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
  26.2-2.3.2018, No. 710  
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Chinese diplomat calls for fair, impartial global human rights governance system (Global Times)
A senior Chinese diplomat on Wednesday called on all parties to work together to jointly promote the building of a community with shared future for humanity and to promote the establishment of a fair, impartial, open and inclusive global human rights governance system. Speaking during the 37th session of the UN Human Rights Council, the Chinese diplomat also stressed that development is the key to solving all problems related to human rights. In his speech, Yu Jianhua, head of the Chinese Mission to the UN at Geneva, said that the international society should enhance its efforts to promote human rights through better development. "We should persist in putting the right of development in the first place, fully implement the UN's 2030 agenda for sustainable development, eliminate extreme poverty and let no one fall behind," he noted. "We should maintain an open world economic system and further facilitate trade and investment flows, thus guiding the economic globalization towards a more open, inclusive, balanced and win-win way," he added. According to the Chinese diplomat, war, conflict and regional turbulence are the root causes of mass violations of human rights, so we should intensify our efforts in political mediation, conflict prevention and reestablishment of peace so as to effectively prevent riot and stop chaos, create a sustainable peace and avoid the tragedy of human rights violations. The development of a country's human rights cause can not be separated from a safe and stable domestic environment, Yu said, adding that we should support the efforts of all countries to combat illegal crimes and maintain social security according to law, strengthen the construction of the rule of law and enhance the sense of security of its people. He also highlighted the importance of cooperation in the promotion of human rights, saying that states should carry out dialogues on the basis of mutual respect and equality and mutual benefit, promote the work of Human Rights Council and other multilateral human rights mechanisms in a fair, objective and non selective way. "We should also abandon double standards, and discard the politicization of human rights and the acts of name shaming," he stressed. The Chinese diplomat also mentioned the importance of fairness in the improvement of global human rights governance system. "In today's world, the population of developing countries accounts for more than 80 percent of the world's total population, so they should have a louder voice and larger representation in the global human rights governance system," he said. The 37th session of the UN Human Rights Council kicked off here in Geneva on Feb. 26 and is expected to close on March 23. ^ top ^

Exhibition of Mongolian painter opens in Zurich, Switzerland (Montsame)
On February 17, a solo exhibition of painter E.Otgonbayar opened at the AB43 Contemporary Gallery in Zurich, Switzerland. Painter E.Otgonbayar has been living in Berlin, Germany since 2005 and promoting Mongolian traditional fine arts in Europe. He has held exhibitions in many countries such as Japan, Sweden, France, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, India, Switzerland, Moldavia, Poland, Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Germany. His works are being kept in several museums, institutes and private collections including the National Art Museum of Moldavia, the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. When he was in his home country, he studied Mongolian traditional painting and researched at historical sightseeing places. Specifically, he explored the essence of creations made by Buddhist lamas, spirit and the soul of their paintings by comparing their various methods and techniques. Western art critics and art lovers highly appreciate his works saying his works are inseparably connected with oriental fine arts, thangka painting, Mongolian fine arts, and aptly combines oriental and western traditions. Also, miniature art is a primal trend of his works which means painting little pieces. Mongolian traditional fine art has a close connection with miniature art and paintings of Buddhist deities are clear evidence. In this meaning, Buddhist deities' paintings make up a substantial part of his repertory. A solo exhibition of the painter will be open in Zurich until March 24.  ^ top ^


Foreign Policy

China, Tonga agree to promote strategic partnership (Xinhua)
Chinese President Xi Jinping held talks in Beijing with Tonga's King Tupou VI Thursday, and they agreed to further promote the strategic partnership between China and Tonga. During their talks held in the Great Hall of the People, Xi said King Tupou VI has made historic contribution to China-Tonga ties and he hoped that the royal family of Tonga would continue to play a positive role in the development of bilateral ties. This year marks 20th anniversary of the establishment of China-Tonga diplomatic ties. Tupou VI came to China in the capacity of foreign and defense minister 20 years ago to sign a communique to establish diplomatic relations. Xi said China and the Pacific island countries including Tonga were good friends and partners. "It is put forward at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) that China will advance a new form of international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness, justice, and win-win cooperation and a community with a shared future for mankind," Xi said. He called on both countries to enhance exchanges at all levels and strengthen political mutual trust, continue to support and understand each other on issues concerning sovereignty, territory integrity and national dignity. Xi encouraged the two countries to expand communication and exchanges between government departments and legislature bodies, dig up potential in cooperation in various areas and forge ahead with cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative. Noting that China knows well the challenges small developing island countries such as Tonga faced with during their economic and social development, Xi said China was willing to continue to provide Tonga with economic and technological assistance within its capability and would never attach any political conditions to such assistance. He said China would fulfill all its promises to let more local people benefit from China-Tonga cooperation. Xi also said that China would like to enhance cooperation with Tonga on climate change and strengthen exchanges with Pacific island countries. Tupou VI, who arrived in Beijing Wednesday for a nine-day state visit, first congratulated the Communist Party of China (CPC) on the successful conclusion of the 19th National Congress. Speaking highly of Xi's "visionary and talented leadership," Tupou VI said he believed that China would score even greater achievements under Xi's leadership. He said Tonga attached great importance to the relationship with China and appreciated China's support and assistance to the country, especially the assistance provided immediately after it was hit by a recent hurricane. "Tonga agrees with China on its vision to build a new type of international relations and stands ready to work with China to build a community with a shared future for mankind," the King said. He said Tonga firmly adhered to the one-China policy. Noting that Tonga was willing to enhance cooperation with China in areas including trade, infrastructural construction and under the Belt and Road Initiative, Tupou VI said he hoped China could help Tonga to realize greater development and address the challenges posed by climate change. Tonga supports China in deepening ties with Pacific island countries, he said. After the talks, the two countries signed seven agreements in areas including economic and technological cooperation, human resources and education with the witness of the two heads of state. The two countries issued a joint press communique Thursday. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang also met with King Tupou VI Thursday afternoon in Beijing. Li called on the two countries to consolidate political trust, expand pragmatic cooperation, enhance people-to-people exchanges and integrate the Belt and Road Initiative and Tonga's development strategy. "China supports the major production projects, infrastructure and projects related to people's well-being in Tonga," Li said, adding that "China is willing to have agricultural technology exchanges with Tonga, and the Chinese market also welcomes high-quality agricultural and fishery products from Tonga." Li also extended his condolences over the tropical cyclone damage in Tonga and reiterated that China would offer as much help as possible. King Tupou VI said Tonga was ready to cooperate more with China in education, infrastructure, agriculture and food to realize win-win results. Besides Beijing, Tupou VI will also visit the eastern province of Zhejiang and southern provinces of Hainan and Guangdong during his nine-day stay in China. ^ top ^

Philippines says any South China Sea energy deals with China will be solely commercial agreements (SCMP)
Any potential deals between Manila and Beijing on energy exploration in the South China Sea should be agreed with a company and not the Chinese government, the Philippines' presidential spokesman said on Thursday. China claims most of the South China Sea, a key route in global trade and resource-rich territory whose parts are subject to competing claims with Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines. "We might enter into an agreement with a Chinese-owned corporation, not the Chinese state itself," Harry Roque, the spokesman of President Rodrigo Duterte, told the ANC news channel. The Philippines and China last month agreed to set up a special panel to work out how they can jointly explore oil and gas in part of the South China Sea that both sides lay claim without having to address the touchy issue of sovereignty. Pursuing a joint project would be extremely complex and sensitive, as sharing oil and gas reserves could be seen as endorsing other countries' claims. "We are not entering into a sovereign agreement for exploration. It will be an agreement, if we do, between two corporate entities," Roque said. The Philippines suspended exploration in the Reed Bank in the South China Sea in 2014 as it pursued international arbitration over territorial disputes with China. The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague invalidated China's claim over most of the South China Sea in 2016, although Beijing refused to recognise the ruling, which spelled out the Philippines' sovereign rights to access offshore oil and gas fields, including the Reed Bank, within its 200 mile exclusive economic zone. Negotiations are ongoing with a Chinese state-owned company, Roque said, declining to name the entity. The Philippines, China's CNOOC Ltd and state-owned PetroVietnam jointly surveyed the Reed Bank in 2003 to 2008. "This will now actually entail joint exploration and possible exploitation of natural resources," Roque said. However, there are doubts a joint agreement will be approved because China does not favour activities that they have to undertake jointly with other people, Roque said. Ties with China have warmed under Duterte, who has put aside territorial disputes with Beijing in exchange for trade opportunities and financing in key infrastructure projects. ^ top ^

Australia has 'difficult issues' with China, but it's no cold war (SCMP)
A top Australian diplomat told a Senate committee Thursday that the bilateral relationship with China was going through "complex and difficult issues", but rejected a media report of a diplomatic deep freeze. Frances Adamson, secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, described The Australian newspaper's headline: "Cold war: China's freeze on ties" as "just wrong." "We're going through a period where there are some complex and difficult issues, but we're working through those," Adamson told the committee, without elaborating on those issues. "The embassy is operating as you would expect," she added, referring to Australia's diplomatic post in Beijing. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop backed the diplomat's assessment. "Despite some of the commentary in Australian and Chinese newspapers, we are not experiencing a 'freeze' in diplomatic relations with China," Bishop's office said in a media statement. "Australia's deep diplomatic engagement with China continues as normal," the statement added. The Chinese embassy in Australia did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday. The newspaper reported China was putting Australia into a diplomatic deep freeze to pressure Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over proposed new laws to prevent foreign interference in Australia and naval challenges to Chinese claims of sovereignty over the South China Sea. China had deferred Adamson's planned visit to Beijing last year, was stalling ministerial visits and was putting off a range of lower-level exchanges, the newspaper said. Adamson said she had planned to fly to Beijing in November, January and February, but none of the dates she suggested was convenient for the Chinese. She intended to offer a further date for consideration this year. She said that there was nothing unusual about not having firm dates agreed yet for Turnbull and Bishop to visit Beijing this year. "Yes, there are differences between us at the moment, that has been evidence from a range of sources," she said. "But our relationship continues to function as it should." China has recently made two official complaints about Australia with language that has been extraordinarily hostile. Chinese state media has also been caustic about Australia. China protested in January over an Australian minister's criticisms that Chinese aid programmes in poor Pacific island countries were creating "white elephants" that threatened economic stability without delivering benefits. China protested in December against Turnbull's announcement that Australia will ban foreign interference in its politics – either through espionage or financial donations. The move was motivated largely by Russia's alleged involvement in the 2016 US election and China's growing influence on the global political landscape. The Chinese foreign ministry said then that Turnbull's remarks were prejudiced against China and had poisoned the atmosphere of China-Australia relations. Other Chinese gripes include Australia's close military ties with the United States, Australia's tightening foreign investment rules and Australia's refusal to ratify an bilateral extradition treaty. China is Australia's largest trading partner, and the close bilateral relationship has created tensions in Australia's relations with the United States, its closest defence ally. Adamson said both China and Australia continue to benefit from their bilateral relationship. "It's been the case no matter who has been in government in Australia that there've been occasional periods of tension in our relationship with China – occasional periods where differences are to the fore," Adamson said. "But they have never got in the way of us each seeking to pursue a relationship that is of mutual benefit," she added. ^ top ^

