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SCHWEIZER BOTSCHAFT IN BEIJING
EMBASSY OF SWITZERLAND IN BEIJING
AMBASSADE DE SUISSE EN CHINE

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
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  11.-15.3.19, No. 759  
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Foreign Policy

China and US make 'concrete progress' on trade deal text (SCMP)
2019-03-15
China and the United States have made "concrete progress" on the text of their trade agreement, state media reported on Friday. Xinhua reported that Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He held a telephone conversation with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday. "The two sides have further made concrete progress on the text of the trade agreement between the two sides," the report said, without giving further details. The Chinese statement came after US President Donald Trump said Washington would know where things stood regarding a possible trade deal with China in the next three or four weeks. "We'll have news on China. Probably one way or the other, we're going to know over the next three to four weeks," Trump said during a St Patrick's Day reception in the White House's East Room. He said China had been "very responsible and very reasonable". "If that one gets done, it will be something that people will be talking about for a long time," Trump said. The world's two largest economies have been embroiled in a trade war since July 6. The two countries agreed to suspend further tariff increases following several rounds of talks, but details of a potential agreement to end the dispute are yet to be finalised, with an enforcement mechanism and reform of China's state-owned enterprises among the key difficulties. ^ top ^

China is to blame for South Korea's air pollution. Really? (SCMP)
2019-03-15
To the untrained eye, it seems like a foggy day in Seoul. The air is thick enough to taste and the visibility is just metres. Out of the haze emerge businessmen hurrying to work, women heading to the shops, mothers and children on the school run. Even in this fashion conscious city, they are all wearing the same thing: surgical style masks, as if scared to show their faces. On the streets, fear is indeed in the air, but this is no fog. It is the same killer dust that has helped make South Korea one of the world's most polluted countries and has caused up to 18,000 deaths in just one year, according to the World Health Organisation. South Korea has struggled with pollution for years, but things seem to be getting worse. In 1990, the country had the seventh highest levels of particulate matter (PM) among the OECD countries – it is now second only to Turkey. And as recently as the first week of March this year, levels of PM2.5 – the ultra-fine airborne particles that can lodge deep in the lungs and have been linked to heath problems including cancer – were hitting records. Frustrations are rising. A 2018 study by the Ministry of Environment found 97 per cent of Korean adults felt physical or psychological pain due to dust. Sixty per cent thought the problem was "serious" while another 30 per cent thought it was "extremely serious". "I always bring a mask with me before heading off to work," said Park Jae-hyun, 33, who works an hour north from Seoul at his own computer design start-up. "I think the government should provide us with masks since this is a national emergency." "I don't go outside any more, if I can," added Baek Myung-eh, 32, an office receptionist. "I always check the PM levels constantly, and I can almost feel through my skin that the problem is getting worse." There are signs Seoul is listening. On Wednesday, the national assembly passed several bills that paved the way for a 3 trillion won (US$2.65 billion) emergency fund to tackle the problem and designated fine dust as a social disaster. Last month, the Special Act on the Reduction and Management of Fine Dust was passed, granting the government the ability to limit the use of vehicles, coal-fired power stations and building sites. But before getting too carried away that a solution is at hand, observers point out that even the experts are often at odds when it comes to theories abut the cause of the problem. The most popular media narrative is that there is one clear villain in South Korea's struggle with its killer dust: China. Scientists say that prevailing winds carry dust and air pollutants from the deserts of Mongolia through China and on to South Korea. They say an increase in industrial pollutants and intensified desertification in China in recent years has made the problem worse for South Korea. "Our country has a correlative relationship with China in terms of PM levels, meaning that dust formulates simultaneously or in a similar range of time to one another," said Jang Im-suk, the director of the Korea Environment Corporation's atmospheric measurement team. Speaking at the first Fine Dust National Forum in February, he said that on an average day, 30 to 50 per cent of the fine dust in South Korea is attributable to outside influence – meaning mostly China. On days with especially high PM levels, it is 60 to 80 per cent. "It's crucial that both countries come to the table together to solve this problem cohesively," said Jang. "South Korea has made it its goal to decrease pollutant emissions by 30 per cent by 2022, and China has committed to lowering its PM2.5 to the standard level of 35g per cubic metre by 2020." At the same forum, Kang Chan-su, a journalist who has reported on the environment for Joongang-Ilbo for more than 20 years, also pointed towards China. "China is known to possess seven of the ten largest ports in the world and, therefore, 30 per cent of the world's shipping containers pass through China," said Kang. "So, it's obvious that a large dose of air pollutants will come our way." Still, while the 'blame China' narrative has proved popular with the public over the years, experts and commentators are beginning to notice some holes in the story. Both Jang and Kang noted that a recent anti-pollution drive by Beijing has had a major impact. When Kang reported from inside China last year his interviews with NGOs and experts suggested PM levels around Beijing had dropped by almost 40 per cent between 2013 and 2017 and by similar levels around Shanghai. Jang, of the Korea Environment Corporation, attributed the decrease to a drop in sulphur dioxide being produced by Chinese factories. Even the most skewed media attention tends to recognise that South Korea is at least partly to blame for its dust problem, with its coal-fuelled power industry, sales of diesel cars, and high levels of plastic usage coming in for particular criticism. And while Seoul has shown some signs of reining in the country's reliance on coal, some critics suggest its approach to the problem can sometimes make matters even worse. "We like to blame China and other outside factors, but we have not started the change within us," the CEO of Ecomom Korea, Ha Ji-won, told the forum. "The largest expense in our government's countermeasures is spent on installing air purifiers and PM measuring instruments. These are passive actions that do not attack the problem." Ha, whose company was set up to educate both children and adults about the environment, said these measures would only use more electricity, which meant more activity at power plants and therefore higher levels of particulate matter. She noted that sales of diesel cars and energy and plastic useage hit record levels in 2018 and suggested the government's policies were more aimed at calming citizens' fears rather than solving the problem. Meanwhile, some experts claim the problem may not be as bad as it is portrayed. Lee Jung-yong, of the Ministry of Environment, defended the government's approach, saying it had "enacted unprecedented countermeasures such as shutting down coal-fired power plants". He also claimed there had been an overall decrease in yearly averages of PM levels, but that this had been obscured because of a few more isolated instances of extremely high pollution. As Jang Im-suk, of the Korea Environment Corporation, put it: "Different organisations and data sources tell differing stories about the trend of fine PM in our country." Contrary to the popular belief that the problem is worsening, Jang said PM levels in recent years had been lower than in the 1990s. "What is clear is that press coverage of fine PM has increased on an unprecedented scale. This started in 2013 and fine dust has gone on to become the most covered topic," said Jang, noting that this was the same year the National Cancer Centre had recognised fine particulate matter as a "cancer-causing agent". Some of the problem may be down to accounting. A new, stricter form of classification has lowered the standard for what is considered a "bad" level of particulate matter. In 2017, PM levels were "bad" on 60 days of the year; though under the previous standard, just 16 of these days would have been classified as "bad". "I like to refer to a research paper centred on the differing perspectives held between experts and citizens," said Jang. "While researchers and experts believe the country is making progress towards a solution, the average citizen is doubtful towards any such efforts." With so many different explanations as to the cause of the pollution and even disagreements over the extent of the problem, it's perhaps not surprising that the public has been left confused and afraid. Professor Linda Steg, an expert on the psychological relationship between people and their environment, says this fear stems from a feeling of helplessness. "Unlike other health risks like smoking, this type of risk is put on them – meaning people are put at risk by the behaviour and actions of many other people," said the professor at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. This fear could have corrosive implications for society: "Both [cohesion and division] can happen, and it depends on whether the people feel they are in control of the situation; whether they think their actions will be helpful," said Steg. It's not just claim and counter claim that are causing the confusion. Industrialisation was once idolised as a symbol of progress – now societies across the world are being forced to reassess its impact. "When I was in elementary school, I used to draw factories with black smoke rising from its smokestacks," said Kwon Young-il, the CEO of an air quality management company. "Such images were signs that our country was prosperous and well off." Still, even if there are feelings of helplessness, Koreans have also demonstrated a willingness to adapt. Kwon points to how attitudes have changed since South Korea's rapid industrialisation through the 1990s. "Back then our air was probably worse than now, but our country made a great effort to reduce the burden of pollution," said Kwon. "During the 2002 World Cup, when foreign officials in Seoul were afraid to go to work because of the air, buses powered by natural gases started to appear in the streets." He likens China's present situation to Korea in the 1990s and sees no reason why both countries can't work together on a solution. President Moon Jae-in appears to have reached a similar conclusion, ordering his officials to cooperate with Chinese counterparts on anti-pollution measures such as creating artificial rain over the Yellow Sea to dissipate the dust. Beyond the government, leading Korean firms such as Samsung and LG have opened research facilities aimed at finding technical solutions to the problem. And finally, there are the efforts of those most effected by the problem – the people forced to don surgical masks before going to work and dropping the children off at school: the Korean public. Online groups like "We Request Fine Dust Countermeasures", which counts more than 100,000 members, have piled on the pressure, organising street protests that played no small part in the government's decision to declare fine dust a social disaster. And in the crowded, hazy streets of Seoul, putting the environment first has even become fashionable, with trendy cafes serving up eco-friendly menus and decorating their spaces with trees and plants. Slowly but surely, a tinge of green is shining through the fog. ^ top ^

