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
  27.11-1.12.2017, No. 698  
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Chinese satellite 'breakthrough' in search for dark matter (SCMP)
Scientists have detected cosmic ray energy readings that could bring them closer to proving the existence of dark matter, a mysterious substance believed to comprise a quarter of our universe, a study said on Thursday. Probably made up of unknown subatomic material, dark matter is invisible to telescopes and can be perceived only through its gravitational pull on other objects in the universe. Beijing's first astronomical satellite launched two years ago detected 1.5 million cosmic ray electrons and protons, the study said, and unprecedented measurements found curiously low-energy rays. The team of researchers from China, Switzerland and Italy, who published their first results in the journal Nature, said the data may cast light on "the annihilation or decay of particle dark matter". "This new unseen phenomena can bring breakthroughs," Bai Chunli, president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said at a briefing. After collecting more data, if we can identify it is dark matter for sure then that is very significant. And if not, it is even more significant because they would be fresh new particles that no one had predicted before," Bai added, to applause from fellow scientists. The Dark Matter Particle Explorer (DAMPE) is now collecting more data from space to help researchers figure out what it could be. DAMPE was launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the Gobi desert in December 2015, after nearly 20 years in development. Its designers boast that DAMPE is superior to its US counterpart, the AMS-02 (Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer) that Nasa installed on the International Space Station in 2011. "Our cosmic ray detection range is 10 times that of AMS-02 and three times as accurate," said DAMPE chief scientist Chang Jin. "Proving the existence of dark matter takes a lot of time. Now we have worked out the most precise spectrum, but we are not 100 per cent sure that this can lead us to the location of dark matter," he said. According to the current state of its instruments, DAMPE is expected to record a total of more than 10 billion cosmic ray events over its useful life of around three more years. The project is a collaboration of more than 100 scientists, students and technicians in China, Switzerland and Italy and funded by the state-backed Chinese Academy of Sciences. Beijing invests hundreds of billions of dollars in scientific research each year, under a five-year plan for 2016 to 2020 that seeks to lift the country's technological research capabilities into the world's top 15. ^ top ^

China's HNA says it will pull out of deals on Beijing's investment blacklist (SCMP)
China's HNA Group, a conglomerate that has drawn attention for its overseas buying spree and murky ownership structure, says it will withdraw from any deals on the government's blacklist. Adam Tan Xiangdong, the group's chief executive, told Caijing's annual financial conference in Beijing on Tuesday that the company would "listen to orders" and "not invest a cent in areas forbidden by the government". "For projects we've already invested in – we weren't stopped at the time of investment but now that the government forbids such investments, we will pull out," Tan said. "For property projects, we will withdraw and hand [the projects] to funds or Reits. I will sell all [overseas] buildings that I have purchased." A Reit, or real estate investment trust, is a vehicle for investment in property that can take over liability from a developer. Tan's comments marked a sharp difference from the group's strategy a year ago when it paid HK$27.2 billion for four pieces of land at the former Kai Tak airport site over four months, breaking one price record after another. In an interview with the South China Morning Post in June, the group's founder and chairman Chen Feng said it aimed to build and sell flats at cost price for its staff at the former airport site. Chen said at the time that HNA had to pay "above market prices" to get in on Hong Kong's property boom. On top of the Kai Tak deal, HNA dazzled the market with a slew of high-profile deals – including investments in Deutsche Bank, Swissport, Carlson Hotels, Hilton Worldwide, Ingram Micro and Singapore logistics firm CWT – as Chen worked towards his goal of making the group one of the world's largest 100 companies in terms of revenues. But its overseas expansion ground to a halt in the summer of 2017 when Beijing clamped down on Chinese tycoons investing abroad. In an internal notice in June, the banking regulator ordered lenders to check the loans of big spenders, singling out Wanda, Fosun, Anbang and HNA for special scrutiny. In September, Bloomberg reported that at least four of eight banks known to have provided a combined US$1.5 billion worth of short-term financing for HNA's land purchases decided not to renew that credit and did not intend to extend fresh loans to fund construction costs. Liu Junchun, an executive with HNA's private overseas investment unit, told the Post at the time that it had "sufficient capital" to finance its projects. Doubts over HNA's ownership have added to the group's troubles. The Swiss Takeover Board said last week that HNA had given "untrue" details during its acquisition of Gategroup in 2016. On Tuesday, Tan defended HNA's overseas investments, saying the group "earned money in almost all deals" – including more than US$2 billion in eight months on its 25 per cent stake in Hilton Worldwide. When questioned as to whether it would pull out of that deal since Beijing had clearly defined overseas investments in hotels, property and soccer clubs as "irrational", Tan said: "Hilton is not a hotel, it is an investment company." Tan added that HNA had never violated any laws in previous deals. The group had instead received an annual bonus of 20 million yuan (HK$23.54 million) from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the commerce ministry for toeing the government line, Tan said, without elaborating. "We've made many outbound investments, but each of them was approved by the NDRC … and all are compliant with the laws and regulations," Tan said. But HNA is under financial pressure after nearly a decade of spending. A month ago, the group sold a one-year bond at a coupon of 9 per cent, showing the company's eagerness to raise fresh funds to sustain its debt-ridden balance sheet. China's outbound investment jumped to a record high of US$170 billion last year. But amid a government crackdown on "irrational investment" that figure fell 40.9 per cent year on year to US$86.3 billion in the first 10 months of this year. ^ top ^

Mongolian-Swiss joint seminar being held (Montsame)
The Parliamentary Office of Mongolia and the Parliamentary Services of Switzerland are holding a joint seminar on November 27-30 in the State House. The exchange of experience seminar is being held in the frameworks of the 'Strengthening of Local Self-Governing Bodies in Mongolia' project, co-implemented by the State Great Khural of Mongolia, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). The project will wrap up in 2020. The seminar is being attended by Swiss delegates, staff of the Mongolian Parliamentary Office, who will gain insights into the legislative bodies, laws, parliamentary regulations and other procedures in Mongolia and Switzerland. E.Tuvshinjargal, Head of Division of Legal Affairs of the Parliamentary Office opened the seminar and highlighted the role of international cooperation in strengthening the capacity and increasing the productivity of the Parliamentary Office. Gabriella Spirli, Director of Cooperation and Consul General at SDC Office in Mongolia also delivered remarks. ^ top ^

Win a science Nobel and be in the running for a Chinese 'green card' (SCMP)
Two Nobel laureates will be granted Chinese "green cards" as the central government rolls out the red carpet to try to lure the world's top overseas scientists for its research programmes. Dutch chemist Bernard Feringa, who won the Nobel for chemistry last year, will be able to pick up his green card next month for agreeing to head up a team investigating "self-healing materials" at Shanghai's East China University of Science and Technology, according to Liberation Daily. A research centre has also been established Feringa's name in the coastal metropolis. Another recipient is Swiss scientist Kurt Wüthrich, a 2002 Nobel Prize winner in chemistry and head of a research team at ShanghaiTech University looking into human cell receptors. Green cards entitle holders to permanent residency in China, enabling them to stay in the country without having to renew their visas every year. The government launched the scheme in 2004 to attract top talent to help China keep up with the United States and Europe. They are also awarded to investors, executives and individuals who make "outstanding contributions" to the country. But China has set a very high bar for foreign passport holders – to qualify, an applicant must have a high-level position in a key national project or invest at least US$500,000 in western China or poorer regions, among other criteria. In the decade from 2004 to 2013, China granted just 7,356 green cards, compared with the million or so the United States issues each year. But China has stepped up processing somewhat, issuing 1,576 green cards in 2016, more than double the total for 2015, according to the latest data from the Ministry of Public Security. Shanghai has been particularly active in the scheme, with the ministry introducing special rules in the city a year ago to help it deepen its research ranks with streamlined processing of applications. The Shanghai Zhangjiang National Innovation Demonstration Zone, a hi-tech park run by the Shanghai government, has recommended that 30 foreign scientists be granted the green cards. Efforts are also under way elsewhere in the country. Hebei governor Xu Qin reportedly told English biochemist and Nobel laureate Richard Roberts this month that the province planned to develop a "Nobel town" for laureates in the Xiongan New Area, Chinese President Xi Jinping's planned "dream city". While China has the world's second-biggest economy, its record in winning Nobel Prizes is less impressive. Tu Youyou, a 2015 joint recipient in medicine, is the only scientist who studied and worked exclusively in China to win one of the science prizes. Physicist Chen-Ning Frank Yang, also known as Yang Zhenning, won in 1957 when he was in the US. Yang was naturalised as a US citizen in 1964 but renounced it for Chinese citizenship in 2015. About 900,000 foreign passport holders live in China, which has become less welcome in general to citizens of other countries. In 2016, China launched a ranking system based on their "talent" and experience, banning non-native English speakers from teaching in some regions. ^ top ^


Foreign Policy

China, Pakistan pledge more efforts to build economic corridor (Xinhua)
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi promised more efforts to build the cross-border economic corridor during their meeting in Sochi on Thursday. Both leaders are here to attend the 16th meeting of the Council of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Heads of Government (Prime Ministers), which is scheduled for Thursday and Friday. Li told Abbasi that China and Pakistan, as all-weather strategic cooperative partners, have cooperated well in various fields. Positive progress has been made since both countries began building the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor more than four years ago. China is ready to continue building key infrastructure with the Pakistani side, and to carry out cooperation on production capacity, Li said. "China holds high political sincerity in exploring the building of a free trade zone with Pakistan, to promote balanced trade between the two sides and help companies in both countries to cooperate," Li said. Li extended gratitude to his Pakistani counterpart for their help in ensuring safety for Chinese companies and citizens in Pakistan, expecting Pakistan to continue to boost security measures so as to create a favorable environment for bilateral economic cooperation. China would like to continue collaboration with Pakistan in security and defense affairs, and make contribution to regional peace and stability, Li said. Li welcomed Pakistan to attend the SCO meeting for the first time as a full member and China will continue to coordinate with Pakistan closely within the SCO, in other multilateral organizations and on regional affairs. Abassi agreed that Pakistan and China have deep friendship and close cooperation. Both sides are all-weather strategic cooperative partners who share common goals and mutual support. Pakistan will continue high-level exchanges with China, deepen cooperation and add new impetus to the development of bilateral relations, he said. The building of the economic corridor is going smoothly, and Pakistan will advance the project with full force and take concrete measures to ensure safety for the corridor, Abassi said. Pakistan stands ready to cooperate with China within the framework of the SCO, he said, voicing confidence that China, which holds the rotating SCO presidency, will advance the development of the organization. ^ top ^

Xi Jinping praises Barack Obama for contributions to Sino-US ties (SCMP)
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday praised former US leader Barack Obama for his contributions to the Sino-US relationship, state media reported, despite Obama's "pivot to Asia" and tensions over the South China Sea during his term. During talks in Beijing, Xi made "positive remarks" on what Obama had done over his eight-year presidency to develop ties between the two countries, official news agency Xinhua reported. The meeting was part of Obama's first trip to Asia since leaving office and came weeks after Xi hosted US President Donald Trump during a high-profile visit to China. Obama, who championed a "pivot to Asia" policy that Beijing viewed as a bid to contain its ambitions and critics say was largely a failure, said China had made impressive achievements. A constructive US-China relationship was in the interests of both countries' peoples, Obama said, adding that he would continue to play a positive role in promoting mutual understanding and cooperation between the US and China, according to Xinhua. Xi told Obama that the two countries had common interests and an important responsibility in maintaining world peace and facilitating global development, the report said. The Chinese president also briefed Obama on the Communist Party congress last month, which saw Xi further consolidate his grip on power with his name enshrined in the party charter. Relations between Obama and Xi were outwardly positive, but were underscored by tensions over Washington's concerns about human rights in China and the South China Sea disputes. The two cooperated on various initiatives, most prominently the joint ratification of the Paris climate change pact in 2015, which Trump later withdrew from to make the US the sole non-participating nation. Obama arrived in Shanghai on Tuesday, delivering a speech at an event attended by some 2,500 industry executives. After meeting Xi, Obama will travel to New Delhi to meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and speak at the HT Media Leadership Summit, which Modi will also attend. ^ top ^