US markets fall hard after Trump hits China and others with big tariffs on steel and aluminium (SCMP)
US markets dropped hard after US President Donald Trump confirmed that he will sign off on hefty tariffs for steel and aluminium products from other countries - including China - next week. Trump said on Thursday that he would place a 25 per cent tariff on steel and 10 per cent tariff on aluminium product imports, which he says are harming US producers. The Dow and S&P 500 registered a third straight day of more than 1 percent declines after Trump's announcement raised concern about higher prices and a trade war. The declines put the Dow into negative territory for the year and drove the Cboe Volatility Index to its highest close since February 13, denting the market's recent recovery from deep losses in early February. Shares of auto makers and other big consumers of steel and aluminum were among the big losers. General Motors Co lost 4 per cent, while Ford Motor Co was down 3 per cent Trump made the announcement during a meeting at the White House with producers of the two metals, who would be among the principal beneficiaries of any new barriers to competing imports. "You're going to have protection for the first time in a long time," he told the gathering of metals industry executives. The decision is one of his toughest actions yet, and risks antagonising friends and foes alike. On Thursday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and one of his top lieutenants separately praised the benefits of a global economy without trade restrictions, though they did not explicitly reference Trump. Responding to questions from the Senate Banking Committee, Powell said a system where goods and services flow freely is a net positive for many countries, though the benefits aren't spread equally. Raising trade barriers would risk setting off a trade war, which could damage economic growth prospects around the world New York Federal Reserve Bank President William Dudley Powell, without commenting directly on any specific country's policy, said the "best approach is to deal directly with the people who are directly affected, rather than falling back on tariffs." Meanwhile, New York Federal Reserve Bank President William Dudley was even more explicit in his criticism of trade barriers, saying in a speech in Brazil that "protectionism is not the answer." Dudley said such penalties "often backfire" and hurt workers. "Trade barriers are a very expensive way to preserve jobs in less competitive or declining industries," Dudley said. "Raising trade barriers would risk setting off a trade war, which could damage economic growth prospects around the world." Prior to Trump's announcement, an insider who asked not to be identified because the deliberations were not public, said said the details of the decision may still change, and it's possible some countries may be granted exemptions. "Our Steel and aluminium industries (and many others) have been decimated by decades of unfair trade and bad policy with countries from around the world," Trump said in a Twitter posting on Thursday, prior to the announcement. "We must not let our country, companies and workers be taken advantage of any longer. We want free, fair and SMART TRADE!" A White House official said on Thursday that there will be an announcement on trade later in the day. The danger is if affected countries, like China, Korea and Mexico in this case, choose to retaliate Chua Hak Bin, economist The president has been considering a range of options to curb imports of steel and aluminium, after the Commerce Department concluded shipments of the two metals hurt US national security. Leading up to the decision, the president told confidantes he was leaning toward a 24 per cent tariff on steel, the harshest of the alternatives given to him by Commerce. The US move may provoke retaliation from China, the world's biggest steel and aluminium producer, at a time when President Xi Jinping's top economic adviser, Liu He, has been dispatched the US in attempt defuse tensions. China has already launched an investigation into US imports of sorghum, and is studying whether to restrict shipments of US soybeans – targets that could hurt Trump's support in some politically important farming states. The European Union has suggested such an action by the US would face a legal challenge at the World Trade Organisation. At home, consumers could see price hikes for everything from cars to beer cans that would be triggered by tariffs. Defence Secretary James Mattis had lobbied the president for targeted options on steel, warning that sweeping measures could undermine US relations with its allies. European officials have argued that it doesn't make sense to penalise members of the Nato defence alliance in the name of security. Trump was under pressure from lawmakers in his Republican Party to soften the blow on foreign steel. Businesses from drink firms to carmakers have warned a crackdown could raise prices in their industries and cost jobs. However, US steel producers and workers have called on Trump to defend their industry as it grapples with the effects of overcapacity in China. The decision may play well in rust belt states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio that Trump won after promising a tougher approach to trade. The announcement will end months of uncertainty over the steel and aluminium market. Last April, the president ordered Commerce to study the impact of steel and aluminium imports on national security under seldom-used section 232 of the 1962 Trade Expansion Act. The department submitted its final reports to the president in January. US rhetoric appears to be getting more aggressive going into the midterm elections, though Beijing still has plenty of ways to hit back, according to Dwyfor Evans, head of Asia-Pacific macro strategy at State Street Global Markets in Hong Kong. "On financial assets, let alone trade, the Chinese can turn around and basically spook the Americans," Evans told Bloomberg Radio Thursday. "The Chinese can always rebound with a comment that they own a hefty amount of US Treasuries they can obviously withdraw." ^ top ^

Cybersecurity law causing 'mass concerns' among foreign firms in China (SCMP)
Beijing's cybersecurity regulations are a big source of concern for foreign businesses in China, a survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in South China has found. Most of the 215 foreign firms polled said the country's tax regime, land acquisition policy and cybersecurity law were all headaches, according to a white paper and report on the business environment in China released on Thursday. But of the three areas, it is the new cybersecurity law introduced in June that is causing "mass concerns" among foreign firms because it has greatly increased operating costs and has had a big impact on how business is done in China, said Harley Seyedin, president of AmCham South China. "It created uncertainties within the investment community and it's resulting in, at the minimum, postponement of some R&D investment," Seyedin said. "The law requires approval... to be obtained for cybersecurity, but it does not tell you where to apply, how long it takes you to apply, how long it takes for the results to come out, and what the process might be in case you want to appeal the decision," he said. "All of these are vague but it's going to result in... fear." Under the controversial new law, "operators of critical information infrastructure" must store personal information and important business data in China, provide unspecified "technical support" to security agencies and pass national security reviews. Those critical areas include information services, transport and finance. Companies that store or provide internet data overseas without approval can have their business suspended or shut down and their business licence revoked. Apple this week began storing its Chinese users' iCloud accounts at a new data centre in southern Guizhou province run by a local company, sparking criticism that it was kowtowing to Beijing. Apple said it had transferred the cryptographic keys needed to unlock users' iCloud accounts to China in order to comply with new Chinese regulations. Land grabs were also a concern, the chamber said, accusing some local governments of focusing on quick profits by taking property being leased by foreign factories for real estate development. Since all land in China belongs to the state, foreign firms often have to "lease" land from local governments and many of these contracts signed 20 years ago are due to expire soon, which has forced some companies to cancel or postpone their investment plans. The other top worry for foreign companies was tax, according to the survey, and Seyedin called on policymakers to cut taxes, particularly following corporate tax cuts in the US, to make China a more competitive place to do business. Foreign investment contributed about 33 per cent of China's gross domestic product and 27 per cent of its employment last year, the chamber found. But it said the overall confidence of foreign businesses in China was improving. More than half of the foreign companies surveyed said China was their top location for global market growth, while 70 per cent said they had reinvested more funds in China last year than in 2016. Seyedin said the improvement came after stronger signals from Beijing that it would open up the market and welcome foreign investment. "Foreign companies are more optimistic about China's economy and more interested in investing and being involved in China's economy, and looking forward to what Xi Jinping promised during the 19th national congress – that all businesses registered in China will be treated equally," he said. Although there are concerns over the ruling Communist Party's announcement this week that it plans to end the term limit on Xi's presidency, Seyedin said it was made clear during the congress in October that the party wanted to lure more foreign investors rather than being "an isolated government". "To do so, China is competing with many countries now, especially in South Asia … They are offering incentives that China is no longer offering, therefore China needs to... compete with other countries for foreign investment," he said. "To do that, it needs to open up more and have a more level playing field and do deals more equally." ^ top ^

Chinese military plane accused of entering South Korea's air defence identification zone (SCMP)
South Korea accused China of flying a military aircraft into its air defence identification zone on Tuesday without giving prior notification, a move that one analyst said could hamper the two sides' efforts to normalise relations. A Chinese aircraft entered South Korea's Air Defence Identification Zone (KADIZ) at about 9.34am about 30 nautical miles northwest of Ulleung Island in the East Sea before flying out of the zone at 2.01pm after receiving a warning message from the South Korean military, the Joint Chiefs of Staff of South Korea said in a statement cited by the Yonhap news agency. More than 10 aircraft, including F-15K and KF-16 fighters, were scrambled to monitor the plane's activity as it approached South Korean territory, the statement said. The plane's flight path was "unusual" as Chinese aircraft had previously entered the KADIZ from the south of the peninsula, it 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. China's ambassador to South Korea, Qiu Guohong, was summoned on Tuesday evening so that a complaint could be lodged, Yonhap quoted an official from the South Korean foreign ministry as saying. An official from the Joint Chiefs of Staff was quoted as saying that the Chinese plane was believed to be a reconnaissance aircraft, and that its mission was to monitor how South Korea's military responded to the incursion. The incident is the third in a little over two months involving Chinese military aircraft entering South Korea's air defence identification zone. On January 29, Seoul accused Beijing of allowing a surveillance plane to enter the KADIZ without warning, while it described the entry into the zone of five planes on December 18 as an infringement. While relations between North and South Korea had improved in recent weeks as a result of their cooperation at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, the latest incursion by China's military into the KADIZ was unlikely to do much to help ease tensions on the peninsula, an analyst said. "The incursion of the Chinese plane won't have a direct impact on the stability of the Korean peninsula, but it could be seen as Beijing's attempt to reaffirm its strategic position in northeast Asia," said Professor Lee Jung-nam, a China affairs expert at Korea University's Asiatic Research Institute in Seoul. It could also trigger a backlash among South Korea's opposition parties and ramp up the pressure on President Moon Jae-in, who had been criticised for his rapprochement policies with China and North Korea, he said. "Such repeated behaviour by China would not be helpful." China and South Korea agreed at the end of November to set aside their differences and try to get bilateral relations back on track after years of tension over Seoul's decision to host the US-backed Terminal High Altitude Area Defence system. Seoul says the system is necessary to counter the missile threat from Pyongyang, but Beijing regards it as a security threat on its doorstep. ^ top ^

China deploys Xi's trusted ally after top diplomat fails to make US trade breakthrough (SCMP)
China sent the president's most trusted economic adviser to Washington for trade talks after a trip by its top diplomat failed to contain tensions between the world's two biggest economies, diplomatic observers said. Liu He, director of the Office of the Central Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs, is in the United States until Saturday, seeking common ground with Washington on trade and macroeconomic policy as the prospect of a trade war rises. State Councillor Yang Jiechi – who ranks above the foreign minister – was in Washington on a similar mission about three weeks ago. Analysts said the decision to send Yang and Liu – both members of the Communist Party's Politburo – to the US within a month signalled that China was concerned that the tensions might escalate into a trade war. Shi Yinhong, director of Renmin University's Centre for American Studies and an adviser to the State Council, China's cabinet, said it was likely that the White House had rejected offers made during Yang's trip. "Liu He could be offering more concessions in terms of expanding the scope of American products and companies into the Chinese market, but there is a limit to what China is able to offer as a compromise," Shi said. A source with knowledge of the talks said Yang pushed for the resumption of an economic dialogue between the two nations, and discussed other issues, such as North Korea. "I don't know where the US administration is on in terms of their willingness to hold that [dialogue] again," the source said. "Yang's visit... didn't seem to accomplish anything. And now they have sent Liu He." On Tuesday, the US Commerce Department said it would levy anti-dumping and countervailing duties of up to 106.09 per cent on Chinese aluminium foil, prompting "strong dissatisfaction" from China's Ministry of Commerce. US President Donald Trump is expected to decide before April whether to impose much broader duties on steel and aluminium imports. He has also previously suggested he will take action against China over alleged abuses of intellectual property. In an apparent response earlier this month, the commerce ministry started a one-year anti-subsidy investigation into imports of US sorghum. According to the Financial Times, Liu was expected to meet Trump as well as senior US officials including chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, trade representative Robert Lighthizer, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Liu will also meet a group of top US businesspeople at a round table event. Wu Xinbo, director of Fudan University's Centre for American Studies, said Liu's trip was unusual because it overlapped with a key meeting of the Communist Party's Central Committee, and the start of the annual session of China's legislature. "The Chinese side has been under pressure over the increasingly tense trade relations with the US and wanted [Liu] to go as soon as possible," Wu said, adding that neither country could wait until the legislative session was over. Wu said Liu would probably push for a firm date for the next economic dialogue, and reassure the Trump administration about Beijing's economic reform plan for later this year, the 40th anniversary of the country's reform and opening up. The economic dialogue was suspended after its first round in Washington in July ended in stalemate. After Yang's trip, the Chinese foreign ministry said both nations agreed to hold the second round of talks "within this year, as early as possible", but Washington has so far not made any public statement on the matter. ^ top ^

