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
  1-5.1.2018, No. 703  
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Xi congratulates Berset on election as president of Switzerland (Xinhua)
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday sent a congratulatory message to Alain Berset on his election as president of Switzerland. In his message, Xi said that with joint efforts, the China-Swiss innovative strategic partnership becomes more energetic and effective, and the friendship has gained popular support in the two countries. Xi said he highly values the development of the relationship between China and Switzerland, and is willing to work with President Berset to develop bilateral cooperation in various fields to a new level, so as to better benefit the two countries and two peoples. ^ top ^


Foreign Policy

Could you be a 'high-end' foreigner? China offers 10-year free visa to top talent (SCMP)
China has started rolling out its new fast-track, long-stay visas for "high-end talent", documents meant to encourage specialists such as top scientists and businesspeople to live and work in China. The roll-out began on Tuesday with the Beijing bureau of the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs issuing the country's first Certificate for Foreign High-end Talent, state-run Xinhua reported on Thursday without identifying the recipient. The certificate is necessary to apply for one of the new five- or 10-year multiple-entry visas. The report said the visas took as little as one day to process, were free and were valid for stays of 180 days. The visas would also be granted to the spouses and children of the "high-end" recipients. China implements a strict immigration system and tightly controls the issuing of work visas. Most foreigners working in China must renew their visas every one or two years. The new visas are meant to expand the pool of foreign specialists working in China, particularly in the areas such as science and technology, which Beijing sees as key to driving economic growth. According to government guidelines, high-end foreigners also refer to, among others, Nobel Prize winners, chief or deputy editors in Chinese state media, foreign coaches and players in national and provincial sports teams, postdoctoral students from world-class universities outside China, and foreigners who earn at least six times the average annual wage in China. The average annual income in Beijing in 2016 was 92,477 yuan (US$14,220), according to official statistics. The visas are part of a top-down drive to make China a more attractive place to work and stay. In February 2016, the central government relaxed the country's green card rules, extending eligibility for permanent residency to foreigners working in broader fields than just government departments or laboratories involved in "key national projects". Of all the provincial-level areas in China, Shanghai has the highest number of foreign workers, with about 215,000 of the city's 24 million people coming from overseas. A third of those overseas workers are employed in the business service sector, according to local authorities. In 2016, Japan was the biggest source of foreign workers in Shanghai, followed by the United States and South Korea. ^ top ^

Trump tweet draws China, Pakistan closer (Global Times)
A Twitter attack by US President Donald Trump against Pakistan on New Year's Day appears to be helping boost the already close ties between Pakistan and China as days after the tirade two important advances in financing and military cooperation between the latter two countries were reported. Trump's tweet, which accused Pakistan of giving safe haven to terrorists, drew a stern backlash in Islamabad and staunch defense of Pakistan in Beijing - a dynamic that experts say highlights the further strengthening of the relationship, as the US, in its broader geopolitical strategy, aims for closer ties with India, while casting aspersions on Pakistan. On Tuesday, a day after Trump's Twitter attack, the State Bank of Pakistan announced that it has taken measures to ensure the use of the yuan in bilateral trade and financing transactions and that public and private sectors are free to choose the Chinese currency for bilateral trade and investment activities. While the content of the statement was not a dramatic policy change, as the yuan is already accepted by many Pakistani companies, the timing made the move significant, Dong Dengxin, director of the Finance and Securities Institute at Wuhan University of Science and Technology, told the Global Times. "This is more of a political statement in response to pressure from the US, telling the US that Pakistan has a great relationship with China and that Pakistan would become even closer with China," Dong said. The statement also drew a positive response from China's foreign ministry. "We encourage market entities from both countries to use our own currencies in clearing bilateral trade and investment, we welcome the measures from the Pakistani side," Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at Thursday's press conference. Military cooperation between China and Pakistan could also improve in response to the US' strategic shift towards India, which is on bad terms with both Pakistan and China. The US newspaper Washington Times reported on Wednesday that China is in talks with Pakistan to build its second overseas military base as part of a push for greater maritime capabilities along strategic sea routes. The facility could be built at Jiwani, a port close to the Iranian border on the Gulf of Oman, and located a short distance up the coast from the Chinese-built commercial port facility at Gwadar, Washington Times reported, quoting two people familiar with the deal. "Both Beijing and Islamabad have the ability to build a joint naval and air facility in Pakistan, but it is unnecessary at this time," as it is a backup plan for the Indo-Pacific strategy of the US and its allies, Lin Minwang, a professor at Fudan University's Center for South Asian Studies, told the Global Times. Lin believes if the US and its allies push their Indo-Pacific strategy to the extreme, China will surely carry out a plan with Pakistan to ensure the security of sea routes. China's first overseas military base is in Djibouti. ^ top ^

Spotlight: China's ivory trade ban offers hope for future of African elephants (Xinhua)
The government of Tanzania and conservation organizations on Wednesday hailed China's decision to end ivory trade, saying the move offered hope for the future of elephants in Africa. Major General Gaudence Milanzi, Tanzania's Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, said "China as a country has been at the front line in fighting poaching." Milanzi said China's efforts, including the ban on all trade in ivory and ivory products, have helped to bring down poaching levels in Tanzania, calling upon other countries across the world to follow suit. Milanzi praised the government of China for the good move which proved to the international community that it was determined to end the business and protect the animal. "These outcomes are very encouraging. We applaud the Chinese leadership in this," said January Makamba, Minister of State in the Vice-President's Office responsible for the Environment. Makamba said China's decision was consistent with its leadership in climate change and other important global issues. "We hope other countries which have been reluctant will follow suit. Concerted global effort on the demand side makes it easier for anti-poaching efforts on the supply side to succeed," said the minister in an email to Xinhua. China has honored its commitment to ending commercial processing and sales of ivory by the end of 2017, China's State Forestry Administration has said, adding it was China's "new year gift to the elephant." "The Chinese authorities will continue to clamp down on ivory collection as well as processing, sales, transportation and smuggling of elephant tusks," the administration said. The move affects 34 processing enterprises and 143 designated trading venues, with all of them to close, in the world's once largest ivory market. "China has long been one of the world's biggest markets for ivory. World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Tanzania is very delighted to see the doors of this market closed," Amani Ngusaru, the organization's country director for Tanzania said. "We are particularly excited to see that the government of China has followed through on a great promise it made to the world, offering hope for the future of elephants in Africa," he said. Ngusaru said it was important to realize that commercial ivory trade ban in China alone will not be sufficient deterrence for elephant poachers, adding that the same action should be taken by other nations where ivory trading is still practiced. TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network, said in a report in December 2017 that Japan remained one of the world's largest domestic ivory markets, and is home to an active, though shrinking, ivory manufacturing industry. The report, compiled with the support of the World Wildlife Fund, said 2.42 tonnes of ivory, including elephant tusks, antiques and jewellery, were illegally exported from Japan between 2011 and 2016. "The country also boasts significant stockpiles of raw tusks in private ownership, a cultural legacy from its past trade," said the report titled "Ivory Towers: An Assessment of Japan's Ivory trade and domestic market". Co-author of the report Tomomi Kitade said earlier in a report that their findings show without doubt that Japan's largely unregulated domestic ivory market is contributing to illegal trade and it is imperative that Japan's role within international illegal ivory trade be recognized. Attilio Tagalile, a Tanzanian veteran journalist now working with WWF Tanzania, said China's ban on ivory trade will considerably help in checking poaching, especially in Tanzania which lost 90 percent of its elephant population in the Selous game reserve, one of the largest faunal reserves of the world, located in the south of country, between 1982 and 2014. "The ban on ivory trade in China means drastic fall of ivory prices which in turn translates into drastic fall in poaching that leads to continued existence of elephants not only in the Selous Game Reserve but in Tanzania, and in Africa in general," said Tagalile. In January 2017, former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa commended China for banning ivory trade and urged other countries across the world to follow suit. "The banning of ivory trade in other countries like what China has done will lead to ending poaching in Tanzania," said Mkapa who ruled Tanzania between 1995 and 2005. "It is better for other countries across the world to emulate what China has done in order to save the lives of elephants that are disappearing in various parts of the world," he said. "China is not the only destination country for ivory trade, there is a number of other countries in Europe, America and the Far East, so our call is for the other destinations to ban the trade in their countries and that's where we can move on and succeed in our fight," he said. The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) on Tuesday also lauded China's ban on ivory trade as a major milestone step. UWA Executive Director Andrew Seguya told Xinhua that China's decision will go a long way in the conservation and protection of the African elephants. "It gives us a lot of hope for elephants of Uganda, elephants of Africa and elephants of the world. So we congratulate the Chinese government for that decision," he said. ^ top ^

China, Laos sign agreement on Lancang-Mekong cooperation fund (Xinhua)
Chinese Ambassador to Laos Wang Wentian and Lao Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Khamphao Ernthavanh have signed an agreement on Lancang-Mekong cooperation funding for Lao projects here. In his speech at the signing ceremony on Tuesday, Wang congratulated the successful application for Lao projects under Lancang-Mekong cooperation fund, saying this is another milestone in the Lancang-Mekong cooperation framework. The Chinese side highly appreciates the enthusiastic participation of Lao side into the Lancang-Mekong cooperation framework, which has contributed greatly to the rapid development of the mechanism, Wang said. China expects to work closely with Laos to promote the consensus reached, jointly design and implement the next cooperation plans. The ambassador expresses his belief that under the active implementation of Laos and joint efforts of both sides, the Lancang-Mekong cooperation will gain more fruitful achievements in the future. Khamphao, for her part, said that despite the short time since its commence, the Lancang-Mekong cooperation mechanism has made substantial progresses in various fields, reflecting that China attaches great importance and actively engages in various work to promoting the implementation of the "Sanya Declaration," especially in promotion of projects under Lancang-Mekong fund. Laos has harvested tangible benefits from the Lancang-Mekong cooperation mechanism, including those in human resource development, infrastructure construction, public healthcare, and poverty reduction among others, according to the Lao diplomat. Khamphao also expressed gratitude to Chinese side's approval of 13 projects of Laos under the Lancang-Mekong fund, adding that the projects will help promote socio-economic development of Laos, thus further strengthening the ties between Laos and China within Lancang-Mekong mechanism. Lancang-Mekong cooperation is established in March 2016, since then various exchanges activities among political parties, officials, youth and religious groups have been organized. ^ top ^

