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
  14-18.9.2015, No. 588  
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[Mongolia] Z.Enkhbold meets Swiss parliamentarian (Montsame)
The Speaker of parliament Z.Enkhbold Wednesday received Ms Margret Kiener Nellen, a member of the Federal Assembly (parliament) of Switzerland and of the Human Rights Committee at the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). Mr Enkhbold thanked the Swiss delegation led by Ms Margret Kiener Nellen for participating in the Autumn Session of OSCE PA in Ulaanbaatar. The sides exchanged views on the OSCE PA Autumn Session and other issues. ^ top ^


Foreign Policy

Threat of internet being 'weaponised' prompts call for cybersecurity pact from Obama ahead of Xi's visit amid China hacking fears (SCMP)
President Barack Obama has called for an international framework to prevent the internet from being “weaponised” as a tool of national aggression, while holding out the prospect of a forceful US response to China over hacking attacks. With President Xi Jinping set to visit Washington next week, Obama told a group of company chief executives that cybersecurity would be a major focus in his talks with Xi, a topic that has become a point of friction in US-Chinese relations. A person briefed on the White House's thinking said on Tuesday the United States does not plan to impose sanctions on Chinese entities for economic cyber attacks ahead of Xi's visit to avoid what would be seen as a diplomatic disaster. A senior Chinese official said on Thursday that Beijing opposed internet attacks and wanted to work with the US in cyberspace but would defend its interests. Beijing and Washington faced "common challenges" on internet security, making it "especially important for the two sides to increase mutual trust and cooperation in cyberspace", Assistant Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang said. "At the same time, the Chinese government firmly safeguards its own interests in cyberspace and is resolutely opposed to any statements or actions that harm China's interests," Zheng told reporters at a briefing on Xi's state visit. Obama told the Business Roundtable, a lobbying group, on Wednesday the United States has emphasised to China that industrial espionage by its government or its proxies in cyberspace goes beyond traditional intelligence gathering. “That we consider an act of aggression that has to stop,” he said. The United States was preparing measures to show the Chinese “this is not just a matter of us being mildly upset, but is something that will put significant strains on a bilateral relationship if not resolved and that we are prepared to take some countervailing actions”, he said. White House spokesman Josh Earnest later said Obama was “intentionally non-specific” in the comments and said the US government was hopeful that it would not need to use sanctions or other measures against China for cyber attacks on US commercial targets. “It is clear that the Chinese government is being responsive to those concerns by at least engaging in a candid discussion of those issues,” Earnest told reporters. ^ top ^

Tokyo urged to act prudently (Global Times)
China's foreign ministry urged Japan to act prudently in military and security fields as Japan's ruling bloc on Thursday succeeded in pushing its contentious security bills through a legislative committee. In a written response to an earlier question from the Global Times regarding China's response to Japan's upcoming passage of the security bills, the foreign ministry said Thursday that due to historic reasons, Japan's moves in the military and security fields are being closely watched by its Asian neighbors and the international community. "We solemnly urge the Japanese side to draw hard lessons from history, respect the major security concerns of its Asian neighbors, stick to the path of peaceful development, act prudently in the military and security fields and do more things that are conducive to regional peace and stability," the foreign ministry statement said. Japan's Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, the Komeito party, pushed the bills through at a meeting of a House of Councilors panel, paving the way for enactment of the bills, the Kyodo News Agency reported Thursday. The security bills will allow the Japanese military to go into battle to protect its allies - also known as "collective self-defense" - even if there is no direct threat to Japan or its people. […] "Japan will expand cooperation in security and defense fields with Australia, the Philippines, Vietnam and other Asia-Pacific countries to realize its purpose of containing China," said Huang. He added that Japan's advanced military technology will create more pressure on China. […] Opposition parties, led by the Democratic Party of Japan, vowed earlier to take every possible measure to block the bills. They filed on Thursday a no-confidence motion at the House of Representatives against Abe's cabinet and a censure motion in the upper house against Abe. The vote on the bills in the upper house could be held up if the opposition camp repeatedly submits a censure motion against each member of the Abe cabinet. But if the upper house fails to vote within 60 days of receiving the bills from the lower house, the bill would be returned to the lower house for a second vote and passed into law directly, the Japan Times reported. […] A total of 13 people were reportedly arrested during the evening for "interfering with officers" in a rally that saw an estimated 13,000 people gather outside parliament in Tokyo. The security bill will not change Japanese people's will to adhere to the path of peaceful development, said Geng, adding that Asian countries should not take Japan's movements too lightly either. Asian countries should watch over the rise of Japan's right-wingers, represented by Abe and his supporters, and make proper preparations for their military moves, said Zhang. ^ top ^

Sino-US bilateral investment treaty talks go down to the wire for Xi Jinping's state visit (SCMP)
Beijing and Washington are hammering out a treaty that would give Chinese and US firms more access to each other's markets, smoothing the way for President Xi Jinping's US state visit next week. The two nations have exchanged revised offers for a bilateral investment treaty (BIT), and Beijing is in talks with Washington to reduce the scope of so-called negative lists of sectors that are off limits to investors from the other country. A Chinese source with knowledge of the talks and a US Trade Representative spokeswoman said revised lists were exchanged as top negotiators gathered in Washington last week. Both sides are still reviewing the offers and the talks have not concluded. Commerce ministry spokesman Shen Danyang yesterday said the investment treaty would be "an important topic" during Xi's summit with US President Barack Obama. A US Trade Representative spokeswoman said a successful end to the BIT talks would rest on an "agreement on a high standard treaty text and a Chinese negative list that is limited, narrow, and represents a substantial liberalisation of the Chinese investment market". As China's officials sought to make progress abroad, Xi set the tone at home at a top Communist Party reform steering group meeting on Tuesday, saying China would open its economy wider to the outside world and continue to welcome foreign investors. Xi said China should make "unswerving efforts" to attract foreign investment and foreign technology. State media have talked up the prospect of progress in the treaty negotiations during Xi's US visit, but some observers said it would be hard for the two countries to reach an agreement so soon. […]David Dollar, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said China had a long negative list and it would have to shorten it "by a lot to reach an agreement". "[It's] more likely that the two sides will express a serious commitment to reach an agreement during 2016 but not have a specific outcome this time," Dollar said. Kenneth Jarrett, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, said the Obama administration recognised the potential benefits of a BIT deal to the US business community, and he was confident that an agreement would be reached before Obama left office. "China's willingness to table an improved negative list offer will be critical," Jarrett said. "We [the American business community] would prefer to see the shortest possible negative list since that would open up new areas for participation in the Chinese economy." Read more: Obama ready to talk tough with China's President Xi Jinping during US state visit Foreign investors have complained that market access in China has tightened. The American Chamber of Commerce in China last year said Chinese state firms had increased their control over certain parts of the economy in recent years. Renmin University finance professor Zhao Xijun said Xi's remarks on Tuesday had sent a strong and reassuring message that China would advance efforts to open up the economy. Zhao said China was poised to start a new phase of opening up that would go deeper and could face stronger resistance. "The opening up we need now is not only introducing products or investment, but also technology, patents and talent," he said. "It also requires [China] to build a better system … in line with international standards." ^ top ^

Thai police chief links China's Uygur minority to Bangkok bomb for the first time (SCMP)
Thailand's police chief on Tuesday linked the Bangkok bomb to China's Uygur minority, the first time he has referenced the ethnic group after weeks of skirting around their possible involvement in the attack. The August 17 bombing killed 20 people, among them seven from Hong Kong and mainland China, raising the possibility of a link to militants or supporters of the Uygurs, an ethnic group who say they face heavy persecution in China. A month earlier Thailand had forcibly deported more than 100 Uygur refugees to China, sparking international condemnation as well as violent protests in Turkey, where nationalist hardliners see the minority as part of a global Turkic-speaking family. Police however blame a gang of people smugglers for the attack, motivated by revenge for a crackdown on their lucrative trade through Thailand, a motive which has been widely dismissed by security experts. “The cause was the human trafficking networks -- networks transferring Uygurs from one country to another. Thai authorities destroyed or obstructed their human trafficking businesses,” Somyot Poompanmoung told reporters on Tuesday, explaining the apparent motive for the attack. It was the first time Thai police have formally referenced the Uygurs in relation to the case, after issuing a retraction of a mention of the group over the weekend. Analysts say Thailand is keen to avoid naming Uygurs for economic and diplomatic reasons. Chinese visitors are a linch pin of the tourist industry, and Beijing remains one of the increasingly isolated Thai junta's few international allies. But arrest warrants, passports and travel itineraries of the main suspects all point towards the involvement of militants from the ethnic group or their supporters. Nearly a month on, Thailand has two foreigners in custody and a dozen arrest warrants issued. One of the two suspects in custody, Yusufu Mieraili, was arrested with a Chinese passport that gave a Xinjiang birthplace. Almost all the other identified suspects have Turkish sounding names or links. Mostly Muslim Uygurs have long accused Beijing of religious and cultural repression in China's far western Xinjiang region, with hundreds of refugees believed to have fled in recent years, often heading to Turkey via Southeast Asia. ^ top ^

Innovation plays important role in China-EU cooperation: Chinese vice premier (Xinhua)
Visiting Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong met here with Carlos Moedas, European Union (EU) Commissioner for research, science and innovation on Tuesday, saying that research and innovation is an important field of China-EU cooperation. China is vigorously implementing the innovation-driven development strategy, putting the technological innovation as the crucial support to the quality and efficiency of China's economic development, which coincides with EU's Horizon 2020, Liu said. She hoped that China and the EU continue to deepen cooperation in research and innovation, urging to implement the China-EU research and innovation joint funding mechanism, so as to maximize the benefits to the researchers and industries from the two sides. The EU is willing to work together to implement the mechanism with China to support joint research as well as technological achievements transformation between universities, research institutions and enterprises from the two parties, said Commissioner Moedas. Liu also called for more exchanges of young scientists, as well as cooperation in technological achievements transformation, personnel training, etc. Liu arrived in Belgium Monday morning to kick off a multi-day Europe tour. She co-chaired the third meeting of China-EU high-level people-to-people dialogue with Tibor Navracsics, EU Commissioner for education, culture, youth and sport in Brussels on Tuesday. The first China-EU high-level people-to-people dialogue was held in Brussels in April, 2012, and the second was held in Beijing in April, 2014. ^ top ^