Panama seeks to be part of China-proposed B&R Initiative: president (Xinhua)
Panama's President Juan Carlos Varela said here on Tuesday that the Central American country supports the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative and seeks to be part of it. Speaking to Xinhua on the sidelines of the ongoing two-day Global Business Forum on Latin America organized by the Dubai Chamber of Industry and Commerce, the president said "We believe in a planet which has enough resources for everybody and a planet that is better connected." Proposed by China in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative aims to build trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa, and beyond, based on ancient land and maritime trade routes. As a specific project, Varela said "We are proposing the construction of a railroad between Panama and other Central American countries, with a 450-km track to our northern neighbor Costa Rica as the first step." "We hope to get Chinese companies and Chinese technology to complete the entire project between 2022 and 2026. A railway connecting Central America could help to increase the flow of goods arriving from East Asia in Panama City," he said. "Currently, 50 percent of cargo ships which come from China's east coast to us go back 50 percent empty. An enhanced infrastructure in our region can help reduce the number, improve two-way trade especially in food and agricultural products and make it more cost-efficient," said Varela. Earlier in the day, Varela also praised Dubai's role as a hub within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, which helps connect Latin America with Africa and Asia through its free port and its airport. ^ top ^

China backs Pakistan's anti-terrorism efforts (Xinhua)
China on Tuesday expressed support for Pakistan's fight against terrorism, urging the international community to view the country's anti-terrorism efforts in an objective and impartial way. The government and people of Pakistan have contributed and sacrificed a lot in their fight against terrorism and made great efforts in ground operations as well as combating terrorism in the financial sector, said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang at a routine press briefing. He called on the international community not to criticize Pakistan with prejudice. Lu's comments came after some countries persuaded members of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) last week to place Pakistan back on the "grey list" of nations with inadequate efforts to control terror financing. China, as an all-weather strategic cooperation partner of Pakistan, will continue to strengthen communication and coordination with Pakistan in anti-terrorism cooperation, Lu said. ^ top ^

US flags fears over China's new VPN rules with the World Trade Organisation (SCMP)
The United States told the World Trade Organisation on Friday that Chinese internet access rules coming into force next month appeared to create significant new restrictions for cross-border service suppliers and should be discussed at the WTO. "The United States urges China to address these concerns quickly and pursue new policies that promote rather than disrupt cross-border transfers of information and trade in services," it said in a statement to the WTO's Services Council. In January last year, China published a circular on "Cleaning up and Regulating the Internet Access Service Market", which seemed to put new restrictions on virtual private networks (VPNs) and leased lines, it said. VPNs can be used to access websites that are banned in China, which aggressively censors the internet, blocking sites it thinks could challenge the rule of the Communist Party or threaten stability. The circular would expressly ban VPNs or leased lines from connecting data centres inside and outside China, the US statement said. It gave examples of services that might be affected, such as travel agents in China accessing international flight information, or clients using text messages to access technical support or customer service based abroad. VPNs were also a key mechanism to ensure the security and confidentiality of data flows, it added. WTO rules required that any measure affecting telecommunications networks should be notified to the WTO by China, which should consult affected WTO members, it said. "Since this measure is due to enter into force by March 31, 2018, we request that China expeditiously respond to these questions and concerns," the United States said. Washington raised concerns in September about China's cybersecurity law, asking Beijing not to enforce it until it addressed the risk of it disrupting, deterring or prohibiting cross-border transfers of information. Friday's statement said concern in the foreign business community remained high, and there were other more effective ways of achieving legitimate policy objectives without disrupting commerce. "US industry is particularly concerned that the measures contemplated by China would disrupt communications between a company's China facilities and its other global operations, increase costs, and reduce rather than enhance data security." The US statement said China had not provided any assurance that it would resolve concerns about the cybersecurity law. ^ top ^

37 EU politicians demand Beijing 'unconditionally' release detained Hong Kong bookseller Gui Minhai (SCMP)
Thirty-seven members of the European Parliament on Thursday demanded President Xi Jinping "immediately and unconditionally" release detained Hong Kong bookseller Gui Minhai, insisting that while they valued closer ties with China, they would not sacrifice their citizens' safety. "[The members] are writing to express our strong condemnation of the arrest and continued detention of Swedish citizen Gui Minhai, and to urge you to immediately and unconditionally release him," a letter released on Friday morning, Hong Kong time, said. "Pending his release, we urge you to ensure he is protected from torture and other ill-treatment, allowed access to diplomatic staff, his family and lawyers of his choice, and to adequate medical care." Earlier this month, China's Ministry of Public Security confirmed it had detained Gui. It arranged for him to meet several mainland, Taiwanese and Hong Kong media, including the South China Morning Post, at a detention facility in Ningbo, Zhejiang province. In the 20-minute interview, Gui said he had requested the meeting because he wanted to tell the public the "truth" after the Swedish government had "sensationalised" events. Gui was among five Hong Kong booksellers who went missing in 2015 and later turned up on the mainland at different times, claiming they had gone there voluntarily. Gui was serving time for a drink-driving offence until last October, but little else was known of his movements except that he was living in Ningbo. Last month, reports emerged of his dramatic arrest by 10 plain-clothes policemen on a train from Shanghai to Beijing, accompanied by two Swedish diplomats. The Swedish government said it was providing consular assistance to Gui as he needed medical help, and denounced his detention as a "brutal" act. China's public security officials later said Gui was carrying documents containing state secrets and was detained on suspicion that he had leaked secrets abroad. In their statement, the EU politicians said Gui was not the first European citizen to be "wrongfully detained" in China, but they aspired to make him the last one. They cited the cases of others such as Swedish citizen and human rights activist Peter Dahlin, who was earlier paraded on state television admitting he had violated Chinese law. Dahlin later said he was made to read from a script and that authorities tried to deprive him of sleep by keeping fluorescent lights on in his cell at night. "These cases are part of a disturbing pattern of repression, the main victims of which are Chinese human rights defenders, activists and lawyers, targeted for their peaceful human rights activities both inside and outside China's borders," the statement said. "While the European Parliament supports the goal of collaborative, respective relations with China, we will not allow that to come at the cost of our citizens' safety. Your government's releasing Gui Minhai immediately and unconditionally, and allowing him to leave China, is a critical test of that commitment." When reporters quizzed him at the Ningbo interview, Gui declined to say what the "state secrets" were. He tried to end the meeting when the Post asked him why he had been suddenly detained. He appeared uncomfortable when certain questions were asked, but smiled. His latest arrest came after China's foreign ministry said he had been released last October. Hong Kong-based human rights activist Lee Cheuk-yan urged Beijing to consider its reputation on the global stage as it handled the matter, especially since it was trying to promote its soft power through development projects such as the Belt and Road Initiative. "How Xi Jinping handled the matter has totally ruined his international image, making the country an oppressive and cruel one," Lee said. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

China ready to build bigger aircraft carriers, state-run paper says (SCMP)
China is ready to build larger aircraft carriers having mastered the technical ability to do so, a major state-run newspaper said on Friday ahead of the release of the country's annual defence budget. President Xi Jinping pledged in October to turn China's military into a world-class fighting force by 2050 and has made new technology development a key policy plank, investing in stealth fighters, aircraft carriers and missiles. China already has one operational carrier, the second-hand Soviet-era Liaoning bought from Ukraine in 1998, and is carrying out tests on its first indigenously built carrier, launched last year and expected to enter service in 2020. Liu Zheng, chairman of Dalian Shipbuilding Industry in Liaoning province, said his company and its parent, China Shipbuilding Industry Corp, the world's largest shipbuilder, could design and build carriers. "We have complete ownership of the expertise, in terms of design, technology, technique, manufacturing and project management, that is needed to make an advanced carrier," Liu told the official China Daily ahead of Monday's opening of the annual session of parliament. "We are ready to build larger ones," he said. China Shipbuilding said earlier this week it was developing technologies to build a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Little is known about China's aircraft carrier programme, which is a state secret. State media has quoted experts as saying that China needs at least six carriers, an endeavour expected to take decades. The United States operates 10 and plans to build two more. China's navy has been taking an increasingly prominent role over the past year, with its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and new Chinese warships popping up in far-flung places. China unveils its 2018 defence budget when parliament opens next week, a closely watched figure around the region and in Washington for signs of China's strategic intentions. ^ top ^

China's #MeToo censorship bypassed through netizens' creative use of language (SCMP)
Hashtags have become a part of our language and, in today's social media environments, can hold immense power. The phrase #MeToo was first used in its current context in a 2006 campaign started by African-American activist Tarana Burke to raise awareness of sexual violence. #MeToo witnessed a resurgence beginning on October 15, 2017, when actress Alyssa Milano posted an open letter on Twitter encouraging victims of sexual abuse to share their stories to highlight the magnitude of the problem. Overnight, #MeToo had become a global movement, used by female (and male) victims of sexual harassment or abuse, and by anyone wishing to show solidarity. Alyssa Milano's Twitter post encouraging victims of sexual abuse to come forward. Picture: Associated Press The English-language hashtag spread virally worldwide: tweeted more than 500,000 times and used by more than 4.7 million people in 12 million Facebook posts by the next day, it went on to trend in 85 countries. Unconstrained by language, #MeToo is expressed in direct translation, for example, in Spanish, Arabic and Hebrew, and with variations including the French #BalanceTonPorc, or "denounce your pig", and the Italian #QuellaVoltaChe, meaning "that time when". While social media affords a platform for the global spread of messages such as these, certain regimes pose challenges. #MeToo and its literal translation in Mandarin, #我也是 (#WoYeShi, or wǒ yěshì, meaning "me too"), and #MeToo在中国 (or "me too in China") – which hit China's academic world on the first day of the new year, with United States-based Chinese scholar Luo Xixi posting allegations on Weibo against her former doctoral supervisor – have been subject to suppression. In the second half of January, censors deleted hundreds of social media posts and petitions in support of the #MeToo campaign, which included the primary hashtag of China's campaign #MeTooInChina or related phrases such as "anti-sexual harassment", and closed related topic forums. But languages – and hashtags – have the power to evolve. To circumvent online filters, China internet users and activists have devised means to avoid blocked keywords. One linguistically creative example uses the homophones mǐ ("rice") and tù ("rabbit") as a clever transliteration of #MeToo, giving #RiceBunny a hashtag as well as emojis. With Thursday's International Women's Day themed #PressForProgress, let's celebrate how language can be used to fuel movements that help us move towards gender parity and women's empowerment. ^ top ^