Macron's state visit to promote cooperation (China Daily)
French President Emmanuel Macron's upcoming visit to China is expected to bear fruit for Chinese-French cooperation in such areas as nuclear power, analysts said. Macron will make a state visit to China from Monday to Wednesday next week at the invitation of President Xi Jinping, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang announced on Tuesday. It will be Macron's first state visit to China. Xi and Macron, who took office in May, have spoken twice by phone and met in Hamburg, Germany, during the G20 Summit last year. Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Tuesday that Macron's visit is expected to promote political mutual trust and enhance communication on practical cooperation. Ruan Zongze, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, said the visit will indicate a strong willingness to strengthen Chinese-French cooperation on the economy, trade, diplomacy and security. Given that trade protectionism and the European Union's denial of China's market economy status remain the two major factors disturbing EU-China cooperation, Macron's visit will be a chance to boost the bilateral link and eliminate barriers, he said. Mentioning that Chinese and French companies have agreed to construct nuclear power projects in Britain, Ruan said that China and France have their own strengths in that field and they could make joint efforts to explore new markets. Wang Yiwei, a professor of international studies at Renmin University of China, said that France and other European countries possess cutting-edge nuclear technology, while China can make good use of the technology with the help of the large market provided by the Belt and Road Initiative. The market offered by China is a necessity for France to improve the influence of its nuclear technology, he said. France shares common views with China on global climate change and security, and there are areas of huge potential for cooperation, such as in space navigation, medical cooperation, the digital economy and nuclear power, he added. In December, State Councilor Yang Jiechi held a new round of the China-France strategic dialogue in Beijing with Philippe Etienne, Macron's top foreign policy adviser. China stands ready to make joint efforts with France to prepare for high-level exchanges to inject fresh impetus into the China-France comprehensive strategic partnership, Yang said at the dialogue. On Dec 1, China and France signed more than 70 documents covering economic and financial cooperation during the fifth China-France High-Level Economic and Financial Dialogue in Beijing. ^ top ^

Commentary: China-U.S. trade tension needs control (Xinhua)
China and the United States have met a bumpy start to 2018 as scepticism about Chinese investment and trade are clouding over Washington. The U.S. government rejected a merger by China's Ant Financial with U.S. money transfer company MoneyGram International Inc. over national security concerns on Tuesday. It is not surprising that a number of Chinese companies have hit the buffers in Washington as trade tensions between the two countries are flaring. The bonhomie that grew between China and the United States in Beijing in November, when the two signed hundreds of billions of dollars of deals, seems to be fading away as the U.S. side is stuck in a zero-sum mentality. In the last 30 days of 2017, the U.S. government launched a Section 301 investigation into Chinese intellectual property and technology transfer, self-initiated probes into Chinese-made aluminum products, and rejected China's market economy status at the World Trade Organization. The hawkish turn became ear-piercing when President Trump described China as a strategic "competitor" in his first national security strategy in December, accusing the China of pursuing economic aggression designed to weaken America. Are there reasons for optimism in 2018? An injection of hope is urgently needed for the world's top two economies to sail the charted course. The first batch of prototype subway cars to be eventually manufactured in Massachusetts arrived in Boston days before Christmas. The new prototype was built by a China-based plant of CRRC, the country's largest rail car maker. Mass production will begin at the company's factory in Springfield, Massachusetts to serve the Orange Line of the Boston metro, the world's oldest transit system. This story highlights a shift in the economic relationship between the world's top two economies: "Made in China" is increasingly being replaced by "Made by China in America." According to a report by the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations and Rhodium Group, employment by Chinese-owned firms across America jumped nine-fold from 2009 to 140,000 in 2016. Stephen Orlins, President of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, said that for years U.S. companies invested in China, made profits and built communities, becoming strong supporters of constructive U.S.-China relations. In the face of a rising China, the United States, however, feels uneasy. China has not hesitated to make it clear that it is not seeking global dominance, rejecting a zero-sum mentality between countries, especially between the United States and China. Cooperation is the only correct choice for both. China's case is not well received by the United States. With deep-rooted strategic mistrust toward China, U.S. politicians have failed to catch up with China's understanding of cooperation and adopted an increasingly protective and isolationist approach. When China proposes building the world into a community of shared future, it does not distinguish between competitors and partners. At this moment, the real test facing policymakers is whether or not they can maximize cooperation and manage competition so that it does not escalate into conflict. Cooperation is essential for China and the United States to handle growing common challenges and interests. Narrow-mindedness and rigidity will lead to a zero-sum game. But both will be better off if they come together, since their common interests are greater than their differences. China and the United States are about to ride a bumpy journey in trade in 2018 if the U.S. government goes it own way, and retaliatory measures by China could be on the table. But the price is too high for the two peoples to pay if scepticism grows and tension escalates. Composure and pragmatism are needed to steer trade ties safe and sound. ^ top ^

Turkey ready to promote cooperation with China under Belt and Road (Xinhua)
Turkey voiced its readiness to promote relations with China and deepen bilateral cooperation within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative as a Chinese delegation introduced the achievements of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) during a four-day visit that ended on Saturday. During his stay in Turkey, Hu Changsheng, head of the delegation and an alternate member of the CPC Central Committee, held briefing sessions on the spirit and significance of the CPC congress with Turkish political parties, politicians and representatives from all sectors of society. Hu gave a complete introduction to Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era and highlighted the spirit of the key-note speech delivered by Xi at the opening ceremony of a dialogue between the CPC and other political parties from across the world on Dec. 1. Hu also met separately with Turkey's Deputy Speaker of Parliament Ahmet Aydin, Deputy Chairwoman Ravza Kavakci Kan and Deputy Chairman Mehmet Mehdi Eker of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), leader of the Republican People's Party Kemal Kilicdaroglu, and Dogu Perincek, chairman of the Patriotic Party. The Turkish side spoke highly of the significance of the CPC's 19th congress and lauded Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era as well as Xi's vision of a community with a shared future for mankind, saying Ankara was ready to further extend exchanges and interactions with the CPC, and deepen ties between the two countries and cooperation under the Belt and Road. The Chinese delegation visited Turkey at the invitation of the AKP. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

New policy to spur rise of strategic bay area (China Daily)
China will not set a binding growth target in the development plan of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, which will be released early this year, but will use a number of indexes to measure key fields such as innovation and trade, according to a former vice-minister of the nation's top economic regulator. The bay area connecting Hong Kong, Macao and a number of cities in Guangdong province has been listed as one of the nation's top three regions of strategic importance to be built up this year, according to a document from the National Development and Reform Commission viewed by China Daily. Unlike the other two-the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and the Yangtze River economic belt-the region, with current economic output surpassing that of the San Francisco Bay Area, is set to become a global leading center of technology innovation, finance and trade by the end of 2035, according to the commission. The new region, based on the existing Pearl River Bay Area, is expected to play a more significant role in the global economy through integrating advantages in the region and improving the regulatory framework, according to Zhang Xiaoqiang, vice-chairman of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, who consulted on the development plan for the area, which has not yet been publicly released. A coordination committee is expected to be established to better solve challenges in the bay area, which encompasses two different political systems and three different currencies, said Zhang, a former vice-minister at the NDRC. To achieve the goal set for 2035, the government will put particular focus on improving regional infrastructure, creating procedures to attract talent and introducing more policies to connect regional financial markets and promote internationalization of the yuan, Zhang said. Efforts to promote the flow of talent, information and capital will be included in the plan, he added. Existing ports will be assigned new tasks in order to better meet demand for domestic and foreign clients, according to Zeng Pan, deputy head of the development and construction office of the Guangzhou Mingzhu Bay Area. "China now focuses less on planning for pursuing GDP targets. That is a major difference compared with past practice," he said. The world's second-largest economy will shift from pursuing high-speed growth to high-quality growth, according to the statement released after the Central Economic Work Conference in December, which set the tone for the country's economic agenda for this year. The development plan will include a number of specific indexes to measure development in some key fields mentioned in the goal, such as the ratio of research and development expenditures to the gross domestic product, according to Zhang. "The plan is only a rough agenda for what needs to be done to turn the area into a leading global economic group," he said. "There is no specific timeline for any of those tasks." The plan will only present requirements for some major infrastructure construction projects, but will not set specific targets for the total amount of investment, he added. "Putting less emphasis on hitting growth targets gives local governments more room to improve the regulatory framework, reduce regional imbalances and help Hong Kong become more involved in mainland development," he said. ^ top ^

Trains cancelled, classes suspended in China snowstorms (Xinhua)
The first snow of the new year hit large parts of central and eastern China since Wednesday, meteorological station said Thursday. In Yichang in central China's Hubei Province, 49 trains had been cancelled, affecting more than 4,000 passengers as of 6 p.m. Thursday. In one of the worst hit areas Enshi Tujia and Miao autonomous prefecture, the power supply for more than 50,000 residents has not been resumed since snow damaged power lines on Wednesday. East China's Anhui Province has been hit by a blizzard since Wednesday night. In Mingguang City, a record 30 cm of snow fell Thursday. In capital Hefei, middle schools, primary schools and kindergartens will be closed for six days from Friday. The city is expecting more snow this weekend. Some primary and middle schools in central China's Henan Province also suspended classes Thursday. In Hubei and Hunan, several sections of expressways were closed or had reduced traffic. Snow and rain are expected to continue until Sunday. The national observatory late Wednesday updated the alert for snow to the second-highest level, as heavy snow is expected to continue in central, northern and eastern regions Wednesday and Thursday. ^ top ^