China steps up efforts to develop military technology to challenge US dominance (SCMP)
2019-03-14
China is stepping up its efforts to develop new weaponry ranging from guns to fighter jets to challenge US dominance, according to Chinese military officials. The effort is in line with Beijing's drive to modernise its military and improve combat readiness as the armed forces prepare for a high-profile show of strength later this year in a parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic. "We are now more focused on boosting indigenous research and development capabilities in all possible ways, especially precision," Huang Xueying, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference said on the sidelines of the legislative gathering in Beijing. "Although Chinese guns have improved materials, lifespans and reliability, China lacks the processing capability that can produce high-quality guns," said Huang, a firearms specialist with the People's Liberation Army. China is also working to improve the engines of its fighter planes as it seeks to develop stealth aircraft that can compete with the best in the world. "The air force mainly copied other countries' warplanes in the past, because we relied too much on foreign technology, but now we are putting more effort into research and development," said Tang Changhong, another CPPCC member and the chief designer of the Y-20, a large military transport aircraft. "We are now developing smaller aircraft … and as to engines, we are making progress on it," Tang said, without elaborating. Even though China has developed advanced fighter jets, it has yet to develop reliable engines for its warplanes that can compete with those built by the Americans and Russians. Critics say the country has yet to master the high-precision metallurgy needed to build components needed for the engines to operate at extreme temperatures for long periods. Chinese-developed engines are reputed to have operating cycles lasting only hundreds of hours, while Western systems can operate for thousands of hours. As a result some of China's most advanced warplanes still rely on engines imported from Russia or developed with Moscow's help. Last month the official state news agency Xinhua reported that the Academy of Military Science, the top research body for the Chinese military, was stepping up the pace of its research and development. The academy has recruited 248 hi-tech experts from across the military, the report continued, and said it would focus its efforts on artificial intelligence, national defence and civilian-military fusion. According to the annual work report released at the opening of the National People's Congress in Beijing last week, China's national military budget and research funding will continue to increase despite slowing economic growth. Military funding will rise to 1.18 trillion yuan (US$175.98 billion) in 2019, up by 7.5 per cent from last year, and the budget for science and technology will rise by 13.4 per cent to 354.31 billion yuan. The drive to improve China's weapons technology is taking place amid a series of confrontations with the United States, covering a range of fields that include science, technology and military power. On Wednesday, in the latest example of their ongoing strategic rivalry, the US Pacific Air Force said two of its B-52 bombers had flown near contested islands in the South China Sea. The US has previously accused China of deploying anti-ship missiles, electronic jammers and surface-to-air missiles on disputed islands in the South China Sea, and Beijing is acutely sensitive about the presence of US forces near the facilities it has built there. ^ top ^

China rejects U.S. accusations on human rights (Xinhua)
2019-03-14
China on Thursday said that it firmly opposed a United States human rights report making unfounded accusations against China, urging the U.S. to stop interfering in China's internal affairs. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang made the remarks when commenting on the 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices released by the U.S. Department of State which again criticized China's human rights situation. Just as that in the previous years, the China-related content of this year's report is full of ideological bias, disregards the facts, confuses right and wrong, and makes groundless accusations against China, Lu said. "China firmly opposes it and has lodged solemn representations with the U.S. side," said Lu at a routine press briefing. "The Chinese government attaches great importance to protecting and promoting human rights," Lu said. "Since the founding of the People's Republic of China, in particular over the past four decades of reform and opening-up, tremendous progress has been made in China's human rights cause." "The Chinese people have the most say and our achievements are obvious to all," Lu said, adding China will continue to forge ahead on the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics and achieve new development along the way. He urged the U.S. to take off its tainted glasses, abandon the Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice, view China's human rights situation in an objective and fair manner, and stop using this issue to interfere in China's internal affairs. Lu said the U.S. should reflect on its own human rights situation and deal with its own issues first. ^ top ^

China's gun-control success a lesson for US (Global Times)
2019-03-14
Both the US and Brazil have met problems in gun control as their regulations lag behind the development of national conditions. Loopholes appeared in management and could be further broadened. A school shooting Wednesday in Sao Paulo, Brazil killed 10 people, including the two shooters. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, the "Tropical Trump," suggested doing something about gun ownership, but he seemed not to have done anything more than the real Donald Trump. Maybe they both should learn from China's experiences. With a population of over 8 million and about 2 million privately owned guns, Switzerland has proved that strict laws and a high happiness level can help stop mass shootings. Unfortunately, happiness is barely an option for the US as it has been through drastic changes that widened the gap between the rich and the poor as well as stratified the country. Some of the main factors that support people's happiness - caring, generosity, honesty, income and good governance - are being challenged in the US. As a result, the American people are undergoing psychological changes which could be deeply related to the increase in mass shootings. Along with the declined happiness level, the fading away of social identity and the collapse in overall societal morality have made people prone to committing senseless acts - not to mention if or when they are equipped with lethal firearms. According to Quartz, Trump once asked, "Does anyone have any ideas for how to stop it [mass shooting]?" China's achievements in gun control could be an answer. China is now the country with the fewest gun-linked crimes in the world. This results from constant, strict control and regulation of firearms, which have contributed to China's rapid economic growth and the stability of society in the past four decades. Private possession of firearms is generally prohibited with extremely limited exceptions in China. Relevant laws provide harsh punishments for gun control violations. All these measures guarantee that guns are not in the wrong hands. The US government needs to adopt updated and stricter laws to ensure firearms are in the right hands. Stronger gun laws could result in fewer gun deaths. But focusing on gun laws for the sake of shootings may lead to omissions in regulations that should be more comprehensive. In recent years, the Chinese government took further steps to adjust and tighten its regulations on gun ownership in accordance with evolving national conditions. Although the moves are based on China's conditions, the Chinese general road map for strict gun control is worth mulling over for the US, Brazil or any other country with similar headaches. China has developed its proper way, and so can the US. ^ top ^

Merkel dismisses U.S. threat over Huawei 5G network involvement (Xinhua)
2019-03-13
Following a warning letter by the U.S. ambassador in Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday that it "goes without saying" that the German government would define its own security standards in its 5G expansion. Merkel added that security in the expansion of Germany's 5G mobile network was a "precious asset" for the German government, and security standards would be discussed with Germany's partners in Europe and the United States. U.S. ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, had reportedly warned that intelligence cooperation between the United States and Germany could continue at its current level only if Chinese firms were excluded from the construction of Germany's 5G network, according to a letter sent to German economy minister Peter Altmaier. Other German politicians were also critical of Grenell's letter. "This federal government does not need any prompting or information from the American ambassador to take steps that make sense from a security policy point of view," said Michael Grosse-Broemer, the parliamentary director of the governing conservative union (CDU/CSU) in the Bundestag. Vincent Pang, head of Western Europe with China's telecoms firm Huawei, told the German newspaper Handelsblatt that "a country should not use its political power to harm a commercial enterprise. The U.S. is going too far." Germany is currently considering tightening the security rules for its telecoms infrastructure and Huawei's involvement in the construction of Germany's 5G network. Bidding for the licenses for the expansion of Germany's new 5G network is expected to start on March 19. ^ top ^

European Union calls for united trade and tech front against 'rival' China (SCMP)
2019-03-13
The European Union is urging its leaders to take a tougher stand on mounting China-related trade, technology and geostrategic concerns, a major step that could overshadow the country's relations with Europe for years to come, analysts said. Following Washington's lead, the European Commission, the EU's executive, released a paper on Tuesday which for the first time labelled China an "economic competitor" and "a systemic rival promoting alternative models of governance". The paper urged EU leaders meeting in Brussels next week to adopt a 10-point action plan that would establish a more balanced and reciprocal economic relationship with China while solidifying the resolve of the 28 EU member states to counter the Asian country's influence, the bloc's top trading partner. The call comes just over a week before Chinese President Xi Jinping's planned visit to Italy and France and ahead of the annual China-EU summit in Brussels on April 9 that Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will co-chair. In Beijing on Wednesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang acknowledged competition existed with the EU, but termed it healthy in nature. "I want to emphasise that we should take a correct attitude toward such benign competition and avoid treating each other as an adversary," Lu said. Analysts said the EU's move was an attempt to put pressure on Beijing ahead of the high-profile European appearances of Xi and Li, and to bridge divides within the bloc over China's massive infrastructure strategy, the "Belt and Road Initiative", and Chinese tech giant Huawei's role in the networks of European telecoms firms. Pang Zhongying, a Beijing-based international affairs specialist, called the paper a landmark document that shared some of the US administration's concerns about China. "[It also] highlighted the EU's strong desire to find a new way to manage a fast-changing relationship with Beijing," Pang said."To some extent, it is also a wake-up for Beijing because it could upend the prevailing thinking among Chinese political elites who have pinned their hopes on close ties with Europe to offset the pressure from deteriorating relations with the United States amid the trade war." The EU paper said China's growing political and economic clout underlined its global ambitions. There was "a growing appreciation in Europe that the balance of challenges and opportunities presented by China has shifted", it said. "China can no longer be regarded as a developing country … China's publicly stated reform ambitions should translate into policies or actions commensurate with its role and responsibility," the paper said."Neither the EU nor any of its member states can effectively achieve their aims with China with full unity."Europe has voiced its frustration over China's lack of progress in granting foreign companies greater access to its markets and in cutting subsidies and the forced transfer of technology by foreign firms to Chinese state-owned joint venture partners. European countries are also under pressure from Washington to ban Huawei over espionage fears. But the EU's calls for a collective response to a surge of Chinese takeovers in critical sectors under the Belt and Road Initiative have long been hampered by divisions within the bloc. Italy has said it plans to become the first G7 country to join a number of central and eastern European countries that have already endorsed the initiative. If backed by EU leaders, the bloc would urge China to abide by World Trade Organisation rules, particularly on subsidies and forced technology transfers, and conclude a deal with the EU on investment rules by 2020.The paper urged EU nations to revive a stalled proposal known as the international procurement instrument, which would require foreign countries to open up their public tenders in return for access to Europe. The paper also criticised what it called Beijing's diplomatic assertiveness in the South China Sea, its deteriorating human rights environment and oppressive policies in the far western region of Xinjiang. In addition, it raised concerns over the future of Hong Kong autonomy amid Beijing's continued political meddling. "The document is an extension of the EU's previous China policy from 2016, which emphasised equality and fairness. In the past it focused on trade, but now it has been expanded to issues like infrastructure and 5G," said Cui Hongjian, a senior fellow with the China Institute of International Studies. "Different EU countries have different relationships to the US. So the EU wants to unify these issues, but the issues that have been raised to the EU level [in the document] have definitely been influenced by the US." Wang Yiwei, a European affairs expert at Beijing's Renmin University, said Germany and France were behind the new EU paper and its advocating of a hardline approach on China. "With her retirement in 2021, [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel needs to secure her diplomatic legacy and prevent the crumbling EU from collapsing in the face of an increasingly powerful China and a United States under [Donald] Trump tilting further towards unilateralism," Wang said. "The China factor, or more precisely the much-hyped Chinese threat, is the perfect excuse which could be used to seek unity with EU member nations." But most Chinese analysts said it would be a long and difficult process for EU leaders to turn the document into policies because nearly 20 European nations had already expressed interest in the belt and road. And, unlike Beijing's structural rivalry with Washington over global leadership, the competition with the EU was more about economic and trade interests, and Europe's power over global governance and international systems. Huang Jing of Beijing Language and Culture University's Institute of International and Regional Studies said Beijing needed to carefully study the paper and heed the EU's concerns about its warming ties with Russia, deemed by Europe as the top security threat. "Beijing must be careful in deciding how to respond to the EU's plans because it could not afford to further alienate itself amid the trade war with the US," he said. "A deteriorating relationship with the EU could have a disastrous impact on China." ^ top ^

