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
  6-10.8.2018, No. 729  
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Foreign Policy

Why US visas are a passport to uncertainty for China's hi-tech researchers (SCMP)
When Sonia Sun returned to China in late May to renew her US visa for her postdoctoral studies in industrial engineering, she found herself on edge again. Last year, the 29-year-old student at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, had to make the long journey to Guangzhou in southern China and wait about six weeks before getting her J-1, a non-immigrant visa issued by the United States to researchers, professors and exchange visitors. During the half-hour interview with consulate staff members, Sun was grilled on her research interests and reason for studying in the US. "When they realised my degree was in telecommunications, the interview suddenly ended and the staff said my application needed additional checks," she said. It was a sharp contrast to a year earlier when she had sailed through the application process in two weeks. Sun was rattled by the uncertainty, a feeling that persisted for more than two months this year after she put in the paperwork and again explained in detail to consulate staff about her research. Her visa finally came through on August 1. "I was not worried just about my visa. I had to check flights every day and calculate when would be the cheapest time to fly back if my visa was late, and what I should do if my application was rejected," she said. Sun is one of many Chinese postgraduate science students coming under tighter US visa scrutiny since trade tensions between Washington and Beijing began boiling over. Since July 11, Chinese postgraduates studying in the US in fields such as robotics, aviation and hi-tech manufacturing have been limited to one-year visas, and Chinese citizens applying for a US visa have needed to secure additional US permission if they work in research or management for any institution that might arouse US suspicion, according to Associated Press. The measures are reportedly meant to protect American intellectual property and affect a range of hi-tech research fields that are part of Beijing's "Made in China 2025" programme to dominate the science and technology of the future. Parts of the programme were targeted by the administration of US President Donald Trump in tariffs that came into effect on July 6. Trump has been tightening US immigration policies since he took office in January 2017, citing security concerns. In December, his administration imposed new requirements for the 38 countries taking part in the US Visa Waiver Programme, including the use of US counterterrorism data to screen travellers. Media reports suggest that Trump's tighter visa policies have already taken a toll on US business schools, which have seen a two-thirds decline in international student interest since the 2016 presidential election. Part of the decline was caused by student concerns about Trump's immigration policies – most notably, the ability to get an H-1B visa after graduating. These are often used by hi-tech companies in Silicon Valley for foreign graduates in speciality fields, including those with degrees in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). "We will consider restrictions on foreign STEM students from designated countries to ensure that intellectual property is not transferred to our competitors, while acknowledging the importance of recruiting the most advanced technical workforce to the United States," said a National Security Strategy report in February. Of the more than 362,000 Chinese studying in the US last year, 152,000, or 42 per cent, were pursuing STEM-related majors, according to data from the US Department of Homeland Security's web-based Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. Before the implementation of the new policy, US State Department statistics showed a 17 per cent decline in 2017 in the number of F-1 visas issued to foreign students compared with 2016, and a drop of almost 39 per cent drop compared with 2015.Of particular note is a 24 per cent decline in F-1 visas for Chinese students last year. There are no official figures on just how many Chinese academics are being affected, but there is anecdotal evidence suggesting that more Chinese science and tech students and researchers are facing tighter scrutiny. According to Texas-based website, more than 2,000 Chinese students reported having to submit to stricter US visa checks between January and June this year, up from fewer than 1,500 at the same time last year. Science and technology students were most likely to come in for extra attention, the website said. Chinese academics also appear to be having a tougher time getting into the United States for conferences. A professor surnamed Wang, in telecommunications at a top-tier university in central China, said one of his colleagues was denied a US visa, and another had to endure a long delay to go to a technology conference in Honolulu in April. Both colleagues had visited the United States many times before, he said. "Both had invitation letters from the US, but they either failed to get a visa in time or were rejected without an explanation," he said, adding that he was able to attend because he already had a 10-year visa. High-profile Peking University neuroscientist Rao Yi – who got US citizenship in the 1990s and renounced it in 2009 – has also been repeatedly rejected for a US visa since 2016, according to Science magazine. The latest refusal on July 20 prevented him from accepting the US National Science Foundation's invitation to attend a workshop on July 23 and 24 in Washington, the report said. A spokeswoman for the US embassy in Beijing said consular officers could limit visas on a case-by-case basis. Even summer school exchange students have been affected by the tightening of visa rules. For the first time in 11 years, Chinese students from China's Central University of Finance and Economics planning to join a four-week political and social research summer programme at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor were denied visas. "A number of visa applications from students hoping to participate in the programme were not approved by the US State Department," said Rick Fitzgerald, spokesman for University of Michigan, adding the issue was not unique to his university. The programme, the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research, was set up in 1963 and provides training in data access, curation and methods of analysis for the social science research community. The course has a data archive of more than 250,000 files of research in the social and behavioural sciences, with 21 specialised collections of data in education, ageing, terrorism and other fields. Analysts say the restrictions and rejected visas will have longer-term implications. David Lampton, director of China studies at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, said the US appeared to be "more careful about to whom it gives visas". "This is one of the very unfortunate things going on in the US-China relations," Lampton said, adding that the move would inhibit broader exchanges between people in the two countries. Yuan Zheng, a US affairs expert from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the restrictions would only harm the United States in the long run. "The move is in line with Trump's protectionist stance and can only serve US short-term interests. The move would hinder bilateral exchanges and deepen China's distrust towards the US, damaging Sino-US relations in the longer term," Yuan said. Once their visas were rejected, Chinese students were likely to divert their interests to study in the UK, Australia or Canada, said a Guangzhou-based overseas study agent surnamed Huang. Li Shang, who completed his PhD at Columbia University and is now a senior inventive scientist at AT&T Labs, said he hoped to get a US green card granting permanent residency to dispel any deportation concerns. "The Trump administration, in general, is not very friendly towards immigrants. I don't know whether he would limit the immigration quota or set the immigration bar higher some day," said Li, who holds a H-1B visa and has lived in the US for six years. "I am working with my lawyer to apply for the US green card," he said. "The whole process will take one to two years, and I hope I can get it before Trump changes policies that might affect me." Back in her hometown of Wuhan, Sonia Sun, holding her new visa, said she still counted herself lucky despite the long wait for it to come through. "I can finally stop checking my visa application result every day and rest easy, knowing I could go back to continue my research," she said. ^ top ^