Green tax will help clear the air (China Daily)
As the new year starts, companies, especially those in the chemical and energy sector, are facing a new type of green tax: firms that cause pollution will be taxed under a uniform set of national rules instead of the previous fees collected at the local level. The enforcement regulations of China's Environmental Protection Tax Law, which require businesses and public institutions to be taxed for directly discharging pollutants in China and maritime areas under its jurisdiction, was signed by Premier Li Keqiang and released on Dec 30. Designing of the law was started in 2014, and was passed by the National People's Congress Standing Committee in 2016. The law, which went into effect on Jan 1, marks China's first tax aimed at ecological preservation and environmental protection. Wang Jin'nan, head of the Chinese Academy for Environmental Planning under the Ministry of Environmental Protection, said legalization of the tax will have a major impact on greening the country's tax system. "This is the first special tax targeting environmental protection, and it will also have an important effect on green production and consumption," Wang said. It was made clear that all environment tax revenues raised from polluting firms will go to local level governments, as an attempt to encourage local authorities to enforce environmental protection measures. The new tax replaces the previous pollutant discharge fees, which the government started to collect from enterprises in 1979. The central government takes a 10 percent share of the amount collected from all companies. Under the new law, companies will pay taxes ranging from 350 yuan ($54) to 11,200 yuan per month for noise, according to decibel levels. It also set rates of 1.2 yuan on stipulated quantities of air pollutants, 1.4 yuan on water pollutants and a range of five to 1,000 yuan for each metric ton of solid waste. For instance, polluters will pay 1.2 yuan for an emission of 0.95 kilograms of sulfur dioxide and 1.4 yuan for one kilogram of chemical oxygen demand. Carbon dioxide is not included in the levying list. For companies, even though only a few days have passed since the new tax law was implemented, what the "fee-to-tax" shift means to them most is a fairer business environment. Zhang, manager of a papermaking factory in Anhui province who is unwilling to have his full name published, said: "This means the amount of money being charged will be unified and we will be able to see clearer regulation." Under a new program, local authorities have the mandate to set their own tax rates on firms emitting air and water pollutants from January, according to the State Council. Regions including Beijing, Shanghai and Hebei have already published their tax program. Lu Zhengwei, chief economist at Industrial Bank Co, said the "feeto-tax" shift makes the government environmental campaign more powerful. "Pollutant discharge fees, in many cases, can be quite flexible for local governments to levy," he said. "Sometimes, when local governments want to attract more businesses, they can make their own decision not to levy such fees to enterprises as a way to attract them to develop in local areas to create more revenue. There were previously loopholes that local governments could use when charging pollutant fees to exempt companies who contribute greatly to local fiscal revenues." He said though changing from fee to tax, the amount of money levied on companies will not be increased much. Li Zuojun, professor from the Development Research Center of the State Council, said putting environment tax income into local governments is a common practice in many other countries. "It will make the country's taxation system more efficient, with collection carried out in a more transparent and well-structured way," Li said. "At the same time, environmental conditions, production capabilities and industrial structure vary from one place to another, the pressure facing local governments in different areas are also different. Giving all tax revenue to local government is also a financial incentive to encourage their effort in environmental protection." While most experts applauded the new tax, Li also pointed out that the next step is to make sure that money levied for the purpose of environmental protection will be spent on environmental protection as well. "The government has been able to come out with certain measures in regulating compliant use of tax revenue. Yet as environmental tax is a new type of tax and its revenue will all go into local level governments, sound and appropriate regulation is particularly needed to make sure such revenue will be spent in the right places," Li stressed. He said this may take time to explore, and may face setbacks, but this will also help the new tax to improve in its implementation. ^ top ^

Why Xi Jinping is once again letting China's military have a direct link to local authorities (SCMP)
The announcement was just a simple, one-line statement in the official Hubei Daily. With little fanfare, it said "Comrade" Ma Tao would be a member of the standing committee of the Hubei branch of the Communist Party. It coincided with a flurry of similarly brief announcements in official media across the country, from Liaoning in the north to Anhui in the east. But while the statements may have seemed small, they were a big signal from the top. They were a subtle but significant sign that Chinese President Xi Jinping had the confidence to let the armed forces once again forge links with local civilian authorities following an anti-graft campaign and a sweeping restructure of the military. Party standing committees are the main decision-making bodies of any administration in China and the military has long had a presence on them at all levels. The practice dates back to the 1950s when then-defence minister Peng Dehuai suggested that officers from the People's Libration Army (PLA) join government meetings to improve coordination between military and civilian affairs. The presence has allowed the PLA to advocate for military interests in those areas without becoming involved in the day-to-day running of the administrative regions. But that came to an abrupt halt in late 2016 when the central government embarked on a massive restructure of the armed forces, including cutting 300,000 personnel from the payroll. The changes were part of Xi's big plan to streamline the military and transform it into a modern fighting force, regrouping the previous seven military regions, which used to command local garrisons, into five "battle zones". It also came amid a nationwide crackdown on corruption that claimed some of the PLA's biggest names, including Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou, former PLA generals and vice-chairmen of the Central Military Commission, the body that oversees the armed forces. Many of those top officers also had a web of corrupt with local government officials, thanks in some part to their presence on the standing committees. The announcements that PLA officers would once again be taking up seats on the party standing committees is a strong signal that the military reforms have been completed and the PLA is regrouping, analysts say. Ni Lexiong, a Shanghai-based military expert, said the PLA personnel were deployed to ensure the civilian governments supported the operations of the modernising army. "Modernising the military is not about the army only," Ni said. "The entire support system must be up to standard. "When the army has people in the party standing committees, it has more influence in issues involving local garrisons and retired soldiers." The welfare of retired military personnel has already erupted as a major concern, with hundreds of veterans demonstrating in the capital in the last year or so, demanding unpaid benefits and better treatment. As more military personnel are retrenched, local governments have been charged with finding new jobs for veterans, increasing the importance of good connections between the PLA and local authorities. The officers on the standing committees will also play an important role in the drive to integrate military and civilian industries in weapons production, analysts say. For the programme to succeed, local governments will need to encourage the transfer of technology across military and civilian sectors as well as back military-related industries. Better civilian-PLA coordination will also be needed now that the 1.5 million members of the People's Armed Police are under the military's sole control. Before this year, local authorities had the power to deploy the paramilitary police to quell protests and respond to natural disasters as well as violent attacks. Those powers are now the sole province of the PLA, making communication between the civilian and military authorities ever more important. A Chinese political analyst said military commanders in local party leadership would help make sure the armed forces responded to local emergencies while answering to the army. "The officers will solve the disconnect in paramilitary work," the analyst said. "And when the army has a conflict of interest with a local administration, there has to be someone who speaks for the military." ^ top ^

Antitrust laws promote competition, boost innovation in China (Global Times)
Germany's competition regulator, the Federal Cartel Office, is considering possible sanctions against US social media giant Facebook for abusing its dominant position, German newspaper Rheinische Post reported on Tuesday. According to the German antitrust authorities, the US company collects users' data not only from its own website but also from third-party sources such as Instagram and Whatsapp, without letting users know or consent to how the data is gathered and used. In a preliminary finding in mid-December, the Federal Cartel Office also found that Facebook occupied a dominant market position in Germany, thus restricting users' choice to either accepting the entire agreement or not using its network. It is not the first time Facebook has been investigated by European regulators, nor will it likely be the last. Actually, leading technology companies such as Google and Facebook have already faced regulatory investigations in Europe involving violations of anti-monopoly or user privacy laws. In June 2017, EU antitrust regulators fined Google a record 2.42 billion euros ($2.91 billion) for abusing its market dominance to give an illegal advantage to its online shopping service. While some of the cases have raised controversial academic and policy questions, it is clear that European regulators are increasingly inclined to put internet-related businesses under tighter scrutiny. This is a trend China should follow, given its permissive regulatory climate for the domestic internet industry. In China, it is not even a question whether a company collects users' data in the same way as Facebook does, and it is also unthinkable that Chinese regulators would bother to investigate or issue a warning about such behavior. Generally speaking, the contrast reflects the difference in regulatory standards for the digital area between China and other countries. The purpose behind the Western antitrust efforts is to regulate the market to encourage competition, with the ultimate goal of protecting consumers. While digitalization has brought great benefits to our lives, there is a growing awareness of the hidden risks it may generate. Regulators in developed countries are increasingly concerned about the ever-growing influence of these internet giants in the digital economy. Investigations into privacy violations or monopoly problems are what regulators can do to safeguard competition. Such regulatory pressure has had an impact. In the Facebook case, Germany's cartel office accused Facebook of abusing its market dominance, but the company denied that it was dominant. As of the end of September 2017, the company had about 32 million monthly active users in Germany, accounting for about 8.8 percent of the total users in Europe. The figure is insignificant compared with WeChat's number of users and market share in China. Moreover, recent media reports have said that one Chinese city will link residents' national identity cards to WeChat, which would be unimaginable in terms of antitrust laws and privacy protection for a Western company. China's regulatory environment for internet companies is lax. This may have something to do with the government efforts to promote innovation. Internet companies in China are subject to strict regulation and penalties only after something goes wrong with their business, such as the stringent oversight of the internet finance business these days. No one would bother to ask whether it's an abuse of market dominance when internet giants in China collect users' data. Users need to agree to all of the terms to use these services, but the issue is that the services are dominant in the market and users basically have no other choice. So how do we understand the regulatory difference? The development of China's regulatory climate may share certain similarities to its economic development. The Chinese economy used to be based on the so-called extensive growth model with high pollution, high energy use and rapid growth. But as the economy settles into a new normal stage, it is necessary for us to transform the old model to improve the quality of economic growth. The same is true of China's internet sector. The reason why China's internet industry can grow faster than that in the rest of the world is because the sector is undergoing unrestrained growth. But one day, the internet sector will reach its own "new normal" and Chinese regulators will tighten their reins. Some may reckon domestic regulations and implementation have yet to be on the same level as Western nations in the area of antitrust and privacy protection, but more is involved than just regulation. Amid concerns over the negative impact of strict regulation on innovation, Chinese regulators are wary of reining in the internet. More pressure is needed from the public to support tighter internet regulation. Antitrust enforcement isn't meant to hinder innovation but to safeguard it by encouraging competition. Without competition, the same major players may still dominate the Chinese market in a decade, and then how can they compete with global players in terms of innovation? ^ top ^