Major topics of China's "two sessions" in 2018 (Xinhua)
The annual sessions of China's top legislative and advisory bodies to be held in early March are of particular importance this year, as the country has officially announced its entry into a new era. The first session of the 13th National People's Congress (NPC), and the first session of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), collectively known as the "two sessions," will open on March 5 and March 3, respectively. The two sessions this year will be the first annual sessions opened under the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. A number of topics are of interest to the public: New thought. The proposal of writing Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era into the country's fundamental law will get much attention during the two sessions. The thought, which was set at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) last October, has become the guideline for China's new development. New state leadership. One of the most important issues of the first session of the 13th National People's Congress will be the election of state leadership, including the Chinese president. China's current president Xi Jinping was elected to the post at the first session of the 12th NPC five years ago. New anti-corruption model. A new national supervisory platform is expected to be introduced, as China is spearheading a pilot reform of supervisory systems, with supervisory commissions being established at provincial, city, and county levels. Sharing offices and staff with CPC discipline inspectors, the new commissions will incorporate existing supervisory, corruption prevention and control agencies within government and procuratorates. With a complete supervisory network over all state functionaries under the Party's leadership, China can create a new anti-corruption model. New growth target. Analysts believe the economic growth target this year will be somewhat on par with that of last year. But the growth, among the fastest in the world, can not change the fact that China is still a developing country, given that its per capita GDP lags far behind that of developed countries. China's economic growth will bring opportunities for the rest of the world, but what exactly? The answer will be found in the two sessions. Poverty alleviation. China aims to eliminate absolute poverty by 2020 before becoming a moderately prosperous society. China has lifted 68.53 million people out of poverty over the past five years, which is equivalent to an annual reduction of at least 13 million. The country's poverty rate dropped from 10.2 percent in 2012 to 3.1 percent in 2017. Despite this progress, there were around 30 million Chinese living below the national poverty line at the end of last year. Role of the Constitution. Major theoretical achievements, principles, and policies adopted at the 19th CPC National Congress are to be incorporated into the upcoming revision to the Constitution, so as to keep pace with the times and improve the Constitution while maintaining its consistency, stability and authority since it was last amended in 2004. 40 years of reform and opening up. After decades of reform and opening up, Chinese people's lives are getting better. The country is expected to make new historical strides in 2018 as the country marks 40 years of reform and opening up to the world. People's livelihood. A stronger social security system will not only improve the well-being of Chinese people, but also boost individual consumption and reduce the dependence of China's economic growth on exports. President Xi said recently the issues that concern the people most -- education, jobs, health care, social security and order -- should be properly dealt with to let the people feel richer, happier, and safer. New policies concerning the people's livelihood may be released. National defense. China has started a national defense and military reform in an effort to have a stronger military to better safeguard peace. China's defense budget and new reform measures concerning army building are to receive attention. A community with shared future for humanity. China champions the development of a community with a shared future for humanity, and has encouraged the evolution of the global governance system. The Belt and Road Initiative, part of China's efforts to boost the development of such a community, may continue to be a hot topic at the annual sessions and new measures may be formed. ^ top ^

China meets all annual development goals for 2017 (Xinhua)
China has met all its annual development targets set in last year's government work report, the State Council said Thursday. The 36 quantitative goals for 2017, including annual economic growth of around 6.5 percent, were accomplished perfectly, according to a State Council report tracking the progress of last year's government targets. China's economy expanded 6.9 percent year on year to 82.71 trillion yuan (about 12.8 trillion U.S. dollars) in 2017, higher than the 6.7-percent growth registered in 2016, official data showed. In 2017, 13.51 million new jobs were created in urban areas, with the unemployment rate standing at 3.9 percent, outperforming the official targets of 11 million and lower than 4.5 percent. With faster economic expansion and a better employment picture, China's per capita disposable income grew 7.3 percent last year. Meanwhile, the Engel's coefficient, which measures food expenditures as a proportion of total household spending, dropped to 29.3 percent in 2017, down from 30.1 percent in 2016. The tax burden on businesses has been eased by more than 380 billion yuan, said the State Council, which estimated that business-related fees have been cut by some 643.4 billion yuan to benefit market entities, far overshooting the target of around 200 billion yuan. Last year also saw the quickened pace of industrial overcapacity cuts, with the steel industry outperforming the annual target of cutting 50 million tonnes of capacity. A total of 250 million tonnes of coal production capacity was also eliminated, compared with the goal of 150 million tonnes. A total of 6.09 million apartments in shanty towns were renovated in 2017, while 12.89 million rural people were brought out of poverty and some 285,000 km of rural roads were built or renovated, all beating annual targets. China has also cut emissions of both sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide by 8 percent and 4.9 percent, respectively, and returned 12.3 million mu (820,000 hectares) of marginal farmland to forest or grassland. New development targets for 2018 are expected to be released in this year's government work report during the upcoming annual sessions of the top legislative and political advisory bodies as the country seeks economic transformation toward high-quality development. ^ top ^

China tightens rules on online advertising with politically sensitive content (Global Times)
China is strengthening regulations on online advertising especially with politically sensitive content and those that threaten public order and people's health. According to a work plan, authorities will monitor online advertising on 1,000 major websites, 1,000 leading regional or national media, 1,000 mobile applications and 1,000 public accounts on various social media platforms. The work plan was jointly released by 11 ministries on Monday, including the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, Office of the Leading Group for Cyberspace Affairs and the Ministry of Public Security. A special campaign aimed at rectifying and correcting internet advertising was conducted by the State Administration for Industry and Commerce days before the work plan was released, according to a notice published on its official website on February 12. China is going on a national campaign to clean up the online environment, including inappropriate online videos distorting popular cartoon characters and online games, the Xinhua News Agency reported. Major internet companies including Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent were asked to strengthen their self-discipline and supervision against pornographic, obscene and vulgar content. "Advertisements are part of life and can have a direct impact on public security and happiness, which is why the ruling party is making an effort to clean up the advertising environment," Qin An, an expert on cyber security at the China Institute for Innovation and Development Strategy, told the Global Times on Thursday. The Shanghai Administration for Industry and Commerce on Wednesday published a list of 12 companies involved in illegal advertisements that were investigated and punished in 2017. According to the list, Qiancheng Technology, a network technology company based in Shanghai, published ads of "nude loans," wherein people provide naked photos as loan collateral. The company was fined 800,000 yuan ($122,000) for the advertisements and vulgar pictures and text on its Weibo account. A dry-cleaning company called Sunway was fined 600,000 yuan for illegally using images of national leaders in advertisements and exaggerating the size of the company. The online advertisement monitoring system will be further developed in 2018, and the ability to monitor advertisements remotely will be improved, according to the State Administration for Industry and Commerce. "Public tips should be encouraged, and it is also important to perfect the legal system to increase the penalties and make the amount of penalties outweigh their gains," Qin said. ^ top ^

19th CPC Central Committee 3rd plenum issues communique (Xinhua)
The 19th Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee issued a communique at the end of its three-day third plenary session, which concluded Wednesday. Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, made an important speech at the session presided over by the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee. The meeting was attended by 202 CPC Central Committee members and 171 alternate members of the CPC Central Committee. Deputy secretaries of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and senior officials of relevant departments were also present at the meeting. The plenary meeting heard and discussed a work report delivered by Xi, who was entrusted by the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee. The session adopted a list of proposed candidates for state leadership, which is scheduled to be recommended to the first session of the 13th National People's Congress (NPC). It also adopted a proposed candidate list for the leadership of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which is to be recommended to the first session of the 13th CPPCC National Committee. The plenary session decided to recommend the two lists respectively to the presidium of the first session of the 13th NPC and the presidium of the first session of the 13th CPPCC National Committee, according to the communique. The annual sessions of the NPC and CPPCC National Committee are scheduled to open on March 5 and March 3, respectively. According to the communique, the plenary session reviewed and adopted a decision by the CPC Central Committee on deepening reform of Party and state institutions as well as a plan for the reform. The session also agreed to put part of the reform plan to the first session of the 13th NPC for deliberation in accordance with due legal procedures. The communique said the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee well implemented the spirit of the 19th CPC National Congress and the first and second plenary sessions of the Central Committee in face of complicated international situation and heavy domestic tasks of advancing reform and development and maintaining stability. The Political Bureau has upheld Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the Theory of Three Represents, the Scientific Outlook on Development, and Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, and enhanced Party's leadership over all work, according to the document. The Political Bureau has upheld the underlying principle of pursuing progress while ensuring stability, had the courage to break new ground, worked diligently, and ensured coordinated implementation of the five-sphere integrated plan and the four-pronged comprehensive strategy, the document said. Leading the whole Party and people of all ethnic groups with firm faith and strong motivation, the Political Bureau has worked hard to deepen reform in all areas, maintain stable and healthy economic growth, promote law-based governance and the system of socialist rule of law with Chinese characteristics, forestall and defuse major risks, carry out targeted poverty alleviation, prevent and control pollution, exercise strict governance over the Party, improve work style, promote economic, political, cultural, social and ecological advancement and management of the Party, the communique said. The first sessions of the 13th NPC and the 13th CPPCC National Committee are important for mobilizing the whole Party and Chinese people of all ethnic groups to secure a decisive victory in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and strive for the great success of socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era, the document said. Deeper reform of Party and state institutions is a profound evolution in modernizing China's system and capacity for governance, it said. Party and state institutions form an important part of the socialist system with Chinese characteristics and a significant guarantee for Party's governance, it noted. Led by the CPC, China established socialism as its basic system and gradually created the system for the function of Party and state institutions with Chinese characteristics after the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, it read. During the process of socialist construction and reform and opening up, the Party actively advanced the reform of Party and state institutions and gradually optimized and standardized their functions, it said. Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core has worked toward the overall goal of improving and developing the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics, while modernizing China's system and capacity for governance. The CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core strengthened Party leadership, focused on solving problems, highlighted major fields, deepened reform of Party and state institutions, made major progress in important fields and key areas, which provided a guarantee for the historic achievements and shifts in the cause of the Party and the country, it said. Faced with new requirements for various tasks in the new era, the current function and structure of Party and state institutions are not completely suitable for coordinately implementing the five-sphere integrated plan and the four-pronged comprehensive strategy, nor for modernizing China's system and capacity for governance, it said. The whole Party must unite in thought, be confident, grasp opportunities and resolve to tackle obstacles and disadvantages of the system for Party and state institutions during the process of deepening reform in all areas. The whole Party must accelerate and advance the modernization of China's system and capacity for governance and give full play to the advantages of China's socialist system, it said. Overall Party leadership must be implemented and upheld, while the people-centered, optimized, coordinated and efficient principle, as well as law-based governance must be upheld in deepening reform of Party and state institutions, according to the communique. The guiding thought for deepening reform of Party and state institutions is to implement the spirit of the 19th CPC National Congress, follow the guidance of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the Theory of Three Represents, the Scientific Outlook on Development, and Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. The reform should also adapt to the needs of the development of socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era, uphold the underlying principle of pursuing progress while ensuring stability, keep the reform in the right direction, take a people-centered approach and adhere to law-based governance. To carry out the reform, it is essential to take strengthening the Party's overall leadership as the overarching principle, take modernization of state system and capacity for governance as the guidance, and take enhancing efficiency and optimization of Party and state institutions as the focus of efforts, it said. The communique also called for efforts to reform the institutional setting, optimize function disposition, and improve efficiency and effectiveness to provide an institutional guarantee to secure a decisive victory in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, as well as embark on a new journey to fully build a modern socialist China and realize the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation. The goals of deepening reform of Party and state institutions include: -- establishing a Party and state institutional function system that is well conceived, fully built, procedure based, and efficiently functioning; -- forming a CPC leadership system that ensures the Party always provides overall leadership and coordinates the efforts of all involved, a law-based administrative governance system with clear functions and responsibilities, a world-class armed forces system with Chinese characteristics, as well as a sound work system of people's organizations for bridging and serving the general populace; -- promoting coordinated actions and resultant forces among the people' s congresses, governments, political advisory bodies, and supervisory, judicial and prosecutorial organs, people's organizations, enterprises, public institutions, and social organizations under the unified leadership of the CPC. Deeper reform on the CPC and state institutions will improve China's governance level and capacity, according to the communique. A primary task of deepening reform of the Party and state institutions is to improve the system for upholding overall Party leadership in a bid to strengthen the CPC's leadership in every sector, ensure its all-encompassing coverage and make it more forceful. Efforts should be made to establish and improve the institutions and mechanisms by which the Party exercises leadership over major tasks, and elevate the status of Party organizations among organizations of the same level. The reform should also give better play to the role of the Party's functionary department, set up Party and government institutions with integrated plans, and advance reform of the Party's disciplinary inspection and the country's supervisory systems. The CPC Central Committee has stressed the need to transform government functions and the resolve to remove institutional barriers so that the market plays the decisive role in resource allocation and the government plays its role better. The transformation should focus on promoting high-quality development, developing a modernized economy, adjusting and optimizing functions of government institutions as well as allocating the functions of macro-management institutions in a reasonable way, according to the document. It called on efforts to further streamline administration and delegate powers. It also stressed better systems of market supervision, natural resources and environmental management, and public service management. The government must strengthen operational and post-operational oversight, enhance administrative efficiency and government effectiveness to build itself into a service-oriented government able to satisfy the needs of the people, according to the communique. The CPC will promote coordinated reforms of institutions in the Party, the government, the military and people's organizations, according to the document. Such reforms are necessities for strengthening the centralized and unified leadership of the CPC leadership as well as achieving the coordinated and effective functions of these institutions, according to the communique. The reform should eye optimizing the functions of Party departments, state organs, people's organizations and public institutions. The arrangement of Party and government organs should be improved, according to the communique. It calls on deepening reforms for the people's congresses, political advisory bodies and judicial organs. The reform should strengthen the CPC leadership, enhance the government's administrative capacity, inspire vitality of the people's organizations and social organizations, sharpen military combat capability so that various institutions connect and coordinate with each other. The CPC Central Committee called for improved relations between central and local authorities. A relationship with clearly defined responsibilities is key to governing a big country like ours, said the communique. It said the setup of central and local institutions and the allocation of responsibilities should be improved to build a smooth, vigorous system in which orders are executed without fail. While the central authorities will strengthen macro-management, the local authorities should carry out orders from the top to the detail and do their jobs well. More decision making power should be given to organs at and below the provincial level. At local levels, the setup of institutions should be improved, each with clearly defined work responsibilities to strengthen local governance, the document said. The CPC Central Committee envisions a lean and effective grassroots governance system. The communique also said it was important to legalize the staffing of institutions. Rules and regulations should be drawn to better define the functions, powers, responsibilities and operations of such institutions. Identifying reform as a complex project, the plenary session asked Party committees and governments at various levels to concentrate on fully implementing the reform decision and to provide guarantees to reform in accordance with the law and regulations. They were also required to pursue reform in a more systematic, holistic, and coordinated way. The plenary session called on the whole Party and Chinese people of all ethnic groups to rally closely around the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core, achieve unity in thought and action, and ensure the full implementation of tasks in institutional reform. Continued efforts are needed to improve the system of Party and state institutions that are well-conceived, fully built, procedure based, and functioning efficiently, said the communique. It also called for hard work to secure a decisive victory in finishing the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects, to speed up the socialist modernization and to realize the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation. ^ top ^