China decides to impose additional tariffs on 16 bln USD of U.S. imports (Xinhua)
China has decided to impose additional tariffs on imported products from the United States worth about 16 billion U.S. dollars, according to an official statement released Wednesday. Approved by the State Council, the Customs Tariff Commission of the State Council has decided to impose additional duties of 25 percent on the 16-billion-dollar U.S. products after making proper adjustments to the second part of a list of the products subject to the tariffs. The additional duties will take effect at 12:01 on Aug. 23, 2018. Commenting on the decision, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Commerce said that it is totally unreasonable for the United States to put domestic laws above international laws time and time again.To defend its legitimate rights and interests and the multilateral trade system, China was forced to take necessary countermeasures, said the spokesperson. The customs tariff commission said the list has been appropriately adjusted after taking into account the advice of related government departments, industry associations, and enterprises to best protect the interest of domestic consumers and companies. Alongside the statement, the commission published a final version of the second part of the list on the website of the Ministry of Finance. In June, the customs authority unveiled a list of products from the United States worth 50 billion U.S. dollars that will be subject to additional tariffs in response to U.S. announcement to impose additional duties on Chinese imports. Additional duties on the U.S. products in the first part of the list, worth 34 billion U.S. dollars, came into force on July 6. ^ top ^

Chinese, U.S. officials agree to boost cooperation (Xinhua)
New Chinese Consul General in San Francisco Wang Donghua and San Francisco Mayor London Breed have agreed to enhance cooperation between China and San Francisco. Wang met the mayor Thursday afternoon on the second day after he arrived in the U.S. west coastal city as the new Consul General, and they discussed deepening cooperation in various sectors. He spoke highly of San Francisco's efficient cooperation with the Chinese side in economy, trade, tourism, science, technology, and cultural fields. In his capacity as the new Chinese Consul General, Wang said he will work hard with the San Francisco government led by Breed to bring the pragmatic cooperation to a new level. Breed said China is a major trade partner of San Francisco and the city attaches great importance to developing its friendship and cooperation with China. The San Francisco mayor said she is always ready to keep close communication with the Chinese side, work jointly to deepen their cooperation and achieve win-win results. ^ top ^

Chinese company signs MOU with Laos over power grid development (Xinhua)
China Southern Power Grid (CSG) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) over feasibility study on cooperatively developing and building Laos' national power grid in the Lao capital Vientiane. With the witness of Lao Deputy Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone, visiting CSG Board Chairman Li Qingkui signed the document on Wednesday evening with Lao Minister for Planning and Investment Souphanh Keomisay and Managing Director of Electricite du Laos (EDL) Boun Oum Syvanpheng. According to the MOU, CSG will cooperate with the Lao side, with combined advantages and mutual benefits, to build a national integrated backbone power grid as to improve power transmission capacity and electricity supply reliability in Laos, and support the country's sustainable socio-economic development. At the same time, the CSG also donated 1.2 billion kip (some 142,000 U.S. dollars) to the Lao government at the singing ceremony, to help the flood-hit victims in southern Laos to rebuild their homes. On July 23, a saddle dam of the Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy hydroelectric power project, invested by South Korean, Thai and Lao companies, burst, unleashing flood water from the mountain to 13 villages of Sanamxay district downstream the Xe Pian River, some 560 km southeast of Vientiane. Six villages were almost submerged by the muddy flood with 13,000 villagers being affected. An CSG official told Xinhua that as the first Chinese power grid company going global, CSG actively implements the Belt and Road Initiative by enhancing power cooperation with Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) countries. ^ top ^