China raises snowstorm alert level (Xinhua)
China's national observatory Wednesday updated its alert for snow to the second-highest level, as heavy snow is expected to continue in central, northern and eastern regions Wednesday and Thursday. The National Meteorological Center (NMC) raised alert to orange at 6 p.m., following a yellow alert issued earlier the day. China has a four-tier warning system for severe weather, with red being the most serious, followed by orange, yellow and blue. Parts of Anhui, Henan, Hubei, Jiangsu, Shaanxi, Shandong and Shanxi can expect up to 30 cm of snow, the NMC said. The center has activated a level III emergency response for severe weather, urging local authorities to take precautions regarding roads, railways, electricity supplies and telecommunications. ^ top ^

Here's what happens with your data when you use a Chinese messaging app (SCMP)
Verbal sparring between two Chinese billionaires over data privacy has shone a rare spotlight onto a topic in China that has also dogged global social media companies from Facebook to Twitter: who owns the content generated by the users and how to handle it. After Geely Holding chairman Li Shufu this week called out Tencent Holdings chairman and fellow billionaire Pony Ma Huateng for "looking at our WeChats every day, because he can", the Shenzhen-based social-media giant posted a response that said it does not keep chat histories nor does the company analyse WeChat data for commercial use. A review of relevant regulations in China, however, suggests that companies like Tencent, which launched popular messaging app WeChat in 2011, may not have a choice in the matter when it comes to retaining records. WeChat, known as Weixin on the mainland, has more than 1 billion users worldwide. China's Cybersecurity Law, introduced in June last year, requires network operators to store select data on servers within the country, monitor and record network operations, and maintain related logs for not fewer than six months. As messaging platform operators, Tencent's WeChat and Sina Corp's Weibo are also required to warn users against breaking relevant laws, restrict the publication of posts, suspend or close down accounts while preserving related records for the authorities, according to a policy statement posted on the website of regulator the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. In its own service agreement, WeChat said it has the right to decide how long it can store individual user data on a case-by-case basis. QQ, another popular messaging app operated by Tencent, and Sina's Twitter-like Weibo both state in their service terms that they will not disclose personal information of their users to third parties without permission except as required under the law and regulations. Outside China, social-media operators like Facebook have bumped up against strict privacy protection laws in regions such as Europe. Last month, its WhatsApp messaging service was given a month by France's data protection agency to stop sharing user data with its parent Facebook without getting the necessary consent. Internet companies collect user data to analyse for patterns that can produce, for example, more targeted recommendations in the case of music streaming or push relevant news stories that will interest readers based on their past browsing history. The advances in artificial intelligence, which uses computing power to find hidden patterns in consumer behaviour, has given fresh impetus in the privacy debate. Calls to a Geely representative were not answered. ^ top ^

Metro pickpockets beware! China's hi-tech cameras are watching your every move (SCMP)
Life may be about to get a lot tougher for China's public-transport pickpockets. A new metro line in Guangzhou, a wealthy city in the southern province of Guangdong, has been fitted with 4K CCTV cameras that enable real-time surveillance of every inch of the train in ultra-high definition. The 22km route is thought to be the first subterranean train line in the world to be armed with the cutting-edge security system that beams live images to a control room with spectacular clarity. Not only can passengers' every move be closely watched, but their most subtle facial expressions are being captured and transmitted in the form of ultra-clear images, without any delay whatsoever. The system, developed by Nufront, a Guangzhou-based technology company, will be rolled out to new metro lines opening in the city. The level of detail of the image provided by the cameras is such that facial recognition technology could be used to identify people suspected of crimes. Additionally, artificial intelligence could soon be introduced to monitor the number of passengers inside the compartments and control the flow, according to Huang Peng, a Nufront technical manager. The system will eventually be connected to police databases, meaning criminals who take metro trips in Guangzhou will be recognised through the cameras, said Huang. It has been tested on Hong Kong's MTR railway system and is likely to be deployed there too to bolster passengers' security, a Nufront executive said. On a Friday evening in February last year, a man set off a firebomb on a crowded MTR train during the rush hour in Hong Kong, injuring at least 18 people and spreading panic among commuters. Nufront's general manager, Chen Fenghua said the MTR is likely to install similar 4K camera surveillance on its Disneyland Resort Line in 2018, initially on a trial basis, before expanding it to more lines. MTR Corp did not immediately respond to queries regarding its plans for the system. As real-time transmission requires huge network bandwidth, even existing 4G mobile networks are not able to support Nufront's technology. The company claims its high bandwidths and low-latency technology works just like next-generation 5G broadband services, which make real-time, high-resolution video transmission possible, even on metro trains running at 120km/h or more. The ultra-clear surveillance is now fully operational on trains running on the Sino-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City Line, a newly built and relatively short section of Line 14. Each of a train's six compartments is fitted with four of the 4K CCTV cameras, and the two cabins each have three. Trials have shown the control room is able to receive and monitor surveillance images from all the trains running on Line 14 at the same time, and in real time. The technology that enables the 30 cameras on a metro train to faithfully record and transmit everything taking place inside the compartments as well as certain areas surrounding the trains, is considered a major breakthrough in combating potential terrorism and illegal activities. And with China poised to dominate the roll-out of 5G infrastructure, the future is potentially bright for 4K security surveillance on the mainland's transport networks. However, concerns have been raised about passengers' privacy in the past. Liu Deliang, a chief researcher at the Asia-Pacific Institute for Cyberlaw Studies, said the high-resolution surveillance could become the norm on metro trains in the future if it proves economically viable. "I don't see any issues of invading privacy by installing these 4K cameras in metro compartments. It is for public security purposes, and people should behave properly in the public environment," said Liu. Until now, most CCTV cameras in metro compartments have been low in resolution and only able to videotape what is going on inside the trains. In the event of an emergency, the control room would know nothing about the situation and an immediate response is not possible, said Chen. "If people fight inside the compartments now, the control room could see it and deal with it immediately," he said. New metro lines scheduled to be opened in Guangzhou in 2018 will also be equipped with the technology, but kitting out the older, more crowded sections of the network that cover longer distances will be more difficult and take more time, Chen added. As all the metro systems in China have ramped up their security and safety checks in recent years, the 4K surveillance – so called because it provides a horizontal screen resolution in the order of 4,000 pixels – is likely to find its way on to more and more trains. A report by HIS Markit in November said China was the largest market for physical security gear in 2016, accounting for 29 per cent of the US$29.2 billion in global revenue. ^ top ^

China fires up advanced hypersonic missile challenge to US defences (SCMP)
China's new "hypersonic" ballistic missiles will not only challenge the defences of the United States but also be able to more accurately hit military targets in Japan and India, according to Chinese military specialists. The assessment comes after Tokyo-based The Diplomat magazine reported that China's rocket forces conducted two tests late last year of a new "hypersonic glide vehicle", or HGV, known as the DF-17, citing US intelligence sources. HGVs are unmanned, rocket-launched, manoeuvrable aircraft that glide and "skip" through the earth's atmosphere at incredibly fast speeds. Compared to conventional ballistic systems, HGV warheads can travel at much higher speeds, lower altitudes and less-trackable trajectories. The approach leaves defence systems less time to intercept the warhead before it drops its payload. The People's Liberation Army (PLA) Rocket Force carried out the first test on November 1 and the second one two weeks later, the report said. Both tests were successful and the DF-17 could be operational by around 2020, the US intelligence sources were quoted as saying. Chinese military specialists said the DF-17 was one of several iterations of glider systems developed by the PLA, including the DF-ZF which has been through at least seven tests. Song Zhongping, a former member of the PLA's Second Artillery Corps, the rocket wing's predecessor, said the DF-17 was the weaponised model of the DF-ZF prototype. Song, a military commentator for Hong Kong's Phoenix Television, said the HGV system could be used with various kinds of ballistic missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles with a range of at least 5,500km. He also said multiple HGV warheads could be used with the DF-41, which has a range of at least 12,000km and can hit anywhere in the US in less than an hour. Macau-based military observer Antony Wong Dong said HGVs could also be used to target and destroy a US anti-missile system known as THAAD, or Terminal High Altitude Area Defence. South Korea installed the THAAD anti-missile system last year to ward off dangers from North Korea's nuclear programme but China also sees THAAD as a threat to its own defences. "China's HGVs... could destroy the THAAD radar system if there is war between the two countries," Wong said. "Once the THAAD radars fail to function in the first stage, it could reduce the window to raise the alarm about the PLA's [ICBMs]... leaving the US without enough time to intercept." The DF-17 test missiles were launched from the Jiuquan launch centre in Inner Mongolia and flew about 1,400km during the trial, The Diplomat reported. Chinese state media first reported on the country's HGV technology in October, with footage of the system in a hypersonic wind tunnel in various arrays. Beijing-based military analyst Zhou Chenming said HGV technology had become part of the nuclear strategy between the world's three big nuclear powers: China, the US and Russia. "Compared to conventional ballistic missiles, HGVs are more complex and difficult to intercept," Zhou said. "The US, Japan and India should be worried about China's developments in HGV technology because it can reach targets quicker and more accurately, with military bases in Japan and even nuclear reactors in India being targeted." Song and Zhou said the US and Russia were also developing hypersonic glider technology, but the US trailed China and Russia in some areas because it had focused on more advanced hypersonic aircraft and put HGV development on hold for years. ^ top ^