More Americans see China's rising economic power as 'critical threat' to US (SCMP)
2019-03-13
Almost half of the Americans surveyed in a new opinion poll said they considered China's growing economic power as a "critical threat" to the US. It also found that only 41 per cent of Americans held a "favourable view" of China – a 12-point drop compared with the previous year and the lowest level recorded since Gallup's annual world affairs survey began seven years ago. Gallup noted that the sharp decline followed "a year of escalating trade disagreements between the two nations", adding that US President Donald Trump "has long criticised China's trade policies, accusing the country of manipulating its currency and taking advantage of the US". Last year these tensions spilled over into an outright trade war and the two sides are still trying to negotiate a deal to bring it to an end and address US accusations that China is engaging in a range of unfair trade practices such as forced technology transfers and intellectual property theft. In the survey conducted early last month, Gallup asked people to state whether they viewed China's economic power as a critical threat, an important but not critical threat, or not important at all. Results showed that 46 per cent of Americans believed China's economic power represented a "critical threat", up from the 40 to 41 per cent recorded between 2015 and 2018. However, this figure was still below the 52 per cent registered in 2013 and 2014 – a period when China's economy was rapidly expanding. US academics call on Beijing to immediately release Canadian Michael Kovrig, saying his arrest has 'chilling effect' on US-China relations Gallup's annual world said that Americans' opinions of foreign countries have primarily gone down over the past 12 months. "Countries that experienced declines in favourability did so because of friction with the US," the company said. Countries such as Venezuela, Russia, Iran and North Korea were all viewed more unfavourably than China, whereas long-standing American allies such as Canada, Britain, Japan and Germany were seen in the most positive light. "Americans' ratings of other countries have historically been sensitive to the news about US relations with these counties – with China and Russia providing clear examples of how Americans' ratings have been good or bad over time in response to events." Donald Trump on US-China talks: 'a good deal or it's not going to be a deal' Shen Dingli, a Shanghai-based international relations professor specialising in US-China relations, said the results highlighted rising anti-China sentiment in America and the impact of the trade war. Shen said that "reaching a trade deal with the US would help ease Americans' anxiety about China, but it would not be enough because of the ongoing, wide-ranging discord". But he said that negative American perceptions of China "could be avoided" if Beijing "kept a modest and low profile" and avoided posing a direct challenge to the US. ^ top ^

Italian PM Giuseppe Conte ignores US warnings and pushes for closer cooperation with China's belt and road plan (SCMP)
2019-03-12
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has overruled the foreign ministry and joined right-wing Eurosceptics in his coalition cabinet in calling for closer cooperation with China's "Belt and Road Initiative", sources told the South China Morning Post. In a move that Washington warned would damage Italy's standing with its neighbours, the Conte government is understood to be planning to give Chinese companies greater access to the port of Trieste – one of the region's busiest, with access to the Mediterranean – as well as further cooperation between the leading electricity providers of both countries. White House National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis said the belt and road scheme was unlikely to help Italy economically and could significantly damage the country's international image. Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to visit Italy from March 22-24, during which time Rome and Beijing would look to agree a framework deal. "With all the necessary precautions, Italy's accession to a new silk route represents an opportunity for our country," Conte said on Friday. The Italian leader's plan to attend a belt and road summit in Beijing in April caused waves in Brussels and Washington, as Italy was on course to become the first country among the Group of Seven (G7) – and the first founding European Union member – to sign up to China's trade initiative that the US and EU have characterised as a debt trap or a neocolonial project. In Rome, among those who have promoted better ties with China is Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, the 32-year-old leader of the Five Star Movement. Di Maio also leads the Ministry of Economic Development. His deputy in that ministry, Michele Geraci, held several university positions in Zhejiang province and in Shanghai for a decade before his official appointment last year. In charge of Italy's international trade, he is regarded as playing a central role in Rome's warming ties with Beijing. In an interview with Bloomberg last year, Geraci said the current administration had taken a different stance, adding: "We are trying not to ignore China as has been done in the past." On the opposition side of the table is Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi, who visited Washington in January and held meetings with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton. Among other things, the two sides discussed banning Chinese telecoms giant Huawei from 5G mobile development, Italian media reported. Foreign ministry undersecretary Guglielmo Picchi laid bare the infighting at the upper echelons of Italian politics as he took to Twitter and shared a post by the White House's National Security Council, adding: "I share the concerns, not to please our allies but because a deeper scrutiny is necessary on the #MoUwithChina." The prime minister sided with his deputy and shunned the foreign ministry's advice, sources in Rome said. "While it is a temporary setback to the foreign ministry, Italy is also set to enjoy greater access to economic benefits generated by the belt and road by showing friendliness earlier than others," a government source said. The foreign ministry did not reply to a request for comment. Ding Chun, director of the Centre for European Studies at Fudan University, said Italy's debt crisis had created an opening for Beijing to expand the belt and road plan into "the heart" of Western powers. "Italy's participation is of huge significance to China at a time of [an] increasing cold war mentality among the US and its Western allies," he said. "Italy's debt-to-GDP ratio is [the second highest in the EU] only after Greece. Joining the belt and road would help to boost its economy." Trieste, sitting by the Italian border with Slovenia, connects central and eastern Europe. Dubbed Italy's "town of science", it hosts many scientific research institutions, including those with a focus on theoretical physics, oceanography, geophysics, genetic engineering, biotechnology and renewable energy. Italy's interest in China's global trade and infrastructure strategy predates the rise of the far right in national politics and has encompassed successive leaderships. In an interview with China's state-run broadcaster CCTV in 2016, then prime minister Matteo Renzi confirmed Italy's intention to take part. A year later, his successor, Paolo Gentiloni, attended a belt and road summit in Beijing. "Italian governments have always had a keen eye on the belt and road, as the attention with which the current administration follows developments is largely inherited from the previous governments," said Giovanni Andornino, a China expert based at the University of Torino in northern Italy. "What is different now is that this government is much happier in having interaction with China, as opposed to being a driving force in the process of the EU-wide negotiation with China." Wang Yiwei, director of the Centre for EU Studies at Renmin University of China, said Rome's defiance towards Washington and some of the European capitals stemmed from the Eurosceptic roots of its populist government. "The current Italian government has always opposed the European Union, so they are less prejudiced against [China's initiative] than the traditional political parties in Europe," said Wang, who was a diplomat at the Chinese mission to the European Union from 2008 to 2011. The European Union Chamber of Commerce in China said the question was whether Beijing could fulfil the aim of making the belt and road an open platform that adhered to international standards and market rules. "Unfortunately, many projects under [the belt and road] have not been sustainable and, as such, the whole initiative is facing major challenges," Mats Harborn, the chamber's president, said. "If Italy's support can lead to greater and more united European involvement that results in more sustainable projects and that helps China implement its commitment to transparency and to a level playing field, then this should be welcomed by European businesses," he said. Italy is planning what sources described as a "holistic" agreement with Beijing. The Post understands that the memorandum of understanding to be signed between Xi and Conte will cover cooperation in the development of infrastructure, ports, energy, aviation and telecommunications. The document, which was leaked by the Europe-based Euractiv news site on Friday, said China was seeking to cooperate in EU investment plans "by supporting synergies between the belt and road and priorities identified in the Investment Plan for Europe and Trans-European Networks". Those networks have been described as the EU's countermeasures against the strategy, as EU leaders were concerned about China's influence in Eastern Europe. Two years ago, Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, delivered a not-so-veiled message on the belt and road as he addressed an audience that included Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. "Our message is that we can help you build it – but the rules must be the same for all," Juncker said. "We must ensure, there too, a level playing field." Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Monday: "Italy is an important industrialised country and a developed economy. We welcome Italy's active participation in the Belt and Road Initiative." He said a deal between Italy and China would "open up a broader space for mutually beneficial cooperation between the two sides and bring more benefits to the industrial and commercial sectors of the two countries and their people"." ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

