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
  24-28.12.2018, No. 748  
Startseite / Homepage   Archiv / Archives
Table of contents


^ top ^


Foreign Policy

Chinese Foreign Ministry: Xi, Putin to exchange visits in 2019 (Global Times)
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said on Thursday that Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin will exchange visits in 2019. China and Russia have a tradition of supporting each other in hosting major international events, and they also have a practice to exchange visits by the heads of state each year, said Hua at a regular briefing. During a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires on November 30, Xi and Putin accepted each other's invitations, and will attend major international events held by each other in the first half of 2019, Hua noted. The two leaders also agreed to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Russia together. Besides, both sides will hold a series of activities at the state and local level to accelerate the development of bilateral ties, said Hua. Chinese assistant foreign minister Zhang Hanhui met Russian deputy foreign minister Igor Morgulov on December 21. The two exchanged views on the arrangements for high-level exchanges between the two countries next year. ^ top ^

'Mastermind' behind fatal attack on Chinese consulate in Pakistan killed (SCMP)
One of the alleged masterminds of an attack by a Pakistani separatist group on the Chinese consulate in Karachi last month has been killed along with five associates, the insurgent group said on Wednesday. The Baloch Liberation Army, which opposes projects linked to China's "Belt and Road Initiative" in resource-rich Balochistan, issued a statement on Tuesday confirming the death of Aslam Baloch, one of its leaders. "The important BLA commander Aslam Baloch, along with five associates in the organisation were martyred in an enemy attack on Monday," Jiand Baloch, a spokesman for the separatist group said in a statement that gave no further details. Pakistan's Samaa Television reported that Aslam was killed along with a number of his commanders in a suicide attack in Aino Maina in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, across the border from Baluchistan. There was no claim of responsibility for the killings and a spokesman for the Pakistani foreign ministry did not respond to requests for comment. Last month, three attackers stormed the Chinese consulate in Karachi, killing four people. Security forces killed the three attackers who were carrying explosives. Pakistan has long accused its old rival India of supporting insurgents in Balochistan. India denies helping Baluchistan insurgents and accuses Pakistan of nurturing Islamist militants throughout the region. China has funded development of a deep water port at Gwadar in south Balochistan, and is also investing in other projects as part of the giant China Pakistan Economic Corridor. Baluchistan, on the borders of Afghanistan and Iran, has rich mineral and natural gas reserves but is Pakistan's poorest province. Separatists have for decades campaigned against what they see as the unfair exploitation of resources, in particular natural gas and minerals. ^ top ^

China announces Canadian's drug smuggling appeal as row continues over detained trio (SCMP)
A Chinese court will hear an appeal by a Canadian citizen against a drug smuggling conviction on Saturday, mainland media reported, in a case that could further test the tense relations between Beijing and Ottawa. The man is the fourth Canadian to be either detained or named in connection with a legal matter in China since the arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Sabrina Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on December 1. China has previously announced the detention of two Canadian citizens on December 10, accusing them of activities "that endanger China's national security", and a Canadian teacher last week over a visa irregularity. The high court in the northeast province of Liaoning announced in a brief online notice that Robert Lloyd Schellenberg will have a public appeal hearing on Saturday at 2pm. Liaoning online news portal said Schellenberg was found to have smuggled "an enormous amount of drugs" into China. His age and further details of the case were not known, but government-run tabloid Global Times said on Thursday that he is Canadian. The Canadian embassy in Beijing could not be reached to confirm the details on Thursday. Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she did not have further details about the case other than what was reported, and could not confirm the man's identity. She added that if he is a foreign citizen, China would inform the relevant consular service. "On the relations between China and Canada, I believe everyone is clear about the cause behind [the tension]," Hua said on Thursday in a daily briefing. "China has already expressed a strong position multiple times." The timing of the drugs case could intensify Sino-Canadian tensions after Canada's allies called on China to release the three detained Canadians following Meng's release on bail. Meng awaits a hearing for extradition to the United States. Beijing was infuriated by Meng's arrest, warning that Canada would face grave consequences if she was not released. Hua said in a press briefing on Tuesday that the arrest in China of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig was "different in nature" to the arrest in Canada of Meng, and that China "resolutely refused and opposed" international calls for their release. Their detentions were widely seen as retaliations for Canada's part in arresting Meng at the request of the United States, but Hua said the Chinese authorities had taken "compulsory measures" because of the men's illegal actions. Kovrig is a former diplomat who is a senior adviser on Northeast Asia for International Crisis Group, while Spavor is a businessman based in the city of Dandong, in Liaoning, who facilitates visits to North Korea. Last week, the Canadian embassy in China confirmed that teacher Sarah McIver had been detained for working illegally. Chinese law states that anyone convicted of smuggling, selling, transporting or producing more than 1kg of opium, or 50 grams of methamphetamine or heroin, or a larger amount of other drugs, could face the death penalty. China executed a Briton caught smuggling heroin in 2009, prompting a British outcry over what it said was the lack of any mental health assessment. In 2014, a Japanese man convicted of drug trafficking was also executed despite the Japanese government's disapproval. ^ top ^

Yearender: Belt and Road Initiative making difference in Asia-Pacific region (Xinhua)
The China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative entered its fifth year in 2018, offering fresh impetus to economic development and integration in the Asia-Pacific region, while bringing tangible benefits to the people along the route. The initiative, proposed in 2013, refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. It is aimed at building a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along ancient trade routes. A series of important achievements have been made in the development of major infrastructure connectivity projects under the Belt and Road Initiative during 2018. In early December, the first T-shaped concrete beam of the China-Laos railway was successfully erected in Lao capital Vientiane. It marked a key milestone as the construction has been transferred from substructure to superstructure, according to the constructor China Railway No. 2 Engineering Group. The construction of China-Laos railway, the first overseas route to connect with the railway system in China, starts from Boten, the northern Lao town bordering China, connects with the Chinese Yuxi-Mohan Railway in Yunnan province to the north, and reaches Vientiane in the south. It is expected to open by the end of 2021, slashing the travel time between Kunming, the capital city of Yunnan province and Vientiane to half a day. Another key connectivity project under the Belt and Road Initiative, the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway in Indonesia, also entered the stage of comprehensive implementation in June this year. The project licensing, financing and land acquisition have been put in place, and the construction of 22 controlling works has made breakthrough, according to China Railway. The 142.3 km-long project will connect Indonesia's capital Jakarta and West Java province's capital Bandung in the southeast. With a speed of 350 km per hour, the Chinese-technology high-speed train is capable of cutting traveling time between the two cities to about 40 minutes from over three hours. Currently, over 2,000 local employees are working for the project and the number is expected to further increase, according to the Chinese company. Meanwhile, along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a major pilot project under the Belt and Road Initiative, a series of infrastructure projects have also been completed. Among them, the first section of the 392-km Multan-Sukkur Motorway, the largest transportation infrastructure project under CPEC, was inaugurated in May this year. The 33-km section spanning from Multan to Shujaabad city was completed ahead of schedule, and the whole project is expected to be completed by August 2019. The CPEC, a corridor linking Pakistan's Karachi and northwestern Peshawar and running through the populated provinces of Punjab and Sindh, highlights energy, transport, industrial cooperation and Gwadar port construction, and seeks to expand cooperation to such sectors as finance, science and technology, education, poverty alleviation, and urban planning. In August this year, the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge opened to traffic. It is the first cross-sea bridge in the Maldives and an iconic project of the two countries in co-building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. Connecting the capital Male and neighboring Hulhule island where the Maldives' main international airport is located, the 2-km bridge makes it possible for locals and tourists to transfer between the two islands on land within five minutes. "The boat ride between the two islands was affected by many factors such as the weather. I used to have difficulties in getting to school in Male on time. I would be very anxious about reaching on time because of the unpredictability of the weather," local school girl Aisha (alia) said. However, Aisha can now ride her father's motorcycle every morning and arrives at school in 10 minutes. "Reaching in 10 minutes was impossible before the bridge was opened to traffic," she said. Rehendhi Rabindan, a foreman in a restaurant in Hulhumale, said the bridge helped bring more customers to his restaurant. "On weekends, many people living in Male come here for dinner. The staff are constantly busy," he said, adding that "Many guests who live in Male could order takeaways and pick up the food within 10 minutes." While some projects bring daily convenience and business opportunities to locals, some others are literally a game changer for those struggling in hardship. In Pakistan's southwestern port city of Gwadar, 15-year-old boy Akbar was both excited and relieved to learn about a new seawater desalination plant which was inaugurated in July this year. Gwadar had been plagued with acute water scarcity, and Akbar used to stand on the roadside in the scorching sun for hours to wait for a water tanker to stop by. Locals had been forced to fetch water from dams far away, or spend a large part of their income buying water from private water tankers. In May this year, the China Overseas Ports Holding Company, the operator of Gwadar port, agreed with the local government to provide the latter with 300,000 gallons of drinkable desalinated water daily. The government has been distributing the water freely through its pipelines to about 4,000 local households. "The water is free and their water is very good," Akbar said. With China now a major contributor to global growth, the Belt and Road Initiative could help strengthen links within the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and South Asia and with China, Standard Chartered Global Research said in a report issued in October. The Belt and Road Initiative has generated significant interest among countries in the region, given their substantial infrastructure needs and China's ability to offer the expertise to deliver large-scale infrastructure projects, it said. According to Nepali Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, "Cooperation in trade and connectivity will create jobs for the people, multiply economic opportunities and enhance the productivity of the entire economy. These are vital components for sustainable regional cooperation as well." Nepal and China signed a Memorandum of Understanding on bilateral cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative in 2017. "While the locus of economic development shifts to Asia, BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) can be an engine for a new wave of globalization," Oli said in September. Meanwhile, for many Pacific island nations, the Belt and Road Initiative is a platform through which they can be better connected to the global economy. Papua New Guinea (PNG), the host of this year's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economic leaders' meeting, joined the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in May, and became the first Pacific island country to sign a memorandum of understanding with China on the Belt and Road cooperation in June. PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill told Xinhua recently that "for international developing countries like PNG, this (the Belt and Road Initiative) is a great initiative because of the access to capital and infrastructure-building capacities that we are now developing together with China. It is able to open up markets and improve the standard of living for our people." In November, the tropical nation of Fiji also signed a memorandum of understanding with China on cooperation within the Belt and Road framework. The Belt and Road Initiative is "very important for the future development of the world, especially for the small developing nations that are remote and lack in their social and economic development, looking for avenues and support to link themselves to the rest of the world," Keshmeer Makun, lecturer at the Fiji National University's School of Economics, told Xinhua in an earlier interview. ^ top ^

