example, Mi3 has a larger, sharper screen; a camera with higher-density pixels; and speedy quad-core processors from Nvidia or Qualcomm. Xiaomi captured 7 per cent of the China smartphone market in the fourth quarter, ranking just ahead of Apple, according to researcher Canalys. At the conference, Lei unveiled two new router products, one that sells for 699 yuan and can control household appliances as well a stripped down version for 129 yuan. Xiaomi also announced an update to its set-top TV Box. Founded in 2010 as a company to make software for mobile devices running Google's Android system, Xiaomi introduced its first smartphone in 2011. The company subsequently added the MiBox, a television set-top box, and then last September announced a 47-inch television that connects to the Web running the Android operating system. Xiaomi's valuation hit US$10 billion with a fundraising round in August, the same month it hired Hugo Barra from Google to lead international sales. ^ top ^

Beer firms profiting amid austerity drive (China Daily)
Beer is outstripping liquor and wine in terms of profitability in China, according to industry sources, and it's one of the few bright spots for alcoholic beverages amid a government crackdown on luxury spending that's hit sales of more prestigious drinks. He Yong, secretary-general of the beer branch of the China Alcoholic Drinks Association, told the 2014 China Beer Industry Annual Summit in Beijing on Wednesday that beer is the only part of the alcoholic beverage market that saw its profits grow last year. Beer producers' profits were up 21.5 percent last year. Revenue in the beer industry reached 181.4 billion yuan ($29 billion) last year, up 9.3 percent. Output grew 4.6 percent to 50.62 million kiloliters. The most significant growth is taking place in the western regions, but the eastern and southern parts are still the major beer consumption areas, accounting for 34.2 percent and 28.4 percent, respectively, of the national market. Analysts have said that beer is benefiting from the government's campaigns against lavish consumption, especially that paid for with public funds. He admitted that these campaigns have affected beer sales, but strong consumer demand has offset that impact. "Production and sales of the five major beer groups account for nearly 80 percent of the market," he said. Those five are Carlsberg China, China Resources Snow Breweries Ltd, Anheuser-Busch InBev SA, Tsingtao Brewery Co Ltd and Beijing Yanjing Beer Group Corp. Stephen Maher, chief executive officer of Carlsberg China, said the industry's annual growth rate has been halved to about 5 percent because of lower per capita consumption, excess production and a crowded field of brands that confuses drinkers. He said premium brands are the way to increase razor-thin profit margins. Within 10 years, premium beer products will account for 20 percent of the market in China, but they'll generate 50 percent of the profits. Zhao Zekai, general manager of Chongqing Beer Co, in which Carlsberg became the controlling shareholder at the end of 2013, plans to focus on central and eastern China. He said that the acquisition is providing international knowledge, marketing and distribution skills. Zeng Shenping, general manager of marketing for China Resources Snow Breweries, said that industry consolidation is helping boost growth for some brands. Tsingtao has grown 30 percent annually in the United States and more than 10 percent in European countries, where the local market has been depressed. ^ top ^

Economic "remedy" eyes more than growth: official (Xinhua)
While people are eagerly betting on the future of a slowed economy in China, a senior official has said it may take a relatively long time for a string of policies announced recently to take effect as this Chinese "remedy" eyes more than buoying growth. Fan Jianping, chief economist at the State Information Center under the National Development and Reform Commission, told Xinhua that these measures China adopted to stabilize growth will probably need more time than was required for the massive stimulus plans of the past. "However, the measures this time will be more sustainable and be capable of spurring the internal impetus of Chinese economy," said Fan, adding that he did not take them as stimulus moves. "The remedy, which I prefer to call them, targets more on boosting reforms, adjusting economic structure and enhancing people's welfare, although it can spontaneously impel growth," said the economist. To address downward pressure, China has rolled out a series of measures over the past few weeks, including shanty-town renovation, railway construction, cleaner energy projects, tax breaks for small firms, support for rural finance and a wider opening of the market to private capital. For Fan, private capital taking a bigger role in sectors once dominated by SOEs can not only tap investment potential but also help forge a market for different kinds of investors: an objective high on China's reform list. In his view, China's focus on cleaner energy projects is also noticeable. "Investment in nuclear power plants or hydropower stations is huge. But more significantly, these projects can restructure the country's current energy layout, which is essential to curb pollution and safeguard energy security," said Fan. Other measures as part of the "remedy" like government support for shanty-town renovation and affordable housing construction can partly offset the impact of a shrinking housing investment in the market. Ordinary people can benefit more from this "remedy" than they could from previous stimulus policies, according to Fan. "Therefore, the effects and time before the effects can set in may be quite different between recent moves and former stimulus plans," he predicted. People may expect a policy to take effect immediately, but they should take a new perspective to weigh China's new remedy in light of the economic slowdown, he warned. "China will not boost growth just for growth's sake and will not let today's stepping stone become tomorrow's stumbling rock," according to Fan. ECONOMY WITHIN RANGE - Fan reiterated that the Chinese economy is within a proper range as four major economic indicators, including GDP growth, inflation rate, employment rate and balance of payments, have all stayed sound. China's GDP rose by 7.4 percent year on year in the first quarter of 2014, beating popular market estimates of 7.3 percent. The tertiary industry, which is a powerhouse for future growth, accounted for a larger portion of the GDP, indicating an ongoing restructuring in the world's second-largest economy. Although increased food prices drove China's inflation at retail level to rise to 2.4 percent in March from 2 percent in February, Fan believes the inflation pressure still remained subdued. In addition, more than three million new jobs in cities and towns were created in the first quarter, taking up more than a third of the yearly target. China currently has a net capital inflow, showing that the country remains a magnet for foreign capital. A mild yet proper economic expansion creates room and time for China to realize its reform ambitions, Fan said. ^ top ^


