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
  20-24.3.2017, No. 664  
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Foreign Policy

Australia does not have to take sides between China and US: Chinese premier (SCMP)
Australia doesn't have to take sides between China and the United States, Premier Li Keqiang told lawmakers and business leaders in Canberra. Li kicked off his five-day visit late on Wednesday as China is eager to engage Australia with its economic clout at a time when the relations between Australia and its long-time ally the US are being tested. Li told lawmakers and business leaders that he expected “everyone will win” from free trade between his country and Australia as the close relationship between to two countries “moved forward”. “We respect your choices in your foreign policy,” Li said in his first speech in the Great Hall at Parliament House in Canberra. “We don't want to see [nations] taking sides as happened during the Cold War.” Li's comments followed a report by the Financial Times that said Canberra had rejected a possible deal with Beijing over the US$3.8 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility due to concerns about its impact on Australia's relations with the United States, citing unnamed Australia officials. If confirmed, it would be another blow to President's Xi Jinping's (習近平) “One Belt, One Road” infrastructure and economic initiative to project China's influence across Asia and beyond. Analysts believe Australia is maintaining a delicate balance between Beijing, its largest trading partner, and Washington, where ties are now clouded by doubts over US President Donald Trump's Asia policies and his commitment to the region. “I think Australia is keen to expand trade ties with China, but as a political ally of the US, it needs to get the nod from Washington on the belt and road initiative, which has much symbolic significance for the regional power landscape,” said Pang Zhongying, an international affairs expert at Beijing's Renmin University. Trump reportedly blasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull before abruptly hanging up during a phone call in February after the Australian leader pressed Trump on an agreement by the Obama administration on resettling refugees. Boosting economic ties with Australia and seeking support for the belt and road initiative are high on Li's agenda during his visit to Australia and New Zealand, the first by a Chinese premier in 11 years. He is also the most senior Chinese official to visit Australia since 2014, when Xi finalised the free trade deal. While Li admitted that the world had seen “some problems” resulting from globalisation, he added that free trade was not to blame and warned against protectionism. China “cannot close its doors” to solve its trade imbalance with Australia, which last year left Beijing with a US$50 billion deficit largely through its demand for iron ore and coal, he said. Li and Turnbull will today provide details of an expansion of their two-year-old bilateral free trade pact in the areas of investment and services. In his welcoming speech to Li, Turnbull said the “next stage” of the bilateral relationship would be announced during Li's visit. Turnbull suggested that in addition to trade, the two leaders would discuss tensions in the South China Sea “Premier Li and I will discuss, as we have before, the importance of upholding and maintaining stability in our region,” Turnbull said. “China has much to contribute to global peace and prosperity in this time of rapid change.” China will “never seek hegemony and dominance,” Li said, adding that China needed a stable world for its economy to grow. ^ top ^

Canberra fails to grasp Belt & Road through ideological prejudice (Global Times)
Australia rejected aligning a $5 billion state infrastructure fund with China's One Belt and One Road initiative during Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's Canberra trip this time over concerns the deal may damage its relationship with the US, the Financial Times reported. "No formal memorandum on this issue will be signed during the visit," an anonymous Australian official was quoted as saying. Canberra also confirmed that no deal on the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility will be clinched during the trip. It seems that Australia regards the Belt and Road initiative as a strategic tool by China to counter US clout in the region. Australia's rejection of China's push for infrastructure cooperation is a zero-sum mentality that is ideologically driven. It will bring the country no benefit. Canberra has long relied on Washington for security and defense. However, advocating "America First," US President Donald Trump will focus more on domestic than foreign affairs, and it is very likely that the strategic resources invested to Australia and Asia will be reduced. China, on the contrary, has been Australia's biggest trading partner for years, and the Belt and Road initiative will aid connectivity, enhance infrastructure construction and boost economic development in the region. The initiative is proposed for mutually beneficial results, rather than pursuing political goals for Beijing. Beijing will not be forcing Canberra to take sides. China understands the intimate political and security ties between Canberra and Washington. Premier Li also told Australia not to take sides "as happened during the Cold War." Beijing hasn't expected Canberra to be one of its firm friends, but we don't want to see provocations from the Australian side constantly. Earlier Australia adopted a critical attitude against Beijing on the South China Sea issue. Last week, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop called on the Trump administration to expand the US' role in Asia, claiming that "while non-democracies such as China can thrive when participating in the present system, an essential pillar of our preferred order is democratic community." These are ideological prejudices against China. There is no fundamental conflict between the two countries. Cultural, economic and people-to-people exchanges are beneficial to both countries. Some Australian enterprises have already shown an interest in getting involved in China's infrastructure plans, with an advisory group being set up by business leaders to facilitate the process. The Australian government should listen to the public and be more open-minded to China's initiatives. ^ top ^

President lauds China-Russia ruling party meeting (China Daily)
President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, highlighted on Thursday the importance of ruling party exchanges amid the two sides' efforts to deepen comprehensive and strategic cooperation. Both leaders sent congratulatory letters to the sixth meeting of the China-Russia ruling party dialogue mechanism and the fifth China-Russia political party forum held in the Russian city of Kazan. In his letter, Xi said he and Putin have reached an important consensus that the two countries should uphold the spirit of strategic cooperation and everlasting friendship and firmly deepen the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination. Xi noted that the Communist Party of China and the United Russia party have maintained frequent close exchanges, which has made positive contributions to strengthening both parties' development, boosting bilateral strategic mutual trust, pushing forward pragmatic cooperation between the two countries and safeguarding global peace. After development of nearly 10 years, the China-Russia ruling party dialogue mechanism and the China-Russia political party forum have become important platforms for the frequent exchanges between the two parties, Xi said, adding that the meeting and the forum will push forward practical cooperation between the two countries. Putin said in his letter that the Russia-China relationship has reached an unprecedented high level, which he called a good example for cooperation between great powers. The joint efforts made by Moscow and Beijing in addressing major regional and global issues have become a key factor to safeguard world peace and stability, he said. The ruling party exchanges are key parts of the bilateral comprehensive strategic cooperation partnership of coordination, Putin said, adding that the two parties have maintained fruitful exchanges in the areas of legislation and party establishment. ^ top ^

West must drop double standards on terror (Global Times)
London witnessed a terror attack Wednesday afternoon local time near the Houses of Parliament. An Asian-looking middle-aged man mowed down pedestrians while speeding in an SUV along Westminster Bridge, and after it crashed, he ran and stabbed a police officer to death. Including the attacker, who was shot by police, four people died and 29 people were treated in hospital. The attack shocked Europe and the world. Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday Beijing time sent a message of condolence to Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. Xi strongly condemned the terrorist attack, mourned the innocent victims and extended his sincere sympathies to the injured and the bereaved families. The latest tragedy in London is very similar to the 2013 Tiananmen Square terror attack, in which a car crashed into a crowd near the Jinshui Bridge and left two passers-by dead and about 40 injured. The vehicle with a license plate from China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region then burst into flames and the three people inside it died. We sympathize with London for the similar terrorist attack. However, we cannot help but recall how the Western media, including those in the UK, showed little sympathy for the Chinese victims and their niggardly condemnation of the attack in China. CNN even used the headline "Tiananmen crash: Terrorism or cry of desperation?" to cover the news and described those attackers as an oppressed minority. Having double standards is a long time habit of the West when it comes to terrorism. About three years ago, when there had not been many terror attacks in Europe and the US, Western public opinion tended to point the accusing finger at China's policy over ethnic groups in terms of Xinjiang's terrorist assaults. Yet since 2015, there have been a spate of terror attacks across Europe. The increasing number of refugees who are flooding to Europe from the Middle East and consequent security issues have become a severe challenge across the entire West. Along with these problems, Western opinion showed restraint when terror attacks took place in China, but the Western media still resorted to double standards. In 2015, France experienced the deadly shooting at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and then a series of deadly terror attacks in Paris. However, in the same year French newsmagazine L'Obs published an article written by its Beijing correspondent, which slammed China's Xinjiang policies, claiming that the Uyghurs are suffering from ruthless repression. In February, there was another terror attack in Xinjiang. Mainstream Western media deliberately put quotation marks around the three attackers and cited the World Uyghur Congress, which defended the attackers. Now the terror attacks in the West are not confined to the traditional pattern of terrorism. The attacker at Westminster was a knife-wielding man, who resorted to the same tactics as the attackers in Xinjiang. More and more terrorists are using vehicles to target people, similar to many attacks that happened in Xinjiang. In face of the London attack, those who blamed China's ethnic policies on the terror attacks in the country should feel ashamed. They put their own values above those of others and are actually encouraging terrorism in China from behind the scenes. Hopefully, the constant terror attacks in Europe could wake up those who advocate double standards. When terrorism prevails, the whole of mankind must unite to fight against it, regardless of geopolitical rivalry and ideological divergences. ^ top ^

China rebuffs S Korea's WTO complaint, says respects rules (SCMP)
China valued trade with South Korea and was abiding by World Trade Organisation rules, the Commerce Ministry said on Thursday after Seoul complained to the WTO about retaliation against South Korean firms over the planned deployment of a US anti-missile system. South Korea and the United States say the sole purpose of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system is to guard against missile launches from North Korea, but China says that its powerful radar could penetrate into its territory. China is South Korea's largest trading partner and the dispute over THAAD has resulted in a sharp decline in Chinese tourists in the South's shopping districts. Chinese authorities have also closed nearly two dozen retail stores of South Korea's Lotte Group amid the diplomatic stand-off. Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Sun Jiwen said that on March 17, a South Korean representative told the Geneva-based WTO about South Korean companies in China being impacted. “The Chinese representative said that China pays great attention to developing economic and trade relations between China and South Korea,” Sun told a regular news briefing. China has noted comments from a South Korean minister that there was no evidence to show that China was taking “policy measures”, Sun added. “I want to add that, as a responsible member of the WTO, China has consistently and will continue to respect WTO rules and relevant promises,” he added, without elaborating. South Korea's trade minister said on Monday that the country had complained to the WTO. Beijing has never explicitly linked the restrictions to the THAAD deployment. ^ top ^

