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
  7-11.8.2017, No. 682  
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Foreign Policy

China protests U.S. warship approaching reef of Nansha Islands (Xinhua)
China on Thursday voiced strong protest against a U.S. Navy warship passing close to the Meiji Reef of the Nansha Islands in the South China Sea. The USS John S. McCain illegally entered the waters near the reef and conducted a so-called "freedom of navigation operation" on Thursday without permission of the Chinese government, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said, adding the Chinese Navy identified the U.S. warship, warned and expelled it. "Such a move severely undermines China's sovereignty and security, and severely endangers the safety of frontline personnel of both sides," he said. "China has indisputable sovereignty of the Nansha Islands and its adjacent waters," Geng said. With joint efforts of China and ASEAN members, the current situation in the South China Sea has stabilized and maintains a sound development momentum, he said, noting the recent China-ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting adopted the framework of the Code of Conduct (COC). However, some parties from outside continue to meddle in the region under the guise of "free navigation," Geng said. "It is clear who is not willing to see stability in the South China Sea and who is the major factor pushing for militarization in the South China Sea." "China has the firm determination to safeguard its territorial sovereignty and maritime interests," Geng said, reiterating that the U.S. provocation will force China to take further measures to strengthen homeland defense capacity. ^ top ^

Beijing looks to Malaysia for fast track to support in region (SCMP)
Beijing is using a multibillion-dollar railway project in Malaysia to win support from a key Southeast Asian nation at a time when ties are strained with other countries in the region. The US$13 billion East Coast Rail Line was launched on Wednesday by Chinese State Councillor Wang Yang and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. The 600km railway line will connect ports on the east and west coasts of the Malay peninsula and is a key part of Beijing's huge belt and road trade plan as it would offer an alternative route for cargo shipments. It has prompted speculation that it could ultimately alter current regional trade routes – which run through the Strait of Malacca and the South China Sea via the Port of Singapore – when it is completed in 2024. Najib hailed the project as a "game changer" in a groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday, while Wang said it was a sign of the friendship between the two nations. Observers see the controversial railway line as an expansion of China's soft power at a time when it needs allies in the region. Although Beijing's relations with the Philippines have improved since an international court in The Hague invalidated China's claims to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea last year, Vietnam has emerged as its most vocal rival claimant. At the Association of Southeast Asian Nations forum in Manila this week, Hanoi pushed for a joint communique to express concern about "extended construction" in the disputed waters but failed to win support from other members. Beijing's relations with Singapore also deteriorated after the city state supported last year's tribunal ruling, and as it edges closer to the United States. Since Singapore will be the chair of Asean next year, mainland Chinese observers said Beijing would be trying to ensure that Kuala Lumpur did not also pivot towards the US. Within Asean, Beijing does have the support of Cambodia. Ni Lexiong, a naval expert at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said the recent cooperation between China and Malaysia signalled Beijing's desire to reduce Singapore's influence. "At the moment, 70 per cent of China's oil and gas imports pass through the Strait of Malacca," Ni said. "Because of that, Singapore has been able to control China's commercial and military access through the strait, and has used this as leverage in its balancing act between China and the US." Xu Liping, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Malaysia had in recent years become one of China's closest partners in the region. "The security cooperation between China and Malaysia will continue to deepen and Malaysia has been supportive of China on multilateral occasions," he said. "But whether Malaysia will become the next Pakistan or Cambodia remains to be seen because Malaysia values its ties with the US as much as with China." ^ top ^

Indian minister's statement raises chance of clashes: experts (Global Times)
Chinese experts said they fear a greater possibility of military clashes after India's defense minister said that his country could face "any challenge" to its security. Arun Jaitley on Wednesday said that the Indian armed forces are strong enough to meet any challenge to the country's security, stressing that lessons have been learned from the 1962 war, the Times of India reported on Tuesday. "Jaitley's remarks are the toughest since those recently made by Indian politicians, which also send a signal to China that India is preparing for possible military clashes. And the possibility of military clashes has increased," Zhao Gancheng, director of the Center for Asia-Pacific Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, told the Global Times. Zhao said China should continue to pressure India and prepare for possible military operations. The Indian Army on Thursday reportedly ordered the evacuation of 100 residents in Nathang village close to the Doklam region. The village is located 35 kilometers away from Doklam, reported. According to the Times of India, Jaitley said India had "learned a lesson" from the 1962 war with China that "the armed forces will have to be made fully capable on our own because even today the nation faces challenges from our neighboring countries." Jaitley's remarks were unwise and did nothing to ease border tensions, Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. "India has said it hopes to use peaceful ways to solve the problem in the Doklam region, but it did the opposite, including the deployment of more troops near the border," Hu said. Hu added that considering the damage made by the current standoff to Sino-Indian ties, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi may make some excuses to beg off from the BRICS summit, which is scheduled in September in China. The border standoff between China and India in the Doklam region has lasted almost two months. The Chinese Foreign Ministry told the Global Times on Wednesday that 53 people and a bulldozer from India remain in Chinese territory as of Monday. On October 20, 1962, China launched a counterattack on the Sino-Indian border after India heightened military provocations in the region and attempted to gain territory by force, according to Neville Maxwell, an Australian journalist who covered the 1962 border war.  ^ top ^

Xiamen summit to help build stronger BRICS ties: NDB president (Xinhua)
The upcoming BRICS summit in Xiamen will help the five member countries build a stronger economic partnership and a brighter future, said BRICS New Development Bank (NDB) President K.V. Kamath. It has been over a decade since Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa came together to form BRICS. The NDB itself is an "outcome of the economic togetherness" of the emerging economies group, Kamath said during an exclusive interview with Xinhua on Wednesday. At the ninth BRICS summit to be held in the Chinese city of Xiamen in early September, Kamath will present the bank's progress over the last two years as well as the direction it is heading in the coming two to three years. Founded by BRICS member states in 2014, the NDB opened in Shanghai in July 2015 and became fully operational in early 2016. The first NDB-funded loan, a solar power project in Shanghai, is expected to start operation in August. The bank is expected to approve five new projects with a total value of 1.5 billion U.S. dollars in September, with two of them in China, said Kamath. Altogether, the bank has 23 projects at various stages of preparation for 2017-2018, with a total lending amount of 6 billion dollars. The bank granted loans to seven projects in 2016. According to its general strategy for 2017-2021, the bank will put about two-thirds of its loans into sustainable infrastructure development. "The growth of emerging countries, particularly the growth that we have seen in China, has clearly underlined the importance for growth to be sustainable," Kamath told Xinhua. "I would say that we have learned from China's experience to push sustainability as a core of the lending process," he added. The NDB is looking into more local currency financing opportunities in member countries. After the bank's first green bond issuing in China was welcomed by the market last year, Kamath said the bank is planning another bond issuing between 3 to 5 billion yuan (450 to 750 million U.S. dollars) in the second half of this year. Meanwhile, it plans to issue bonds in local currencies in other member countries. "India will likely be one of the first, and our dialogue with bankers in Russia and other member countries indicate that there is good scope to raise local currency bonds in these countries," said Kamath. He also told Xinhua that the bank will open its first regional office in Johannesburg of South Africa on Aug. 17. This regional office will act as a "face to Africa," as it will initially focus on preparing projects in the pipeline, Kamath said. The bank intends to open other regional offices, but the timing of this is unclear, said Kamath. ^ top ^

UN environment chief urges China to do more on climate (SCMP)
The world's biggest polluter China has a "big job" ahead of it in the global fight against climate change, the UN's environment chief said on Wednesday. Since US President Donald Trump's decision in June to quit the Paris agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Beijing has proclaimed its willingness to stick to the pact. Analysts say the US move gives China an opportunity to establish its credibility and strengthen its diplomatic clout ahead of future negotiations. Beijing has repeatedly pledged to reduce its reliance on carbon-belching coal as it seeks to clear the toxic smog from its cities. But it has also invested heavily in coal projects abroad as part of its belt and road infrastructure initiative, prompting accusations it is exporting its pollution to poorer and less developed countries. Erik Solheim, head of the UN Environment Programme, said the world was in a "transformative phase" from coal to renewable energy, and Beijing had a vital role to play. As well as its number one position as a source of pollution, China is also the world's biggest investor in renewable energy such as solar and wind power. Its coal consumption has fallen for the past three years, and earlier this year it reportedly cancelled more than 100 coal power projects. But China still relies on the fuel for 62 per cent of its primary energy mix. "China has a very big job ahead of it to transform fundamentally from coal into these very promising new technologies," Solheim said. German environmental group Urgewald estimates that around 250 Chinese companies are involved in nearly half the 1,600 new coal power projects planned or being built worldwide, including in countries such as Pakistan and Egypt which currently burn almost no coal. Solheim warned that "locking yourself into this old-fashioned technology is very dangerous", as it would make them heavily dependent on fossil fuel for decades with serious environmental and health risks. Trump "clearly made a mistake" in withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, said Solheim, who was in Seoul for meetings with South Korean officials and businesses. But the consequences of Trump's decision were "limited", Solheim insisted, adding it had only "energised the entire environment community" including America's big businesses such as Apple, Google and Microsoft. "They do that for their customers and for the environment. They don't do it for the White House," he said. The Paris climate accord was signed last year by 175 countries and went into effect in November, just days before Trump was elected – having vowed on the campaign trail to back out of it. The Paris accord aims to limit global warming to "well below" two degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels. ^ top ^