Reform and opening-up poised to bear more fruit (China Daily)
Chilean businessman Gonzalo Matamala said he anticipates sales of his fresh fruit will double next year. He credits China's increasing efforts to open its markets, as promised by President Xi Jinping. "We strongly believe that China will be more and more open," said Matamala, general manager of the China division of Gesex, a Chilean fruit exporter founded in 1998. The company has sold more than 4 million yuan ($580,000) of fresh fruit to China this year. The 38-year-old has found that doing business in China has become easier, especially after November 2017, when the two countries upgraded a free-trade agreement in which they agreed to facilitate trade and open markets wider. "Now the rules are equal for all companies, no matter local or foreign, and clearer," Matamala said. "This has helped a lot with our business in China." He has reason to be optimistic, as this year Xi has pledged many times to further boost opening-up and has proposed building an open global economy. "China's door of opening-up will not be closed and will only open even wider," Xi said at the opening ceremony of the annual Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan province in April. Xi reaffirmed this commitment in speeches delivered at all four international events hosted by China this year. They were the Boao Forum for Asia; the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit in Qingdao, Shandong province; the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation Beijing Summit; and the China International Import Expo in Shanghai. During his four overseas trips to 13 countries this year, Xi also called for joint efforts with other nations to maintain free trade, promote facilitation of trade and investment, and oppose protectionism. In his meeting with US President Donald Trump in Argentina on the sidelines of the G20 Summit on Dec 1, Xi said China would open its market and expand imports based on its new round of reform and opening-up and the demands of the domestic market. Protectionism and unilateralism can only add uncertainties to the global economy, but openness and cooperation can bring more opportunities for development, Xi said at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation CEO summit held in Papua New Guinea last month. Ruan Zongze, executive vice-president and senior fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, said Xi in his speeches and meetings with foreign leaders this year has sent a clear signal of boosting opening-up. Noting that trade protectionism and unilateralism may rise next year, Ruan said China should take measures to deal with such challenges. "We should enhance communication with other countries to demonstrate that China's development is not a threat, but an opportunity," he said. Ruan said the best way to mark China's achievements from four decades of reform and opening-up should be by looking to the future. "This means further reform and opening-up should be carried out next year, and the same should be applied to Chinese diplomacy," he said. According to State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in facing the rise of protectionism and unilateralism China has firmly supported economic globalization and safeguarded free trade. The country has placed great emphasis this year on further expanding opening-up on the basis of deepening reform, Wang said at a seminar on China's diplomacy held early this month. According to Wang, opening-up ranks top among the keywords for China's diplomacy this year, along with cooperation, steady progress, lead, responsibility and steadfastness. "From hosting multilateral events to attending international conferences, in 2018 China conveyed a clear, consistent message of its commitment to wider opening-up by outlining new policies and concrete measures," Wang said. In Xi's keynote speech at the Boao Forum for Asia, he introduced powerful measures, including easing market access and facilitating trade and investment, to open the world's second-largest economy wider. "This year, we will significantly lower the import tariffs for automobiles and reduce import tariffs for some other products. We will import more products that are competitive and needed by our people," Xi said. This year marks the 40th anniversary of reform and opening-up. Over the past four decades, the country has recorded an average annual GDP growth rate of about 9.5 percent and lifted more than 700 million people out of poverty. In his speech at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in June, Xi called for joint efforts to build an open world economy and to reject "self-centered, shortsighted and closed-door policies". In September, China hosted the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, which set a record for these gatherings with the attendance of 40 presidents, 10 prime ministers, one vice-president and the chairman of the African Union Commission. At the summit, China and African countries introduced more than 100 cooperation measures as part of eight major initiatives in areas such as industrial promotion and infrastructure connectivity. "China will not stop its effort to pursue higher-quality opening-up. China will not stop its effort to pursue an open world economy," Xi said at the China International Import Expo last month, the world's first national-level expo devoted to imports. On Dec 18, China hosted a grand gathering in Beijing to mark the 40th anniversary of reform and opening-up. "The practice of reform and opening-up over the past 40 years has shown that openness brings progress, while seclusion leads to backwardness," Xi said at the event. China's strong opening-up measures and its efforts to build an open global economy have brought real benefits for other countries and injected impetus into the world economy, according to political and business leaders from other countries. Niels B. Christiansen, CEO of the Lego Group, said he was encouraged by Xi's commitment made at the China International Import Expo to "creating a world-class business environment where the legal rights of multinational companies operating here are protected". "We welcome President Xi Jinping's speech, especially his clear message that China will further its opening-up and reform efforts," he said, adding that his company will continue to trade in the country. The six-day CIIE, attended by more than 3,600 overseas companies from 172 countries and regions along with international organizations and 400,000 buyers from home and abroad, concluded with deals worth nearly $60 billion being sealed. Petre Roman, a former prime minister of Romania who met with Xi in November last year and again this month, said he was impressed by the president's commitment to deepening reform and opening-up. "President Xi is leading China in a continuously more open direction," he said, adding that an increasingly open China has "changed the perception of the country among people from different nations". Ine Eriksen Soreide, the Norwegian foreign minister, spoke highly of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, saying it has significant potential benefits for developing countries. "I am certain that continued opening up of China will be positive for both China and the rest of the world," she said, adding that the BRI could bring opportunities for private companies in Norway. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, trade between China and BRI partner nations has exceeded $6 trillion, and more than $80 billion of investment from China in those countries has created 240,000 local jobs. Ugandan President Yoweri Muse-veni said he has been closely following China's changes since 1978 when the reform and opening-up policy was launched. "Infrastructure is a good example that Africa can learn from China's opening-up," he said, voicing his agreement with an old Chinese saying, "if you want to get rich, first build roads". Matamala, the Chilean businessman, hopes his company can increase sales and set up more offices in cities such as Beijing and Shenyang, Liaoning province, as well as existing ones in Shanghai and Guangzhou. "I'm looking forward to meeting more foreign companies doing business here in China," he said. ^ top ^

China's BeiDou officially goes global (Xinhua)
China on Thursday announced that the primary system of BeiDou-3 has been established and started to provide global services, meaning its home-grown BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) officially went global. The BDS has been performing well in the Asia-Pacific region and it goes global with cutting-edge technology and high-quality service. "The BDS is very popular in Indonesia," said Marianto Yang, an agent selling satellite navigation equipment in Indonesia, adding that the system offers services superior to similar equipment. In November 2017, BeiDou-3, the latest generation of the BDS, started its satellite constellation, which was completed this November. Xie Jun, deputy chief designer of the system, said the goal of the design of BeiDou-3 is to provide services with comparable accuracy to those of the third generation of the Global Positioning System owned by the United States and European Galileo system. The new progress of BeiDou-3 offers an alternative to the world. "We have seen great potential in the BeiDou system," said Sabira Khatun, a professor who specializes in electronics engineering at Universiti Malaysia Pahang, emphasizing that the system has brought opportunities for academic cooperation on navigation between the two countries. The BDS was created in a spirit of openness and cooperation. Before BeiDou-3 started its global service, services provided by BeiDou-2 had been applied in over 70 countries and regions, from land planning and supervision of river transport in Myanmar to urban modernization and smart tourism in Brunei. In recent years, the BDS's pace of globalization has been quickening. At the sixth ministerial meeting of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum in 2014, the application of the BDS in Arab countries has been discussed. In May 2015, China and Russia signed the BeiDou-Glonass system compatibility and interoperability cooperation agreement. In April 2018, the China-Arab States BDS/GNSS Center, the first overseas center for China's indigenous BDS, was officially inaugurated in Tunisia. "Cooperation on the BDS is of special significance for the Belt and Road construction," said Mohamed Ben Amor, secretary general of the Tunisia-based Arab Information and Communication Technology Organization, an Arab governmental organization under the Arab League. "The next step of the China-Arab cooperation is to achieve further connectivity and both sides can apply the BDS to promote regional technological and economic development," Amor added. Shen Jun, deputy director of the International Cooperation Center of the China Satellite Navigation Office, said the China-Russia Commission on Important Strategic Satellite Navigation Cooperation has been established to continuously coordinate and promote bilateral cooperation in satellite navigation. Cooperative projects between China and Russia include the development of chips for satellite navigation applications and autonomous vehicles in agriculture, Shen added. This year has seen an intensive launch of BeiDou satellites. By around 2020, when the BeiDou system completes its global network, it will have more than 30 satellites. All countries around the world, especially developing ones, will enjoy free positioning and navigation services provided by the BDS, which "not only is the progress of the global satellite navigation system, but also benefits the development of production and transportation in these countries," said Amor. ^ top ^

Chinese missile force puts new Russian S-400 air defence system to the test (SCMP)
China has successfully tested an advanced air defence system imported from Russia, as the two militaries continue to step up cooperation. Russian media reported that China's People's Liberation Army Rocket Force tested the S-400 Triumf air defence system last month, successfully shooting down a "simulated ballistic target" almost 250km (155 miles) away and moving at the supersonic speed of 3km (1.9 miles) per second. It was the first time the PLA's missile force had tested the system since it received the last shipments of the weaponry from Russia in July under a US$3 billion contract signed in 2015. China – which has been equipped with Russia's S-300 system for more than a decade – is the first country to import the next-generation S-400 air defence missile system. Analysts said Russia appeared to have publicised the test last week to highlight closer military ties between Moscow and Beijing and to promote its S-400 system. Beijing-based military expert Li Jie said the reports showed that Moscow wanted to underscore the relationship at a time when the United States was at loggerheads with both Russia and China. "Despite pressure from the US, the Russian military will increase its cooperation with the PLA in areas such as missiles, shipbuilding and other sectors," he said. China and Russia have significantly boosted their military ties in the past decade as both countries compete with the US for regional and global influence. Song Zhongping, a Hong Kong-based military expert with a focus on the PLA, said the test was an "advertisement" by the Russian military to promote its S-400 system. "But it's also clear that the PLA's Rocket Force is proficient in using the S-400 air defence system because they are already familiar with its predecessor, the S-300, which China has used since the '90s," Song said. He added that it was important to differentiate between "simulated ballistic target" and real hypersonic missiles. "Hypersonic weapons boast features such as manoeuvrability – gliding, for example – and they are almost impossible to intercept because they are travelling at such high speed," Song said. India also signed a US$5 billion deal with Russia to purchase five S-400 systems when Russian President Vladimir Putin visited New Delhi in October. Moscow has claimed the S-400 is a cutting-edge air defence system that can detect and shoot down targets including ballistic missiles, enemy jets and drones up to 600km (373 miles) away, at altitudes of between 10 metres and 27km (33 feet and 17 miles). It says the system can simultaneously shell 36 targets moving at speeds of up to 4,800 metres per second (16,000 feet per second) with 72 ground-to-air missiles.. ^ top ^