Interview: Netanyahu calls cooperation in innovation between China, Israel a blessing for all (Xinhua)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said here on Wednesday the comprehensive partnership in innovation, which was agreed during his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday, is the best way to interpret the achievements made in China-Israel relations. Netanyahu made the remarks in an exclusive interview with Xinhua, before wrapping up his four-day visit to China marking 25 years of diplomatic relations. The Israeli prime minister described the cooperation between the two nations as "marriage made in heaven," saying that "the marriage of the Chinese economic capacities and Israel's innovation capacities provides benefits to both our peoples and to the world." Israel, a small country yet a global power in technology, is eager to show its willingness to expand its presence in the Chinese market. While Xi sets innovation as a national goal for China and therefore needs world partners to achieve it, "we are eager and happy to be China's partner to that effect," said Netanyahu. The first International Cooperation Summit Forum on the "Belt and Road Initiative" hosted by China is slated for this May, and according to Netanyahu Israel has a big role to play. "We can cooperate in communication, transportation, health care, environment, almost every field," said the prime minister, adding that "the advantages of Israeli technology could fit perfectly into the needs of China as its plans to grow and develop." Netanyahu, bringing a huge business delegation and being accompanied by five Israeli ministers, strives to achieve better access for Israeli companies to the Chinese market. "I hope to have free trade agreements (FTAs) completed this year so Israeli companies can come here," Netanyahu said. Earlier reports said the two sides were expected to sign FTAs in July. He also voiced hope to see continued Chinese investments in Israeli high technology. China is Israel's largest trading partner in Asia and third-largest in the world, with trade volumes reaching over 11 billion U.S. dollars. According to the Israeli Economy Ministry, half the investments in Israeli funds in 2015 involved at least one Chinese investor, and 40 percent of funds raised by Israeli venture capital firms came from Chinese backers. Netanyahu also said he wishes that more Chinese tourists could visit his home country. "You are all invited. Israel is a beautiful country," he said. Upon the invitation of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Netanyahu paid a state visit to China on March 19-22. Li and Netanyahu witnessed the signing of 25 agreements for bilateral cooperation in trade, science and technology, commerce and civil aviation. The two sides also decided to push forward negotiations on FTAs. The Israeli prime minister also met Chinese and Israeli business leaders before chairing a forum with more than 600 Chinese and Israeli entrepreneurs. ^ top ^

China Focus: AIIB expands membership (Xinhua)
The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) announced Thursday its board of governors had approved 13 applications to join the bank. This is the first time the bank has welcomed new prospective members since its inception in 2015 and brings the bank's total membership to 70. The approved applicants are five regional prospective members -- Afghanistan, Armenia, Fiji, Hong Kong of China and Timor Leste -- and eight non-regional: Belgium, Canada, Ethiopia, Hungary, Ireland, Peru, the Republic of Sudan and Venezuela. "The interest in joining AIIB from around the world affirms the progress we have made in establishing the bank as an international institution," said Jin Liqun, AIIB president. "I am very proud that AIIB now has members from almost every continent, and we anticipate further applications this year," he said. The 13 prospective members will officially join the bank once they complete the required domestic processes and deposit their first capital. The shares allocated to them come from an existing pool of unallocated shares. "These prospective members are at different stages of economic development, a testimony to the inclusiveness of the bank, and contribute to inclusive global development," said Chen Xulong, a researcher with China Institute of International Studies. The new members indicate the strong endorsement by the international community for the bank and its internal governance, said Yao Zhizhong, deputy director of the Institute of World Economics and Politics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). The view was echoed by Chen, who believes the mission, governance and efficacy of the AIIB in the initial stage have won worldwide recognition. Headquartered in Beijing, AIIB's mission is to improve economic and social development in Asia by investing in high quality, financially viable and environmentally friendly infrastructure projects. Globalization has suffered setbacks in Europe and the United States. The world badly needs new driving forces for globalization and regional integration, said Wei Ling, director of Institute of Asian Studies at China Foreign Affairs University. "The AIIB can not only improve connectivity, but can speed up regional integration," Wei added. The AIIB will focus on three major tasks this year: sustainable infrastructure, cross-country connectivity and mobilization of private capital. However, Zhang cautioned that the bank must give due attention to the sustainability and profitability of its projects while meeting the infrastructure needs of developing countries. The bank has already approved loans for projects in a list of countries including Oman and Azerbaijan. ^ top ^

China, U.S. agree on principle of no conflict, mutual respect (Xinhua)
China and the United States reached consensus on developing ties in the spirit of no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation during U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's Beijing trip, said a Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wednesday. "This spirit is the correct way for the two major powers to get along with each other," spokesperson Hua Chunying told a routine press briefing. She was responding to a question regarding Tillerson's reaffirmation of the principle. Tillerson's move has received criticism from some U.S. scholars and former government officials. Some media said that having Tillerson reiterate this principle was a diplomatic triumph for China. "This can not be taken as someone's triumph," Hua said. "The principle of no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation has been a good experience for the stable growth of China-U.S. ties in recent years, and is worth continuing." "China is willing to enhance communication and understanding with the United States, cement trust, properly handle disputes, expand cooperation in bilateral, regional and multilateral levels and boost new progress of bilateral ties at a new starting point." Last weekend, Tillerson paid his first visit to China since taking office last month. He is the first cabinet-level official in the new administration of the United States to visit China. ^ top ^

China, Britain to boost financial cooperation (Xinhua)
Officials from China and Britain stressed here on Tuesday the importance of enhancing bilateral financial cooperation. At a conference on China-UK financial cooperation, Guo Kai, deputy general director of the International Department of the People's Bank of China (PBOC), said the cooperation of China-UK financial infrastructures will help provide better services for the two nations' financial institutions and lay a solid foundation for further expanding the financial cooperation between the two countries. Guo said the British financial sector was "open..., sophisticated and visionary" and that it was "no coincidence that the Bank of England was the first major Western bank to sign a swap agreement with the PBOC." Delegates of the conference also welcomed the opening of the representative office of the Shanghai Clearing House (SCH) in London's financial district. Katharine Braddick, director general of financial services at the British Treasury, stressed that the government attached great importance to strengthening financial cooperation with China, in which boosting the presence of Chinese financial institutions in Britain plays a key role. The SCH and the City of London Corporation (CLC) co-hosted the conference with the theme of "The Function of Financial Infrastructures in UK-China Financial Cooperation" at the Banking Hall in the City of London. Xu Zhen, chairman of the SCH, said connectivity is the trend for the development of global economy and finance. It is the responsibility of all financial infrastructures to provide global financial market participants with efficient and secure network of post-trade services. The SCH will take advantage of London's leading position in the global financial market to boost exchanges and connectivity among the financial infrastructures in China and Britain, said Xu. He added that the SCH will make great efforts to reduce trading costs and promote allocation efficiency of global resources in an open market and maintain secure operations. Close to 100 representatives from government agencies, international organizations, financial and commercial institutions attended the conference to discuss the impact of Brexit on financial infrastructures and post Brexit cross-border cooperation, global financial markets versus local and (or) regional regulations. Sherry Madera, CLC's special adviser for Asia, told the conference that currency and clearing would play a key role in efficient fund flows as well as deep and liquid markets in the future. Founded at the end of 2009, the SCH is defined as a qualified central counterparty (QCCP) by the PBOC and the China Securities Depository and Clearing Corporation. ^ top ^

China's Silk Road Fund 'seeking investment projects in Europe' (SCMP)
China's Silk Road Fund is looking for investment projects in Europe, according to a senior bank official. The fund, which provides financing for China's “One Belt, One Road” trade initiative to forge closer commercial ties with Asia and beyond, is seeking investment opportunities with a unit of the European Investment Bank, the European lender's vice-president Jonathan Taylor said. “Cooperations between the European Investment Fund, a subsidiary of the EIB, and the Silk Road Fund are under discussion,” Taylor said at the start of a five-day trip to China. “Discussions between the EIF and the Silk Road Fund are centering on investment in Europe,” he told a press conference. China pledged to contribute U$S40 billion to set up Silk Road Fund three years ago. The capital came from the country's foreign exchange reserves, the China Investment Corporation, which manages the sovereign wealth fund; the Export-Import Bank of China and the China Development Bank. The fund has cooperation agreements with lenders in European countries such as France and Russia. China launched the “One Belt, One Road” initiative in 2013 and the push to extend the nation's influence encompasses over 60 counties, stretching through Southeast and West Asia to the Middle East and central Europe. Beijing will hold a high-level summit on the initiative in the middle of May and leaders from over 20 countries have agreed to attend. The European Commission will send representatives to the summit, said Taylor, without elaborating. The European Investment Bank invested 298 million euros (US$320 million) in China to support climate-related projects last year. The lender is aiming to invest 500 million euros in the country this year with “a strong pipeline” of new projects expected in the coming months, including urban transport, forestry and energy efficiency, Taylor said. The European Investment Bank will seek joint funding with Chinese policy lenders. Strict emission standards at the bank will rule out most coal investment projects the lender funds in China unless they are strongly linked to carbon capture and storage, he said. The bank has a very good relationship with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and is actively discussing cooperation on funding projects with the China-backed lender, Taylor said. During his trip, Taylor will meet senior officials at the Ministry of Finance, the National Development and Reform Commission and the central bank to discuss cooperation financing green initiatives. The European Investment Bank and China's central bank will also hold a high-level workshop with institutional investors and regulators to develop an integrated approach in green financing. Britain holds a more than 16 per cent of stake in European Investment Bank, which will be one issue in Brexit talks as the UK negotiates to leave the European Union in the coming two years, but it will not affect the lender's ability to fund itself, said Taylor. “I am very confident that the EIB will continue to have a robust presence in the market and continue to fund itself very widely, as it always does,” he said. ^ top ^

China denies reported construction plan for Huangyan Island (Xinhua)
The reported plan to build an environmental monitoring station on Huangyan Island in the South China Sea is not true, a foreign ministry spokesperson said Wednesday in Beijing. Spokesperson Hua Chunying made the remarks at a daily press briefing. "Our position on Huangyan Island has been consistent and clear," she said, adding that China attaches high importance to its relationship with the Philippines, values the current good development momentum and will continue to promote bilateral ties. ^ top ^