China, Russia to strengthen air defense, anti-missile cooperation (Xinhua)
China and Russia will strengthen their cooperation in air defense and the anti-missile field, according to the Chinese Ministry of National Defense Thursday. "The militaries of China and Russia will hold a joint anti-missile drill based on computer simulations from Dec. 11 to 16 in Beijing," said Wu Qian, the ministry spokesperson, at a routine press briefing. The drill aims to help the two sides cope with any sudden or provocative attack of ballistic or cruise missiles in the countries' territories, according to Wu. He said that the drill is not directed at any third party, and preparations are already under way. The drill will be the second of its kind for the Chinese and Russian militaries. ^ top ^

Intervention from outside complicates South China Sea situations (Xinhua)
A Chinese military spokesperson Thursday warned countries outside the South China Sea against complicating situations, when commenting on a foreign policy paper issued by Australia earlier this month. As a party not directly concerned in the South China Sea issue, Australia is not in a place to point fingers, Wu Qian, spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense, said at a regular press conference. "We have noticed and opposed the irresponsible remarks on the South China Sea issue in the Australian document," Wu said. Recently the situation in the South China Sea has improved steadily, which proves that countries in the region are capable of negotiating peaceful solutions to the disputes, he said. Australia should keep to its promise of not taking sides, he said. ^ top ^

China expanding global clout as US, EU retreat from global stage (SCMP)
China has been free to quietly advance its global interests and influence as US President Donald Trump and European Union leaders retreat from the world stage amid domestic distractions, according to a new report by leading American and European think tanks. Beijing's growing global clout – visible in its aggressive handling of regional disputes and expansive economic diplomacy – are "undermining" the interests of the US and Europe, which may now be unable to make up lost ground, the report from the Centre for American Progress and the Mercator Institute for China Studies said. This has become particularly apparent under Chinese President Xi Jinping, newly empowered after the 19th Communist Party Congress, as he pushes his government's Belt and Road international trade and infrastructure initiative and depicts himself as a defender of globalisation, it said. "China's influence in Asia has been rising for years, but without a coherent US or European strategy to work with China where possible and push back against China when necessary, the Trump administration and the European Union are allowing regional challenges to fester," Helena Legarda at the Mercator Institute and Michael Fuchs at the Centre for American Progress wrote. While China may not overtake the US' position as world leader yet, a "distracted" US and Europe have allowed Beijing to be more combative in maritime disputes with neighbours in the South and East China Seas, avoid resistance on human rights offences and significantly expand its influence across Asia, Europe and the Middle East, the two analysts found. Trump's "myopic" focus on North Korea and trade issues have damaged American credibility in Asia, they said, as his "America first" protectionism focuses on criticism of existing trade agreements and deficits with US allies, such as Japan and South Korea. It follows the US overall trend of pulling back from its global leadership role, according to the report. Trump abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement and withdrew from the Paris climate accord, making the US the only country in the world to not participate. He has also rowed back on the Iran nuclear deal and his administration withdrew from the UN body Unesco. "The Trump administration is ceding American capacity to shape outcomes, while ignoring major global political shifts taking place," Legarda and Fuchs warned. Meanwhile in Europe, China has made inroads with its vast investments in the European Union – reaching a record US$35 billion last year. These include Chinese state-owned enterprises controlling stakes in regional infrastructure projects, such as a port in Piraeus in Greece and a power plant in Serbia. This has been fuelled by Europe's focus on "trying to manage a newly unreliable US government while focusing on major internal crises, including Brexit, immigration, slow economic growth and the rise of populist right-wing parties", the report said. As the US and Europe disengage from the energy-rich Middle East – with which China has historically had limited ties – this has allowed Beijing to expand its economic, diplomatic and security ties with countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran. The shifts in these power dynamics, with the US and Europe ceding ground for China, are "significant and lasting", Legarda and Fuchs said. "With China's growing reach, it's unclear whether the United States and Europe will be able to make up lost ground when and if they are once again able to adopt robust, focused foreign policies," they wrote. ^ top ^

Canada's Trudeau faces tough China talks on trade deal (SCMP)
Just days ahead of a Beijing visit, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has yet to decide on whether to launch talks on a free trade deal that China has long pressed for and he could face a cool reception over his government's decision to snub Chinese interest in the plane manufacturer Bombardier. China wants a free-trade pact similar to the ones it has with Australia and New Zealand, but Trudeau, aware of domestic unease at the idea, is moving slowly. "No decisions have been taken at this end as a government," a Canadian source familiar with the matter said about the possibility of talks being announced during Trudeau's December 3 to December 7 visit. Trudeau's office declined to comment. Trudeau is caught in a tough position. Although polls consistently show Canadians are split over the merits of a trade deal, Canada needs to diversify exports to offset the possible damage done if the United States pulls out of the Nafta trade pact. Any China trade deal would take a decade to complete, insiders say. The prime minister also faces pressure stemming from distinct signs of impatience from China. Beijing laments what it sees as Canada's "vague thinking" about a deal, said one person briefed on the Chinese position who asked to remain anonymous given the sensitivity of the situation. The Canadian source said the government was aware of Chinese impatience but, while diversification is important, Ottawa was setting "a high bar in terms of what trade means for Canadians". "While they may be impatient to move forward, I think they understand that," the source said. Foreign executives operating in China complain about difficult working conditions, arbitrary decisions by local courts and lack of protection for intellectual property rights. The visit comes as plane maker Bombardier Inc is eager to win a breakthrough order from Chinese carriers for its CSeries jet, whose fuselage is made in China. But the chance of nabbing such deals has become more cloudy after Canada encouraged Bombardier to sell a controlling stake in the CSeries programme to Airbus SE rather than a Chinese firm. Some Chinese commentators called Bombardier "mad" for spurning a China tie-up, while others expressed dismay, saying it was a missed opportunity to gain access to the firm's valuable technology. Trudeau, who will meet President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, agreed last year to hold annual talks with senior Chinese figures. An official Chinese statement on Trudeau's visit did not mention trade once. ^ top ^

Australian lawmaker Sam Dastyari resigns roles over dealings with Chinese businessman (SCMP)
An Australian lawmaker resigned from his leadership roles in the opposition party on Thursday over scandals involving a wealthy Chinese businessman and political donor that have raised accusations of China buying influence. Senator Sam Dastyari had been deputy whip in the centre-left Labor Party and chairman of a parliamentary committee examining the future of journalism before resigning over his dealings with Chinese Communist Party-linked businessman Huang Xiangmo. Fairfax Media reported this week that Dastyari gave Huang counter-surveillance advice when they met at the businessman's Sydney mansion in October last year. Dastyari suggested the pair leave their phones inside the house and go outside to speak in case Australian intelligence services were listening, Fairfax reported. Dastyari has not denied the reports but said he had no knowledge about whether Huang was under Australian surveillance at the time. Opposition leader Bill Shorten demanded Dastyari's resignation from his leadership roles late Wednesday after media broadcast audio of the senator misleading Chinese journalists last year on the Labor Party's policy on the South China Sea territorial disputes. Australia maintains that China should respect international law, and an arbitration ruling last year found China's broad claims to the sea were legally baseless. But Dastyari told Chinese reporters at a news conference in Sydney attended by Huang that Australia should observe "several thousand years of history" by respecting Chinese claims over most of the South China Sea. The phrasing mirrors China's stance. Dastyari told the Senate on Thursday the recording "shocked me because it did not match my recollection of events." "I want to be absolutely clear: I could not be a prouder Australian," the Iranian-born migrant told the Senate. "I find the inferences that I'm anything but a patriotic Australian deeply hurtful. Nonetheless, I'm not without fault." Government lawmakers on Thursday called on Dastyari to quit Parliament because he had been prepared to help a foreign national avoid Australian security surveillance. The Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (Asio), the nation's main spy agency, said in October it is was unable to keep up with the growing level of "harmful espionage and foreign interference" operations being carried out in Australia. Asio also said foreign governments have been attempting to covertly "shape the opinions" of the Australian public and media. In 2015, Asio cautioned against accepting political donations from Huang because he was suspected conduit to the Chinese Communist Party. Huang did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday. With concerns over Chinese political influence in Australia and Russian interference in the US presidential election, an Australian parliamentary committee recommended in March a ban on political donations from foreign companies and individuals. Unlike the US and many other countries that ban foreign donations, Australian law has never distinguished between donors from Australia and overseas. ^ top ^

Xi says comprehensive, just settlement of Palestinian issue conducive to world peace (Xinhua)
Chinese President Xi Jinping said Wednesday that a comprehensive and just settlement of the Palestinian issue is in the interest of regional countries and their people, including Palestine, and is conducive to promoting global peace and stability. Xi made the remarks in a congratulatory message as the United Nations marked the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. The Palestinian issue is the root problem of the Middle East issues, which is of great concern for long-lasting peace, prosperity and development of the Middle East countries, including Palestine, Xi said. Achieving a comprehensive and just settlement of the Palestinian issue at an early date is in the interest of regional countries and their people, including Palestine, and is conducive to promoting global peace and stability, he said. China firmly supports Palestinian-Israeli peace, Xi said, adding that the four-point propositions proposed by China in July to promote settling the Palestinian issue aim to push Palestine and Israel to rebuild mutual trust and strive for an early resumption of peace talks. As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and a responsible major country, China is willing to work with the international community to make unremitting efforts to achieve comprehensive, just and long-lasting peace in the Middle East at an early date, Xi added. ^ top ^

Suu Kyi to visit China for 3rd time (Global Times)
Myanmar is enhancing ties with China as its State Counselor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi has planned to visit China this week, her third time in two years to promote the country's economic development and political stability, Chinese experts said. Suu Kyi will make a "work visit" to Beijing in the near future to take part in a meeting arranged by the Communist Party of China (CPC), Myanmar Times reported on Wednesday. The information has yet to be confirmed. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told a daily briefing in Beijing on Tuesday that political parties from quite a few countries will send representatives to the meeting but he is not aware of the information on the participants of the meeting. "The Rohingya issue in Rakhine state will be on Suu Kyi's agenda as the Myanmar government is under great pressure from the West. Earlier, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi proposed a solution to help settle the issue," Gu Xiaosong, an expert on Southeast Asian studies at South China's Guangxi Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Wednesday. During his visit to Myanmar, Wang expressed China's support for Myanmar's domestic peace process in a joint meeting with the press together with Suu Kyi, the Xinhua News Agency reported. The number of Rohingya refugees who have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh since August 25 has reached 624,000, said the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on Monday, Xinhua reported. "Suu Kyi is trying to balance its ties with the West and China. Despite her close relations with Western countries, Suu Kyi is also the leader of Myanmar, who will prioritize her country's interests and develop good ties with China," Gu said. Financial Times reported that Suu Kyi's planned visit to Beijing is "a sign that Myanmar is drawing closer to Beijing" as international condemnation of the Rohingya issue rises. "Ties between China and Myanmar have deepened in recent years as high-level exchanges have become more frequent, especially after China played an impartial mediator on the Rohingya issue, which has earned Myanmar's trust," Zhu Zhenming, a professor at the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Wednesday. Suu Kyi attended the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing in May and visited China in August 2016 after becoming Myanmar's leader. Suu Kyi's planned visit to China comes on the heels of Myanmarese military chief Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing's visit to Beijing last week. Zhu also said that Myanmar has benefited from promoting ties with China on economic development under the Belt and Road initiative. "Unlike lip-service from some Western countries, as a neighboring country, China has offered unconditional assistance to Myanmar on economic development and disaster relief, which also help promote political stability in Myanmar," noted Zhu. "As the leader of the ruling National League for Democracy, Suu Kyi's visit to Beijing would also enhance exchanges and mutual trust between her party and the CPC. The National League for Democracy would learn from the CPC's experience," Zhu said. The CPC in Dialogue with World Political Parties High-level Meeting will be held in Beijing from Thursday to Sunday. ^ top ^