South Pacific can be place for Australia-China cooperation (Global Times)
China seems to be always the one to blame either for not helping others or for giving out too much help. The latest figures published Thursday by the Sydney-based Lowy Institute show that China has emerged as the second largest aid donor in the South Pacific, with $1.3 billion in donations and concessional loans since 2011, following $6.6 billion in aid by Australia. According to the study, China's spending in the South Pacific is nearly 9 percent of the total aid for the region. But Jonathan Pryke, the Lowy Institute's Pacific Islands program director, told Reuters that China's aid had "an element of briefcase diplomacy" and was "buying support." There is nothing wrong with studying China's aid and donations in the South Pacific, but finding fault is not to be appreciated. There is clearly a mixture of vigilance and anxiety about China's growing sway in the region that is traditionally seen by Australia as its backyard. In fact, wary of China's clout, Australia is enhancing its aid to the Pacific island nations to an unprecedented level. And its politicians have sent warnings at various occasions lest countries in its backyard may be lured away by China. Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said in June that Canberra will compete with Beijing to ensure South Pacific countries are not burdened with unsustainable debts that threaten their sovereignty. She talked as if China were an invader. Why is Australia, still the largest donor to South Pacific nations, so afraid? Probably Canberra knows that it hasn't done well in aiding small nations in its neighborhood. According to a July report by The New York Times, Australian aid focuses not on the tangible infrastructure that those island countries are craving urgently, but on institutional assistance with governance and law enforcement. Some nations feel that Australia offers aid in a paternalistic and dictatorial manner, rather than truly caring about their development. Regional officials are hence prompted to ask: Why not try our luck with China when Australian money is tightly restricted and doesn't truly benefit us? Frankly China's increasing presence in the South Pacific is no bad thing for locals. It not only promotes local development, but plays a catalytic role that prompts countries like Australia, New Zealand and the US to pay more attention and give more aid to the region. In June, Australia managed to convince the Solomon Islands to drop an undersea cable contract that was signed with Chinese telecom company Huawei in 2016 to improve the impoverished country's unreliable internet and phone services. Australia will fund the project instead, and is refocusing its aid programs to the island nations to win hearts. In a broader sense, what the region truly wants is not zero-sum competition, but cooperation. When it comes to China and Australia, why not meet each other halfway? ^ top ^

No need to over-interpret Mahathir's simultaneous reaching out to China and Japan (Global Times)
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's upcoming visit to China later this month was being described as "his first destination for official visit outside ASEAN countries." But before the tour, he landed in Japan on Monday. This made observers comment that the new Malaysian government is oscillating between Beijing and Tokyo. This reflects Mahathir's pragmatism as well as his goal of maximizing Malaysia's interest. Right after assuming office, Mahathir visited Japan in June. He wants to learn from Japan's experience in technology and management. For instance, the nonagenarian leader said Malaysia should launch a third national car. He wishes to draw on the experience of Japan's car industry. But Malaysian opposition parties and even some members of his own team are against the idea. They believe the country does not need another national car, but should improve its public transportation system. "Because public transportation is poor, the people are forced to buy cars. Mind you, driving a car in Malaysia will cost you toll," said Free Malaysia Today. Talking about his visit to Japan in June, Mahathir said, "We want to get a big a loan as we can from them." But later he expressed his doubts over Tokyo willing to lend at a low-interest rate. Moreover, Japanese banks have allegedly not yet given a clear response. In this backdrop, some Malaysians are questioning whether drawing closer to Japan would really help Malaysia. The economic and trade ties between Kuala Lumpur and Tokyo do not come close to those between China and Malaysia. Some media outlets suggested that Mahathir's two visits to Japan are an attempt to balance China's influence. I don't think so. Being a developing country, Malaysia neither has the strength nor the will to do so. The country just witnessed a government change and the new administration is re-recognizing and adapting to the influence of Beijing. Any new government would do so right after assuming power. However, the way Mahathir is doing it is making people talk. For instance, he put the brakes on a China-backed rail project which was meant to connect Malaysia's east coast to the capital, Kuala Lumpur, and Thailand, in a knee-jerk reaction in early July. This may have been Mahathir's bargaining chip to persuade China to provide his country more benefits in joint programs. However, such an approach would lead to losses on both sides. Malaysia said China should understand the decision given the country's national debt and social conditions. But such understanding should be mutual. Kuala Lumpur should also understand the feelings of Beijing. Malaysia demands transparent, fair and healthy international cooperation. But the country should first improve its domestic investment environment, making it more transparent, fair and healthy, so as to achieve better collaboration with other nations. China is an indispensable part of Malaysia's diplomacy. Be it economy, politics, culture or society, the two countries are linked in countless ways. No matter which coalition government comes to power, Kuala Lumpur cannot neglect the integral ties. Mahathir knew it well, and threw his weight behind the Belt and Road initiative since he is back at the seat of power. He attaches great importance to cooperation with China. During his upcoming visit to China, Mahathir has expectations. He hopes to continue the traditional friendly relations as well as strengthen all-round cooperation with Beijing, so as to consolidate his domestic support. More importantly, he wishes that Beijing can understand Malaysia's current financial situation and agree to revise some contracts related to major projects, which were inked by the former government. In particular, he hopes China can lower the interest rate for Malaysia, sign more agreements with enterprises with connections to the new government, employ more local workers and offer more smart technologies to Malaysia. He also hopes that China will buy more durian and palm oil from Malaysia. China welcomes Mahathir's visit and should not lose confidence even if Malaysia deepens its ties with Japan. Mahathir is very pragmatic because he has only two years in office before he hands over power to Anwar Ibrahim, president of People's Justice Party. All his goals must thus be achieved within the two-year window. China should understand this while maintaining a strong will to deal with it. ^ top ^

