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
  6-10.4.2015, No. 567  
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Foreign Policy

China evacuates last batch of citizens from Yemen (Global Times)
China has moved the last batch of 24 Chinese nationals from Yemen's western port of al-Hodayda to Djibouti on Monday, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry. Due to the worsening security conditions in Yemen, the working staff remaining at the Chinese Embassy in Yemen have also left the country, after assisting the last batch of Chinese nationals to evacuate. The Chinese Embassy in Yemen has temporarily closed. The Linyi naval vessel, which is responsible for the evacuation of the last batch of Chinese nationals and the embassy working staff, also carried 45 Sri Lanka nationals, at the request of Sri Lanka government. The vessel left Yemen's western port of al-Hodayda at 06:10 pm Beijing Time. The 24 Chinese nationals were transported from Yemeni capital Sanaa to al-Hodayda port after over five hours' drive. Nine Chinese citizens and one Japanese citizens are expected to be evacuated from Yemen' s Socotra island later Monday aboard another Chinese naval vessel Weishanhu. Eight Chinese national have left Yemen on board a Pakistani vessel earlier. Up until now, all the 613 Chinese nationals who wished to leave Yemen have been evacuated by the Chinese government. China also assisted 15 countries to evacuate 279 citizens. ^ top ^

Chinese warship evacuates 38 Chinese citizens, 45 Sri Lankans from Yemen (Global Times)
A Chinese warship carrying 38 Chinese nationals and 45 Sri Lankans left Yemen's western port of al-Hodayda on Monday for Djibouti. It was the last group of Chinese nationals who sought to be evacuated from Yemen. On March 29, Chinese naval vessel Linyi frigate, docked at the Aden port, took with it 122 Chinese nationals. One day later, another navy ship, Weifang missile frigate, evacuated a total of 449 Chinese citizens from Yemen's western port of al-Hodayda and left for Djibouti. As Beijing has been busy taking its own nationals away from a ramping-up crisis, it has also been trying to lend a helping hand to citizens of other countries whose lives were also threatened. On Thursday and at the request of 10 countries, the Linyi frigate returned to Aden port to evacuate 225 of their citizens, including 176 from Pakistan, 29 from Ethiopia, five from Singapore, four from Poland, three from Italy, three from Germany, two from Britain, one from Canada, one from Ireland and one from Yemen. They have arrived in Djibouti safely. Chinese warships have also helped withdraw eight nationals of Romania, India and Egypt while evacuating Chinese citizens late last month. Chinese Ambassador to Yemen Tian Qi, who is also on board the Linyi frigate, said "China helping other countries to evacuate their citizens demonstrates the spirit of internationalism and humanitarianism." The Chinese embassy and consulate general in Yemen are closed after all diplomatic staff left the country on Sunday, according to the ambassador. At the request of Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, France, Romania and Spain, the Chinese government help evacuate their citizens from Yemen, Tian said. Saudi-led coalition forces on March 26 launched air strikes in Yemen against the Shiite Houthi group and forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The air campaign has led to the suspension of all commercial flights at airports across the country. Only a few airports are open for charter planes. The military operations have left at least 130 people killed and more than 500 others wounded nationwide, which forced other countries to evacuate their citizens from the Arab country. ^ top ^

Yemen rescue mission demonstrates China's constructive role (Xinhua)
A Chinese navy warship transported 225 foreign nationals out of war-torn Yemen last week, a move that supports Foreign Minister Wang Yi's statement that China is "on the same boat" with the rest of the world. The minister compared the current international order and system built around the United Nations to "a big boat" during a press conference on March 8. In the conference, he stressed that China does not want to upset the system, but instead wants to work with other passengers to make sure its safe sailing in the right direction. The evacuation of citizens of ten countries out of Yemen, following the rescue of more than 500 Chinese citizens, is unprecedented for China. Surely it is the result of an increasing presence of the Chinese navy abroad. The warships that carried out the operation were near the troubled zone, which allowed them to act fast. They have been escorting civilian ships along the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somali, protecting them from pirates. Many may remember that historically China rarely deployed military forces in evacuation operations of its own citizens until Libya in 2011. The humanitarian nature of Chinese armed forces' overseas missions indicated that China is willing to help when it is able and ready. With an able and helpful China, the world will have more resources to maneuver through disasters and crisis. Last year, China sent medical workers to help African countries fight the outbreak of Ebola, not to mention its long-term participation in the United Nations peacekeeping missions. Besides lending a hand in international humanitarian missions, China has been seeking a unique approach to addressing global hotspot issues, with a focus on adopting an objective and impartial position and offering multi-pronged solutions. On a number of international and regional issues, China has always sought a political settlement that addresses the concerns of all involved, rather than resorting to the use of force or sanctions. The Belt and Road initiatives, actively promoted by China now, are inclusive and mutually beneficial, accommodating the need and interest of all involved parties other than China's only. As Mr. Wang pledged, the country is working to put forward Chinese solutions and play China's role. Those who felt threatened by China's increasing national strength and doubted its international strategy should learn not to jump to conclusions without enough evidence. Those who demanded China act more as "a responsible major country" should also understand that, as the world's largest developing country, its focus is still domestic and it will help in its own way. One thing to be sure is that China, with its size, strength and population, is never a destructive force and the world has more to gain than to lose if they embrace this fact. ^ top ^

Navy wins praise for evacuating foreigners (China Daily)
China has joined the elite humanitarian club of countries that are able to bring non-nationals to safety from danger zones, after evacuating hundreds of Chinese citizens and foreigners from war-torn Yemen. The People's Liberation Army navy won global plaudits by conducting four major evacuations from two ports against a backdrop of gunfire and explosions. Any single evacuation operation requires a considerable amount of planning and coordination. However, the obstacles faced when taking 279 foreigners from 15 countries to safety increase dramatically, not least because of the language difficulties. To do it just days after you have evacuated your own nationals makes it all the more remarkable, observers said. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing said in a statement on its website on Thursday that 10 foreign governments - Pakistan, Ethiopia, Singapore, Italy, Germany, Poland, Ireland, Britain, Canada and Yemen - had requested China's help. Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said it was the first time China had carried out a specific evacuation of foreign nationals from a danger zone. The first mission took place in the southern port city of Aden on March 29 when 122 Chinese people were evacuated. Another mission involving 449 Chinese people was carried out from the Red Sea port of Hodeidah on March 30, and a third mission, evacuating 225 foreigners from 10 countries from Aden, took place on Thursday. On Monday, the frigate Linyi embarked on the fourth mission. The ministry said it carried the last group of 24 Chinese nationals who wished to be evacuated from the country from Hodeidah to Djibouti. At the request of the Sri Lankan government, the vessel also carried 45 Sri Lankans. Hua said the Chinese embassy and consulate general in Yemen "are temporarily closed" in light of the worsening security situation, and all the remaining diplomatic staff in the country boarded the Linyi. Yemen has been devastated by a brutal civil war, and the situation became even more critical on March 26 when Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes on the Houthi rebels with the participation of other Gulf states. Getting non-Yemenis out of Aden, near the entrance to the Red Sea, became a matter of extreme urgency. Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, told China Daily that the situation in Yemen was "particularly tragic as it affects everyone there". The country has a large displaced population from Africa, in particular Somalia, because of its strategic position, Edwards said. Mudassir Waseem, a 13-year-old Pakistani, told Xinhua News Agency on board the Linyi, the vessel that evacuated the foreign nationals, that he could not restrain his delight at the thought of returning home. Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Asif told Chinese reporters in Islamabad, "We are really, really grateful to our Chinese brothers." Poland's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday expressed its gratitude to China for providing assistance in evacuating four Polish residents from Aden. ^ top ^

China holds Senior Officials' Meeting of Lancang-Mekong River Dialogue and Cooperation (Global Times)
The first senior officials' meeting of Lancang-Mekong River Dialogue and Cooperation was held Monday in Beijing and senior officials from China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam discussed the concept paper for establishing the Lancang-Mekong River Dialogue and Cooperation Mechanism, including its objectives, direction and priority areas. Establishing the Lancang-Mekong River Dialogue and Cooperation Mechanism, which is conducive to maintaining regional peace and stability and promoting development and prosperity, serves the common interests of the six countries and meets the common aspiration and expectation of our peoples, said Chinese vice foreign minister Liu Zhenmin, co-chairing the meeting with Deputy Permanent Secretary Noppadon Theppitak of the Foreign Ministry of Thailand. China proposed to hold a foreign ministers' meeting and a meeting of senior foreign affairs officials in 2015 during the China-ASEAN Summit held last year in Myanmar, which received positive response from the relevant countries. The Lancang-Mekong River runs through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, and serves as a natural bond that links the six countries together. ^ top ^

India, China can join hands in humanitarian operations (Xinhua)
India and China can work together in humanitarian operations like that which they have carried out in Yemen, said a senior Indian strategic analyst on Monday. Lt. Gen. Ramesh Chopra said the rescue operation by Chinese navy vessels off Yemeni coast has helped many Chinese and foreign nationals, including Indians, to evacuate from the strife-torn nation. Indian navy has also helped Indians and foreigners depart the country. "Both nations can cooperate in this humanitarian and compassionate venture. They have done so in the past with regard to cooperation and coordinated operations in counter piracy in the Aden sector and off the coast of East Africa," he said. "Specifically, the navies including the coast guard of the two countries should carry out joint operations wherever warranted. Similar would be the case with the air force of both countries," said the expert. "In fact, The National Disaster Management Agency of India and corresponding organizations of China should pool in their resources whenever necessary." ^ top ^

China's President Xi Jinping calls for 'new approach' to territorial dispute with Vietnam (SCMP)
President Xi Jinping called on the visiting Vietnam Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong on Tuesday to explore a "new approach" to solving the two countries' disputes. Xi, the Chinese Communist Party's general secretary, told Trong at the Great Hall of the People that the two countries must manage their dispute over the South China Sea to maintain peace and stability. Vietnam has long been suspicious of Beijing's increasingly assertive claims to most of the South China Sea. Anti-Chinese violence flared in Vietnam last year after a deepwater rig owned by China National Offshore Oil Corporation was set up 240km off the Vietnamese coast. Since then, however, China has sought to make amends with Vietnam, and has sent senior officials to Hanoi. Xi said ties between the two countries and the two communist parties faced new opportunities as well as challenges. "We have to deepen the cooperation of our two parties, explore new approaches to solve the problems in the two countries' relations, as well as find new paradigms in advancing our bilateral ties," Xi said. Xi told Trong of the need for both sides to "jointly properly manage and control maritime disputes, and maintain the broader picture of relations and peace and stability in the South China Sea". Trong told Xi that Vietnam put great store in friendly relations with China. The Vietnamese Communist Party's Nhan Dan newspaper said that Trong's visit "creates favourable conditions" to resolve problems between the countries, but did not mention the disputes in the South China Sea. Xinhua said Trong's visit, which comes ahead of his trip to the United States later this year, signalled that the two sides "cherish their strong and lasting bond". But it warned of problems ahead. "Some outsiders, for selfish reasons, are exploiting every possible excuse to sow discord between them, while a few in Vietnam's political circle have been deluded by external Pied Pipers and become accomplices," it added, without elaborating. Analysts said that although both sides had found the need to mend relations, Trong's visit was unlikely to come up with any concrete solution to the territorial disputes. "Trong might want to use the US to bargain for concessions from China over the South China Sea, or at least not to repeat an incident like the oil rig," said Joyce Lin Juo-yu, director of the Asean Studies Centre at Tamkang University in Taipei. "What they reached in their meeting is still rather positive in terms of improving Sino-Vietnamese relations," she added. "But it will take time for the two sides to accumulate adequate trust before they can actually resolve their South China Sea row." Tran Cong Truc, former chairman of the Vietnamese government's Border Committee, said: "The fact that they are meeting, regardless of the result, is a good sign and should be welcomed." ^ top ^

