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
  11-15.1.2016, No. 605  
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Foreign Policy

Work to start on rail link with Iran (China Daily)
The Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region plans to start preliminary work on a railway linking China with Iran via Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan within five years. The railway is expected to run from Xinjiang's Kashgar to Afghanistan's Herat, then go through Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan and finally connect with the Iranian railway. Conducting preliminary work on the railway has been listed in the draft of the region's 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) that is likely to be passed by the regional people's congress on Saturday. The central government positioned Xinjiang as the core region on the Silk Road Economic Belt, which was proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013 and aims to revive the trade route that once connected China with Europe via Central Asian countries. Representatives of transport ministries and railway departments from the five countries signed a document on the railway in a meeting in December 2014, Xinhua News Agency reported. To better construct transportation corridors on the southern part of the economic belt, Xinjiang also began preliminary work on the China-Pakistan railway and the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway, the draft said. Both railways will start at southern Xinjiang's Kashgar, which borders Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan. Kyrgyzstan and China have been discussing for many years the possibility of constructing a China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway. Xinjiang will also launch more flights connecting Central Asia, Western Asia and Europe. With 17 airports, Xinjiang currently has more airports than any other province or region. By 2020, the number of airports in the region will reach 28. Because of its strategic location, the region will build four more gas pipelines connecting eastern parts of China, one of which will transport Russian natural gas to China. The coal-rich region will continue to support China's development by transmitting electricity generated by thermal plants to other parts of the country via high-voltage power lines. By 2020, 30 million kW of electricity will be transmitted out of Xinjiang. ^ top ^

Nation 'eyes more initiatives for G20' (China Daily)
State Councilor Yang Jiechi (front, third from left) joins other officials from G20 economies at the First G20 Sherpa Meeting in Beijing on Thursday. The three-day gathering forms part of the runup to the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. FENG YONGBIN / CHINA DAILY China aims to contribute more to setting global economic rules as it prepares to host the G20 summit in September, according to observers. They made the observation as the First G20 Sherpa Meeting began in Beijing on Thursday. The three-day gathering is being attended by senior officials as part of the run-up to the summit in Hangzhou, Zhejinag province. State Councilor Yang Jiechi, addressing Thursday's opening session, said China has several goals for hosting the summit this year. One of these is to enhance the role of the G20 from being a mechanism to tackle crises to one exercising long-term, effective management. Yang said whether the G20 realizes this successful transformation and sees achievements in addressing new global economic challenges "concerns the overall development of all the member states and influences the very interests of all countries in the world". He said the G20 will play a leading role, showcase ambitions and outline directions for world economic development and international economic cooperation. The G20 is expected to draw up rules and indicators and inspect their implementation, providing benchmarks for assessing cooperation, Yang said. Chen Fengying, a senior researcher of the world economy at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said such a shift in the G20's role will help to "address both root causes and symptoms". The G20 represents nearly 90 percent of the global economy's volume and 80 percent of international trade. China, in addition to making its voice heard on the global stage, has begun to offer more initiatives, Chen said. "The G20 is still irreplaceable because of its important role in leading the world economy toward robust and balanced growth," Chen said. Huang Wei, a researcher of global economic governance at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that behind China's latest initiatives and proposed measures lies its unique philosophy and its own "rhythms of exercising economic governance". "Given the global governance interest... the developing countries — including the emerging economies — have received some response to their pursuits, but this is far from enough. So we need to do more in this regard," Huang said. ^ top ^

Is Xi Jinping the man to defuse tensions in the Middle East? Landmark visit to Iran and Saudi Arabia revealed (SCMP)
China's President Xi Jinping is to embark on a whirlwind visit to Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt in his first diplomatic trip of the year amidst escalating tensions in the region. The timing of Xi's visit - coming as Iran and Saudi Arabia lock horns in their worst conflict in a decades - will thrust China to the forefront of Middle East politics. Beijing will be closely watched as how it strikes a delicate balance between the feuding Tehran and Riyadh. Both are China's key oil suppliers and crucial to its going out strategy - the much touted One Belt, One Road development plan. Xi is expected to use the trip to promote the One Belt, One Road strategy and secure oil supply in the Middle East. Xi was scheduled to visit Egypt from January 20 to 22, the Egyptian foreign ministry announced last week. Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency also reported last week that Xi would visit within the month. The trip will also include a leg in Saudi Arabia, according to Guo Xiangang, a Middle East expert and vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies. “The Middle East has been an important region for China because of its energy resources and geopolitical position,” Guo said. “These three are major countries in the region, that' s a key consideration in picking them for this visit.” Guo said selling the One Belt, One Road strategy – an initiative rolled out by Xi that aspires to build a global network of transportation links – was likely to top the agenda. “Both the road and maritime projects will have to pass through the region, it is a very important passage,” he said. The Chinese foreign ministry has yet to officially announce the visits, which will mark the president's first to the region. Iran is emerging from international isolation – and sanctions – after signing a deal with world powers including China to limit its nuclear activities. With Western countries such as the United States set to lift their sanctions on Tehran soon, Guo said the trip could see Xi signing more deals to expand China's energy imports from the country. Outside of energy and economics, China has largely avoided diplomatic involvement in the region. But with the feud between Iran and Saudi Arabia continuing, analysts are watching how Xi handles the delicate relations. Beijing has maintained close ties with both countries and has so far stayed neutral in the spat. It recently sent a diplomatic envoy, Zhang Ming, to the two countries in an apparent attempt to mediate. ^ top ^

China knocks on the door of Europe's free market club (SCMP)
When members of the European Union sat down in Brussels yesterday, there was just one item on the agenda. The representatives of the 28 member states met to begin discussions on whether China should be granted market economy status, beginning the end of years of deliberation on the issue. A decision is not expected until February but if the status is granted, from December China would be able to protect its exporters from paying high punitive tariffs in anti-dumping cases. A yes from the EU members is not likely to have a major impact in the short run but it would put China in a stronger position to realise its bigger goal: to influence global trade rules. The outcome of the talks is far from certain. At the centre of the debate is whether China's economic performance qualifies it for the status to come into effect at the end of this year. Beijing has long argued that it does but the EU insists that China should first meet five criteria: low government influence in the economy, an unfettered private sector, effective implementation of company law with adequate corporate governance rules, proper functioning of a free-market economy, and a genuine financial sector. An EU assessment in 2008 found that China fell short of all but one of the criteria. Seven years later, a study by the European Parliament said China had achieved “impressive steps” towards a more open economy but “state economic intervention remained great”. The study cited the government intervention in the stock market in the summer as a sign that Beijing “is capable of reversing its market-based achievements and even of increasing state intervention in the economy on an ad hoc basis”. But market economy status is more than a question of economics; it's a political issue. That's why the EU, and the US granted the status to Russia in 2002, according to Wei Jianguo, secretary general of the China Centre for International Economic Exchanges. The deals were sealed when diplomatic ties with Russia were still in a honeymoon period. “The extent of [Russia's] market economy, even today, lags far behind China's,” Wei said. For many of the EU member states, the debate hinges on concerns about potential losses of jobs and competitiveness. The United States has reportedly pressed the EU to reject China's application, warning of a flood of cheap Chinese goods. Robert Scott and Xiao Jiang from the US-based Economic Policy Institute estimated that China's exports of manufactured commodities to the EU would increase by up to €142.5 billion (HK$1.2 trillion) in the first three to five years after a yes vote. Those exports would increase the EU's trade deficit and reduce GDP by up to 2 per centover that period. “An EU decision to unilaterally grant market economy status to China would put between 1.7 million and 3.5 million EU jobs at risk by curbing the ability to impose tariffs on dumped goods and thus allowing Chinese companies to undercut domestic production by flooding the EU with cheap goods,” Scott and Jiang said. But Frank Tang, an economist with North Square Blue Oak, said the increase in China's exports to the EU might not be as big as many expected and the trade bloc would still be able to bring down non-trade barriers – such as security and human rights requirements – to ward off dumping. Dumping has been a repeated source of tension between China and the EU. The bloc launched 119 anti-dumping probes and imposed 85 anti-dumping measures against Chinese products from 1995 and 2014, according to EU data. Just last month the EU announced it was extending anti-dumping measures on China's photovoltaic products, two years after it announced punitive tariffs on China's photovoltaic exports. The sector's exports to the EU slumped and it was forced to shift its attention to emerging markets. These days, though, China is not as dependent on exports and its growing middle class represents an opportunity for European companies. China is working to expand imports and generate growth by spurring domestic demand. […] ^ top ^

Chinese fugitive hiding in Britain surrenders (Xinhua)
A fugitive who spent almost three years hiding in Britain has returned to China and handed herself in, the disciplinary agency announced Thursday. Chen Yijuan, who was on a list of China's 100 most-wanted fugitives, is suspected of money laundering, the Communist Party of China's (CPC's) Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) said in a statement, without elaborating. In April last year, China released the names of 100 Chinese who had fled the country. Chen is the 20th to be brought to justice. The 45-year-old suspect is a former employee of China Mobile in central province of Hunan. She is believed to have fled to Britain in April 2013. ^ top ^

Swede detained for 'endangering security' (Global Times)
China confirmed Wednesday that it has detained a Swedish citizen suspected of "endangering national security." Peter Dahlin, a Swedish citizen working with the Chinese Urgent Action Working Group (China Action), was detained earlier this month, according to reports from overseas media outlets. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said a "Swedish citizen, Peter, is subject to criminal law enforcement in Beijing on suspicion of endangering China's national security." China will "facilitate the Swedish consular officials' performance of their duty," Hong said. China Action describes itself as a non-profit organization that strengthens the rule of law "by encouraging improved policy, and in strengthening enforcement of the legal system." ^ top ^

China reiterates it told Vietnam of test flights (China Daily)
China had informed Vietnam of its test flights on Yongshu Jiao, one of the Nansha Islands on which China has built an airport, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei on Thursday. The Flight Inspection Center of the Civil Aviation Administration of China informed the Ho Chi Minh Flight Information Region at 17:46 on Dec 28 of the flight plan, route and other technical information of China's inspection aircraft, "before China had to turn the flights into state aviation activities due to Vietnam's groundless obstruction," he said. This is the second time in four days the Foreign Ministry responded to Vietnam's claims of having not received notification of the test flights. "We are shocked and bewildered by the repeated arguments by Vietnam," Hong said, adding that China's test flights from the airport of Yongshu Jiao is in accordance to international law and international conventions. "China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters," he reiterated. On Jan 2, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying confirmed that China had conducted a test flight on the newly built airport on Yongshu Jiao that drew objections from Vietnam, which also claims sovereignty over the island. On Jan 6, China conducted another test flight with two civil planes. ^ top ^

