Der wöchentliche Presserückblick der Schweizer Botschaft in der VR China
The Weekly Press Review of the Swiss Embassy in the People's Republic of China
La revue de presse hebdomadaire de l'Ambassade de Suisse en RP de Chine
  6-10.2.2017, No. 658  
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Foreign Policy

Trump reaffirms one-China policy in surprise phone call with Xi Jinping (SCMP)
Trump made the pledge at Xi's request, the White House says. US President Donald Trump has reaffirmed the one-China policy in his first phone call with China's President Xi Jinping after taking office. In the Friday morning call that was not announced beforehand, Trump told Xi that he fully respected the importance of the one-China policy and that his administration would adhere to it, the state-run China Central Television reported. Trump made the pledge at Xi's request, according to the White House. “The two leaders discussed numerous topics and President Trump agreed, at the request of President Xi, to honour our one-China policy,” the White House said in a statement. The one-China policy, which recognises that Taiwan is part of China, has been seen as the basis of Sino-US relations since the 1970s. Friday morning's call was the first between the two leaders since Trump was sworn in as US president in late January. The call marked a major shift in Sino-US relations, which entered into a period of greater uncertainty after Trump took office. Xi was quoted by state television as saying he appreciated Trump's reiteration of the one-China policy and hoped to work with his US counterpart to promote the steady development of bilateral ties. Both leaders also agreed to keep close communications, state television reported. The White House described the call as "extremely cordial” and the two leaders also extended invitations to meet in their respective countries. Relations between Beijing and Washington have been markedly strained since Trump's phone call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in December after his election victory. The Trump-Tsai call was the first between a US president or president-elect and a Taiwanese leader since Beijing and Washington established diplomatic relations in 1979. Beijing has been irked by Trump's previous remarks on cross-strait ties and has said bilateral relations would be damaged if the US refused to reaffirm the one-China policy. Analysts believe the Trump-Xi call, which took place on the eve of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's official visit to the White House, was also aimed at easing tensions with Beijing and minimising a potential fallout from Abe's second face-to-face meeting with Trump. ^ top ^

Donald Trump sends letter to Xi Jinping seeking 'constructive relationship' with China (SCMP)
US President Donald Trump has finally broken the ice with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping after sending him a letter on Wednesday saying he was looking forward to working with him “to develop a constructive relationship” between the two nations, the White House said in a statement. Mainland observers said that by sending his first letter to Xi, Washington was reaching out to Beijing, even though Trump still had not set up a phone call with Xi since taking office on January 20. However, the two leaders did manage to talk soon after Trump won the US presidential election in November. Trump's letter also thanked Xi for his congratulatory note sent after his inauguration in January and wished the Chinese people a happy Year of the Rooster, according to White House spokesman Sean Spicer. “President Trump stated that he looks forward to working with President Xi to develop a constructive relationship that benefits both the United States and China,” he said in a statement on Wednesday night. China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said on Thursday at a regular press briefing that Xi had received Trump's letter, and that Beijing “highly appreciated” Trump's good wishes to Xi and the Chinese people. Lu declined to comment on whether Beijing thought the greetings had arrived too late, or whether there were any plans to arrange a phone call between Xi and Trump. During the phone conversation in November between the two leaders after Trump's election victory, Xi said cooperation was the only choice for the two nations. Xi then sent a congratulatory message after the US president inauguration last month. But there had been concerns that communications between the two leaders were not running that smoothly because they had not had any direct communication in the past few weeks, in contrast with Trump's many phone calls and meetings with other world leaders. Mainland observers said Trump's letter showed that he was finally catching up on establishing proper channels of communication with the Chinese leadership. “Trump has been so caught up in domestic issues in the last few weeks … Now he is beginning to think about how to develop US relations with China,” said Wu Xinbo, director of the Centre for American Studies at Fudan University. Wu also said Trump's letter to Xi showed that he had come to realise the need to reciprocate Beijing's offer of an olive branch. “Interaction between the two countries goes both ways, and it can't always be China who is taking the initiative,” he said. Zhang Yunling, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Trump's use of the words “constructive relationship” in his letter echoed similar calls from the Chinese leadership, and could be a positive signal amid concerns over increasingly strained bilateral ties under Trump. Trump has previously made tough comments about Beijing. He vowed to label China a currency manipulator, and blamed Beijing for not doing enough to contain North Korea's nuclear programme. Beijing has been stepping up its efforts to reach out to the US President in recent weeks, including inviting his daughter, Ivanka, to a Lunar Near Year reception at the Chinese embassy in Washington, the South China Morning Post reported on Monday. Behind-the scenes communications between the two countries had also continued with Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, having reportedly “had an extensive ongoing dialogue” with Cui Tiankai, the Chinese envoy to the US, an unnamed White House official was quoted as saying by Bloomberg. In a phone call between Michael Flynn, the US National Security Adviser, and Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi last week, the two men agreed to strengthen cooperation between the two countries. But Shi Yinhong, director of the Centre for American Studies at the Renmin University of China, said Beijing should not be overly optimistic about Trump's letter. “We can't say that Trump is going to soften his stance on China just because he sent a letter,” said Shi, who is also an adviser to China's State Council, “We can't forget that he made a series of anti-China statements.” Zhu Feng, the dean of international relations at Nanjing University, said China needed to stop believing that Trump would easily offer an olive branch to Beijing given that the two nations regarded one another as their biggest rivals. “When China views the US as its biggest trouble maker, how could you expect either side to regard their relationship as very intimate,” he said. ^ top ^

China, US military planes come inadvertently close over South China Sea, says US official (SCMP)
A US Navy P-3 plane and a Chinese military aircraft came close to each other over the South China Sea in an incident the US navy believes was inadvertent, a US official said on Thursday. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the aircraft came within 305 metres of each other on Wednesday in the vicinity of the Scarborough Shoal, between the Philippines and the Chinese mainland. The official added that such interactions between Chinese and American aircraft are infrequent, with only two occurring in 2016. ^ top ^

China 'beefing up military' on disputed islands in the South China Sea, says US think tank (SCMP)
Satellite images suggest China has upgraded its military infrastructure in the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, according to a US think tank. The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington said on Wednesday that China now occupied 20 outposts in the Paracels, and that there had been an extensive military build-up on eight islands. “Three of these now have protected harbours capable of hosting large numbers of naval and civilian vessels. Four others boast smaller harbours, with a fifth under construction at Drummond Island,” the group said on its website. “Five of the islands contain helipads, with Duncan Island housing a full helicopter base. And the largest of the Paracels, Woody Island, sports an airstrip, hangars and a [detachment] of HQ-9 surface-to-air missile batteries.” The group said further expansion could help Beijing consolidate its presence and project its power in the region. “Not all of China's outposts in the Paracels currently house significant infrastructure, and many contain no more than one or two buildings … but the presence of small buildings and construction materials suggests China may be preparing to expand those features,” the group said. ' “This is part of China's broader efforts to consolidate its grip on adjacent waters and disputed islands,” said Richard Heydarian, a political science professor at De La Salle University in Manila. China has repeatedly promised it would not militarise its man-made islands in the South China Sea. The think tank claimed in December that Beijing had placed weaponry on seven of the artificial islands it had built in the region. At that time, China replied: “The necessary military facilities are mainly for self defence. When someone is flexing muscles at your doorstep, wouldn't you prepare a slingshot?” China's strengthening of its armed forces and increasingly assertive claims to most of the South China Sea have created unease among its neighbours and the United States. Chinese analysts say US President Donald Trump's aggressive stance towards China is one of the things triggering its actions. “That's how China reacts to the outside world. If Trump did not make irresponsible anti-China remarks, the militarisation of artificial islands in South China Sea would be delayed,” Zhou Chenming, from the think tank Knowfar Institute for Strategic and Defence Studies, said. “The situation now is particularly tense, and there is plenty of scope for misunderstanding that could lead to a real flare-up,” Kerry Brown, professor of Chinese Studies and director of the Lau China Institute at King's College in London, said. “The bottom line is that China believes this area is its own backyard for it to do as it pleases, and the US and others fundamentally disagree,” Brown said. “It is hard to see an easy way of bridging the divide between these two positions.” ^ top ^

China appreciates Trump's greetings on Chinese Lantern Festival (Xinhua)
China on Thursday confirmed that it has received a letter to President Xi Jinping, sent by U.S. President Donald Trump, who extended his greetings ahead of the Lantern Festival. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang made the remarks at a daily press briefing, responding to reports that Trump on Feb. 8 sent a letter to President Xi, wishing Xi and the Chinese people a happy Lantern Festival and saying that he looked forward to working with China to develop a constructive relationship. "China attaches great importance to developing the relationship with the United States," said Lu. China is ready to work with the U.S. side to expand cooperation and manage any differences guided by the principles of upholding non-conflict and non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation, so that bilateral ties develop in a healthy and stable way, said Lu. Lu added, just as President Xi has said, China and the United States both had a responsibility to safeguard world peace and stability, and promote global development and prosperity. "Cooperation is the only right choice for China and the United States,"said Lu. Lantern Festival, which falls on Feb. 11 this year, is held to mark the first full moon of the new lunar year. It falls on the 15th day of the first lunar month. Chinese people consider it to be one of the country's most important holidays. ^ top ^