China, Vietnam pledge closer friendship, partnership (Xinhua)
Chinese President Xi Jinping and General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) Nguyen Phu Trong pledged to cement the traditional friendship and boost the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries during talks on Tuesday. Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, said the China-Vietnam traditional friendship is precious wealth shared by the two parties, the two nations and the people of the two countries, worthy of being cherished and taken good care of. Recalling their mutual support between the two nations since their fight for national independence, Xi said reciprocal cooperation has brought substantial benefit for the people of the two countries, which also helps to promote peace, development and prosperity in the region. China and Vietnam share extensive common interests, and friendship and cooperation have remained the primary theme of the bilateral ties, said the Chinese leader. Xi proposed the two sides always bear in mind the overall situation of China-Vietnam friendship as well as their development, respect each other, consult with each other in a friendly way, seek common ground while shelving differences, and control their disputes to ensure that the bilateral relationship will develop in a right track. Xi said China and Vietnam are facing both new opportunities and challenges as the international situation is undergoing complex and profound changes. He suggested the two parties, as well as the two countries, boost high-level interactions to find out new solutions to their problems and new ideas to advance the bilateral relationship in a sustained way. Nguyen also said friendship and cooperation have been the primary themes of the Vietnam-China relationship over the 65 years since the two countries established diplomatic relations. The brotherly and comradely traditional friendship was formed by late Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh and Chinese leader Mao Zedong, which should be inherited, Nguyen said. Nguyen, who is paying an official visit to China from Tuesday to Friday at Xi's invitation, said the Vietnamese side looks forward to more interaction between the leaders of the two countries to enhance the political trust in each other. As Vietnam and China are both committed to the great cause of socialism and carrying out all-round reform, they need friendship, reciprocal cooperation and a peaceful environment for development more than ever, said the Vietnamese leader. Vietnam and China share immense common interests and it is the common obligation of the two sides as well as the common aspiration of the people of the two countries to advance the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership, Nguyen said, adding that it is a strategic choice of Vietnam to develop friendly ties with China in a sustained and stable way. On the 21st - Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative, Xi said China welcomes Vietnam's participation and Nguyen said Vietnam was studying on it. The two leaders agreed on making joint efforts to control maritime disputes and safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea. Xi voiced China's support for Vietnam to host the Leaders' Meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in 2017 as well as the building of the ASEAN Community. He also proposed China and Vietnam should make efforts to protect each other's organizations, enterprises and citizens on their territory. China stands ready to strengthen coordination with Vietnam in international affairs to promote peace, stability and prosperity in the world, Xi said. The two leaders agreed on closer cooperation on defense, security, law-enforcement, infrastructure construction, culture, education and tourism among others. They witnessed the signing of a string of deals between the two sides, including a five-year plan for the cooperation between the two ruling parties, after their talks at the Great Hall of the People. After the talks, the two leaders met with a group of Chinese and Vietnamese youngsters and encouraged them to carry forward the traditional friendship between the two nations. Prior to their talks, Xi held a red-carpet ceremony to welcome the CPV leader. They also visited an exhibition on theoretical exchanges between the two parties. ^ top ^

China, Japan to hold financial talks, may discuss Beijing-led development bank (SCMP)
Japan and China plan to hold finance discussions in Beijing in June, which could include topics such as the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Finance Minister Taro Aso said. The talks would mark the first financial dialogue between the two countries since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office in late 2012 as diplomatic relations have been strained over the wartime past and territorial disputes in the East China Sea. Japan and China have held the finance talks four times since their first meeting in 2006, aimed at deepening financial co-operation. Discussions have included senior officials from the international bureau as well as budget, tax and other offices. No specific agenda has been set for the June meeting, but issues including the development bank, China's yuan and shadow banking are likely be discussed, Aso told reporters after a cabinet meeting. “China is becoming a major economic power in Asia. There are various issues to discuss between the two countries, such as the yuan, finance and shadow banking,” he said. Asked whether the development bank would be discussed during the meeting, Aso said: “We've told China the same things [concerns] all along, but we did not receive responses from them by the end of March. We would tell them the same if I discuss the bank with [Finance Minister] Lou Jiwei.” More than 40 countries have applied to join the bank, with the United States and Japan notable absentees. Japan shrugged off the March 31 deadline to become a founding member of the Beijing-based institution, arguing that it would attach greater importance to conditions being met to ensure its credible governance, rather than when to join. Japan is caught between the misgivings about the bank expressed by its biggest ally, the United States, Tokyo's rivalry with Beijing and the desire of some officials and businesses to partner with the rapid growth of China, the world's second biggest economy. The next key juncture is seen at the end of June when participants sign the charter of the development bank. ^ top ^

China concerned about Japan's newly revised textbooks (Xinhua)
China on Tuesday reiterated its sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands and their affiliated islets after new Japanese history textbooks described them as Japanese territory. China is seriously concerned about Japan's revisions to the textbooks, said Foreign Ministry representative Hua Chunying at a routine press conference. Japan's Education Ministry approved 18 textbooks on history, civics and geography on Monday that will be used from next year in junior high schools. The newly revised textbooks contain the Japanese government's stance and claims in territorial disputes with its neighbors. About 18 types of the new books say the disputed territories are Japan's. Hua reaffirmed that the Diaoyu Islands and their affiliated islets have been an inherent part of China and that China has abundant historical and legal evidence to prove it. No matter how Japan tries to propagandize its position on the islands, it will never change the objective fact that China has sovereignty over them, Hua said. Some textbooks also have new interpretations of Japan's atrocities during World War II. Of the Nanjing Massacre, some textbooks state that "captives and civilians were involved" in the tragedy and "casualties were exposed", compared to the original words that the Japanese Army "killed many captives and civilians." That "Japan's atrocity was condemned" has been deleted from some books. "Facts are facts. They should never be distorted," said Hua, urging Japan to educate its younger generation correctly, fulfill its commitment to face up to history and reflect on its militarist aggression, and improve ties with its neighbors through practical action. ^ top ^

Last military group heads to S. Sudan (China Daily)
About 380 more Chinese soldiers will join United Nations peacekeeping missions, bringing the total to nearly 3,100 by the end of this year, the military official overseeing the deployments said. Li Xiuhua, deputy director of peacekeeping affairs at the Ministry of National Defense, released the plan on Tuesday in Jinan, Shandong province, during ceremonies seeing off the last 130 members of China's first Infantry Battalion of 700 peacekeepers on their way to South Sudan. Most of the peacekeepers were between 20 and 30 years old, and several female soldiers were included in the group. By 2 pm Beijing time on Wednesday, the battalion will land in South Sudan after a 19-hour flight, according to Li Dongxing, deputy division chief of publicity at the Jinan Military Area Command. Its arrival marks the official start of the mission there for China's first full battalion of peacekeepers, which were requested by the UN. The troops, all from a Jinan-based contingent, will take on 12 tasks, including safeguarding of civilians and UN personnel and property, carrying out humanitarian operations, as well as patrols, defenses and other guard duty, according to Ding Feng, director of peacekeeping affairs at the Jinan Military Area Command. With this expected contribution of troops, China will jump from 11th place to seventh among the 121 UN member countries that have sent people to join peacekeeping missions. Most support personnel, such as doctors and technicians, come from China, Li said, and the country now pays about 7 percent of all the peacekeeping expenses, ranking sixth among all members and above all other developing countries. This year marks China's 25th anniversary of participation in UN peacekeeping missions. In 1990, it sent five military observers to the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization in the Middle East. Currently, a total of 30,178 Chinese military personnel, police and civil affairs officials have taken part in UN missions in nine areas: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Lebanon, South Sudan, Sudan's Darfur, Mali, the Middle East, Cote d'Ivoire and the Western Sahara, Li said. That makes China the biggest contributor to such missions among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. Ten Chinese peacekeepers have died during the missions. "China provides more peacekeepers to the United Nations than all four other permanent members combined. I applaud this solidarity," said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in June 2013 while visiting the peacekeeping center of the Ministry of National Defense in Beijing. "I have seen the bravery of Chinese blue helmets in helping struggling communities around the world," Ban said, adding that he counted on the country's continued contribution to world peace. Yang Zhao, deputy commander of the peacekeeping battalion and the father of an 8-year-old son, said he considered it an honor to serve. "I am a soldier but also a normal human. I have emotions and desires, too," Yang said. "I feel honored to go out for my country. I thank my wife and my parents for letting me do this." Wu Shuiqing, 32, from Guangdong province, is the wife of a 34-year-old company commander who was about to leave for South Sudan. They have a 7-year-old son. "It would be a lie to say that I'm not worried about his safety," Wu said, "but I trust their capabilities. They have been trained for so long for this mission of glory. I'm confident that they will come back safely." ^ top ^

Chinese premier meets South African parliament speaker (Xinhua)
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang met with visiting Speaker of the South African National Assembly Baleka Mbete here on Tuesday. Li said China attached high importance to relations with South Africa. China is ready to enhance exchanges between the two governments, parliaments, political parties and people, and to implement a bilateral cooperation plan. Citing the complementary nature of the two countries' economy, he said China is prepared to help South Africa increase its industrial capacity to aid its industrialization process. China will encourage companies to invest in and participate in the construction of South Africa's special economic zone, and promote bilateral cooperation in areas including port construction, oil and gas exploitation, and fishing, according to Li. The premier said China is also willing to import more products from South Africa. Mbete thanked China for its support for Africa's development and in the fight against the ebola epidemic. She said South Africa will expand cooperation with China, strengthen cultural and people-to-people exchanges, and welcome more Chinese companies and tourists. Mbete is leading a delegation to visit China from April 3 to 9, at the invitation of top Chinese legislator Zhang Dejiang. This is Mbete's sixth China visit. ^ top ^

China, Russia to deepen comprehensive partnership to promote world peace (Xinhua)
China and Russia will work together to deepen their comprehensive strategic partnership in order to promote the development of both countries and contribute to a lasting world peace. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday met here with visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and said that Russia- China relations are at an unprecedentedly high level, and the cooperation between the two countries has become the most important stable factor in today's world. Putin said he expected Chinese President Xi Jinping to come to Moscow for the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the victory of the World Anti-Facist War in May, adding that Russia steadfastly supported China's efforts to uphold its core interests and the initiative proposed by Chinese President Xi to jointly build the Silk Road Economic Belt. Putin also promised to strengthen overall cooperation with China, maintain close coordination in international affairs, and jointly deal with the challenges to the development of both countries and to world peace and security. For his part, the Chinese Foreign Minister said leaders of the two countries have promoted the China-Russia comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership to a high level and the ties of the two countries have entered a new development phase based on both countries' need for development and rejuvenation as well as the overwhelming theme of world peace and development. Wang said that in line with the principle of mutual respect and support, and common development through mutually beneficial cooperation, China and Russia are undertaking a successful practice in shaping a new type of international relations, which serve as useful experiences for major countries in conducting international cooperation. To deal with the new challenges in global and regional situation, Wang said China and Russia should explore the links between China's Silk Road Economic Belt initiative and Russia's idea of creating a cross-Eurasia passage and integrating Eurasian economies, creating new platforms for cooperation. He stressed the need to improve people-to-people exchanges and consolidate the social foundation of friendly interactions between peoples of both countries. The Chinese top diplomat, who laid a wreath at the Tomb of Unknown Soldiers at the Red Square in downtown Moscow earlier in the day, called for taking the opportunity of celebrating the 70th anniversary of the victory of World War II to strengthen coordination in international affairs and uphold mutual interests. ^ top ^

