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
  15-19.5.2017, No. 672  
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Foreign Policy

China, ASEAN approve framework of South China Sea code of conduct (Global Times)
China and ASEAN member states on Thursday approved the framework of the South China Sea Code of Conduct (COC), a crucial step towards peacefully resolving territorial disputes in the area. The 14th Senior Officials' Meeting on the Implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), held on Thursday in Guiyang, Southwest China's Guizhou Province reviewed and approved the COC framework draft. A Chinese foreign ministry press release said on Thursday that all parties have agreed to peacefully resolve the South China Sea disputes through negotiations and dialogue. They also agreed to work through their differences under the framework of regional regulations. China and the ASEAN member states recognize the significance of the approval of the COC framework, calling it an important interim achievement in the overall COC negotiations. The meeting updated the 2016-18 work plan, discussed the results of a test run of a hotline platform for senior diplomats, and approved a document calling for the establishment of three technical committees. The meeting was co-chaired by Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin and the Permanent Secretary of Singapore's foreign ministry, Chee Wee Kiong. At a post meeting press conference, Liu said the framework took into account the interests and concerns of all parties. "It provided a good foundation for succeeding negotiations," Liu said. He told the Global Times on Thursday that "we should not expect some documents to resolve all problems related to the South China Sea, but we need to adhere to political solutions to boost mutual trust among countries adjacent to the South China Sea." He also warned of outside interference, saying that China and all ASEAN members agree to keep the framework document confidential so that the outside forces would be prevented from interrupting future negotiations. "Outside nations need to respect the spirit of the DOC and the efforts made by the 11 signatory countries," Liu told the Global Times. China has repeatedly urged the US and Japan not to interfere in the South China Sea disputes. Liu is expected to engage in the first bilateral consultation on the South China Sea disputes with the Philippine delegation led by Ambassador Jose Santiago Sta. Romana on Friday. The bilateral consultation is a sign that Beijing and Manila have finally returned to negotiations to resolve the maritime disputes, after the Aquino administration took the disputes to an arbitration court in The Hague and irked Beijing. Liu said the consultation will be held twice a year. He also noted that China is open to joint maritime exploration with the Philippines before a final consensus on the maritime disputes is reached. "Strengthening energy cooperation would benefit both countries," Liu said. ^ top ^

China and Asean agree to draft code of conduct in South China Sea (SCMP)
Beijing and its Southeast Asian neighbours have agreed to a framework for a code of conduct in the South China Sea, a move that could reduce the risk of clashes in one of the world's busiest waterways. Along with the framework, rival claimants China and the Philippines will start talks today over their competing claims in the sea, according to senior diplomats from both sides. Representatives for China and all 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations agreed to the framework in Guiyang in Guizhou province after two days of talks that wrapped up on Thursday, said Liu Zhenmin, deputy foreign minister and head of China's delegation. “The draft framework contains only the elements and is not the final rules, but the conclusion of the framework is a milestone in the process and is significant. It will provide a good foundation for the next round of consultations,” he said at a joint press conference. Liu declined to give details about the framework and said it would remain confidential. “The draft framework will be an internal document and nobody should publish it,” Liu said. “One reason is we will continue our consultation, and the other reason is we don't want to see any interference with our future consultations.” China claims almost the entire South China Sea, through which about US$5 trillion in goods pass every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims. China and Asean committed to drafting the code 15 years ago, and while it should in theory tame how they behave in the South China Sea, it remains an open question whether Beijing will be willing to slow construction of artificial islands and pursuit of effective control over disputed territory. It's another question whether Southeast Asian countries will have any leverage to ask Beijing to respect the rules. A mainland defence newspaper reported on Wednesday that China had installed rocket launchers on the disputed Fiery Cross Reef in the South China Sea, though it said the facilities would be limited to defensive requirements. Philippine ambassador to China Jose Santiago Sta. Romana was to meet Liu on Friday afternoon for new bilateral talks, with two rounds to be held a year. The consultation mechanism, was aimed at creating conditions for a final settlement over the two side's claims in the South China Sea though he didn't say which topics would be raised. “But the basic approach is to manage the dispute and be able to discuss in a frank and friendly way the development in the South China Sea,” the top envoy to Beijing said. ^ top ^

Xi's speech at opening ceremony of B&R forum published (Xinhua)
A keynote speech given by President Xi Jinping at the opening ceremony of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation has been published by the People's Publishing House. The speech, "Work Together to Build the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road," was delivered on May 14. The publication is available at Xinhua Bookstores nationwide, the publisher said Thursday. The forum was held in Beijing on May 14 and 15. ^ top ^

China taking on leadership role in difficult times (Global Times)
Can we imagine a world in which China is the leading economic power? Can we think about a new global governance concept inspired by China's successful political system? Is it possible to reflect on China taking the leadership in defense of globalization? Well, this is already happening. The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation has concluded in Beijing, to pave the way for the new constructive role that China is taking upon itself, a role destined to bring prosperity to all the countries involved in the Belt and Road (B&R) initiative, making history in leading a new global drive for better economic integration and governance for the people. Some reports are predicting that the Chinese economy will overtake that of the US by 2050. This is 30 years from now. Not only will China overtake the US as the prime economy in the world, but its share of the world's GDP will rise to 20 percent, a 5 percentage point increase from its 2017 performance. It should not be forgotten that in 1850 China was the largest economy in the world, offering peace and stability, while Europe under capitalism was marred by social revolts and expansionism ideals. China is not only shaping a new economic era, but also making a giant leap toward the future, and specifically the fourth industrial revolution. China today is modernizing its industries, beyond the manufacturing strategies that helped to prop up its economy starting from the mainland's reform and opening-up in 1979. Today under President Xi Jinping, China is upgrading its past policies to meet the demands of a more sustainable, robust economy. This is seen by the shift in focus to investment in technology, the aerospace industry, quantum communications, service oriented industries, transport and infrastructure, and a diversified portfolio of energy industries. Embracing economic reform to take a leap toward the future is not the only advancement China is aiming for; the nation is offering the world an alternative to governance ideologies in a very challenging, disruptive socio-political environment. China bases its political governing ideology on elevating people's economic standards, making economic decisions based on scientific research, improving people's opportunities in a market economy where the gap between the haves and the have nots is reduced, and purging corruption and ill-gained wealth from the governing bodies. The result of this governing principle is stunning: China is the only developing country after World War II to have almost eliminated poverty, and on a scale never seen before. In 1978, China's GDP per capita was similar to that of Zambia. Since 1949, China has managed to lift about 800 million people out of poverty. In other words, the UN would not have achieved its Millennium goal for reducing poverty if it were not for China's wise governance. This leads to our third reflection: Can China take a leadership role in protecting globalization? Well, the answer was very clear during the visit of President Xi to Davos in January this year. At a time of uncertainties following the stunning Brexit vote in the UK and the election of Donald Trump in the US, the world economic powers found themselves in need of a guarantor of free trade and a protector of the global economic order, a role that China now fulfills. China is protecting the global economic order, defending globalization, and securing free trade and investment flows in a world marred with challenges. China stands firmly by free trade, free flow of investment, exchange of know-how, opening financial institutions to all, and building and integrating infrastructure, all with one focus: the people's interests. ^ top ^

China Focus: China urges ROK to remove obstacles to ties as envoy visits Beijing (Xinhua)
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi Thursday urged the Republic of Korea (ROK) to remove obstacles to the development of bilateral ties when meeting with the visiting special envoy of the ROK President. ROK should return bilateral ties to a path of healthy development, Wang told the special envoy, stressing China is willing to see a return to normal exchanges and cooperation between the two sides. Lee Hae-chan, a member of the ROK National Assembly and former prime minister, is visiting China from Thursday to Saturday as President Moon Jae-in's special envoy. Wang expounded on China's position on the deployment of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system, urging the ROK to correctly deal with China's major and reasonable concern. Lee said the ROK acknowledged that the deployment of THAAD has harmed ROK-China mutual trust and exchanges, and fully understands China's reasonable concern over the issue. The ROK is sincerely ready to look for a solution to the issue, said Lee. Regarding the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, Wang said China is willing to work with all sides on more effective measures, and that China insists on solving the issue through dialogue and is determined to safeguard peace and stability on the peninsula. The ROK-China relationship is significant for peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula as well as Northeast Asia, Lee said, stressing that the ROK is willing to enhance pragmatic cooperation with China and push forward the bilateral strategic partnership of cooperation. China appreciates the new ROK government's acts to improve bilateral ties, Wang said, noting that President Moon had sent a government representative to attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held in Beijing earlier this week. The bilateral relationship has seen great development and brought major benefits to the two nations since diplomatic ties were established in 1992, Wang said, noting the setback in relations since last year is "unnecessary." ^ top ^