China and Israel vow to deepen relations (SCMP)
China on Monday vowed to boost cooperation with Israel in Beijing's latest move to step up engagement with the Middle East, after signing deals worth US$65 billion with Saudi Arabia last week. In his talks with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Beijing, Premier Li Keqiang said the two nations should aim at deepening their political trust. China was “friends to both Israel and Palestine” and was willing to play a role in the peace process in the Middle East, Li was quoted by CCTV as saying. Netanyahu told Li before their meeting that “there is a great deal of convulsion in the world” and urged the two countries to advance “security, peace, stability and prosperity”. On the second day of his three-day trip to China, Netanyahu told a meeting of more than 600 Israeli and Chinese businesspeople that Israel was well positioned to help China upgrade its products and utilities with better technology. He also met the heads of large corporations, including Dalian Wanda Group and Alibaba Group, which owns the South China Morning Post. Deng Li, director general of the foreign ministry's West Asian and North African Affairs Department, said both nations agreed to step up free-trade talks. “Personally, I am very confident and optimistic about the future of this free trade agreement,” Deng said. Netanyahu's trip to China came after Beijing hosted King Salman last Thursday, leading to deals including one to boost Saudi oil exports to China. China has traditionally played little role in Middle Eastern conflicts or diplomacy, despite its reliance on the region for oil. However, it has been trying to get more involved in efforts to end Syria's civil war, where Riyadh supports rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad. In a speech to the Arab League last year, President Xi Jinping showed support for the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. Liu Naiya, an observer from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said China and Israel were exploring ways to deepen relations amid uncertainties about US foreign policy. “Israel is a leading country in the Middle East and with immense influence. China can learn from Israel's high-tech industry, and counter US and European influence in the Middle East by levelling up relations with Israel,” Liu said. Assaf Orion, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Israel, said the Middle East was crucial to China's “One Belt, One Road” infrastructure and trade scheme. He said China could promote development in the region, given Beijing's ability to maintain parallel ties with nations that had bad bilateral relations, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran. ^ top ^

China's door opens wider to outside world: premier (Xinhua)
China will open its door wider to the outside world, said Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Monday. Li made the remarks when meeting with overseas representatives at the China Development Forum (CDF) in Beijing. China will relax market access in service industries, manufacturing and mining, said Li China supports foreign-funded enterprises to list and issue bonds in China and participate in national science and technology programs as well as infrastructure construction, he said. China will streamline the administrative procedures for foreign investments and create a fair competition environment for all companies registered in China, he said. He welcomed more foreign companies to invest in China, cooperate with Chinese enterprises and enjoy development opportunities together. Li said the Chinese economy has achieved steady growth, with continued improvement in its quality and efficiency. China is making efforts to advance supply side structural reform, seek growth driven by innovation, promote entrepreneurship and the "Internet Plus" plan, and to streamline administration, he said. China will continue to boost the healthy development of emerging industries and is willing to deepen cooperation with foreign governments and enterprises in this field, said Li. He hoped that other countries overcome the problems of globalization and properly deal with frictions and divergences through dialogue and consultation. China will steadfastly advance the liberalization and facilitation of trade and investment, safeguard multilateral trade and support open and transparent regional free trade arrangements, said the premier. Li answered questions from Stuart Gulliver, the chief executive of the bank HSBC, former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Lawrence Summers, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator for the Financial Times and Columbia University professor Edmund Phelps. Overseas representatives lauded China's remarkable progress in stabilizing growth and restructuring the economy, as well as China's active role in coping with climate change. The representatives voiced their willingness of participating in China's reform and opening-up process and expanding their partnerships with China. The CDF, organized by the Development Research Center of the State Council, is a high-level meeting that gathers leaders from international institutions, academia and companies worldwide. It is usually held after the annual sessions of China's national legislature and political advisory body. ^ top ^

China must defend globalisation with deeds and not just words (SCMP)
Michael Clauss says Europe is ready to work with China to strengthen an open system of trade and exchange. First, Beijing should honour its pledge to open up further. To outsiders, it might seem as if a wave of populist politics were gushing through European capitals. Critics of EU problems can also point to Brexit, to the challenges of migration and terrorism, or to the still unresolved Greek debt crisis. However, positive signs are growing. Many of the economies hardest hit by the 2008 financial crisis are now showing impressive growth. The result of the Dutch elections is a defeat of populism fair and square. According to the latest opinion polls, in none of the upcoming elections do populist parties have a realistic power option. Germany, at the heart of Europe, is enjoying robust growth of 1.9 per cent, historically low unemployment, record export volumes and a balanced budget for the fourth year in a row. For the elections in September, German populists are a dwindling force with no conceivable path to a share of governmental responsibility. Across party lines, German support for European integration is actually growing. No one wants our country to become less liberal and less open to the world. The same is true for much of Europe. The vast majority of Europeans believe that a strong and cosmopolitan EU is how we can best harness the forces of globalisation for the common good. Although Europe's prospects to play a leading global role are much better than its reputation, there is a strong sense that we are witnessing tectonic shifts in the global order. The future course of US policy is still unclear in many respects. However, it would be a huge surprise to see it morph into a champion of multilateralism. “President Xi's global audience is waiting for China to back up its talk with action” Michael Clauss. This is why President Xi Jinping's (習近平) speech in Davos caused such a stir around the globe. It has been widely interpreted as a signal that a rising China is ready to enter the world stage towards goals that Germany also holds dear: safeguarding the institutions and principles which let us profit from globalisation and dealing with its unintended side effects. Among other things, these include an effective and well-funded UN, the implementation of the Paris climate accord, and, a rules-based free trade system with the World Trade Organisation at its core. Now, Xi's global audience is waiting for China to back up its talk with action. Foreign companies and private Chinese companies alike want greater market access, reciprocity in investment and a level playing field when competing against Chinese state-owned enterprises. Harnessing globalisation requires more than trade-friendly policies. If China wants to lead in globalisation, which means stemming the tide of de-globalisation, it will have to open not just its ports and industrial parks but also its hearts and minds to the outside world. In response to questions about China's openness, all the country's leaders sang from the same song sheet at the just-concluded National People's Congress meeting: China's door will continue to open wider. However, what is the evidence that this is really the case? “If China wants to lead in globalisation, it will have to open not just its ports and industrial parks but also its hearts and minds to the outside world” Micheal Clauss. Let us take legislation in the past few years: we have seen a series of security-driven laws: national security, cybersecurity, foreign non-governmental organisations and anti-terrorism. Have there been laws about further opening, such as lightening the crushing load of permits for performances of foreign artists, or getting licences for foreign films or books? Has it become easier for foreign teachers, professors, young professionals looking for internships, to come to China? Have the media and the internet become more open? Is the “great firewall” a force for de-globalisation? Do foreign NGOs have an easier time working in China? There is a growing worry that China's focus on stability and security is undermining cooperation with the outside world. The new law on foreign NGOs, which entered into force at the beginning of the year, was supposed to facilitate the work of the vast majority of foreign NGOs. To date, only 0.5 per cent have completed the registration process. This means that practically all of them are currently preoccupied with registering with the police, not with their programmes, many of them in poverty alleviation. Stringent controls and permit requirements for unproblematic cultural performances have led to a reduction in foreign cultural performances and, in some places, the shutting down of decades-old fixtures of cultural life such as choirs. I wonder whether the security of China really requires submitting passport and other personal details of people to the police. Even foreign children's books for those aged two years and above now seem to be targets of censorship, apparently being driven out of the Chinese book market. What does China have to fear from the Gruffalo? Leading the globe requires strength, and strength derives from real self-confidence which, in turn, is demonstrated in openness to others. Europe has to prove that it is retaining these qualities by keeping open its borders to people, ideas and goods and to withstand the lure of crackpots who preach that the source of strength and success lies in “ethnic homogeneity”. China's impressive rise is made possible by globalisation. Germany, as well as the EU, is ready to intensify cooperation with China in order to keep globalisation going. This requires the confidence to expose oneself to outside influences, to fully participate in the give-and-take, not just of capital and commodities but also of people and ideas. I hope China will seize the current window of opportunity to lead by opening its doors wider, through deeds and not just words. (Michael Clauss is the German ambassador to China). ^ top ^

China firmly opposes India's invitation of Dalai Lama to Buddhism Samagam (Xinhua)
China on Monday strongly opposed India's invitation of the Dalai Lama to the International Buddhism Samagam (Convention), urging India to respect China's core interests and avoid "further damage" to bilateral relations. The Dalai Lama inaugurated the samagam, which was held by India's Ministry of Culture from March 17 to 19, with Mahesh Sharma, minister of state of culture and tourism, according to Indian media. The Dalai Lama also delivered a speech at the convention. "China expresses strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to India's invitation of the Dalai Lama," Hua Chunying, spokesperson for China's Foreign Ministry, said at a press briefing, urging India to see clearly the nature of the Dalai Lama's anti-China separatist activities. ^ top ^

China calls on int'l community to improve global human rights governance (Xinhua)
Ma Zhaoxu, head of the Chinese mission to the United Nations in Geneva, Monday called upon international community to improve global human rights governance. "In a globalized world, countries are increasingly interconnected in their interests with a shared destiny. However, global challenges pose threats to the well-being of people of all countries," he addressed at a general debate in the 34th Session of the Human Rights Council, on behalf of a cross-regional group of 36 developing countries. He highlighted it is high time to develop and improve global human rights governance, promote healthy and sustainable development of international human rights cause, and pool in our efforts to build a community of shared future for human beings. With this objective, the Chinese diplomat proposed that the international community should stay committed to sovereign equality, multilateralism, mutually beneficial cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, as well as peace and development. "We should develop and improve UN human rights institutions, ensure the fulfillment of their mandates in an impartial, objective, constructive and non-selective manner, give equal attention to all categories of human rights, and facilitate seeking common ground amidst differences and building consensus among all parties, with a view to injecting strong impetus into international human rights cause," he said. "Without peace and development, human rights are like a tree without roots," he said. "We should be committed to maintaining sustained peace, realizing common development, with a view to laying a solid foundation for the promotion and protection of human rights." ^ top ^