China ready to coordinate development strategies with Arab states (Xinhua)
China is willing to coordinate development strategies with Arab states and put into play each other's advantages and potentials, according to the first China's Arab Policy Paper issued on Wednesday. China is willing to have pragmatic cooperation in the principle of mutual benefit and win-win results with Arab states, the paper said. According to the paper, Arab countries as a whole have become China's biggest supplier of crude oil and the 7th biggest trading partner. China's proposed initiatives of jointly building the "Silk Road Economic Belt" and the "21st Century Maritime Silk Road", establishing a "1+2+3" cooperation pattern and industrial capacity cooperation, are well received by Arab countries. The "1+2+3" cooperation pattern refers to taking energy cooperation as the core, infrastructure construction and trade and investment facilitation as the two wings, and three high and new tech fields of nuclear energy, space satellite and new energy as the three breakthroughs. In the process of jointly pursuing the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiative, China is willing to coordinate development strategies with Arab states and put into play each other's advantages and potentials, promote international production capacity cooperation and enhance cooperation in the fields of infrastructure construction, trade and investment facilitation, nuclear power, space satellite, new energy, agriculture and finance, so as to achieve common progress and development and benefit our two peoples, the paper said. […] "We will strengthen exchanges and consultations between Chinese and Arab trade authorities, complete China-GCC FTA negotiations and sign a free trade agreement at an early date," the paper said. "We will jointly build the China-Arab clear energy training center and develop all-round cooperation in related areas," the paper said. […] "We will be actively engaged in cooperation covering the whole nuclear industrial chain," the paper said, adding that the two sides will promote cooperation in basic scientific research, nuclear fuels, research reactors, application of nuclear technologies, nuclear security, disposal of radioactive wastes, emergency responses and nuclear safety. "We support the establishment of branches in each other' s countries by qualified financial institutions from both sides, and multi-sector operation cooperation, as well as strengthened exchanges and cooperation between regulators," the paper said, noting that China welcomes the Arab countries to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and their active role in it. […] ^ top ^

China refutes Philippines' protest against test flights in S. China Sea (Xinhua)
China refuted the Philippines' protest against test flights at a newly built airport in the South China Sea, stressing the test flights fall totally within China's sovereignty. "China enjoys the freedom of overflight in the South China Sea as other countries do," said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei at a routine press briefing. The nature of China's test flights to the airport on Yongshu Jiao is professional, technical and civil, Hong said, adding the flights are being conducted for public interests. In response to another question regarding the Philippines' plan to issue bond to fund military modernization, Hong urged relevant countries not to turn back the wheel of history and do more to help regional peace and stability. On Monday, the Philippine Congress asked the Philippine government to study a proposal to issue a 150 billion peso (3.2 billion U.S. dollars) retail bond to fund a long-term military modernization plan to secure its strategic reserves in the South China Sea, according to reports. The Asian economy and regional cooperation are currently on a sound track, Hong said, adding that peace, cooperation and development have become trends of the times and represent the common aspirations of people around the world. ^ top ^

World Bank Group gives 'number two' job to Chinese official Yang Shaolin (SCMP)
The World Bank has appointed China's Ministry of Finance official Yang Shaolin as its chief administrative officer and managing director. It said the posts were new positions created to improve organisational strategy, information technology, budgeting and planning, and that Yang's appointment would be effective from February 29. China hoped the appointment would boost the representation of developing countries in international finance, said foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei. Yang is currently the director general of the ministry's department of international economic and financial cooperation, Xinhua reported. In this position Yang had played a critical role in the creation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the BRICS' New Development Bank. “We're very pleased to welcome Shaolin back to the World Bank Group in this critical new role for the institution,” said World Bank Group president Jim Yong Kim. “In addition to his strong knowledge of our organisation, Shaolin brings a deep background and expertise of driving economic and financial cooperation. He is a very experienced leader, and across all of his positions over the years, Shaolin has excelled at collaboration and consensus building.” Kim said. Yang served as the executive director for China at the World Bank Group from September 2009 to November 2013. China is the group's third-largest shareholder. Sun Lijian, professor in economics at Fudan University, said the appointment meant Yang was the “number 2” at the World Bank and that China had been fully involved in the organisation. He said previous Chinese nationals appointed to executive positions at the World Bank, such as Zhang Shengman, Lin Yifu and Cai Jinyong, had all been Western educated, because the US wanted to be able to communicate with them. The appointment also demonstrated the bank's recognition of China's AIIB and “One Belt, One Road” development initiatives and signalled its intention to get involved, said Sun. ^ top ^

Japan threatens East China Sea stability (Global Times)
Japan plans to use Self-Defense Force units to drive away "Chinese naval ships" from waters near the disputed Diaoyu Islands, a move that experts say will break the currently controlled status-quo and may lead to escalated tensions or even open confrontation in the East China Sea. Analysts have also said that Japan may want to play up East China Sea tensions to suppress the domestic opposition before its controversial security bill comes into effect in March. Responding to Japan's warning, China's foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said Tuesday that China's resolve in upholding territorial sovereignty is unswerving when it comes to the Diaoyu Islands but urged Japan to exercise restraint. "An escalation of tensions in the East China Sea is the last thing we want to see. We are willing to properly manage and settle the relevant issue through dialogue and consultations," Hong said. The status-quo in the East China Sea has been controlled so far as both China and Japan have dispatched only coast guard vessels to patrol the area, a situation that will change once Japan dispatches military vessels, analysts said. Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Tuesday that "if a foreign naval vessel transits our waters for [purposes] other than 'innocent passage,' we will order a sea patrol and take the step of having the Self-Defense Force unit order withdrawal." Japan had informed China of its decision in November and Japan's government had approved the course of action last May, Suga was quoted as saying by Reuters. Suga's comments come after a report in the Yomiuri Shimbun that Japanese naval ships would be sent to urge "Chinese naval ships" to leave if they come within about 22 kilometers of the islands for reasons other than "innocent passage." According to international law, a passage is innocent if it is not prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal state. "By introducing its military into the disputes over the East China Sea, Japan has unilaterally escalated tensions and it may lead to war," Wang Pin, a researcher on Japanese studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times Tuesday. According to Japan's Defense Ministry, the Self-Defense units will first send warnings to "Chinese naval vessels" and ask them to leave. If the Chinese vessels refuse to comply, the Self-Defense units will take certain measures to drive them off. A representative from Japan's Defense Ministry told the Global Times on Tuesday that China's vessels can be "allowed" to pass as long as they don't violate the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and pose no threats to the coastal countries' peace and order. "Japan's claim has no legal basis. The Diaoyu Islands belong to China, thus our vessels do not need Japan's approval to pass the nearby waters of the islands. Japan is using the so-called international law to cover up its own misdeeds and is trying to shift the blame to China," Wang said. The Diaoyu Islands are a sticking point between the two countries. In 2014, China and Japan agreed to gradually resume political, diplomatic and security dialogues while acknowledging different positions on the Diaoyu Islands. The status-quo in the East China Sea has been controlled so far as both China and Japan have only dispatched coast guard vessels to patrol the area. If Japan unilaterally uses its Self-Defense units, China will deploy its naval force in return, which will greatly increase the chance of open confrontation, Wang said. […] ^ top ^

UN releases Development Assistance Framework for China (Xinhua)
The United Nations (UN) unveiled the new United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) for China 2016-2020 on Tuesday. According to the plan, the UN system in China will support the country in three priority areas in the next five years, including poverty reduction and equitable development,an improved and sustainable environment, and enhanced global engagement. The framework represents a renewed commitment to continue the strong partnership between China and the UN. It provides a strategic direction that will guide the UN's contributions to China's development priorities, said UN Resident Coordinator Alain Noudehou. "In each of the three priority areas, particular focus will be placed on key underlying challenges posed by inequality, rapid urbanization and demographic changes, and environmental degradation," he said. Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen commended the fruitful cooperation between China and the UN over the past decades at the launch ceremony of the UNDAF. "The Chinese government will take the UNDAF as a new starting point, make our own duty for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development adopted by world leaders at the 70th General Assembly in September 2015, and strengthen cooperation with the UN so as to make our due contribution to global development," Wang said. The UN system in China consists of 24 UN funds, programs and specialized agencies in the country. ^ top ^

'Difficult to predict': German ambassador on China's bid for market economy status with EU (SCMP)
Divisions among member states at home mean it is hard to predict whether the European Union will grant China market economy status, according to the German ambassador to China Michael Clauss. Getting the approval of most members in the Council of the EU would not be enough to secure the status, Clauss warned, as the vote would be decided on a qualified majority basis. Sixteen countries would need to give their assent and these countries must represent at least 65 per cent of the total EU population – meaning the vote of bigger countries such as Germany carry a disproportionate weight. Even then there are some circumstances, depending on exactly which countries vote for and against, that could see China's bid turned down. The European Commission is expected to discuss the proposal in February or March, and Chinese economists say the increasing business and investment presence of China on the continent has improved Beijing's bargaining position. “The European Commission has postponed its proposal on whether to grant [the status] several times. It may now be presented in February or March,” Clauss told the South China Morning Post. “The adoption of the proposal would require a qualified majority in the Council of the EU, not just a simple majority of the 28 EU Member States. Many have difficult discussions at home. Then a majority in the European Parliament would have to confirm the decision.” Media reports suggested that the United States warned the EU last month not to grant China the status amid speculation the European Commission planned to propose it as early as next month. But EU nations are split on the issue. Britain and Belgium are supporters while Italy leads the opposition and Germany is yet to reveal its position. “The European Parliament has a track record of very lively and contentious debates on free trade issues. So the outcome is difficult to predict,” Clauss said. “As the largest member state with the biggest voting weight, Germany's position will be of particular importance. “During her visit to China last October Chancellor [Angela] Merkel discussed the issue with Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) and publicly stated that she would await the commission's proposal first.” Merkel had also underlined her expectation that China should accede to the World Trade Organisation's General Procurement Agreement, Clauss said. Much debate surrounds whether China should be recognised as a market economy. Beijing has insisted that the status should come into effect automatically in December this year, according to the agreement for its entry into the WTO in 2001, but the EU has said China must first meet certain criteria. The market economy status would ease pressure for Chinese enterprises, such as in steel and solar power sectors, in anti-dumping disputes launched by overseas rivals and thus help them to avoid paying high punitive taxes on exports. A decade ago, the Ministry of Commerce launched a quota to restrict its textile exports to the EU, a compromise in exchange for the EU's promise on the market economy status. But, the gesture was in vain due to the global financial crisis and European debt crisis. Chinese economists said China was no longer as concerned with market economy status as it once was, even though Beijing believed it was in a better negotiating position. Exports make up a smaller share of China's economy and China also wants the advanced services sector to become a new engine for growth. The need to keep exports stable was partly due to the need to stabilise employment, said Frank Tang, an economist with investment bank North Square Blue Oak. […] ^ top ^

