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
  29.1-2.2.2018, No. 707  
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Nestlé under fire for 'misleading' baby milk tactics in Hong Kong and beyond (SCMP)
The Swiss multinational Nestlé has been accused of violating ethical marketing codes and manipulating customers of its baby milk formulas around the world, with its supposedly misleading claims to Hong Kong consumers drawing particular scrutiny. A new report by the Changing Markets Foundation has found that Nestlé marketed its infant milk formulas as "closest to", "inspired by" and "following the example of" human breast milk in several countries, despite a prohibition by the UN's World Health Organisation (WHO). The study, which analysed over 70 Nestlé baby milk products in 40 countries, also found that Nestlé often ignored its own nutritional advice in its advertising. Formulas sold in Hong Kong were marketed as being free of sucrose "for baby's good health", while in South Africa, the firm used sucrose in infant milk formulas. In Hong Kong, it promoted some varieties of its baby milk powders as healthier because they were free from vanilla flavourings – even as it sold other vanilla-flavoured formulas elsewhere in the territory. Nusa Urbancic, campaigns director for the Changing Markets Foundation said: "We have come to understand that companies manipulate consumers' emotional responses to sell a variety of products, but this behaviour is especially unethical when it comes to the health of vulnerable babies. "If the science is clear that an ingredient is safe and beneficial for babies then such ingredients should be in all products. If an ingredient is not healthy, such as sucrose, then it should be in no products. Nestlé's inconsistency on this point calls into serious question whether it is committed to science, as it professes to be." Nestlé is the global market leader for infant milk products with a market share of close to a quarter. It has been dogged by the advertising issue since a 1974 reportsparked a worldwide boycott. In 1981, the WHO adopted a strict code of advertising banning the promotion of baby milk products as being in any way comparable to breast milk. Nestle insists that it follows the code "as implemented by national governments". But the new report finds that it touted products in the US such as Gerber Good Start Gentle powder as "our closest to breast milk", and sold its Beba Optipro 1 powder in Switzerland as "following the example of breast milk". Similar Nestlé products in Hong Kong and Spain were advertised as being "inspired by human milk", and having "an identical structure" to breast milk. The company did not respond to specific questions about the new study but a Nestlé spokesperson said it supported WHO recommendations and believed that breast milk was, wherever possible, "the ideal source of nutrition for babies." However, not all infants could be breastfed as recommended and "where needed or chosen by parents, we offer high quality, innovative, science-based nutritional products for mothers and infants from conception to two years of age," the employee said. "We market these products in a responsible way at all times, and the claims made on our products are based on sound scientific evidence." Some academics, though, have highlighted the way that language used by corporates to promote infant milk formulas can sometimes mislead consumers about this. Last year, Professor George Kent of the University of Hawaii wrote that describing a product as "closer to breast milk … is not the same as saying it is close to breast milk. New York is closer than New Jersey to Paris, but that does not mean New York is close to Paris." Breast milk is a "personalised" and continuously changing nutrition between mother and child that contains live substances – such as antibodies and immune-system related compounds – which cannot yet be replicated in a lab. ^ top ^

Switzerland launches a new Cooperation Strategy for Mongolia 2018-2021 (Gogo Mongolia)
On 25 January 2018, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) presented its new Cooperation Strategy which will guide Switzerland's engagement in Mongolia for the next four years. For this, SDC earmarked a total of CHF 51.5 million, with an annual average expenditure of 12-13 million. "Switzerland is committed to Mongolia's development for the betterment of the livelihoods of Mongolians. The new strategy will allow us to build on the results achieved so far, replicate good practices but also respond better to the challenges that Mongolia and the city of Ulaanbaatar are facing. Together we can achieve a lot, and we count on the continuous cooperation with the Mongolian partners, their dynamism and commitment," said Gabriella Spirli, SDC Director of Cooperation.The intensive collaboration with the private sector will remain a priority. Building on the achievements of more than 15 years of cooperation, SDC will strengthen its current programmes in order to contribute to the empowerment of Mongolian citizens and institutions towards an equitable, green and prosperous society, leaving no one behind. The new strategy will in particular consolidate results and best practices in the three domains identified in the last cooperation strategy. Building on the achievements of more than 15 years of cooperation, SDC will strengthen its current programmes in order to contribute to the empowerment of Mongolian citizens and institutions towards an equitable, green and prosperous society, leaving no one behind. The new strategy will in particular consolidate results and best practices in the three domains identified in the last cooperation strategy. The Agriculture and Food Security domain will aim to improve the livelihoods of rural and peri-urban small-scale farmers and vulnerable herders. In this sense, SDC will continue to address the challenges of rangeland degradation due to overstocking and climate change, support the diversification of production in the agriculture sector, and work towards better animal health and strengthened market links to increase the competitiveness of Mongolian products. The Basic Education and Vocational Training domain will foster increased employment of women and men, by upgrading training programs and building the capacity of teachers and trainers in secondary and TVET schools and civil servants in employment services. The intensive collaboration with the private sector will remain a priority. The Governance domain will foster accountable and effective national and sub-national government and an empowered civil society, by supporting the decentralization and democratization agenda of the Government of Mongolia. SDC will work towards the institutionalisation of capacity building efforts in partner institutions and continue policy-level support through technical assistance and the provision of Swiss expertise at national and local levels. Climate change and internal migration may become areas of future support in the Governance domain, particularly in peri-urban areas ^ top ^

Davos participants eye Belt and Road in pursuing a shared future (Xinhua)
Participants of the Davos World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting, which closed Friday, have turned to the Belt and Road Initiative for cures for the fractured world and to create a shared future. They expected the initiative to tie together the destiny of people living in different countries and regions through further specific actions to promote connectivity, improve living standards, boost free trade, among others. Proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative is aimed at promoting the connectivity of Asian, European and African continents and their adjacent seas and realizing diversified, independent, balanced and sustainable development in the countries involved. Wide support: Embracing the spirit of peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit, the initiative has gained support from more than 100 countries and international organizations. "The Belt and Road is the best place to start working on the fractures in the world and creating connectivity," Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said in a panel discussion. He said the Belt and Road can link countries and create shared prosperity, which coincides with the theme of this year's gathering -- creating a shared future in a fractured world. "We feel that something concerning the fractured world is discussed in Davos, Belt and Road is probably the best way to address this," said Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, Russia's sovereign wealth fund with a reserved capital of 10 billion U.S. dollars. Chan Chun Sing, Singapore's minister in Prime Minister's Office, said the impact of the Belt and Road Initiative is threefold. Firstly, it connects markets, facilitates trade and improves people's livelihoods. Secondly, it catalyses local economies. Thirdly, it sets a system for the global economy. Mutually beneficial projects: With regard to specific projects under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, Abbasi said China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a "visible part."8 Dmitriev said that from the Russian point of view, the time cost of cross-border transportation of goods has been markedly reduced thanks to the completion of a bridge linking China's Tongjiang City in the northeastern Heilongjiang Province and the Russian town of Nizhneleninskoye. Calling for "significant collaboration," U.S. businessman Michael Burke said: "The size and scale of infrastructure projects along the Belt and Road cannot be done by any one country, neither private sector alone or public sector alone." Burke is the chairman and chief executive officer of AECOM, an American firm which designs, builds, finances and operates infrastructure assets in more than 150 countries and regions. Burke said his company has been involved in the Belt and Road Initiative, collaborating with state-owned enterprises in various countries in an effort to combine "their expertise together with our private expertise." Guiding strategy: As regards the strategy of investing in infrastructure along the Belt and Road, Jin Liqun, president of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), an international lender created by China that has attracted 84 members so far, laid out three basic criteria -- financial sustainability, environment impact and local support. "We would be very much willing to consider any projects proposed by member countries, but we have to look at the basic requirements of those proposed projects." Jin said. Jin said the AIIB would finance infrastructure projects in ways that will neither "leave a big footprint" on the environment, nor create problems for local communities. In addition to infrastructure projects, WEF participants were also interested in seeing the Belt and Road Initiative play a more prominent role in strengthening financial collaboration among relevant countries. "Growing collaboration in the financial and investment sphere is an integral part of this cross-linking of integration initiatives," said Sergey Gorkov, chairman of Russia's Vnesheconombank, a state-owned development bank The integration of the Belt and Road Initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union will tap the potential of national, regional as well as international development institutions operating in the Eurasian region, he added. Proposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2014 to draw closer economic ties among former republics of the Soviet Union, the Eurasian Economic Union is a regional cooperation mechanism that includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia. ^ top ^


Foreign Policy

Foreign Ministry refutes allegations of China's espionage threat (Xinhua)
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying on Thursday refuted allegations regarding China's espionage threat, made by the United States and Australia. Media reported that U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo said China was trying to steal U.S. information. Meanwhile, Australia said the foreign espionage threat was greater than before, with a raft of different countries seeking to conduct espionage and foreign interference, citing China as "a focus of concern." "These reports remind me of a Chinese saying: your thoughts shape the world in your eyes. Thus, it is not strange to hear such remarks from the head of the world's largest intelligence agency," Hua said. She said that "facts speak louder than words," and the world knows well who really conducts surveillance and espionage, and wields influence over other countries. As for Australia's allegation, Hua said millions of people travel between China and Australia every year. "If they regard these people and overseas Chinese in Australia as spies, they will be undoubtedly anxious," she said. ^ top ^

Sino-UK partnership transcends media mudslinging over human rights (Global Times)
British Prime Minister Theresa May is visiting China, seeking to expand pragmatic collaboration with the country so as to pave the way for future trade and investment deals. However, some Western media outlets keep pestering May to criticize Beijing in an attempt to showcase that the UK has withstood pressure from China and the West has consolidated its commanding position over the country in politics. Certain democracy activists in Hong Kong also intervened. In an open letter published Wednesday, Joshua Wong urged May to "stand up for Hong Kong's rights," claiming that London vowed "Hong Kong will never have to walk alone" in 1996. Taking advantage of Western forces to confront the central government is a long-term illusion of the radical Hong Kong opposition. Some Western media outlets eagerly hoped that French President Emmanuel Macron would denounce China during his Beijing trip last month, but Macron disappointed them. May will definitely not make any comment contrary to the goals of her China trip either. For the prime minister, the losses outweigh the gains if she appeases the British media at the cost of the visit's friendly atmosphere. Europe's rational upgrade of comprehensive cooperation with China is an irreversible trend. Europeans must overcome prejudices and negative sentiments toward China. Radical voices are often heard in European public opinion on China-related issues, but they do not represent Sino-European relations and will gradually die down in the face of realistic needs. European governments have become increasingly clear-minded, and should guide public opinion in this regard. Developing friendly cooperation with China has become the mainstream in Europe, and major European countries are actually competing to collaborate with Beijing. A large trade volume with China is widely regarded as a political achievement, and meanwhile tensions with China have increasingly become a political burden. Some media's radical advocacy has already lost its appeal. The UK government has done work to shape public opinion for May's China trip. British Ambassador to China Barbara Woodward said ahead of May's visit that Britain has kept a steadfast and steady commitment to the "Golden Era" partnership with China, stressing that the country is a "natural partner" for China's Belt and Road initiative. May's enthusiastic and positive remarks about China have led European media's coverage of the trip in a positive direction. Like its participation in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), Britain's joining the Belt and Road initiative conforms to its national interests. While the government is responsible for public well-being, the media tends to whip up sensations while disregarding sound international relations. Some European media pressed May and Macron on human rights, but the two leaders sidestepped the topic on their China trip. This shows that the Sino-European relationship has, to a large degree, extricated itself from the impact of radical public opinion. China's robust development has instilled impetus for Europe to overcome its prejudices against Beijing. David Cameron's government gained Britain strategic initiative by joining the AIIB. In May's era, Sino-British relations have the conditions for strategic breakthroughs. We hope May's visit this time can function as a key to future Beijing-London cooperation. ^ top ^

