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
  5-9.12.2016, No. 650  
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Across China: Young Swiss dreams big in China (Xinhua)
Lucas Rondez, a 33-year-old Swiss, has it all: a Chinese name, a Chinese wife, and a burgeoning business based in eastern China's Zhejiang Province. For him, the Chinese dream has no boundaries. In Hangzhou, the provincial capital, it is common for a foreigner to open a mobile application called NiHao (meaning hello in Chinese), if they want to book train tickets and hotels or hail a car. Since Lucas and his team came up with NiHao last September, the number of registered members on the platform has exceeded 100,000. Besides the on-demand services, the app also offers instant translation, navigation, and event information. "China is now a land of opportunities, and you can realize your dream here," Lucas said in fluent Chinese. "You can always chase a dream in America, and now startups like mine can also take a chance in China." As well as going by the name Lucas, he also uses his Chinese name - Hong Zhiyuan, meaning high aspirations. Lucas worked at the United Bank of Switzerland when he first came to Hangzhou in 2007. After living in China for nine years, he knows the country well. "But for other foreigners who are new to the country, life can be inconvenient due to language obstacles and cultural differences," Lucas said. "They don't have to go through all the troubles I went through, in this Internet Plus age. Last year, he quit his job and started a business, leading a team of 20 people. "Starting a business is difficult and expensive in my country. But here in China, the government encourages it and supports you," he said. According to Lucas, the local government has given his team much support such as housing subsidies and lower taxes. Last month, he applied for a subsidy of 500,000 yuan (about 73,000 U.S. dollars) based on office space and salaries, according to new favorable policies. "Entrepreneurs are usually lonely. But here in Hangzhou, you are not alone, as many companies will come to your help," he added. Hangzhou is a city of startup workshops and all sorts of incubators, he said, adding that entrepreneurs can always learn experience from successful startups and meet potential investors. Venture capital companies also keep a close relationship with startups. Last month, Lucas's team launched a new app called "Nibook" in Hangzhou, Shanghai and Qingdao, all megacities along China's eastern coast. On Nibook, Chinese and foreigners can have lessons in languages, painting, football, and baking, etc. "I hope that all foreigners in China can live a happy life and realize their Chinese dream with my apps removing language barriers and making their life in China more convenient," he said. ^ top ^


Foreign Policy

Spotlight: Trump chooses "old friend of Chinese people" as ambassador in Beijing (Xinhua)
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has nominated Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, who boasts a 30-year relationship with China, to be the next U.S. ambassador in Beijing, a spokesman for Trump said Wednesday. "The governor has a lot of experience and grasp of trade issues, agriculture issues and the understanding of China," Jason Miller told reporters. Branstad, an early supporter of Trump, met with the president-elect in New York on Tuesday. He has accepted the offer, according to media reports. "He's someone who has very much impressed President-elect Trump not just during the meetings but also on the campaign trail," Miller said. "We couldn't be prouder of the selection." "It's very clear that Governor Branstad is someone who'll represent our country well on the world stage," he added. Branstad, 70, has long nurtured a close relationship with China, having visited China multiple times. He served as the governor of Iowa between 1983 and 1999, and again since 2011. In 1985, Xi Jinping, then party secretary of Zhengding County in the Chinese province of Hebei, led an agricultural delegation to Iowa and stayed with a local family for two days. Branstad, the Iowa governor at the time, met Xi for the first time and hosted Xi and his colleagues warmly. During his visit to the United States in 2012, Xi, then Chinese vice president, went to Iowa for a reunion with the family that hosted his delegation 27 years ago. Branstad and Xi met again on the occasion. During Xi's state visit to the United States in September 2015, Branstad flew to Washington to take part in a welcoming banquet for the Chinese president. Pundits believed Branstad's expertise on China and friendship with Chinese and U.S. leaders would facilitate him in lubricating the development of the most important bilateral relationship in the global political arena. His longtime relationship with China could help smooth things out. His personal touch could go a long way in avoiding conflicts caused by miscommunication or misinterpretation. It is widely believed that the nomination sent a positive signal to the development of the China-U.S. relations amid a mixture of messages from Trump over his attitude toward China. ^ top ^

China should build more nukes to prepare for Trump, says outspoken tabloid (SCMP)
China should “significantly” increase military spending and build more nuclear weapons as a response to US President-elect Donald Trump, an editorial in the nationalistic Global Times newspaper said on Thursday. China should “build more strategic nuclear arms and accelerate the deployment of the DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile” to protect its interests, should Trump attempt to corner the country in an “unacceptable way”, it said. “China's military spending in 2017 should be augmented significantly,” it added in the editorial that appeared in both its English and Chinese editions. Although the tabloid is part of the People's Daily group,and has close ties to the ruling Communist Party, its views are not strictly official. Chinese officials are sometimes thought to use it as a rhetorical hammer, but have also admonished it for its often bombastic language. Trump frequently savaged China on the campaign trail, even calling it America's “enemy” and pledging to stand up to a country he says views the US as a pushover. But he has also indicated he is not interested in projecting US power away from home, saying America is sick of paying to defend allies like Japan and South Korea – even suggesting they should develop their own nuclear weapons. The editorial follows a Twitter tirade by Trump earlier in the week blasting China's trade and foreign policies, as well as a protocol-shattering decision to accept a congratulatory phone call from Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen. Beijing regards Taiwan as a rogue province awaiting unification. In the editorial, the Global Times said: “We need to get better prepared militarily regarding the Taiwan question to ensure that those who advocate Taiwan's independence will be punished, and take precautions in case of US provocations in the South China Sea.” On Wednesday, Trump selected Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, who has close ties to Chinese President Xi Jinping dating back to the mid-1980s, as ambassador to China – potentially welcome news for Beijing, which called him an “old friend” upon receiving reports of his nomination. Nevertheless, the state-owned English-language China Daily newspaper remained pessimistic about the future of relations with the US. A Thursday editorial said that though the Asian giant had thus far responded to Trump with “laudable” prudence, further provocations from the unpredictable politician would jeopardise Sino-US ties. “China has to prepare for the worst,” it said. “What has happened over the past weeks tends to suggest that Sino-US relations are facing uncertainty as never before, as Trump's words are not necessarily more bark than bite.” ^ top ^

China 'willing to work with Trump on cybersecurity' (SCMP)
China's top security official has informed Washington that Beijing is looking forward to working with the Trump administration on cybersecurity, a delicate and thorny issue in China-US ties, state media reported. The olive branch was extended in Washington on Wednesday by Guo Shengkun, a State Councillor and China's public security minister, when he was meeting US Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Loretta Lynch for the third round of cybercrime talks, a dialogue agreed by President Xi Jinping and US President Barrack Obama in September last year. Beijing and Washington have been pointing the finger at each other for years over cybersecurity, accusing each other of hacking and stealing trade secrets. Beijing suspended the two nations' only cybersecurity working group in 2014 after Washington indicted five People's Liberation Army officers for allegedly stealing trade secrets. It is still unclear whether president-elect Donald Trump will raise concerns with China over cybersecurity while in office. Trump wrote on Twitter four years ago that “the Chinese are now hacking White House computers. Why not? They already own the place.” In a debate with Hillary Clinton on the presidential election trail, Trump dismissed her claims of Russian hacking, saying “She's saying Russia, Russia, Russia. Maybe it was. It could be Russia but it could be China could be somebody that sits on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.” Public Security Minister Guo said cybersecurity cooperation had become “a new highlight in bilateral relations” between the US and China after Xi and Obama created a mechanism for the two nations to discuss crimes in cyberspace. “Both sides should treat this dialogue mechanism as the chief channel for communication over cyber issues to focus on cooperation, manage disputes and respond to each other's concerns in a timely and effective way,” Guo was quoted as saying by the state-run Xinhua news agency. “China is willing to make continuous efforts with the current administration and the new administration team to seek further development in bilateral cooperation over cybersecurity,” he added. Allegations of hacking, however, still remain. In the latest case, the US magazine Fortune reported on Wednesday that a series of security breaches that struck prestigious law firms last year was carried out by people with ties to the Chinese government. Beijing has repeatedly stated that China is a “victim” of hacking and the Chinese authorities always oppose “cyber attacks in any form”. ^ top ^

How a Midwest governor rose to become America's top official in China (SCMP)
Terry Branstad, who has accepted the offer as the United States' next ambassador to China, will rise from humble Midwest politician to a place on the world stage – handling the complex yet far-reaching relationship between the world's two most powerful nations – once his appointment is confirmed by the US Senate. The 70-year-old Republican governor, who has devoted much of his career to his state of Iowa, and has no prior diplomatic experience, may not seem like an obvious choice for US envoy in Beijing. But his personal relationship with President Xi Jinping as his “longtime friend” could be one major reason why he was chosen by US president-elect Donald Trump for the crucial role. Branstad was also an early backer of Trump's presidential campaign and helped the Republican candidate win the state of Iowa. Trump called Branstad “our prime candidate to take care of China” two days before the election at a rally in the state. “Governor Branstad's decades of experience in public service and long-time relationship with President Xi Jinping and other Chinese leaders make him the ideal choice to serve as America's ambassador to China,” Trump said in a statement after the appointment was announced. In his new role, the Iowa governor may have to leave behind his links with the Freemasons group, which has been banned on the mainland. Branstad is listed as a member of a chapter of the secretive group in Des Moines, Iowa, the Associated Press reported. His spokesman, Ben Hammes, declined to discuss Branstad's membership of the Masons. The Freemasons group – an international order established for mutual help and fellowship – has long been a target for conspiracy theories about its members plotting control over the world order. The group's presence in mainland China was wiped out after the Communist Party took power in 1949. Only Taiwan and Hong Kong still host Masonic lodges today. The group's colonial roots and its secret meetings had contributed to the Chinese government's disapproval, Brent Morris, a Master Mason and writer of The Idiot's Guide to Freemasonry, was quoted as saying by the report. Branstad's friendship with Xi goes back decades to 1985 when Xi was visiting Iowa as a young provincial official to learn about US agriculture. The governor of the nation's leading producer of pork, corn, soybeans and eggs, developed a strong bond with Xi as a result of the two's mutual interest in farming. Branstad welcomed Xi in Iowa again in February 2012 when he was China's vice president with an elaborate dinner held in his honour in the state capital, Des Moines. Branstad said at the time that he believed Xi was capable of settling long-standing sources of friction between their two nations. “When you see someone like Xi Jinping, who is very honest and sincere and has long-time friends in Iowa, I think it's going to help reassure people that we can trust and work with him to try to work out something,” he said. Branstad, who is the longest serving governor in US history but has never sought higher office, also spoke about his friend's high-flying career path. He was re-elected as governor in November 2010 and assumed office in January 2011 – after having served as governor from 1983 to 1999. “I'm back where I was. I'm back [as] governor again,” Branstad said in 2012, before Xi's trip to Iowa while vice-president. “But Xi has risen from just a local leader to being the next leader of China. He has made great progress, and I am back where I was.” Xi was careful during the trip not to touch on anything to do with the leadership transition in Beijing, which was due to be held in late 2012. He was then elevated to become China's Communist Party chief. “He is careful about not assuming anything,” Branstad said after Xi's visit to Iowa. “He is very careful to respect the fact that he is not the president and I think he is very politically astute.” During his near 21 years in office, Branstad, the son of a small-town farmer in Iowa, has become known for his down-to-earth style of leadership and steady political career in which he has managed to remain relevant for more than three decades amid a changing political landscape in the US. Branstad will reunite with his old friend Xi at a time of great uncertainty in Sino-US ties, with Trump a frequent critic of China's government. The governor was initially said to be reluctant about the prospect of serving as ambassador, citing his seven grandchildren in Iowa and his existing duties. But his week-long trade mission to China just days after Trump's election win and his meeting with Trump in New York on Tuesday added to speculation that he was the sure candidate for the role. The Iowa governor's strong ties with Xi have led to increased exports from the state to China. China is Iowa's second-largest export market, behind Canada. The state exported US$2.3 billion in goods and US$273 million in services to China last year, according to the US-China Business Council. Whether such a fruitful relationship can be extended to a national level under Branstad's guidance remains to be seen. After Xi's 2012 Iowa visit, Branstad led his third trade mission in April 2013 to China, visiting Beijing, Tianjin, Baoding and Shijianzhuang. The trip included a face-to-face meeting with Xi. Branstad met Xi again last year during the Chinese president's visit to Seattle. ^ top ^

China "highly values" peace, stability in South China Sea: envoy says (Xinhua)
"China highly values the peace and stability in the South China Sea" and has "always taken a constructive and responsible approach in addressing the issue," a senior Chinese diplomat said here Wednesday. Wu Haitao, the deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, said this at the 71st UN General Assembly on Oceans and the Law of the Sea. Thanks to the joint efforts of China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries, the situation in the South China Sea is developing in a positive direction and has been brought back to the right track of dialogues and consultations, he noted. "We hope that states concerned will work together with China to seek a solution to the dispute through negotiations and consultations and maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea," Wu said. "The so-called 'Arbitration on the South China Sea' was null and void with no binding power whatsoever," he said. "China does not accept it, did not participate in it and does not recognize it to uphold the international rule of law. That page of the so-called 'arbitration' has been turned over," he said. China will, as always, act as a defender of the rule of the international maritime law, a builder of a harmonious maritime order and a promoter of the sustainable marine development, he said. "We look forward to continuing to strengthen cooperation with all countries in order to further promote the protection and sustainable use of the oceans and seas." ^ top ^

Another cargo train linking China, Europe begins operations (Xinhua)
A cargo train linking central Chinese city of Wuhan and Europe began operating on Thursday, local authorities said. The train, loaded with auto parts and electronic products, departed from Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province, on Thursday morning. It will pass Manzhouli in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Russia, Belarus and Poland, before reaching its destination in Germany, a route that spans about 12,000 km, according to Wuhan Asia-Europe Logistics (WAE), which operates the trains. "The route will help Wuhan export products to Russia, Belarus, Central Asia and Eastern Europe," an official with the WAE said. Wuhan currently has 12 international routes for similar cargo trains. ^ top ^

China-made ultra-quick-charge bus operational in Austria (Xinhua)
A China-made turbo-charge trolley bus, with a battery that takes just 30 seconds to be fully charged, has begun trials in Austria. The 18-meter bus, is being tested on a 3,500-meter test route in south Austria's Graz City on Tuesday (local time). The bus is capable of carrying 135 passengers and can recharge while it stops for passengers to board and alight, meaning it is able to run 24 hours a day. CRRC Zhuzhou Locomotive Co. made the trolley bus. In the past it has installed a super-capacitor onto metro trains and created a super-capacitor light rail train. Two of the trolley buses, which have a 12-year life cycle, have been exported to Graz and will be put into use officially in January next year. ^ top ^