Western media criticism won't derail China-Pakistan cooperation on economic corridor (Global Times)
Several Western media outlets in recent weeks have published articles suggesting Pakistan runs the risk of falling into a debt trap with the multi-billion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). However, Pakistan, the alleged victim in such rabble-rousing stories, has reaffirmed its support for the investment project. Although there has been much controversy, those most qualified to evaluate the project are the people of Pakistan. The CPEC is a flagship component of the Belt and Road (B&R) initiative. Asad Umar, who is expected to become the next finance minister of Pakistan, said the incoming government has no plans to renegotiate any Chinese B&R projects that have been criticized as too expensive, according to media reports. Pakistani media outlets said that CPEC projects have not imposed any immediate debt burden on the government, as these projects are financed through a composite funding package, citing a statement issued by the Ministry of Planning. The statement was a response to critics who claimed that the CPEC would create an unbearable debt burden for Pakistan. The real impact of the CPEC projects on the Pakistani economy will be decided by the people of the country itself, not bystanders who don't understand Pakistan's actual situation. Ensuring smooth progress for such a complex project won't be easy. Problems such as security concerns and financial sustainability have indeed posed challenges to the CPEC, but those problems are not as serious as Western media outlets claim. Several years after its launch, the CPEC has begun to bring tangible benefits and laid a solid foundation for economic development through infrastructure improvement. The Pakistani economy is projected to be on a steady uphill path, partly due to the prosperous outlook of various sectors like cement, steel, pharmaceuticals and electronics. These conditions are likely to increase Pakistan's debt repayment ability. So although the CPEC does face some difficulties, China and Pakistan can find solutions through communication and coordination. China's efforts to push forward the CPEC won't be given up halfway. The CPEC has long been seen as symbolic of China-Pakistan economic cooperation. It is unlikely that China will change its supportive attitude on the project due to outsiders' criticism. China and Pakistan need to remain vigilant against deliberate provocation by Western media outlets, and the two countries must intensify communication to promote the economic and social development of Pakistan through the multi-billion-dollar project. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

New big role for trade war negotiator Liu He on tech panel as China bids to strengthen its hand (SCMP)
China's top trade negotiator Liu He has been given another potentially influential position, on the country's technology development committee, showing the leadership's growing trust in him despite escalating tensions with the US. The State Council, China's government cabinet, has reorganised a high-level policy group on science and technology and assigned its deputy leadership to Vice-Premier Liu He, one of Chinese President Xi Jinping's most trusted advisers. Mainland and Hong Kong tech shares rose on Thursday amid hopes that the revamping of the technology leading group will mean more support for the sector. Liu now has four top economic management titles, including leading trade talks with the United States, heading the powerful Financial Stability and Development Committee that manages China's financial and economic risks, and leading the long overdue reform of state-owned corporate enterprises. The new position further increases Liu's influence in the government, which could give him more leverage in any future talks with US President Donald Trump's administration. Trump's escalating trade sanctions are aimed at the hi-tech industries that are the focus of the Chinese government's "Made in China 2025" plan, which the US argues benefits from unfair government subsidies and non-financial support. It is unclear what effect Liu's appointment may have on China's industrial policy in trade talks with the US, according to Ether Yin, an partner from Beijing-based research firm Trivium China. "On one hand, Liu, as a technocrat, has always been involved in making industrial policies to support industrial growth. He is not going to sacrifice that for a deal with the US," Yin said. "On the other hand, even if he wants to make some sort of concession as China's point man on trade, it's not totally up to him to decide and won't easily win support from higher up." To some extent, Liu's new role was anticipated by observers. On April 3, he visited the Ministry of Science and Technology, listening to reports from the top science and engineering academies and reminding Chinese scientists of the "extreme significance" of science and technology in China's long-term strategic plan. Over the past two decades, China's technology sector has been of lesser importance in Communist Party politics. Liu's presence has underlined the sector's upgraded significance in the central government's agenda.The National Science, Technology and Education Leading Group in the State Council has traditionally taken charge of developing the country's major policies on science, technology and education. An official statement released on Wednesday said education had been removed from its remit. "The committee renaming shows that Beijing is attaching much importance to science and technology, particularly given the ongoing trade disputes between the US and China and the US' restriction of China on hi-tech development," said Hu Xingdou, a Beijing-based economic analyst. "Under such circumstances, it was necessary to create a separate science and technology leadership group to better coordinate and improve innovation." As the trade war continues, China is rethinking how to eliminate its technology gap with the US in a range of industries. Some Chinese scholars argue that state media has oversold the country's technological achievements and goals, and so fuelled concerns in the West. Beijing's plan for industrial modernisation emphasising hi-tech industries, known as "Made in China 2025", has become the primary target for Trump's protectionist moves. Lately, Beijing has begun to play down its technological ambitions in public, with muted references in Chinese media coverage. At a half-yearly briefing on the country's industrial development late last month, Huang Libin, spokesman from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, said "Made in China 2025" was a long-term strategy that needed to be viewed "objectively" by the global community. Hu said it was vital for China to revamp its scientific and technological work to make the use of funds less wasteful and keep research more closely connected with real-life applications. "China's science and technology research system has a series of problems," Hu said. "Only by conducting a top-down reform can China manage to secure core technologies instead of leaving them to other countries." The National Science and Technology Leading Group was first set up in 1982 to discuss long-term plans for developing Chinese science and technology programmes, under the reform and opening up policy introduced by Chinese paramount leader Deng Xiaoping. The panel added education to its policy mandate in 1998. ^ top ^