Germany calls for release of Chinese human rights lawyer arrested for inciting subversion (SCMP)
The German commissioner for human rights on Wednesday called for the immediate release of disbarred rights lawyer Yu Wensheng, who was arrested by the Chinese authorities on January 19 and later charged with inciting subversion. Chinese President Xi Jinping has overseen a sweeping crackdown on human rights activism in China that has seen hundreds of lawyers and activists detained, dozens arrested and some handed lengthy prison sentences. Yu, an outspoken critic of the government clampdown who had worked to defend fellow lawyers who were arrested in the sweep, was disbarred on January 15, days before he was detained by authorities outside his home in Beijing. Initially charged with "obstructing a public service", Yu is now being investigated for "inciting subversion of state power", his wife Xu Yan said earlier this week, adding that the police had also summonsed her in relation to her husband's charges. German commissioner Barbel Kofler said in a statement posted online that the latest developments in Yu's case were "unsettling" and had increased his concerns about the rights situation in China. "All Yu Wensheng has done is campaign for democratic reforms in China and support fellow citizens who were harassed for exercising their human rights," he said. Yu should be released without delay and granted the civil rights guaranteed in the Chinese constitution, he said. When asked about Kofler's statement at a regular briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China had the rule of law and those who broke it had to "accept legal responsibility". "We resolutely oppose any foreign government or individual trying to interfere in China's internal affairs. I think this German official has no qualifications or right to demand China release anyone," she said. The day before Yu's detention, he released a strongly worded open letter in which he called for the deletion of a preamble of China's state constitution, a section that grants the Chinese Communist Party primacy in leadership. The letter was the latest in a series of statements Yu had made critical of the party and its leadership, including calling for Xi to be replaced as party leader. Yu's case, alongside the surprise disbarring of a second prominent rights lawyer Sui Muqing soon after, have sparked outcry from China's rights activists and their supporters both inside the country and overseas. Petitions calling for reversals of the authorities decisions for both lawyers have been circulated in instant messenger chat groups and online, each garnering hundreds of signatures. ^ top ^

Chinese skilled workers hope Donald Trump's immigration plan will cut wait for green cards (SCMP)
Skilled workers could be the big winners from US President Donald Trump's immigration reforms, experts say, as Chinese waiting to hear about green cards welcomed the proposed changes. Trump announced in his state-of-the-union address on Tuesday evening US time that he planned to end the US visa lottery system as well as "chain migration", where immigrants can sponsor relatives to live in the United States. Rather than the visa lottery system that "randomly hands out green cards without any regard for skill, merit, or the safety of our people", it was time for the US to move towards a "merit-based immigration system – one that admits people who are skilled, who want to work, who will contribute to our society, and who will love and respect our country", Trump said in his speech. He also moved to end "chain migration", which he described as allowing "a single immigrant [to] bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives". "Under our plan, we focus on the immediate family by limiting sponsorships to spouses and minor children. This vital reform is necessary, not just for our economy, but for our security, and our future," he said. "Where there is a price, there is always an opportunity. The lottery quota should flow back to skilled workers," said John Hu, a Hong Kong-based immigration consultant. "This is a big plus for skilled migrants. If Trump uses a points-based system, the highest points granted a visa, so it opens more opportunities to skilled migrants." Chinese skilled workers, including those from Hong Kong, could benefit from the changes as those with skills would be prioritised in the immigration queue, he said. The United States issued 35,350 immigrant visas last year for people from mainland China, based on applications made from outside the US, according to US state department data. The number from Hong Kong was 1,128. They were either people who went through the lengthy application process to join a relative who was already a US citizen or those who were moving to the US for employment. For some Chinese working and studying in the United States, the proposed changes were a positive move. Marketing manager Gwen Chen, who lives and works in Seattle, along with her husband, said it would mean a shorter wait for a green card. Chen, who has an MBA from Durham University, said the couple applied for green cards in 2015, a couple of years after they moved to the US from Beijing, but they were still waiting. Her husband is a software engineer at a multinational company. "A smaller quota for the parents and siblings and low-skilled workers means there will be a bigger quota for people like us, so we've got a better chance," Chen said. "People who are from smaller countries don't need to worry about not getting selected... but if you're from India or China, all you can do is pray. I heard about an Indian who waited more than a decade to get his green card, and for Chinese it can take five years." Xinyi Ge, who is from Hangzhou and studies at the University of Chicago, would welcome a more merit-based US immigration system if it made it easier to get a work visa. Ge plans to work in consulting after she graduates later this year, but said it was difficult to get an H-1B visa under the current system and it "depends on luck". The H-1B is a non-immigrant temporary employment visa for highly skilled foreign professionals who work in areas where there is a shortage of qualified American workers. Since taking office last year, the Trump administration has been cracking down on the scheme. Ge said she and her friends were concerned about the tightening of US immigration policy, including proposed reforms to the H-1B visa system. "Such changes definitely worry us," she said. "In general, I would feel less welcome here and would consider alternative long-term plans." More than 90 per cent of H-1B applications processed in fiscal 2017 were approved, but that rate dipped below 85 per cent in the first two months of fiscal 2018, according to US state department data. While the proposed changes were seen as positive by people wanting to live and work in the US, they could pose a new challenge for China as it tries to lure more highly skilled foreign workers. "Trump's new policy also mirrors the reality of fierce competition for skilled talent worldwide, and this could be a challenge to China," said Wang Huiyao, founder and president of Beijing-based think tank the Centre for China and Globalisation. "I think China needs to introduce more preferential policies for skilled workers as soon as possible." He added that the policy changes outlined by Trump would be very appealing for professionals around the world. Hu, the Hong Kong-based consultant, said the proposed US immigration reforms were similar to the systems in Canada and Australia, where applicants are vetted according to their skills, experience, contribution to the economy and overall need for such workers. "Trump is right in the sense that now they have to be more selective about whether people can come into the country," he said. "What Trump has done is set the US on the right track, one that is in line with his 'America First' policy." ^ top ^

China-aided pilot project of poverty reduction launched in Myanmar (Xinhua)
A China-aided pilot project of poverty reduction was launched here on Thursday, with a view to improving the infrastructure of villages and raising the level of public services and self-development capacity in Myanmar. The three-year project, which was jointly launched by China's International Poverty Reduction Center (IPRCC) and Department of Rural Development under the Myanmar Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation, is implemented by the International Poverty Reduction and Development Center of China's southern Yunnan province. Chinese Ambassador Hong Liang told the launching ceremony that the two countries signed an implementation agreement of the project in November 2017, which will be implemented in two villages -- Min Pyin village in Lewe township and Aye Chan Thar village in Tetgone township in Nay Pyi Taw. The Chinese side hoped that through promotion of China's poverty reduction experience, Myanmar's rural infrastructure would be improved and the level of public services and self-development capacity of farmers be raised as a model. Noting that China and Myanmar are jointly building the Belt and Road Initiative, Ambassador Hong said China would also like to make use of the cooperation mechanism to further the poverty reduction cooperation with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members. Myanmar Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation Aung Thu said the project opened a new chapter in the existing strategic partnership of the two countries. He pointed out Myanmar ranked 9th out of 10 ASEAN countries in poverty trend. In terms of the ranking of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectorial Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) countries, Myanmar also stood at 6th out of seven countries, indicating that Myanmar has to do much for rural development and poverty reduction. He stressed that poverty is the root cause of instability, hindering the development of a country. Noting that China has helped millions of poor people out of poverty, he believed that through the implementation of the project, good practice and valuable experience of poverty alleviation can be replicated in Myanmar's poverty reduction efforts. The project includes building road and water supply facilities, supporting village industry such as planting and breeding, undertaking community environment management and providing technical assistance for development and capacity building. ^ top ^

Ideological rigidity real threat to West, not China (Xinhua)
The "China threat" theory is nothing new. Its recent resurgence may well reflect the West world's growing anxiety over a rising China and a changing world. This week, some officials on the U.S. National Security Council urged the Trump's administration to centralize 5G mobile network to "counter the threat of China spying on phone calls," triggering oppositions from U.S. communications regulators, wireless firms and lawmakers. Earlier this month, some Australian politicians criticized China of providing loans to the Pacific nations on unfavorable terms, yet were strongly rebuked by those island countries. Other Western countries like Germany, France and Italy are also trying to scrutinize investments from China. Instead of putting China under a microscope for threat examinations, the Western powers should find new prescriptions to prepare itself in the face of China's fast development, as well as its sense of loss in an ever interdependent world. For decades, elites in the West believe that the Western style democratic political system combined with free market economy could be mankind's ultimate form of governance. The U.S.-led "liberal world order" that they have taken for granted in the post-Cold War period has enjoyed uncontested superiority in every operating domain. Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs, said the United States has returned to "the Cold War-era inertia," viewing the world full of threats rather than opportunities. Now, the deeply flawed West-dominated world order that has existed for more than 200 years needs to be refashioned. The rise of China, whose political, economic and ideological system are different from the West, has unsettled many. They are in one way or another not comfortable with their own illusion that someone is going to take their place and replace the "old set of rules" with its own. However, the China skeptics need to understand one thing that China has no intention of pulling down the current world order and build a new one based on its own propositions. Rather, what China wants to do is to try to shoulder its share of responsibility as a major country, joining hands with other countries to patch up the global governance system and make it serve not just the Western powers, but all other nations as well. At the just concluded World Economic Forum's annual meeting in the Swiss town of Davos, China has clearly stated its determination to stay on the track of reform and opening up, singling bolder reform measures that would mean greater opportunities for the rest of the world. More than two centuries ago, the West had managed to climb to the top of the world by accommodating changes of the industrial revolution. History never ends. It progresses all the time. The West needs to stop looking at China from behind an ideological entrenchment, and embrace a positive-sum mentality and the spirit of openness. ^ top ^

Donald Trump brands China a major rival in US reboot of great power strategy (SCMP)
US President Donald Trump named China as a major US competitor on both economic and military fronts in his first state-of-the-union address, another sign that Washington is putting great power rivalry at the heart of its national strategy. Analysts said Trump's explicit references to China contrasted with Beijing's view of the Sino-US relationship and those of his predecessors who saw China as a partner despite their economic competition. In response to the speech, Beijing called on Washington to abandon the "cold war" approach to their ties and for the two nations to respect each other. "Even though there are differences, the two countries still share more mutual interests than differences," Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Wednesday. "History and reality shows that cooperation is the only correct choice." Chinese Premier Li Keqiang also played down concerns over rising confrontation between Beijing and Washington, stressing that both sides have a lot of common interests. "I hope the United States can have a comprehensive and objective view of the Sino-US relationship, expand our common interests and manage our differences," Li said. In an annual address to a joint session of the US Congress, Trump vowed to boost American defences to counter threats from China and Russia. "Around the world, we face rogue regimes, terrorist groups, and rivals like China and Russia that challenge our interests, our economy, and our values," Trump said. "In confronting these dangers, we know that weakness is the surest path to conflict, and unmatched power is the surest means of our defence. "For this reason, I am asking the Congress to end the dangerous defence sequester and fully fund our great military." Trump also said the US must "modernise and rebuild" its nuclear arsenal, although the US would "hopefully never having to use" such weapons. He also highlighted the need for fair and reciprocal trade relationships, and promised to take action to defend the country's intellectual property. "And we will protect American workers and American intellectual property through strong enforcement of our trade rules," he said. Trump's reference to China as a direct threat on all fronts is a departure from the take of his three immediate predecessors. In 2000, then US president Bill Clinton talked about the importance of engaging China and appealed to Congress to back the US' effort to bring China into the World Trade Organisation. Six years later, president George W Bush referred to China as one of the "new competitors" along with India on the economic front. In 2016, US president Barack Obama said only that the United States must not let China write the rules of global commerce. Trump's focus on China as a broader threat reflects a major shift in US defence priorities outlined in US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis's National Defence Strategy released in January. The document says the US will refocus on China and Russia after a decade of fighting terrorism in the Middle East. Trump has also signed into law a sweeping defence policy bill authorising a US$700 billion budget for the military, but it still needs lawmakers' approval. Wu Xinbo, director of Fudan University's Centre for American Studies, said Trump was playing up the threat from China and Russia to back his call for a big increase in the military budget. "[But] China has yet to pose a direct military threat to the US," Wu said. Teng Jianqun, director of the US studies department at the China Institute of International Studies, said there was a huge discrepancy in how China and the US viewed their relationship. Chinese analysts and officials tended to be optimistic about bilateral ties, while those in the US were pessimistic, Teng said. "If we do not pay attention to this perception gap, there could be miscalculations from both sides," he said. Jie Dalei, assistant professor of international relations at Peking University, said that even though Trump had clearly named China as one of his country's greatest rivals, it would be difficult for the US to follow through on a strategy to contain China. "The [US'] Indo-Pacific strategy is still a concept rather than a plan for execution," Jie said. "Without economic assistance or other support, Trump won't be able to achieve any more than Obama." ^ top ^