Myanmar's ruling party voices support for China's "Belt and Road" initiative (Xinhua)
Vice-chairman of Myanmar's ruling party U Htay Oo on Tuesday voiced support for China's "Belt and Road" initiative, saying that it is a very good concept which his country has a keen interest in. In an exclusive interview with Xinhua at the headquarters of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) in Nay Pyi Taw, U Htay Oo said the modern maritime silk road project paves way for enhancing mutual connectivity of countries concerned and boosts trade exchanges and investment opportunities which is a win-win cooperation. The initiative would be very beneficial to both Myanmar and China as well as the entire region, he said, calling for increased coordination and cooperation in its implementation. U Htay Oo said that Myanmar and China are good neighbors. Not long after Myanmar's independence, the two countries jointly advocated the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence which still have vigor up to present. As the year of 2015 marks the 65th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between Myanmar and China, the vice party chairman expressed the hope that the two countries would maintain cordial relations in the future. U Htay Oo said that there are three layers of Myanmar-China relations with the first being ties between the two peoples. The second is party-to-party relations, he added. Not long after the formation of the USDP, the Chinese Communist Party was the first foreign political party to recognize it. The third is the relations between the two governments. Frequent exchange of visits have been conducted between high-level officials of the two countries and their bilateral ties have been upgraded to comprehensive strategic partnership of cooperation. U Htay Oo underlined that economic and trade cooperation between Myanmar and China are good, citing such successful cooperation projects as China-Myanmar oil and gas pipeline project. He pointed out that many Chinese companies are pouring their investment into Myanmar now. As long as it benefits both countries and the peoples come to know that it is advantageous to them, economic cooperation will be smooth. ^ top ^

Japan's Diaoyu Islands documents "out of context" (Xinhua)
China on Wednesday blasted Japan over its claims that a new collection of documents prove its sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands. "Although Japan tried its utmost in searching for supportive documents, which were taken out of context, it can never change the fact that China has sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands," said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying at a regular press briefing. The Japanese government claimed on Tuesday that it had collected 500 documents showing Japan's rule over the islands before World War II (WWII). Hua said numerous Chinese and foreign historical facts and materials can confirm that the Diaoyu Islands and their adjacent islets are China's inherent territories. China discovered the Diaoyu Islands and has long-term effective administration over the area, according to Hua. "We can find the Diaoyu Islands clearly marked in many maps dating back to the Ming and Qing dynasties," Hua added. Prior to the first Sino-Japanese War, maps by Western countries also described the Diaoyu Islands as belonging to China, she said. Japan colonized Taiwan and its affiliated islands, including the Diaoyu Islands, after the Sino-Japanese war in 1894, and the Diaoyu Islands were given back to China following international legal instruments after WWII, Hua went on. The 1969 map posted on the Japanese Foreign Ministry website recently only proves that the Diaoyu Islands are part of China, she said, adding, "We hope to remind Japan of the need for caution in releasing such documents, in order not to make any blunder." ^ top ^

China's top legislator meets Vietnamese leader (Xinhua)
Top Chinese legislator Zhang Dejiang met with visiting General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) Nguyen Phu Trong on Wednesday. Friendship and cooperation have been the norms of China-Vietnam relations since the two countries forged diplomatic ties in January 1950, said Zhang, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature. It is in the common interests of the two ruling parties, countries and peoples to deepen solidarity and boost cooperation, which also works in favor of regional peace, stability and prosperity, said Zhang, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee. On legislative ties, he said the NPC values its cooperation with the National Assembly of Vietnam and would like to make joint efforts to implement the consensus reached by President Xi Jinping and Trong. On Tuesday, Xi held talks with Trong and witnessed the signing of a string of deals, including a CPC-CPV cooperation plan for the next five years, an extradition treaty, and an agreement on tax on oil and gas concerning China-Vietnam joint exploration in the Pan-Beibu Gulf. Zhang called for the legislative bodies of the two countries to increase exchanges and share more experience on reform and rule of law. Trong's visit comes at a time when the two countries are marking the 65th anniversary of China and Vietnam establishing diplomatic relations. The aim of the visit is to form more solidarity between the two countries, strengthen the strategic partnership and seek common development, Trong said. After Beijing, Trong will fly to southwest China's Yunnan Province to continue his four-day China visit. ^ top ^

Japan hints interest in China-led AIIB, earmarking 1.5 bln USD as contribution (Global Times)
Japan has indicated that it remains interested in joining the China-proposed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) with local media reporting Wednesday that the government had earmarked 1.5 billion US dollars as its contribution. The government here has prepared a draft document on the possibility of its joining the AIIB, which is scheduled to be launched by the end of the year, with the document suggesting that Japan still has some issues pertaining to the bank's governance. But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, according to sources close to the Japanese leader Wednesday, is strongly considering green- lighting Japan joining the China-led initiative and is currently and further evaluating the prospect. Sources familiar with the matter said that Japan's initial investment of 1.5 billion US dollars was based on an assumption that of the 50 billion US dollars initial capitalization of the bank, 10 billion US dollars would come from direct investments from potential members. Japan's investment was calculated taking into account the nominal gross domestic product of the bank's potential participants with 75 percent of the payments coming from Asian economies being used as a benchmark, the sources said, adding that 25 percent of the payments would be coming from non-Asian economies. Japan, who hold China as its biggest trade and economic partner, hopes that its joining the AIIB could help improve ties between Tokyo and Beijing, which have soured of late owing to issues of territory and history. ^ top ^

UN deputy chief to visit China (Xinhua)
UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson will visit China from Wednesday to Saturday, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said on Wednesday. According to Hua Chunying, Eliasson will meet State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui, and will hold talks with Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong. Eliasson will exchange views with the Chinese side on UN affairs and other international affairs of common concern. Hua said Eliasson's visit, in a year holding the 70th anniversary of the founding of the UN, will strengthen cooperation between China and the organization, and promote activities to mark the anniversary. ^ top ^

Putin backs Silk Road proposal (China Daily)
Russian President Vladimir Putin has voiced support for China's Silk Road Economic Belt initiative, which is aimed at reviving the ancient Eurasian trading route. Putin told visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in the Kremlin on Tuesday that Moscow supports the initiative, proposed by President Xi Jinping, and "steadfastly supports China's efforts in championing core interests". An official release issued after an earlier meeting between Wang and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov said both countries are ready to "proactively explore" cooperation on the Silk Road plan and Russia's idea of creating a "passage" between Asia and Europe and integrating Eurasian economies. Countries including Russia and Central Asian nations have shown increasing interest in the Silk Road Economic Belt, proposed by Xi in 2013. Xing Guangcheng, a senior scholar at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the consensus on Tuesday indicates the two countries are "taking a tangible step forward". They are shifting from preliminary supportive language for each other to joint efforts in initiating working-level liaison on the two concepts, Xing said. In late March, the State Council authorized a landmark document — "Vision and Actions on Jointly Building the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road—to be issued, outlining the blueprints. At his meeting with Putin, Wang suggested "docking" the Chinese and Russian initiatives "in order to tackle new changes in the international and regional situation". Wang told a joint news conference that Russia's "look East" policy and China's accelerated westward openings "have created historic opportunities for docking the two countries' development strategies". Li Hui, China's ambassador to Russia, said in a speech to university students in Moscow in February that "the Belt and Road" could meet bilateral cooperation programs halfway, such as Sino-Russian oil and gas pipelines and China's participation in the development of Russia's Far East. Yang Cheng, deputy director of the Center for Russian Studies at East China Normal University, said the bilateral readiness on "docking" shows that Russia has a deeper understanding of the strategic benefit to come. Putin also said he expects that Xi will visit Moscow in May for celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of victory in World War II. Wang, who laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow's Red Square earlier in the day, said the 70th anniversary of victory in WWII is an opportunity to strengthen coordination on international affairs and to uphold mutual interests. Both countries agreed after the foreign ministers' discussions that they "have both the duty and obligation to support each other" when they host the commemorations jointly or separately, in order to remember history, inspire following generations and better ensure world peace. ^ top ^

French warning on nuclear reactors being built in China's Guangdong (SCMP)
France's nuclear safety authority has warned that two nuclear reactors nearing completion in Guangdong could face safety problems after weaknesses were found in steel supplied to a French reactor by the same manufacturer. The French reactor, at the Flamanville EPR nuclear power plant, is a third-generation pressurised water reactor of similar design and build to the two reactors being installed at a new plant in Taishan. Quality inspectors at Flamanville found an abnormally high concentration of carbon in steel parts capping the reactor vessel's top and bottom during a series of tests carried out by French nuclear company Areva, which is building the reactor. The excessive carbon would lead to "lower than expected mechanical toughness values", nuclear regulator ASN said in a press statement on its website, without giving more details. The toughness of the reactor shell was crucial because it relates to the ability of the material to withstand the propagation of cracks. The steel shell of a reactor has to be extremely tough to withstand decades of operation. It was unknown whether the Taishan reactors had the same problem, but the issue might be worth China's concern, the French authorities said. ASN had "informed" relevant foreign counterparts, the statement said. "The vessel of a pressurised water reactor is equipment that is particularly important for safety," the ASN added. "It contains the fuel and takes part in the radioactivity second containment barrier." The problematic steel parts at Flamanville were made by Creusot Forge, a subsidiary of Areva, which also made the same parts for the two reactors in Taishan with similar manufacturing technology, according to a Reuters report. It was unclear whether the Taishan reactors had undergone similar tests before they were shipped to China. ASN and Areva did not immediately respond to inquiries. China General Nuclear in Guangdong also did not respond to an interview request. The company, which also built and operates other plants including the one at Daya Bay, is the main owner and builder of the Taishan plant. A senior manager of a nuclear company on the mainland said it was a "very serious" problem. "The people responsible for this need to be sacked," he said, declining to be named due to his company's media policy. "It shouldn't have happened. All materials must be checked thoroughly before use - that's a basic requirement." If the issue was also found at the Taishan reactors, the 50 billion yuan (HK$63.27 billion) project would be severely affected. It has already suffered delays. A problematic vessel head and bottom would be nearly impossible to replace, but to come up with a solution to strengthen the weak zones was no less challenging. "The urgent task is to launch a quality inspection in Taishan as soon as possible," he said. "Each batch of materials varies slightly. We will cross our fingers and pray for the best." ^ top ^