China, Iran consider lifting ties to "strategic partnership" (Xinhua)
China and Iran decided to launch consultations on establishing a strategic partnership, as agreed by the two countries' foreign ministers during talks on Tuesday in Beijing. The consideration of establishing strategic partnership is seen as an effort to further lift bilateral ties. Foreign Minister Wang Yi described the two countries' relationship as "entering a new stage" since the recent nuclear deal signed by Iran had opened up new prospects for cooperation between China and Iran. According to a press release after the talks, Wang and Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif agreed to connect China's Belt and Road Initiative to Iran's development strategies. They pledged to strengthen cooperation in counter-terrorism, security and law enforcement, expand into new areas like industrial capacity, while continuing to improve traditional cooperation in fields such as energy and infrastructure. Since reaching a comprehensive nuclear deal on July 14 in Vienna, Austria, and the easing of sanctions against Iran, the country's external environment saw obvious improvement and an increasing number of foreign companies are now turning their attention to Iran. "As Iran's good friend, China is [...] confident for the prospect of deepening mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Iran," Wang said when meeting with the press after the talks. Wang explained that such confidence not only results from mutual political trust and highly complementary economic relations, but also from the Belt and Road Initiative, which could act as a springboard for further cooperation. Describing China as one of Iran's most important partners, Zarif said that ties would see a greater boost after the nuclear deal. On the future of Iran's nuclear deal, Wang acknowledged that difficulties and even challenges could be foreseen in its decade-long implementation process, as the Iran nuclear issue is so complicated and there is no precedent to follow. He urged the relevant sides to stick to the principle of accommodating each other's concerns on an equal footing. Applauding China's significant and constructive role in the process of reaching and implementing the nuclear deal, Zarif hoped to continue reciprocal high-level visits and strengthen coordination with China in regional and international affairs. ^ top ^

Detained scholar released ahead of Chinese president's visit to the United States (SCMP)
A Chinese scholar who helped an activist escape house arrest has been released from jail conditionally, his lawyer said on Tuesday, a move that comes ahead of President Xi Jinping's visit to Washington later this month. Beijing lawyer Li Jin said that Guo Yushan, founder of the nongovernmental think tank Transition Institute, was released late on Monday, but she could not provide details on why he was freed or whether the release had anything to do with Xi's forthcoming meeting with President Barack Obama. Guo was detained last October and charged in January with operating an illegal business. The charge remains, but can expire one year after his release. The scholar is best known for his efforts to help shelter the blind activist Chen Guangcheng in Beijing and send him to the US Embassy after Chen escaped from house arrest in an eastern Chinese village in 2012. Chen eventually made it to New York after Hillary Clinton, then the US secretary of state, negotiated for him to attend college in the United States. Guo's Transition Institute conducted research on social and economic issues in China, but Beijing authorities, citing lack of proper registration, shut down the organisation in 2013. Guo was detained at a time when Hong Kong protesters were demanding universal suffrage in elections for the city's top official. Dozens of other people also were detained for showing support for the protesters. Guo was not known to have made any public comments in support of the pro-democracy movement. ^ top ^

Staking its claim: Beijing building what looks like third airstrip in the South China Sea (SCMP)
China appears to be building a third airstrip in contested territory in the South China Sea, a US expert said on Monday, citing satellite photographs taken last week. The photographs reportedly taken for Washington's Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) think tank on September 8 show construction on Mischief Reef, one of several artificial islands China has created in the Spratly archipelago. The images show a rectangular area with a retaining wall, 3,000 meters long, matching similar work by China on two other reefs, Subi and Fiery Cross, said Greg Poling, director of CSIS's Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI). “Clearly, what we have seen is going to be a 3,000m airstrip and we have seen some more work on what is clearly going to be some port facilities for ships,” he said. Security experts say the strip would be long enough to accommodate most Chinese military aircraft, giving Beijing greater reach into the heart of maritime Southeast Asia, where it has competing claims with several countries. News of the work comes ahead of a visit to Washington next week by Chinese President Xi Jinping. US worries about China's increasingly assertive territorial claims are expected to be high on the agenda. A spokesman for the US Defence Department, Commander Bill Urban, declined to comment specifically on Poling's assessment, but repeated U.S. calls for a halt to land reclamation, construction and militarization of South China Sea outposts to “ease tensions and create space for diplomatic solutions.” “China's stated intentions with its program, and continued construction, will not reduce tensions or lead to a meaningful diplomatic solution,” he added. A new airstrip at Mischief Reef would be particularly worrying for the Philippines, a rival claimant in the South China Sea. It would allow China to mount “more or less constant” patrols over Reed Bank, where the Philippines has long explored for oil and gas, Poling said. Three airstrips, once completed, would allow China to threaten all air traffic over the features it has reclaimed in the South China Sea, he said, adding that it would be especially worrying if China were to install advanced air defences. Satellite photographs from late June showed China had almost finished a 3,000m airstrip on Fiery Cross. Satellite images from earlier this year showed reclamation work on Subi Reef creating land that could accommodate another airstrip. Poling said the latest images made it obvious that such an airstrip was being built at Subi. China stepped up creation of artificial islands in the South China Sea last year, drawing strong criticism from Washington. Asked about Mischief Reef on Monday, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei repeated China's claim to “indisputable sovereignty” over the Spratly Islands and its right to establish military facilities there. ^ top ^

Hopes rise for trilateral summit to resume (Xinhua)
Hopes are growing for a trilateral summit to be held before the end of this year involving leaders from China, the Republic of Korea and Japan, according to observers. A Chinese diplomat said trilateral cooperation will be taken to "a new height" if the summit takes place. The diplomat was speaking on Sunday, when deputy agriculture ministers from the three countries met in Tokyo and reached consensus on issues including food security and disaster relief. Although collaboration between the three countries has suffered from Japan's chilly relationship with the other two, foreign ministers from the three nations met in March and pledged an "early start" on the summit, which was last held in May 2012. Observers said the three countries have a shared belief in controlling and tackling thorny issues such as those related to history. […] A meeting between diplomats at deputy director-general level is believed to be taking place on Wednesday to discuss preparations for the summit, according to a media briefing by ROK Foreign Ministry spokesman Noh Kwang-il on Sept 8, Japan's Kyodo News agency reported. Guo Yanjun, deputy director of the Institute of Asian Studies at China Foreign Affairs University, said trilateral practical cooperation has not been halted during the three years in which discussions have stalled. "With ministerial-level meetings having been resumed gradually in the past year, a resumption of the leaders' summit before the end of this year may not be surprising.... The summit, if realized, will provide a further major boost for practical cooperation," Guo added. Economic issues, trade and culture may be high on the agenda, and discussions are expected to touch on the widely expected trilateral Free-Trade Agreement, which has been affected by the stalled discussions, Guo said. Analysts have speculated that the sixth trilateral summit will probably be attended by Premier Li Keqiang, ROK President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Park told Li at a meeting in Beijing on Sept 2 that Seoul is ready to boost communication and coordination with parties including Beijing to "achieve an early start" to the leaders' summit. Li said the trilateral cooperation plays a significant role in boosting regional economic integration. Zhang Jingquan, a professor of Northeast Asia studies at Jilin University in Changchun, said cooperation between Beijing and Seoul has taken a lead among the three nations, which are "faced with an unprecedented opportunity for diplomacy". Li Peilin, vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said in August that the three countries are "expected to become the leading forces championing peace and development of the region". ^ top ^

EU, China hold workshop to discuss "New Silk Road" strategy (Global Times)
High-level officials and influential experts gathered here on Monday and started to discuss European perspectives on China's ambitious "Belt and Road" initiatives, or the New Silk Road strategy. The two-day international workshop is hosted by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), a consultative body to the European Union (EU). The program came after China and EU agreed to enhance cooperation under "Belt and Road" initiatives and the bloc's 315-billion-euro investment plan at the 17th China-EU Summit which took place in Brussels on June. 29. At the end of this month, the two sides are set to hold a fresh round of bilateral investment talks in Beijing. According to Minister of Chinese Mission to the EU Zhang Lirong, details of the new mutual fund are on the agenda. "It is time for the European side to examine China's New Silk Road strategy in order to understand what it is, what its major objectives are, and how these objectives are to be realized," said organizers of the event in a public release. It was noted that the workshop aims to bring together EU policymakers from the European Commission, the European External Action Service and the European Parliament, as well as think tanks and academics to have an in-depth discussion and to generate the continent's perspectives on "Belt and Road" initiatives. Topics of the workshop, which will continue on Tuesday, include "Belt and Road" initiatives' geopolitical impact, security and political challenge as well as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Silk Road Fund. The workshop was organized by EU-China Research Center and the InBev-Baillet Latour Chair of EU-China Relations at the College of Europe. ^ top ^

China denies Sino-Indian 'face-off' claims (Global Times)
China on Monday said there was no stand-off between Indian and Chinese troops in the border area, in response to reports by the Indian media which said Indian troops demolished a Chinese constructed watch tower in the sensitive region. "As far as I know, there is no such 'face-off' between China and India in the border area," Hong Lei, spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said on Monday at a regular press briefing. China has been committed to maintaining the peace and tranquility of the border area and hopes India could clarify the related matter and work with China, he said. Indian media on Sunday reported that a face-off between the two sides took place in the Burtse area of Ladakh after Indian troops demolished a watch tower constructed by China "on Indian soil" early Sunday. The Indian Express reported that the construction was done by the Chinese People's Liberation Army, and that the local commanders of both armies are expected to meet on Monday. "This is not the first time that Indian media has reported 'confrontations' that do not exist in the Sino-Indian border area. These news are often untrue, negative, misleading and aimed at provoking public opinion, and are harmful to the relationship between China and India," said Jiang Jingkui, director of the Department of South Asian Languages at Peking University. Indian media frequently report disputes at the border with China. They often accuse Chinese troops of "intruding" and describe the troops of both sides as having a "face-off." "There is a certain group of people, including the military, who are hostile towards China. Unlike the Indian government and local citizens who are supportive of Sino-Indian relations and peaceful development, they believe that a war with China is inevitable as they want to avenge the Sino-Indian confrontation that took place in 1962," Jiang said. He said such media accusations are unreasonable as Chinese troops have never intruded Indian border. Sino-Indian relations are enjoying a sound momentum of development, Hong said. The significant consensus reached between leaders of both sides on maintaining peace and tranquility of the border area serves as an important guarantee for the sustainable development of bilateral relations, he added. China hopes that India will bear the big picture of bilateral ties in mind, and safeguard peace of the border area so as to create a favorable environment for the development of bilateral relations, Hong noted. Jiang said despite the Indian media reports, the Sino-Indian tie is indeed stable, because the leaders of both countries focus more on cooperation than confrontations. "This is just a minor incident. With China's Belt and Road Initiative which requires cooperation, Sino-Indian relationship will continue to develop peacefully as India will also benefit from the scheme," he said. ^ top ^