Five sparks that could ignite a trade war between China and the US (SCMP)
US President Donald Trump's first state-of-the-union address is expected to highlight trade as a top priority in his broader mission to "build a safe, strong and proud America". Trump has said that the hour-long speech to the US Congress will cover the US trade imbalance with China. He has also indicated that his administration is ready to launch trade action against China. Wu Xinbo, director of Fudan University's Centre for American Studies, said that even though a full-blown trade war was unlikely, China had to be ready for the possibility, especially as the US trade deficit with China had grown on Trump's watch. "In his first year in office, Trump has accomplished his goals on tax reform and bringing down the unemployment rate," Wu said. "Now what is left unfulfilled is his [campaign] promise on China." Here are five triggers that could set off a trade war: 1. US tariffs or sanctions on Chinese technology: US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer announced last week that the US was imposing 30 per cent tariffs on imported solar panels, an apparent stab at China which is the biggest supplier of the products to the US. Announcing the tariffs, Lighthizer accused China of unfair trade practices such as huge subsidies to boost production and give Chinese producers an unfair edge over competitors. In response, senior Chinese Commerce Ministry trade official Wang Hejun said Beijing intended to "resolutely defend its legitimate interests". 2. A"big fine" for Chinese IP theft: In August, the Trump administration launched an investigation under Section 301 of the US Trade Act of 1974 into alleged Chinese theft of intellectual property. Trump said earlier this month that his administration had concluded that China forced US companies to transfer their intellectual property to China as a cost of doing business there and was considering a "big fine" as part of the trade investigation. His economic adviser Gary Cohn said the US Trade Representative would issue recommendations on the issue soon. 3. Tariffs or import restrictions on steel and aluminium: Trump has accused China of dumping steel and aluminium, and his administration is investigating whether imports of those metals from China pose a threat to US national security. The administration has also launched a separate investigation into allegations of Chinese dumping of aluminium alloy sheet. China is the world's biggest steel exporter and produces more than half of the world's aluminium. 4. Further curbs on Chinese investment in the US: In the latest setback for Chinese companies in the US, Chinese phonemaker Huawei's planned deal with US carrier AT&T to sell smartphones in the US collapsed earlier this month after US lawmakers opposed the plan on national security grounds. It came after Ant Financial, the electronics payment affiliate of China's Alibaba Group, was forced to abort a deal with MoneyGram, a Texas-based money transfer company after failing to win approval from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a congressional panel that reviews foreign purchases of American companies. Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post. The Trump administration last week signalled its support for a bipartisan bill in Congress to broaden the committee's power to stop foreign purchase of US firms amid growing concern about Chinese efforts to buy US hi-tech companies. 5. Retaliation by China in trade and finance: But China also has a basket of retaliatory measures to use in a trade war. Wu, from Fudan University, said China could cut its purchases of Boeing aircraft, Apple products and US agricultural imports, adding that the "Chinese market is irreplaceable". Chinese airlines have been on a plane-buying spree, with China set overtake the US as the world's largest air-travel market in five years. It remains by far the second-biggest market for the iPhone, Apple's flagship product. It is also the second-largest market for US agricultural exports, according to the US Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service. "A batch of Boeing orders will be replaced by Airbus. US auto and iPhone sales in China will suffer a setback, and US soybean and maize imports will be halted. China can also limit the number of Chinese students studying in the US," an article in Beijing tabloid Global Times said in 2016 soon after Trump's election. ^ top ^

Chinese foreign minister outlines China's diplomacy in 2018 (Xinhua)
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi Tuesday outlined China's diplomacy in 2018 at the New Year Reception. Addressing foreign diplomats to China, Wang said China would further promote the Belt and Road construction in the new year, and implement the consensus reached at the first Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, held in Beijing in May 2017. China will make good preparations for hosting a series of diplomatic events such as the annual meeting of the Boao Forum for Asia, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit and the summit of Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, he said. "China will deepen its global partnership network in 2018, and is committed to building a major-country framework featuring stability and balanced development," Wang said. He said the country would also cement friendship and cooperation with neighboring countries and cooperation with vast developing countries. "China will continue to play a constructive role in resolving regional hotspot issues, and promote settling disputes and conflicts through dialogues and consultation," he added. Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi attended the reception, together with more than 400 participants from foreign diplomatic missions to China and various Chinese departments. ^ top ^

African leaders dismiss French report of China "spying" on AU headquarters (Xinhua)
Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn on Monday rejected a French media report that alleged China was spying on the African Union (AU) headquarters in Addis Ababa. The French newspaper Le Monde said China had bugged the building it had built and gifted to the AU in 2012 and had been downloading data from servers in the building. "There's nothing to be spied (on) because (the) China-Africa relationship is very strategic, comprehensive," Hailemariam said on the sidelines of the 30th AU summit held at the AU headquarters. AU Commission Chair Moussa Faki told a press conference at the end of the summit that he did not find any sign that the AU building was being spied upon. Calling the report "sensational", "preposterous" and "totally untrue", Kuang Weilin, head of the Chinese mission to the AU, said the AU headquarters is a very important project donated by China to support the pan-African bloc. China's relationship with Africa and the AU will go on and be further strengthened, Kuang said. "That is the tide of the times that one newspaper, one sensational story can't stop," he added. Kuang also questioned the paper's intention as the article was published a day before the AU summit. ^ top ^

South Korea accuses Chinese military plane of entering air defence zone without permission, report says (SCMP)
South Korea accused China of flying a military aircraft into its air defence identification zone on Monday without giving prior notification. "Our military first detected the unidentified flight in the southwest of Ieo Island," its Joint Chiefs of Staff was quoted as saying in a report by the Yonhap news agency. The defence authority was cited as saying that the aircraft entered South Korea's Air Defence Identification Zone (KADIZ) about 9:30am, before moving into Japan's air identification zone and finally flying out of the South Korean zone about 2:05pm. It did not provide a precise timeline for the aircraft's movements. The report came after five Chinese military aircraft entered the KADIZ on December 18, prompting Seoul to describe the move as an infringement. China's air force said at the time that the aircraft had been taking part in a routine operation after a long-range exercise into the Sea of Japan. The three air defence zones designated by China, South Korea and Japan overlap near Ieo Island. Neither Beijing nor Tokyo has so far commented on Monday's incident. South Korea scrambled several air force jets, including an F-15K fighter, to conduct an emergency sortie of the Chinese aircraft, which was identified as a Y8 transporter, according to the Yonhap report. Beijing-based military commentator Li Jie said that the incident on Monday was another example of China flexing its muscle in the region at a time of growing uncertainty. "This is China stamping its sovereignty in the area," Li said, although both Seoul and Beijing have denied being involved in a territorial dispute over Ieo Island. In late 2013, South Korea said it had expanded the KADIZ to include the islet – a submerged rock in waters off its southern coast – a month after China demarcated its air defence identification zone in the East China Sea. Li said also that the timing of Monday's incident was likely intended to show Seoul that less than two weeks before the start of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, tensions over the North Korean nuclear threat continued to simmer. "China feels there is a lot of uncertainty regarding how South Korea is handling the nuclear problem, and also their joint military operations with the US after the Olympics," he said. "[It] wants to show that it is highly concerned about these issues." A repeat of Monday's incident would not be a surprise, Li said. Air defence identification zones are early warning systems that help countries to detect incursions into their airspace. Any aircraft entering such an area is supposed to report its route and purpose to the "host" nation. However, the zones are classified as international airspace and pilots are not legally bound to make such a notification. ^ top ^

Japan's top envoy Taro Kono breaks the ice, but China sees ties as 'still cool' (SCMP)
There were signs of a thawing in relations between China and Japan on Sunday as the two sides agreed to resume reciprocal visits by their leaders and reaffirmed their shared stance on North Korea. But visiting Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono was told by his counterpart Wang Yi that although Beijing welcomed Tokyo's efforts to improve ties, it urged Japan to "put words into real actions". Kono also met Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and State Councillor Yang Jiechi during his trip to Beijing – the first by a Japanese foreign minister for nearly two years. China and Japan were improving their bilateral ties, Li told Kono, describing relations between the two countries as "barely warm, and still cool". The two sides also agreed to hold a postponed trilateral summit with South Korea "as soon as possible", the official Xinhua news agency reported. Earlier in the day in his talks with Kono, Wang urged joint efforts with Japan to get bilateral ties back on track. "Your visit to China at the beginning of the year shows the Japanese government's strong willingness to improve bilateral ties," Wang said. He also urged Tokyo "not to slack off or fall back, and to work together with China to meet each other halfway". Wang said "many disturbances and obstacles remain" for relations between the two countries and that they were now "like a boat going against a current – if there is no progress then things go backwards". Kono told Wang that China and Japan "have a major responsibility in safeguarding the stability and prosperity of Asia and the world at large", and expressed hopes for improved ties. Kono's visit came after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stressed Japan's willingness to promote the relationship with China, in a policy speech on Monday. Relations between the two countries have long been tense because of historical issues and their territorial disputes over the uninhabited Diaoyu Islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan, in the East China Sea that are controlled by Tokyo but also claimed by Beijing. Agreements reached during Kono's trip included resuming reciprocal visits, holding the trilateral summit with South Korea, continuing to work together to denuclearise the Korean peninsula, and implementing a maritime and air communication mechanism in the East China Sea. According to a statement from China's foreign ministry, both sides welcomed an agreement in principle to bring in the mechanism and hoped the military hotline – aimed at preventing unintended clashes in and over the East China Sea – could be put into use as soon as possible. Although Kono's visit was a significant step in mending frayed ties between the two sides, it is just a start, according to observers. Zhou Yongsheng, a Japanese affairs expert at China Foreign Affairs University, said Kono's trip had mostly fulfilled Japan's agenda and served to move bilateral relations in a positive direction. "The most important outcome of the envoy's trip is the resumption of bilateral visits, which is what Japan most wanted out of this," Zhou said. But he added that any improvement in ties with Japan would not deter China from continuing its military activities in the East China Sea. A Japanese international relations expert, who declined to be named because he is involved with a diplomatic mission in China, said although this year was likely to see a thawing in relations between the two countries, security in the East China Sea would remain a key concern for Japan. "Japan is deeply concerned when there are incidents like a Chinese nuclear submarine visiting the disputed Senkaku Islands... and nearby waters, and the two countries will need more dialogue and consultation if they are to resolve this matter," he said. A Chinese nuclear attack submarine equipped with ship-to-ship missiles and torpedoes was detected by the Japanese navy while submerged near the contested islands on January 11. ^ top ^