China committed to new int'l relations featuring win-win cooperation (Xinhua)
China is committed to establishing a new type of international relations that feature win-win cooperation, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a recent interview during his official visit to Russia. "China will not follow the old path taken by existing powers. It is ready to work with countries including Russia to promote the establishment of a new type of international relations that feature cooperation and win-win results rather than confrontation and zero-sum competition," Wang told the Russia 24 TV channel in Moscow on Tuesday. The comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership between China and Russia has offered useful experience for engagement among major countries, which serves as an ongoing successful practice for international relations, Wang added. Speaking of reforms of the United Nations and the Security Council, Wang said the international environment has undergone dramatic changes since the world body was founded 70 years ago. The changes require the United Nations to improve capacity building in order to better fulfill its obligations contained in the UN Charter. "China supports the stronger representation of developing countries including small- and medium-sized countries in the UN... and calls for a reform package agreed by all members through consultations to reach a final consensus," said Wang. Wang stressed that China is opposed to force ill-advised plans or setting any deadline for the reform process, which will do no good to the healthy development of reforming process and to the solidarity within the United Nations. When asked about whether the Development Bank established by the BRICS countries will represent a challenge for existing economic and financial systems, Wang said closer cooperation among the BRICS countries which are positive players in current international economic and financial orders, is neither aimed at overturning existing systems nor introducing any new rules. The initiative is based on the needs of the BRICS countries as existing mechanisms cannot fully meet their great demand for capital, and it is also a useful complementary tool for the current world financial system, he added. Meanwhile, Wang noted that there is a real need for current global financial system to reform and to advance with the times, which requires it not only to consider new situations concerning world economy and global balance of power, but to respect the legitimate wishes of emerging economies for more role in global economic governance. With regard to the economic exchanges between China and Russia, the foreign minister said Beijing and Moscow have been following the principle of equal and mutually beneficial cooperation with win-win results, calling on the two sides to consolidate their cooperation in traditional areas like energy, while furthering bilateral exchanges of high technologies and creating new space for collaboration. The Chinese top diplomat also reiterated China's position on the Ukraine crisis, saying that China always believes in a political settlement of the crisis and that Beijing is glad to see that parts of the new Minsk deal has been implemented. He urged that balance should be struck among different regions and groups in Ukraine with consideration of their own legitimate interests as well as a balance in Ukraine's relations with Russia and the European Union. When commenting on Sino-U.S. relations, Wang said China has proposed to establish a new type of major-country relations with the United States, which centers on non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and common development through win-win cooperation. "Progress has been made in the China-U.S. engagement, but there are still gaps between them. We suggest melting differences through dialogue in a constructive manner, and for those that cannot be solved immediately, it's better to put them under control in order not to let them hamper the sound development of bilateral ties," Wang added. ^ top ^

China's Belt and Road initiative "fits into UN goals" (Xinhua)
China's Belt and Road initiative fits well in building up infrastructure and helping fulfill UN goals, Jan Eliasson, deputy secretary-general of the United Nations said in Beijing on Thursday. China' s efforts in boosting infrastructure investment are the concrete actions needed to meet UN development goals, Eliasson said at a press conference. "There is a need to increase investment in infrastructure, not least in developing countries," he said. He said he hoped the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank would play such an important role and complement existing multilateral financing organizations such as the World Bank. Commending China's multilateralism as a major part of its foreign policy, he called on countries to embrace "an international solution" in today's interconnected world, which is in the national interests of member states. "We live in the world clearly so interdependent that if things go right in one part of the world, it helps the other part of the world. If things go wrong in one part of the world, it hurts others." He said, "So in the days of interdependence, we should act also in the spirit of interdependence." He expressed appreciation for China's role in the UN peacekeeping operation, as well as its assistance in sending timely medical personnel to three African countries heavily affected by the Ebola virus and in helping with the Yemen evacuation. China is the largest personnel contributor to UN peacekeeping missions among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. It has recently assisted 15 countries evacuate 279 citizens as security conditions in Yemen deteriorate. Eliasson, currently on a four-day visit to Beijing that ends on April 11, met with several senior Chinese officials earlier on Thursday, including State Councilor Yang Jiechi, executive vice foreign minister Zhang Yesui and vice foreign minister Li Baodong. During the meeting, Yang said as a founding member of the United Nations, China firmly backs the UN playing a significant role in world affairs and supports the democratization of international relations. Eliasson also attended the launching ceremony of the new United Nations website in Chinese. ^ top ^

Chinese vice premier meets Turkmen deputy prime minister (Global Times)
Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli met with Turkmen Deputy Prime Minister Baymyrat Hojamuhammedov in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Thursday, with the two vowing to strengthen all-round cooperation. Zhang said Turkmenistan is a friendly neighbor and strategic partner of China. He said over the past few years, the China-Turkmenistan strategic partnership has reached a high level under direct attention and promotion of the head of state of the two countries. Zhang said the two countries have maintained close contact between their leaders and achieved rich results in cooperation on trade, energy, security and people-to-people exchanges. Zhang expressed the wish that the two sides would join efforts to actively implement the consensus reached by the heads of state and advance the strategic partnership to a new stage. He said the two sides should fully utilize the bilateral cooperation committee to earnestly enhance cooperation in all areas and on various aspects. Hojamuhammedov said the two countries shared a long-standing tradition of friendship. He said Turkmenistan treasure the fruitful development of bilateral relations and attaches priority to its relationship with China. He expressed the readiness to further deepen cooperation with China in various areas so as to bring even greater benefits to the two peoples. ^ top ^

Vietnam says party chief's visit to China "great success" (Global Times)
General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong's visit to China has been "a great success," said Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday. "Although the visit has not ended yet, through the outcomes of the discussions and talks, contacts and also busy activities of General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong in China, we can say that the visit has been a great success, " said Le Hai Binh, spokesperson of the ministry. Binh made the remarks at a regular press conference held in Vietnam's capital Hanoi on Thursday while responding to a reporter's question over assessment of the outcome of Trong's visit to China. Trong and Chinese leaders "have had in-depth, frank discussions, and reached important common understanding on some major orientations and measures in order to enhance mutual trust to promote friendship and cooperation for mutual benefit in all areas, making the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership between Vietnam and China more substantial, healthy, stable and sustainable in the time to come," Binh said. Trong is paying an official visit to China from Tuesday to Friday at the invitation of Xi Jinping, Chinese President and General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee. It is his second China visit since taking office as Vietnam's party chief in 2011. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

Toxic alert as Chinese chemical plant explodes for the second time in two years (SCMP)
A controversial chemical plant in Zhangzhou, Fujian province, exploded for the second time in two years last night, causing casualties in and around the facility and a toxic chemical spill. There were conflicting details over the casualties late last night, as more than 700 firefighters continued to battle the blaze at the Dragon Aromatics plant on the Gulei peninsula. Citing paramedics, People's Daily reported online that at least 14 people were injured, including two seriously. State television reported that at least one person was injured at the chemical plant and at least five others nearby were hit by glass. The plant, owned by Taiwanese petrochemical group Xianglu, is a major paraxylene, or PX, producer on the mainland. The company originally aimed to build it in Xiamen but changed sites after public opposition led to a rare mass protest in 2007. The Zhangzhou fire department said on its microblog that toxic chemical had leaked, and a number of people were injured by glass from the blast. A photo by a local resident showed a man covered by blood and glass. The Beijing News quoted a staff member at the town's health centre as saying that firefighters had also been injured. Doctors from the Nanjing military region's No175 Hospital and 120 chemical defence battalion soldiers were deployed with 200 gas masks, according to CCTV. Photos posted online by residents showed the plant engulfed in fire and a mushroom-shaped cloud of thick, black smoke rising from the factory. The city fire department said it received a report about the fire at around 7pm and sent 131 vehicles and more than 700 firefighters from several other Fujian cities to the scene. By 9.30pm, one massive 20,000 cubic metre oil storage tank and three 10,000 cubic metre ones were ablaze. Lin Chen, a resident of Liuao county which is across a harbour from the plant, told the South China Morning Post that his flat shook during the blast. Lin's flat is about 10km from the blast site. "I heard a loud 'bang' at home and my flat shook. Everyone in my county saw it. The plant was burning," Lin said. "We can still see it. But I don't smell anything weird now. I think it's because we are upwind [of the blast site]." Lin said some people were still living near the plant but many had moved away since the first explosion about two years ago. The plant also exploded in July 2013. No casualties or toxic leaks were reported in that incident. Witnesses told The Beijing News that residents near the factory were evacuated to about 18km away. And some villagers fled to nearby islands by boat. Taiwan's Central News Agency said the plant was owned by fugitive tycoon Chen Yu-hao, who was indicted in 2003 for allegedly embezzling NT$70 billion. He later fled to the mainland and established the factory. Paraxylene - a chemical used in manufacturing polyester clothing and plastic bottles - is dangerous if inhaled or absorbed through the skin, and can damage abdominal organs and the nervous system. ^ top ^

China forges ahead with Yangtze mega-city 'cluster' (SCMP)
China has moved a step closer to making a string of mega-cities a reality with approval to develop a massive urban cluster on the mid-section of the Yangtze River. And more progress could be on the way amid reports that similar approvals are in store for two other regions - one covering Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei, and another taking in Chengdu and Chongqing. The State Council approved a plan on Sunday to forge ahead with the Yangtze urban cluster, which covers 317,000 sq km. The plan aims to develop urban centres around Wuhan in Hubei, the Changsha -Zhuzhou -Xiangtan city group in Hunan province and around Poyang Lake in Jiangxi. The plan for the Yangtze's mid-section is part of a bigger urbanisation scheme to create 20 mega-city clusters across the country. Five of these clusters, including the one on the Yangtze River, will have "national" status. The other four are the Yangtze Delta cluster, the Chengdu-Chongqing cluster, the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area and the Pearl River Delta. People's Daily said the government expected this month to issue a development plan to integrate Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei. Plans for the Chengdu-Chongqing cluster might be submitted for approval this year. The plans for the clusters along the Yangtze are also part of a programme to integrate economies along the river. This programme to create a "Yangtze River economic belt" became an official national strategy in September when the State Council released guidelines for it. "The Yangtze River economic belt will be the key engine driving the economic artery from east to west China. And urban clusters along the middle reaches of the Yangtze River, as well as the Yangtze River Delta and Chengdu-Chongqing urban clusters, will become important pivots of the economic belt," Xiang Dong, chief of the State Council's research office, said. The priority will be coordinated development between urban and rural areas and link up infrastructure. ^ top ^

China's labour movement poses dilemma for Communist Party (SCMP)
More than three decades after Beijing began allowing market reforms, the mainland's 168 million migrant workers are discovering their labour rights through social media. They are spearheading a labour movement that poses a growing problem for the Communist Party, wary of any grass-roots activism that can threaten its grip on power. "The party has to think twice before it suppresses the labour movement because it still claims to be a party for the working class," said Wang Jiangsong, a Beijing-based scholar. Workers are organising strikes and protests at a rate that has doubled each of the past four years to more than 1,300 last year, from 185 in 2011, said Hong Kong's China Labour Bulletin. "What we are seeing is the forming of China's labour movement in a real sense," said Duan Yi, a leading labour rights lawyer. That's prompted crackdowns by authorities, and factory bosses have fired strike organisers. Activists say authorities now send police to factories to restore order. Police have also detained leading activists and harassed organisations that help workers. The labour law, which went into effect in 1995, stipulates the right to a decent wage, rest, no excessive overtime and the right of group negotiation. But organisers can be arrested on charges such as disrupting traffic, business or social order. "The working class has not yet fully woken up," said Qi Jianguang, 27, who was sacked from his job at a golfing equipment company in Shenzhen for leading a strike last summer. Qi said that a common appeal for equitable and dignified treatment was uniting the labouring classes. Zhang Zhiru, who runs a group defending workers' rights, has been repeatedly harassed by police but remains optimistic. "The social development and the increasing awareness of workers about their need to protect their rights will push the society forward," he said. ^ top ^