China welcomes more defense exchanges with Japan (Xinhua)
The China-Japan maritime and air liaison mechanism is a useful tool to help avoid misunderstandings and misjudgments between the two countries, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Wednesday. Spokesperson Hua Chunying made the remarks at a daily news briefing when asked for comments on the first annual meeting of the China-Japan maritime and air liaison mechanism held Dec. 26 to 27 in Beijing. The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on setting up the mechanism during Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's visit to Japan in May. Hua said the establishment and enablement of the mechanism had positive meaning for the two countries' security departments in promoting understanding, strengthening mutual trust and avoiding misunderstandings and misjudgments, as well as maintaining peace and stability of the area. Talking about the possible exchange of visits for naval fleets between China and Japan in 2019, Hua said more exchanges from defense departments is beneficial to properly handling disputes and consolidating mutual trust in security. The two countries should build constructive bilateral security relations, so as to inject positive energy for the continuous improvement and long-term stable development of China-Japan relations, said the spokesperson. ^ top ^

Xi Jinping's year in diplomacy: from butting heads with Donald Trump to cosying up to Rodrigo Duterte (SCMP)
As China increasingly asserts itself on the world stage, its president Xi Jinping has led the country's sprawling diplomatic overtures on high-profile trips around the globe and promised billions of dollars in investments and aid. The major tête-à-têtes between Xi and world leaders have been portrayed in Chinese state media as significantly bolstering his presence abroad in what was glowingly termed "heads of state" diplomacy. But China's increasing international footprint – including Xi's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative – has also faced an increasing pushback, from concerns about debt trap diplomacy to unease about the country's broader strategic intentions. As the year draws to a close, we take a look at some of Xi's most important sit-downs in 2018. After brokering a "bromance" through reciprocal state visits in Beijing and Florida last year, Xi and Trump began to butt heads over their long-standing bilateral trade issues. Eventually, Trump began a trade war by slapping tariffs on billions of dollars of Chinese goods, which quickly escalated into a string of retaliatory measures and counter-measures. Meanwhile, the two sides clashed on the strategic front. This saw the US sanctioning a key Chinese military unit and a series of stand-offs in the disputed South China Sea, including a near-collision between two warships late in September. Earlier that month Trump had said of Xi "maybe he isn't [my friend] any more" and suggested that China was no longer putting pressure on North Korea. He also accused Beijing of meddling in US elections – offering only a paid-for supplement in an Iowa newspaper as evidence. The pair's only meeting this year came at the G20 summit in Argentina, when they sat down for dinner on December 1. There they agreed a 90-day trade truce, providing a window of opportunity to try to redress a series of US grievances from the trade imbalance between the two sides to structural issues in China's economy. In the midst of rising tensions on the Korean peninsula, Xi met Kim in Beijing in March for the North Korean leader's first overseas trip since coming to power in 2011. During the secret trip, heralded by the arrival of a mysterious armoured train in the Chinese capital, Kim hinted at denuclearisation and his willingness to talk to the US. While the two countries are historic allies, relations had become strained as North Korea pursued its missile and nuclear arms programmes, while Washington pressured Beijing to rein in Pyongyang. Both leaders met again in early May in Dalian, in northeast China for talks about the peace process on the Korean peninsula. They met for the third time on June 19 and 20 again in Beijing, on the heels of the historic summit between Kim and Trump in Singapore, in a sign that North Korea was relying on its Chinese ally in its ongoing negotiations with the US and South Korea. After years of fraught relations, Xi and Abe welcomed a rapprochement between the countries during the Japanese prime minster's visit to Beijing, the first official visit by a Japanese leader to China in seven years. Despite their ongoing maritime disputes and historical grievances surrounding Japanese imperialism, the two sides signed a slew of business deals and agreements, including one to move forward with a hotline to prevent accidents in the East China Sea, where they have competing claims. The two pledged a "new era" of cooperation, in a marked contrast to the last time they met in 2014 on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings in Beijing, where the two shook hands stiffly without smiling. Mahathir made a highly anticipated five-day visit to Beijing in August, after putting US$22 billion in Chinese-funded projects in Malaysia on hold following his return to power in May. The decision highlighted the concerns many other countries have expressed about the cost of signing up to the Belt and Road Initiative. The 93-year-old further made headlines when he warned against "a new version of colonialism" during a press briefing in Beijing with Chinese premier Li Keqiang. But at the same time, he said that Malaysia's friendly policy towards China has not changed and that the country continued to welcome investments. Last month, Mahathir confirmed that negotiations on the controversial China-backed East Coast Rail Link remained ongoing, but did not provide a timeline for the talks. Xi was given a red-carpet welcome when he travelled to Manila to meet Duterte in mid-November, bolstering ties that the Chinese leader described as "a rainbow after the rain". The two leaders signed 29 deals, including a memorandum of understanding for joint oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea, in which the two have disputed claims. Under Duterte's administration, the Philippines has appeared to "set aside" the country's 2014 victory at an international tribunal that ruled against Beijing's claims to parts of the South China Sea – a sticking point under the previous administration – in favour of wooing Chinese investments and aid. ^ top ^

Huawei vows to push on with 5G development despite bans, Meng Wanzhou arrest (SCMP)
Huawei chairman Liang Hua said on Tuesday the company's operations remained "normal" after the arrest of CFO Meng Wanzhou, and called for the early return of his colleague. Liang said Huawei would continue to push on with 5G development despite more bans against the company. "In the face of a crisis of confidence from the West, first we must do our own work well, and continue to build Huawei's competitiveness in the field of 5G," said Liang, according to Sina Tech. "We believe that customers will make their own decisions." He said Huawei had already obtained 26 commercial 5G contracts. Liang, who was reportedly appointed CFO following Meng's arrest, thanked those around the world who had supported Meng and Huawei. He presented a coffee cup to the media, which he said was made spontaneously by company employees, with text that reads: "The lighthouse is waiting for the early return of the night boat." The term night boat, or wanzhou, refers to Meng's given name. Meng's arrest in Canada, at the behest of the United States, has ignited a diplomatic row between Beijing and Ottawa, and increased tensions between Beijing and other western capitals, as a Washington-led trade war targets Huawei, a top Chinese technology company. After Meng's detention, China arrested two Canadian citizens, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, on the charge of endangering its national security, a move that has been widely viewed as retaliation for Meng's arrest. Hua Chunying, a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, said on Monday western countries calling for the release of Kovrig and Spavor were ignoring Meng's arrest, and criticised the US and Canada for targeting the Huawei CFO. "The ugly nature and impact of the Meng Wanzhou case cannot be clearer," she said as she reiterated calls for Meng's immediate release. Hua also rejected claims that Spavor and Kovrig's arrests were retaliation by China. "China's competent authorities took compulsory measures in accordance with law against the Canadian citizens Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, because they engaged in activities undermining China's national security," she said. "We urge the relevant countries to earnestly respect China's judicial sovereignty," she added. Since Meng's arrest on December 1, governments and companies around the world have announced new bans and reviews of Huawei products, increasing financial pressure on the company. Last week, the prime minister of the Czech Republic ordered his office to stop using Huawei phones. European telecom companies have warned against using Huawei equipment, citing concerns about security vulnerabilities and the company's ties to China's military. Also last week, Stephane Richard, the chief executive of French telecoms company Orange, said it would remove Huawei equipment from sensitive parts of its networks. German company Deutsche Telekom said it would re-evaluate its use of Huawei equipment, while British Telecom said it would remove Huawei equipment from key parts of its networks as well. The BBC reported on Monday that BT was also going to exclude Huawei equipment from a communications system it was developing for the UK's police force and other emergency services. The move could extend work on the already late £2.3 billion (US$2.9 billion) project. ^ top ^

China, Pakistan discuss 'new changes' to Afghanistan situation, Beijing says (SCMP)
Senior Chinese and Pakistani diplomats on Tuesday discussed "new changes" to the situation in Afghanistan, Beijing said, amid plans by the United States to withdraw about half of its 14,000 troops based in the country. US officials told Reuters that President Donald Trump had issued verbal orders to plan for a drawdown of close to 7,000 troops. The White House and the Pentagon have not yet commented publicly. China, a close ally of Pakistan, has been deepening its economic and political ties with Kabul and is using its influence to try to bring the two uneasy neighbours closer. Meeting in Beijing, the Chinese government's top diplomat State Councillor Wang Yi and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had a "deep discussion about new changes to the situation in Afghanistan and reached a consensus", China's foreign ministry said. "Both sides believe that military means cannot resolve the Afghanistan issue, and promoting political reconciliation is the only realistic way," it said in a short statement. "The two sides welcome the various efforts made by all parties and are willing to maintain close communication and strategic coordination." There was no direct mention of the planned US troop drawdown. Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, speaking at a daily news briefing, reiterated the statement and did not answer a question on whether the meeting was connected to the US troop withdrawal. Wang visited Kabul earlier this month, where he pledged to help Afghanistan and Pakistan overcome their long-standing suspicions of each other. China has long worried about the effect of instability in Afghanistan on China's violence-prone far western region of Xinjiang, home to the mostly Muslim Uygur people and where China says it faces a threat from Islamist militants. ^ top ^