Beijing makes big gains in air quality (China Daily)
Beijing slashed levels of a major airborne pollutant by over a third in five years, reaching a target set in 2013, and also recorded 226 "blue sky" days in 2017, the city's environmental authority said on Wednesday. In 2017, the annual average concentration of PM2.5 — hazardous fine particles — was lowered to 58 micrograms per cubic meter, reducing the 2013 level of 90 micrograms by 35.6 percent, said Liu Baoxian, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center. "It means Beijing reached the target set by the State Council of lowering it to 60 by the end of 2017," he said. Residents also have seen blue skies frequently despite the arrival of cold weather, with only five days with severe air pollution recorded from October through December, the bureau said. It's a big drop from previous winters, when heavy haze led to alerts, including top-level red alerts. "In 2017, Beijing had 226 days of good air quality, increasing from 176 in 2013," Liu said. A day with an average Air Quality Index of 100 or below is considered to have good air quality. The year also saw large reductions in other pollutants, especially sulfur dioxide. "The average annual concentration of sulfur dioxide saw a historical low of only 8 micrograms per cubic meter," Liu said, adding that the national standard is 60. "The dramatic improvement in air quality mainly resulted from effective and extra-strict controls on emissions and advantageous weather to disperse pollutants," said Li Xiang, director of air quality management at the capital's Environmental Protection Bureau. Restrictions covered many sources, such as factories, vehicles and burning of coal, she said, adding that over 11,000 polluting companies were closed or moved. Wang Shuxiao, professor of environmental studies at Tsinghua University, said preliminary results showed the restrictions worked better than favorable weather like winds on air quality. By 2020, PM2.5 is forecast to be lowered to 56 micrograms, Li said, adding that the air quality will see "essential improvement" by 2035. The national standard for PM2.5 is 35 micrograms per cubic meter. ^ top ^



Shanghai to cap 2035 population at 25 million (Global Times)
Shanghai has vowed to build the city into a modern socialist international metropolis of global influence and limit the population to 25 million by 2035, as Chinese experts stressed the need for an optimal population and industrial structure. Shanghai government on Thursday released the Shanghai Master Plan 2017-35, saying that urban construction should be aimed at building Shanghai into an excellent global city and a socialist cosmopolis. According to the plan, Shanghai will keep its official permanent population below 25 million by 2020, and set a population target size of about 25 million as the goal for 2035 in order to mitigate contradictions between rapid population growth and limited resources and environmental capacity. The population of the city was 24.19 million at the end of 2016. "Land resources and space in Shanghai are very limited. Actually, if the population passed 25 million, the crowded living, traffic and work conditions would largely lower the living quality of residents there," Wang Xiangrong, director of Fudan University's Ecology Research Center and a participant in making the plan, told the Global Times. It would be difficult for Shanghai to achieve the goal of limiting the population to 25 million, Wang noted, especially with its 8 million floating migrant population. To better manage the population and avoid Shanghai becoming overloaded, Wang called for optimization of urban space layout, industrial structure and population structure. Similar population caps have been set in Guangzhou and Beijing. Beijing's population would be limited to 23 million by 2020, the State Council said in a September circular in response to the Beijing Urban Master Plan (2016-35). Beijing's permanent population was 21.7 million at the end of 2016. Guangzhou capped its population at 18 million by 2020 from 14 million at the end of 2016. For Shanghai, priority was also given to environmental protection. More efforts should be made to weed out backward production capacity, reduce pollution, conserve water, protect green space and build a rain-absorbent "sponge city," according to a circular from the State Council in December. Shanghai also vowed to ensure at least two venues be listed by UNESCO as World Cultural Heritage sites and have 10 percent of total employed people working in the cultural sector, according to the plan. "I hope Shanghai can keep more historical elements while introducing more foreign culture and art into the city. Citizens could be more civilized as well," an 18-year-old Shanghai resident told the Global Times on Thursday. He did not agree to be named. "In past years, Shanghai had a better economy and many high-rises, but the environment and public services need to catch up," said Shanghai resident Xu Wenchao. "Many residents living in the suburbs cannot enjoy the city yet." ^ top ^

Ten missing after ship sinks off Shanghai coast (Global Times)
Rescuers are still searching for 10 sailors missing after a cargo ship capsized and sank off Shanghai Tuesday night, the city's maritime search and rescue center said Wednesday. Rescue divers found a four square-meter hole in the hull, believed to have directly caused the ship to sink. "But the current is too fast for us to enter," said diver Luo Zaili. A tonne of water would have quickly flood the ship through the hole, making it hard for the crew to escape, staff with the local Maritime Safety Administration told Xinhua. The city's maritime search and rescue center has dispatched seven patrol vessels, three salvage ships and five other boats to join the search. "The searching is still our primary task," said Huang Jianwei, head of local Maritime Safety Administration. According to the local water traffic management center, the "Changping," loaded with 5,000 tonnes of steel, collided with another freighter before sinking in the anchorage near the Yangtze River estuary. Thirteen sailors were on aboard. Only three have been rescued so far. ^ top ^



Tibetan-language activist faces court in China on separatism charges after appearing in New York Times video (SCMP)
A Tibetan-language activist detained for two years in northwest China pleaded not guilty in court to inciting separatism, a charge that could lead to 15 years in jail, according to his lawyers. Tashi Wangchuk, 32, entered the plea during a four-hour hearing in the Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture Intermediate People's Court in Qinghai province, his lawyer Liang Xiaojun said. A verdict would be handed down at a later date, Liang said. Tashi is a Yushu shop owner who has campaigned for the preservation of Tibetan language and culture. He was taken away from his home by police in January 2016 soon after being interviewed by The New York Times. A Times' video of the interview – "A Tibetan's Journey for Justice" – was played as evidence during the hearing. In it, Tashi criticises the destruction of Tibetan culture and details his attempts in Beijing to sue Yushu government officials for sidelining Tibetan language in schools. "[Within] schools in Tibetan regions, from primary to secondary schools, most courses are taught in Chinese with Tibetan being taught as one single subject," Tashi says in the video. Liang said prosecutors accused Tashi of "smearing [China's] ethnic policy and inciting to separate the nation". "He is innocent because he was only exercising his right to criticise the marginalisation of Tibetan language and culture," Liang said. "He is well treated [in Tibetans detention facilities] because what he does is well respected among Tibetans." In a short statement online, Lin Qilei, another lawyer representing the activist, said his hotel room in Yushu was searched by about a dozen police officers on the eve of the hearing. Tashi has attracted international attention and local concern for his efforts to ensure Tibetan is taught in schools and used in government offices in ethnic Tibetan areas. PEN America, a group promoting free expression, said the trial was "an outrageous attempt to treat peaceful advocacy for linguistic and cultural rights as a dangerous crime". "During these interviews he explained that he did not support Tibetan independence but was instead concerned with preservation of Tibetan culture," the group said. Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen was jailed for six years for separatism in late 2009 for producing a documentary that showed Tibetans praising the Dalai Lama and complaining about the erosion of their culture. He was released from a Qinghai prison in 2014 and eventually fled to the United States last month. Ilham Tohti, a Uygur economist, was ordered to serve a life sentence 2014 for separatism. China has imposed heavy-handed measures to keep riot-prone regions including Tibet and Xinjiang. ^ top ^