Japan issues new defense white paper, makes excuses for military expansion: expert (Global Times)
Japan hypes the China's threat, especially in the East and South China Seas, in its 2017 defense white paper to show its willingness to cooperate with the US to contain China, shift its domestic political crisis and make excuses for Japan's constant military expansion, Chinese experts said. Japan's cabinet approved the 2017 defense white paper on Tuesday, which devotes 34 pages to China's maritime activities in the East and South China Seas, the Xinhua News Agency reported. The white paper pointed out that the number of aerial scrambles Japan made against Chinese aircraft hit a record high up to March 2017. "There is a possibility that their naval and air activities will pick up in the Sea of Japan from now on …We need to keep a close eye on the Chinese naval force's activities," the white paper said. Japan is making "irresponsible remarks on China's national defense system" and mudding China's normal and justified maritime activities in the East and South China Seas as "attempts to change the status quo through coercion," Xinhua reported. Japan's move would jeopardize peace and stability in the region, Xinhua said. "The white paper reveals Japan's maliciousness toward China. Japan's decision to hype China's threat, especially in the South China Sea, is aimed at creating trouble for China with the ongoing ASEAN meetings. Despite the easing of South China Sea disputes, Japan is trying to incite some countries to take a tough stance against China," Hu Lingyuan, a professor at the Japanese Research Center of Shanghai-based Fudan University, told the Global Times. Japan wants to show that it can cooperate with the US in the Asia-Pacific region to contain China, Hu said, adding that US President Donald Trump seems to be carrying out the Obama administration's Asia strategy with frequent US destroyer cruises to the South China Sea, which offers Japan an opportunity to further strengthen the US-Japan alliance. "Knowing that the US is more sensitive about China's rise, Japan also hopes the US increases its presence in the South China Sea," Hu said. Lu Hao, a research fellow at the Institute of Japanese Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Japan has always been on guard on China and more content on China has been included in its defense white papers in recent years, which always give a negative evaluation, including the transparency of China's military construction and maritime activities. "The defense white paper, which does not objectively reflect on Japan's security situation, has been used as a political tool to gain public support," Lu told the Global Times. The white paper devotes a special chapter to the highly controversial security laws which were forcefully enacted and allow Japanese forces to fight abroad, claiming that the laws increased the deterrent capabilities of Japan's Self-Defense Forces, ignoring the fact that the majority of legal experts in the country consider the laws unconstitutional, Xinhua reported. ^ top ^

China 'fires warning' with array of navy drills off Korean peninsula (SCMP)
Chinese naval forces will conduct more than 10 kinds of drills and launch dozens of types of missiles during four days of live-fire exercises off the Korean peninsula, according to state media. The details of the drills, which end on Tuesday, were released less than two weeks after North Korea fired off its second long-range missile in a month. State-run CCTV reported on Monday that the naval forces taking part in the exercises in the Yellow Sea would practice offensive and defensive manoeuvrers with surface ships, submarines, air support, and coastguard forces. The drills would mirror real combat conditions and test the troops' tactical, combat and weapons training, the report said. The exercises included aerial interception and assaults by land and sea, it said. Top brass overseeing the drills included navy chief Shen Jinlong, Central Military Commission training and management head Li Huohui,commissar of the Northern Theatre Command Fan Xiaojun, and navy commissar Miao Hua. The drills were taking place in the waters between the coast of Qingdao in Shandong province and Lianyungang in Jiangsu province, according to notices from the PLA Navy's North Sea Fleet and the Shandong Maritime Safety Administration. They come after a three-day naval exercise in the Yellow Sea late last month ahead of the 90th anniversary of the People's Liberation Army. Analysts said this week's show of force in the geostrategic area near the increasingly provocative North Korea was an unsurprising response to Pyongyang's July 28 missile test. Malcolm Davis, a Chinese defence specialist at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said the latest drill was essentially a warning to Pyongyang. "[The Chinese] could be sending a message to the North Koreans that they will be effective in any conflict if war is to break out," he said. Collin Koh, a maritime security expert at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University, said the drill was meant to deter various players on the Korean peninsula, including North Korea and the United States. Koh said the exercises were intended to help ward off a full-blown shooting war. "States do this because they want to send a signal," he said. "It's not just targeted at North Korea." ^ top ^

China-Vietnam maritime tensions flare as foreign ministers meeting called off (SCMP)
Strife between Beijing and Hanoi over the South China Sea boiled over on Monday when a scheduled one-on-one meeting of the two countries' foreign ministers was called off. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was due to meet his Vietnamese counterpart Pham Binh Minh in Manila on the sidelines of a gathering of diplomats from Asean countries. But a Chinese official said the meeting did not take place. No reason was given for the cancellation and it was not clear if another meeting would be arranged before the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' foreign ministers gathering ended on Tuesday. The cancellation came hours after Asean foreign ministers endorsed a joint communique expressing concerns over Beijing's land reclamation and military build-up in the hotly contested waters. Diplomatic observers and sources said Vietnam, which has competing claims with China over the Paracel and Spratly islands, had emerged as a strong opponent of China's assertiveness in the South China Sea. Sources said Vietnam wanted the communique to stress the need for a maritime code of conduct that Beijing is negotiating with Asean over the South China Sea to be "legally binding". Vietnam also wanted the bloc to underscore concerns about "extended construction" in the disputed waters. But Hanoi's proposals faced strong opposition within Asean, whose countries rely heavily on China for trade and investment. Wang said on Monday that just one or two foreign ministers expressed concerns about land reclamation. "But I want to tell you that China had stopped or already completed land reclamation two years ago. If someone is talking about land reclamation, it must not be China. Probably the country which raised the issue is the one which is doing it," he said. The final Asean communique was carefully worded so as not to upset China, calling for non-militarisation of the disputed waters and reaffirming Asean's readiness to begin substantive negotiations on the code of conduct with Beijing. But there was no mention of a legally binding document. Xu Liping, a senior researcher from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Beijing was dismayed by Vietnam's stand on the maritime issues. "The cancellation can be seen as a warning to Vietnam," Xu said. State-run Xinhua News Agency said in a commentary that Vietnam's attempt to push for a stronger language in the communique was to "poison" conditions in the South China Sea and to "sow discord" between China and Asean. The spat is the latest in a long line between Beijing and Hanoi. Tensions between the neighbours flared in June when Vietnam began drilling for oil in waters with overlapping claims with China. That same month, Vietnamese coastguard vessels held their first joint exercises with their Japanese counterparts, simulating an operation to thwart illegal fishing in the South China Sea. In response, a Chinese military delegation, led by Fan Changlong, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, cut short a trip to Vietnam. Carlyle Thayer, a specialist in Vietnamese affairs at the Australian Defence Force Academy, said Vietnam used to be able to count on the support of the Philippines in South China Sea disputes but was "more exposed than before" as Manila embraced Beijing under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. "Getting support from Asean for stronger worlding on the South China Sea could strengthen – if only marginally – Vietnam's diplomatic hand in dealing with China," Thayer said. "Without such support Vietnam will be even more vulnerable to pressure from Beijing." But some diplomatic observers said that even though China had weakened resistance from the bloc, it was still unlikely to make concrete progress on the code of conduct in November when representatives from Asean and China next meet to discuss the protocol. Dai Fan, a Southeast Asian affairs expert at Jinan University, said the United States might encourage Asean countries to set higher goals in their talks with China, which could hamper negotiations. ^ top ^

Asean ends impasse over disputes with Beijing, calls for no militarisation in South China Sea (SCMP)
Southeast Asian foreign ministers ended an impasse on Sunday over how to address disputes with China in the South China Sea, issuing a communique that called for militarisation to be avoided and noting concern about island-building. In a surprise move, the ministers also mentioned in their 46-page statement a vague reference to an international arbitration ruling last year that invalidated China's historical claims to virtually all of the strategic waterway. As in past criticisms, they did not cite China by name. The South China Sea has long been the most divisive issue for the Association of South East Asian Nations, with China's influence looming large over its activities. Some countries are wary about the possible repercussions of defying Beijing by taking a stronger stand. Asean failed to issue its customary statement on Saturday, over what diplomats said was disagreement about whether to make oblique references to China's rapid expansion of its defence capabilities on artificial islands in disputed waters. China is sensitive to even a veiled reference by the Asean bloc to its seven reclaimed reefs, three of which have runways, missile batteries, radars and, according to some experts, the capability to accommodate fighters. The communique late on Sunday takes a stronger position than an earlier, unpublished draft, which was a watered-down version of one issued last year in Laos. The agreed text "emphasised the importance of non-militarisation and self-restraint". It said that after extensive discussions, concerns were voiced by some members about land reclamation "and activities in the area which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tension and may undermine peace, security and stability". Asean's deadlock over the statement highlights China's growing influence on the grouping at a time of uncertainty over the new US administration's security priorities and whether it will try to keep China's maritime activities in check. Several Asean diplomats said that among the members who pushed for a communique that retained the more contentious elements was Vietnam, which has competing claims with China over the Paracel and Spratly archipelago, and has had several spats with Beijing over energy concessions. Another diplomat, however, said there was no real disagreement on the contents of the communique, and stressed that the initial draft was seen by some members as weak. Also on Sunday, the foreign ministers of Asean and China adopted a negotiating framework for a code of conduct in the South China Sea, a move they hailed as progress but seen by critics as a tactic to buy China time to consolidate its maritime power. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