Chinese battery expert Hongjin Tan is charged with stealing trade secrets from US employer, as he prepared to join mainland firm (SCMP)
The US Justice Department said on Friday a Chinese national had been arrested and charged with stealing trade secrets from the American petroleum company that employed him, in a theft relating to a product worth more than US$1 billion. The Chinese national, Hongjin Tan, allegedly downloaded hundreds of files related to the manufacture of a "research and development downstream energy market product," which he planned to use to benefit a company in China that had offered him a job, the Justice Department said. Tan is an expert in battery systems and energy storage. He was arrested on Thursday and will next appear in court on Wednesday, the department said. Assistant US Attorney General for National Security John Demers said: "The theft of intellectual property harms American companies and American workers. As our recent cases show, all too often these thefts involve the Chinese government or Chinese companies. "The Department recently launched an initiative to protect our economy from such illegal practices emanating from China, and we continue to make this a top priority." Tan, an engineer with a physics degree from Nanjing University and a doctorate from the California Institute of Technology, has lived in the United States as a legal resident for the past 12 years, according to the Department of Justice. A LinkedIn profile says that Tan has worked for the Texas-based energy multinational Phillips 66 since May 2017. He previously spent more than 11 years at the California Institute of Technology as a visiting scientist and research assistant. His expertise is described in the profile as "materials and systems development for renewable energy storage". According to an FBI agent's affidavit, which has not been tested in court, Tan had in his possession a flash drive that contained deleted and undeleted confidential files relating to the US company's intellectual property. He had no reason to access the files, according to the company. The agent said Tan handed the flash drive over to the US company, and the firm found that the deleted files would have allowed his new employers to recreate the product in question. The files had been deleted from the flash drive the day before Tan resigned, the affidavit said. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

China's leaders reaffirm loyalty to party under Xi Jinping at top level gathering (SCMP)
China's top leaders held a series of meetings in Beijing this week to underscore the authority of Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping and set the national agenda for the year ahead. The Politburo – the party's highest echelon – ended two days of meetings on Wednesday at which members discussed how to "strengthen the need to maintain political integrity, think in big-picture terms, follow the leadership core, and keep in alignment", state news agency Xinhua reported. "[The meeting] also called for thorough implementation of key decisions and policies designed by the Communist Party Central Committee," it said. The gathering followed a high-profile celebration on December 18 chaired by Xi to mark the 40th anniversary of China's reform and opening up to the outside world, while the leadership also last week convened the Central Economic Work Conference to set the economic agenda for 2019. On Thursday, Xi also presided over a meeting with officials in charge of political and legal affairs. The Xinhua report said Politburo members conducted "criticism and self review" at the meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday, and shared how they have taken the lead in implementing Xi's instructions and key party regulations, including an eight-point guide promulgated six years ago that bars officials from indulging in extravagant and wasteful practices. Analysts said the meetings were intended to prepare party cadres for a challenging year ahead, with the nation's leaders aware that the trade war with the US, if handled improperly, could have an major impact on China's economy and reform plans. Lu Xiang, an expert on China-US relations at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said, however, that the Politburo meeting was about bigger issues than just the trade war. "It's more about the domestic and external challenges that China faces. Xi is warning the cadres that they must not let their guard down and his message is consistent with what he said at the 40th anniversary celebration when he warned there are 'unimaginable perils' ahead," he said. "Of course the trade war is one of the challenges, but the message isn't about the trade war." The leadership, he said, was "of the view that there will be a solution to the trade war in the coming one to two months". China's commerce ministry on Thursday confirmed that a vice-ministerial-level meeting was planned for officials from China and the US to continue their discussions on a wide range of trade issues. Zhang Lifan, a Beijing-based independent political analyst, said the fact Xi had stressed the party's leadership at the Politburo meeting suggested he was facing political pressure from within. His speech was an "attempt to shore up the Communist Party's authority and his own leadership", he said, adding that through the process of criticism and self review, Xi was ensuring the loyalty of the party elite. Xi emphasised that cadres should maintain their "fighting spirit" to prepare them for worst-case scenarios such as a breakdown in trade talks with the US, Zhang said. "The chances of such a situation happening are very low because I believe Chinese leaders are prepared to make concessions [in the trade talks]," he said. "After all, China wants to strike a deal with the US." ^ top ^

One of China's former top spy chiefs gets life sentence for taking US$15.8 million in bribes, insider trading (SCMP)
One of China's former top spy chiefs has been sentenced to life imprisonment after being found guilty of accepting 109 million yuan (US$15.8 million) in bribes, and crimes relating to insider trading and forced share transfers. After four years in detention, Ma Jian, the former deputy head of China's Ministry of State Security, was tried on Thursday at Dalian Intermediate Court in northeast China, where he was also fined 50.5 million yuan. The court ordered the confiscation of all of Ma's personal property and demanded the return of his ill-gotten gains. The defendant confessed to the charges and said he would not appeal. As deputy minister of the powerful state security ministry, a position to which he was appointed in 2006, Ma was in charge of China's counter-espionage operations, according to sources with knowledge of the matter. The crimes for which he was convicted, however, spanned a 15-year period between 1999 and 2014, the court heard. In that time, Ma accepted bribes totalling 109 million yuan in return for using his influence to benefit various associates, including the now fugitive Chinese tycoon Guo Wengui, the chairman of Beijing Zenith Holdings Co. The court also ruled that between 2008 and 2014, Ma and Guo colluded to force the sale of shares in brokerage firm Minzu Securities to Zhengquan Holdings to give the latter a controlling stake. Ma was also found guilty of providing insider information about the restructuring of Minzu and another brokerage house, Founder Securities Co, to his family members, who used it to make a profit of more than 49 million yuan from illicit stock trades. While the exact date on which Ma was detained was never made public, the South China Morning Post was the first to report it on January 11, 2015. That report was confirmed four days later by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI). His incarceration led to allegations of massive abuses of power and political jockeying within the state security ministry, but it was not until about two years later that the CCDI announced, on December 30, 2016, that he would be prosecuted for corruption and abuse of power. The official had "seriously violated political discipline and political rules", the watchdog said. Ma is the highest-ranking security official to be jailed since Zhou Yongkang, the former Politburo member who once oversaw China's security organs but was sentenced to life in prison in 2015. Ma's links to Zenith chairman Guo, who now lives in self-imposed exile in New York, date back to 2006, when the official is alleged to have helped him secure a lucrative contract to develop a luxury residential project close to Beijing's National Stadium. The idea was initially blocked by Liu Zhihua, then deputy mayor of the Chinese capital, but after he was jailed over a sex scandal – an incriminating tape was said to have been provided by Ma – Guo was left unopposed and secured the deal. Guo, who fled to the United States in 2014, told the Post in a telephone interview the following year that he and Ma were friends and had a "working relationship". He also said he respected Ma "very much". In April 2017, a video of Ma confessing to his crimes appeared online. In the footage he admitted to abusing his authority to help Guo settle disputes and business deals between 2008 and 2014, for which he was paid 60 million yuan in cash, property and other items. Meanwhile, Li You, the former chief executive of Founder Group, which owns Founder Securities, was last month sentenced to 4½ years in prison and fined 750 million yuan for insider trading dating back to November 2016. ^ top ^

CPC meeting reviews work rules on political, legal affairs (Xinhua)
The Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee reviewed regulations on the Party's work related to political and legal affairs at a meeting on Thursday. Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, presided over the meeting. With the new intraparty regulations, the Party's successful experience in its long-term leadership over political and legal affairs has been institutionalized, according to a statement released after the meeting. The formulation of the rules is a crucial measure to uphold and develop socialism with Chinese characteristics, modernize China's system and capacity for governance and realize the organic unity of law-based governance of the country and rule-based governance over the Party, it said. The meeting emphasized that upholding the centralized and unified leadership of the CPC Central Committee and resolutely following its command is the key to guarantee the correct direction of work related to political and legal affairs. It demanded Party committees at all levels to strengthen leadership over the work related to political and legal affairs correspondingly. The Party's leadership is consistent with the Chinese socialist rule of law, said the statement. The meeting also underlined the Party's explicit stance to make sure that judicial organs exercise their duties independently and impartially in accordance with the law, and demanded Party organizations and leading officials to take measures to follow through on this stance. ^ top ^

Chinese '709' rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang stands trial as his wife is forced to stay away (SCMP)
Prominent Chinese rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang fired his government-appointed lawyer "in the first minute" of his trial on Wednesday, as the final case linked to the 2015 crackdown on legal activism that resulted in about 300 lawyers and activists being detained got under way. After almost 3½ years behind bars, Wang, 42, stood trial in a closed-door hearing in the northern port city of Tianjin on a charge of subverting state power. The hearing, which the court said involved "state secrets", was criticised by other lawyers and rights groups for breaching Chinese law. Wang was detained in August 2015, less than a month after Beijing launched a nationwide crackdown on lawyers and activists that critics said was designed to stymie China's emerging rights defence movement. Most of the detainees were later released, although several reported being tortured while in detention. The event became known as the "709 crackdown" after the day – July 9 – on which it began. Wang was not charged until February 2017, and the authorities have never explained why his case took so long to process. His wife, Li Wenzu, was prevented from travelling to Tianjin to attend the hearing by police officers and security guards who gathered outside her home in Beijing before sunrise on Wednesday. "He is an innocent man but has been illegally detained for more than three years and the authorities are breaking laws the entire time. Turning down our lawyers and prohibiting them from meeting Wang … forfeiting his communication rights for 3½ years," Li said in an interview. "It's close to absurd that I have wished for him to be tried fairly in a court of law when the authorities have been breaking the law the entire time … Wang Quanzhang is innocent and he should be released immediately," she said. Supporters who were able to reach the Tianjin No 2 Intermediate People's Court were vocal in their demands for Wang to be freed, but were soon confronted and silenced by plain-clothes police officers. Videos and photographs shared on social media showed Yang Chunlin, a rights activist from Jiamusi in Heilongjiang province, being taken away by security personnel after screaming: "I support Wang Quanzhang! Release Quanzhang! Wang Quanzhang is a good man." Another supporter, Zhang Zhecheng, from Jiangxi province, was also taken away for displaying a sign calling for Wang's release, the online posts showed. Along with Wang's relatives, Western diplomats and journalists were also barred from attending the hearing. The court said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon that a verdict would be issued at a later date. According to a text message conversation between Li and Liu Weiguo – the lawyer appointed by the government to represent Wang in court – and seen by the South China Morning Post, the defendant made it very clear that he would not require the services of a state-sponsored legal representative. "I was sacked in the first minute, as the hearing began," Liu said in a text. "I walked out of the courtroom … I don't know what happened afterwards." Cheng Hai, who was Li's choice to represent Wang but was prohibited by the authorities from doing so, said Liu's dismissal was indicative of Wang's mistrust of state-appointed lawyers. "[Liu] probably failed to represent Wang's legal rights properly in court but this could also be his [Wang's] attempt at trying to get a better defence," he said. Wang, who began offering legal advice to Falun Gong practitioners and farmers fighting eviction while still a student at Shandong University in the late 1990s, could face up to 15 years in jail if convicted, Cheng said. Liu could not be reached for comment as his phone was switched off. Wang Yu, the first lawyer to be swept up in the 709 crackdown, said in an in interview that Wang Quanzhang's prolonged detention was unlawful and called for his release. "This violates China's criminal law. The length of his detention is beyond the permitted limit and is a severe violation of personal freedom and judicial principles," she said. "If Wang Quanzhang is convicted … [it] would be a case of blatant political persecution." Xie Yanyi, another 709 lawyer who was released on bail last year, said in an interview that he believed Wang was probably tortured during his years behind bars as he had heard him "screaming in pain" when they were both in the same detention centre. According to the charge sheet issued by prosecutors in Tianjin, Wang had "long been infiltrated by a foreign hostile power", had received overseas training and funding on multiple occasions, and represented other human rights defenders in 2014 and Falun Gong practitioners in 2013. Despite the charges, Cheng said Chinese law did not prohibit international cooperation on legal issues. "Wang was simply practising his legal duty as a lawyer to defend others," he said. "The whole indictment against Wang amounts to turning black into white by charging a lawyer for doing his job." Human rights organisation Amnesty International issued a statement on Wednesday demanding Wang's immediate and unconditional release. "This is a sham trial in which Wang Quanzhang is being persecuted only for peacefully defending human rights," said Doriane Lau, a China researcher from the rights group. ^ top ^