Tillerson's fence-mending trip to China ends in push for common ground (SCMP)
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wrapped up his first official visit to China on Sunday on a positive note – agreeing with President Xi Jinping to build constructive bilateral ties while managing trickier, divisive issues. According to state media, Xi and Tillerson “exchanged warm words” during their meeting at Beijing's Great Hall of the People yesterday, pledging to improve understanding and cooperation on the international stage. Diplomatic observers said Tillerson's fence-mending trip was “better than expected” and would pave the way for the first meeting between Xi and US President Donald Trump in the United States as early as next month. The former oil executive's maiden official Asian tour also sent a reassuring signal for Sino-US ties after their roller-coaster ride over sensitive strategic, security and trade differences since Trump's election late last year. “You have made a lot of active efforts to achieve a smooth transition in our relationship under the new era,” Xi told Tillerson. “And I also appreciate your comment that the China-US relationship can only be defined by cooperation and friendship.” Xi said the two countries could be good partners, and as long as both sides maintained this understanding, ties would proceed “in the right way”. Xi said he and Trump had maintained good communications through telephone conversations and messages and reached a consensus to improve exchanges. Tillerson said Trump looked forward to visiting China and to improving understanding with Xi. Beijing has been unnerved by Trump's questioning of Washington's decades-old one-China policy over Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own. It has also been rattled by the US president's repeated threats to take on China over trade practices. Just before his arrival in Beijing, Tillerson raised the temperature further with a stark warning of a pre-emptive military strike against North Korea amid heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula. Trump also accused China on Friday of having done little to contain North Korea, China's communist ally. Xi's meeting with Tillerson followed North Korea's announcement yesterday that it had carried out a rocket engine test of “historical significance”. But both sides appeared to brush off the sensitive issue, with Tillerson refraining from making strong comments on Pyongyang during his two days in the Chinese capital. “We should properly handle and manage sensitive issues to promote the healthy and stable development of the Sino-US relationship,” Xi said. Tillerson said Trump placed a “very high value on the communications that have already occurred” with Xi. Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute in London, said Tillerson played safe to pave the way for a Trump-Xi summit. “This suits the Chinese, as both Trump and Xi are the kind of leaders who try to personalise their policies and relationships with the other great powers. I doubt that Tillerson had the authority to go beyond whatever Trump wants,” he said. Tao Wenzhao, from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Beijing was expected to be pleased by Tillerson's repeated suggestion that ties between the two countries should be guided by “non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation”, the pillars of Xi's pet concept of “a new model of major power relations”. Tillerson did not explicitly refer to the concept but verbalised its components in his talks with Xi, State Councillor Yang Jiechi and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. “It is very positive and reassuring for Beijing despite lingering doubts [about Trump] and it shows both sides indeed have reached some crucial consensus on how the relationship should be developed,” Tao said. Beijing has repeatedly pushed Washington to accept the “new model” concept but to no avail. Huang Jing, from the National University of Singapore, said it was still too early for Beijing to hail Tillerson's references a victory because both sides appeared to differ on “the connotation of those components”. “It [also] appeared to be a lost opportunity for Beijing to exert greater pressure on Trump over issues such as globalisation, free trade and multilateralism that Xi has championed internationally over the past year,” Huang said. Bonnie Glaser, of the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said on Twitter that it was a mistake for the Trump administration to endorse Beijing's concept of the so-called new concept of great power relations. ^ top ^

China's inclusion in the TPP still far from reality (Global Times)
The evolution of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) regional trade deal has been full of twists and turns. The signing of the deal, a hard-earned achievement, seems nearly to have been nullified with the US' decision to pull out of the TPP. The other 11 member nations, nevertheless, have yet to give up on the trade deal, and there's a lot of indication that China's participation and inclusion in the TPP would be welcome. Australia was the first member nation of the regional trade bloc to extend an olive branch to China, with Australian Trade Minister Steve Ciobo stating that there's scope for China and Indonesia to join the TPP. New Zealand also said that it hoped to save the trade pact by expanding it to include China and other countries. At the recently concluded two-day meeting in Chile, 15 Pacific-rim countries including China and the remaining TPP countries committed to free trade, a move that has been taken to signify that plans to include China in the TPP are inching closer to reality. There have been considerable arguments over whether China should join the trade deal. However, China is light years away from TPP inclusion, judging from varied aspects that include the future outlook for TPP negotiations, the procedures required for the trade pact's expansion, the acceptability of the deal's terms on China's part as well as the complexity of moving forward with trade negotiations. It is therefore pointless and unnecessary for arguments to pivot around whether or not China should join the deal. First, the trade pact's future remains elusive. According to the original deal agreed on by the 12 member nations, the TPP won't take effect unless it is ratified by at least six member nations that account for over 85 percent of the combined GDP of all the 12 signatory countries. The US, however, represents roughly 60 percent of the total GDP, which means that the US' withdrawal makes it impossible for the original agreement to come into force. The other member countries will need to decide whether the original agreement should remain unchanged. The evolution of the TPP will face the quandary of new trade negotiations. It's still unclear when a consensus could be reached, which leaves an unknown future for the multinational trade bloc. In light of this, there is a long way to go before China becomes a member of the TPP. Second, China has not been officially invited to join the TPP, nor has the country applied for membership. If China decides to join the deal, it would need to be decided exactly how TPP membership would work and whether the country could accept all the original terms or restart negotiations. Either scenario will presumably bring up plenty of uncertainty. China will face a very long road before its TPP membership could be finalized, especially given that there are no signs of the start of any related talks yet. Third, the existing TPP terms are not suitable for China. The current agreement was reached in the absence of China's involvement, and many terms do not meet China's demand, nor do they reflect China's need for new global economic and trade rules. The TPP is known as a high-standard 21st century free trade agreement, and its openness and rules don't suit China's stage of development. Fourth, a renegotiation on the TPP is not an easy thing. Given the mismatch between the current agreement and China's demands, a renegotiation is inevitable. Even if the existing terms could be used as a basis, negotiation between the various economies won't be easy. Except for Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru, all TPP members are included in the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Meanwhile, China and Canada have held talks about a free trade agreement. Therefore, the TPP without the US is not that attractive to China in terms of short-term economic interests. But the new standards and new rules set by the TPP may be an external driving force for China's long-term economic development. In addition, if China could take the lead in the development of both the TPP and RCEP, it would be easier to achieve the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, which is conducive to enhancing China's global influence. Nevertheless, it must be pointed out that this is just a future vision, and that TPP membership is still quite far away. ^ top ^

Pope greets Chinese faithful in emotionally charged encounter at the Vatican (SCMP)
A group of Chinese visiting the Vatican had an emotionally charged encounter with Pope Francis, an American news agency reported, in a rare instance of the head of the Catholic Church greeting followers from a nation where his authority is not officially recognised by the state. In an 80-second video clip posted on the Facebook page of the Catholic News Service, the pope is seen meeting the Chinese worshippers during his general audience at St Peter's Square on Wednesday. The pope kissed the cheek of one boy holding a Chinese flag, before an elderly man who was carrying him, knelt down and bowed, the video showed. The pope spent a few seconds with a young Chinese girl and laid his hand on the head of a woman holding her, it showed. Other tearful pilgrims knelt on the ground and presented a statue of the Virgin Mary to the pope for his blessing, while those around them cried and waved Chinese flags, according to the clip. “We love you, pope,” one pilgrim said in Chinese. According to the news service, the group came from Tianjin, the port city next to Beijing. It remains unclear how they managed to travel to the Vatican. While going overseas has become much easier for Chinese citizens in the past decade, the nation's Catholics, especially those from so-called underground churches, are often stymied by the government when trying to travel to the Vatican. Beijing requires state oversight of Catholics and broke off diplomatic relations with the Holy See in 1951. But there have been signs of warming ties in recent months. The Holy See for the first time publicly recognised two bishops affiliated with the government-backed Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association who were ordained in Sichuan and Shanxi provinces late last year. Earlier last month, Hong Kong Cardinal John Tong Hon wrote in the Sunday Examiner newspaper that a deal being negotiated with Beijing would see Pope Francis have the final say over the appointment of bishops in China. But Cardinal Joseph Zen, the retired bishop of Hong Kong, has warned that any such deal could be a betrayal by the Holy See of the underground Catholic faithful in China. ^ top ^

Beijing, Saudis agree to boost oil exports to China (SCMP)
China and Saudi Arabia will increase their cooperation in the oil sector, including in Saudi oil exports to China, the two countries said in a joint communique issued on Saturday at the end of Saudi Arabian King Salman's visit to Beijing. The world's largest oil exporter has been looking to cement ties with the world's second-largest economy. After losing market share to Russia last year, Saudi Arabia has sought to boost oil sales to China, the world's second-largest oil market, by working mostly with China's top three state oil firms. “Both countries are willing to raise their level of cooperation in the oil sector, including supplying Saudi oil to the continuously growing Chinese market,” the two said in a statement issued by China's state-run Xinhua news agency. “Both sides stress the importance of stability in world oil markets to the global economy... China appreciates Saudi Arabia being a safe and dependable oil supplier to the world market and the role it plays in ensuring the stability of the global oil market,” it said. Salman oversaw the signing of deals worth as much as US$65 billion on the first full day of his visit to Beijing on Thursday. China has traditionally played little role in Middle East conflicts or diplomacy, despite its reliance on the region for oil. However, it has been trying to get more involved in efforts to end Syria's six-year-old civil war,where Riyadh supports rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad. Chinese defence manufacturers are also targeting potential clients in the Middle East. At an Abu Dhabi defence exhibition in the United Arab Emirates last month China signed a memorandum of understanding with Saudi Arabia worth US$65 billion, including setting up a production line for China's new generation aerial drone, Rainbow 4 and other collaborative projects, according to local media reports. The Rainbow 4, which is able to carry two satellite-guided bombs, was developed by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation for reconnaissance and military strikes. China last year also offered support for Yemen's government, which is backed by a Saudi-led Gulf Arab coalition in a war against the Iranian-aligned Houthi movement that controls much of the country. China has had to tread a careful line as it also has close relations with Iran. China's President Xi Jinping visited both Saudi Arabia and Iran in January last year. The joint statement said both China and Saudi Arabia stressed their support for Yemen's legal government. China's renewed diplomatic push with the Middle East continues next week when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits China. Diplomatic sources say China is trying to play the role of “honest broker” in the Middle East as it lacks the historical baggage of the Americans or the Europeans. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