Aussie state premier says China-Australia FTA example of benefits of globalization (Xinhua)
Other nations could learn a lot from Australia's willingness to embrace globalization, the Premier of the Australian state of Victoria said on Thursday. Premier Daniel Andrews told the Boao Forum For Asia that encouraging further globalization in an increasingly "isolationist" political climate was vital to future global prosperity, and that foreign leaders only have to look to Australia's lead to recognize the vast benefits of embracing globalization. The Boao Forum is an opportunity for economic, business and political leaders to discuss "The Future of Globalization," and Andrews lauded the leading role Australia has played in encouraging the movement, through free trade deals, education opportunities and tourism. He said the benefits of Australia's free trade deal with China were obvious to see, and multilateral international cooperation could open a lot of doors for further opportunities in the region. "The China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) is one (positive) example," Andrews told the forum. "If we can get (agreements like this) done in a bilateral way, we can improve partnerships for the benefit of everybody involved. "They might be stronger if they were of a multilateral nature but ultimately we're committed to making the most of the arrangements we have. I think ChAFTA, and other free trade deals in the region, are a model for what can be achieved." Andrews said the current political landscape was challenging for proponents of globalization, but added that embracing the global push would help and not hinder the global economy. "It would seem that while there might have been support for things like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) a year ago, but things have changed," the premier said. "The important thing is to remember that globalization, open markets, open dialogue and shared investment are critical to prosperity and growth for the future. You simply cannot achieve what we want to achieve if we don't work together. "It's become fashionable to question globalization, and that's been something under close examination in many parts of the world of recent times." He believed that this "isolationist" agenda seemed to be quite popular at the moment, but benefited no one. Meanwhile Secretary General of the Boao Forum Zhou Wenzhong agreed with Andrews' sentiment, telling the forum that "globalization has been an important driving force for the global economy," while former Chinese Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan hailed the relationship between Australia and China. "Both China and Australia are active promoters of globalization," he said. ^ top ^

China donates mobile clinics to Kenya as health cooperation deepens (Xinhua)
The Chinese government, through the ministry of science and technology, on Wednesday donated four modular container clinics to the Kenyan ministry of health to boost response to killer diseases in underserved Kenyan regions. Developed by an institute under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the state-of-the-art mobile clinics will deliver advanced health care services to disadvantaged communities in Kenya. Speaking at the handover ceremony of the mobile health facilities in Nairobi, the Economic Counselor at the Chinese Embassy in Kenya, Guo Ce, said that Sino-Kenya bilateral cooperation in healthcare delivery had reached a critical milestone. "The modular container clinic project is an important step under the program for healthcare science and technology," Guo remarked, adding that customized mobile containers could be a respite to healthcare delivery challenges in remote parts of Kenya. The mobile clinics are assembled using modern Chinese technology and their design is sensitive to the local environment in Kenya. These facilities, which will be operational from February next year, will offer convenient screening and treatment of fatal ailments that blights communities in marginalized areas. Guo said the donation of container modular clinics reaffirmed China's commitment to helping African countries improve health care services against a backdrop of a rising burden of infections and lifestyle diseases. Errol King, Director of Synergy Innovations Limited that has partnered with the Chinese to implement the modular container clinic project in Kenya, said the project will offer durable solution to the country's endemic health care provision challenges. ^ top ^

Philippine Congress confirms nomination of new envoy to China (Xinhua)
The Philippine Congress, acting as the Commission on Appointments (CA), approved Wednesday the nomination of Jose Santiago "Chito" L. Santa Romana to be the country's new ambassador to China. Without any opposition from the members of the CA composed of some senators and congressmen, Sta. Romana was confirmed during the plenary session. According to Senator Vicente Sotto III, the incoming envoy to Beijing is very much qualified to the post. "He is the perfect nomination ... Chito is a China specialist. Assigning him to China is like throwing a fish in the water," he said. Sta. Romana lived in China for a long time. The Philippine government will formally communicate to China Sta. Romana's appointment to the post after getting the CA's nod. ^ top ^

China calls for Japan's correct attitude towards war crimes (Xinhua)
China on Wednesday responded to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's planned Pearl Harbor visit by calling on Japan to take a correct attitude towards Japanese militarism and its crimes against humanity. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said it is very important to maintain justice and the post-war international order, and very important for Japan to take a correct attitude towards history in order to win the trust of people of China and other Asian countries that have been victimized. Abe announced Monday that he will visit Pearl Harbor later this month to mourn the victims of the Japanese surprise attack 75 years ago. However, Abe's top spokesperson, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, made it clear that during Abe's visit that "no apology would be offered" for the attack on Pearl Harbor. Lu said the war launched by Japanese militarists brought catastrophe to people of regional countries, especially Asian countries. "The international community pays close attention to whether Japan has a sincere and correct attitude towards that period of history," he told a routine press briefing. Regarding opinions in Japan that Abe should visit the Memorial Hall of the Victims in Nanjing Massacre, Lu said that if Japanese side wishes to reflect on its history and offer a sincere apology, there are many places in China for them to do so. Aside from Nanjing, there is a museum dedicated to the history of the September 18 Incident in 1931, which marks the beginning of the 14-year Japanese invasion of China, and the site of the former Army Unit 731, the Japanese army's biological and chemical warfare unit, Lu said. "There are also many places in other neighboring countries, reminding Japan and the international community that Japan's war crimes against humanity cannot be forgotten, and history cannot be distorted," he said. The Chinese people will never forget the victims of the Nanjing Massacre and enormous sacrifice during the war against Japanese aggression, just as the American people will not forget the Pearl Harbor attack, the spokesperson added. ^ top ^

China, Japan to hold talks on maritime affairs (Xinhua)
China and Japan will hold the sixth round of high-level consultations on maritime affairs this week in Haikou, capital of China's southern Hainan Province. Officials from both countries' foreign ministries, defense ministries and other government organs, including marine law enforcement and management departments, will attend the talks, lasting from Wednesday to Friday, according to foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang. China stands ready to exchange opinions on maritime-related issues with the Japanese side and strengthen understanding and mutual trust, Lu said at a daily press briefing. The China-Japan high-level consultations on maritime affairs were set up in January 2012, with the first round of talks held in May of the same year in Hangzhou, capital of eastern China's Zhejiang Province. The fifth round of consultations was held this September in Japan's Hiroshima, with the two sides agreeing to speed up negotiations on air and maritime contact. ^ top ^

Experts said there's no need for discipline inspectors to torture suspects (Global Times)
Experts slammed as "evil intention" a human rights report released on Tuesday which said many Chinese were tortured in the country's ongoing anti-graft campaign. According to the report released by US-based Human Rights Watch, the "war on corruption" in China had used inhumane measures to coerce many to confess. However, experts specializing in anti-corruption said the report arrived at a conclusion without thorough study and made with evil intentions. Su Wei, a professor at the Party School of the CPC Chongqing Committee, told the Global Times that the report reflects a biased mindset in interpreting China's political activities while turning a blind eye to China's progress on human rights in recent years. "The Party has strict regulations on discipline violations, as well as on the supervision of inspectors. Those who take 'abnormal' measures to force confessions will be harshly punished," said Su. In addition, it is unnecessary for discipline inspectors to use extreme measures to force confessions, as their mission is not to replace judicial organs to convict the suspects, Li Yunlong, a professor at the Party School of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, told the Global Times. Su added that while some Western values hold human rights above everything, Party discipline is stricter than laws and regulations in China, and the interests of the public should always come first. Corrupt officials and relatives cited in the report, many of whom used pseudonyms, likely exaggerated their experience to attract media attention and downplay their corrupt behaviors, said Li. Experts noted that the report showed an insufficient understanding of China's anti-corruption measures. According to the report, the suspected corrupt officials were often "detained" in hostels or training facilities for Party cadres, which the report concluded as evidence of "abuses." However, Su noted that some discipline investigators intentionally choose hostels as those places are safer, more convenient, and also free from unnecessary disturbance. Li, however, noted that criticism and questions are also valuable for China to further carry on its anti-corruption campaign and conduct intra-Party supervision, as unlawful behavior may still happen in some areas. Two documents, namely the norms of political life within the Party under the new situation and a regulation on intra-Party supervision, were approved at the Sixth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee in October, which analysts said could also help curb the wrongdoings during the corruption campaign. A total of 196,947 Party and government staff have been punished for violating austerity rules since late 2012, China's top anti-graft body announced on Saturday. ^ top ^

US, China, EU and others fail to reach environmental goods deal (SCMP)
Forty-six countries including the US, China and European Union nations failed on Sunday to agree on a list of “environmental goods” like solar-powered air conditioners or LED light bulbs that could see lower tariffs. The two-day meeting at the World Trade Organisation involved a bid to agree on reducing tariffs on over 200 environment-friendly goods worth around US$1 trillion in trade annually, part of a process that EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom called important “to show that trade and the environment can go hand in hand”. She and other officials said China's presentation of a late list of goods to include threw a wrench into the weekend negotiations. The talks amounted to just a step in a broader process on the Environmental Goods Agreement that was already facing uncertainty about how the incoming administration of US president-elect Donald Trump will approach it. “In the last seconds, China proposed a list that was not studied enough,” Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci said on Sunday. “Many countries, they have concerns about the list.” Zeybekci cited other concerns about sustainable-development lumber between Canada and New Zealand on one side and Japan and Taiwan on another. The United States and the European Union, who chaired the talks, said in a joint statement that envoys would return home to consider the next steps, but did not provide any timetable. “We tried really hard,” Malmstrom told reporters, adding that all negotiators were leaving “with clear determination to do this deal ... This is important for the environment, for the climate, for our moral obligation to show that trade can deliver after the Paris and Marrakech agreements” to help fight global warming. The Europe trade negotiator blamed China for scuppering the global environmental trade deal. “China came in with their list, bringing in totally new elements of perspective, which was very late in the process,” Malmstrom said. The change of US president also puts a big question mark over the future prospects for a deal. European resistance to Chinese bicycle imports has also been a stumbling block, although Malmstrom said bicycles had become totemic for China and nobody else, and the agreement went far wider, adding that the EU had “quite cheap bicycles already”. Another senior negotiator said the last-ditch Chinese effort affected priority items for many other nations. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to provide details of the talks, said China's new list – which was lopsided in favour of its own priorities – came in at 11am on Sunday when others had already agreed upon many other points. “All delegations had some of their red lines moved in or moved out in a way that it was impossible to deal with in a couple of hours,” Malmstrom said, referring to China's proposal. China's Ministry of Commerce said in a statement Beijing had made great efforts to show the flexibility needed to effectively solve the participants' core concerns, but the meeting failed due to “differences on key issues”. US ambassador to the WTO Michael Punke told reporters: “The United States worked hard to find a creative path to a successful EGA agreement. Unfortunately not all participants were ready to contribute to success.” Malmstrom said she had no idea what U.S. President-elect Donald Trump thought about environmental matters, but she hoped the United States would be “on board”. Any deal would need the backing of countries responsible for about 90 per cent of the trade in the products, so a US absence would kill the talks. But the participants, who include Canada, Japan, Israel, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand, have not yet decided which products should be part of the hoped-for Environmental Goods Agreement. The discussion included products for clean and renewable energy, energy efficiency, controlling air pollution, managing waste, treating waste water, monitoring the quality of the environment, and combatting noise pollution, the WTO said. Jake Colvin, vice-president for global trade issues at the National Foreign Trade Council, said the failure was a missed opportunity that was “disappointing to the American business community”. “To paraphrase Dickens, China's offences carry their own punishment,” he added. “China missed a golden opportunity to address its environmental challenges and to claim a share of leadership on global trade.” ^ top ^

Xi calls for smaller but more capable army (Xinhua)
Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for a smaller army with better combat capability and optimized structure as the military reform deepens. Xi, who is also chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) and head of a leading group for deepening reform on national defense and the armed forces, made the remarks at a two-day conference on military reform, which ended Saturday. "This is a major, inevitable change," Xi told the meeting. "We must seize the opportunity and make breakthroughs." The president said changes must be made if China is to build a strong world-class army. Xi announced in September last year that the armed forces would be cut down by 300,000 troops from the original 2.3 million. Citing rapid changes to the global military environment, Xi spoke about the informationized modern warfare, noting that joint operations have grown to be the basic form of combat. "Accordingly, there have been new changes in terms of the military's size, structure, and formation, which features smaller in size, more capable in strength, modulization and multi-functionality, with scientific factors playing bigger roles," Xi said. The president, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, said the military's structure must be readjusted and optimized, new type of forces be developed, the ratios between different types of forces be rationalized, and the number and the scale of the military be downsized. The Chinese army must grow into modern armed forces with Chinese characteristics, which can win informationized wars and implement their missions, the president said. "Quantity should be reduced, quality improved to build a capable and efficient modernized standing army," Xi said, adding that China must develop a joint operation force system with the elite force at its core. Xi also urged the armed force to take the reform as a major political issue, strengthen rules and disciplines in the work, and further purge the pernicious influence of Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou, two corrupt former CMC vice chairmen. A total of 230 high-ranking military officials, including members of the CMC, attended the meeting. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

