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
  21-25.3.2016, No. 615  
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Foreign Policy

Li calls for financial cooperation (China Daily)
Premier Li Keqiang urged Asian economies on Thursday to enhance economic and financial cooperation and dialogue to ward off potential risks and contribute to world economic recovery. He proposed in particular to establish an Asian financial cooperation association to "improve markets and prevent financial turmoil". "Asian countries must have firm confidence and work together... (to) overcome temporary difficulties," Li said at the opening ceremony of the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference. The export-driven Asian economy has for many years been a major contributor to global economic growth, but many Asian countries have encountered such problems as falling exports, rising debt and currency depreciation. The interest rate hike by the US Federal Reserve in late December and the possibility of additional increases have driven international capital out of Asia, casting a shadow on the region's growth prospects and financial stability. However, Li said that the growth momentum of Asia remains sound and Asia is still the most dynamic economy in the world, with developing Asia as a whole registering an average growth of 6.5 percent last year and contributing about 44 percent to world growth. Asia also accounts for one-third of the world's total trade. Asia "is no longer what it used to be. Most (Asian) countries have accumulated rich experience in expanding the real economy and warding off financial risks," he said. Analysts said that Asia has made headway in efforts to combat potential financial crisis, and global cooperation is also crucial for minimizing the possibility of a crisis in the region. "Asia has had a multilayered cooperative mechanism in place to help ward off risks," said Gao Haihong, an economist at the Institute of World Economics and Politics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. For example, some Asian countries have signed currency swap agreements and have large foreign exchange reserves. "China has played an important role as a 'stabilizer' in the region," she said. "China is also responsible for helping to anchor the regional financial situation, given its close economic links with other Asian economies." She said she expected Asian financial cooperation to strengthen this year, considering the increasing volatility of the global markets. Premier Li proposed establishing an Asian financial cooperation association as a non-governmental organization whose aims are to strengthen cooperation among Asian financial institutions and to integrate resources. "China is willing to cooperate with relevant parties to improve the Asian financial market buildup and jointly prevent another large-scale regional financial turmoil from materializing," he said. He also urged relevant parties to complete negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership within the year. The partnership is a proposed free trade agreement among the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as well as China, Australia, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand. China will also cooperate with other Asian countries on infrastructure and equipment, he said. Li said the key to future Asian development lies in human resources, which can "unleash potential and creativity" in the region. Zhu Min, deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said on Wednesday that the Asian financial sector can play a positive role in that respect. "It is a challenge for the financial sector to shift its lending focus from big enterprises to small firms and innovation-oriented companies" to improve labor productivity, he said. Global policy coordination is also important in offsetting a policy spillover effect, Gao of CASS said. Zhou Wenzhong, secretary-general of the Boao Forum for Asia, said that strengthened interaction and cooperation between China and the United States serves the interests of Asia. "If they cannot cooperate, there would be many problems in Asia," he told Chinese-language media. ^ top ^

Belarus pledges to actively engage in China's "Belt and Road" initiative (Global Times)
Deputy Belarusian Minister Alexander Yaroshenko on Thursday said his country would active participate in the One Belt, One Road Initiative proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping. While addressing a conference on Belarusian-Chinese cooperation held Thursday, Yaroshenko said China remains a key strategic and trade partner of Belarus, stressing Belarus is interested in developing cooperation with China. Yaroshenko said that Belarus will work out details for cooperation with China in the implementation of the "Belt and Road Initiative" that contains the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road proposed back in 2013. "Transport infrastructure, logistics, industrial cooperation, information and communication -- these are the key areas in which we are ready to actively develop cooperation with China while implementing the One Belt, One Road initiative," said Yaroshenko. Belarus also attaches special importance to the development of microelectronics, fine chemicals, transport components, telecommunication equipment production. According to the deputy minister, Belarus is also hoping to see closer cooperation with China through establishment of industries and enterprises by Chinese companies in direct investment. Chinese-Belarusian Industrial Park, which is known as "Great Stone," is now under construction in Minsk region. It is expected more big projects featuring Sino-Belarusian cooperation will be executed. The trade between Belarus and China exceeded 3 billion US dollars last year, up by 5.6 percent from 2014. ^ top ^

China pledges billions to Mekong River countries in bid to boost influence and repair reputation amid tensions in South China Sea (SCMP)
China pledged yesterday to offer 10 billion yuan (HK$11.94 billion) in preferential loans and US$10 billion in credit to five Mekong River countries for infrastructure and industrial projects, in a move analysts said was aimed at boosting its regional influence amid tensions in the South China Sea. Projects ranging from railways to industrial parks would be promoted to boost regional cooperation, according to a joint declaration issued after a summit between the leaders of China, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. The 10 billion yuan preferential loan was pledged by Premier Li Keqiang at the first Lancang-Mekong Cooperation meeting in Sanya, Hainan province. Half of the US$10 billion credit will be used for industrial production cooperation between China and the other nations. China also promised to support poverty alleviation in these countries with US$200 million in aid and to prepare another US$300 million to fund small and medium-sized cooperation projects in the next five years. The five countries downstream of China on the Mekong River represent a key area in the One Belt, One Road strategy, which aims at supporting China's growth through infrastructure construction and by exporting its excess industrial capacity. Li told the leaders of the Southeast Asian neighbours that in the challenging economic situation, better regional cooperation could help the Chinese economy counter downward pressure. “We will explore building economic zones and industrial parks, investment zones and transport networks and keep improving infrastructure in the region,” he said. Li called for progress in infrastructure projects, including the two railway lines connecting China's Yunnan province with Lao's capital Vientiane and the Thai capital Bangkok. A cooperation blueprint released earlier said the railway linking China and Thailand was part of a Pan-Asia network that would also cover Singapore. Li said other parties and outside nations were welcome to participate in the region's affairs, and called for the nations to boost mutual political trust. As water distribution is an important issue among the countries, the meeting decided to setup a water resource centre to coordinate hydropower development and jointly deal with Mekong floods and droughts. China's dam and hydroelectric project had sparked complaints from downstream states. A week before the meeting, Beijing agreed to discharge water from March 15 to April 10 from a dam in Yunnan at the request from Mekong Delta countries suffering the worst drought in 90 years. The cooperation drive is intended to help China exert leadership and polish its tainted image, analysts said. Some of China's previous development projects in these countries had been criticised for damaging the environment. Beijing's growing military presence in the disputed South China Sea has greatly worried its rival claimants such as Vietnam. “By helping these relatively backward countries gain a better livelihood, China could surely build a positive image,” said Xu Liping, a Southeast Asian affairs expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Xu suggested the Chinese projects work on transparency and environmental standards to win the trust of local people. ^ top ^

China meets Mekong River nations on joint action (Global Times)
The first top-level meeting on the Lancang-Mekong River cooperation (LMC) begins Wednesday in South China's Hainan Province, which is expected to help the six countries along the river better settle environmental disputes and improve China-ASEAN relations. At Wednesday's meeting in Sanya, leaders of China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam are scheduled to endorse cooperative initiatives and measures and discuss the roadmap for further cooperation under the theme, "Shared River, Shared Future." Toward building a new model for South-South cooperation, the LMC has set up the "3+5" cooperation framework, China's Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin told media Thursday. The three major areas are political security, economy and sustainable development as well as society and culture, and the five priorities are connectivity, production capacity, cross-border economy, water resources and agriculture and poverty alleviation, Liu said. First proposed by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in 2014, the mechanism was officially established during the first meeting among the six countries' foreign ministers in November 2015, which was held in Jinghong, Southwest China's Yunnan Province, bordering Myanmar and Laos. The LMC will directly contribute to China-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) relations, one of China's most important neighboring regions under the Belt and Road Initiative, Zhuang Guotu, head of the Center of Southeast Asian Studies at Xiamen University told the Global Times on Tuesday. As the start of the LMC mechanism, 2016 also marks the first year of the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community and the 25th anniversary of the establishment of China-ASEAN dialogue relations. Aside for economic cooperation, the LMC would also further collaboration in handling non-traditional security threats, including human trafficking and the drugs trade, Zhuang said, citing the Golden Triangle as an example. After two cargo ships were hijacked in the Golden Triangle and 13 Chinese sailors killed in October 2011, China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand launched joint patrols on the Mekong River, which have been conducted 43 times and won praise in last year's ministerial meeting in Beijing on law enforcement and security cooperation along the Mekong River. China has said that all other types of organized crime are rooted in the drug business along the Mekong, like human trafficking, money laundering and the illegal wildlife trade. Such security mechanisms provide favorable conditions to push forward the LMC mechanism, according to Zhao Gancheng, director of South Asia Studies at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies. Major talking point To establish a common management system over the river would probably be a major topic in Wednesday's meeting, Zhao said, saying the release of water was China's goodwill gesture. On March 15, China announced that it would release water until April 10 from a dam at Yunnan's Jinghong to help downstream Mekong countries fight drought. In the past, several hydropower projects on the river were questioned by some international environmental organizations, Zhao said, adding that "Currently, the international community has mixed views on the building of hydropower facilities." Even if hydropower is widely accepted as a renewable energy source, no agreement has been reached on how much influence building a dam would exert on the environment, the expert said. "Each hydropower project should be evaluated based on local ecological and geological conditions before construction. The evaluation should be conducted by a third-party international organization rather than a Chinese one," Zhao said. "The meeting will open a platform for all parties to work on optimal solutions [to the current problems]," Zhuang said. The LMC mechanism will boost regional economies on different development levels to complement each other's resources and achieve balanced growth, Wichai Kinchong Choi, senior vice president of Thailand's Kasikornbank told the Xinhua News Agency. ^ top ^