China Unicom builds international submarine cable link (Xinhua)
China Unicom, one of China's three State-owned telecom companies, is constructing the country's only overseas international submarine cable link with Myanmar, said Jiang Zhengxin, vice president of China Unicom on Sunday. He made the announcement during the China-ASEAN Information Harbor Forum in Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. The China-Myanmar optical cable transmission system, invested to the tune of $50,000,000 by China Unicom, has been completed and extends China's international communication network to the Indian Ocean, Jiang said. China Unicom will continue to work on information infrastructure between China and the ASEAN countries, realizing the connectivity between technology networks and infrastructure, and building an information version of "One Belt and One Road", he said. The company established an international communication passageway for ASEAN countries in Nanning in 2011, which has improved the quality and speed of voice data Internet business and promoted the exchange of information between Chinese cities and ASEAN countries. ^ top ^

China-ASEAN Forum to boost cyberspace development (Xinhua)
China will work closely with ASEAN countries to turn the China-ASEAN Information Harbor into an information hub and share the achievements of cyberspace development, said Lu Wei, minister of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) on Sunday. The China-ASEAN Information Harbor Base was launched when a Memorandum of Understanding on Cyberspace Cooperation and Development was signed between China and Laos. During his speech on Building Interconnecting Harbor and Sharing Cyberspace Development Achievements, Lu said Chinese President Xi Jinping paid close attention to building the China-ASEAN Information Harbor and that detailed construction plans have been worked out by the CAC, NDRC and Guangxi. Lu noted that great achievements have been made in promoting the information harbor, building exchange platforms, boosting cooperation and landing key projects, which have led to comprehensive cyberspace exchanges between China and the ASEAN countries. More and more people have come to realize that the information harbor is a pivotal hub that enhances the Internet network, information interconnection, wealth convergence and cultural exchanges and infusion through win-win cooperation and sharing. China is willing to join with the ASEAN countries to boost the digital economy, information service, technological innovations, Internet culture and cyberspace administration, while sharing the achievements of cyberspace development, Lu added. First proposed at the China-ASEAN Cyberspace Forum in September last year, the China-ASEAN Information Harbor Forum includes five cooperation platforms for joint development of infrastructure, information sharing, technological cooperation, economic and trade services and people-to-people and cultural exchanges, and attracts widespread recognition and positive responses from representatives of the ASEAN countries. The forum will last for two days with plenary sessions on the China-ASEAN Information Harbor: Planning and Vision, Cross Border E-Commerce, Enhancing Exchange and Cooperation for Flourishing Cyber Culture and Cooperation against Cyber Crimes. The forum was staged jointly by the CAC, National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. Also addressing the forum, themed "Internet plus Maritime Silk Road: Cooperation, Mutual Benefit and Win-win" were Peng Qinghua, party secretary of Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region and chairman of the standing committee of the People's Congress, Lin Nianxiu, vice minister of the NDRC, and Hiem Phommachanh, minister of Post and Telecommunications of Laos. ^ top ^

Consensus reached at Thailand-China railway cooperation talks (Xinhua)
Thailand and China have reached broad consensus during their seventh meeting of Joint Committee on Railway Cooperation. Many issues, including feasibility study, detailed route design, engineering, procurement and construction, and financing have been discussed during the two-day talks which ended on Saturday here in Bangkok, sources from the Chinese embassy in Thailand said. The meeting was co-hosted by Chinese chief negotiator Wang Xiaotao and Thai Minister of Transport Arkhom Termpittayapaisith. The Thai side spoke highly of the feasibility study report of the first phase of the project, presented by the Chinese side on Aug. 31. The two sides agreed that a report on the second phase of the project will be submitted on Oct. 15. The two sides have also reached consensus on their intergovernmental railway cooperation framework, which is expected to be signed during the next meeting of joint committee, to be held in Beijing on Oct. 28-29. In addition, Thailand and China decided to push for the early drafting of the memorandum and shareholder agreement of the joint venture scheme on part of infrastructure, which will cover issues including electricity supply, telecom and signaling systems. The two sides vowed to continue their joint efforts in pushing forward related work to meet the target of starting the construction of the first phase of the railway project by the end of the year. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan- ocha last year signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on jointly developing a medium-speed railway system that connects northeast Thailand's Nong Khai province, the capital of Bangkok and the eastern Rayong province. ^ top ^

Islamic State hostage 'matches characteristics' of Chinese citizen, says Foreign Ministry (SCMP)
The foreign ministry said yesterday a Chinese national reported as being held hostage by Islamic State insurgents appeared to be one of its missing citizens. Islamic State, which controls territory in Iraq and Syria, published two pictures of men they called "prisoners" in their English-language magazineDabiq this week. The hardline Islamist group said one was from Norway and the second was a Chinese man identified as Fan Jinghui. It has executed an unknown number of hostages over the past year. It gave no details about where or when the men were captured, or where they were being held. In the case of each man, it published an “advertisement” announcing that he was “for sale”. Under each man's photograph, it says: “To whom it may concern of the Crusaders, pagans, and their allies, as well as what are referred to as human 'rights' organisations, this prisoner was abandoned by his government, which did not do its utmost to purchase his freedom.” At the bottom it said: “Whoever would like to pay the ransom for his release and transfer can contact the following telegram number,” adding that this is a “limited time offer”. It did not say how much money was being demanded, nor when the opportunity to pay it would expire. "After initial verification of the relevant media reports of the two hostages, one of them matches the characteristics of a Chinese citizen who has gone missing overseas," ministry spokesman Hong Lei said. Hong said China had launched an emergency response mechanism, reiterating the government was firmly opposed to violence against innocent civilians. He did not give further details. […] It is unclear where he is being held and did not give a ransom amount. State-run The Beijing News said it had located an advertising company in western Beijing registered to Fan using the partial address provided in the magazine. No one answered the door of the company, located on the fifth floor of a low-rise residential building, when reporters visited. Neighbours said they did not know him well. "His face is familiar but he hasn't been around here for a long time," said one elderly woman, who didn't want to be named. On Thursday the family of the Norwegian hostage, Grimsgaard-Ofstad, called for his release and said it was unable to pay the ransom IS was asking. The Norwegian government has ruled out paying for his release. “We are not able to pull together the huge sum that the hostage-takers are demanding. We can only appeal to the hostage-takers to free our son and brother,” said the family of Ole Johan Grimsgaard-Ofstad in a statement relayed by Norwegian authorities. ^ top ^

Australia, China, US joint military drill ends with enhanced survival skills, friendship for soldiers (Xinhua)
Kowari 15, the trilateral military exercise that includes forces from Australia, China and the United States, has come to an end for its survival phase on Friday as soldiers and marines came out of the bushes near Darwin where they had underwent survival training in the past three weeks. This is the second time the trilateral exercise has taken place, this year involving 30 soldiers and marines working closely together in the hot and dry Northern Territory wild. The 30 military personnel include 10 from the Australian Army, 10 from the Chinese People's Liberation Army, 5 from the US Army and 5 from the US Marine Corp. Divided into three groups, each containing a mix of nationalities, the participants first received training at the North West Mobile Force (Norforce), a Regional Force Surveillance Unit of the Australian Army in Darwin, and were then deployed to an inland camp in the Daly River region, where they learned fire making, hunting, trapping, finding water and making shelter. They were then put in the wild without food or water for survival training for five days, three in inland area and two in coastal area. Major General Han Peng, deputy chief of staff of Guangzhou Military Area Command, said the joint military exercise helps to build cooperation, friendship and trust among the three armies. His view was shared by Australian Major General Paul McLachlan, head of land system, and deputy commanding general of US Army Pacific, Major General Todd McCaffrey, who went to the Daly River camp to welcome the returning soldiers. Captain Pan Kongbin from the Chinese Army told the story of how they captured fishes and turtles to eat while Sergeant Emmaly Hall of the Australian Army was amazed by the craftsmanship of the Chinese soldiers in making shelters without nails or ropes. "Language is not an obstacle. We can communication with body language or drawing. The greatest thing of this exercise is that we forge friendship and trust," Pan said. The KOWARI trilateral joint military exercise inaugurated in 2014 with the same scale. "Our experience last year was that the participants quickly built strong bonds of trust and friendship in their mixed teams, and coped amazingly well with conditions that are hot, dry, and very challenging," said Brigadier Damian Cantwell, commander of Exercise KOWARI 15. "Our countries already cooperate at a number of levels through trade, regional humanitarian projects and joint naval exercises, and this is another way we can learn from each other and build friendships forged through adversity," he said. ^ top ^

China to push forward technological cooperation with Arab States: minister (Xinhua)
China will push forward cooperation in technology and innovation with the Arab States, China's minister of science and technology, Wan Gang, said on Friday. Wan made the remarks at a forum during the ongoing second China-Arab States Expo in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. He said China will seek cooperation with the Arab States in fields such as agriculture, energy, transportation, information, environment, health and satellite navigation. Meanwhile, Wan said China will further technological cooperation with the Arab States by building joint laboratories, inviting more young Arab scientists to work in China and establishing technology transfer centers. China and the Arab States are both developing countries and are both at a critical moment for industrial transformation and upgrades, therefore, the cooperation is in the common interest of both sides, Wan said. The second China-Arab States Expo, a platform to promote ties between China and Middle Eastern countries, kicked off on Thursday in Yinchuan, capital of Ningxia, home to more than 10 percent of China's 20 million Muslims. State leaders, government officials and corporate executives gathered for the four-day expo to seek cooperation opportunities Trade between China and the Arab States exploded from 10 million US dollars in 1950s to 251.2 billion US dollars in 2014, which made China the second largest trade partner of the Arab States. The biennial China-Arab States Expo is jointly sponsored by the Ministry of Commerce, the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, and the government of Ningxia. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