Searchers combing area for earthquake victims (China Daily)
Rescuers were still searching on Thursday for more people that might be trapped in the mountainous area of the earthquake-hit Jiuzhaigou in Sichuan province, while the death toll climbed by one to 20, according to local authorities. Ten people who had been trapped on the high mountains in Jiuzhaigou were evacuated by helicopters on Thursday afternoon, and four other people remained missing there, said Qumu Shiha, deputy director of the disaster relief headquarters. Armed Police and some professional rescuers were still attempting to find the missing people, he said. "We won't give up as long as there's a flash of hope," Qumu said. However, the National Meteorological Center predicted light to medium rainfall at the quake zone on Thursday night and Friday. Zhang Fanghua, the center's chief forecaster, said the rain might hamper traffic and slow relief efforts. Given the quake has caused some potential geological hazards, rescuers should also watch for secondary disasters. Jiuzhaigou is a popular tourist destination in the mountains on the eastern edge of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in southwest China's Sichuan province. A magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck this otherworldly landscape on Tuesday night, injuring at least 431, according to government statistics issued on Thursday. All the known wounded had been treated. Known for its 108 transparent Alpine lakes, Jiuzhaigou is a big draw for tourists. About 70,000 tourists and migrant workers in Jiuzhaigou had been evacuated, the Sichuan government said. Some 6,300 villagers in Zhangzha, the epicenter of the earthquake, had been resettled in 17 townships, and their daily necessities such as food and water were ensured. According to the Sichuan Provincial Department of Commerce, shops in the Jiuzhaigou county seat and the townships in the county are open, ensuring the supply of daily necessities. The price of grain, meat and eggs is almost the same as before the quake, the department said. On Thursday, workers were clearing rocks fallen from mountains along National Highway 544, which connects Huanglong Airport with Jiuzhaigou. Two-way transportation is expected to resume in two days. Fixed-line and mobile communication was restored in all parts of Jiuzhaigou county on Thursday, said Tian Run, an information officer with the Sichuan government information office. Meanwhile, disaster relief also was in full swing on Thursday in Jinghe county of the Bortala Mongolian autonomous prefecture in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. A magnitude 6.6 earthquake hit the county on Wednesday morning, injuring 32 and toppling 307 houses, according to official data Thursday. All the wounded had been sent to hospitals for treatment and 10,500 affected people had been relocated, the local government said. The central government has allocated 80 million yuan ($12 million) for quake relief in Jinghe, mainly for evacuations and reconstruction of damaged houses. So far, 1,500 tents and 2,040 quilts are being sent to the region. ^ top ^

MEP urges monitoring of nuclear facilities after Sichuan earthquake (Global Times)
China's Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) has asked local nuclear and radiation safety monitoring stations in Southwest China's Sichuan Province to closely monitor the situation and avoid a secondary disaster caused by an impact on the local nuclear facilities, after a strong earthquake hit Jiuzhaigou county in Sichuan. The MEP said on Wednesday that currently the safety of the nuclear equipment in the area is under control and no damages have been reported. Moreover, the environmental radiation monitoring results are normal. The death toll from Tuesday's 7.0-magnitude earthquake in Sichuan has risen to 20, with 431 injured as of press time. Among the injured in the earthquake, 18 are in serious condition, according to the provincial government. Seventeen of the seriously injured have been transferred to the cities of Chengdu and Mianyan for treatment. More than 50,000 tourists, including 126 foreigners, were evacuated following the earthquake, local authorities said Thursday morning. Rescue workers found 16 people trapped at a scenic spot called Panda Sea in Jiuzhaigou. Ten firefighters were dispatched to rescue them Thursday morning and the result of their efforts is not available as of press time. Power supplies to the 17 towns in Jiuzhaigou county have been restored. Traffic on a major highway linking Jiuzhai-Huanglong Airport to the county resumed on Thursday. Jiuzhaigou is a popular tourist destination in the mountains on the eastern edge of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. It is part of the Aba prefecture and is known for ethnic minority communities and stunning scenery. ^ top ^

China's comprehensive moves in advancing rule of law (Xinhua)
The 12th National People's Congress (NPC)and its standing committee have formulated 20 laws and passed 39 decisions to revise 100 laws as of the end of June, data from the NPC showed. These are part of the achievements China has made to comprehensively advance the rule of law. In October 2014, the Communist Party of China (CPC) vowed to accelerate the building of a socialist country with rule of law at the Fourth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee, laying a solid foundation for the country's lasting stability and peace. Since then, China has entered a "fast track" in building a country with rule of law, with new laws stipulated or revised to improve the legal system with Chinese characteristics. In 2014, the central leadership decided to compile the General Provisions of the Civil Law -- a crucial first step in developing the civil code. The law, a key move in building China into a moderately prosperous society by 2020, aims to regulate civil activities and modernize state governance. General Provisions were adopted at the fifth annual session of the 12th NPC early this year and will be enacted on Oct. 1. In November 2016, the NPC Standing Committee issued the Interpretation of the Basic Law of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) in response to disagreements on the provisions of the Basic Law in Hong Kong, which had affected the implementation of the Basic Law and the "one country, two systems" principle. The interpretation underscores the authority of the Basic Law and the rule of law in Hong Kong. Moreover, the Air Pollution Prevention and Control Law was revised in 2015, adding a new chapter on dealing with smoggy days and stipulating the establishment of a monitoring and early warning system for heavily polluted days. The system of reeducation through labor was abolished in 2013, showing improvements and progress in judicial protection of human rights. As wrongful convictions are a disgrace to justice, China's judicial authorities have pledged to learn from past lessons and prevent such cases. During the term of the 18th CPC Central Committee, judicial organs have redressed 34 major wrong or mishandled cases, highlighting the case of Nie Shubin. Nie was executed in 1995 for raping and murdering a woman on the outskirts of Shijiazhuang City in north China. The second circuit court under the Supreme People's Court revoked his previous verdict last year, ruling that the conviction had been based on insufficient evidence and unclear facts. To improve judicial justice and credibility, measures for letting judges assume lifelong responsibility for cases they handle and holding them accountable for any miscarriage of justice were outlined at the Fourth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee. These measures require officials to shoulder more responsibility, preventing them from making wrong judgements. In the past five years, the CPC Central Committee has formulated or revised nearly 80 Party regulations, accounting for more than 40 percent of existing regulations. The key to strict Party governance relies on a "key few" officials, referring to leading officials at the central, provincial and local levels. The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the CPC has probed officials, from low-level "flies" to high-ranking "tigers," since the current leadership took office in late 2012 and announced a high-profile anti-graft crackdown. Among the tigers felled in the campaign were Zhou Yongkang, a former member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee; Bo Xilai, former Party chief of Chongqing Municipality; Xu Caihou and Guo Boxiong, both former top generals and vice chairmen of the Central Military Commission; and Ling Jihua and Su Rong, former vice chairmen of China's top political advisory body. The handling of these cases demonstrates that all people are equal before Party regulations, and the enforcement of such rules allows no privilege or exception. ^ top ^

Top political advisor calls for progress in ethnic unity (Global Times)
China's top political advisor Yu Zhengsheng on Wednesday called on people from north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region to make progress in ethnic unity ahead of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. Yu, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, made the remarks at a symposium marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The symposium was attended by local officials and people of various ethnic groups and from all walks of life. Yu urged efforts to make achievements in economic transformation and restructuring, deepening reform, improving people's living standards and risk prevention. During his visit to the Memorial Hall of Ulanhu, a veteran leader of the autonomous region, Yu said that people should learn from Ulanhu's lofty spirit and good virtue to "build a beautiful Inner Mongolia and achieve the great Chinese dream." Yu also visited a community, a book store and sports facilities to extend greetings. While visiting an institute of biotechnology on livestock breeding, Yu called for more investment in R&D, adopting more core technologies and encouraging the institute to be an industry leader. Inspecting a local ecological environment company, he learned about ecological restoration and grassland ecology while stressing the exploration of a sustainable green path that accords with national and local conditions. ^ top ^

NE China province plans to close 7 coal mines in 2017 (Xinhua)
The northeastern province of Heilongjiang, a major coal production base in China, will shut down seven coal mines in 2017 in response to a government capacity-cut drive, according to a statement on the website of the National Energy Administration (NEA). As of the end of July, production had been halted at five mines, the provincial economic planner told Wang Xiaolin, deputy head of the NEA, during his recent research tour to the region. In a plan released by the provincial government last year, Heilongjiang has promised to close 44 mines in the coming three to five years to cut coal production capacity by 25.67 million tonnes. The move came as tackling overcapacity in bloated sectors such as coal and steel has been among the top priorities for policymakers in recent years. Last year, China eliminated coal production capacity by over 290 million tonnes and steel by more than 65 million tonnes, both beating government annual targets. In 2017, China plans to slash coal production capacity by at least 150 million tonnes and steel by around 50 million tonnes. ^ top ^

China examines official spending on luxury alcohol amid market rebound (SCMP)
China's disciplinary watchdogs are examining official spending on luxury alcohol as President Xi Jinping steps up an anti-corruption campaign, just as manufacturers of premium spirits are regaining momentum after an earlier crackdown. The Communist Party is asking local cadres to identify all the illegal spending on luxury liquor from January to August, including how much officials have spent and the names of those who attended banquets that included luxury alcohol, according to notices published on government websites. Sales in China's premium spirits segment were hit hard after 2012, when Xi's signature anti-corruption campaign focused on officials' lavish spending on entertaining. However, the impact of the latest push may not be significant, as makers of the most popular luxury brands are seeing a surge in consumption in the mass market and the economy is showing signs of strength. "The demand for premium liquor is very strong now in China, mainly from family and friend gatherings, and normal business needs," said Qi He, a Shanghai-based fund manager at Huatai Pinebridge Fund Management Co. "The sales contribution from government consumption has reduced from more than 50 per cent years ago, to less than 20 per cent now." Kweichow Moutai Company, the most valuable distiller in the world with a market value of about US$90 billion, last month reported that its first-half profit climbed 28 per cent as Chinese consumers spent more on premium products. Liquor-makers led gains in consumer stocks on Wednesday, helping push a benchmark tracking the industry to a record high, amid signs of broad-based retail strength and economic buoyancy. Data released on Wednesday showed China's consumer prices strengthened 1.4 per cent in July from a year ago, while retail sales jumped 11 per cent in June, the most since December 2015. Kweichow Moutai rose 1.7 per cent to a record, while Wuliangye Yibin Company advanced 1.5 per cent, touching an intraday high. Shanxi Xinghuacun Fen Wine Factory Company shares rose 5.5 per cent to their highest close since its 1994 listing, while JiuGui Liquor Company climbed 6.9 per cent. The government's campaign comes as the party prepares for its once-every-five-years leadership reshuffle, in which as many as 11 of the 25 members of the ruling Politburo could be replaced. ^ top ^