Spotlight: U.S., Philippine military deployment in South China Sea to disturb regional peace, stability (Xinhua)
China on Monday slammed the United States and the Philippines for increasing their military presence in the South China Sea, as the Southeast Asian country announced plans to give the U.S. access to five bases. "The U.S.-Philippines cooperation should not target third parties, harm the sovereignty or security interests of other states, or hamper regional peace and stability," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a regular press briefing. The United States and the Philippines announced last Friday a deal allowing for the U.S. military to be present at five Philippine bases, including one close to China's Nansha Islands in the South China Sea. The deal, reached under a 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the two countries, aims to expand a U.S. presence in its former colony through the rotation of ships and aircraft for so-called "humanitarian and maritime" security operations. "The United States has talked about militarization in the South China Sea, but can it explain whether its own increased military deployment in the region is equivalent to militarization?" Hua questioned. One of the five bases -- the Antonio Bautista Air Base on Palawan Island -- lies around 160 kilometers from the Nansha Islands, and shares a single 9,000-foot (about 2.7 kilometers) runway with a local civilian airport. Experts said the base boasts strategic significance for the U.S. military, which could exert military influence on the region around the islands as soon as troops are stationed there. "The U.S. military could use the runway, command post and fueling facility at the Antonio Bautista Air Base for the regular takeoff and landing of its strategic bombers, anti-submarine patrol airplanes, tanker planes and fighter jets, so as to enhance its air and naval supremacy in the South China Sea," Ma Yao, an expert from the Shanghai International Studies University, told Xinhua. Stationed on the base, the U.S. military could quickly respond to any emergencies in the region, and also train the Philippine military to better serve U.S. interests, said Han Xudong, a professor with China's PLA National Defense University. The move shows the United States is strengthening its rebalancing strategy toward the Asia-Pacific, which may lead to a new wave of turbulence in regional security, said Han. Upon the announcement of the deal, Voltaire Gazmin, Secretary of the Department of National Defense of the Philippines, said the security cooperation between the two countries is strengthening due to the present situation in the South China Sea, while the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Amy Searight said that the Philippines is a "critical U.S. ally" and ties had never been stronger. Searight also said the Pentagon had told the U.S. Congress its intention to provide 50 million dollars to help maintain "regional security at sea" in Southeast Asia, and the Philippines will get a very big share of it. Ma said the strengthening of the alliance is actually aimed at China, with the United States taking a clearly biased approach in favor of China's rival claimants in the sea's territorial disputes. Han said that by singing the high praise of the alliance, the United States is trying to support Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, who needs to convince his people of the merits of the defense agreement. ^ top ^

China, Russia commit to brighter energy cooperation (Global Times)
Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli met with Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller here on Tuesday, vowing to improve China-Russia energy cooperation. Bilateral energy cooperation has continued to progress under the strategic leadership of Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to Zhang. Energy cooperation is of strategic and long-term significance in bilateral relations, he said. He spoke about the construction of the China-Russia east-route natural gas pipeline and the Yamal liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, and called on both sides to maintain momentum of the projects, adding that discussions should start on new collaborations and cooperation models. Miller said Russia attached great importance to energy cooperation with China and that the east-route natural gas pipeline construction was being promoted, as planned. Russia is willing to work with China to accelerate the negotiation on the western route program, which would elevate bilateral energy cooperation to a new level, said Miller. ^ top ^

Xi calls for China-Nepal community of common destiny (Xinhua)
Chinese President Xi Jinping met with visiting Nepali Prime Minister K. P. Sharma Oli on Monday, calling on both governments to carry forward the traditional friendship and expand practical cooperation to make the two nations a "community of common destiny." Xi said China and Nepal are close neighbors that enjoy permanent friendship and comprehensive cooperation, stressing the significance of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence they uphold. The principles are mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, mutual non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful co-existence. "As developing countries, China and Nepal are facing the historic missions of reform and development," Xi said, hoping the two sides will join China's Belt and Road initiative and 13th five-year plan with Nepal's reconstruction and development plan. Xi called for more efforts to speed up the establishment of a China-Nepal free trade area, and boost cooperation on connectivity, energy, post-earthquake reconstruction and industrial capacity. The two sides should elevate tourism, educational and cultural cooperation, and increase youth and media exchanges to further cement the friendship between the two nations, Xi said. The president called on the two sides to use such new platforms as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to expand cooperation. As to the trilateral China-Nepal-India relationship, Xi said he hopes Nepal will benefit from development in China and India, adding that it is in the common interests of the two big neighbors that Nepal enjoys stability and development. "Nepal can be a bridge between China and India," Xi said. Calling China a great friend and friendly neighbor of Nepal, Oli lauded China's adherence to the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and the neighborhood diplomacy featuring amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness. He expressed gratitude for China's support to Nepal's post-earthquake reconstruction. Nepal firmly sticks to the one-China policy and will not allow any force to conduct activities that will impair China's interests, Oli said. Nepal will actively participate in the Belt and Road construction and looks forward to closer cooperation with China on trade, finance, connectivity, infrastructure and tourism as well as in international affairs, said the Nepali prime minister. ^ top ^

President Xi meets German counterpart on stronger ties (Xinhua)
President Xi Jinping and his German counterpart Joachim Gauck held talks on Monday, agreeing to strengthen the all-round strategic partnership between the two countries. Welcoming Gauck for his first state visit to China, Xi said, "China and Germany are seeing closer exchanges and cooperation than ever before and bilateral ties are moving toward a higher level." China and Germany are increasing political mutual trust, practical cooperation, cultural exchanges as well as coordination in international and regional affairs, Xi said. Xi stressed that understanding the big picture from a strategic and long-term perspective was important for consolidating the all-round strategic partnership. Both sides should exercise mutual respect, treat each other equally, accommodate and respect each other's core interests and major concerns, and expand common ground and narrow the differences to enhance mutual trust, Xi said. "China appreciates Germany's adherence to the one-China policy and hopes it will continue to do so," Xi said. Xi said China has always backed the European integration process and hopes Germany can actively participate in exploring the synergy of China's and Europe's development strategies. China and Germany can deepen practical cooperation within the Belt and Road initiative, as it will link the Asia-Pacific and European economic circles and help tap into the enormous potential of the Asian and European markets, according to Xi. Xi called on both countries to cooperate more on climate change measures and international security and within the United Nations. "China and Germany will respectively host the G20 Summit in 2016 and 2017. China is willing to have close communication with Germany on important agendas of the meetings," Xi said. Gauck hailed the fruitful cooperation in trade, technology, environmental protection, education, culture and other areas. Gauck said Germany appreciates China's constructive role in international affairs and the openness and positive impact of the Belt and Road initiative, expressing willingness to enhance partnership with China and boost Europe-China cooperation. Premier Li Keqiang also met with Gauck on Monday afternoon. "China is willing to deepen trade and investment cooperation with Germany, " said Li, calling on the two sides to advance the alignment between China's strategy of "Made in China 2025" and German project of "German Industry 4.0" and actively build partnerships with markets in third-party countries. "Industry 4.0" seeks to keep Germany's global competitiveness by integrating conventional industry with information technology. The idea is similar to the "Made in China 2025" strategy, which is part of efforts to upgrade itself from a big manufacturing power to a strong one. Li welcomed German companies to expand investment in China, so as to achieve mutual benefit and win-win. He also welcomed German Chancellor Angela Merkel to visit China later this year to attend the fourth round of China-Germany inter-governmental consultations. Liu Yunshan, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, met with Gauck Monday morning in the Party School of the CPC Central Committee. Liu, who is also president of the school, welcomed Gauck's visit and his conversations with experts and students there. He introduced the governance and party building of the CPC to Gauck. The CPC is a political party that emancipates minds, seeks truth from facts and keeps pace with the times, Liu said. Socialism in China is socialism with Chinese characteristics, which accords with China's actual condition and follows the trend of the times, he said. China is willing to deepen party-to-party cooperation with Germany so as to enhance mutual trust, Liu said. ^ top ^

China to help developing countries on parliament capacity building (Xinhua)
China will launch a program to train members of parliament of some Asian and African countries so as to improve the capacity of parliament in the developing countries, a senior Chinese official said here on Monday. Chinese top legislator Zhang Dejiang announced the program at a breakfast meeting with Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU)'s President Saber Chowdhury and parliamentary leaders of Zambia, Rwanda, Kenya, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Cambodia on the sidelines of the 134th IPU Assembly. Zhang said that China, a member of the developing world, will firmly safeguard the common interests of developing countries and continuously expand south-south cooperation. On Saturday, Zhang attended the inaugural ceremony of the assembly, and delivered a speech on Sunday. It was the first time a chairman of the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress participated in the IPU Assembly. China is committed to developing socialist democracy and has successfully found a political development path in line with its national conditions, Zhang said on Sunday, stressing that China's democratic development has proved that democracy can be realized in various forms. On China's economic situation, Zhang said that the Chinese top legislative body has approved the country's new development plan for the next five years earlier this month, and China's development will bring more opportunities to the world. More than 670 members of parliament from over 130 countries, including 87 speakers and deputy speakers of parliament, are attending the assembly, which continues until Wednesday. On Sunday afternoon, Zhang held separate meetings with parliamentary leaders of Egypt, South Africa and Mozambique to promote bilateral ties and push forward the implementation of the outcomes of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit held in Johannesburg in December. At the summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping outlined a raft of measures to strengthen China-Africa ties and announced 10 major plans to boost bilateral win-win cooperation. Zhang said legislatures should fully play their roles in promoting the implementation of the mutual-beneficial plans. Zhang is paying a 10-day visit to Africa from March 18 to 27. Following his Zambia tour, the top legislator will visit Rwanda and Kenya. ^ top ^