China saves 1,000 babies from HIV virus from mothers in 2014: report (Global Times)
China prevented more than 1,000 infants from getting infected with the HIV virus from their mothers last year, according to a report from the country's health watchdog. The mother-to-child transmission in the country dropped to 6.1 percent in 2014 from 34.8 percent before the start of The Prevention of Parent-to-Child Transmission of HIV/AIDS program in 2001. In 2014, 1,240 babies were prevented from getting infected with HIV, according to a news briefing attended by Chinese health officials and UNAIDS, WHO and UNICEF delegates in Beijing on Thursday. The HIV test for pregnant women rose to 98.2 percent, and 82.6 percent of HIV-positive mothers have received antiretroviral drugs, Song Li, an NHFPC official said. However, Song told the Global Times that “due to factors like migration or living in remote areas, many women had not been tested or diagnosed until they reached hospitals for delivery.” Parent-to-child transmissions among all new HIV infections also declined from 1.6 per cent in 2005 to 1.1 per cent in 2014. Xu Wenqing, a UNICEF Program specialist who has been overseeing a project in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region since 2013, told the Global Times that some women in rural areas still insist on giving birth at home. “Due to some religious beliefs or lack of awareness, some people even reject taking drugs,” Xu said. Xu said in Yining, Yili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture, northwest of Xinjiang, some beneficiaries of the PMTCT program have become community coordinators, who try to convince other women to undergo tests as earlier as possible. Yili is one of areas hardest hit by the spread of HIV in China due to the wide use of dangerous drugs. ^ top ^

China's new grand plan to streamline oversight of its embattled environment (SCMP)
The mainland will consolidate environmental oversight as part of a master plan to overhaul the way it monitors its beleaguered natural resources, senior officials said in Beijing on Thursday. A full text of the master plan is yet to be released, but Yang Weimin, a deputy head of the Office of the Central Leading Group for Finance and Economic Affairs, said it would go beyond traditional thinking on environmental protection, and set up new mechanisms to better coordinate efforts to counter pollution, protect the environment and conserve resources. The plan, which was developed under the office's lead, would "shake up the vested interests of different government agencies", conforming with President Xi Jinping's calls for "high-quality reform plans", Yang said. Responsibility for protecting and managing the mainland's environmental resources is scattered among several government agencies, creating bureaucratic loopholes. Yang said such dispersed responsibilities would gradually be "unified and streamlined". Management of agricultural and forestry land, for example, is now the responsibility of two departments but will be combined. But he also said any major government restructure was unlikely to take place before the next leadership transition. Some experts have called for the creation of a mega-environmental ministry and a mega-natural resources management commission to unify functions now assumed by various government agencies, including those covering environmental protection, agriculture, forestry and water conservation. But such major changes could only take place, if ever, in 2018 when the next Communist Party congress is held. Yet the master plan would give the Ministry of Environmental Protection more power, allowing it to oversee provincial government implementation of environmental policies, even though they are at the same official ranking. Zhai Qing, a deputy minister of environmental protection, said the central government had authorised the ministry to monitor and shame provincial party committees that overlooked green issues. It would also release publicly the results of that monitoring. The National Audit Office and National Bureau of Statistics said it would start auditing officials on their environmental records and develop a balance sheet on natural resources. The hope is the moves would put more pressure on local officials to protect the environment and not just pursue economic growth. ^ top ^

Chinese officials deny blame after man died in fire while workers demolished his house (SCMP)
A local government in eastern China has denied allegations that it was at fault after a man burned to death in a fire at his home while demolition workers were knocking it down, a newspaper reported. Officials in Pingyi county near Linyi in Shandong province released a statement on Wednesday saying that Zhang Jimin, 46, had bought nine litres of petrol last week with the intention of killing himself, The Beijing News reported. The local authority plans to demolish the homes of over 700 households in the farmer's village and he was in dispute over the level of compensation offered for his house. Several villagers who witnessed the fire on Monday said dozens of unknown people surrounded the house at noon on Monday and stopped others from going into the building while demolition machinery pulled down its walls. A villager was quoted in a previous report by the newspaper as saying that he saw the house catch fire after bottles containing yellow liquid were thrown inside. The victim's cousin, Zhang Jiyou, had earlier told the Southern Metropolis News that officials had repeatedly tried and failed to persuade the home owner to accept the compensation offer during the past week. He said a group of men, led by town government employees, had already started tearing down his cousin's home when he arrived at the scene. “When I arrived Zhang Jimin had locked the door from the inside,” he was quoted as saying. “Soon afterwards the house was on fire. There was a gas tank in the house. We don't know whether he had been forced to set himself on fire or if it was the demolition team that started the blaze.” The local government had released a statement on Monday night saying that the fire was an accident. Disputes over land seizures or the level of compensation offered to make way for development projects regularly lead to violent clashes in China. ^ top ^

Heavy smog's return in northern China masks all-too-fleeting memories of Beijing's blue skies (SCMP)
Face masks are back in business in Beijing and much of northern China as heavy smog has returned with a vengeance – quickly banishing the rare memories of two weeks of blue skies over the capital leading up to the huge military parade on September 3. At noon on Thursday the air in Beijing was described as “heavily polluted” by Beijing's Ministry of Environmental Protection. Concentrations of PM2.5 – superfine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter, which lodge deep inside the lungs and are considered most dangerous to human health – led to the air quality index being measured at 160 micrograms per cubic metre – more than five times above the safety standards recommended by World Health Organisation. […] The Beijing Morning Post reported on Thursday that the pollution was likely to continue, with air quality forecasts expected to be “moderately polluted” on Friday. Nearby cities in Hebei province, including Baoding, Langfang, Tangshan and Qinhuangdao, also recorded heavy air pollution levels on Thursday morning. Baoding, one of the mainland's worst polluted cities, ordered half of all of its registered vehicles to be taken off city centre roads from Thursday to Saturday. The city's officials issued an emergency notice on Wednesday evening after heavy pollution was forecast for the following three days. Drivers will be fined if they found to be breaking the ban. The city's government has introduced a series of measures to try to improve air quality levels after its mayor apologised for its air quality was constantly ranking the worst among mainland cities in Surveys last year. Despite measures to reduce air pollution for the military parade being introduced during the second half of August, new statistics by the environmental protection bureau show that seven out of the 10 worst polluted cities on the mainland last month were still in Hebei province. The National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation said on Wednesday that two “heavy air pollution belts” had formed in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei areas as a result of urban areas rapidly expanding since the 1990s. One was the Beijing-Tianjin-Tangshan belt and the other the Shijiazhuang-Xingtai-Handan belt in the southern part of the region, the Xinhua news agency reported. The total size of urban areas in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region more than doubled between 1990 and 2013 – swallowing up nearly 2,000 square kilometre of agricultural land, a survey by the administration department said. The number of factories and other causes of air pollution in those areas increased from 17,000 in 2007 to more than 38,000 in 2013, the survey found. ^ top ^

Chinese students at ethnic-minority college 'raise privacy fears' after request to give gene samples (SCMP)
Students applying to enrol at a university in Beijing have voiced concerns after saying were asked to sign a declaration allowing the college to take a gene sample during their medical check-up, according to a newspaper report. Some students said it was a violation of their personal privacy, The Beijing News reported. The request was made to students enrolling at the Minzu University of China, a college that specialises in educating minority groups such as Tibetans and Uygurs. One student was quoted as saying: “I don't agree with this approach. DNA is very personal. I very much doubt it could be legal without violating personal privacy if the university hands our gene samples to the authorities.” A team of academics at the university has a grant to carry out genetic research as part of a national scientific research programme. China's National Hi-Tech Research Development Programme includes research in genetics and space technologies, the report said. A member of staff at the college, who declined to give their name, said giving a gene sample was voluntary and the aim was to encourage students to take part in the research programme. “It totally conforms with national laws and does not involve any breach of personal privacy.” she said. ^ top ^

Rebalancing skewed sex ratio remains a difficult target: Govt (China Daily)
Despite a constant drop of China's highly skewed sex ratio at birth in the past 6 years, the nation still faces a steep challenge to bring the ratio back to normal, said an official with the top health authority. A target set for the year's end will be difficult to meet. Part of the long term efforts to redress the situation, the National Health and Family Planning Commission has, in the first half of 2015, busted 2014 cases involving illegal fetus sex identification and sex-selective abortion, revealed Zhou Gongwei, head of the Gender Equality Office of the commission. The office is under the family development department of the National Health and Family Planning Commission. Zhou made remarks in an exclusive interview with China Daily. Some 42 people, as a result, were sentenced and 10 medics and 14 medical institutions involved had their medical licenses revoked, the latest figures from the commission showed. Currently, China is among 18 countries and regions worldwide with sex ratios at birth higher than 107 and has been suffering the most skewed gender ratio for the longest period of time, he said. "Over the long run, that definitely upsets the country's population security and social harmony," he warned. He referred to a marriage squeeze, a population imbalance in which the number of potential brides does not match the number of potential grooms. By 2020, there will be at least 24 million more Chinese men aged 20 to 45 than women of the same age, leaving particularly the underprivileged countryside with aging bachelors, said expert estimates. Primary causes, as Zhou recognized, include the deeply rooted favoring of males due to social and economic factors and, more directly, gender selective abortion. The ratio stood at 115.88 in 2014 in comparison with a maximum of 107 in the range of normal starting at 103. To redress the long time problem, China set a clearly-defined goal by the end of 2015 to drop the sex ratio at birth to below 115, according to the National 12th Five-Year Population Development Plan (2011-2015). "It will be challenging and difficult to meet that target," he said. During the past 4 years, the figure deceased on average by 0.51 annually but the gap between 2014 and the goal was a bit higher at 0.88. ^ top ^

Attaining full human rights shared goal of humanity: Xi (Xinhua)
Attaining full human rights for people is a shared goal of the humanity, President Xi Jinping said in a congratulation letter to the Beijing Forum on Human Rights, which began on Wednesday. More than 100 officials and human rights experts from more than 30 countries and regions will attend the two-day forum. The theme of the forum, "peace and development: victory of World Anti-Fascist War and human rights advancement" is quite fitting as the world is celebrating the 70th anniversary of the victory of the World Anti-Fascist War, Xi said in the letter. The theme will prompt deeper thinking from all parties on people's right to peace and development, he said. Chinese people, having gone through much suffering in modern times, know all too well the value of people, basic human rights and human dignity. They cherish a peaceful environment for development, he wrote. China will unswervingly follow the path of peaceful development and uphold human right causes of both China and the world at large, Xi said. The Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Chinese government have always honored and protected human rights, Xi said. China has applied universal principles of human rights while taking consideration of its own circumstances, Xi said. China has been promoting economic and social development, improving people's well-being, and toughening legal protection of human rights, among other efforts. As a result, the protection over people's rights to strive and develop has been remarkably heightened. Xi also called for closer international exchanges and cooperation in the field of human rights. The annual event was first held in 2008 and has become a key platform for human rights exchanges among different countries, ethnicities and cultures. ^ top ^