Xi calls for strengthened ideological work in colleges (Xinhua)
Chinese President Xi Jinping has said ideological work in colleges should be integrated into the entire education process, underlining the need of firm Party leadership in higher education. Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the remarks at a two-day meeting on ideological and political work in China's universities and colleges, which concluded Thursday. Members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee Liu Yunshan, Wang Qishan and Zhang Gaoli attended the meeting, together with other senior officials and college officials. As higher education is a key factor in a country's development potential, it is urgent for China to improve the quality of its higher education, Xi said. China's unique history, culture and national conditions have dictated the development path for higher education and colleges featuring socialism with Chinese characteristics, according to Xi. As higher education shoulders the major responsibility of cultivating successors for the socialist cause, it must adhere to correct political orientation, Xi said, adding that only by cultivating first-class talent can universities become world-class institutions. Improving the ability to cultivate talent is the core work of higher education and must be the focus, Xi said. "China's higher education institutions are under the leadership of the CPC, and are socialist colleges with Chinese characteristics, so higher education must be guided by Marxism, and the Party's policies in education must be fully carried out," said Xi. The president called for greater efforts to teach Marxist theory to help students lay an ideological foundation for their lives. Ideological and political work is fundamentally work about individuals, Xi said. The work must focus on students, caring for them, serving them, and helping them improve in ideological quality, political awareness, moral characteristics and humanistic quality to enable them to develop both ability and integrity, according to Xi. "Students should be educated to be aware of the development trends of China and the world at large," Xi said, adding that they should develop firm beliefs and confidence in lofty communist ideals and socialism with Chinese characteristics. "Students should be encouraged to integrate their own ideals and pursuits into the cause of the nation," Xi said, urging colleges to educate their students to be bold trailblazers and "translate their ideals into concrete actions." Xi stressed that colleges should make full use of classroom teaching, strengthening teaching on ideological and political theory through reforms to make ideological and political education more appealing. Xi urged college teachers to be "disseminators of advanced ideology and culture" and "staunch supporters of governance by the Party," so that they can better guide students in their growth. Adherence to the Party's leadership is essential to the development of higher education in the country, Xi said, calling for efforts to ensure firm Party leadership in the field and "build colleges into strongholds that adhere to Party leadership." Xi called on Party authorities to prioritize the ideological and political work in colleges and strengthen their leadership in the field. Party authorities should increase their contact with intellectuals in colleges, befriend them and sincerely listen to their opinions, Xi said. Xi stressed the importance of the leadership of college Party committees, asking them to strengthen the construction of grass-roots Party organizations and improve their ability in ideological and political work. Hailing the contributions made by college staff involved in ideological and political work, the president called for more efforts to foster qualified officials and teachers for colleges. Liu Yunshan said that Xi's remarks are guidelines on ideological and political work for colleges under the current circumstances, urging authorities to act accordingly. Liu also called on authorities to realize the significance of improving the ideological and political work and uphold the Party's leadership over colleges. ^ top ^

Oscar push for documentary puts Chinese activist 'Hooligan Sparrow' in the spotlight (SCMP)
When Ye Haiyan held up a poster that declared “women's rights are dead in China” on a beach on the southern island of Hainan more than three years ago, she had no idea the gesture would end up in a film among the Oscar finalists for best documentary. The 80-minute Hooligan Sparrow – the title is Ye's nickname – focuses on her and fellow activists' efforts to get justice for six girls who were taken by their principal to a hotel in Hainan and raped in 2013. He was later jailed for 13½ years. The film by director Nanfu Wang also documents the harassment that followed, including threats and violence towards Ye and her teenage daughter by police and thugs as the pair were forced from their rented homes in Guangxi and Guangdong. “Although I was only being evicted and did not encounter physical violence as brutal as what other dissidents have experienced, the approaches used by security men were enough to shock the world: they trampled on the law, on human rights, and even produced fake evidence, fabricated rumours and publicly degraded me. Perhaps this is why the film was able to win so many awards,” Ye said in a statement published on Thursday, after the list of 15 finalists was announced on Wednesday. Ye, 41, first drew public attention in 2012 with a campaign for rights for the mainland's sex workers. Since then, she has been speaking up for women's rights and remains an outspoken critic of the government, despite having been put under surveillance in her hometown of Wuhan and having her passport confiscated in 2014. Ye and her daughter now lived on the outskirts of Beijing and were prohibited from organising or participating in social activities, she said in a phone interview. She said the international attention from the documentary's shortlisting might make the Chinese government “uncomfortable”, but that she was not worried about the consequences. “I hope the Chinese Communist Party [CCP] can acknowledge the mistakes they made and I'm willing to make progress together with the government,” she said. “The conflicts between the Chinese public and their government ... can only be resolved by face-to-face communication. Of course, the CCP has always been standing arrogantly in the master's place and giving me – a petty citizen at the bottom of society – the cold shoulder. But no matter what the CCP does, I will retain my sincere and positive attitude.” The five nominees for best Oscar documentary will be announced on January 24. ^ top ^

How China's quick blue-sky fixes make pollution worse (SCMP)
Blue skies created by short-term air pollution fixing campaigns ahead of political events are usually followed by a dramatic deterioration in air quality – often worse than before – when the events are over, a study has found. In the first study of the side effects of such clean air drives, the authors also found they are now used widely by local governments across the nation, apparently inspired by similar moves from central authorities ahead of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing in 2014 and a grand military parade a year later, said lead author Guo Feng from Peking University. Local governments often made it their mission to ensure clear skies during major political events, only to focus on economic development afterwards, resulting in the return of the pollution, according to the paper published in the journal China Industrial Economics. Mainland citizens, growing more frustrated with poor air quality, invent sarcastic descriptions of the drastic steps to clean air for political events, such as “APEC blue” – which convey the impression that the efforts would not be long-lasting. President Xi Jinping said he checked Beijing's pollution first thing every morning during the APEC summit, and was confident the blue sky would not be short-lived. The academic paper was published in May, but caught public attention on social media lately as northern China is once again shrouded in winter smog. The authors examined official air quality data in 189 mainland cities from December 2013 to March 2016 during their annual legislative and political consultation sessions, usually taking place in January or February. The Average Air Quality Index during the annual political sessions in these cities, which last about five days, was about 4.8 per cent lower than average levels during that time of the year. But readings during the five days following the political meetings turned out to be 8.2 per cent higher than average levels, suggesting the deterioration was worse than the improvement, according to the paper. The remedial plans usually include temporarily shutting down polluting factories and taking vehicles off the roads. “There tends to be a 'retaliatory pollution' period after political meetings when factories maximize production to compensate economic losses during the ordered shut down,” said Guo. “Our findings suggest that while 'political blue sky' is easy to achieve with short-term fixes, it comes with a heavy price of worsening pollution, and cannot truly solve the smog problem.” Guo said the paper's findings are deemed too sensitive by some mainland media outlets who do not want “a public discussion” on the issue. He said the study was inspired by “APEC blue” and “military parade blue” in 2014 and 2015, when Beijing's air quality was so good that the public created nicknames in their honour. The first large-scale clean-up measures on the mainland took place ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. About 10 months before the event, dirty factories in six provinces around Beijing were ordered to close or partly halt production. These were in addition to Beijing's efforts to move major polluters – including a large steel mill – to Hebei province. Yet Peking University professor Chen Songxi said relocating Beijing's factories to Hebei was a main factor in the capital's current smog crisis. Authorities underestimated how much pollution would be transmitted from Hebei to Beijing. ^ top ^

Yunnan tears down makeshift border school for fleeing Burmese children (Global Times)
A makeshift school set up at a resettlement camp in China to escape conflicts in Kokang, Myanmar has been demolished for "running against the law" in Gengma Dai and Wa Autonomous County, Lincang, Southwest China's Yunnan Province. The three bamboo scaffold classrooms of the No.1 Guohua (Kokang-China) Primary School, which was a study group run by Chinese volunteers, was damaged by some 10 unidentified men at around 11 am on December 1, several days after local police officers and education authorities conducted an investigation, Guo Lunfeng, a volunteer teacher at the school, told the Global Times on Thursday. The school, opened in March, was located at a camp for Burmese near Jianshan village, Gengma, with some five volunteers teaching 183 students Chinese and math. "Students of higher grades are now teaching themselves in the camp and teachers organize younger children to study in the open air, but the gathering was also forbidden," Guo said. Besides, four other similar schools for Kokang children in Gengma and nearby Zhenkang county, Yunnan may also be closed by local authorities, Guo added. The schools' organizers failed to apply to the county government, so they are considered illegal. The government has investigated the situation and prohibited the school at the Jianshan village camp, an anonymous official from the education department of Gengma county, told the Global Times on Thursday. "Sympathy cannot replace the law and regulations," the official said. He also suggested the school organizers for Kokang children consult with related departments and apply for accreditation. "But it is unrealistic for the Chinese government to resettle the children because it would cause conflicts between China and Myanmar," he said. In February and March 2015, 60,000 Kokang residents fled from armed conflicts to Lincang, the Beijing Youth Daily reported. "In the 20 or 30 Kokang camps at the border area of Lincang, around 2,000 children were dropped from the school because of the conflicts since late 2014," Guo said, adding that the volunteers hope the children could return to school as soon as possible. ^ top ^

CPC tightens criteria for congress delegates (Global Times)
To prepare for a closely-watched Communist Party congress next year that is set to change the makeup of the top leadership, China is selecting Party delegates with more rigorous standards, vowing zero tolerance for corruption and political disloyalty. "Delegates to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) should be extraordinary members of the Party … political standards are the primary criteria for selecting delegates, and their beliefs, political integrity and moral standards will be examined … They must also be loyal and have successfully implemented the central authorities' decisions," read a commentary released on the People's Daily on Wednesday. The article also stressed that all candidates will be subject to anti-graft screening to prevent questionable candidates from being nominated. "Emphasizing political soundness and moral standards has always been a priority on selecting delegates. It is consistent with one theme of the upcoming 19th CPC National Congress - comprehensively strengthen Party discipline," Su Wei, a professor at the Party School of the Chongqing Committee, told the Global Times. The election of delegates to the 19th CPC National Congress, which is scheduled to be held in the second half of 2017, began in November and will end in June 2017, according to Xinhua. A total of 2,300 delegates will be elected by 40 electoral units across the country. "Selecting capable delegates is significant for the meeting since it is expected to summarize experiences from the past five years, map out new guidelines for the Party and the country, and elect a new central leadership," Zhuang Deshui, a deputy director of the Research Center for Government Integrity-Building at Peking University, told the Global Times on Wednesday. The chosen delegates will be responsible for interpreting new plans from the people and implementing the plan, as the meeting is expected to make progress on the Party constitution and develop guidelines for deepening reforms and directing the way to realize "the Chinese Dream," Zhuang said. The delegates will hear and examine reports from the CPC Central Committee and the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), listen to Party members and the public, discuss and decide on major Party issues, and elect a new CPC central committee and a new CCDI, according to a guideline released by the CPC Central Committee in November. Better delegates According to the Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee, which is responsible for personnel management, the election will strongly emphasize discipline and rules, and a zero-tolerance attitude will be adopted against those who breach disciplines and rules. The department said that election fraud cases in Liaoning, Hunan and Sichuan provinces should be cited to alert people against misconduct. "The selection of clean delegates is also a way to further tighten Party discipline among its members. And it also shows that the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping as the core would firmly and consistently promote the anti-corruption campaign and push forward Party construction," said Su. Su noted that adopting two documents on the comprehensive and strict management of the Party during the sixth plenary session of the 18th CPC Central Committee and tightening the screening of corrupt delegates for the 19th national congress are two steps for Party construction. The sixth plenary of the 18th CPC Central Committee passed a draft on the norms of intra-Party political life under the new situation, and amendments to an intra-Party supervision regulation in October. "More self-disciplined delegates would also help elect better qualified and honest members for the Central Committee, which is important to safeguard the achieved fruits of Party construction and consolidate the Party's role in China's development," said Zhuang. Twenty-four members of the CPC Central Committee have been arrested for violating Party discipline and laws, including Xu Caihou, former vice chairman of the Central Military Commission and Bo Xilai, former secretary of the Chongqing Municipal Committee of CPC and a former member of the CPC Central Committee Political Bureau, the People's Daily reported in November. To better reflect the views of Party members and cement public support for the Party, the CPC has increased the quota of delegates from various professions and lowered the number of officials, according to the Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee. Delegates should come from various sectors, such as the economy, science and technology, national defense, and education, as well as from different regional levels, including villages, counties, cities and provinces, the department said. ^ top ^

Premier Li: Fast-track growth of central China (Xinhua)
China is publishing a five-year guideline on invigorating development of its six central provinces in advanced manufacturing, modern agriculture, new type of urbanization, further opening-up, as well as ecological conservation. The new guideline was approved at the State Council's executive meeting on Wednesday. Premier Li Keqiang presided over the meeting. "Our strategy to boost westward growth has not changed," Li pointed out. "Yet recently there has been a divergence in development between southern and northern China. Meanwhile, each of the six central provinces has its own conditions. It is necessary to improve coordination across regions so that the central region can truly play a pivoting role in China's economy." China's central region comprises six provinces, including Henan, Shanxi, Hubei, Anhui, Hunan and Jiangxi. These areas have rich land and agriculture resources and are abundant in human resources while being well-developed industrial base. The central government has placed heavy emphasis on the region's development. Premier Li has highlighted time and again on the area's rich potential, and the need for further reform and innovation to achieve sound growth. He also pointed out in his government work report earlier this year that the government will improve the layout of development across regions and facilitate the rise of the central region. The six provinces play an important role in maintaining China's growth momentum, he stressed. China's previous guideline on central region's development, issued in 2006, has achieved significant results. Over the decade, the region has become China's heartland for food and energy raw material production, as well as a rising hub of modern manufacturing and transportation. In 2015, the region contributes 20.3 percent of China's total GDP, while the figure was only 18.8 percent in 2005. While China's economy is going through restructuring and industrial upgrading, the region now faces challenges in further retiring excess industrial capacity, reducing reliance on labor and investment, as well as technological innovation. Reaching a higher level of development and better living standards calls for a set of measures, such as optimizing regional economic structure, nurturing new economic drivers, encouraging industrial upgrading, improving modern transportation infrastructure and new type of urbanization, as well as strengthening modern agriculture development. It also calls for giving priority to reform and innovation so as to invigorate potential from the market. "While building itself into a key area for advanced manufacturing and urbanization, the region should also spare no efforts in developing modern agriculture and promoting agriculture of scale," Li stressed. Market will play a decisive role in allocating resources, while the government plays a guiding role. Reform and innovation will be a key priority through the process, along with encouraging wider cooperation across regions, strengthening ecological conservation and improving people's living standards. Proper control on coal mine production, seeking technological innovation for new economic drivers and boosting industrial upgrading will be the region's prioritized tasks, according to the guideline. "The region should fully grasp its current momentum of growth, take further steps in opening-up and absorb more modern industries moving westward from the east," Li pointed out. ^ top ^

Non-communist party leader calls for more efficient social services (Xinhua)
A leader of a non-communist political party on Wednesday called for its members to continue to improve their capabilities and carry out social services more efficiently. Yan Junqi, chairwoman of the China Association for Promoting Democracy (CAPD) Central Committee, made the remarks at the fifth plenary session of the 13th CAPD Central Committee, which opened Wednesday. Hailing the party's work on poverty alleviation and promoting the reunification of the motherland, Yan said the party should make greater contribution to helping realize the country's "two centenary goals." The two centenary goals refer to: the building of an all-round moderately prosperous society by the Communist Party of China's (CPC's) centenary in 2021, and creating a prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious country by the centenary of the People's Republic of China in 2049. The CAPD is one of the country's eight non-communist parties and will hold its 12th national congress next year. Founded in 1945, the CAPD membership mainly consists of intellectuals working in the fields of culture, education, publishing and science. Under China's multi-party cooperation system, non-communist parties participate in state affairs under the leadership of the CPC. The CPC and non-communist parties work together and supervise one another. ^ top ^