Officials vow to maintain Xi's core leadership (Global Times)
Provincial officials have joined the chorus in stressing the importance of Xi Jinping's core leadership in the run-up to the landmark 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), with some explaining that loyalty to the core leadership is the most important politics in modern China. Xi, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, is the core leader of the Party, and before the 19th National Congress of the CPC, many provinces, municipalities, and autonomous regions' Party chiefs and senior officials are gathering to learn Xi's speeches and reinforce their "consciousness of the core." Secretary of the CPC Beijing Municipal Committee Cai Qi said at a meeting on August 3 that "the most important politics and the prioritized political discipline is to firmly maintain General Secretary Xi Jinping's core leadership. This is related to the destiny of the Party and the country, and of the fundamental interests of the people of all ethnic groups," the Beijing Daily reported on Friday. Cai also urged Party members to obey the core leadership, love the core leadership, look up to the core leadership, as well as safeguard the authority and the centralized and unified leadership of the Party Central Committee with Xi at the core. Apart from Beijing, other Party committees, including those of Anhui Province, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, and Tianjin municipality, are expressing their loyalty to the top leader and the CPC Central Committee. "Before the 18th National Congress of the CPC, the Party's governance and management were not strict or tough enough, so some serious problems occurred, especially the emergence of special interest groups within and outside the Party. These groups were seriously undermining the authority of the Party Central Committee, and were using the country's reform to serve their own interests rather than the fundamental interests of the people," Su Wei, a professor at the Party School of the CPC Chongqing Municipal Committee, told the Global Times. "Problems like corruption and graft emerged and the policies from the Party Central Committee weren't implemented in some areas. Reinforcing the core leadership and the authority of the Party Central Committee is the solution to these problems," Su said. Fortunately, after the 18th National Congress of the CPC, we have a powerful core leader, Xi, at the Central Committee to effectively fix these problems through strict governance over the Party. The reform and Party governance are back on the right track, so the people's interests have been safeguarded from the threat of special interest groups, said Su. "In other words, maintaining the core leadership and strict enforcement of political discipline are equal to protecting the people's interests, and it is definitely the political priority," Su said. In Western mainstream political ideologies, the importance of leadership has been largely ignored, but for China, we highly value the importance of great leaders, especially in the key historical moments like Mao Zedong's revolutionary war era and Deng Xiaoping's opening-up and reform era, said Zhang Weiwei, director of the Institute of China Studies at Fudan University. "When a party or a country has arrived at a key stage, it needs a powerful and brilliant leadership to overcome the challenges and achieve great goals. Without Mao Zedong's and Deng Xiaoping's leadership at key moments, the CPC's revolution and China's development would not have been as successful as we see today," Zhang said. "Currently, China is at a historic moment. For internal affairs, we need to push forward the anti-corruption campaign and deepen the reform which will affect many groups' interests; for external affairs, we need to safeguard China's rejuvenation from the threat of hostile foreign forces and protect the country's sovereignty. Therefore, a powerful core leadership is essential for China at this moment," said Su. ^ top ^

Top political advisor lauds Inner Mongolia achievements on 70th anniversary (Xinhua)
China's top political advisor Yu Zhengsheng on Tuesday lauded the achievements of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in north China and expressed his hope that improving ethnic autonomy would bring better life for people in the region. Yu, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), made the remarks at a gathering to celebrate the region's 70th anniversary, while leading a 63-person delegation of the central authorities. Yu reiterated the importance of adherence to the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) -- the solid core to unite and lead people from all ethnic groups -- and firmly sticking to socialism with Chinese characteristics. Over the past 70 years, especially since the reform and opening up in the late 1970s, the region expanded its GDP to 1.86 trillion yuan (277.6 billion U.S. dollars) in 2016, 642 times of that in 1947, and per capita GDP reached 74,000 yuan, 145 times of that in 1947, Yu said. A basic transport network has been set up and incomes have improved, with more than 60 percent permanent residents living in cities, Yu said. Yu called for releasing and developing social productivity; combining support from central authorities and economically developed provinces with the region's self-struggle; integrating improvement of living standards with ecological protection; holding the interests of the country and the Chinese nation above all; and resolutely safeguarding ethnic unity, the border and national reunification. Yu asked local officials to make efforts to ensure that the region build a moderately prosperous society in 2020, striving to solve problems which people care the most and making people from all ethnic groups feel a sense of gain and happiness. At the gathering, Vice Premier Liu Yandong read a congratulatory message by the CPC Central Committee, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, the State Council, the CPPCC National Committee and the Central Military Commission.0 The letter said that Inner Mongolia has been led by the CPC in combining the basic principles of Marxism with the realities of the Chinese nation, and has kept the glory of "exemplary autonomous region." Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core has paid more attention to and made strategic plans for the development of Inner Mongolia. In 2014, Xi, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, put forward a set of ideas on the long-term development of the region during his inspection tour in Inner Mongolia. On Monday, Yu presented a plaque with an inscription by Xi, which reads "building a beautiful Inner Mongolia, achieving the great Chinese dream" in both Chinese and Mongolian. Tsetsenbat, a herder from Ar Horqin Banner of Chifeng City, said that he felt great changes in his hometown: his kids were in school, the seniors were covered by social insurance, roads had improved, and they had good drinking water and Internet connection. "We will keep in mind Xi's instructions to build a beautiful northern border, cherish the good situation of ethnic unity, and strive to build a better Inner Mongolia," he said. Ren Yunguo, a local ethnic affairs official, said that before the founding of Inner Mongolia, people lived under impoverished conditions and many herders were bankrupt. With efforts of poverty relief, the region will succeed in building a moderately prosperous society in 2020 at the same pace with the country, Ren said. According to the region's statistics authority, in 2016, Inner Mongolia's per capita GDP reached 74,069 yuan, up 6.9 percent year on year. The annual per capita disposable income in the region reached 24,127 yuan, up 6.8 percent year on year. Last year, Inner Mongolia ranked ninth in the country in terms of urban residents' per capita disposable income, which rose by 6.5 percent to reach 32,975 yuan, and 19th place in terms of rural disposable income, which rose at the same rate to reach 11,609 yuan. Yan Qing, professor with Minzu University of China, said that until today, regional autonomy is the only correct way for the stability and prosperity in ethnic minority regions. Wang Xien, researcher with the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Inner Mongolia has adhered to the principle of equity, unity and mutual help during 70 years of implementing regional autonomy for ethnic groups. "It has paid high attention to guaranteeing people of all ethnic groups to share equal rights and special legitimate rights of ethnic minority groups by eliminating narrow nationalism," Wang added. ^ top ^

The 'Belt and Road' projects China doesn't want anyone talking about (SCMP)
Kunming, Yunnan's provincial capital, occupies a key place in China's economic diplomacy efforts as the terminus of oil and gas pipelines from the Bay of Bengal and the starting point of a planned railway network winding through Indo-China to Singapore. But the provincial authorities have obscured the location of a brand new, 29.2 billion yuan (US$4.27 billion) oil refinery that sits at the end of the 2,500km pipeline and made talk about the rail network taboo. The two projects, linked to China's ambitious "Belt and Road" trade-development scheme, have sparked protests, quarrels and suspicions in Yunnan and in neighbouring countries before delivering on promises of peace and prosperity. Kunming taxi drivers complain that major Chinese online map apps do not show the location of the refinery, which has been a controversial project ever since huge protests against it in 2013. "Last time, I lost my way and ran into many dead-end roads when trying to get close to the project," taxi driver Ge Changshui said. "It's easy to see the brand-new smokestacks, towering high in the air, from very far away. But it's also easy to get lost when approaching the refinery for the first time." Ge said no road signs mentioned the refinery and there wasn't even a sign at its entrance. "Civil servants, students, taxi drivers and reporters of state-run media have been told by their institutes and departments not to talk about the [refinery] project in public," said Jay Chen, a reporter at a Kunming newspaper. Central government organs such as the Xinhua news agency could release information about it, he added, but "no one would pitch the idea in the newsroom because we all know it's forbidden to do independent interviews there". The "Belt and Road Initiative", unveiled by President Xi Jinping in September 2013, aims to connect China with dozens of countries in Asia, Africa and beyond through a network of overland corridors and sea routes that will build infrastructure, financial and trade ties. The new China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) refinery, in Anning, on the western outskirts of Kunming, began trial operations this month and will be capable of processing 13 million tonnes of crude oil a year. It sits at the end of a pipeline running through Myanmar which slices 1,200km off transportation distances from the Middle East and Africa and avoids the need to have tankers pass through the Malacca Strait, a potential choke point for China's energy supplies, through which about 80 per cent of its oil imports now pass. A parallel gas pipeline has delivered 13.5 billion cubic metres of natural gas to China since 2013, Xinhua reported. Construction of the crude oil pipeline started in 2007 and was completed in 2014, but it only started operation in May this year. Xinhua reported that a Suezmax-sized tanker, capable of holding 140,000 tonnes of crude, began offloading oil for the pipeline at Myanmar's Made Island in April. The two pipelines could bring 22 million metric tonnes of crude oil and 12 billion cubic metres of natural gas into China each year, Xinhua reported. In return, Myanmar would receive US$13.81 million a year in a royalties and an oil transit fee of US$1 a tonne. As part of a 30-year agreement it would also get 2 million tonnes of crude oil and up to 2.4 billion cubic metres of natural gas a year, Xinhua said. But conflict in northern Myanmar, which flared late last year, poses serious risks to the pipelines. The fighting temporarily halted cross-border trade and prompted thousands of Myanmese to seek asylum in China. Peng Nian, an international studies specialist at Hong Kong Baptist University said that if the conflict escalated, flows of oil and gas through the pipelines could be halted. Reuters, citing two senior Chinese industry sources, reported in October that the refinery was facing a delayed start-up after CNPC subsidiary PetroChina balked at paying an extra tax for piping crude oil through Myanmar. Few people in Kunming are aware that the refinery will soon go into production, even though the project, and an associated paraxylene plant that would have produced 500,000 tonnes of the toxic chemical a year, brought thousands of protesters onto the city's streets four years ago when they were in the planning stage. Paraxylene, which is used in making plastic bottles and polyester, can be dangerous if inhaled or ingested and the city's mayor at the time, Li Wenrong, promised the government would not hesitate to cancel the paraxylene project if most people opposed it. But the public have not been told whether the new refinery includes a paraxylene plant and CNPC did not reply to queries about it. "I feel heartbroken now that the chimneys have started smoking," taxi driver Ge said. "Air and water pollution is bound to follow." Chen said the other taboo topic was the "Trans-Asian Railway", which had been given a high profile at various official forums until two years ago, when the propaganda department ordered local media to stop using the term. "It's because the term sounded so aggressive about expanding into other countries," he said, adding it could have made neighbouring countries fear rather than welcome being drawn into China's economic orbit. The proposed single-gauge railway network, starting in Kunming and running through Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Malaysia before terminating in Singapore, is an important part of Beijing's plan for greater regional connectivity and would turn Kunming into a transportation hub. Most of the countries involved have existing railways but they operate on different gauge tracks, meaning goods have to be unloaded and transferred onto another train to continue their journey. Two years ago, China Railway Tunnel Group deputy chief engineer Wang Mengshu said the existing railways would be changed to adopt Chinese technology and China's standard gauge, the news portal reported. Xinhua has reported that 13 railway lines spanning more than 2,300km are being built in Yunnan this year at a cost of more than 244 billion yuan, but progress has been less smooth on proposed Southeast Asian lines due to local resistance. On July 11, Thailand approved US$5.2 billion for the construction of the first stretch of a long-delayed high-speed railway that will form part of the trans-Asian railway. The project had been dogged by disagreements over issues such as its cost, investment-sharing and development rights. Thai engineers demanded in June that technology transfers from China be part of the Thai-Chinese rail project to connect Bangkok with Nakhon Ratchasima, 250km to the northeast, raising uncertainty over the project even though Thailand's military government pledged to clear away obstacles. A China Railway Group railway project in Laos has also been delayed by fundraising, land requisition and village resettlement issues, and construction of a high-speed line in Indonesia, linking Jakarta and Bandung, was delayed for a year due to local opposition to the route. China Railway and its Indonesian partners received permits to start construction of that line in March. Lee Chih-horng, a research fellow at the Longus Institute for Development and Strategy in Singapore, said Chinese officials were not used to considering other countries' concerns. "Most Chinese officials are used to focusing on expanding the scale of infrastructure development and only pursue rapid economic growth on the mainland," he said. "They also copied that way of thinking when promoting major cross-border infrastructure, with no elaborate efforts to solve locals' worries about environmental protection and the impact of these projects on local society, culture and even religion. "On the mainland, they can easily stifle public debate and concerns about infrastructure projects. But that does not work well on cross-border projects as it's no longer only about China's national strategy or the political performance of Chinese officials, because various interests and people overseas are involved." Lee said delays and suspensions of cross-border projects were a reminder to the Chinese authorities of the potential problems, but keeping information from the public was not a good way to solve public doubts about them. Kunming businesswoman Yang Mei said the refinery was about 30km from residential areas and upwind of Kunming. "Kunming residents had several massive protests to oppose the construction of the oil refinery and paraxylene project in 2013," she said. "But, since then, local media and social media have seldom reported its development. We've been blocked from information about the project." The refinery, in the town of Caopu, certainly looks impressive, with smoke pouring from several tall chimneys. "The refinery is testing operations now," one worker said outside the plant. "But we [workers] have no idea when it will really operate commercially to process oil." The authorities invited a few representatives of residents and environmental NGOs to attend a meeting in May, telling them the refinery would go into production later this year and that pollution would be strictly controlled, a representative of Green Kunming, a local NGO invited to the meeting, said. "But we were not allowed to take notes at the meeting and had to promise not to debate or raise worries in public," he said. ^ top ^