Putin to attend China summits on 'One Belt' and BRICS (SCMP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend two of the most important diplomatic events China will host this year, a top envoy for Moscow said, in a possible sign of the two nations drawing closer together. Putin would attend the summit on the “One Belt, One Road” President Xi Jinping would host in May, said Andrei Denisov, the Russian ambassador in Beijing, said on Thursday. He will join leaders from about 20 countries that State Councillor Yang Jiechi has already said will take part in the discussions, to be held in Beijing. Putin would also join the annual BRICS talks, which are being held in Xiamen in Fujian province – Xi's powerbase – in early September, Denisov said. The bloc of leading emerging economies groups together Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. China and Russia have often presented a unified front on the global stage over such issues as the Syria crisis, Iran nuclear deal and North Korea nuclear threat. Since becoming president in 2013, Xi has met Putin more often that any other world leader. But Denisov said cooperation between the two countries was based on mutual interests, rather than ideology. “The leaders of the two countries will continue to meet this year as frequently as before,” Denisov told a press conference in Beijing. Speculation has been growing that ties between the United States and Russia might improve under the administration of Donald Trump, who has said he wanted friendly relations with Putin. Hopes for a thaw received a boost with the confirmation of Rex Tillerson as US secretary of state. Tillerson developed extensive ties in Russia during his time as head of ExxonMobil, and as Washington's top envoy has also expressed a desire for smother relationship with Moscow. “We should not to make any quick judgement over Russia-US relations because we haven't seen any substantial changes in bilateral ties, even though Trump did have some friendly words about Russia during his campaign,” Denisov said. “The last US administration had been working hard and firmly to deteriorate bilateral ties, so we would be very happy if such negative trend would come to a halt.” He said Putin and Xi were expected to meet at other occasions this year, including the summit of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation hosted in Kazakhstan in June. ^ top ^

Vatican and Beijing near deal on appointment of bishops, Hong Kong cardinal says (SCMP)
Beijing and the Vatican have reached an initial consensus over the appointment of bishops on the mainland, removing a key obstacle to the normalisation of ties, Cardinal John Tong Hon said. The head of Hong Kong's Catholic Church said the pope would remain the final authority in appointing mainland bishops. If a deal was finalised, the role of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association – the sole state-backed Catholic body on the mainland – would change significantly, he said. Tong, writing in the Sunday Examiner weekly, also sought to address criticism the Vatican should proceed cautiously in improving ties with a state that limits religious freedom, saying such concerns should not stand in the way of their relationship. Beijing and Vatican broke off diplomatic ties in 1951, creating a schism between mainland Catholics who acknowledged the pope's spiritual authority and those who were members of state-approved churches. ' But Pope Francis has been trying to heal the rift, sanctioning a working group to resolve obstacles, including the appointment of bishops. The resumption of dialogue between China and the Vatican suggests Beijing has made changes to its policy on the Catholic Church. In a 3,443-word article giving his views on the state of talks, Tong said: “Beijing will... recognise the pope's right of veto and that the pope is the highest and final authority in deciding on the candidates for bishops in China.” The Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association would no longer have self-nomination and self-ordination of bishops, he said. The association might reorient itself “to encourage clergy and faithful to carry out social charities, actively start social services, and work on things of social interest”, he wrote. Tong said Beijing was more concerned about the patriotism of bishops than their love of the church, but Catholic churches on the mainland had no political aspirations and Chinese catholics were patriotic. ' An agreement on bishops would enhance trust between the two sides and alleviate government suspicions that bishops from unofficial churches were “opposition”. “From now on, there will be no more the crisis of a division between the open and underground communities in the church in China,” Tong said. “The church in China will work together to preach the gospel of Jesus on the land of China.” On the seven mainland bishops who had been ordained without the consent of the Vatican, Tong said they had written to the pope and were willing to seek forgiveness. Addressing concerns over the Vatican's involvement with a state that restricts freedom of worship, Tong said allowing the pope to appoint bishops was an “essential freedom”. Ensuring churches could spread their faith, run schools and own properties was important, but the church needed to decide whether to embrace essential freedom first, and later strive for complete freedom, he said. “In fact, the moral principle of the church teaches us to choose the lesser of two evils,” Tong said. “Therefore, under the teaching of the principle of healthy realism that Pope Francis teaches us, it is clear which path the Catholic Church in China ought to take.” A mainland Catholic said Tong's comments raised concerns over whether the Vatican had compromised its principles to reach a deal with Beijing. But Anthony Lam Sui-ki, executive secretary and researcher at the Holy Spirit Study Centre of the Hong Kong Diocese, viewed the matter differently. “[Tong] suggested Catholics on the mainland should try their best to do anything they can, not just wait for the Chinese authorities to give you entire freedom, because it's impractical,” he said. Estimates of the number of mainland Catholics vary from eight to 12 million, with most belonging to official churches. ^ top ^

Entering foreigners to be fingerprinted (China Daily)
China will start to collect fingerprints and capture facial images of foreign passport holders entering China at selected ports beginning on Friday to tighten border security, a source in the Ministry of Public Security said on Thursday. Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport will be among those using the new policy before it is rolled out in other areas. Border control authorities nationwide will fingerprint all foreign passport holders ages 14 to 70 by the end of the year. In addition to fingerprints, biometric data will also be collected, said the ministry source, who requested anonymity. Fingerprint collection devices have been installed at the Shenzhen airport, and signs indicating the new policy have been put up to inform foreign travelers, the source said. People holding diplomatic passports or beneficiaries of reciprocal agreements will not be required to provide fingerprints. The move is an important way to strengthen entry and exit control, the source said. Collecting and storing the fingerprints of arriving foreigners is already an international practice in many other countries, including the United States and Japan. Authorities will ensure that the new system is efficient and does not result in unnecessary delays, the ministry said. "Fingerprinting foreigners can significantly reduce the number of people entering China illegally with other people's passports. They may look like the pictures on the passports, but their fingerprints will never match the passport holder," said Zhang Jie, a professor at People's Public Security University who specializes in the study of exit and entry policies. For regular travelers, the new system will shorten the time spent at border control because their identities can be quickly confirmed based on fingerprint information stored in the system, she said. China has been focusing on further strengthening national security, and investing in the new system is a part of it, she said, adding that people entering China illegally are likely to work illegally and even get involved in criminal activities. Foreign passport holders exited and entered China 76.3 million times last year, an increase of 47 percent from 2015. About 14.2 million who entered gave the reason as tourism, up by 72 percent from the previous year, according to data released by the ministry on Thursday. Border control authorities also caught 2,705 people exiting or entering China illegally last year, the ministry said. "I don't mind having my fingerprints collected at border control, because it is pretty common now," said Michael Gall, a UK citizen who works in Beijing. "I just hope authorities can inform foreigners in advance and let us know when busier airports in Beijing and Shanghai will implement the new policy." ^ top ^

Terrorists with fake ID documents one of concerns (Global Times)
China decided on Thursday to gradually register fingerprint information of all foreigners at nationwide ports of entry, a measure to reinforce border control. The Ministry of Public Security will start to pilot the scheme at Shenzhen airport in South China's Guangdong Province on Friday, collecting the fingerprints of foreigners aged between 14 and 70, according to a statement released on the website of the ministry on Thursday. The ministry said collecting biodata from those who enter China's territory aims to strengthen border management, which is an international practice, the China News Service reported. Terrorists coming to China with fake identity documents were one of the concerns when the public security authorities rolled out the policy, Wu Shaozhong, an intelligence expert from the People's Public Security University, said. Biodata is more reliable than the information shown in passports, considering that officers from exit and entry administrations may not be used to the facial features of certain foreigners, so the difference between the pictures on their passports and their faces might be overlooked, a Beijing-based expert who asked for anonymity told the Global Times on Thursday. "Without fingerprints, it is more difficult to trace back terrorists if they replace the photos on real passports," the expert said. Exceptions to the rule include foreigners who hold diplomatic passports and delegations led by officials at vice-ministerial level or above. China's top legislature reformed exit and entry laws in July 2012, introducing a common international practice by which immigration authorities may collect fingerprints and other biodata from those who exit or enter China's territory, the Xinhua News Agency reported in August 2013. Countries like the EU members, Russia, Singapore and Thailand have already included fingerprint information in the electronic passports while the US, the UK, Japan, and South Korea have begun to issue visas containing biodata or collect fingerprints of foreigners when entering the nations, the ministry said in 2012. The number of foreigners entering China has been increasing by 10 percent annually since 2000, the ministry said. In 2016, the number of foreigners crossing Chinese borders reached 76.31 million. China's police organs have collected immigrants' fingerprints since 2005 to improve the efficiency of immigration procedures and protect national security. For Chinese citizens, China's police departments have issued a new, microchipped ordinary passport which contains digitized data of the bearer's fingerprint and signature starting from 2012. ^ top ^