Xinhua president makes proposals to promote WMS' larger role in future (Xinhua)
Cai Mingzhao, executive president of the World Media Summit (WMS) and president of Xinhua News Agency, put forward three proposals at the opening session of the WMS 2016 here on Sunday to help WMS mechanism play a larger role in the future. Over 350 delegates of media outlets from 100 countries have gathered in the Qatari capital of Doha for the two-day summit that is hosted by Qatar-based Al Jazeera under the theme of "The Future of News and News Organizations." The meeting comes at a time when media is undergoing profound changes and audience demands are increasingly diversified. Traditional media faces major challenges as well as unprecedented opportunities. In his speech titled "Deepening Cooperation and Exchanges, Facing Our Future," Cai said the rapid development of information networks and digital technology is catalyzing a revolution in mass communication and has brought about unprecedented opportunities for development. He said as the Internet brings challenges, it has also opened a new door, adding that the advantages of professional news organizations are "prominent" and "irreplaceable," for they still provide the majority of content on the Web, while in most cases, new media simply serve as "copy and paste" devices to reprint stories from traditional media. "Meanwhile, the Web, with its wide coverage and deep penetration, has helped professional news organizations expand their reach and enabled them to multiply their influence through effective use of multiple platforms and terminals," he said. Cai also noted that with the rapid development of new technology, professional news groups will have greater development potential through their exploration and innovation of news gathering and distribution devices and formats. "I am confident, therefore, that the present revolution brings more opportunities than challenges," he stressed. Regarding the WMS mechanism, Cai said the summit, as an elite forum for communication and coordination for the global media, is playing an increasingly important role on the international media stage. He therefore put forward three proposals so as to ensure that the WMS can play a larger role in the future. First and foremost, Cai called on media outlets worldwide to improve public welfare and live up to their social responsibility in such areas as poverty relief. "We are ready to enhance cooperation with media organizations from all countries to play a larger role in promoting global prosperity and progress through joint media reports, hosting photo exhibitions, producing TV documentaries and co-sponsoring public welfare campaigns with international organizations," he elaborated. The second proposal is to encourage innovation and development, as well as the pursuit of excellence. Cai proposed that in the next round of evaluation for the WMS Global Awards for Excellence, priority should be given to innovative news reporting so as to provide valuable examples and stimulate media innovation. He also mentioned that the UN Environment Program (UNEP) has proposed a joint award for global environmental reports with the WMS, adding that the Summit's Secretariat will communicate and coordinate further with UNEP. In his third and final proposal, Cai suggested that all media should enhance exchanges and promote concrete cooperation, saying it is increasingly important for media organizations to do this against the backdrop of multi-polarization, globalization, cultural diversity and the information age. "Under the WMS framework, we are ready to host seminars on the innovation and development of the global media so that we can share our experiences, learn from each other and expand cooperation," he added. Before the summit opened, leaders from 10 world's leading news organizations, such as Xinhua News Agency, CNN, Reuters, The Associated Press, International Information Agency "Rossiya Segodnya," Al Jazeera Media Network, TASS Russian News Agency, Kyodo News, MIH Grouo, and The Hindu Group, held a presidium meeting. Over the coming two days, the delegates are expected to discuss topics such as the impact of technology on news reporting, mechanisms for protection of journalists, audience fatigue vs. editor fatigue and the reshaping of media's business models. The notion of the WMS was first proposed by Xinhua with the aim of allowing leading media groups worldwide to better exchange their views on the challenges of the emergence of the so-called "new media," and enhance their win-win cooperation. The first WMS was held in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing from Oct. 8 to 10 in 2009. Organized by Xinhua, more than 170 media leaders from across the world attended the event. On July 5, 2012, the second World Media Summit was held in Moscow. This summit drew more than 300 representatives of 213 media outlets from 102 countries. Representatives exchanged views on electronic media development around the theme of "Global Media: Meeting Challenges of the 21st Century," the role of social networks in contemporary media space, the relationship between media and business sector and press ethics. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

Fighting terrorism online sees big strides (China Daily)
An online team dedicated to rooting out violence and terrorism on the Internet has made a difference over the past year in ridding cyberspace of improper and illegal content, an official of China's top Internet watchdog said. The China Internet Illegal Information Reporting Center received more than 20,000 violence- and terrorism-related reports from netizens — including many parents and youngsters who frequently surf the Internet — and it ordered websites and network managers to remove 200,000 pieces of unlawful content, Zhang Chenggang, director of the center, told China Daily in an exclusive interview. A nationwide campaign against online violence and terrorism has been ongoing for many years, but the center, established in 2005 and operated under the supervision of China's Cyberspace Administration, determined it needed more resources to keep fighting illegal content on websites, micro blogs and text messaging sites, Zhang said. To more efficiently monitor the Web, the center required the administration's branches and website operators to build up their channels for detection and to provide more ways for netizens to report banned content, he said. China has 4.23 million websites producing 40 billion pieces of content every day, “which is a huge workload for the Internet management departments to cover, let alone distinguish illegal or harmful ones from among them,” Zhang said. The government is especially concerned by websites that promote violence and terrorism through videos and audio recordings, spread separatist messages or advocate religious extremism by posting terror messages and photos on covert sites, he said. “Lots of terrorism-related information is hidden in cloud storage or by instant messaging tools, such as WeChat and QQ, as well as on some small online forums,” Zhang said. Increased reporting channels have contributed to tips from netizens, and enforcement against online terrorism has improved, he said. “On one hand, more 'eyes' helping us scrutinize online terrorist activity can alleviate our work burden,” he said. “On the other hand, reporting such messages is also a way for netizens to implement the rule of law while surfing the Internet.” More tips are being provided through the center's online reporting website, as it offers a convenient way to attach website links and screen shots, he said. For example, a netizen reported a WeChat account that had posted a large number of photos of violence and terrorism, including photos in which a woman was beaten to death, he said. “The clue provider sent such screen shots to us. We verified the report and asked the WeChat operator to handle the case in a timely manner, such as removing the photos or even shutting down accounts,” he said. The administration also has recommended improved supervision of local networks. “Clue providers can decide on whether to leave their real names,... and some of them can be rewarded if their tips prove valuable,” he said. Last year, the center allocated more than 2 million yuan ($308,000) to tipsters who identified terrorism-related content, “which encouraged more netizens to join the fight”, Zhang said. The center also coordinated with foreign reporting organizations to eliminate nearly 2,000 text messages, audio recordings and videos of terrorist attacks, as well as content related to child pornography, he said. ^ top ^

China releases Christian human rights lawyer held for months in detention (SCMP)
China has released a Christian human rights lawyer detained after representing churches whose crosses were demolished by government officials, a rights group said. Zhang Kai was detained in late August ahead of a scheduled meeting with David Saperstein, a US envoy researching religious freedom. Secretary of State John Kerry called for his release. Texas-based rights group China Aid said on its website that Zhang had been freed on Wednesday, citing a social media message in which he said: “I have already safely arrived home.” Since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, the officially atheist Communist party has taken a harder line towards civil and religious society, including its some 70 million Christians. More than 200 lawyers and legal activists, including Zhang, were questioned or detained in July as part of a sweeping nationwide crackdown. About a dozen have been formally arrested. Officials in eastern Zhejiang province have demolished churches or removed crosses from their exteriors in a campaign that rights groups say has affected hundreds of parishes. The state-run website Wenzhou Online last month cited police in Zhejiang as saying that Zhang had been identified as the “mastermind” behind a series of “illegal religious gatherings”. China Aid said Zhang had offered legal assistance to about 100 churches affected by the ongoing cross demolition campaign. Zhang, a Christian, was held under a form of detention that allows suspects to be held for up to six months in an undisclosed location, it added. Beijing had rejected US calls to free Zhang, adding it had “no right to interfere with China's judicial sovereignty and China's domestic affairs”. ^ top ^

15-year free education to be implemented in NW China (Global Times)
A 15-year free education program will be implemented in northwest China's Qinghai Province starting from this year's spring term, local education department said on Wednesday. Students from Qinghai's five Tibetan Autonomous Prefectures of Haibei, Hainan, Huangnan, Guoluo, Yushu, and Haixi Mongol and Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, together with those from poverty-stricken families in capital city Xining and Haidong city will benefit from this program. "The free education covers three-year preschool, nine-year compulsory education and three-year secondary or secondary vocation school," said Xue Jianhua, deputy head of education department. A total of 860,000 students will be enjoying 15-year free education, and the program is expected to cover all regions in Qinghai by 2020, according to Xue. Tibetan inhabited regions in Qinghai account for 95 percent of its total 720,000 square kilometer landspace, making it China's second largest Tibetan region following Tibet Autonomous Region. Located at the east of Qinghai-Tibet plateau, also called the roof of the world with an average elevation of over 4,000 meters, its alpine and hypoxia weather conditions and mountainous terrain have hindered education development. The provincial government earmarked 3.65 billion yuan (about 560 million US dollars) for construction of school facilities, particularly in pasturing area in 2015. ^ top ^

China's largest land port to expand capacity (Xinhua)
Manzhouli, China's largest land port, is expected to see its annual highway cargo handling capacity climb to 10 million tonnes within the year from the current 3 million tonnes. The improvement will be the result of the first-stage of a project aimed at upgrading road services of the port, which borders Russia to the north and also sits close to Mongolia, according to the government of Manzhouli City, north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The first-phase construction will be finished by the end of October. With an estimated investment of 1.03 billion yuan (about 159 million U.S. dollars), the construction of the overall project started in 2015 and is scheduled to end in 2017. More than 65 percent of overland trade between China and Russia passes through Manzhouli. ^ top ^

Beijing officials upset about CY Leung's policies 'discriminating' against mainland Chinese, Henry Tang says (SCMP)
Beijing officials have complained that some of the pet policies of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying have been discriminatory towards mainlanders, according to one-time chief executive candidate Henry Tang Ying-yen. Tang, a member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), said he had gotten the impression that some policies were seen as selfish and discriminatory while meeting senior officials during the annual session of the CPPCC held earlier this month in Beijing. While he did not identify anybody by name, Tang said the restrictions imposed on milk powder exports, the ban on mainland parents giving birth in the city and the crackdown on parallel traders were sources of discontent among cadres. Leung has touted the success of these policies in protecting the interests of Hong Kong people. Tang, who lost his bid for chief executive in the 2012 race, made the comments in an online interview on Tuesday hosted by Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, who also contemplated running in the 2012 chief executive poll. The programme was the first of a series under the “Hong Kong Vision Project” run by the Hong Kong Policy Research Institute, of which Tsang is a vice-chairman. In the three-part, 45-minute interview, Tang said: “[Leung's policies] give mainland people the impression they are not welcome. Officials have a thorn in their hearts and said we have hurt the feelings of our compatriots. “In this respect, I am with them. We are one family. Even if there are some disputes over trade or tourists, we can always sit down and talk. We are like two brothers, there is no reason why we can't talk it over.” Tang said he believed it would take a long time to mend relations. He told Tsang that Leung's policies had eventually backfired and hurt Hong Kong's retail and catering sectors, and that now there were calls to allow more mainland tourists into Hong Kong. Tang also touched on the rising tide of pro-independence sentiment in Hong Kong as well as the 2017 chief executive election. He said there was no need to be “overly worried” about discussions among young people concerning Hong Kong independence, describing it as “just some noise”. He said most youngsters were rational and pragmatic. But he called on the government to set up more channels for people to voice their views and officials to hear them. “Listening to the people's views does not mean the government has to follow all the views... But the government should explain why it cannot adopt these views. By doing so, the people will feel they are heard.” On the 2017 chief executive election, he reiterated he had no plan to run, even poking a little fun at himself: “I don't think the coming election will be as dramatic as the last one,” he said. Tang had been seen as Beijing's favorite for the top job in 2012, but the race took a dramatic twist when a series of scandals derailed his bid. ^ top ^