Can South Korea honor its commitment? (Global Times)
South Korean opposition parties and some media outlets have harshly criticized the nation's Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and her three-point pledge to China on the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system. Kang said that Seoul will not add to the existing THAAD system, not participate in the US-led missile defense system, and not participate in the proposed Japan-South Korea-US military alliance. South Korean officials have repeatedly stated that the three-no position is not a commitment, but merely a description of its stance, and it does not include one restriction - restricting the operation of the THAAD system in order to not harm China's strategic security interests. During a meeting between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Kang on November 22, Wang urged South Korea to honor its word. However, it seems a bit daunting to expect Seoul to keep its posture given its current wrangling and wavering over the issue. Over the THAAD issue, to which China attaches great importance, South Korea expressed a stance which is regarded by China as a condition for improving bilateral relations. According to the general understanding of the Chinese people and the world, it is a promise, and therefore should be fulfilled. If South Koreans are upholding another standard of ethical and trustworthy behavior - one which is solemnly stated on a diplomatic occasion but is only aimed at gaining interests and can be disposed of right after the country reaches its goal - they should tell us in advance. Moreover, South Korea has repeatedly promised China that the THAAD system in South Korea is not aimed at China, does not threaten China's national security and it will only be used to cope with the nuclear threat from North Korea. Nevertheless, as we all know, the system's range can cover north and northeastern China. If the THAAD system's operations will not be restricted, how do we ensure that it will only be used against Pyongyang and will definitely not jeopardize China's security? Due to Seoul's variable modes over the issue, the prospects for improving bilateral ties are even more pessimistic than before. Although South Korean President Moon Jae-in will visit China soon, ups and downs in relations between Beijing and Seoul will be inevitable in the future. Undoubtedly, Chinese people hope the two countries can step out of the logjam. But the root cause of the stalemate is that China's national security is threatened by moves from the US-South Korean military alliance, such as the deployment of THAAD. The three-no position and one restriction are Seoul's commitment to remove the threats. They are the bottom line if South Korea wants to be a friendly country to China. The process of resolving the THAAD issue has just started. Before the system is withdrawn from South Korea, it is impossible for the two countries to turn over a new leaf in their relationship. Seoul should not expect it can fool China by saying something nice first and then swallow half of its words back, as if the controversy over THAAD never occurred. ^ top ^

Closer ties with China will boost prosperity in eastern Europe (SCMP)
China's premier outlined his hope on Monday that his country's closer cooperation with central and eastern Europe will help foster prosperity in the region. At a summit of 16 countries in the Hungarian capital Budapest, Premier Li Keqiang said efforts such as China's "New Silk Road" initiative to expand trade across Asia, Africa and Europe, should be a boon to the countries that were formally part of the communist bloc. "Our aim is to see a prospering Europe," he said, adding that the closer ties with the 16 countries, which includes 11 European Union members, would usefully complement EU-China relations. China's rapid economic growth has seen the country ratchet up its spending on the global stage and the "Silk Road" prospect is a key trade effort. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, host of the "16+1" summit, said the region was in need of external technological and financial resources, including from China, to grow. "European resources are in themselves insufficient," Orban said. "For this reason we welcome the fact that as part of the new economic world order, China sees this region as one in whose progress and development it wants to be present." Orban mentioned the reconstruction of a railway line between Budapest and Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, a project financed mainly by China, as a "flagship project" of China's increased presence in the region. Orban said that the upgraded railway line could become the fastest transport route to western Europe of China's New Silk Road. Li laid out his hope that the countries of eastern Europe, which generally are poorer than those in the west, will account for more of China's imports, which should total some US$8 trillion over the next five years. "We hope the central and eastern European countries find their place in this volume and expand their presence on the huge Chinese market," Li told an economic forum held during the summit. Orban, who has closed off his country to most migration from outside Europe, especially Muslims, said Europe needed strong allies to confront the historical challenges it is faced with. "If Europe shuts itself in, it loses the possibility of growth," Orban said. "We 16 have always been open and would always like to remain so. We always saw cooperation with China as a great opportunity." Orban has been keen to pursue a policy of "Eastern Opening" for Hungary, looking to increase trade with Asia while portraying western Europe as economically challenged and losing its global standing. His stance is seen as an effort to discredit criticism from the European Union that he is undermining democratic principles. "We see the Chinese president's 'Belt and Road Initiative' initiative as the new form of globalisation which does not divide the world into teachers and students, but is based on common respect and common advantages," Orban said. ^ top ^

Indian Ocean military drill irresponsible (Global Times)
Indian military drills in the Indian Ocean targeting China were irresponsible and a violation of International Law, Chinese experts said. The recent military exercise conducted in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands was intended to counter China's maritime movements in the Indian Ocean region, Times of India reported Friday. The "Defense of A&N Islands Exercise," conducted between November 20 and 24, included fighters, heavy-lift transport aircraft, warships, infantry combat vehicles, special forces and regular troops, according to the newspaper's report. The exercise could be used to design a response to the regular appearance of "Chinese nuclear and conventional submarines" in the Indian Ocean, the report said. Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, told Global Times the military drill targeting China's right of passage in international waters was irresponsible and narrow-minded, as China has never threatened India's security, "Chinese vessels including submarines entering the Indian Ocean are completely reasonable and lawful. China's future actions in the Indian Ocean will not be affected by India," Zhao Gancheng, director of South Asia Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, told the Global Times on Sunday. India's navy regularly deploys its Poseidon-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft and spy drones stationed on the Andaman and Nicobar islands to monitor movements of Chinese ships, said Times of India. In recent years, China deployed vessels to conduct anti-piracy patrols and escort missions in the Gulf of Aden, as requested by other nations and to meet its UN obligations, noted Li. "It should be stressed that the Indian Ocean belongs to all mankind, and India's actions are an attempt to turn the ocean into India's territorial waters, which is a violation of International Law," Li said. Meanwhile, India's army has also ramped up it road building along the Sino-Indian border and purchased road laying machinery, dual track mine detectors and excavators aiming at providing "swift movement of troops whenever necessary," according to report of the Indian news agency PTI. Zhao said that India's confrontational ways of dealing with China are not likely to soften any time soon, and the two countries should enhance communication to develop more mutual trust. ^ top ^

US, Japan, India, Australia... is Quad the first step to an Asian Nato? (SCMP)
It's more than just changing the name of the 'Asia-Pacific' to the 'Indo-Pacific' – the 'Quad' grouping of like-minded democracies has the potential to dramatically change the region's security landscape. IT is no longer the "Asia-Pacific", but the "Indo-Pacific", at least, according to the United States and some of its allies. Such a change may not seem much on first glance, but these four letters are far more than a matter of semantics: they have the potential to create a seismic shift in the geopolitical landscape of the region. This much was evidenced when the US, Japan, Australia and India announced this month they had agreed to create a coalition that would patrol and exert influence on waterways from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific to the (much disputed) East and South China Seas. The grouping of the four "like-minded" democracies – known as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad – was first mooted by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2007, but the idea was dropped after Beijing protested, saying the defence partnership with India was aimed at stifling China's growth. It made a sudden comeback when senior officials from the four nations met in Manila on November 11 – on the sidelines of regional summits during US President Donald Trump's maiden tour to East Asia. Obviously, the group will have a China-centric security agenda. The Quad's rebirth highlights the growing suspicion and unease diplomats in Washington, Tokyo, Canberra and New Delhi feel about China's meteoric military and economic rise. In a statement after the meeting, the four nations said they were committed to ensuring a "free and open" region, with "respect for international law", and "the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific", a reference to what they see as China's flouting of territorial, maritime and trade rules – including Beijing's rejection of an international tribunal's ruling against it regarding its South China Sea dispute with the Philippines. The new strategy to confront China head on with a unified front underscored a growing regional competition between Beijing and Washington. The Quad meeting came as the US appeared to be shifting strategic focus. As Trump was visiting East Asia, he too referred to the region as the "Indo-Pacific" rather than the "Asia-Pacific" – a clear shot at Beijing. The strategy appears to be part of Trump's "hard-balancing" of his East Asia diplomatic policy. He sees it as a way to keep a US presence in the region after abandoning his predecessor Barack Obama's 'pivot to Asia' and withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Those moves could be interpreted as a sign of passivity in the region. Although a dominant power in the Pacific since the end of the second world war, the US's diplomatic and military might have rarely extended past the Indian Ocean. However, the new accord shows Washington's commitment – on both diplomatic and security fronts – to the region and highlights the importance of India as an ally. Smaller nations, such as South Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam, might also benefit from a US-led partnership in a multipolar "Indo-Pacific" to check China's power. It also underlines the rising significance of maritime geopolitics in an increasingly integrated world. Economically, the strategy can be seen as an answer to China's Belt and Road Initiative, which seeks to establish a China-centric trade route from the Philippines to the Mediterranean Sea. Though the Quad members have not said their aim is to contain the world's last major communist-ruled nation, they see the rise of totalitarianism as a potential threat to regional and global stability and peace. The grouping has said its aim is to promote freedom, liberty and democracy and to make sure liberalism prevails over totalitarianism in the region. What might define this accord more than its shared ideology, is the lack of competing interests on regional security issues, including the South and East China Seas and North Korea. The aegis these democracies create has the potential to develop into an Asian Nato – and dramatically change the region's security landscape in the decades ahead. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

CPC to promote transparency in party affairs (Xinhua)
A regulation to promote transparency in party affairs was reviewed and passed at a meeting of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee on Thursday. The meeting was presided over by Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee. Promoting transparency in party affairs is "an important step" for the implementation of the spirit of the 19th National Congress of the CPC and a must to developing intra-party democracy and socialist democratic politics, according to a statement issued after the meeting. The move is of great significance in advancing strict party governance and strengthening intra-party supervision, as well as in arousing the enthusiasm, proactivity and creativity of the whole party, it said. Promoting transparency in party affairs is of strong political and policy essence, thus should adhere to the right direction and implement Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, said the statement. Transparency in party affairs should be carried out in the practice of upholding and developing socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era and advancing the great new project of party building, it noted. The requirements of upholding and improving the CPC leadership should be implemented in the whole process and all aspects of opening party affairs, it said. Efforts should be made to promote intra-party democracy to protect party members' rights to know, participate, vote and supervise, and to respond to the concerns of party members and the public in a timely manner. All party committees should enhance their leadership over the work and carry out the regulation (for trial implementation) in light of realities, while making sure the regulation is studied, publicized and interpreted, it said. ^ top ^

