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
  24-30.1.2015, No. 558  
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DPRK and South Korea

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Spotlight: Chinese premier's Switzerland trip further develops bilateral ties, cooperation (Xinhua)
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's presence at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) and visit to Switzerland further promoted bilateral ties to a new level, and injected new conceptions into the cooperation. During the working visit to Switzerland, Li exchanged views with the President of the Swiss Confederation Simonetta Sommaruga on bilateral ties and regional issues of common concern, and outlined a roadmap for future development of bilateral relations. They witnessed the signing of several cooperation accords in finance, food, medicine, scientific research and personnel exchanges between the two countries. […] Financial cooperation is the brightest spot of Li's second visit to the Alpine country since he took office in 2013, which is famous for its banking system, precision instruments and pharmaceuticals. Under a memorandum of understanding signed by the central banks of the two countries, China agreed to give Switzerland an 8-billion-U.S.-dollar investment quota under its Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor (QFII) program, which kicked off in 2002 to allow foreign investment in Chinese securities using foreign currencies. The two sides also agreed to set up the first branch of a Chinese bank in the Swiss financial hub of Zurich for future renminbi clearance. The deal is set to materialize Beijing and Bern's pledge for closer financial ties and accelerate the establishment of a Zurich offshore RMB market. […] At the meeting with Sommaruga, the Chinese premier urged the two countries to well implement the China-Switzerland Free Trade Agreement (FTA), further optimize their trade structure and encourage and expand two-way investment. Moreover, the two countries should deepen cooperation in areas including high-end manufacture, energy conservation and environmental protection, as well as modern agriculture. […] Switzerland has become China's first free trade partner in the world's 20 leading economies and China's fifth-largest trade partner in Europe. According to statistics, bilateral trade rose steadily and the trade structure was further optimized in recent years. From January to November 2014, bilateral trade volume reached 38.86 billion U.S. dollars. At the same time, two-way investment has become a new growth point in Sino-Swiss economic and trade cooperation. The FTA has exemplary effect, as it will not only enhance economic and trade cooperation between the two countries, but also encourage other countries to follow the lead and work together with China for common development. […] As to cultural and social cooperation, Li and Sommaruga agreed to expand people-to-people exchanges and strengthen communication and cooperation in culture, science and technology, education, tourism and personnel training. Li called on the two sides to conduct more law-enforcement cooperation in tracking down fugitive corrupt officials, recovering embezzled money and combating transnational crimes. Against the backdrop of the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Switzerland, Li's visit will play an important role in consolidating the traditional friendship, enhancing mutual understanding and political trust, as well as rasing the levels of pragmatic cooperation between the two countries. ^ top ^


Foreign Policy

Favorable visa policy to draw talent (China Daily)
Easier access to work permits and green cards in the pipeline to attract top foreign experts China will expand the favorable visa policies of its 1,000 Talent Plan to dozens of other programs nationwide to attract leading professionals to work in the country. This move is expected to ease one of the top concerns of foreign talent in China. "In the past, we have had a very strict policy and high standards in terms of 'exit and entry', and the number of overseas talents in China is not that large," an official from the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security who wished a remain anonymous told People's Daily. "However, the 1,000 Talent Plan is a convenient channel. Now this channel is also open to experts from 55 programs. This will help to forge a diversified talent recruitment network." Foreign experts recruited through the 55 programs can apply for visas, residence permits and permanent residence — also called Chinese green cards — under the same standard for experts recruited by the national Recruitment Program of Global Experts, or the 1,000 Talent Plan. The various programs are offered by seven ministries, 21 provinces, 12 cities and one centrally administered enterprise. […] Wang Huiyao, president of the Center for China and Globalization, a think tank in Beijing, said the expansion of the policy means a lot in terms of applying for a Chinese green card. […] "But compared with other countries' permanent residence policies, I think the Chinese government still has to expand the scale instead of just focusing on talent programs," said Wang. "This means many foreigners have to be part of some 'programs' before they apply for a green card, and the many levels of examination and approval are quite confusing and time-consuming." Ralf Altmeyer, a German virologist who leads the academy's Institute Pasteur of Shanghai, said this will help diversify the distribution of foreign talent in China beyond the first-tier cities. However, Altmeyer also suggested governments do more to attract and retain foreign talent in China. "The quality of the working environment is the first thing and having children or spouses settled in China is another," said Altmeyer. […] ^ top ^

Chinese logging firms seek intervention over seized staff and equipment in Myanmar (SCMP)
Dozens of Chinese logging operators have petitioned local authorities in Yunnan to intervene over the arrests of more than 150 logging workers in Myanmar's Kachin State and the seizure of equipment worth hundreds of million yuan, the Beijing Times reported. The petition, sent to authorities in the border county of Tengchong, was signed by 23 owners of logging firms that operate in the region. The owners claimed they had paid for logging licences from a former member of the Kachin Independence Army who had since defected to the Myanmar government, and that they had declared all their timber to customs officials on both sides of the border. Kachin State, in the mountainous north of Myanmar, shares a long border with Yunnan, and local rebels have been battling the country's government on and off since 1961. A 17-year ceasefire broke down in 2011. More than 1,700 Chinese workers and drivers were based in logging camps raided by the Myanmar military, one operator told the paper. Most of them evaded the raid and hiked back to China with the help of the Kachin rebels after hiding in the forest for days. The Chinese loggers left behind hundreds of vehicles, cranes and other heavy equipment worth a of 300 million yuan, the firm owners said. “We feel too ashamed to go home, because we left China with expensive vehicles and equipment and returned with nothing but debts [for our vehicles loans],” a Chinese driver who fled Myanmar told the paper. Chinese workers, who do business mainly with the Kachin rebels, are often caught in raids on illegal logging when conflicts erupt between the rebels and the Myanmar government, both of whom claim ownership of natural resources in the disputed region, the paper said. The Foreign Ministry sent a team of negotiators to Myanmar, a local official told the newspaper, adding that Tengchong – as a county-level government – could not step into the dispute on behalf the detained workers. The ministry confirmed last week that more than 100 Chinese workers were arrested during a crackdown on illegal logging operations launched on January 4 in Kachin, and said China had asked the Myanmar government to protect the rights of the detainees. ^ top ^

US President Barack Obama's India trip is a 'message to China', say analysts (SCMP)
US President Barack Obama's trip to India, in which he displayed a close personal rapport with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has highlighted New Delhi's deep mistrust towards Beijing, analysts say. Obama's appearance as chief guest at India's Republic Day parade on Monday underlined the strengthening ties between the two countries and - according to some analysts - sent a message that India and the US could team up against China if needed. "The trip is a signal that both nations are exerting pressure on China," said Sun Shihai, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "It shows that India's worries about China are deep-rooted and have not eased even though Beijing and New Delhi have vowed to deepen cooperation." Without naming China, Modi and Obama stressed in a joint statement "the importance of safeguarding maritime security and ensuring freedom of navigation" over the South China Sea, where China has been involved in bitter maritime disputes and accused of aggression towards regional rivals. Obama's trip to India came amid attempts by Beijing and New Delhi to boost relations and calm tensions that have simmered since a border war in 1962. In September, China committed to investments worth US$20 billion in India, and vowed to maintain peace along the border. But there has been no significant progress in resolving the border dispute in the Himalayas, and reports of a standoff between troops from both nations are common. India has also been alarmed by Beijing's move to operate ports and host submarines in neighbours such as Sri Lanka. "India's alarm over China is going to remain for a long time," Sun said. "It needs US security backup." The strength of the relationship was unclear, observers said. India needs US support if it is to play a bigger role in the Asia Pacific and gain membership to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation. However, the country claims to have a policy of not forming alliances. "We are not part of anybody's plan to play a card against another country. We don't have the capacity," said Kishan Rana, a former Indian diplomat. Wang Dehua, a professor at the Shanghai Institute for International Strategic Studies, said India was eager for Chinese investment, especially on infrastructure projects. "Both China and India are clearly aware that there will be a harmful impact only if the confrontations linger on," he said. ^ top ^

China wants US to help build trust on maritime disputes (China Daily)
China, which regards the US as biased on maritime territorial disputes in the South and East China seas, has urged the US to say and do more to help strengthen mutual trust and cooperation among countries in the region. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying made pointed remarks in Beijing on Tuesday when asked to comment on President Barack Obama's words in New Dehli expressing his concerns over the freedom of navigation in Asia Pacific waters. Hua said China is active in advocating, promoting and contributing to peace and stability in the region. "We maintain that disputes in the South China Sea should be peacefully revolved through dialogue and consultation between countries directly concerned," she said. Hua described the overall situation of the South China Sea as stable, saying that China and ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries have reached a consensus that joint efforts should be made to safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea. "Freedom of navigation and overflight there have never seen any problems and will never see any in the future with the concerted efforts of China and relevant ASEAN countries," she said. "If relevant countries do wish for peace and stability of the region, they should do and say more that is conducive to the enhancement of mutual trust and cooperation between countries in the region," Hua said. Such words are often aimed directly at the US, which many Chinese believe is biased in trying to serve as a referee on maritime territorial disputes between its allies and China. […] US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki reiterated on Tuesday that the US does not take a position on sovereignty. "We do continue to encourage dialogue and for all sides to reduce tensions," she said, without saying whether the US is biased or not. "There has been a need to express concern at times about the actions of China. We have done that on occasion. We certainly raised that privately as well," she told the daily briefing. US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman was visiting China on Jan 27-28 to discuss a wide range of issues. In Beijing, Sherman had met senior Chinese government officials and scholars to discuss a wide range of bilateral and regional issues, including the P5+1 negotiations with Iran and the situation in the Middle East. She also met members of the civil society for a roundtable discussion, according to Psaki. A State Department press release last Friday described Sherman's visit to China as "reflecting continuing high-level US engagement with China and the importance of strengthening our bilateral relationship". Sherman will wind up her visit to China on Wednesday before going to South Korea on Jan 28-29 and Japan on Jan 29-30 - the two US security allies in the region that are at odds with each other largely due to territorial disputes and historical issues. The US has also been concerned that growing trade with China by countries in the region and its allies such as South Korea will pull them away from the US. […] ^ top ^