China to develop national air pollution classification standards: official (Global Times)
China will establish a nationwide standard for heavy air pollution, a top Chinese meteorological official told media during the country's two sessions. "With the [rising] public attention to [air pollution], we will cooperate with environmental protection departments to establish a national standard on [the classification of] heavy smog. For example, the development of a unified air pollution standard in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region is now underway," Zheng Guogang, head of the China Meteorological Administration, was quoted as saying by China Economic Weekly. Monitoring of pollutants should be strengthened, while the country's numerical forecasting system should also be improved to provide accurate forecasts of heavy smog, Zheng said. According to Zheng, China will have fully modernized the core of its meteorological system by the end of 2020. "In the future, we will provide hourly forecasts, with a resolution that will reach 1 kilometer," Zheng said. Zheng also called for the popularization of science to help the public understand smog and encourage them to protect the environment. Severe air pollution has been a major concern for both China's government and its public. On December 7, Beijing issued its first-ever smog red alert, the highest in the city's four-tier warning system, banning half of the city's 5.57 million registered vehicles from roadways and closing up to 2,100 factories. China also implemented the latest Environmental Protection Law in January 2015, imposing more stringent provisions for tackling smog. ^ top ^

China top authority calls for stricter monitoring in local elections (Global Times)
The Communist Party of China (CPC) urged local officials to strengthen monitoring ahead of the local elections. In a meeting concerning the monitoring of cadres, which was convened in recent days, the Organizational Department of the CPC Central Committee urged officials in all areas to study instructions on elections issued by Xi Jinping, the general secretary of CPC Central Committee. Supervision of the elections should be a top priority this year, it said. More than 900 million Chinese voters will directly elect over 2.5 million county- or township-level lawmakers in elections this year. The department said lessons should be learned from election corruption cases in the provinces of Hunan and Sichuan. It also called for strict supervision of the authorities and the people. A zero-tolerance attitude toward corruption should be held, the department said. It underscored that the forming of cliques, vote-buying, selling office, asking for positions, fraud for posts, leaking secrets and others would not be tolerated. ^ top ^

Officials to be measured by anti-poverty work (China Daily)
High-ranking provincial officials will be held accountable for poverty alleviation in their areas under a set of new assessment measures that have been issued by the central government. The five-year measures are aimed at effectively supervising and evaluating the performance of local authorities in 22 central and western assessment provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions each year, as they work to identify, support and reduce the number of poor. Organized by the State Council Leading Group of Poverty Alleviation and Development, the measures took effect on Feb 9 and introduced the concept of third-party evaluation from scientific research institutions and social organizations. It is hoped that independent evaluation will offer effective supervision of the assessment process and prevent local government intervention, thereby ensuring credibility and reliability. Under the new measures, the role of major provincial officials is emphasized, and they will be held accountable for the progress and results of local poverty relief work. Rewards will be given to provinces that make great strides in annual poverty reduction, but if local authorities fail to meet targets, violate regulations or engage in fraud, the State Council leading group will issue reprimands. By directly linking poverty alleviation with provincial officials' political performance assessments, it is hoped that the goal of lifting all of China's impoverished people out of poverty by 2020 can be achieved on time. Since reform and opening-up began in the 1970s, more than 700 million of China's rural residents have been lifted out of poverty, but an estimated 60 million impoverished people remain nationwide. "Lifting all the impoverished population out of poverty and removing the label of 'poverty-stricken' from all counties is the bottom-line goal of comprehensively building a well-off society," said Liu Yongfu, director of the State Council Leading Group of Poverty Alleviation and Development. ^ top ^

Chinese vice-premier points to brighter economic horizons in 2017 (SCMP)
Positive signs had emerged from China's economy in recent months, top mainland officials said yesterday as they tried to bolster confidence in the world's second-largest economy. Citing cooling capital outflows and improving trade, Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli, central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan and various senior economic officials talked up the signals at the annual China Development Forum, a gathering in Beijing attended by foreign officials and top economists, including International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde. But Zhang told the forum that China was still alert to systemic risks in the financial and property markets. Zhou said capital outflows from China had eased because the market had become more “rational” about China's economy and the yuan's exchange rate after the jitters of previous months. “We are now seeing the [outflow] data is slowing significantly,” Zhou said. China's foreign exchange reserves fell US$28.5 billion in February to US$3.2 trillion. The drop narrowed sharply from the declines of around US$100 billion in December and January when the panic peaked about China's slowing growth, the yuan's depreciation and last year's stock market rout. Zhang said economic indicators such as power consumption, employment and investment had improved since the start of the year until early this month. Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng said there were similar positive signs in foreign trade. After double-digit drops in exports and imports in the first two months, trade was expected to rebound strongly this month, he said. Zhang painted a rosy outlook for China, saying it would have a smooth 2017 if it overcame downward pressures this year. “We will have a good start this quarter, will tackle difficulties this year, and will see [the economy] as boundless as the sky and sea next year,” he said. But Zhang admitted China still faced headwinds and a lack of oversight had led to turmoil, such as the stock market rout and risks from internet finance. “[We] should strictly prevent possible risks in the stock, foreign exchange, bond and property markets, and prevent cross-contamination [of risk] to firmly defend the bottom line against systemic and regional risks,” the vice-premier said. Economists have warned of a property bubble in major cities, including Shenzhen where home prices soared 57 per cent year on year in February. Zhang said the government would fine-tune policies and prepare policy tools to address possible problems in the economy and to “ensure GDP stays within a reasonable range”. SSGreece enjoyed a higher rating than us when it was hit by the [debt] crisis Finance Minister Lou Jiwei Also at the conference yesterday, Finance Minister Lou Jiwei shrugged off ratings agency Moody's decision to downgrade its outlook for China's sovereign debt, saying “China does not care”. “Greece enjoyed a higher rating than us when it was hit by the [debt] crisis,” Lou said. “We do not care about the rating... We don't need to pay visits [to the rating agencies] to seek their support”. He said the downgrade did not trigger a negative reaction in areas such as the offshore yuan's exchange rate, and he had not seen any investors shorting China. ^ top ^

Chinese vice premier urges stronger structural reform (China Daily)
Vigorous efforts should be made to cut overcapacity, destock, deleverage, lower business costs and improve weak links, said Zhang. He also demanded adherence to innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development, the development concept mentioned in the new Five-Year Plan covering 2016-2020. As the world economy is undergoing a weak recovery and the Chinese economy is facing downward pressure, China must take care to maintain appropriate economic growth and vigorously carry out supply-side structural reforms, he said. He also stressed improving people's livelihoods and preventing risks to ensure a good beginning for the 13th Five-Year Plan period. He told the opening ceremony that China is not only a beneficiary of globalization, but also an important contributor to world economic growth and stability. China's development will bring other countries greater market and more opportunities for investment, according to the vice premier. Noting the Group of 20 (G20) summit will be held in China's Hangzhou this year, he called for joint efforts to promote the building of "innovative, dynamic, coordinated and inclusive" world economy. Hosted by the State Council's Development Research Center, the annual China Development Forum is a platform for business and academic leaders to interact with China's top decision makers and economic planners. ^ top ^

Xi calls for new ideas to ensure 'extraordinary' 2022 Games (Global Times)
President Xi Jinping on Friday urged new ideas to be implemented to ensure the 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games "fantastic, extraordinary and excellent". After he listened to reporting by top organizers of the Winter Olympics and Paralympics, Xi said that the ideas of innovation, coordination, green development, opening-up and sharing should be implemented in preparation for successful 2022 Games that will satisfy the international community and the Chinese people. Beijing, with Zhangjiakou as a co-host, was awarded the 2022 Winter Olympics during an International Olympic Committee Session on July 31, 2015, when Xi threw his weight behind the bid, reiterating the nation's passion for the Games in a video speech played during a final presentation to the IOC members. After Beijing won the bid, the Chinese president wrote to IOC President Thomas Bach to express thanks for the IOC's trust and long-term support. Xi noted an extraordinary Winter Olympics will further showcase China's achievements in reform and opening-up as well as its efforts in promoting the peace and development of all of humanity. He also emphasized the post-games use of Olympic stadiums and facilities, adding the already existent stadiums must be put into full play. Xi pointed out that the preparation for the Winter Olympics and Paralympics can also be a strong push for the integration of Beijing and neighboring cities. China is creating a new economic belt and environment-friendly zone which incorporates Beijing with the surrounding Hebei Province and Tianjin, a port city to the capital's southeast. Xi stressed that preparing for the Winter Olympics and Paralympics is a systematic project which needs to draw on wisdom and resources from all walks of life. In order to "host an Olympics as pure and clean as snow", Xi said, the budget should be more carefully reviewed, the costs be controlled and supervision be strengthened. ^ top ^



Beijing extends maternity and paternity leave (Global Times)
Beijing authorities announced on Thursday that couples in the capital will enjoy longer maternity and paternity leave. The move comes after a change in the country's family planning policy last year allowing couples to have a second child. According to the city's new population and family planning regulation, mothers in Beijing are entitled to at least 128 days of maternity leave after having their first or second child, 30 days longer than the previous allowance. Maternity leave may be extended to a maximum of seven months, if the organization they work for allows it. Fathers are entitled to a 15-day paternity leave, the regulation said. The regulation also allows re-married couples who already have one child each from their previous marriages to have another child. Last year, China adopted a policy allowing all couples nationwide to have two children. The policy was loosened from the previous version, adopted in 2013, allowing couples to have two children if either parent was an only child. ^ top ^

Beijing police reward terror whistle-blowers (China Daily)
Beijing police have stepped up efforts to mobilize the masses and fight terrorism in the capital. Two whistle-blowers were rewarded 3,000 yuan ($462) and 2,000 yuan for providing information on terrorism and reporting hazardous items on the subway, the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau said on Wednesday. One of them reported a foreigner suspected of being involved in terrorist activities, but no detailed information was available on the case. More than 500 people have been rewarded with upward of 600,000 yuan by Beijing police since the city announced rewards for terror informants in March 2014. According to the incentive program, whistle-blowers are awarded between 1,000 yuan to 40,000 yuan for reporting information on terrorism. To better cope with the risk posed by terrorist activities, the bureau has organized six rounds of anti-terrorism drills and provided professional training to more than 2,500 personnel over the past year. ^ top ^