Evictions waken Beijing middle class to plight of migrant workers (SCMP)
Becky Zhang, an information technology programme manager, shares one trait with many of her fellow residents on the outskirts of Beijing – previously she rarely paid much attention to the plight of migrant workers who crammed into ramshackle or substandard homes in her district. But the sudden eviction of thousands of the area's poorest residents from "illegal structures" in the wake of a deadly fire in the capital earlier this month has opened her eyes. "Where will they go?" Zhang said. "If they return home, can they find a job or be able to support their family? Must they be evicted in such a rigid, uniform way?" Beijing's authorities have moved to evict thousands of people, mainly poorer migrant workers, in the safety crackdown after a fire killed 19 people. Some were forced out of their rented accommodation amid freezing temperatures with only a few days' notice – sometimes even within hours. The migrant workers' plight has struck a nerve among the area's residents, particularly among the middle class and educated. Zhang admitted she has a vested interest in the migrant workers remaining in the city. She enjoyed buying fresh produce from the small fruit stands the workers operated locally. "The inconvenience in [my] life accounts for only a small part of my feelings," she said. "I don't care for the way migrant workers are being treated – that they had to be evicted from their home within hours in such cold weather." Photographs and reports of the forced evictions have shocked social media users as the authorities' crackdown quickly spread from the Daxing district to other corners of the capital. In a rare show of unity, those who live in relative comfort in the area expressed their fury online about the iron-fisted way the eviction campaign has been carried out. Beijing Communist Party chief, Cai Qi, has finally spoke publicly about the issue, saying those to be evicted should be given time to move out, the Beijing Daily reported on Monday. Zhang said she understood why it was necessary to remove unsafe structures after the fire, but it would have been better to improve the safety of migrant workers' homes rather than kicking them out. "They have made their contributions to the development of the city," said Zhang, who was born and raised in Beijing. "As much as I understand the government is doing this to improve safety, I think the right way is to improve their housing rather than forcing them out." Feng Guofei, a 25-year-old magazine editor, said the government's campaign would have been better received if it had been carried out over a reasonable period of time to give residents time to prepare to move on. "It take times to eliminate safety risk, but it also takes time for the migrant workers to prepare for moving out," said Feng. Li Wei, a government worker, also joined the chorus of disapproval over the eviction campaign. It was right to move people out of unsafe houses crammed with tenants or with faulty electric wiring, but wrong to force them out without giving them a proper opportunity to organise their departure, she said. "Or even better, why not build safe flats for those migrant workers to rent?" Li said. "There are different kinds of houses for Beijing residents of lower income." However, Jessica Zhang, a 35-year-old office worker, backed the clean-up campaign. "It should have happened a long time ago" because illegal structures such as outdoor food stalls made the streets narrow and dirty, she said. She added that the government was at fault for allowing illegal construction to get out of hand. "Where were they when illegal construction started?" she said. "This whole eviction could have been avoided." Hu Xijin, the chief editor of the normally hawkish state-run tabloid the Global Times, has voiced concerns that the evictions will hurt the economy while causing the public to worry about how the people forced out will make a living. "These are real concerns among the public," Hu wrote on social media. "I hope the relevant authority will clear up doubts and stabilise morale." Sima Nan, a leftist scholar and social commentator appealed on social media for leaders to "feel the sentiments of the people and understand the hardship of people's livelihood". More than 100 Chinese intellectuals have also signed a letter urging the Beijing municipal authorities to stop forcing migrant workers from their homes in the name of safety. ^ top ^

Chinese premier steps up fight against AIDS (Xinhua)
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has called for better HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment to build a healthy China. HIV/AIDS is detrimental to people's health and lives, Li wrote ahead of the 30th World AIDS Day which falls on Friday, adding that prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS constituted a key part in the "Healthy China" campaign. While commending progress in keeping HIV/AIDS infections at a low level, Li ordered government departments at all levels to invest more and "break through the bottleneck" in research of AIDS prevention and treatment. He said efforts must also be made to improve prevention and treatment and to provide more targeted services with more support for impoverished groups. ^ top ^

Xi says disabled people "equal members of the global family" (Xinhua)
Chinese President Xi Jinping has said that people with disabilities are "equal members of the global family," and the world needs to pay special attention to taking care of the disabled. He made the remarks in a congratulatory letter to the High-level Intergovernmental Meeting on the Midpoint Review of the Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities (2013-2022), which opened Monday in Beijing. The president hailed progress made in the welfare of disabled people in China since the reform and opening-up drive was launched about 40 years ago. Xi said China was committed to a people-centered approach and ensuring and improving people's living standards through development, stated in the report delivered at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China held in October. "China will continue to promote comprehensive development and common prosperity of disabled people," Xi said. He also noted that the country would always promote common development in the international cause of the disabled, including within the Asia-Pacific region. With the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the protection of equal rights and the improvement of integrative development for disabled people have been acknowledged and encouraged by the international community. Advocated by China, the Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities was initiated in Beijing to help Asian and Pacific countries and regions to communicate and learn from each other. It is considered a strong model of regional cooperation in protecting disabled people. ^ top ^

Chinese movie industry must reflect the country's socialist core values (Global Times)
Chinese movie celebrities should take responsibility to convey socialist core values with Chinese characteristics to the public and express confidence in their culture as they present quality works to the world, said analysts after a reported forum for people in the film industry on Sunday. More than 100 China's first-tier filmmakers including some of the country's most popular movie actors gathered in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province, to study and implement the spirit of the 19th Communist Party of China's National Congress, local media platform reported. It is imperative for young moviemakers to unite their thoughts and actions to stay in line with the spirit of the 19th CPC National Congress, and to produce great stories for the screen under the guideline of socialism with Chinese characteristics, said Zhang Hongsen, deputy head of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) in an address to the filmmakers, writers and actors attending the forum held in Xixi, Hangzhou. Zhang also urged the celebrity audience to be confident in the Chinese culture, to carry forward and enrich Chinese socialist core values, to celebrate and applaud the new era, while stressing that the quality of movie products should be enhanced and Chinese moviemakers should overcome difficulties and strive to improve the quality of their works. Among the celebrities attending the forum was martial arts expert Wu Jing, the lead actor and director of the Wolf Warrior II, the biggest blockbuster in China this year. Also attending were Wang Junkai, Lu Han and Wu Yifan, young idols who have some of the largest number of followers on Chinese social media. The celebrity audience nodded approvingly at Zhang's speech, some raised their hands for the chance to speak at the lecture, reported "To march into the 'new era' proudly, first we should cherish it," Wu said at the forum, "foreigners tend to attach great attention to the Chinese movie market rather than Chinese movies." "Hollywood only asks for good ideas but never gives their core technologies to make these ideas become real works, and by doing so lures our young talents. So it is important for us in the business to use our Chinese wisdom to tell great Chinese stories," Wu added. Lu Han, who was born in 1990, and has over 42 million followers on Sina Weibo, China's twitter like platform, also told the forum that his generation grew up in an environment with greater influence from overseas culture than previous generations. But he has felt growing pride in the extensive and profound Chinese culture, and vowed to promote traditional Chinese culture into the world. Such forums provide a platform for Party agencies and government departments to resolve issues with moviemakers through direct communication, said Chen Shan, a professor at the Beijing Film Academy. Chen told the Global Times on Wednesday that the Chinese movie industry is at a crossroads. While the film sector has now built a solid infrastructure, moviemakers must improve their 'cultural cultivation' and tell China's stories more beautifully. Chinese movies lack but need world vision and moviemakers should strive to connect Chinese culture to the world in a more effective way, Chen added. Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, said at the opening of the 19th CPC National Congress on October 18 that cultural confidence represents a fundamental and profound force that sustains the development of a country and a nation. "We should cherish our cultural roots, draw on other cultures, and be forward-thinking. We should do more to foster a Chinese spirit, Chinese values, and Chinese strength to provide a source of cultural and moral guidance for our people," Xi said. The development of the Chinese movie industry cannot be done without talented young people, and it also cannot be done without the Party guidance, Su Wei, a professor at the Party School of the CPC Chongqing Municipal Committee, told the Global Times. Celebrities are also from and part of the people, and their "pop celebrity status" could also help Chinese socialist core values reach to the country's youth, Su said. Chen agrees "Chinese movie actors or directors must be different from those from capitalist countries, and they should take responsibility to convey the country's core values to the public." According to the SAPPRFT, as of November China's 2017 box office exceeded 50 billion yuan ($7.6 billion), the first time the country has broken the 50-billion-yuan mark. Revenue from domestic movies reached 26.2 billion yuan, accounting for 52.4 percent of the total, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Monday. ^ top ^

Military casualties: top Chinese officers to die since the launch of Xi Jinping's anti-graft drive (SCMP)
General Zhang Yang, a former head of the powerful Central Military Commission's (CMC) political work department, committed suicide last week while under investigated for corruption, Chinese state media reported on Tuesday. Zhang was one of the highest ranked military chiefs to die under a cloud since Chinese President Xi Jinping launched his anti-graft campaign after taking office in November 2012. Other prominent serving and former members of the military to die in the last five years include: Xu Caihou: A CMC vice-chairman under former president Hu Jintao, Xu retired from the military in 2012. He came under investigation for corruption in March 2014 and was expelled from the Communist Party in June 2014. About a year into the investigation, Xu died in hospital of advanced bladder cancer, Xinhua reported in March 2015. He was accused of taking "huge amounts of bribes personally and through his family", abusing his position to promote favoured candidates. According to Chinese media, it took a week to catalogue all the cash, jewels and antiques amassed in Xu's Beijing home, and 12 trucks to remove the haul. Ma Faxiang: Vice-admiral Ma Faxiang was the second-highest ranking member of the People's Liberation Army Navy when he jumped to his death from a military building in Beijing in November 2014. At the time he was the navy's deputy commissar, a position that put him in charge of ideological matters and education in the PLA. Ma was thought to be connected to Xu and Guo Boxiong, another former CMC vice-chairman caught up in the anti-corruption campaign. Jiang Zhonghua: Rear admiral Jiang of the navy's South Sea Fleet armaments department was the No 3 ranked navy official when he plunged to his death from a hotel building just two months before Ma's death. Jiang died in Zhoushan, Zhejiang province, on September 2, 2014, but there was not official announcement about his death. Jiang is said to be connected to the corruption cases of former CMC vice-chairmen Xu and Guo. Chen Jie: Chen, a major general, was found dead in his barracks after overdosing on sleeping pills last year. He was the political commissar of a major army group under the PLA's Southern Theatre Command and sources said he was about to be promoted. His suicide came after the military launched a formal investigation into general Tian Xiusi, a former political chief of the air force and a member of the party's elite Central Committee. ^ top ^