Record-breaking solar plane lands in China (Global Times)
It is a quiet windless night on Monday March 30, and Chongqing's Jiangbei Airport has detected an aircraft entering municipal airspace. This is not a normal civil airplane, but a revolutionary manned airplane powered purely by solar energy and eagerly awaited by crowds of airport staff, media and aircraft lovers. The groups have been waiting for more than two hours. At around midnight, the lights of the plane finally appear as it starts its slow approach. The aircraft's fuselage is slim and it has a very wide wingspan larger than that of a jumbo jet. After another hour of waiting, the plane suddenly increases its speed, and at 1:35 am on March 31, it touches down on the airport's runway. Big and light: The aircraft is named Solar Impulse 2. It represents the first attempt to make a round-the-world flight powered solely by solar energy. The team hopes to raise awareness of the use of renewable energy and clean technology through their journey in their zero-emission plane. Chongqing is the journey's fifth leg, following stops in Abu Dhabi, Oman and Myanmar, while the team plans to fly to Nanjing, Jiangsu Province next. The itinerary includes speeches and science exchange activities with schools and experts. "Chongqing and Nanjing are both good in terms of weather, airport size and distance," Bertrand Piccard, one of the two pilots of Solar Impulse 2, told the Global Times. Solar Impulse 2 is different from other airplanes in terms of its structure. The aircraft is made of carbon fiber. It has a 72-meter wingspan but weighs just 2,300 kilograms, about the same as a typical family sedan. It can reach a maximum speed of 140 kilometers per hour. The plane has more than 17,000 solar cells built into its wings and cruises at an altitude of around 8,500 meters during the day to catch the sun's rays, dropping at night to around 1,500 meters when flying over the ocean. The aircraft flies during the evening using energy stored in its batteries during the day. However, It cannot fly in rainy weather. Weathermen must trail the plane to help predict the weather along its flight path. Also, the plane does not have a pressurized cockpit, so pilots can feel changes in temperature. As a result, their blood oxygen levels are constantly monitored. Negotiations underway: Piccard explained that negotiations with the Chinese government are one of the most important parts of the project. "Before we confirmed we would come to China, we had to deal with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, civil aviation authorities, the China Association for Science and Technology, airport authorities as well as the governor of Chongqing [and the mayor of] Nanjing," he said. "It is a special aircraft so we need special permission. We need to explain what we are going to do and find a solution to get to the airport. Also, we have to wait until midnight to land, as that is when there's not much traffic, so we won't disturb anyone," he noted. In order to ensure a safe landing for Solar Impulse 2, Nanjing Lukou International Airport told the Global Times that airport staff made extensive preparations, including designing a detailed landing plan, arranging a landing area and additional airport staff. "We hope we can arrange for it to land after midnight to minimize its impact on other flights," Xu Bin, a deputy director of the operations command center of the airport, said, adding that one of the two runways will be cleared beforehand for Solar Impulse 2. Xu said he expects less than 10 regular flights to be affected by the landing. "We think that Solar Impulse 2 and the environmental protection it represents are meaningful. That's why we're supporting the landing despite the extra work," Xu stressed. More research, more awareness: The landing of Solar Impulse 2 attracted attention from citizens and renewable energy scientists, since its round-the-world journey has proved that solar airplanes can fly long distances. In fact, solar energy is nothing new to China, as the country is one of the world's largest producers of photovoltaic (PV) cells. "Over 60 percent of the PV cells in the world are made by China," Hong Wei, a research fellow at China Institute of Energy Economics, told the Global Times. "China has enough resources and we have the skills required for manufacturing solar-powered products, which means that China is capable of producing a solar airplane that may even better than Solar Impulse 2," Li Changming, head of the Institute for Clean Energy and Advanced Materials of Southwest University, told the Global Times, listing Chinese spacecraft as an example where Chinese solar energy technology has already been applied. So why are solar-powered aircraft not in wide use? Analysts say that the high cost of PV cells and insufficient performance are the main reasons. "There are different PV cells in the market and they are expensive. If we can produce more PV cells and lower prices, the cells made with more advanced techniques could become more affordable," Li said "Solar aircraft normally fly slower than other airplanes. If that can be tackled, it is completely possible that solar airplanes could be used as civil aircraft," he added. Hong however argues that public knowledge of and support for renewable energy is still not strong enough, resulting in a lack of investment in manufacturing such aircraft. But both Hong and Li expressed optimism that Solar Impulse 2 and its team could help boost renewable energy industry in China. Solar Impulse 2 will leave Chongqing whenever weather along its flight path to Nanjing improves. In the meantime the team will continue to visit universities and schools to promote renewable energy. "We want to demonstrate which technology has the best future," Piccard said. ^ top ^

Over 81 forest fires in Guangdong at tomb-sweeping rites (Global Times)
More than 81 forest fires broke out in South China's Guangdong Province during Tomb-Sweeping Festival on Sunday, with traditional ways to honor ancestors as the major cause. "From Saturday to Sunday, we received 81 calls about forest fires. On Sunday alone, we received 139 fire alarms for both forest fires and other accidents," a firefighter surnamed Li from the Foshan Fire Bureau told the Global Times Monday. In particular, one accident in Foshan set a nearby pine forest ablaze, which covered about 266,666 square meters, Li said. It is a tradition for Chinese to burn fake paper money and set firecrackers for their ancestors to show respect on Tomb-Sweeping Festival, which is believed to be the main cause of the accidents. Another firefighter surnamed Zhong from the Jiangmen Fire Bureau told the Global Times Monday that they extinguished over 40 fires during the three-day holiday. No casualties have been reported from the two cities. "There were more fires in this year. Unlike in past holidays, which experienced wet weather, the weather has been hot and dry, making it easier for the fire to spread," said Li. Other cities in Guangdong, including Qingyuan, also suffered from dozens of fire accidents during the festival. Aside from the province in South China, a Sunday mountain fire in Tin Shui Wai of Hong Kong spread over 900 square meters, the Nandu Daily reported Monday. Many cities in China have been advocating the "clean and civilized" way to sweep tombs, like replacing the fake paper money with flowers or planting trees. Two people have been sentenced to three years in prison for accidentally starting a mountain fire when burning fake paper money on Tomb-Sweeping Festival in 2014 in Qingdao, East China's Shandong Province, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Friday. ^ top ^

System targets Chinese tourists' behavior (China Daily)
A new measure has been introduced aimed at ending inappropriate behavior by Chinese tourists. According to the China National Tourism Administration, such behavior includes violating order on public transportation-including flights-damaging public facilities or historical relics, ignoring social customs at tourism destinations, and becoming involved with gambling or prostitution. Records will be kept by provincial and national tourism authorities for up to two years, starting from the day the misbehavior was confirmed by tourism authorities. If necessary, they will also be handed to public security, customs, frontier inspection, transportation and banking authorities. Tourists are allowed to appeal. The move follows incidents involving Chinese tourists that triggered controversy. During the three-day Tomb Sweeping holiday, three Chinese tourists were arrested in Japan for alleged sexual harassment. Under local law, one of them who allegedly used a mobile phone to take upskirt photos could face one year in prison or a fine of 1 million yen ($8,300). In December, a flight from Bangkok to Nanjing was forced to turn back about 90 minutes after takeoff because two Chinese passengers created a disturbance. ^ top ^

China chemical plant fire roars back to life, fanning environmental fears (SCMP)
A blaze at a Fujian chemical plant roared back to life last night several hours after it was reportedly extinguished, fanning fears over public safety and environmental fallout from controversial petrochemical projects. State broadcaster CCTV reported that some firefighters were recalled to the paraxylene (PX) plant in Zhangzhou after fires restarted at 7.40pm, despite officials saying at 4.40pm that fires burning in three massive storage tanks had been put out. The fires started after oil leaked at the Dragon Aromatics facility on the Gulei Peninsula at around 6.50pm on Monday, Xinhua reported, citing the results of an initial investigation. Six people were sent to hospital for injuries, and another 13 people sustained minor injuries, CCTV reported. It was the second explosion at the plant in two years. Provincial and city environmental officials said there were no signs of contamination from the blast in surrounding waters or villages downwind. But Ma Tianjie, programme director at Greepeace in Beijing, said that it could take up to six months to determine if there was any environmental contamination, such as pollution of underground water. He said foams used to extinguish the fires also posed threats. Ma said an environmental assessment report released before the plant was built described underground water in that area as "easily contaminated". "Petrochemical projects in China are usually huge, so whenever there is an accident, the damage can be severe," Ma said. Witnesses reported a strong smell after the blast but the authorities did not say if any toxic chemicals other than PX were released into the atmosphere. About 400 Gulei residents were relocated to nearby areas, including Tongling township, about 6km from the peninsula. A employee at the Dongshan Haiyue Hotel in Tongling told the South China Morning Post that residents from the peninsula had booked into the hotel. The employee said the plant was to be built in Dongshan county but large protests, in which some people were detained, prompted the site to be changed to Gulei. "Our impression is that PX is dangerous. Everybody said that," the hotel worker said. "I heard that people in Gulei also protested, but some just moved away in return for compensation." The plant was initially planned for Xiamen, also in Fujian, but relocated after residents mounted huge demonstrations in 2007 over fears that its operations could cause cancer. The protests marked the first of a series of not-in-my-backyard environmental movements against mainland PX projects, which industry experts say have stalled PX production. State media have sought to reassure the public that the chemical is no more toxic than coffee, with experts also calling for the public to be more "rational" and "believe in science". But Monday's blast, the second within two years at the plant, rekindled the public debate, with many questioning the facility's high accident rates. Citing an anonymous industry source, Caijing magazine blamed a lack of investment in safety and poor oversight for the repeated blasts. Paraxylene is a chemical used in the manufacture of polyester clothing and plastic bottles, and is dangerous if inhaled or absorbed through the skin. ^ top ^

Official dubbed 'Bulldozer Mayor' over infamous demolition policy jailed for corruption (SCMP)
The former mayor of Nanjing, Ji Jianye - known as "Mayor Bulldozer" due to his penchant for construction projects - has been sentenced to 15 years in jail for taking more than 11 million yuan (HK$14 million) in bribes. The sentence was handed down in the Yantai Intermediate People's Court in Shandong province yesterday. It follows the court's confiscation of two million yuan worth of Ji's personal assets when the hearing concluded in January. The Yantai court had heard testimonies and evidence showing Ji received 11.32 million yuan in bribes between 1999 and 2012. Ji had received gifts and cash from a trusted circle of friends that he had built up more than two decades ago. The circle comprised seven people, most of whom had worked for Ji, and contributed 90 per cent of the bribes Ji received. The Procuratorate Daily identified one of these as Xu Dongming. It said that Xu had paid Ji more than 7.7 million in return for tourism, property and highway contracts. State-run said Zhu Tianxiao, director of Jiangsu Wuzhong Group, had also given Ji cash and gifts. The report said Zhu paid Ji more than 2.4 million yuan over nine occasions and that in 2010, to celebrate Ji's appointment as mayor, he gave him a famous painting and 200,000 yuan in cash. Ji, 57, was known as "Mayor Bulldozer" due to his focus on big capital projects, both in Nanjing and during his time as head of Yangzhou. He was toppled at the end of 2013 during a period in which several Jiangsu officials were probed for graft. These included Yang Weize, Nanjing's Communist Party boss, and Zhao Shaolin, Jiangsu Communist Party's former secretary general. Ji and Yang had worked together for three years in Nanjing. Their downfall made Nanjing the first city in the nation to have had both its mayor and party boss replaced since President Xi Jinping came to office. Yang is still being investigated. A court hearing is pending. Ji spent his entire political career in Jiangsu, with stints as the mayor and party boss of both Kunshan and Yangzhou. Before taking over Nanjing, Ji had gained a reputation in Yangzhou for rebuilding large parts of the city. After taking over Nanjing, he ordered the city to tear up and rebuild a main road, even though it was only 16 years old and had been designed to last 50 years. He also launched a three-year sewerage project with a network of pipes spanning 20,000 hectares and costing 18.3 billion yuan, but the infrastructure project was suspended a few days after he was removed. Mainland media outlets said that further prosecutions were likely. ^ top ^