Italy seeks more Chinese help in security and humanitarian crises in Mediterranean and North Africa (SCMP)
Italy has called on China to contribute more to the fight against terrorism and help stabilise the Middle East and Northern Africa, as the world's number two economy shows an increasing interest and exposure in the region, its ambassador to Beijing says. “We expect a growing Chinese presence in the Mediterranean region in the years to come,” Ambassador Ettore Sequi told the South China Morning Post. Just as the Roman Empire connected to ancient China via the Silk Road, Italy now wished to take more advantage from President Xi Jinping's (習近平) “One Belt One Road”. Greater flows of trade and investment will bring more Chinese nationals to the region, and with them the exposure of China to the risks that the region has for centuries presented to outside powers that settled there,” Sequi said. China, increasingly aware of the challenges posed by terrorism and extremism at home and abroad, has stepped up security precautions and issued its first counter terrorism law. On Thursday Foreign Minister Wang Yi (王毅) told Khaled Khoja, the visiting leader of the Western-backed opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC), that China would continue to play a constructive role in finding a political resolution for Syrian issues and continue to provide humanitarian aid to refugees. Khoja visited Beijing a fortnight after Syrian foreign minister Walid Muallem as Beijing seeks to bring both sides in the conflict to the negotiating table. Meanwhile, in a joint statement with Britain on Syria earlier this week, Wang said counter terrorism efforts and a political settlement should be advanced in parallel. China said it too faces a terrorist threat and had a shared interest in defeating all terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq. “We will continue to support efforts to tackle terrorism and its root causes in the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere, including the ongoing conflict in Syria,” the statement said. Meanwhile, Europe is dealing with a growing influx of refugees from around the Mediterranean, especially to Germany but also Italy due to its location on the Adriatic Sea and proximity to Libya. Last year, Italy rescued more than 115,000 migrants from the sea, Sequi said. Germany's ambassador to China last month also asked China to contribute more, while Italy tries to involve China in its own political efforts. Last month, at the invitation of Rome, Chinese special envoy to the Middle East Gong Xiaosheng took part in multilateral talks on Libya 's transition since the downfall of the Gaddafi regime. Sequi said that Chinese investment in development, similar to what it was giving to sub-Saharan Africa, would help maintain stability and manage migration. “Development is crucial to maintain stability,” Sequi said. Turning to bilateral trade and investment, Sequi said that despite the recent difficulties facing the Chinese economy, he “optimistically” believed that matching China's financial strength and mass market with Italian technological innovation would be a sensible approach for the two countries to collaborate successfully. He said Italian companies in China intended to stay, and more were considering coming. […] During Li Keqiang's visit to Europe in 2014, the prime ministers of the two countries chose five focus sectors of cooperation for the next three years: environment protection and green energy, agriculture and food safety, sustainable urbanisation, medicine and health, and aviation and aerospace. Some hi-tech cooperative projects such as moon mapping were in the works, Sequi said. To match China's ambitious 13th five-year plan, Italy could also provide assistance in planned structural reforms of service industries, for instance. Italy, one of Europe's most popular tourist desinations, attracted 1.4 million Chinese visitors last year. Sequi said Italy offered the fasted the fastest visa approval procedures for Chinese visitors among the Schengen countries, which normally takes only 36 hours. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

Number of human bird flu cases likely to rise (China Daily)
More human infections from bird flu are expected before the spring, with sporadic human-to-human transmissions in China, according to the nation's top scientists. The forecast was made after five human cases of bird flu were reported in Guangdong and Jiangxi provinces and in Shanghai. To date, three deaths have been confirmed from the H5N6 and H7N9 strains of the virus. Shu Yuelong, director of the Chinese National Influenza Center said: "Don't panic, as there is zero possibility of sustainable or easy human transmissions of the bird flu virus. This means that the possibility of a mass outbreak of human bird flu can be ruled out so far." Shu said that sustainable transmission refers to the easy and continuous secondary and tertiary transmissions of the virus among humans. He said a majority of the human bird flu cases detected so far involved people who had contact with live birds. Of the recent human cases reported, three from Guangdong and one from Jiangxi involved the H5N6 strain. The seven human infections from this strain detected to date all occurred in China. The strain has a fatality rate of 67 percent, Shu said, and was first reported in Sichuan province in May 2014. Ina recent case in Zhaoqing, Guangdong, a pregnant woman with the H5N6 strain had her baby delivered via cesarean section, according to the local health authority. The baby was free from the virus, but the mother remained in critical condition. All her close human contacts were cleared from infection after a period of quarantine. Lu Hongzhou, head of the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center, said the live poultry trade and markets are mainly to blame for the human infections. He called for live poultry markets to be closed to prevent the virus from mutating and moving from birds to humans via close contacts. Gao Fu, deputy director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said such markets act as an "incubator" for different strains of the bird flu virus. Surveillance undertaken by the Ministry of Agriculture showed the H5N6 strain is widespread among farmed poultry - both chickens and ducks - particularly in South China. Humans are susceptible to H5N6 and "contact has to be cut off by closing live poultry markets," Gao said. The H5N1, H7N9 and H5N6 strains of bird flu have been reported in China to date. On Jan 8, public health authorities in Shanghai confirmed a human case of H7N9 bird flu. The male patient, 59, lives in the city and is being treated at a hospital, the Shanghai Municipal Health and Family Planning Commission said. The H7N9 strain was first reported to have infected humans in March 2013 in China. It is most likely to strike in winter and spring. ^ top ^

Xinhua Insight: China shows resolution in renewed fight against graft (Xinhua)
While China is gaining ground to overcome corruption, the Communist Party of China (CPC) has demonstrated its unswerving will to continue the fight against corruption and ensure clean governance. Over the past three years, the CPC has been working hard to redress the problem of being too lenient in managing the Party, and has striven to build a system where officials "do not dare, are not able, and are unwilling to be corrupt." The efforts are paying off, said Xi Jinping, Chinese president and general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, at the start of the three-day sixth plenary session of the 18th CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) on Tuesday. Xi called on all Party members to "maintain confidence in the CPC Central Committee's anti-corruption volition, the campaign's achievements, the positive energy it brings and the prospects of our fight against corruption." Gao Bo, a political researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, believes the CPC is on the right path to advance the clean governance campaign and to comprehensively and strictly govern the Party. The achievements of the campaign to fight corruption and promote frugality over the past three years prove that the CPC is capable of making changes to overcome corruption, he said. In 2015, more than 40 centrally administered officials were expelled from the CPC for violating the Party's code of conduct. Over 90,000 officials nationwide have been punished for corruption or violations of the Party's frugality rules. "In addition to the growing number of corrupt officials being punished, the CPC's anti-corruption drive is making progress in redressing the root of the problem," he said. Zhuang Deshui, vice director of the clean government research center at Peking University, said Xi's remarks at Tuesday's meeting have forcefully refuted doubts that the anti-corruption campaign in China may stall or be distracted. Xi stressed during the meeting that the CPC Central Committee remains determined to combat corruption and its goal to resolutely contain the problem remains unchanged. With the efforts over the last three years, fighting corruption has become the firm consensus among Chinese society, gaining unstoppable momentum, Zhuang said. New measures by the Party to further the drive and new achievements can be expected, he said. […] ^ top ^

Chinese rights advocates Wang Yu, Bao Longjun formally arrested on subversion charges (SCMP)
Prominent mainland rights lawyer Wang Yu and her husband Bao Longjun have been formally arrested on subversion charges, after being detained in isolation for six months, their lawyer said on Wednesday. The news came after the confirmation this week of the formal arrests of another six rights advocates on related charges. All eight advocates were detained in a sweeping crackdown on rights lawyers that started in July. Critics said the unprecedented crackdown was aimed at silencing advocates and activists and stifling the burgeoning rights defence movement. Lawyer Li Yuhan said on Wednesday that Wang was charged with “subverting state power” and held in the Tianjin No 1 police detention centre. Bao was charged with “inciting subversion of state power” and detained in Tianjin's No 2 detention centre. Li said the arrest notifications were both dated Friday – exactly six months after they were first taken away. She said Wang and Bao, who have been placed in “residential surveillance” – a form of isolated, solitary detention outside the jail that can last up to six months – had been denied visits from lawyers and deprived of the rights to communicate with the outside world and be informed about their cases. After they were detained in July, state media said rights lawyers from the Beijing-based Fengrui Law Firm, where Wang worked, were a “criminal gang” that “drew attention to sensitive cases” and “seriously disturbed social order”. State media reports also accused them of “creating chaos” in courts and mobilising activists to protest outside courts “to reach their goals with ulterior motives”. Li said she did not believe her clients' actions amounted to subversion. The Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group said Fengrui director Zhou Shifeng and lawyers Wang Quanzhang and Li Shuyun, who had been similarly detained since July, were also formally arrested on the charge of “subverting state power” on Friday. Zhao Wei, an assistant to Li Heping, another rights lawyer not associated with Fengrui, was also formally arrested on the same charge while her colleague, Gao Yue, was arrested for “assisting in destroying evidence”, the group said. Another two lawyers caught up in the crackdown, Xie Yanyi and Xie Yang, were formally arrested for “inciting subversion of state power” but lawyer Sui Muqing had been released on bail, other lawyers said. Fellow lawyer Tang Jitian said the authorities wanted to smear the lawyers' names, strip them of their freedom and warn others against defending rights. He said that if the lawyers were convicted, they would be barred from practising law again. Wang and her husband Bao, who had been held in isolation since July, were shown on state television in October in a distressed state, condemning a failed attempt by activists to help their teenage son flee abroad. After the plan failed, the boy was taken back to China and is reportedly living under 24-hour surveillance. ^ top ^