Chinese investigators say "suspicious" vaccines valid (Xinhua)
Vaccines involved in recent online reports about suspected inoculations of expired vaccines into children in Shangluo City in northwest China's Shaanxi Province have proved to be valid, said the National Health Commission (NHC) Thursday. The online reports mainly involve five kinds of vaccines including those against DPT, ECM, and MMR, which were inoculated by three vaccination clinics in the city, according to the NHC. On-site inspections showed all the vaccines were inoculated within the term of validity, the NHC said in a statement on its website. The clinic staff, however, registered the vaccines with the wrong and expired batch numbers on the inoculation certificates issued to recipients, leading to a mismatch, according to the statement. The wrong batch numbers were copied from an outdated list and not verified during the inoculations, which violated the standard inoculation procedure, said the statement. The three vaccination clinics were also found to be understaffed, equipped with substandard facilities, and under lax supervision. The investigation team has asked the local government to work out plans for rectification, conduct inspection and supervision on vaccination institutions, and fix loopholes in vaccine management. ^ top ^

China improves legal support for reform, opening-up in Hainan (Xinhua)
The Supreme People's Court (SPC) has issued a circular on enhancing legal support for comprehensive reform and opening-up in the island province of Hainan, said a statement from SPC on Thursday. To advance the establishment of the pilot free trade zone and a free trade port with Chinese characteristics on the island, the SPC stressed the importance to improve the implementation of trials to ensure a legal, international and convenient business climate and a fair, open and unified market in Hainan. The circular underscored the significant role of justice in protecting intellectual property, and the SPC supports the idea of establishing an intellectual property court and an international intellectual property exchange on the island. To secure financial market orders and promote the internationalization of the Chinese currency renminbi, financial cases must be judged carefully according to law, said the circular. In the document, the SPC required relevant authorities to pay special attention to commercial trials with foreign parties involved, equally protect the legitimate interests of both domestic and foreign parties, and safeguard international trade orders. The circular also demands careful judgment in cases involving tourism, the environment and resources. ^ top ^

Sulfate in air unlikely originates from burning coal: Chinese scientists (Global Times)
New research conducted by Chinese scientists cast doubt on the belief that coal burning is the main source of sulfate, one of the major contributors to air pollution in China. By analyzing coal samples collected from several regions in China, including North China's Shanxi Province and East China's Anhui Province, scientists discovered that it is unlikely that the strange signal in sulfates in the aerosols originated from burning coal, Shen Yanan, a head of the research program and an expert at University of Science and Technology of China, told the Global Times on Thursday. The research was jointly conducted with scientists from the University of California, San Diego, and the results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in the US on Monday. Since burning coal accounts for about 95 percent of sulfur emissions in China, it was widely believed that sulfate, a major constituent of haze in China, might have also come from coal burning, the article said. Instead, "it is probable that sulfate is produced from the burning of other biomass such as wheat straw," Shen said. "More evidence and research will be required to reach that conclusion, but the findings provided a new way of investigating where the haze came from and how to mitigate air pollution," Shen noted. Wang Gengchen, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Atmospheric Physics Institute, said that the source of sulfate and other pollutants depends on the energy structure in different regions. It also depends on the kind of coal used that may contain different amounts of sulfur. "Whether sulfur removal technology is properly used in the regions is another factor," Wang said. Generally speaking, coal burning "still should be the focus when dealing with haze in China," Wang noted. Shen and his team also developed a new method of tracing the haze by tracking 35S, a sulfur isotope. 35S only forms in the upper atmosphere and has a half-life of 87 days, which is ideal for tracking atmospheric processes, Shen said. Shen recommends that the new method should be widely applied in tracking haze movements that can help in resolving haze-related disputes between countries. Japan and South Korea said their haze came from China, media reported. But South Korean experts attributed 40 percent of their country's haze to China. ^ top ^

International plan draws foreign students (China Daily)
When Thai student Patcharamai Sawanaporn finished college last year, she wanted a change of scenery that could help her grow into a more confident person and to experience a culture she had little contact with. The 25-year-old was enrolled in a master's degree program at Beijing's University of International Business and Economics, majoring in World Trade Organization law and economics. She received a full scholarship from the China Scholarship Council-the Belt and Road Scholarship-which includes full tuition, accommodation, medical insurance and a 3,000 yuan ($440) monthly stipend. Countries and regions involved in the Belt and Road Initiative were the largest source of international students in China in 2017. International students from the nations increased 11.5 percent last year to 317,200, about 65 percent of the overall total, according to the Ministry of Education. To make studying in China more attractive, some 58,600 international students received government scholarships in 2017, and students from Belt and Road countries accounted for 66 percent. The number of students heading to China from 50 Belt and Road countries, including Laos, Pakistan and Thailand, has increased more than 60 percent from 2012 to 2017. "I am fascinated with China's history, culture and language as well as its economic development, and I think that studying in China could provide me with some great job opportunities, as I see growing investment and collaboration between (Thailand and China)," Sawanaporn said. Indian student Adheem, 23, began working on a bachelor's degree in medicine at Wuhan University six years ago and wants to pursue a postgraduate degree at the university. He said he adjusted to life in China much better than he expected due to the hospitality of the Chinese people. "I don't feel China is a foreign country," he said. Tuition fees at medical colleges in India are almost three times that in China, which is the main reason China is the preferred destination for medical school candidates from India, he added. China has opened 140 Confucius Institutes and 135 Confucius Classrooms in 52 Belt and Road countries, around one-fourth of the total worldwide. China had opened 85 academic programs in countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative and well as 206 partnership programs between Chinese and foreign institutions by July. Diplomas issued by Chinese universities and the higher education institutions in 24 of the countries were mutually recognized by April. Located 45 kilometers south of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's capital, Xiamen University Malaysia is solid proof of China's commitment to cultivating local talent. Since it opened in February 2016, the campus, the size of 150 soccer fields, has more than 2,800 students, mostly Malaysians. The university plans to increase its student body to 4,000 this year and gradually reach its full capacity of 10,000 students by 2022. Backed by generous scholarships, students from Malaysia, Indonesia and elsewhere are now studying side by side with their Chinese counterparts. The university runs 13 undergraduate programs, with subjects varying from Chinese medicine to new energy science to journalism. Wang Huiyao, director of the Center for China and Globalization, a think tank in Beijing, said foreign students are coming to get a high-quality education at an affordable price, and more and more are earning degrees. "China is becoming a serious study destination," Wang said. With Chinese businesses flocking to countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative, local talent is badly needed and the graduates of Chinese universities there could be a skilled workforce, he said. ^ top ^