The battle to stop Uygurs fleeing China from joining Islamic State (SCMP)
Iminjin Qari felt upbeat as he drove to Istanbul's airport with three empty buses and a simple task: pick up about 200 fellow Uygurs who had fled China for asylum in Turkey and escort them to safety. But 20 burly Uygurs – recruiters for Islamic militant groups – were already there, greeting the refugees as they trickled out. "Just come with us," the men said. "It's all arranged: housing, money, everything." Qari's heart sank as he watched the new arrivals – men, women and children – follow the recruiters toward the paradise they had been promised: Syria. As Uygurs flee a Chinese security crackdown in droves, they often end up caught in a tug of war between militant Uygur members of Syria-based Islamic groups and moderate leaders of the Uygur diaspora who plead with them to reject calls of jihad. Extensive Associated Press interviews detail the daily battle some Uygur activists are fighting against the radicalisation of their people, members of a Muslim ethnic minority who live in western China under heavy surveillance and the constant fear of arrest. The war in Syria has thrust this ethnic minority from China into the centre of the global jihadi movement. Several thousand Uygur men, women and children are estimated to have crossed the border from Turkey to join the Turkestan Islamic Party, an ethnic Uygur militia allied with al-Qaeda on the front lines of the fighting. "We are losing the deradicalisation battle," said Seyit Tumturk, a moderate Uygur activist, during a recent interview in Kayseri in Turkey. "Why? Because we cannot convince our people that hope and human rights exist in the world." Around the time Qari watched the jihadi recruiters whisk Uygurs from the airport in 2015, the Turkestan Islamic Party announced a string of suicide attacks in Syria. That September, Uygurs bombed a downtown Bangkok shrine filled with tourists. The spread of extremism has alarmed many exiled Uygur leaders, who condemn violence and say it will lead their people's ruin. But they face a young generation who see no future under one of the world's most powerful authoritarian governments and feel ignored by the rest of the world. The Uygurs are wrestling over age-old questions: do we seek freedom with peace or violence? Is our path forward secular or Islamist? Who will help us face the might of the People's Republic of China? On the outskirts of Kayseri in central Anatolia, a fenced compound of five-storey concrete towers represents Tumturk's vision of Uygur freedom – and everything China is not. Young Uygur boys take Quranic lessons that are forbidden for children in China. Girls are taught by women wearing conservative niqab face veils banned back home. Uygur, a Turkic language often written in a modified Arabic script, is taught here while Chinese schools in Xinjiang are increasingly enforcing Mandarin-only education. "Here is a place where they can practice their religion, where kids are going to school, where they have a home. This is our triumph," said Tumturk. Tumturk works with Qari, a gregarious 35-year-old who serves as imam and building supervisor to the Uygur community that now numbers more than 2,000. When Qari leads Friday prayers, he throws in cautionary tales about Syria, warning that there was a group of 10 Uygurs who tried to quit Islamic State last year and were executed. In Istanbul, Adil Abdulghupur, a self-trained religious scholar forms a duo of sorts with Sabir Damolla, a former importer who runs an after school centre and soup kitchen. They lecture at mosques, weddings and funerals and appear on Istiqlal Media, a Uygur-language television station. Their message is singular: stay away from Syria. Whenever Uygur refugee families, often poorly educated, arrive in Istanbul, Adil and Damolla sit with them to explain what is happening in Syria. By Damolla's count, they've talked 400 people out of going to the war-stricken country and convinced dozens to return. They personally know at least 30 who died on the battlefield. Because of his speeches around the neighbourhood, Adil has been pushed around by muscle-bound Islamic militants outside mosques. He received a death threat by phone after he ridiculed an influential Saudi cleric in Syria. Local Uygurs pooled money together last year to help Adil rent 18 flats in Sefakoy for several dozen families who regretted going to Syria. A group of threatening young Uygurs showed up, but Adil held firm, explaining that some fighters had wanted to return. "These men in Syria will ruin our image, they'll ruin everything," Adil said. "The Chinese government through their media and diplomats try to show that Uygurs are terrorists, and, in that sense, the Chinese are winning." Even in the relative sanctuary of Turkey, Uygurs say they are isolated economically and engulfed by murky political currents. While Turkey has welcomed Uygur refugees, the bureaucracy churns against them after they arrive. Uygurs are considered stateless under Turkish law, unlike refugees from Syria or Iraq, and often unable to receive work permits, health insurance, or schooling for their children. Men work – if they are lucky – in local furniture factories and restaurants for about 1000 to 1,500 Turkish lira a month (about US$300 to US$440), far less than what a Turk would legally make and barely enough to survive. Nearly all the residents Associated Press spoke to know someone who decided to cross the border into Syria. They spoke on condition of anonymity or gave one name for fear of retribution against their families in China. Fatima, 29, raises three children on flour, rice and vegetables. She recently explained to her 11-year-old daughter in seventh grade that because she was not officially a refugee, she did not receive certificates from school despite outperforming all of her classmates. When her girl asked why they fled China to still live as second-class citizens in Turkey, she put on a brave face. "Turkey will protect our freedom and our religion," she said. "This life is better." ^ top ^



Hong Kong is being squeezed … into China (SCMP)
It is easy to forget that while Hong Kong is slightly drugged up prior to Christmas and New Year, China is still hard at work. As I learned during my time as a spin-doctor, this is the best time to "bury the bad news". The twist in the dragon's tail last week was the announcement that the Chinese will be permitted full sovereign authority over not just a quarter of the massive new West Kowloon rail terminal but also the trains on the 26km line to the border. To add twists to the contortions, the Chinese will sub-lease the land from a territory held under a head lease over which the Chinese landlord has complete sovereign powers anyway. Now, this should not be big news at all. Co-location of immigration controls is practised all over the world. The Channel Tunnel co-locates French and UK immigration officers on each other's borders and this will not change with Brexit. However, the twisting tail begins to flail if you consider that the acquisition of sovereignty is completely unnecessary – co-location has nothing to do with territory swapping. The move allows China to acquire a bridgehead of sovereign territory within Hong Kong, like a sword through its heart. It could only have been initiated by Beijing. The tail of the dragon is curling around Hong Kong and squeezing it like a boa constrictor. The autonomy of the Special Autonomous Region is being subjected to a death by a thousand cuts. If business assumes that the tail will only squeeze tighter, it is important to plan ahead. A good analogy might be to look at Hong Kong converging with the Shanghai Free Trade Zone. Alas, this zone has promised much but delivered little since its very public commencement in 2013. It is not hard to see why. Most FTZ's around the world are artificial politico-economic constructs – and in China it is especially difficult for politicians to keep their hands off. Shanghai's reputation is not helped by policy mis-micromanagement and broken promises. Nothing has been done about the hoped-for freeing up of the yuan's convertibility. Indeed, when the currency weakened, restrictions to convertibility increased. Capricious regulation is anathema to the free Hong Kong business environment. For all its free-trade pretensions, the Shanghai FTZ still boasts a large "negative list" that bans investments by foreigners. Hong Kong of course is very foreigner-friendly – we don't care as long as we get your money. So as part of our "Shanghaisation", we are likely to see less tolerance of foreigners, and their views, and more restrictions on the setting up of businesses that are politically incorrect or unacceptable. New rules and regulations about what can be traded and by whom are likely to appear. By 2023, it will be tough to see organisations like the Falun Gong survive in Hong Kong, and we may see bans on trade with Taiwan, or with countries that have recently been nice to the Dalai Lama. The Bar Association is duly concerned about recent squeezes by the dragon as an independent judiciary provides the stability required in the fair settlement of disputes. Business needs consistent rules to remain confident. While the extraordinary anti-corruption drive in China can only be positive, the speed and opacity with which companies like Dalian Wanda and founding billionaires, like Jia Yueting of LeEco can be brought down, can only intensify an atmosphere of unease and uncertainty. Is it any wonder that Li Ka-shing's companies are now domiciled in the Cayman Islands? The free internet access promised in Shanghai has not materialised, and by 2023 the likelihood is that some websites here will be blocked. That will have important implications for global newsrooms in Hong Kong like the BBC, Bloomberg, CNBC and CNN. Singapore is waiting for their business. As the Basic Law fades into history, we could see an imposition of taxes, capital and customs controls to "protect Hong Kong" dollar and fit in with China. The anti-subversion law, Article 23, will most likely be enacted before 2023, further restricting the free flow of ideas regarded as healthy for a World City economy. Do those of us who love living with Hong Kong's iconic freedoms fight, take flight or accept? Probably a little of each. I have seen Hong Kong change over the last five decades through economic evolution. The tightening tail of the Chinese dragon now makes that evolution political. Our privileged economic freedoms will be restricted. We will have to learn how to live with the new rules – while hoping the dragon reforms faster. ^ top ^



Is China planning to take Taiwan by force in 2020? (SCMP)
Does Beijing have a timetable for seizing control of Taiwan? This has been a hot topic for the media and among experts on cross-strait relations. I believe such a timetable exists. If the timeline was rather vague in the past, it has become clearer now. And the US security strategy that President Donald Trump recently unveiled will hasten the pace of Beijing's plan to take back the island, probably in 2020. President Xi Jinping's report at the 19th Communist Party congress offers some clues. In the address, he identified "one country, two systems" and the reunification of the motherland as a fundamental strategy of a "new era" for China. This provides a clue to Beijing's timeline for resolving the Taiwan problem. According to the report, the new era refers to a period from now until the middle of this century. By 2050, China is to achieve the "great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation" and become a modern socialist power. A list of 14 items describe this new era, and one of them involves reunification with Taiwan. This means Beijing must take control of Taiwan by 2050 at the latest. Plainly, as long as Taiwan remains outside the Chinese fold, the "great rejuvenation" of the Chinese nation cannot happen. No surprise, then, to hear Xi say that Beijing would never allow "any individual, any organisation, any political party, at any time or by any means, to split any single piece of the Chinese territory". Last month, a Chinese diplomat's fighting words over the idea of the US sending navy ships to Taiwan were also revealing. Li Kexin, a minister at the Chinese embassy in Washington, warned that port-of-call exchanges between the US and Taiwan would not be tolerated. "The day a US Navy vessel arrives in Kaohsiung is the day that our People's Liberation Army unifies Taiwan with military force," he told mainland media. While it is unlikely the PLA would really start a war over a US Navy visit to Taiwan, the words reflect a consistent belief of Chinese leaders: that Taiwan has to be taken back by force. Since Xi came to power, the party has been open about its wish for the PLA to be battle-ready. No doubt the army's first target would be Taiwan. Also, Xi's sense of calling would never allow him to tolerate Taiwan's indefinite separation from the mainland. Whatever one may think of Xi, most people would agree that he is driven by a strong sense of national pride. That is why, as soon as he came to power, he launched the "Chinese dream" campaign and set out the goal of achieving national rejuvenation. In the party congress address, he painted a picture of the new era that reflected his thinking and linguistic style. As a leader who is bent on raising China's global stature to a level that rivals the nation's glory years in Han and Tang times, Xi would surely not tolerate an indefinite split between Taiwan and the mainland. Nonetheless, the points raised so far only signal that Beijing has a timetable in mind to unify Taiwan with China, but they do not explain why the PLA could move to take Taiwan by force in 2020. A combination of factors could point to a military confrontation. They include Trump's labelling of China as a strategic rival in his administration's national security strategy; Beijing's worry about the pro-independence movement in Taiwan and its belief that it now has the ability to resolve the Taiwan problem once and for all; a misjudgment by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen; and Xi's sense of his own legacy. First of all, why would Beijing opt for unification by force, rather than through the peaceful negotiation it has always championed? There are four reasons. First, after extending economic help to the island for years, Beijing has still failed to win the hearts and minds of its people. Instead, cross-strait relations have deteriorated. Second, as one generation of Taiwanese replaces another, the "Chinese" identity among the people will only grow weaker. Third, the influence of Taiwan's political parties is waning. Even if the Kuomintang wins back power, it would not be in a position to lead cross-strait unification. Fourth, more and more Chinese are calling for unification by force. Thus, though on the surface Beijing has continued to call for a peaceful reunification, it has in fact ditched the idea. As Beijing believes it has to use force to reunite with Taiwan, the next step would be to find a good time to do so. The year 2020 offers such an opportunity. That's the year when China would be approaching the first of its "two centenary" goals – the establishment of a xiaokang, or moderately prosperous, society by 2021, the 100th year of the founding of the Communist Party. This would act as a driving force for China to take back Taiwan by force. If China becomes a well-off nation with Taiwan in its fold, it would mean a historic achievement for Xi. Next, Trump's national security strategy not only labels China and Russia as America's "strategic rivals", it also pledges to maintain strong ties with Taiwan. This will quicken Beijing's plans to take back Taiwan by force. In reality, China and the US are, of course, strategic rivals. But by stating it in its security strategy, the US indicates a shift in its long-term policy on China, letting it be known that it would seek to contain China rather than work with it. This would lead Beijing to conclude that it should resolve the Taiwan problem sooner rather than later. Is the PLA ready for such a battle? In a recent interview, China analyst Ian Easton said he believed the Chinese military would not be ready for an attack in 2020 because of the slow pace of military reform. However, many Chinese analysts would not agree with that view. At the 19th party congress last October, Xi pledged a major upgrade in mechanisation and the communications systems in the armed forces by 2020, which would greatly enhance the country's strategic capabilities. By 2035, he said, China would have completely modernised its defence forces; by the middle of the century, it would become a world-class military force. The military has come a long way since reforms were launched four years ago. And fighting a war would be the best way to gauge its improvements. In today's China, more and more people are advocating the use of force to unify Taiwan with the mainland. A series of military drills focused on Taiwan in recent days has also raised speculation that the mainland is preparing itself for a military invasion. It is likely that such "encirclement patrols" might become routine. All is set for Beijing to unify with Taiwan by force, except for one thing – a pretext or a reason to take action. Emboldened by US support, the Taiwanese government that Tsai leads may well test China's bottom line by further cementing its ties with America, such as with the proposed exchanges between US and Taiwanese navies. Finally, whether Beijing decides to mobilise against Taiwan in 2020 will still depend on the decision of its leaders. Xi may be tempted to secure the historic achievement of reunification as part of his legacy. Furthermore, if war breaks out, the peacetime systems and procedures will have to be set aside. This will allow Xi to stay in power beyond his expected retirement in 2022, to give him more time to work on realising the Chinese dream of rejuvenation. If Beijing takes up arms against Taiwan in 2020, there will be formidable changes for East Asia and the world. North Korea may also risk waging war on South Korea, if its nuclear capabilities are not eradicated earlier. I do not want to see war breaking out. For this reason, we must pay more attention to what happens in 2020. ^ top ^