'The smog is thick and the night dark': China charges seven human rights lawyers with subversion (SCMP)
China has formally arrested on subversion charges at least seven human rights lawyers and colleagues held in secret for six months in a sweeping crackdown on legal activism, family and associates said. More than 130 attorneys and legal staff were summoned or taken away in July for questioning in what campaigners called the fiercest attempt in decades to silence activists attempting to redress injustices in China's tightly controlled courts. Zhou Shifeng, the founder of Beijing's Fengrui law firm, which was at the centre of the crackdown, has now been accused of “state subversion”, which carries a maximum sentence of life in jail, his colleague Liu Xiaoyuan said on a verified social media account on Tuesday. It was the first time relatives have learned the whereabouts of the 16 lawyers and their staff, who have been held by police in undisclosed locations for months. The charges make it highly likely that the detainees will be tried and face potentially lengthy jail terms. Chinese courts are tightly controlled by the ruling Communist party and have a conviction rate of more than 99.9 percent, with forced confessions often used as evidence. A week after he was arrested, state media said Zhou – who provided legal advice to victims of a 2008 poisoned baby milk scandal – “confessed” to an unspecified crime. Trainee lawyer Li Shuyun, 24, is accused of the same charge as Zhou, Liu added. Fengrui lawyer Wang Quanzhang is also held for the charge, his sister said in an internet post. Four other people are said to be accused of “incitement to state subversion”, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years. They include 24-year-old legal assistant Zhao Wei, her husband and mother both said, citing a police notice. “I feel deep grief,” added mother Zheng Ruixia. Zhou, Zhao and Li are being held at a detention centre in the northern port city of Tianjin, the notices said. Friends also posted notices on social media showing that lawyers Xie Yanyi, Xie Yang and Sui Muqing had been formally arrested on the same incitement charge. Over the past decade a small group of a few hundred Chinese lawyers used the courts to seek redress – sometimes successfully – for what they considered egregious rights violations. They include victims of forced demolitions, illegal “black jails”, dissidents jailed for their writing, and others detained for practising their religious faith. State media – which in the past sometimes praised rights lawyers' efforts -- have called the attorneys a “criminal gang” who created public disorder by organising protests outside courthouses. China's ruling Communist Party does not tolerate organised dissent and has tightened controls on civil society under the leadership of President Xi Jinping. Despite official harassment, dozens of Chinese lawyers have come to the defence of their colleagues. “We are defenders of human rights and the law and possess an unyielding conviction that the rule of law will ultimately triumph over dictatorship,” a New Year statement attributed to 300 lawyers posted online said. “The smog is thick and the night dark, but the sun will shine as the time comes,” they added. ^ top ^

Former top Chinese police official and Zhou Yongkang ally jailed on corruption charges (SCMP)
Li Dongsheng, the former deputy national police chief and ally of ex-security tsar Zhou Yongkang, has been jailed for 15 years on corruption charges, state media reported. State broadcaster CCTV briefly announced details of the sentence on Tuesday morning. The total sums involved in Li's case amounted to nearly 22 million yuan (HK$26 million), according to previous state media reports. Li, 60, is one of several senior officials jailed on graft charges who had close ties to Zhou. The former security chief and top ranking member of China's government was jailed for life in June for taking bribes, abuse power and intentionally leaking state secrets. He is the highest ranking official in China to receive such a heavy sentence since the Cultural Revolution. Li became a target in a widening corruption probe in 2013. The Supreme People's Procuratorate last year formally accused Li of taking advantage of his positions at state broadcaster CCTV, the Ministry of Public Security and the Communist Party's Central Politics and Law Commission to seek benefits for others in exchange for huge profits. Li's case concluded at the Tianjin No.2 Intermediate People's Court in October. Li was appointed vice minister of public security in 2009, despite lacking any previous law enforcement experience. Zhou was then serving on the party's Central Politics and Law Commission which oversees the Ministry of Public Security. Li spent 22 years working at China Central Television, eventually rising to deputy chief of the state broadcaster. He served as vice minister of the party's propaganda department before securing the public security post. Media reports have previously quoted a person close to the Supreme People's Procuratorate as saying that Li introduced Zhou to his current wife. ^ top ^

Chinese inspectors on political mission to test cadres on how well they toe the Communist Party line (SCMP)
Inspectors will assess how well cadres are toeing the Communist Party line as teams fan out across the country in response to President Xi Jinping's repeated calls for political loyalty. The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said in an article on Sunday that inspection tours were political, rather than operational, missions, and their function was to examine whether party agencies abided by the Central Committee's line. Inspection tours have been given new life under Xi's signature anti-corruption campaign and credited with unearthing evidence used in many high-level corruption cases, including the “landslide graft” in Shanxi province. In a separate interview, Wang Ying, deputy director of the general office of central leading group of inspection tours, said on Sunday that the tours were expected to have covered all provincial and ministry-level institutes by the 19th party congress, due in 2017. The congress is expected to feature a major reshuffle at the top of the party and indicate who could be Xi's successor. The CCDI's focus on political loyalty comes after Xi's called on the Politburo and its seven-strong Standing Committee to align with the central leadership, a phrase analysts interpreted as referring to Xi. “The highest political line should implement the spirit of the Central Committee and the spirit of Xi Jinping's speeches,” the CCDI said on Sunday. The CCDI also stressed that the tours were not at the behest of the anti-graft watchdog but represented the Central Committee and the panels reported directly to the top. The new emphasis on political loyalty in inspection tours echoed changes late last year to internal party rules on discipline and punishment, according to Wang Yukai, an expert on public administration with the Chinese Academy of Governance. Institutions that were not loyal would no doubt struggle to uphold discipline and make personnel arrangements, the CCDI article said, using a rationale often used by party mouthpieces. “Inspection tours cannot solve the problem of corruption. The inspection teams need to supervised, too. They might generate new problems with corruption,” Wang said. “Much of the corruption is caused by the system of cadre appointments. The problem will only be solved when the system is changed.” ^ top ^

No new projects: China's degraded Yangtze River needs protection, not construction, President Xi Jinping says (SCMP)
President Xi Jinping has ruled out new development projects on the embattled Yangtze River in an apparent move to breathe life into the area's heavily degraded environment. Observers said Xi's declaration indicated a strong official desire to protect rivers, but the authorities were not likely to surrender development plans. During a trip to Chongqing last week, Xi said that after decades of construction, environmental protection and restoration would be a “dominant focus” for the Yangtze River Economic Belt. Authorities along China's biggest river should “work together for major protection, instead of carrying out major development”, Xi told cadres from 11 provinces along the waterway and some ministers, Xinhua reported. “The Yangtze River has a unique ecological system. It is an important ecological treasure,” Xi was quoted as saying. Until last year, the Yangtze economic belt focused on developing the “golden waterway”, with plans to build more ports to spur industrial upgrades and urbanisation in an area home to 600 million people. Premier Li Keqiang first aired the Yangtze economic belt concept in his government work report in 2014. But Xi said last week that the priority for now and the future should be environmental restoration. The 21st Century Business Herald reported that transport minister, who oversees navigation on the Yangtze, was not given a chance to speak at the meeting, suggesting a “major shift” in how the belt would be realised. One economist said Xi's plan showed that Li had been sidelined on the issue, and some government documents may need to be revised for the new priorities. Some planned hydropower projects might be shelved, he said. Other researchers, such as Yi Peng, from Beijing-based think tank Pangoal, said Xi only wanted a better balance between growth and conservation, and would not scrap development plans. Environmental activists have criticised massive works along the Yangtze, such as Three Gorges Dam and water diversion schemes, but there has been little official acknowledgment of the projects' environmental impact. In a surprising change of tone, mainland mouthpieces, including People's Daily, published comments on their social media accounts saying struggles between interest groups have damaged the river's ecosystem and caused severe pollution. Stephanie Jensen-Cormier, China programme director of International Rivers, said the government was taking a “strong and active” interest in the protection of Chinese rivers, which was in line with recommendations for the next five-year plan. But the upper stretches of the Yangtze River just as much protection as other areas otherwise the effects would also manifest downstream. ^ top ^

China arrests four labour activists amid crackdown on dissent, lawyers say (SCMP)
China has formally arrested four labour activists who have helped workers fight for their rights, lawyers for two of them said on Sunday, as the government steps up a crackdown on activists pressing for change within the system. Rights groups say the current clampdown on dissent is the most sweeping in two decades in China, where a slowing economy has led to a surge in labour disputes, particularly in the southern manufacturing powerhouse of Guangdong. Zeng Feiyang, director of the Panyu Migrant Workers Centre in the southern city of Guangzhou, was charged with “disturbing social order”, said Cheng Zhunqiang, his lawyer. Zeng is one of China's most prominent labour activists, many of whom have campaigned for the legal rights of workers, such as proper work contracts and social insurance contributions. Two other activists, Meng Han and Zhu Xiaomei, have also been arrested on the same charge, said Yan Xin, Meng's lawyer, and Cheng. He Xiaobo was arrested on a charge of embezzlement, according to New York-based rights group China Labor Watch. The lawyers for Zhu and He could not be reached for comment. Both Cheng and Yan told Reuters by telephone that prosecutors in Guangzhou told them of the arrests of Zeng and Meng on Friday, but did not give any reason for the charges. Both lawyers said they had been unable to meet their clients since their detentions, in contravention of Chinese law. Prosecutors in Guangzhou's Panyu district did not answer Reuters' repeated telephone calls to seek comment. The Guangdong government did not respond to a faxed query. A formal arrest usually leads to a trial. Last month, police in Guangzhou detained seven labour activists, sparking criticism from rights groups. Two of them have since been released, Cheng said. At the time, state media accused the seven detained labour activists of “inciting workers to go on strike”, accepting foreign funding and “disturbing social order”. They also said the married Zeng had “at least eight long-term lovers”, a charge that Zeng's supporters call a smear against him. The number of strikes in China surged to a record 2,774 last year, or double the figure for 2014, Hong Kong-based advocacy group China Labour Bulletin said last week. ^ top ^