Graft buster says officials' interrogations should be recorded (SCMP)
The Communist Party's anti-graft organs should videotape all interrogations, top graft-buster Wang Qishan has said, according to state media. Wang's comments came at a time when the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and its local branches are under increased scrutiny, as their power to interrogate and detain is not guaranteed or regulated by law. “Power without containment is dangerous,” Wang said during a trip to Jiangsu province that ended on Tuesday, CCTV reported. He said anti-graft authorities should videotape all interrogations, as well as clarify the rules on handling seized property. The report on Wang came as a global rights group called on the mainland to stop holding party members without charge, releasing a report criticising the system on the unofficial four-year anniversary of the graft crackdown by President Xi Jinping. The practice known as shuanggui, which the party uses to get confessions from corruption suspects, perpetuated rights abuses, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Tuesday in Hong Kong. Such detentions are a key part of Xi's anti-graft campaign, which began on December 6, 2012 with the investigation of Li Chuncheng, a top official in Sichuan province. The reliance on extrajudicial “disappearances” by Xi and Wang undercut the government's pledge to strengthen the rule of law, the rights group said. “Xi Jinping and Wang Qishan have staked their political careers on an anti-corruption campaign that's fundamentally based on rights violations, and they are enormously empowered in a negative way,“ said Sophie Richardson, China director for Human Rights Watch, at the Foreign Correspondent's Club in Hong Kong yesterday. “If Xi Jinping has such confidence in China's legal system, why are these shuanggui even necessary?” The 102-page Human Rights Watch report details the cases of four former prisoners. The findings are based on court records, media reports and 21 interviews with the detainees and their families since November of last year. The prisoners report being beaten, forced into stress positions, deprived of sleep and denied food and water. After “confessing”, most of those suspected of criminal offences were transferred to prosecutors, convicted and sentenced, often to years in prison. State media have reported at least 11 deaths in such detention since 2010. One prisoner in the report said his interrogators demanded to know how much money he had received. “I had to make it up – if I didn't, they'd beat me,” he said. While the country's top prosecutorial body convened a meeting with legal experts in 2014 to discuss shuangguireforms, including transferring cases directly to prosecutors, no action has been taken to limit the practice. At least 120 officials at the vice-ministerial rank or above have been among those ensnared. Richardson said independent courts, a free media and the rule of law were needed for the anti-corruption campaign to succeed. “Eradicating corruption won't be possible so long as the shuangguisystem exists.” ^ top ^

No more 'private vote' for China's top leaders in Communist Party's new hiring and firing rules (SCMP)
The Communist Party's top body for personnel affairs has rolled out new rules on hiring and firing senior officials, highlighting collective decision-making by party cells instead of following leaders' top picks, state media reported on Monday. The new rules appear aimed at breaking a decades-old practice of leaders indicating their preferences by circling names or underlining key sentences on documents before distributing them for consultation, according to a Hong Kong-based China watcher. Citing regulations from the Central Organisation Department, People's Daily reported that “neither consulting certain persons' opinions, nor asking leaders to circle certain names are allowed to replace decisions made by collective discussion among party organisations about the appointment and dismissal of officials”. The rules also stipulate that “leaders of a party cell are not allowed to override the organisation”, underscoring opposition to decisions made by individuals or small groups without consulting others' opinion. Hong Kong-based China watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu said similar instructions had been issued since the 1980s “but yielded no fruit for years”. The key point of the exercise, Lau said, was to consolidate such regulations. He added that the latest rules were not aimed at low to medium ranking officials, but senior cadres working close to top party leaders in Beijing. Top party leaders have long used tacit ways to signal their endorsement ahead of consultations. The practice dates to the 1960s and 1970s, when Marshal Lin Biao pledged absolute loyalty to Mao Zedong, saying: “It's essential to follow Chairman Mao ... If Chairman Mao circles [a document], I circle it.” ^ top ^

As Beijing encourages think tanks to flourish, will it tolerate fresh ideas? (SCMP)
It is not uncommon these days to learn about yet another think tank being set up in China as Beijing strives to build its own research bodies on a par with those of the West. The number of Chinese think tanks has grown with the blessing of President Xi Jinping and funding from the nation's wealthy corporations. But while the Brookings Institution – one of the best-known US think tanks – marks its 100th anniversary this year, Beijing's efforts to establish a professional policy consultation system have just begun, observers say. The Communist Party released a guideline two years ago requiring that the cultivation of think tanks be accelerated, with the aim of nurturing 50 to 100 high-quality think tanks that could “serve national demand and lead development”. The request indicated that the central government was “quite dissatisfied” with the existing think tanks, said Shi Chen, research head with Liaowang Institute, a think tank set up in 2013 by the official Xinhua News Agency. Shi was speaking ata Shanghai forum organised by the Centre for China and Globalisation in early November. An annual report by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences released this year said China's think tanks are still “at initial stage, far from being able to meeting policy demand” and were not “fully involved in the public policy making regime”. “In Washington, we've seen literally dozens of delegations from China over the course of the year, talking with us not about specific topics but how to run think tanks, how to get funds and set agenda. Their general interests are trying to understand how think tanks work in the US,” said a Washington-based economist and China expert who asked not to be identified. “There are thousands of new think tanks in China – it is a kind of conflict as the government has said 'we need more think thanks' but on the other hand they crack down on civil society and NGOs, making it difficult for independent research,” the economist said. Quality issues Yu Jin, director of the China Regional Development and Reform Institute, set up in 2002, said at the forum in Shanghai that researchers in China's think tanks are short on global vision, lack communication abilities with their overseas peers, and find it hard to convey China's voice in a timely and accurate manner or to participate in coordinated research on global issues. Unlike Western think tanks that are independent of parties and governments, Chinese think tanks are affiliated with government agencies, such as State Council's Development Research Centre. Some are set up by inviting current or retired officials as members. “Connection with the government is just a stepping stone to becoming a good think tank, but quality is top priority” when think tanks are mushrooming in the country, said Huang Yiping, an economics professor with Peking University's National School of Development. “A lot of organisations are not think tanks,” said Huang, who is also a member of the People's Bank of China's Monetary Policy Committee. He suggested the government should launch measures to improve tax policies and industrial criteria for the country's think tanks. “In our visits to think tanks in Washington, we found researchers there came from academia, political circles and business and they were very experienced. The few young people we met were research assistants. This is different in China, where many newly established think tanks recruit young scholars,” Huang said. A retired government official expressed his concern about the quality of policy consultation from domestic think tanks. “I've been to many conferences where most of the experts only talked about concepts, theories, and analysis models based on official data, but gave no effective policy advice. I doubt they do field trip research to understand what's happening on the ground,” he told the South China Morning Post. Delving deeper With the launch of “One Belt, One Road”, the economic diplomacy proposed by President Xi in 2013 to extend China's influence by reviving ancient trade routes, universities and research institutions have set up agencies focusing on the strategy that covers more than 60 countries. But it is hard to find experts familiar with countries along the routes except for China's major trade partners, Chen Yushu, a deputy head of a national security lab with the College of Defence Studies, said at the forum in Shanghai. The State Council, or China's cabinet, holds discussions with experts to solicit opinions on economic and social development issues, regularly and on an ad hoc basis. The government selected a group of “best experts” nationwide to study the US presidential election, but dismissed them immediately after the election, said Sun Zhe, a senior research scholar with Columbia University. Post-election studies with in-depth analysis of the election and suggestions to limit bilateral confrontations were also very important, Sun said at a discussion panel in Beijing. “It takes a long time for think tanks to become influential,” said the Washington-based economist. ^ top ^

China's top graft-buster delivers rare warning against sliding too far left (SCMP)
The national graft-buster has delivered a rare warning about the country sliding too far towards the left – comments that analysts said suggested the leadership was aware of the dangers that extremism posed to its rule. “During the course of ... strengthening party discipline ... one can have a dream but don't be idealistic,” Wang Qishan said in a speech published in Communist Party journal Qiushi. “The key point in guarding against 'the left' is to prevent an excess of [the left].” He made the comments before hundreds of political advisers with the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in late October, days after the party wrapped up a key meeting of senior cadres. The authorities have intensified censorship and tightened their grip over civil society in the past few years. A campaign that began in July last year swept up hundreds of rights lawyers, including many of the most prominent on the mainland. Although most have been released, four leading figures of the movement were jailed for up to 7 ½ years in August. ' Meanwhile, the original editorial team behind political journal Yanhuang Chunqiu was ousted in July after a 25 years. Publisher Du Daozheng was sacked and replaced with a figure appointed by the party. Political analysts said Wang's speech pointed to a realisation by the leadership that a swing into the extreme would harm its legitimacy. “What Wang has said may signify that the top leadership has realised that leaning too much to the left ... could adversely affect economic development,” said Chen Daoyin, an associate professor at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law. “In case the economy slows down rapidly, the legitimacy of the Communist Party's rule could be placed under threat.” Zhang Lifang, a Beijing-based political analyst, said Wang's warning could signal the leadership was aware of the danger posed by spreading extreme leftist ideology in recent years and was considering making a course correction. “The leftist-leaning atmosphere has triggered immense disappointment among quite a number of domestic political, financial and intellectual elites, which, in turn, can pose a threat to the regime,” Zhang said. Wang's comment is related to a famous saying that late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping made during a visit to the south 1992. “Guard against the right, but guard primarily against the left,” Deng said. Ching Cheong, a Hong Kong-based veteran China watcher, said that as the whole party was left wing by nature, what Deng opposed was nothing more than “the left” with a bracket on it. “Wang's remarks have effectively made a new category of 'ultraleft' which [the party cadres] oppose without question, but for time being they can tolerate 'the left' mentioned by Deng,” Ching said. Meanwhile, Wang also revealed that two unnamed senior party members were absent from the key meeting in October because they had been held accountable for “systemic corruption” uncovered in an unnamed department. The timing of the absences coincided with the sacking of Li Liguo, the minister of civil affairs, and the appointment of a former deputy anti-graft chief as the new head of the ministry. ^ top ^



Opening of Beijing's 1,000km seventh ring road more closely connects capital with Tianjin and Hebei (SCMP)
Another ring of highways that extends 1,000km has been built around Beijing, becoming the seventh ring road and completing a key infrastructure project that closely connects the capital with neighbouring Tianjin and Hebei. Completion of the ring makes it possible for residents of Hebei and Tianjin to travel to Beijing by road within an hour and is expected to foster satellite communities half an hour away. This would create a sprawling urban zone of 270,000 sq km, dwarfing Tokyo, at 35,000 sq km, and New York, at 138,000 sq km. Cai Jianming, a professor with the Department of Urban and Rural Studies under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said the highways would not only ease traffic pressure but also prompt the establishment of knots that shouldered some of the non-essential functions of the capital. The strategy of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei integration, released in 2014, plans to move some education, logistics and healthcare functions from the capital Beijing to Hebei and towns with specialised functions, and is expected to flourish with more convenient transportation. “The highways would help the specialised towns. With future development of subways and railways, towns for residents commuting to work in Beijing will also show up,” Cao said. The G95 national-level highway is composed of 13 highways that connect 13 cities in the region, including Sanhe, Langfang, Zhangjiakou and Chengde in Hebei province, and Beijing and Tianjin. On Tuesday, the highway connecting Zhuozhou, Hebei province, with Beijing's Miyun district, was opened to traffic, marking the completion of the last section of the outer ring circling the capital. Although most of the ring is in Hebei and only 38km is located in Beijing and Tianjin, it was officially named the Circling Capital Highway and is dubbed Beijing's seventh ring road. The first ring was previously used by trams and is no longer in existence. The second ring, the first closed expressway without any traffic lights in China that follows the ancient walls of old Beijing, was completed in 1992. The ring roads increased as the capital expanded with urbanisation. The sixth ring road, which was finished in 2009, measured 187km and connected the suburbs of Beijing. But traffic has not eased because of the supposedly non-stop expressways. Authorities said the seventh ring road was aimed to ease traffic pressure on Beijing, especially of cargo trucks, which no longer to pass through Beijing's suburbs to reach Hebei. Some 500,000 vehicles use Beijing roads each day, causing noxious vehicle emissions, and the figure is expected to rise to 900,000, Beijing Business Today reported. Trucks also contribute to traffic jams in the northwest and southeast on highways linking Beijing to Hebei. Authorities hope the ring would provide a new option for the capital's road network, which currently placed all pressure on the sixth ring road as a detour in the case of major international events and emergencies. ^ top ^



Tibet mulls offering women a full year of paid maternity leave (SCMP)
Women in Tibet could get a year of paid maternity leave under a draft family planning law, a move that would put the region on par with Sweden in terms of how much time off mothers are given to care for newborns. Details have yet to be officially released and it remains unclear where the draft law is in the legislative process. The Legal Daily reported on Wednesday that the Standing Committee of the Tibetan People's Congress had already passed the law, but an official from the national health agency told the draft was undergoing only its first reading. “This is the first time that Tibet will adopt a population and family planning law. [The draft law] needs improvement,” the unidentified official from the National Health and Family Planning Commission was quoted as saying. “This is the first time that Tibet will adopt population and family planning law. [The draft law] needs improvement,” the unidentified official was quoted as saying, adding that it required further deliberation before being officially passed. But if passed, the law would give Tibet some of the most expansive maternity leave in the world, far beyond the 10 weeks of leave that Hong Kong grants to its new mothers. New Tibetan fathers would also have 30 days of paid leave under the new law, which is also among the longest periods of paternity leave in the world. Such programmes are a way for governments to encourage people to have children, although they often face resistance from employers who want less time off for their workers. Tibet is grappling with a lower fertility rate, with the most recent national census in 2010 showing the region's fertility rate for women – or the average number of children who would be born to a woman in her child-bearing years – was 1.5, well below the national average of 1.8. Tibet also has a large number of people living in rural areas who may not necessarily have employers who can grant them paid leave. Rural Tibetans account for more than 76 per cent of the region's 3.18 million people, and they are permitted to have as many children as they want. Urban Tibetans and ethnic minorities can have two children, the same number as Han Chinese following the scrapping of the one-child policy by the central government this year. The mainland abandoned the one-child policy in the face of demographic strain created by an ageing population and shrinking labour pool, which carry enormous economic implications. Provinces across the mainland have amended their family-planning laws accordingly, granting couples additional paid leave to encourage more births. Presently, women in Guangdong enjoy the longest maternity leave on the mainland – 208 days if they have a caesarean section during delivery. Most other provinces grant maternity leave of 128, 158 or 180 days. Some regions also offer generous paternity leave plans. Gansu, Henan and Yunnan provinces are the envy of fathers across the country with 30 days of legal paternity leave. Inner Mongolia, Guangxi and Ningxia provide 25 days of leave. Most other provinces grant 15 days of paternity leave, while Tianjin and Shandong rank at the bottom with just seven days. Globally, the Swedes enjoy the longest parental leave – 480 days shared between the mother and father. Parents in Australia share up to 52 weeks, while those in Britain have 50 weeks. Japanese mothers are entitled to 14 weeks of maternity leave, while Singaporean mothers get 16 weeks. ^ top ^