US military chiefs reach out to Asian allies as great power game heats up with China and Russia (SCMP)
China, the United States and Russia are returning to "an era of great power competition" but the Pentagon is determined to deter the players from confrontation and aggression. That was the message US Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson delivered in Manila on Friday as her boss, US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, ended a weeklong trip to reassure Indonesia and Vietnam of US commitment to the region. "[The US' National Defence Strategy] also recognises explicitly that we are stronger together with our allies and partners than we are alone," Wilson said. "One of the important elements of our defence strategy is to deepen our relations with allies and partners... in the Pacific region." She said the big distances between countries in the region were a major challenge for the US, but Washington remain committed to promoting "a rule-based international order" in the Indo-Pacific. "Our approach to the Indo-Pacific region is to promote a stable and prosperous region in which a rule-based international order is respected, not just from large powers but for every country," she said. "Our strategy seeks to build a strong military status in order to convince both China and Russia to choose peaceful competition within common principles and cooperation on key issues rather than choosing confrontation or conflicts and aggression." The comments came a week after Mattis unveiled the defence strategy, which puts countering China and Russia at the top of US priorities for years to come. For more than a decade the focus was on fighting Islamist militants in the Middle East. Mattis called China and Russia "revisionist powers" that "seek to create a world consistent with their authoritarian models". Renmin University international relations professor Shi Yinhong said Mattis and Wilson were trying to reinforce the need to counter China's rise. "Mattis is more clear-headed than Trump [on defence strategy] – he understands the importance of allies' support and has confirmed the policy direction in identifying China as its key rival in the long term," he said. But Shi, who also advises the Chinese government on foreign policy, was sceptical about the Trump administration's ability to advance that cause given the White House's isolationist agenda. "Diplomatically the US is isolated, so how can it compete with China and Russia?" he said. Nevertheless, Indonesia and Vietnam are trying to modernise their militaries and have pushed back on China's expansive territorial claims. During his stop in Jakarta, Mattis discussed maritime cooperation and freedom of movement in the South China Sea, a region over which Beijing has extended its dominance in recent years. A US aircraft carrier is also expected to visit Vietnam in March, bringing the biggest contingent of US forces to the Southeast Asian country since the end of the Vietnam war in 1975. After Manila, Wilson will head to Japan and South Korea. She will visit US Air Force personnel stationed in South Korea and discuss "mutual security interests", including Pyongyang's nuclear threat, with senior officials in Seoul. ^ top ^

China reveals 'Polar Silk Road' ambition in Arctic policy white paper (SCMP)
Beijing on Friday released its first official Arctic policy white paper, outlining its ambition for a "Polar Silk Road" amid growing concerns over China's activities in the region. Days after Beijing extended President Xi Jinping's belt and road trade plan to Latin America, Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou said China would encourage companies to build infrastructure and conduct commercial trial voyages that would "bring opportunities to the Arctic". Kong said Beijing considered itself an important stakeholder in the Arctic, a region that mattered to the entire international community. "Regarding the role China will play in Arctic affairs, I want to emphasise two points. One is that we will not interfere, second is that we will not to be absent," Kong told reporters in Beijing. In the white paper, Beijing calls for more scientific research and environmental protection for the Arctic Circle, and it also reveals its ambition to tap resources and take part in governance. It suggests exploration of a potential shipping route across the Arctic – which it dubs the "Polar Silk Road" – as well as development of oil, gas, mineral resources and other non-renewable energy sources, fishing and tourism in the region. The white paper comes amid mounting speculation over China's ambitions in the Arctic. The world's second largest economy has been on the hunt to secure enough energy resources to meet its growing demand – and the Arctic has 30 per cent of the world's undiscovered natural gas and 13 per cent of its undiscovered oil reserves. As rising temperatures result in sea ice melting across the Arctic, there are new opportunities for ships to travel through previously inaccessible, resource-rich areas. Xi first raised the idea of the "Polar Silk Road" in Moscow last year, unveiling a series of plans with Russia in the Arctic that would be incorporated into the ever expanding "Belt and Road Initiative", a trade and infrastructure strategy spanning Asia, Africa, Europe and now Latin America. China's interest in new spheres – such as polar areas, deep ocean, space and cyberspace – had grown along with the expansion of its economy and global influence, said Jin Canrong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University. "China wants to play an important role, or even a leading role, in making the rules in the new spheres, since the traditional areas are already taken by the old powers," Jin said. "In the Arctic, China already has the technical capacity to take part and it is in China's national interests to do so." China has stepped up its engagement in the Arctic in recent years and was granted observer status on the Arctic Council in 2013, which gives it input on governance of the region. The council comprises eight member countries bordering the Arctic – Canada, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Russia, the United States and Iceland. Kong said China would not challenge or interfere in the affairs of regional players, nor bring harm to the environment. "Some people may have misgivings over our participation … I believe these kinds of concerns are absolutely unnecessary," he said. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

Vow to 'dig deep' to find corrupt police amid Xi Jinping's anti-mafia sweep (SCMP)
China's Ministry of Public Security has vowed to crack down on collusion between police and triads after President Xi Jinping last week launched a nationwide campaign to tackle corruption at the grass-roots level. "[We will] dig deep into the corruption problem... and [we are] determined to break the network and the sheltering of vicious power," the ministry's disciplinary committee chief Deng Weiping told his colleagues, reported on Thursday. Deng, speaking at a ministry meeting on Monday, was referring to the "protective umbrella" of police sheltering and tipping off triads, which the disciplinary committee has identified as one of six key areas for attention this year. The ministry has also expanded the power of disciplinary committee chiefs so that they can organise their own investigation teams or request additional personnel from elsewhere if the case involves a broad range of, or high-level, officials. The ministry made the pledge after Xi identified collusion between triads and officials, especially the protectors of mafia-style organisations, as a threat to the party's rule. Xi's anti-graft campaign since he took power in 2012 has taken down top-level Communist Party members and cadres at the local level, especially those involved in poverty alleviation work. But in January, state media reported a new front in the campaign, aimed at lower-level government officials. It will involve nearly 30 top party and government organs, according to the State Council. Xi launched the campaign in a closed-door meeting of the party's top graft watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, aiming to shore up the legitimacy of the party and resuscitate eroded public confidence in the leadership, according to state media. Rampant corruption, particularly at county and village levels, has long plagued Xi's ambitious goal of lifting all the country's citizens above the poverty line by 2020. At the public security meeting on Monday, the committee reported there were 10,390 cases involving illegal action by police last year, and disciplinary action was taken against 8,159 personnel. In one of the most recent cases, the deputy chief of a Guangdong police station, Li Weijun, was jailed in December for accepting bribes and colluding with the Luo Brothers triad, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday. Li was found guilty of taking 7,000 yuan (US$1,100) in bribes from the Luo Brothers and benefiting from its illegal gambling dens, the report said. Some 28 other officers are under investigation in the province – with three of them already charged – in cases involving collusion between police and triads. They are accused of helping triads by not investigating cases involving the groups or not giving them the appropriate priority. Such sweeping criminal campaigns have been unleashed in China before. In Chongqing, the now-disgraced party chief of the southwest metropolis, Bo Xilai, launched a broad and controversial sweep against organised crime. While it earned him national prominence, it was also seen by some critics as overstepping the legal rights of the accused and an excuse for Bo to lock up or sideline enemies, both in business and politics. Bo was jailed for life for bribe-taking, embezzlement and abuse of power in 2013. ^ top ^

'At least 12 crew members killed' in Chinese military plane crash (SCMP)
A military aircraft crash in Guizhou this week killed at least a dozen crew members and exposed the "fatal gap" between the air force's ambitions and its technology, the South China Morning Post has learned. Military sources say the crash has severely affected air force morale. The People's Liberation Army Air Force has confirmed that an aircraft crashed in the southwestern province during a training exercise on Monday. It did not give details of the casualties or type of aircraft involved, but a source close to the air force told the Post that at least a dozen crew members were killed. It was a new type of refuelling plane modified from the air force's Y-8 transport aircraft, the source said. "There were about a dozen men and women on board and none of them managed to escape when the plane went down," the source, who requested anonymity, said. "There are no ejection seats on those aircraft, so the pilots and crew members would have been relying on the parachute packs on board. But they wouldn't have had enough time to jump because the aircraft fell so fast." The source said the incident had undermined morale in the air force because it happened just a few weeks after a J-15 carrier-based fighter jet crashed. A second military source said it was not known whether there were any casualties from the J-15 crash last month, but added there was growing concern in the air force that there could be more accidents as flight drills were stepped up. The defence ministry did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday. The air force last year began intensive drills in the region using warplanes, including regular "encirclement" air patrols close to Taiwan and real-war combat exercises over the Pacific Ocean, which it said aimed to show it could break the "first island chain". The chain is a series of archipelagos lying between China and the world's largest ocean that Beijing says has been used by the United States as a natural barrier to contain it since the cold war. But the second source said the two recent crashes showed that China's "imperfect" military aircraft might not be up to the task. "We must recognise that in China, there is a fatal gap between the air force's combat-ready training and its imperfect aircraft development," the second source said. "Both the Y-8 and J-15 have some problems, including the engines, aircraft design and modifications. But instead of carrying out more test flights, the pilots are pushed directly to fly the warplanes, even though they're imperfect, because there is this political mission to 'build a combat-ready fighting force'." The first source said Chinese pilots were taught that saving the aircraft, not their personal safety, was the top priority. "This type of training and education has pushed China's aircraft development forward, but at what cost? Life is precious," the source said. There could be more accidents in the future, they added, because the military was under huge pressure from the top leadership of the Central Military Commission to conduct more live-fire and all-weather drills. In November, official media reported that 29-year-old fighter pilot Huang Peng had died in a crash. Military insiders said he had attempted to save the J-11B fighter jet and delayed ejecting from the aircraft. A month earlier, state broadcaster CCTV aired a propaganda programme praising J-15 pilots Cao Xianjian and Zhang Chao for trying to save their carrier-based fighter jets as they were going down. They were involved in separate crashes that happened three weeks apart in April 2016. Zhang, 29, died while attempting to land the fighter jet, while Cao survived the crash but was seriously injured and took more than a year to recover. "When we [pilots] realise the aircraft has a problem, our paramount concern is, 'How can I fly it back [to base] safely?'... [PLA] pilots should not abandon their fighter jets... we are close partners," Cao told CCTV. ^ top ^

Top legislator commends 12th NPC Standing Committee's work (Xinhua)
China's top legislator has commended the work of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee over the past five years, appreciating the committee's respect for the NPC deputies' significant role. Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, made the remarks on Wednesday at a symposium, where he heard NPC deputies' opinions and suggestions on the draft work report of the 12th NPC Standing Committee. According to Zhang, the committee has kept deepening and expanding the deputies' work, and supported and assured the deputies in their duties. During the course of drafting the work report over the five years, the committee held symposiums for a group of NPC deputies every year to hear their opinions, which is an important approach to strengthen the bond between the NPC Standing Committee and deputies, and to give full play to the deputies' role, Zhang said. "Deputies to the 12th NPC have loyally represented the interests and will of the people, devoted to their duties and worked diligently, making positive contributions to the development of socialist democracy and the building of a country of socialist rule of law," Zhang said. He also asked for the long-term adherence to and continuous improvements in the system of people's congresses, as it is a political system fundamental to adhering to the Party's leadership, the people being the masters of the country and law-based governance. At the symposium, 10 deputies talked about their experience of fulfilling their duties over the past five years, and gave their general approval of the draft work report of the NPC Standing Committee, which was released for review. They also spoke highly of the work of the 12th NPC and its standing committee, and agreed that the committee has carried out its duties according to the overall work situation of the Party and the country, significantly raising the efficiency and quality of lawmaking. Moreover, the committee has focused on solving problems and responded to the concerns of the people, further improved its supervision, and actively pushed forward the development of local people's congresses, making new advances and achievements in the NPC's work, they said. Wang Chen, member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and vice chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, also attended the symposium. The 12th NPC Standing Committee finished a two-day session Tuesday. According to a decision made at the session, the 13th NPC will hold its first annual session in Beijing on March 5. ^ top ^