China pledges stronger exchanges with Sudan (Xinhua)
China's top political advisor Yu Zhengsheng vowed to cement political trust and party-to-party exchanges with Sudan in Beijing on Wednesday. Yu made the remarks while meeting with a delegation from Sudan's ruling National Congress Party (NCP) led by its deputy chairman Ibrahim Ghandour, who is also assistant to the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. The two countries have always supported each other since the forging of diplomatic ties 56 years ago, despite changes in the international landscape, said Yu, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. The Communist Party of China and the Chinese government always treat ties with Sudan from a strategic height and a long-term perspective, he said. China will adhere to a balanced approach of upholding justice and pursuing shared interests while developing ties with African countries, and stick to the policy of being true, practical, close and sincere to Africa, he said. Yu vowed to cement political trust with Sudan, share governance experience and push forward substantial cooperation in various areas. Calling China a sincere friend of Sudan, Ghandour said his country hopes to learn from China's development experience and deepen exchanges between both countries and ruling parties. Ghandour is visiting China to attend the third high-level dialogue between the two ruling parties. ^ top ^

China plans military parade (Global Times)
An upcoming military parade in Beijing to celebrate the 70th anniversary of victory in the anti-fascist war is set to demonstrate China's military prowess and determination to deter Japan in an effort to maintain the postwar order, according to an article published on the WeChat account of the People's Daily. It will be the first military parade carried out on a non-National Day occasion and the first such parade under Chinese President Xi Jinping since he took office in 2013. Wen Wei Po, a Hong Hong-based newspaper, reported on Tuesday that the parade is scheduled for September 3, the anniversary of victory in China's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-45). The newspaper also reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Beijing and attend the military parade. The news has not yet been officially announced by either government. Without confirming the military parade, China's foreign ministry said Tuesday that China is planning on holding "commemoration events" like many other countries in the world to demonstrate its stance in safeguarding world peace and the postwar order. […] A media officer from China's Ministry of National Defense told the Global Times on Tuesday that "the ministry has no information regarding the parade at the moment." However, the officer noted that "if there is a military parade in September, the announcement will be jointly made by several ministries or a work committee in charge of the activity, since the event will be at the State level." […] [The parade] also demonstrates China's determination and military might to maintain the postwar order, especially from the provocations of Japanese right-wingers, it said. "Those who challenge [Asia's] postwar order pose a threat to China's core national interests and will be deemed enemies of China." […] According to Wen Wei Po, the Beijing Military Command and the local People's Armed Police have already started parade training and the construction of a military parade village is near completion. The newspaper also said the scale of the parade will not be as big as the one held in 2009. […] "The parade sends a message to domestic Chinese. It's the first grand showcase of China's military since the anti-corruption campaign, especially after the fall of some high-level military officials. […] ^ top ^

China, Japan agree to launch maritime, aerial crisis management mechanism (Xinhua)
Chinese Defense Ministry said on Thursday that China and Japan have agreed to launch a maritime and aerial crisis management mechanism at an early date. Defense Ministry spokesperson Yang Yujun told a monthly press briefing that a consensus had been reached on various aspects in talks in Tokyo this month, including reaffirming previous agreements on the goal, constitution, operation and technical issues of the mechanism; agreeing to change the name of maritime crisis management mechanism to maritime and aerial crisis management mechanism so as to better conduct consultations on maritime and aerial issues. "The two sides also agreed that conditions for launching the mechanism are met and agreed to launch it as soon as possible," said Yang. Besides, both sides have reached consensus on telecommunications norms, he said. The defense ministries of China and Japan held the fourth round of talks in Tokyo on maritime crisis management mechanism on Jan. 12. The mechanism of high-level consultations on maritime affairs between the two countries was launched in 2012. After three rounds of successful talks, the talks were suspended after the Japanese government's so-called "nationalization" of China's Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea in September 2012. "Defense relations are an important and sensitive part of bilateral relations," said Yang, calling on Japan to abide by its commitment made previously including a four-point agreement reached in November and take substantial measures to improve bilateral relations. China and Japan signed a four-point principled agreement to improve bilateral ties in November in Beijing, in which they agreed to resume political, diplomatic and security dialogues while acknowledging different positions on the Diaoyu Islands. ^ top ^

China, France vow reciprocal cooperation in broader areas (Xinhua)
China and France vowed reciprocal cooperation in broader areas during the first China visit of French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Thursday. The pledge was made during talks between Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Valls, after which the two sides inked eleven deals of cooperation in areas including civil aviation, nuclear power plant, finance, maritime satellite, new energy automobile, environmental protection, and education. "We have many big projects that need to be promoted, such as nuclear power, railway and aviation. We also would like to explore with France the markets in other countries," Li said in a press briefing after the talks. Valls said France was ready to work with China to further promote cooperation in areas including aviation, nuclear energy, finance, agriculture, high speed railway, new energy automobile, and tourism. As for the bilateral trade, a concern of the French side, Li said China never seeks trade surplus with any country. He urged France to further ease restrictions on export of high technology products to China. "We should oppose trade protectionism and adhere to free trade, which will help our companies and industries' competitiveness," he added. Valls said he hoped French exports could get more Chinese market access to realize a balanced trade and called for more two-way investment between the two countries. Li hoped France could provide a more open, fair and friendly market environment for Chinese investment, which got a positive response from Valls. Valls told the press that he will meet Chinese businessmen and investors during his stay in Beijing and Shanghai, the second leg of his China tour. "I want to say that France welcomes Chinese investment," Valls said. The two prime ministers also pledged to conduct more cultural and people-to-people exchanges. On Friday, they will visit an exhibition of famous French sculptor Auguste Rodin in Beijing, which is a part of the activities marking the 50th anniversary of the China-France ties established in 1964. As two permanent members of the UN Security Council, the two sides also vowed to conduct close communication and coordination on major international and regional affairs, including climate change, anti-terrorism, and the fight against ebola. Li also hoped France, an important member of the European Union, will play a constructive role for the development of China-EU relations. Valls started his official China visit from Jan. 29 to 31. This is his first China visit since taking office in March 2014. ^ top ^

U.S., China to hold defense policy talks next week: Pentagon (Xinhua)
U.S. and Chinese defense officials will meet at the Pentagon on Feb. 5 for the Defense Policy Coordination Talks, the Department of Defense announced Thursday. David Helvey, deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, will host the talks with Rear Admiral Li Ji, deputy director of Foreign Affairs Office of China's Ministry of National Defense, Pentagon spokesman Jeff Pool said. […] The meeting is an important component of the broader program of engagements between the two militaries, which seeks to foster sustained and substantive dialogue, deepen practical cooperation in areas of mutual interest, and focus on enhancing risk reduction, Pool said. This year's talks, he added, will emphasize the positive momentum sustained in the U.S.-China military-to-military relationship over the past year, which included historic agreements to establish new confidence building measures between the two militaries, and endorse the robust program of engagements planned for the rest of the year. In Beijing, China's Defense Ministry spokesperson Yang Yujun on Thursday dismissed a U.S. media report that described the U.S.-China military ties as facing new obstacles citing that the Pentagon delayed a major new military exchange with China until the two sides could reach an agreement on rules for airborne encounters. China and the United States have actively developed a new model for military ties in 2014, featuring new progress in high-level exchanges, institutional exchanges, and joint training and exercises, said Yang. He noted that the "two mutual trust mechanisms," referring to a mutual reporting and trust mechanism on major military operations and a code of safe conduct on naval and air military encounters between the two sides, had become the highlight of the China-U.S. military ties. In the new year, China is willing to work with the U.S. to seriously carry out the consensus reached by leaders of both countries and push forward the healthy and stable development of the China-U.S. military ties, the spokesperson said. ^ top ^

MH370 ruled 'an accident' (Global Times)
The Malaysian Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) on Thursday officially declared the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 "an accident," pledging that the search for the plane "remains a priority," but the decision will enable the compensation process to begin. Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, director general of the DCA, said in a press conference that all 239 of the passengers and crew onboard MH370 are "presumed to have lost their lives." The Boeing 777 lost contact with air traffic control shortly after taking off from Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur on March 8, 2014 en route to Beijing. Of the 239 onboard, 154 passengers were Chinese nationals. An unprecedented search and rescue mission involving assets from 25 countries for 327 days yielded no information about the location of the aircraft, said Azharuddin. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday said it was a "hard moment" for suffering families and the Chinese people, urging the Malaysian side to fully investigate the accident and properly settle compensation claims, while continuing to make all efforts to locate the plane and passengers. Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying offered "profound sympathies and sincere condolences" to family members of the passengers, promising that the Chinese government, which had mobilized massive resources to aid the search, will stay with the families to provide help and continue the search operation. She also expressed deep appreciation and gratitude for efforts made by the governments of Malaysia, Australia and other countries and organizations. […] "There is no change to the underwater search that is currently being undertaken. […]" the Joint Agency Coordination Center of Australia told the Global Times Thursday. Dozens of family members of the Chinese passengers onboard, who received news of the announcement from local governments in Hebei and Guizhou provinces, gathered near the Malaysian Embassy in Beijing Thursday around midday, requesting a report with concrete evidence of the investigation before declaring their loved ones dead based on uncertainty. They were later transported to a hotel in Beijing's Shunyi Airport Logistics Zone after the Malaysian side postponed the scheduled briefing for two and a half hours. […] Families can file compensation claims immediately on within two years of the planned landing date of the flight, based on the calculation of the recipient court, according to the Montreal Convention, Hao Junbo, a seasoned international litigation lawyer, told the Global Times. This could be either March 8, 2016, or other later dates according to individual courts. The compensation could be at least 1.1 million yuan ($176,100) to 1.2 million yuan based on the special drawing right stipulated in the convention and will vary depending on further developments, including the cause of the accident to determine liability, said Hao. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