Few limits for China's spy outfits in draft law (SCMP)
China has released a draft intelligence law aimed at providing a legal foundation for the country's spy operations, the latest legislative effort by Beijing to fortify national security against perceived threats at home and abroad. The draft law, published on the website of top legislature the National People's Congress on Tuesday to solicit public feedback, stipulates that China's public security, state security and military are in charge of the country's intelligence services. It authorises them to conduct intelligence activity “both within and outside national borders” and to investigate foreign and domestic individuals or institutions deemed harmful to national security. Since President Xi Jinping took power four and a half years ago, a slew of new laws have been passed to deal with security challenges, including a national security law, an anti-terrorism law in 2015 and a counter-espionage law in 2014. Xi himself chairs the powerful national security committee he founded in 2013, which oversees issues ranging from cybersecurity to unrest in Xinjiang. The latest intelligence law is formulated to “strengthen and ensure state intelligence work and safeguard national security and interests”, according to the draft on the NPC's website. It did not specify what falls under the scope of “state intelligence work”, but said it should provide intelligence support for protecting national security, and safeguard national interests like “state power, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, the well-being of the people and sustainable development of the economy and society”. The Ministry of State Security is widely known as the country's top civilian spy agency. However, in recent years, the Ministry of Public Security – effectively the national police force – has taken on a more assertive role in domestic intelligence and counter-espionage, according to testimony from a US specialist on China's intelligence services that was given to a congressional commission last year. The draft law allows intelligence officials to adopt secret investigative measures such as wiretapping, electronic surveillance and clandestine filming. Intelligence officials can also enter “restricted access areas”, skip customs and border inspections and seize vehicles owned by individuals or institutions. Spy agencies could also establish “cooperative relationships” with individuals and organisations, the draft law said. But it also warned intelligence officials against overstepping their authority, abusing their power, or leaking state or commercial secrets, saying that these infractions would be punished by law. The country's former deputy spy chief, Ma Jian, is facing prosecution for corruption. In a video posted online last month, Ma said he had abused his power to help businessman Guo Wengui in exchange for benefits. ^ top ^

Chinese property developers should not be too eager to move into Indian market (Global Times)
India may not be a promised land for Chinese property developers seeking new frontiers beyond their homeland. Data from the National Bureau of Statistics, China's top statistics bureau, on Thursday pointed to moderating growth in home prices across major Chinese cities in April, an indication that tougher measures to rein in the red hot housing market have taken effect and that China's property sector might have passed its peak growth period. In this context, Chinese developers may need to either diversify into other businesses - something many of them are already working on, but with only limited success in a lot of cases - or expand into overseas markets. The latter appears to be a more tempting option for a number of firms. Other than building properties in developed markets that typically appeal to wealthy Chinese people, domestic developers including Dalian Wanda have shown an interest in housing projects in India. It may seem obvious that India, a populous and rapidly developing country, would be the ideal choice for Chinese property developers in pursuit of the next big market opportunity. The Financial Times (FT) said in an article on Tuesday that "India offers the next frontier for Chinese property developers." But just as the article also mentioned various obstacles facing Chinese property developers in the Indian market, it shouldn't be taken for granted that the emerging middle class in India is ready to support a housing boom. Chinese developers should avoid a blind rush into the Indian market where the rules of play are vastly different. While bidding for land in China for property development normally entails substantial efforts, the complexity of acquiring land in India is even greater, given the country's land control regulations. In fairness, the fast-growing Indian economy and a burgeoning middle class has made the country increasingly alluring as an investment destination for Chinese businesses. The newest data from US-based market research firm International Data Corporation revealed that Chinese phone vendors took up more than half of India's smartphone market in terms of shipments in the first quarter of the year, a promising sign perhaps that Chinese brands are popular in India. But Chinese businesses, property developers in particular, should not see this as the start of a race to invest in the Indian market. ^ top ^

US scholarship sparks concerns about instigation in China (Global Times)
A scholarship program being offered by the US State Department that aims to recruit civil society leaders has sparked controversy in Chinese cyberspace, with many suspecting that the program is meant to cultivate infiltrators or even incite a "Color Revolution" in China. The US Embassy in China on Tuesday announced on its offical Sina Weibo account that the US State Department is offering a unique opportunity to leaders of contemporary civil society to participate in a 12- to 18-month scholarship program in the US. The announcement said participants will be assigned to leading US social reform organizations. It said that applicants must have at least two years of work experience in social-related issues, have a bachelor's degree and a certain level of fluency in English. The embassy's announcement had been removed as of press time Thursday. One Net user commented that the program openly cultivates dailudang - traitors who lead foreign troops into a foreign country when invading. Another Net user said the US is eyeing another 'Color Revolution.' Asked to comment on the Weibo post and the negative response, the US Embassy said in an email sent to the Global Times on Thursday that "the US and China have a long history of supporting people-to-people exchanges between our two countries on a range of issues." "Each year, both governments facilitate and sponsor people-to-people exchanges to the benefit of both of our countries," it said. An expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Thursday that the US may wish to cultivate ties with people who may contend with the current authorities in the future. He noted that China and the US have very different ways of interpreting "civil society leaders." "It's a long-term practice of US diplomacy, which clearly has a political agenda. Given what the US has done in some countries, China has reasons to stay alert," the expert noted. ^ top ^

US takes action against Iranian, Chinese firms and individuals over missile programme (SCMP)
The United States has sanctioned two Iranian defence officials, an Iranian company, a Chinese individual and a group of Chinese firms because of their support for Iran's ballistic missile programme, according to a US Treasury Department statement on Wednesday. Ruan Runling, a Chinese national, and three Chinese companies were sanctioned for their proliferation activities in support of a key designated Iranian defence entity, the Treasury statement said. It said Ruan had supplied missile-related technology and goods to an Iranian military technology company. The Iranian defence officials were Morteza Farasatpour and Rahim Ahmadi. The Treasury said Farasatpour coordinated the sale and delivery of explosives and other materiel for Syria's Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC). Ahmadi is the director of Iran's Shahid Bakeri Industries Group. He was sanctioned for his involvement in Iran's solid-fuel ballistic missile programme. The sanctions block any assets the individuals or companies may have in the US and bars Americans and non-Americans from doing business with them. ' “This administration is committed to countering Iran's destabilising behaviour, such as Iran's development of ballistic missiles,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement. The latest action against individuals and companies came on the same day as the Trump administration said it would continue to waive some sanctions against Iran, a key aspect of a deal over the country's nuclear programme negotiated by the Obama administration and five other world powers. The White House is currently reviewing U.S. policy toward Iran. “This ongoing review does not diminish the United States' resolve to continue countering Iran's destabilising activity in the region, whether it be supporting the Assad regime [in Syria], backing terrorist organisations like Hezbollah, or supporting violent militias that undermine governments in Iraq and Yemen,” the acting assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, Stuart Jones, said in a separate statement. “And above all, the United States will never allow the regime in Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.” ^ top ^

Five things to watch as China's belt and road plan unfolds (SCMP)
China on Monday wrapped up its first “Belt and Road Initiative” forum with the attendance of 29 state leaders and more than 1,000 foreign government representatives. Here are five things to watch for next with the belt and road plan.
1. In his address wrapping up the two-day forum, Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Monday that China would host a second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in 2019. China will also sent up a consultation committee and liaison office in preparation for the next summit. The two-day event looks set to become a regular occasion for showcasing China's diplomatic might and its progress in its ambitious globalisation plan.
2. As part of Beijing's efforts to boost global trade, China will hold an international import trade expo next year, to facilitate the entry of foreign products into the Chinese market. Beijing also promised to import US$2 trillion worth of products from belt and road countries in the next five years.
3. Xi has promised a major funding boost for his new Silk Road, with an additional 100 billion yuan (US$14.5 billion) going into the Silk Road Fund. The China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China will set up special lending schemes worth 250 billion yuan and 130 billion yuan respectively, to support belt and road projects. In addition, China will provide 60 billion yuan in the next three years for poverty alleviation in developing countries along the new Silk Road.
4. A total of 68 nations and international organisations had signed cooperation agreements with China for the belt and road, Xi said in his closing address. He added that more than 270 cooperation projects or agreements had been signed during the summit. Xi did not reveal details about these agreements during his speech.
5. After the two-day summit, China still needs to address lingering scepticism in different countries. The US and Japan have expressed doubts about the belt and road scheme, but they sent representatives to the summit. India boycotted the forum over a dispute about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor passing through Kashmir. Another setback was the decision by several European countries, including France, Germany and Britain, not to sign a trade statement at the summit. They said the initiative was not clear on public procurement or social and environmental standards. ^ top ^