Special report to focus on human development trend (China Daily)
China's reset to a more human and sustainable development model - characterized by a "people-oriented" focus - as expressed in the China National Human Development Report to be released in December, will help spread its successful experience to more developing countries, according to United Nations Resident Coordinator Nicholas Rosellini. The United Nations Development Programme signed memorandums of understanding on Wednesday in Beijing with the State Information Center and Tsinghua University to strengthen research capacity for the report, a special edition that marks the 40th anniversary of China's reform and opening-up and the 20th anniversary of the report's localization in China. The special edition will focus on China's human development trend at the national level, analyze challenges and solutions applied at different stages of development and propose strategies for continued institutional reform for sustaining human development, according to the UN. Yang Yongheng, associate dean of the School of Public Policy and Management at Tsinghua, said the report addresses China's unique theory of human development, touches upon institutional challenges, discusses the link between the UN's sustainable development goals and China's five-year plan, and recommends an extended human development index system embedded with China's experience. The index, introduced in 1990 by the UNDP, is a data composite of life expectancy, education and per capita income, which are used to rank countries into four tiers of human development. A country scores higher on the index when the life span is higher, the education level is higher and the GDP per capita is higher. The extension of the index will include a multidimensional poverty index, gender inequality index and others. The system will also focus on regional imbalances. Zhou Yiren, deputy director of the State Information Center, said he hoped the report would identify the reasons for imbalances in regional development in China through data analysis. "There are wide gaps in the development of different regions in China, while the country has not yet found solutions to solve the problems - or specific measures to improve the situation," Zhou said. This is the 9th report since the UNDP localized its flagship publication, Human Development Report, to China in 1997. The human development approach emphasizes that the development of a country cannot be assessed by economic growth alone. Success means expanding the richness of human life and advancing human well-being as the ultimate path to sustained development. ^ top ^

First term limits... now Xi Jinping to shake up the state to tighten Communist Party's grip on government (SCMP)
Chinese President Xi Jinping has kick-started a structural shake-up of the country's massive party and state bureaucracy, in a push for efficiency and to further entrench the Communist Party's control of all levers of government. Xi's shake-up plan was endorsed by the party's ruling Central Committee after its three-day closed-door meeting in Beijing, state-run news agency Xinhua reported on Wednesday. It came just days after the announcement of a party proposal to scrap the two-term constitutional limit on the presidency, opening the way for Xi to stay in power beyond the end of his second term in 2023. The Xinhua report did not detail the reform plan, but stressed the top priority was to fortify the party's control. The main task of the overhaul was to "strengthen the party's full leadership of all areas and all aspects of work, to make sure the party's leadership is all encompassing and becomes even stronger", the report said. It said the existing structure and functions of the party and state departments did not fully meet the needs for better development under Xi's new era, and failed to meet the demands of modern governance. Part of the blueprint will be put to the National People's Congress – the country's legislature – for formal approval when it convenes its annual meetings next week. The NPC is expected to approve the establishment of a super anti-graft agency – the National Supervision Commission – with extensive powers to investigate and detain all state employees without the need for judicial approval. There will also be a shake-up of the government's ministries and agencies, including a possible merger of the banking and insurance watchdogs – the China Insurance Regulatory Commission and the China Banking Regulatory Commission, sources have told the South China Morning Post. The Xinhua report did not say which government departments would be affected, saying only that the systems for market supervision, natural resources and environmental management, and public service management would be improved. It also said local governments would be given more autonomy to manage their own affairs, providing they toed the central government's line and strictly enforced all its orders. Wu Qiang, a former Tsinghua University political science professor, said the announcement sounded a loud note of the party's leadership in all aspects of governance. "The party will not only tighten control over traditional administrative agencies, and economic policymaking, but also social groups," Wu said. "In particular, it means that the party will deepen its intervention in economic and social affairs." Although the details of the changes were not public, Wu said it was very likely that the State Council, China's cabinet, would continue to wane in a political system ruled by an increasingly powerful party. "The organisational restructuring is carried out under a changing relationship between the party and the cabinet. The party leadership could intervene more in the work of the State Council," he said. The Central Committee also submitted a list of "recommended" candidates for key state offices to the NPC – including the presidency and vice-presidency, the NPC chairmanship, the head of the National Supervision Commission, the top judge and the top prosecutor. The NPC will also appoint key cabinet officials, including a team to address the economic and financial woes of the world's second-biggest economy. ^ top ^

Xi Jinping thought in proposed constitutional amendment common aspiration of CPC, people (Xinhua)
An article under the byline of Xuan Li stressed that the proposal to write Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era into China's Constitution is a common aspiration of the whole Party and Chinese people. The Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee made public its proposal on amendments to China's Constitution Sunday. The article, which was published in Tuesday's People's Daily, the CPC flagship newspaper, said the proposal also reflects that the Party's proposition is in accordance with the people's will. It will serve to consolidate the common theoretical foundation for the Party and the country to strive to achieve national rejuvenation and the success of socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era, the article said. The article noted that writing Xi Jinping thought into the Constitution will help make the Party's guiding ideology the guiding ideology for the country, a much needed move for the development of the Party and country and for the improvement of the Constitution. As the fundamental law of the country, China's Constitution embodies the common will and fundamental interests of Chinese people and has been a prime legal guarantee for the country and the people to overcome all kinds of difficulties and challenges and to adhere to the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics, the article said. It noted that the current Constitution, adopted in 1982, has so far undergone four amendments in 1988, 1993, 1999 and 2004. Deng Xiaoping Theory was written into the Constitution in 1999 and the Theory of Three Represents in 2004. Sunday's document also proposed including the Scientific Outlook on Development in the Constitution. The article said that since the Party's 18th National Congress, the CPC Central Committee with comrade Xi Jinping at the core has given shape to Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, making historic achievements and prompting historic changes in the cause of the Party and the country. It went on to note that including Xi Jinping thought in the Constitution will further inspire the CPC members and Chinese people in striving to achieve national rejuvenation. "Compared with the constitutions of some other countries, one of the major features of the Constitution of China is that it clearly charts out the fundamental task, development path and goals of efforts for the country," it said. ^ top ^

China's new super graft-buster will outrank courts and prosecutors (SCMP)
China's new super anti-graft body will be a state agency on a par with the cabinet and outranking both the courts and the prosecutor's office, according to a proposed change to the constitution released on Sunday. The new agency – a merger of the Communist Party's anti-graft watchdog and government departments against corruption – will have the power to investigate and discipline not just cadres but other civil service staff, according to earlier draft laws. But the announcement on Sunday of the party's proposed constitutional revisions reveals for the first time the status of the new agency – the National Supervisory Commission. Supervisory agencies at all levels will be listed along with the country's administrative, judicial and procuratorial bodies – all of which are appointed by the people's congresses to which they are responsible and by which they are supervised, according to the document released by the party's Central Committee. Throughout the revisions concerning the new agency, the graft-buster is placed after the State Council, or the cabinet, and the Central Military Commission, but before the courts and the procuratorates. A new section is to be added to the third chapter of the constitution about the commission titled "The Structure of the State". The National People's Congress, China's legislature, will nominate the director to head the super anti-graft agency and supervise its operation, and they will be limited to two consecutive terms under the proposal. The supervisory commission system has been piloted at the provincial level since last year. Xinhua reported separately on Sunday that China has already established supervisory commissions in all counties and provinces. The national supervision law, released in draft form in November, will govern the operation of the new agency and is also expected to be submitted to the national legislature for passage at the annual parliamentary session starting on March 5. All supervisory commissions will be accountable to the next level up and the local legislature, according to the proposal. They will independently exercise their supervisory powers and not be subject to interference by any administrative body, public organisation or individual. They will also be expected to coordinate with judicial and procuratorial agencies and law enforcement departments and keep checks on each other. The document did not go into detail about the controversial detention powers of the new agency outlined in the draft law. ^ top ^