China sets up anti-counterfeiting alliance (Global Times)
A strategic alliance on infringement and counterfeiting eradication was set up in Beijing on Friday to further improve protection of intellectual property rights (IPR). More than 100 members of the non-government China Anti-Infringement and Anti-Counterfeiting Innovation Strategic Alliance called for modernized data sharing, a social common management mechanism and a civilian monitoring system for IPR protection. In the Internet era, IPR infringement needs a public service platform based on big data analysis and information sharing, said Hong Yunfeng, director of the alliance. The organization is devoted to building a fair business environment and carving out a new image internationally for Chinese enterprises and products, he said. Members of the alliance include companies like Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi Inc., e-commerce giant Alibaba, universities and industry associations. "With the popularity of our products, there are more and more counterfeit cellphones," said Liu Yanxia, anti-counterfeiting manager at Xiaomi Inc. Liu said she hoped the alliance would protect the rights of companies with its resources. Chinese authorities handled more than 110,000 cases of IPR infringement in the first three quarters of last year, according to the country's top office for nationwide operations against IPR infringement and counterfeiting. This year will see special campaigns to crack down on IPR infringement and counterfeiting in the booming e-commerce sector as well as in rural areas where law enforcement is lax, said Chai Haitao, deputy head of the office. ^ top ^

Unprecedented security risks threaten nation: CPC (Global Times)
The Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee has warned that China is facing unprecedented security risks and should remain on alert. The bureau convened on Friday for a meeting on security, and was presided over by President Xi Jinping, who is also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee. A national security strategy guideline was adopted at the meeting but no details have been revealed yet. According to a statement issued after the meeting, risks are unpredictable so the country must always be mindful of potential dangers. The statement said China will protect its security in "a pattern [consistent] with Chinese characteristics," firmly protect its core interests, with the safety of its people as its main mission, and safeguard national security through reform and economic development. China will contribute to global prosperity while actively protecting its interests, maintain favorable relations with other countries, work for a safe neighborhood and boost cooperation with developing countries. Song Zhongping, a military commentator, told the Global Times that domestic security was mainly threatened by terror attacks and violent incidents in the past year while the territorial disputes with some countries in the region required the country to boost its defense ability. To safeguard domestic security, he added, the country needs to upgrade its public security force and judicial organs to maintain society stability. The statement also underscored that national security must be under the absolute leadership of the CPC's efficient and unified command. At its third plenary session in November 2013, the CPC Central Committee decided to establish a national security commission headed by Xi. At the commission's first meeting in April 2014, Xi advocated an "overall national security outlook." "The guideline provides a framework for the commission's work and ensures its effectiveness. Other governmental bodies may come up with detailed policies under the guide of the commission," Song said. A source close to the commission told the Global Times that the commission is involved in the study and discussion of major security affairs. The source confirmed that Li Zhanshu, director of the CPC Central Committee's General Office, is the director of the office of the commission. The office is in charge of communication with ministries, military and scholars, as well as counselling to the leadership, an anonymous expert told the Global Times. ^ top ^

China Communist Party magazine blasts professors who spread 'Western values' (SCMP)
The Communist party's influential magazine Qiushi Journal yesterday lashed out at university professors for defaming China by spreading Western values, raising concerns about academic freedom on the mainland. A commentary by Xu Lan, an official with the publicity office of Ningbo, Zhejiang province, and posted on Qiushi's website, criticised Peking University legal professor He Weifang for defaming the mainland's legal system through promoting "the rule of law" on Weibo. Xu also assailed well-known painter Chen Danqing, who also uses his Weibo account to criticise the current state of civil society on the mainland while glossing over US culture. Chen appeared to be "inducing Chinese people to go to the US", Xu wrote. Chen, a former art lecturer at Tsinghua University, is well-known for lampooning the differences between the legal and civil systems of the mainland and Western countries. "It will be a disaster if we fail to set up standards and a bottom line to prevent high school and university teachers spreading Western values through internet platforms to defame our communist ideology," Xu wrote. He Weifang said that compared with former leaders like Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, who keenly promoted the concept of rule of law and constitutional government before the party came to power in 1949 after the civil war. He said he had only made a small contribution to the debate: "How could the party be so easily defamed by the comments of a few scholars? A party's reputation can only be harmed by a crackdown on free speech." Chen Daoyin, an associate professor at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said Xu's commentary indicated that some officials and politicians were keen to please President Xi Jinping. "Such opportunistic comments are a legacy of the Cultural Revolution, and threaten academic freedom on the mainland," Chen said. Last week, the State Council and the General Office of the Communist Party's Central Committee ordered universities to step up the teaching of Marxism and Chinese socialism. Xinhua reported that this was was a "major and pressing strategic task" to fulfil Xi's call for greater "ideological guidance" to teachers and students. […] ^ top ^

Xi Jinping visits PLA unit linked to Bo Xilai on first inspection tour of the year (SCMP)
President Xi Jinping chose the 14th Army Corps, a former power base of the jailed Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai, for his first domestic inspection tour this year. Military observers said the visit was aimed at boosting military morale amid the ongoing anti-corruption campaign in the armed forces. Xi, who is also chairman of the Central Military Commission, urged soldiers in the Kunming, Yunnan-based 14th Army Corps to follow the instructions of the Communist Party to consolidate the development of the army, Xinhua reported. The army unit was dubbed the power base of Bo because his father, Bo Yibo, was one of the founders of the battle group. In later years, the younger Bo boasted of his ties with the military unit. A few days after Bo's right-hand man and police chief Wang Lijun attempted to defect to the US consulate in Chengdu in February 2012, Bo paid a high-profile visit to the 14th Army Corps in his capacity as Chongqing's party chief. Bo was jailed for life in September 2013 for corruption and abuse of power. "The end of Bo Xilai also proved the 14th army group's innocence. Xi's inspection of the unit might be aimed at clarifying rumours about the close relationship between the battle group and Bo's family," Hong Kong-based military observer Leung Kwok-leung said. "In fact, Bo Yibo never took charge of the unit, even though he was one of the founders of the 14th Army Corps." […] Later in the day in Kunming, Xi also visited the local base of the Second Artillery Corps, which controls the PLA's strategic missile forces. He told troops to maintain a "high degree of unity, purity and solidarity". […] ^ top ^

10m new jobs on way, Li vows (China Daily)
Premier says that economic growth speed will be kept at medium-to-high. Premier Li Keqiang pledged on Monday to create at least 10 million jobs this year by maintaining economic growth at medium-to-high speed through stable macroeconomic policies. He said job creation remains the most important index in drafting the country's target for economic growth, which many experts believe will slow further this year to about 7 percent from 7.4 percent. Li made the jobs pledge at a meeting with economic experts and corporate leaders from burgeoning industries such as Internet and information technology, as well as industries with overcapacity. The meeting, held to gauge opinions on the government's policies and its Annual Work Report this year, lasted for more than two and a half hours. Li said China is expecting a new urban labor force of more than 16 million this year and a rural labor force of 6 million, meaning the government has to create at least 10 million new jobs in 2015. "Stress tests show the possibility of a large amount of unemployment, which could lead to social instability if the economy cools down too fast," he said. China created 13 million new urban jobs last year, with both the registered and surveyed unemployment rates lower than in 2013. […] "As the European Union is joining other areas in quantitative easing, it is becoming increasingly difficult for China to remain unchanged in its fiscal and monetary policy," Li said. "But it is important to do so, since we must give the market a stable expectation." Monday's meeting was the first of three symposiums to be held seeking suggestions on the Work Report, which Li is due to deliver at the annual meeting of the National People's Congress in March. The report will include major economic and social development targets for 2015, including targets for economic growth, job creation, the consumer price index and others. Wu Xiaoling, deputy director of the Financial and Economic Committee of the National People's Congress, who spoke at the meeting, agreed on the need for a generally prudent monetary policy, but said this has to be flexible sometimes to avoid risks. […] ^ top ^

China president stresses Marxist materialism in effort to silence critics (SCMP)
President Xi Jinping sought to silence critics at both ends of the political spectrum on Friday by using a Politburo study session to underscore his commitment to Marxism and socialism, analysts said. The Politburo squeezed a collective study session on Marxist dialectical materialism into its tight schedule, a year or so after it held a similar one on historical materialism. In his speech to the Politburo session, Xi stressed that dialectical materialism was the party's worldview and methodology in its efforts to unite and lead the people. Analysts said Xi, who is Communist Party chief, also used the platform to unify thought within the Politburo on national development. "The high-profile study session comes amid heated debate about China's future path, with the two extremes of the political spectrum focusing on either Western political thinking or Chinese traditional culture and values," said Gu Xiao, a professor of political philosophy at Nanjing University. Gu said there were diverging views in the Politburo over what steps the country should take next but "Xi used the platform to silence all political opponents, from the left and the right, of his policy". But some observers said Xi's declaration was simply routine. "It's a political declaration that party leaders have to do from time to time," Renmin University political scientist Zhang Ming said. Analysts said the session came as Xi and other leaders were increasingly under pressure to answer a string of theoretical questions about the country's development path. […] The Politburo held a similar study session on Marxist historical materialism in 2013. Dialectical and historical materialism are the two main components of Marxist philosophy and posit that the realities of the world determine what people think and believe. The principles are in opposition to idealism. Xi said the aim of the two study sessions was to help leaders understand Marxist philosophy in even more depth. Zhu Lijia, public policy professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance, said the leaders needed to find a theoretical solution to China's development, and Marxist philosophy offered a way. "Marxist philosophy has provided the methodology to tackle China's [development] problem," Zhu said. ^ top ^