Abe's effort to use US as counterweight to China is likely to be futile: expert (Global Times)
Japan is trying to offer economic and trade incentives to ensure the US continues the Asia-Pacific security strategy of the Obama administration in order to act as a counterweight to China, but the move will prove to be futile and put Japan in an awkward situation, Chinese experts said. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe headed to Washington on Thursday to meet with US President Donald Trump. The two will spend the weekend at the Mar-a-Lago in Florida and play golf, media reported. "However dazzling the program of the visit may be, the essence of the visit is to strike a deal," Gao Hong, deputy director with the Institute of Japanese Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. Gao said that "unlike the UK and Australia, who enjoy a good relationship with China which could offset any negative US impact on their economies, Abe's misguided foreign policy, which considers China as an enemy, has left the country with no other choice but to rely on the US and follow it." Abe will bring a package Tokyo says could create 700,000 US jobs through private-public investment in infrastructure, Reuters reported. During the campaign, Trump frequently called on Japan to pay more to maintain the US military facilities in the country. In the first few days of his office, Trump pulled the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, which Abe has long viewed as an effective counterweight to China in the region. Trump also accused Japan of being a currency manipulator, which Abe is meant to counter during the visit, media reported. "In a situation in which security relations in the Asia-Pacific region are increasingly severe, it is very important to demonstrate the unshakable US-Japan alliance at home and abroad," Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said about Abe's trip, Reuters reported. On his trip to Japan, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis reaffirmed Washington's commitment to defend Japan, including some disputed islands claimed by China. But experts believe there is nothing new about the US stand. "Trump might use Japan to restrain China, but will never fight against China for Japan's sake. The US will not treat China as an enemy, since it is not in line with the US interests. If Abe does, he's doomed to be alone," said Gao. ^ top ^

PLA 'does not want war', but is not afraid of one (China Daily)
The People's Liberation Army does not want a war in the South China Sea, but will not be afraid of one if it knocks on China's door, the military has said. An editorial published on Tuesday on the PLA Daily's website said the Chinese military is not afraid of "demons" and "intimidation", adding that the PLA dares to "show its sword" and has a proven record of safeguarding national interests. It invoked China's determination and victory in the Korean War as well as the Chinese government's warning toward the United States' escalation in the 1960s during the Vietnam War. "In the past, the PLA produced numerous miracles in wars, despite being outnumbered by enemies or having inferior weapons compared with those of its adversaries. Today, our troops are well equipped and high-spirited... Facing risk-takers, the PLA, which owns DF series ballistic missiles, will show them that we are ready for a war and we do not fear wars," the article said. In another article published on the same website on Wednesday, the writer blasted "some US politicians" for believing that lasting superiority over China and the Asia-Pacific will ensure the US' "global leadership", saying that playing tricks with China in the South China Sea is unreasonable and dangerous. The article also suggests that the US should focus on its domestic issues instead of "interfering elsewhere" if it wishes to become "great again". The articles came after recent claims from senior US officials threatening to take hard-line measures against China over issues relating to the South China Sea. Shao Yongling, a professor of military strategy at the PLA Rocket Force Command College, told China Daily that the remarks show the Chinese military's determination and capability of safeguarding the country's sovereignty and interests anywhere. "They also show that we are well prepared for contingencies. I believe these remarks are more like warnings than threats. They aim at telling the US that we will not tolerate negative actions that compromise our interests," she said. Shao added that the PLA Rocket Force will definitely be mobilized if there is a large joint operation in the South China Sea and that Chinese ballistic missiles are capable of covering all of the sea. Li Li, a military equipment expert at PLA National Defense University, said recent moves by the US, such as sending the littoral combat ship USS Coronado to the South China Sea, indicate that the new US government will not relax its interference in the region and it does not want to see the recent improvement in relations between China and other nations in the region. "However, no matter what measures the US plans to take, we will never abandon our sovereignty, interests and rights in the South China Sea," she said. Yang Xiyu, a researcher of Asia-Pacific security affairs at the China Institute of International Studies in Beijing, told China Central Television that some US politicians are hoping that military pressure will intimidate China in the South China Sea, but this has repeatedly turned out to be useless. He said that the stronger the PLA is, the less willing the US will be to launch a war against China. ^ top ^

China says United States should 'brush up' on its South China Sea history (SCMP)
The United States needs to brush up on its history about the South China Sea, as second world war-related agreements mandated that all Chinese territories taken by Japan had to be returned to Beijing, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in Australia. China has been upset by previous comments from the new US administration about the disputed waterway. In his Senate confirmation hearing, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said China should not be allowed access to islands it had built there. The White House also vowed to defend “international territories” in the strategic waterway. However, last week US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis suggested that diplomacy should be the priority in the South China Sea. In comments carried on the foreign ministry's website on Tuesday, Wang said he had a “suggestion” for this American friends. “Brush up on the history of World War Two,” Wang was quoted as saying during a visit to Canberra, Australia. The 1943 Cairo Declaration and 1945 Potsdam Declaration clearly stated that Japan had to return to China all Chinese territory taken by Japan, Wang said. “This includes the Nansha Islands,” he added, using China's name for the Spratly Islands. “In 1946, the then-Chinese government with help from the United States openly and in accordance with the law took back the Nansha Islands and reefs that Japan had occupied, and resumed exercising sovereignty,” Wang said. “Afterwards, certain countries around China used illegal methods to occupy some of the Nansha islands and reefs, and it's this that created the so-called South China Sea dispute.” China was committed to having talks with the parties directly involved, and in accordance with historical facts and international law to peacefully resolve the issue, and that position would not change, Wang said. ' Countries outside the region should support the efforts of China and others in the region to maintain the peace and stability of the South China Sea, and not do the opposite, he added. Beijing had set great store on Mattis' comments stressing diplomatic efforts in the South China Sea, as this was not only the position set by China and Southeast Asia, but also the “correct choice” for countries outside the region, Wang said. China claims most of the South China Sea, while Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei claim parts of the waters that command strategic sea lanes and have rich fishing grounds along with oil and gas deposits. Wang was in Australia for scheduled strategic dialogue talks with Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. ^ top ^

British PM invited to Silk Road summit in Beijing, sources say (SCMP)
China has invited British Prime Minister Theresa May to attend a major summit in May on its “One Belt, One Road” initiative to build a new Silk Road, diplomatic sources said, as London announced she would visit China this year. “One Belt, One Road” is President Xi Jinping's landmark programme to invest billions of yuan in infrastructure projects including railways, ports and power grids across Asia, Africa and Europe. China has dedicated US$40 billion to a Silk Road Fund and the idea was the driving force behind the opening last year of the US$50 billion China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. China has so far given few details about who will attend the summit, to be held in Beijing. The country's top diplomat, State Councillor Yang Jiechi, told state-run China Daily last week that leaders from about 20 Asian, European, African and Latin American countries had confirmed their participation. He did not give names. One Beijing-based diplomatic source said May was among those invited. “China is choosing the countries it sees as friends and who will be most influential in promoting 'One Belt, One Road',” the source said. ' Two other diplomatic sources confirmed May had been invited. “It's China's most important diplomatic event of the year,” one of the sources said. The Foreign Ministry in Beijing did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Sri Lanka has confirmed its prime minister will attend, and China says Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will also be at the summit. Speaking in London, May's aides confirmed she would visit China this year to discuss trade ties, the latest in a series of foreign trips to cement relations with major powers as she negotiates Britain's divorce from the European Union. May's aides gave few details about the trip, but she is keen to strengthen her hand by securing foreign support before launching complicated Brexit talks. ' “It would be a renewed expression of the close relationship between Britain and China, something that you have seen obviously develop over the past few years,” a spokesman for May said on Tuesday. “I would imagine that trade would form some part of the discussions that we have.” The Ministry of Commerce has said China has an open attitude towards a free-trade deal with Britain once it leaves the EU and is willing to study it. May attended a summit in China of the G20 leading economies in September, shortly after she became prime minister following June's referendum vote to leave the EU, and was invited by Xi to visit again. With May having made clear she plans for Britain to leave the EU's single market, trade has dominated her talks with foreign leaders in recent months. She has secured assurances from US President Donald Trump, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other world powers that they are keen to start talks on boosting links. ^ top ^