China Focus: Proposed constitutional amendment package unveiled (Xinhua)
The Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee made public its proposal on amendments to China's Constitution Sunday. The proposal, raised to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), was made in accordance with the new situation and practice of upholding and developing socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era. New thought The CPC Central Committee proposed writing Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era into the country's fundamental law. The Scientific Outlook on Development was also proposed to be included. According to the proposal, under the leadership of the CPC and the guidance of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the Theory of Three Represents, the Scientific Outlook on Development, and Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, the Chinese people of all ethnic groups will continue to adhere to the people's democratic dictatorship and the socialist road, persevere in reform and opening to the outside world, steadily improve socialist institutions, develop the socialist market economy, develop socialist democracy, improve the socialist rule of law, apply a new vision of development and work hard and self-reliantly to modernize the country's industry, agriculture, national defence and science and technology step by step and promote the coordinated development of the material, political, cultural and ethical, social and ecological advancement, to turn China into a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful and realize national rejuvenation. United front The CPC Central Committee proposed including patriots devoted to national rejuvenation as part of the patriotic united front in the Constitution. According to the proposal, in the long years of revolution, construction and reform, there has been formed under the leadership of the CPC a broad patriotic united front which is composed of the democratic parties and people's organizations, and which embraces all socialist working people, all builders of socialism, all patriots who support socialism, and all patriots who stand for the reunification of the motherland and devote themselves to national rejuvenation. This united front will continue to be consolidated and developed. Harmonious relations among all ethnic groups Harmonious socialist relations among ethnic groups were proposed to be written into the Constitution. Socialist relations of equality, unity, mutual assistance and harmony have been established among the ethnic groups and will continue to be strengthened, according to a proposed revision to the preamble. The State protects the lawful rights and interests of the ethnic minority groups and upholds and develops a relationship of equality, unity, mutual assistance and harmony among all of China's ethnic groups, according to a proposed revision to a clause of Article 4. Community with shared future for humanity The CPC Central Committee proposed writing building "a community with a shared future for humanity" into the Constitution. The expression that China will "adhere to the peaceful development path and the mutually beneficial strategy of opening-up" should be added to the preamble, read the proposal. China's achievements in revolution, construction and reform are inseparable from the support of the people of the world. The future of China is closely linked to the future of the world, according to the proposal. The proposal read that China consistently carries out an independent foreign policy, adheres to the five principles of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, peaceful coexistence, adheres to the peaceful development path and the mutually beneficial strategy of opening-up in developing diplomatic relations and economic and cultural exchanges with other countries, and works to build a community with a shared future for humanity. China consistently opposes imperialism, hegemonism and colonialism, works to strengthen unity with the people of other countries, supports the oppressed nations and the developing countries in their just struggle to win and preserve national independence and develop their national economies, and strives to safeguard world peace and promote the cause of human progress. CPC leadership A sentence stressing the Party's leadership was proposed to be added into the Constitution. "The leadership of the Communist Party of China is the defining feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics," read the proposal. Core socialist values The addition of core socialist values into a clause was also in the proposed package. The proposal read that the State advocates core socialist values, and the civic virtues of love of the motherland, of the people, of labour, of science and of socialism. Oath of allegiance The CPC Central Committee proposed inclusion of pledging allegiance to the Constitution into the fundamental law. All state functionaries shall take a public oath of allegiance to the Constitution when assuming office, read the proposal. Chinese President and Vice-President The CPC Central Committee proposed revising the clause "The term of office of the President and Vice-President of the People's Republic of China is the same as that of the National People's Congress, and they shall serve no more than two consecutive terms" to "The term of office of the President and Vice-President of the People's Republic of China is the same as that of the National People's Congress." New cabinet function The CPC Central Committee proposed to list ecological advancement as a new function and power of the State Council, or cabinet. Apart from economic affairs and urban and rural development, the State Council also has the function and power of directing and administering ecological advancement, according to a proposed change to a clause under Article 89. More cities with legislative power Chinese cities, with subordinate districts, would be granted the power to make local laws and regulations under the proposed constitutional amendment. The people's congresses and their standing committees of these cities would be able to adopt local laws and regulations under the condition that they do not contradict the Constitution, national laws and regulations, and provincial laws and regulations, according to the proposal. The local laws and regulations would take effect after being approved by the standing committees of provincial-level people's congresses. Supervisory commissions The CPC Central Committee proposed listing the supervisory commissions as a new type of state organs in the Constitution. According to the proposal, supervisory organs will be listed together with administrative, judicial and procuratorial organs of the State, all of which are created by the people's congresses to which they are responsible and by which they are supervised. A new section about supervisory commissions is proposed to be added to the third chapter titled "The Structure of the State" in the Constitution. The country sets up the national and local supervisory commissions, according to the document. A supervisory commission will consist of one director, several deputy directors and a number of members. The director will serve the same term as that of the people's congress of the same level. The director of the national supervisory commission shall serve no more than two consecutive terms. The organization, functions and powers of supervisory commissions are prescribed by law. As the supreme supervisory organ, the national supervisory commission will oversee local commissions and answer to the NPC and its standing committee. The supervisory commissions at higher levels will lead the commissions at lower levels. Local supervisory commissions at various levels will be responsible to the state power organs that created them and to the supervisory commission at the next level up. The supervisory commissions will independently exercise their power of supervision and not be subject to interference by any administrative organ, public organization or individual, said the proposal. It also asked the supervisory organs to coordinate with judicial organs, procuratorial organs and law enforcement departments, and check each other in handling duty-related offenses. The NPC will be given the power to elect and remove the director of the national supervisory commission, while the NPC Standing Committee shall supervise the national supervisory commission and appoint or remove deputy directors and members of the commission at the recommendation of its director. Local people's congresses at and above county level will elect and have the power to remove the directors of the supervisory commissions at the corresponding level, while their standing committees shall supervise the supervisory commissions at the corresponding level. Members of the standing committees of the NPC and local peoples' congresses at and above county level shall not hold office in supervisory organs. In addition, supervision will no longer be a duty for the State Council and local governments at and above county level, according to the proposal. ^ top ^



China using big data as repression tool in restive Xinjiang region, Human Rights Watch says (SCMP)
Human Rights Watch said it has found fresh evidence that authorities in one of China's most repressive regions are sweeping up citizens' personal information in a stark example of how big data technology can be used to police a population – and potentially abused. The rights group used publicly available government procurement documents, media reports and interviews to assemble details of the policing programme called the "Integrated Joint Operations Platform" in Xinjiang, a sprawling area in northwestern China that security officials say harbours separatist and religious extremist elements. Unidentified sources inside Xinjiang described to Human Rights Watch the computer and mobile app interfaces of the software that tracks almost all citizens of the Turkic-speaking Muslim Uygur ethnic minority and stores detailed information including their travel history, prayer habits, number of books in their possession, banking and health records. Procurement notices show that the platform also deploys vehicle number plate tracking and facial recognition cameras to follow people in real time and provide "predictive warnings" about impending crime, Human Rights Watch said. Although surveillance is pervasive in many countries, including the United States and Britain, and has the potential for abuse, the technology is being deployed far more broadly in Xinjiang, said Maya Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch and the report's author. "In China, the programmes are very explicitly focused on people who are politically threatening or an entire Uygur ethnic group," Wang said. An official at the press office of Xinjiang police headquarters on Monday confirmed that question from Associated Press had been received, but said leaders were out and he had no idea when or if there would be a reply. The official, like many Chinese bureaucrats, declined to give his name because he was not authorised to speak to reporters. China's 10 million Uygurs already face a raft of restrictions not imposed on people of the Han ethnicity, who are the overwhelming majority in China. Uygurs face multiple hurdles in procuring passports and those who have them are required to leave them with the police. Hotels are required to register their presence with the local authorities and frequently turn them away to avoid the hassle. Frequent road blocks and checkpoints across the vast Xinjiang region enable authorities to stop people and check their mobile phones for content that might be deemed suspicious. Such pressure was ratcheted up following a series of deadly attacks blamed on Uygur extremists seeking independence from Chinese rule. A 2017 investigation by Associated Press showed that thousands of Uygurs in Xinjiang, and possibly many more, have been sent to an extrajudicial network of political indoctrination centres for months at a time for reasons including studying abroad and communicating with relatives abroad. Evidence was also found in government documents and procurement contracts of the Xinjiang government compiling biometric and personal data and systematically rating its Uygur citizens' political reliability. The Human Rights Watch report reveals for the first time that the disparate data collection efforts appear to be unified under one central digital database that calculates citizens' political risk. Use of the integrated computer system has led to people being detained and sent to political indoctrination centres, Wang said, citing interviewees who were kept anonymous out of concern for their safety. Wang said she had found evidence that Chinese police were building similar big data tracking capabilities in other parts of the country under a programme called the "police cloud", but did not deploy them to such an extent as in Xinjiang. ^ top ^



Beijing hits out at US' Taiwan travel bill as analysts warn of backlash
Beijing protested to the United States on Thursday after the US Senate passed a bill aimed at forging closer ties between Washington and Taipei. Taiwan officials welcomed the passage of the Taiwan Travel Act but analysts said the move would trigger more backlash from Beijing against the self-ruled island. The bill says it should be US policy to allow officials at all levels to travel to Taiwan to meet their Taiwanese counterparts, permit high-level Taiwanese officials to enter the US under respectful conditions and meet US officials, and encourage Taiwanese economic and cultural representatives to conduct business in the United States. The legislation was passed with unanimous consent from both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and US President Donald Trump will have 10 days to consider the act before it automatically becomes law, even without his signature. Taiwan's Presidential Office said the government would hold talks with Washington on exchange visits, without elaborating. President Tsai Ing-wen meanwhile hailed the passage of the bill in a tweet, saying it was a symbol of America's long-standing support for Taiwan. But in Beijing, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the bill seriously violated the one-China principle and that the US should cease official exchanges with Taiwan. "China is strongly dissatisfied with this and resolutely opposes it, and has already lodged stern representations with the US side," Hua said in a daily press briefing on Thursday. Beijing considers Taiwan a wayward province subject to eventual unification, by force if necessary, and has repeatedly warned the US and other countries against forging ties with Taipei or allowing visits by senior Taiwanese officials, especially the president and vice-president. Cross-strait relations have soured since Tsai became president in 2016 and refused to accept the one-China policy. Taiwan is meanwhile considering expanding its contact with the US, with a US-Taiwan defence industry conference to be held in the southwest city of Kaohsiung in May. Lee Chih-horng, who teaches cross-strait relations at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said Beijing was unlikely to tolerate such exchanges, which it sees as a "state-to-state relationship". "The US is expected to send officials to Taiwan for a defence industry forum in Kaohsiung... and this will provide a good opportunity for the US to test Beijing's reaction," Lee said, referring to the US-Taiwan Business Council's plan to hold the forum in Taiwan. "I don't think these will be senior-level officials though as the US won't want to provoke Beijing any further." Observers also said the passage of the travel bill created a dilemma for Taiwan and added to uncertainties over its relations with Beijing and the US. "The US Congress has actually given the decision to the executive branch as to whether to allow high-level official exchange visits, so this gives the Trump administration leverage when it's bargaining with China over various American interests," said Philip Yang, president of the Taiwan Association of International Relations. Taiwan could become a US pawn, he said, which was something the Tsai government must consider. But he said the chances were slim of Tsai herself making an official visit to the US, or Trump visiting Taiwan. "It is highly unlikely that the US will send top-level officials to Taiwan as it would be seen by Beijing as crossing the red line," he said. Sun Yang-ming, deputy director of the Chinese Cyan Geese Peace and Education Foundation, a Kuomintang think tank, said while the passage of the travel bill appeared to be a diplomatic win for Taipei and a breakthrough in US-Taiwan relations, Tsai must look at the bigger picture. "There is a possibility that Trump – known for his business mindset – might ditch Taipei after reaching compromises with China, and Tsai must also evaluate the impact on cross-strait relations, and whether Beijing could take its anger out on Taiwan by further suppressing it politically and internationally," he said. Ji Ye, a Taiwan affairs specialist from Xiamen University, said the bill would negatively impact Sino-US ties because it harms Beijing's interests and goes against the one-China policy. "In this sense, the mutual trust and cooperation between the two countries in the long term will be badly affected," he said. ^ top ^