Former Hong Kong No 2 is first big gun to support Regina Ip for top job (SCMP)
Former chief secretary David Akers-Jones has become the first political heavyweight to indicate his support for New People's Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee's bid for Hong Kong's top job. Akers-Jones, 89, who backed Leung Chun-ying in the 2012 chief executive election, told the Post on Thursday that he had accepted Ip's invitation to attend a rally next Thursday, when she is expected to announce her candidacy. He is among the few VIPs who have committed to showing up at Ip's gathering at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai, while most pro-Beijing parties are shunning it. They consider it premature to endorse anyone because the two most hotly tipped contenders – incumbent Leung and Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah – have yet to declare their bids, and Beijing has not signalled its preference yet. Executive councillor and lawmaker Ip, a former security minister, will be the second person to formally announce a serious candidacy, after retired judge Woo Kwok-hing. Akers-Jones said he would support her in the election next March. Asked if he would go on stage at the event to underline his endorsement for Ip next week, he replied: “I will speak if I'm asked to.” Since his retirement in 1987, the former No 2 official has remained active in the business sector, having served on the boards of several companies such as Hysan Development. In November 2011, when he spoke at Leung's election rally, Akers-Jones rejected accusations that Leung was to blame for the ill-fated target of building 85,000 flats a year under Tung Chee-hwa's administration as a cabinet adviser. That target was scrapped after a slump in property prices. Akers-Jones told the Post last year that Leung was “familiar with the problems of Hong Kong”, but “doesn't have the art of making or causing people to love him”. Ip has so far refrained from revealing more details of her leadership bid, only describing herself as a “likely candidate” when asked of her plans on Wednesday. She will have another guest in Lan Kwai Fong Group chairman Allan Zeman, who told the Post that he would show up next week “out of respect” for the lengthy public service Ip had done for Hong Kong. “I'll see what she has to say,” he said, without committing his support. Former Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing said he had not made up his mind whether to accept Ip's invitation. “I also told Mrs Ip that I should not be regarded as supporting her candidacy even if I would attend her event,” he said. As to whether he would run himself, Tsang said his position remained unchanged – that he would consider it if his participation would facilitate “genuine competition”. Core members of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong will not attend Ip's rally. Business and Professionals Alliance vice-chairman Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung said the party had not decided whether to send representatives. ^ top ^

Hong Kong's pan-democratic camp reaches a fork in the road (SCMP)
For close observers of the intricacies of the relationship between Beijing and pan-democrats in Hong Kong, last week witnessed the best of times and the worst of times. Last Wednesday, Beijing and the Hong Kong government confirmed pan-democrats banned from entering the mainland would be granted travel documents. The move was hailed as a conciliatory gesture by the central government to engage pan-democrats at odds with Beijing for more than two decades. But the warm political atmosphere lasted only two days. Last Friday, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying launched an all-out legal offensive against the pan-democratic camp, moving to have four more of its lawmakers disqualified over improper oath-taking. It would appear any positive dividends brought about by Beijing's historic decision to lift the entry curbs on pan-democrats quickly disappeared in the wake of what was seen as a draconian step by the Hong Kong government to target opposition legislators who had steered clear of the red line of advocating independence. That the apparently contradictory moves took place in the space of just three days made the situation even more difficult to comprehend. It remains unclear if the Hong Kong government acted at the behest of the central government's order to launch a legal battle against the four lawmakers, or if Leung took the initiative. A mainland official familiar with Hong Kong affairs said the Hong Kong government's filing of a judicial review against the four was in line with Beijing's stance of getting tough on matters regarding national dignity and sovereignty. Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a political scientist at Chinese University, said he understood the central government's position on clamping down on those advocating independence, but this seemed to go further. “The objective outcome of the Hong Kong government's latest move is that many Hongkongers believe it actually aims at targeting the pan-democratic camp,” Choy said. “I'm worried that Beijing and Hong Kong government intend to redraw the political map in Hong Kong by disqualifying more pan-democratic lawmakers.” He said the government's actions had hit too many pan-democrats and had offset the positive impact brought by Beijing's decision to grant home-return permits to those who had been denied entry to the mainland. But the mainland official said there was no conflict with the central government's decision to grant the permits to pan-democrats whose documents had been revoked. The government announced last Friday that it had “commenced legal proceedings” against veteran activist “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, former Occupy student leader Nathan Law Kwun-chung, academic Edward Yiu Chung-yim and lecturer Lau Siu-lai, asking the High Court to declare their oaths invalid and their Legco seats vacant. None of them have advocated Hong Kong independence, although Law and Lau have called for self-determination. Leung was formerly a member of the standing committee of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, which calls for a democratic China. The alliance was established in May 1989 to support student protests in Tiananmen Square, Beijing. It has been calling for vindication of those killed in the crackdown. Unlike localists who advocate Hong Kong's insulation from mainland China, the maverick pan-democrat often staged protests in support of dissidents arrested by Beijing authorities. The government's move came two days after an appeal court upheld a lower court's decision to disqualify pro-independence lawmakers Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang, applying Beijing's controversial interpretation of the Basic Law to require oaths to be taken sincerely and accurately. “It is abnormal for those who are antagonistic to China and the central government to enter the political establishment of Hong Kong,” the mainland official said. “The central government will adopt a firmer stance to defend its political dignity when it deals with opposition politicians in future.” Beijing's conciliatory gesture to grant the travel documents was seen as a sign of its two-pronged approach towards traditional pan-democrats and independence advocates. Hongkongers require home-return permits to enter the mainland. These are issued to Hong Kong permanent identity card holders with Chinese nationality. Previously, some pan-democratic lawmakers were offered one-off permits to visit the mainland for arranged political events. A mainland expert familiar with the city's affairs, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said compared with advocates of independence and self-determination for Hong Kong, the central government and traditional pan-democrats shared more common ground. “While the central government is getting tough on those calling for independence, it is willing to communicate with people who hold different views, on the condition that they backed 'one country, two systems' and China's resumption of Hong Kong's sovereignty,” the expert said. Lau Chin-shek, the former pan-democrat lawmaker who was granted a permanent home-return permit in April 2005, urged fellow democrats to view the move in a positive perspective as it was a gesture of goodwill from Beijing. Lau, who made a controversial call for a “big reconciliation” between Beijing and the democrats in 2004, said both sides should show goodwill to each other to ensure positive interaction. “The central government should exercise restraint in targeting lawmakers whose oaths are called into question,” he said. Cheung Man-kwong, a former Democratic Party member who has been denied mainland entry since 1989, said he believed serving pan-democratic lawmakers who had been unable to renew their home-return permits should be the first batch within the camp to lodge applications because there was a practical need for them to travel to the mainland to handle Legco-related business. “Ex-lawmakers like me and Albert Ho Chun-yan are in no hurry to file applications, although I'd love to set feet on the mainland to have close-range observation of how the country has changed in the past quarter of a century,” he said. ^ top ^

Success of four Hong Kong lawmakers facing expulsion will rest on oath solemnity, say legal experts (SCMP)
The four pan-democratic lawmakers facing legal action to force them out of the Legislative Council can avoid disqualification if they can prove they took their oaths solemnly, legal experts say. It will partially come down to whether the four can convince the court that their antics during their swearing-in should not be considered insincere – and thus not deliberate acts of declining or neglecting to take their oaths, they say. The four would have more room to manoeuvre on that, University of Hong Kong principal law lecturer Eric Cheung Tat-ming said, pointing to the fact that Youngspiration lawmakers Baggio Sixtus Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching did not dispute the issue. “The lower court was not required to draw a line on that issue,” he said. “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung, Lau Siu-lai and Edward Yiu Chung-yim are the targets of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung's second round of efforts to disqualify The Court of First Instance has already given permission to hear the case and will hold a preliminary hearing next Thursday. After revealing their bid to disqualify the four lawmakers, the justice secretary was quick to give an assurance that the move was entirely legal. The four, plus Baggio Leung and Yau, won a total of 185,727 votes in the September elections. But pundits, including Cheung, slammed it for being politically driven, accusing the government of undermining the city's democracy. Senior counsel and former lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah said: “The four each has his or her unique case, so it is up to the court to decide whether they have declined or neglected [their oath].” He said the court would take into account their words and actions and circumstantial evidence. The oath-taking saga started with Baggio Leung and Yau's use of controversial words and acts during the oath-taking ceremony in the Legislative Council on October 12. The pair unfurled banners saying “Hong Kong is not China” and used a term deemed derogatory to Beijing. Their act prompted the government to launch high-profile legal action to unseat them, followed by an interpretation by Beijing of Article 104 of the Basic Law, which covers oath-taking. Government lawyers said the pair's act showed they had declined the oath. Baggio Leung and Yau did not contest that, but instead focused their case on whether the court had jurisdiction to meddle in Legco's affairs. The pair lost their cases in both the Court of First Instance and the Court of Appeal. In a ruling that will have a binding effect on the cases involving the four lawmakers, the appeal court reaffirmed the lower court's finding that the Basic Law was “supreme” and therefore the courts could intervene when Legco had breached the mini-constitution. It also found that lawmakers would not enjoy their usual immunity when it came to oath-taking, and that the city's courts would be bound by Beijing's interpretation. Cheung said the legal points raised by the localist pair's lawyers were already mostly restricted by the framework set out by the appeal court judgment and the interpretation, which spelled out in particular that once an oath had been declared invalid, it should be deemed as having been declined or neglected. But whether they would succeed in contending that this was not the case would depend on the stance they would adopt during the court hearings, Cheung said. Both Cheung and Tong agreed that Lau Siu-lai, among the four, would have the hardest case to fight in large part due to a social media blog post she made. Lau's first oath, which was declared invalid as she paused for six seconds between each word, was followed by a subsequent message posted on a Facebook page affiliated to her saying the words were deliberately broken up to be rendered meaningless. Tong added in Law's case, the student activist-turned lawmaker turned part of the oath, which was meant to be a statement, into a question when he deliberately raised the tone of his voice in pronouncing the word China. “If the court finds it a deliberate attempt ... it amounts to a change in the substance of the oath,” he said, citing reasoning from a 2004 case when Leung Kwok-hung took on Legco so he could be sworn in with an oath he amended. But Tong said the case against Leung Kwok-hung was weaker and the one targeting Yiu less straightforward. ^ top ^

Singapore must abide by Hong Kong laws on impounded vehicles, Beijing says (SCMP)
Beijing reiterated its call for Singapore to respect the one-China policy and abide by Hong Kong law on Wednesday, to help properly resolve the controversy over the impounding of the city state's armoured vehicles. Analysts said that the remarks by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang reflected Beijing's frustration over Singapore's handling of its ties with Taiwan, and the fact that the two nations still had unsettled issues. Singapore's Ministry of Defence repeated on Tuesday that it had yet to receive a formal explanation about the impounding of nine of its armoured troop carriers by Hong Kong customs, two weeks after the saga erupted. The vehicles were impounded in Hong Kong as they were being delivered back to Singapore after they were used for training in Taiwan. The vehicles are believed to have been employed as part of Project Starlight – an agreement reached between the city state and Taipei more than four decades ago that allows Singaporean troops to train in Taiwan. “We hope related parties can stick to the one-China policy and abide by laws and regulations in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region,” Lu said. The dispute comes at a time of cool relations between China and Singapore, which is viewed by Beijing as backing the Philippines in its territorial dispute with China. Singapore and Taiwan have a long military relationship, with the space-starved city state sending thousands of troops a year for training alongside Taiwan's military under Project Starlight. Beijing opposes other countries having any form of official exchanges with Taipei, including military ones. “For Singapore, it may think its military training in Taiwan is just habitual. But the seized armoured vehicles gave China a chance to draw a red line for Singapore,” said Xu Liping, a senior researcher specialising in Southeast Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. “Singapore's Project Starlight broke the one-China policy, and Beijing wants Singapore to respect China's core interests,” Xu added. Dai Fan, a Southeast Asia analyst at Jinan University in Guangzhou, said Project Starlight had continued for decades, and that Singapore would not abandon it. “And after taking Singapore's long relationship with Taiwan and the US pivot to Asia strategy into consideration, I do not think Singapore will switch the project from Taiwan to the Chinese mainland,” said Dai, referring to Beijing offering the city state the use of Hainan as a training base. “Singapore might concede to a certain extent, but it's difficult for Singapore to totally abandon Taiwan,” he said. Lee Chi-horng, a research fellow at the Singapore-based Longus Research Institute, said Beijing was dismayed that Singaporean Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen had kept pressing Hong Kong to give legal reasons for impounding the vehicles. ^ top ^