All the president's men: Xi Jinping tells Communist Party's top echelon to unite behind him in thought and action (SCMP)
In a rare move, the Communist Party has issued a clear-cut formal statement detailing party chief Xi Jinping's rallying call for the Politburo Standing Committee to unite behind him in “thought and action”. The call came just two weeks after Xi raised eyebrows by calling on the Politburo as a whole to align with the central leadership of the party, a phrase analysts interpreted as referring to Xi. In a meeting with the seven-strong Standing Committee, the pinnacle of the party's power, Xi said party leaders should have the political awareness to safeguard the authority of the party. “[They should] be aligned with the central leadership of the party led by Xi in actions and thoughts,” according to a statement released by Xinhua late Thursday. There is an unwritten rule that the so-called four departments of government – the party, the government, the legislature and political consultative body – are led by different Politburo Standing Committee members. Premier Li Keqiang, for example, is in charge of the State Council, Zhang Dejiang heads the National People's Congress and Yu Zhengsheng heads the top advisory body. Some analysts said the two calls appeared to be a concerted effort by Xi to secure the political loyalty of his colleagues both in the 25-strong Politburo and the smaller innermost Standing Committee. Analysts said it was very rare for the party to release a formal statement after a Politburo Standing Committee meeting. “Standing Committee meetings are usually reported very briefly, or not reported at all,” said Chen Daoyin, an associate professor at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law. Chen said the departure from protocol was an attempt by Xi to underscore the authority of the party and himself. “The anti-graft campaign is close to an end and he is starting to establish a new order,” he said. “Xi needs more authority as the party shifts its focus to economic development.” Analysts said Xi also sought to rally his top aides through what was expected to be a challenging and decisive year for the party chief. Xi would have to finish the controversial military overhaul, tackle the economic downturn and also come to grips with intense power struggles ahead of next year's 19th party congress, when there was expected to be another reshuffle of the Politburo Standing Committee, they said. “2016 could be the most difficult year for him … The slide in the economy could jeopardise the legitimacy of the party,”Beijing-based political commentator Zhang Lifan said. “He also needs to form his own top echelon for the 19th party congress.” A rare citation of late chairman Mao Zedong in the Xinhua statement also raised eyebrows. “The party, the government, the army, the people, academics, east, west, south, north, centre. The party leads everything,” it said. Chen said Xi was reversing the attempts to separate the party and the state since the era of late leader Deng Xiaoping. “The party has absorbed the state … The Politburo Standing Committee meeting is a declaration of the new trend,” he said. ^ top ^



Beijing eases entry for foreign experts (Xinhua)
The Ministry of Public Security (MPS) announced on Tuesday that it will ease requirements for foreign professionals entering and exiting Beijing and will provide favorable terms to such foreigners who seek to acquire permanent residence in China. The MPS will run the pilot program in Beijing's Zhongguancun Science Park, providing foreign professionals with conveniences such as special offices for permanent residence examination and approval, streamlined approval procedures and more favorable terms for foreigners with doctorate degrees to obtain a Chinese green card. The new regulations will also allow short-term internships for foreign students in Beijing and will permit them to run their own start-ups in Zhongguancun. Foreign talents in technology and senior management are also encouraged to join companies in China's creative industries and to file applications for permanent residence, the MPS said, adding that the new regulations, scheduled to take effect on March 1, aim to promote Beijing's environment for innovation and start-ups. ^ top ^



Expats take advantage of loosened visa policy (China Daily)
The Shanghai municipal government has handed out significantly more permanent residence permits to expats since loosening its visa policies in July. A total of 715 residence permits were issued to expats in the city between July and December, up from 60 during the same period in 2014. A dozen beneficial policies, including providing permanent residence permits for high-level overseas passport holders and subsidies to high-tech professionals, were designed to open Shanghai's door wider to the world as a part of its focus on forming a global technological innovation center. High-level talents with permanent jobs in Shanghai can obtain a foreign expert permit that is valid for two to five years. The procedure for obtaining a permit has been simplified and the age restriction lifted to 70 years from 60. Expats are able to apply for permanent residency on the recommendation of their companies after working for three years. The requirement for technology and innovation talent has been lowered, and they will be eligible for permanent residence permits that are valid for up to 10 years, compared to five years before, according to the measures. To offer improved living standards for overseas professionals, the city government has also issued residence permits for foreign housekeepers working with expat families. In addition, international students who obtain master's degrees at local universities are able to get work permits directly if they find jobs. International graduates with bachelor's degrees are also eligible to apply for two-year residence permits to start-up businesses. "We've just recruited a foreign PhD graduate directly from Shanghai University. I think this kind of situation can arise with help from the loosening employment policy for international graduates," said Alasdair Jelfs, managing director of Merck Chemicals China. ^ top ^

Shanghai tightens grip on city's media as it bans speculation on changes to government ranks (SCMP)
Shanghai authorities have further tightened their grip on the city's media, with specific orders given about speculations on changes in government ranks. The gag order, handed down in December, comes as provincial chiefs and ministers from around the country quietly jockey for promotions ahead of the next party congress in 2017, when several Politburo Standing Committee members will retire. Senior media sources in Shanghai said they believed the crackdown was ordered by Han Zheng, the city's Communist Party boss. Han is widely seen as a promising candidate for the vacated seats. In an internal document distributed to major media outlets last month, the propaganda department stressed the need to avoid politically sensitive topics like personnel shuffles. But editors would also have to be careful with seemingly non-sensitive topics such as the anti-corruption drive and even economic policies. “We were asked to give priority to political safety rather than quality of the content,” said a senior editor at a major television group. “The funny thing is that we are encouraged to sacrifice viewership and readership if there is any chance a programme may stoke public anger or annoy senior officials.” Other sources said the reins were the tightest in recent years. Previously, the publicity department would only ask chief editors to keep a close watch on stories or programmes related to certain topics. Speculation has been swirling over the political fate of Shanghai's top bosses including Han and mayor Yang Xiong following the stampede on the Bund area on New Year's Eve in 2015, which killed 36 people. A muzzled media would help to prevent local officials and residents from guessing about whose heads are about to roll, ensuring the attention of state leaders doesn't fall on the Shanghai bureaucracy. Several journalists said Han was upset over an article about Chongqing mayor Huang Qifan published by, an online subsidiary of Oriental Morning Post. The article detailed how Huang orchestrated economic growth in Chongqing and provided background information about his experience in Shanghai. “The government said the article was criticised for promoting a non-Shanghai official while analysing the prospect of Huang's political career,” said an editor with a major Shanghai newspaper. “The leaders appeared to be mad about topics related to personnel arrangements.” Shanghai United Media Group, a conglomerate that controls the city's major newspapers, recently appointed Wang Wei, a deputy publisher, to be the Communist Party secretary of the Oriental Morning Post, an apparent move to strengthen oversight on the daily that publishes articles about politics that ARE relatively fearless given its proximity to the state. It remains to be seen whether the tightened supervision is related to Han's bid for a crucial standing committee seat. “He is known for being cautious and obedient,” said a senior editor with a major Shanghai newspaper. “At least, he hopes to use his clout to avoid unnecessary disputes and trouble arising from local media coverage.” ^ top ^



69 bodies found in Shenzhen landslide (Global Times)
A total of 69 bodies have been found as of Tuesday from the Shenzhen landslide, with another eight people remaining unaccounted for, the rescue headquarter said. Six injured people are still being treated at hospital. Authorities have identified 31 criminal suspects responsible for the landslide. Police have arrested 16 of them and detained another nine, while six others are still at large. No epidemics have been reported at the rescue area. The landslide occurred on Dec. 20 when a mountain of construction waste collapsed and buried several buildings in the southern Chinese city. ^ top ^



China's Xinjiang region to draft laws to combat religious extremism amid series of violent attacks blamed on Islamic militants (SCMP)
Legislators in China's far-western region of Xinjiang will start drafting regulations this year against religious extremism, which they blame for violent attacks in the country in recent years, the China Daily reported on Thursday. Xinjiang's legislature will also draft local implementation guidelines for a new counterterrorism law, which the National People's Congress passed in December, the newspaper said. “Drafting local regulations on anti-terrorism and eliminating religious extremism are the main focus of this year's legislative work, which will provide solid legal support for Xinjiang to combat terrorism and religious extremism,” Nayim Yassen, director of the Standing Committee of Xinjiang's regional People's Congress, was quoted as saying. He made the comments on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the congress in the region's capital, Urumqi, the newspaper said. Hundreds of people have been killed over the past few years in resource-rich Xinjiang, strategically located on the borders of central Asia, in violence between the Muslim Uygur people who call the region home and ethnic majority Han Chinese. The government has blamed the unrest on Islamist militants, though rights groups and exiles say anger at Chinese controls on the religion and culture of the Uygurs is more to blame for the unrest. China denies any repression in Xinjiang. In a New Year's address published in the Xinjiang Daily, the region's Communist Party boss, Zhang Chunxian, said the religious atmosphere had become markedly less radical last year and the government was broadly successful in maintaining stability. The Xinjiang parliament approved a ban in Urumqi last year on the wearing of Islamic veils in public, the China Daily said. Xinjiang said it had banned the practice of religion in government buildings in late 2014 and people would be prohibited from wearing, or forcing others to wear, clothes or logos associated with religious extremism. ^ top ^

Xinjiang drafting 1st statute against religious extremism (China Daily)
Lawmakers in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region will begin to draft a regulation against religious extremism this year, the top regional legislator said on Wednesday. It will be China's first legislation targeting religious extremism, which has led to a number of terrorist attacks in the country in recent years. "Drafting local regulations on anti-terrorism and eliminating religious extremism are the main focus of this year's legislative work, which will provide solid legal support for Xinjiang to combat terrorism and religious extremism," said Nayim Yassen, director of the Standing Committee of the Xinjiang Regional People's Congress. Nayim made the remarks on the sidelines of the annual session of the local people's congress in Urumqi, the regional capital. Local lawmakers will also start to draft the practices for implementing the counterterrorism law in Xinjiang this year. They had already begun to draft local anti-terrorism legislation before the National People's Congress passed China's first counterterrorism law in December. On Monday, Xinjiang announced that it will continue to intensify its strike-hard campaign against terrorism this year. Regional Party chief Zhang Chunxian said all anti-terrorism activities will be carried out in accordance with the law. Nayim said Xinjiang lawmakers began to research the drafting of a regulation against religious extremism last year and have made "significant progress". The spread of religious extremism is believed to have led to an increasing number of terrorist attacks in Xinjiang and other parts of China in recent years. Last year, the regional people's congress approved Urumqi legislators' decision to ban without delay full-face coverings in public. The legislators said such clothing is associated with religious extremism. Xinjiang lawmakers also passed a regulation last year on improving ethnic unity. From Jan 1, behavior that damages ethnic unity will be punished in accordance with the regulation. ^ top ^