Cyber rumors must be effectively addressed (Global Times)
Police have disclosed the preliminary results of the investigation into the alleged child abuse at the RYB Education-run kindergarten in Beijing's Chaoyang district. One of the kindergarten teachers has been sent to criminal detention, which seems to indicate there was abuse. Another 31-year-old woman, who admitted fabricating fake news claiming that members of the so-called "Tiger Group" - a Chinese infantry division - had also sexually molested the children, is also being held in administrative detention. Tennis star Li Na and CCTV anchor Wang Xiaoqian were denounced by many Chinese netizens for retweeting a cartoon which insinuated that the "Tiger Group" was involved in sexually abusing children. Both Li and Wang have implicitly explained or directly apologized. Once a news item goes viral, there are bound to be many rumors and much speculation on the Internet along with genuine information. But the rumors are often more eye-catching, which can easily guide public opinion. Take the case of RYB Education, the speculation of the "Tiger Group" was quite absurd, yet it was the object of many people's rage. The rumormonger is without doubt responsible for that. But obviously, one woman does not have the power to deceive all netizens. Many people participated in hyping the story, and it was this that empowered the rumor and turned it into a destructive force. The Internet is like a tropical ocean, and a tiny move of a butterfly's wings might create a huge storm. Internet rumors could be instigated by external hostile forces, however it is not always the case. Reducing Internet rumors is a major task and it is a baffling puzzle for many countries. So far, effective methods are very limited. China has been through a rough time due to Internet gossip, and so it should speed up the exploration of how to get online rumors under control. Rumormongers and those that maliciously spread their rumors must face punishment and be held accountable according to law. The deterrent is essential to ensure the public has the correct attitude toward rumors, so the punishment shouldn't be too lenient. To curb large-scale rumors, besides legal assistance, the authorities must provide timely information on issues that are likely to trend. If there is an event of public concern, people's request for authoritative information must be met, otherwise, rumors will fill the void. The public opinion incidents in the past have repeatedly proven this rule. If authoritative information is absent, rumors will go crazy. Even apparently incredible rumors, for instance, children being collectively sexually abused by "Tiger Group" members with assistance of a kindergarten, have gone viral. Many people doubted it, but they retweeted it anyway. Online rumors can be amplified by the "crowd effect," and in the process, it could be exploited by people with malicious motivation. We must address this situation by uncovering the bad guy, but also by dealing with the "crowd effect." ^ top ^



Investigators target Beijing officials over deadly fire and kindergarten furore (SCMP)
Authorities in Beijing are investigating more than a dozen officials over their roles in a deadly fire and a kindergarten child abuse case, two scandals that have rattled the capital in the last fortnight. In the township of Xihongmen in Beijing's southern Daxing district, two officials had been suspended from their jobs while 10 others were subject to a disciplinary investigation over a blaze in a residential complex that killed 19 people on November 18, state media reported on Wednesday. A deputy district chief has also been suspended from his job for failing to enforce safety checks, while the district's former No 2 official resigned on Wednesday. Eight people were also under arrest in relation to the fire, Xinhua reported. In the eastern district of Chaoyang, the Communist Party was investigating two officials at an education watchdog over alleged "lack of supervision over private education institutions" amid claims of child abuse at the RYB Education New World kindergarten in the district. A section head overseeing private schools in the area was also accused of failing in his job responsibilities and was being investigated, the report said. Beijing police have already detained a 22-year-old teacher at the preschool for allegedly pricking children with sewing needles to discipline them. Two people have also been accused of spreading false online rumours of abuse at the kindergarten. On Monday, Beijing party chief Cai Qi told a meeting on safety that the deadly fire and allegations of child abuse had both "touched the bottom line of the capital's safety and stability". The two events have prompted a rare public outburst of fury towards the government. Much of the criticism has been directed at the capital's 40-day safety campaign launched in response to the fire, a crackdown that has forced tens of thousands of migrant workers to leave the city. ^ top ^



Tibetan Buddhist monks study 19th Party congress (Global Times)
Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns in Qinghai and Sichuan provinces were recently organized to study the report to the 19th National Congress, which experts said on Tuesday would help maintain regional stability and combat the Dalai Lama clique's separatist activities. The governments of Northwest China's Qinghai Province and Southwest China's Sichuan Province reportedly provided training and literature on the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) for Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns more than a month after the Party congress was held in Beijing in October. Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, said in the 19th National Congress report that "we will uphold the principle that religions in China must be Chinese in orientation and provide active guidance to religions so that they can adapt themselves to socialist society." Leaders from five religious communities - Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism - reached a consensus in September that "the direction of religions is to integrate them with Chinese culture," the Xinhua News Agency reported in September. "The CPC sticks with a dialectical materialist point of view but religious people hold theism, which doesn't contradict each other. Studying the report to the 19th National Congress won't make religious people change or abandon their beliefs," Zhu Weiqun, chairman of the Ethnic and Religious Committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, told the Global Times on Tuesday. "It is vital for religious people to understand and follow the CPC's policies, especially as the Dalai Lama clique attempts to permeate Tibetan Buddhism with separatism," Zhu said. China has strengthened management of monasteries in the fight against the Dalai Lama group, including sending officials who are responsible for helping handle affairs in monasteries, Xinhua reported in March. Zhu also pointed out that some foreign media or forces always criticize China's religious policies, but "they have little knowledge of China's situation and have no right to make irresponsible statements about our religious policies." It is essential for religious people to understand the report to the 19th National Congress, which would also help maintain regional stability, experts said on Tuesday. The Qinghai provincial government had distributed 400,000 copies of publicity materials on the CPC's 19th National Congress to the public, grass-root Party members as well as monks and nuns from monasteries in the province, Qinghai Daily reported. Those materials, including 300,000 copies of the report to the 19th National Congress in the Tibetan language and 100,000 copies of 100 questions on the spirit of 19th National Congress, will be sent to every family, Tibetan Party member and monk at Buddhist temples in Qinghai, the report said. "The CPC has the leadership over all national affairs, including religion. Only with the guidance of the CPC and the report to the 19th Congress can religious regions enjoy further development and prosperity," Su Wei, a professor at the Party School of the Chongqing Municipal Committee, told the Global Times on Tuesday. "Almost every citizen in China is studying the report to the 19th National Congress as it relates to our daily lives and the interests of every ethnic group, not just religious people," Zhu said. "Under the CPC's religious policies, ethnic and religious regions in China have significantly developed and prospered. We have a long-term tradition of studying the Party's policies and the tradition shall continue," Zhu said. Aside from Qinghai, monks and nuns in Sichuan Province's ethnic minority areas, including the Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture and Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, are also studying the report of the 19th National Congress, the Guangming Daily reported. The Qinghai government also sent a publicity group to lecture on the essence of the 19th National Congress, covering all Tibetan Buddhist temples in the region, Qinghai Daily reported. ^ top ^

China's under-20 footballers to return home after German tour is suspended over Tibet protests (SCMP)
The Chinese FA will bring its under-20 team will return home from Germany after indefinitely suspending its tour over protests by activists who unfurled Tibetan flags at a game. The youth team had been scheduled to play a series of friendlies against German fourth-tier sides as part of a project to improve China's chances at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. But the project has proved controversial and become a diplomatic headache for Berlin and Beijing after a pro-Tibetan independence protest during a match in Mainz on November 18. China's players left the pitch for around 20 minutes in protest after the banners were unveiled in the game against regional side TSV Schott Mainz which the hosts won 3-0. The German football association (DFB) said last week that the Chinese Under-20s would not play the three matches scheduled before the end of the year. Then on Sunday its Chinese counterpart, the CFA, added: "It has been decided to pause the U20 project and arrangements have been made for the team to return home." ^ top ^

China may resume soccer ties if Germany shows respect (Global Times)
Sino-German soccer cooperation may continue as long as the German authorities handle properly, as a responsible host, an incident involving a Chinese team being interrupted by local Tibetan separatists, experts said Monday. The Chinese Football Association (CFA) announced on Sunday that it has suspended a Sino-German soccer cooperation project, where China's Under-20 Team were originally scheduled to play in a German fourth-tier league through May 2018, after the Chinese team's debut was interrupted by local Tibetan separatists and the German side said they cannot ban such protests. The CFA has also arranged for the departure of the Chinese team in Germany because "China's state interests cannot be harmed," according to a statement released on Sunday on the CFA's website. The statement came after the Chinese team's debut in the German regional southwest league in Mainz on November 18. During the game, six people, including four alleged Tibetan refugees and two Germans, unfurled "Tibetan flags," causing the Chinese team to walk off the pitch, the Guardian reported on Sunday. In its statement, the CFA called the incident "regrettable," as the German Football Association (DFB) failed to deliver a guarantee that similar events would not happen again. "We believe this adjournment is essential in order to give us the time to discuss the situation calmly and openly and find a reasonable solution… The two federations will try to work out a way of restarting the project again quickly," Ronny Zimmermann, vice-president of the German association, was cited by the Guardian as saying. Sports events should not be affected by non-sports factors and such incidents are not only against the fundamental principles of friendly Sino-German relationships but are also out of line with the FIFA (football's international governing body) regulations, the CFA said. "We cannot ban the protests," Zimmermann said, claiming that "there is the right to freedom of expression here and certain rules apply." However, Sun Jin, a Chinese professor in Germany for academic exchange activities, told the Global Times on Monday that "what the Tibetan separatists have done is aimed at splitting China and should not be protected by the excuse of freedom of speech as the German side claimed. The Chinese side is justified in adopting 'zero tolerance' against it." Klaus Schlappne, a German soccer coach who trained China's national team in the 1990s, told the newspaper Deutsche Welle on Sunday that the DFB's response to the incident severely damaged Sino-German friendship, and achievements over the years have been also destroyed by such a rash move. "The Tibet question touches on China's core interests and the Chinese people's national sentiments," said China's Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang on November 20. Such an incident might be unpredictable for the German host before it takes place, but it cannot be left unresolved, let alone encouraged in the name of "freedom of speech," Wang Dazhao, a Beijing-based soccer commentator, told the Global Times on Monday. Germany, which has hosted the Olympic Games and World Cup, knows what is allowed at a sporting event, and it has taken measures to curb them, Wang said. Soccer cooperation on many levels, including the under-20 team in Germany, between the two nations, will continue as long as the German government shows its proper attitude and handles the issue as a responsible host, Wang said. ^ top ^



Chinese court clears man jailed 15 years over spate of attacks on women in Xinjiang (SCMP)
Xinjiang's top court has exonerated a man who was wrongfully convicted of a series of sexual assaults and attacks on women dating back to the early 1990s, for which he spent 15 years in jail after he was initially sentenced to death. Zhou Yuan, 47, was on Thursday cleared of two counts of coercive indecent assault by the Higher People's Court of Xinjiang, which said the facts of the case were unclear and the evidence insufficient, news outlet reported. The case has been met with outrage in China, with comparisons made on social media to Nie Shubin, a 20-year-old farmer who was executed by firing squad over the rape and murder of a woman in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province in 1995. His conviction was overturned by the supreme court last year, a decade after another man confessed to the crime. It was Zhou's second retrial after he was initially given the death penalty, followed by a life sentence, then had his jail term reduced to 15 years, the report said. "Although Zhou Yuan initially pleaded guilty, there was no evidence to link him to these cases," Wang Xing, Zhou's lawyer, was quoted as saying on Thursday. "His life has been completely destroyed," Wang said, adding that Zhou would apply for compensation. The case involved a spate of sexual assaults and violent attacks on dozens of women in the city of Yining that began in 1991. Some of the women reported being attacked with scissors and assaulted while they slept in their homes and dormitories. Zhou was 27 when he was arrested in 1997 and pleaded guilty to committing 38 assaults and making threats against women, according to the report. He was sentenced to death in 1998, with a two-year stay of execution. But another man, Huo Yong, confessed to some of the crimes in 1998, providing details that matched many of the cases. Huo admitted to 34 counts of burglary and sexual assault and was later put to death, according to a report in local newspaper Ili Evening News. Huo's case gave hope to Zhou's mother Li Bizhen, who pushed for an appeal for her son. Zhou's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 1999 for seven of the assaults by an intermediate court in Yining. An appeal of that verdict the following year saw the number of assaults for which Zhou was convicted reduced to five but his sentence remained the same. Eleven years later, at a retrial at Xinjiang's high court, Zhou's sentence was reduced to 15 years for two counts of assault because of insufficient evidence. He was released from jail in 2012. After his release, Zhou told local media he had been tortured by police into making a confession. Zhou and his mother continued their battle to clear his name, resulting in the national supreme court last year overturning the 2011 verdict and ordering that the case again be retried at the Xinjiang high court. ^ top ^