Beijing investigates senior figure at China's state securities regulator in latest step to crackdown on market irregularities (SCMP)
The mainland's anti-graft watchdog is investigating a senior figure at the state securities regulator, as Beijing takes its latest step in cracking down on market irregularities. Zhang Yujun, an assistant chairman overseeing brokerages and fund houses at the China Securities Regulatory Commission, was suspected of “serious disciplinary violations”, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said on Wednesday. The term is usually a euphemism for corruption. The investigation into Zhang follows probes into a clutch of senior officials at Citic Securities, including president Cheng Boming as Beijing shows its determination to clean up the arcane stock market. The crackdown follows a recent stock rout and a failed government intervention to stabilise the market with rescue funds of at least 1 trillion yuan (HK$1.21.trillion). Zhang, born in 1963, holds doctorates in economics and law and is touted by industry insiders as a capable and knowledgeable technocrat. He was president of the Shenzhen Stock Exchange from 2000 to 2008 before becoming president of the Shanghai bourse where he remained until 2012. In August 2012, he was appointed assistant chairman at the CSRC. “He is widely respected in the securities industry for his reformist outlook,” said a Shanghai-based fund manager. “But he didn't seem to sit well with other senior CSRC officials.” A stock market rout between mid-June and early July that triggered fears of a financial crisis in China prompted Beijing to step in to restore investor confidence. It was estimated that more than 1 trillion yuan in rescue funds was pumped into the plummeting market to stop its downward spiral. Mainland police began investigating “malicious short-selling” in early July in an apparent effort to underpin the falling stocks. However, the rescue efforts were largely unsuccessful and by mid-August key indicators had succumbed to a renewed slump. Late last month, senior officials with at the mainland's largest brokerage, Citic Securities – including managing director Xu Gang – were taken away by police investigating illegal securities trades. During his time at the CSRC, as assistant chairman, Zhang directed securities firms to expand their business scope, encouraging them to do more margin trading and asset management business to boost profits. ^ top ^

Gay rights activist sues media watchdog (Global Times)
A gay rights activist has filed a lawsuit in a Beijing court against China's media regulator for demanding that video-streaming websites remove his gay relationship-themed documentary. Popo Fan, a documentary filmmaker and LGBT rights activist, told the Global Times Tuesday that the No.1 Intermediate People's Court in Beijing accepted his case on Monday. Fan said that his documentary, Mama Rainbow, was removed from video websites, including and, in December last year. A employee told him that the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) ordered the website to remove his documentary for violating rules, and that it should not be seen online. The employee declined to provide further details. In February, Fan sent a letter to SAPPRFT, questioning the regulator's decision to order the removal of his documentary from video-streaming websites. In March, the SAPPRFT denied in a reply letter that it has removed his documentary. "Deleting my documentary has violated my rights. Was it because I am a gay person that my work deserved such treatment? I decided to file a lawsuit to uphold my rights," Fan said. Wang Zhenyu, Fan's lawyer, told the Global Times that "we have evidence proving the regulator was lying. We are asking the court to require the SAPPRFT to disclose the information about the removal." Wang said that he hopes this case could be a breakthrough in getting courts to pay more attention to the LGBT community and raise public support for them. Mama Rainbow features six mothers from all over China, who talk openly and freely about their experiences with their gay and lesbian children. In September, China approved the screening of a movie called Seek McCartney, co-produced in China and France, starring Chinese singer and actor Han Geng. The movie, to be shown this winter after a one-year wait, was considered the first on the Chinese mainland on gay relationships. Insiders saw it a big step forward for China's film industry, but questioned whether similar films would be approved. ^ top ^

477 punished for 2011 electoral fraud (China Daily)
Nearly 500 people in Sichuan province have been imprisoned or given administrative penalties for electoral fraud in 2011. The 477 people -the majority of them Communist Party of China members and officials -participated in bribery that determined an election for standing members of the Nanchong city committee of the CPC before the first plenary session of the fifth CPC Nanchong city committee in Sichuan on Oct 19, 2011, according to a statement of the Sichuan CPC provincial committee on Tuesday. An investigation that began in the second half of last year found that 16 officials offered bribes, another 227 facilitated the bribes, 230 officials accepted bribes, and four neglected their duties. The money involved totaled 16.72 million yuan ($2.63 million), the statement said. Yang Jianhua, former Party chief of Yilong county, was elected as a standing member of the Nanchong CPC city committee after using 800,000 yuan of public funds to bribe potential city committee members. He paid some of the bribes himself and had subordinates pay others, according to the provincial committee. Yang was sentenced to 20 years in prison for offering and taking bribes and power abuse, while Liu Hongjian, then Nanchong's Party chief, was sentenced to three years for dereliction of duty. Thirty-three of those involved have been expelled from the Party and public office, and their cases were transferred to judicial agencies. Seventy-seven were stripped of their posts, and the rest received warnings, the statement said. ^ top ^

Prisoners on death row to get free legal aid (Xinhua)
Convicted criminals on death row will be entitled to free legal representation under a new rule drafted by the Ministry of Justice, a ministry source told China Daily. The ministry will assign lawyers to condemned prisoners who cannot afford one during the review of their sentences to ensure equal access to justice, according to the source. The source said officials from the ministry and the high court are "finalizing some detailed implementation measures and the rule will be released in the next few months". The source asked not to be identified because she was not authorized to discuss the draft plan with the media. Under Chinese law, all death sentences must be reviewed by the Supreme People's Court before defendants can be executed. Currently, defendants who cannot afford to hire lawyers are not guaranteed representation during a death penalty review. Che Xingyi, a lawyer at Beijing's Yingke Law Firm, which specializes in representing clients in death penalty cases, said the top court conducts reviews based on files from local courts and lawyers' previous defense statements. This method has limitations and is not sufficient to ensure justice, Che said. It is "more than necessary" to offer legal aid during a review of a death sentence, he said. "If the lawyers discover flaws in sentencing criteria or new evidence, they will fully defend the suspects and communicate with the judges quickly to stop imminent execution." China does not reveal the number of prisoners on death row. However, last year, Chinese lawyers provided free legal aid to nearly 40,000 suspects facing life imprisonment or the death penalty, a year-on-year increase of 7 percent, according to the ministry. The new rule follows a recent meeting of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, which stressed the importance of legal aid and was attended by the country's top leaders. Paul Dalton, team leader for the China-EU Access to Justice Program, which was created to strengthen equality of justice in China especially among disadvantaged groups, recommended that Chinese judicial authorities be cautious when imposing the death penalty. The top court would better protect prisoners' rights by holding public hearings during a death penalty review, Dalton said. This would enable judges to listen to defense arguments by defendants and their lawyers instead of just reading the files. ^ top ^

China's top graft-buster breaks taboo by discussing Communist Party's 'legitimacy' (SCMP)
Open discussion by top graft-buster Wang Qishan about the legitimacy of the ruling Communist Party - a topic long deemed unquestionable - has raised the eyebrows of some commentators. "The legitimacy of the Communist Party of China derives from history, and depends on whether it is supported by the will of the people; it is the people's choice," Wang said when meeting some 60 overseas attendants of the Party and World Dialogue 2015 in Beijing on Wednesday. Analysts said the aberration was a step forward but some disagreed with Wang's interpretation of "legitimacy". Zhang Lifan, a Beijing-based commentator, said Wang's remarks reflected a shift of attitude in the party as a result of intensified social conflicts and increasing pressure from an underperforming economy. "In the past, the issue was not allowed to be discussed, because the [party] thinks [its rule] is justified unquestionably. As the old saying goes, 'political power grows out of the barrel of a gun'. They fought their way into the ruling position, instead of being elected into it," Zhang said. "Its legitimacy was maintained by relying on economic growth, but now economic growth is facing problems. In the past people thought [the party] could continue governing and did not have strong opposition to it because they still had money in their pocket. Now the size of their pockets have shrunk," he said. Zhang Ming, a political scientist with Renmin University, applauded Wang's courage, but disagreed with his use of "legitimacy". "You can't talk about legitimacy merely from a historical perspective. How to let the people express their approval or disapproval [of the government]? The ballots are the most obvious way," he said. Steve Tsang, a senior fellow at the China Policy Institute of the University of Nottingham, said the "legitimacy" Wang mentioned did not mean democratic accountability. "The will of the people, in China's political reality, is collected and reorganised into something in line with what the party wants," he said. "Then [it] uses the powerful propaganda machinery to ensure the people embrace the newly reformulated views as their own." ^ top ^



Water diverted from south still cannot quench Beijing's thirst (Global Times)
A total of 525 million cubic meters of water diverted from China's enormous south-to-north water diversion project have flowed into Beijing since December 27, 2014, the day the capital started to receive the diverted water, according to the latest figure provided by the Beijing Water Authority. The Beijing section is part of the central route of the water diversion project, which begins at Danjiangkou Reservoir in the middle-upper reaches of the Hanjiang River, Central China's Hubei Province. It is designed to supply 9.5 billion cubic meters of water per year on average for some 100 million people in the dry northern regions, including the cities of Beijing and Tianjin, as well as Henan and Hebei provinces, according to the Xinhua News Agency. However, environmentalists said that the scheme cannot solve the capital's water crisis, as Beijing has been plagued by water shortage problems for over a decade. Beijing still needs an extra 100 million cubic meters of water this year despite the arrival of the diverted water, Wang Junwen, a senior engineer with the Beijing Water Authority, told the Global Times. "At present the capital receives an average of 3.45 million cubic waters every day from the water diversion project," Wang said. Among the 525 million cubic meters of water Beijing received as of early September, 375 million cubic meters are used as drinking water for the some 20 million Beijingers, and the rest goes to the city's reservoirs and rivers, according to Wang. Over the past decade, Beijing extracted an excess of 500 million cubic meters of underground water each year, and also used 300 million cubic meters of water from neighboring regions, Wang said. The over-extraction of underground water has caused subsidence and environmental damage in Beijing. "Beijing has been seeing a growing number of sink holes in its city streets in recent years, and the over-extraction also caused unstable foundations of buildings as well as affecting the growth of plants," Zhang Junfeng, a water conservancy expert who has been monitoring Beijing's water condition since 1993, told the Global Times. Beijing has 6,000 wells, but it plans to shut them all down by 2020, according to Xinhua. […] The water diversion project will take about 15 years to reach its designated goal of diverting about 1.2 billion cubic meters of water to Beijing, as the supporting projects also take several years to complete, said Wang Hao, a water resources specialist and member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, according to the news portal Meanwhile, the water level of the Hanjiang River has been declining for 140 years, and the south-to-north water diversion project will only make it worse, Wang Yongchen, a Beijing environmentalist who visited the Hanjiang River in August, told the Global Times. Beijing's rainfall has been consistently low since 1999, but its population grew by 600,000 per year before 2013, according to Wang Junwen. If Beijing's population continues to soar, Beijing will restart exploit water from neighboring provinces in a few years, Zhang said. […] ^ top ^