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg meets China's propaganda chief in Beijing (SCMP)
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg held a rare meeting on Saturday with China's propaganda chief, at a time when Chinese authorities are tightening control over their cyberspace. Liu Yunshan told Zuckerberg that his US-based social media platform could share its experience with Chinese companies to help “internet development better benefit the people of all countries,” the official Xinhua news agency reported. Zuckerberg was in Beijing to attend the China Development Forum, along with Alibaba chief Jack Ma and Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde. China has called for the creation of a global internet “governance system” and cooperation between countries to regulate internet use, stepping up efforts to promote controls that activists complain stifle free expression. Facebook and other Western social media including Twitter are banned in China. Zuckerberg has long been courting China's leaders in a so far futile attempt to access the country with the world's largest number of internet users – 668 million as of last year. China has been increasing control over its internet, dubbed the Great Firewall because it is already heavily censored. Liu, a member of the Communist Party's top leadership, the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, recently said that all internet users must not cross the “baseline” when discussing China's governance. Chinese censors have introduced a slate of new regulations to better enable them to police digital and social media as closely as traditional publications. The country's top internet regulator has repeatedly warned that an untamed cyberspace would pose a risk to domestic security and the government should decide who to allow into “its house.” ^ top ^

Chinese journalist who disappeared on way to Hong Kong 'taken away by police at Beijing airport': lawyer (SCMP)
A Chinese journalist who disappeared on his way to Hong Kong was taken away by police at the Beijing airport, his lawyer said. Jia Jia, a freelance journalist based in Beijing, has not been seen since March 15, after he went through customs at the Beijing Capital International Airport to board a flight to Hong Kong. He had been planning to attend a seminar hosted by the City University of Hong Kong. 'Erase critics, too': rights groups slam China over missing Beijing-based journalist in wake of Hong Kong booksellers( Jia's lawyer Yan Xin said a police branch at the airport had confirmed that Jia was taken away by municipal police bureau officers on March 15 for “involvement in a case.” “There were police officers from the airport branch assisting in the case, so they could confirm Jia was taken away,” said Yan over the phone. “This is the only lead in the case so far, but we still need to contact the Beijing municipal police bureau tomorrow to get more information on the nature of the case.” Yan said Jia's family had so far received no notification from the authorities. Rights groups have linked Jia's disappearance to an open letter published this month on news website Wujie News calling for President Xi Jinping's resignation. The letter, which was removed soon after, was signed “Loyal Communist Party members”. Little else is known about its authorship. Missing bookseller Lui Por in Hong Kong again but sticks to script by staying tight-lipped on ordeal. Earlier reports said Jia had tipped off a Wujie editor to remove the petition. Jia's friends reportedly said he was not the article's author. Jia's disappearance comes at a sensitive time as several booksellers in Hong Kong had also gone missing in recent months. The booksellers had since resurfaced, though, to say that they left for mainland China on their own accord. ^ top ^



Shanghai smooths divorce procedure (China Daily)
Shanghai plans to introduce an online appointment booking service for people wanting a divorce, in a bid to make the process more organized and convenient for the growing number of couples in the city looking to end their marriages. Since the launch of the amended Marriage Registration Regulation on Feb 1, an added procedure involving inquiries and questions has increased the length of the process to register for a divorce from around 25 to 35 minutes to a new time of between 45 and 55 minutes. The extra time is down to the fact that couples must now talk to staff at the registration office separately to independently confirm their willingness to proceed and statements they have made. The additional work and slower process was part of the reason why Pudong district's civil affairs bureau chose to reduce the number of appointments it would handle each day. That, in turn, has led to crowded waiting rooms. "We are discussing launching an online booking system for couples to select an appointment time in advance to shorten the waiting time and control the number of daily filings," said Sun Xiaohong, deputy director of the marriage management department at the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau. "We're still getting used to the new effects from the amended measures." Shanghai is not the first place in China to introduce appointments for divorce registration. For 13 months, couples in Yunnan province's Dali Bai autonomous prefecture had to wait at least seven days for an appointment to finalize a divorce after first registering with the local government. According to Dali civil affairs bureau, they introduced the one-week waiting period to prevent impulsive divorces. However, the policy had to be canceled on March 8 after the Ministry of Civil Affairs ruled it countered the nation's Marriage Law because it interfered with people's rights. "The policy runs against the Marriage Law's rule of ensuring people can get married and divorced with freedom, which shouldn't be interfered with," said Zhang Liang, secretary-general of the Family Research Center with the Shanghai Academy of Social Science. However, Sun from Shanghai said that the bureau in Pudong will be able to bring in appointments because the move is aimed at offering a better service, not because it seeks to delay couples seeking a divorce. More than 3.6 million couples divorced across the country in 2014, 3.9 percent higher than in the previous year. ^ top ^



Guangzhou strengthens its role as southern hub (China Daily)
Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, is expected to strengthen its status as a major aviation and shipping hub in the southern Chinese region with the coming expansion of its airport and ports. Qiu Zhizhong, deputy director of Guangzhou aviation administrative commission, said, the second terminal of Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport is expected to come into service in February 2018. "The supplementary facilities for the third runway have also been completed while feasibility studies for a fourth and fifth runway have also begun," Qiu said. The construction of the second airport expressway and the related expressway projects that will help link the airport to major Pearl River Delta cities are ramping up, Qiu added. According to Qiu, Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport will be able to handle more than 80 million passengers a year by 2020. More than 2.5 million metric tons of cargo will arrive in and leave Guangzhou via the airport by 2020, he added. More than 199 million yuan ($30.62 million) has been invested to help improve the airport's environment and facilities, including the construction of hangars and related facilities. Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, which currently has one terminal and three runways, is now the third-busiest airport on the mainland after Beijing and Shanghai. In 2015, the airport handled 55.21 million passengers and 1.54 million tons of cargo. The airport has 136 international and regional routes, with more than 1,000 scheduled flights linking Guangzhou to 207 destinations in Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand daily. Huang Bo, deputy director of the Guangzhou port administrative commission, said Guangzhou ports will open between eight to 10 new international ocean routes in 2016, connecting the southern metropolis to even more global destinations. While also making efforts to strengthen ties with Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia, the city is giving top priority to opening new international ocean routes to American nations and regions, Huang said. To this end, the third and fourth expansion projects for Nansha Port, located at the estuary of the Pearl River, will begin before the end of year. Ports in Guangzhou handled 520 million tons of cargo last year, up 4 percent year-on-year, ranking fourth on the mainland and the sixth in the world. ^ top ^



Ambition to earn legitimacy for Tibetan 'exile govt' doomed to fail: Chinese official (Global Times)
Exiled Tibetans across India and overseas started voting on Sunday to elect a political leader for the next five years. Thousands of monks and nuns in maroon robes, students, and men and women queued to vote outside polling booths in Dharamsala, a town in India's Himalayan foothills where a community of Tibetans live in exile with the Dalai Lama. The second such election follows a decision by the Dalai Lama to relinquish his political authority and vest it in a democratic system that could outlast him. Election results will be out between April 27 and 28, with more than half of the 90,377 eligible voters expected to exercise their franchise, according to the election commission. The "Sikyong," or elected leader, will be solely responsible for political and diplomatic decisions, as the Dalai Lama steps back from the limelight amid uncertainty over how his successor will be chosen. "With regard to dialogue with China, we have been making initiatives, efforts," Lobsang Sangay, the incumbent Sikyong, told Reuters after casting his vote. "It is possible that the Lobsang Sangay will be reappointed consecutively," Zhu Weiqun, chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference's Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee, told the Global Times on Sunday. Zhu said that after years of infighting in the Tibetan "government-in-exile," there are few competitors capable enough to challenge Lobsang Sangay in the election and his education background in the US also helps him get support from Western countries. No matter which candidate wins the final election, their purpose to split Tibet Autonomous Region from China by various means, including the "middle way approach," will not change, said Zhu. The Tibetan separatists' ambition to earn legitimacy for the exile government is doomed to fail, said Zhu. Referring to Lobsang Sangay's statement that the Tibetan "government-in-exile" is making efforts to engage in negotiations, Zhu said the Chinese government resolvedly opposes separatism and will not contact or compromise with the "exile government." The exile government's election commission has been accused of rigging the vote and its candidates were mired in various scandals, according to, a website affiliated with the Chinese government. In January, a Tibetan camp leader died by suicide reportedly over his dissatisfaction with the exile government's handling of an election rigging case, the website reported. One of the candidates in the election was allegedly accused of murdering a monk and went on to live with the victim's wife, the website reported. ^ top ^



No way to rebuild bulldozed homes? Villagers must get landowners' permission, say Hong Kong officials (SCMP)
Villagers' hopes of rebuilding their bulldozed squatter homes in a Sheung Shui village will likely be in vain as officials say doing so will require permission from the landowners. This was revealed to the affected Kwu Tung North villagers at a meeting with the Lands Department's squatter control office on Wednesday. Villager Wong Man-fa vowed to continue his fight to rebuild on the site he claims has been occupied – but not owned – by his family for some 50 years. He had been trying to gain possession through the courts. Officials told them villagers would not be allowed to rebuild unless they were given consent in writing by the landowner to submit such a request to the government, said the Democratic Party's Lam Cheuk-ting, who is helping the villagers. “The landlords will never agree to their requests,” he said. “We are very worried that this squatter policy will just encourage other developers or big landlords to use '[mainland] China-style' forceful demolition to raze squatter houses whenever disputes arise,” he added. More than a dozen structures – ranging from squatter huts to chicken sheds – were reduced to rubble by an unidentified group last week, leaving at least 10 residents from two households homeless. The case has been classified as criminal damage. Police have arrested a man suspected to be connected with the demolition. “In a split second, they took the heart of two generations, our ancestral home, and razed it flat,” said Wong, 65, who now lives with his son. The village in question was selected by the government for new town development in the New Territories. Villagers accuse Team Glory Development, the Henderson Land Development subsidiary which owns part of the land, of being behind the demolition. The developer has denied this. The other part of the site is owned by offshore firm Wise Treasure Development, but little is known about this company. A Henderson spokesman said it had yet to receive any requests to rebuild and was still looking into the situation. The villagers had been fighting an on-and-off legal battle with Team Glory on adverse possession since the 1990s. The Lands Department said it understood the villagers' predicament, but according to the terms of the land lease, building structures on the private lot would require the landholders to make the application to the department. This includes requests by squatters to rebuild houses. “The department must... respect the legal right of the private landholders,” a spokesman said. Lawmaker James To Kun-sun, a solicitor, urged the Lands Department to offer some discretion due to the unique nature of the case. If the department refused to budge, the Ombudsman could intervene as the department's handling amounted to "maladministration", To said. ^ top ^