Hong Kong Legco president urges Beijing to reassure 'one country, two systems' still intact in wake of missing bookseller case (SCMP)
Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing has urged the central government to send a clear message that nothing in violation of the “one country, two systems” principle has occurred concerning the disappearance of Hong Kong bookseller Lee Bo. The Beijing-friendly heavyweight said he had noted Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying did not categorically deny last week the allegation that mainland law enforcement officers had kidnapped the Causeway Bay Books owner. “The spokeswoman hasn't given a categorical 'no' [that their] law enforcers didn't cross the border to enforce the law, ” Tsang told the Post yesterday. “If you do not deny it categorically, inevitably you'll leave people speculating,” he said. Responding to journalists' questions on Lee's whereabouts at a news conference in Beijing last Tuesday, Hua said foreign governments had no right to interfere in Hong Kong affairs. Foreign Minister Wang Yi described Lee as “first and foremost a Chinese citizen” when British foreign secretary Philip Hammond raised concerns about Lee's disappearance on a visit to Beijing. “[She] was making no effort at all to communicate with the people of Hong Kong or pass on any message to those in Hong Kong who have worries about whether the 'one country, two systems' principle is still intact.” Tsang said mainland government departments should come out and give a “very clear message” that nothing that violated the Basic Law or the “one country, two systems” principle took place. “If there is something you cannot reveal, you should tell people there are certain details you can't disclose,” Tsang said. “You need to tell people there's nothing that has breached 'one country, two systems' to alleviate anxieties. Until the truth is exposed, you can't blame people for all sorts of speculation.” Lee, who holds a British passport, was the fifth Hong Kong bookseller involved with publishing books banned on the mainland to go missing in the past two months. The disappearances prompted thousands to take to the streets on Sunday in protest. In an editorial published last Wednesday, the state-run Global Times newspaper said while it was a definite “no” under the Basic Law for mainland officers to drag Lee Bo out of Hong Kong, “all powerful departments in the world” had “ways” to get around the law to make people under investigation cooperate. “You can't say the Global Times editorialreflects only the views of its editorial staff. I believe some holding 'responsible positions' on the mainland hold the same view,” Tsang said. He said many mainlanders, including officials, had ideas about the rule of law and civil liberties that differed from Hongkongers. “That's why we have 'one country, two systems',” he said. “Our way of life is such that no one should disappear suddenly.” ^ top ^

Low point: Popularity of Hong Kong chief executive C.Y. Leung continues to plunge, according to latest HKU poll (SCMP)
The popularity of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has plunged to a new low, the latest survey by the University of Hong Kong has found – one step closer to the all-time low for any leader in the city's history. The study by the school's public opinion programme, which interviewed 1,013 Hongkongers between Monday and Wednesday last week, found that Leung's popularity rating of Leung has plunged by 5.2 marks to 37.5 from mid-December, below the warning line of 45. The significant dip came amid the mystery surrounding the disappearance of bookseller Lee Bo. On Tuesday last week, Leung sparked controversy when he urged the missing Hong Kong resident to come forward. The latest rating was a new low since Leung took the helm in 2012, and was just 2.5 marks higher than the all-time lowest score of 35 obtained by the city's first chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, in the wake of the July 1 pro-democracy march in 2003. Tung, who stepped down in 2005, was forced to shelve the controversial national security bill after 500,000 people took to the street amid fears that it would curb their freedoms and rights. Leung's predecessor Donald Tsang Yum-kuen received his lowest score in office, 38.5 marks, in June 2012. The net approval rate – the difference between vote of confidence and vote of no confidence – of Leung has also dropped by 11 percentage point to minus 44 percentage points. Meanwhile, the ratings for the three top officials – Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah and Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung – have also fallen, with their latest marks standing at 52.1, 59.3 and 45 respectively. Education minister Eddie Ng Hak-kim and development chief Paul Chan Mo-po, who scored net approval rates of minus 48 percentage points and minus 34 percentage points respectively, are the worst performers in the cabinet. Along with Leung, the pair have fallen into the category of “depressing” performer. Dr Robert Chung Ting-yiu, the director of the HKU public opinion programme, suggested that a political figure would sink into a credibility crisis if his or her popular rating fell below 45 marks. The survey's response rate was 64 per cent. ^ top ^

HK actor cut from show for FB posts critical of mainland (Global Times)
A Hong Kong actor on Monday apologized for reportedly posting "inappropriate" content on Hong Kong-mainland ties on social media, after his face was blurred out in the latest episode of a reality TV show broadcast by State-run China Central Television (CCTV). In CCTV's broadcast of the controversial episode of Liaobuqi de tiaozhan on Sunday, almost all the scenes featuring Wong Hei - former star of several series produced by Hong Kong's TVB - were cut out. Throughout the nearly one and a half hour program, Wong's face was also completely pixilated out in the few remaining scenes that featured him. Wong's contentious Facebook posts and shares were first disclosed on December 31 by Taiwan singer Huang An on his Weibo account. The singer, a self-avowed opponent of "Taiwan independence," accused Wong of making insulting comments about the mainland on social media outside China while making money on the mainland. Other screenshots of Wong's Facebook page showed reposts of sarcastic comments critical of the Chinese mainland. Wong later apologized on his Weibo for the "unnecessary trouble" he brought to CCTV and the show's producer. He also stressed that he is not a supporter of "Hong Kong independence." Chen Di, chief director of the show - the Chinese version of Korean TV show Infinite Challenge - responded on Weibo on December 31, clarifying that the production team would not have invited Wong to participate in the show had they known about the actor's inappropriate behavior on social media. Chen also promised that Wong would not appear on screen when the next episode of the show was aired. The show's production team had done some preliminary investigative work on Wong's social media behavior before inviting him to the show and had not found much improper content, Chen told the Global Times on Monday. "His sharing of some alleged inappropriate content happened after the invitation to the show," Chen added. When asked about the reason for cutting Wong's scenes and blurring out his face, the director replied, "We did not want to play a part in the hype of his unwarranted behavior." Chen said that Wong's part in the show would probably have been cut even without Huang's report, as the production team's regular social media checkup would have discovered the inappropriate content before the airing of the show. The show's team did not face pressure from the relevant authorities, said the director. This is not the first time that performances by artists from Taiwan or Hong Kong have been affected by their "inappropriate" words or deeds online. Taiwan singer Crowd Lu was supposedly scratched from the schedule of the Strawberry Music Festival in Guangdong Province last November for his alleged support for "Taiwan independence," news site reported. ^ top ^

PLA's Hong Kong garrison tipped to stay under Central Military Commission's direct control despite shake-up (SCMP)
The PLA's Hong Kong garrison is likely to remain under the direct command of the all-powerful Central Military Commission once a sweeping military overhaul is complete, analysts said yesterday. The Hong Kong garrison has been under the CMC's direct command since the handover on July 1, 1997 and is funded and staffed by the central government. It must abide by all the local laws of Hong Kong, including the Basic Law and the Garrison Law. But the garrison has also been administered by the Guangzhou military area command, the source of most of the garrison's commanders and military commissars. In the ongoing restructure of the People's Liberation Army, the Guangzhou military area command has been renamed the South Combat Zone and will be responsible for maritime security in the South China Sea. Beijing-based military analyst Xu Guangyu said that despite the restructuring of the Guangzhou command, the Hong Kong garrison would probably continue to stay under the CMC and receive logistical support from the new South zone because of the garrison's political significance. “It is a political symbol of Chinese sovereignty over Hong Kong,” Xu said. “[The garrison's] special status is stipulated by the Basic Law.” This is also expected to be the case with the PLA's Macau garrison, which has been in place in the former Portuguese colony since 1999. Hong Kong-based military analyst Liang Guoliang said there was no urgent need to “reposition” the two garrisons in this round of military reform so changes were unlikely to take place any time soon. “Any deployment of troops, including possible involvement in local public security issues, would have to have the Central Military Commission's approval,” Liang said. Commanders and commissars of the two special administrative region garrisons were ranked on par with a deputy chief of a major military region, even though the units they oversaw were smaller. As a result, the posts have been a springboard for rapid promotion up the ranks. Eight of the 12 commanders and commissars of the Hong Kong garrison so far have been elevated from major general to lieutenant general while in the SAR. Xu said similar conditions were likely to put in place after the military combat zones were up and running. “A basic principle for the garrisons in the overhaul is to maintain their stability,” Xu said. ^ top ^

'Say no to political abduction! Don't be the next to disappear!' Thousands protest over missing Hong Kong booksellers (SCMP)
Thousands of people took to the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday over the disappearance of five missing booksellers, demanding Beijing to uphold the “One Country, Two Systems” principle. It is the second such protest in a week and indicates a growing unease in Hong Kong over allegations agents from mainland China may have abducted the booksellers and taken them back to China for questioning. Richard Tsoi, deputy chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, said it was time for Beijing to explain to the Hong Kong people what has happened to the missing booksellers. “The 'One Country, Two Systems' is under threat. It is time for Hong Kong people to come out to defend the city, to defend the freedom we have always enjoyed,” said Tsoi. The alliance is the organiser of the march. Tsoi announced that 6,000 people took part in the march. “The turnout has reflected the determination of Hong Kong people to defend their rights. The central government needs to promise Hong Kong people that the city will enjoy a high level of autonomy,” he said. Participants said they took to the street to say no to “white terror”. “I don't want to be the next to disappear. Who knows if people who have taken part in the Umbrella Movement will be the next to disappear?” said Billy Wu, 43. […] Last month, bookseller Lee Bo of Causeway Bay Books disappeared from a Chai Wai warehouse. The store specialises in books critical of the Chinese Communist Party and was due to publish a book on Chinese president Xi Jinping's love life before he came to power. Lee's wife, Sophie Choi, suspected at the time that mainland agents kidnapped him from Hong Kong, after receiving a phone call from him the day he disappeared with a caller ID from Shenzhen. Lee had also talked to his wife in Mandarin instead of Cantonese, the language the pair usually speak. Lee's disappearance has taken a number of dramatic turns, including two letters said to be written by Lee which have drawn suspicion whether Lee was pressured into writing them. In the weeks before Lee's disappearance, four of Lee's associates had gone missing in the mainland or Thailand. Gui Minhai, owner of Mighty Current, the publishing house that owns the bookstore, went missing while on holiday in Pattaya in November. Missing person reports were made on three others: bookstore manager Lam Wing-kei; general manager of the publishing house Lui Bo; and business manager, Cheung Jiping. In response to the march, the Hong Kong government said it attached great importance to the missing booksellers' cases and fully understood the concerns of the community. In a statement issued at about 5pm, a spokesman said: “The rule of law is the cornerstone of our society and everyone should abide by the law. Under Hong Kong laws, law enforcement officers of other jurisdictions do not have the authority to take law enforcement actions if they are in Hong Kong, and they must abide by the laws of Hong Kong. If law enforcement officers of other jurisdictions take law enforcement actions in Hong Kong, they will contravene Hong Kong laws.” He added the government had all along been dealing with matters relating to the city strictly in accordance with the principle of “one country, two systems” and the Basic Law since the handover. “The HKSAR Government is firmly committed to protecting the freedom of expression and freedom of publication, which are fundamental rights guaranteed by the Basic Law and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance,” he said. The spokesman said as the police were still investigation the cases, speculation should not be made without a full grasp of the facts. “The Police have already sought assistance from relevant Mainland authorities and will urge for their prompt response,” he said. ^ top ^