Doubts over Japanese-US ties 'may nudge Tokyo' into China-led AIIB fold (SCMP)
Uncertainty over ties with the United States could push Japan closer to China, with a senior Japanese ruling party official reportedly signalling Tokyo's interest in joining the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), analysts said on Tuesday. Toshihiro Nikai, secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said it was crucial for Japan to decide soon whether it should join the AIIB, Japan's Nikkei newspaper reported. Nikai, known for his close ties with Beijing, made the assessment at a two-day summit in the Chinese capital for China's “Belt and Road Initiative”. Nikai also met President Xi Jinping on Tuesday, presenting a letter from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Xi expressed hope for joint efforts to ensure bilateral ties developed in the right direction. Abe said joining the AIIB, created in part to fund the initiative, could be an option if governance questions were resolved, CNBC reported on Monday. “For now, we are still monitoring [the AIIB's] operations carefully,” he was quoted as saying. Lian Degui, professor of Japanese studies at Shanghai International Studies University, said Japan was being forced to rethink its attitude towards the initiative due to progress in the programme and the lack of clarity over the new US administration's Asia policy. “With the US and China working closer on the Korean peninsula and economic issues, Japan needs to readjust [its China policy],” Lian said. Japan followed Washington's lead under former US president Barack Obama and steered clear of the AIIB, in part because of concerns that it was a vehicle to boost China's regional clout and a potential rival for the Asian Development Bank, a Manila-based institution dominated by Japan and the US. Ties between China and Japan have been strained by a territorial row, and China's military expansion in disputed waters. The history of the Japanese aggression during the second world war also continues to haunt relations between the two countries. In May 2015, Nikai headed a Japanese delegation of about 3,000 people to Beijing for an event at the Great Hall of the People to promote cooperation, at which Xi made an appearance. But Sino-Japanese ties have still not improved dramatically. Chinese officials have said that tensions could ease if Japan supported major Beijing-led initiatives such as the AIIB. Liu Jiangyong, vice-dean of Tsinghua University's Institute of Modern International Relations, said it was still too early to say if Tokyo had shifted its attitude on the China-led bank. “We have yet to see any show of intent by Abe,” he said. Liu said Japan's suspicions about the AIIB were likely to persist as long as Tokyo pursued its own infrastructure plans. Japan said earlier this month it would donate US$40 million for high-level infrastructure projects in Asia in fields such as clean energy and transport. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga also said yesterday there was no change in Tokyo's position to carefully monitor the AIIB's operations. ^ top ^

Next Silk Road summit set for 2019 as Beijing ramps up global drive (SCMP)
China capped its diplomatic event of the year with a commitment on Monday to host another international summit in 2019 to promote its grand globalisation strategy. The two-day Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation closed in Beijing, with President Xi Jinping declaring the event a success and China signing deals with 68 countries to jointly develop infrastructure along the new Silk Road trade routes. “The initiative has entered into a new phase... with construction in full swing,” Xi said, wrapping up the forum. “It is not based on ideology, and there is no political agenda.” The forum explored Xi's “Belt and Road Initiative” to revive ancient trade links between China, Asia, Africa and Europe. The countries along the routes account for about 40 per cent of the world's gross domestic product. The forum, the first since Xi unveiled the concept four years ago, was overshadowed by North Korea's latest missile test. The event was also eclipsed by the absence of state leaders from developed countries including the United States, Japan and Australia. Another setback was the decision by several European countries, including France, Germany and Britain, not to sign a trade statement at the summit, saying the initiative was not clear on public procurement and social and environmental standards. But 30 countries directly involved in the initiative, including Malaysia and Myanmar, endorsed a joint communique, agreeing to work together to build key infrastructure under the belt and road umbrella. The communique said the countries would promote “practical cooperation on roads, railways, ports, maritime and inland water transport, aviation, energy pipelines, electricity and telecommunications” to boost growth, and work on a long-term stable and sustainable financial system. While admitting the programme faced a “crucial bottleneck” in capital, Xi underscored China's commitment to inject at least US$113 billion in extra funding for the initiative, a promise he made at the start of the forum on Sunday. Zhao Kejin, from Tsinghua University's Institute of Global Development, said China was grasping the chance to advance its version of globalisation as the US focused on its “America First” strategy. “The presence of delegates from more than 100 countries is an initial victory for China. But we'll have to wait and see how actively governments and companies dole out money and take part in the projects before we can call it a success,” Zhao said. In the communique, China said it would promote partnerships with Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. There was no reference to the US, but the statement said its welcome extended to “other regions”. Matthew Pottinger, senior director for Asian Affairs at the US National Security Council, replaced a lower level official as head of the US delegation to the forum after China announced measures to increase imports from the US last week. Addressing the gathering, Pottinger urged China to insist from the start on transparent government procurement. “Transparency will ensure that privately owned companies can bid in a fair process, and that the cost of participating in tenders will be worth the investment,” he said. Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute in London, said: “Money talks, so this grandiose and apparently well-funded project will attract attention and warm reception in most parts of the world. However, it does not mean others are willing to see China change rules.” Hasnain Malik, an analyst with investment bank Exotix Partners in Dubai, said the initiative undoubtedly improved access to capital for countries with “historically retarded political and economic governance”. “However, the questions for investors in host belt and road countries are: whether the infrastructure built is useful for the indigenous economy; what recurring costs are incurred in order to provide sufficient returns to Chinese capital; whether the construction phase creates opportunities for local suppliers of materials, labour and finance; and ultimately how much political sovereignty is sacrificed,” Malik said. ^ top ^

B&R initiative to help fix problems caused by the West in Mideast (SCMP)
China's Belt and Road initiative has not only drawn the attention of the international community but also triggered lively discussions among the Chinese people, with many expecting more contact with the outside world under the initiative as well as a positive impact on Chinese people's daily life. Some believe the initiative will help solve the refugee issue that the West is grappling with at the root, as the better connectivity will bring opportunities to the Middle East where most of the refugees are from. Chu Yin, an associate professor at the University of International Relations, told the Global Times on Tuesday that the Belt and Road initiative offers a chance to solve the immigration problem, which the West has failed to solve. "The immigrant problem is rooted in the instability and poverty of the countries where the immigrants came from. People there would rather stay in their homeland for regional development than escape or be attracted by extremism or religious fundamentalism if the Middle East becomes safe and prosperous," said Chu. The West's previous colonization of the Middle East countries has left the region unsolved problems, and recent interference has worsened the situation, so the Belt and Road initiative needs to fix the faults created by the West and increase connectivity between civilizations, Wang Yiwei, senior research fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at the Renmin University of China, said. Some Net users are worried about potential undesirable consequences China may have to face when getting too much involved in the Middle East affairs. A Net user "Muguan" on, a Chinese news portal, refers to Afghanistan as an example, saying the country is the graveyard of empires as the British Empire and the Soviet Union have failed, and the US is suffering there as well, therefore China should stay away from trouble in the region. China's Belt and Road initiative covers a wide range of territories in Central Asia and the Middle East regions. Chinese observers, however, rebuffed such concerns as figments of worrywarts' imagination. Some Western countries encountered trouble in the region because they wanted to conquer those countries, but China by no means has the same goal, said Li Wei, an anti-terror expert at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations. "China is not an empire. What we are doing in Afghanistan is providing help and investing. The win-win cooperation will not turn the country into our 'graveyard,'" Li said. Other Net users said news reports on the just-concluded Belt and Road Forum have given them a better understanding of the Belt and Road initiative. "The Chinese and foreigners will encounter less misunderstanding if more people receive information on it through forums like this one," a Net user said on Sina Weibo. The Chinese people will benefit from the initiative in their daily lives as well, according to a Farmers' Daily report. They will have wine, cheese, fruit and meat from European countries to satisfy their palates as culinary exports from Europe will keep rising, read the report. ^ top ^

China denies snub of trade document at B&R Forum (Global Times)
China on Tuesday denied a report that some European countries snubbed the trade proposal at the Belt and Road Forum, saying it was purely voluntary and supported by many countries and international organizations. There was a proposal on trade connectivity at one of the six sessions at the forum, which was voluntary and that all parties were consulted, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a press conference on Tuesday in response to a report that European nations had rebuffed a trade document during the summit. An anonymous diplomat was quoted by AFP as saying that Germany, Estonia and Hungary snubbed the trade document since "it does not sufficiently address European concerns surrounding transparency of public procurement and social and environmental standards." China presented the document to negotiators last week, telling them it could no longer be reworked, the report said. Hua said that many countries and international organizations support the trade proposal. The proposal has nothing to do with the joint communiqué released after the Belt and Road Forum, which was crafted after rounds of discussions in keeping with transparency and openness, and was the forum's main outcome, Hua said. Those who participated in the Leaders Roundtable of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation adopted the joint communiqué on Monday. On deepening economic and trade cooperation, the leaders agreed to uphold the multilateral trading system and work together to achieve positive outcomes at the 11th WTO ministerial conference, promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, according to the joint communiqué. ^ top ^