Missing Hong Kong bookseller Lee Po returns home from mainland China after disappearing last December (SCMP)
The man at the centre of Hong Kong's missing bookseller mystery returned quietly to the city yesterday and asked police to end their investigation into his missing-person case. Causeway Bay bookseller Lee Po, who vanished from Hong Kong last December and later surfaced on the mainland, told local authorities again that he did not require any police or government assistance. The same requests were made by his two associates – Cheung Chi-ping and Lui Por – when they returned to the city earlier this month after disappearing last October, prompting speculation that they had been frightened into silence. All of them have dismissed concerns that they were kidnapped and spirited across the border by mainland agents over the smuggling and sale of banned books critical of China's leaders. Lee, who left the city without going through proper immigration channels, was handed over to Hong Kong authorities at the Lok Ma Chau border crossing yesterday afternoon. “As Lee Po did not provide thorough information about his last departure, no arrest has been made against him at this stage,” police and immigration said in a written statement. “[The Immigration Department] needs to conduct further investigation to ascertain if there is any prima facie evidence showing that he has committed any immigration offences.” When he was interviewed by immigration and police officers upon his return yesterday, the bookseller stuck to his story that he had voluntarily gone to the mainland to assist in an investigation involving his publishing colleague, Gui Minhai, who also disappeared last year and surfaced later on the mainland. “He stated that he was free and safe whilst on the mainland. He restated his request for the cancellation of his missing-person case,” local authorities said. “He refused to disclose other details. After meeting with police, Lee Po left on his own.” Lee was more forthcoming in an interview with selected mainland and Hong Kong media groups, telling them he would never run a bookstore business again. “I will never publish and sell those books that make things up. The freedom of publication and of speech does not mean that people can make things up,” he was quoted as saying. “Like I have said earlier, there are still people doing this business in Hong Kong. I hope they won't do it any more.” He said he had sneaked into the mainland because he wanted to settle matters with his companies. Now that three of his associates had been released on bail, he said, his efforts had not been in vain. He met the three on Wednesday to talk about what to do with the companies, he revealed. Lee went on to say that during his time across the border, he had witnessed the prosperity of the country and felt proud to be ­Chinese. He added that Hong Kong was still his home and he would never leave the city to settle elsewhere. Five associates of the Mighty Current publishing house and Causeway Bay Books store disappeared one after another in mysterious circumstances. Gui was the first to vanish in Pattaya, Thailand, in October. Lam Wing-kee, Cheung and Lui disappeared that same month while on the mainland. Lee vanished in December. Their disappearances have led to widespread fears that they were kidnapped by Chinese agents because their companies specialised in books critical of the Chinese Communist Party. Gui has been accused of ordering his associates to deliver about 4,000 banned books across the border since October 2014. On the sidelines of the Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan (海南) yesterday, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said the central government was aware that Hongkongers were very concerned about Lee's case. “The SAR government has consistently been transparent in handling the incident,” he said before the police and immigration statement was issued. “We have spared no effort in reflecting [concerns] to the mainland.” Labour Party vice-chairman Lee Cheuk-yan said the bookseller's claim that he had smuggled himself into the mainland was “an insult to the intelligence of Hong Kong people”. Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun said the government was adding insult to injury by saying it would continue to probe whether Lee had committed immigration offences. In an explosive twist earlier, the Post obtained an email by Lee dated November 10 to Gui's daughter, Angela, in which Lee wrote to say that he feared Gui “was taken by special agents from China for political reasons”. ^ top ^

Hong Kong risks losing status as international financial centre if Beijing fails to protect city's core values, says foundation head (SCMP)
Beijing must help preserve Hong Kong's core values such as the rule of law and press freedom or the city will cease to be an important international financial centre, the head of a group set up by former officials and professionals warned. Tsim Tak-lung, chairman of the Project Citizens Foundation, also criticised the Hong Kong government for doing too little to heal the city's political divide, which worsened after an electoral reform package was voted down last year. Tsim called for the city's officials to safeguard Hong Kong's characteristics under Beijing's “one country, two systems” principle, under which the city's capitalist systems and way of life should not change for 50 years after the 1997 handover. The foundation was created last year by former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang, lawyer Cheung Yuk-tong and writer Tsim to promote civic participation. There has been much debate about Hong Kong's political and economic ties with the mainland in recent months. In February, the US think tank, Heritage Foundation, said Hong Kong remained the world's freest economy for the 22nd consecutive year. But this month, ratings agency Moody's downgraded Hong Kong's long-term debt outlook, citing the city's reliance on trade amid a slowdown on the mainland. Tsim said “Moody's downgrade... highlighted the fact that Beijing really needs to let Hong Kong [develop under] 'two systems'. If you insist on the country's authority, Hong Kong cannot continue to be an international financial centre.” He explained that the rule of law, press freedom and political stability were crucial to Hong Kong's international position, but there were worries about whether these core values were being eroded. “We need a stable political environment, but if [officials] often pick fights and worsen division both inside and outside the legislature, ratings agencies will say there is something wrong with us,” Tsim said. He also believed observers overseas could be concerned about Hong Kong's stability after the violent clashes between protesters and police officers in Mong Kok last month. “Our leader and his cabinet need to have a good understanding about financial matters, and that if we challenge the 'two systems', we are challenging our own status as a financial hub,” Tsim said. He believed that Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, who was praised by lawmakers for the conciliatory message in his recent budget speech, could be a better leader than Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. Tsang would speak at a financial forum hosted by the foundation next month, Tsim said. But Tsim said that whoever won the chief executive election next year, society would need reconciliation. “I don't think the social conflicts can continue like this... and those in authority should take the initiative,” Tsim said. ^ top ^

Hong Kong signs agreement on 92 areas of cooperation with Guangdong as it embraces Beijing's 13th five-year plan (SCMP)
The Hong Kong government is stepping up efforts to cooperate with Guangdong in almost every aspect as it embraces Beijing's 13th five-year plan unveiled last week. In an annual working meeting held by the Hong Kong government and Guangdong provincial authorities on Wednesday, the two sides signed an agreement covering 92 areas of cooperation, ranging from the “One Belt, One Road” initiative and innovation and technology to financial and professional services and environmental protection. “This year is the starting year of the 13th five-year plan... The Hong Kong government takes it very seriously,” Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor told the group of Guangdong officials at the meeting including vice-governor He Zhongyou. The three free-trade zones in Guangdong province – Qianhai, Nansha and Hengqin – are expected to play a greater role in cooperation between the southern province and Hong Kong in the coming years, the government said, in line with the dedicated chapter on Hong Kong and Macau in the nation's 13th five-year plan expressing support for closer ties between the three regions. To achieve deeper cooperation in the securities market, the two sides will work together to seek policy support from Beijing to relax the shareholding percentage policies on joint venture securities, fund and futures companies held by Hong Kong-funded financial institutions, the agreement said. In addition, the government plans to fund 400 more Hong Kong students to take up internships in companies and institutions in Guangdong this year – almost double last year's quota. ^ top ^

Lighting up Hong Kong: Art Basel's largest installation towers over Victoria Harbour, counting down to death (SCMP)
For the duration of this year's Art Basel, Japanese artist Tatsuo Miyajima presents a light installation called Time Waterfall on the façade of the International Commerce Centre at Kowloon Station. In the evenings, viewers can see a cascade of digital numbers falling down the tower, from nine to one. “My numbers count nine to one without showing zero. It means the timing of life, counting is life, as zero means death,” he explains. “It's about counting down to death, life and death, the meaning of life. The numbers fall at different speeds, he continues, “like a waterfall. So it's like time that never comes again”. Miyajima snaps his fingers and says, “Just now, it's life like that.” He describes the installation as about living in the now. Adeline Ooi, director Asia of Art Basel Hong Kong invited him to create the light installation on ICC, despite his never before working on such a tall building. Miyajima embraced the challenge. He felt that since Hong Kong is a city teeming with energy and life, the Time Waterfall would dovetail with his theme of life and death. His biggest concern was how the numbers would look as they fell down the façade of the building. “I tested it twice, and changed it a bit after the first test, particularly the size of the numbers and the speed of them falling down,” Miyajima says. A computer programmer helped him realise his work on the tower. Originally from Tokyo, Miyajima says he first studied oil painting and then moved on to performing arts. It was then that the artist began working on installations, particularly with light. He says the concept for his art constantly changes. “That's why I use technology to light things,” he explains. “Light and counting numbers are moving all the time. It's like a performing object.” Time Waterfall will be shown on ICC every evening from March 21 through 26 at 7.20pm, 8.10pm, 9pm and 9.50pm. ^ top ^

Eight Hong Kong activists arrested for daring protest at illegal waste dumping site (SCMP)
Eight activists including a lawmaker were arrested yesterday when they entered the site of a massive, illegal mound of waste in Tin Shui Wai and attempted to shovel earth into bags to take to government offices in protest. The Land Justice League was frustrated by the pace of government action at the site that formed a four-storey mound over an area the size of two football pitches. It was the group's second daring stunt over the weekend. On Saturday, it entered the construction site of the controversial high-speed rail link, in Austin, scaled cranes and unfurled banners, calling for the project to be halted. Lugging shovels, pushcarts and linen sacks, about 20 activists entered the dump site opposite Kingswood Gardens estate at around 7am yesterday. They climbed the mound and erected large banners, including one that read “shame to dumping”. They began filling the sacks with waste. League member Chu Hoi-dick said to date that the group had not seen the Planning Department “use the Town Planning Ordinance to take enforcement action” over the dump site. Chu was among those arrested. “This is not an isolated example,” he said. “Across Hong Kong, many illegal dumping cases go unresolved... If the government keeps ignoring this, we residents will not continue to let the environment be destroyed.” Chu added the protest was an act of civil disobedience. Police stopped the activists after receiving reports from the site manager, warning them that removing earth from the private site would be tantamount to theft. After a tense standoff, police arrested five men and one woman for trying to “steal” three bags of earth. Labour Party lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan arrived to help, but after refusing to leave, was carried away and arrested for disorderly conduct in a public place. Fellow party member Eddie Tse Sai-kit was also arrested for not having his identity card on him. Lee accused police of using excessive force. “I was explaining our actions to police. I was in a public area,” he said. “I was just sitting and they still lifted me up.” About two dozen protesters rallied outside Yuen Long police station, slamming the authorities for focusing on the activists and not policing illegal dumping. All of those arrested were later released later on Sunday after refusing bail. The police force said it retained the right to press charges. Two weeks ago, the government described the mound as an illegal site formation that was potentially “unstable” and “dangerous”. An order to the landowners to shotcrete the mound with high pressure air and concrete within a week went ignored. Development secretary Paul Chan Mo-po yesterday said the landowners had been contacted and that serious follow-up action was being taken, adding that “lots of evidence” was to be collected. ^ top ^