Legco announces two seats left vacant by disqualified localists, paving way for by-election (SCMP)
The Legislative Council has gazetted that two seats have been left vacant by disqualified lawmakers Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching. In an extraordinary capacity, the gazette notices, titled Legislative Council Ordinance (Chapter 542) – Vacancy in Membership of Legislative Council, were put up on Monday morning. “In accordance with Section 35(1) of the Legislative Council Ordinance, I hereby declare that, pursuant to the judgments made by the Court of First Instance and the Court of Appeal of the High Court of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region on 15 and 30 November 2016 respectively, the office of member of the Legislative Council (New Territories East geographical constituency) previously held by Leung Chung-hang Sixtus has become vacant,” the notice read, signed off by Legco clerk Kenneth Chen Wei-on. A similar notice was published for Yau to declare a vacancy in the Kowloon West geographical constituency that she had run in. Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen told the media on Thursday that the Legco clerk would start the procedure this week, after the Court of Appeal dismissed the duo's appeal against their disqualification. A by-election will now take place to fill the two vacancies. The exact date is not known, but the polls are usually held within six months of such announcements. In October last year, former Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah left his post after tendering his resignation. A government gazette was published, with a by-election for the New Territories East geographical constituency he belonged to held five months later, in February. On Friday, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and the Department of Justice sought to disqualify four additional pan-democrat lawmakers – Leung Kwok-hung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung, Edward Yiu Chung-yim and Lau Siu-lai – by asking the High Court to declare their oaths invalid. If Leung and Lau are barred, that would leave two vacancies each in New Territories East and Kowloon West, including those left by the Youngspiration duo – it is not known if a single by-election will be held to fill the four seats instead. Speaking on the radio on Monday morning, Law said the latest challenge was clearly an attempt by Leung Chun-ying to oust them, as well as a display to Beijing's leaders ahead of the March chief executive election that he could handle complicated political situations. “Leung was using taxpayer's money through the Department of Justice to carry out his electioneering. Compared to [Baggio] Leung and Yau [Wai-ching], the four lawmakers being challenged this time are very different in the Beijing government's eyes,” Law added. “None of us had advocated Hong Kong independence.” On another radio programme, Leung Kwok-hung even described the chief executive's move as staging a “coup” to purge his political enemies, but added that he was not worried at all as he had predicted the government would take action against the democratic camp. Asked about the democrats' chances of retaining both seats in New Territories East should he be disqualified, Leung said it all depended on how many voters turned up. If many people were angry and voted, the pan-democratic camp would win, he added. “You can disqualify the four of us, but do you think those fighting for democracy and universal suffrage cannot become lawmakers in the future?” ^ top ^

Occupy Central co-founders seek voice in Hong Kong's election committee to choose next chief executive (SCMP)
Nearly four years ago, the Occupy Central campaign was founded to push for a popular ballot in Hong Kong's leadership race in 2017. That campaign ended in failure, but now two of its co-founders, Benny Tai Yiu-ting and Chan Kin-man, are back with another mission – to win 30 seats and become the critical few in the 1,200-strong election committee that will pick the city's next leader in March. The committee – made up of business elites, professionals and politicians – consists of 38 sectors including the pan-democrat strongholds of legal and higher education. A chief executive contender needs 150 votes to qualify and 601 to win. As about 230,000 voters pick their representatives on the committee on December 11, the pan-democratic camp, which is fielding about 350 candidates, is hoping to win at least 300 seats – up from 205 in 2011. The camp is hoping to stop Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, whom they criticise for being “high-handed”, from winning a second term. In the higher education sector, about 7,500 teachers and administrators of tertiary institutions will elect their representatives. With 65 candidates running for 30 seats, it is one of the most hotly contested battlegrounds between the two political blocs. The hopefuls include 17 pro-establishment candidates and 48 from the democratic bloc. Chan's list of “Academics in Support of Democracy” is the biggest force in the sector with 30 candidates from nine institutions. “I am pessimistic about democracy in Hong Kong under Leung's governance,” Chan told the Post. “I hope that our bid will help create pressure as well as favourable conditions for change.” Leung was criticised by academics for interfering in university affairs, as his appointees in the University of Hong Kong's governing council played a key role in voting down the promotion of liberal scholar Johannes Chan Man-mun to a top managerial post. In light of the controversy, Chan Kin-man said candidates on his list would only support a challenger who promised to defend universities' integrity, academic freedom and institutional autonomy. But Chan also said that given in-fighting among pro-democracy lists, he would be satisfied if pan-democrats ended up keeping the 24 seats they won in 2011. He was referring to the 12-member team of scholars led by Dr Petula Ho Sik-ying, a social work academic at the University of Hong Kong who is advocating a blank vote campaign to discredit what she calls a “small-circle election”. Six university students are also running as representatives of their tertiary institutions' governing bodies, to call for discussion on the city's political future. On the other side of the political divide, Lingnan University associate history professor Dr Lau Chi-pang and Open University science and technology dean Professor Ho Kin-chung are leading a slate of 12 academics “to protect professionalism in education” and fight for the sector's “best interest”. Lau told the Post that in contrast to the pan-democrat slates, his team would not rule out supporting Leung for another term. “The chief executive did not do much on higher education in the last few years ... We want to support a chief executive candidate who can do things for our sector,” Lau said. “Our demands are practical. We want more resources for universities and research, while the pan-democratic slates focus on governance.” Four scholars – Richard Wong Yue-chim, Francis Lui Ting-ming, Sung Yun-wing and Liu Pak-wai – are leading a slate called “Hong Kong Reconstruct”. In their manifesto, the four said they wanted “to bring the rational voices of independent scholars into the committee, to reinvigorate education, restore trust, revive the economy and restart political reform”. Wong previously said he had “reservations” about the approach and direction of Leung's governance in the last four years, but noted that the chief executive had “tried hard” to do his job. ^ top ^

Xi Jinping backs Hong Kong drive to ride belt-road trade potential (SCMP)
President Xi Jinping has explicitly backed Hong Kong's efforts to climb aboard Beijing's “One Belt, Old Road” initiative, with Xi urging the city to send a delegation to a landmark summit on the strategy next year, according to sources close to the Hong Kong government. The sources said Xi and Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying discussed the belt-road initiative in a closed-door meeting on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Lima, Peru, last month. Xi said Hong Kong should play an active role in the scheme and urged the city to send representatives to the first summit on the initiative in May, which was expected to be bigger than the G20 gathering in Hangzhou in September, the sources said. The belt-road initiative is a strategy launched by the central government to promote trade and economic cooperation along the ancient Silk Road routes through Eurasia and the Indian Ocean. Beijing hoped to use the grand plan to extent its influence along those routes, according to sources close to the central government. While Beijing has not specified its programme to realise the strategy, it is generally understood that China will use its infrastructure strength and its financial resources to improve connectivity and trade ties along the routes. The Hong Kong administration has been keen to get on the bandwagon despite the question marks over how private businesses could gain from the state-led push. In his two-hour annual policy address in January, Leung referred to the scheme 48 times. Speaking at the South China Morning Post's annual China Conference on Friday, Leung said the initiative offered “unprecedented” trade and investment opportunities for the city and Hong Kong must try to benefit from that potential. He said the city's professional services could play a key role in the initiative's infrastructure investment. “Hong Kong happens to excel in these areas; our professionals are highly regarded for their ethics, confidence and global outlook,” Leung said. “They [have] experience in delivering services worldwide.” Lu Zhongyuan, a senior adviser to the central government on economic policy, agreed Hong Kong could use its professional services to gain from the scheme, given its lack of strength in construction and industrial production. “[Hong Kong's] industrial and manufacturing facilities are mostly outsourced ... and building costs are very high,” Lu, former vice-president of the State Council's Development Research Centre, told the conference. The belt-road plan has risen up Beijing's agenda since it was unveiled three years ago. Xi has listed it as a cornerstone of the country's diplomacy and the central government has set up new institutions like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Silk Road Fund to finance projects along the routes. At the same time, there are concerns that the strategy is more about politics and is a cloak for China's geopolitical ambitions in Asia and Africa. Former Hong Kong chief executive Tung Chee-hwa tried to dampen regional concerns about China's growing economic clout, saying the China's rise was “the new driver” for the region and the world. “The truth is that China is pursuing peace and shared prosperity, which is important for China and its relations with our neighbours and the world as a whole. This is our very clear-cut strategic intent,” said Tung, a vice chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference's National Committee. Jack Ma, executive chairman of Alibaba Group, which owns the South China Morning Post, said China's duty now was to share its economic growth with the rest of the world. “When China's economic power was small, there were no expectations on China to do things for the world ... And now China is the world's second-biggest economy, 'One Belt, One Road' is China's responsibility to the world,” Ma said. ^ top ^



Taiwan denies reports that Tsai Ing-wen will meet Donald Trump in New York (SCMP)
Taiwan's government has denied that the island's President Tsai Ing-wen will stop over in New York during her trip to Central America next month and try to meet president-elect Donald Trump. The island's Foreign Minister David Lee told parliament there were four possible places for Tsai to stop over in the US during her trip, but New York was not one of them, the Central News Agency reported. A meeting with Trump “can't possibly happen”, he was quoted as saying. Taiwanese media had earlier reported that Tsai would stay briefly in Trump's home city of New York and that she would try to meet members of his transition team. The speculation came after Tsai's controversial telephone call with Trump last Friday, which infuriated Beijing. China's foreign ministry said the call breached US adherence to the one China policy. Beijing considers Taiwan a breakaway Chinese province. Stephen Yates, a transition adviser to Trump and a Taiwan affairs expert, met with Tsai at her home in Taipei on Wednesday, the Central News Agency reported, citing Lo Chih-cheng, a member of the governing Democratic Progressive Party in Taiwan's legislative body. Yates advised Tsai to meet more everyday members of the community in the US as the presidential election had exposed a huge gap between Washington and the popular will, Lo quoted Yates as saying. Yates also suggested Taipei should foster grassroots ties with the US as well as high-level government contacts and Tsai agreed, according to Lo. “Yates said Trump and his team are friendly towards Taiwan, but whether friendliness can be turned into future polices remain to be seen,” Lo was quoted as saying. Tsai is preparing to travel to Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador next month. She will attend Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega's inauguration ceremony on January 10 as part of her tour and will return to Taiwan on January 15. ^ top ^

Trump likely to strengthen military ties with Taiwan to neutralise Beijing's regional influence, think tank warns (SCMP)
The administration of US President-elect Donald Trump is likely to strengthen military ties with Taiwan and will use the self-ruled island to counterbalance Beijing's influence in the region, a mainland think tank warned. In a report published by the National Academy of Development and Strategy at Beijing's Renmin University of China, Yang Qijing said Trump might also boost US security engagement with other Asian nations. The National Academy of Development and Strategy, which was created in 2013, provides analysis to Chinese state leaders for “internal reference”, according to its website. Yang, a professor at the university's school of economics, said in the report dated late November that Trump would ignore opposition from Beijing and insist on his plan to sell weapons to Taiwan. “Trump may not be necessarily like [Taiwan President] Tsai Ing-wen, but he would definitely not give up the important chance to constrain China,” Yang said. “Trump, who is known for tough gestures and disregard for 'political correctness', will possibly not care much about China's opposition and insist on selling arms to Taiwan. By doing this, the US can make a lot of money while creating problems for China.” Relations between China and US were plunged into fresh uncertainty over the weekend after a controversial call between Trump and Tsai, whom Beijing believes is pushing for the formal independence of Taiwan. The call triggered concerns in Beijing over the incoming administration's foreign policy in the region. Some mainland observers said earlier that boosting arms sales to Taiwan, a self-governing island that Beijing regards as an inalienable part of China's territory, would form part of Trump's policy agenda to strengthen the US military and manufacturing sector. “The unspoken words behind the 'Make America Great Again!' is that China's economy, especially its manufacturing industry, is making US not so great as before,” Yang wrote. “So we should not question [the determination of the ] Trump administration to mobilise any political, economic and military resources to protect and advance US' economic interest, or even make it its first priority.” Yang warned that Trump could prove to be the “most unpredictable and challenging” US president, who might try to make use of the US' existing “superpower status” or adopt unconventional means to keep jobs in the US, including introducing protectionist measures against China's manufacturing, which is losing its competitive edge because of a continuing rise in wages and other costs. Although Trump had threatened to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a cornerstone of the US' economic pivot to Asia, taking such a step was unlikely to harm Washington's Asian allies, who would choose to stand firmly alongside US in the face of the rising power of China, Yang said. “Given the facts that China's cost advantage in the manufacturing industry is disappearing, Trump's administration could likely pose an unprecedented and tremendous challenge to China,” Yang concluded. “In response, China must prepare countermeasures.” ^ top ^

PLA will 'step up flights near Taiwan' to pressure Tsai after Trump phone call (SCMP)
Chinese air force planes are likely to increase the number of flights close to Taiwan after its president's controversial telephone call with president-elect Donald Trump, escalating threats to the self-governed island, according to military analysts. China's military has already flown a series of flights close to the island in recent months as it tries to ratchet up pressure on Taiwan's independence-leaning government. Concerns that the US may shift its policy towards Taiwan are likely to further increase the number of flights close to the island, the observers said. Beijing was infuriated by the call between Trump and Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen, fearing that it undermines US policy that the island is part of one China. The phone call came after the US House of Representatives on Friday passed the National Defence Authorisation Act for next year, which included for the first time a section on senior military exchanges with Taiwan. PLA aircraft have regularly flown past Taiwan since September on their way to the Western Pacific to carry out exercises, missions viewed by analysts as putting pressure on the island's government. “There are some bad signals that Tsai's administration is going to seek support from Trump, raising worries in Beijing that Trump may cooperate with her because his mindset is different from other American politicians,” Beijing-based military experts Li Jie said. “Beijing will definably carry out drills to send a stronger signal to Tsai's pro-independence administration because it will create a greater military deterrence.” The PLA air force carried out joint operational drills in the Western Pacific last month with H-6K nuclear bombers flying through the Bashi Channel that separates Taiwan and the Philippines and the Miyako Strait near Japan's Okinawa island, the PLA Daily reported. Japan scrambled eight F-15 fighter jets to shadow the planes. The PLA aircraft never entered Taiwanese airspace and its air force merely tracked the flights. PLA air force spokesman Shen Jinke said in September that its aircraft would make regular flights beyond the so-called “First Island Chain”, a line stretching from Japan and Taiwan which China says has been used by the United States to contain it since the cold war. The PLA sent more than 40 aircraft to conduct drills in the region on September 26. The exercises involved H-6K nuclear bombers, Su-30 fighter jets, early-warning planes and other aircraft, state television reported. A Taiwanese online media outlet Up Media reported that a PLA Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jet briefly trespassed into Taiwan's Air Defence Identification Zone during the drills when President Tsai was about to inspect troops in New Taipei's Linkou district. The Macau-based miliary observer Antony Wong Dong said the PLA's drills were primarily aimed at collecting military electronic intelligence. “The PLA air force's development has surpassed Taiwan because it had deployed several spy planes like the Russian Tu-154M,” he said. “Beijing now has the most advanced early warning KJ-3000, different variants of the Jian series fighter jets and bombers, as well as other sophisticated missiles carried by aircraft.” Song Zhongping, a military commentator with Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television, said the regular flying drills in the Pacific did not target Taiwan, but the US-Japanese military alliance. “The PLA's long-term strategy is to prevent Taiwan from becoming a chess piece of the US to contain mainland China. If Tsai attempts to seek support from the US for its Taiwan independence plan, Beijing will definitely take military action,” he said. Beijing has criticised Tsai for failing to fully back the 1992 consensus, a tacit understanding reached between Taipei and Beijing that year that there was only “one China” but each side has its own interpretation of what that stands for. Beijing considers Taiwan a breakaway Chinese province. The Taipei-based political commentator Wang Hsing-ching said the public on the island considered the drills to be part of general pressure put on Taiwan by the mainland. “Taiwanese believe the flying drills are none of the their business. It's just part of Beijing's aims to show the PLA's military power when dealing with East and South China Sea issues.” he said. ^ top ^