China approves new foreign investment law designed to level domestic playing field for overseas investors (SCMP)
2019-03-15
China approved its new foreign investment law on Friday, sending the message that Beijing wants to level the playing field for overseas investors and reassure the global community it remains at attractive investment destination. The final draft of foreign investment law (FIL) was approved by 2929 National People's Congress lawmakers in the Great Hall of the People, with 8 opposing the measures and 8 abstaining. The new law will come into effect on January 1, 2020. Beijing rushed the law through the country's largely ceremonial legislature in an effort to fend off complaints from the United States and Europe about unfair trade practices. The new law was first introduced as a draft in 2015, but its progress picked up markedly since the middle of last year to address issues identified by Washington as part of the US-China trade war. The law attempts to address outstanding concerns from foreign investors, such as unfair treatment with regards to market access and government procurement, forced technology transfer to Chinese partners and the theft of commercial secrets from foreign businesses in China. The law was amended this week to make it clear that officials will be obliged to protect commercially confidential information they obtain from overseas businesses. The law will make it illegal for officials to misuse critical information or to provide it to local Chinese firms. At the same time, the wording of the law, which will replace the current three foreign capital laws – the Law on Sino-Foreign Equity Joint Ventures, the Law on Sino-Foreign Contractual Joint Ventures and the Law on Foreign-Capital Enterprises – passed between 1979 and 1990 in the early years of China's process of reform and opening up, is quite general, leaving many details to be addressed in other regulations and implementation procedures. "We've reviewed the final draft of the FIL and are pleased with the last minute addition of new language to further protect foreign company commercial information and trade secrets," said Jake Parker, vice-president of China operations at the US-China Business Council. "The addition of language imposing criminal penalties for sharing sensitive foreign company information adopts a much tougher deterrent against counterfeiting and [intellectual property] theft and will offer new avenues for the enforcement of [intellectual property] protection. Enforcement will be the key metric for evaluating success, but the business community has collectively advocated for years for the Chinese government to impose criminal penalties for [intellectual property] infringement, we need to recognise this positive progress to that end. "We hope that delaying the implementation of the law to January 1, 2020 will offer additional opportunities for foreign companies to work with regulators to resolve our concerns around [joint venture] contracts, national security reviews, and participation in standard setting bodies." The law had received a lukewarm response from some quarters, with the American Chamber of Commerce in China complaining about a lack of consultation and detail. "We are concerned that such an important and potentially far-reaching piece of legislation will be enacted without extensive consultation and input from industry stakeholders," it said earlier this week. The law does not specifically mention investment from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau, but the new law will apply and will not change the legal status of investments from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan – specifically, that they would still be considered "foreign" investments. "It's actually an improvement that there was a consultative period at all," said Walker Wallace, managing partner of law firm O'Melveny's Shanghai office. "I remember the days when it came out of a bureaucrat's black box. Nobody had ever seen it before it came out, and everybody said it was totally impractical." He Weifang, an outspoken law professor at Peking University, questioned whether China's current government structure would be able to adequately enforce the new law. "We need democratic supervision and justice to ensure enforcement if there are any regulations issued later. Enforcement really relies on structural changes and an independent judicial system. So, I cannot say that I will be more optimistic when more regulations come out," he said. "It would be even worse if we lack the implementation mechanism after we enact a law, because the outside world will not trust you no matter what law you enact in the future. We need checks and balances to ensure enforcement, otherwise, all well-intentioned enactment of laws will end in vain." ^ top ^

China needs to create 11 million new jobs next year to ensure stability, Premier Li Keqiang says (SCMP)
2019-03-15
Premier Li Keqiang is expected to address questions ranging from foreign investments to structural reforms at a press conference to mark the end of the annual gathering of China's parliament today. In the course of the just-concluded two-week session, the National People's Congress passed a law protecting foreign investment in China, and several proposals to fend off an economic downturn. But uncertainty persists. The foreign investment law has been criticised as vague, and the prospects of reaching a trade deal with the US are still doubtful, while private businesses complain of an unfriendly operating environment. So, the premier will have his hands full when he takes questions from Chinese and international journalists. Follow the Post's blow-by-blow coverage of the press conference here. ^ top ^

China's national legislature holds closing meeting of annual session (Xinhua)
2019-03-15
The second session of the 13th National People's Congress (NPC) held its closing meeting Friday morning. Xi Jinping and other Chinese leaders attended the closing meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Legislators adopted China's first unified foreign investment law, demonstrating the country's resolve to pursue a new stage of high-level opening up. They also approved resolutions on the government work report, and the work reports of the NPC Standing Committee, the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate. In addition, the legislators passed resolutions on the reports of the national economic and social development plans as well as the central and local budgets, and approved the resignation of NPC Standing Committee member Zhang Rongshun. ^ top ^

China's steady development of domestic aircraft industry proves to be right path (Global Times)
2019-03-14
Texte An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max-8 crashed shortly after take-off, killing 157 people on Sunday. It was the second crash involving a Boeing 737 Max-8 within five months. The first involved Indonesia's Lion Air in October 2018. Several countries suspect the reason for the two tragedies is the same - the automatic control system on this new model aircraft pushed the plane's nose down when its sensors recognized the plane was flying at a dangerous angle. Therefore, China's civil aviation regulator grounded the Boeing 737 Max series jets on Monday, becoming the first country in the world to order the ban. If it can be concluded that the model's automatic control system caused both incidents, Boeing will face an unprecedented problem in its technology development. The company has encountered difficulties in history. Some aircraft models were not readily accepted by the market many decades ago, and models such as the Boeing 307 and 377 had difficulties in business operations. But the company and its airplanes have never suffered from setbacks due to technical flaws. Boeing has technological advantages in the global commercial aviation industry. The company has made great contributions to civil aviation safety by pioneering features such as cabin pressurization and an anti-icing system. The tragedies offer a lesson for the Chinese civil aviation industry on the design of automatic control systems. We need to leave enough leeway to keep the automatic system running with minimum safety risk. Even though the system receives mixed or wrong signals, it will not automatically push the flight into an irretrievable situation. The difficulty with flight design is to select the right engine to match the aircraft. But the engine does not directly cause the crash. Every manufacturer will tailor their control systems to the plane's features and parts. The key is whether there are enough contingency plans in place when matching the aerodynamic configuration to the control system. Also, there must be flexibility for manual operation. If the automatic system malfunctions and renders control to the pilot, there has to be an interface informing pilots about the problem the system has encountered. This way, there's a better chance of the problems being fixed when the pilot takes over. China's development of large passenger aircraft, symbolized by the C919, is just a beginning. There is a long way to go before its domestic civilian aviation sector can catch up to big name aviation companies like Boeing and Airbus. More setbacks and frustrations are expected down the road of research and development for domestic aircraft due to the lack of experience. It will likely to encounter difficulties in commercial operations in the future as well. But China's commercial aircraft development has proceeded cautiously with safety outweighing economic returns. Making safety a priority is an important feature in the development and operation of China's commercial aircraft. China has its own path. Although we can borrow design experiences from other countries, China still sticks to the safe and sound way and carefully review them. So, it may seem that Chinese commercial aircraft development is not progressing as rapidly as that in developed countries, but every step of the way has included judgment calls. Many design schemes are put on the table. Every decision is a tradeoff. Designs with greater technological risks may lead to high commercial competitiveness, and vice versa. This is a huge test for engineering and technical staff. Aside from starting from scratch in designing the aircraft, they also give full consideration to ensuring there are no safety issues once the airplanes roll off the assembly line. The Chinese civil aviation industry knows clearly where it stands. Instead of rushing, we need to make sure the C919 is a certified aircraft. Safety issues must come first. Tweaks and improvements can then be made to its design to make it commercially successful. That is the right path to follow. ^ top ^