Sparks fly as Vatican conference challenges China over executed prisoners' organs (SCMP)
Participants at a Vatican conference on organ trafficking challenged China on Tuesday to allow independent scrutiny to ensure it is no longer using organs from executed prisoners, saying Chinese assurances were not enough to prove the transplant programme had been reformed. Sparks flew in the afternoon session of the meeting as China's former deputy health minister, Dr Huang Jiefu, sought to assure the international medical community that China was “mending its ways” after declaring an end to the prisoner harvesting programme in 2015. “I am fully aware of the speculation about my participation in the summit,” Huang told the conference, citing “continuing concerns about the transplant activities”. He provided scant data to rebut critics, however, showing only two slides indicating an increased number of living and deceased donors in recent years and China's recent efforts to crack down on black market transplant activities. Huang first publicly acknowledged the inmate harvesting organ programme in 2005 and later said as many as 90 per cent of Chinese transplant surgeries using organs from dead people came from executed prisoners. […] He has spearheaded a reform effort and pledged that China put an end to the programme in 2015. But doubts persist that China is meeting its pledge, given its lack of transparency, the severe shortage of organ donors and China's longstanding black-market organ trade. Huang's colleague, Dr Haibo Wang, stressed the sheer impossibility of trying to fully control China's transplant activity since there are one million medical centres and three million licensed doctors operating in the country. As a result, China proposed at the Vatican meeting that the World Health Organisation form a global task force to help crack down on illicit organ trafficking. Dr Jacob Lavee, president of Israel's transplant society, insisted in response that WHO be allowed to conduct surprise inspections and interview donor relatives in China. “As long as there is no accountability for what took place... there can be no guarantee for ethical reform,” he told the conference in a heated exchange. […] He was joined by Dr Gabriel Danilovitch, from the UCLA Medical Centre, who challenged the Chinese delegation to declare straight out if prisoner organs were no longer used. Haibo countered that he and Huang had spent the past 12 years battling critics inside China and out to reform the sector, and said China should not be singled out for spot WHO inspections. The back-and-forth underscored the controversy over Beijing's participation in the conference, after critics sent letter to organisers and Pope Francis warning that Chinese attendance amounted to a Vatican whitewash of its past practices. Organisers, however, stood firm in their invitation and even came to China's defence in trying to prevent television cameras from covering the Chinese presentation. “Are they doing any illegal transplantation of organs in China? We can't say,” said Monsignor Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. “But we want to strengthen the movement for change.” The Vatican conference is part of Pope Francis' efforts to crack down on trafficking in humans and organs. China's participation also conveniently corresponded with his efforts to engage Beijing in hopes of improving diplomatic relations. China's foreign ministry, however, played down the diplomatic significance of Huang's presence. It is unclear how effective a WHO organ trafficking task force would be, given that the UN agency is completely reliant on countries to provide health information and statistics and rarely collects or independently verifies data provided by governments. China has long been criticised for its lack of transparency in public health. During the global outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) more than a decade ago, for example, China initially covered up the epidemic. By the time Beijing began to acknowledge the true scale of the outbreak, SARS had spilled across Asia and to North America. More recently, China has been criticised for not quickly sharing details of its expanding bird flu outbreak. WHO, now run by China's Dr Margaret Chan, has largely refrained from criticising the country's efforts and has endorsed its organ transplant reform process. China aside, WHO is typically loath to criticise member countries. During the 2014 Ebola outbreak, for example, it delayed for months declaring the biggest-ever epidemic of the lethal disease to be a global emergency, fearing it would offend the affected countries. It also refrained from publicly slamming Brazil last year when the country initially refused to share virus samples from its Zika outbreak. ^ top ^

Outsider countries should support efforts to safeguard peace, stability in South China Sea: FM (Xinhua)
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Tuesday that outsider countries should support efforts to safeguard peace and stability in South China Sea instead of doing the opposite. Those countries directly concerned have been back "on the right track" to resolve the South China Sea issue through dialogue and consultation, Wang told a press conference after the fourth round of China-Australia diplomatic and strategic dialogue. "So in this sense, we have attached great importance to the recent statement made by U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, stressing diplomatic efforts to resolve the dispute over South China Sea," said Wang. "It's not only the position taken by China and the ASEAN countries, but also a right choice for outsider countries," he added. When asked what the message China would like to send to the United States over the South China Sea issue, Wang suggested that the United States review the Word War II history. "It's with the aid of the United States that the Chinese government of that day recovered the Nansha Islands in 1946 publicly and legally," he said. Wang said China will always adhere to a peaceful approach, based on historical facts and international law, to resolve the South China Sea issue through dialogue and consultation with the directly concerned countries. ^ top ^

US panel warns Trump ditching One-China policy is 'exceedingly dangerous' (SCMP)
The Trump administration shouldn't abandon long-standing US policy on the status of Taiwan, a prominent panel of China specialists said Tuesday, calling such a move “exceedingly dangerous.” Before taking office, President Donald Trump questioned Washington's “one China policy” that shifted diplomatic recognition from self-governing Taiwan to China in 1979. He said it was open to negotiation. But former US officials and scholars said in a report that such an approach could destabilise the Asia-Pacific and leave Taiwan more vulnerable. US-China relations are at a “precarious crossroads” and the two world powers could be on a “collision course,” it said, describing a rivalry that is growing amid Beijing's assertion of territorial claims in the disputed South and East China Seas. The report is the product of an expert task force convened by the Asia Society and the University of California San Diego. It includes former officials who have served both Democratic and Republican administrations — two key Asia policymakers for the Obama administration among them: Kurt Campbell, who served as top diplomat for East Asia during Obama's first term, and Evan Medeiros, who was White House senior director for Asian affairs. China has bristled at the “one China” comments by Trump, who wants to pressure Beijing to narrow its huge trade surplus with America. Beijing also warned of instability in East Asia after Trump's defence secretary, Jim Mattis, said last week on a trip to the region that a US commitment to defend Japanese territory applies to an island group that China claims. The Trump administration has cast its China policy as part of a “peace through strength” approach. “The incoming administration should be mindful of lessons from the past,” the report said. “It would be exceedingly dangerous to unilaterally abandon our long-standing 'One China policy' — an understanding that has served as the basis for the US relationship with China... for almost four decades.” Medeiros said it would undermine US standing in the region. “The rest of Asia looks at what the administration's doing on Taiwan, and nobody agrees with it,” he said as the report was released. “The rest of Asia does not want to follow the US to war with China over the question of Taiwan.” On Barack Obama's watch, the US cooperated successfully with China on climate change and the Iran nuclear deal, but failed to curb Beijing's island building in the South China Sea. The report said “greater firmness” is needed when China impinges on US interests. It said Beijing is acting more assertively in Asia, its market-opening economic reforms have virtually halted, and its domestic politics are more authoritarian. In the South China Sea, it said the US should support diplomacy among territorial claimants and maintain active naval and air presences to show it will respond resolutely to China's use of force against the US or its allies. Trump should immediately engage China's President Xi Jinping on North Korea, where the Obama administration tightened sanctions but failed to curb its weapons development, the report said. A formal peace ought to be negotiated for the divided Korean Peninsula in return for a verified freeze of North Korean nuclear and missile programmes, and a pledge to get rid of nuclear weapons. If China doesn't exert pressure on North Korea, it said the US should impose sanctions on Chinese banks and companies doing business with Pyongyang. ^ top ^

Commentary: Meddling in Diaoyu Islands issue doomed to be bad deal for Washington (Xinhua)
Three days after U.S. defense chief James Mattis' remarks on the Diaoyu Islands in Tokyo, China conducted a new round of regular patrol in the territorial waters of the Diaoyu Islands on Monday, showing the world its firm will and determination to safeguard its national sovereignty. During his first Asia-Pacific debut as defense chief, the former four-star general of the U.S. Marine Corps said Friday that the U.S.-Japan mutual defense treaty applies to the Diaoyu Islands, which was criticized by the Chinese Foreign Ministry as "wrong remarks." Washington has long used the Diaoyu Islands as a fulcrum for an "off-shore balance," i.e., maneuvering Japan while pressuring China in East Asia, particularly under the administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama, who zealously promoted a "Pivot to Asia" strategy during the last eight years. However, the decaying U.S. credibility in East Asia as well as the rising tensions in the region should make it clear to the new president, Donald Trump, that his predecessor's "Pivot to Asia" strategy is a deal with no winners and meddling in the waters around the uninhabited islands for so-called "offshore balance" will never pay off. For one thing, interfering in the Diaoyu Islands issue only provokes China, as Beijing has made it crystal clear that there will be no bargaining over its core interests. The Diaoyu Island and its adjacent islets have been an inherent part of Chinese territory since ancient times, which is an unchangeable historical fact, and the Chinese government has repeatedly warned that territorial issues are within the domain of its core interests. If the lesson of Obama's administration in dealing with China offers any guide to Trump, the first and most important point should be ditching a zero-sum mentality, especially on the issue of the Diaoyu Islands. For another, by meddling in the Diaoyu Islands issue, Washington is actually risking turning the islands into a powder keg, thus making the issue more complicated and bringing instability to the region. Meddling in partners' core interests definitely hurts intimacy. Trump's business instinct should actually help him realize the simple fact that rivalry between partners hurts business. He and his cabinet members need to think twice about the issue of the Diaoyu Islands, and distance themselves from Obama's stance and approach. ^ top ^