Tibetan Buddhists receive education to dissuade them from separatism (Global Times)
Several monks sat cross-legged, peacefully chanting sutras in a scripture hall in Drepung Monastery as if they weren't being watched by visitors. Observing this scene, it is hard for one to imagine that in this idyllic temple, some 300 monks charged at officials and policemen stationed in the monastery ahead of deadly riots seven years ago. Unrest in Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, in which a mob looted and burned stores on March 14, 2008, caused 19 deaths and 382 injuries. The March 14 riots and earlier protests by monks are seen by Chinese authorities as a separatist plot orchestrated by the Dalai Lama clique in a bid to undermine the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Drepung Monastery is one of three historic Buddhist monasteries in Lhasa. After the riots, the 15th-century monastery, an important site for the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism, was closed to tourists for five months. Since then, monasteries across the region have started a program of improving monk's living conditions and patriotic education, in which monks attend mandatory classes on Chinese law in an effort to further the government's management of the religious institutions. Building relationships Monasteries which are home to more than 20 monks and nuns are required to set up management committees, which are made up of monks and government-appointed officials. If there are more than 100 monks and nuns, a police substation will be placed in the monastery. […] By the end of 2014, over 1,750 monasteries had good access to roads and telecommunications networks, according to local government statistics. Ngawang Chzin said that watching television, especially domestic news programs, can prevent monks from believing stories spread by separatists. Learning the law Hand in hand with improved services, patriotic education constitutes an essential part of government work at monastery. It was first launched as early as 1996 but was expanded after the 2008 riots. Encouraging monks not to break any of the country's laws is a key part of these efforts, said Qin Yongzhang, a research fellow of Tibetology with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The sessions aim at developing monks' "national consciousness," "civic consciousness" and "legal consciousness," to dissuade them from holding separatist views, Norbu said. In Drepung Monastery, monks are divided into 10 study groups that gather twice a week to discuss their studies. The monks are lectured on China's laws and regulations on regional ethnic autonomy and religion, as well as central political events like the meetings of the National People's Congress and the Chinese Political Consultative Conference, according to Norbu. Sonam Chupa, head of the administration committee of Samye Monastery in Zha'nang county, Tibet's Shannan prefecture, added that the education curriculum includes stories about monks from history who advocated mainstream ideas of harmony and ethnic solidarity, such as founder of the Gelug sect Je Tsongkhapa (1357-1419) and the 10th Panchen Lama(1938-89). Professors of Buddhist studies from Tibet University, eminent monks and officials stationed in monasteries have been invited to give lectures to monks. "At first the monks, who believed the law had nothing to do with them, were reluctant to attend the lectures, skipping class or dozing during lectures," Norbu recalled. Some monks felt puzzled by official opposition to the 14th Dalai Lama, as in Tibetan Buddhism believers are required to obediently follow the instructions of religious figures such as the Dalai Lama, who many of the monks see as a respectable teacher, said an expert on Buddhist studies who asked for anonymity. […] Asked about their study of the law, monks admitted their obstacles to understanding them. Jigme Odser, a monk in Samye Monastery, said it is different from studying Buddhism. "We just memorize them. [Laws] are not like Buddhist scriptures that need to be debated to deepen our understanding." ^ top ^



China's military in restive Xinjiang told to learn Uygur folk songs and dances (SCMP)
China's military has been teaching its soldiers in the unruly region of Xinjiang folk dances and songs as part of efforts to improve relations with the minority people who live there, it said on Wednesday. Hundreds of people have been killed in violence in the far western region in the past few years. The government blames the unrest on Islamist militants who want to establish an independent state called East Turkestan for minority Uygurs, who speak a Turkic language and hail from Xinjiang. Chinese forces in Xinjiang, which also borders Central Asia, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan, are at the “centre of the storm” when it comes to fighting militants and separatists, the Communist Party committee for the Xinjiang military command wrote in the official People's Liberation Army Daily. Their job is more than just fighting, it said, pointing to the thousands of activities they have arranged in the last five years going into villages to “explain the party's ethnic and religious policies... and refute rumours”, it said. Soldiers have also been told to get closer to the people by learning the languages, folk songs and folk dances of the peoples of Xinjiang to “make friends with the minority masses”, the command said. “With face-to-face communication and heart-to-heart exchanges [we can] increase ethnic unity and feelings, like the closeness between fish and water,” it said. “The story of the unity between people, military and government, military and the people, and ethnic unity are as plain to see as the grapes of Turpan, and all are as close as pomegranate seeds, and can never be split apart,” it added, referring to a part of Xinjiang famous for its grapes. Many Uygurs chafe at Beijing's restrictions on their culture, language and religion. China says it offers broad freedoms in Xinjiang, although few officials of the majority Han ethnicity make the effort to learn Uygur or other minority languages, or understand much about Islam in what is officially an atheist country. ^ top ^

CPC publicity head stresses patriotism in Xinjiang (Xinhua)
Liu Qibao, head of the publicity department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, stressed promotion of patriotism in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. During his inspection tour in Xinjiang from Saturday to Monday, Liu visited the regional capital Urumqi as well as cities of Hotan and Shihezi. Liu urged local governments to increase people's awareness of the Party's policies on ethnic minorities and religion, build people's identification with the country, its cultural traditions as well as socialism with Chinese characteristics. More resources should be channeled to public cultural services in Xinjiang, such as radio, cable TV and libraries, Liu said. He promised to direct more government resources in building village cultural centers, translation of literature into ethnic minority languages as well traditional culture protection. He also said that people of ethnic minorities should preserve the best part of their traditional culture and encouraged to embrace modern civilization. This year is the 60th anniversary of the founding of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. ^ top ^



Hong Kong justice chief doesn't take sides in separation of powers debate (SCMP)
The justice secretary on Thursday refused to take sides after the city's top judge and Beijing's highest official in Hong Kong came down on opposite ends of a debate over the concept of separation of powers in the city. Speaking on the sidelines of a trade symposium in Jakarta, Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung said the concept could be described "as a political doctrine, [or] a principle of governance". The question of separation of powers has been debated since Saturday, when liaison office chief Zhang Xiaoming said the concept was not applicable to Hong Kong, and that the chief executive had a "transcendent" role, above the legislative, executive and judicial branches. Yuen, who is on record as invoking the concept at least once in the previous year, was speaking a day after Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li made a rare statement to the media on the importance of judicial independence. Ma cited provisions of the Basic Law that set out the separate roles of the three branches of government. In Hong Kong yesterday, former constitutional affairs minister Michael Suen Ming-yeung joined the fray, saying he did not understand why Zhang had said the chief executive enjoyed a "transcendent legal position". Suen, who admitted he had not read Zhang's speech in full, said the liaison official should consider clarifying his remarks, which had given rise to much doubt and speculation. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying had previously called for people not to take Zhang's remarks out of context. While saying his role was "indeed transcendent", Leung said he was subject to the law. Leung, who also attended the Jakarta symposium, did not comment on calls for Zhang to explain himself further. "The central authorities' remarks have always been supportive of the SAR government and the chief executive governing according to the law," he said. "This, of course, includes the Basic Law" and its provisions on the judiciary. He did not comment on whether Ma's sudden media appearance reflected fear within the judiciary. Meanwhile, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen endorsed Zhang's comments. "There was nothing in what [Zhang] said that was inconsistent with objective fact and the Basic Law," he said. ^ top ^

No one is above the law, says Hong Kong's top judge in surprise rebuke to leader CY Leung's defence of his 'transcendent' position (SCMP)
Hong Kong's top judge yesterday stressed everyone was equal before the law, putting him at odds with Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who just hours before defended his status as transcending all three branches of government. Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li also emphasised the city enjoyed judicial independence. Ma was responding to Leung's claim that the status of chief executive "is indeed transcendent" given the fact that the office holder and the principal officials nominated by him were all appointed by Beijing. It was the second day in a row Leung backed a statement by Beijing's liaison office director Zhang Xiaoming that the city's chief executive was in a "special legal position that transcends" the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. Zhang - Beijing's top official in the city - also said on Saturday that the concept of separation of powers between the three branches was confined to sovereign states and could only serve as a reference for Hong Kong. His comments alarmed pan-democratic politicians and the Bar Association. Ma spoke on the concept last year, saying it was set out in the city's mini-constitution. Yesterday he said he was not going to comment on "things which have recently been said" or on comments about what he had said in the past. "But I wish to emphasise two points, both in relation to the Basic Law. The first point is judicial independence. This is specified in the Basic Law in three separate places and I would ask people to read Articles 2, 19 and 85," Ma said. "The second point deals with equality before the law, and this is Article 25 … which prescribes that everybody is equal before the law, without exception. This applies to everyone." Article 25 says "all Hong Kong residents shall be equal before the law". Under Article 2, the national legislature authorises Hong Kong "to exercise a high degree of autonomy and enjoy executive, legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication". Article 19 reiterates Hong Kong "shall be vested with independent judicial power", while Article 85 states local courts "shall exercise judicial power independently, free from any interference". Ma declined to speak about remarks from Basic Law Committee member and law professor Rao Geping that judges in Hong Kong could have misunderstood the principle. Earlier yesterday, Leung reiterated the city was not a sovereign state but a special administrative region with all its powers authorised by Beijing. "The central government would appoint only the chief executive and the principal officials nominated by the chief executive," he said ahead of a visit to Jakarta. "Therefore, the status of chief executive is indeed transcendent." The Basic Law also stated clearly the head of the executive arm was the chief executive, who would be leader of not only the government but also the SAR, he added. "This logic has been very distinct since the Basic Law was drafted some 20 years ago." Leung first broke his silence on Tuesday over the dispute surrounding his authority. One of the latest to weigh in was human rights lawyer Mark Daly, who noted the concept was included in the UN's definition of the rule of law, laid down by the secretary general in 2004. "Separation of powers is an element under the rule of law," Daly said. "If you detract it from the definition, you are diminishing the rule of law." He also rejected Rao's criticism of the judges, saying he preferred their interpretation of the Basic Law. Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung sought to allay worries over Zhang's words, saying the chief executive had always been under legislative and judicial scrutiny. ^ top ^