Helping women find their inner man (China Daily)
A Shanghai doctor specializes in female-to-male sex change surgeries. Doctor Zhao Yede has performed gender reassignment surgery on nearly 1,000 patients since he began practicing medicine in 1992. The 52-year-old native of East China's Zhejiang province has operated on patients ranging in age from 18 to 59 who came from every corner of China, except the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. They have included police officers, photographers, truck drivers and students. About 90 percent of Zhao's patients are women who want to become men, as he is renowned in the profession for his abilities. "It's like building a high rise without a foundation," he said. According to Zhao, it takes at least three surgeries for a woman to transition into a man, triple the number for a transgender woman. This is reflected in the price - at the Shanghai 411 Hospital Zhao works at, it costs 80,000 ($11,600) to 100,000 yuan for a woman to become a man, but 30,000 to 50,000 yuan for a man to transition into a woman. One of the major innovations Zhao and his mentor, He Qinglian, made was using skin from the patient's inner thigh to create the penis, which leaves minimal scarring. Other surgeons often use skin from the patient's stomach or forearm. "If I have any advantage, it is the massive number of patients I have treated and the trust they have bestowed in me," Zhao said. The doctor is highly selective of his patients and has only performed surgery on about 10 percent of those who requested it. Chinese Health regulations stipulate that candidates for gender reassignment must have no criminal convictions and should provide a letter of consent from family members, as well as a certificate from a psychiatrist. But Zhao goes further, asking each would-be patient a number of probing questions before deciding whether he should operate on them. He does so to avoid a repeat of the time when a patient returned, months after surgery, and wanted their gender changed back. Zhao first became interested in gender reassignment while working as a resident at a hospital in Beijing, assisting its director in replying to letters from patients. The hospital had been inundated with requests for gender reassignment after a surgery that was carried out there was widely reported in the media. So Zhao did some research and decided to move to Shanghai to learn from He, who is best known for performing China's first female-to-male gender reassignment surgery in 1992. One of Zhao's patients, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said both doctors were household names among the transgender community. The 18-year-old, who has transitioned into a man, said he had been driving without a license because he did not want to apply for one until he had changed genders. College students make up the majority of Zhao's patients and a growing number are choosing to get their gender changed before graduation, as a diploma is the only official document in China that cannot be changed once it is issued. It means the doctor is incredibly busy at this time of the year - several months before graduation season - with enough time left for recovery. when students can undergo surgery and still have enough time to recover before their ceremony. At their busiest, he and his team sometimes had to perform five surgeries in a single day. "Attitudes are changing toward transgender people. The public, and parents, are becoming more open to the idea," he said, adding that Chinese parents are more likely to accept their daughters becoming sons in his experience. Despite his success, Zhao does not want his teenage son to follow in his footsteps. "It's easy to be a doctor. But being a good doctor takes lifelong commitment. It's too difficult a job," he said. ^ top ^

Senior CPC leader calls for media integration (Xinhua)
Liu Yunshan (C, front), a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, views new media products at the People's Daily in Beijing, capital of China, March 22, 2017. Liu made an inspection tour of the People's Daily on Wednesday. (Xinhua/Rao Aimin) Liu Yunshan, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, made the remarks during an inspection tour of the People's Daily. Liu urged staff on the newspaper to make more new media products and extend their influence to the Internet. He also stressed that new media should shoulder social responsibility and guide online public opinion. He also had online conversations with readers on the People's Daily website, and said he hoped that the website could help address social issues. Liu later held a seminar with officials in charge of major state media, where he said that media integration was a major industry trend and more effort was needed to foster it. "Media integration needs to abide the CPC's ideology and the Marxist idea of the press," Liu said. "Content is the key to the development of media integration, and more new media workers must be trained." Liu said the most important issue for the Chinese media this year was preparing for the 19th National Congress of the CPC. He called for strengthening political responsibility, enhancing representation of mainstream public opinion, and providing opinion for the stability of the economy and society. ^ top ^

Terror attacks down, but attempts remain high, study finds (China Daily)
China has seen a decline in violent terrorist acts, thanks to tougher security measures, but the country still faces grim terror threats because the number of attempted attacks remains high, senior security experts said on Monday. The number of traditional terrorist acts — violent attacks involving or orchestrated by terrorist cells — dropped last year, according to nationwide public security data cited in a study report released on Monday by the Law Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The numbers were not available. The study was part of the Blue Book of Rule of Law, which was released on Monday and includes analysis of various issues last year in the fields of legislation and crime. "China's tightened measures against terrorism have driven some suspects underground. And we see more cases of fabricating terrorist-related information and spreading terrorism propaganda," said Huang Fang, the institute researcher who led the study. The country's first comprehensive Anti-Terrorism Law, which took effect on Jan 1 last year, has improved the legal framework to better fight terrorist crimes, she said. However, Li Wei, an anti-terrorism expert at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, warned that although there have been fewer violent terrorist attacks in the past year, the situation has not fundamentally improved. "People should realize that more attacks have been foiled at the planning stage. We haven't seen a significant drop in the number of attempted attacks," he said. Li said terrorist-related activities are still underway in some regions of the country due to the continued penetration of extremism from abroad. The report released on Monday also warned that the situation might become more serious, since overseas terrorist groups now have stronger influence in China and the connection between domestic and foreign terrorist groups has grown deeper. In addition to traditional terrorist acts, China must give more importance to combating the spread of terrorist propaganda online and on social media, Li said. Such acts should be treated as a form of terrorism as dangerous as violent attacks, because much of the content targets young people and lures them into terrorist acts, he added. According to the report, a considerable number of terrorist suspects arrested last year were born in the 1980s and 1990s. Additionally, many terrorist cells are formed among family members, it said. ^ top ^

China to launch anti-bureaucracy inspection (Xinhua)
China's State Council said Monday that it would send inspection teams to check how its anti-bureaucracy policies were being implemented throughout the country. In late April, inspectors will go nationwide to examine whether the central government's policies have been effectively implemented, including those that advance institutional reforms in the business sector and make operational and post-operational oversight more effective, the State Council said in an online notice. The move is part of a wider drive by government to streamline administrative procedures and delegate power to lower levels. In 2016, the government canceled the requirement on 165 items for review, overhauled and standardized 192 items of intermediary services for government review, and removed 220 items of approvals and accreditations for professional qualifications. ^ top ^

Over half of local govts found to be lacking in information disclosure (Global Times)
A report on governmental transparency revealed on Monday shows that over half of county-level governments lag behind in terms of public information disclosure and website construction. About 60 percent of the local governments among 100 surveyed counties are ranked low in terms of releasing public information, according to report by the Institute of Law of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), The Beijing News said on Monday. The websites of these local governments and their units were found to be poorly built, which would affect the publication of information, the report revealed. Many of these websites had floating signs, some of which could not be closed and therefore were suspected of being a deliberate act to force netizens to read certain type of content. A few local government websites only carried a picture. Among the county-level governments, Nangxian county in Nyingchi prefecture of Tibet Autonomous Region got the lowest score of 12.75, while Lhasa ranked the lowest among the city-level governments with 40.71. The annual reports on government information disclosure were also found to be deficient, with over 90 percent of the content in the reports being repetitive, Lü Yanbin, the writer of the CASS report, was quoted by The Beijing News as saying. Some governments copied their own previous reports, reports of other departments and even of departments in other cities, Lü said. The Pudong District of Shanghai, and Ningguo city of Anhui Province topped the list of the prefecture- and county-level governments in terms of website development. Among the cities, Xiamen in Fujian Province and Guangzhou in Guangdong Province got highest scores, according to the CASS report. The report is based on an evaluation of government performance in 49 cities and 100 counties in China in 2016. ^ top ^

More irregularities found in environment inspections in China (Xinhua)
The Ministry of Environmental Protection said on Sunday it has found more irregularities harming China's environment protection efforts during its 4-day inspections ended Saturday. The 202 irregularities, including unauthorized restarting of production despite a government ban and non-compliance with emission reduction measures, were discovered by 18 inspection teams dispatched to Beijing,Tianjin and 16 other cities by the ministry. The inspection teams called for local governments and relevant companies to investigate and rectify the situation as soon as possible. Beijing issued a blue alert for heavy air pollution Sunday morning. The alert is forecast to last one day and people should take precautions and reduce outdoor activity, said a statement issued by the city's air pollution emergency response office. At 10 a.m., readings at most of the city's monitoring stations for the hazardous fine particle matter PM2.5 exceeded 250 micrograms per cubic meter, according to Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center. Air quality should improve by Monday noon, the center said. Beijing has a four-tier alert system for pollution, with red being the highest, followed by orange, yellow and blue. ^ top ^