Leading the chase for the Chinese Dream (Xinhua)
2019-03-14
At the "two sessions" -- a key annual event on China's political calendar, an even more detailed road-map for achieving the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation has emerged. The almost concurrent sessions of the top legislature and political advisory body every March are a time to gauge the country's development and are being closely followed, in a world seeking certainty in uncertain times. Last year, China's economy, the second largest in the world, expanded 6.6 percent to exceed 90 trillion yuan (13.4 trillion U.S. dollars). The growth target for 2019 was set at 6-6.5 percent, showing the economy's long-term upward trend has not changed. A country of nearly 1.4 billion people is on the fast track to socialist modernization. The accomplishment is attributed to the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee with Xi Jinping at the core and the hard work and perseverance of the Chinese people. This is the consensus of about 5,000 lawmakers and political advisors. President Xi, also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, has laid out his governance priorities and shown his strategic resolve. At the "two sessions," Xi attended plenary meetings, visited political advisors, and joined deliberations with fellow deputies to the National People's Congress. He spoke about and gave policy instructions on a wide range of topics: maintaining resolve in environmental protection, sparing no effort to fight poverty, revitalizing the countryside, stimulating innovation and business activities, and boosting cultural confidence, among others. These are issues crucial not only for China, but for other developing countries with the common desire to speed up modernization. Jihaoyeqiu's house perches on a hill among mountains in southwest China's Sichuan Province. The region is regarded as one of the last pockets of deep poverty in the country. China has pledged to eliminate extreme poverty by 2020. Last year, just before the Lunar Chinese New Year, Xi came to visit Jihaoyeqiu in his ramshackle home. That scene was captured in a photo now hanging in the living room of Jihaoyeqiu's new, 100-square-meter apartment. To his delight, Jihaoyeqiu heard his name mentioned by the president in a televised New Year Speech on the eve of 2019. "The whole family clapped and cheered," he said. The family had been relocated out of the mountains with 100 others in the village. Life improved. Jihaoyeqiu fills his storage room with snacks and beverages as he plans to set up a convenience shop. He has had his QR code ready on the door for customers to scan for mobile transactions. Across China, more than 13.86 million poor people crossed the poverty line last year. The country's poor population shrank from 98.99 million to 16.6 million in the past six years. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said China has contributed the most in world poverty alleviation in the past decade. Xi is the commander-in-chief for the anti-poverty fight. He has visited every single one of the 14 poorest regions. At this year's "two sessions," he made his goal clear again: "No turning back until a resounding victory." What China is aiming for is not just freedom from poverty for its people. Democracy, the rule of law, fairness, justice, and a good environment -- a moderately prosperous society must deliver all that the Chinese people yearn for. Clean air, safe water and uncontaminated soil are some of the most pressing matters. Xi has taken note. He demanded strong resolve in adhering to green development even amid economic difficulties. "Don't ever toy with the idea of sacrificing the environment for growth," Xi said when deliberating with lawmakers from Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region last week. "The ecological red line cannot be crossed." "We must grit our teeth, climb over this slope and pass this ridge," he said regarding pollution control and prevention. Jia Run'an, a coal chemical plant manager who deliberated with Xi at the panel, said he has come to realize that with pollution left unsolved, there would be no "moderately prosperous society." Combating poverty, pollution and defusing major risks are called the "three critical battles." The success of these battles are key to guaranteeing a moderately prosperous society can stand the test of time. Chinese authorities have sought to address all pressing issues that concern the people -- one-fifth of the world's population, from the environment to food and drug safety, law and order, quality healthcare, good education, and affordable housing. Over the past year, 13.61 million urban jobs were added, 14 million people got their dilapidated houses renovated, about 80 million people were eligible for personal income tax cuts, 17 cancer drugs were included in the medical insurance program and housing prices in key cities stabilized. The list even included things like toilets. During the "two sessions," Xi asked a rural deputy in detail how the toilet upgrading has been going in the countryside. "Do you have flush toilets or still use pits?" Xi asked. Deliberating with deputies from Henan Province, Xi heard village head Li Liancheng sum up the general expectations of the rural population: good schools, hospitals, jobs close to home, and a great environment. Xi enjoys being around the people. During each of his domestic inspection tours, he visited the homes or offices of ordinary working people. He would casually appear in a crowd, stopping to speak with the people. Visiting rural areas, he would often ask people about their needs and expectations. "Our fundamental purpose is to serve the people, focusing our efforts on meeting their aspirations to live a better life," Xi said. "The people are the foundation of the governance." Leading the world's biggest developing country is no easy task. It is compounded by a sense of growing uncertainty in the global economy. China faces profound changes in the external environment -- setbacks in economic globalization and challenges to multilateralism -- and the growing pains of its economic transformation. With so much responsibility, Xi is always working hard. His schedule has noticeably grown tighter in recent months. Meeting after meeting, he gives orders on a wide spectrum of fields on the country's development. "We are sailing through the midstream of a river where the waves are extremely rough," he said when assessing the current situation. "[We] have no choice but to power ahead." China needs to maintain economic growth despite downward pressure while continuing its shift to high-quality development. At the same time, more needs to be done to boost people's welfare. The leadership's vision and stamina are important, and Xi has both in abundance. Reform and opening-up is the key. Latest measures include relaxing restrictions on market access, creating an even more enabling business environment, strengthening intellectual property rights protection, and actively expanding imports. Reform and opening-up is the most distinctive feature of China and the engine for China's economic miracle. At the "two sessions," more reforms to power the country toward high-quality development were outlined. A further 2-trillion-yuan tax cut for businesses is planned for 2019, with policies to boost the vitality of the 100-million-strong market entities, and achieve breakthroughs in core technologies for key fields, among other policy tools. China is stimulating the consumption of the world's largest middle-income group and boosting the service sector, including elderly care and infant care. A key issue discussed at the "two sessions" was how to boost the private sector, which supplies 80 percent of urban jobs. Last November, Xi addressed a symposium on private enterprises and reassured entrepreneurs of unwavering support, which has stabilized expectations and boosted business confidence. Reforms need to be guaranteed by the rule of law, something the leadership has repeatedly stressed. China aims to have the rule of law basically in place for the country, the government, and society by 2035. Protection of intellectual property rights has been strengthened. Last year, Chinese courts concluded 41.8 percent more such cases than in 2017. Among those who have been supported are copyright owners of British animation "Peppa Pig." A draft foreign investment law, under its third reading at the national legislature, is hailed as a "landmark" legislation for China's opening-up. Once adopted, it will help create a stable, transparent and predictable market environment for fair competition, making China even more attractive to foreign investors. The country has already climbed 32 spots on the World Bank's ranking of ease of business in its latest report. A recent survey by the British Chamber of Commerce in China showed that British businesses were "overwhelmingly optimistic" about the business prospects for their sector over the next two years. Two-thirds of the companies planned to expand investment in China. "China handles the economy 'exceptionally well' despite obstacles," said Stephen Perry, chairman of Britain's 48 Group Club. Lin Yifu, a political advisor and former World Bank chief economist, said he would cast his "vote of confidence" for China's development. "If handled properly, challenges can be turned into good opportunities for national rejuvenation," Lin said. China ushered in the 2019 lunar new year with home-made sci-fi blockbuster, "The Wandering Earth," which has emerged as China's second highest grossing film just a few weeks after its debut. The film portrays a group of Chinese who join a global collaboration to prevent Earth from crashing into Jupiter. "The film is not about conflicts among individuals or different groups or races. It presents human beings as a whole or a community with a shared future for humanity," said Hugo Award winner Liu Cixin, who is the film's executive producer. The concept of a community with a shared future for humanity was put forward by Xi and has won broad global recognition. Chinese wisdom is being introduced to global governance, which maintains that the entire international community decides the rules -- It shouldn't work in a way that whoever has the bigger muscles has the [bigger] say. In 2018, Xi took four overseas trips, visiting 13 countries. Xi took the occasions to call for upholding the existing international order, building partnerships and promoting an open world economy. Last November, Xi opened the first China International Import Expo, an unprecedented event attended by 172 countries, regions and international organizations and over 3,600 companies. Intended deals worth 57.8 billion U.S. dollars were sealed. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), six years after its inception, has a growing appeal. Over 150 countries and international organizations have signed cooperation agreements with China. Trade in goods between China and BRI partners reached 1.3 trillion U.S. dollars last year. China has played positive roles in World Trade Organization reforms, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the United Nations and the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change. By trade, hard work and learning from others, China has helped to transform the global economy, said International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde, adding that China has played a significant role in boosting productivity, innovation and living standards around the globe. Xi is leading China in its best time for development in modern times. The nation stands at a crucial juncture on the road to rejuvenation: the Chinese Dream. Observers have said that China has taken a fast lane as it only took decades to achieve a development whirlwind that Western countries took centuries to complete. Martin Jacques, a professor at Cambridge University, has said that China offers the world "a new possibility." This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. China aims to realize socialist modernization by 2035 and a great modern socialist country by the middle of this century. Xi has stressed that China is still in an important period of strategic opportunity for development. "We are all running at full speed to chase our dreams," Xi said. ^ top ^

China plans law to make reviving rural areas a priority in modernisation push (SCMP)
2019-03-10
Beijing is drafting a law to underpin an ambitious campaign to revitalise its rural areas – part of President Xi Jinping's plan to make China a strong modern country by 2050. The campaign, initiated by Xi when he started his second term in 2017, marks a shift in focus for the ruling Communist Party – prioritising the country's rural areas over the urban development that has fuelled breakneck economic growth for decades. Xi's vision is for rural areas that have prosperous industries and farmers with raised living standards, but not at the expense of the environment, by the time 2050 rolls around. The ultimate aim is for the party to "build a modern, socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious" by the time the People's Republic of China marks its 100th anniversary in 2049. Speaking in Beijing on Saturday, Chen Xiwen, a National People's Congress lawmaker for agriculture and rural affairs, said the new law would set out the priority status of developing China's rural areas. He said Xi had made rural revitalisation a top priority for the party and vowed to address the gap between agriculture and industries, and between urban and rural areas, and improve the system to advance rural development. "All these guiding principles need to be stipulated in legislation," said Chen, a former deputy director of the central agricultural work leading group. For decades, rural areas, where incomes and living standards are significantly lower, have been left behind in China's urbanisation drive. Millions of farmers have gone to the cities in search of work in factories, leaving behind their homes, land and children in the care of elderly relatives. Meanwhile, the wealth gap has continued to widen. The gap in annual disposable income between rural and urban dwellers reached 24,634 yuan (US$3,664) last year, up 45 per cent from 17,038 yuan (US$2,534) at the end of 2013, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Beijing's campaign is set out in three phases – building an institutional and governance framework to revitalise rural areas by 2020, modernising rural areas and agriculture by 2030, and realising "all aspects" of the revival and completing the project by 2050. Chen said the law would also aim to put a stop to the destruction of the Chinese countryside, including the loss of farmland to development and environmental damage. "It's common knowledge that rural areas have suffered during industrialisation and urbanisation," he said. "We need to have policies and laws that not only promote rural revitalisation but also restrict and regulate behaviour that damages the environment, such as setting up polluting factories." Zhao Xijun, a professor of finance at Renmin University of China in Beijing, said enshrining the campaign in law would help to ensure it is continued over the years, even after a change in leadership. "There has been an uneven allocation of resources favouring industrialisation for decades and it is unrealistic to try to resolve everything in a short period of time," Zhao said. "A long-term plan is needed, and a law is the best way to put a stable, systematic arrangement in place to ensure consistent policies and actions." The NPC agriculture and rural affairs committee expects to release a draft for consultation to legal experts, government agencies and local legislatures within the year and the bill would be presented to lawmakers next year. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