Britain needs to truly let go of Hong Kong (SCMP)
It's both amusing and infuriating to watch British grandees flying in and out of the city making pronouncements about our future and how China should behave. On a practical level, when will these very important people realise their country is now irrelevant on the international stage and their government has little influence anywhere in the world, including in Hong Kong? This negative assessment of Britain's international standing,is not my own judgment, but that of Jonathan Powell (see his Guardian op-ed), Tony Blair's chief of staff from 1995 to 2007, and of Steven Erlanger, chief diplomatic correspondent of The New York Times, who just completed four years as the paper's London bureau chief. People like British peer Paddy Ashdown, who has been on a "fact-finding" tour here like we are some kind of war-worn Bosnia and Herzegovina, his old haunts, are entertained by members of the local opposition and their expatriate supporters grasping at straws. But even their most fervent fans know deep down they will make no difference whatsoever, whatever happens in Hong Kong now and forever. China must honour the Sino-British Joint Declaration, Ashdown solemnly declares. But why wouldn't China when this international treaty, from the very beginning, focuses on preserving "the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong" and "upholding national unity and territorial integrity"? It sounds like some opposition members and Hong Kong secessionists are the ones working to undermine this treaty. "Our duty to Hong Kong is non-negotiable," Ashdown said. "Britain does need to understand that it has a very special duty to Hong Kong and it needs to fulfil that duty. We have a legal duty. We have a moral duty. We have a duty of friendship." I am sorry, but doesn't anyone feel embarrassed hearing him speak like that? Not British peers, evidently. And preserving Hong Kong's freedoms, too. Presumably that means achieving full democracy and universal suffrage. But there is no mention of any of that in the Joint Declaration. It's all in the Basic Law. I would join the opposition this minute if they start respecting the city's mini-constitution in total, including Article 23, which calls for Hong Kong to enact national security legislation. In a disaster or war, do you think Britain or China would rush all available resources to help Hong Kong? Oh wait, that would be mainland interference. Better call the Brits for help! ^ top ^

Its sense of duty aside, can Britain play a relevant role in Hong Kong's efforts to preserve its autonomy? (SCMP)
On December 11, two months to the day he was denied entry into Hong Kong, British human rights campaigner Benedict Rogers plans to use his new-found infamy to fight a cause on the city's behalf. The former resident of Hong Kong will launch a UK-based initiative to monitor what he claims are "worsening" human rights, freedoms and rule of law in the place he last called home in 2002. Rogers aims to lobby the British government and the international community against any violations of the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration, signed in 1984 ahead of Hong Kong's handover to China in 1997, and the Basic Law, the city's mini-constitution. Hong Kong Watch, the name of his new outfit, has so far secured support from several UK foreign policy heavyweights and politicians of different stripes, including political grandee Paddy Ashdown, a former leader of the Liberal Democrat party. Ashdown, now a member of Britain's unelected House of Lords, was in Hong Kong earlier this week on a fact-finding mission, where he expressed concern over Beijing's approach to the city, which observers say has become sterner in the wake of President Xi Jinping's speech at last month's 19th Party Congress. He said: "Britain does need to understand that it has a very special duty to Hong Kong and it needs to fulfil that duty. "We have a legal duty. We have a moral duty. We have a duty of friendship." He added that even though Britain was in the midst of negotiating Brexit and needed international trade options to replace the European Union, sacrificing Hong Kong in the process of doing more business with the mainland would be "disgraceful" and unlikely. Rogers and Ashdown's comments have sparked debate in the city on what role Britain can actually play in Hong Kong affairs, given that the city's fortunes are inextricably tied to the mainland and not to its former colonial master. Geopolitical realities and Britain's own interests would also limit the scope of its influence, with its views likely seen merely as the grumblings of a nation clinging onto its past. But some Hongkongers in the pro-democracy camp have welcomed Britain's recent revival of interest in the city it once ruled for 150 years. It's time Britain does more to speak up for Hong Kong's rights and interests, they have said. The Sino-British Joint Declaration and Basic Law were aimed at assuring residents that after the handover, Hong Kong would continue to have a high degree of civil liberty, unlike the mainland, with its way of life set to remain the same for at least 50 years. Thus, the treaty underscored the "one country, two systems model" for the city's governance, and affirmed rights such as the freedom of speech and freedom to peacefully assemble. Documents declassified in December 2014 revealed that then British prime minister Margaret Thatcher had promised Hong Kong's political elite that the government would raise any breach of the Joint Declaration with Beijing. While relations between China and Britain were respectable after the treaty was signed, the five-year term of the city's last colonial governor, Chris Patten, was marked by tension. Patten's efforts to accelerate political reform in the city and give more Hongkongers political franchise before 1997 drew distrust and sharp rebuke from Beijing, which effectively wiped out his reforms to revert to the status quo. By handover, Britain had a huge financial stake in Hong Kong with an inward direct investment of HK$184.3 billion – making it the top foreign investor at the time. Ruffling too many feathers was not in the interest of businessmen, both Hongkongers and British, who were using the city as a springboard to the emerging mainland economy. For the next two decades, the British took a hands-off approach to Hong Kong affairs, with the UK Foreign Office making criticisms, if any, in biannual reports, and the city and central governments brushing these off by reiterating that they welcomed non-interference in their respective internal affairs. In interviews with the Post this June, ahead of Hong Kong marking the 20th anniversary of its return to China on July 1, Patten and David Wilson, governor from 1987 to 1992, had somewhat different views on how far Britain could go to ensure that promises made in the handover treaty were kept. Patten said Britain had a "legitimate interest in what is happening in Hong Kong and I think it should speak out for that interest." While Wilson said that Britain did have an obligation to ensure both sides honoured the treaty, he added: "Nobody should pretend that there is a realistic way in which Britain can actually intervene in Hong Kong affairs." Hours before July 1 this year, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang described the Sino-British Joint Declaration as a "historical document that no longer has any realistic meaning". "It also does not have any binding power on how the Chinese central government administers Hong Kong. Britain has no sovereignty, no governing power and no supervising power over Hong Kong. I hope relevant parties will take note of this reality," Lu said. Lu's comments drew swift rebuttals from the US, UK, European Union and Hong Kong's opposition party members. While Beijing later conceded that the agreement was legally binding since it was registered with the United Nations, Foreign Ministry director general Xu Hong said that "Britain has its own argument" regarding the interpretation of the Joint Declaration. China's basic Hong Kong policies, elaborated in Annexe I of the joint declaration, were a "unilateral" declaration over which Britain had no say, he stressed. Hong Kong affairs commentator Song Sio-chong said Britain's "monitoring or supervisory" role was never clearly stated in the Joint Declaration and it should not act as if it had such a role. He added that it could raise concerns at the "diplomatic level", although Beijing had the final say on matters concerning Hong Kong. Professor Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, a think tank with ties to Beijing, echoed Song's assessment. "There are a lot of ambiguities and disagreements that are implicit in the Joint Declaration," he said. Developments since 1997 had also determined how much weight Beijing would give to the UK's views on Hong Kong, Lau said. China's ranking as the second largest economy, with the largest standing army in the world now gave it more clout than before to ignore criticism and to shoot down attempts to interfere in its domestic affairs. Dr Cherry Yu Jie, a research fellow at the London School of Economics' IDEAS foreign policy think tank, said there was only so much Britain could do because Hong Kong officially belongs to China. "Britain's role on Hong Kong is going to get smaller and smaller because of a much more assertive China," she pointed out. Yu added that she believed a generational shift had taken place, where Britons with emotional ties to Hong Kong – including diplomats, sinologists and politicians – were replaced by a new group within Whitehall that preferred to focus on the mainland rather than Hong Kong. While British investment in Hong Kong was HK$256.4 billion (US$32.8 billion) in 2015, its trade with China was more than double that at US$84.6 billion, with the figure expected to quadruple by 2020, according to a study by global law firm King & Wood Mallesons. Veteran political commentator Johnny Lau Yui-siu said that while neither the British nor Beijing would want to ruin their relationship over Hong Kong, actually, the "only country China would pay attention to is the United States". Indeed, the US has become more vocal about Hong Kong affairs, with Republican Senator Marco Rubio keen on passing the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act in the US Congress. The bill proposes punitive measures against any government officials, in Hong Kong or the mainland, if the US government determines that they have suppressed basic freedoms in the city. Those officials could have their assets frozen in the United States or be barred from the country. "Hong Kong is not a high priority in Washington, but there is at least something more concrete going on from them [than from the UK]," chief researcher for opposition party Demosisto, Jeffrey Ngo Cheuk-hin, said. Please just try On October 11, a few weeks before China's twice-a-decade political summit in Beijing, Rogers, chairman of the UK Conservative Party's human rights commission was refused entry into Hong Kong for a private visit, with no explanation from the city's Immigration Department. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor would not say whether mainland officials were behind the decision but pointed out that the Basic Law did not give Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy in every aspect of governance. The Chinese Ambassador to the UK was summoned by the British Foreign Office and British Prime Minister Theresa May, after British lawmakers raised concerns. In a diplomatic tit-for-tat, British embassy officials were summoned in Beijing over what they called "a raft of incorrect comments" from London. Rogers told the Post he was encouraged by the "swift and robust line" the British government took on his case. This, he said, showed the tide could be turning in terms of them doing more for Hong Kong. After the launch of his Hong Kong Watch, he plans to revive the contentious issue of giving right of abode to Hong Kong BNO passport holders. London granted only 50,000 Hong Kong families citizenship in the UK in the run-up to 1997, but passed the Hong Kong Act in 1985 to help the city's residents obtain British National (Overseas) (BNO) passports, which did not give them right of abode in the UK but would help them travel more freely and entitle them to British consular help. "It will be an issue we will want to explore further and see what can be done," Rogers told the Post. He said that British politicians, for the first time in 20 years, were getting "quite a lot of requests and lobbying" to look into the issue, and perhaps persuade other Commonwealth countries to share the immigration burden if a decision was made to grant citizenship to BNO passport holders. Hongkongers though are more pragmatic and aware of the limits of British power and influence, and that it would not rock the boat for a former colony of some 7 million people. Even as former legislator Emily Lau Wai-hing, who was first elected to the Legislative Council in 1991 and witnessed the handover, slammed "Perfidious Albion" – referring to a treacherous Britain – for its inaction since 1997, she acknowledged that like any other country, it would look out for its own interests first. Nevertheless, she said, as the power that signed the Joint Declaration, it should be responsible and continue to monitor Hong Kong's progress. Veteran democrat Martin Lee Chu-ming, echoing the views of groups in the city, said the British government had a moral and contractual obligation to ensure "one country, two systems" was being applied faithfully, regardless of its economic ties with mainland China. He conceded: "The tragedy about it is that even if the British government used very strong language or raised issues at the United Nations, China can still ignore it. "But that doesn't mean the British government should not try." While Rogers' initiative may be a morale booster for the city's pro-democracy voices, he too was aware of the limits of Britain's relevance in Hong Kong affairs. His lawyer had written to the city's Director of Immigration asking for a reason for why he was denied entry on October 11. Rogers said the reply came in two lines, that the department was still "assessing the reasons for the decision". "That's all it said. In other words, it didn't say anything at all." ^ top ^