Beijing warns of pro-independence turmoil in ties with Taipei in 2018 (SCMP)
Beijing's top policymaking body on Taiwan says the situation facing cross-strait relations will be "grave" this year as risks created by the island's pro-independence movement heighten, but Beijing will be firm in fighting against separatism. The warning came after Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen vowed to boost the island's defence budget and Taiwanese prosecutors searched the homes of four pro-unification party officials in December. They were said to be witnesses in a national security investigation. The director of the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, Zhang Zhijun, wrote in an article published on Monday in Cross-Strait Relations that last year was tough for cross-strait ties. "[In the past year] the Taipei government refused to endorse the '1992 consensus', obstructed and limited cross-strait exchanges and indulged the pro-independence forces to further push the de-Sinicisation process," Zhang said. "In the new year, we will not hesitate to oppose any kind of 'Taiwan independence' activities … we will never tolerate separatist movements, nor will we sit idly to let them erode the basis for peaceful reunification." Relations between Beijing and Taipei have deteriorated since Tsai from the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party became the island's president in 2016. Beijing has been dismayed by what it says is Tsai's refusal to accept the "1992 consensus", an understanding that there is only one China, although each side can have its interpretation of what "China" stands for. Beijing considers Taiwan a breakaway Chinese province. Tsai says she wants peace with the mainland, but she will also defend Taiwan's security and way of life. China has stepped up military exercises focusing on the island, with advanced bombers and fighters conducting "encirclement" patrols. Taiwan affairs experts said Beijing would use all means available to suppress pro-independence movements in Taiwan. "Zhang's wording showed that Beijing will be more focused on the small but incremental activities in the island that might eventually let the island go independent, instead of solely focusing on the big obvious moves like formally declaring independence," said Ji Ye, a Taiwan affairs expert at Xiamen University. "As China becomes stronger and its global sway bigger, Beijing has lots of cards to put pressure on Taipei, which includes economic, political and even military means." Chen I-Hsin, a cross-strait affairs observer at the Chinese Culture University in Taipei, said Beijing might liaise more closely with Washington, Taiwan's biggest arms supplier, to limit the island's diplomatic influence. "The US is a big factor behind cross-strait relations. If Taipei lost support from the US, it's pro-independence movements would lose steam," Chen said. ^ top ^




China's trade minister pledges easier market access for foreign investors (SCMP)
China will make it easier for foreign investors to access the country's markets, will protect their rights and ensure a fair and transparent investment environment, Trade Minister Zhong Shan said in comments published on Sunday. Writing in the latest issue of the Communist Party theoretical journal Qiushi, Zhong said the government would "raise the level of use of foreign investment". China would make market access a lot easier, protect the legitimate rights of foreign firms and create a "fair, transparent and predictable business environment", he added, without giving details. Foreign business groups in China have warned that overseas companies face an increasingly hostile environment and that Beijing's policies and regulations unfairly favour domestic competitors. Companies have also been worried about a lack of regulatory transparency, including inadequate protection for intellectual property. Zhong said that there would be no "stagnation" to Beijing's reform and opening-up process, and pledged China would fully become a strong business and trade country before 2050. ^ top ^



Lasting Peninsula peace may start with Winter Olympics (Global Times)
US and South Korea military forces have postponed joint-military exercises until after next month's Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. During a phone conversation between US President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, both agreed it would be best to focus on security during the games. Afterwards, Trump took to Twitter and said talks and dialogue between the two countries on the peninsula would not have happened if he wasn't firm and willing to commit "total might" against North Korea. Efforts from South Korea and North Korea to develop their relationship by using the Winter Olympics as a platform, has infused new blood into the peninsula situation. Until now, the US has remained vigilant. South Korea has always wished for a safe Winter Olympics, while worried that positive communication between Seoul and Pyongyang would inspire US dissatisfaction. At this critical juncture, Chinese Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Kong Xuanyou will go to Seoul and meet with Li Hoon, South Korea's new six-party talks envoy. The planned meeting provides clues into the future development of the standoff on the peninsula. Loyal adherence to the goal of a Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons, and supporting dialogue and contact that alleviates tension should be the fundamental attitude of the global community regarding North Korea's nuclear issue. Without a denuclearization consensus in place, easing tension in the region will be impossible. Without stimulating motivation, promoting such a specific goal cannot be carried out. It is a long-term predicament requiring a long-term commitment. Obviously, North Korea is buckling over UN sanctions and has extended an olive branch to South Korea. The logic here is to see if the South is willing to begin a new friendly relationship with the North. But why do the US and other nations remain stubborn on this issue? Maybe the new sport of communication will serve as an ice-breaker helping both sides develop economically and politically, together. Pyongyang would love for this to happen, but under the condition that its nuclear power program goes unharmed. Of course, the attitude in Washinton remains adamantly opposed to such a relationship. Until Pyongyang abandons its nuclear and ICBM programs, Washington's strategy will continue on the same course, exerting heavy pressure, and maybe enough to start a war. Even though Washington is not against the two countries contacting one another and they agreed to halt upcoming joint-military exercises, their attitude hasn't changed. We can expect a short period of relaxed behavior from both sides, where the "mutual suspension" proposal will find acceptance from both sides of the peninsula. It is a delicate time, and all parties should remain calm and return to the negotiating table to address denuclearization on the peninsula. During the days of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, Pyongyang could envision a peninsula free of nuclear weapons. But over the years, North Korea's nuclear arsenal has developed as a result of foreign provocation. And as long as such outside influences remain unchanged, then the end goal of ridding the peninsula of nuclear weapons will be impossible. The US and North Korea gave up on the notion of maintaining a bilateral mutual trust for one another long ago. Either side only knows how to respond to each other's hostility. And where Washington is concerned, their focus is to remain politically consistent on North Korea. Meanwhile, Pyongyang is only a few steps away from achieving military nuclearization, which they are not willing to abandon. The relationship between the US and North Korea is at a critical stage where it cannot continue in such a fashion. And South Korea can no longer endure the pain their relationship has caused. Seoul has never wanted a war on the peninsula and took it upon themselves to resume contact without asking for Washington's permission. But because of South Korea's allied bond with the US and Japan, they view Seoul's recent action as an act of cowardice and deceit. It is interesting that as one of the important parties directly involved with the peninsula crisis, South Korea does not play a dominant role in shaping or influencing its course. Instead, South Korea is viewed as a strategic military force readily available in the event of a conflict on the peninsula or anywhere throughout the Northeast Asian region. As for the US and North Korea, their combined attitudes will influence the future of negotiations and the goal of achieving denuclearization. It should not go unnoticed how China and Russia have started to flex their power and influence. Without the support from these two nations, the international community would never reach any UN agreements, and the process of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula would be a pipe dream. The upcoming Winter Olympics provided South Korea and North Korea with the opportunity to resume contact with one another, and they took it. Regardless of how they feel about one another, for them to make contact on their own is a welcomed surprise. The easing tension between the two won't place enough pressure on Washington nor will it influence the goal of a denuclearized Pyongyang. Continued dialogue is needed, or this level of calmness that exists between the two nations right now will be nothing more than a passing phase. The six-party talks should be resumed, and opportunities need to be created so peace can continue. And for this to happen all six nations involved will need to make a contribution that moves the end goal forward, rather than pushing it back. Although relations between the US and North Korea remain intense, neither side wants a war, and nor do they have anything in common. Six-party delegates from China and South Korea will meet tomorrow in Seoul, and a bright future filled with peace and calm is the goal that hopefully will be realized. ^ top ^