CMC calls for study of Xi's speeches (Xinhua)
The Central Military Commission (CMC) on Monday told the armed forces to study the speeches made by President Xi Jinping around the Army Day and strengthen their sense of loyalty and responsibility, according to an official circular. Study of Xi's speeches is of great significance to inspire the military to unite more closely around the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, according to the circular issued by the general office of the CMC. The speeches were delivered by Xi, also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee and chairman of the CMC, at a military parade and a rally marking the 90th anniversary of the People's Liberation Army. Xi lauded the contributions made by the PLA in its 90 years' history to the country and the people, calling for better combativeness of the army in his speech at the Zhurihe military parade on July 30. In his speech at the rally on Aug. 1, Xi reaffirmed the importance of military reform and the CPC's absolute leadership over the army. China must step up transforming its armed forces into a world-class military that is ready to fight and win wars as the country will never compromise on its sovereignty, he said. The study is important for the CPC to achieve its goal of building a strong army in current circumstances and the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, according to the circular. The CMC circular called on the armed forces to improve combat-oriented training and resolutely safeguard national sovereignty, security, and development interests. China will never allow any people, organization or political party to split any part of Chinese territory from the country at any time, in any form, the circular said. The circular also ordered the military to act in accordance with the instructions of Xi and the CMC, bear in mind its duties, and boost national defense and military modernization. ^ top ^

How China's leader is building team for Communist Party congress (SCMP)
When Xi Jinping took the helm of China's ruling Communist Party in late 2012 he had few trusted allies by his side or loyal aides at his command. The party's Central Committee – its senior leadership – was stuffed with cadres handpicked by the previous leadership or the one before that, with many members occupying important jobs in the party and the government. Five years on, with another leadership shake-up just months away, that situation is set to change. Through rounds of reshuffles and a relentless war on corruption that has felled more than 200 senior officials, Xi has managed to place loyalists or associates of close allies in key positions in central and provincial government and powerful party departments. Many are now poised to be elevated to the Central Committee and some to the Politburo. "The upcoming 19th party congress will see an all-out rise of Xi's men," said Chen Daoyin, an associate professor at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law. "The anti-corruption campaign has offered him many vacant positions to plant his trusted followers, in addition to the vacancies left by retiring officials." The latest to fall was Sun Zhengcai, once considered a possible next-generation leader, who was replaced by Xi protégé Chen Miner as party chief of Chongqing last month. Sun is under investigation by the party's graft watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), for "serious violations of party discipline", a euphemism for corruption and is likely to lose his Politburo seat. When he does, Chen Miner, who worked under Xi in Zhejiang, is well-positioned to take it. Since the start of last year, eight ministries and four organisations directly under the State Council, China's cabinet, have been given new chiefs, while the CCDI and four departments directly under the Central Committee received at least one new deputy head. At the local level, 23 of mainland China's 31 provincial-level regions have new party chiefs and 24 have new governors or mayors. Most of the 67 positions are likely to come with tickets to Central Committee membership. Of those promoted, 15 had worked with Xi during his time in Fujian, Zhejiang, Shanghai or the Central Party School, while another 14 had worked for his close allies. The two with the highest profiles are Chen Miner and long-time Xi aide Cai Qi, who was promoted to Beijing party secretary in May, just seven months after being named the capital's mayor. Cai worked under Xi for nearly 17 years, since his time in Fujian. Both are almost certain to join the Politburo, given the high offices they now hold, and some analysts say Chen Miner even has a shot at making it onto the Politburo Standing Committee, the party's innermost decision-making body. Other cadres who previously worked under Xi have now taken up leadership positions in provinces across China, including financial hub Shanghai, eastern economic powerhouse Jiangsu, coal-rich Shanxi, the central provinces of Jiangxi and Hunan, Yunnan in the southwest and the southern island of Hainan. Provincial leadership experience is highly valued within the party and is a common stepping stone to central party leadership. Cheng Li, director of the John L. Thornton China Centre at the Brookings Institution, reckons 76 per cent of the current Politburo's 25 members have served as provincial chiefs. Xi followed a similar path and led three provinces before heading to Beijing as the country's leader-in-waiting in 2007. Professor Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute in London, said Xi's increasing control of key provincial level leadership positions could help in the implementation of reform policies. Many economic reforms rolled out by Xi's administration have met with reluctance or even resistance at the local level, where officials and interest groups strove to defend their own interests. "Xi is power hungry but not just for the sake of it," Tsang said. "He intends to leave his mark and thus deliver real changes, but he cannot do so just by winning control at the party central or the central government level. To get his reforms, whatever they may be, implemented, he will need supporters in place in the provinces, particularly the key ones." Apart from the provinces, the president's men were also promoted to key cabinet posts overseeing the economy, commerce, the judiciary, education and the internet. In a reshuffle in late February, He Lifeng, a protégé of Xi during his time in Fujian from the mid-1980s to early 2000s, was appointed director of China's top economic planner, the National Development and Reform Commission. Analysts said that by promoting a close associate to head the agency, Xi would further tighten his grip on economic policy, traditionally an area handled by the premier. In the same reshuffle, Zhong Shan, who worked under Xi in Zhejiang in the mid-2000s, was appointed minister of commerce. A month earlier, Xi's long-time speech writer, Li Shulei, became a deputy secretary of the CCDI. Fourteen other promoted officials had career paths that crossed with those of five long-time Xi allies: top graft-buster Wang Qishan, chief of staff Li Zhanshu, party Central Organisation Department chief Zhao Leji and deputy chief Chen Xi, and Liu He, Xi's chief economic adviser. Tsang said that like his predecessors, Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin, Xi was aiming to put enough allies and protégés in the right places to ensure he had maximum support during his second term as party chief. But unlike Hu and Jiang, who had factional backing when they ascended to power, Xi was unable to develop his own team when he became heir apparent to Hu in 2007. Analysts said that because he could not fill all the important posts with his own men when he succeeded Hu, Xi looked to his trusted allies for supporters. Hubei province's new party boss, veteran banker Jiang Chaoliang, workedwith Wang in the southern economic powerhouse of Guangdong to help financial institutions cope with the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Three other Wang associates were also promoted: Gansu party chief Lin Duo, who worked for Wang when he was Beijing mayor in the mid-2000s, and two former deputies at the CCDI, State Security Minister Chen Wenqing and Justice Minister Zhang Jun. Chief of staff Li Zhanshu is arguably Xi's most powerful ally after Wang and he has been a close friend the president since the early 1980s, when they were in charge of neighbouring counties in Hebei province. The new mayor of Tianjin and the new governors of Hubei and Jilin worked with Li Zhanshu when he was a provincial leader. Anhui's new party secretary and the new governor of Ningxia worked under party personnel chief Zhao, a Shaanxi native like Xi who widely seen as the president's confidant, when he was governor of Qinghai and party chief of his home province. Acting Beijing mayor Chen Jining and Shaanxi governor Hu Heping worked with Chen Xi when he was party chief of Beijing's Tsinghua University. Chen Xi and Xi were college roommates at the university, where Chen worked for almost three decades after his graduation. Gansu's acting governor Tang Renjian was Liu's colleague and later deputy at the Office of the Central Leading Group on Finance and Economic Affairs for 11 years. Liu is the president's right-hand man when it comes to economic policy, and was described by Xi as "very important to me" during a visit to Beijing by then US national security adviser Tom Donilon in 2013. The recent reshuffles also saw four former leaders of China's aerospace industry promoted to head provincial governments: Ma Xingrui in Guangdong, Xu Dazhe in Hunan, Chen Qiufa in Liaoning and Zhang Qingwei in Heilongjiang. Most of the Xi protégés promoted in the past year are not full members of the 205-strong Central Committee and some, including rising stars such as Cai, Shanghai mayor Ying Yong, Shaanxi governor Lou Yangsheng and internet tsar Xu Lin, are not even among its 171 alternate members. But many have been promoted rapidly in recent years. Brooking's Cheng Li said Xi's protégés would play bigger roles in both the Central Committee and the Politburo at the party's national congress this autumn. "But his people cannot take all, or even more than two-thirds of the seats in these two bodies," he said. Tsang said that despite Xi's attempts to promote as many of his followers as possible, he would almost certainly need to make compromises and go through intense horse-trading. "There are a limited number of places and the rest of the establishment will not lie there and let him pack [them] with his supporters," he said. "I doubt that Xi will himself know what he can get before the 19th congress itself. Xi is trying to consolidate as much power as he can, while some others are resisting as hard as they can against the prospect of Xi emerging as the new strongman." Kerry Brown, director of the Lau China Institute at King's College, London, said identifying officials' former associations with Xi was only scratching the surface. "What was it about these people that caused his interest or allegiance?" he asked. "What were their policy positions, what challenges did they deal with, and were there attributes of their work that were distinctive and that we can see run across their different areas of works and different people? "For that we need to look more closely at the political stance of these people. And there, we simply don't have that much information at the moment. Chinese politics continues to yield its secrets grudgingly." ^ top ^