Lawmakers call for hearing in public interests-based land expropriation (Xinhua)
Chinese lawmakers have called for a hearing procedure to make decisions on public interests-based land expropriation. The suggestion was raised Tuesday at a panel deliberation on a draft revision to the land administration law, which was submitted to the ongoing session of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee. Luo Baoming, a member of the committee, said it was crucial for the draft revision to clarify the scope of public interests and there should be a series of procedures to check land expropriations on that cause, including the public interest review and hearings. Such arrangements could guarantee the public's right to know, participate and supervise, according to Luo. Committee member Dong Zhongyuan also stressed the necessity to put in place similar rules to prevent abuse of power in local governments. On the compensation of land expropriation, committee member Gao Youdong said the expropriated should be provided with a reasonable share of the land's added value, in addition to fair and reasonable compensation. He also called for public consultations in formulating the measures for assessing the value of the land. Moreover, local governments were urged to offer vocational training for peasants whose land has been expropriated. China's current land administration law was adopted in 1986 and amended in 1988, 1998 and 2004. ^ top ^

8 killed, 22 hurt as knife-wielding man hijacks bus in southeast China (SCMP)
At least eight people, including a policeman, were killed on Tuesday when a bus ploughed into pedestrians and other road users in a southeast China city after a knife-wielding man attacked its driver. The incident happened about 3.20pm in a busy district of Longyan, Fujian province, and at least 22 people are thought to have been injured. According to a CCTV report, the suspect was a 48-year-old surnamed Qiu, who came from the local area and is thought to be unemployed. Police did not identify the attacker but said a suspect had been arrested. Photographs shared online showed people lying injured on the ground, while video footage showed a man being wrestled to the ground. The motive for the attack has yet to be established, but the CCTV report said Qiu had been involved in a dispute with local officials earlier in the day over health care for his father. That ended in him attacking and killing an unnamed individual before jumping on to the bus and hijacking it, the report said. A woman surnamed Li who works at a local restaurant said she heard a bang about 3pm and went to investigate. "I saw the bus crashing into cars and motorcycles, without braking," she said. The bus eventually came to a stop in front of Longyan People's Hospital close to where Li worked. "A man with a knife came out of the bus and the police surrounded him and took him down," she said. ^ top ^

China salutes Mao on 125th birthday (Global Times)
Wednesday marks the 125th anniversary of Mao Zedong's birth, and commemorations across the country showed that Chinese people shared a consensus on Mao's contribution and acknowledged the legacy of Mao's era as the foundation for China's successful reform and opening-up, Chinese experts noted. President Xi Jinping's latest evaluation on Mao in his keynote speech at a grand gathering on December 18 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of China's reform and opening-up noted that members of the Communist Party of China (CPC), with Comrade Mao Zedong as their chief representative, laid the fundamental political precondition and institutional foundation for all development and progress achieved in contemporary China. Although the process of their exploration experienced serious setbacks, they provided precious experiences, theoretical preparation and a material basis for the initiation of "Socialism with Chinese characteristics" in a new historic stage, Xi said. In an earlier speech on January 5, 2013, Xi expressed the idea that the historic periods both before and after reform and opening-up should not be used to negate each other. Some people are trying to cut ties between Mao's legacy and the success that China has achieved with reform and opening-up, or make them contradictory to each other, Fan Yongpeng, deputy director of the China Institute at Fudan University in Shanghai, told the Global Times. "This is absolutely wrong," Fan said. "It's just like you get full after eating six cakes but then you say: I should have eaten the sixth cake at the very beginning as the other five were unnecessary." Chinese scholars noted that Mao's legacy covers many fields including an independent and comprehensive industrial system and a mature basic education system that wiped out widespread illiteracy and provided a grand source of engineers and technicians. They noted other achievements that laid the confidence for Chinese people to act independently without submission to other hegemonies: the construction of a strategic nuclear deterrence capability and a military victory against the most powerful military coalition in the world on the Korean Peninsula - the first military victory against the West that Chinese realized since the Opium War in 1841, they said. Without these achievements in Mao's era, China could not have successfully conducted reform and opening-up, Su Wei, a professor at the Party School of the CPC Chongqing Committee, told the Global Times on Wednesday. "There is a very simple example. When foreign investors came to Chinese villages in 1980s, they found most Chinese farmers could read a newspaper, which meant the literacy of the country was very high and then they decided to invest in China and very soon that investment turned into economic profits for both investors and local people," Su said. "Some other developing countries also have a great population, such as India, but the population isn't necessarily the same as the labor force when you have no work skills, working desire or working discipline," Su noted. "Literacy is highly important." Fan noted that Mao's contribution to education reform was not only literacy. Mao ordered Chinese universities to attach great importance to science and engineering education, "and that's why China can get millions of well-educated engineers and technicians every year from colleges. They are the fundamental reason why China has performed excellently in the construction of infrastructure." Shaoshan, Mao's hometown in Central China's Hunan Province, received thousands of visitors from across the whole country on Wednesday. Visitors arrive in well organized groups and are dressed in their old school uniforms from Mao's era and clutch red flags, Mao portraits and old-school revolutionary banners. The Chairman Mao Memorial Hall located in Tiananmen Square normally closes in the afternoon, but on Wednesday it opened 8-11:30 am and 2-4 pm. A 65-year-old visitor to the hall on Wednesday told the Global Times that "Mao's era was undeveloped and life was tough, but most people were clean in their minds and interpersonal relationships were simple." "Now our lives are much better than in that era, but it seems like society is getting more complicated. That's why the people in my generation are always missing something of that era," said the visitor surnamed Li. Another visitor, 32, who went to Shaoshan for the Wednesday commemoration, told the Global Times, "We have noticed that Mao made some mistakes, but his contribution and sacrifices to our nation is much greater. Don't exaggerate his mistakes and cover over his contribution." A lot of official WeChat social media accounts released articles to commemorate Mao on Wednesday including People's Daily, People's Liberation Army (PLA) Daily, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China and the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League. The articles included Xi's evaluations of Mao, Mao's legacies that benefited reform and opening-up, and Mao's poetry. A few radical far-left Maoists have expressed a yearning to turn back the clock and return the country back to Mao's era. "These people are not the majority at all," said Su Wei, the Party School professor, "and the voice that they release is not about simple emotion but has a political purpose which is opposed by the mainstream of society and the government because we oppose any step back in history and we insist on reform and opening-up." ^ top ^

China's review of laws, regulations "sharp tool" for combating pollution: report (Xinhua)
Legislative and administrative authorities' review of regulatory documents on record this year has been a "sharp tool" for combating pollution, said a report submitted on Monday for review at a bimonthly session of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee. A total of 1,029 laws and regulations on ecological and environmental protection have been found to be inconsistent with higher-level laws, the directives of central authorities or the requirements of the times, according to the report by the legislative work committee of NPC Standing Committee. Shen Chunyao, director of the committee, said 514 of the problematic laws and regulations have been amended and 83 others have been abolished, with the remaining 432 to be worked on soon. So far, 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities have reported on their review of ecological and environmental laws and regulations. In the mean time, authorities have stepped up drafting and amending regulations on combating air pollution. Altogether 15 new regulations on air pollution have been formulated and 13 others amended in 28 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, Shen said. ^ top ^

All 7,139 suggestions by China's top legislature at 2018 session handled (Xinhua)
All 7,139 suggestions submitted by deputies to the 13th National People's Congress (NPC) during this year's session in March have been handled, according to the NPC Standing Committee. Replies to all suggestions have been sent to deputies, and 75.8 percent of the suggestions have been solved or will be solved, said Xin Chunying, deputy secretary-general of the NPC Standing Committee Tuesday during the week-long December session of the NPC Standing Committee, which will end on Dec. 29. The suggestions focus on forestalling and defusing major risks, carrying out targeted poverty alleviation, preventing and controlling pollution, pursuing the rural vitalization strategy, promoting high-quality development of the economy and ensuring and improving people's wellbeing, Xin said. A total of 4,402 suggestions were formed when deputies conducted inspections, research, seminars and interviews in local communities, making up 61.7 percent of the total suggestions submitted, according to Xin. These suggestions were put forward by 2,546 deputies. ^ top ^