Macao sees progress in economic restructuring (Xinhua)
The restructuring of economy in the Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) has achieved progress, an official from the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the SAR has said. Yao Jian, deputy head of the office, made the comments at a recent seminar attended by senior officials from six large local tourism and leisure enterprises as well as major subsidiaries of Chinese mainland corporations here. New active elements have appeared in the process of Macao's industrial restructuring, and non-gaming revenues increased 2 percent in 2015 despite the drastic slump of gambling industry, Yao said. Lauding Macao's major enterprises' contribution in supporting the growth of local small and medium-sized enterprises, Yao called for more efforts to be made to speed up industry transformation so as to maintain sustainable economic development in the SAR. ^ top ^



Taiwan's industrial output down for 10th month (Xinhua)
Taiwan's economic authority said Wednesday that the index for industrial output dropped for a 10th month by 3.65 percent year on year to 86.91 points. The authority attributed the decline mainly to an earthquake that hit southern Taiwan early last month and the holiday for the Lunar New Year, which fell on Feb. 8 this year. On a month-on-month basis, industrial output plunged 14.46 percent in February. In the first two months, industrial output dropped 4.92 percent year on year. the agency said. In February, the sub-index for the manufacturing sector, which accounted for more than 90 percent in industrial production, dropped 4.65 percent to 86.28 points. The electronics, machinery, automobile parts and computer sectors all saw year-on-year drops in output. However, production of chemicals and metals both increased by more than 2 percent due to rising global demand. The authority forecast that the industrial production index may continue to drop in March due to weak demand from emerging economies, fierce competition and a high comparison base. ^ top ^



Chinese premier vows to stabilise the property market (SCMP)
Premier Li Keqiang has pledged to stabilise the mainland property market, which has seen prices surge in megacities but excess ­inventories grow in others. The authorities would take different actions for different cities to ensure a healthy market, Li said on Thursday at the Boao Forum for Asia, held annually on Hainan island in southern China. “In particular, [we will] attach great importance to those who have housing difficulties, and at the same time prevent high volatility in the property market,” he said. He renewed calls for Asian countries to set up a financial cooperation body to promote growth and avoid market turmoil. “[We should] have better coordination in terms of macroeconomic policies, oppose all forms of trade protectionism,” he said. “In particular, developed countries should adopt more growth-friendly policies and avoid spillover effects from their policy ­adjustments.” Li said eight years had passed since the last major international financial crisis, but its profound impacts had yet to be eliminated. “The recovery remains un­even in emerging economies and sluggish in the developed ones,” he said. Faced with slumps in exports, growing debt and a continued economic downturn, the region was having a tough time, he said. The proposal for an Asian ­financial cooperation association was first raised by China at a ­regional meeting last year. Professor Li Yongsen, from the Finance and Securities Research Institute of Renmin University, said although China had played a bigger role in global financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in recent years, its say did not match its growing impact. “The new organisation should better reflect financial activities in Asia today, as well as China's position as the world's second-largest economy and [its] impact in the financial market,” Li Yongsen said. He said the body should have fewer institutional limitations than the World Bank and IMF, but the same goal of seeking mutual benefits among member states. The premier said China had enough policy tools to keep the economy stable despite “deep rooted” structural problems and downward pressure. China would not devalue the yuan to boost exports, and was confident economic growth would stay within the target range of 6.5 and 7 per cent annually over the next five years, he said. In a meeting with business executives, Li proposed a resources-for-projects approach to cooperation with Kazakhstan. He also said China hoped to strengthen the voices of developing countries in global governance. “China is a participant in and reformer of the current regime, it is not setting up a separate kitchen,” he said, referring to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. He said the bank ran “in parallel” to other development banks in the region. ^ top ^

Chinese firms earning more from overseas on better perception of 'made in China' (China Daily)
Chinese brands, especially those from the technology sector, continue to earn an increasing proportion of their revenue from overseas, according to the newly released 2016 BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Chinese Brands. The top three brands with the greatest proportion of revenue from overseas business include Lenovo Group Ltd, with 68 percent of its revenue from international business, followed by Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, a newcomer to the ranking with 62 percent, and ZTE Corp with half of its revenue from business overseas, it said. "With Chinese companies continuing to expand their operations overseas and a more positive perception of 'made in China', Chinese brands are deriving increasing overseas earnings," said Doreen Wang, global head of BrandZ, Millward Brown. The expansion of international business is especially important as the growth of the domestic economy slows and Chinese companies attempt to raise awareness of Chinese brands, she said. Wang said she believed that Chinese companies would see a steady growth in their revenue from abroad in the years to come. Leading the top 20 Chinese brands with most revenue overseas, Lenovo, the world's largest PC maker, continued to grow its PC, mobile and enterprise businesses outside of China, helping balance the softening of the Chinese market. It gained 68 percent of its total revenue from overseas business, up from 62 percent from the previous year. Analysts said Chinese brands are increasingly gaining more revenue and market share not only in emerging markets but also from the developed markets. Offering quality smartphone at a more affordable price, Huawei has successfully gained market share not only in emerging markets but also in Europe, while ZTE has also expanded its presence in the Android-based market in the United States. Alibaba Group Holding Ltd has been aggressively investing in global growth with initiatives such as AliExpress, a platform to sell Chinese products to overseas customers, and establishment of a cloud-computing center in California. "Western consumers used to view Chinese brands as makers of low-quality and cheaper items, but this perception has gradually changed as Chinese brands are coming up with more quality and value-added products under their own names," said Wang. Wang said she was confident the Chinese brands will be better perceived on the global market in the same way as how the world came to see products made in Japan and South Korea. According to the survey, 15 of the top 20 Chinese brands in terms of overseas revenue come mainly from three categories, including six from home appliances, five from airlines and four from technology. With Chinese outbound travel growing 12 percent in 2015, according to the World Tourism Organization, increasing Chinese companies from the aviation sector are also seeing rising overseas revenue, with Spring Airlines Co Ltd, Air China Ltd and China Eastern Airlines Corp Ltd continuing to add international routes. Half of the top 20 brands are market-driven and half are State-owned enterprises, mostly in the oil, gas and banking sectors. The average proportion of overseas revenues of competitive SOEs is higher than the market driven ones, which suggests the government support still remains important for Chinese brands trying to gain a global presence. ^ top ^

ADB to fund $250m to support China's treatment of industrial wastewater (China Daily)
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) announced Tuesday that it had approved a loan of $250 million to a Chinese firm for a wastewater and sludge treatment project. The assistance has been awarded to CT Environmental Group, which is a leader in the treatment of wastewater and sludge generated by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in China, according to an ADB statement. "The project will support China as it strives to dramatically reduce water pollution, including through PPPs (public-private partnerships), as outlined in the State Council-issued Water Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan," said Hisaka Kimura, East Asia Unit Head of ADB private sector operations department. The loan will be used by CT Environmental Group to build and operate a series of specialized treatment plants. The areas will be determined by local governments, according to the ADB. Treated wastewater, which meets national environmental standards, will either be discharged, or sent back to industrial customers to be reused. The goal is to build the capacity to treat 450,000 tons of wastewater and 4,200 tons of sludge per day by 2019, said the ADB. The ADB assistance includes a $100 million equivalent ordinary loan and a $150 million equivalent complementary loan in US dollars and yuan, funded by commercial banks, with ADB acting as the lender of record. ^ top ^

China's Belt-Road initiative to establish Asia-Europe economic zone, strengthen integration: expert (Xinhua)
China's Belt and Road Initiative will establish a large Asia-Europe economic zone, providing opportunities for dozens of countries along the "Belt and Road" routes integrating into the global economy, a former World Bank official has said. The initiative, proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt that links China with Europe through central and western Asia by inland routes, and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road connecting China with southeast Asia, Africa and Europe by sea routes. "I think the main rationale (for such initiative) is to link Asia and Europe basically to one large economic zone," Simeon Djankov, visiting fellow at the Washington-D.C. based Peterson Institute for International Economics and former chief economist on finance and private sector affairs at the World Bank, told Xinhua in a recent interview. Djankov said the links between the Europe and Asia could be "significantly weakened" and some parts of Asia, central Asia in particular, could be isolated, as the United States is advancing two mega-regional trade agreements that feature the United States as the economic center but treat Asia and Europe separately. The United States formally signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal with 11 other Pacific Rim countries last month, and stepped up efforts to push forward negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the European Union (EU) in recent months, in a bid to establish new trade rules and reshape the global trading system. "So we think that the Belt and Road Initiative is helping Europe and Asia to come together," said Djankov, who served as former deputy prime minister and minister of finance of Bulgaria from 2009 to 2013. "If it succeeds, the initiative will reestablish Eurasia as the largest economic market in the world and may effect a shift away from the dollar-based global financial system," he said. Unlike the politically directed Marshall Plan, an American initiative to rebuild western European economies after World War Two, Djankov said, the Belt and Road Initiative is "much more comprehensive" in terms of the time period and the number of participating countries, with a goal of promoting regional trade integration and making these countries becoming a part of the global economy. "A big plus for the Belt and Road Initiative that did not exist in the Marshall Plan is that a number of economies will benefit greatly from being integrated into the Eurasian economy and the global economy," Djankov said. The Belt and Road Initiative has gained wide popularity among 60-plus countries, and most of them are in the process of industrialization and urbanization, according to China's Ministry of Commerce. The initiative is a response to the need for development and cooperation among Asian and European countries, and it shows that China is in a rapid transition from a mere participant in the international system to a provider of public goods, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said earlier this month. "The Initiative is China's idea, but the opportunities it has created belong to the world," Wang said. Djankov suggested it is good to start with infrastructure under the Belt and Road Initiative, as there are huge infrastructure needs along the "Belt and road" and China "has a lot of expertise" in both constructing and financing of infrastructure projects. "China has a large comparative advantage in infrastructure. It is also a way to link these economies together, later then you can go to other sectors," he said. Djankov believed European countries that are not members of the EU would benefit more from the Belt and Road Initiative at current stage, as these countries have large infrastructure needs but don't have sources of financing from the EU. "That's where we have seen some already successful Belt and Road infrastructure projects, Serbia, Macedonia," he said, adding that Greece, Bulgaria, Slovakia and other EU member states are also interested in being part of this initiative for the sake of better connecting with high-growth Asian markets. Compared with the TTIP trade talks that cover a number of more controversial areas, Djankov said European countries view it "more natural" to have "a potential stronger economic link" with China because of the existing significant trade volume between Europe and China and expanded trade opportunities from the Belt and Road Initiative. "This is a lot easier for European politicians to first understand and then tell to their electorates," he said. "The TTIP is not easy to understand, I think that's the reason why support for the Transatlantic Partnership has been relatively small in Europe." "Odds are slim" that the TTIP negotiations will be completed before the end of the Obama administration, according to a new study by the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University released on Thursday. "Some of the most intense transatlantic disagreements have arisen over differences in regulation policy. Issues such as food safety or environmental standards have strong public constituencies and are often extremely sensitive in the domestic political arena," the study said. As European politicians and businessmen are also looking for ways to attract investment and expand trade to boost recovery in Europe, Djankov believed the Belt and Road Initiative can be "a significant contributor to economic growth in all Europe" in the next three years. Statistics released by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce showed Chinese enterprises directly invested a total of 14.82 billion U.S. dollars into 49 countries within the cooperation framework of the Belt and Road Initiative last year, up 18.2 percent compared with the previous year. ^ top ^