The hunt is on for 'crocodiles' in China's corridors of power (SCMP)
China's minister for clean government has warned businesspeople against colluding with officials for political power, calling the practice “very dangerous”. The warning from Yang Xiaodu, the minister of supervision and a right-hand man of top graft-buster Wang Qishan, comes as observers are watching closely to see if more tycoons will be targeted ahead of a reshuffle of the top ranks later this year. China Securities Regulatory Commission chairman Liu Shiyu said last month the authorities would go after more “big crocodiles” – the mainland term for wealthy corrupt businesspeople – to clamp down on manipulation of the stock market. At the China Development Forum on Saturday, Yang said two types of entrepreneurs had been keen to cultivate links with government officials. “One group wants to find patrons and aims to get an advantage in the market,” he said. “The other group hopes, after obtaining wealth, to seek political power. This is dangerous.” Yang said the anticorruption campaign would be instrumental in cutting collusion between officials and businesspeople. Yang did not name any names but the Beijing-based Legal Evening News said some businesspeople, such as executed mining tycoon Liu Han, went into politics themselves while others sought to wield influence by funding the promotion of political allies. An example of the second kind was coal-mining kingpin Zhang Xinming, who conspired with senior officials in Shanxi province and was nicknamed the “underground organisation minister”. Famed hedge fund manager Xu Xiang also came to grief over stock market manipulation, sentenced to 5½ years in jail in January. But the fate of mainland billionaire Xiao Jianhua remains a mystery – he disappeared from Hong Kong earlier this year and is reportedly assisting investigations on the mainland. Political scientist Chen Daoyin, from Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said Yang's words were not just a warning to conspiring tycoons but also a signal of how severe Beijing saw the situation had become. “Power has been captured by money and officials will use funds from businessmen to elevate their position with the government,” Chen said. President Xi Jinping last year raised the idea of forging a new relationship between business and government. But Hu Wei, vice-president of the Shanghai Federation of Social Sciences, said Xi's vision would remain unfulfilled unless the fundamental economic system in which key resources are controlled by the authorities was changed. “The anticorruption campaign can only address symptoms and the government should also look at the root causes of the problem,” Hu said. ^ top ^



Beijing shuts down its last coal-fired power plant as part of bid to clear air (SCMP)
The last coal-fired power plant in Beijing stopped operating on Saturday with the shutdown of its last remaining generators, Xinhua reported. The historic moment was recorded by cameras as an operator in a blue uniform pressed a red stop button for the fourth steam-turbine array. With that, Beijing became the first city in China to rely entirely on cleaner energy sources such as natural gas and wind farms for its electricity generation, according to the state news agency. The capital has long pledged to improve air quality by reducing the use of coal, which produces fine particles when burned that are crucial to the formation of smog. The power plant was built by China Huaneng Group, one of the largest state-owned energy companies, in 1999 in the eastern suburban area of Beijing. Its five generator arrays, with a total energy capacity of 845 megawatts, burned more than 8 million tonnes of coal per year. The municipal government said the last remaining generator array annually produced hundreds of tonnes of pollutants, including sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and dust. However, Beijing, with more than 30 million residents, cannot not produce enough power to meet its own energy demand. The city also draws electricity from coal-fired power plants in neighbouring provinces such as Hebei and Inner Mongolia, where environmental regulations are weakly enforced. ^ top ^



Official urges archeologists to prove Xinjiang part of China since ancient times (Global Times)
Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region said archeological work should be used to counter anti-secessionist purposes, by using cultural relics to teach people that Xinjiang has always been part of China. Xinjiang Party chief Chen Quanguo wrote to a regional archeological work meeting on Wednesday in Urumqi that Xinjiang needs to use their work to "cultivate and promote core socialist values, deepen patriotic education and strengthen anti-secessionist thoughts." Xinjiang vice chairman Arken Tuniyaz also said that archeological work and the preservation of cultural relics need to help maintain social stability and safeguard ethnic unity. "Many of our excavations in Xinjiang have revealed that the region has been connected to and under the influence of Chinese culture for thousands of years," said Liu Xuetang, an archeologist at Xinjiang Normal University. He cited the discovery of painted pottery in Xinjiang dating back to prehistoric times as an example. "Ethnic Han owned the technology to make painted pottery at the time, and the discovery shows the region began to culturally integrate with other parts of China centuries ago, which paved the way for the Han Dynasty's (206BC - AD220) governance of Xinjiang." Liu added that the archeological findings have proven that Chinese culture has always been inclusive. Xinjiang invested over 2 billion yuan ($300 million) for the preservation of relics from 2010 to 2015, officials said at the meeting. ^ top ^

Pakistani bank establishes branch in Xinjiang (Xinhua)
A branch of Pakistani Habib Bank Limited opened Monday in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, local authorities said. It is the bank's first branch in China, mainly providing financial support to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects, according to the Xinjiang regional banking regulatory bureau. Located in the Urumqi High-tech Industrial Development Zone, the bank mainly accepts public deposits, makes loans, deals government bonds, provides credit guarantees, and handles foreign currency exchange, the bureau said. Habib Bank, the largest bank in Pakistan, had total assets of about 21 billion U.S. dollars at the end of 2015. ^ top ^



With 65,000 mock votes from a target of one million, does Hong Kong even care about its leadership election? (SCMP)
The public's sense of powerlessness and privacy concerns might explain the low turnout for the mock chief executive election poll, according to the organisers and a pan-democrat lawmaker. The remarks came after just 65,000 people voted in the mock ballot that opened on March 10 and ended on Sunday, well short of the organisers' target of one million votes. IT sector lawmaker Charles Mok said organisers should assess why there was such a low turnout and tackle privacy concerns so the mock vote can become a better tool to gauge public opinion in the future. After consulting computer experts and other professional organisations, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data issued a second warning on Sunday, saying it had established that the organisers, when collecting voters' personal data, had breached information security practises. “(Voters) needed to download an app first, and that has limited its reach of voters. There were also not many street booths. There was much less people using the booths than five years ago,” Mok said on an RTHK programme referring to the last mock ballot in 2012. “Maybe people have a sense of powerlessness. They felt that they have already very clearly expressed their view and doubted if there was a need (to vote in the mock ballot). The organisers need to review why the turnout was so low this time,” he said. The ballot was organised by Citizens United in Action, led by Occupy Central founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting. Members of the public were able to cast their votes online or at voting stations. Each voter was asked to select support, oppose or abstain for each of the three chief executive candidates. Chief executive candidate John Tsang Chun-wah, the popular underdog, was supported by 91.9 per cent of voters, with just 4.2 per cent opposing him. Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, Beijing's preferred choice, was backed by just 1.5 per cent of voters with 96.1 per cent opposing her. Retired judge Woo Kwok-hing was supported by 27.1 per cent voters, with 39.4 per cent against him. Mok said he “understood and agreed” with the concerns expressed by the privacy watchdog. He said voters needed to vote through the Telegram app and so the ballot organisers could not control the security level. Voters had to provide their name, telephone number and identity card number to register on the platform. The mock chief executive poll in March 2012 attracted far more participants, with a turnout rate of 222,990. In June 2014, Popvote launched the “622 referendum”, which asked members of the public to select the best political reform proposals. Over 780,000 people participated during the 10-day voting period. Mok said he was aware that the organisers were all volunteers and there was a lack of resources to organise the ballot. Despite the low turnout, Mok said Hong Kong still needs this platform in the future to gauge public opinions on different matters. Tai said the low turnout revealed the drastic change in the political sentiment in Hong Kong after the umbrella movement in 2014. “Some may think it is pointless, as the election result is under Beijing's tight control. “Some may also think the election members from the pan-democratic camp have made up their mind and the mock vote would not make a difference,” Tai said. The pan-democrat camp has 326 votes in the 1,194-member Election Committee. A candidate will need 601 votes to win. But Tai dismissed the pessimistic view that Hongkongers have already given up hopes for democracy. “We believe Hong Kong people will step up for democracy if they see a viable opportunity of changing the current situation and overcoming existing difficulties,” he said. While Tai admitted that the security concerns might also have affected the participation rate, he believed it was not the major reason. Tai stressed that they were sure the system was safe, with no signs of data being leaked. He said they would further discuss with the commission. ^ top ^

Front runners in Hong Kong leadership race dodge June 4 issue in bruising debate (SCMP)
The two front runners in Hong Kong's leadership race shied away from stating their positions over vindication of the Tiananmen Square crackdown of 1989 as they were publicly grilled for the first time by members of the committee that will pick the city's chief executive next Sunday. Sunday night's 2½ hour election debate saw testy exchanges between Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and John Tsang Chun-wah: Lam mocked Tsang for his “laid-back” working style, while the latter put her in the category of “politicians who think saying is achieving”. ' The showdown at the AsiaWorld-Expo on Lantau Island between the two front runners and retired judge Woo Kwok-hing was organised by a group of Election Committee members from across the political spectrum. Asked about Beijing's crackdown on the student-led pro-democracy movement, which remains a highly contentious subject in the city, Tsang gave a meandering answer, saying “some time in the future we can see the issue being dealt with [by Beijing]”. Lam said the incident was “saddening”, adding: “History will have its judgment.” Lam, the former No 2 official seen as Beijing's preferred candidate, appeared to be restrained and respectful at first, but returned to the combative style she displayed in previous debates when she was asked to rate Tsang's performance when they were both serving in the government. Lam, also a former development minister, was dripping sarcasm as she recalled a meeting with Tsang when he was the financial secretary: “When I went to John's office for a meeting, I saw that there was no file, no paper on his desk. I admired him much. My desk was always full of files and documents.” Tsang retorted: “I always believe that, apart from working hard, we need to work smart. If she can take up all the tasks, she's a good employee, not a leader.” When it came to the issue of Hong Kong's stalled political reform process, Lam reiterated that she had been sincere in resolving the deadlock during the Occupy protests of 2014. That was Woo's chance to pounce: “Lam was the head of the government's task force on political reform but she failed the exercise and that led to the Occupy protests. Restarting the process is not even in her manifesto.” “Some politicians would think saying is achieving,” Tsang added, referring to Lam's undelivered promise to set up a multi-side platform for society to discuss democratic development. Tsang, the popular underdog next to Lam, resorted to humour when taking a question from the floor about Lam's refusal to travel to Tin Shui Wai to meet grassroots families because it was too far away. “Actually it wasn't that far away, just some 30 minutes by car from Wan Chai,” he said. Lam said, “I am sorry that I could not go to Tin Shui Wai... But I have proposals for the lower class.” Tsang was forced to back down on the controversy over his perceived sympathy for those who launched personal attacks against actress Josephine Siao for supporting Lam. “Such cyberbullying is not acceptable. We have to respect others and we have to respect ourselves [when expressing views],” Tsang conceded. Lam avoided repeating the gaffes that raised eyebrows in the last election debate, such as her offer to resign “if mainstream opinion makes me no longer able to continue” as chief executive. The debate got off to a noisy start with a partisan audience. As Woo was about to make his opening remarks, four pro-democracy activists marched to the front of the stage, chanting,“We want genuine universal suffrage” and waving placards that read “Support civil nomination” and “We want universal pension”. They were quickly ushered away. Some 507 of the 1,194 election committee members attended the forum. Among them, 189 members filed questions. Most of the 21 questions selected were from pan-democrats. The second part of the debate featured questions from the public. Organisers said they had received 1,326 questions from public. Tsang's performance won a clear lead of support over Lam, according to a poll. Some 62 per cent of 717 respondents told HKU's public opinion programme that, if eligible to vote, they would vote for Tsang tomorrow after watching the debate, against 24 per cent for Lam. In her closing remarks, Lam said: “Carrie Lam today is still Carrie Lam of yesterday. The difference is that she is now more humble.” And she said: “If I am elected, I will achieve the vision of the old and the young. Please vote for me next Sunday.” Tsang said: “Five years on, the rift in the society has deepened, the government is not supported by the people, and governance is difficult.” “Hongkongers want to see a bit of change. They yearn for a change in the social atmosphere, which they won't feel tiring or even suffocating,” he added. Woo continued his attack on Lam in his final remarks, he said fake consultation had been Lam's strength. And he criticised Tsang and Lam for passing the buck on this issue. “HK's problem is not that it doesn't have money, but that the person in charge does not have a heart,” he said. ^ top ^