Christmas celebrations in full swing in Beijing despite China's festive crackdown (SCMP)
The familiar trappings of Christmas were gone from some Chinese cities, but at a shopping centre in central Beijing, the popular English Christmas carol that six-year-old Sisi sang with her kindergarten classmates made the season bright in the nation's capital. "We wish you a merry Christmas …" the little girl sang. "We all learn English and we all can sing this song," she said proudly, shaking her head to show off her reindeer antler hair band. Christmas in China 2018 is less cheerful and bustling than in other years, as the ruling Communist Party stresses "traditional Chinese values and cultures" amid a growing tide of cultural nationalism stoked by the country's trade war with the United States. Christmas decorations reportedly have been banned in at least four cities this year, including Langfang, about 55km (34 miles) south of Beijing, where shop windows were stripped of Christmas stickers and streets were kept free of Christmas banners and lights. The seasonal humbug follows similar outbreaks of anti-Christmas rhetoric in 2014 and 2017. It appears not to be centrally organised, but rather a spreading resistance to foreign festivals by local authorities seeking to align themselves with a changing outlook in the Chinese government. The capital itself seems free from such bans, though. As a South China Morning Post reporter found, people were continuing to mark Christmas across the sprawling metropolis in ways both commercial and religious, though for the most part Christmas has largely continued to be a shopping festival in Beijing and other cities. At the shopping centre, where a Christmas sale of Lego toy building bricks was under way, kindergarten crooners Sisi and friends eyed Lego items they said they coveted as Christmas gifts. Throughout the mall, lights and decorations formed "sale" signs. Santa Clauses waved banners to promote big discounts on a multitude of merchandise. There were even "folk customs" that appeared newly invented, such as giving an apple as a gift – which perhaps was merely part of a marketing campaign by China's fruit dealers. A cake boutique featured several sample cakes shaped as Christmas trees. The boutique – next to a genuine Christmas tree – was selling the cakes for 498 yuan to 5,000 yuan (US$72 to US$724), depending on the size. "We've got quite some orders, mostly from companies," a clerk said. "They wanted a good atmosphere till the end of year. Some [buyers] have already taken their cakes away and some will come tomorrow [December 25]. That's the real Christmas Day." A much larger Christmas tree – more than 10 metres (32 feet) tall – has been up for a few days at the Place, a Beijing shopping centre. It will remain there until the new year. "It's beautiful and festive. It makes us happy," said Jin Cui, a mother who was taking selfies with her four-year-old daughter in front of the tree. An overhead LED screen – said to be the biggest in Asia – showed Santa Claus cartoons to joyful music. Christmas trees, however, were not ubiquitous amid the celebrations. A tree was conspicuously absent at the U-Town Mall, since it had one last year. "I don't know why we don't have a big tree this year, but I wish we did," said a staff member who declined to be named. "Why not let people celebrate? You can't check on everybody and ban them." While Christmas continued to be a shopping festival in Beijing, assorted ceremonies and services acknowledged the religious origins of Christmas. On Christmas Eve, volunteers of the Asbury Church, the oldest Protestant church in the Chinese capital, people in yellow vests stood in two queues on a street in central east Beijing near the fast-growing commercial district of Chongwenmen. Here in the heart of historic Beijing they handed out fliers to passers-by – watched by uniformed policemen in vehicles nearby. "Merry Christmas. Jesus loves you," the volunteers said. Outside the church entrance, nearly 100 people stood in line for the start of the night's second concert of Christmas carols. As they waited, they watched a big screen that showed the choir singing inside. In front of the building stood a Christmas tree. Not far away flew a Chinese flag. "Christmas Eve is the big night for our Christians. I come here every year," said Joseph Li, a local businessman who was baptised 10 years ago. Although the church was full and the line of people waiting to get in was long, Li said he had seen even bigger Christmas Eve gatherings in other years. "Maybe because it's a workday, not a weekend," he said. Meanwhile, celebrating Christmas religiously was more challenging for Christians from China's "underground" churches who have been hit by a broad crackdown on unofficial places of worship. Early this year, amendments to China's Religious Affairs Regulation gave grass-roots officials more power to act against churches and impose tougher penalties for "unauthorised religious gatherings". About 100 people stood in line for the start of a carol concert at Asbury Church. Photo: Liu Zhen Many worshippers have to celebrate Christmas in their homes or in small groups as they are not allowed to hold big public gatherings. A member of Shouwang, a Beijing Christian group that operated one of the capital's biggest underground churches before a government crackdown in 2011, said their church founder Reverend Jin Tianming remains under house arrest. At its height, the group boasted about 1,000 mainly middle class members. "There is no premise and it is impossible to have large gatherings," the worshipper said. "All we can do is to get together and celebrate Christmas in small groups." ^ top ^

Audit: Poverty funds redirected (China Daily)
Auditors urged government departments to further regulate the use of funds for helping the poor and improve the sharing of information to ensure that poverty alleviation is achieved. A newly released audit report said that some local governments have improperly used special funds designated for lifting people out of poverty, and their anti-poverty measures have not worked effectively. The report on the central government's budget enforcement and problem rectification for 2017 was submitted to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress for review on Monday. After problems with the use of poverty alleviation funds were exposed by auditors, local governments recovered about 15 billion yuan ($2.2 billion) that had been misappropriated and imposed 649 disciplinary punishments, the report said. "For example, a fund of 5.4 million yuan for landscape improvement and wall painting in some areas was recovered and put to use after we urged local authorities to rectify the situation," Hu Zejun, head of the National Audit Office, said in explaining the report to lawmakers. Some governments that provided false data about how many people were being lifted out of poverty have also taken rectification steps, such as disclosing bidding information and making construction processes more transparent, she said. Because funds for relieving poverty in some areas were not applied properly to specific targets, regional authorities reclaimed the money and spent it optimally. They also handed down disciplinary punishments to officials who had abused the money, she said. Hu added that the fight against poverty still needs to be intensified and suggested that government departments, including financial and disciplinary authorities, increase communications, efficiently share information related to poverty alleviation and join hands in supervision. Lei Ming, director of the Institute on Poverty Research at Peking University, said the aimless use of poverty funds is a big problem. "To fulfill poverty alleviation with precise targets, officials should first learn what the poor need. It will help them accurately allocate the money or choose the most suitable way for the poor to live better lives," he said. He also applauded the audit report, adding that it is an effective tool for implementing policies against poverty and for getting governments to correct problems more quickly. The State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development said on Monday that more than 80 percent of underprivileged villages and half the remaining poor counties in China would be out of poverty by the end of this year. President Xi Jinping's report to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in October last year identified defusing major risks, carrying out targeted poverty alleviation and preventing and controlling pollution as the three tough battles China must win. ^ top ^

China's death penalty is popular and releasing data will fuel calls for more executions, judge says (SCMP)
Top judges from China's Supreme People's Court have made a rare defence of the death penalty, with one saying "a life for a life" is ingrained among the people, and backed "social credit" blacklists as necessary to make people repay their debts. President Xi Jinping has urged widespread reforms to the legal system, pledging to tackle miscarriages of justice and to strengthen the leadership of the ruling Communist Party over the courts. But rights groups say the reforms fail to ensure fair trials, guard against rights abuses or restrict use of the death penalty. Amnesty International said on Tuesday that China is failing to restrict the use of the death penalty to the most serious crimes only, in line with international norms. Beijing considers the number of people executed in China each year to be a state secret. International human rights organisations estimate the figure at around 2,000. Li Xiao, a top judge, told reporters late on Thursday that despite efforts to reduce executions, China could not abolish the system and risk angering a public that she said overwhelmingly supports its use. "For thousands of years, the idea of 'a life for a life' has been deeply ingrained among ordinary folk," she said during a promotional visit to the Supreme Court. "If we released the figure, then ordinary folk would say too few were killed." The Supreme People's Court is responsible for review and approval of all death sentences before they are carried out. Judges also defended China's nascent "social credit" system, saying that restrictions on luxury purchases, such as flights or high-speed train tickets, were a good way to persuade people to fulfil their court-mandated debt repayments. China's lack of a system for dealing with individual bankruptcy – as there is in countries such as the United States – means that such restrictions are necessary, Liu Guixiang, another judge, told reporters. "If I am bankrupt and say that I cannot repay my debts, then I enjoy a luxurious, extravagant life day-to-day," Liu said. "I reckon you would be put in jail for that in the West." The court's blacklists for individuals who fail to carry out court-mandated tasks, including paying debts, are a part of a plan to build the social credit system to punish citizens more effectively for illegal behaviour and encourage actions deemed socially beneficial. The system is being tried out in a handful of cities and punishments are largely linked to industry-specific blacklists, but some observers have expressed concerns that it may be abused to compel people or companies to toe the Communist Party line. ^ top ^



China firmly opposes defamation on de-extremism efforts in Xinjiang: FM spokesperson (Xinhua)
China firmly opposes officials and media of certain countries "politicizing and stigmatizing" the efforts and measures taken by China to fight terrorism and eliminate extremism in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said. She made the remarks at a routine press briefing on Monday when responding to recent media reports in the United States and some other Western countries about the alleged "surveillance, detention and assimilation" in Xinjiang and other Muslims-populated regions in China. "Those sensational news reports are irresponsible, either based on hearsay or citing false or fictional sources," Hua said, adding that some Western politicians and media outlets have made a "fundamental mistake" by defining China's efforts of fighting terrorism and upholding stability as specifically targeted at Uygurs or Muslims. "The Chinese government consistently opposes linking terrorism with certain nationalities or religions," she said. Hua said that the vast majority of the Uygur people live in harmony with people of other 55 nationalities in China and enjoy a happy and contented life, citing the population growth from around 3 million to nearly 12 million since the founding of the People's Republic of China. For those affected by terrorism or religious extremism, a series of measures have been taken in Xinjiang to get them back to a normal life, including vocational education for them to learn languages and professional skills, according to Hua. "No single violent terrorist attack has ever happened in the past 24 months," Hua said, calling it proof of the positive and remarkable results achieved by Xinjiang in countering terrorism. Regarding the installation of surveillance facilities in Xinjiang as reported by U.S. media, Hua said it is the common practice of all countries for maintaining social security and stability, citing extensive coverage of surveillance camera networks in New York and London. "We firmly oppose the application of 'double standards' by certain countries' officials and media on the issue, and their vicious attack on China's policies on ethnic groups and religion." "We urge them to view the measures taken by the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to uphold security and stability in an unbiased and objective way," Hua added. ^ top ^