One dead and 50 arrested after pollution protest in China's Inner Mongolia (SCMP)
One person died and 50 were arrested after some 2,000 police, using rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons, put down a protest by villagers against pollution from a chemical plant in China's Inner Mongolia, an overseas human rights group said. Inner Mongolia, an autonomous region almost the size of Tibet that stretches from Heilongiang province almost to Xinjiang, has seen sporadic unrest since 2011 when the region was rocked by protests after an ethnic Mongol herder was killed by a truck after taking part in demonstrations against pollution caused by a coal mine. Ethnic Mongols, who make up less than 20 per cent of Inner Mongolia's 24 million population, say their grazing lands have been ruined by mining and desertification and that the government has tried to resettle them in permanent houses. Coal-rich Inner Mongolia is supposed to enjoy a high degree of self-rule, but many Mongols say the Han Chinese majority has benefited most by economic development. In the latest incident, villagers in Naiman county, next to the northeast provinces of Liaoning and Jilin, took to the streets to protest against a chemical processing zone they said was polluting farmland and grazing land, the New York-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Centre said on Monday. The group quoted a witness as saying police used rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons to disperse the demonstrators, leading to one death. An official who picked up the telephone at the local government said he was unable to confirm any deaths and declined to comment further. However, the government posted on its official microblog on Monday that it had ordered the chemical zone to close and shift to an undisclosed location and that it would punish any companies that flouted the law. The government also said that it would go after protesters who blocked roads, smashed vehicles, stoked tension or spread rumours. About 90,000 “mass incidents” – a euphemism for protests – occur each year in China, triggered by corruption, pollution, illegal land grabs and other grievances. Aware at the anger over environmental problems, the Chinese government has declared a war on pollution, vowing to abandon a decades-old growth-at-all-costs economic model that has spoiled much of China's water, skies and soil. ^ top ^

14,000 residents resettled as China chemical plant fire spreads to fourth oil tank (SCMP)
More than 14,000 people living near a burning chemical plant in Fujian province have been evacuated after it caught fire for the third time early yesterday morning and spread to a fourth oil tank before noon. The fires at the paraxylene plant in Gulei, Zhangzhou, restarted for the second time slightly past 2am - less than three hours after firefighters put out the flames that had roared back to life for the first time at 7.40pm, China News Service reported. The resurgence occurred shortly after officials said the fires - caused by an oil leak at the Dragon Aromatics facility on Monday - had been put out. Two fire trucks were destroyed in the blaze, Fujian Daily reported. Experts said the blaze restarted because the temperature of the liquid in the three oil tanks that had caught fire was higher than their ignition point, and that the liquid began burning again once the layer of foam sprayed on it had been consumed. Authorities expanded the evacuation zone to 5km from the burning tanks. At around 11am, the fire spread to a fourth tank with about 1,500 tonnes of oil. More than 14,000 residents were relocated to nearby areas. A Gulei resident and owner of an abalone farm said he woke up to a strong foul smell and flames that lit up the night sky at 3am. "The flames were very big and bright. They burned high in the air," the man, surnamed Hong, told the South China Morning Post. "I was afraid it might blow up, so I organised my family and workers to leave the place." Chen Haibin, a volunteer helping villagers to evacuate, said residents had all left by 7pm. Over 10,000 people were resettled in the city centre of neighbouring Zhangpu county while others went to another town. Local media reported that when it rained in Tongling township, about 6km from Gulei, on Tuesday morning, the dark-coloured raindrops left black stains on the ground. A Gulei resident and owner of a seahorse farm said he woke on Tuesday to find many of his more than 10,000 seahorses dead and floating on the water. Hong told the Post that the abalones and prawns in his farm appeared normal when he left yesterday morning. He tried to return to Gulei to check on them later in the day but found the town sealed off. The authorities have not announced whether the incident caused pollution to the air or seawater in the area. ^ top ^

Police shift focus of investigation into detained Chinese women's rights activists (SCMP)
Chinese police are broadening their investigation into five detained women activists to focus on their campaigns against domestic violence and for more public toilets for women, their lawyers said on Wednesday. The women were taken into custody on the weekend of International Women's Day, March 8, and later detained on suspicion of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble", according to their lawyers. The charge carries jail time of up to five years. Supporters of the five - Li Tingting, 25, Wei Tingting, 26, Wang Man, 32, Zheng Churan, 25, and Wu Rongrong, 30 - initially assumed they were picked up because of their plans to demonstrate against sexual harassment on buses and trains. But Li's lawyer Wang Qiushi said the focus of the investigation was centred on a 2012 campaign to press for more public toilets for women and a 2013-14 campaign against domestic violence. "The initial reason for taking them away was the anti-sexual harassment bus activity on March 7, but it looks like slapping them now with a criminal charge for that is obviously very difficult," Wang said. The 2012 "Occupy Men's Rooms" campaign led to four cities pledging to increase the ratio of toilet cubicles for women, the state-run China Daily reported . The "Bloodstained Bride" campaign of 2013-2014 involved women posing in blood-splattered wedding gowns to draw attention to violence. Lu Jun, co-founder of a group that campaigns against discrimination against women, said men identifying themselves as Beijing police had gone to various cities to look for women who participated in an "Occupy Men's Rooms" campaign. Beijing police did not respond to a request for comment. The United States, Britain and the European Union have condemned the detentions, prompting China to call on other countries to respect its judicial sovereignty. Asked whether the government was concerned about further international censure if the women were formally charged, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said: "I don't think there is any reason [for other countries] to be unhappy about China handling the relevant case in accordance with the law." Prosecutors will decide within days whether the women should be formally arrested or released, the lawyers said. Prosecutors in Beijing's Haidian district, which has jurisdiction over the women's cases, said they had not received their cases from police, according to Wu's lawyer Liang Xiaojun. A woman surnamed Wang from the Haidian prosecutor's office declined to comment on the matter, saying that "their cases have not reached us". ^ top ^

Chinese television host suspended after criticising Mao Zedong (SCMP)
Popular mainland Chinese television host Bi Fujian has been suspended from air for fours days after a video taken at a private gathering was leaked showing him telling jokes criticising Mao Zedong. "[China Central TV] will investigate and handle Bi's [case] seriously, because as a CCTV host, Bi's comments in the online video clip have sparked a serious public response," said a message posted on CCTV's weibo account yesterday. The leaked video and the news of his four-day suspension dominated discussion on mainland social media platforms yesterday and also led to a commentary by the Global Times. The West China Metropolis Daily said his suspension began after midnight yesterday. Citing an internal source from CCTV, it said Bi's comments had severely harmed the station's public image and the decision to suspend him had been taken by senior management. While Bi is suspended, no programme he hosts will be aired. The move came after Nie Chenxi - known for his hardline approach - became president of CCTV on Tuesday morning, the report said. A video leaked on Monday showed Bi singing Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy - one of the Eight Revolutionary Operas produced during the Cultural Revolution, at a private banquet with friends. In the 76-second video, Bi was heard making a satirical comment, including a brief line saying that Mao had given the people a tough time. The Global Times published a commentary urging celebrities to take care when making comments, and also criticised the posting of Bi's private opinions without consent. A CCTV employee told the West China Metropolis Daily that senior managers ordered Bi's suspension at a crisis meeting held on Tuesday afternoon. Bi, 56 - widely known as Bi Laoye, or "Grandpa Bi" - is known as a talent-show host, but is also a CCTV producer and director. His show, Avenue of Stars, has been on air since 2004. ^ top ^

Labor relations improvement signals human rights progress (Xinhua)
The Chinese government's latest assertion on workers' rights may bode well for the country's vision of a harmonious society and its course of improving human rights protection. In a guideline published Wednesday, the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) and the State Council said improving labor relations is an urgent task as the country is undergoing major economic and social changes with diversifying employee appeals and increasing labor disputes. The words came just as China is locked in an economic "new normal" state of slow growth - the country's leadership has vowed to change the country's economic structure, which is long led by exports and massive state-directed investments, into one more responsive to the growing needs of a consumer-driven society. Harmonious labor relations thus are of vital pertinence to the country's healthy economic development and make up a key cornerstone for the CPC's position as the ruling party. But one should not overlook another strong signal Chinese authorities are sending here, that people's rights and welfare must be protected, especially in a time of drastic social and economic changes when labor disputes are running high. Authorities must stick to the people-first principle and take safeguarding their fundamental rights and interests as the starting point of their work, Wednesday's guideline read. In particular, the guideline said China will take steps to improve the wage payment system to make sure employees are paid timely and in full. Pilot programs will be enacted to offer guaranteed financial support for arrears of wages to protect the interests of rural migrant workers, it read. Migrant workers are often the victims of unscrupulous employers and often make up the most vulnerable group in labor disputes. Earlier reports said a female migrant worker was allegedly beaten to death during a confrontation with police when chasing unpaid wages in Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi Province in December last year. In November, at least ten migrant workers threatened to jump from a building after failing to claim unpaid wages in Suzhou City in Anhui Province. Official data show that in the first 11 months of 2014, Chinese government has helped migrant workers recover wages totaling 27.9 billion yuan. Though the figure seemed reassuring to some extent, it is also proof of how rampant wage default goes in China, particular in the construction sector. Hopefully, the new guideline can help put the unscrupulous practice to rest once and for all. In addition, the guideline also promised regulations will ensure employees enjoy their due holidays without compromising wages. Employers are asked to invest more in labor safety education, training and protection facilities to reduce accidents and occupational diseases during worktime. China will try to expand the coverage of social insurance to all employees, especially for disadvantaged communities such as rural migrant workers and outsourced employees, the guideline said. The pursuit of improved human rights conditions is a path that never ends, and all these moves, though each only represents a small step forward, signal further progress, as they implement the Constitution's spirit of protecting human rights. ^ top ^

41 mainland Chinese join super-rich 'US$1b club' after share-price surge (SCMP)
The recent surge in share prices on the mainland has created at least 41 new super-rich people in the nation whose individual net worth exceeded US$1 billion during the past two months, Forbes business magazine estimates. At least half of them work in manufacturing industries, and others mostly focused on the finance, energy and retail sectors. Zhou Qunfei, 45, founder of touchscreen maker Lens Technology, tops the list. She became China's richest woman after her company, which supplies screens to electronic giants including Apple and Samsung, debuted on Shenzhen's ChiNext A-share market on March 18. Zhou holds nearly 90 per cent of the company's stake and her personal wealth reached 67.4 billion yuan (US$10.9 billion) as her company's shares hit the daily trading limit for 16 consecutive days and closed at 113.87 yuan yesterday. Two others who have done well on the stock market are Chen Chichang, 44, and Lin Xiaoya, 42, a couple from Guangdong province, who founded Guangdong Qtone Education in 2005. In the past year, investors' expectations about the robust growth in online education have pushed up the Shenzhen-traded company's stock price by as much as five times to 252.4 yuan per share yesterday. The couple's personal wealth has soared to about US$1.4 billion. Other new billionaires include Zhang Desheng, founder of multi-industry conglomerate Zhejiang Wanma Group. Zhang, 65, and his daughter own 51 per cent of the listed company - a stake that was worth more than US$1.06 billion, as the share price closed at 14 yuan yesterday. His company's stock has more than doubled in the past year. New billionaires' wealth also changes rapidly because of the rapid fluctuation of stock prices. Yao Wenchen, chairman of Shanghai Yaoji Playing Card, became a billionaire on April 7 when his company's shares closed at a record high of 25.65 yuan on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. However, the stock price of the company fell to 23.41 yuan yesterday, sending his personal wealth below the magic US$1 billion mark. The Shanghai Composite Index has surged 30 per cent during the past two months, while that of the Shenzhen exchange has risen by 23 per cent. Other mainland businessmen who have recently become billionaires thanks to a share-price rally on the stock markets include He Ye, director of Shenzhen InfoTech Technologies, Shao Qinxiang, chairman of Zhejiang Garden Bio-chemical High-tech, as well as Chen Qixing, chairman of Shenzhen Everwin Precision Technology. China had a record 213 people on the 2015 Forbes Billionaires List - second only to the United States. ^ top ^