Chinese Hui Muslims rally to protect Weizhou Grand Mosque from government's wrecking ball (SCMP)
Hundreds of Chinese Muslims from the Hui ethnic group in a remote town in northwest China gathered on Thursday in a last-ditch effort to defend their new mosque against a local government apparently bent on demolishing it. The huge crowd came together in the square outside the Weizhou Grand Mosque, an imposing white structure topped with nine onion-shaped domes, crescent moons and four towering minarets, according to images seen online. The stand-off in the town of Weizhou in Tongxin county, in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, is the latest, and possibly largest, conflict in a recent campaign to rid the region of what Beijing regards as a worrying trend of Islamisation and Arabisation, as the ruling Communist Party doubles down to "Sinicise religion". According to a notice said to have been issued by the Weizhou government on August 3 and shared online, the mosque's management committee had been given a deadline of Friday to demolish the building on the grounds it had not been granted the necessary planning and construction permits. If the management committee failed to comply, the government would "forcefully demolish it according to the law", the notice said. But a source close to the Ningxia government said that after days of negotiation between the authorities and religious leaders, it was agreed on Thursday morning that the government would not demolish the mosque, but remove eight of its domes. The offices of the Tongxin Party committee and local government could not be reached for comment after hours, as the protest continued late into Thursday evening. A Weizhou resident, whose name the South China Morning Post is withholding out of concern for his safety, said that he had heard about the alternative plan, but that many Muslims did not want to see the domes removed. "Now we're just in a stand-off," he said. "The public won't let the government touch the mosque, but the government is not backing down." Construction of the new mosque was completed last year. It replaced an earlier one that, in turn, had been built to replace Weizhou's 600-year-old Chinese-style mosque, which was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution along with thousands of other temples, churches and monasteries across the country. The government's order sparked an outcry in the Hui Muslim community, with many people questioning why the authorities did not stop construction of the mosque – which took two years to complete – if it had not been granted the necessary paperwork. Video footage seen by the Post showed police vehicles parked in the square, while on the mosque more than 10 Chinese national flags fluttered in the wind. Two red banners had also been strung from the mosque's exterior walls, one of which read: "Resolutely support the Chinese Communist Party, defend ethnic unity, safeguard the freedom of faith". Despite the large numbers of people involved, the demonstration appeared to be peaceful, and the Post had not received any reports of violence as of Thursday evening. The Weizhou resident said that many Hui believed it was not the intention of the Party's central leadership to tear down their mosque. "The local government is not implementing the central government's policies," he said. Still, the Weizhou government's move was most likely a response to the Communist Party's call to "Sinicise religion" – a policy introduced by President Xi Jinping in 2015 and intended to bring religious groups in line with Chinese culture and the absolute authority of the party. A visit to Ningxia by a Post reporter in April found that Islamic icons and Arabic signs had been removed from streets in towns and counties across the region. While secular buildings appeared to have been the first targets, at least two mosques had their domes removed earlier this year. For decades, China's Hui Muslims have been largely left in peace to practice their faith. Most of them speak Mandarin, and apart from the white caps and headscarves worn by the more traditional members of the ethnic group they are indistinguishable from the majority Han population. But as the government deepens its crackdown on Uygurs – another mostly Muslim group in the western frontier of Xinjiang – the Hui are also being targeted. Several mosques in Nigxia have been ordered to cancel public Arabic classes, while a number of private Arabic schools have been told to shut down. In 2012, hundreds of Hui clashed with police in Tongxin as they tried to stop their mosque from being demolished after it was declared illegal. Several protesters were reportedly killed in the violence and dozens more were injured. ^ top ^