Don't use Taiwan as pawn in chess game, Taipei urges US, mainland China (SCMP)
Taiwan's government, worried about the island being used as a pawn by mainland China and the United States, said on Monday the self-ruled island must protect its own interests as concerns in Taipei rise ahead of an expected meeting between the US and the mainland's presidents. Beijing has never renounced the use of force to take back what it deems a wayward province and has been pressuring Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen, who leads an independence-leaning ruling party, to concede Taiwan is part of China. The United States is Taiwan's only major political ally and sole arms supplier. “We call on the United States and [mainland] China, when they improve relations, to not use Taiwan in their own interests or as a chess piece,” Catherine Chang, Taiwan's minister in charge of the Mainland Affairs Council, told reporters. Chang urged Beijing to communicate with Taipei “in order to maintain stability and peace in the Asia-Pacific region”. The comments come after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told President Xi Jinping on Sunday in Beijing that Donald Trump anticipated a meeting “soon”. At issue for Taipei is whether a Trump-Xi meeting would harm Taipei's interests as Washington begins considering a big, new arms package for Taiwan, a move sure to anger China. “We should seek the greatest advantage in the interaction between the United States and China to reduce the possibility of Communist China guiding and manipulating the US-China-Taiwan relationship,” said Peng Sheng-chu, chief of Taiwan's National Security Bureau. Peng, who was answering questions at a parliamentary session, did not elaborate on what steps Taiwan should take, but said that based on the bureau's current intelligence, it was not likely that a new communique that might hurt Taiwan's interests would result from a Trump-Xi meeting. “But we do not rule out the possibility,” Peng said. Taiwan celebrated a diplomatic coup in December when Trump, as president-elect, took a congratulatory phone call from Tsai and raised questions about whether he would stick with the four-decade-old “one China” policy. Trump changed tack last month and agreed to honour the “one-China” principle during a phone call with Xi. Tillerson left China with warm words from Xi at the weekend, ending his first trip to Asia since taking office with an agreement to work together with Beijing on North Korea and putting aside trickier issues. Xi praised increasing communications in recent weeks between Beijing and Washington and said he was confident of seeing the two nations' relations moving in the right direction. Taiwan was discussed during the meeting, but details were not provided. ^ top ^



China's ICBC starts renminbi clearing services in Russia (Xinhua)
Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) officially started operating as a Chinese renminbi (CNY) clearing bank in Russia Wednesday, a move set to facilitate the use of the currency and cooperation in various fields between the two countries. "Under the guidance of the governments and central banks of both countries, ICBC's Moscow branch will effectively fulfill its responsibility and obligation as a renminbi clearing bank by taking further advantage of its leading edge in renminbi businesses, providing customers with safe, high quality and convenient clearing services," said Hu Hao, ICBC's deputy governor, at the opening ceremony. "Financial regulatory authorities of China and Russia have signed a series of major agreements, which marks a new level of financial cooperation," said Dmitry Skobelkin, deputy governor of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation. "The launching of renminbi clearing services in Russia will further expand local settlement business and promote financial cooperation between the two countries," the official added. With the continuous deepening of the Russia-China comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination in recent years, the two countries are now starting to enhance local currency cooperation. At the end of 2015, the Russian central bank announced the inclusion of the renminbi in its national foreign exchange reserves, making it Russia's officially recognized reserve currency. During Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to China in June last year, the central banks of the two countries signed a memorandum of cooperation in starting renminbi clearing services in Russia, just three months before ICBC's Moscow branch was appointed by China's central bank as the clearing house for settling renminbi transactions there. ^ top ^

Guangzhou, four cities follow Beijing's lead to curb home purchases (SCMP)
Five mainland Chinese cities have followed Beijing's lead in tightening home purchase restrictions, rolling out extensive new measures over the past three days to curb speculative buying. Within a few hours of Beijing introducing the nation's harshest curbs on Friday afternoon to dampen surging home prices, Shijiazhuang, the capital of neighbouring Hebei province, the city of Guangzhou in southern China, and Zhengzhou, the capital of central Henan province, rolled out tighter buying curbs. Over the weekend, Hunan's capital of Changsha and Baoding, a city 150 kilometres southwest of Beijing, both imposed stricter cooling measures, bringing the total number of mainland cities that have introduced such measures in March to 18. These include all the major cities in China and smaller cities surrounding Beijing and Shanghai. An analysis of the policy details put forward by each city indicates that they aim to stamp out speculative demand that was blamed for the latest surge in home prices, with speculators taking advantage of loopholes in property curbs that have been put in place since October. For example, many cities limited local residents to owning two or three homes while non locals could only buy one. The number of years non local residents had to pay into the social security fund to gain purchase eligibility was also raised, while the urban areas subject to purchase restrictions were expanded. In addition, local governments increased the down payment ratio requirement. However, these policies seem mild compared with those imposed in Beijing on Friday. Down payments for second-time buyers of private sector-developed homes were raised to at least 80 per cent of the purchase price, up from 70 per cent, and the definition of “second-time buyer” was broadened to include those who have any mortgage history, regardless of where or whether they currently own a flat. Analysts said the stricter definition of “first-time buyers” implemented by some cities was targeted at those who sold their existing home and couples who divorced in order to acquire “first-time” status. So far only Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Nanjing have imposed such draconian rules. “The tougher definition of 'first-time buyers' will significantly raise the home purchase threshold and tame speculative demand for the moment but it also hurts the non-speculative trade-up demand – people who are just seeking a larger home for their kids,” said Zhang Hongwei, a research director at Tospur Real Estate Consulting Co. Hu Jinghui, vice president of consultancy Bacic & 5i5j, said the further tightening would see buyers with less urgency or those in a weaker financial situation delay their purchases, driving down transaction volumes. Hu added that the new policies were necessary to calm the jittery mood in the market and slow the price upsurge. The urgent need for greater home market control was evident in the February price data released by the National Bureau of Statistics. Despite a 0.1 per cent month-on-month decline in Beijing's new home prices, price growth for pre-owned homes, which make up over 80 per cent of the capital city's transactions, accelerated to 1.3 per cent in February from 0.8 per cent in January, following a 0.2 per cent gain in December. Pre-owned home prices in Guangzhou leapt 2.7 per cent month on month in February. He Lifeng, the newly appointed head of the National Development and Reform Commission – mainland China's top economic planner – lashed out at the “large capital influx into the property sector” at a weekend conference, saying it was at the expense of the real economy. He vowed to control the excessive credit flow into the property industry. Still, there are critics of the latest round of cooling measures. Yi Xianrong, a finance professor with Qingdao University, said most second-tier cities still allow non local residents to buy one home, which in effect encourages them to do so. The eligibility restriction also prompts locals, who otherwise may not have purchasing intent, to buy more than one home. He said the most powerful tool to deter speculative buying – property taxes – remains elusive despite years of debate due to powerful vested interests. A spokeswoman for the National People's Congress said earlier this month that a proposed property tax law would not be on the agenda for this year's legislature. ^ top ^

China hits back at foreign scrutiny on its excess steel capacity (SCMP)
China should not be singled out in a fight against excess steel capacity requiring global cooperation, Wang Shouwen, a vice-commerce minister, said yesterday. “This is a global issue, this is a cyclical issue,” Wang told the China Development Forum in Beijing. China is both the world's biggest steel producer and consumer, and its steel sector has been under particular scrutiny. Chinese mills have been subject to increasing numbers of anti-dumping moves by international rivals amid accusations that they have been selling at less than cost and forcing foreign competitors out of business. At his Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday, US President Donald Trump's choice for top trade negotiator, Robert Lighthizer, said Beijing's industrial policies had led to “uneconomic” production, particularly in steel and aluminium, and he pledged to force China to cut back excessive capacity with more trade enforcement measures. Wang said China recognised the severity of overcapacity problems in some industries and had been trying to deal with the issue, while some other countries had been “just talking and watching”. China was facing growing frictions with its trade partners, he noted, but he shrugged off criticism about the country's trade practices. Major economies should tackle overcapacity problems in a concerted manner, he said. Beijing has announced plans to slash another 50 million tonnes of steel capacity this year, on top of the 65 million tonnes removed last year. Many of the plants closed last year were already idled, however, and output from the still-open plants actually rose 1.2 per cent to 808.4 million tonnes. China would continue to open up its economy to foreign investors and promote globalisation, which was facing risks from “populism, conservatism and protectionism”, Wang said. ^ top ^