Year of the matriarch: Taiwan's Tsai prepares to join Clinton and Merkel in pantheon of world's most influential women (SCMP)
If Tsai Ing-wen wins the Taiwanese presidential election as expected on Saturday, it will be an early highlight of what promises to be a bumper year for women in international politics. With Janet Yellen calling the shots at the Federal Reserve, Hilary Clinton running for the US presidency and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel providing leadership to Europe, a victory for Tsai could be the icing on the cake for female empowerment. For many mainland Chinese, the concept of a female leader exists mainly in television dramas such as the Legend of Miyue – a record-breaking show on China's first female state leader, who ruled around 300BC in the pre-Qin dynasty. Across the strait however, Taiwanese are preparing for a more modern matriarch, with most opinion polls suggesting a victory for the island's first female president. While Tsai might not be Asia's first female leader, what makes her achievement even more remarkable than many of her peers is that her family background is devoid of political ties. Unlike South Korea's Park Geun-hye or Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi, Tsai did not inherit a political legacy. Born to a well-off family, Tsai taught law in Taiwan after studying abroad. […] ^ top ^

Cross-Straits ties 'face uncertainty' if opposition wins (Global Times)
Observers from the Chinese mainland are keeping a close eye on Taiwan as its elections approach, with many fearing that cross-Straits relations may see more uncertainties if opposition leader and "presidential" frontrunner Tsai Ing-wen wins. "In general, conflicts between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan will increase if Tsai wins. The level of uncertainty would rise," Wang Jianmin, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. Tsai, chairwoman of the Democratic Progressive Party, has yet to accept the 1992 Consensus, a key term repeatedly stressed by Beijing. "The 1992 Consensus stresses that there is only one China. Failing to approve the consensus would damage the very foundation of cross-Straits cooperation," Zhang Wensheng, a professor at Xiamen University, told the Global Times on Sunday. Voters in Taiwan will head to the polls on January 16. On Saturday, thousands marched in support of Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party in Taipei. Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou and "presidential" candidate Eric Chu were both present at the Saturday parade, which marched from Taiwan University to Taipei's Liberty Square. In his speech, Ma lauded KMT's successful handling of cross-Straits ties in the past eight years. According to a poll released by the KMT last week, Chu had the support of 31.2 percent of voters while Tsai had 39.2 percent, Singapore-based newspaper Lianhe Wanbao reported. A different program designed by Fudan University based on computer simulation has predicted that Tsai would win 56 percent of the vote to Chu's 41 percent. ^ top ^

'Enough is enough': Taiwanese voters look for new leader to spur economy (SCMP)
Taiwan's voters, angry at low salaries and unaffordable housing, are to elect a new president – but the island's flagging fortunes and a slowdown on the mainland mean the winner will have a mountain to climb. Tsai Ing-wen of the main opposition Beijing-sceptic Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is expected to win the presidential vote, polling well ahead of rival candidate Eric Chu from the embattled ruling Kuomintang (KMT). Chu is struggling to win public support as the KMT's popularity has plummeted over its mainland-friendly policies and failure to deliver the prosperity promised by President Ma Ying-jeou. More than 20 deals with China have been signed since Ma took office in 2008 and Taiwan's tourist industry has flourished under an eight-year rapprochement with Beijing as mainland visitors flock to the island. But many voters feel warmer ties have benefited big business over ordinary people. “Most people around me are living harder lives,” said Kelly Chang, a 23-year-old former administrative assistant in Taipei who lost her job three months ago at a land development company that went bankrupt. “I think the new DPP government can do better. I hope it can improve the economy and raise salaries. Cross-strait ties are important, but the benefits from better ties should be shared by all.” Student-led protesters occupied parliament in 2014 to oppose a China trade pact, forcing the government to shelve the deal. But it is not just the younger generation voicing frustration. “Enough is enough,” said one 60-year-old mechanic at a car repair shop in Taipei, who declined to give his name. “Everyone who comes to our shop complains, saying they are suffering from the bad economy. Our business is falling too,” he added. “I think those who want a better future for Taiwan will want to change the ruling party.” Analysts say Ma was dealt a tough hand, with the 2008 financial crisis, European debt problems and a slowdown on the mainland – all of which have been bad news for Taiwan's export-driven economy. The island's key technology sector has suffered from weak demand, particularly as the mainland seeks to create its own home-grown tech industry. There are rocketing housing prices, an ageing population and low birth rate to deal with. But the KMT's approach has also drawn criticism. “For the past four years, Taiwan's GDP growth averaged around 2.3 per cent annually, but people's average income rose merely one per cent,” said Gordon Sun, head of the Macroeconomic Forecasting Centre at the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research. “The fruits of economic growth were not shared by the general public.” Taiwan has trimmed its growth forecast for 2016 to 2.32 per cent, from an earlier 2.7 per cent. One factor is a restrictive approach to outside investment, according to Sun. “[The government] should give top priority to the lifting of restrictions on investments by foreign and mainland companies, which have deterred the development of innovation,” he said. The DPP has promised to diversify an economy it says is too dependent on the mainland. But KMT candidate Chu emphasises Taiwanese businesses can continue to benefit from their relations with the mainland, despite its economic slowdown. Both parties are also seeking to address the domestic issues riling voters, from pension schemes to income tax. Yet while the dominant public sentiment is that Taiwan needs a change to prosper, there are jitters in the business community that relations with the mainland will deteriorate under the DPP. The traditionally pro-independence party has no official channel of communication with Beijing. Taiwan split from the mainland in 1949 after a civil war, but Beijing still considers it part of its territory awaiting reunification. The tourism sector is particularly nervous – Beijing has reportedly restricted visits to Taiwan during past political turbulence. “Some local travel agents focused on Chinese tourists coming to Taiwan have prepared for the worst,” said Ringo Lee, spokesman for the Travel Agent Association of Taiwan. “Mainland authorities have been known to use their outbound tourists as bargaining chips in practising diplomacy,” said Lee. Analyst Sun warned voters that overnight change was “unrealistic”. “Whoever is elected, it will be no easy task,” he said. ^ top ^



China reports better-than-expected trade data (Xinhua)
China reported better-than-expected trade data for December, which helped allay concerns about the state of the world's second-largest economy. Exports in yuan-denominated terms climbed 2.3 percent year on year in December, compared with November's 3.7-percent drop, while imports declined 4 percent, an improvement from the previous month's 5.6-percent fall, leaving a widening trade surplus of 382.1 billion yuan (57.9 billion U.S. dollars), according to data the General Administration of Customs (GAC) released on Wednesday. For the whole of 2015, total export and import values decreased 7 percent year on year, falling for the first time in six years. GAC spokesperson Huang Songping attributed the decline to falling commodity prices and sluggish external demand. In dollar-denominated terms, China's exports fell for the sixth consecutive month, by 1.4 percent from one year earlier in December, but the slowing pace decelerated from November's 6.8 percent decline. Imports decreased 7.6 percent year on year, receding for 14th consecutive month, but improving from the previous month's 8.7-percent drop. Economists had forecast an eight-percent fall for exports in December and an 11-percent decline for imports. REASSURING SIGNS "A return to growth for exports after five months of contraction is a reassuring sign, and further evidence that the economy is not teetering on the brink," Bloomberg economist Tom Orlik said in a report to clients. Orlik ticked off positive changes, including China's continuous expansion in global trade market share and the share of domestic value added in exports. […] BUMPY YEAR AHEAD Despite the better-than-expected trade figures, which helped shore up stocks in Asia Pacific, officials forecast more pain as demand for Chinese goods remains weak. China's foreign trade will face many challenges in 2016 as feeble global economic growth and sluggish external demand will not see evident improvement, Huang said. […] Its currency, the yuan, weakened by 1.5 percent against the dollar last week, the largest weekly decline in five months, while stock prices plunged, with the benchmark Shanghai index losing more than 16 percent in the first eight trading days of 2016, sparking concerns about the economy. However, economists said there had been little evidence that the country's economic conditions deteriorated sharply in recent weeks and the government's support, through fiscal and infrastructure measures and accelerated structural reforms, would help unlock new sources of growth this year. […] China's economy likely grew by around 7 percent last year, in line with the government's annual target, the country's top economic planner said Tuesday. It would be the lowest rate of growth in a quarter of a century, down from 7.3 percent in 2014, as weak exports, industrial overcapacity and faltering investment weighed on growth. Economists forecast growth to slow further this year. […] ^ top ^

China's central bank to maintain prudent monetary policy (Xinhua)
China's central bank has said it will continue to maintain a prudent monetary policy this year to create a sound financial environment and keep liquidity at a reasonable level. A combination of flexible tools will be used to ensure the banking sector's liquidity stays at a reasonably abundant level, the People's Bank of China (PBOC) said in a statement released on Friday after a work conference. The central bank will support commercial banks expand lending to key sectors and weak areas of the economy via multiples tools, including pledged supplementary lending and medium-term lending facility, according to the statement. The PBOC will push for continued optimization of credit structure to make the financial sector support growth of the real economy. It will also continue to make interest rates more market-based and improve the exchange rate formation mechanism to ensure a generally steady rate for the yuan, the statement said. ^ top ^



FM urges prudent NK action (Global Times)
China on Wednesday called the situation on the Korean Peninsula "sensitive" and urged all concerned parties to "prudently and properly" handle the North Korean nuclear issue, as the US and its allies prepare to impose powerful sanctions. Analysts said tough sanctions on North Korea will only push Pyongyang further in pursuit of nuclear weaponry, aggravating the dangerous situation in the Korean Peninsula, and this may even lead to full-scale conflict. In response to mounting calls for tougher sanctions on Pyongyang, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said Wednesday that China and South Korea have maintained close communication on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue. Stressing that the current situation on the Korean Peninsula "is very sensitive," Hong said China hopes the "countries concerned would bear in mind the big picture of maintaining regional peace and stability and handle relevant issues prudently and properly." South Korean President Park Geun-hye on Wednesday vowed to slap the most powerful sanctions on North Korea. Park said her government will make every diplomatic effort to make North Korea feel "bone-numbing" pain through the UN, the Yonhap News Agency reported. The US House of Representatives passed legislation late Tuesday to broaden sanctions on North Korea, including sanctions on those engaging in transactions with North Korea related to weapons of mass destruction, arms, money laundering, counterfeiting and human rights abuses. The sanctions come a week after North Korea claimed it had successfully tested its first hydrogen bomb. Observers said that the sanctions from the US and its allies cannot solve the North Korean nuclear issue, and proper sanctions should be imposed through the Six-Party Talks or by a UN Security Council meeting. Lü Chao, a professor with Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that given the sparse trade ties between North Korea and the US or its allies, economic sanctions will not achieve the expected effect. "A possible consequence of their sanctions is further enraging North Korea. With the participation of the US and Japan, military force on the Peninsula will be unbalanced which will ultimately make the already tightened tensions escalate into full-blown conflict," Lü said. Tension on the Peninsula rose in the past week, as starting Friday, both Koreas resumed blaring propaganda messages against each other along the border. ^ top ^