Beijing dismisses attacks over jailing of Taiwanese rights activist (SCMP)
Beijing said on Wednesday that any attempt to hype up its decision to jail a Taiwanese rights activist for subversion would be futile after Taiwan's ruling political party labelled the result "unacceptable". A mainland court on Tuesday jailed Li Ming-cheh, a Taiwanese community college lecturer and human rights non-governmental worker, for five years for subverting Chinese state power. Li was tried alongside a mainland activist, Peng Yuhua, who received a seven-year sentence for the same charge. Both were found guilty of attempting to promote political reform in China through discussions of democracy in social media chat rooms. Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party said the result was "totally unacceptable" and called for Beijing to return Li to Taiwan. It is not a crime for Li to share his opinions about democratic freedoms with friends, they said. The mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Ma Xiaoguang told reporters at a regular news briefing: "Any attempts to hype up the case for political ends or to instigate opposition between compatriots across the straits will all be futile." Although Taiwan and Beijing should have mutual respect for each other's social systems and development paths, Taiwan cannot "impose" its political ideas on the mainland or use the cover of democratic freedoms to break Chinese law, Ma said. Ties between Beijing and the self-ruled island of Taiwan have been frosty since Taiwan's Tsai Ing-wen led the independence-leaning DPP to election victory last year. Beijing claims the island as part of China and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under its control. Chiu E-Ling, secretary general of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday that Li's supporters would call on Tsai and her government go beyond mere words to secure Li's release. They also expressed concern over the verdict's implications for the rights of Taiwanese citizens, saying that Li had expressed his opinions online while on Taiwan soil. The Global Times, a state-backed tabloid popular with China's nationalists, said in an editorial on Wednesday that the DPP's statement was tantamount to encouraging Taiwanese to come to mainland China and break the law. "We hope that Taiwanese people will not accept the DPP's witchcraft and will not become an assault team or sacrificial victims for them," the paper said. "One's own safety should be more important than the slogans they utter," it added. ^ top ^



As Xi Jinping plays down GDP, economists debate merits of annual growth target (SCMP)
After President Xi Jinping muted any long-term GDP growth targets in his party congress report last month, Chinese economists are debating whether Beijing should keep or do away with its annual expansion goal. China's key economic policies – including a growth target for 2018, if there is one – will be decided at a central work conference next month and made public in March when Premier Li Keqiang delivers his report to the annual National People's Congress. Last month, Xi, the most powerful leader after reform advocate Deng Xiaoping, did not mention a gross domestic product growth target for 2022, when his second five-year term ends, or for 2035, by which time China is to become a "basically modernised" country, or 2050, when its goal is to be a powerful nation. While Xi is playing down GDP to shift focus to efficiency, fairness and the environment, it is unclear whether the government is ready to give up its tradition of setting a target. Jia Kang, former head of the research institute at the Ministry of Finance and a government adviser, told the annual conference of Caijing magazine on Tuesday it was "unimaginable" for China to set aside its GDP target entirely. "Only Bhutan does that," Jia said, referring to the Himalayan country's use of "gross national happiness" instead of gross domestic output. "GDP can't be ignored as a way to evaluate our work and compare with other countries." For the past two decades, the annual target has served as a minimum growth rate tolerated by Beijing. From 1987 to 2016, the target was missed only twice – in 1989, when its economy was disrupted by sanctions following the crackdown on Tiananmen democracy protesters, and in 1998, when it was affected by the Asian financial crisis. The government has also said the target is more of a "guideline" than a rigid aim. The growth target for 2016, for instance, ranged from 6.5 per cent to 7 per cent. China recorded 6.7 per cent growth last year. The target for 2017 is "about 6.5 per cent, and higher if possible". The growth rate in the first three quarters was 6.9 per cent. Michael Pettis, a professor of finance at Peking University's Guanghua School of Management, said in an interview last month that the omission of a growth target in Xi's report was "a good sign to start with", sending a strong message to the country's local cadres to stop piling up debt. "The first signal from Beijing that it will rein in credit would be to give up the GDP growth target, because the GDP growth target locks the country into surging debt," said Pettis, who also works as a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Economic growth was previously the most important indicator for local officials' performance appraisals, paving the way for promotion. But over the past decade, the rush for growth at any cost has built up a mountain of debt, inflated property prices and led to environmental damage. Deeming the debt-fuelled growth model unsustainable, two major international rating agencies – Moody's and Standard & Poor's – downgraded the country's sovereign credit rating earlier this year. Levin Zhu Yunlai, former chief executive of China International Capital Corp and the son of former premier Zhu Rongji, told the Caijing conference that growth was being driven by investment but efficiency and returns were worrying. "Everyone wants high growth … But the growth rate is beyond people's wishes and depends on the economic fundamentals and on the condition of there being no excessive risks," Zhu said. Since 2015, the authorities have made efforts to promote supply-side structural reforms, aiming to remove unproductive facilities, slash financial leverage and upgrade industries with technology and innovation. Bai Chong-en, deputy dean of the school of economics at Tsinghua University and an adviser to the central bank, said the 2017 growth target should be set lower – at "around 6.5 per cent" – to accommodate more such structural reforms. He added that higher growth was not necessary because even with expansion of 6.3 per cent over the next three years, China could achieve its goal of doubling the size of its economy by 2020. Yu Yongding, a senior researcher with official think tank the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the country still had huge growth potential. "We still need a growth target, such as 6.5 per cent. It's realistic," he said. "If China's growth rate comes down, many advantages we've gained could be lost. The key is to strike a balance." ^ top ^



Donald Trump dismisses Chinese diplomacy with North Korea as having 'no impact on Little Rocket Man' (SCMP)
US President Donald Trump dismissed a Chinese diplomatic effort to rein in North Korea's weapons programme as a failure on Thursday, while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Beijing should do more to limit oil supplies to Pyongyang. In a tweet, Trump delivered another insulting barb against North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who he called "Little Rocket Man" and a "sick puppy" after North Korea test-fired its most advanced missile to date on Wednesday. "The Chinese envoy, who just returned from North Korea, seems to have had no impact on Little Rocket Man," Trump said on Twitter, a day after speaking with Chinese President Chinese President Xi Jinping and reiterating his call for Beijing to use its leverage against North Korea. Separately on Thursday, Tillerson welcomed Chinese efforts on North Korea, but said Beijing could do more to limit its oil exports to the country. "The Chinese are doing a lot. We do think they could do more with the oil. We're really asking them to please restrain more of the oil, not cut it off completely," Tillerson said at the State Department. China is North Korea's neighbour and its sole major trading partner. Separately on Thursday, Tillerson welcomed Chinese efforts on North Korea, but said Beijing could do more to limit its oil exports to the country. "The Chinese are doing a lot. We do think they could do more with the oil. We're really asking them to please restrain more of the oil, not cut it off completely," Tillerson said at the State Department. China is North Korea's neighbour and its sole major trading partner. In spite of Trump's rhetoric and warnings that all options, including military ones, are on the table in dealing with North Korea, his administration has stressed it favours a diplomatic solution to the crisis, which stems from Pyongyang's pursuit of a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the United States. Tensions have flared anew since North Korea said it had successfully tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile on Wednesday in a "breakthrough" that put the US mainland within range of its nuclear weapons whose warheads could withstand re-entry to the Earth's atmosphere. Trump has pledged more sanctions in response to the latest test and, at an emergency UN Security Council meeting late Wednesday, the United States warned North Korea's leadership would be "utterly destroyed" if war were to break out. In a call with Trump on Thursday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the missile launched this week was North Korea's most advanced so far, but it was unclear whether Pyongyang had the technology to miniaturise a nuclear warhead and it still needed to prove other things, such as its re-entry technology. A White House statement said Trump and Moon reiterated their strong commitment to enhancing the deterrence and defence capabilities of the US-South Korea alliance and added: "Both leaders reaffirmed their strong commitment to compelling North Korea to return to the path of denuclearisation at any cost." North Korea has tested dozens of ballistic missiles under Kim's leadership and conducted its sixth and largest nuclear bomb test in September. It has said its weapons programmes are a necessary defence against US plans to invade. The United States, which has 28,500 troops in South Korea as a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean war, denies any such intention. Previous US administrations have failed to stop North Korea from developing nuclear weapons and a sophisticated missile programme. Trump, who has previously said the United States would "totally destroy" North Korea if necessary to protect itself and its allies from the nuclear threat, has also struggled to contain Pyongyang since taking office in January. China earlier this month praised the friendship between it and North Korea after its special envoy visited Pyongyang. ^ top ^

China and US step up military talks to prepare for the worst on North Korea (SCMP)
Military officials from China and the United States are stepping up communications on the Korean peninsula situation, defence analysts said, as generals from the two sides wrapped up talks. Meetings in Washington on Wednesday and Thursday – chaired by Major General Shao Yuanming, deputy chief of the Joint Staff Department, and Lieutenant General Richard Clarke, US Joint Chiefs planning director – were held just hours after Pyongyang's most powerful missile test to date. Chinese defence ministry spokesman Senior Colonel Wu Qian said on Thursday that the talks were held to discuss crisis management and enhance mutual trust, without giving details. The talks were agreed by the two nations in August, but took place after North Korea launched the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile that could strike "the whole mainland of the United States". Beijing-based military analyst Zhou Chenming said the talks were a chance for the US and Chinese generals to exchange views on the Korean peninsula. "I expect the Chinese and US would have raised the topic of how to respond to a North Korea crisis," he said. "But given the lack of deep trust, it's unlikely a detailed plan was discussed during the meetings." Observers said China and the US would engage in more military talks amid concern over Washington's warnings that it may take the military option against Pyongyang. Su Hao, a Sino-US relations expert at the China Foreign Affairs University, said there was a heightened risk of confrontation between Beijing and Washington following Pyongyang's repeated missile and nuclear tests. Both nations were concerned about how China would respond to any US military strike, he said. "We have come to a moment when there should be more military exchanges," he said. "We have to be prepared for the worst-case scenario." China has previously said it opposed military intervention in North Korea. Beijing is also reluctant to impose tougher sanctions on Pyongyang, fearing it will lead to the collapse of the regime. Jia Qingguo, dean of the School of International Studies at Peking University, said there was an increased chance of a US military strike against North Korea, and China and the US were boosting coordination to handle the threat from Pyongyang. "With regional security getting worse, military cooperation between China and the US has become more necessary," he said. When he visited China in August, General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, observed a Chinese military drill in Shenyang, Liaoning province, which borders North Korea – an arrangement seen as unusual. Beijing-based military expert Li Jie said the Washington talks were not aimed at Pyongyang's latest missile test, but Beijing would probably have asked the US to stop holding military exercises with South Korea and Japan. Adam Ni, a researcher on China's foreign and security policy at Australian National University, said the latest talks showed that both sides saw the need to communicate in case there was an emergency on the Korean peninsula.He said they might not have a concrete contingency plan for North Korea, but there would be more low-profile talks between China and the US. "A moment of crisis on the peninsula is also an opening for China and the US to work together in order to put more pressure on North Korea," Ni said. ^ top ^