Xi says China willing to assist Myanmar in peace progress (Xinhua)
President Xi Jinping said Tuesday that China is willing to continue to provide Myanmar with assistance in its internal peace progress. Xi made the remarks when meeting with Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, who attended the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held in Beijing on May 14-15. He called on the two sides to jointly maintain peace and stability on the border. Xi noted that the two countries have a deeply rooted friendship and extensive common interests, and the two sides reached important consensus on all-round strategic cooperation in the new era during Myanmar President U Htin Kyaw's visit to China last month. He said China and Myanmar should boost their ties and advance the construction of key projects, economic corridors, economic zones and infrastructure. Aung San Suu Kyi commended the Belt and Road Initiative as one that will bring peace, reconciliation and prosperity to the region and the world at large. She said Myanmar is grateful to China for its efforts in advancing her country's internal peace progress. Myanmar stands ready to work with China on peace and stability on the border. In a separate meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang urged an early cease-fire in northern Myanmar to ensure peace on the border. Li said China supports the second meeting of the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference to be hosted by Myanmar. The meeting is an inclusive dialogue designed to open to all armed groups. On joint projects, Li called for steady progress of oil pipelines, ports, and economic zones. He also demanded proper handling of the Myitsone hydro-power station to "guide cooperation expectation and boost confidence." The project on the Ayeyawaddy River started in December 2009 but was suspended by the previous government in 2011. With an installed capacity of 6,000 megawatts, the project was designed to yield 29,400 million kilowatt hours a year on completion by 2019. ^ top ^

Xi suggests aligning B&R initiative with European investment plan (China Daily)
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday suggested aligning the Belt and Road Initiative with the European Investment Plan in order to inject new momentum into China-EU ties. Xi made the remarks when meeting with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni after the two-day Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation ended on Monday in Beijing. Noting that China and Italy both boast ancient civilizations, Xi said the two countries have been connected by the historic Silk Road. He commended the frequent visits by leaders from both sides and close exchanges between officials at all levels, saying China is willing to work with Italy to further advance bilateral ties. Both China and Italy are key members of the international community, Xi said. He urged the two countries to maintain the current momentum in high-level exchanges, as well as close contact between governments, legislative bodies, political parties and between regional authorities. The Chinese president highlighted two-way investment, construction of industrial parks, e-commerce and innovation as areas for further cooperation. China welcomes Italy to participate in the construction of the Belt and Road, and supports cooperation between the two countries in port management, shipping as well as ship building, he said. Beijing is willing to maintain communication with Rome on major international issues, and hopes Italy can play a positive role within the European Union in order to safeguard development of China-EU ties, he said. For his part, Gentiloni said the just-concluded Belt and Road forum had sent a positive signal to the world economy and international trade. Italy is willing to participate in cooperation under the Belt and Road framework, particularly in the field of infrastructure, and to strengthen collaboration with China in areas linked to economy, technology, agriculture, public health, education, culture, tourism as well as small- and medium-sized enterprises, he said. Italy sticks to the one-China policy and will play its role in promoting EU-China ties, Gentiloni said. ^ top ^

China, Italy to establish regular PM dialogue mechanism (China Daily)
China and Italy will establish a regular dialogue mechanism between the prime ministers of the two countries, Premier Li Keqiang said on Tuesday. Li announced the mechanism when meeting his Italian counterpart Paolo Gentiloni, who was in Beijing to attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation from Sunday to Monday. Li said China is willing to enhance cooperation with Italy in key areas and deepen mutual trust. He said China will work hard to implement the three-year cooperation agreement starting from this year, expecting tangible advancement by 2020, which marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of ties. During the meeting, Li also expressed China's willingness to advance cooperation with Italy in innovation and called for wider cooperation among small businesses, as China is pursuing innovation-driven development. China is willing to take part in Italy's infrastructure program, such as ports, to improve connectivity between China and Europe, Li said. Gentiloni said Italy is willing to work hard to implement the three-year agreement between Italy and China, and improve cooperation with China in developing small- and medium-sized enterprises, agriculture and port construction. He also said that Italy welcomes tourists and students from China, and is ready to facilitate related visa procedures. Also on Tuesday, the two prime ministers witnessed the signing of deals in agriculture and the finance sector. ^ top ^

Initiative 'project of the century': President Xi (Global Times)
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday said the Belt and Road initiative is "the project of the century" that will benefit people across the world, and other world leaders who attended the forum said they value the initiative and reaffirmed their support. Xi made the remarks during his keynote address at the opening ceremony of the two-day Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, the Xinhua News Agency reported. We should build the Belt and Road into a road of "peace," "prosperity," "opening-up" and "innovation" that "connects different civilizations," Xi told more than 1,500 people. Xi's speech has clearly provided the direction for the future development of the Belt and Road initiative, bringing it to "the 2.0 era," Yi Peng, President of the Pangoal Institute, a Beijing-based think tank and a guest at the opening ceremony, told the Global Times on Sunday. "A road of peace means that China will turn the current global governance into a more inclusive and fairer version with all other participants, and 'prosperity' means sustainable development, so it requires technological support [innovation] and free trade [opening-up]," Yi said. Twenty-nine heads of state and government leaders attended the forum. The US sent a delegation led by Matt Pottinger, special assistant to the president and senior director for Asia of the National Security Council. Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif, chief minister of the Punjab, Pakistan said that it is very courageous for Chinese President Xi Jinping to propose the Belt and Road initiative, which stresses cooperation instead of competition. The initiative is not only for the elites but also aims to create opportunities for ordinary people to earn a decent living. The initiative encourages respect for other countries' sovereignty and non-interference, Sharif said. He said that China has invested roughly $50 billion in Pakistan's infrastructure, energy and manpower, as well as in sports and the training of athletes. Professor Alberto Di Minin from Italy told the Global Times that under the initiative, China has a great role to play in the international community. China should promote talent exchanges, which can enhance mutual trust and help the outside world understand its policies, he said. Putin said that the Belt and Road initiative proposed by China is "very timely and promising," and called for greater Eurasian partnership, Xinhua reported. Putin called for more cooperation to meet worldwide challenges like an imbalanced development in globalization, poverty and regional conflicts, saying that Russia is working with its partners to advance the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), among others. The integration of the Belt and Road initiative, the EEU, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and ASEAN has laid the groundwork for building a great Eurasian partnership, he said. UN Secretary-General António Guterres said Sunday that the ambitious cross-continental initiative is "rooted in a shared vision for broad development." Quoting a famous Chinese saying that guided China's fast development, he said "Building the road is the first step towards prosperity." The UN chief also urged the world to draw experience from the ancient Silk Road and "take that spirit to new heights for the benefit of all," Xinhua reported Sunday. This shows that the Belt and Road initiative can be successfully linked to other countries' strategies based on mutual respect and communication, Pang Zhongying, director of the Center for the Study of Global Governance at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Sunday. "The link between the Belt and Road and other countries' strategies is a Chinese diplomatic innovation, and it's meant to avoid conflict and friction among regional powers along the Belt and Road and increase common interests and complementarities with partners. This could significantly contribute to world peace," Pang said. On policy coordination, Xi said China has signed cooperation agreements with over 40 countries and international organizations, and is engaged with framework cooperation on production capacity with more than 30 countries.  ^ top ^

Putin hails Belt & Road Initiative, calling for Eurasia integration (Global Times)
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday that he salutes China's "large-scale" Belt and Road Initiative and called for greater Eurasian partnership. Putin made the remarks at the opening ceremony of the Belt and Road Initiative Forum for International Cooperation taking place in Beijing on May 14-15. Calling the Belt and Road Initiative an example of cooperation in such fields as infrastructure, transport and industry, the Russian president said his country has supported the initiative from the very beginning. He said the historical experience of cooperation between countries linked by the ancient Silk Road through Asia, Europe and Africa is important in the 21st century when the world is facing "very serious challenges." Putin called for more cooperation to meet worldwide challenges like unbalanced development in globalization, poverty and regional conflicts, saying that Russia is working with its partners to advance the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), among others. The integration of the Belt and Road Initiative, the EEU, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has laid the groundwork for building a great Eurasian partnership, he said. Meanwhile, Putin urged concrete actions to materialize these existing initiatives by facilitating flow of goods, cooperation between enterprises of different countries, infrastructure construction and establishment of joint and large-scale research institutions. He said the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by China is "very timely and promising." The Belt and Road Initiative proposed by China in 2013 consists of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road. It aims to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along and beyond the ancient Silk Road trade routes. During a visit to Moscow in May 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping signed an agreement with Putin on aligning the Belt and Road Initiative with the EEU, which currently groups Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

Unified data-sharing platform proposed for e-government (Xinhua)
China's central government pledged building a national data-sharing platform to boost the efficiency of inter-agency information exchanges. Ministries and other central authorities should link their information systems to the national platform before the end of June 2018, according to an action plan published by the General Office of the State Council Thursday. June 2018 is also the deadline for the preliminary establishment of information connectivity between central agencies and local governments. The plan called for early results in key systems by the end of 2017 to increase convenience for individuals and companies. Besides addressing the use of data within the government, it also sought progress in open data services for the public. The government should encourage and guide the use of government data made available through the services, said the plan. ^ top ^