China, ROK maintain close communication on Korean Peninsula nuke issue (Xinhua)
China and the Republic of Korea (ROK) have maintained close communication on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, said a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson on Wednesday. Foreign ministers of China and the ROK had a phone conservation about the situation last Friday, spokesperson Hong Lei said at a daily press briefing, adding that the heads of the two countries' delegation to the six-party talks have been in contact on the issue as well. Other parties to the talks include the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), the United States, Russia and Japan. Hong made the remarks in response to a question about ROK President Park Geun-hye's call on Wednesday for China to play a "necessary role" in strong sanctions on the DPRK over its recent nuclear test. The DPRK announced last Wednesday that it had successfully carried out its first hydrogen bomb test. "It is China's consistent and clear stance to safeguard the international non-proliferation regime and oppose nuclear tests by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea," Hong said. China has always borne in mind the goal of promoting denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, preventing nuclear proliferation and maintaining the peace and stability of Northeast Asia, said Hong. "This is also the common interest and common responsibility of parties concerned, including China and the Republic of Korea," he added. Hong said China will continue to work with all parties of the six-party talks to contribute to the security and stability of the region. When asked to comment on Park's remark that the ROK will discuss with the United States the deployment of an advanced U.S. missile defense system, dubbed the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, on the peninsula, Hong said China has been consistent and clear on the anti-missile issue. "A country should consider other countries' safety and interests as well as the peace and stability of the whole region when seeking its own safety," he said. The THAAD system has radar that can track multiple ballistic missiles up to 2,000 km away, a range that would reach deep into China. Stressing that the current situation on the Korean Peninsula "is very sensitive," Hong said China hopes "countries concerned would bear the mind the big picture of maintaining regional peace and stability and handle relevant issues prudently and properly." ^ top ^

'Nuclear blackmail': North Korea's bomb test raises threat for China (SCMP)
China, Pyongyang's onetime brotherly ally and major benefactor, now faces new, more serious threats from its former ideological partner's defiant nuclear test on Wednesday. “Most Chinese used to believe that Washington and Pyongyang were the key players in North Korea's nuclear problem, with Beijing just the middleman ” said Zhang Liangui, a professor of international strategy studies at the Central Party School in Beijing. “But as North Korea has developed its own nuclear weapons, China is a major victim.” North Korea is the fourth country after the US, Russia and India with a nuclear potential to strike Beijing. But, while its nuclear arsenal is, in theory, the smallest threat, the unscrupulous North is the most dangerous one. Wednesday's test was staged close enough to the border to generate tremors felt in northeastern China's Jilin province, prompting the evacuation of some local schools and office buildings, CCTV reported. “Any possible nuclear leaks would be a real danger to people living in northeastern China,” said Sun Xingjie, an international relations professor at Jilin University. Sun said North Korea was so unpredictable that no one could foresee who were its friends or enemies, though Pyongyang insisted that its nuclear weapons were developed to counter the US and other foes. “Based on its nuclear capacity, China faces a more actual threat if the bombs are detonated on North Korean soil.” At its annual military parade in October, North Korea showcased a new version of its intercontinental ballistic missile with a range of 10,000km, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency. Pyongyang is only 800km from Beijing. That means North Korea's missiles are already capable of striking the capital, said Andrei Chang, editor-in-chief of the Canadian-based magazine, Kanwa Asian Defence. However, Chang said Pyongyang's newly claimed hydrogen bomb capability – which many Western weapons experts find inplausable – would be more likely be used to inflict “nuclear blackmail” on Beijing. “The North will just use its nuclear programme as a blackmail strategy, as Kim Jong-un would not dare take action,” he said. “Of course, that kind of blackmail has greatly annoyed Beijing.” South Korea and the US reportedly discussed deploying US strategic weapons on the Korean peninsula, Reuters cited a South Korean military official as saying on Thursday, a day after North Korea announced the test. The latest explosion was a sobering reminder to Beijing to reconsider its engagement with its mercurial neighbour, said Sun at Jilin University, as the six-party talks in the past decade failed to end the North's nuclear programme. “China should stand hard on the issue to push North Korea this time,” he said. “China will likely support a UN resolution, or even impose its own sanctions as security issues should never be compromised.” Beijing also fears an influx of impoverished refugees if war or economic collapse struck the Korean peninsula, greatly destabilising the border regions, many mainland academics say. ^ top ^



Standing committee head meets delegation of France (Montsame)
A head of the parliamentary Standing committee on security and foreign policy J.Enkhbayar Thursday received Major-General Jacques Cousquer, a deputy chief of the General Directorate for Armament (DGA) for Asia-Pacific Affairs at the French Ministry of Defense. The MP wished the guests a pleasant stay here, noting that the current visit is the second one paid by the French related side to boost the bilateral relations and cooperation in the defense sphere. Mongolia adheres to policies on fulfilling its responsibilities for peacekeeping operations and on permanent neutrality, he went on. "Our parliament recently adopted the fundamentals of the state military policy, Mongolia is formulating a 10-year term policy document on the Armed Forces," he said and expressed a willingness to learn the French related experiences. In response, Mr Cousquer thanked the Standing committee head for receiving him, adding that they have arrived to participate in the second defense forum. After this, the sides shared views on equipment and facilities for the defense and other issues. Present at the meeting were Ms Elisabeth Barsacq, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of France to Mongolia, and other officials. ^ top ^

Petitions Standing committee's new head appointed (Montsame)
At the plenary session of parliament on Thursday, an issue of dismissing and appointing the head of Standing committee on petitions was backed with 93.2 percent approval. J.Batzandan MP became the new head of this parliamentary Standing committee. “This committee has been founded in order to protect people's rights. I will actively observe my duties in line with the regulations”, he said. The State Great Khural is discussing now the draft amendments to the Civil Law and to the Law on Immovable Property Mortgage. ^ top ^

Cabinet meeting in brief (Montsame)
In conjunction with an amendment of the law on firearms, the cabinet on Monday altered a list of products which are passed through the state borders with licenses and the rule of granting export and import licenses for combat facilities and techniques. - The cabinet obliged the Minister of Foreign Affairs to approve a plan of works for celebrating the 95th anniversary of the Mongolia-Russia diplomatic relations and to report to the government results of the celebration. - The cabinet approved a rule of the Diplomatic Corps Service Agency and ordered the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Finance to appoint a new director of the agency, to approve a structure of functions, a list of administrative officials, a maximum number of staffers as well as a new tariff of services for diplomatic missions. - The cabinet discussed a bill on metrology and decided to submit it to parliament after having reflected in it Ministers' suggestions. - Head of the Authority of Information Technology, Post and Communication (AITPC) Ts.Jadambaa was authorized to sign a memorandum of mutual understanding to be established between the AITPC and the National Center of Astronomy of France. - The cabinet backed in principle draft amendments to the laws on state services and on purchasing products and services with state and local capitals. This matter will be conveyed to the draft initiator A.Bakei MP. - The cabinet considered as necessity to back in principle a draft law on public referendum, which has been initiated by N.Batbayar MP. - A governmental resolution was approved on taking measures over the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). ^ top ^

Implementation plan of Green Development Policy approved (Montsame)
The cabinet approved on Monday the operational plan on implementing the Green Development Policy. Two phases of 255 measures and activities will be undertaken in frames of the policy implementation. All members of the cabinet and local governors were assigned to ensure the Green Development Policy implementation through putting coordination in place between required financing and annual state budgets, sectoral policies, development perspectives of localities, macroeconomic policies and foreign aids toward the sector's development. Management of the implementation was relied upon Minister of Environment, Green Development and Tourism N.Battsereg. ^ top ^

J.Batzandan MP might become Standing Committee head (Montsame)
At its meeting on Tuesday, the parliamentary Standing committee on petitions discussed and then backed a matter on appointing J.Batzandan MP as its head. Office term of the incumbent head of the committee O.Baasankhuu will finish this January 16. By an agreement between the Democratic Party (DP) and the “Justice” coalition--Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) and Mongolian National Democratic Party (MNDP)--the Standing committee on petitions will be chaired by a member from the DP, while the Standing committee on security and foreign policy--by a member from the “Justice” coalition. ^ top ^

Minister wants all children to receive HDF benefits (Montsame)
By amending a resolution, all children aged up to 18 years old might continue receiving benefits of the Human Development Fund (HDF). A draft amendment to the resolution was submitted Friday by S.Erdene MP, the Minister of Human Development and Social Welfare, to the Speaker Z.Enkhbold. By the current resolution, 426.3 thousand children of 58.2% of the all children aged up to 18 are not able to take the benefits due to some reasons. The resolution should be altered again so as to grant the children the money despite their families background or income size, S.Erdene said. He also added that parliament has to promptly discuss the draft amendment to the resolution because the current resolution is to go into force from this January 1.  ^ top ^

Mongolia criticizes nuclear test in North Korea (Montsame)
A spokesperson of Mongolia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Thursday presented a statement on opposing a nuclear test conducted in North Korea. “Mongolia deeply regrets that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea conducted a nuclear test on January 6 of 2016 in breach of the United Nations Security Council Resolutions," underlined in the statement. "This nuclear test would lead to negative impacts on the efforts of the international community to maintain international peace and security and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. Mongolia reaffirms its firm position for the maintenance of peace and security in North-East Asia and for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," it says.  ^ top ^

Ulaanbaatar Investment 2016 forum approaches (Montsame)
The second in the consecutive year "Ulaanbaatar Investment" Forum is to take place this January 20. The organizers are the Mayor's Office and the Ulaanbaatar Chamber of Commerce. The event attracts lawmakers, ministers, diplomats, citizens' representatives, local administrators, members of UB chamber of commerce, international organization reps, national wealth-makers and investors. It aims to promote the capital city's economic growth, protection of businesspeople, development of public-private partnership (PPP), and a creation of favorable for investments and businesses environment. Key speeches will be given themed Ulaanbaatar partnership, PPP, economic strategies, investment programs, procurement, “glass” tenders (ensuring transparency), and on programs “Friendly Ulaanbaatar” and “Smart Ulaanbaatar”. ^ 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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