Beijing urban rail network to reach 608 km (China Daily)
The length of urban rail lines in operation in Beijing will reach 608.20 kilometers by the end of this year, Beijing Daily has reported. At present, 20 construction projects to build more than 350 km of track are under way, the report quoted Yang Guangwu, chief engineer of Beijing Major Projects Construction Headquarters Office, as saying. Two more projects will also kick off later this year to build 12.60 km. The urban rail network in Beijing, including the subway and light rail systems, is planned to total more than 1,500 km by 2020. China is responsible for 80 percent of the global urban rail transit construction planned for the next five years, and the city of Beijing boasts most passenger lines under construction and the highest daily passenger volume, as well as the strongest technology integration in rail transit with independent intellectual property rights. A white paper titled Development of China's Transport released by the State Council in December envisions a 3,000-km increase in mass transit rail lines, which supports the need for the upcoming new high of urban rail line construction in the next five years. ^ top ^



Lhasa's population limit to improve availability of public services (Global Times)
China's State Council has approved a plan, saying that Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, will limit its permanent resident population to 500,000 by 2020, a move an expert said would benefit local residents in terms of basic public services and help promote social stability. By 2020, the permanent resident population should not exceed 500,000 in the urban area, according to the revised plan for Lhasa's overall urban development (2009-20) released on the State Council's website on Tuesday. Ma Li, counselor of the State Council and former director of the China Population and Development Research Center, told the Global Times that Lhasa's overall urban plan would benefit local residents in terms of basic public services and social welfare. "Lhasa's urban population growth should be in line with its economic development. The plan will allow more local residents to fully enjoy the city's basic public services and social welfare," said Ma, adding that the plan will also help promote social stability. The local government has been asked to make arrangements for service infrastructure while take into consideration the needs of the public, such as education, healthcare and municipal administration, with a special focus on affordable housing projects. Shantytowns, villages within the city and dilapidated houses should be renovated and equipped with improved facilities, according to the plan. The overall plan does not make a mention of the proportion of the Han ethnic group and Tibetan ethnic group in the city's population. Ma also mentioned that Lhasa's plan is different from population policies in big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, which limit the urban population due to the pace of economic development and high living costs. Ma said that Lhasa's population pressure has not reached the level of Beijing or Shanghai. In 2015, Lhasa had a registered population of 530,300, according to statistics released on the Chinese statistical information website The Tibetan ethnic group in Tibet accounted for 91.83 percent of the total population in 2010, according to the National Bureau of Statistics website. Lhasa's urban land area should not surpass 78 square kilometers and the development of new areas and districts outside the regulated land plan is forbidden, according to the overall plan. The plan has allocated an area of 4,326 square kilometers for unified rural and urban development. It calls for expanding public facilities to cover the neighboring villages, developing counties and key villages with potential, and optimizing the overall layout of villages and towns. More efforts will be made in counties and central towns with good basic conditions to promote the modernization of rural areas, said the plan. The plan also highlights the importance of green infrastructure and facilities, establishment of a resource-saving and people-friendly city and protection of the local scenic spots. ^ top ^



Hong Kong population rises 0.7 pct: statistics (Xinhua)
Hong Kong's population reached 7,389,500 in mid-2017, up 0.7 percent compared to a year ago, Hong Kong's Census and Statistics Department said here on Thursday. There were 59,600 births and 45,300 deaths, resulting in a natural population increase of 14,300, according to the department. There was also an inflow of 55,700 one-way permit holders and a net outflow of 17,100 other Hong Kong residents, resulting in a net movement of 38,600 people, the department said. The number of usual residents was 7,173,000 while the number of mobile residents was 216,500, according to the data. ^ top ^

Work, study and play: will Hong Kong residents be tempted by equal rights in mainland China? (SCMP)
Beijing has addressed as many as 50 issues affecting Hong Kong people working in Chinese cities to provide them with the same privileges as their mainland counterparts, according to a report by the official Xinhua news agency on Wednesday. In Hong Kong, the news was received with mixed reactions – while some acknowledged the advancement in benefits enjoyed by Hong Kong people in mainland China, questions were raised as to whether non-Chinese Hong Kong permanent residents would be eligible. Sceptics also wondered if the city would have to reciprocate the central government's move by according benefits to mainlanders living in Hong Kong. For students from Hong Kong and Macau, free education will be available in Guangdong, Fujian, Zhejiang, Shanghai and Beijing. Employees of mainland companies who are from Hong Kong and Macau will have their requirement for work permits lifted, and can expect to access the housing reserve scheme. For travellers, there will be less queueing as more ticketing machines will be set up to scan their home return permits. Access to accommodation may also be made easier with mainland hotels forbidden to cite "abnormal reasons" to reject Hong Kong and Macau guests. The report, citing an unnamed official from the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, said the decision was in line with the promise of more convenience and opportunities for Hong Kong people studying, working and living in mainland China. The vow was made by President Xi Jinping during his visit to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to Chinese rule. According to the city's population by-census in 2016, there were 82,531 Hong Kong people working in mainland China, among which one third were in Shenzhen, about half in other parts of Guangdong, and the rest mainly in Beijing, Shanghai and Fujian. The number of Hong Kong retirees living on the mainland was even larger. A survey by the Hong Kong government done in early 2011 found that some 115,500 Hongkongers aged 60 or above were regular residents on the mainland, amounting to about 8.6 per cent of the total population in this age group. How the plan will affect Hong Kong people: a) Studying on the mainland: According to the report, the Education Ministry promised to "create conditions" for students from Hong Kong and Macau to receive free education in provinces and cities including Guangdong, Fujian, Zhejiang, Shanghai and Beijing. Some cities in Guangdong and Zhejiang have been pioneers in offering 12 years of free education. Currently students from Hong Kong and Macau can only go to private schools on the mainland or return to their home cities for education because they do not have the household registration required for enrolment into mainland public schools. Public schools on the mainland are not only cheaper, but also better in quality due to more resources put in by local governments. However, it is still unclear what "conditions" will be created for such students to enter mainland public schools. For example, starting from April in Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Macau students can apply for public schools if they are qualified in a point-based system. More admission details are yet to be revealed by the Education Ministry. b) Working on the mainland: The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security said it was speeding up the process to study the abolition of the work permit requirement for employees from Hong Kong and Macau. The work permit system has been in existence since 2004 and functions similar to the working visa for foreigners in Hong Kong. Mainland employers have to prove that the Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan residents they are hiring are unique and can fill a position that can't be occupied by a local despite at least three weeks of open recruitment. Such potential employees are required to submit up to 10 items of paperwork to apply for the permit from a municipal human resources department. What we don't know: One of the remaining questions centres on whether the current system will be removed completely, or be merely replaced by other filtering mechanisms as China becomes more cautious in receiving and managing foreign job seekers. c) Travelling to the mainland: Travellers from Hong Kong with home return permits will avoid long queues at train stations as China Railway promised to install more scanning machines across the country. By the end of June, 215 train stations in five provinces and two major cities have received upgrades on their machines according to the national railway operator. In June, the National Tourism Administration declared that all accommodation service providers were forbidden from refusing guests from Hong Kong and Macau under "abnormal reasons". It is unclear what constitutes a normal or justified reason. As there are mainland hotels that only receive domestic guests and therefore are not opened to visitors from Hong Kong and Macau, questions remain over whether this qualifies as an abnormal reason. d) Seeking medical treatment on the mainland: Currently Hong Kong people living on the mainland have to pay full prices for medical services in public hospitals unless they can claim reimbursement from social security insurance under their employee status. The central government is now considering extending the medical security net to cover Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan citizens who are living, studying or working on the mainland. In mid-June, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security announced that it has been drafting a temporary regulation to allow people from the three places to join the social insurance scheme on the mainland. The new rule may also require local governments to provide subsidies. Practical details such as insurance costs and how far local governments on the mainland are willing to subsidise such individuals are still unclear. The ministry has not announced a deadline to finalise the regulation. ^ top ^