Internet regulation misconstrued as 'closed-door' policy (Global Times)
Western media have once again vilified China following its latest move to manage its cyberspace. Some virtual private network (VPN) providers were reportedly blocked after an "upgrade" of the Great Firewall, a system devised to filter online information on the Chinese mainland. VPN software is used to circumvent Internet censorship by encryption and rerouting. China's efforts to ramp up regulation in cyberspace have come under increasingly severe condemnation. Some Western defenders of free speech have even pretentiously compared China's endeavors to employing a "closed-Internet" policy, an analogy of the "closed-door" policy initiated by China's Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), which resulted in China's backwardness for centuries. Is the Internet being "closed" in the most populous and energetic country? The answer, categorically, is no. China has no intention of detaching itself from the information age. According to China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, in 2013, China's information industry, whose massive size was worth 12.4 trillion yuan ($1.98 trillion), contributes 22 percent of its GDP. In 2014, Wuzhen, a city in East China's Zhejiang Province, was chosen as the permanent site for the World Internet Conference. Besides, China's most globally well-known enterprises, such as Alibaba and Baidu, are Internet-based. Such rapid development and global reputation cannot be earned by a country which has cut access to the Internet. Cyberspace is a virgin land where freedom can spiral out of control. Regulation is badly needed as various countries are striving to manage the Internet in the way that best suits their own country. Since online information flows with disregard to national borders, it is a natural response from each government to exercise its cyber sovereignty and set up limits for information communication. Even in the US, which boasts the most liberal Internet environment, sites such as Facebook do not hesitate to ban accounts that they think are inappropriate. China is still figuring out how to strike its own balance between protecting cyber sovereignty and securing freedom in communication. China needs both Internet openness and Internet security, on which the government and public has consensus. The West has almost developed the habit of making a fuss whenever the Chinese government takes new actions in cyberspace regulation, cursing China for cracking down on free speech or implementing a closed-door policy. However, their criticisms seem wholly unconvincing at a time when China is becoming more associated with the outside world. ^ top ^

Blocking VPN is for Internet safety: Official (China Daily)
China's moves to block virtual private network services are for the "healthy development" of the Internet, a top official from the industry watchdog said on Tuesday. "The rapid development of Internet is forcing the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) to use new ways to maintain cyber security and steady operation," said Wen Ku, director of telecom development at the MIIT. "The country needs new methods to tackle new problems... the development of Internet has to be in accordance with Chinese law," Wen added. Last week, VPN providers Astrill, StrongVPN and Golden Frog all claimed disruptions in their services in the Chinese mainland. ^ top ^

China's army must strictly obey Xi Jinping's orders: PLA Daily (SCMP)
China's military must “resolutely obey” President Xi Jinping's orders, says a commentary on the PLA Daily's website, in a sign that Xi is seeking to quell possible dissent as his anti-corruption campaign penetrates deeper into the armed forces. “Adherence to the Party's absolute leadership is a founding principal of the army,” read the commentary published on Wednesday on the website of the People's Liberation Army. All officers and soldiers should “resolutely obey” the Communist Party and Central Military Commission chairman's orders. Xi heads both the party and the commission, the highest military body. […] “There must have been a lot of grumbling in the PLA,” said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, director of government and international studies at Hong Kong Baptist University. “It underscores that there must have been some friction between Xi and some leaders. Otherwise they wouldn't need a frontpage commentary.” Representatives of the military participated for the first time in the annual plenary session of the party's top disciplinary agency, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, earlier this month, according to the People's Daily's WeChat account. At a recent internal meeting with senior military officials, Xi urged top PLA officers to set an example for both the military and the public. […] ^ top ^

Chinese rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang's criticism of Communist Party used to indict him (SCMP)
Incriminating commentaries posted online by detained human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang have emerged, showing that his often sarcastic criticisms of the Communist Party and its policies towards ethnic minorities and neighbouring countries crossed the authorities' limits of tolerance. Pu, who was put in criminal detention in May after he joined an event marking the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown, has been charged with "picking quarrels and provoking trouble", inciting separatism and ethnic hatred, and illegally obtaining personal information. He faces a lengthy jail term. About 30 microblog messages sent by Pu from 12 Weibo accounts between 2011 and 2014 were used to indict him, his lawyer Shang Baojun said. But Shang said the messages were not criminal in nature. "[They were] his opinions on people or events - these should be within the domain of free speech. […] Shang said Pu had denied all the charges, which together carry a maximum jail term of 20 years. In his commentaries, Pu had been highly critical of the party. "From top to bottom, the Communist Party cannot survive without telling lies," he said in one post. He also poked fun at officials including Shen Jilan, an elderly legislator who claims never to have voted "no" in parliamentary sessions, and Mao Xinyu, the grandson of Mao Zedong and a major general in the People's Liberation Army. […] He also criticised China's ethnic policies in Xinjiang and Tibet. […] While criticising Japan's wartime atrocities in China, one of his posts said: "If China was ruled by Japan, it would have been 10,000 times better than now." Human rights advocates say Pu's arrest is aimed at silencing him and is part of the wider crackdown on rights lawyers, activists and civil society. ^ top ^

China's supreme court branches out to ease legal actions (Xinhua)
China's Supreme People's Court (SPC) opened its first branch in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen on Wednesday to save citizens time and money for traveling to Beijing. The SPC's First Circuit Court, inaugurated in Shenzhen, southern Guangdong Province, will primarily handle major administrative, civil and commercial cases, which are filed from Guangdong and Hainan province as well as Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and should have been heard by judges of the SPC in Beijing. "The circuit court will save people the time and resources it takes to travel the long distance to Beijing for court cases," said Kong Xiangjun, deputy president of the circuit court. Shenzhen is about 2,000 km away from Beijing, more than three hours by air. Judges from the circuit court will travel across three provincial divisions to hear cases so that citizens in remote areas do not need to go to Shenzhen, Kong said. […] The SPC's Second Circuit Court will be set up in Shenyang, capital city of northeast China's Liaoning Province, covering the provinces of Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang, according to a document issued by the SPC on Wednesday. […] Both courts will start processing cases on Sunday. […] The circuit courts are adjudicatory organs designated by the SPC and their judgements, orders and decisions equal those of the SPC, said Wednesday's document. It stipulated 11 types of cases will be handled by the circuit courts, […]. Intellectual property rights, foreign-related commercial, maritime, death penalty review, national compensation, ruling enforcement as well as protests lodged by the SPC will still handled by SPC headquarters. All the judges working in the circuit courts will be selected and sent by the SPC. ^ top ^

2.8 billion trips expected during spring festival in China (Xinhua)
A total of 2.807 billion trips are expected to be made by Chinese people during the Spring Festival travel rush, according to the Ministry of Transport Thursday. The number, which excludes trips through public buses and taxi, is 3.4 percent higher than the previous year, said Xu Chengguang, spokesman of the ministry. The 40-day travel frenzy is known as "Chunyun", the hectic period surrounding Chinese New Year which falls this year on Feb. 19. Chunyun began on Feb. 4 and will last until March 16. Several new high-speed railways have been built and put into operation in 2014 that will further help reduce crowds during the travel rush, Xu said. China Railway Corporation earlier this month had announced plans to run more trains to cope with the travel rush. Chinese New Year celebrations, known as Spring Festival, are China's most important family holiday, with hundreds of millions of people heading to their hometowns to meet with relatives and old friends, putting huge stress on transportation system. […] The transport networks -- road, rail, aviation and waterways -- have set new highs for "Chunyun" numbers almost every year in the past decade. Railways are expected to see a rise of 10 percent in passenger trips year on year, a greater rise than any other transport options, official data showed. ^ top ^

Party seeks info on unnatural deaths (Global Times)
Chinese authorities have launched an investigation into suicides nationwide of public officials, ordering local officials to report unnatural deaths in the last two years when the sweeping crackdown on corruption began. An investigation notice, issued by the Organization Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in January, states officials should complete forms to provide information on the deceased officials, including their names, sex, rank and office, together with the time and causes of death. If the death was a suicide, further information such as the location and method of death, plus the status of the investigation, should be provided. Officials must try to identify the reason for the suicide, including alleged involvement in illegal activities, psychological disorders, work pressure, family issues or other reasons. For suicides that took place during corruption investigations, officials were asked to indicate whether the probe was against the deceased or a family member or colleague. More than 50 Party members and government officials have died of unnatural causes since late 2012, according to a report by Caixin media on Thursday. In the latest case, Shao Jianhua, a former Party secretary of Langxi county in Anhui Province, drowned in a local reservoir on Sunday. Shao was accused of abusing power and bribery from December 2013 to February 2014, The Beijing News reported. Early this month, Yang Weize, the former Party secretary of Nanjing, as Changjiang Times reported, attempted to jump from the window of his office building when approached by discipline inspection officials. He is under corruption investigation after the unsuccessful suicide attempt. […] Qi Xingfa, an associate professor with the Department of Political Science at East China Normal University, told the Global Times that the rate of unnatural deaths has risen since late 2012, when President Xi Jinping launched an anti-corruption drive targeting both "tigers and flies," meaning both high and low level officials. […] The spread of the anti-graft probe and sudden arrests have created enormous pressure on the officials who are presumed guilty of corruption, he added. While the notice says that the results of the investigation should be submitted by January 12, Qi believes it is unlikely that the information would be made public. […] ^ top ^