CPPCC discusses soil protection (Xinhua)
China' political advisors discussed soil protection along the black earth belt in northeastern China during a bi-weekly consultation session Thursday. According to a statement issued after the session presided over by Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), political advisors agree that protection of the black earth belt is vital to China's food security and the sustainable use of its land and agricultural resources. The black earth region of northeast China, one of the world's three-largest fertile areas, now accounts for about one fifth of China's total grain production. However, excessive reclamation over the years has significantly reduced the fertility of the black earth belt. Earlier reports quoted a senior Chinese geologist as saying China will lose all of its black earth topsoil in 50 years without proper protection. Political advisors suggested that the country should incorporate black earth protection into its 13th Five-Year Plan, push forward circular agriculture and advance reforms on the rural property right system. They also called for technological innovations and urged the central authorities to increase financial support for black earth protection. ^ top ^

Harsh punishment for traffickers as China looks to protect women's rights (Xinhua)
Severe punishments were given to 11 suspects who kidnapped and trafficked 16 Vietnamese women on Thursday as Chinese courts vow to better protect women's rights. Most of the women, who were sold for prostitution in booming Guangdong province, have been rescued by Chinese police and will go back to Vietnam soon. Depending on their role, the kidnappers recieved sentences ranging from 2 years to life imprisonment. The final ruling from the higher people's court of south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region is sending a clear signal that anyone who violates the rights of women, whether Chinese or foreign nationals, will be punished according to law. It coincides with the official visit of General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Central Committee Nguyen Phu Trong, who vowed to beef up the law enforcement cooperation with China in a joint communique released on Wednesday. There would be no market for trafficked women if nobody is willing to buy. High profits from prostitution have driven criminals to take risks despite government crackdown and severe punishment by law. Meanwhile, buying Vietnamese brides, which are cheaper than domestic brides in the eyes of many rural families', have become sought after. There are hundreds of agents who help Chinese men find Vietnamese brides, some of whom were trafficked. The gender imbalance in China's rural areas caused by the traditional preference for boys has created a shortage of women for marriage. Figures from the National Bureau of Statistics show that, as of the end of 2014, the Chinese mainland held 33.76 million more males than females, with the sex ratio standing at 115.88 to 100. China is spending no efforts in cracking down on women trafficking. The number of cases of abducting and trafficking women and children continued to drop in China in 2014 because of harsh punishments the country has imposed for the crimes, according to the Supreme People's Court (SPC). Courts across China handled 978 cases of women and children trafficking in 2014. The number was 1,313 in 2013 and 1,918 in 2012, according to the SPC. A total of 12,963 traffickers and buyers have been punished in 7,719 cases from 2010 to 2014. Of those punished, 7,336 received severe punishments ranging from serving at least five years in prison to the death penalty. At the same time, the law should be more strict on the buyers, who are exempt from criminal responsibility under the current law if they did not maltreat the women or hinder the rescue. The law should be revised to severely punish the buyers of women and ensure the crime be stifled in the cradle. More efforts need to be put in rural areas where an extensive publicicing of law should be in place and a more balanced gender structure should be encouraged. ^ top ^

Five pandas die in 4 months in Shaanxi center (Global Times)
Another panda bear has died after contracting canine distemper virus (CDV), the fifth in four months in a Shaanxi-based wildlife center, an official with the center told the Global Times Thursday. The fifth panda, 5-year-old Long Long, died on Wednesday after being treated for three months. Long Long was the only male among the five dead pandas since the first death in December, according to Han Xueli, director of the publicity office at the Shaanxi rescue, breeding and research center for rare wild animals. "The other 20 pandas are healthy and have been sent to other nature reserves in the province," Han told the Global Times. Han said that the healthy pandas would be returned after a sanitary assessment is completed by panda experts and veterinarians. While the exact reason for the infection remains unclear, panda experts have questioned the center's location and disease prevention measures. The center was built on the north side of Qinling Mountain in 1987. Pandas have special living requirements, such as high humidity, low temperatures and a high altitude. But the center is dry, densely populated and has no bamboo anywhere near the area, said Diao Kunpeng, a panda expert with the NGO Shan Shui Conservation Center (SSCC) devoted to promoting biodiversity in China. The required living environment of pandas can be found only in the south of Qinling Mountain in Shaanxi Province, Diao said. "More importantly, the center is in a scenic spot surrounded by hotels and residential compounds with many pet animals, which have posed health risks to pandas," Diao told the Global Times. The center is located more than 80 kilometers southwest of Xi'an, the capital of Shaanxi. Huang Yan, deputy chief engineer of the Sichuan-based China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda (CCRCGP), also believes that the center's location increases the risk of infections through contact with other animals and people. The center is open to the public and charges an entry fee for a tour of over 20 kinds of rare animals, such as pandas, takins and snub-nosed monkeys. CDV is a highly contagious disease quite common among a variety of animals including dogs, mice and bats. The infected animals usually have high fever, bouts of coughing, vomiting and diarrhea. It is spread through contact with infected body fluids or contaminated food and water. "But the disease is deadly once transmitted to pandas, and there is no cure at this stage," Diao said. The current vaccines can prevent most animals from being infected with the virus, but there are no vaccines available for pandas, Diao added. Han admitted that the center is densely populated with nearby villagers keeping cats and dogs, but he claimed that the center bans pet animals. Han declined to comment on the possible health risks posed by the center's location, but said panda experts are still investigating. According to Han, all the pandas at the center are kept in captivity, and each has its own room with air conditioning facilities. "The key to protecting captive pandas lies in effective disease prevention measures," Huang said. The CCRCGP strictly bans any pet animals at the center, prohibits visitors from coming in contact with the pandas and bans breeders from keeping any pets, Huang said. According to the fourth national giant panda survey revealed in February, there were 1,864 wild pandas in China as of 2013. Most of the 345 wild pandas found in Shaanxi are found in the south side of the Qinling Mountain. There are also 375 living in captivity. The State Forestry Administration will draft a giant panda protection regulation to protect the habitat of the endangered animal, news portal reported on Thursday. ^ top ^

Beijing seeks new private investment to expand subway (China Daily)
Beijing plans to attract more nongovernment funds to fuel the rapid expansion of the subway network, the company responsible for providing finance and planning new projects has revealed. Construction costs have almost doubled in the past six years, the Beijing Infrastructure Investment Co said. The technical and economic performance index, which reflects construction costs, increased to 1 billion yuan ($161 million) per kilometer in 2014 for subway lines in the downtown area, according to figures released by the company. The corresponding figure in 2007 was 571 million yuan. The municipal government has annual allocations to fund subway construction projects, and these reached 15.5 billion yuan in 2014. Most of the money is provided by the company, which has invested more than 251.3 billion yuan in the network in recent years-enough to build 110 Bird's Nest stadiums or 246 Water Cube aquatics centers. Now the capital's municipal government has released a guideline designed to attract more funds from private sources to finance large public projects, including the subway. Yang Xuhui, an official at the Beijing Municipal Commission of Development and Reform, the city's top economic planner, said companies can invest either alone or as a part of a consortium. "More than one company has shown an interest," he added. ^ top ^

Licensed lawyers surpass 271,000 in China (Global Times)
China had more than 271,000 licensed lawyers in some 22,000 law firms by the end of 2014, the Ministry of Justice said on Wednesday. About 90 percent of the lawyers are full-time professionals, with the rest including professionals in government agencies and companies. Some 74,000 of the lawyers were members of the Communist Party, the ministry said in a statement. It said there were 330 offices set up in China by 265 foreign law firms from 21 nations and regions by the end of 2014. In 2014, lawyers working in China handled more than 2.8 million lawsuits. They also took care of 360,000 cases of legal assistance. In a separate statement, the ministry said there were a total of 3,006 notary services, employing 12,960 notaries, in China. ^ top ^

Shaolin abbot promises regulation after donation scandal (Global Times)
Shaolin Abbot Shi Yongxin has promised to instill stronger monastic principles in the Buddhist institution's monks after one reportedly forced a donor to increase the size of a donation. A media report claiming a journalist was forced by a Shaolin monk to donate 100 yuan instead of 20 yuan has stirred massive criticism on social media. Shi said the temple "will prop up teachings and make sure every monk is better guided". Each donation must be voluntary and it is not the temple's policy to ask for a certain amount, according to the abbot. Shi, known as the "CEO monk", has courted controversy for developing business operations including lucrative kungfu shows and merchandise. In March, he was moved to distance the temple from media criticism claiming a planned Australian outpost would be over-commercialized. ^ top ^



Top Pudong official named chief of expanded Shanghai free-trade zone (SCMP)
Shanghai has appointed Shen Xiaoming, Pudong district's top official, as chief of the mainland's first free-trade zone - reflecting the city's ambitions to enlarge the Hong Kong-style market place. Shen, 52, the Communist Party secretary of Pudong - who will also stay in that role - will become one of two directors overseeing the zone's administration committee, the district government said yesterday. Ai Baojun, a vice-mayor of Shanghai, will remain as the other director. The change in personnel precedes the forthcoming expansion of the Shanghai free-trade zone (FTZ) from an initial area of 28.78 sq km to more than 120 sq km, to cover the Lujiazui finance trade zone, dubbed "China's Wall Street". The State Council approved expanding the zone's size last year, despite growing suspicions about the development of the "mini Hong Kong" territory. "It was inevitable Shanghai's FTZ would expand over the whole Pudong area," said Zhang Jun, a professor of economics at Fudan University. "All eyes will now be on financial reform in the zone as foreign investors await liberalisation allowing capital to flow freely across the border." Shanghai launched the FTZ in September 2013 under the directives of Premier Li Keqiang, who hoped to use the zone's initial area as a testing ground for further economic reforms. The zone has promised to make the yuan convertible, which could help ease foreign investment in the mainland's equity, property and manufacturing sectors. Up to now, the yuan has yet to be fully convertible in the zone, although the authorities have taken steps to ease controls on cross-border capital flows between overseas accounts and those based in the FTZ. As Lujiazui is now part of the FTZ, investors and economists expect the central government to give Shanghai greater freedom to open up the finance sector. A Pudong government official said Shen's appointment as a FTZ official showed Shanghai's determination to build a large, flourishing free-market zone. "It's difficult to convince the central government to let all of Pudong become a free-trade zone," he said. "But Shanghai could copy policies and practices introduced in the zone across the whole of Pudong district, too." Shen, a renowned paediatrician and a former president of Shanghai's top-level Xinhua Hospital, could help coordinate urban planning and policymaking linked to the FTZ development while helping to copy FTZ policies over the rest of Pudong. Sun Jiwei, the No 2 official in Pudong, who is to become executive director of the FTZ's administration committee, will also continue as Pudong governor, the FTZ administration committee's website said. ^ top ^