Credit Suisse looks past short term volatility to plot expansion plans for Qianhai, Asia Pacific (SCMP)
Tex Swiss lender Credit Suisse plans to continue expanding its business in mainland China – particularly in Qianhai, as well as the rest of Asia – despite the slowing economy, according to its Asia Pacific head. Helman Sitohang, chief executive of the Asia Pacific division of Credit Suisse, said the bank would continue to hire this year in Asia Pacific to support expansion of its private banking and investment banking services for mainland Chinese and other Asian clients. “We have a three year expansion plan from this year until 2018. We are not going to be affected by quarter to quarter market volatilities,” he said in an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post. Among his plans is the expansion of Credit Suisse's broking business in mainland China via its 33.3 per cent-owned securities joint venture, Credit Suisse Founder Securities, which has received approval to begin offering securities broking services in Qianhai later this year. It is the first foreign firm to gain approval to offer brokering services in the free trade zone, enabling it to offer trading of A-shares in the mainland and Hong Kong. The lender is one of the most active international banks trading Shanghai A-shares for clients via the Hong Kong and Shanghai stock connect scheme. Sitohang said Credit Suisse would further expand cross border trading when the Shenzhen and Hong Kong stock connect scheme is launched in the second half of this year. The bank also wants to hire a total of 800 relationship managers in Asia by 2018 to expand its private banking and asset management businesses, and increase its focus on serving the rising number of high net worth clients in Asia. Geographically, Sitohang wants to see expansion of Credit Suisse's business in mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South East Asia, India, as well as Australia, Japan and South Korea. The lender's expansion plans come as Hong Kong and China are experiencing an economic slowdown this year. “We are here for the long term and are not deterred by short term negative news,” he said. Even with the slowdown, Asia excluding Japan is still expected to see economic growth of about 5 per cent this year, which is still much higher than the US and Europe, Sitohang said. Credit Suisse also predicts the number of millionaires in Asia Pacific to rise by 66 per cent in the next five years. By 2020, 22 per cent of the world's millionaires will be located in Asia Pacific, up from the current 19 per cent. Sitohang said Asia Pacific is an important region for Credit Suisse. The division reported record revenues of 3.8 billion Swiss francs (HK$29.2 billion) last year, up 15 per cent year on year due to an increase in high-net-worth client activity and strong performance in equities sales and trading. Pre-tax income stood at 1.1 billion Swiss francs, up 27 per cent year on year. The bank also recorded net new assets under management of 17.8 billion Swiss francs last year, with 3 billion Swiss francs of net new assets generated in the fourth quarter alone. “This strong data shows that we have been able to maintain solid growth in net new assets from high net worth clients in the region,” Sitohang said. In terms of client segments, he said Credit Suisse would focus on high net worth individuals, institutional clients, ultra high net worth entrepreneurs and corporate clients. The Asia Pacific region has a total of 27,600 ultra high net worth clients with more than US$50 million in liquid assets, according to Credit Suisse's global wealth report published in October. Sitohang said many of these clients are entrepreneurs who need investment banking services as well as more traditional private banking services, such as succession planning to pass on wealth to the next generation. Credit Suisse is targeting business opportunities from these clients, and according to research it has developed on 900 family-owned companies around the world, with a minimum market capitalisation of US$1 billion, 76 per cent of them are in Asia. They include Hong Kong companies such as Cheung Kong Holdings, Henderson Land and Sun Hung Kai Properties. ^ top ^



DPRK leader guides ground test for heavy-lift, solid-fuel rocket engine (Xinhua)
The top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Kim Jong Un has guided a ground test for heavy-lift, solid-fuel rocket engine and its separation, the country's official news agency KCNA reported Thursday. The test was aimed at testing the structural safety and the thrust of the newly developed rocket engine and gauging the working specification of heat separation system, said KCNA. The test proved successful. The top leader, who was satisfied with the result, said this test helped boost the power of ballistic rockets and guaranteed achievement of goals for national defense science and technology this year. Kim emphasized that the test of the newly designed rocket engine and its separation is "of historical and strategic importance" as the engine is a product of self-reliance and self-development. On Monday, Kim guided a test firing of new-type, large-caliber multiple rocket launcher, the second time he has watched the test firing of the newly developed rocket launching system in a month. On March 3, Kim ordered the military to get nuclear warheads ready for use when needed at any time when he guided the test firing of the new-type rocket launcher for the first time. On March 10, the DPRK's top leader told all nuclear strike means of the strategic force to be ready for action when he watched a firing drill of ballistic rockets, which the Republic of Korea said were two short-range Scud missiles. These moves by Pyongyang came amid escalated tensions on the Korean Peninsula after South Korea and the United States started their joint annual war games "Key Resolve" and "Foal Eagle" on March 7. The Key Resolve drill ended Friday, but the Foal Eagle field training exercise would last until April 30. Pyongyang has repeatedly condemned and called for suspension of the joint military exercises, claiming they are "war rehearsals for northward invasion." ^ top ^

North Korea threatens a 'miserable end' for South (Global Times)
North Korea threatened a "miserable end" for South Korea's president and her American allies on Wednesday, in its latest worded attack. Pyongyang declared it would wage a "retaliatory battle of justice" against Park Geun-hye, with its artillery units standing ready to turn her office into a "sea of flames and ashes." "What the DPRK warns is not hot air. It will be clearly proved by the miserable end the US and the Park group will meet while going reckless," said the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK), using the official name for North Korea. South Korea and the US had also begun discussions on the possible deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, which China and Russia firmly ­opposes as THAAD's radar is capable of penetrating deep into the two countries. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said Wednesday that THAAD was "certainly not a simple technology issue." "At present, the situation on the Korean Peninsula is very complex and sensitive," Hua told a news briefing. "We hope the relevant country cautiously handles this issue, and we demand they do nothing to harm China's security interests." The latest volley comes as Seoul and ally Washington stage their annual Key Resolve and Foal Eagle military drills, which this year are the largest ever, in the wake of a recent North Korean nuclear test and long-range rocket launch. The massive drills, which ­include airstrike exercises targeting key facilities in the North, are a "thrice-cursed provocation" against Pyongyang's leadership, the CPRK said, according to the official KCNA news agency. Seoul urged the North to stop "base and vulgar" threats and warned of a "relentless retaliation" against any future provocations. "It would be a clear misjudgment on the North's side if the North believes that it can unnerve our government... with such ridiculous threats," Seoul's unification ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, said in a statement. In recent weeks, Pyongyang has maintained a string of nuclear strike threats against both Seoul and Washington over the drills it sees as a provocative rehearsal for invasion. Tensions have been high since the North carried out an atomic test in January, followed by series of missile launches. ^ top ^



National herders' forum calls for policy reform in the livestock sector (Montsame)
The National Best Herders' Forum - the largest annual gathering of herders in Mongolia - called on policymakers to embark on sectoral reforms focused on sustainable and inclusive development. The 2016 forum held in Ulaanbaatar on 17 March - co-hosted by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and SDC's Green Gold Project and drawing more than 650 participants - focused on the challenges being faced in the livestock and animal husbandry sector and possible solutions. It was published Tuesday on the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) website. Mongolia's Prime Minister Ch. Saikhanbileg, who was present at the opening, said the purpose of the forum was to listen to herders and ensure their voices were reflected in government policies. Speaker of Parliament Z. Enkhbold said livestock husbandry was the backbone of national food security and an income source for many people in years of economic downturn. Given the increasing demand for sustainably produced, organic livestock products in neighbouring markets in China, Mr Enkhbold highlighted the potential of Mongolia's natural rangeland-based livestock products to meet that demand. Minister for Food and Agriculture R. Burmaa spoke about the need to reorient livestock sector policy towards sustainable and inclusive development. Recommendations arising from the forum were delivered to Z. Enkhbold, including the promotion of livestock quality over quantity through the Best Herder programme, improvement of the rangeland management legal framework to secure traditional user rights for herder families, and adoption of the Law on Animal Health to improve market access to China. The majority of forum participants believed overstocking was the main cause of rangeland degradation, with consensus among herders on the need to improve livestock quality and productivity and access to markets as viable solutions. Gobi-Altai herder R. Batsukh said the forum allowed herders to meet face-to-face with policymakers and discuss the challenges of rangeland degradation and market access. The day after the forum, participants visited livestock product processing companies (cashmere, wool, hides/skins, dairy processing, meat) to explore possible future cooperation and learn about quality standards for the supply of raw materials. ^ top ^

Feasibilities being studied to open direct flight to USA (Montsame)
This news was published last Monday on the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) website. In connection with a preparation for opening the flight of the Mongolian national flag carrier--the Mongolian Airlines (MIAT), the CAA has commenced works to be passed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for being included in the CAT-1 category. If Mongolia is included in the CAT-1 category, the national airlines of Mongolia will perform scheduled flights to the USA and have own codes. The Ministry of Road and Transportation reports that the MIAT will also open flights to Pusan of South Korea this year. This flight is expected to start this summer with aircrafts B737, A321 and A320, while South Korea's Air Pusan will perform flights to Mongolia, therefore ticket prices might reduce, said the Ministry. According to the Air Astana CEO Peter Foster, the airline of Kazakhstan will open direct flight between Astana and Ulaanbaatar this June. In addition, the MIAT is expected to have a direct flight to Bangkok city. ^ top ^


Mrs. Laura Scaperrotta
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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