Scores of PLA officers punished (China Daily)
Military auditors have targeted thousands since the start of 2013, report says. More than 200 senior People's Liberation Army officers have been reprimanded, demoted or removed from their posts for problems exposed by military auditors, PLA Daily reported on Thursday. A total of 4,024 officers with the rank of lieutenant colonel or above, including 82 generals, have been the subject of scrutiny by PLA auditors since January 2013, the newspaper said. Of these, 21 were removed from their posts, 144 were demoted and 77 reprimanded and asked to correct the problems that were discovered, the report said. It added that another 61 officers were given poor evaluations because their units were found to have many financial problems. More than 820 such problems at 180 military units were uncovered by auditors, who focused on infrastructure construction projects and the development of major weapons. Auditors also found 216 clues that led to suspected corruption or other misconducts. They reported these to PLA disciplinary inspectors or prosecutors, resulting in the formal investigation of more than 60 officers and internal punishment for nearly 160 service members. The number of clues uncovered by PLA auditors last year was more than the total reported in the three decades before 2014. Auditors prevented as much as 12.1 billion yuan ($1.9 billion) in military funds from being misused or wasted. […] The newspaper [PLA Daily] quoted an unidentified military prosecutor as saying that more than 90 percent of criminal cases within the PLA are related to infrastructure construction, property development, equipment purchasing as well as personnel and fund management. In early November, the Central Military Commission placed the PLA Auditing Office under its direct management. The office had been administered by the PLA General Logistics Department. Last year, 15 high-ranking officers including Xu Caihou, former vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, and Gu Junshan, former deputy head of the PLA General Logistics Department, were placed under investigation on suspicion of corruption. […] ^ top ^



Beijing misses annual particle pollutant target in 2014: Mayor (Global Times)
Beijing failed to meet a key pollution reduction target last year with annual average density of PM2.5 down four percent, less than the five percent target, the city's mayor said on Friday. PM2.5 refers to fine particles measuring less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter and can be inhaled deep into human lungs, posing severe health hazards. The Chinese capital has become increasingly susceptible to choking smog in recent years, partly due to the rise of PM2.5 density in the atmosphere. The PM2.5 reduction target will remain at five percent for this year and the municipal government plans to spend 10.8 billion yuan (1.76 billion US dollars) to tackle air pollution, said Beijing Mayor Wang Anshun during the city legislature's annual session on Friday. The municipal government vowed stringent enforcement of environment protection laws and regulations this year and will initiate charges on clearing particles emitted from construction sites. The municipal government also pledges greater fiscal support for pollution control. The local legislature will also review enforcement of a pollution reduction guideline that went effective in March last year. ^ top ^

LGBT activist slams hospital for malpractice (Global Times)
A gay right activist on Monday has accused a Beijing hospital of providing conversion treatment, and called on the government to stop all hospitals from the practice. Xiao Fan (pseudonym), a lesbian and an LGBT rights advocate, told the Global Times that she had reported the Beijing National Olympic Psychological Hospital to the Health Bureau of a district in Beijing. She said she sought help from the hospital after breaking up with her girlfriend, and doctors said she would be fine "once the disease of homosexuality was cured." She recalled that a doctor surnamed Zhou said "being a lesbian is a psychological disease" and the doctor presented many "successful" cases of conversion treatment. Another doctor at the hospital surnamed Liu guided Xiao Fan through a chromosomes test which showed that she was "an acquired lesbian" that could be treated. Xiao Fan described the test, which cost her 480 yuan ($77), as "ridiculous" and she felt cheated, as it was completed within 20 minutes with an iron stick. The Chaoyang Health Bureau confirmed that they received the report but did not provide further details. "Authorities said they would announce preliminary investigation results within seven days," Xiao Fan said. A hospital employee surnamed Li said that "we have yet to receive a notice. We need to talk with the complainant and discuss how to deal with this problem." "We hope publicizing the case could arouse the authorities' attention and improve their supervision of clinics or hospitals who conduct this so-called conversion therapy," Xiao Tie (pseudonym), the director of the Beijing LGBT Center, told the Global Times. Xiao Tie said that many gay men and women chose conversion therapy, hypnosis and electroshock, but most of them did so because of family pressure and discrimination. […] The third version of the Chinese Classification of Mental Disorders (CCMD-3) in 2001 removed homosexuality and bisexuality from the list of disorders, following the lead of the 1980 version of the US Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. ^ top ^



Shanghai takes China lead as annual report ignores GDP growth target (SCMP)
Shanghai has become the first big city or provincial government to drop economic growth targets from its annual work report, a landmark break from the country's decades-long obsession with GDP. Delivering his work report to the full session of the municipal legislature, which opened yesterday, Mayor Yang Xiong said the goal for Shanghai's economy this year was simply to "maintain steady growth while introducing structural optimisation and achieving better quality and higher efficiency". Yang added that the government aimed to create 500,000 jobs and keep registered unemployment below 4.5 per cent. Both President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang have cautioned officials publicly for the past two years against benchmarking their performance by GDP numbers alone, a practice some analysts blame for environment degradation and social grievances. In the past two years, Shanghai has lowered its growth target from 8 per cent to 7.5 per cent. Yang said in his report that the city's growth rate slowed further to 7 per cent last year. Bank of Communications chief economist Lian Ping said the end of the GDP target meant Shanghai was no longer focusing most of its efforts on economic growth. "Instead, it's paying more attention to the quality and efficiency of the economy, and, as the mainland's financial and economic hub, to improving the way it serves the Yangtze River Delta and the whole country," Lian said. Zhu Lijia, public policy professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance, said the decision was a wise move and could prompt other local governments - and maybe even the central government - to follow suit. […] Yang also used the report to lay out Shanghai's plan to realise cross-border yuan clearing and develop high-value-added shipping services. […] Shanghai's Communist Party boss, Han Zheng, told a legislature panel that the city had much soul searching to do on managing public safety after the fatal New Year's Eve stampede. Han also told cadres from Pudong district, which has been included in the city's expanded free-trade zone, to be at the forefront of national reform. ^ top ^



China's great expectations for free trade as Guangdong gets in the zone (SCMP)
[…] Li Chunhong, director of Guangdong's Development and Reform Commission, said last week that the Guangdong FTZ could be set up officially as soon as February 26 or 28. The State Council gave approval last month for Guangdong, Tianjin and Fujian to set up FTZs, a little over a year after Shanghai started a similar endeavour. The Guangdong FTZ is expected to play a major role in deepening cooperation with Hong Kong and Macau, while also improving cross-border cooperation. The 116 sq km zone stretches across parts of Guangzhou's Nansha New Area, Qianhai and Shekou in Shenzhen, and Hengqin in Zhuhai. Qianhai will work with Hong Kong on finance; Hengqin will explore cooperation with Macau; and Nansha will leverage its central location in the Pearl River Delta to develop shipping, logistics, equipment manufacturing, technology, commercial services, tourism and health. As a sign of its significance, Premier Li Keqiang dedicated both of his new-year tours in 2013 and 2015 to Guangdong. His most recent visit came only 25 days after approval of the Guangdong FTZ. He urged the province to take the lead in clearing obstacles to reform by making full use of its geographical advantages and the talent pool available in Hong Kong and Macau. Li also hinted that a cross-border stock trading arrangement involving Shenzhen could be set up, just two months after the launch of the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect scheme, linking the cities' stock exchanges and giving global investors access to Chinese stocks from Hong Kong. Qu Jian, deputy director of the Shenzhen-based China Development Institute, said the province was an experienced pioneer. […] Yet some experts worry about its prospects and doubt that it can deliver more economic advantages than Shanghai. […] Professor Lin Jiang, deputy head of Sun Yat-sen University's Free Trade Zone Research Institute, warned that the complicated governance of the Guangdong FTZ - involving provincial, city and district governments, as well as input from the zone's district management committee and the national zone management committee - would only weigh on its efficiency. ^ top ^

China's Pearl River Delta is world's largest urban area: WB report (China Daily)
The Pearl River Delta comprising a cluster of cities in Southern China has overtaken Tokyo as the world's largest urban area in terms of both population and land area, the World Bank said on Monday. The Pearl River Delta, including Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Foshan and Dongguan, has 42 million inhabitants, a population larger than that of Argentina, Canada or Malaysia, the bank said in a report on urbanization in East Asia. The report said that almost 200 million people in East Asia, which includes Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia, moved to urban areas in the decade ended 2010. About 36 percent of the population in the region lived in urban areas as of 2010, up from 29 percent at the beginning of the decade. The report, based on data including those gathered through satellite imagery and geospatial mapping, said that the region has 869 urban areas with more than 100,000 people, including eight megacities with a population of over 10 million as of 2010. Urban areas in the region expanded at an average rate of 2.4 percent per year during the decade, with urban land reaching 134,800 square kilometers in 2010. Urban populations rose at a faster rate of 3 percent. The report also finds a link between urbanization and income growth. World Bank urban development expert Abhas Jha said he hopes the report will push policy makers to a shift from a "car centric" to a "people centric" strategy in growing cities to address challenges such as traffic congestions. The report also said that data shows that only less than one percent of the total area studied is urbanized and that the urbanization in the region has just begun given that only 36 percent of the population is urban. ^ top ^