China urges caution on anti-missile system (Global Times)
China on Monday called on the US and Japan to deal with anti-missile issue with "great care" as the two countries jointly launched a missile on Friday, a move Chinese experts said will break global strategic balance and trigger arms race. "China always believes that the anti-missile issue bears on global strategic stability and mutual trust among major powers, and therefore shall be approached with great care," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a press briefing on Monday. Lu said that "All countries, while preserving their own security interests, shall also respect the security concerns of others, follow the principle of maintaining global strategic stability and compromising security of no other nations." Lu called for all countries to "jointly build a peaceful and stable international security environment where everyone enjoys equality, mutual trust, and win-win cooperation." He also reiterated China's firm opposition to the deployment of the US-backed Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea. The US and Japan successfully conducted a missile test on Friday near the Kauai island, Hawaiian - making the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA interceptor take out the target ballistic missile, CNN reported, citing the US Missile Defense Agency. The SM-3 Block IIA interceptor will be deployed before 2020, to prevent possible missile attacks from North Korea, Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported on Monday. Major General Yao Yunzhu, a senior researcher at the People's Liberation Army's Academy of Military Science, told the Global Times on Tuesday that "the deployment of the missile is part of the US's anti-missile system in East Asia." Yao added that the successful missile test not only posed threat to China's military security and but also breaks the global strategic balance, including the balance between the US and Russia. "The SM-3 Block IIA missile is able to intercept intermediate and long-range missile, which make it possible for the US and Japan to intercept China's DF-26 ballistic missiles and DF-31 intercontinental missiles," Shao Yongling, a professor from the People's Liberation Army Rocket Force Command College, told the Global Times. White House chief strategist Steve Bannon predicted in March 2016 that a war would break out between the US and China in the South China Sea in five to 10 years. "There's no doubt about that," the Guardian reported on Thursday. The Independent on Monday cited Peter Roberts, director of military sciences at the Royal United Services Institute, as saying that "America would take military losses. They would lose thousands and thousands. But China would be utterly defeated." However, Shao said that a war may be avoidable since it could only cause destruction to both sides. "It is more likely that the US will use its allies like South Korea, Japan and the Philippines to contain China," Shao said. ^ top ^

Chinese FM calls for expediting RCEP talks (Xinhua)
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Tuesday called for expediting the talks of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) for the construction of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP). China is open to any regional trade arrangement conducive to regional economic integration and global free trade system, Wang told a press conference after the fourth round of China-Australia diplomatic and strategic dialogue. As for various regional or sub-regional cooperation mechanisms in the Asia-Pacific, some are thriving while others are faltering, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), he said. Wang stressed that practice on the ground has showed that any regional cooperation should take into consideration the needs for economic development rather than political factors. "Either the RCEP or TPP or other regional arrangements is a possible path to the broader FTAAP," Wang said. The top Chinese diplomat urged relevant parties, including Australia, to make joint efforts to conclude the RCEP negotiations at an early date so as to contribute to achieving the common goal of building the FTAAP. Launched in November 2012, the RCEP talks involve 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its six major trading partners - China, Japan, South Korea, India, New Zealand and Australia - with an aim of facilitating expansion of regional trade and investment. ^ top ^

China protests over US sanctions on Chinese firms 'linked to Iran' (SCMP)
China has formally complained to the authorities in Washington over newly-imposed US sanctions against Iran which it says will severely affect Chinese businesses. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a daily press briefing on Monday that China opposes “unilateral sanctions” and that the move by Washington had adversely affected the interests of other parties. “The sanctions will not help in enhancing trust among the different parties involved and will not help in resolving international problems,” he said. The US imposed sanctions against 25 groups and people on Friday after Iran carried out a ballistic missile test. 'They're not behaving': Iran tests missile, radar systems a day after new US sanctions (The sanctions bar access to the US financial system or dealings with American companies. Foreign companies or people dealing with them also face blacklisting by the US authorities. The new sanctions are the first of Trump's presidency and target what US officials say is Iran's weapons procurement network in Lebanon and China. The sanctions imposed include two Chinese companies and three Chinese people. Only one was explicitly named by the US Treasury Department as a Chinese citizen - identified as Qin Xianhua. Another official named in the list, Yue Yaodong, an executive at Cosailing Business Trading Co in Qingdao, told the South China Morning Post that his firm had been forced to close as his accounts at the Agricultural Bank of China had been closed. Yue said his company had only provided quotations to Iranian customers for “daily use items” and machinery parts through emails more than three years ago. He said he sent product samples to Iranian customers, but no deals were agreed or completed after they were dispatched. He did not elaborate on what the samples were. The company's website says it is involved in trading a wide range of products from furnaces to treadmills and false eyelashes. “I don't know what my company has done that would lead to US sanctions,” Yue said. “I have no idea why the Agricultural Bank of China would freeze my accounts. I have not been engaged in trade with Iranian customers for years. “I don't have a way out but to close the company. I don't think it's useful to raise a complaint,” he said. The other Chinese company on the list is the Ningbo New Century Import and Export Co, based in the eastern port city of Ningbo. One of its websites features adverts for the import and export of fire hydrants and inner tubes for motorcycles. An export manager at Ningbo New Century, who did not give his full name, told the Reuters news agency it carried out “normal” exports to Iran, but did not elaborate. “There's nothing we can do. Let them put us on the sanctions list,” he said, declining to comment further comment. Iran tested medium-range ballistic missile, US official says( The state-run Xinhua news agency said in a commentary on Sunday that new sanctions would have a limited effect on Iran, but opened a new chapter in the stand-off between Washington and Tehran. “Now Trump has taken office, uncertainly in the US-Iran relationship has risen and this may become a ticking time bomb for peace and stability in the Middle East,” the commentary said. China has previously been angered by what it calls unilateral sanctions taken against Chinese firms by the United States and others in relation against Iran or North Korea's nuclear ambitions. China has close economic and diplomatic ties with Tehran, but was also instrumental in pushing through a landmark 2015 deal to curb the nation's nuclear programme. ^ top ^

China lauds Mattis' call for diplomatic push on South China Sea (China Daily)
It is "worthy of recognition" that the US defense secretary stressed a diplomatic push in the South China Sea disputes, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Monday after the Pentagon chief played down any need for major US military moves in the South China Sea. US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis' comment of no need for US military operations in the South China Sea deserved to be recognized, and China also insists handling maritime disputes directly through diplomatic channels between the relevant parties, spokesman Lu Kang said at a routine news conference on Monday. Countries not involved should respect the common interests and wishes of the nations in the South China Sea region as the relevant parties have agreed to handle disputes through dialogues, he said. During his visit to Tokyo on Saturday, Mattis said that the South China Sea disputes should be resolved through diplomatic channels first. "There is no need right now at this time for military maneuvers or something like that, that would solve something that's best solved by the diplomats," he told reporters, adding that the US Navy would continue to exercises "freedom of navigation rights" in the South China Sea. On Sunday, Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada ruled out the possibility of the Self-Defense Forces participating in US military operations in the South China Sea. "I told Secretary Mattis that Japan supports the US military's freedom of navigation operation in the sea," Inada said on a TV program Sunday. "But the SDF will not be sent to the area." The US defense secretary's remarks of resolving the South China Sea disputes through diplomacy should be encouraged because "flexing military muscles will do no good" to the resolution of disputes, said Ruan Zongze, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies. ^ top ^

Senior Chinese health official to attend Vatican summit on organ trafficking (SCMP)
A top Chinese health official will attend a conference at the Vatican on organ trafficking this week, a state run newspaper said on Monday, with the visit coming as China and the Holy See try to improve ties. Pope Francis would like to heal a decades-old rift with China where Catholics are divided between those loyal to him and those who are members of a government-controlled official church. The Global Times, published by the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily, said on its website that Huang Jiefu, a former vice-minister of health and the current head of the China Human Organ Donation and Transplant Committee, would attend for China. It gave no other details of his attendance at the February 7-8 Summit on Organ Trafficking and Transplant Tourism. ' In 2015, China officially ended systematic use of organs from executed prisoners in transplants, a practice long condemned by international human rights groups and medical ethicists. Authorities keen to promote an image of a donor system more in keeping with China's growing prominence, have cracked down on a black market in organ trafficking and stepped up public donor rates to help meet a huge demand for transplants. It is not clear if Huang would meet any Vatican officials to discuss broader relations with China. One of the obstacles to improving ties is the question of who should be able to appoint senior clergy in China. China says bishops must be named by the Chinese Catholic community and refuses to accept the authority of the pope, whom it sees as the head of a foreign state that has no right to meddle in China's affairs. The two sides have been at loggerheads since the expulsion of foreign missionaries from China after the Communists took power in 1949. Another source of friction is the Vatican's maintenance of official ties with self-ruled Taiwan, which is claimed by Beijing as its own. ^ top ^