CCTV system, 24-hour patrols make Tibet much safer (Global Times)
2019-03-14
The 24-hour patrols of some 100 police service stations in Lhasa, capital of Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, has greatly improved the city's peace and stability. On Wednesday, local Tibetans spun prayer wheels while walking in the Potala Palace square and tourists took photos of the palace and casually sat around. Outside the square is a police service station. "Not a single criminal case was reported in the palace area in the past eight years, mainly because of the police service station since 2011, which can respond to emergency calls in three minutes," Wang Yongpu, the station chief who has been assigned to the station for seven years, told the Global Times on Wednesday. Through the surveillance system, 24-hour patrols, security checks and cooperation with traffic departments, police in the service station can prevent criminal crimes, Wang said. The police service stations are set up in seven cities and prefectures in Tibet. Its functions include patrols, dealing with police calls, offering help to citizens and fire safety management, the Public Security Department of the Tibet Autonomous Region said. Police patrols on cars, motorcycles and on foot allow police to immediately detect, control and crack down on street crimes, which have effectively maintained security order in key areas, including schools, major public places and government buildings, the public security department said. Besides maintaining public safety, the stations also provide assistance to residents, such as offering travel advice, medical help and cell phone charging, Wang said. "Public safety is meant to serve residents, help them solve difficulties and prevent personal injury and damage to their property," Wang said. The walls of the station are covered with silk banners given by residents across the country to show their gratitude for their kindness and thoughtfulness. A sense of security and satisfaction among Tibetan residents surpassed 99 percent in 2018, according to the 2019 Tibet government work report released in January. Lhasa ranked first among 38 major Chinese cities in public safety, a blue book published by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences on public services in Chinese cities showed, the Tibetan Daily reported in February. Many local Tibetans and tourists from other parts of the country lined up outside the iconic Potala Palace in order on Wednesday, and several Tibetan residents told the Global Times that they feel much safer than 10 years ago. A tourist surnamed Li from Wuhan, Central China's Hubei Province, told the Global Times that his two-day stay in Lhasa has dispelled previous concerns over security. "The local people are so friendly to me, and I even had walks at night with frequent police patrols," Li said. Tourists said that they were pleased to cooperate with police in security and ID checks outside the Potala Palace, as what police did was to ensure their safety. ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

Xinjiang's progress on rights detailed at UN event (China Daily)
2019-03-15
Before a packed room in the United Nations' Geneva Office, Chinese officials, experts and foreign diplomats shared their views on Wednesday about human rights progress in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region of China. Zuliyati Simayi, a professor at the School of Political Science and Public Administration of Xinjiang University, spoke on Xinjiang's history, culture and religion. Her talk included key evidence to show how Xinjiang has evolved in its long history as a multiethnic, multireligious and multicultural region that borders on eight countries. "Xinjiang has been a land of multireligious harmony and cultural integration," she told about 300 people who attended, most of whom were in Geneva to attend the ongoing 40th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Zhang Nan, a researcher at the Anti-Terrorism Law School of Northwest University of Political Science and Law in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, and a member of the China Society for Human Rights Studies, talked about the serious harm done to Xinjiang by violence, terror and religious extremism. Zhang, who was born and raised in Xinjiang, cited detailed cases of how violence, terror and religious extremism have trampled the basic human rights of various ethnic groups in Xinjiang, including the rights to freedom of religious belief. He also dismissed some misunderstandings of China's religious policy. Li Changlin, a law professor at Southwest University of Political Science and Law in Chongqing, detailed the legal basis for fighting terrorism and extremism through vocational training in Xinjiang and said China has built an effective legal framework for combating terrorism. Yu Jianhua, head of the Chinese mission to the UN Office at Geneva, said, "China will never allow Xinjiang to go back to the days of raging violence, terror and extremism and will never allow those forces to take away the peaceful and happy life from the people in Xinjiang." He added that conducting vocational education and training programs based on law is the right thing to do. Vadim Pisarevich, deputy permanent representative of Belarus to the UN Office at Geneva, told the audience what he saw after a visit to the vocational education and training program in Xinjiang. "Those young people eat very healthy, and they study hard," he said. Nikita Zhukov, deputy permanent representative of Russia to the UN Office at Geneva, who also visited the vocational education and training program in Xinjiang, said he was impressed by the social and economic development in Xinjiang. Pedro Luis Pedroso Cuesta, Cuba's permanent representative to the UN Office at Geneva, said he was impressed by the social and economic progress in Xinjiang. ^ top ^

'Disappointing and frustrating': US urges Muslim nations to condemn China's Xinjiang abuses (HKFP)
2019-03-14
The United States on Wednesday voiced disappointment at the failure of Muslim nations to jointly take a stand against China's treatment of its Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang province. "We are, I can say, disappointed about the lack of response from members of the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation), and the lack of outspoken concern," said US Ambassador Kelley Currie who heads the State Department's Office of Global Criminal Justice. Currie was speaking to reporters ahead of a US-sponsored event at UN headquarters in Geneva focused on allegations of mass-internment of Uighurs in China's restive Xinjiang province. While she applauded Turkey for its recent strong criticism of China's treatment of its Muslim minorities, she said Washington had hoped the IOC would have collectively condemned the situation in Xinjiang as it has done regarding rights abuses against Muslims in Myanmar and Syria. A statement from OIC foreign ministers earlier this month failed to reflect concern about the situation, she said, describing this as "disappointing and frustrating". Her comments came as Washington released its annual human rights report, in which it maintained that China had "significantly intensified its campaign of mass detention of members of Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang". "Today, more than one million Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and other Muslims are interned in re-education camps designed to erase their religious and ethnic identities," US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said as he introduced the report. During the event in Geneva, Currie and other speakers, including experts and an alleged former detainee in a Xinjiang re-education camp, made similar charges, eliciting a strong reaction from a Chinese diplomat in the room. "We strongly object to this anti-China side-event sponsored by the US mission," said the diplomat, who didn't give his name, charging that the event was "obviously driven by a political agenda". "There are no so-called concentration camps in Xinjiang," he said, reiterating Beijing's claims that it is combating separatism and religious extremism through vocational education. One of the speakers, Adrian Zenz, a China security expert at Germany's European School of Culture and Theology, meanwhile charged that China's so-called vocational training centres were "a mask for an unprecedented campaign of coercive social reengineering". "What we are witnessing in Xinjiang is nothing less than a systematic campaign of cultural genocide," he said, warning that other regions with large Muslim minorities could soon suffer a similar fate. Xinjiang "is like a testing ground", he told AFP. The event, which was also backed by Britain, Canada, Germany and the Netherlands, took place on the sidelines of the UN Human Rights Council and not before the main UN rights body itself. The administration of US President Donald Trump decided to slam the door on that council last year. One of the panelists, John Fisher, who heads Human Rights Watch's Geneva office, suggested Washington was partially to blame for the lack of broader international condemnation of the situation in Xinjiang. "One of the challenges is that the main state that has been willing to stand up to China in the past no longer engages with the Human Rights Council," he said. "There is a gap of leadership." ^ top ^

Vocational centers in Xinjiang will disappear when society no longer needs them: official (Global Times)
2019-03-12
A top official from Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on Tuesday denied claims that there are over 1 million people in its education and vocational training centers, saying that "in general, trainees in the centers will be fewer and fewer and, one day, the centers will disappear when society no longer needs them." Shohrat Zakir, chairman of Xinjiang regional government, said on the sidelines of the annual national legislative session on Tuesday that the education and training center is set up based on the needs, and the number of trainees will lessen. Zakir said that Xinjiang is a victim of terrorism and extremism and the education and training centers aim to fundamentally eliminate the environment for terrorism and extremism. The Xinjiang region strictly abides by laws and regulations. In its counter-terrorism and de-extremization work, it is not targeting specific ethnic groups or specific religions. Instead, it is targeting the three forces of violent terrorist crimes, extremism and separatism, he stressed. Zakir said the education centers are never the "concentration centers" or "re-education camps" claimed by overseas media. Instead, They are like boarding schools where trainees enjoy free food and accommodations, learn languages, study laws and acquire skills. The centers protect the students' dignity, prohibits any form of insult against them, and protects their personal freedom. Trainees can go home regularly and ask for leave at any time like boarding schools, he said. At the same time, according to the regulations on religious affairs, missionary teaching and establishing religious organizations are banned in the centers, but the trainees can engage in religious activities after graduation. Speaking to reporters, Zakir hailed the benefits the centers have brought to trainees. For example, many trainees have realized that learning Putonghua will broaden their access to information and knowledge. Previously, they rejected learning Putonghua under the influence of extremism in the guise of religion. Meanwhile, Zakir noted that many of their trainees graduated and sought a job. "They can earn about 2,000 yuan per month and the salary will be increased after they become more skilled,"he said, adding that, they now have a strong desire to get rid of poverty through hard work and are more confident in their future. "Through learning, the vast majority of trainees can clearly understand what terrorism and extremism are and the bottom line of the law. Their ability to resist extremism has also significantly improved," Zakir said. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Climate Strike Hong Kong: Student protesters urge gov't to include youth reps in environmental bodies (HKFP)
2019-03-15
Hong Kong students have urged the authorities to include youth representatives in environmental bodies, ahead of a school walkout on Friday to protest government inaction over climate change. In a statement published on Wednesday, student organisers asked the government to establish youth representatives in the Steering Committee on Climate Change – an interdepartmental environmental action group – saying: "It could be a great advantage to have youth representation for climate change in Hong Kong as this would allow future generations to have a voice and more control over our collective future." The march was inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who staged a school strike outside the parliament in Stockholm last August over climate change. Her campaign #FridaysForFuture has since inspired a global student-led movement encouraging young environmentalists to skip school on March 14 in demand of stronger government action against climate change. She has since been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Hong Kong students are set to march from Chater Garden in Central to the Central Government Offices in Admiralty from 11am to 2pm. Over 600 people had clicked "attending" on their Facebook event page by Thursday night. But the rally has been met with opposition from education authorities. The English Schools Foundation (ESF) said that it cannot endorse an action that threatens to compromise student safety. "ESF students – at all levels – are encouraged to understand, analyse and tackle issues that affect their school, their community and their planet. While we support, in principle, any student who wishes to make a stand about climate change, we have to concern ourselves with our practical responsibility to keep safe the young men and women who have been entrusted into our care. We would not be meeting that responsibility if we allowed students to skip school to attend any unsupervised event," an ESF spokesperson told HKFP. The statement came after ESF's West Island School, a private international coeducational in Pokfulam, told parents that any student absence on Friday would be registered as "unauthorised." "A rallying cry and the 'fear of missing out' has a powerful effect on young people. The combination of persuasive social media and a noteworthy subject will lead to different perspectives in our diverse community," the letter from the principal, obtained by HKFP, said. "Our teachers are working on this day and will not be supervising any students who are given permission by their parents to attend." The principal added that students are encouraged to participate in environmental campaigns such as NGO WWF's Earth Hour to conserve energy and turn off non-essential electric lights, as well as using reusable cutlery. Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Committee on Children's Rights expressed support for the students on Wednesday, saying: "Children are citizens of our society, and they are entitled to speak their minds and express their views." The NGO called on government departments, the police, parents and teachers to establish dialogues with the students, respect their decision to join the action, and refrain from using punitive action against those who wish to attend. Among their list of requests, students have asked the government to create a dedicated "Climate Action Officer" and commit to increasing the city's reliance on renewable energy to more than three or four per cent, as outlined in Hong Kong's Climate Action Plan 2030+. Letter of requests from School Students for Climate Action - Click to view Other protests are reportedly set to take place in Shanghai, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chaoyang, Taipei, and Taoyuan City. ^ top ^