China says Xi Jinping will discuss 'sensitive issue of Taiwan' with Barack Obama during US trip (SCMP)
President Xi Jinping will raise the sensitive issue of Taiwan in his talks with US President Barack Obama next week – ahead of a crucial presidential election in the self-ruled island in January, China's government said on Wednesday. The Taiwan issue is the most important, most sensitive issue in Sino-US relations Ma Xiaoguang, Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Taiwan's mainland-friendly ruling Kuomintang Party are expected to be thrashed by the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) opposition in the election. Beijing has been stepping up its rhetoric against the DPP as the vote nears. Kuomintang forces retreated to Taiwan in 1949 after a civil war with the Communists and Beijing has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control. “The Taiwan issue is the most important, most sensitive issue in Sino-US relations,” Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, told a regular briefing after being asked if Taiwan would feature on the Xi-Obama agenda. “We believe that, when the leaders of China and the United States meet, they will exchange views on important issues of mutual concern,” Ma said, without elaborating. The US severed formal ties with Taiwan in 1979, but is obligated by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, and arms sales always deeply anger Beijing. Beijing was also alarmed in June when Tsai Ing-wen, the DPP's presidential candidate, visited Washington to rally support from US officials and politicians. Chen Shui-bian, the first, and so far only, DPP president, infuriated Beijing during his 2000-08 rule. Beijing accused him of trying to push for independence and weaken the island's Chinese cultural heritage. However, limits on cross-strait trade and transport links were slowly relaxed during Chen's administration. Tsai has said she favoured “maintaining the status quo” when asked about her cross-strait policy. If elected, she would be Taiwan's first female president. Ma said mainstream Taiwan public opinion wanted to continue with developing good relations with the mainland. “We believe that only by upholding... opposition to 'Taiwan independence' can the path to the peaceful development of cross-strait ties be maintained and broadened,” he said. A new poll by Taiwan's prominent United Daily News found public support on the island for maintaining the status quo has reached an historic high since the annual poll started in 2010. A total of 55 per cent of respondents said they preferred to keep the existing status quo of political relations across the Taiwan strait – up from 47 per cent last year, the newspaper reported on Wednesday. Support for speeding up independence fell by three percentage points to 16 per cent, while those people in support of swift unification remained at four per cent. Beijing has said that any formal declaration of independence would give it cause to go to war. ^ top ^

Official: Beware 'Taiwan independence' forces (Global Times)
A Chinese mainland spokesman on Taiwan affairs on Wednesday sought to alert people from both sides of the Taiwan Straits of the dangers of historical views supporting "Taiwan independence." "The 'Taiwan independence' secessionist forces seek to negate the Chinese nation's achievements in the war against Japan and erase Taiwan compatriots' contributions to the fight against Japan's colonial rule and victory against Japan's attacks," said Ma Xiaoguang of the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office at a press conference. Ma's response came after Lien Chan, a former chairman of the Kuomintang Party (KMT), received criticisms in Taiwan for his presence in the recent military parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII in Beijing on September 3. Ma said despite the difference in perspectives toward the history of the war, the real threat that deserves the vigilance of both the Chinese mainland and Taiwan is separatist forces. Ma said the victory of the War of Chinese People's Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-45) was achieved thanks to the solidarity of all Chinese ethnicities. However, the secessionist forces seek to sow discord among compatriots across the Straits and sabotage the peaceful development of cross-Straits ties, he said. "Curbing the spread of historical views that uphold 'Taiwan independence' and contain secessionist schemes are historical obligations that all responsible political parties and politicians should undertake," Ma said. "A peaceful cross-Straits relationship, based on the 1992 Consensus and a joint opposition against Taiwan separation, is one of the goals of the commemoration," Ma added. The spokesman criticized recent remarks by a former Taiwan leader Lee Teng-hui, saying they exposed Lee's "topsy-turvy historical views and disgraceful colonial slave mentality." Lee, also former KMT chairman, is known for his "Taiwan-independence stance." He said recently that "Taiwan feels grateful to have ever been governed by Japan," and that "Taiwan is independent in substance." ^ top ^

Chinese mainland to issue electronic travel passes to Taiwan visitors (Xinhua)
The Chinese mainland will begin issuing electronic travel passes to Taiwan visitors from Sept. 21, replacing the current paper versions. Taiwan residents can apply to the mainland's public security department above the county level to convert their passes to basic computer readable cards, the ministry said in a statement. Current travel passes can continue to be used by travelers from the island within the term of validity, it added. The mainland simplified entry rules for Taiwan residents in July. Under the revised regulation, they just need a travel pass to enter the mainland, instead of applying for an entry permit for every visit. The electronic travel pass is the mainland's latest move to make it easier to visit by increasing the efficiency of card issuance and checkup, the ministry said. The use of electronic travel passes has been piloted in Fujian Province since July 6, with 204,000 e-cards issued so far. ^ top ^


Start of the end game? Probe into top Chinese stock market official may be dawn of securities clampdown (SCMP)
A high-profile graft investigation into a senior stock market regulator could mark the start of an escalated crackdown on a sea of irregularities in the ailing financial sector, according to a Communist Party newspaper. People's Daily, citing Zhuang Deshui, a deputy director at an anti-corruption studies research centre at Peking University, said in a commentary on Thursday that the party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection had long set its sights on uprooting unscrupulous finance officials but had taken a cautious approach to maintain stability. The article said the investigation into China Securities Regulatory Commission assistant chairman Zhang Yujun, who is suspected of "serious disciplinary violations", resulted from an increased push that started two months ago. Exactly what he is suspected of has not been made clear. But the action against Zhang, who is in charge of the mainland's powerful brokerages and fund houses, comes as the securities authority finds itself in hot water over a series of unsuccessful market rescue efforts that took place from early July. Wang Qishan, the party's top graft-buster who was formerly the vice-premier in charge of finance, lambasted bank officials after he was promoted to be the commission's chief in late 2012. Wang accused them of pocketing big personal gains while taking a hostile stand on planned reforms. Since April 2013, he has directed a high-profile investigation into illegal bond trading, exposing more than a dozen unethical government officials and senior executives at financial institutions. But that particular anti-corruption drive has made little progress since the second half of last year, despite expectations that hundreds of government and corporate officials would be targeted. "The finance sector is a lifeline for the national economy so the top leaders would be cautious in taking action to fight corruption there," said Wang Yukai, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance in Beijing. "They will try to avert risks that could lead to instability in the sector." But the investigation into Zhang is seen as a fresh sign that the leadership will embark on a deep and wide-ranging crackdown on corruption in the finance sector, after taking on corrupt elites in national security, local bureaucracies and the military. Zhang's case follows investigations into more than 10 officials at Citic Securities, the mainland's largest brokerage, with its president Cheng Boming being questioned by police for alleged insider trading. Since his appointment as the CSRC's assistant chairman in 2012, Zhang has been a strong advocate of expanding revenue streams for brokerages, encouraging them to diversify into margin loans and asset management businesses. "The investigation into Zhang can also be interpreted as a prelude to a heavier regulation of the securities sector to ward off risks," a Shanghai-based fund manager said. "Lots of planned innovative steps in the sector will likely be halted." ^ top ^

China's total offshore investment on track to exceed US$1 trillion by end of 2015 (SCMP)
China's outbound direct investment (ODI) is expected to exceed US$1 trillion for the first time in 2015 as slowing economic growth and rising internationalisation of Chinese business leads to more local companies investing abroad. Total direct investment offshore rose to just under US$883 billion in 2014, Zhang Xiangchen, the Ministry of Commerce's deputy China international trade representative, said on Thursday. The ministry reported on Wednesday that non-financial ODI rose 18.2 per cent to 473.4 billion yuan (US$77 billion) for the first eight months of the year. On Thursday it also revised up its 2014 offshore non-financial direct investment tally to US$107.2 billion from the US$102.9 billion reported previously, taking total outward investment for the year to $123.12 billion. “Our outbound investment has maintained a double-digit growth rate, and this trend will be sustained in future,” Zhang told a media briefing. China's slowing economy and market volatility was driving domestic firms to acquire foreign brands and technology, as well as diversifying, said, research director at the US analysts, Rhodium Group. Beijing has rolled out policies to support the global efforts of Chinese companies, offering financial incentives and removing administrative controls on offshore deals. Chinese companies have already announced or completed 390 deals worth US$77 billion in the year to the end of September 2016, according to Thomson Reuters data – a doubling of the total amount of money involved in deals over the same period last year. So far this year Chinese firms have already spent more on global mergers and acquisitions than the US$70.4 billion spent over the whole of 2008 – formerly the biggest year to date for offshore mergers. Industrial deals were the biggest transactions, led by China National Chemical Corp's buyout of the Italian tyre maker, Pirelli, for US$8.88 billion, which included Pirelli's debt. Many of this year's big deals were done by Chinese firms buying financial services businesses, including HNA Group's subsidiary, Bohai Leasing Co, which paid US$2.56 billion for the aviation leasing firm, Avolon Holdings. Zhang said by the end of 2014, 18,500 Chinese domestic investors had established nearly 30,000 enterprises abroad, with about 77 per cent showing profits in 2014. “State-owned firms and private companies are looking to buy overseas financial institutions that are yielding strong cash-flow and providing an international presence and market share,” Eugene Qian, head of China business at UBS. ^ top ^

Beijing takes back up to 1tr yuan in unspent funds from local governments, sources say (SCMP)
Angry mainland authorities have seized up to 1 trillion yuan (HK$1.21 trillion) from local governments who failed to spend their budget allocations, sources said, as Beijing seeks ways to stimulate economic growth which is at its slowest for 25 years. The huge underspend, linked to officials' reluctance to spend on big-ticket projects while authorities crack down on corruption, supports the argument of some economists that state investment has grown too slowly this year. "In the past, local governments had asked for the money. Money was given, but no one acted," said one of two sources, both of whom are close to the government. They declined to be named as they are not authorised to speak to the media. "Investments were not realised, and the money will be reallocated," added the source, an economist. He did not elaborate on how the funds would be spent. The repossessed money would pay for other investments, said the sources, as economic growth looks increasingly likely to fall below 7 per cent. Lacklustre spending growth could be especially punishing for China, as investment is seen by some government economists as the best way to shore up activity in the short term. One trillion yuan of unspent funds is equivalent to about 6 per cent of the mainland's projected total government spending for the year. The Finance Ministry was not immediately available for comment. As part of reforms proposed by Beijing at the end of 2013, China is pursuing its boldest anti-graft campaign yet that has felled a powerful former domestic security chief among others. While the campaign has been a hit with the public, it has also had the unintended consequence of scuppering investment as fearful officials eager to stay out of trouble resort to early retirement or dither over approving major projects. That has annoyed Beijing, which has repeatedly threatened to punish procrastinating governments by recalling their unspent budgets. HSBC estimated in May that China had 3.8 trillion yuan of unused fiscal funds carried over from previous years. On Saturday, the Economic Observer newspaper reported there was about 100 billion yuan of unspent capital, citing audit reports over the past three months. ^ top ^