US lawmakers vent anxiety via Taiwan bill (Global Times)
The US Senate on Wednesday passed the Taiwan Travel Act with unanimous consent. As the bill passed the House of Representatives without opposition in January, the legislation only needs President Donald Trump's signature to become law. It's extremely unusual for both houses of Congress to unanimously vote through a bill that would severely jeopardize Sino-US relations. This reflects growing nationalist sentiment in the US in the face of China's rise. Bellicosity has peaked in Congress and legislators approved the bill to vent their anxieties about China. We urge Trump to stay clear-minded, and veto the bill. Although he may face pressure from Congress, standing firm on the one-China policy - the political basis of Sino-US relations - and maintaining the steady development of bilateral ties will earn Trump support during his term in office and aid his re-election campaign. China should rationally analyze the direction of the US' Beijing policy and respond accordingly, based on its capability. This is more feasible than persuading the White House. American elites are apparently more hostile against China, and as a result, the Taiwan question has quickly become a trump card for Washington. But the US is not resolved in taking concrete steps to challenge China's bottom line. It is considering using the Taiwan card to intimidate China so as to disturb the game between China and the US. China cannot always dance to the tune of the US. It should handle its ties with the US based on its own arrangements and hence marginalize the role of the US Congress in the Taiwan question. Economically, Taiwan is highly dependent on the mainland. Militarily, the strength of the People's Liberation Army has fundamentally changed the military and political situation across the Straits. Diplomatically, Taiwan's "allies" have established diplomatic ties with the mainland one after another. The US Senate's passage of the bill is of no strategic significance to the cross-Straits situation. The Chinese mainland should push to make sure the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) faces the consequences for upgrading exchanges with the US until it quits the game or when the DPP is deprived of power by the Taiwan voters. China shouldn't be led by the nose by American anti-China politicians. Thanks to its rapid growth, the Chinese mainland is now granted unparalleled strategic initiative across the Taiwan Straits. And it cannot possibly be taken away by US lawmakers. Pro-independence forces are a card Washington can play against China. The Chinese mainland can make targeted measures against pro-independence forces in Taiwan. Being used by Washington and getting mired in long-term Washington-mainland hostility is never a good choice for Taiwan, which is something Taiwanese society has the rationality to realize. Blocking the US from passing the Taiwan Travel Act is difficult. The mainland can choose to handle cross-Straits ties in accordance with its own agenda. ^ top ^

Taiwanese given 'equal status' on China's mainland, but is Beijing just trying to buy their support? (SCMP)
Beijing on Wednesday introduced a raft of measures it says are designed to give Taiwanese companies and individuals freer access to opportunities and benefits on the Chinese mainland. The package, drawn up by dozens of central government agencies and announced by the Taiwan Affairs Office, comprises 31 items, of which 12 relate to business matters and 19 to social and employment issues. While office spokesman An Fengshan said the move was intended to put Taiwanese companies and residents on an equal footing with their mainland-based counterparts, the Taipei-based Mainland Affairs Council said it was little more than an effort by Beijing to buy political support. Among other things, the new measures will allow Taiwanese companies doing business on the mainland to get involved in the "Made in China 2025" programme – the central government's blueprint for upgrading the country's manufacturing sector – as well as bid for infrastructure projects, and claim various tax incentives. The move is likely to be welcomed by those involved in the creative arts and entertainment fields as it will provide easier access to mainland markets for Taiwanese films, television programmes and books. Similarly, Taiwanese professionals will be free to join mainland-based industry associations or study for any of its 134 professional qualifications, Beijing said. Chang Lin-cheng, an honorary professor at National Taiwan University, said the measures would appeal to anyone from Taiwan who wanted to take advantage of the opportunities available on the mainland. "In the past, Beijing's policies with regards to Taiwanese people were nothing like as positive as those announced on Wednesday," she said. The move would also create new opportunities for workers, many of whom face a saturated jobs market at home, he said. Zhu Jie, a specialist in Taiwan affairs at Wuhan University, said the move was Beijing's way of showing that it regarded the island's residents as equal to all other Chinese citizens. The announcement of the new measures coincided with the 71st anniversary of the February 28 Incident (also known as the 2.28 Incident) when an uprising in Taiwan in 1947 was violently suppressed by Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang government. The anniversary has been widely commemorated by the island's authorities and public, and in recent years, the pro-independence camp has used it to justify a split from the mainland. Relations between Beijing and Taipei have worsened since Tsai Ing-wen, leader of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, was elected Taiwan's president in 2016 and refused to acknowledge the 1992 consensus on which cross-strait relations had long been based. ^ top ^

Taiwan Affairs Office: Mainland opposes any official contact between US, Taiwan (Global Times)
The Chinese mainland opposes any form of official or military contact between the United States and Taiwan, a spokesman for the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office said Wednesday. The Chinese mainland firmly objects to US arms sales to Taiwan under any pretext, An Fengshan said. The one-China principle is the political foundation of the China-US relationship and the fundamental guideline for handling issues regarding Taiwan for the two countries, An said. When asked about some Taiwan media stirring up trouble following remarks by members of a US think tank, An said some "unscrupulous" people from the island acted actively as the tools of other countries at the cost of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and the wellbeing of people on both sides. An called on both sides across the Strait to work hand in hand to create brilliance. China on Wednesday just announced new measures which would allow Taiwanese compatriots to enroll in 53 professional and technical occupation qualification examinations, which push equal treatment with their mainland counterparts in investments and economic cooperation forward. The measures also grant the people of Taiwan equal treatment when studying, working and living on the mainland. ^ top ^



Guosheng puts CEFC under state ward as crackdown intensifies on freewheeling private businesses (SCMP)
China's government, fresh on the heels of putting insurer Anbang Group under state ward, is seizing control of the management of the country's largest non-state oil conglomerate, as a crackdown intensifies on private entrepreneurs and their freewheeling financing. Shanghai Guosheng Group, a portfolio and investment agency controlled by the Shanghai municipal government, has taken over the management and daily operations of CEFC China Energy, the Shanghai-based oil and gas conglomerate founded by entrepreneur Ye Jianming, since last week, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the matter. Guosheng's seizure of CEFC followed the detention of the conglomerate's founder Ye for undisclosed investigations just before the start of the Lunar New Year celebrations on February 16, four sources told the South China Morning Post separately. Shares in two of the three companies linked to CEFC fell in Shenzhen and Singapore, even after the company said on its website that its operations are proceeding "normally." China's government, concerned about the scale of leveraged buyouts and outsize overseas acquisitions by heavily indebted private enterprises, had been cracking down hard since April last year on companies including Anbang, Dalian Wanda Group, Fosun Group and the HNA Group. The Chinese insurance regulator last week took over Anbang's operations, holding it in state ward for at least a year although keeping the company's shareholding as a private enterprise. Wu Xiaohui, the Anbang chairman under whom the insurer became one of China's biggest asset buyers, was removed from his post for prosecution for unspecified "economic crimes." In Shanghai, Guosheng's officials declined to comment. CEFC, which has lavished as much as US$4.9 billion since July 2015 on acquisitions from Chad to Romania, appears to be the latest target in the Chinese government's cross hairs. Founded by Ye in 2002 when he was in his mid-twenties, CEFC had grown into a conglomerate with 263 billion yuan (US$41 billion) in revenue by 2015, before he even turned 40. From there, he began a series of acquisitions around the world, from finance and media businesses in the Czech Republic, to a bank in Georgia, to oil and gas assets in Chad and the United Arab Emirates. CEFC's signature purchase would be its September 2017 acquisition of a 14.2 per cent stake in Russia's state-controlled Rosneft for US$9.1 billion, making the Chinese company the third-largest shareholder in the world's biggest listed oil producer. Most of CEFC's acquisitions were funded by China's state banks, and in particular the China Development Bank. The Beijing-based state lender, established with the charter of financing projects in line with China's state policies, provided CEFC with as much as 32.3 billion yuan of loans, or 87.5 of total borrowings, according to the September 2016 bond prospectus of the group's principal subsidiary CEFC Shanghai International Group. Ye may also have been caught up in the ongoing investigation of Hong Kong's former Home Secretary Patrick Ho Chi-ping, who heads a think tank that's fully funded by CEFC. Ho was arrested on November 21 in New York on charges of routing bribes for African government officials through US financial institutions. CEFC neither has "the commercial interests involved in the relevant [media] reports" in relation to Ho's arrest, nor has it authorised Ho or any other individuals to conduct "such commercial activities," the Chinese company said in a November 21 statement. Ho and Senegal's former foreign minister Cheikh Gadio operated "an international corruption scheme that spanned the globe" since 2014, according to a November 20 statement by the US Department of Justice. The two men allegedly offered a US$2 million bribe to Chad's President Idriss Deby in exchange for "valuable oil rights," and another US$500,000 to Uganda's Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa.^ top ^



Caught in the act? Japan says photos show North Korea sanction cheats off Shanghai, as Maldives denies role (SCMP)
The Maldives government on Thursday disputed claims by the Japanese foreign ministry that a Maldivian-flagged ship was caught in the act of transferring goods to a North Korean-flagged tanker at sea, in violation of a UN Security Council resolution. A Japanese foreign ministry statement said a Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force aircraft spotted a North Korean-flagged tanker alongside the Xin Yuan 18, a Maldivian-flagged tanker, in the East China Sea, 250km east of Shanghai, late on Saturday night. The statement on Tuesday said Japan "strongly suspects that they conducted ship-to-ship transfers banned by UNSCR." The Maldives Democratic Party, an opposition political party in Maldives, said in a statement Thursday that the Xin Yuan 18 is registered in the Maldives and that "it is believed that the vessels were exchanging crude oil, in violation of UN sanctions on North Korea." The Maldives president's office said in a statement that the vessel was never registered in the country. A separate statement by the Maldives foreign ministry said Maldives does not allow a flag of convenience to foreign owned vessels to operate outside Maldivian waters and that any use of a Maldives flag violates its laws. It also said the government condemned the use of its national flag. It also said Maldives "gives high priority to the implementation of all resolutions of the United Nations Security Council," including resolutions on North Korea. This latest development comes amid mounting international criticism against the Maldives government for declaring a state of emergency and arresting judges, opposition politicians and activists in a political turmoil that has engulfed the Indian Ocean archipelago nation for weeks On February 1, the Supreme Court ordered the release of a group of President Yameen Abdul Gayoom's political opponents who had been imprisoned. The state of emergency gives wide powers to security forces to detain people and curtail freedom to protest. Yameen had two Supreme Court judges arrested, accusing them of corruption. Later, the remaining three judges annulled the order. Maldives became a multiparty democracy after decades of autocratic rule. Yameen has rolled back much of the country's democratic gains since being elected in 2013. ^ top ^