US defence secretary Mattis pushes diplomatic solutions, but Beijing remains wary of Trump administration (SCMP)
A softer line taken by US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis over the South China Sea on Saturday may help clarify Washington's stance, but Beijing is likely to remain very cautious on the rhetoric of President Donald Trump's administration, Chinese analysts said. Speaking in Tokyo with his Japanese counterpart Tomomi Inada as he wrapped up his first overseas trip, Mattis played down any need for major US military moves in the South China Sea. “What we have to do is exhaust all efforts, diplomatic efforts, to try and resolve this properly. Our military stance should be one that reinforces our diplomats,” he said. “At this time, we do not see any need for dramatic military moves at all.” ' However, Mattis said, China, which claims most of the waters in the South China Sea, had “shredded the trust of nations in the region, apparently trying to have veto authority over the diplomatic and security and economic conditions of neighbouring states”. His remarks came as countries in the region watched for any changes in US foreign policy under Trump, especially in the disputed South China Sea, where fears of armed conflict between the world's two major powers remain high. Mattis' reaffirmation on Friday that the Trump administration would abide by the previous US stance that the US-Japan security treaty applied to defending Japan's administration of the disputed Senkaku islands, called the Diaoyus by China, drew criticism from Beijing. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang called on the United States to avoid discussion of the issue and reasserted China's claim of sovereignty over the uninhabited islands. Wu Xinbo, a professor at Shanghai's Fudan University, said Mattis' latest remarks highlighting diplomatic efforts in the South China Sea disputes were a means for Beijing to learn Trump's policy, amid speculation that the new US government would take a tougher stance over China than the previous Barack Obama administration. Professor Shi Yinghong, from Renmin University in Beijing, said there was no obvious indication the Trump administration would be soft on China, given previous harsh remarks from other officials as well as the unpredictability of Trump's foreign policy thus far. “I think Mattis' comments mean that the Trump administration so far has no better solution on the South China Sea disputes, but we can't say that this will be the future strategic direction [of the administration's South China Sea policy] just because [Mattis] spoke in a softer tone,” Shi said. Meanwhile, top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi had a phone conversation with Michael Flynn, the national security advisor of the Trump administration, on Friday, in the first publicly disclosed high-level interaction between Beijing and Washington since Trump was inaugurated on January 20. Yang told Flynn that China hoped the new US government would work with China, “to strengthen high-level and other exchanges, maintain the political foundation and expand the political basis of bilateral relations, and manage and control disputes and sensitive issues”, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement released late on Friday night. Both sides also discussed other regional issues, the statement said, without giving further details. The White House has not yet released any details of the call. Renmin University's Shi said Yang was likely to have touched on Taiwan issues in his call with Flynn. Liu Qing, from the China Institute of International Studies in Beijing, said Beijing would be cautious of any comments from the Trump administration. “Beijing is taking a defensive stance, because the Trump administration is aggressive to everyone, not only China, but also its allies,” he said. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

Tibetan writer gets surprise call from jailed dissident's wife (SCMP)
Tibetan writer Tsering Woeser said she has received a phone call from Liu Xia, the wife of jailed Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo. The writer posted on social media that she was shocked to receive the phone call on Wednesday. Liu Xia has been kept incommunicado by authorities since her husband was jailed for 11 years in 2009 for subversive charges. “She said she was just trying to make a phone call, to see if she could make it,” Woeser said. “I told her that I saw pictures of her having meals with friends and thought she was better now.” “And she said that she was just a sick person pretending to be in good shape.” Wife of China's jailed Nobel Laureate suspected of suffering from severe depression (Woeser wrote that Liu said over the phone “I am Liu Xia” twice. The writer said she would try calling Liu in the future. Liu Xia's husband, who co-authored and gathered signatures for a document promoting democratic reforms, is serving his sentence in Liaoning. Liu Xia was placed under house arrest even though she was not accused of any wrongdoing. In a brief conversation with journalists from the Associated Press four years ago, Liu Xia compared her situation to a Kafka story, saying she was living in an “absurd place”. ^ top ^

41.2 pct of Chinese hold urban hukou in 2016 (Global Times)
China's registered permanent urban residents rose to 41.2 percent of the total population in 2016, after easing of "hukou" (household registration) policy, the Ministry of Public Security announced Thursday. In 2015, only 39.9 percent of the population held urban status and the current urbanization drive is aiming for 45 percent by 2020. At a video conference held on Thursday, the ministry of public security called for a more reasonable points system and for registration in most cities for students and migrant workers to become easier still. The government is gradually bringing the unregistered population into the hukou system, including orphans, second children born illegally during the one-child policy and the homeless. Last year, more than 1.43 million people formerly without hukou were registered, the ministry said. Various benefits such as health care and education are based on hukou, and are supposed to be in line with long-term places of work and residence. ^ top ^

Plans to teach Qing Dynasty book sparks fight over culture and obedience (Global Times)
Central government plans to make students around the country study a book which encourages the reader to always listen to their parents and teachers have sparked controversy, with some experts saying that the book will simply "teach people to be obedient." The State Council, China's cabinet, issued guidelines in January which said that by 2025 major achievements should be made in traditional culture-related research, education, protection, inheritance, innovation and exchanges. The international influence of Chinese culture should see a "marked boost," said the guideline. One part of the guideline says that the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) book Di Zi Gui (students' rules) should be included in the curriculum of elementary schools. The book, which contains only 360 sentences, explains how to be a good student and child, and tells readers to follow a traditional Confucian moral code. It says that "when my parents instruct me, I will listen respectfully. When my parents scold me, I must accept and obey them." Di Zi Gui exaggerates the concept of "obedience" because it tells youngsters to obey their parents and teachers unquestioningly, said Xu Fanchi, an expert at the Nanshe Traditional Culture Research Institute in Suzhou, East China's Jiangsu Province. Xu said the book is used by pyramid schemes to brainwash members. April 2016, police in Hefei, capital of East China's Anhui Province arrested members of a local pyramid scheme, and found every member had a copy of Di Zi Gui, the Hefei Evening News reported. "The spirit of pyramid schemes is unconditional obedience to people at the higher level, which is in accordance with the ideas of Di Zi Gui," a pyramid scheme member surnamed Zhang told the Hefei Evening News. However the book has already gained popularity in schools across China in recent years despite this criticism. Some 20 schools in Chengdu, capital of Southwest China's Sichuan Province required students to read the book in 2015, some schools even holding exams on the work, local newspaper the Chengdu Evening News reported. In 2015, a private school in Shanghai asked over 750 students to recite passages from Di Zi Gui at a ceremony and follow the host in putting on clothes resembling those worn during the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD) while reciting Confucian classics which describe an "ideal world," according to the school. In May 2015, 28 students in Jiangmen, South China's Guangzhou Province kneeled down in front of their parents and washed their feet as part of an activity to learn from Di Zi Gui, local newspaper the Jiangmen Daily reported. However Xu said that true filial piety cannot be learned from a one-time activity, "it's a habit that develops over the years and should be taught by the parents' own example." Xu said that apart from the misleading ideas some learn from Di Zi Gui, few teachers are likely to be able to teach students about the book well. Some sayings are ambiguous and difficult to understand, said Xu, adding that the students are unlikely to grasp its essence without proper instruction. Zhang Jian, chief of the task force group of China's Ministry of Education, echoed these concerns. He told the Xinhua News Agency in January that many people misunderstand the book, including experts. Some scholars say the book is wrong when it asks children to taste their parent's medicine when they are sick, as healthy people should not take medicine, said Zhang. "But the book's actual meaning is that they should check whether the medicine is too hot for their parents," said Zhang. However, Zhang Guoyun, headmaster of Tianjiabing Middle School, Chengdu, was quoted by the Chengdu Evening News as saying that Di Zi Gui can help built students' patriotism, concern for society and personality. Ren Dengdi, dean of the Chinese culture department at Beijing Mingyuan University, told the Global Times that although Di Zi Gui may go against "critical thinking," which is encouraged in the West, it is the essence of Chinese culture. "This book stresses the continuation of Chinese society by asking people to build a good relationship with their parents and teachers," said Ren, adding that it also helps to maintain the power of the country's rulers and the social order. Western culture, which values individuality, doesn't fit Chinese society, said Ren, adding that as students nowadays receive more Western-style education it is necessary to popularize books such as Di Zi Gui. ^ top ^