Donald Trump to Kim Jong-un: my nuclear button is much bigger than yours, and it works (SCMP)
US President Donald Trump warned Kim Jong-un Tuesday he has a "much bigger" nuclear button than the North Korean leader, as Washington dismissed the prospect of high-level talks between Pyongyang and Seoul. Trump launched the highly personal missive on Twitter hours after his ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley dismissed the utility of possible direct talks between North and South Korea, warning that a harder line is necessary in light of reports that Pyongyang might be preparing for more ballistic missile tests. Trump said: "North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un just stated that the 'Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.' "Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!" The tweet was in reference to Kim's annual New Year address in which he warned he has a "nuclear button" on his table, but sweetened his remarks by expressing an interest in dialogue and taking part in the Pyeongchang Games next month. South Korea has responded positively to Kim's overture, suggesting January 9 as a date for rare talks aimed at easing tensions on the Korean Peninsula. But the US questioned whether talks could be taken seriously. North Korea has rattled the international community in recent months with multiple missile launches and its sixth and most powerful nuclear test - purportedly of a hydrogen bomb. It has shrugged off a raft of new sanctions and heightened rhetoric from Washington as it drives forward with its weapons programme, which it says is for defence against US aggression. Pyongyang claims it needs nuclear weapons to protect itself from a hostile Washington and has striven to create a warhead capable of targeting the US mainland with an atomic warhead. Earlier, South Korea's President Moon Jae-in welcomed Kim's comments as a "positive response" to Seoul's hopes that the Pyeongchang Olympics would be a "groundbreaking opportunity for peace" The South's unification minister Cho Myoung-gyon told a press conference Tuesday that Seoul was "reiterating our willingness to hold talks with the North at any time and place in any form." "We hope that the South and North can sit face to face and discuss the participation of the North Korean delegation at the Pyeongchang Games as well as other issues of mutual interest for the improvement of inter-Korean ties," he added. The Koreas, divided by a Demilitarised Zone since the end of the 1950-53 Korean war, last held high-level talks in 2015 to try to ease tensions. But Haley, the US Ambassador to the UN, told reporters Washington could not take the talks seriously "if they don't do something to ban all nuclear weapons in North Korea". She said: "We consider this to be a very reckless regime. We don't think we need a band-aid and we don't think we need to smile and take a picture. "We think we need to have them stop nuclear weapons and they need to stop it now," she said, warning: "We will never accept a nuclear North Korea." Trump's tweet was also the latest in a series of personal insults the two leaders have traded since the US president took office a year ago. Trump has mocked Kim as "fat" and a "little rocket man". Kim, for his part has described Trump as a "mentally deranged US dotard". ^ top ^

US ambassador to UN urges harder line on North Korea amid reported new missile test plan (SCMP)
Washington's Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley dismissed the utility of possible direct talks between North and South Korea, warning that a harder line is necessary in light of reports that Pyongyang might be preparing for more ballistic missile tests. "North Korea can talk with anyone they want, but the US is not going to recognise it or acknowledge it until they agree to ban the nuclear weapons that they have. We won't take any of the talks seriously if they don't do something to ban all nuclear weapons in North Korea," Haley said. The US envoy to the UN was referring to comments by South Korea's unification minister Cho Myoung-gyon, who said Seoul was "reiterating our willingness to hold talks with the North at any time and place in any form". South Korea proposed holding high-level talks with Pyongyang, after the North's leader, Kim Jong-un, said Pyongyang might attend the Winter Olympics. "There is more to do to ensure full implementation of the [UN] Security Council resolutions as we hear reports that North Korea might be preparing for another missile test," Haley said. "I hope that does not happen but if it does we must bring even more measures to bear on the North Korean regime." Any breakthroughs in relations between Seoul and Pyongyang could weaken the united front South Korea, Japan and the US had forged since North Korea began ramping up its testing of ballistic missiles capable of reaching mainland US cities and underground nuclear tests. That unity helped the allies secure Security Council approval of three new sets of sanctions last year, virtually cutting North Korea's access to raw materials and export revenues. On December 22, the UN body unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea in response to Pyongyang's November 29 test launch of a new intercontinental ballistic missile, the Hwasong-15. The latest resolution seeks to further limit the country's access to energy resources and foreign currency earnings. South Korea had echoed demands by the US and Japan for a complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme. However, South Korean President Moon Jae-in's concern over security during the upcoming Olympic Games appears to be complicating the allies' strategy. Kim Jong-un "wants to unwind sanctions and clearly sees President Moon's angst over the Olympics as the weak link in the allied chain", Daniel Russel, the top US diplomat for East Asia until last April and now senior fellow at the Asia Society Policy Institute, said via the think tank's Twitter handle. Haley made her comments just hours after US President Donald Trump also played down the need for direct talks between the two countries, which have technically been at war since 1950. "Sanctions and 'other' pressures are beginning to have a big impact on North Korea. Soldiers are dangerously fleeing to South Korea. Rocket man now wants to talk to South Korea for first time," Trump said on Twitter. "Perhaps that is good news, perhaps not – we will see!" "We hope that the South and North can sit face-to-face and discuss the participation of the North Korean delegation at the Pyeongchang Games as well as other issues of mutual interest for the improvement of inter-Korean ties," Cho said at a press conference. The prospect of direct Seoul-Pyongyang talks has raised concern among other analysts that such moves would undermine efforts by the Security Council to cut off trade ties that have supported North Korea's nuclear weapons programme. "Moon wants to host a peaceful 2018 Winter Olympic Games, as well as open direct dialogue with his neighbour," Scott Snyder, senior fellow for Korea studies and director of the programme on US-Korea policy at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations, said in an opinion piece written for The Atlantic. "But in pursuing those things, Moon cannot succumb to North Korean nuclear blackmail to weaken the South's military alliance with the United States – in the very same New Year's speech, Kim claimed to be able to hit the US with a nuclear weapon." "Nor can Moon abandon the US-led international pressure campaign against North Korea's nuclear and missile development," Snyder said. South Korea has been trying for months to secure Pyongyang's participation in the Pyeongchang Games. "Although North Korea hasn't given an official response yet, we are very hopeful that they will compete. For them to participate is a sign that we'll have safe and secure and good Games," Do Jong-hwan, South Korea's minister of culture, sports and tourism, said at an event organised by the New York-based Korea Society in November. "I hope that the Games will help lay the foundation for dialogue and cooperation on the Korean Peninsula, which is going through political tension," said Do, adding that North Korea's participation in the Pyeongchang Games is likely to be "a last-minute decision". North Korean figure skaters Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik qualified for the 2018 Winter Games at an International Skating Union competition in Oberstdorf, Germany in September. The pair's participation in the Games is now up to the North Korean Olympic committee. The Pyeongchang Games will take place just 80km from South Korea's heavily fortified border with its estranged neighbour to the north. The mountainous resort town will host the largest Winter Games yet in terms of participants and events. ^ top ^



Speaker reviews Parliament's activities since election (Montsame)
The Mongolian Parliament passed 525 bills, including 56 independent laws since it was formed, reported Parliament Speaker M.Enkhbold. The Speaker reviewed the activities of the Parliament over the last one year and five months at its last plenary meeting in 2017. The Parliament also issued 162 resolutions. "The 5.8 percent economic growth at the end of third quarter of 2017 is one indicator of the effectiveness of the resolutions and legislations adopted by the Parliament," remarked the Speaker. Since the new Parliament was formed as a result of the 2016 General Elections, 83 MPs have worked in 13 working groups, by double count, and 17 MPs have forwarded 18 inquiries, 11 of which were responded to during a parliamentary hearing. The Prime Minister delivered eight reports to the Parliament on various aspects of the government policy. The Speaker concluded that the Parliament successfully exercised its full authority in 2017, while expressing concerns regarding the agenda of the autumn session and attendance in plenary meetings ^ top ^

Increased demand from China for iron ore drove booming exports (Gogo Mongolia)
Trade between China and Mongolia continued to boom in 2017, and exports and imports in two major border ports in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region registered new highs, local authorities said Tuesday. Erenhot, the biggest railway port between China and Mongolia, saw its railway trade volume with Mongolia up 16 percent year-on-year to 11.2 million tonnes in 2017. A record 570 train trips were made last year on China-Europe rail routes that passed through Erenhot. Increased demand from China for iron ore drove booming exports from countries along the Belt and Road, through the cross-border rail network, Hohhot Customs said. Another port city, Ganqimaodu in Bayan Nuur City, also witnessed fast cross-border trade growth last year. Trade via Ganqimaodu soared by 26.2 percent year-on-year to 17 million tonnes in 2017, mainly driven by increased imports of coal and copper concentrate from Mongolia. ^ top ^

Open Government Partnership experts to work in Mongolia (Montsame)
Experts from the Support Unit of the Washington-based Open Government Partnership (OGP) will arrive in Mongolia in March this year. It was agreed during the Asia Pacific Leaders Forum on Open Government (APLF2017), organized by the Open Government Partnership and hosted by the Government of Indonesia on December 14. Representatives from government and non-government organizations led by D.Daajamba, Deputy Head of the Cabinet Secretariat attended the Forum. The Deputy Head of Cabinet Secretariat participated in a Ministerial round-table meeting in conjunction with the Forum and delivered a speech touching on Mongolia's anti-corruption actions, the National Anti-Corruption Program, measures taken to ensure transparency in the extractives sector and experiences and achievements. The Mongolian delegation also held bilateral meetings with the Support Unit and the Steering Committee of the OGP, during which sides exchanged views on Mongolia's efforts towards open governance and possibilities of bilateral cooperation aimed at overcoming the existing challenges. ^ top ^


Julia Tran
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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