Hong Kong's top legal bodies call on justice minister Teresa Cheng to explain why investigation against former chief executive CY Leung was dropped (SCMP)
Justice Minister Teresa Cheng Yuek-wah came under mounting pressure on Thursday as Hong Kong's two major legal bodies called on her to fully explain the government's decision to drop investigations against former city leader Leung Chun-ying over a HK$50 million (US$6 million) payment. The Bar Association and the Law Society, representing the city's barristers and solicitors respectively, separately urged Cheng to clarify if the Department of Justice (DOJ) had changed its policy in seeking outside legal opinion on certain cases, when prosecutors previously did so to dispel possible bias or conflict of interest. After being away and not commenting for 10 days, Cheng finally broke her silence on Wednesday and defended the DOJ's move, insisting there was no need to seek external legal opinion unless the case "involved a member of the DOJ". But in two papers to lawmakers in December 2017 and February this year, the DOJ listed a total of six scenarios for "briefing out" – the use of external counsel – on criminal and civil cases. The scenarios covered situations where DOJ personnel were involved, and others where it was "deemed appropriate … so as to address possible perception of bias or issues of conflict of interests". Top prosecutor David Leung Cheuk-yin also told lawmakers during a February Legislative Council panel meeting that the DOJ would consider these scenarios in deciding whether to seek a second opinion before deciding on prosecutions. "We noted the stipulated principle by the DOJ in the latest Legislative Council papers doesn't quite match what the Secretary for Justice said on Wednesday," said Law Society vice-president Chan Chak-ming. "We encourage the Secretary for Justice to clarify on whether those principles still apply, or whether there is something new." Chan said Cheng and her department were entitled to make any change to its internal policy, but the public was similarly entitled to raise legitimate questions unless she provided clarity. Bar Association chairman Philip Dykes said he was surprised to see Cheng contradicting her department's own position. "The ball is now in the Secretary for Justice's court to explain," Dykes said in an interview with the Post. The Bar had previously called on the DOJ to review Leung's case by seeking independent legal opinion. Dykes said Cheng and the DOJ may hold an "honest belief" that Leung's case should not proceed for lack of evidence but the well-established practice was to seek independent outside counsel to quell any controversy and the perception of bias they were now saddled with. "The principle exists so the DOJ could do their job properly," said Dykes. "She's creating a rod for own back by not seeking independent advice." Veteran criminal barrister and former Bar Association Vice-Chairman Clive Grossman SC, however, said whether to seek an independent legal advice was entirely the DOJ's call. Grossman said the DOJ would usually seek a second opinion when it was "unsure … whether there is likelihood of success" to secure conviction. " … to say that the [Secretary for Justice] is mistaken as to the policy, is obviously quite wrong as she is party to the existence of the policy itself", Grossman said in a written response to the Post. He added whether a case is to be briefed out is "really a decision that has to be taken in-house" by the department, not any other party. Cheng is expected to attend a Legislative Council panel meeting on January 28. However, she had already rejected calls from pro-democracy lawmakers and legal scholars to further explain the decision not to prosecute Leung, who did not disclose he had received part of the payment from Australian conglomerate UGL in 2012 and 2013 while he was in office. Democratic Party lawmakers Lam Cheuk-ting and Andrew Wan Siu-kin protested the DOJ's decision on Cheng's first day of work after her week-long holiday and warned of a possible no-confidence motion against her. But the DOJ also won support from the pro-establishment Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the largest party in Legco. Starry Lee Wai-king, chairwoman of the DAB, said on Thursday that each case turned on its own facts and it was not necessary for the DOJ to seek independent legal advice. "If there is sufficient evidence, the DOJ can choose not to seek an outside legal opinion," Lee said. She said the case should come to a close and warned the opposition not to put pressure on the DOJ to influence a prosecution decision. Separately, Dykes stressed that Cheng was not being accused of any wrongdoing but said that the situation warranted a review of the process. The time was ripe for justice secretaries to delegate prosecutorial decisions to the top prosecutor to dispel any perception of bias or political interference. Britain's Attorney General previously delegated prosecution decisions, except on national security, to the Director of Public Prosecution to handle, after a major controversy erupted when a cabinet minister interfered with a case. The DOJ has so far not commented on whether Cheng was directly involved in Leung's case. Lawyers, including former top prosecutor Grenville Cross, had urged Cheng to answer "basic questions" to clear the air. ^ top ^



Taiwan presidency in KMT Eric Chu's sights but it's a long way to 2020 (SCMP)
Taiwan's Kuomintang bigwig Eric Chu has announced his intention to run for president in 2020, but analysts believe there are at least five major hurdles in his way. Chu, 57, stepped down as mayor of New Taipei City on Tuesday, after serving the maximum two four-year terms, and said he would immediately begin an island-wide tour to better understand public opinion and to seek solutions for Taiwan's problems. "My goal is clear, which is to fight for Taiwan in 2020," he said when asked about his next step. Analysts said Chu, who lost the 2016 presidential election to Tsai Ing-wen, was not the only KMT aspirant to the top post. They pointed out that a number of party heavyweights had been boosted by the KMT's landslide victory in last month's local government elections, and were looking towards the 2020 polls with renewed confidence. The unexpected win saw the KMT take control of 15 of the 22 local cities and counties, including Kaohsiung – traditional stronghold of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party. It was a remarkable turnaround, following the mainland-friendly KMT's humiliating defeat in the 2014 local government polls, followed by Chu's loss to Tsai in the presidential race of 2016. But for Chu to have a chance of regaining the self-ruled island's top post, he needs to start by overcoming the first and most important hurdle – the KMT primary for the presidential elections, expected to be held between March and April next year. "We respect the decisions of any qualified KMT members to express their intent to run for the post, but they need to take part in the party primary and win the presidential nomination," said Hung Meng-kai, deputy director general of the KMT's culture and communications committee. Other KMT heavyweights with an interest include incumbent chairman and former vice-president Wu Den-yih, and former speaker of the legislature Wang Jin-pyng. Wang, with his strong influence in two major political cliques in Kaohsiung, was key to the recent win in the southern municipality's mayoral race by KMT candidate Han Kuo-yu – who surprised his own party with his victory in what was regarded as an unwinnable election. Taiwan media reports have even suggested that former president Ma Ying-jeou may be considering a run because of his growing popularity in the past two years. If he can win the KMT nomination, Chu must also do all he can to boost his popularity and influence, without the advantages of heading a local government or holding any party position, analysts said. "Of all the KMT aspirants, Chu is the most popular so far, according to public opinion polls, but such popularity builds on the fact he was rated as one of the best mayors and that he is the youngest among all KMT aspirants," said Wang Kung-yu, professor of political science at Chinese Culture University in Taipei. Now that he has stepped down as mayor, he no longer enjoys any government power and is away from the KMT power core, making it difficult for him to compete with Wu or Wang, both of whom have support from either the KMT central or local factions, Wang said. "This explains why Chu declared his bid right after he stepped down and announced an island-wide tour to garner support, and the establishment of an office so that the news media will continue to report about him," Wang said. According to local news media, Chu intends to visit the United States in March after his island-wide tour, where he will face his third hurdle in his bid for power in 2020. "Any KMT presidential hopeful must be able to convince the US that the KMT is merely friendly to the mainland rather than siding with the mainland," said KMT legislator Johnny Chiang who recently returned from a visit to the US. Chiang said Washington had mistakenly regarded the KMT's victory in last month's local polls as a victory for Beijing. "This is a very dangerous signal to the KMT, which must have a thorough and comprehensive view and theory to tell the Americans about the KMT's position in US-Taiwan-mainland relations," Chiang said. During the local elections, Washington had strongly backed the Tsai government in its accusations that Beijing was spreading misinformation to try to disrupt the outcome. Chu's fourth hurdle is to persuade the Taiwanese public that he can manage cross-strait relations effectively. Hung Yao-nan, president of Taiwan Asian Network for Free Elections, said any presidential hopeful must be able to convince the public of their ability to deal with Beijing or face continue suppression from the mainland – a grim situation the Tsai government has faced but can do little to offset. Since taking office in 2016, Tsai has refused to accept the 1992 consensus, an understanding which allows the two sides to continue to talk as long as they agree there is only one China, though either side may have its own concept about China. Beijing, which considers Taiwan a wayward province awaiting reunification, if necessary by force, has suspended official talks and exchanges with Taiwan, staged a series of war games around Taiwan to put pressure on Taipei, and poached five of the island's diplomatic allies. The impact of Beijing's stance towards the Tsai government has been seen as a factor in the self-ruled island's poor economic performance, and a contributor to the KMT's landslide victory in the local polls. Analysts said Chu's final hurdle was a need to convince the public he could do better at managing the economy than Tsai if elected, especially after he lost at least 3 million votes to her in their last contest, in the 2016 presidential elections. ^ top ^

Mainland further implements preferential policies for Taiwan compatriots (Xinhua)
Sixty local governments in 22 provincial-level regions on the Chinese mainland have taken tailored measures to implement preferential policies for Taiwan compatriots, a spokesperson said Wednesday. These measures have yielded positive outcomes in expanding cross-Strait economic and cultural exchanges and cooperation, delivering tangible benefits to Taiwan compatriots who develop careers on the mainland, said Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, at a press conference. The 31 measures, unveiled by the office and the National Development and Reform Commission in February, cover fields of industry, finance and taxation, land use, employment, education and health care, and are aimed at sharing the opportunities of the mainland's development with Taiwan compatriots. Ma noted that more than 1,000 Taiwan-funded companies have been offered tax incentives by the mainland, over 100 Taiwan enterprises have received financial support for industrial transformation and upgrading, green manufacturing and intelligent manufacturing, and around 800 Taiwan residents have passed the mainland's vocational qualification exams over the past year. A growing number of young people from Taiwan pursued studies, internships, and jobs on the mainland in 2018, the spokesperson said. Five new cross-Strait exchange bases were approved to increase communication between people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, including the Beijing-based Museum of the War of Chinese People's Resistance Against Japanese Aggression, said Ma. ^ top ^