Taiwan denies public relations firm helped broker Tsai-Trump phone call (SCMP)
Taiwan has denied a public relations firm was involved in setting up a phone call between Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and US president-elect Donald Trump, after it emerged former US senator Bob Dole had acted as a go-between for the two sides for months. “Our communication channel is established directly with Trump's team,” Tsai's spokesman Alex Huang was quoted as saying by the Central News Agency. “It has nothing to do with any public relations firm.” US media reports suggested that Dole, acting as a paid lobbyist for Taiwan's government, connected Trump's staff with Taiwanese officials in advance of the call, which took place on Friday. Documents filed by Dole's law firm, Alston & Bird, show that Dole, a registered foreign agent for the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Representative Office, had been manoeuvring behind-the-scenes over the last six months to build a relationship with Taiwan's government and Trump transition officials. Dole led a Taiwanese delegation to the Republican National Convention and coordinated with Trump campaign officials on taking part in a trip to Taiwan. He also arranged a meeting between the Taiwanese diplomats and Trump campaign officials. The US has long followed a one-China policy, recognising the government in Beijing and limiting contact with Taipei. For Beijing, which regards the island as a renegade province, Taiwan is a sensitive issue, although it initially downplayed Trump's phone call. Trump seemed to further stir tensions on Sunday, citing Beijing's currency policies and military build-up in a defence of the call. Dole did not respond to an email sent after normal business hours and Miriam Brioso, a spokeswoman, did not immediately return a phone call. The disclosure was reported earlier by The New York Times. Dole also aided efforts to influence the Republican Party platform, which calls Taiwan “a loyal friend of America” that deserves free-trade agreement status, the timely sale of defensive arms and full participation in the World Health Organisation and other multilateral institutions. The platform also reaffirms the Taiwan Relations Act, which enshrines the unofficial relationship the US maintains with the island. The disclosure covers Alston & Bird's lobbying for Taiwan from the beginning of May until the end of October, well before the phone call took place. The Foreign Agents Registration Act requires lobbyists to disclose their activities every six months from the date they begin lobbying. Dole's firm was paid US$140,000 during the period. Dole also set up a meeting between Taiwan's US envoy, Stanley Kao and US Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, an early supporter of Trump and his pick to be attorney general. Officials with the Trump transition team did not immediately respond to calls for a comment. Trump was critical of foreign lobbyists during his campaign, calling for bans on high ranking US officials representing foreign governments and on campaign fundraising by registered foreign agents. ^ top ^

Tsai says call with Trump does not reflect US policy change (SCMP)
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen sought yesterday to downplay the impact of an unusual talk between her and US president-elect Donald Trump last week, saying it should not be seen as a policy shift by the United States. Her comments, made at a meeting with US journalists in Taipei, came after Washington said senior National Security Council officials twice spoke with officials in Beijing over the weekend to reassure them of the US commitment to the long-standing one-China policy. “I do not foresee major policy shifts in the near future because we all see the value of stability in the region,” Tsai was quoted by The Washington Post as saying. Friday's phone conversation between Tsai and Trump broke four decades of diplomatic protocol in place since Washington switched formal recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979. Beijing considers Taiwan a breakaway province. It has repeatedly warned other countries against making formal contact with the island's leaders. “The phone call was a way for us to express our respect for the US election as well as congratulate president-elect Trump on his win,” Tsai was quoted as saying. Taiwan's presidential office quoted her as saying in the meeting that Taiwan had close relations with the US, and that the diplomatic initiatives of the island were aimed at promoting regional stability. She said the mainland and Taiwan should use dialogue to resolve their problems. Some US commentators have seen the call as something that could spark a confrontation with Beijing. Others though, especially US Republicans, have welcomed it as a sign that Trump will not be bullied by Beijing, and said Washington should offer more support for Taiwan's democracy. Stephen Yates, a former deputy national security adviser to then US vice-president Dick Cheney during George W. Bush's administration, said that given the long-term friendship between the people of Taiwan and the Republican Party, the call was an important step in a direction many members of the party had long advocated. “As important as it is, it remains a small step,” Yates told reporters in Taipei. “We should not over-analyse or overreact to the fact that your current and our future leader spoke by phone.” Yates, who arrived in Taiwan yesterday for a short trip at the invitation of the Taipei-based think tank Prospect Foundation, said it would not be reasonable to “anticipate major changes in US policy at this point”. Asked if there would be any arrangement for a possible meeting between Tsai and Trump during a planned transit stay in New York by the island's leader, Yates said he was not aware of any such arrangements, and that he had “no affiliation with the president-elect's transition team”. Tsai is expected to visit three diplomatic allies in Central America next month in a trip the island's media said might enable her to meet Trump's team. A source close to Taiwan's foreign ministry said the visit was still being planned and that Tsai was expected to visit Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador in the second week of January. Meanwhile, the White House said National Security Council officials spoke with officials in Beijing twice at the weekend to reassure them of the US commitment to its one-China policy. “The Chinese government in Beijing places an enormous priority on this situation and it's a sensitive matter. And some of the progress that we have made in our relationship with China could be undermined by this issue flaring up,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Monday. Wu Xinbo, director of the Centre for American Studies at Fudan University, said Beijing would not rely on the reassurance from Obama administration officials on the one China policy. A direct communication channel with Trump's team would need to be established. “Trump is bound to boost US relations with Taiwan after he takes office because the Republican Party has had a close relationship with Taiwan,” Wu said. The new US leader's unorthodox style might pose uncertainties in communication between the two countries. “As far as I know, our ambassador in the US has been in touch with his team,” Wu said. “But such kind of communication is in the early stage and [the two sides] have not established a regular communication channel.” Wu said China would need to push ahead with opening a line of communication with Trump's national security adviser and secretary of state once he officially took on January 20. “His style is very different, you can't even expect him to sit in the White House all day… This will be one of the challenges that all world leaders face [in communicating with Trump],” he said. ^ top ^

Beijing warns Taiwan's investors against using 'profits earned on mainland' to support independence (SCMP)
Beijing said it will not tolerate Taiwanese businessmen supporting the island's independence “with money they earned on the mainland”, even as it gave reassurances that its policies towards them would not change. “Many Taiwanese businessmen are concerned that Beijing's policies towards them might change because of the shift in Taiwan's political atmosphere since Tsai Ing-wen became president in May,” Zhang Zhijun, the director of the mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office, said on Friday. “We welcome Taiwanese businessman to pursue their future on the mainland but we absolutely will not allow them to support Taiwan independence after they return to the island with money earned from mainland.” The comments by Zhang, who was speaking at a forum of Taiwanese businessmen in Zhengzhou, Henan province, came a few hours before an annual US defence policy bill suggested a plan to conduct high-level military exchanges with Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a renegade province. They also follow a dispute over military vehicles that were seized in Hong Kong last week while they were being shipped from Taiwan to Singapore. The incident has fuelled cross-strait tensions since Taiwan's independence-leaning DPP government said it would encourage trade ties with Southeast Asian countries under its “New Southbound Policy”. Zhang said that although mainland leaders had repeatedly promised that Beijing's policies would not change because the “different Taiwan situation”, he reiterated that Beijing would abide by the 1992 consensus no matter what happened in Taiwan. The 1992 consensus is an understanding between Beijing and Taiwan's former ruling Kuomintang that there is only “one China”, but each side would have its own interpretation of what constitutes “China”. However, the official communication channels agreed to by Beijing and the KMT were closed after Tsai refused to endorse the consensus, which had formed the basis of cross-strait ties. The consensus therefore elevated the status of Taiwan businessmen on the mainland, whom Beijing hoped could help convey its messages to Taipei. Observers said Zhang's comments were meant both to deter Taiwan's so-called “green merchants” as well as to draw them onside. “Green merchants” are Taiwanese businessmen who implicitly or explicitly support Taiwan independence with the money they earn from their businesses on the mainland. Green is the official colour of Tsai's ruling Democratic Progressive Party. Ni Yongjie, deputy director of the Shanghai Institute of Taiwan Studies, said “Zhang means to deter moves by green merchants and were directed at Tsai's government, since she doesn't support the 1992 consensus”. “The different cross-strait situation will not affect Taiwan businessman who support the 1992 consensus, but Zhang's words will certainly be met with strong opposition from Taiwan's green camp,” said Hsieh Chih-tung, from the Association of Taiwan Investment Enterprises on the Mainland, who has run a furniture company on the mainland since 1988. “I think Beijing will take some form action against green merchants, but if Beijing really punishes them or treats them in an unequal way, the Tsai government can hardly respond with protective measures,” Hsieh said. “I think more Taiwan businessman will pursue careers on the mainland, and Beijing will move to draw them to its side.” Meanwhile, speaking on the US defence policy bill on Friday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in Beijing that “China firmly opposes the United States and Taipei carrying out any form of official contact or military exchange”. The US$618.7 billion National Defence Authorisation Act will likely come up for a vote in the US House of Representatives and the Senate, possibly next week. Part of the bill “expresses the sense of Congress that (the US Department of Defence) should conduct a programme of senior military exchanges between the United States and Taiwan”. ^ top ^



China vows to punish local government officials for forging economic data (SCMP)
Some local government officials in China have forged economic data and offenders will be severely punished, the country's statistics chief wrote in an article in the People's Daily on Thursday. There has long been widespread global scepticism about the reliability of Chinese data, especially as the government has sought to tamp market expectations of a protracted slowdown in the world's second-largest economy. Statistical fraud and violation of statistical law and regulations have been uncovered in some places, Ning Jizhe, the head of the National Bureau of Statistics, wrote in the article. The authorities will show “zero tolerance” for such behaviour and local officials will be severely punished if they are found fabricating data to help safeguard the credibility of the government, Ning said. China will also improve the quality of its economic data, he added. The combined economic output of China's provinces has long exceeded the national figure compiled by the bureau, raising suspicions that some growth-obsessed local officials have cooked the books. The statistics bureau changed the way quarterly gross domestic product data is calculated last year, a move it calls a step to adopt international standards and improve the accuracy of Chinese figures. China has reported steady economic growth of 6.7 per cent for three quarters in a row, bang in the middle of the government's 6.5 to seven percent full-year target. ^ top ^

'Nude selfies for loans' scandal sheds light on China's rampant underground banking (SCMP)
Details have been revealed of more than 100 more cases of young women college students in China who were forced to hand over naked selfies to ensure they would pay money back to loan sharks. The China Youth Daily said it had found nude pictures and intimate videos of 167 young women, mainly aged 19 to 23 and from across the country. At least 10 gigabytes of the material has been leaked online to internet users, along with the women's contact details and relatives' addresses, according to the newspaper report. The scandal sheds lights on the widespread use of “underground banking” in Chinese society, increasingly helped by internet technologies. Students, blue-collar workers and rural residents seldom have credit records in the reference centre of China's central bank, a system that registers residents' credit information and can be viewed by the public online, so cannot borrow money from banks or traditional financial institutions. More than 500 million of China's population is estimated to be in this group. They become easy targets of peer-to-peer (P2P) lending platforms and online loan sharks, as they usually have low risk awareness, are willing to accept high interest rates can be dealt with outside the law if they default on the loan. Having long been ignored by banks and traditional financial institutions as not being “good-quality clients”, some are willing to risk much to get quick cash as they have no collateral. Similar cases have previously made headlines across Chinese media, stirring debate about unscrupulous moneylenders, financial pressures on students and whether the women were right to hand over their pictures. The cases could run into the thousands. Analysts also said the cases were indicative of China's rising consumerism, underdeveloped financial system and the absence of a proper student loan system. The average annual growth rate for consumer loans in China, excluding mortgages, is 28 per cent, according to a report by Ping An Bank in July. Growing demand for loans cannot be satisfied by established banks and credit firms, pushing people needing cash to family and friends for credit or to peer-to-peer loan services and online money lenders, according to analysts. Zhang Jun, the chief executive of P2P lending platform Pai Pai Dai, said there were almost 500 million people in China without a credit card who were yet to be covered by traditional financial services, the National Business Daily reported. An executive with another P2P lending firm told the South China Morning Post that young Chinese consumers, who have little real assets to offer as collateral, are the main customers of online credit, which is often granted within a few hours and requires little paperwork. The students caught up in the scandal were also attracted by the speed of borrowing money if they supplied compromising pictures. “I got 5,000 yuan [HK$5,550] in loans in less than three minutes after my submission of nude selfies and videos of myself to the lender,” the China Youth Daily quoted one woman as saying. The interest rate of her loan was 27 per cent a month, according to the newspaper. ^ top ^



North Koreans stealing ginseng at the border: police (Global Times)
Chinese police in Northeast China's Jilin Province confirmed with the Global Times on Wednesday reports of ginseng theft by North Koreans at the border. Japanese newspaper Tokyo Shimbun reported on Wednesday that North Koreans are stealing huge amounts of ginseng from the border areas with China and selling them in North Korea at high prices. The report added that cases of theft in Jilin have increased since the September floods left hundreds of thousands of North Koreans homeless. A police officer from the Changbai Korean Autonomous County in Jilin Province told the Global Times that the thefts exist, but refused to provide further information. But he denied the Japanese newspaper's report that Chinese police warned local residents to hand in money to the burglars to protect themselves instead of resisting. Severe floods at a North Korean border region in September killed at least 133 people, left thousands homeless, according to the United Nations, after Pyongyang reported "great hardship" in the area. In March, a North Korean diplomat killed two Chinese nationals in a car accident in Dandong, AFP reported. And three North Korean soldiers killed three Chinese citizens in Helong, Jilin in 2015 after they crossed the border illegally to steal food and money. A taxi driver in Jilin told the Global Times in a previous report that many villagers have moved out of border villages, fearing attacks from North Korean intruders. ^ top ^