Hong Kong ranked among top 3 global financial hubs (China Daily)
2019-03-15
Hong Kong has been ranked among the top 3 global financial hubs, following New York and London, according to the 25th edition of the Global Financial Centers Index report launched on Monday in Dubai. Following Singapore, Shanghai grabbed fifth position on the list ahead of Tokyo, Toronto and Zurich, according to the report jointly released by the city of London's think tank Z/Yen Group and Shenzhen's China Development Institute. Beijing ranked ninth ahead of Frankfurt, putting three Chinese cities in the top 10 world financial hubs. The index tracked 112 financial centers globally, with 102 centers in the main index and 10 in the associate list, according to their business environment, human capital, infrastructure, financial sector development and reputation. Nine financial centers across the Chinese mainland were included in the main index, namely Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Qingdao, Tianjin, Chengdu, Hangzhou and Dalian. Shanghai ranked first as the city with best future prospects over the next two to three years, and other Chinese cities including Qingdao, Chengdu, Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Beijing were among the top 15 financial hubs that will become more significant. Shanghai and Shenzhen were also included in the top 15 most competitive global financial hubs for the FinTech industry, based on questionnaire responses. Z/Yen Group released the first edition of the GFCI in March 2007 and partnered with CDI in July 2016 to produce the GFCI as a valuable reference for policy and investment decisions. ^ top ^

Former Chinese minister says extradition arrangement needed because Hong Kong 'hosting 300 fugitives' (HKFP)
2019-03-14
More than 300 fugitives are evading mainland authorities by staying in Hong Kong, according to a former Chinese top security official. Chen Zhimin told RTHK that Beijing "has the full names" of all the fugitives, but could not extradite them because it lacks a rendition agreement with Hong Kong. The city's security chief John Lee also supports a new arrangement with the mainland, but said the Hong Kong government does not have figures related to Chinese fugitives. On Wednesday, Chen – who was China's deputy minister of public security between 2009 and 2017 – said mainland authorities regularly assist Hong Kong in arresting and transferring criminals back to the city. Hong Kong should update its laws so that extradition could work the other way round, he added. Chen also revealed that he tried to negotiate an arrangement with his Hong Kong counterparts when he was in office, but "it was a pity" that no consensus was reached. Hong Kong's former security chief Lai Tung-kwok had been involved in the talks, as well as John Lee, who – at the time – was serving as undersecretary. Last month, the Hong Kong government proposed a case-by-case system that would allow the city to handle extradition requests from jurisdictions where there are no pre-existing agreements – most notably China and Taiwan. The move was spurred by the case of Poon Hiu-wing, a pregnant 20-year-old Hong Kong woman who was killed during a trip to Taiwan last February. Hong Kong authorities arrested the woman's boyfriend Chan Tong-kai but were unable to charge him with murder in local courts. He is currently in custody on separate charges. Lee reiterated his support for the proposal on Wednesday, saying that it was backed by around two-thirds of the 4,500 opinions received from the public. The 20-day public consultation period ended last Monday, but was criticised as being rushed and poorly promoted. "If some people are doing all they can to block the transfer of the suspect to face justice in Taiwan, I will feel sad and disappointed," Lee told reporters. "Justice is justice, and should not be overridden by politics." He also said that Hongkongers would not be extradited to the mainland for political crimes, since the proposed system will require the suspect's actions to be considered criminal both in Hong Kong and the mainland. Hong Kong's local and international business community had previously expressed doubts about the extradition plan, saying that businesses may accidentally fall foul of China's tax laws. Some business representatives, including Felix Chung from the Liberal Party, have called for the amendment to cover only white collar crimes. Lee sought to calm the business community, saying that accidental slips without criminal intent will not constitute a crime in Hong Kong, meaning that extradition would be impossible. On Tuesday, Taiwan's legislature passed a non-binding motion calling for Hong Kong to establish a bilateral extradition agreement with the island, instead of an open-ended amendment that could apply to mainland China as well. Lee said that current Hong Kong laws prohibited him from negotiating with Taiwan on the murder case, and he could only do so after the amendment passes. His comments drew a quick rebuttal from the Civic Party's Dennis Kwok, who pointed out that Lee was negotiating with the mainland about extradition despite not having an existing agreement. "Why is it okay for the Hong Kong government to discuss with the mainland, but not with Taiwan?" Kwok told Apple Daily. Taiwanese representatives have also accused Lee of keeping them in the dark, and say they have been stonewalled by the Hong Kong government thrice when they tried to make contact. Lee took questions on the extradition proposal after attending a District Council meeting on Wednesday, and was met with a protest by political group Demosisto. The group called on him to withdraw the proposal. Lee left after receiving a letter from protesters. ^ top ^

 

Macau

Macao SAR gov't strongly opposes US human rights reports (China Daily)
2019-03-15
The government of China's Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) on Thursday expressed its strong opposition to the US human rights reports, according to a statement by the Government Spokesperson's Office of the Macao SAR. The reports published by the US Department of State made irresponsible remarks on the Macao SAR affairs that are China's internal issues, the statement said. In the past 20 years since the establishment of the Macao SAR, the principles of "one country, two systems" and "Macao people administering Macao" with a high degree of autonomy have been successfully implemented in the Macao SAR, the statement said, adding that Macao people enjoy the rights and freedom which are fully guaranteed by the constitution and the Basic Law. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Premier says new policies will further help Taiwan residents when they come to the mainland (China Daily)
2019-03-15
The Chinese mainland will introduce more preferential policies toward Taiwan residents to ensure that they will enjoy the same treatment as mainland people when they study, work or start businesses on the mainland, Premier Li Keqiang said on Friday. Previously the mainland had issued 31 measures for promoting the cross-Straits economic and cultural exchanges and these measures will be fully implemented this year, Li told a news conference in Beijing. We will continue to adhere to the 1992 consensus, which embodies with the one-China principle, oppose the "Taiwan independence", promote peace and stability across the Straits, and promote the peaceful reunification of the country, he added. ^ top ^

Taiwan can't resist historic trend towards unification, says head of Chinese cross-strait group (SCMP)
2019-03-14
Any effort by Taiwan to resist the "historic trend" towards unification is doomed to failure since Beijing is in a much stronger position to realise its goals, the head of a semi-official Chinese body to handle relations with the island said on Wednesday. Zhang Zhijun, the president of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, told reporters at the annual legislative session in Beijing that reunification was inevitable as China becomes stronger. "The Taiwan issue happened because of the degeneration of the Chinese nation," Zhang, the former director of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said. "The problem will be resolved as our country rejuvenates." "We now have greater influence across the Taiwan Strait and we are more capable than ever of leading cross-strait relations in the right direction … and achieving the peaceful reunification of China," he added. Zhang also pointed out that the mainland's economy is now the second biggest in the world – and is much bigger than Taiwan's. He dismissed the argument that the "one country, two systems" model put forward by Beijing for reunification has failed in Hong Kong, claiming that it was just a trick by pro-independence forces in Taiwan to obstruct the development of cross-strait ties."Separatist forces in Taiwan are deeply worried as cross-strait relations grow by the day," he said adding that these forces were criticising Hong Kong to spread fear in Taiwan. He insisted that "one country, two systems" had succeeded in Hong Kong, which had experienced robust growth in recent years. He also argued that it would have a bright future under the Greater Bay Area scheme, which aims to turn Hong Kong and Macau and nine neighbouring Guangdong cities into a world-class financial and technology hub. Nevertheless, Zhang said Beijing was willing to talk about a Taiwanese model of "one country, two systems". Beijing regards Taiwan as breakaway province that must eventually be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary, and views any pro-independence activity as contrary to China's core national interests. Cross-strait ties nosedived in 2016 after Tsai Ing-wen of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party was elected president. Tsai has refused to acknowledge the "one-China" principle – which holds that the mainland and Taiwan are part of one sovereign nation without defining what that means in practice – as the basis for reunification negotiations. In a speech in January, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that unification with Taiwan was a key part of China's "national rejuvenation" and the political divide must be resolved. On Monday, Taiwan's national security agency said the island must stand up to Beijing's increasing pressure. The agency said Taipei should provide more incentives for Taiwanese businesses who have moved to the mainland to come home, do more to counter Beijing's disinformation campaigns and strengthen its defences. ^ top ^