DPRK and South Korea

North Korea hits out at UN meeting over its human rights abuses (SCMP)
North Korea hit out early on Saturday at an informal meeting of the United Nations Security Council in which the body was urged to slap sanctions on Pyongyang officials responsible for human rights abuses. Michael Kirby – the head of a special UN inquiry into North Korean rights abuses – had told Thursday's get-together convened by Australia, France and the United States that “perpetrators must be held accountable”. “It is necessary to deter further crimes,” the Australian judge said, adding that he also wanted the reclusive regime hauled before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for prosecution. Kirby's Commission of Inquiry on North Korea released a hard-hitting report on the nuclear-armed totalitarian state in February that documented a range of gross human rights abuses, including extermination, enslavement and sexual violence. “The commission of inquiry therefore recommends to the Security Council the adoption of targeted sanctions against those individuals most responsible for crimes against humanity,” he told the informal meeting. North Korea refused to co-operate with the probe and said the evidence was “fabricated” by “forces hostile” to the country. Pyongyang did not send a representative to Thursday's meeting, which was also snubbed by China – North Korea's sole major ally – and Russia. On Saturday, the North's official news agency KCNA released typically robust quotes attributed to a spokesman for Pyongyang's foreign ministry in which he slammed the meeting and Kirby's report. ^ top ^

Xi reassures Park on denuclearization (China Daily)
President Xi Jinping assured President Park Geun-hye of the Republic of Korea during a phone call on Wednesday that Beijing is firmly committed to denuclearization in the Korean Peninsula, a day after Seoul said that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea might be preparing a fourth nuclear test. China will firmly safeguard the stability of the peninsula while pushing for a peaceful settlement, Xi told Park during the call. "China stands ready to remain in close communication and coordination with the ROK on peninsula issues, and hopes all relevant parties can work together to reduce tension and safeguard its peace and stability," Xi said. The ROK's defense ministry said on Tuesday that increased activity at the Punggye-ri site in the DPRK indicated a forthcoming nuclear test. However, ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok also said it could be a "deception tactic" to raise tensions before US President Barack Obama's arrival in Seoul on Friday. Obama's weeklong tour of Asia, which started on Wednesday, will take him to Japan, the ROK, Malaysia and the Philippines. The United States said on Tuesday it was watching Pyongyang's move "very closely". The US-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies said recent satellite images did indeed show “new operations” at Punggye-ri but a test coinciding with Obama's visit was unlikely. "Recent operations at Punggye-ri have not reached a high level of intensity in terms of vehicle, personnel and equipment movement that occurred in the weeks prior to past detonations," it said. "Moreover, other possible indicators present before the North Korean nuclear tests in 2009 and 2013, such as communication vans and a satellite dish intended to transmit pre-test data, have not been spotted." Park expressed appreciation in the call with Xi for China's attempts to get the DPRK to suspend its testing program, a Seoul official said. "She asked for further efforts to persuade the DPRK, saying additional nuclear tests would completely alter the region's security map by triggering an arms race and a nuclear domino effect in the region," an official from the Blue House, the president's residence, said. Xi said it was in everyone's interest to avoid a rise in military tensions on the peninsula. The DPRK has conducted three rounds of nuclear tests — in 2006, 2009 and 2013 — all at Punggye-ri in the country's northeast. Zhang Liangui, a Korean studies researcher at the Party School of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, said Pyongyang is unlikely to abandon its nuclear testing, but the timing is not exactly right at the moment to conduct a test. "It has been the DPRK's national policy to develop nuclear weapons. There is no sign Pyongyang is ready to quit nuclear testing — and actually it is actively preparing for that," Zhang said. "The problem is when exactly the test will come." Zhang said it's "somewhat farfetched" to talk about a nuclear test during Obama's Asia tour. "Preparations for a test need lots of time and money. It's not as easy as letting off firecrackers," Zhang said. Zhang noted that it has been more than one year since the DPRK's last nuclear test, which occurred in February 2013. "Pyongyang's nuclear technology has improved through its past tests. It is natural for it to reduce the time gap," Zhang said, predicting that the next round of tests might come this year, possibly in October. During Wednesday's phone call, Park also told Xi that she welcomes him and hopes he will visit her country. (...). ^ top ^