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his father 'used Brazilian passports to apply for Western visas' (SCMP)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his late father Kim Jong-il used fraudulently obtained Brazilian passports to apply for visas to visit Western countries in the 1990s, five senior Western European security sources told Reuters. While North Korea's ruling family is known to have used travel documents obtained under false pretenses, there are few specific examples. The photocopies of the Brazilian passports seen by Reuters have not been published before. "They used these Brazilian passports, which clearly show the photographs of Kim Jong-un and Kim Jong-il, to attempt to obtain visas from foreign embassies," one senior Western security source said on condition of anonymity. "This shows the desire for travel and points to the ruling family's attempts to build a possible escape route," the security source said. The North Korean embassy in Brazil declined to comment. Brazil's foreign ministry said it was investigating. A Brazilian source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the two passports in question were legitimate documents when sent out as blanks for consulates to issue. Four other senior Western European security sources confirmed that the two Brazilian passports with photos of the Kims in the names of Josef Pwag and Ijong Tchoi were used to apply for visas in at least two Western countries. It was unclear whether any visas were issued. The passports may also have been used to travel to Brazil, Japan and Hong Kong, the security sources said. Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun reported in 2011 that Jong-un visited Tokyo as a child using a Brazilian passport in 1991 – before the issue date on the two Brazilian passports. Both 10-year passports carry a stamp saying "Embassy of Brazil in Prague" with a February 26, 1996, issue date. The security sources said facial recognition technology confirmed the photographs were those of Kim Jong-un and his father. The passport with Kim Jong-un's photo was issued in the name of "Josef Pwag" with a date of birth of February 1, 1983. So little is known about Kim Jong-un that even his birth date is disputed. He would have been 12-to-14-years old when the Brazilian passport was issued. Kim Jong-un is known to have been educated at an international school in Berne, Switzerland, where he pretended to be the son of an embassy chauffeur. Kim Jong-il's passport was issued in the name Ijong Tchoi with a birth date of April 4, 1940. Kim Jong-il died in 2011. His true birth date was in 1941. Both passports list the holders' birthplaces as Sao Paulo, Brazil. The first security source declined to describe how the passport copies had been obtained, citing secrecy rules. Reuters has only seen photocopies of the passports so was unable to discern if they had been tampered with. ^ top ^

Secret UN report reveals how North Korea is helping Syria build chemical weapons and missiles (SCMP)
North Korea appears to have stepped up its covert assistance to a Syrian government agency responsible for producing that country's chemical weapons and advanced missiles, a UN panel has concluded in a confidential report. The technical aid from Pyongyang, which began more than a decade ago, included three visits by North Korean weapons experts in 2016, as well as 40 previously unknown shipments of specialised materials and equipment used in building chemical manufacturing plants, according to a draft of the report seen by The Washington Post. The revelations underscore widely held concerns about North Korea's willingness to market its most advanced weapons technology to foreign clients – including, in this instance, to a Syrian regime notorious for using chemical weapons to kill its citizens. Multiple UN investigations have linked President Bashar al-Assad's forces to mass-casualty attacks on Syrian civilians using sarin, a banned chemical toxin. "North Korea has a sordid history of supplying rogue states like Syria with weapons of mass destruction technology for cash," Andrew C. Weber, formerly the top Pentagon official responsible for combating the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, said of the new findings. "Given its large and growing arsenal of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and missile delivery systems, this is extremely dangerous." North Korea's alleged aid to Syria is detailed in a 70-page report compiled by the UN Panel of Experts, a technical body that releases periodical assessments about compliance with UN resolutions, including trade sanctions imposed on Pyongyang. The report, which has not been publicly released yet, describes ongoing efforts by North Korea to circumvent trade restrictions and sell banned military hardware and know-how to dozens of foreign clients, from the Middle East and North Africa to Latin America. Details about North Korea's alleged shipments to Syria were first reported by The New York Times and Britain's Express newspaper. The disclosures come amid revelations that Joseph Yun, the State Department's point man on North Korea, will leave his post Friday, a departure said to reflect widespread frustration among US diplomats about the Trump administration's handling of Korea policy. US President Donald Trump has sought to pressure North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, using personal insults and threats of "fire and fury" if the regime continues its march toward developing a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking the United States. But on Monday, Trump hinted that the United States might be willing to join South Korea in talks with the North, but only, in his words, "under the right conditions." The UN Panel of Experts has previously accused North Korea of aiding Syria's chemical-weapons programme, asserting in an August report that Pyongyang had secretly delivered gas masks and other protective gear to the Assad government. But the latest report suggests that the assistance was much broader, and included, for example, materials useful in rebuilding Syria's damaged chemical weapons facilities. "We've known about this activity for a long time, but the report shows that it's bigger than we knew," said a Western diplomat briefed on the panel's findings who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the report has not been released. Much of the covert aid appears to have been directed toward Syria's Scientific Studies and Research Center, a government-run agency that employs thousands of scientists and technicians across several campuses in northern and central Syria. UN investigators have identified the centre as a primary research facility for the country's chemical weapons and advanced missiles programme. Syria renounced chemical weapons and agreed to the supervised destruction of its declared chemical-weapons arsenal in 2013, but the Syrian military has continued to use small amounts of sarin and other toxins in the country's civil war, apparently from hidden or reconstituted stocks. Interdicted cargo seen by UN investigators in late 2016 and early 2017 included six shipping containers of acid-resistant tiles said to be capable of withstanding high temperatures and corrosive chemicals. Although not specifically banned under international sanctions, the North Korea-supplied tiles "can be used … for the interior walls of [a] chemical factory," the report stated, citing the assessment of an unidentified UN member state that provided access to the seized cargo. A billing of lading listed the shipper as a Chinese company, and the intended recipient as a Syrian firm regarded by Western intelligence agencies as a front company for the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Centre. China, responding to queries from UN investigators, said it was unaware of any links between the cargo and blacklisted North Korean companies and individuals. The report also describes shipments of corrosion-resistant valves and thermometers "known for use in chemical weapons programmes," as well as visits to Syria by three delegations of North Korean technicians in 2016, including two groups of missiles experts. Syria, in a statement to the U.N. panel, said there are "no DPRK technical companies in Syria," referring to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, adding that the only North Korean citizens in the country were coaches and athletes "confined in the area of sports." Meanwhile, the departure of the State Department's chief envoy on the Korean crisis delivered a fresh blow to US diplomatic efforts to end the stalemate over Pyongyang's nuclear and missile tests. The retiring Yun, 63, is the special representative for North Korea policy and deputy assistant secretary for Korea and Japan, and has more than three decades of diplomatic experience. Yun's departure will leave another hole in US staffing on Korean issues. Washington has still not nominated an ambassador to South Korea, 13 months into the Trump administration. Victor Cha had been in the running for the job, but the administration abruptly scrapped his candidacy last month. "This is my own personal decision," Yun said. "Secretary [of State Rex] Tillerson has told me he appreciates my service and did not want me to go, but he accepts it reluctantly." State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert confirmed that Tillerson had "reluctantly accepted" Yun's decision and wished him well. ^ top ^



Mongolia-Japan trade relations set for continued expansion (GoGo Mongolia)
From February 21 to 25, Minister of Foreign Affairs D. Tsogtbaatar paid an official visit to Japan to strengthen relations, intensify economic partnerships, and to mobilize discussions on expanding trade and investment. Minister D. Tsogtbaatar spoke about the visit and noted, "Japan is our third neighbor and an important strategic partner. During the visit we discussed not only relationship issues but also shared our views on issues that are internationally and regionally important to our countries. We had a thorough discussion on increasing the impact and productivity of economic partnership agreements, expanding trade by exporting Mongolian products to the Japanese market. JICA has expressed its readiness to support business partnerships, and working with SMEs through the Mongolia-Japan Human Resource Development Center. The Japanese Chamber of Trade and Commerce responded to our proposal to organize trade exhibitions and to expedite the issuance of certificates of origin. During a meeting with Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Taro Kono, it was agreed that a master plan should be drafted on creating a value chain for the Mongolian agricultural sector". ^ top ^

Randall Schriver: Mongolia contributes to Asian stability and World peace (Montsame)
On March 1 The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs of USA Randall Schriver met with the Defense Minister N.Enkhbold to present an agreement on rendering health service to military personnel of the both countries and their families at the Ministry of Defense. The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver noted that Defense partnership between the two countries are based on common values and mutual interests. He also, emphasized that Mongolia is an example of a democratic and peace-loving country that has not only contributed to the Asian stability, but also to the World peace and stability far beyond their capacity. "Mongolia is a good example to other nations. The USA honors that the Mongolian armed forces continue to participate in the UN Peacekeeping operations in Africa's Sudan, Western Sahara, Congo and South Sudan. Mongolia's contribution to the Peacekeeping operations since 2002 has increased the reputation of Mongolia and its people. This year 'Khaan Quest' international military exercise will be organized for the 16th year. Last year, more than 1000 military personnel from 25 countries participated in it. This is a great achievement," he said. ^ top ^

Mongolia and Russia ink Agreement on Cross Border Cooperation (GoGo Mongolia)
The 11th Mongolia-Russia Intergovernmental Commission meeting commenced in Moscow on February 26. The meeting, which will conclude today, is being attended by Mongolian delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister Enkhtuvshin Ulziisaikhan and the Russian side is led by Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Sergey Donskoy. On the first day of the meeting, the joint Sub-Commission on Regional and Cross Border Cooperation convened its 13th session to discuss the implementation of the Mongolia-Russia-China Economic Corridor program and inked the Intergovernmental Commission Agreement on Supporting Regional and Cross Border Cooperation. Furthermore, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Battsetseg Batmunkh informed that the sides agreed to discuss regional cooperation, specifically the free trade agreement, during the "Mongolia- Russia Initiative 2018" event in June. As for the second day, Sub-Commission on Education, Science and Technology held its fifth session. Ms Battsetseg commented that Russia agreed on Mongolia's request to prepare special education school teachers, teacher-psychologists and teacher speech therapists in the Russian Federation. According to Akipress, Deputy Prime Minister Enkhtuvshin Ulziisaikhan and Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of Russia Sergey Donskoy are expected to review the implementation of the protocol of the 10th meeting and address bilateral cooperation on construction of a power plant at Eg River, road and transport, energy, environment and agriculture sectors. ^ top ^

Day of Patriots marked (Montsame)
Every year, March 1 is traditionally marked as Day of Patriots and celebration of Mongolian People's Party. On this occasion, Prime Minister and Chairman of MPP U.Khurelsukh, General Secretary of MPP D.Amarbayasgalan, MPs and government members paid a respect to the Chinggis Khaan Monument and laid a wreath at D.Sukhbaatar Statue. In addition, an honorable meeting for 'Day of Patriots' was held in the Palace of Independence. ^ top ^

Cabinet decides to ban raw coal consumption in 2019 (Montsame)
The Cabinet has resolved to ban consumption of raw coal in Ulaanbaatar starting from May 15, 2019, in an effort to reduce air pollution. The decision, made on February 28, won't be effective in thermal power plants and power stations operating in Bayanzurkh, Chingeltei, Sukhbaatar, Bayangol, Khan-Uul and Songinokhairkhan districts. The Cabinet ordered the Mayor of Ulaanbaatar and the corresponding Ministers to study the demand, supply and ways to ensure the price stability of refined coal, and reach a decision by July 1 this year. The Cabinet sees that it is possible to replace the raw coal consumed by the capital city residents with 600 thousand tons of compressed fuel. In other words, a household that burns 4-5 tons of coal in heating season will consume 3 tons of compressed fuel, which is an economically beneficial alternative. For instance, coal from Nalaikh is purchased at MNT 170 thousand per ton. Five tons of coal will cost MNT 850 thousand whereas three tons of refined coal will cost MNT 660 thousand, thus saving MNT 190 thousand. The replacement of raw coal by refined coal is expected to significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions, thus resulting in the decrease of air pollution. About 202 thousand households in the ger areas of Ulaanbaatar burn 1.1 million tons of raw coal in winter, producing around 80 percent of smog in the capital city. ^ top ^


Aurèle Aquillon
Embassy of Switzerland

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