14 police suspended after beating up journalists (Global Times)
Fourteen police officers were suspended after three journalists in South China's Guangdong Province Monday claimed that they were severely beaten up by officials who allegedly consumed a rare and protected animal with government funds during an undercover interview. The journalists from Guangzhou-based Nandu Daily said that several officials and security guards beat them up and seized their camera Wednesday night at a restaurant at Luohu district, Shenzhen, where the officials and guards allegedly gathered and consumed a giant salamander. According to the Nandu Daily, 28 people attended the dinner party on Wednesday and several of them were from the local public security department, including the head of public security bureau of the Dongshen branch Wang Yuanping and retired official named Wang Yinghang. Shenzhen police said on Monday that they have started investigating the incident and Wang Yuanping was under investigation. Several security guards were seen standing outside two of the restaurant's function rooms, the daily said. One man in a room was heard saying that "in my territory, it is my treat. I chose this because it is unique while it is under my control … And it is safe here," said the report. After the journalists' identities being exposed as taking pictures, one of them was kicked and slapped while another was robbed of his cell phone, leaving his hands bleeding. The photographer was choked and beaten up, while his camera was smashed. The report said that the dinner cost 6,352 yuan ($1,020), not counting the wine consumed. One of those at the dinner brought two cases of yellow wine and a giant salamander, which he claimed to be artificially bred in Guizhou Province. The attendees also received a bag of fish from the local Donghu water reservoir, a main drinking water reservoir for Shenzhen, where fishing is banned. An employee of the restaurant told the Nandu Daily that similar parties have been organized and paid for by a company manager surnamed Li. Liu Qingsheng, the head of Shenzhen public security bureau, visited Nandu Daily on Saturday and told reporters that the party was organized and paid for by a retired official, but it was unclear whether the giant salamander was brought from Guizhou. ^ top ^

28 H7N9 human cases in south China's Guangdong (Xinhua)
Three more human cases of H7N9 bird flu have added the tally to 28 in south China's Guangdong Province since the start of the year, local health authorities said Thursday. The three cases were reported on Wednesday in cities of Shenzhen, Foshan and Meizhou, the provincial health and family planning commission said in a statement. A 21-year-old man from Shenzhen and a 59-year-old man from Meizhou were in stable condition, while a 42-year-old woman from Foshan was in critical condition. Health experts have warned that Guangdong, which borders Hong Kong, has entered the high-incidence period for bird flu, which usually crops up in winter and spring seasons. A series of human infection reports and the belief that most cases come from exposure to infected poultry have led to the culling of thousands of chickens in Guangdong and Hong Kong this year. Several cities in Guangdong have also taken measures to restrict live poultry trade to curb the spread of the disease, raising concerns about the impact on the industry. In addition to Guangdong, Shanghai, Fujian, Jiangxi and Zhejiang in east China have all reported human cases of H7N9 this winter. H7N9 is a bird flu strain first reported to have infected humans in March 2013. ^ top ^



Tibet to make law on traditional "sky burial" (Xinhua)
Tibet Autonomous Region will make a law to better protect sky burials, a traditional ritual that has drawn controversy after guides began leading tour groups to view the ceremony. Sky burial is a Tibetan and Mongolian tradition in which bodies are fed to vultures and other predatory birds. It is regarded an act of generosity and a ritual that allows the soul to ascend to heaven. The Regional People's Congress of Tibet, the local legislature that concluded its annual session on Friday, passed a bill to better regulate sky burials, covering issues like management of the site, environmental protection and qualification of ritual hosts. "It will be the first time for Tibet to regulate sky burials using legislation, which shows respect and offers protection to the millennium-old tradition," said Samdrup, an official with the standing committee of the regional People's Congress. The law will address complaints that some travel agents have shown disrespect to the tradition by organizing tours to sky burial sites. In 2005, the Tibetan government issued a provisional rule that banned sightseeing, photographing and video recording at such burial sites, or publishing reports and pictures describing the rituals. ^ top ^

Officials that aided Dalai Lama investigated in 2014 (Global Times)
Several officials who participated in the illegal underground "Tibetan Independence" organization, provided intelligence to the Dalai Lama clique and assisted activities that would harm national security, were put under investigation in 2014, authorities in the Tibet Autonomous Region said Tuesday. A total of 15 officials were punished by the Communist Party of China (CPC) for violating Party and political discipline in 2014, said Wang Gang, an official with the Party discipline inspection commission of Tibet. Six "typical" cases of Party members and civil servants violating discipline have been announced in Tibet and 45 officials who abandoned their positions and neglected their duties have been severely punished, said Wang. Some officials failed to take a firm stand on issues related to the Tibet question and some grass-root officials in the region were found to be seriously corrupt, said Ye Dongsong, head of an inspection team of the CPC discipline commission in November 2014. Ye suggested that the Tibetan regional government focus on neutralizing separatists and maintaining social stability, cracking down on corruption and strictly monitoring projects in the region. Statistics show that the Tibetan discipline inspection department has received 1,494 reports about misbehaving officials from local residents in 2014, an increase of 131.7 percent year on year. Of these cases, 329 cases have been investigated, an increase of 161.1 percent since 2013, according to the China News Service. A total of 240 people have been dealt with for breaches of the "eight-point" anti-bureaucracy and formalism rules issued in 2014 and 138 of them have been given Party punishment. ^ top ^

Tibet official investigated for suspected disciplinary violations (Xinhua)
A Communist Party of China (CPC) official in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region has been put under investigation, local authorities said Wednesday. Losong Tsering, secretary of the CPC committee of Tibet's transportation department, is the subject of an investigation relating to "serious disciplinary violations", according to the regional discipline inspection commission. The commission did not elaborate on the "violations". Losong was transferred to Tibet's transportation department after serving as secretary of the CPC committee of Tibet's Shannan Prefecture from 2006 to 2011. ^ top ^



Xinjiang asks real name registration for cellphones, PCs (Global Times)
Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region is requiring residents to register with their real name when buying cellphones, computers and related electronic devices, the regional government's latest effort to neutralize extremist and terrorist ideas that are often spread electronically. A report Thursday on news portal, a website affiliated with the Xinjiang Economic Daily, said the new regulation applies to all electronic devices that have storage, communication and broadcast functions. The regulation requires electronics shops to install software that connects them with the police and shop owners to provide updated electronic records on those transactions. The new regulation also covers shops which sell used electronic gadgets and equipment. Retailers must check and register all second-hand cellphones and computers with the police database, including previous owners of the device, brand, model, MAC addresses and other information. Records must be updated every time a transaction is made and the information must be kept in the system for at least two years. The new rule also requires all electronics shops to install surveillance cameras. Surveillance footage must be stored at their shops for at least 30 days. They are likewise required to file a separate registration form with the local police aside from the one with the local business bureau. Unlicensed second-hand transactions of cellphones and computers are strictly forbidden. […] "The used electronics business is very under-regulated. Many cellphones sold are stolen or acquired through illegal means. The transactions are often conducted on a cash basis, where no personal information is provided. It could be extremely difficult for police to track down the source [of a phone] under these circumstances," a cellphone dealer surnamed Hu from southern Xinjiang's Aksu told the Global Times. Shop owners are required to post a notice on the dangers of distributing extremist content along with a police hotline number, the regulation said. ^ top ^



Squeeze put on Hong Kong press freedom (SCMP)
News coverage of the Occupy movement and allegations of corruption against Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying exposed different degrees of self-censorship among media, says a spokeswoman for the International Federation of Journalists. At the same time, the central government has been "more frequently and openly" interfering with press freedom in Hong Kong, according to the federation's seventh annual China Press Freedom Report released yesterday. "There were very worrying signs that the interference with press freedom was more frequent and obvious last year, compared to the past," said Serenade Woo, the federation's Asia-Pacific representative. "The news reports concerning the Occupy movement have provided particularly obvious evidence that the mainland has extended its control of the media to Hong Kong. This trend is expected to continue with political reform remaining the focus in the coming year." During the 79-day Occupy protest, 39 reporters complained of being harassed, attacked, detained or maliciously accused by police and anti-Occupy protesters, the report said. Some reporters received hundreds of harassing phone calls, and a few said they received calls from interviewees giving instructions on how to write up events. […] The report also noted that 20 journalists were detained, charged and in some cases jailed on the mainland last year. In 2013, Beijing set up a security committee to "strengthen guidance" of public opinion; the federation said this committee worked with police and courts to suppress online comment. The police "respect press freedom and fully understand the importance of facilitating the media in their reporting activities", a statement from police said last night. It also advised journalists to be vigilant of their own safety when positioning themselves between officers and radical protesters and added no violent acts would be tolerated. Chinese University journalism professor Clement So York-kee said he had observed abuse of local reporters during the Occupy movement, adding that his department was working with the Journalists' Association on a survey about press freedom. ^ top ^