Scholars told to boost influence of China's philosophy (China Daily)
President Xi Jinping called on the country's scholars and researchers on Wednesday to make more contributions to improving the global influence of China's philosophy and social sciences. Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the remark in a congratulatory message on the 40th anniversary of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, which was founded in May, 1977. In the message, Xi extended good wishes to the people who work on philosophy and social sciences nationwide. In the past four decades, CASS has played the role of a think tank to provide services for the decision-making process of the Party and the government, Xi said. Under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, CASS has been dedicated to the establishment of a bastion for Marxist theory, Xi said, adding that CASS has kept up with the times. The president spoke highly of the contribution CASS has made to push forward the Sinicization of Marxism and the development of the country's philosophy and social sciences. The philosophy and social sciences workers should focus on the development of socialism with Chinese characteristics, uphold the guidance of Marxism, and do research for the benefit of the people, Xi said. Studies on the country's reforms, development and stability should be the main direction for the researchers, Xi said, encouraging them to develop China's theory on philosophy and social sciences. Liu Qibao, head of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee, said at a ceremony marking the anniversary that the country's scholars and researchers must follow the spirit of Xi's message to develop philosophy and social sciences. Social sciences research should stick to the guidance of Marxism and focus on the studies of important theories and practical problems, Liu said. On Tuesday, the CPC Central Committee issued a guidance document in which the committee pledged to enhance its leadership in developing philosophy and social sciences with Chinese characteristics. Noting that Marxism will remain the guiding theory in philosophy and social sciences in China, it called for more efforts in pushing for the Sinicization, modernization and popularization of Marxism, and developing a Marxism that works in the 21st century and contemporary China. ^ top ^

The video Chinese police released to dispel claims of rights activist's torture (SCMP)
Police in central China have released a video of a detained former human rights lawyer to try to quell claims that he was being tortured in custody. But the authorities continued to ignore his lawyer's requests to see him. Police in Changsha, Hunan province, released the footage of prominent rights campaigner Jiang Tianyong on their social media account on Thursday. Shanghai court accepts detained rights lawyer's defamation case against state-backed media( The clip purportedly showed Jiang in good health, walking along a corridor while detained at an unspecified residence. The post came after claims surfaced online that the activist had been tortured until his legs had swollen so much that he could no longer walk or stand. The video was taken on Wednesday afternoon, the post said, adding that police had arranged for a doctor to treat Jiang for a pre-existing leg injury, which had since healed. But Jiang's lawyer, Qin Chenshou, said he continued to suspect that his client had been abused. “If he was not being tortured, [the authorities] should let us see him,” Qin said. “But we have received no response to six or seven applications.” Jiang's wife, Jin Bianling, said her husband might have been forced to appear in the video, saying he was taking small steps “without showing any expression”. “[The video] showed Jiang Tianyong had been abused by them as his two calves sported purple and black bruises,” Jin said. Jiang was missing for about a month late last year before police confirmed he had been detained in the city after leaving Beijing to visit a friend. Police said Jiang used other people's identity cards to buy more than 20 train tickets. Chinese media later reported that Jiang was suspected of illegal possession of confidential state documents; colluding with overseas institutions, organisations and individuals; and illegally sending state secrets abroad. Jiang was a lawyer before he was disbarred in 2009, but continued his human rights activism, leading to a spell in custody and beatings at the hands of police. Meanwhile, the authorities have not released information about the welfare of another rights lawyer, Wang Quanzhang. Wang was among those detained in a massive crackdown on human rights campaigners across the country in July 2015. ^ top ^

Liberal economics think tank Unirule locked out of its office for 'security reasons' ahead of forum (SCMP)
A two-day academic seminar at China's largest non-official think tank was called off on Saturday because doors and lifts at its office building were locked and disabled amid upgraded security for Beijing's two-day belt and road forum that begins on Sunday. Members of the Unirule Institute of Economics, one of China's most influential private think tanks, arrived at their office on Saturday to find the front door locked and the button to their floor disabled at the elevator. The think tank was told on Friday night not to hold the seminar, but the main scholars decided to attend any way as visiting speakers had arrived in Beijing, according to Wu Si, Unirule's chairman. The drama took place as the capital was getting in gear for the belt and road summit, a major diplomatic event in which President Xi Jinping is hosting delegates from more than 100 countries – including 29 who are sending top leaders – to discuss the Beijing-backed initiative to assert its rise of global status. The two-day forum kicks off on Sunday. On the same day, Zhang Junkuo, Vice President of the State Council's Development Research Centre, told a press briefing that the country would encouraged more think tanks to take part and provide advice to the country's belt and road initiatives, with so far 47 think tanks from 30 countries joined the China-led Silkroad Think Tank Association. A large presence of regular and paramilitary police and security volunteers with red armbands was seen on major streets on Saturday. Most speakers for the Unirule meeting were advised against attending the seminar, and the think tank's founder Mao Yushi, who was to give the opening speech on Saturday morning, was prevented from leaving his home on Saturday morning. “Police officers nearby and a department director from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences came to my house early this morning,” Mao said. “They told me not to go to the seminar, but did not state their reason.” Mao, an 88-year-old liberal economist, is a retired CASS researcher. He won the Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty in 2012. Speaking to the Post by phone, Mao said he expected more moves by the authorities, but the think tank will try its best to survive. With its strong belief in the market economy, the institute regularly challenges the government on its economic policies and has published reports about state owned enterprises as well as anti-trust and land reforms. Its researchers include a handful of prominent economists who were also formerly with CASS. The report The 2015 Think Tanks and Civil Societies Programme conducted by the University of Pennsylvania ranked Unirule in 103rd place among more than 6,000 others. The organisations were judged on a set of factors including their influence and the number and quality of their reports. Unirule was the only Chinese private think tank listed among the world's top 175. Amid a broader wave of crackdowns on liberal Chinese intellectuals, Unirule saw its official website and some of its social media accounts shut down in January. Several members also had their social media accounts deleted. ^ top ^

China upgrades website of judicial case database (China Daily)
The Supreme People's Court (SPC) has upgraded its online judicial case database and launched a mobile app, in a move to improve access to information. The upgraded website,, will use big data to help users locate cases, provide standard rules for compiling files and offer customized information selection, said the SPC. The website was launched on Sept 30, 2016. It contains a database of typical domestic and international judicial cases, as well as assessment and studies on such cases. ^ top ^

Chinese rights lawyer 'still positive' despite 600-day detention ordeal, say supporters (SCMP)
Chinese human rights lawyer Li Heping, who was released from detention and rejoined his family earlier this week, is still able to smile and remains optimistic despite enduring about 60 days in solitary confinement and years of ill-treatment in custody, according to his friends. Li, 46, was sent home to rejoin his wife and daughter in Beijing on Tuesday after he was convicted of subversion of state power last month. Li was handed down a three-year suspended prison sentence at a closed-door court hearing, but had already spent years in custody – more than 600 days in total – after he was detained in the sweeping “709 crackdown” on human rights lawyers that began in July 2015. Some 300 human rights defenders were detained during the campaign. Li gained prominence representing political dissidents in China, including the blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng, rights attorney Gao Zhisheng and members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which is banned on the mainland. His sentence allowed for his release, but he will be unable to practise law in the near future. Li, who is a Christian, weighed only 51kg after his release, his friends said. He spent more than 10 days putting on weight before he returned home to his family, according to friends who met him this week. “Li is gentle, strong and optimistic,” said one friend, Li Fangping. “He survived unspeakable cruelty in those 600-plus days, including having his wrists bound together with his ankles 24/7 for more than a month. Yet we don't see hatred in his eyes. Li has emerged from his ordeal in better condition than his brother, Li Chunfu, another human rights lawyer who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia after he was detained for more than 500 days in the rights crackdown. Li Heping's wife said her husband had been force-fed medication, causing sore muscles and blurry vision during his detention. Several jailed rights lawyer, including Wang Quanzhang, have been tortured while under state detention, according to their families and attorneys. Wang is one of the last high-profile “709” activists still awaiting trial. The prominent lawyer Xie Yang, who was also held in the “709” rights crackdown, pleaded guilty at a court in Changsha last week to inciting subversion. He has yet to be sentenced. Lawyer Chen Yixuan, who used to work with Xie in the same law firm, said his case had been handled differently from other “709” lawyers. This was because his torture claims and his wife's decision to flee to the United States, have drawn massive public attention and put pressure on the authorities in China, he said. “The condition for Xie to plead guilty was immediate freedom and permission to practise law again,” Chen said. ^ top ^