Russia warns against US military buildup on Korean Peninsula (Global Times)
Russia on Thursday warned the United States against using missile launches by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to justify its military buildup on the Korean peninsula. "We consider it inadmissible to use the developing situation to achieve unilateral military advantages, and to inject massively new types of weapons into the region," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at a news briefing, adding that Moscow considered the deployment of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) in the Republic of Korea a "serious destabilizing factor." Without a comprehensive settlement of existing problems via political and diplomatic means, which takes into account the concerns of all parties involved, it is impossible to move toward peace and stability in northeast Asia, the spokeswoman said. "We see no alternative to the collective search for a new constructive strategy to break out of the current impasse in line with the general military and political detente and dismantling the confrontational architecture in the region," Zakharova said. South Korea's Defense Ministry said Wednesday that the DPRK had test-fired another missile, believed to be in response to ongoing US-South Korea military exercises codenamed Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, but failed with the missile exploded in the air. South Korea has hurriedly launched the process of hosting a US missile shield, in spite of continued opposition from its citizens and neighboring countries. Two mobile launchers and some THAAD equipment arrived at the location of its deployment earlier this month. ^ top ^

North Korea is behaving badly... and China's not helping, Donald Trump tweets (SCMP)
US President Donald Trump tweeted criticism of North Korea, saying the nation was “behaving badly” and blamed China for doing little to help, just a day before US State Secretary Rex Tillerson is due to arrive in Beijing. “North Korea is behaving very badly, they have been “playing” the United States for years. China has done little to help!” he said on his official Twitter account. Just earlier in Seoul, Tillerson declared an end of US “strategic patience” with North Korea and warned military action would be an option if security threats by Pyongyang escalated. “Certainly, we do not want things to get to a military conflict... but obviously if North Korea takes actions that threaten the South Korean forces or our own forces, then that would be met with an appropriate response,” Tillerson told reporters. Speaking to the South China Morning Post privately, Chinese diplomats said they had long been cautious about Trump and how much Tillerson's visit could help with the security situation in East Asia. “We are still scratching our heads to work out how to deal with Trump in the wake of the roller-coaster ride of China-US relations since he got elected,” one diplomat said earlier. Instead of creating “a friendly environment” prior to his landmark visit to China on Saturday as was hoped, Tillerson had criticised China for exerting economic pressure on South Korea over the installation of a US missile defence shield known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence system (THAAD). “While we acknowledge China's opposition, its economic retaliation against South Korea is inappropriate and troubling,” Tillerson said. “We ask China to refrain from such actions. Instead we urge China to address the threat that makes THAAD necessary – that being the escalating threat from North Korea.” Xinhua, in response, issued a statement by the Chinese foreign ministry saying Beijing's opposition to the missile shield was justified. ^ top ^

North Korean nuclear threat at danger level, Tillerson tells Chinese hosts (SCMP)
But top US diplomat doesn't reiterate threat of military action during first day of visit to Beijing. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Saturday said North Korea's nuclear threats had reached “a dangerous level” and called on China to make urgent efforts to help rein in the reclusive state, while Beijing insisted the crisis should be settled by diplomatic means. But the ex-oil executive, who warned of a pre-emptive military strike against North Korea just a day before his first official visit to China, did not reiterate the threat yesterday in an obvious move to appease his hosts. Speaking after a two-hour talk with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Tillerson said the pair had “a very extensive exchange” on the escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula and that the two sides had agreed work together to stop Pyangyong from provocations. “I think we share a common view and a sense that tensions in the peninsula are quite high right now and that things have reached a rather dangerous level,” he said. Wang insisted the tensions on the peninsula were about the hostility between Pyangyong and Washington and said the issues should be resolved by talks. “Now the situation on the peninsula arrives at a new crossroad, where it could be further escalated into conflicts or finding a way to restart negotiations by strictly implementing relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions,” he said. But Tillerson said the option for further dialogue should only be considered if North Korea had moved away from developing nuclear weapons. “We know that efforts made over the last 20 years so far have not succeeded in curbing North Korea's illegal weapon programme,” Tillerson said. Despite differences on North Korea and other issues, the diplomats struck a positive tone on Sino-US ties ahead of a summit between US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, expected to be held next month. They agreed that Sino-US relations should be guided by “non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation”. Tillerson will meet Xi on Sunday. In an interview shortly before his Beijing trip with the Independent Journal Review, Tillerson said Trump and Xi should have further conversations. “[The] overall China-US relationship really needs better clarity that can only be achieved by a meeting between our two leaders – a face-to-face meeting – and some time for them to be together and some time for us to exchange views,” he said. Bonnie Glaser of the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies said Tillerson's visit was unlikely to dispel deep-rooted mistrust between the two nations. “Changes in policy are what will help dispel mistrust. It is looking for more balanced trade ties and greater Chinese contribution to peace and stability, especially in dealing with North Korea,” Glaser said. ^ top ^



Olon Ovoot port expanded to increase coal export (Montsame)
“The expansion of Olon Ovoot port will help increase income from coal and employment in Mongolia”, remarked D.Ganbat, Minister of Road and Transport Development D.Ganbat as he attended an official inauguration ceremony of an expanded terminal built at Olon Ovoot port, Dornogobi aimag on March 23. Mongolia had begun testing rail transport of coal from the Olon Ovoot port to Chinese Tianjin port, the closest sea port of the People's Republic of China to Mongolia. In response to increase coal demand from China, Ulaanbaatar Railway Joint Venture in cooperation with the Ministry of Road and Transport Development expanded the Olon Ovoot port by building the first unit of its terminal within 20 days, making possible the transport of 100-150 wagon coal which would increase Mongolia's coal export to its southern neighbor by 200 thousand tons a month and 2.5 million tons a year. The terminal's construction was co-realized with private sectors from November 6 to December 21, 2016, using MNT 1.4 billion investment. More than 20 thousand tons of cargo has been transported in 2017 since its construction. The second rail line will be constructed from April to June this year, and when in full operation, the Olon Ovoot terminal will be capable of transporting 300-wagon or 19,500 tons of cargo. The Olon Ovoot port of Dornogobi aimag was set up in 1974. Those present at the inauguration ceremony included Yang Qingdong, Charge d'affaires at the Chinese Embassy in Mongolia and D.Jigjidnyamaa, Director of Ulaanbaatar Railway Joint Venture. ^ top ^

Protesters demand approval of national anti-air pollution national program (UB Post)
Around 300 people demonstrated at Sukhbaatar Square on March 18 to demand that the state adopts a national program on air pollution reduction by the end of March. On National Soldiers' Day, protesters got in formation to spell “Utaag Shiid” (resolve smog) and “Emnelgee Bari” (build hospitals) with green cards held above their heads, and expressed their frustration with the government's slow efforts to improve air quality and eliminate air pollution-related diseases in Ulaanbaatar. Air pollution-related diseases are the top three causes of premature death in adults in Mongolia. Pneumonia accounts for 15 percent of deaths among children and can be attributed to poor air quality. It's common for hospitals in Ulaanbaatar to become overwhelmed during the winter as the number of sick children admitted for care drastically increases. Last year, UNICEF announced that Ulaanbaatar was one of the 10 most polluted cities in the world. Studies found that the lungs of children living in districts with the highest recorded levels of pollution did not function as well as those of children living in rural areas, putting them at risk of chronic respiratory diseases as they age. On multiple occasions this winter, pollution readings in some ger areas were nearly 30 times higher than levels considered safe by the World Health Organization. City residents said they would hold more demonstrations if the government continued to prolong the approval of the national anti-air pollution program and ignore their demand for the disclosure of government spending and other details on air pollution reduction projects carried out over the last 15 years. “Air pollution is addressed only during winter and forgotten about during the rest of the year. To ensure this doesn't happen again, public measures to combat air pollution will be organized every month,” said a member of Moms and Dads Against Smog (MDAS), a grassroots group of concerned citizens who have been organizing demonstrations against air pollution in Ulaanbaatar since last December. Concerned Mongolians, from five to 80 years old, have been standing in frigid weather to call attention to this public health issue through three previous demonstrations. Their efforts to fight for the right to breathe fresh air have resonated worldwide, as people have supported their cause with demonstrations held in New York, Illinois, New Jersey, and Virginia in the United States and in Budapest, Hungary. ^ top ^

Chinese Ambassador to Mongolia talks to journalists about bilateral economic cooperation (UB Post)
On Thursday, Ambassador of China to Mongolia Xing Haiming met with Mongolian journalists to discuss the economic cooperation between Mongolia and China and other foreign affairs issues.Ambassador Xing emphasized that mining, infrastructure, and humanitarian collaboration are key pieces of economic cooperation between the two countries. The Ambassador highlighted that the following principles should be pursued to strengthen economic cooperation between the neighbors:
1. Improve mining, energy, infrastructure, and other cooperation by taking advantage of opportunities for economic cooperation and harnessing cohesion between the development strategies of the two countries; expedite the launching of projects and programs that have been negotiated, and seek mutual benefits from the projects
2. Look for new directions for economic cooperation, adapt new Chinese technology to develop Mongolia's livestock sector, expand banking and financial cooperation, and go forward incrementally with a currency swap agreement
3. Move forward on establishing an economic cooperation zone and free-trade zone agreement; establish agreements between Chinese and Mongolian investors; develop an economic corridor between China, Russia, and Mongolia under the Belt and Road Initiative; and develop economic cooperation in areas along the Mongolian and Chinese border
The Chinese Ambassador said that cooperative projects will greatly contribute to the stability of increased economic cooperation, and will help Mongolia overcome its economic challenges. Ambassador Xing underlined that representative offices of the Bank of China and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China are operating in Ulaanbaatar, but representative offices have no authority to implement cooperation projects or make investments, so China wants to open an institution that has commercial authority in Mongolia. The Ambassador said that the opening of such an organization would allow Chinese investment to flow into Mongolia and help stimulate Mongolia's economic growth. He added that Chinese representatives have negotiated with Mongolia on this matter, but the negotiations have encountered challenges in the legal and regulatory environment. He emphasized that addressing these challenges are not exclusive to Chinese banks, but that they are a matter concerning all aspects of foreign investment. The Ambassador noted that trade turnover between Mongolia and China was 5 billion USD last year, but it represented less than one percent of China's foreign trade in 2016. He said there should be a greater focus on developing trade turnover, and that there are numerous opportunities for the countries to take advantage of their improved relations. ^ 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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