Almost half of Hongkongers want lawmakers to vote down Beijing's electoral reforms: SCMP poll (SCMP)
Support for a pan-democratic threat to vote down electoral reforms tabled by the government in the legislature remained at just under half of the Hong Kong public, in a comparison of two polls commissioned by the South China Morning Post more than four months apart. About 46 per cent of the 907 respondents polled last week backed lawmakers in voting down the government proposal on how to elect the chief executive in 2017 if it is based on Beijing's restrictive framework. In September, before Occupy Central began its civil disobedience campaign, 48 per cent wanted lawmakers to reject the reform package. Researchers say the difference is statistically insignificant. On Democratic Party lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan's plan to resign from the Legislative Council to trigger a de facto referendum on reform, over 55 per cent gave it the thumbs down. The weight of public opinion in favour of a less-than-ideal version of universal suffrage is seen as the government's last hope of persuading pan-democrats to support its reform package. But more than nine in 10 of 180 respondents who considered themselves "pan-democratic" said Legco should say no to the government. "There is little incentive for pan-democratic lawmakers to switch sides" and back the proposal, said Dr Victor Zheng Wan-tai, a research fellow at Chinese University's Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, which ran the poll from Tuesday to Friday last week. Zheng's team found 41.7 per cent wanted legislators to pass the reform package, while 12.7 per cent said they did not know or that it was "hard to say". This survey had a sampling error of plus or minus 3.25 percentage points and a confidence level of 95 per cent. The earlier poll was conducted by the University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme from September 4 to 11. Some 39 per cent of the 1,008 respondents supported the legislature in approving the proposal. […] ^ top ^

HK continues to be world's freest economy (Xinhua)
Hong Kong continued to be the world's freest economy, despite a slight drop in total score from last year due to the decline of perceived level of corruption, the Hong Kong government said on Wednesday. The 2015 Index of Economic Freedom Report released by the Washington based Heritage Foundation on Jan. 27 (Washington, DC, time), revealed that Hong Kong has been ranked the world's freest economy for 21 consecutive years with an overall score of 89.6 (on a scale from 0 to 100). Singapore ranked second with 89.4, followed by New Zealand, 82. 1, Australia, 81.5 and Switzerland, 80.5. Among the 10 Economic Freedom Components measured in the report, Hong Kong continued to come in first in business freedom, trade freedom and financial freedom; second in investment freedom. Hong Kong's overall score edged down 0.5 points from last year was mainly due to a drop in the ranking in "freedom from corruption" in the index, which, a government spokesman said, was ascribed to high-profile cases that impacted perceptions about corruption in the special administrative region. In respond to the report, local graft-buster Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) said, extensive media coverage on some of the cases, including the prosecutions and convictions of a former senior government official, may have affected respondents' impression. Rafael Hui, Hong Kong's former Chief Secretary, and Thomas Kwok, co-chairman of Sun Hung Kai Properties, a local major developer, were found guilty in a corruption case in December. Yet, the ICAC said, these isolated cases should not be seen as an indicator of deterioration in the probity situation in Hong Kong. According to the 2014 ICAC Annual Survey conducted by an independent research company, only 1.5 percent of respondents had come across corruption in the past 12 months, showing a very low level of corruption. "We are keenly aware of competition from other economies within and outside the region. We always try to keep up with the latest global economic developments, and strive to enhance our competitiveness," the spokesman said. ^ top ^

Hong Kong police warn marchers to provide security or face prosecution (SCMP)
The police have warned protest organisers that they could face prosecution if they fail to recruit 100 marshals for their pro-democracy march on Sunday, amid concern that an Occupy-style sit-in could take place after the event. The warning came from a legal representative for the police, Justice Department assistant law officer Lewis Law Chung-ming, as the Appeal Board on Public Meetings and Processions on Thursday heard an appeal lodged by march organiser the Civil Human Rights Front. Front convener Daisy Chan Sin-ying had said she expected 50,000 people to march from Victoria Park in Causeway Bay to Chater Road in Central. They will call for the local and central governments to allow "genuine universal suffrage" in the city. Some activists have hinted that a sit-in could take place after the march, similar to an overnight protest after the July 1 pro-democracy protest that served as a dress rehearsal for Occupy Central. Chan objected to the "unreasonable requirements" made by the police force in its letter of no objection. The force called on the organiser to recruit at least 100 marshals to maintain order and to "make best endeavours to assist the police" in calling upon participants to disperse in an orderly manner following a post-march rally in Central. During a 11/2-hour meeting the front's lawyer, Martin Lee Chu-ming SC, said it was difficult to recruit marshals after Occupy Central marshals Alex Kwok Siu-kit and Ricky Or Yiu-lam were arrested in November after subduing three men who threw rotten animal organs at media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying during the Occupy protests in Admiralty. "Even if our men are willing, their wives may not allow them," Lee said. Law said police had made an "objective risk assessment" to reach the requirement. […] Chan said the front had only recruited some 60 to 70 marshals. "I don't know whether the police are going to count the number of marshals and prosecute us afterwards," Chan said. But she welcomed the board's removal of references to "best endeavours". Police Senior Superintendent Tan Wing-yuen welcomed the ruling. He said the police needed to ensure public safety. Seven pro-democracy groups, including the Federation of Students and Scholarism, are supporting the march. Scholarism spokesman Oscar Lai Man-lok said he knew some groups might be interested in "follow-up actions" on Sunday night, and his group might consider joining peaceful actions. ^ top ^



Taiwan looks to future with reshuffle of six senior military officials (SCMP)
Taiwan's military will reshuffle its top officials - including six out of seven generals and admirals - in an apparent effort to revitalise its armed forces and promote its next generation of leaders. The changes, which take effect tomorrow, would see army commander Yen De-fa promoted to chief of the general staff and deputy defence minister Chiu Kuo-cheng appointed head of the army, Taiwanese military spokesman Luo Shao-he said yesterday. Air force commander General Liu Chen-wu will take over from Chiu as deputy defence minister, while Liu's post will be filled by deputy defence administrative minister Lieutenant General Shen Yi-ming. The vice-chief of the general staff, Vice-Admiral Li Hsi-ming, will succeed Admiral Chen Yung-kang as navy commander. Shen and Li will also be promoted to general and admiral respectively. Luo said the military reshuffle - Taiwan's biggest in years - followed the resignation of defence minister Yen Ming, who stepped down to facilitate new promotions and stimulate the revitalisation of the armed forces. "Minister Yen had previously offered to resign several times, and his resignation was finally accepted by President Ma Ying-jeou on Tuesday," Luo said, adding that Yen, 65, would be succeeded by Admiral Kao Kuang-chi, Chief of the General Staff, who would also be inaugurated in his new post tomorrow. Yen and Chen, the outgoing navy commander, would become the president's strategy advisers, Luo added. Lin Yu-fang, a Kuomintang official on the defence committee of Taiwan's legislature, yesterday called the new appointments "well balanced" because the army, air force and the navy would all see new changes after the reshuffle. "President Ma is aware of the need to have an overhaul of top military officials in order to freshen up the armed forces and cultivate a new generation of military leaders," Lin said. […]Military sources said the reshuffle was expected to help consolidate Taiwan's plan to build its own submarines because the promoted admirals had long supported the idea of the island constructing its own underwater vessels. […] ^ top ^

Cross-Strait economic talks open in Taipei (Xinhua)
The Cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Committee (ECC) on Thursday morning opened its seventh regular meeting in Taipei to review the implementation of a landmark trade agreement signed by the mainland and Taiwan in 2010. Zheng Lizhong, executive vice president of the mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits, and Shih Hui-fen, vice chairperson of Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation, serve as the conveners of the twice-yearly meeting. "The institutional construction of economic cooperation across the Strait witnessed disturbance in 2014, but progress is expected for the ECC in the new year," said Zheng during an opening address. He said he hoped the ECC can "respond positively to demands of industries from Taiwan and the mainland, inject vigor into cross-Strait cooperation" and help share the benefits of this economic cooperation among people on both sides of the Strait. The mainland delegation is headed by Zheng and Gao Yan, ECC chief representative and vice commerce minister. The one-day meeting will review the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) and hear reports from working groups on goods and service trade, investment, dispute settlement, industry, and customs cooperation. Other key issues on the agenda include the establishment of economic and trade associations, the economy and future plans. The ECFA has brought mutual benefit for the mainland and Taiwan, said Shih, urging the two sides to work together to negotiate their trade-in-goods pact under the agreement. The ECC is a negotiation platform established in January 2011, following the 11th provision of the ECFA, to handle follow-up negotiations. Under the agreement, the committee holds a meeting around every six months, with the two sides taking turns to host it. The last meeting was held in August 2014 in Beijing. ^ top ^



Global interest grows in China's currency, debt: Fitch (China Daily)
The Chinese currency yuan, or renminbi, continues its ascent among international payment settlements, trade and currency investment, ratings agency Fitch said in their latest report. A rapidly expanding network of offshore yuan clearing centers has facilitated direct access to China's onshore financial markets, Fitch said. "We expect the proliferation of these offshore clearing centers to drive greater issuance of dim sum bonds by both Chinese and non-Chinese governments, financial institutions and corporates in 2015," it said. Dim sum bonds are yuan-denominated bonds issued outside the Chinese mainland. They originated in Hong Kong and the term comes a style of essentially Cantonese cuisine that involves a variety of small delicacies. In 2014, eight new offshore yuan clearing centers opened in major financial centers - Doha, Frankfurt, London, Luxembourg, Paris, Seoul, Sydney and Toronto. So far in 2015, another two have opened their doors in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. There are now 14 offshore yuan clearing centers. These banks convert local currency directly into renminbi without using a US dollar stepping stone, reducing time and costs. Hong Kong controls the vast majority of offshore yuan flow, though the share is now about 70 percent, down from an average of around 80 percent in 2012. According to payment services company SWIFT, more than 50 countries and regions now use the yuan for more than 10 percent of their payments with China's mainland and Hong Kong. The expansion of clearing centers underlines the potential of dim sum bonds in 2015 and beyond. The size of the dim sum bond market has grown from an equivalent 5 billion U.S. dollars at the end of 2009 to approximately $70 billion at the end of 2014, though it is still a tiny fraction of the 5.8-trillion-U.S.-dollar local yuan bond market. In October 2014, the British government became the first non-Chinese sovereign to issue dim sum bonds worth 3 billion yuan ($490 million). Australia's New South Wales government then issued 1 billion yuan in dim sum bonds, two days after Sydney became a clearing center in November. Fitch expects other sovereigns with clearing centers to follow suit with their own dim sum bond issues in 2015. ^ top ^