Commission aims to ensure cybersecurity (China Daily)
A commission will be established to discuss important policies on cybersecurity and organize reviews, according to a document released by the Cyberspace Administration of China on Tuesday. The document, on the security of internet products and services, was released to gather public opinion. The administration will establish the commission with other authorities. The document proposed that internet products and services related to national security and the public interests should undergo a review. According to the administration, reviews will focus on whether the products or services are secure and sufficiently managed, and on assessing risks of illegal control, disruption or interruption. The reviews will also evaluate risks of providers using their products or services to illegally gather, store, process or make use of user information. In addition, unfair competition, monopolization or any other functions that may damage users' interests will be reviewed, according to the administration. Any service or product that fails the review will be blacklisted, making them off limits for all Communist Party of China organs, government departments and key industries. Product, service targeted The review is merely looking into important internet products and services, an official with the CAC said. It will not hinder foreign products from entering the Chinese market, but rather will boost confidence in such products and services, the official said. Authorities will treat internet products and services from home and abroad equally. Zuo Xiaodong, vice-president of the China Information Security Research Institute, a government think tank, said the regulation means that while products and services that fail the review will be blacklisted, it does not mean that all internet products and services purchased by Party organs, government departments and key industries will be reviewed. Law-based regulation China has introduced a number of internet laws and regulations and is home to about 700 million internet users, the world's largest online population. In December, the CAC released a cyberspace security strategy, guaranteeing cyberspace sovereignty and national security, protecting information infrastructure and promising action against cyberterror and cybercrime. In November, a cybersecurity law stipulated that the government would take measures to "monitor, defend and handle cybersecurity risks and threats originating from within the country or overseas sources, protecting key information infrastructure from attack, intrusion, disturbance and damage". In July 2015, China's top legislature adopted a new national security law highlighting cybersecurity and demanding the establishment of a coordinated, efficient crisis management system. ^ top ^

China proposes new commission to further tighten internet oversight (SCMP)
China is proposing a further tightening of controls over the internet with the possible establishment of a new commission to vet internet services and hardware, Beijing's internet regulator has said. Beijing adopted a controversial cybersecurity law in November to counter what Beijing said were growing threats such as hacking and terrorism, but the law triggered concerns among foreign business and rights groups. Overseas critics of the law have said it threatens to shut foreign technology companies out of various sectors, and includes contentious requirements for security reviews and for data to be stored on servers in China. New draft rules, released by China's internet regulator at the weekend, propose setting up an intra-departmental body to examine and coordinate policies nationwide. The commission would consider risks to national security and stop Communist Party and government departments from buying online products and services that have not been approved. It is not clear if, or when, the new body would be set up. The proposed rules are open for public comment until March 4. Draft proposals often end up looking different when they are actually passed into law in China. The proposed new commission, and the adoption of the cybersecurity law, come amid a broad crackdown by President Xi Jinping on civil society, including rights lawyers and the media, which critics have said is meant to quash dissent. In 2015, Beijing adopted a sweeping national security law that aimed to make all key network infrastructure and information systems “secure and controllable”. China keeps a close watch over the internet, deleting comments on social media it deems harmful and blocking popular foreign websites including Google and Facebook. China has defended its controls as necessary to ensure national security and social stability. ^ top ^

Procuratorate investigates former vice state security minister (Xinhua)
Investigation into Ma Jian, former vice minister of state security, for suspected involvement in accepting bribes, is under way, China's top procuratorate said Monday. The Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP) said that it had also placed Ma under "compulsory measures." Compulsory measures can include arrest, detention, summons, bail pending trial or residential surveillance. ^ top ^



Mainland resolutely opposes Rebiya's activity in Taiwan (Global Times)
The Chinese mainland's Taiwan affairs office Wednesday expressed resolute opposition to a Taiwan political party's invitation to Xinjiang separatist leader Rebiya Kadeer to visit Taiwan, saying that the move will damage cross-Straits relations. "As is well known, Rebiya is a separatist and a leader of the East Turkestan separatist forces. We resolutely oppose Rebiya's activity in Taiwan in any form," An Fengshan, a mainland spokesman with the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said at a press conference on Wednesday. An's remarks came after the Taipei Times reported that Rebiya, the president of the World Uyghur Congress, an organization listed as a terror group in the mainland, has accepted an invitation from the Taiwan Solidarity Union to visit the island in March. The island's separatists intended to stir up trouble by inviting such a figure to visit Taiwan, which undoubtedly will damage cross-Straits relations, An added. According to the Taipei Times, it would be Rebiya's first visit to the island, if materialized. Rebiya congratulated Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen on her election victory in May 2016 and expressed her support to Tsai's administration, the Taipei Times reported. Rebiya had been denied entry into Taiwan in 2009 under the administration of Ma Ying-jeou from Kuomintang (KMT), which was slammed by the then-opposition Democratic Progressive Party led by Tsai. During the Wednesday conference, An also reaffirmed that the mainland firmly opposes linking the issue of refugees with Tibetans living overseas, when asked to comment on a report saying that Taiwan has offered scholarships to Tibetans holding "refugee cards." ^ top ^

Taiwan's sixth communist party seeks to forge close ties with mainland China (SCMP)
Yet another communist party was founded in Taiwan at the weekend, with the aim of forging closer business ties with mainland China and promoting a socialist economy. Lin Te-wang, a former central committee member of the main opposition Kuomintang, formed the Taiwan People's Communist Party at his home base in the southern city of Tainan on Saturday, becoming the sixth such party on the island. “I decided to form this party because I am disappointed with the KMT and fed up with the policies of the Democratic Progressive Party government,” Lin said. Lin, who withdrew from the KMT after failing to win a candidacy nomination from the party in the 2016 parliamentary election, said he saw no hope in his former party because of continued infighting despite its crushing defeat in both the parliamentary and presidential elections last year. ' “Nor would I trust the DPP, whose policy of alienating the mainland would only bring economic hardship to Taiwan,” he said. Lin said he wanted to achieve to achieve “cross-strait peace and close economic cooperation” through the establishment of the party, adding that is what Taiwan needs for its development. He said the “southward policy” of President Tsai Ing-wen to try to cement economic ties with Southeast Asian countries and reduce Taiwan's economic reliance on the mainland wouldn't work, as it would take at least a decade to bear fruit and the mainland's political influence was strong enough to discourage other countries from working closely with Taiwan. “Although Taiwan can use the relatively cheaper labour in Southeast Asia, its exports still focus on the United States, Europe and especially the vast mainland market,” Lin said. He added it was therefore necessary for Taiwan to maintain economic and cultural exchanges with the mainland. Beijing has currently suspended communications and reduced exchanges with Taipei after Tsai, of the independence-leaning DPP, took office in May and has refused to publicly accept the “1992 consensus” – an understanding reached in Hong Kong in 1992 for the two sides to continue talks and exchanges as long as they agree there is only one China, although each can have their own interpretation of what that China stands for. Lin said his party would seek to promote cross-strait peace and the consensus to improve cross-strait relations and the island's economic growth. “Our party also aims to promote a socialist economy in Taiwan,” Lin said, without further elaboration. He declined to say if the new party supports Taiwan's reunification with Beijing, saying only that it “would do all it can to promote the best interest for Taiwan and its people”. Lin said at least 1,000 people had expressed interest in joining the party and he hoped to increase the membership to 30,000 within a year. “Whoever supports our beliefs, including mainland-based Taiwanese businessmen, is welcome to join the party.” Lin's Taiwan People's Communist Party is the sixth communist party founded since the Taiwan Communist Party was formed by Wang Lao-yang and officially registered on the island in 2008. Taiwan's Interior Ministry said since the island lifted restrictions on the formation of political parties in the 1990s, anyone with 30 founding members could form a political group, regardless of its nature, given that the island allows freedom of speech and political freedom. Currently, there are 310 political groups, many of which are tiny parties formed either with the purpose of opposing the policies of the DPP, such as the China Unification Promotion Party headed by Chang An-le, a former leader of Taiwan's Bamboo Union gang, or increasing the domestic influence of their founders. ^ top ^



China suffers more trade remedy probes from U.S. in 2016 (Xinhua)
Chinese exporters have suffered a total of 20 trade remedy probes initiated by the United States in 2016, an 81.1 percent increase year on year, the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) said Thursday. The 11 anti-dumping and nine anti-subsidy investigations involved 3.7 billion U.S. dollars, up 131 percent from 2015, the MOC said. Recently, the U.S. published a series of trade remedy rulings involving Chinese products, including truck and bus tyres as well as imports of Chinese stainless steel sheet and strip. China suffered 140 trade remedy measures from the United States as of the end of 2016, including 102 anti-dumping and 38 anti-subsidy measures, according to MOC data. "Given that the trade scale between China and the U.S. is huge, it is normal that trade frictions will occur," said Wang Hejun, head of the MOC's trade remedy and investigation bureau. "However, it is noticeable that the U.S. is imposing high taxes on Chinese imports and many of its measures are against WTO rules." Wang said that China hoped to work with the United States to solve trade friction through negotiation within the WTO framework for a win-win relationship. Last year, Chinese exporters suffered a record 119 trade remedy probes, initiated by 27 countries or regions, a 36.8 percent increase year on year. "Trade friction is normally sporadic and played under the WTO rules, resulting from normal international trade activities, while trade wars lay aside trade rules and usually involving large trade sums," Wang said. "We do not want trade wars..., but we will be well-prepared for and are capable of defending our own rights and interests." ^ top ^