US warns Beijing it will target Chinese firms in illicit North Korea business (SCMP)
The United States has warned China it will blacklist Chinese companies and banks that do illicit business with North Korea if Beijing fails to enforce UN sanctions against Pyongyang, according to senior State Department officials. The tougher US approach reflects growing impatience with China and a view that it has not strictly enforced existing sanctions to help curb Pyongyang's nuclear programme, which a U.S. policy of both sanctions and diplomacy has failed to dent. US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave the message to Chinese officials in meetings in Beijing in October after North Korea conducted its fifth and largest nuclear test, the officials said. US National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Secretary of State John Kerry stressed the importance of choking off financial flows to Pyongyang during a meeting with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi in New York on November 1. In response to the US warning, Chinese officials said they believe pressure alone on North Korea will not work, and that they oppose any US action that would hurt Chinese companies, officials said. US sanctions on Chinese businesses and banks would likely exacerbate tense relations between the two major powers, who disagree over China's claims in the South China Sea and the US deployment of an anti-missile battery to South Korea. With President Barack Obama's administration in its final weeks, officials said any major steps would likely be left to Donald Trump's administration, which takes over in January. Though a frequent critic of China, it is unclear whether Trump will pursue the sanctions. The UN Security Council, which includes China, unanimously voted to impose new, tougher sanctions on North Korea on Wednesday, to cut its annual export revenue by a quarter in response to the September nuclear test. North Korea has rejected the resolution. “We do expect that China will implement the resolution, but if we detect that Chinese companies in violation of the resolution are conducting business, aiding and abetting North Korea proscribed entities, we will tell the Chinese what we know, with the expectation that the Chinese will act on it,” Danny Russel, the US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, told Reuters. “If the Chinese decline or fail to act, then we've made absolutely clear, not only that we reserve the right to take action on a national basis under our authorities but that we will have no choice but to do so,” he said. One option being considered is to impose sanctions on Chinese steel companies that make use of cheap North Korean coal, the officials said. The measures could also target North Koreans who work through Chinese banks. The US Treasury Department on Friday blacklisted individuals and companies it said were helping the North Korean government or its nuclear and weapons programmes, but no Chinese firms were on the list. South Korea and Japan also said they would impose new unilateral sanctions on North Korea. Support within Obama's administration for unilateral sanctions against North Korea has increased gradually over the past six to eight months as concerns increased over Pyongyang's growing nuclear capabilities, one official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. “If we are serious about leaning on the North, we have to go after the economy generally,” the official said. “As it turns out, the Chinese tolerance for North Korea misbehaviour is higher than ours and that gap is not sustainable.” Trump, whose real estate business has had dealings with the Bank of China, has urged Beijing to do more to rein in its neighbour and lambasted China mostly for its trade practises on the campaign trail. He told Reuters in May he was willing to talk to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to try to stop Pyongyang's nuclear programme. Neither sanctions, imposed by Washington since 1950, nor the so-called six-party talks with Pyongyang to suspend its nuclear programme in return for diplomatic rewards and energy assistance, have stopped North Korea from testing nuclear devices. While Beijing has voted to impose sanctions on North Korea and condemned the nuclear tests, Chinese officials worry that tighter sanctions could lead to the collapse of the government and send tens of millions of refugees across its borders. Pyongyang's collapse would also remove a buffer between China and South Korea, home to 28,500 US troops. In fact, China this year has increased its imports of North Korean coal, one of the North's only sources of hard currency and its largest single export item. Beijing is by far Pyongyang's most important trading partner, and has been its economic lifeline, though there have been signs in recent weeks that it is doing more to squeeze commerce with the isolated country. Sanctions imposed by the United States banish companies and individuals from the international banking system, making it difficult for them to find financing or partners on foreign deals. The United States used so-called secondary sanctions on foreign firms that deal with banned entities to pressure Iran, and the measures were credited by sanctions experts as key to inducing Tehran to compromise on its nuclear programme. Such sanctions could serve as a guidepost for unilateral actions against Pyongyang. China opposes unilateral sanctions on North Korea, and is especially sensitive to US measures against China-based firms. The Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said on Thursday that the new UN sanctions are not intended to harm “normal” trade with North Korea, and that China has always enforced UN resolutions responsibly. ^ top ^



Cabinet meeting in brief (Montsame)
On Wednesday's regular meeting, the cabinet backed continuing negotiation with interested party on direct concession contract on the Tevsh River Power Plant project, to be constructed in Saintsagaan soum of Dundgovi province. The ministers reorganized the compositions of the Regulatory Council on the Exchange of Goods and Raw Materials of agricultural origin. The council is in charge of promoting operations of the agricultural exchange, giving directions and recommendations on law implementation, monitoring activities of traders and ensuring coordination. The cabinet also resolved to reflect recommendations and suggestions to the draft laws on Disaster Prevention and Emergency Service Offices, initiated by the President. ^ top ^

Mongolia and Russia renew academic cooperation agreement (Montsame)
In the frameworks of his working visit to the Russian Federation, Minister of Education, Culture, Science and Sports J.Batsuuri met with the RFBR Board Chairman, academician V.Y. Panchenko. After reviewing results of the 10-year fruitfull cooperation between the Mongolian Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Sports and the Russian Foundation for Basic Research, the both sides came up with proposals on its further development. Then, they reached an agreement on organizing a new interdisciplinary contest with the larger amount of funding and extending the term of joint academic project implementation, which will allow scholars to achieve better results. In turn, Mr. Batsuuri proposed organizing pertinent report events for project managers who have gained a support at the joint contests, in May 2017 at home. After that, the parties discussed the prospects of Mongolia-Russia relations within the framework of RFBR-initiated Eurasian Association For Support of Scientific Researches, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Sports of Mongolia joined in 2016 as a founder. In 2017, it is expected that the first competition for joint Mongolian and Russian research projects to be funded from tha year of 2018 will be announced. The meeting was resulted in signing revised cooperation agreement which defines the parties' obligations for the next five years. ^ top ^

Cabinet approves list of energy projects to commence next year (Montsame)
At its regular meeting on Wednesday, the cabinet approved the list of projects covering spheres of energy, road and transport, to be realized in 2017. Agreements on implementation of these programs and projects will be concluded within the first quarter of 2017 with the selected investors to execute the project on Turn Key contracts. The list incorporates the 250MWT Thermal Transmission Expansion Project on the Third Thermal Power Station; the 50MWT Thermal Transmission Expansion Project on Choibalsan Thermal Power Plant; Project on Baganuur-Choir Overhead Transmission Grids and Expansion Project on Baganuur Substation; Project on Construction of Choir Substation and Expansion Project; Project on 35KWT Overhead Transmission Grids connecting Khushuut mine with Altai soum of Khovd Province and Project on Construction of Substation; Project on Construction of Choibalsan-Khuut 192 km railroad, Project on Construction of 234km railroad connecting Khuut mine and Bichigt border checkpoint; Project on Construction of 281 km railroad connecting Zuunbayan station and Khangi border checkpoint; and Project on Construction of 45.3 km railroad connecting Nariinsukhait mine and Shiveekhuren border checkpoint. ^ top ^

Foreign Ministry might approach WTO (Montsame)
The Standing committee on Budget of the State Great Khural ran the first discussion on draft amendments to the Law on Custom Tariffs and Duties on December 7. The standing committee members inquired about the measures being taken by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding the increasing customs fees on Mongolian goods at the Chinese border, while underlining that Mongolia has established comprehensive strategic partnership with its two neighbors. According to the working group, the Mongolian side has been collaborating on reducing the custom fees and duties with the Eurasian Economic Union, which has five members including Russia. As for the negotiations with the Chinese side, the Foreign Ministry of Mongolia has requested China to alleviate custom tariffs by 30 percent, said an official. Both of our neighbors are members of the World Trade Organization. The recent decision by the Chinese side on increasing custom fees on goods from Mongolia breaches 2-3 obligations China has assumed under the WTO. This is a sufficient ground for Mongolia to make a complaint to the organization. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been examining this issue, said a member of the working group. ^ top ^

B.Batbayar appointed Director of Development Bank (Montsame)
After reviewing the results of international open selection for executive management of the Development Bank, the cabinet approved appointment of Batbayar Balgan the next executive director of the Development Bank of Mongolia on Wednesday. B.Batbayar graduated from the Economic School of the National University of Mongolia majoring in finance and economics in 1988, and defended master's degree in Indiana University, the USA in 2002-2004. He worked as an accountant, economist and chief officer at the Budget Policy Department of the Ministry of Finance, head of a department and division, and acted as the representative of the Government and member of Boards of the State Bank, the Development Bank and other state-run industries. ^ top ^

Cabinet presenting draft resolution on risk prevention measures regarding DB (Montsame)
The Development Bank (DB) of Mongolia, since its establishment in 2011, have been operating with active assets of MNT 7.0 trillion. During the course of its operation, the bank has financed some 2,000 projects, and has liabilities of MNT 5.9 trillion. The liabilities balance exceeds the amount of assets. In accordance with the Law on Development Bang of Mongolia, the liabilities must not exceed the amount of equity multiplied by 50. If the Development Bank fails to observe its duty before the law, the risk of the loan payables to be recalled before the agreed date can be higher. Therefore, in order to prevent from such risks, the cabinet approved the draft parliamentary resolution on “some measures towards the Development Bank of Mongolia”, and resolved on Wednesday to immediately submit to the State Great Khural. ^ top ^

Decentralizing Policy-Regional Development Forum Participants Discuss Slow Moving Decentralization Efforts (The UB Post)
On December 6, the Cabinet Secretariat of the Mongolian government, the Mongolian Association of Local Authorities (MALA) and Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) held the first Decentralizing Policy – Regional Development Forum to discuss the lack of development and decentralization in independent regions and provinces over the past twenty years. Participants considered the lack of autonomy and financial power at the local level as the biggest obstacle keeping local officials from providing faster services to residents and carrying out projects for soums, provinces, and the capital. However, a consensus at the forum voiced the necessity to keep all education, culture, health care, social security, social welfare and insurance, environment, and employment funding responsibilities to central agencies and ministries. In these sectors, local authorities will have to continue to request funds from the government. Among other scientists and researchers, the forum most notably brought together Parliament member and Head of the State Building Standing Committee N.Enkhbold, Cabinet Secretariat Deputy U.Byambasuren, MP D.Togtokhsuren, and Ulaanbaatar Mayor and MALA Head S.Batbold. “It's the perfect time to hold this forum. I believe it's a very significant measure. I'm confident that conferencing with local authorities and representatives from the KAS will help us to successfully decentralize and strengthen independency of regions and provinces,” S.Batbold stated. They agreed to deliberate this issue by analyzing responsibility of local authorities, capacity building, and provincial and capital city councils, mayors and associated officials, to provide guidance for projects to be implemented by the government, Three keynote speakers presented at the forum: the Cabinet Secretariat Deputy U.Byambasuren on “Government Decentralizing Policy and Futures”, Ulaanbaatar Mayor S.Batbold on “Decentralizing – The Foundation to Governing Development”, and Professor Paul Witt from Germany's University of Public Administration on “Local Management System of Germany”. ^ top ^

D.Ganbold: “Chinese side have increased customs fees for three Mongolian and two Russian border checkpoint” (Montsame)
At a press conference on December 5, head of the Border Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs D.Ganbold stated that the Chinese side has not made any official notification about the increase in customs fees at the Gashuunsukhait, Bichigt and Shiveekhuren border checkpoints. “Designation of customs fees is entirely a country's internal matter. Therefore, it is not necessary for the given country to officially notify thereon the other sides. The increase in customs fees does not applies only to the checkpoint on the China-Mongolia borders. According to the decision of the Chinese side from November 4, 2016 on increasing the customs fees were taken towards three border checkpoints from Mongolia and two checkpoints from Russia. The customs fees per ton of coal has been increased from CNY 5.2 to 8.0 and the fee for a ton of copper concentrate, value of which exceeds CNY 10,000, to 0.2 percent. Mongolian goods enter China through 46 checkpoints. Gashuusukhait has 12 corridors on Mongolian side of the border, one of which allows special courtesy to Oyu Tolgoi LLC. This corridor transmits all productions of Oyu Tolgoi's name. Gashuunsukhait has eight corridors on Chinese side of the border. Huge congestions and long queue might be caused by this difference”, he said in the statement. ^ top ^

Prime Minister provides updates on poverty relief efforts (The UB Post)
During Parliament's session on December 2, Prime Minister J.Erdenebat held a briefing about the ongoing and upcoming government projects for poverty relief and welfare. The Prime Minister noted that, as of October, the state is providing 73,000 pensioners, 63,000 caregivers, 67,000 poverty-stricken people, 31,000 people living with disabilities, 141,000 seniors, 4,000 recipients of state honor grants, 134,000 pregnant and nursing women, and 3,000 Dukha people with welfare, and that welfare expenditure was 1.1 percent of GDP in 2015. The PM pointed out that welfare spending is high, but expenditure for low-income families is low, so the Government of Mongolia wants to direct state welfare to targeted groups. He said that the state invests in welfare to reduce poverty, but poverty has dramatically increased due to the nation's economic challenges and many people have a tendency to rely on welfare without working. He noted that there should be a focus on enhancing the legal and regulatory environment for welfare and social protection, as well as monitoring to ensure that target groups are receiving international and domestic aid for poverty reduction. Prime Minister J.Erdenebat said that Cabinet is concentrating more on low-income families by revisiting welfare programs and maintaining state welfare budgets without reducing spending. He stated that methods for determining which households fall under target group categories will be redesigned by using a database based on a household's wages, property, and vehicle assets. The PM underlined that children in groups targeted to receive the state's financial support will be eligible for the monthly distribution of 20,000 MNT, and all other children who previously received the monthly deposit will receive their regular deposits and outstanding payments in 2019. He added that the government hopes to implement a national program on family development by collaborating with local government officials to get a selected 55,000 families out of poverty over the next four years. The Premier highlighted that Parliament approved an amendment to the law on financial support for the elderly, so nearly 120,000 seniors will receive a welfare payment of 50,000 to 250,000 MNT twice a year, and they will be provided with telecommunications assistance for the next four years to better access information, advice, and other required support. After Prime Minister J.Erdenebat's briefing, former Minister of Population Development and Social Protection and Democratic Party Member of Parliament S.Erdene stated that all Mongolian children should receive a monthly deposit of 20,000 MNT, and that the MPP has discriminated against some Mongolian children by distributing the state's financial support only to targeted groups. He added that the state's financial support for children is not welfare, and that it was designed to be an investment in Mongolia's future. ^ top ^

Ms. Annina Burri
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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