China's 2015 GDP growth forecast at 6.8% (China Daily)
China's 2015 GDP growth forecast has been maintained at 6.8 percent, as further policy support and export recovery is expected to help bolster the sluggish economy, said UBS on Monday. "December and Q4's better than expected data will unlikely trigger any immediate significant new easing measures for now, but the first rate cut may happen (around) March or April, when even lower CPI (consumer price index) and PPI (producer price index) are reported," said Wang Tao, chief China economist with UBS, said in a research note. Wang added that policy support will intensify in 2015 with accelerated pro-growth measures in areas such as price, social safety net and hukou (household registration) reform, and more infrastructure projects. Further monetary easing via liquidity provisions, including required reserve ratio cuts, is expected to offset slower foreign exchange reserve accumulation and benchmark rate cuts of at least 50 basis points (bp) are also expected to prevent real rates from rising, according to UBS. UBS forecast Q1 2015 gross domestic product (GDP) growth would weaken further sequentially, weighed down by the ongoing weakness of property construction and infrastructure related funding issues. The economy is expected to pick up in Q2 as funding issues are resolved and policy uncertainties are reduced when the National People's Congress (NPC) meet in March to release key polices related to the issue. China's GDP grew 7.4 percent in 2014, its weakest expansion in 24 years. ^ top ^

One third of sample goods bought from Chinese websites 'fake', study finds (SCMP)
Five out of six websites in a recent survey were found to be selling fake or substandard goods. Ninety-two products - ranging from clothing and cosmetics to toys and fertiliser - were randomly selected by the survey, commissioned by the State Administration of Industry and Commerce and done by the China Consumers' Association. Of these, 38 were found to be fake, refurbished, mislabelled, parallel imports or lacking in quality certificates. All of the products were bought through vendors advertising on websites including and All firms caught out by the survey had been punished by the authorities, a report on state television said. Most of the goods scrutinised were from the mainland's largest online shopping site. Of these, a little more than a third - 37.3 per cent - were found to pass the standards for retail on the mainland. Other major websites fared better. At 90 per cent of the products selected were up to standard, while at the rate was 85.7 per cent and at 80 per cent. Fertiliser was the product most likely to be substandard. Only 20 per cent of fertiliser products bought in the survey were deemed authentic. A little more than a quarter of mobile phones - 28.6 per cent - were authentic, compared to two-thirds of clothes, cosmetics and toys, and three-quarters - 77.3 per cent - of lubricant oil. At least 350 million people have shopped online in China, with each spending at least 3,000 yuan (HK$3,770), according to official statistics. That figure is below the estimates of many online trade websites. The bulk of consumer complaints on the mainland were linked to online purchases, according to the report. […] ^ top ^

Taobao responds to disputed inspection report (Xinhua)
China's largest shopping website,, gave an official response to a controversial quality inspection report by the country's commerce regulator on Wednesday. The online store will file a complaint to the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) based on accusations of a senior official's improper supervision, according to an announcement on Taobao's Sina Weibo account. "Director Liu Hongliang followed improper procedures and his legal assessment was emotional," Taobao said, "He reached a conclusion that was not objective, bringing a negative effect on Taobao and e-commerce businesses." "We welcome any supervision that is fair but oppose nonfeasance and random or malicious official actions," the post said. The move is the latest salvo between Taobao, the most profitable branch of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, and the SAIC since the latter published a quality inspection report on Jan. 23 that gave Taobao the lowest rank in terms of certified product rate. […] At the core of the quarrel is the question of whether or not Taobao was fairly treated. […] [Taobao] claimed the inspection was flawed in logic and contradicted previous data, pointing out the authority only made a sample of 51 items which cannot represent the enormous trade volume on the platform. The SAIC's survey had a 20-item sample for, a 10-item sample for and only a 1-item sample for Tuesday's post was deleted shortly after but still stirred heated public debates with majority opinions in favor of the company. […] Responding to the claims, an SAIC official Yang Hongfeng said the survey just aimed to evaluate market risks and warn against illegal activities and no e-commerce firms were targeted. Yang said the survey was conducted by a third party to look for problems instead of showing how poor the product quality was in online shopping, and the results should not be over-interpreted. […] Yang said Alibaba has not paid enough attention to illegal operations on its platform and with no effective measures to tackle the problems, which triggered a honesty crisis for the group and brought a negative effect to the sector. On Wednesday, the SAIC published a white paper regarding Alibaba, which listed five problems in the company's shopping platform including loose access requirement, slack inspection of commodity information, chaotic management of sales and a defective credit rating system. […] Taobao's announcement did not deny there were counterfeits traded via its platform but said the website was also a victim and would not shirk the responsibility of removing fake goods. Alibaba's chairman, Ma Yun described fakes as long-existing viruses that have always plagued economic development. […] ^ top ^

China's inland province applies for free trade zone (Xinhua)
A senior official in northwest China's Gansu Province confirmed the province has applied to set up a free trade zone (FTZ) in its capital Lanzhou. On Thursday, Yang Zhiwu, head of Gansu's commercial department, said their application is now being handled by the Ministry of Commerce. If approved, it will include Lanzhou, from the impoverished northwestern part of China, in the third batch of Chinese cities to try out an FTZ. China currently operates its only FTZ in Shanghai, launched in 2013. In December, the State Council announced China will establish three new FTZs in northern Tianjin Municipality, eastern Fujian Province and southern Guangdong Province, all along the country's coastal lines. ^ top ^


DPRK and South Korea

Kim Jong-un to attend Soviet war victory celebrations in Russia (SCMP)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has confirmed he will attend celebrations in Russia in May marking the Soviet victory over Germany in the second world war, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said yesterday, citing a Kremlin spokesman. The trip would be Kim's first foreign visit since taking power in the reclusive state in 2011, suc ceeding his father Kim Jong-il, who died suddenly, and is likely to come before he visits China, the North's main ally. "About 20 state leaders have confirmed their attendance, and the North Korean leader is among them," South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted the office of Kremlin spokesman as saying in response to its question to President Vladimir Putin's spokesman. North Korea and Russia have been looking to boost ties. The North's relations with China, on the other hand, have cooled since Kim took over and then, in 2013, defied international warnings and UN sanctions to conduct a third nuclear test. "There is no rule that says Kim Jong-un has to go to China first," said Cheong Seong-chang of South Korea's Sejong Institute. "As far as China is concerned, there has to be a show of a pledge by North Korea for denuclearisation before a summit is possible, and it's hard to see Kim Jong-un doing that right now." China and Russia have both voted with the UN Security Council for sanctions to be put on the North for its nuclear and missile tests. But China has taken a sterner position on its neighbour's atomic ambitions. President Xi Jinping has met South Korea's President Park Geun-hye six times since both of them took office in 2012, underscoring strengthening political and economic ties. However, Xi has not met the North's Kim. Russia has pushed ahead with plans for natural gas and transport projects with the North in the hope of boosting gas exports to Asia and exporting coal to South Korea through an experimental consortium that is based in the North. Earlier in January, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said North Korea had sent a positive signal after Putin invited its leader to the victory celebrations. Russia marks the victory anniversary every year on May 9. Kim's father was invited to the 60th anniversary celebrations in 2005 but was not able to attend, Yonhap said. ^ top ^



Prime Minister Ch. Saikhanbileg distracted for over a month (UB Post)
It has been over month since Prime Minister Ch.Saikhanbileg's cabinet was approved by the parliament. Having not been able to achieve what they promised to do, the government that offered solutions not only grew bigger, but also became distracted. Meanwhile, the MNT rate against USD, which mirrors how the economy is doing, soared from 1,880 to reach 1,940. Although Ch.Saikhanbileg established a general, but objective, diagnosis for economic conditions and proposed direct measures such as cutting expenditure, supporting the private sector, promoting investment, and properly managing debt, he is currently stuck; unable to actually carry out those actions with consent from the relevant authorities. The primary cause of the current government's distraction is the parliament. It is because members of parliament have all been infected by populism, and have been approaching everything by thinking only about how they can get re-elected in the upcoming election. Therefore, they are hindering the making of decisions required during a crisis situation, which ultimately holds back the long-term economic growth of Mongolia. […] ^ top ^

Prime Minister of Mongolia urges to stabilize the country's economy by establishing an Economic Council (infomongolia)
The first meeting of freelance Economic Council established under Prime Minister's Decree with aims to develop recommendations on measures to stabilize the economy and advise on investment policy was held in the Government House on January 29, 2015. In his remarks addressing the members of newly formed Economic Council, Premier Ch.Saikhanbileg stressed, “The Council's priority duties are focused on stabilization the country's macro economy, to create a friendly business environment and attract domestic and foreign investment as well as to give directions and advices on implementing mega and infrastructure projects and programs. In order to recover the economy, we should bring investors back and thereof, we should move forward large projects to be operational. Thus, we need your knowledge, skills and experience to overcome the economic difficulties facing today”. The Economic Council is entrusted and responsible to carry out measures overcoming economic and financial difficulties, take actions against possible negative impacts on the economic environment, and resolve the reasons and mitigate the effects on negative banking, financial and economic outlooks as well as develop a policy to implement and introduce to the Economic National Committee. Moreover, the Council is obliged to promote Mongolia's current socio-economic, investment and development tendencies to foreign countries and to issue recommendations on measures to attract domestic and foreign investment. ^ top ^


Mrs. Petra Salome Merki
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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