Tibet denies forcing visitors to watch historic drama on Han-Tibetan unity (Global Times)
The government of Lhasa, capital city of Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, has refuted reports in some media that tourists are being required to watch a massive stage show about the positive historic relations enjoyed between ethnic Han and Tibetan people. The Lhasa government "never required domestic or foreign tourists to watch the show," a Lhasa government official told the Global Times on Wednesday. "That would be impossible," the official said. Princess Wencheng, a massive outdoor live-action drama on stage in Lhasa since 2013, tells the story of Tang Dynasty (618-907) Princess Wencheng who married Songtsen Gambo, king of the Tibetan Tubo kingdom about 1,300 years ago. But some media reported that the Chinese government was making tourists watch the show and "brainwashing" them. Princess Wencheng and Songtsen Gambo's marriage was believed to have brought ethnic groups together and safeguarded border regions, Tibet Daily reported in 2014. The marriage also contributed to the development of the Tubo Kingdom. Wencheng was crowned with glory for developing relations between Han people and Tibetans, and the drama is considered to deliver a constructive theme of Han-Tibetan unity, the report said. Dai Feng, who runs a travel agency for foreign tourists and moved from Beijing to Lhasa in 2011, repudiated the overseas reports. "It's never been heard of that foreign tourists were ever pushed to watch the show," Dai said. "But it's possible that some individual tour guides do that in order to pocket the difference in ticket prices." Guides can buy show tickets through tourism agencies at 55 percent of face value. Tickets at the door cost up to 800 yuan ($123), he said. Data shows average seat occupancy for the show at about 61 percent since it entering its peak season this year, according to a statement by Usunhome, the production company based in Sichuan Province, sent to the Global Times on Wednesday. From January to July, the show sold 164,000 tickets, and 1 percent went to foreign tourists, the report said. The number of foreign visitors to Tibet has been increasing, Dai said. Since April, the monthly number of foreigners traveling to Tibet was about 400 to 500, and that number was expected to reach its peak by September, Dai said. Foreign visitors are required to apply for a Tibet travel permit before entering the region. The application usually takes 10 working days and "all applications were smoothly processed," Dai said. ^ top ^



Ruling in favour of Hong Kong schoolteachers who leaked exam questions suspends prosecution of smartphone-related crimes (SCMP)
Hong Kong's Department of Justice has been forced to suspend the prosecution of smartphone-related crimes, including the taking of upskirt photos, after the High Court this week refused to convict four primary schoolteachers who leaked entrance exam questions. Legal sources told the Post that the situation was "rather catastrophic" after the court decided the teachers had not committed a crime under the wrongly applied charge of "obtaining access to a computer for criminal or dishonest gain" – which is widely used to prosecute crimes involving smartphones. "We may have just lost a one-size-fits-all charge, at least for now," one government counsel said, after the department told prosecutors to "consider other charges" against upskirting crimes, rather than Section 161 of the Crimes Ordinance. New prosecutions against smartphone-related crimes would have to be "withheld" pending further legal opinion, according to an internal memo issued by the department, which was confirmed by two independent sources. It was not immediately clear how many cases would be affected, but Tuesday's ruling is binding on other High Court cases as well as lower magistrate's courts, unless the judgment is overturned on appeal. For ongoing trials, prosecutors will have to get around this hurdle by reshaping their original cases under the same ordinance. In the internal memo, the justice department indicated it was prepared to take the matter all the way to the Court of Final Appeal, arguing the ruling had placed an unfair burden on the prosecution to prove "unauthorised extraction and use of information" from smartphones. The teachers were first acquitted by a lower court in February 2016, and upon appeal by the department, the High Court on Tuesday ruled that they had not committed a crime. They had used their own smartphones rather than someone else's device, and sending out the images of the exam questions did not constitute unauthorised extraction from a computer – even if their conduct was "wholly inappropriate and disgraceful" – the court decided. The justice department told the Post it had not kept count of ongoing or fresh cases brought under the ordinance, but it had applied to appeal against the ruling. The charge of "obtaining access to a computer with criminal or dishonest gain" was originally written into law in 1993 to curb technological crimes such as computer hacking. The courts later agreed that smartphones fell into the computer category under the ordinance, and offenders could face a maximum sentence of five years in jail. The city's anti-corruption agency used the same charge against celebrity tutor Weslie Siao Chi-yung, who was accused of leaking questions for the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education exams, while another star tutor, Kris Lau Koon-wah, was similarly prosecuted. The charge is regularly used to prosecute upskirting, which is not considered a sex crime by law and is also punishable under charges of loitering or "outraging public decency". The law has increasingly been used too broadly, and that deviates from its original purpose Eric Cheung Tat-ming, HKU law school Using Section 161 of the Crimes Ordinance, prosecutors achieved an 85 per cent conviction rate out of 293 cases between 2008 and 2014. The rate rose to 88 per cent between 2015 and September 2017. Human rights groups have criticised the excessive use of the charge, arguing it went beyond its original intent. In his Tuesday ruling, deputy High Court judge Pang Chung-ping said: "I fail to see the logic and legal basis in converting improper acts which are not otherwise offences under established legal principles into an offence under Section 161 [of the Crimes Ordinance] simply because a computer was involved in the commission of such misconduct." Eric Cheung Tat-ming, principal lecturer at the University of Hong Kong's law school, said the use of smartphones should not be targeted above the actual crime when prosecuting an offender, and it had become open to abuse. "The law has increasingly been used too broadly, and that deviates from its original purpose to curb illegal hacking," Cheung said. He welcomed the department's appeal, saying it should help clarify the use of the law. ^ top ^