Macau luxury watch expo axed as China's anti-graft campaign drives VIPs away (SCMP)
The effects of President Xi Jinping's crackdown on graft continue to be felt beyond mainland China, with organisers of a luxury Macau watch show axing the event due to poor expected turnout, while auctions in Hong Kong are also apparently falling victim to the drive. Vincci Tung, manager of the European Asian Watch, Jewellery and Antique Coins Show in Macau, told the South China Morning Post the event, originally scheduled for next month, was cancelled because of the campaign, calling its impact "tremendous". "We cannot deny the obvious - that a dramatic decrease in VIP customers visiting Macau's casinos has led to a chain reaction, weakening overall high-end luxury product sales," Tung said. A statement on the event's website said: "Admission of audience and benefits to vendors are of utmost concerns for us. We shall be re-scheduling for future show dates." The Communist Party forbids cadres from gambling, but until Xi stepped up his campaign, the rules were loosely enforced in Macau. Gaming revenue for the city is predicted to slump 9 per cent this year, after falling 2.6 per cent last year - the first decline since the government began compiling such data in 2002. Auction houses in Hong Kong, meanwhile, also appear to be feeling the heat. Top auction houses saw sales during their flagship spring sales plunge this week, a result some observers say was partly due to the mainland's anti-graft campaign. Sotheby's led the rout with a more than 20 per cent year-on-year drop in sales at an auction that featured about 1,300 fewer lots than last year. The company took in US$346 million - down from US$438 million last year - in a scaled-back series that did not feature any record-breakers. A company spokesperson said it was "pleased" with the results, but did not say what was behind the declining sales and number of lots. China Guardian, which specialises in antiques and art, saw its sales drop 27 per cent to HK$253 million. Mark Saunderson, director of the Asia Contemporary Art Show, said it was likely the anti-graft drive was behind the falling sales, with buyers more hesitant to splash out on big items. Poly Auction represented a bright spot for Hong Kong's annual spring sales. The subsidiary of the Chinese state-run Poly Culture Group brought in HK$1.1 billion, matching last year's tally. More than 7,000 officials had been punished for gambling since Xi launched his campaign, Xinhua reported last October. Li Gang, the director of Macau's liaison office, said last month measures were in place to ensure that officials who head for the city "would be discovered". ^ top ^



Taiwan starts water rationing in north amid worst drought in over a decade (SCMP)
Taiwan launched water rationing in some major cities on Wednesday as it battled its worst drought in more than a decade after the lowest rainfall in nearly 70 years. The state water company cut supplies to about 800,000 households and businesses in Taoyuan, parts of Hsinchu county and New Taipei City in northern Taiwan for two days a week for an indefinite period. The government said it was forced to impose the measure as the water supply situation was urgent. The move comes after the island's lowest rainfall last autumn and winter since 1947. Parts of Taoyuan's vast Shihmen Dam that supplies several cities in northern Taiwan have dried up, leaving a muddy crater. The dam held just 24.5 per cent of its capacity yesterday, according to the Water Resources Agency. "We continue to monitor the situation to determine how long the rationing will go on as the supply of the Shihmen Dam is tight. We urge people to conserve and store water," said Taoyuan city government official Cheng Tsao-ming. Homes, schools and businesses are relying on water stored in large tanks and adopting water-saving measures, including recycling water for gardening and closing swimming pools and gyms on rationing days. Some are concerned their businesses will suffer if the water rationing continues. The Showlin hair salon in Taoyuan said it had to turn away some customers. "We have three storage tanks [but] I am worried we will have to start taking unpaid leave if the rationing goes on much longer," a salon worker said. The owner of a car wash in Taoyuan, who declined to give his name, said: "I have still opened my business today as I have a big water storage tank to supply my shop, but I am worried about losing customers if the situation worsens." Despite light rains this week, the government has warned the dry spell is expected to continue and that monsoon rains may not happen at all this season. The government last imposed water rationing and anti-drought measures in 2001 in parts of Taiwan, including Taipei. At the time, water supplies to Taipei's car washes, saunas and swimming pools were suspended, and government agencies, schools and hotels were ordered to slash water usage by 20 per cent. ^ top ^



"Belt and Road" Initiative turning point for Chinese economy (Xinhua)
The "Belt and Road" Initiative will be a significant turning point for the Chinese economy as it can help promote infrastructure and industrial transfer among different localities, said a Chinese economist. Infrastructure connectivity is a priority for the initiative, and it can create a new wave of investment in China, said Guan Qingyou, executive director of Minsheng Securities' research institute. The Chinese economy posted 7.4-percent growth in 2014, its weakest since 1990. The annual growth target set by the government was lowered to around 7 percent for 2015. Planned infrastructure projects and projects in progress related to the initiative total 1.04 trillion yuan (169.5 billion U.S. dollars) across the nation, Guan said in a recent interview with Xinhua. Most infrastructure projects will take two to four years to complete, which translates to about 400 billion yuan in infrastructure investment for this year, he said. China's various regions have different levels of economic development, which creates opportunities for industrial coordination, and the speed of industrial transfer may be faster than expected, said Guan, adding that textiles, chemicals, electric machinery and other traditional industries can be transferred to central China from areas like Shanghai, Beijing, and Zhejiang Province. Telecommunications, computer and other electronic equipment manufacturing sectors are being transferred to areas such as southwest China's Sichuan Province and central China's Anhui Province from Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong Province, he added. The initiative was first proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013 to connect Asian, European and African countries more closely and promote mutually beneficial cooperation. Some experts believe it may also bolster China's industrial upgrades, urbanization and coordinated development among regions. ^ top ^

China cuts power prices and taxes to help firms amid slowdown (SCMP)
China will cut some electricity prices and natural resource taxes to help companies amid the economic slowdown, the government has announced. The State Council said after its meeting on Wednesday that the price of electricity supplied to the grid by its many coal-fired power plants would be cut by an average of 0.02 yuan (2 HK cents) per kilowatt-hour. Although overall household prices remained unchanged, the government said it would also cut the sales price for power supplied to commercial enterprises by 0.018 yuan per kWh. China will continue its differential power pricing policy that charges more for high energy-consuming sectors and also increase the use of "punitive" prices imposed on firms that violate state regulations on pollution and resource use. The measure would "reduce companies' costs, stabilise market expectation, promote economic growth, and help the restructuring of the industries in a differentiated manner", according to the State Council's post-meeting statement. It added that it would review and slash unreasonable government charges for businesses to support the economy. The government also said it would cut resource taxes on iron ore production from May 1 to ease the burden on domestic producers. The relief in power prices and taxes are among the government's latest measures to stave off the economic slowdown. A central bank adviser said last month that China's economy faced "tremendous" downward pressure in the first quarter to sustain 7 per cent growth. ^ top ^

Censorship, pollution are top problems for business in Beijing: EU chamber (SCMP)
Censorship and slow internet speed, regulatory barriers and air pollution are among the top problems hindering Beijing from becoming a competitive business centre that can lure fresh investment, the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China said. "Substantially more firms " based in Beijing than elsewhere in China believed that foreign companies tended to receive unfavourable treatment, according to the group's first position paper on the capital. The views of more than 470 member companies in the chamber's Beijing arm were solicited. Mats Harborn, chamber vice-president, said at a press briefing in Beijing that a series of anti-monopoly investigations last year fuelled concern about an unfair regulatory environment. "Of course to some extent it affected the sentiment," Harborn said. This was part of the reason that 64 per cent of Beijing-based companies felt foreign companies were unfairly treated, compared to 37 per cent elsewhere in China. "Any country needs stronger anti-monopoly law enforcement. That is the basis for fair competition," he said, but added the process had to be "fair and transparent", and "consistent". Qualcomm, Audi and BMW were among multinationals investigated by Chinese authorities for anti-monopoly reasons last year. The government has defended the practice, saying that domestic companies were also investigated. Beijing is host to the highest number of global headquarters of Fortune 500 companies in the world, with a total of 52, whose combined revenue reached US$3.96 trillion last year. The number is larger than the size of Germany's economy. However, time-consuming administration costs, a lack of coordination between state and local tax bureaus and overseas remittance issues had hindered business operations in Beijing, the paper said. About 87 per cent of respondents in a poll last year claimed that China's slow internet speed had negatively affected their business. The internet speed in Beijing averaged 4.17 megabits per second, ranking second on the mainland after Shanghai, but far behind other world-leading cities, such as London, New York and Seoul, which has a speed of 23.6 Mbps, the report said. Late last year, mainland authorities blocked Google services and conducted closer scrutiny of internet messages deemed politically sensitive. The chamber also warned "the air quality in Beijing consistently exceeds acceptable levels", while the city's annual water availability per capita was below the United Nations absolute water scarcity threshold. ^ top ^



Mongolia to harvest 465.7 thousand tons of wheat from 300 thousand hectares in 2015 (Infomongolia)
At the Cabinet meeting held on April 06, 2015, Minister of Food and Agriculture R.Burmaa introduced a policy to adhere and further measures to carry out on spring cultivation preparations as well as liabilities arose between mill houses and agricultural enterprises. In 2015 spring cultivation, it plans to seed in 328.6 thousand hectares nationwide, of which 300 thousand ha of wheat, 13.9 thousand ha of potatoes, and 8.3 ha of other vegetables, and estimates to collect 500.2 thousand tons of harvest, of which 465.7 thousand tons of wheat, 167.7 thousand tons of potatoes, and 104.7 thousand tons of other vegetables. ^ top ^

Government of Mongolia to implement an “Apartment Lease” Program for low and middle-income households (Infomongolia)
At the regular Cabinet meeting held on April 06, 2015, it was resolved to implement "Apartment Lease" Program for low and middle-income households. The Program is targeted for those who cannot apply or do not meet criteria for 8% mortgage loans and according to this Government decision as well as action plan for 2015-2016, apartment blocks for 1,300 households will be constructed across the country, of which 800 units in Ulaanbaatar and at least 60 flats in each center of 21 Aimags of Mongolia. These blocks will be commissioned under public-private partnership and an average monthly rent is estimated to be 1/4 of average household income for a long term period. Moreover, the Program to create a house renting system between state and public is aimed to reduce air and soil pollution as part of implementations the Housing Mortgage Program under the Government Action Plan for 2012-2016 with state supports to provide residents with comfortable living conditions. Accordingly, Minister of Construction and Urban Development D.Tsogtbaatar is entrusted to administer the “Apartment Lease” Program and Minister of Finance J.Erdenebat to manage financial issues, in particular, to set the relevant expenses in the State Budget for 2016, 2017 and 2018 respectively. ^ top ^

Mongolia-Japan Business Forum in Ulaanbaatar to promote cooperation in agricultural industry (Infomongolia)
On April 15, 2015, Ministry of Food and Agriculture is hosting Mongolia-Japan Business Forum to introduce the implementation of Mongolia-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement signed in Tokyo last February as well as to promote enterprises in agricultural spheres and create new partnership between the industries. The Business Forum is mainly focused on introducing know-how from Japan, acclimatizing new technology, attracting investment in agricultural sector, producing organic products on Mongolian soil and further to supply Japanese market. The event will be beginning at 02:00 pm in Chinggis Khaan Hotel in Ulaanbaatar, where experts from the host Ministry, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Industry and the Invest Mongolia Agency are to attend the Mongolia-Japan Business Forum. ^ top ^

“A Million Tree” Program throughout Mongolia to start from April 15, 2015 (Infomongolia)
Starting from April 15, 2015, the Ministry of Environment, Green Development and Tourism of Mongolia appraises for "A Million Tree" campaign nationwide and the movement is not only purposed to plant a tree and "leave" as a regular annual National Tree Day being held twice a year, but also it aims to continuously show the tree caring. The campaign is targeted to involve more public by providing planting guides, and teach the right way to plant tree and shrub, when to prune and many more advices will be performed. The Million Tree program will be implemented across the country in two phases, first - to plant between April 15 and September 15, and the second - to tree caring such as watering and restoring from October 01 to November 01, 2015. Moreover, in order to promote the activity, organizers pledge to reward the best three Aimags, one District of Ulaanbaatar and four Sums (administrative unit of an aimag) with monetary prizes and certificates. ^ top ^


Mrs. Lauranne Macherel
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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