Chaos, inconvenience – but blue skies – for long-suffering Beijingers during China's grand summit (SCMP)
Groups of armed police officers gathered outside Beijing's airport and subway stations. A cluster of stations in central Beijing shut – including several near Tiananmen Square – with trains zooming by without stopping. Volunteers in conspicuous blue uniforms and red armbands patrolling the streets downtown. Dozens of soldiers standing at rigid attention at the media centre near the Bird's Nest Olympic stadium as well as outside five-star hotels around town. Security guards examining with extraordinary care every nook and cranny of each vehicle passing through their checkpoints. It wouldn't take long for even the most uninformed Beijinger to realise that an important event was being held in the capital. China's biggest diplomatic event of the year – the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation – kicked off on Sunday, attended by state leaders from almost 30 countries and regions. Beijing residents woke up in the morning to find many roads blocked across the city as traffic controls were put in place. Highway checkpoints into the capital were backed up with traffic jams. At the airport, travellers experienced serious flight delays as incoming planes took longer to touch down. “The journey took three or four hours longer than usual,” said a man from Yanjiao, which lies on the outskirts of Beijing, who tried in vain to drive into the city but was forced to give up. “In the end, we had to take a train.” Beijing residents were advised to use public transport on Monday as the city government issued a brief notice warning that key roads near Tiananmen Square, airport highways and those around the media centre near Beijing's Olympic Park would face “intensive traffic controls”. Roads to the Yanqi Lake resort would also be closed. The resort is where President Xi Jinping will be hosting round table meetings with other state leaders and foreign delegations on the second day of the summit to discuss his “Belt and Road” international trade and investment cooperation grand plan. “Frequent” traffic controls were expected during Monday's rush hours that would have “significant impact” on most areas across the city, the local traffic police authority said in a post on its WeChat account. “The public should take public transport like the subway instead of driving cars,” the post stated. “In particular, parents sending and picking up their children during rush hour should pay more attention to their transport means and routes on Monday. Thank you for all your understanding and support.” There was one consolation for the capital city's long-suffering residents, however. Beijingers cheered to clear blue skies on Sunday, taking to social media with photos and selfies, as polluting factories around the city had been ordered to halt production days before the forum. Meanwhile, at the venue of the Belt and Road summit, Xi took to imagery as he wooed the rest of the world on board his grand trade plan, pledging at least US$113 billion in new funding for the initiative. “The countries along the ancient Silk Road were once places with milk and honey, but now are full of turbulence, conflicts and crisis... We must have mutual cooperation and a sustainable security outlook, try to tackle hot issues and insist on political resolution.” But even as he gave his keynote speech, many of the 4,000 accredited journalists at the media centre were struggling to follow the forum's agenda. Most of key sessions, including Xi's speech, were open to only a small number of vetted journalists, leaving other reporters huddled on the floor in front of big screens at the press centre – there were only about 500 seats for the thousands of journalists present at the venue. Despite the global reach of the summit, journalists were offered few notifications and only piecemeal information on arrangements. For instance, no speaker list was provided for any of the sessions during the two-day event. “This event is so poorly organised, I have no idea of the timeline of events or how to follow them,” lamented one Japanese journalist who declined to be named. Outside, as ordinary Beijing residents grappled with intense security, traffic jams and closed highway, a taxi driver ventured to give his view on the diplomatic event: “Real friends don't need Chinese to buy them food and drink.” ^ top ^



Tibet new GDP champion among regions (Global Times)
An expert said that Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region might lead the nation's GDP growth list for some time to come now that it has surpassed Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, a former growth champion. Tibet became the fastest-growing locality in China in the first quarter among the provincial-level regions that have announced their economic figures, according to the China Economic Weekly on Monday. The GDP data of 31 provincial-level localities showed that Tibet topped the GDP growth list with expansion of 11 percent, 4.1 percentage points higher than the national average. Northeast China's Liaoning Province ranked last with a growth rate of 2.4 percent. Previously, Chongqing was the leader in GDP growth for 12 consecutive quarters. On April 17, the National Bureau of Statistics announced a higher-than-expected national growth rate of 6.9 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2017. Chongqing and Southwest China's Guizhou Province ranked second and third in the local list, with GDP growth rates of 10.5 percent and 10.2 percent, respectively. Among the top 10 fastest-growing provincial-level localities, six are in the western part of the country and two in Central China. Tibet's GDP growth rate has been moving upward rapidly. In the first quarter of 2016, Tibet and Chongqing led the nation with GDP growth rates of 10.7 percent. But while Tibet's growth further accelerated during this year's first quarter, that of Chongqing slowed down a notch to 10.5 percent. Tian Yun, director of the research center at the China Society of Macroeconomics, said that Tibet's GDP base is quite low, and the fact that it had overtaken Chongqing might be a watershed event, as the latter would inevitably face slower growth after a very long period of double-digit expansion from a relatively large base. "What is noteworthy, though, is that the entire region of Southwest China is now fast developing, and that means a positive rebalancing in the nation's economic power," Tian told the Global Times on Tuesday. It also means that the central government's policy to develop the western part of the country is working, noted Tian. During the first quarter, 22 localities surpassed the national average growth rate of 6.9 percent, the statistics showed. ^ top ^



Beijing laying groundwork for mass DNA testing in Xinjiang (SCMP)
China appears to be laying the groundwork for the mass collection of DNA samples from residents of Xinjiang, a largely Muslim region already under a security crackdown, rights observers and independent analysts said on Tuesday. Police in Xinjiang confirmed they are in the process of purchasing at least US$8.7 million in equipment to analyse DNA samples. Observers from Human Rights Watch said they had seen evidence of almost US$3 million worth of additional purchases related to DNA testing. They warned that such a collection programme could be used as a way to increase political control. The move comes after Chinese authorities last year reportedly required Xinjiang residents to submit DNA samples, fingerprints and voice records to obtain passports or travel abroad. If used at full capacity, the new equipment could be used to profile up to 10,000 DNA samples a day and several million a year, said Yves Moreau, a computational biologist specialising in genome analysis and DNA privacy at the University of Leuven in Belgium. Since it started collecting DNA profiles in 1989, China has amassed the unique genetic information on more than 40 million people, constituting the world's largest DNA database, according to a study last year by forensic researchers at the China Ministry of Public Security. Unlike many other countries, China lacked legal protections to guard people's privacy and prevent their genetic information from being misused, said Helen Wallace, founder of the British group GeneWatch. Xinjiang borders several unstable Central Asian countries, including Afghanistan. It has experienced numerous bombings and vehicle and knife attacks blamed on ethnic separatists from the native Uygur Islamic minority. In one of the most recent attacks, eight people, including three assailants, were killed in a February knife attack in southern Xinjiang's Pishan county, which borders Pakistan. Chinese authorities seeking to counter religious extremism among the Uygurs have taken increasingly aggressive steps to quell the unrest. Those have included mandatory satellite tracking systems for vehicles in some areas, rewards for terror-related tips and prohibitions against women wearing veils or men growing beards. The purchases of DNA testing equipment in Xinjiang were confirmed by an official at the regional Public Security Bureau. The official, who gave only her surname, Huang, said a supplier already had been found. In Xinjiang's Sheche county, suppliers were being sought for voiceprint collection systems and 3D portrait systems, according to a security official surnamed Yin, who declined to give further details. The scale of the purchases raised “a legitimate concern that Chinese authorities could be planning to DNA profile a large fraction, or even all” of the Uygur people in Xinjiang, Moreau said. “Xinjiang is already an oppressive region with a high level of surveillance,” said Human Rights Watch researcher Maya Wang. “To collect even more information on a mass scale unrelated to criminal investigation opens the door for an even greater level of surveillance and control.” Government-sponsored DNA databases compile the genetic markers present in each individual, typically from blood, saliva or hair samples. They are used by law enforcement agencies around the globe as evidence in criminal prosecutions and to monitor prior offenders. In the United States, where laws generally limit DNA collection to people who have been arrested, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has 12.8 million offenders in its DNA database, according to the agency. That is almost 4 per cent of the total US population. Britain has 5.2 million people in its database, or about 8 per cent of its population, according to its government. China's database now covers about 3 per cent of its population. It has been used by authorities to reunite abducted children with their parents. It was also used in a highly publicised case last year to help track down a serial killer who authorities said admitted to the murders of 11 women and girls over a 14-year period. “It's clear there's a fairly large infrastructure being built for DNA collection and they're planning to expand that further,” Wallace said. “I would like to see China put their legal database on a clear legal footing. That includes the kinds of safeguards we see in other countries.” ^ top ^



Mainland warns any attempts to establish "two Chinas" or "one China, one Taiwan" doomed to fail (Xinhua)
Any attempts to establish "two Chinas," "one China, one Taiwan," or "Taiwan independence" is doomed to fail, a spokesperson from the Chinese mainland said Thursday. An Fengshan, spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, made the remarks in response to the name change of a Taiwan organization responsible for handling ties with Japan. A ceremony was held in Taiwan Wednesday announcing the change of name from the Association of East Asian Relations to Taiwan-Japan Relations Association. An said the Foreign Ministry has already made its stance clear on this issue. "I want to stress that any attempts to create disturbances in the international arena or establish 'two Chinas,' 'one China, one Taiwan,' or 'Taiwan independence' will be in vain and doomed to fail," An said. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying on Wednesday denounced the name change of the Taiwan organization, urging Japan to abide by the one-China policy and not to disturb China-Japan ties. ^ top ^