Foreign journalists in China complain of growing abuse from officials, report says (SCMP)
Working conditions for foreign correspondents in China deteriorated last year, with journalists reporting being beaten, detained and harassed, according to a survey published on Tuesday. Almost half of more than 100 correspondents were subjected to some form of interference in 2017 while attempting to gather information, according to the report by the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China. Twenty-three per cent said they were physically obstructed from accessing a location and 8 per cent said they were manhandled or beaten. BBC reporter Matthew Goddard was quoted as saying that unknown individuals tried to smash his camera equipment after he refused to hand over footage, and "physically punched" him. The FCCC said the results "provide strong evidence to suggest that, from an already very low baseline, reporting conditions are getting worse". Reporting grew more difficult in many areas, but particularly in the vast northwestern region of Xinjiang, the homeland of the Uygurs – a mostly Muslim ethnic minority experiencing Chinese cultural and religious repression. Seventy-three per cent of respondents who travelled to Xinjiang last year were told by officials that reporting was prohibited or restricted, compared with 42 per cent in 2016. "I was detained in Xinjiang numerous times, in pretty much every city, on the train. I was interrogated for 11 hours and was not permitted to sleep for two nights," the report cited a journalist from a US news organisation as saying. Chinese authorities say the country has a basic policy of "opening up to the outside world" including protecting the rights of foreign journalists, who may interview anyone who gives prior consent. But correspondents reported growing pressure by Chinese officials on foreign news outlets. The survey found that authorities stepped up the threat of not renewing journalist visas in an effort to convince media outlets to write more favourable repots. Five international news organisations experienced visa difficulties that appeared related to their work. The problems included lengthy delays in visa approval, credentials issued with unusually short validity and outright rejection of accreditations. Chinese diplomats overseas have also appeared to become more assertive in applying pressure on media headquarters, with 22 per cent of respondents reporting pressure on their head offices in 2017, up from 19 per cent in the previous survey. Such activity has included critical public statements made by Chinese ambassadors and embassies, which have included accusations that reports were "fabricated news" and requests to delete articles. ^ top ^

Charge against detained Chinese rights lawyer upgraded to subversion (SCMP)
The wife of detained Chinese rights lawyer Yu Wensheng said on Tuesday her husband had been charged with "inciting subversion of state power" and that police had summonsed her after she gave interviews to overseas media. Yu, who has been an outspoken critic of a Chinese government crackdown on his fellow rights lawyers and activists, was taken by authorities from outside his home in Beijing on January 19 soon after he was stripped of his legal licence. Yu's wife, Xu Yan, said police informed her on Saturday that her husband was being charged with "inciting subversion of state power" rather than the original lighter charge of "obstructing a public service". For the last two days, police in Xuzhou in southeastern Jiangsu province have repeatedly called to ask her to go to the police station to speak to them about her husband's crimes, she said. The police told her that the reason she was wanted was because she had given interviews to overseas media, she said. A man who answered the phone at the Xuzhou public security bureau said he was unaware of the case. It is unclear why Yu is being held in Xuzhou. It is not uncommon for sensitive rights cases to be transferred to different jurisdictions. Beijing launched a sweeping wave of detentions and arrest of rights lawyers and activists, which has come to be known as the "709" incident after the date July 9, 2015, when the crackdown began in earnest. In response, the families and friends of the rights lawyers and activists have often taken up their loved one's cause in the wake of their detention, sometimes becoming high-profile activists in their own right. An edited video of Yu's detention showing him punching and swearing at the police officers was posed on YouTube on January 22, and has since been shared repeatedly on Twitter. Xu said the video was an attempt to smear her husband. The day before Yu was detained he had circulated a call for reform to China's state constitution, which said China should delete a preamble that grants the ruling Communist Party primacy in leadership. ^ top ^



Xinjiang assigns 76,000 officials to poor villages (Global Times)
Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region have assigned 76,000 officials to villages in 2018 to fight poverty and maintain stability. In an effort to enhance work in extremely poor villages and to alleviate poverty, the Communist Party of China (CPC) Committee in Xinjiang has assigned 76,000 officials and 12,000 working groups to cover every village in the region, the Xinjiang Morning Post reported on Thursday. Those officials started to work in villages on Monday. Among the 76,000 officials, 2,578 officials selected from universities in Xinjiang will be assigned to each extremely poor village. "The officials are mainly responsible for implementing regional policies. Their close involvement with ethnic residents would erase estrangement, which would benefit regional stability in the long run," Dong Yong, a professor from Urumqi National Cadre College, told the Global Times on Thursday. "The CPC Committee in Xinjiang will closely monitor the work of the village-based officials. It has decided to keep 60 percent of them from 2017 and recommended new officials for the groups, making sure that there are at least eight officials for large villages, six for middle-sized ones and five for smaller ones," the Xinjiang Morning Post reported. Dong said these officials have to put real effort into their work, otherwise it would become routine and will not have a substantial influence on local families. "The work of village-officials in 2018 will focus on whether the hearts of cadres go along with their body," he added. An official who had worked in Hotan in 2014 surnamed Niu told the Global Times on Thursday that his experience helped his future work. "I'm more confident in handling local affairs because I learned how to effectively implement a task from my past experience," Niu said. Being a stationed officials, Niu said he engaged in a variety of activities with the local people, including solving their personal concerns, such as helping their children find proper schools. In 2017, Xinjiang dispatched 53,400 officials and more than 9,500 working teams, the Xinhua News Agency reported.  ^ top ^

China urges crackdown on subversive activities in coastal areas (Global Times)
A public security official urged a crackdown on infiltrative and subversive activities along China's coastal region as experts warned that more jihadists are returning to China through the coastal and southern borders, as the previous route through Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region is heavily fortified. Zhao Kezhi, Party chief of the Ministry of Public Security (MPS), on Tuesday urged a crackdown of infiltrative and subversive activities along the coastal regions, a website,, affiliated with the MPS reported on Wednesday. He said that "we should always keep alert on terrorism, intensify border controls and enhance international cooperation in counter-terrorism." "The terrorists either use forged passports or slip into the Chinese inland via Southeast China's coastal border, or through Southwest China Yunnan Province, which borders Myanmar and Vietnam," Li Wei, a counter-terrorism expert at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times. Li said terrorists are gradually abandoning the previous route as the region is heavily fortified and the mountainous terrain is very hard for these people to sneak into. "They just fly to cities like Beijing and Shanghai with their Chinese passports, posing like any other citizen who returns from another country, which makes counter-terrorism work more difficult," Li Shaoxian, head of the Arab research institute at Ningxia University in Northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, told the Global Times previously. Li Wei said that under such circumstances, local governments in the Chinese inland are tightening border controls and taking measures to prevent the infiltration of terrorists. Chen Dingwu, head of the MPS Border Control Department, said in March 2017 that amid the complicated situation with coastal border regions, the government vowed to strengthen border controls and maintain the stability of coastal and border cities, the MPS website said. Eighteen coastal border cities and provinces have issued policies on tightening border controls, Legal Daily reported in August 2017. The report pointed out that only by building an effective and clear border control mechanism can the border and coastal cities' safety and stability be guaranteed. Yunnan and Central China's Henan Province recently conducted anti-terror drills at college campuses. In January, a school in Henan's Weishi county sent police to teach faculty and security staff the basics of counter-terrorism, and required security guards to be armed with shields and steel forks, the People's Daily reported Friday. China faced a "prominent" risk of a terror attack, said Ji Zhiye, head of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, at an international relations forum in Beijing last month, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported in January. "The number of jihadists captured along China's borders [in 2017] was more than 10 times the number than the previous year," Ji said. ^ top ^

Xinjiang crackdown must go on to subdue 'terror risks', China says (SCMP)
Unrelenting risks of "terror" and separatist activity in China's far western region of Xinjiang require a prolonged security crackdown, state media said late on Sunday, after a year-long campaign that saw increased police deployment and heightened surveillance. China says Xinjiang faces a serious threat from Islamic extremists and separatists who plot violent attacks and stir up tensions between the mostly Muslim Uygur minority who call the region home and the ethnic Han Chinese majority. In response, the government has organised mass police rallies and rolled out new surveillance and anti-terror measures throughout the region, including thousands of newly installed street-corner police stations in cities and towns. A report first read at a government meeting on January 22 by governor Shohrat Zakir and published in the official Xinjiang Daily newspaper said that 2017's campaign had made it clear that stabilising society in Xinjiang would require more measures. "There has been no fundamental change to the situation of Xinjiang being in a time of regular violent terror activities, an intense struggle against separatists and the painful throes of an intervention treatment," Zakir said. He added that the long-term peace and stability of Xinjiang and its society must be the overall goal of the regional government for the "critical period" of the next five years. Zakir said that to meet this goal, the government would continue to deepen severe specialist operations, such as guaranteeing absolute security of key areas and the "normalisation" of preventive measures in society. China blames the violence in Xinjiang on Islamist extremists and separatists, some of whom it says have links to groups outside the country. Rights groups and Uygur exiles say it is more a product of Uygur frustration at Chinese controls on their culture and religion. China denies any repression. ^ top ^



Joshua Wong and other Occupy leaders nominated for Nobel Peace Prize by US congressmen (SCMP)
A US congressional group known for its criticism of China has nominated Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung and two allies who led the 2014 Occupy protests for the Nobel Peace Prize, in a highly controversial move likely to annoy Beijing. The names of Wong, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Alex Chow Yong-kang, as well as the entire campaign popularly known as the "umbrella movement", were put forward to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee in Oslo by a group of 12 US congressmen. This is the first time there has been a nominee from Hong Kong. But the news is likely to ruffle feathers in Beijing, which sees the West's support of the Hong Kong democracy movement as interference in China's domestic affairs. The submission was made "in recognition of [the trio's] peaceful efforts to bring political reform and self-determination to Hong Kong and protect the autonomy and freedom guaranteed Hong Kong in the Sino-British Joint Declaration", according to a letter by the congressmen to the committee. According to the statutes of the Nobel Foundation, qualified nominators include members of national assemblies and national governments, university professors and rectors, as well as former peace prize winners. If selected, Wong, 21, could become the second youngest Nobel laureate; Law, 24, the third; and Chow, 27, the fifth. Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 at the age of 17, is the youngest to have received the award. In their letter dated January 31 – the last day of the nomination period – the congressmen highlighted the trio's "leadership roles" in the Occupy campaign through which "other pro-democracy politicians and supporters … took part in the largest pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong's history". The three activists were also praised for their demonstration of "civic courage, extraordinary leadership and an unwavering commitment to a free and prosperous Hong Kong that upholds the rule of law, political freedoms and human rights". The 2014 mass sit-ins saw major roads in downtown Hong Kong blocked by tens of thousands of protesters voicing opposition to Beijing's restrictive framework on a plan for Hongkongers to elect the city's leader. Umbrellas became an icon of the campaign as they were used by protesters to shield themselves against pepper spray by police. The campaign however ended up going nowhere and was dissolved after 79 days. Subsequently, some of the key Occupy activists, including Wong, Law and Chow, were charged and jailed for various offences. The congressmen said in their letter: "Wong, Law and Chow and the entire 'umbrella movement' embody the peaceful aspirations of the people of Hong Kong who yearn to see their autonomy and way of life protected and their democratic aspirations fulfilled. "The umbrella movement and its leadership are acting in the long tradition of previous Nobel Peace Prize laureates who captured the imagination of their fellow countrymen and sought principled and peaceful change from within." The congressmen also highlighted the subsequent jailing of the trio and Law's disqualification as a lawmaker "after the Chinese central government issued an interpretation of the Basic Law deeming certain previously acceptable oath-taking behaviours … as punishable by disqualification". The Basic Law is Hong Kong's mini-constitution. "Joshua Wong's sentiments on Twitter immediately after the announcement of his prison sentence capture well the optimistic and persistent spirit that animates their efforts: 'The government can lock up our bodies but they cannot lock up our minds! We want democracy in Hong Kong. And we will not give up.'" The letter was jointly signed by 12 congressmen, including Republican senator Marco Rubio and representative Christopher Smith, as well as four of their colleagues in the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, of which Rubio and Smith are chairman and co-chairman respectively. Last year, the commission highlighted in its annual report the deterioration of human rights in China and also expressed concern over Hong Kong's press freedom as well as the disqualification of lawmakers. Rubio and Smith then also stated their intention to nominate the three activists and the entire "umbrella movement" for the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize. Calling the trio "champions of peace and freedom and Hong Kong's entire pro-democracy movement", the congressmen also noted the Nobel Committee's "past willingness to brave the displeasure and outright retribution" of China in awarding the prize to political dissident Liu Xiaobo in 2010. Liu was jailed for what Beijing called "inciting subversion of state power". Mainland authorities criticised the awarding of the prize to him as "politically motivated". The laureate was barred from going to accept his prize. His absence was marked at the ceremony by an empty chair. Liu died last year, becoming the first Nobel Peace Prize recipient to perish in custody since German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, who died in 1938 after years in a Nazi concentration camp. The Nobel laureates are to be selected by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Winners will be announced in October, with the awards ceremony in December. Law Yuk-kai, director of Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, said the trio deserved the recognition. "Participants in the 'umbrella movement' insisted on making the campaign peaceful and orderly – that deserves international recognition," Law said. "If they win the prize, Hong Kong's social movements will enjoy the moral high ground." But New People's Party chairwoman and executive councillor Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said it was "ridiculous" for the trio to be nominated. "What have they done to deserve that? It was an illegal 'Occupy Central' movement … They had no right to occupy the streets – there were outbursts of violence and they were charged and convicted," she said. The three had not been "hailed as advocates of democracy or heroes by most of the people in Hong Kong", she added. "The congressmen's nomination is politically driven … It is not fair." Wong himself was once quoted as saying he would not deserve such an honour, but that the nomination should go to all the Hongkongers who took part in the "umbrella movement". ^ top ^