Economic Watch: China July inflation ticks up (Xinhua)
China's inflation data in July beat market expectations but remained benign, leaving room for monetary policy maneuvering. The Consumer price index (CPI), a main gauge of inflation, rose 2.1 percent year-on-year in July, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) Thursday. The growth was faster than the 1.9-percent rate recorded in June and the 2-percent expected by the market. It was also the highest level since March. NBS statistician Sheng Guoqing attributed the growth to strong demand for traveling during the summer vacation. Prices of air tickets, tours and hotel rooms rose 14.5 percent, 7.9 percent and 2.2 percent respectively month-on-month, NBS data showed. They accounted for 0.19 percentage points of the 0.3-percent month-on-month CPI growth. On a year-on-year basis, medical and health care increased 4.6 percent, tour prices gained 4.4 percent, while educational services and accommodation increased 2.8 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively. "The CPI growth in July has beaten market expectations," said a research note from China Merchants Securities, which also cited increased travel expenses as a major seasonal factor. Asian investment bank Nomura said the inflation rise was "mainly driven by non-food price increases, which were in turn driven by rising gasoline prices as a result of already high global crude oil prices." Gasoline and diesel prices surged 22.7 percent and 25.1 percent year on year in July, the NBS data showed. Non-food prices increased 2.4 percent year on year and climbed 0.3 percent month on month. The carryover effect also played a role, contributing 1.4 percentage points to the 2.1-percent year-on-year CPI growth, according to Sheng. China Merchants Securities predicted that the uptick in inflation would not be sustained in future, citing lower pork prices. The price of pork, China's staple meat, continued to slump in July, down 9.6 percent year on year, dragging down CPI growth by 0.24 percentage points. On a monthly basis, however, it registered a 2.9-percent increase, faster than the 1.1-percent rise in June. Despite the recent rebound, the pork price will still drag down the annual CPI growth by 0.2 percentage points, China Merchants Securities estimates. It maintained the forecast that the monthly inflation rate will not exceed 3 percent this year, leaving room for monetary policy maneuvering. Authorities have pledged to continue a prudent monetary policy in the second half of this year while increasing support for the real economy. China is aiming to keep annual CPI growth at around 3 percent this year, the same as the target for 2017. The average year-on-year CPI growth for the January-July period stood at 2 percent, according to the NBS. The NBS data also showed the producer price index, which measures costs for goods at the factory gate, rose 4.6 percent year-on-year in July. The growth slightly slowed from the 4.7-percent increase in June. ^ top ^



39 students to study with Chinese government scholarship (Montsame)
A total of 39 students out of 790 students who participated in scholarship selection qualified to receive 100 percent scholarships to be granted by the Government of China. The scholarship was announced last May among students of the secondary schools of Sukhbaatar and Chingeltei districts and today Foreign Affairs Minister D.Tsogtbaatar granted certificates to them. The Government of Mongolia established cooperation agreements with over 200 universities of China and some 20 universities of the USA, Australia and Europe to involve students in scholarship programs. Minister D.Tsogtbaatar said the Government should back youth education. Technological and economic rapid growth of China has direct connection with its education system and knowledge-based development. The Government will train many students in China in the future in cooperation with 'I study' Center and I want these students to work in their home country after graduating their universities.  ^ top ^

Prime Minister visits 'Zuv amidrakh ukhaan' center (Montsame)
Today, Prime Minister U.Khurelsukh visited a center 'Zuv amidrakh ukhaan (Art of living right)' and met people who live there and children who involved in the 24-hour child care service of the center. 'Zuv amidrakh ukhaan' NGO helps those, who live in manholes, are disabled, homeless and addicted to alcohol and drugs and/or were released from prison, to re-enter and adjust social life by involving them in psychological consultation and employment trainings. According to G.Zagdaa, head of the NGO, the center gave various supports to about 250 people so far. Presently, the center is home to over 100 people aged 0-72, mostly children. They produce Mongolian ger, furniture and plastic, iron and wooden items. The PM expressed his gratitude to the head of the NGO for taking care and helping vulnerable people for getting experience in social life. Afterward, he assigned relevant ministers to take required measures to involve the people of the center in health examinations and diagnosis and give medical treatment if necessary, pay attention on fire safety as the center has over 10 gers, as well as to scrutinize the center's request to enlarge its land to expand manufacturing activities. ^ top ^

Mongolia's meat export revenue hits 80 billion MNT (Gogo)
As of the first half of 2018, Mongolia's meat export revenue amounted to more than 80 billion MNT, exceeding the 2017 year-end revenue. When compared to the same period in 2016, meat exporters saw a5-fold increase in revenue. It is expected that the total revenue of meat exports will reach approximately 200 billion MNT by the end of 2018. In the past year, horse meat accounted for roughly 90 percent of total meat exports. Since the beginning of 2018, horse meat exports accounted for 80 percent of the total share, indicating a diversification in meat exporting products. Currently, Mongolia exports meat to nearly ten countries. ^ top ^

Xacbank to cooperate with Green Climate Partnership Fund (Gogo)
Xacbank will cooperate with the Green Climate Partnership Fund (GCPF) on developing a social and environmental assessment methodology based on international best practices within the framework of the fund's technical assistance program. The main purpose of this methodology is to support the bank's loan specialists in the evaluation of social and environmental impacts of projects when they are appraising the projects for loan issuance. Since 2012, Xacbank has been financing over 1000 "green" projects annually, to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency, and has achieved an estimated green gas emission reduction of 20000 tons. ^ top ^


Yang Xinhui
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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