China capable of maintaining financial market stability: Premier Li (Xinhua)
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said Sunday the country is capable of maintaining financial market stability and warding off regional and systemic financial risks. China will strike a balance between financial stability, gradual deleveraging and stable economic growth, Li said while meeting with Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Christine Lagarde, who is in Beijing to attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. Li said the country will continue to implement a prudent monetary policy and put the prevention of financial risks at a prominent position. The government will also continue with a market-based, managed floating exchange rate regime to keep basic stability of the yuan at a reasonable and balanced level, he said. China is willing to enhance policy communication and coordination with the IMF, and promote economic globalization, trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, as well as multilateral cooperation, to keep the global economy on track of stable development, Li said. Lagarde said China's growth momentum is encouraging. She praised China's strong support for global economic cooperation and multilateral trade system. The IMF is glad to see that China's financial system remains on a solid foundation with effective and proper prudential regulation, she said. In a separate meeting with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim on Sunday, Li said China's economy is in the process of transformation and upgrading, which requires traditional industrial capacity to be overhauled and new growth momentum to be fostered as well. China is ready to strengthen cooperation with the World Bank and conduct joint research on such subjects as nurturing new growth impetus to help accelerate the country's economic upgrading, Li said. As the world's largest developing country, China is willing to fulfill its duty as a responsible major country and engage more in cooperation on reducing poverty and promoting development, he noted. China hopes the World Bank can lead the international community to jointly push forward economic globalization and work together for common prosperity, Li told Kim. Kim said the World Bank is confident in the prospects of China's drive to deepen reforms, boost innovation and create new growth drivers, and is ready to strengthen cooperation with China. He also spoke highly of China's efforts to reform its health care system, saying they will provide useful experience for other countries. ^ top ^



China 'may back' new UN sanctions over North Korean missile test (SCMP)
China might support a new round of UN sanctions against North Korea after Pyongyang launched another missile test just hours before Beijing held its biggest diplomatic event of the year, the belt and road forum, observers said. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un hailed the launch on Sunday as a test of the “perfect weapon system” and capable of carrying “a large-size heavy nuclear warhead”. North Korean ambassador to China Ji Jae-ryong also said Pyongyang's ballistic missile test was part of the country's efforts to develop ways to defend itself. At the request of the United States and Japan, the United Nations Security Council will convene an urgent session on Tuesday to discuss responses to test. The council has condemned all five of North Korea's launches this year. US President Donald Trump called for tougher sanctions against Pyongyang. Russian President Vladimir Putin said the missile test was “dangerous” but added that Pyongyang was being intimidated. Analysts said the UN Security Council would likely discuss new sanctions, with China possibly playing a role in their formation. China Foreign Affairs University international relations professor Su Hao said North Korea had “to be held accountable and pay the price” for violating UN resolutions. “This could also be an opportunity for China to show that it can initiate some plausible plans to handle the North Korea issue within the framework of the international community,” Su said. Beijing has cited UN resolutions for all of its measures against North Korea. In February, Beijing banned imports of North Korean coal, its most important export. Jin Meihua, from the Northeast Asia Research Centre in Jilin province, said: “North Korea must have somehow prepared for possible further sanctions before this latest test.” Lee Dong-ryul, from South Korea's Dongduk Women's University, said that as China's influence on North Korea shrank, one of the few effective measures left in Beijing's toolkit was cutting off its oil supply to North Korea. “But this would be the last measure China would want to ever use because the Chinese leaders fear the consequences would be too big to control, ” Lee said. ^ top ^

US working with China, South Korea and Japan on new sanctions against North Korea (SCMP)
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Tuesday she is working with China, South Korea and Japan on a new set of sanctions against North Korea in response to Pyongyang's most recent ballistic missile test. The US and its allies will push for further measures to isolate North Korea in a special meeting of the UN Security Council aimed at halting the country's efforts to develop nuclear weapons that could reach as far as the US mainland, Haley said, standing alongside her South Korean and Japanese counterparts. The US also wants to extend sanctions to countries supporting North Korea as a way to halt the flouting of existing UN sanctions on the country. “[The US is] looking at third-country entities who are helping North Korea and putting sanctions on them because if you are supporting North Korea you are against the rest of the international community,” Haley said. North Korea conducted its seventh ballistic missile test this year on Sunday, just ahead of the opening of an international infrastructure forum in Beijing, attended by 29 heads of state. A member of the Japan Self-Defence Forces stands by a PAC-3 Patriot missile unit deployed against the North Korea's missile firing. The Patriots are designed to intercept an incoming missile at its “terminal stage” - just before it hits - if the Aegis' ship-based SM-3 missiles fail to intercept them farther out and higher up. Photo: AP “We need to put further pressure on North Korea to make them feel that they have to change their course,” said Japan Ambassador to the UN Koro Bessho. “The United States, [South] Korea and Japan are standing together.” “North Korea is at the final stage of nuclear weaponization,” South Korea's UN Ambassador Cho Tae-yul said. “Time is running out and the clock is ticking towards the tipping point.” The security council's meeting on Tuesday ended without a resolution, although talks will continue, UN Security Council President Elbio Rosselli told reporters. “The members of the council are discussing the many different avenues possible to continue treating this situation,” Rosselli said. “Clearly sanctions are a way to go. The council has already gone this road and there are ample possibilities to go that way without foreclosing on any other options available.” ^ top ^



Government obstacles to businesses to be eliminated legitimately (Montsame)
478 licenses out of 914, that are equired to be obtained by business entities were cancelled to support businesspeople through reducing barriers and red tape and the issue will be improved further by passing a law on Special license, said Minister of Justice and Home Affairs S.Byambatsogt. Today, the minister attended “Business breakfast” organized by Mongolian National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, sharing his views with businessmen on legal environment of businesses and pressing issues. Minister S.Byambatsogt noted that businessmen and private sector's opinion and proposals will be heard for amendments to over 200 laws, which included in the Basic Guidelines of Legislation Improvement. Keeping legal environment stable and sustaining government participation or interference in economy and businesses at a proper level are on the government attention, when amending some 40 laws in the first place, he said. The Minister also mentioned that law on legislation, which took effect in January 2017, restricts developing legislation unruly and it will effect have positive effect on the business and investment environment as well as law on Arbitration, approved in the end of last year gives businessmen a possibility to solve arguments without applying to court and wasting time and money. “-In law enforcement, the current Government pursues a policy to back and counsel citizens and businessmen rather than penalize or punish, and the goals are reflected in recently-approved Criminal Code and Offence law” he said. ^ top ^

Three candidates to run for president (Montsame)
On May 17, the General Election Commission held a press conference to announce the names of candidates for the upcoming Presidential Election to be held on June 26. Three candidates – Parliament Speaker M.Enkhbold representing Mongolian People's Party, former Member of Parliament Kh.Battulga representing Democratic Party and former Member of Parliament S.Ganbaatar representing Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party will run in the June election to be Mongolia's 5th President. The candidates can open a bank account for donations, and entities can donate up to MNT 15 million and individuals up to MNT 3 million. During the press conference, the GEC officials also reported that Mongolians living abroad will vote on June 10-11. ^ top ^

IMF Executive Board to discuss Mongolia's request next Wednesday (Montsame)
Has the meeting schedule of the IMF Executive Board been confirmed? Is there a guarantee that the meeting will not be delayed again?
Deputy Governor of Bank of Mongolia and I attended the spring meeting of Asian Development Bank on May 08, during which we met with relevant IMF officials and confirmed the meeting schedule.
Do initial agreements and funding remain the same? Would there be any change?
The total financing package within the EFF will be around USD5.5 billion. USD2.2 billion of it covers an extension of swap line of the People's Bank of China with the Bank of Mongolia. IMF will provide loan of USD440 million with 15 year term. The loan will be less than 2 per cent interest and the loan principal will not be repaid over the first 5 years. The Asian Development Bank will grant a loan of USD900 million, of which USD600 million will be spent for recovering state budget deficit and USD300 million for funding programs and projects. The World Bank pledged USD600 million with less than 2 per cent interest and 15 year term and we agreed to spend USD440 million of it for recovering state budget deficit in 2017-2019. Japan and South Korea are expected to together provide loans of USD1.3 billion.
When programs and projects start to be implemented and when the funding is provided?
We will not implement it directly. Ministries are preparing feasibility studies of projects to use the loans. After completion of feasibility studies by second quarter of 2017 and in 2018-2019, the fundings will be disbursed.
A request to postpone the realization of increased excise tax on passenger vehicles has been submitted. Is it possible to accept the request?
An increase of 7 types of taxes in stages to raise budget revenue has been agreed in detail with IMF within the policy. Therefore, it cannot be changed by a group of people. IMF has 182 member countries and the Executive Board has 24 members. It is difficult to make all members understand our internal problems. Increased tax took effect from the beginning of this month. In connection to the excise tax increase, customs organization worked extended hours during the last working days of April and over 1000 hybrid cars were imported.
Concerning the EFF implementation, some people criticize that government has given the country's economic freedom to foreigners. What is your comment on it?
The situation was very hard when the Government got its authority on July 30, 2016. Then, we asked assistance from IMF, which put its requirements to decrease budget deficit and create debt stability. We had no choice because, if we did not accept the IMF program, the economy would have been bankrupted. The EFF will have positive effects on the economy.
How fruitful was the Prime Minister's visit to China or how much benefit will the economy get from the visit?
The Parliamentary Speaker visited China in autumn of 2016 and forwarded two requests; to increase the quota of our traditional export products in 2017-2018 and to give support by creating a market. During the Foreign Minister's visit, China expressed its position to accept the requests and increased quota of coking coal and iron ore to be exported from Mongolia and their prices have grown up. The PM's recent visit was a continuation and next step of this policy. ^ top ^