Britain and Canada weigh in on Hong Kong activist Agnes Chow's by-election disqualification as third candidate barred (SCMP)
Britain and Canada weighed in on the row over the disqualification of Hong Kong activist Agnes Chow Ting from the city's coming legislative by-elections as officials banned a third opposition hopeful on Thursday. A spokesman for the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: "We are concerned by the rejection of Agnes Chow's nomination for the forthcoming Legislative Council by-election. The right to stand for election is a fundamental right enshrined in Article 26 of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights. "Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy, and its rights and freedoms, are central to its way of life, and it is important that they should be fully respected." Election officials sparked a political storm on Saturday by banning Chow, on the grounds that her party, Demosisto, advocated self-determination for Hong Kong. On its Facebook page, the Canadian consulate in Hong Kong said: "Canada is concerned that barring candidates from standing for election because of their political beliefs is inconsistent with democratic norms which have been widely considered part of Hong Kong's system. "Such actions risk diminishing Hong Kong's international reputation as a free and open society." When asked for comment, a spokeswoman for the US consulate in Hong Kong reiterated the country's support for the city's high degree of autonomy, the rule of law and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. "We support freedom of expression and believe that societies are best served when diverse political views can be expressed," she added. In response to the British statement, a Hong Kong government spokesman said Chow's disqualification was made in accordance with the law. "There is no question of restriction of the freedom of speech or deprivation of the right to stand for election as alleged by some members of the community," he added. In Beijing, Zhang Xiaoming, director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, also said the decision was done "in accordance with the law". The chorus from the international community came as the government disqualified a third opposition candidate – localist and district councillor James Chan Kwok-keung – from running in the New Territories East constituency for the March 11 poll. Chan was also barred from the 2016 Legco elections on the grounds that he advocated Hong Kong independence. Citing his remarks made publicly in 2016 which suggested that breaking away from China was the only solution for the city, returning officer Amy Chan Yuen-man said she did not find that James Chan had genuinely changed his stance. This was despite various statements he had made since November, saying he did not belong to the "pro-independence camp" and that Hong Kong independence only meant "independence from communist rule". "I do not consider that there is sufficient basis to accept Mr Chan's professed change of intention as expressed on various occasions... as genuine," she wrote. She said she did not believe Chan genuinely and truly intended to uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the Hong Kong SAR. James Chan condemned the decision and pledged to launch a petition. On Wednesday, the same electoral official had invalidated the candidacy of localist Ventus Lau Wing-hong, arguing that he had not genuinely ditched his previous support for the idea of Hong Kong independence, although he had earlier made a declaration suggesting so.Separately, Southern district councillor Au Nok-hin, the candidate put forward by the pro-democracy bloc as a replacement in the Hong Kong Island constituency, announced his election platform in the company of Chow on Thursday. "Hong Kong has never been so unjust and unfair," he said, urging the public to vote and express their anger over what he called the political screening of candidates. Also on Thursday, Agnes Chow and fellow Demosisto activists, including Joshua Wong Chi-fung and Nathan Law Kwun-chung, staged a protest at a candidates' briefing hosted by the Electoral Affairs Commission. They chanted words such as "anti-political screening" and "anti-thought vetting", and took aim at commission chairman Mr Justice Barnabas Fung Wah. They were quickly escorted away by security guards. Meanwhile, some activists outside the briefing room threw a can of smelly fish and a bag of grasshoppers at the entrance in protest. Outside the venue, Chow said: "Mr Justice Fung is supposed to make sure the election is conducted in a fair and just manner. But he failed his job. We are very disappointed." At a question-and-answer session during the briefing, Ventus Lau, who is the convenor of the political alliance Community Network Union, accused Fung of exercising political censorship in disqualifying the candidacy of pro-democracy activists. He challenged Fung to explain the basis on which he was barred from the poll. Fung said he had no role in the disqualifications and was not involved in the decisions of the returning officer. "The returning officer is to decide on his or her own. That is according to our electoral system. If someone would like to challenge the returning officer's decision, he or she can file an election petition." Dissatisfied with the reply, Lau continued shouting at Fung, at one point hurling verbal abuse. He was escorted away by security guards. The commission chairman took three questions from the floor. ^ top ^

Beijing envoy in Hong Kong urges preparedness against 'significant political and legal incidents' this year (SCMP)
A senior Beijing envoy has warned Hong Kong to be prepared against "certain significant political and legal incidents" this year, while describing the city's top official as having got off to a good start since taking office last July. Huang Lanfa, a deputy director of the central government liaison office in Hong Kong, asked that the incidents be addressed "in an active and proper manner", according to a mainland media report. Huang raised the issue at a seminar in Shenzhen organised by the semi-official mainland think tank, the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, People's Daily reported. In his address, Huang said "the radical resistance had been contained to a certain extent" under the administration of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. But he warned Hong Kong would still face "certain significant political and legal" incidents this year. One such matter would be the cross-border, high-speed Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, specifically a joint checkpoint at the West Kowloon terminus in which mainland immigration and customs officials would operate locally. The bill to enable the arrangement had its first reading at the Legislative Council on Wednesday. Basic Law Committee vice-chairman Zhang Rongshun said at the seminar the joint checkpoint was meant to boost Hong Kong's development and was in line with the city's mini-constitution. He added that critics of the plan ­refused to accept the new constitutional order of the special ­administrative region that was established based on China's ­constitution and the Basic Law. Zhang said critics of the plan were declining to accept the new constitutional order of the special administrative region that was established upon China's constitution and the Basic Law after Hong Kong was handed over from British rule in 1997. The People's Daily report did not mention if Zhang had named those critics. But the plan, endorsed last November by the National People's Congress Standing Committee, China's top legislative body, has been slammed by pan-democrats and some in the local legal sector. The Hong Kong Bar Association said the NPCSC's ruling lacked a legal basis and that the plan could not be considered constitutional just because the body said it was. The People's Daily report said speakers at the seminar anticipated the city's future would be good but warned it needed to "stay away from political disputes". Joe Fang Zhou, chief research officer at the Hong Kong-based One Country Two Systems Research Institute, believed the Greater Bay Area development scheme would open up a market with a total population of 66 million people. The scheme aims to integrate nine cities in Guangdong province with Hong Kong and Macau into a regional business hub. ^ top ^



Taiwan to promote central bank deputy to governor (SCMP)
Taiwan's central bank deputy governor, Yang Chin-long, is to succeed the bank's 79-year-old governor Perng Fai-nan this month, signalling continuity in monetary policy. Yang, 64, would replace Perng, cabinet spokesman Hsu Kuo-yung told a briefing in Taipei on Thursday. Yang has served as the institution's top deputy since 2008. By selecting him to take over from Perng, who has held the job for almost 20 years and is one of the world's longest-serving central bank governors, Taiwan's policymakers are signalling that they are aiming for consistency and stability. "As Yang has served as a deputy for a long time, I don't expect any major change in Taiwan's monetary and exchange rate policy – it's a smooth succession," said Raymond Yeung, chief Greater China economist for Australia & New Zealand Banking Group in Hong Kong. "He has a good relationship with other central banks. That may be able to facilitate policy communication." Economists see growth in the export-oriented economy remaining stable amid resilient global demand, forecasting 2.5 per cent growth this year after 2.84 per cent last year. The benchmark interest rate has been kept unchanged at 1.375 per cent since June 2016. Yang's appointment comes amid flux at global central banks. Jerome Powell is set to succeed US Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen and Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda is waiting to learn if he will be appointed to another term. Mainland China, Indonesia, South Korea and New Zealand also are transitioning to new central bank chiefs or may do so soon. Yang joined the central bank's department of economic research in 1989 after working as a researcher at the Taiwan Academy of Banking and Finance for several years. A fluent English-speaker, Yang helped communicate with the US to get Taiwan removed from the currency watch list in October. He earned a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Birmingham in Britain and later worked as the central bank's first representative in London. "Taiwan's economy will be dominated by fiscal policy this year and will rely less on monetary policy for support," said Woods Chen, chief economist at Yuanta Securities Investment Consulting in Taipei. Tax breaks and government-backed infrastructure construction would help ease the burden on monetary policy, he said. ^ top ^

Taiwan lawmakers on Vatican trip 'hoping for audience with Pope Francis' (SCMP)
Taiwanese lawmakers are seeking an audience with Pope Francis as concerns grow over Taipei's diplomatic relations with the Vatican, after it reportedly promoted bishops endorsed by Beijing. The Holy See is one of only 20 countries that recognise Taipei instead of Beijing, but Pope Francis has sought to improve ties with Beijing since he took office in 2013. Beijing still sees self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory and demands that allies of Beijing must give up any official ties with the island. Five legislators from Taiwan's foreign affairs and interior committees are leaving on Saturday for an eight-day visit to the Vatican, Italy and Greece. Lawmaker Tsai Shih-ying, who is part of the group, said they were "hoping to have an audience with the pope" but it was still to be confirmed. "We will express our stance and communicate on issues... relating to Taiwan-Vatican ties," he said, without elaborating. Their visit comes after the Vatican chastised Hong Kong cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, who accused it of "selling out" to Beijing over the bishop issue. Zen, bishop emeritus of semi-autonomous Hong Kong, confirmed an AsiaNews website report that a Vatican diplomat asked two underground Chinese bishops recognised by the Vatican to resign in favour of state-sanctioned prelates. There are an estimated 12 million Catholics in mainland China, but the Vatican has not had diplomatic relations with Beijing since 1951, two years after the founding of the communist People's Republic. Although Beijing and the Vatican have improved relations in recent years as mainland China's Catholic population has grown, they remain at odds over which side has the authority to ordain bishops. Previous attempts to restore ties have floundered over Beijing's insistence that the Vatican must give up its recognition of its rival Taiwan and promise not to interfere in religious issues in mainland China. Beijing has stepped up pressure on Taiwan since President Tsai Ing-wen took power in 2016 as her government refuses to acknowledge that the island is part of "one China". Former Taiwanese allies Gambia, Sao Tome and Panama have established ties with Beijing since Tsai was elected in January 2016. ^ top ^