China to provide more opportunities for foreign companies (Xinhua)
China is committed to opening wider to the world and providing more investment opportunities for foreign companies, according to a Foreign Ministry spokesman Tuesday. Spokesman Lu Kang made the remarks at a routine news briefing, adding that China will create a more favorable, ordered investment environment and a level playing field for foreign investments. European Union Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said Monday that she agreed with Chinese President Xi Jinping's remarks at the World Economic Forum in Davos last month that no one would emerge as a winner in a trade war. However, she also said that China's big challenge this year would be to match the rhetoric with reform. Lu said that after nearly 40 years of reform and opening-up, China had become a main engine of growth for the world economy and that cooperation between China and the EU had been fruitful. "China always upholds trade and investment facilitation, and opposes all kinds of protectionism," Lu said, hoping that the EU would view China's opening-up with a historical and long-term perspective. He said that China was the second most popular investment destination in the world, citing a world investment report released by the United Nations last year. The investment in China from 28 countries in the EU achieved a year-on-year growth of 41.3 percent in 2016, according to Ministry of Commerce statistics. Hailing the bright future of China-Europe economic cooperation, Lu said China would make joint efforts with the EU to safeguard the open and free multilateral trading system. ^ top ^



Internal troops reinstated by Parliament (Montsame)
During its session on February 9, Thursday, Parliament held the final discussion on and adopted a bill on Internal Troops. Law of Mongolia on Internal Troops was repealed on January 16, 2014, transferring the duties of internal forces to police. The bill on Internal Troops was formulated in order to reinstate Mongolian internal troops to their lines of duty which include safeguarding highly-important objects or facilities, dealing with large-scale crowd control when necessary, ensuring safety of civilians, institutions and properties during internal conflict, executing special missions against terrorist activities, and partaking in control of emergency situations involving disaster, natural hazard, accident, wildfire and spread of disease highly contagious among humans and animals. Parliament thus adopted the bill on Internal Troops which will take effect on September 1, 2017. ^ top ^

Chinese state media says China can help Mongolia under one condition (UB Post)
China has the capacity to lift Mongolia out of its current crisis and improve its economy under the condition that Mongolia intensifies its involvement in the One Belt One Road Initiative, says the Chinese state-run newspaper Global Times. The Global Times is largely thought of as the informal voice of the Chinese government internationally. The newspaper is widely known to release controversial and critical articles that are believed to voice the positions of the Chinese Communist Party through an alternative channel. The newspaper has been critical of Mongolia in the past, especially surrounding the recent Dalai Lama visit. This time, however, the newspaper proposed that enhancing economic cooperation with China could help Mongolia with its “financial impasse and reverse its slow growth.” The article reminded readers about the 580 million USD bond debt due in March and mentioned about the charity fund established for citizens to donate money to help revive the economy. The bond in question was issued by the Development Bank of Mongolia in March 2012, with a tenor of five years and a coupon of 5.75 percent. The bond will mature on March 21. The government is currently negotiating a bailout with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and China amid a severe economic crisis in the country, which has dragged down GDP from double-digit growth a few years ago to close to zero. The Global Times underlined, “Experts said China, Mongolia's largest trading partner, can play a positive role in helping the crisis-stricken country. “As of the end of September 2016, Mongolia's overall debt stood at 23.78 billion USD, up 10 percent from a year earlier and exceeding 210 percent of its GDP, according to a statement posted on January 25 on the website of the economic and commercial counselor's office of the Chinese Embassy in Mongolia. The statement cited data from Mongolia's statistical authority and the central bank in the country.” The article highlighted that a slump in commodity prices, coupled with natural disasters in 2016, caused Mongolia's GDP growth in 2016 to drop to 1.6 percent. Sun Huijun, an expert on relationships among China, Russia and Central Asian countries, told the Global Times on Sunday that as China's neighbor is experiencing hardships, China can prove to be “a friend in need.” “China can help Mongolia secure low-interest loans from multilateral institutions, or arrange loans after inter-governmental negotiations,” Sun said. Li Xing, director of the Eurasian Studies Center with the Beijing Normal University, said that China has the capacity to lift Mongolia out of the current crisis and improve its economy, but there is a condition. “Under China's proposed One Belt and One Road initiative, there is an economic corridor starting from China, running through Mongolia and onward to Russia. This is a plan drawn up by the Chinese government, and much can be done under the framework,” Li said. The One Belt and One Road initiative has been at the forefront of Chinese foreign policy as the project which was proposed by President Xi Jinping. The initiative has many plans involving infrastructure and connectivity, and it can bring lots of money to Mongolia, Li told the Global Times on Sunday. Sun said prosperous neighbors and partners also suit China's ambitions to push its One Belt and One Road initiative, against the backdrop of likely uncertainties in world trade brought up by the Trump administration. “Russia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia are especially important to the northern route of the Silk Road initiative,” noted Sun. Li said that 580 million USD liquidity is within easy reach for China, “but China has its principles that are non-negotiable.” Li noted that the visit by the Dalai Lama to Mongolia last year hurt bilateral relations. Analysts have noted that this might be the Chinese government's way of expressing its openness to helping the Mongolian economy revive, more specifically helping pay off its bond obligations. ^ top ^

Oil price increase announced as illegal (gogo Mongolia)
Mongolian Trade Union made press session today, describing fuel price growth by Petrovis and Shunkhlai LLC as illegal. Petrovis and Shunkhlai LLC have added fuel price by 50-100 MNT last weekend. "Fuel price shall be increased based on the decision and discussion that made by relevant authorities. However, Petrovis snd Shunkhlai LLC have not proposed discussion even, they have not warned the people, resulting violation of competition law", said Head of Mongolian Trade Union Kh.Amgalanbaatar. In regards, the union stated to submit proposal and requirement to the Government and the Prime Minister. Under the competition law, If a company increase fuel price arbitrary, the company must pay customer for damages. As of today, about 70 percent of imported fuel of Mongolia is supplied at wholesale price to few big companies. ^ top ^

Citigroup predicts IMF will provide 500 million USD in relief in February (UB Post)
According to Bloomberg, Citigroup Inc. predicts that Mongolia could sign a 500 million USD relief program agreement before the end of February, as Mongolian dollar bonds returned 1.5 percent in the past three months, the highest return among nine Asian market bonds according to JPMorgan Chase & Co. indexes. The surging price of copper has helped the value of Mongolian bonds rise exponentially. Copper prices are up 20 percent, mainly due to speculations concerning U.S President Donald Trump's plans to renew infrastructure. AllianceBernstein LP and Morgan Stanley Investment Management predict the bond rally could continue if the IMF relief program is finalized. Vincent Tsui, an economist at AllianceBernstein, noted that the IMF's standby agenda will include support from World Bank, Asian Development Bank and other international financial institutions. The Citigroup statement, issued on January 26, note that there is a “strong likelihood” Mongolia will engage more international markets after receiving the IMF package. Analysts are optimistic about the recovery of the Mongolian economy with rising metal prices expected in 2017, but the appeal of the sovereign bonds still hinge on completion of the IMF deal and successful sales prior to the presidential election in June. While the Ministry of Finance has given assurances that Development Bank's 580 million USD debt will be repaid next month, investors are still waiting to see what developments emerge. ^ top ^

Working group investigates oil retail price increase (Montsame)
A working group, composed of of representatives from the Department of Mineral Resources and Oil, Authority for Fair Competition and Consumer Protection and relevant agencies is studying to make conclusions on factors of oil retail price growth and define if the price increase was well grounded. Oil price has grown up dramatically on the world market due to a decision on reduction of oil production. Brent oil price has grown up to USD 56.92 barrel on February 06, 2017 while it was USD 46.38 barrel on November 29, 2016. Accordingly, all types of imported oil price in Mongolia increased by USD 41-60 per ton in January compared to December 2016 and has influenced to retail price. Considering the situation, the Government made decision to reduce excise tax on January 25, 2017 to keep the retail price stable. However, import oil price as of February has grown up by USD 22-26 per ton in each type, compared to a price of January and oil trading companies have raised their price up to MNT150 per liter nationwide depending on area and oil type, starting January 26. ^ top ^

Swiss Agency to continue support herders for four years (Montsame)
A launching ceremony of Green Gold and Animal Health Project consolidation was held on February 2 with a meeting of national processing enterprises and herders 'cooperatives. Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has implemented 'Green gold' project in 2013-2016 and 'Animal health' project in 2012-2015. The Agency plans to implement the consolidated project between 2017-2020 with aims to strengthen and enhance good practices of sustainable rangeland management, marketing of livestock products and improved animal health in order to contribute to improved livelihood of herder's households. The SDC intends to secure and end its investments in the livestock sector in Mongolia by increasing sustainability of herders' organisations and by ensuring institutionalisation of sustainable rangeland management and improved animal health systems. During the meeting, the delegates of processing industries and herders discussed how to supply quality animal-originated raw materials including skins and meat and how to increase the value of raw materials through meeting standards as well as export possibilities. 13 industries made a preliminary agreement with some cooperatives to buy some raw materials of MNT8.7 billion, including wool, cashmere of sheep, camel and yak. ^ top ^

Ms. Corinne Estermann
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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