Ts.Munkh-Orgil: Many pressing issues of bilateral ties resolved during PM's visit to China (Montsame)
Minister of Foreign Affairs Ts.Munkh-Orgil gave an interview to the media about Prime Minister J.Erdenebat's visit to the People's Republic of China. The Minister said “- The two countries agreed that the countries have full potential to develop bilateral relations as we have no political argument and no conflict on border issues, which share borderline of 4700 km". "In the beginning of the talks, Chinese President Xi Jinping noted that China has always respected independence and integrity of Mongolia and will respect them in the future. Mongolia and the Mongolian people also have respected Chinese independence and territorial wholeness. Therefore, the parties agreed on mutual understanding to develop bilateral relations on a favorable political basis" the FM said. "Main agenda of the talks were, of course, investment, trade and economic cooperation. Our part put forward a request to support to push forward large-scale projects, which give impulse to economic development. For instance, we focused on projects, such as Tavan Tolgoi project, energy export project to China from energy production based in Shivee-Ovoo deposit, Kherlen River and Gobi projects. Foreign trade is crucial for Mongolia. We face difficulties in cross-border and border region trade and in exports to the third country, passing through Russian and China, as a landlocked country. Issues on environmental protection, Ulaanbaatar air pollution and re-planning of Ger districts were touched upon and the Chinese part expressed its readiness to cooperate to resolve all issues positively". "The Chinese part notified that it adheres to two principles in resolution of trade, economic and investment issues. First, trade and investment should be mutually beneficial. However, Xi Jinpin re-affirmed his statement during his visit to Mongolia in 2014, which noted that the abovementioned cooperation should be more significant and more beneficial to Mongolia. He made it clear that the relationship will develop based on a principle that the interest of Mongolia would be preferred. Moreover, the two countries agreed on principles on technical and economic cooperation development. Three documents were signed regarding education, science and exchange of young scholars. Also, the two sides agreed to make investment for eight companies. Generally, it can be concluded that the visit was very successful. ^ top ^

Prime Minister J.Erdenebat visits China (UB Post)
Prime Minister J.Erdenebat is currently visiting China, and met with Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China Li Keqiang to discuss trade and economic cooperation between the two countries, as well as environmental protection and climate change. During their meeting, Prime Minister J.Erdenebat emphasized that increasing the export of mining products and agricultural products from Mongolia to China will be of great importance to dealing with Mongolia's economic challenges. The premiers discussed working together to implement a comprehensive project for producing finished products, synthetic gas, and fuel from coal from the Tavan Tolgoi mine. They also discussed increasing capacity at some immigration and customs checkpoints along the Mongolian and Chinese border, and launching flights between China and Europe using Mongolian airspace. They agreed to work together on a project to help Ulaanbaatar reduce its air pollution. Prime Minister Li said that China is ready to collaborate with Mongolia to reduce its air pollution based on its own experience with the challenge. The prime ministers also discussed cooperating on reducing the impact of climate change through the framework of the China South-South Climate Cooperation Fund. After their meeting, a number of memorandums and other documents were signed by state authorities of the two countries. The documents covered the following items: developing roads and transportation; promoting humanitarian cooperation; strengthening investment, trade, and economic cooperation; developing innovation; launching a project to save the Gobi bear; building public schools and kindergartens in Mongolia; establishing a free-trade agreement between the two countries; and abiding by quarantine and sanitation regulations for exporting meat products. Mongolian and Chinese companies have signed memorandums of cooperation on building a bridge, power transmission cables, and a power substation with financing from a Chinese soft loan. Agreements were also signed on opening a meat processing factory, and on buying and selling electricity. President of China Xi Jinping received Prime Minister J.Erdenebat to discuss bilateral ties. President Xi pointed out that since his visit to Mongolia in 2014, the two countries have carried out a number of projects and have seen better income from partnerships. The Prime Minister underlined that developing friendly relations with China is a key piece of Mongolia's foreign policy, and that there should be a greater focus on developing Mongolia's comprehensive strategic partnership with China, increasing trade turnover, and improving trade structure. The sides agreed that Mongolia is an important piece of China's Belt and Road Initiative, and that Mongolia has the opportunity to improve its development by actively participating in it. The President noted that China is granting nonrefundable aid of 350 million CNY to Mongolia, and will grant another two billion CNY to Mongolia in the next three years to help Mongolia deal with its economic difficulties. He emphasized that to improve agricultural cooperation between the two countries, China is ready to collaborate to increase meat export and to improve the health of Mongolian livestock. President Xi stressed that working together to develop the Tavan Tolgoi mining project; to build railway and a power substation for the project; and to build a copper factory at the Oyu Tolgoi mine will be of significant importance to bringing cohesion to the development strategies of the two countries.
On Saturday, while in Beijing, Prime Minister J.Erdenebat met with Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Mihaly Orban, who was also participating in the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, which is being held through May 15. During the meeting, the PMs discussed enriching mutual relations by developing trade and economic cooperation, manufacturing finished products from Mongolian mining and agricultural products, and increasing the quota for scholarships from the Government of Hungary granted to Mongolian students. Prime Minister Orban said that it is possible to increase trade turnover between Hungary and Mongolia. He asked PM J.Erdenebat to focus on expediting the projects that the two countries are implementing, such as the restoration of Mongolia's largest biotechnology firm, Biocombinat. At the end of their meeting, the sides agreed to maintain friendly relations and to boost trade and economic cooperation between the two countries. Prime Minister J.Erdenebat also met with the President of the Council of Polish Ministers, Beata Szydlo. The Prime Minister was asked to help support Poland in investing in the Mongolian mining sector, facilitating student exchanges, launching a program to teach Polish in Mongolian universities, and to work together in paleontology. ^ top ^

China to provide CNY 2 billion grant in the next three years (Gogo Mongolia)
Prime Minister of Mongolia J.Erdenebat paid a courtesy call on President of the People's Republic of China, Xi Jinping today. At the meeting, two parties expressed their willingness to take Mongolia and China`s strategic partnership to a new level, enriching with actual content. President of the People's Republic of China, Xi Jinping stated: "Since my official visit to Mongolia in 2014, our two countries implemented many works together and achieved clear results. China and Mongolia`s relation must be strengthened in further". He highlighted that China and Mongolia together need to benefit from world development. Due to Mongolia is standing in the middle of "Belt and Road" initiatives, the country has potential to be fully developed by participating the initiatives. In regards, two countries agreed to integrate "Steppe road" and "Belt and Road" initiatives, considering it as an opportunity to develop and broaden partnership between two countries. Prime Minister of Mongolia J.Erdenebat noted that relation with China is a priority of our foreign policy and expressed the country`s position on some major projects and programs on trade, economy, development near borders and infrastructure that can be implemented by two countries. Two parties mentioned that it needs to increase trade turnover between two countries and improve trade structure. The Chinese side expressed their readiness to support Mongolia on overcoming its temporary economic difficulties. China announced to bring funding ratio of USD one billion grant that issued at the first stage in terms of economic cooperation to 95 percent from 85 percent. Earlier, China agreed to extend the term of the swap agreement that established between the Bank of Mongolia and the People's Bank of China. This time, China will provide CNY 350 million grant to Mongolia. In addition, China promised to provide CNY 2 billion grant to Mongolia in the next three years. The Chinese side expressed their readiness to cooperate Mongolia on agricultural sector with a wide range. At first, two countries will focus on improving meat supply and improve the health of livestock. At the same time, both sides agreed to focus on expanding operations of border crossings, increasing the capacity of its entrance and bring international status for some border crossings in near future. "Cooperating on comprehensive development of mining projects such as Tavantolgoi and construction of railways, power stations, copper concentrator plant based on Oyu Tolgoi mine will be consistent with national development strategies of two countries", said Mr Xi Jinping. ^ 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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