Hong Kong to get formal role in Beijing's belt and road plan (SCMP)
Hong Kong has been promised stronger support from Beijing in developing its economy, with plans to establish a formal role for the city in the "Belt and Road Initiative" and boost communication on the development of the Greater Bay Area plan for the Pearl River Delta region. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor outlined the initiatives on Wednesday as she concluded her four-day visit to Beijing, during which she called on 16 ministries and organisations. Lam described her visit as "fruitful" and "down-to-earth",adding both sides had agreed to discuss the signing of an agreement to fully leverage Hong Kong's advantages in professional services and finance. "They expressed support for Hong Kong to develop into an international financial hub," Lam said after meetings with senior officials from the People's Bank of China and regulatory commissions. She also revealed that foreign minister Wang Yi expressed support for Hong Kong to play a bigger role in the international arena, like the setting up of more trade offices in belt and road countries. The initiative is Beijing's blueprint to link various economies into a China-centric trade network. An agreement was also signed on Wednesday with the National Tourism Administration to enhance tourism exchanges between the two sides. One of the initiatives involves the joint development of tourism products featuring belt and road markets. Tourism sector lawmaker Yiu Si-wing predicted visa arrangements could be streamlined to allow easier travel for tourists. He also expected the high-speed railway connecting Hong Kong and Guangzhou to play an integral role in drawing long-haul travellers looking to tour around Asia. "The project will connect the city to the mainland's vast railway network, as well as belt and road regions to the west, opening up endless opportunities for land travel," he said. Restrictions would also be eased "on a gradual basis" to allow more Hong Kong travel agents to operate outbound tours from the mainland. But Johnny So, general manager of Sunflower Travel, said he could not see scope for local agents to compete with their mainland counterparts. Apart from the "profound" cultural difference, he said the amount of red tape also made doing business difficult. "Where do we file the taxes? And whose side's laws should we follow when we run into trouble?" So asked. On the Greater Bay Area development encompassing Hong Kong, Macau and nine Guangdong cities, Lam said a mechanism would be set up to maintain regular contact on top of a framework agreement signed between the governments of Guangdong and the two special administrative regions last month. Lam also revealed that obstacles facing Hong Kong performing arts groups wanting to stage shows on the mainland would be removed. She hoped a deal could be struck by November, when the 10th Asia Cultural Cooperation Forum is held in the city. ^ top ^



Tsai seeks 'new model for interaction' to end deadlock with Beijing (SCMP)
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen appears to be searching for a way to end the year-long impasse since Beijing suspended official contact with the island in June last year. One analyst said Taipei was hoping the situation would change after the Communist Party holds its 19th national congress in autumn, a key leadership reshuffle that will mean new people to work with from the Beijing side on cross-strait relations. "Tsai's reiteration that her government is devoted to maintaining the cross-strait status quo and her call for the two sides to find a new model for interaction are positive signs," said Tung Li-wen, a researcher with Taiwan Thinktank. "It shows that she is still hopeful for an improvement in relations under Xi Jinping and doesn't want cross-strait ties to deteriorate further." He was referring to previous government remarks that the island had been forced to revise its cross-strait policy after Taipei's long-time ally Panama switched official recognition to the mainland in June. Taipei said the change was a result of Beijing's political and economic maneouvring, as was also the case in December when it lost another ally, Sao Tome and Principe. Speaking at the closed-door Asia-Pacific Security Dialogue on Tuesday, Tsai said she would not change the cross-strait status quo and appealed for the mainland to consider a new model for cross-strait interaction that could benefit the stability and prosperity of both sides and the region as a whole. Experts from Taiwan, Japan and the United States attended the one-day meeting. On Wednesday, Tsai also sought to placate the mainland by offering her government's help after a magnitude-7 earthquake hit the southwest of the country on Tuesday night, near the popular Jiuzhaigou National Park. "We are willing to help and provide all necessary assistance … to minimise the damage incurred by the disaster," Tsai said in a statement. "As we send our condolences and concern to the victims, we also pray that people in areas hit by the earthquake can rebuild their homes as soon as possible." Beijing suspended official exchanges and contacts with Taipei shortly after Tsai, of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, became president in May last year. Tsai had refused to accept the "1992 consensus" and its one-China principle, which the mainland insists is the sole political basis for continued exchanges. Beijing considers Taiwan a breakaway province subject to eventual unification with the mainland, if necessary by force. It reached an understanding in 1992 with Taipei that the two sides can continue to talk and exchange as long as they support the principle that there is only one China, though each can have its own meaning of what that China stands for. Tung said the leadership shake-up after the 19th congress could create a "new atmosphere and new opportunity" to develop a fresh model for cross-strait relations. But mainland academics said the foundation laid by Tsai's predecessor Ma Ying-jeou, who recognised the 1992 consensus, was good enough to maintain stable cross-strait ties. "Why bother to find a new model if the existing one works fine?" said Zhou Zhihuai, former director of the Institute of Taiwan Studies at the Beijing-based Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "All we need now is to use that to open the door." Ni Yongjie, deputy director of the Shanghai Institute of Taiwan Studies, said Tsai should spell out exactly what type of model she had in mind and determine whether it would be acceptable to Beijing before making calls about the two sides finding a new way to interact. ^ top ^



Chinese science teleported into the lead in quantum race (China Daily)
China has become the first country to send quantum keys-highly complex encryptions-from a satellite to a base on Earth, and to teleport light particles the other way. The accomplishments are two major breakthroughs in the effort to create an unhackable global communications network. The two experiments mark the completion of the the second and third of the three main goals of Micius, the world's first quantum communications satellite, which China launched last year. The first goal, to send entangled light particles further than ever before, was achieved in June. Entanglement is a phenomenon in which two or more particles can affect each other simultaneously regardless of distance. Entangled particles cannot be described independently of each other. Bai Chunli, president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said China is now the world leader in quantum communication technologies and is working with scientists from Austria, Germany and Italy. He said Micius will continue to perform experiments until its expected service life expires next year. "The trio of quantum experiments will be central to any global space-based quantum internet," Karl Ziemelis, chief physical science editor at Nature magazine, said in a video interview. The magazine published two articles about China's breakthroughs on Thursday. "They are testaments to China's investment and significant effort in physical sciences … and pushed research in practical quantum communication technology to such astronomical heights." All private data, from bank accounts to social media pictures, are protected by "keys", which are extremely complex mathematical codes transmitted between users and companies. However, these codes can be exploited if a hacker "eavesdrops" on these keys during transmission. Quantum keys use quantum physics rather than math to encrypt data, making them impossible to hack by conventional computers. They also have the ability to alert authorities when someone tries to eavesdrop, said Pan Jianwei, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the chief physicist behind Micius. "This will have major applications in government, military, finance, energy and other fields where security is paramount," he added. However, distributing quantum keys is difficult because sending them over long distances via fiber optics or during daytime results in massive signal loss or disturbance. In the latest quantum key experiment, Micius beamed photons-individual particles of light-and created an optical link with the observatory station in Xinglong, Hebei province. When the link was at 1,200 kilometers, scientists discovered that quantum key distribution efficiency between the two improved 100 quintillion times (1 followed by 20 zeros) compared with fiber optics of the same length. Micius produced and transmitted about 300,000 bits of quantum keys during the experiment. One practical use for these keys is to create advanced encryptions that are impossible for computers to hack with "brute force", a method in which a computer guesses all possible combinations of a pass code. "Combine all the computing power of the world, which is around two to the power of 80 to 100, it will still take years for it to guess the correct combination," Pan said. The second experiment is about one of the biggest mysteries of quantum mechanics known as quantum teleportation, Ziemelis said. In the experiment, Chinese scientists "spookily" transferred a photon on Earth to Micius in space, without needing the object itself to move. "Its effect is like the Star Trek teleporter," said Pan. It works by deconstructing a photon on Earth, then sending its extracted quantum information to Micius's receivers via entangled link. Then an entangled photon in space downloads the information and takes on the complete identity of the original. This experiment would have great theoretical research value in quantum science, as well as building a large-scale quantum internet and computation networks. But scientists are still centuries away from building a teleporter capable of transferring something as biologically complex as humans, Pan said. China also plans to build the world's first global quantum communication network by 2030. It will consist of three high-orbit and dozens of lower-orbit quantum satellites connecting dozens of ground-based stations and networks. "But the final number of satellites depends on its usage and market needs," said Pan, adding that there are other major hurdles to overcome, such as distributing quantum keys across continents during daytime. The latter feat was first achieved by China in July when Micius beamed one over 53 kilometers during the day. The United States and Japan also have plans for quantum communication. Japan launched a microsatellite named SOCRATES in 2014, and it conducted its own quantum channel test in July. However, Micius is a much larger, versatile satellite capable of different experiments, and has had more success. "China will lead the quantum space race for the next five years," said Pan. "But the world is also catching up fast." ^ top ^