Direction of Beijing-Taipei ties may be determined by handling of air route dispute, Taiwan says (SCMP)
A dispute with mainland China over its opening of new air routes near Taiwan will determine future relations between Taipei and Beijing, Taiwan's government said amid a deepening disagreement that could strand thousands of people over an important holiday. The spat has become increasingly bitter, with both sides trading accusations after two mainland airlines cancelled extra flights to Taiwan over the Lunar New Year, the most important holiday in the Chinese calendar, potentially leaving thousands of Taiwanese without tickets to go home. "The people's eyes are sharp. Whether this disputed issue can be resolved is an important indicator of how Taiwanese people will view the future direction of relations between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait," Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council said in a statement late on Wednesday. "We again call on the Chinese side to treasure the hard won peace and stability of relations between the two sides. Mainland China needs to carry out measures to make up for this deficiency, in order to avoid this issue continuing to grow and ferment." Taiwan said the new routes, which run near two groups of Taiwan-controlled islands which sit close to mainland China, are a threat to aviation safety and were opened by Beijing without Taipei's approval, contravening previous agreements. Beijing considers Taiwan a wayward province, and relations have cooled dramatically since Tsai Ing-wen of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party took office as the island's president in 2016. ^ top ^

Wife of jailed Taiwanese activist Lee Ming-che again barred from boarding flight to see husband on mainland (SCMP)
The wife of Taiwanese activist Lee Ming-che, sentenced to five years in prison by mainland China authorities for subverting state power, was stopped from flying from Taiwan to mainland China on Tuesday to visit him in prison, rights groups said. Lee, a community college lecturer and an activist at a human rights non-governmental organisation in Taiwan, had gone missing while on a trip to the mainland in March. Mainland authorities later charged him with subverting state power. His wife, Li Ching-yu, refused to recognise the court's authority during the first hearing. She bought a plane ticket on Xiamen Airlines on Tuesday, with plans to see her husband in prison, according to a statement by several human rights group who are helping her. However, because she had travel documents that were deemed invalid to enter mainland China, she was not permitted to board the plane in Taipei, the statement said. Taiwanese need special travel documents issued by Beijing, akin to a passport, to travel to the mainland. The documents can be invalidated unilaterally by Beijing. The rights groups' statement said Li had received a notice from the mainland government on Monday notifying her that her husband was transferred to a Hunan province prison on December 28. It said family members were entitled to visit once a month. Asked about the incident, Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office, said on Wednesday that Hunan had not received detailed information required for a visit from Lee's family. "As per the rules, the jail will handle applications for a visit in accordance with law after they are processed," Ma said without elaborating. Li was also denied entry into the mainland in April despite having valid credentials, the associations said. She was told at the time by the airlines that her travel credentials were cancelled. "From past years until now, the mainland government's refusal today to let family members visit relatives in prison in China demonstrates that they do not empathise to any degree, from the point of view of humanity," the rights associations said. The Straits Exchange Foundation, a semi-official body that oversees relations between Taiwan and the mainland, echoed the statement, calling on mainland authorities to approve credentials for Li to travel to China and arrange a prison visit. Li could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. ^ top ^

Taiwan mounts live-fire drills to test defences against invasion (SCMP)
Taiwanese troops staged live-fire exercises simulating an invasions of the island on Tuesday, as mainland China steps up pressure on Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and a row over airline routes escalates. The military sent reconnaissance aircraft to monitor simulated incoming ships, followed by tanks firing rounds during an "enemy landing" at the port of Hualien in eastern Taiwan. Attack helicopters released flares and F-16 fighter jets launched assaults, backing up an on-the-ground battle against the incoming troops. While not specifying that the drill simulated an invasion by mainland China, the authorities said the exercise was to "show determination to safeguard peace in the Taiwan Strait and national security". The Taiwan Strait separates the island from mainland China. The drill comes after Tsai warned last month about what she called Beijing's "military expansion" – the increase of mainland air and naval drills around the island since she came to power in May 2016 – and amid a new row over flight routes in the strait. Beijing sees the self-ruled island as part of its territory, to be reunified at some point, and by force, if necessary. Cross-strait relations have turned frosty since the inauguration of Tsai, who refuses to acknowledge that self-ruled, democratic Taiwan is part of "one China". The drill takes place annually before the Lunar New Year holiday – which is in mid-February this year – as a way to boost public confidence in Taiwan's defences. "Our combat readiness has no holiday," Lieutenant General Huang Kai-sen said. "In order for our citizens to feel safe during the Lunar New Year, we are standing by and on guard 24 hours a day." Tensions have been growing this month since Beijing started new flight routes in the strait without consulting Taiwan. Taipei slammed the move as reckless and said it could threatened the island's security. It has retaliated by blocking nearly 200 flights between Taiwan and the mainland by mainland airlines during the Lunar New Year period. Beijing also sent its sole operational aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, through the Taiwan Strait twice this month. While the mainland's defence ministry urged Taiwanese not to worry as there was nothing unusual, the act is still seen as a show of strength by Beijing. ^ top ^

Two prosecuted for spying for Taiwan (Xinhua)
Two suspects from east China's Jiangsu Province have been charged with spying for Taiwan, a senior procurator said here. The two suspects, identified as Ma Liangliang and Liang Xin, were charged by the Suzhou City Procuratorate in May 2017, according to Liu Hua, head of the Jiangsu provincial procuratorate. They were recruited by Taiwan spy Wu Rong in July 2016 and knowingly provided Wu military information through emails, Liu told the ongoing provincial legislative session. Their espionage activity has seriously undermined the military security of the Chinese mainland, Liu said. Espionage is a severe crime on the Chinese mainland, which can result in a life sentence, or, in some cases, the death penalty. The court is yet to rule on the case. ^ top ^



Beware of 'predatory' Chinese investment in the Americas, warns Rex Tillerson (SCMP)
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Thursday warned countries in the Western Hemisphere to beware of Chinese investment, saying it is reminiscent of European colonialism. He also derided Russia for selling weaponry to unfriendly, authoritarian governments in the region. Before embarking Thursday on a five-nation trip to Latin America, Tillerson said China seeks only to enrich itself with investment and development projects. He said regional governments should protect themselves against "predatory actors that are now showing up in our hemisphere," specifically mentioning China. He said Chinese investment may look good but comes with a heavy price. "China, as it does in emerging markets throughout the world, offers the appearance of an attractive path to development, but in reality this often involves trading short-term gains for long-term dependency," Tillerson said in a speech at the University of Texas. He said Chinese offers almost always demand the use of imported Chinese labour, large loans and unsustainable debt and ignore human and property rights. "While this trade has brought benefits, the unfair trading practices used by many Chinese have also harmed these countries' manufacturing sectors, generating unemployment and lowering wages for workers. Latin America does not need a new imperial power," he said. He lamented that China is now the largest trading partner with Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru. Tillerson will be visiting Argentina and Peru on his Latin America tour, which begins late Thursday in Mexico and will end next week with stops in Colombia and Jamaica. On his trip, Tillerson will be pushing good governance and anti-corruption efforts as well as promoting trade with the United States, which he hailed as a better alternative to China. "We do not seek short-term deals with lopsided returns," he said. Tillerson also took aim at Russia, saying its "growing presence in the region is alarming." Russia, he said, "continues to sell arms and military equipment to unfriendly regimes who do not share or respect democratic values." "Our region must be diligent to guard against faraway powers who do not reflect the fundamental values shared in this region," he said. Tillerson completed his first year in office on Thursday – the same day former acting Secretary of State Tom Shannon^ top ^

Chinese firms export nuclear fusion devices to compete in world market (Global Times)
Chinese companies have developed core devices used in nuclear fusion and exported them to Europe, a move which a Chinese expert said represents China's developments in the field and can compete with those of developed countries. Four steam condensers, designed by China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) and Suzhou THVOW Technology Co. Ltd (THVOW), and produced by THVOW are ready to be shipped to France, Qiu Dechun, THVOW publicity manager, told the Global Times on Monday. The devices would be used in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), an international nuclear fusion research and engineering project exploring the commercial uses of fusion power. "Chinese enterprises engaged in producing devices for nuclear fusion are competitive with those of developed countries, including the US," Gui Liming, an expert on nuclear safety system at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times on Monday. Gui added that the EU usually sets a threshold on China's products in this field, but the devices successfully enter into the EU market, which also represents China's developments in the industry." It is the first time Europe is importing nuclear pressure vessels from China, according to a statement sent to the Global Times by THVOW on Monday. The delivery cycle of the four steam condensers was only 15 months, half of other similar types of nuclear power equipment, according to the statement. It also said steam condensers act as the primary protection if the main device malfunctions in the experiment. The devices were required to simultaneously meet three safety standards of the US, Europe and France, which posed a big challenge to the design and production procedure of the devices, the statement said. The condensers are among nuclear power products with the highest standards in the European market. "We can now proudly say that we can make it," said Tian Rui, THVOW executive manager. CGN and THVOW started working together when they won the ITER-related bid in 2016, and the steam condenser production became the first project won by Chinese companies. China is a member country of the ITER project, which aims to produce 500 megawatts of fusion power with only 50 megawatts of input power in an experimental tokamak in southern France.^ top ^



Donald Trump's preference for 'bloody nose' attack on North Korea is clear (SCMP)
The White House's rejection of Victor Cha for the post of US ambassador to South Korea shows US President Donald Trump is leaning toward launching a "bloody nose" preventive strike against North Korea to force the reclusive country back to the negotiating table, analysts said. The Trump administration abandoned Cha – a former director for Asian affairs in the White House's National Security Council and a top adviser for Korean affairs under former US President George W. Bush – as its pick for the South Korean ambassador's post because Cha disagreed with the "bloody nose" strategy as a way to achieve the president's goal of removing nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula, analysts said. "Cha's denomination suggests the White House has a preference for someone willing to endorse or prioritise a military option," said Catherine Dill, a nuclear policy expert at Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California. Cha's rejection indicates that "an active effort" is being made within the Trump administration to advocate for a military option to deter North Korea's nuclear ambitions, Dill said. Another well-placed Washington person who spoke with the South China Morning Post on condition of anonymity said the White House was not prepared to put up with a dissenter in the midst of advocating for an attack. The Trump administration wants to keep all options open, including the "bloody nose" assault, the person said. The goal of a "bloody nose" attack would be to shock Pyongyang with a limited strike without having it escalate into an all-out war, forcing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un back to the negotiating table. But Cha showed he opposed the strategy in late December, when he privately raised concerns with members of the president's National Security Council. On Tuesday, in an opinion piece Cha wrote for The Washington Post, he warned that a "bloody nose" attack would not deter Kim from responding. A US preliminary strike would risk the "hundreds of thousands of American lives" of people who lived in South Korea and Japan under "a rain of North Korean artillery and missiles", Cha wrote. The White House confirmed on Tuesday that Cha was no longer being considered for the ambassador's post. "We have yet to nominate anyone for the post, but it is our intention to do so as soon as we can find the appropriate candidate," an anonymous senior official was quoted by US media as saying. A National Security Council spokesman declined in an email on Wednesday to comment on alternative nominees. A defence analyst speaking on condition of anonymity said Robert C. O'Brien, a lawyer and former United Nations diplomat, could be considered for the post. The analyst summed up O'Brien as a "smart Asia hand" and "an honest broker". O'Brien, who has ties to the Trump administration, according to the analyst, also was considered last year for the role of US Secretary of the Navy. The controversy over the ambassador's job comes as South Korea prepares to host North Korean athletes taking part in the Winter Olympic Games from February 9-25 after the estranged countries sought to resolve their issues through dialogue and reached an agreement on North Korea's Olympics participation in early January. South Korea and the US also agreed to temporarily halt joint military exercises during the two weeks of games. The US has faced a rising threat from North Korea since Pyongyang accelerated its nuclear weapons programmes last year. Led by Kim, who has proclaimed North Korea a nuclear country, Pyongyang in 2017 conducted its sixth nuclear test and test-fired more than 20 missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles that could strike the US. Trump traded invective with Kim throughout the year, threatening to "totally destroy" North Korea with "fire and fury". He also told the North Korean leader that "military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded." Trump said frequently that he would be open to talks between Washington and Pyongyang "at the appropriate time, under the right circumstances", without specifying what he meant by those terms. But no direct talks towards denuclearisation have taken place between the US and North Korea. The two sides have blamed each other for escalating tension and failing to show sufficient willingness to engage in negotiations. In his first State of the Union address on Tuesday, Trump warned that North Korea's "reckless pursuit of nuclear missiles could very soon threaten our homeland". He vowed to prevent such an imperilling of the US "from ever happening". Cha said a "coercive strategy" could be used to rein in North Korea that would not involve self-destructive costs. "The United States must continue to prepare military options," Cha said in his opinion article. "Force will be necessary to deal with North Korea if it attacks first, but not through a preventive strike that could start a nuclear war." Harry Kazianis, a director at the Centre for the National Interest in Washington, said he believed the administration would not launch a "bloody nose" attack unless the homeland, South Korea, Japan or US bases were attacked by North Korea first. If the US launched a pre-emptive strike, Pyongyang would respond. "It's just a question of how savage the casualties on the allies' side would be," Kazianis said. ^ top ^