Obama urges China on NK (Global Times)
US President Barack Obama Thursday characterized North Korea's behavior as provocative and irresponsible, adding that China's influence on the nation could be critical. Analysts said that China faces a "dilemma" in stopping North Korea's nuclear programs and warned that there could be greater risks if the US pushes Pyongyang too much. "North Korea has engaged in provocative actions for the last several decades. It's been an irresponsible actor on the international stage for the last several decades," Obama said at a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a day ahead of his visit to Seoul. Calling North Korea the most destabilizing factor in the Asia-Pacific region, Obama said North Korean leaders must change their behavior if they are serious about being a normal nation. Obama said by working with Japan, South Korea and China, the US will work to keep pressing North Korea so that "at some junction, they end up taking a different course." "China's participation in pushing the DPRK in a different direction is critically important," he added. While the passive North Korean policy of the Obama administration has not been efficient and has its limits, Washington wants Beijing to push Pyongyang on issues like nuclear weapons, said Yang Moo-jin, a professor of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. "But China is currently in a dilemma in dealing with North Korea," said Jin Qiangyi, director of the Asia Studies Center at Yanbian University in Jilin Province. China has limited influence on North Korea in terms of its nuclear program. While Beijing has to rein in Pyongyang for its own safety and reputation, pushing Pyongyang too hard may bring a huge risk - the collapse of North Korea, Jin said. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Thursday that China is steadfast in realizing the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and called for all parties to decrease tensions and work with China.In the run up to Obama's visit, South Korea's defense ministry warned that the North may carry out a fourth nuclear test at any time, citing heightened activity at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site. South Korean government also said that the North has placed a detonator, fissile material and measurement devices in a tunnel at its nuclear test site and has sealed it. "A fourth nuclear test will likely bring China and the US together," Jin said, adding that China and the US have not had in-depth exchanges on the North Korean issue in recent years, due to different strategic considerations. Obama is scheduled to fly to Seoul Friday to hold talks with South Korean President Park Geun-hye. He is due to leave Saturday night for Malaysia. "They will discuss nuclear issues and strengthening bilateral ties, but it's unlikely that they will make any bold statements such as on human rights issues," Yang said, adding that depression brought to South Koreans by the ferry disaster could also play down other agenda. The Korean ferry Sewol sunk on April 16. So far 175 have been confirmed dead, and 127 are still missing. Jin said that Obama may make promises to Park about the North Korean issue to pull South Korea closer to the US and away from China. Obama's trip also includes a visit to the War Memorial of Korea, a meeting with business leaders and a visit to the Combined Forces Command at the headquarters in Seoul, Yonhap News Agency reported. ^ top ^



Defense Minister of Mongolia is conducting an official visit to Japan (Info Mongolia)
Mongolian Defense sector delegates led by Minister Dashdemberel BAT-ERDENE are conducting an official visit to Japan upon the invitation of Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera on April 15-19, 2014. On Thursday, April 17, Mongolian Defense delegation visited the National Defense Academy of Japan, where Minister D.Bat-Erdene was received by Academy President Ryosei Kokubun, who introduced the facility activities. After which, Minister got acquainted with studies of Mongolian officers and cadets studying at the Academy. On the same day afternoon, Minister D.Bat-Erdene arrived at the Ministry of Defense of Japan, where Minister I.Onodera welcomed his counterpart with an official ceremony inspecting a guard of honor. After the ceremony, two Defense Ministers held an official meeting discussing some global and regional security problems facing today, and exchanged views on defense policies of the two countries, its relationship and partnership issues. Also, parties expressed their satisfaction on current accelerating ties between the two Ministries focused on bilateral common interests in particular to deepen friendly relations of the two peoples, to strengthen military trusts in the region and world, peace in the region and preserve stability in the form of new content based on the principles of enriched expansion. Since 1995, the defense relations between the Mongolia and Japan have been growing such as reciprocal visits at all-level, conducting meetings concerning regional security issues, exchanging information, organizing consultative meetings and training of military personnel, moreover two parties are closely cooperating in the forms of military engineers and military hospitals in recent years. ^ top ^

City Governor bans exploration and transportation of mining products (UB Post)
The Ulaanbaatar City Governor released a decree temporarily banning all exploration and transportation of the main mineral products in the central region last Friday. The decree aims to provide room for discussion regarding the regulation of heavy duty truck use around the region. The governor's decree gave instructions to related organizations to temporarily cease all exploration and transportation of main mineral products in the central region. The halt is in place until mining companies have built heavy duty roads and established a logistics center using their own funding to address the increasingly deteriorating roads caused by unregulated use of heavy duty vehicles. Furthermore, the Capital City Roads Authority was made responsible for providing consultation on establishing a logistics center and heavy duty roads. The Ulaanbaatar City Governor also asked related organizations to enforce the environmental rehabilitation work of mineral exploration license holders, and if need be, cease mineral exploration licenses. In accordance with the new decree, construction material companies and construction companies are required to establish two spaces outside and inside of their operation site for truck wheel cleaning. Failure to comply with the new requirements will result in the suspension of operation permits, according to the capital city authority. ^ top ^


Mrs. Lauranne Peman
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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