China's central bank pledges prudent monetary policy and 'basically stable' yuan (SCMP)
China's central bank will maintain a prudent monetary policy and keep the Chinese currency "basically stable" while offering "reasonably ample" liquidity to the market. A statement following a quarterly meeting of the People's Bank of China's (PBOC) monetary policy committee did not include the previously-used "neutral" to describe Chinese policy – an omission that could indicate a greater bias for easing at a time growth is slowing. Also, the latest statement did not include a reference to China's deleveraging campaign. Three months ago, the PBOC said it would control the intensity and pace of its structural deleveraging campaign. "A prudent monetary policy should be more focused on being neither too tight nor too loose," the central bank said on Thursday. "[China] will make monetary policy more forward-looking, flexible and targeted." Market analysts expect the PBOC to keep policy relatively loose to support China's slowing economy as it deals with trade frictions with the United States and pressure from a multi-year deleveraging campaign. China's top leaders said in an annual economic meeting last week that they will ratchet up support for the economy in 2019 by cutting taxes and keeping liquidity ample, as growth is expected to slow further next year. This month, the PBOC rolled out a targeted policy tool to spur lending to small and private firms, in the latest step to support the economy amid the trade dispute with the US However, top policymakers have repeatedly said China will not resort to massive stimulus to shore up a slowing economy. The government has cut the amount of cash banks have to set aside as reserves four times this year, and on Monday, the State Council flagged the chance of a targeted reserve requirement cut to support small and private firms. On December 13, PBOC governor Yi Gang said China's monetary conditions should be relatively loose to support its slowing economy but policy cannot be too loose as falls in domestic interest rates could hit the currency. Concerns about the yuan made their way back to the quarterly meeting's agenda, and the PBOC reiterated that it would keep the yuan "basically stable" on a reasonable and balanced level. This year, the yuan has weakened 5.6 per cent against the US dollar, hurt by China's economic slowdown and the ongoing trade row. In 2017, the currency gained about 6.8 per cent against the US dollar. The PBOC has outlined five monetary policy stances, ranging from "loose" to "tight". China adopted an "appropriately loose" monetary policy after the 2008 global crisis, before switching to "prudent" in late 2010. The wording was modified to "prudent and neutral" in late 2016 as China launched a deleveraging campaign. ^ top ^

State Council issues sweeping tax reform (Global Times)
The State Council, China's cabinet, on Saturday released an amended regulation for the implementation of a revised individual income tax law, paving the way for the most significant overhaul of the country's individual income tax code in two decades. Offering substantial tax cuts for individual taxpayers through a higher tax-free threshold and more tax-deductible expenses, the revised regulation and law are expected to help boost domestic spending and consumer confidence at a time when the Chinese economy faces increasing downward pressure, Chinese analysts said. But the sweeping reform requires a speedy, efficient implementation process, they noted. The amended regulation released by the State Council included major revisions such as bigger incentives for qualified foreign workers in China, special tax-deductible expenses and tax-filing procedures, according to the website of the State Council. Under the amended regulation, for example, taxpayers can file for tax deductions for expenses in areas including qualified supplemental pensions, commercial health insurance, child education, elderly care, healthcare and housing. The amended regulation is part of China's push to overhaul the individual income tax system and is aimed at ensuring the smooth implementation of a revised individual income tax law adopted by China's top legislative body in August. The National People's Congress Standing Committee on August 31 approved the revised tax code, which contains adjustments in areas such as determination of taxable income, tax brackets, the tax-free threshold and tax-deductible expenses. The amended regulations and the new individual income tax law, slated to take effect on January 1, mark the most significant overhaul of the system since 1994 and are set to reduce the burden on taxpayers. A resident in Beijing earning 20,000 yuan a month, eligible for all deductions, who used to pay 3,120 yuan in tax, will now pay 800 yuan, a 74.4 percent or 2,320 yuan reduction, according to a calculation by the Xinhua News Agency Individuals who earn 10,000 yuan or less would pay almost zero income tax, Xinhua said. Apart from the deductions, the tax code also has a tax-free threshold from 3,500 yuan ($513) to 5,000 yuan a month, which went into effect on October 1. "This is no doubt a big bonus for taxpayers," Li Daxiao, chief economist at Shenzhen-based Yingda Securities, told the Global Times on Sunday. The measures will help boost consumption and consumer confidence in the economy, Li noted. "The timing of these announcements couldn't be better," he said. The tax overhaul comes as the Chinese economy hits downward pressure and consumption - a major driving force for GDP growth - has shown troubling signs in recent months. Growth for total retail sales in China has slowed for three consecutive months, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics. In November retail sales grew 8.1 percent year-on-year, the weakest pace of the year. Slower retail growth has had Chinese policymakers scrambling for measures to stabilize consumption and thus domestic demand, which they deem a crucial step to counter deteriorating domestic growth and overseas markets. The tone-setting Central Economic Work Conference, which ended on Friday, vowed to improve consumption by implementing tax reform. "Lowering taxes is the most direct way to boost consumption. Lower taxes mean more disposable income and stronger spending," said Cao Heping, a professor of economics at Peking University. Apart from lowering taxes, the new individual tax code could also achieve another key policy goal: improving consumer confidence and market sentiment, Cao told the Global Times on Sunday. "There is no other way to boost confidence than announcing a tax cut," Cao said. Still, for taxpayers to see the real impact on their incomes from the tax bill, a speedy and efficient implementation process is of paramount importance, analysts stressed. "I understand this is a very complex and comprehensive reform, but if we can't carry it out properly then it won't make any difference," Cao said. The overhaul poses daunting tasks for officials at all levels, he noted. Changes are required in determining taxable income, tax deductible expenses and rates, collecting taxes and filing returns. A Beijing resident who preferred to be named only by her family name Chen said although she'd heard about the tax cuts, she didn't know how the new system would work. "We'll see how it goes, but I hope it will not be too complicated," she told the Global Times on Sunday. She said she had never filed taxes herself as until now her company had always handled it. ^ top ^



China supports positive interaction between DPRK, ROK: FM spokesperson (Xinhua)
China on Wednesday voiced support for the current momentum of positive interaction between the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Republic of Korea (ROK). According to reports, the ROK Defense Ministry has decided to delete content that frames the DPRK government and the DPRK army as an enemy, from a defense white paper that will be released in January. In response, China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said China supported the DPRK and the ROK to continue showing goodwill to each other, consolidating mutual trust and improving relations. Recently with the joint efforts of the DPRK and the ROK, both sides actively implemented the consensus reached by their leaders, and the spirit of the Panmunjom Declaration and the Pyongyang Declaration, advanced reconciliation and cooperation, and achieved a host of positive outcomes, Hua said. "We believe that this will help the continuous advancement of the political settlement process of the Peninsula issue, and conforms to the common interests of the two sides on the peninsula and countries in the region." ^ top ^

Chinese trade with North Korea drops by over 50 per cent despite thaw in relations (SCMP)
China's trade with North Korea shrank 52.9 per cent to US$2.2 billion in the period from January to November compared with the previous year, Reuters reported on Sunday. Citing Chinese customs data, the report said imports from North Korea fell by 88.6 per cent to US$191.75 million in the period, while exports to North Korea dropped 33 per cent to US$2.01 billion. The data showed that trade flows between the two communist neighbours had continued to slide after a 10.5 per cent drop in 2017 despite the easing of tensions on the Korean peninsula and a thaw in relations between Beijing and Pyongyang. In November alone, China's total trade with North Korea was valued at US$247.75 million. This was up slightly from US$245.34 million the previous month – but that marked a deep contraction from US$388 million in November 2017. China's exports to North Korea in November were US$227.7 million, a figure that showed little change from October's US$227.45 million in October. Beijing is the country's sole major ally and by 2016 it accounted for 90 per cent of North Korean trade after other countries gradually cut off ties. However, relations with China began to deteriorate after North Korea began its nuclear weapons tests in 2006 and Beijing eventually gave its support to UN sanctions. Last year China took the unprecedented step of imposing "strictest" sanctions on North Korea. In addition to the UN Security Council Resolution 2375 passed in September 2017, China went further by stopping all imports of iron ore, coal or lead from North Korea and shutting down all North Korean-owned or joint venture businesses in China. For a few months, starting in November 2017, all exports of oil products to North Korea have been banned, except for a tiny amount of jet fuel. As the sanctions started to bite this year, North Korea dramatically changed trajectory. Its leader Kim Jong-un began peace talks with South Korea and held a historic meeting with US president Donald Trump in Singapore in June. Kim also made three visits to China – his first since coming to power in 2011 – as the two sides started to repair their alliance. In the September, Nikki Haley, America's ambassador to the United Nations, accused China of obstructing UN efforts to issue a report on the implementation of the sanctions against North Korea. In response, Chinese foreign minister spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that China has "fully and strictly" implemented the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and fulfilled its international obligations. ^ top ^



Inter-bank currency exchange platform developed (Montsame)
The Bank of Mongolia introduced Bloomberg L.P., beta version online platform for inter-bank currency exchange from April, 2017 with a purpose to improve infrastructure of currency market, accessibility and information transparency. The Bank of Mongolia has improved the platform based on its internal possibilities and started using the developed version of the platform from December 21, 2018. The developed version of the platform will reduce operational risks, increase information accessibility and contribute to development of internal currency exchange. ^ top ^

Cabinet meeting in brief (Montsame)
The following decisions were made at the Cabinet's regular meeting on December 26: - Next year, 188 projects and activities worth MNT 387.7 billion will be carried out in the capital city with funding from the State Budget. In rural areas, 585 projects and events worth 646.7 billion are planned to be undertaken. The Cabinet also tasked the general budget governors to conduct procurement through, the public procurement system of Mongolia and to promptly announce the planning, tender offers and the results through the website. - The Cabinet approved a draft revision to Competition Law and relevant draft laws and decided to submit them to the Parliament. The draft revision was devised with aims of addressing the challenges arising when enforcing the law, eradicating contradictions between the laws and adding some more regulations. - The Cabinet backed amendments to the Law on Notaries and decided to submit it to the Parliament. - 'General requirements for the state registration electronic database system, technology and software' was approved. The General authority for state registration is providing a total of 86 registration services using 42 programs. - The Cabinet approved the Asia-Pacific Regional Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications in Higher Education. Mongolia has signed agreements on mutually recognizing educational documents with Turkey, Russia, Austria, China, Cuba, Laos, Poland and Ukraine. In 2018, 1332 Mongolian students enrolled in foreign universities under intergovernmental agreements or with loan of the Education Loan Fund. ^ top ^


LEW Mei Yi
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.
Page created and hosted by SinOptic Back to the top of the page To SinOptic - Services and Studies on the Chinese World's Homepage