Trump says he 'wasn't tough enough' in threat to strike North Korea with 'fire and fury' (SCMP)
US President Donald Trump doubled down on his hard-line stance against North Korea, saying his threat earlier this week to hit the Northeast Asian nation with "fire and fury" – a comment that sparked widespread concern about the possibility of a military strike – "wasn't tough enough". "Frankly, the people who were questioning that statement, was it too tough? Maybe it wasn't tough enough," Trump told reporters outside his golf resort in New Jersey. North Korea has "been doing this to our country for a long time, for many years, and it's about time that somebody stuck up for the people of this country and for the people of other countries. So if anything, maybe that statement wasn't tough enough." Concern that a constant volley of threats between Washington and Pyongyang will turn into a live-fire conflict spilled into US markets. The S&P 500 Index sustained its biggest one-day drop since May 17 and gold prices rose the most in two months, to $1,283.28 per ounce, according to Bloomberg data. The digital currency bitcoin has risen more than 16 per cent against the US dollar since August 4, the day before a recent UN Security Council vote that started the most recent escalation in tensions around the Korean Peninsula. Hours after US Secretary of Defence James Mattis warned North Korean leader Kim Jong-un that his government's military provocations may lead to "the end of its regime and the destruction of its people", the country's state media said the North is working on a plan, to be finalised in mid-August, to fire four missiles into waters near the US Pacific territory of Guam. In a separate press briefing, conducted after Trump said he needed to be tougher on Pyongyang, the president said: "Let's see what [Kim] does with Guam. If he does something in Guam it will be an event the likes of which we've never seen before." Trump, a member of the Republican Party, also accused previous Democratic Party US presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama of not doing enough to rein in North Korea's efforts to develop nuclear weapons. Trump said Clinton was "weak and ineffective" and Obama "didn't even want to talk about it". Tension around North Korea's nuclear capability began to escalate last weekend, when the United Nations Security Council voted in favour of a resolution put forward by US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley aimed at further isolating Pyongyang. The new resolution prohibits UN member states from buying coal, iron ore and other key commodities from North Korea, a move that's meant to cut the country's export revenue by US$1 billion annually, according to the Security Council members. Characterised by Haley as "the strongest sanctions ever imposed in response to a ballistic missile test", Resolution 2371 also sanctions North Korea's state-owned Foreign Trade Bank, which is identified as the country's primary foreign exchange bank and prohibits the formation of any new joint ventures between North Korea and other nations and bans additional investment in existing ones. While estimates range for when North Korea will be able to deploy a nuclear warhead capable of reaching US cities, their military is seen as having intermediate-range ballistic missiles able to reach Guam. "In June 2016, North Korea succeeded in testing a Musadan intermediate-range missile. This test came in the wake of four previous failures, but its recent success represents a significant growth in North Korean weapons technology," the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations said in a report this week. "Moreover, the Musadan missile has now expanded North Korea's threat radius well outside of the Korean peninsula, to include Japan, Guam, and U.S. Navy vessels operating in the Pacific theatre," the report added. ^ top ^

North Korea could have up to 60 nuclear weapons by 2021, US think tank concludes (SCMP)
North Korea is projected by the end of 2020 to have 25 to 50 nuclear weapons, and possibly as many as 60, according to a US think tank's report on Pyongyang's nuclear capabilities. David Albright, founder and president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington-based security think tank, said the "worst case" estimate of 60 nuclear weapons would involve the operation of the Experimental Light Water Reactor, a type of thermal-neutron nuclear reactor, at Yongbyon where North Korea's major nuclear facility is located, about 90km north of Pyongyang. This assessment comes after North Korea claimed two successful intercontinental ballistic missile tests in July. The hermit state further escalated the regional security crisis by announcing on Thursday it was completing plans by mid-August to fire four intermediate-range missiles over Japan to land near the US Pacific island territory of Guam, Pyongyang's state-run KCNA news agency reported. The KCNA report also called US President Donald Trump's latest comments "a load of nonsense". Trump said on Tuesday that any threats by Pyongyang would be "met with fire and fury like the world has never seen". Albright speculated that by the end of 2016, North Korea would have produced 13 to 30 nuclear weapons, based on the estimates of the reclusive nation's production and use of plutonium and weapon-grade uranium. It also may have a handful of plutonium-based warheads for its Nodong ballistic missile capable of reaching targets within a medium 1200km range, including South Korea and Japan. Albright said earlier this week "it is uncertain, and there are reasons to doubt, that North Korea can yet build reliable, survivable warheads for ICBMs". The US Defence Department in late July suggested that Pyongyang would be able to field a reliable, nuclear-capable ICBM as early as next year with atomic weapons that could strike North American cities, the Washington Post reported. Albright disputed the Pentagon's assessment: "I do not assess that North Korea could build a reliable, nuclear-capable ICBM as early as next year," he said in an email to the South China Morning Post. "However, by 2020, on its current trajectory, I assess that North Korea could master building a warhead that could be delivered to the United States in an ICBM and would have a good chance of detonating over a target. By then, it could also build a number of such warheads and missiles." ^ top ^

US defence chief Mattis tells North Korea to cease threats that risk 'end of regime and destruction of its people' (SCMP)
US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis has warned North Korean leader Kim Jong-un that his government's military provocations may lead to "the end of its regime and the destruction of its people" if the threats continue. "Kim Jong-un should take heed of the United Nations Security Council's unified voice, and statements from governments the world over, who agree the DPRK poses a threat to global security and stability," Mattis said in a Defence Department announcement. "The DPRK must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons. "While our State Department is making every effort to resolve this global threat through diplomatic means, it must be noted that the combined allied militaries now possess the most precise, rehearsed and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on Earth," the statement said. The combative tone from Washington has some analysts concerned that the door to a diplomatic solution is closing as the exchange of threats continued throughout the week. China has called repeatedly for the US and North Korea to negotiate directly, since the escalation of tensions around the Korean Peninsula last year. Mattis's statement echoed comments President Donald Trump tweeted a few hours earlier, which followed up on sabre rattling from both sides the day before. "My first order as president was to renovate and modernise our nuclear arsenal," Trump said in a tweet. "It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before." Those tweets came a day after the president threatened North Korea with "fire and fury" for Kim's pursuit of nuclear weapons. North Korea then threatened to launch a missile strike on the US Pacific territory of Guam. North Korea detailed its Guam threat after Mattis's announcement. According to the Associated Press, a report in the country's state media said the North is working on a plan, to be finalised in mid-August, to fire four missiles into waters 30 to 40km from the island. The steep escalation in rhetoric followed a Washington Post report citing classified US intelligence, which said North Korea had successfully developed technology to fire nuclear-tipped intercontinental missiles. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, speaking to reporters while en route from Asia to Washington, sought to play down Trump's "fire and fury" comment. "Nothing that I have seen and nothing that I know of would indicate that the situation has dramatically changed in the last 24 hours," Tillerson said before Trump tweeted and the Defence Department issued Mattis's announcement. "Americans should sleep well at night," he added. US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert fielded questions from reporters in Washington about the differing messages. "The president is sending a strong message to North Korea in a kind of language that North Korea understands," Nauert said, adding that the White House, the State Department and the Defence Department are "speaking with one voice". Tillerson and Trump spoke for an hour while the Secretary of State was in transit, Nauert said. North Korea came under increasing pressure from its neighbours China and Russia over the weekend, when they voted in favour of a United Nations Security Council resolution put forward by US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley aimed at further isolating Pyongyang. "Threatening unprecedented 'fire and fury' while his advisers are sending more mixed messages raises the risk of miscalculation and inadvertent war, particularly if North Korea feels that it must act before an imminent US attack," Jessica Chen Weiss, an associate professor at Cornell University's department of government, said in an interview with the South China Morning Post. What next for US and South Korea, as China stands by nuclear-armed Kim Jong-un? "From the standpoint of avoiding war, one hopes that Trump's improvised threat is correctly interpreted as bluster," added Weiss, who authored the 2014 Oxford University Press book, Powerful Patriots: Nationalist Protest in China's Foreign Relations. The new resolution prohibits UN member states from buying coal, iron ore and other key commodities from North Korea, a move that's meant to cut the country's export revenue by US$1 billion annually, according to the Security Council members. The latest resolution goes beyond a prohibition on exports by sanctioning North Korea's state-owned Foreign Trade Bank, which is identified as the country's primary foreign exchange bank. The resolution also prohibits the formation of any new joint ventures between North Korea and other nations and bans additional investment in existing ones. Citing joint US-South Korea military exercises that include live-fire drills as a threat, North Korea's government has for more than a decade maintained its right to conduct missile and nuclear detonation tests and rejected the legality of UN Security Council sanctions against it. In May, North Korean deputy permanent representative to the UN Kim In-ryong slammed Secretary General Antonio Guterres for not responding to his requests to convene an "international forum of legal experts" to discuss the legal justification for the UN sanctions. The Security Council has issued eight resolutions since 2006, after six-nation talks involving North Korea, China, the US, Japan, South Korea and Russia broke down. The US Defence Department characterises the joint exercises, which have been conducted regularly for 40 years, as "defensive in nature". The exercises are "designed to increase readiness to defend South Korea, to protect the region, and to maintain stability on the Korean Peninsula", according to a March 3 Defence Department statement. ^ top ^



Mongolia and China discuss their relations and cooperation (Montsame)
Co-chaired by D.Davaasuren, the State Secretary of the Mongolian Foreign Ministry; and Kong Xuanyou, the Assistant Foreign Minister of China, the meeting considered the bilateral relations and cooperation issues. The parties noted the Mongolia-China comprehensive strategic partnership relations have been intensively developing recent years, and expressed their willingness to boost the friendly ties and win-win cooperation. They underlined an importance of strengthening the political mutual trust. Regarding the bilateral trade and economic cooperation, the sides concurred to realize works agreed during high-level cooperation. The Foreign Ministries agreed to collaborate in a project on the Tavantolgoi and Shivee-Ovoo railways and construction of apartments in place of ger areas and in exporting deeply-processed mining products to China. The Mongolian side emphasized non-refundable aid and soft-loans from the China's government have contributed to the Mongolian socio-economic development, and expressed its aspiration to accelerate implementation of projects with the loans and assistance. The countries will focus attention to launching actions of the Humanitarian Council established last May and boosting the cooperation in the culture, education, health and tourism spheres through a specific plan, so the parties agreed to hold the Council's 1st meeting in fourth quarter of this year. At the meeting, the parties exchanged views on the international and regional cooperation as well. ^ top ^


Mr. Aurèle Aquillon
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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