China will back tougher sanctions as North Korea threat grows (SCMP)
Beijing will support tougher UN sanctions against North Korea following Pyongyang's latest missile test on Wednesday as the reclusive state poses an increasing threat to China's own security, according to diplomatic observers. A full oil embargo was unlikely, but China would endorse stronger sanctions than those previous adopted by the UN Security Council in September, they said. The assessment came after US President Donald Trump asked his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to halt all oil shipments to North Korea to help stop its neighbour's nuclear weapons programme. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang did not directly respond to Trump's call, only saying that Beijing upholds UN resolutions and supports the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. North Korea said the missile it tested on Wednesday was the most powerful and advanced it has developed. Jia Qingguo, the dean of the School of International Studies at Peking University, said Beijing realised additional sanctions were needed and would tighten oil exports to the North if it continued to pursue its nuclear programme. But China would continue to oppose unilateral sanctions ­imposed by the US on companies and individuals with links to North Korea, Jia said. If Washington asked other nations to follow suit, Beijing would not interfere, he said. China would still oppose the US from imposing unilateral sanctions on companies and people with links to North Korea, but Beijing would not stop the US from asking other nations to take similar actions, he said. The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, told a UN Security Council emergency meeting that stopping North Korea's oil supply was a "pivotal step in the world's effort to stop this international pariah". China's deputy UN ambassador Wu Haitao said the US should have heeded a joint Sino-Russian "suspension-for-suspension" proposal, in which the US would halt joint military exercises with South Korea in exchange for a halt in North Korea's missile testing. China supported UN sanctions against North Korea in September, which restricted petroleum product supply to North Korea and banned the future hire of North Korean workers on projects overseas. Beijing was reluctant to totally shut down oil supplies to North Korea, fearing it would topple the regime and lead to an influx of refugees. North Korea acts as a buffer between China and South Korea, a close US military ally. Chinese customs data last week showed that China did not export any diesel and petrol to North Korea in October. It was the first time since July 2015 that China sold no petrol to the North and first time since August 2016 it sold no diesel. Zhang Liangui, a professor of international strategic research at the Communist Party's Central Party School, said sanctions could help rein in Pyongyang. Sanctions are useful, but the existing ones are not forceful enough and it will take time for us to see the impact," he said. "I think it won't take long for the UN to come up with new sanctions that will be tougher than the previous ones." US President Donald Trump spoke with Xi Jinping by phone on Wednesday, during which he demanded China step up efforts to restrain Pyongyang. Matthew Kroenig, a non-resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council think tank, said Trump's request for a complete oil embargo was an implicit threat. "He's saying China needs to do more or the United States will continue to increase sanctions on the Chinese firms propping up the North," he said. "This approach does risk increased confrontation with China, but if North Korea's nuclear programme is the administration's top priority then it may be worth it. "North Korea is entirely dependent on foreign oil and without it, its economy would grind to a halt in weeks or months. So, it is likely that such a move, if put in place, would force [North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un] to the table to discuss denuclearisation," said Kroenig. ^ top ^

Only UN Security Council can decide new sanctions on Pyongyang (Global Times)
At Wednesday's emergency UN Security Council meeting, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley urged all countries to sever diplomatic relations with North Korea and requested China cut off oil supplies. It's an unprecedentedly strong reaction from Washington after Pyongyang successfully launched an intercontinental ballistic missile that puts the continental United States within range. The US-North Korea conflicts have escalated to a tipping point. Pyongyang has finally realized its dream of having the capability to threaten the continental US, but how Washington reacts is beyond Pyongyang's control. The Donald Trump administration will not accept being threatened by Pyongyang. The US is impossible to deter, and its first response is to exert retaliatory pressure on North Korea to prove it is not defeated in this duel. Washington's calls to cut diplomatic ties and oil supplies to North Korea reflect its determination to politically and economically stifle Pyongyang. Trump named Kim Jong-un "a sick puppy" on Wednesday, highlighting his determination to "totally destroy" North Korea. If Pyongyang continues to act tough against Washington and wantonly boasts about its missile technology, the situation will become even more dangerous. North Korea has successfully launched the Hwasong-15 missile, but it will take some time to equip it with a nuclear warhead. There must be voices in the White House calling for decisive military attacks against North Korea during the interval to destroy the country's nuclear capabilities. Voices do not so easily become policies. We sincerely hope North Korea will stop provoking the US and not overestimate its ability to deter Washington. Now is the most dangerous moment for Pyongyang. The country's leader should be clear-headed. Aside from United Nations sanctions, China and Russia will not impose any additional unilateral punishments on North Korea as the US is hoping. Calls to cut diplomatic ties and oil supplies to Pyongyang will not be approved by the UN Security Council either. Washington's fury is understandable. Yet the UN sanctions are not to be manipulated at the behest of the US, but rather as a solution for the international community to cope with Pyongyang's upgraded nuclear and missile capabilities. Beijing has substantially capped its oil exports to Pyongyang in accordance with the UN resolution. It's now winter, and an oil embargo would hurt people's livelihoods and might even trigger a humanitarian crisis. China would never adopt such extreme measures against North Korea, and we believe Beijing and Moscow would not support such a proposal by the US. China's national interests are not the only consideration in its North Korea policy, but they cannot be sacrificed to any US agenda. Washington, Seoul and Tokyo hope Beijing will cut oil supplies to Pyongyang, and one of their motives is to undermine the Sino-North Korean relationship. China is not a chess piece for others to deploy. Beijing has already tried its best to prevent the Korean Peninsula situation escalating into a war. But a Pyongyang-Washington confrontation and strategic miscalculations are raising the possibilities. China should prepare for the worst so that whatever happens with the peninsula, it's not in a passive position. ^ top ^

Beijing condemns latest missile test that analysts say may give Pyongyang more negotiating power (SCMP)
North Korea declared on Wednesday it had completed its mission to be a nuclear force as it successfully tested a powerful new intercontinental ballistic missile that can strike the "whole mainland of the United States", sparking condemnation across the region. Beijing said it was "gravely concerned" about the Hwasong-15 missile test, which analysts say shows Pyongyang is close to achieving real nuclear capability and gives the reclusive regime more negotiating power with Washington. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China opposed the launch and called on North Korea to refrain from further provocations. "We hope that all relevant parties could help promote dialogue to resolve the issue," Geng said in a press briefing on Wednesday. The missile test came a week after US President Donald Trump put North Korea back on a list of countries that support terrorism, paving the way for Washington to impose more sanctions. It was the highest and longest any North Korean missile had flown, landing in the sea near Japan. "After watching the successful launch of the new type ICBM Hwasong-15, Kim Jong-un declared with pride that now we have finally realised the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force, the cause of building a rocket power," according to a statement read on North Korea's state-run television. The missile reached an altitude of around 4,475km and flew 950km during its 53-minute flight. The Hwasong-15 was a more advanced version of an ICBM tested twice in July, North Korea said. It was designed to carry a "super-large heavy warhead". The US-based Union of Concerned Scientists said the missile would have a range of more than 13,000km – meaning it could reach Washington and the rest of the United States. US President Donald Trump spoke by phone with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in, with all three leaders reaffirming their commitment to combat the North Korean threat. US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said: "It went higher, frankly, than any previous shot they've taken, a research and development effort on their part to continue building ballistic missiles that can threaten everywhere in the world." Russia said the missile test would stoke tensions and move away from settlement of the crisis. The United Nations Security Council was expected to meet on Wednesday to discuss the missile test, which Secretary General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned. Tensions over the Korean peninsula following Pyongyang's repeated nuclear and missile tests have overshadowed Sino-US relations. Washington has imposed unilateral sanctions against Chinese individuals and businesses with links to Pyongyang, and demanded Beijing take a tougher line against the North. But China has said dialogue should be the key to resolving the crisis, opposing unilateral sanctions outside the UN framework. Pyongyang has yet to prove its capabilities in terms of re-entry technology and a missile that can carry a heavy nuclear warhead over a long distance, but the Hwasong-15 would significantly change the regional security situation, observers said. "This means North Korea is very close to having real nuclear strike and deterrence capability," said Cai Jian, head of Korea studies at Fudan University. The test would again escalate tensions as the international community reacted with outrage to the latest provocation from Pyongyang, Cai said. But he believed that in the long run, the risk of a major conflict breaking out had lessened and a military strike on the North was less likely. "It has flared up again for now, but it actually will facilitate negotiation in the long run," Cai said. "North Korea's growing nuclear and missile capability gives it more negotiating chips to get the United States to sit down and talk to them." Wang Sheng, a Korean affairs specialist from Jilin University in Changchun, said that in the two months since Pyongyang's last missile test in September, the regime had probably been watching whether Trump would change his policy on the peninsula during his visit to East Asia in early November. "Pyongyang is very determined to develop its missile capabilities and it has been saying it is targeting the US," he said. ^ top ^

Main link between China and North Korea to be cut when Friendship Bridge closes 'for repairs' (SCMP)
A bridge connecting China and North Korea will be suspended for maintenance, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced on Friday. The closure of the Sino-North Korean Friendship Bridge in Dandong, Liaoning province will only be "temporary" as the North Korean side carries out maintenance, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a press conference on Friday. Traffic will resume after the repairs are finished, Geng said. The 944-metre-long bridge linking North Korea's light industrial centre Sinuiju to Dandong over the Yalu River has both road and rail lines. It is the route of 80 per cent of trade and a large amount of personal travel between the neighbours. Geng did not give the date for the closure or an estimate for how long it last, nor did he specify whether it would affect road or rail travel or both. The bridge was last closed in 2015 because of a partial road collapse. Relations between China and North Korea have become strained because of Beijing's implementation of sanctions against North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes. Pyongyang has begun to pull back thousands of its nationals working in China, well ahead of Beijing's deadline to close all North Korean businesses or joint venture by January 8 next year. President Xi Jinping sent a special envoy Song Tao to Pyongyang last week to brief the Workers' Party of Korea about last month's Chinese Communist Party congress, seeking direct contact through party-to-party channels. But Song's four-day visit does not appear to have led immediately to warmer ties. He was not received by the paramount leader Kim Jong-un, although he did meet North Korea's number two Choe Ryong-Hae and the Worker's Party vice president Ri Su-yong. Although the overloaded 74-year-old bridge does need maintenance work, the closure is more likely to be a "smart diplomatic excuse" from North Korea, according to Sun Xingjie, a Korean affairs expert at Jilin University. Practically speaking it would very hard to imagine outdoor construction work could be carried out when temperatures in the area have already dropped below freezing. "It is much better to say the bridge is closed for maintenance than because North Korea is frustrated with the sanctions, saving face for both sides," said Sun. There is another four-lane road bridge 10 kilometres downstream from the Friendship Bridge, which was finished in 2014. But the new bridge has yet to open for use because there is no road connection on the North Korean side. Several other bridges across the Yalu and Tumen Rivers also connect North Korea to China, and there is also a crossing to Russia. ^ top ^



President submits proposal on Restoring Death Penalty for Child Sexual Abuse and cruelty offenses (Gogo Mongolia)
President of Mongolia Khaltmaagiin Battulga submitted an official proposal on Restoring Death Penalty for Offenses of Child Sexual Abuse, Cruelty and Murder to Minister of Justice Ts.Nyamdorj on November 27. "Offenses of violence, particularly violence against minors and abusing children to satisfy own sexual desires, have become an urgent problem in our society," the letter begins. In the official letter, the President cited from a National Human Rights Commission Report, which has included information about a case of sexual abuse of 16-month-old baby. The report also says 298 children of 2-7 years of age were sexually assaulted within last year. Also, 1,613 teenage mothers of ages between 12 and 17 gave birth, and 1,668 teenagers under 20 years of age had abortions. "All of these numbers obviously point to the hidden issues of unwanted pregnancy and sexual violence against children," wrote the President. In the end of his proposal, President Battulga asked the Minister of Justice to formulate a draft law to be submitted to the State Great Khural (Parliament), as Minister of Justice administers matters of legal renovations, combating and preventing crimes, given his authorities in pursuance with the laws. ^ top ^


Valentin Jeanneret
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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