Beijing takes more conservative tack in reform of China's state firms (SCMP)
The State Council has changed tack with its plans to overhaul state-owned enterprises, taking a more conservative line in Sunday's blueprint on introducing private capital than it touted two years ago. Analysts say that shift is the result of unsuccessful reform experiments hindered by reluctant SOEs. The document released on the weekend called for fostering "mixed-capital ownership" through private investment to rejuvenate inefficient state firms. It said changes in capital structure would be pursued "gradually" but did not set any specific deadlines. The wording of the statement was a step back from the call at the Communist Party's plenum in late 2013, which stressed the need to foster a mixed-capital structure in the firms "in a proactive way", a term that was later toned down to "in an orderly fashion" in the annual government work report in March. A lead researcher at a private think tank said the backtrack followed a series of unsuccessful attempts to overhaul SOEs. "State firms are still very cautious about ownership and they don't feel they should involve private companies," the researcher said. "Private companies that took part in the experiment were also marginalised." The State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission announced in July last year that two SOEs would experiment with mixed-capital ownership. By August this year, 22 provinces had announced similar plans at the local level. But most of those efforts did not succeed, the researcher said. "The root of the problem was the overemphasis on the security of state assets … They worried about the potential loss of state assets even if the stocks rose after being sold." Zhang Chunxiao, a researcher at Beijing's Chinese Academy of Governance, said the painful lessons of the SOE reforms in the 1990s also hung over the reforms, raising fears that assets could be siphoned off through corruption. "Some officials, out of their own interest … sold national assets at low prices - even giving them away for free - causing great losses [in the 1990s]," China Business News quoted Zhang as saying. Sheng Hong, director of Beijing-based think tank Unirule Institute of Economics, said the plan announced on Sunday stopped short of introducing competition, which was supposedly the most important part of SOE reform. "We can tell that vested interest groups are unwilling to reform and they are too strong," Sheng said. Strengthening the party's role in the firms was not the solution either, because most SOE officials who turned out to be corrupt and incompetent were appointed by the party, Sheng added. BNY Mellon strategist Simon Cox said the progress of economic reforms pledged by Beijing in 2013 had so far fallen short of people's hopes. Those reforms might have lost their shine in the eyes of the leadership as it tried to tighten its iron grip on power through campaigns like the ongoing graft clampdown, he said. "Xi's focus on reforms seems less than laser-like," Cox said. "Maybe once party-building efforts reached the level of his satisfaction, he will return to reforms towards the end of the decade." ^ top ^



D.Gankhuyag meets NATO Deputy Secretary-General (Montsame)
The State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs L.Tsog Thursday met visiting Mr Alexander Vershbow, the Deputy Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). They have exchanged views on the Mongolia-NATO relations and further cooperation. Noting that Mongolia is developing the partnership relations with the NATO in frames of its multi-lateral, independent, neutral and open foreign policy, Mr Gankhuyag highlighted Mongolia always aspires to contribute to ensuring global peace and security. ^ top ^

Speaker meets German delegation (Montsame)
The Speaker of parliament Z.Enkhbold Wednesday received a delegation led by Ms Doris Barnett, a member of the German Bundestag and manager of the OSCE PA's Foundation. The Speaker congratulated Germany on chairing the OSCE for 2016 and thanked the delegation for taking part in the 2015 Autumn Session of the OSCE PA in Ulaanbaatar. Thanking the Speaker for the audience, Ms Barnett emphasized that the two countries have been keeping their friendly relations and cooperation for a long time. She said she is making efforts to deepen the bilateral economic ties, "hope that their development will bring the relations into a newer level". Talking about Mongolia's chairing the OSCE Forum of Security and Cooperation for the first time in the first quarter of 2015, the Speaker expressed a gratitude to Germany for supporting Mongolia in leading this Forum. Present at the meeting were D.Terbishdagva and L.Bold MPs and others. ^ top ^

Chairman of Russian State Duma arrives (Montsame)
A delegation led by Mr S.Ye.Naryshkin, the Chairman of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, arrived Tuesday morning in Ulaanbaatar to take part in the 2015 Autumn Session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. The delegation was welcomed by L.Tsog, one of the Vice chairmen of the State Great Khural (parliament); I.K.Azizov, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Russia to Mongolia; D.Gankhuyag, State Secretary of Foreign Affairs Monistry. Parliamentarians from across the OSCE's 57 participating States are at the session themed “Addressing security challenges in the OSCE region and beyond: the role of parliamentarians in fostering regional cooperation”. ^ top ^

President Elbegdorj at OSCE PA Autumn Session opening (Montsame)
The President of Mongolia Mr Ts.Elbegdorj delivered a speech at the opening of the OSCE PA Autumn Session which kicked off Wednesday in the State House in Ulaanbaatar. After talking about the OSCE's history, the first democratic elections of Mongolia as well as the OSCE's role in a development and peace, Mr Elbegdorj announced there are "two good news despite the fact many countries are suffering from conflicts such as in Ukraine, the Middle East and Africa": He emphasized an importance of solving these matters from the newest and wide angle. First good news is that there is a chance to resolve any complicated challenges, "mankind has learnt lessons and has gained many scientific and technological achievements". The OSCE could be the second chance. Some challenges exceeded the frame of one continent. “It means that every continent is now required to form a new and more open mechanism for their security and cooperation. I am confident that the OSCE could be an arena for common talks, the best model of intercontinental cooperation as well as a leader in finding out the best solutions for problems,” he stressed. Mongolia maintains an ideology "any conflicts can be resolved through talks without use of force and intervention", and this provides Mongolia with opportunities to be permanently neutral, peaceful and open country. He added our government decided recently on the permanent status of neutrality. He also said Mongolia will continue keeping its position towards peaceful proposals and initiatives, openness and activity. Mongolia will always be open for peaceful talks, he stressed.  ^ top ^

Prime Minister Saikhanbileg holds official meeting with Li Keqiang (Monsame)
Within a working visit to China, the Prime Minister of Mongolia Mr Ch.Saikhanbileg Thursday held an official meeting with Mr Li Keqiang, the Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China (PRC). The parties have exchanged views on the Mongolia-China relations and the economic and trade cooperation, and discussed issues of intensifying a course of joint big projects being implemented in the infrastructure and energy sectors. Moreover, the Mongolian side has put forward a proposal to supply meat and meat products costing USD 1 billion to China, and then sides considered as necessity to realize this proposal. “China agreed with Mongolia to give a soft-loan of USD 1 billion during a visit of the PRC President Mr Xi Jinping to Mongolia in 2014. In accordance with this, the government of Mongolia has decided to finance the biggest projects with the soft-loan, and the China's side set a condition for Mongolia to finance 15% of the projects, while the 85% of it will be financed by the China's side with 2 per cent interest in a period of 20 years,” Mr Saikhanbileg said, and then asked the China's side to prolong this period to 30 years. The sides also discussed matters on augmenting a size of the Swap agreement between the Bank of Mongolia and the People's Bank of China, and then related bodies of the countries concurred to hold talks on facilitating the soft-loan of China. ^ top ^

President Ts.Elbegdorj: "Mongolia - Neutrality" (Infomongolia)
Mongolia as a neutral state. I have long pondered about this issue. And I exchanged views on the matter. And had some studies done and conclusions drawn. Now the time to discuss it publicly has come. Every Mongolian cares for further consolidation of our country's freedom, independence and sovereignty. […] When contemplating on and discussing Mongolia's neutrality policy we must first of all consider the following factors. One: Since Mongolia adopted her new democratic Constitution Mongolia has actively pursued neutral in substance policies. However, we are yet to declare it, in form. The process of shaping and validating this policy is now only a matter of time. Two: The history Mongolia has authored, our geographic location, the uniqueness of our chosen path of development are congruent with the spirit and principles of neutralism. Neutrality enables a country to maintain equal and balanced international relations. Other states and international organizations respect such a status quo of a neutral state. Three: The state of international affairs and International order change over time. Yet the neutral policies and actions do sustain over the course of time. […] A classical representative of a permanently neutral state, Switzerland, is considered to have Europe's most capable army with high maneuver skills. And the founding concepts of Mongolia's defense concepts are consonant with neutralism. The territorial immunity of a neutral state is re-assured by international law. This includes both air and water borders too. It is prohibited for belligerent troops to conduct war on the territories of a neutral state. Also a neutral state has the power to not let the transportation of belligerent armies' personnel, arms and war materials across its territory. Permanent neutrality also has certain implications for nuclear weapons issue and the country's membership in any military alliance. In this way the core principle of neutrality is formulated and implemented. Even so, the form of actions and implementation of this policy depends directly on the state which declares neutrality. And the interpretation is the same. Put shortly, the state declaring neutrality has the right to even narrowly define or set certain boundaries and constraints over its neutral powers, and expound and declare this policy. On the other hand, the quality of the neutrality of the state also depends on its international reputation and how active the country is on international stage. It is not necessary for a state to seek support from any particular country or international organization to validate its neutrality status quo. Yet in international relations, a country which declares neutrality is recognized and even registered as such. But obviously any such state would aspire to achieve understanding, recognition and support from its neighboring states, other countries and international organizations. Our forefathers and fathers have always maintained dignity and temperance in any matter. Inheriting this ancestral quality, we shall hold equally high and honor the UN and our own Charter in our aspirations in the new era. Unity, continuity and clarity of Mongolia's foreign policy are at the heart of Mongolia's interests and benefits. Neutrality is a universally recognized tool useful for us, the Mongolians, to harness and build upon our existing potentials on one hand, and to pursue active, flexible relations with other countries, on the other hand. This may also be seen a universal value, a collective human experience. And an opportunity for Mongolia. Opportunities are rare. Values evolve slowly. Handy here would come our persistence and consistency. Inarguably, that status of ours will help invigorate many policies, initiatives and actions centered on Mongolia. Mongolia as a permanent neutral state. I think, further discussions and deliberations on this topic, and achieving and implementing certain decisions will be consistent with Mongolia's interests and benefits. I have briefly explored on the definition, legal status and some other related aspects in a separate note, referenced to this article. May good deeds prosper. May my Mongolia dwell eternally. ^ top ^


Mrs. Mirjam Eggli
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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