North Korea tells UN chief US is aggravating tensions with military deployments (SCMP)
North Korea has sent the United Nations a letter urging the international organisation to prevent the United States from taking actions that would hamper a thaw between the two Koreas, official media said on Thursday. "The international society … looks forward to seeing continued easing of tension on the Korean peninsula," the Korean Central News Agency quoted Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho as saying in the letter sent on Wednesday to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. But the United States is "seeking to intentionally aggravate the situation by introducing the strategic assets including nuclear powered aircraft carrier strike groups into the vicinity of the Korean peninsula," Ri was quoted as saying. "The United Nations should not keep silence as to the US dangerous game of aggravating situation in and around the Korean peninsula and driving the whole world into a possible disaster of nuclear war," the foreign minister was also quoted as saying. In a surprisingly conciliatory gesture to South Korea, North Korea has announced plans to send 22 athletes as well as 24 coaches and officials to the Olympics that start on February 9. Pyongyang, however, has shown no signs of abandoning its nuclear and missile programmes. ^ top ^

China's nuclear monitors help track activities in region, including N.Korea (Global Times)
China's construction of nuclear monitoring stations would help the world better monitor nuclear activities in the region, including North Korea, which analysts said shows China's commitment to global nonproliferation. The certification ceremony of four stations, located in Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong Province, Beijing, Lanzhou in Northwest China's Gansu Province and Hailar in North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, which were approved by the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 2017, was held on Tuesday in Guangzhou, the Xinhua News Agency reported. "The global monitoring system under the CTBT mainly uses four methods to detect possible nuclear activities - earthquake, radionuclide, underwater sound and infrasound," Li Bin, a researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the International Studies Institute at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times on Wednesday. Of the four newly-approved stations in China, two are radionuclide-technical featured and two use seismic technology, Li said. These stations are part of the global system under the CTBT to monitor potential nuclear tests around the world. China established its first CTBT-certified station in December 2016 in Lanzhou. China plans to build a total of 11 such stations, Xinhua reported. China's monitoring stations are responsible for detecting nuclear activities in neighboring countries, including North Korea, Li said, adding that detection is not targeted at any particular country. North Korea has been continuously condemned by the international community for conducting nuclear tests. The stations are distributed in the world. The locations of China's certified stations were chosen because they have built related research centers and fit the budget, Li explained. Lassina Zerbo, executive secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the CTBT Organization, told Xinhua in December that China's construction of nuclear activity monitoring stations showed its commitment to the global cause of nonproliferation. The development indicates China's larger influence on nonproliferation, which is consistent with an increasing global leadership role, he said. China signed the CTBT in 1996 and was part of the initial group, which now includes 183 country members. ^ top ^

Kim Jong-nam, half-brother of North Korean leader, met with suspected US spy days before he was killed, court hears (SCMP)
Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un, met a suspected US intelligence agent in the northern Malaysian island resort of Langkawi just days before his mysterious demise, police revealed on Monday. Fuelling speculation that Kim had ties with US intelligence, Wan Azirul Nizam also confirmed that a forensic report on Kim's Dell laptop showed that some data was accessed by a USB pen drive several times on February 9, 2017, while he was in Langkawi. The pen drive was not among the items found on Kim when he died on February 13. There was also friction in the court as Azirul repeatedly claimed not to remember simple facts from the case – leading to one of the lawyers for the defence accusing the police force of trying to play off a political killing as a "simple murder case". Azirul said he dispatched a police officer to investigate Kim's five-day trip to Langkawi from February 8 -12 to help shed light on the motive for the assassination, which occurred at the departure hall of Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong have been jointly charged, along with four North Koreans still at large, with killing Kim by swiping his face with the deadly nerve agent VX. Both women have pleaded innocent, maintaining that they were duped by the North Koreans into thinking the act was for a prank television show. Aisyah's lawyer, Gooi Soon Seng, insisted in court that there is a political motive behind the assassination. In his cross examination, he grilled Azirul about Kim's Langkawi meeting with a Korean-American man based in Bangkok, which was first reported by Japan's Asahi newspaper last year. While Azirul confirmed that the meeting took place at a hotel, he said the police have been unable to identify the man, who the Asahi said was a US intelligence officer. The police found about US$138,000 (HK$1.07 million) in Kim's backpack when he died, lending to rumours that he may have sold information related to the regime of his half-brother Kim Jong-un to the United States, but Azirul denied that. The police officer, however, irked the lawyer when he could not answer many of the questions, even seemingly innocuous ones like where Kim stayed in Langkawi. Azirul claimed he could not remember or he could not find the details in his notebook. He had earlier claimed he could not remember what investigators found on Kim's laptop until Gooi produced a report from the computer crime unit of the police forensic department dated July 25, 2017. Azirul confirmed the report that found the laptop was last used on February 9, and on that day, a Kingston USB pen drive has been used to access data in it several times. Besides the laptop, Kim Jong Nam's four mobile phones were also sent for forensic analysis. "His demeanour, his answers were very evasive. We are quite unhappy over that," Gooi told reporters. "We are saying it is a political murder but they want to play down the political motive and turn it into a simple murder case," he added. Azirul will continue his testimony on Tuesday. ^ top ^

North Korea calls off joint pre-Olympics event with South Korea due to 'biased media' (SCMP)
North Korea abruptly called off a joint cultural event expected to be held at its Mt. Kumgang resort to celebrate the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in South Korea, Seoul officials said Monday, according to local media. In a telegram, the North said it was cancelling the event slated to be held on February 4, Unification Ministry officials told Yonhap News Agency. The report said North Korea was known to have cited what it claimed to be "biased" media reports about the upcoming event. South Korean media have voiced concerns that the joint events planned by the two Koreas in the lead-up to and during the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics may violate UN Security Council sanctions in place against the Pyongyang over its ballistic missile and nuclear tests. Earlier this month, the two Koreas held their first official talks in more than two years and the North said it would send athletes, coaches, a cheer squad and officials to the winter games that will be held over 17 days from February 9. The two Koreas also agreed to hold the cultural event later this month or early next month at Mt. Kumgang, a resort on the east coast of North Korea that was once frequented by groups of South Korean tourists. Last week, a 12-member South Korean team visited the North to check out facilities there, as well as at the Masikryong ski resort where the two sides have agreed that athletes from both countries would hold a joint training camp. According to Yonhap, the Seoul government said it was regrettable to see North Korea unilaterally call off a joint event that it had agreed to host. ^ top ^



Foreign minister to pay an official visit to DPRK (Montsame)
Minister of Foreign Affairs D.Tsogtbaatar will pay an official visit to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea on February 3-6, at the invitation of DPRK Foreign Affairs Minister Ri Yong-ho. During the official visit, D.Tsogtbaatar will pay courtesy calls on Kim Yong-nam, the President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, and Ri Su-yong, vice chairman for International Relations at Politburo of the Workers' Party and member of the State Affairs Commission, and hold official talks with Ri Yong-ho, Foreign Affairs Minister. This year, it marks 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Mongolia and the DPRK. Mongolia's Foreign Minister visited the DPRK in 2010. The DPRK Foreign Affairs Minister visited Mongolia in 2015.  ^ top ^

Mongolia asks support from China in road sector (Gogo Mongolia)
Bat-Erdene Jadamba, Minister of Road and Transport Development, is paying a visit to the People's Republic of China at the invitation of his counterpart Li Xiaopeng. This is considered the first visit of the Road and Transport Development Minister since 2015. On the first day of his visit, Mr Bat-Erdene Jadamba met with Mr Li Xiaopeng to discuss Mongolia- Russia-China railroad corridor and bilateral cooperation on auto road and air transport. Chinese Minister Li Xiaopeng remarked "The two countries have been developing cooperation in all sectors, especially focusing on transport sector since the joint declaration of developing Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2014." He then expressed that the Agreement on International Road Transport, which was established between the Governments of Mongolia and China in 2011, is not complying with the current situations; thus, a joint working group needs to be established in order to study the necessary amendments to the agreement. Minister of Road and Transport Development of Mongolia Bat- Erdene Jadamba expressed Mongolia's interest in studying China's practices in the road and transport spheres. Accordingly, Mr Bat-Erdene Jadamba asked China's support in the following works: Establishment of highway in Tianjin- Ulaan Uud route auto road; Expansion of railway network and workforces between the two countries; Expansion of transit transportation in the western, eastern and northern route railways; He then highlighted the current situations at Nariin Sukhait-Shivee Khuren and Tavan Tolgoi-Gashuunsukhait roads, and emphasized, "Tavan Tolgoi-Gashuunsukhait route auto road has a significant impact on Mongolia's economy. Therefore, it is important to promptly settle the issue at the border checkpoint." Accordingly, Mr Bat-Erdene Jadamba asked to increase access and establish railroad between Zunbayan and Khangi Mandal. He added, "If these areas are connected by railroads, the transportation length of iron ore from Mongolia to a metallurgical plant in Bugat city of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China will reduce by 400 km and will reduce load at Zamiin Uud-Ereen border checkpoint." As for air transport, Mr Bat- Erdene Jadamba requested China to increase flight frequency and delays in the Ulaanbaatar-Beijing route, expand flight routes of Hunnu Air LLC and establish Ulaanbaatar- Ulaan-Uud-Manchuria flight route. He emphasized that the route will develop cooperation and tourism between the three countries. Chinese minister informed that a joint working group's research is important for the above-mentioned issues and expressed his willingness in cooperating with Mongolia after studying the situation. ^ top ^

National working group on trilateral economic corridor meets (Montsame)
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs plans to organize the regular trilateral meeting on the Mongolia-Russia-China Economic Corridor Program within the first quarter of 2018 in Ulaanbaatar. The National Working Group on the implementation of the Economic Corridor Program held its regular meeting on January 26 at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Chaired by B.Battsetseg, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, the meeting was attended by representatives of the Ministry of Road and Transport Development, the Ministry of Energy, the National Development Agency, the Communications and Information Technology Authority, the Customs Authority, the General Agency for Specialized Inspection, the Agency for Standardization and Metrology, the Development Bank and Erdenes Mongol LLC. At the meeting, the government officials discussed Mongolia's policy and position towards the Central Railway Corridor and Central Road Corridor priority projects within the Economic Corridor Program. The officials also exchanged views on determination of feasible trilateral projects on electrical grid renovation and measures to be taken until the trilateral meeting. The National Working Group was formed pursuant to a Prime Ministerial ordinance issued on May 30, 2017. ^ top ^


Valentin Jeanneret
Embassy of Switzerland

The Press review is a random selection of political and social related news gathered from various media and news services located in the PRC, edited or translated by the Embassy of Switzerland in Beijing and distributed among Swiss Government Offices. The Embassy does not accept responsibility for accuracy of quotes or truthfulness of content. Additionally the contents of the selected news mustn't correspond to the opinion of the Embassy.
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