Tsai's political road map is dead end for Taiwan: Editorial (China Daily)
2019-03-12
Showing she has closed her mind to the island's reunification with the motherland in any form, Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen has called for her administration to counter Beijing's "one country, two systems" formula for reunification. Speaking at a security meeting she convened on Monday, she called on her officials to come up with measures to counter what she described as a serious challenge to the island's security and to prevent the mainland from interfering in the island's political, economic and social development, which she claimed was the biggest risk to the island. Once again touting the "threat from the mainland", which is her default recourse, she elaborated on the different political systems on either side of the Straits, trying to present a prominent picture of political incompatibility. But while she may choose to turn a blind eye to the fact that until she took office cross-Straits relations had developed smoothly for under her predecessor despite the different political systems, most people on the island do not suffer from such willful amnesia. The majority of Taiwan compatriots know that the island's economic development and social progress have been facilitated by friendly cross-Straits relations. For instance, the large number of tourists from the mainland who visit the island has long been an important source of revenue for the island. But it appears that in Tsai's political calculations, the worse the relations across the Straits are, the easier it will be for her and her administration to fool people into believing her political platitudes about the island's "independence". But one thing she has missed in her reckoning is the fact that she and her government will never be able to change the resolve of the mainland to not allow the island to become a separate country. She has also disregarded the fact that the island's "independence" is not the choice the majority of Taiwan people will make. The road map Tsai seems to have in her mind for the island's secession from the motherland leads to a dead end. For while there is a vast space for peaceful reunification, there is no room for any sort of Taiwan separatist activities. Nobody can change the fact that Taiwan is part of China. Despite the differences in political systems, there is enough leeway to develop good cross-Straits relations, which are in the interests of the people on both sides of the Straits. And with good relations established, a consensus will accumulate for the island's final reunification with the motherland as people on both sides of the Straits belong to the same family, and family differences can be resolved. ^ top ^

 

Economy

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DPRK
With John Bolton leading the charge against North Korea, the US would have no qualms about breaking international law at sea, or probably anywhere else (SCMP)
2019-03-15
The US is frustrated by North Korea's continuing violation of UN sanctions by using rogue vessels to import and export banned cargo, sometimes transferring the cargo at sea. So it wants to interdict suspect vessels on the high seas, using force if necessary. The problem is that doing so without the consent of the flag state would violate the international law of the sea. John Bolton, the US national security adviser, is taking the lead on this. He is well suited to the task. He seems to have little regard for international law that does not serve his interpretation of US interests. He apparently believes that US sovereignty and freedom of action are wrongly constrained by international law, multilateral organisations – especially the UN – and global treaties. To Bolton, these are political impediments to be ignored or reinterpreted as expedience dictates. Indeed, Bolton has a long history of disregard for international law and the existing international order. He supported the invasion of Iraq, which many think was a blatant violation of international law and an unmitigated disaster for the US, Iraq and the region. He seems to favour abandoning the "one-China policy", strengthening US-Taiwan relations and supporting the independence-leaning faction in Taiwan. His wholehearted support of Israel and antagonism towards Iran – if translated into action – are likely to upset the fragile political order in the Middle East. Regarding North Korea, he advocated a pre-emptive strike, despite all the repercussions for the geopolitical and international order that might entail. More recently, according to Jeong Se-hyun, South Korea's former unification minister, Bolton may have played a major role in the failure of the US-North Korea summit in Hanoi, by advocating "moving the goalposts". The US apparently surprised North Korea by demanding that it agree to a "pathway" to denuclearisation that included the dismantling of all its programmes for weapons of mass destruction – nuclear, chemical and biological, and specifically a hidden highly enriched uranium processing plant – before any sanctions could be lifted. "Bolton's speciality is to abruptly move the goalposts," Jeong said. This provides context to Bolton's latest attempt to change or violate international law. He is trying to organise a "coalition of the willing" to interdict – with the use of force if necessary – vessels on the high seas suspected of carrying cargo banned by the UN to or from North Korea. Such use of force without the consent of the flag state or UN Security Council approval would violate a centuries-old bedrock principle of international law and custom – the freedom of navigation, which the US has long claimed to defend. As such, it would undermine international order – the very system the US helped build, promotes and claims to protect against alleged violators like China. This idea was already being floated before Bolton assumed his present post. Then defence secretary James Mattis had reportedly refused to countenance such a move as, in the current political environment, an interdiction of suspicious ships could lead to conflict, which could quickly escalate. Indeed, North Korea and others could legitimately consider such forceful interdiction an act of war. The problem for the US and others is that despite broad and tough sanctions, banned items can still be "smuggled" in and out of North Korea using at-sea transfers. Moreover, those observed doing so may deny it. For example, in March last year, the Maldives government denied a Japanese foreign ministry claim that a Maldivian-flagged ship transferred goods to a North Korean-flagged tanker in the East China Sea. It seems that it is necessary to physically catch violators in the act to prove culpability and generate deterrence. Now Bolton is reviving the idea with relish. In an interview on March 3 with CBS News, he said the US was "looking at ways … to stop … the ship-to-ship transfers that the North Koreans are using to evade the sanctions". US Senator Cory Gardner, the chairman of the East Asia subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is apparently supportive. In relation to the maximum pressure campaign, he said in a speech this month: "We must do better, especially with clear evidence of pervasive sanctions violations with regard to illicit ship-to-ship transfer of sanctioned goods", as well as on illegal financial transactions and North Korea's malicious cyberspace activities. Bolton has considerable experience trying to change the relevant international law. When he was undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, he tried to get around existing international law governing interdiction at sea. He created the Proliferation Security Initiative, a "political arrangement" or "activity" intended to prevent weapons of mass destruction, their delivery systems and related materials from entering or leaving "states of proliferation concern". It was purposely designed to operate outside the UN system and instead relies heavily on a "coalition of the willing". The initiative was legally and politically controversial from the start. It has been criticised for lacking transparency, stretching if not violating principles of international law. Some consider it a dangerous precedent that could undermine the very foundation of the UN. Bolton had tried to convince allies and friends – and other potential supporters – that interdiction under the initiative would be legal. But Australia, one of the initial members of the "coalition of the willing", recognised that there was probably a need to change international law to facilitate these types of interdictions on the high seas and expressed reservations. The UK also insisted that any action taken under the initiative must be consistent with international law. China and Russia have consistently opposed the use of force for such interdictions, concerned that the erosion of the principle of freedom of navigation could one day be used against them. Bolton and the US should stay within existing international law and not be penny wise and pound foolish by upending the existing international law and order. ^ top ^

US envoy for North Korea says 'diplomacy still very much alive' with Pyongyang despite summit collapse (SCMP)
2019-03-12
The US envoy for North Korea said on Monday that "diplomacy is still very much alive" with the hermit kingdom despite the collapse of last month's summit between the two countries' leaders, while another US official said she believed they would meet again in a third summit. But US Special Representative to North Korea Stephen Biegun said at a Washington nuclear conference that gaps remain between the sides and North Korea must show it is fully committed to elimination of its nuclear weapons. "We are not going to do denuclearisation incrementally, and that is the position [on] which the US government has a complete unity," Biegun told the Carnegie Nuclear Conference, repeating the Trump administration's message that it would accept nothing less than "the final, fully-verified denuclearisation of North Korea". "The foundation of US policy is denuclearisation," he said. "And until we can get to some point, or we have the same traction on that issue, then we have another issue which makes difficult for us to move forward." "We have been closely engaged with North Koreans, especially over the past couple of months. It's certainly our expectations we will be able to continue that close engagement in order to advance the shared goals of the two leaders as expressed in Singapore summit." Biegun urged North Korea to honour past promises to eliminate its nuclear weapons. His remarks came after Andrea Thompson, the US undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, had told conference attendees she believed a third summit between the two leaders would take place, although she said no date has been settled. The leaders' second meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, in February collapsed over North Korea's demands for relief from crippling US and United Nations sanctions and the US' insistence on the complete removal of nuclear weapons from North Korea. The leaders met for the first time in Singapore in June last year, emerging with a vaguely worded statement on denuclearisation. Beigun repeated that the US would "not lift the sanctions until North Korea has completed the denuclearisation process". Thompson said it was "incredibly important" that sanctions remained in place until North Korea eliminated its nuclear weapons. "We are not letting the foot off the gas," she said. "We are going to continue with the pressure campaign." "We are going to continue to hold those sanctions and we are going to continue to work with the team abroad to make sure those stay in place," she said. US think tanks and South Korean intelligence agencies said last week that Pyongyang had already begun reassembling a major rocket launch site. Biegun said the US was monitoring North Korea's activities closely, but ultimately, he admitted, "we don't know what Kim Jong-un will decide to do". The parties remained far apart even though the top-level meetings created "space for us at the working level to test ideas and close the gaps", Biegun said. "I know the president has talked about his willingness [to continue meeting with Kim, but] we don't have anything to announce today." He also said the confidence building is important sector and the US is open to set up a permanent liaison office in Pyongyang and sent inspectors to North Korea. Both leaders talked about setting up a liaison office during the Hanoi summit, but the prospects were largely dampened with the high-stakes talks ended abruptly. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Issue of insufficient foreign investment persists (Montsame)
2019-03-14
Despite evaluating the Mongolian economy positively, the participants of the Economic Forum highlighted the importance of foreign investment in sustainable economic growth, concluding that it is the only method to improve the current situation. Economic and financial policy researchers, analysts, economists, representatives of private businesses as well as university students attended the forum, which was organized by the Bank of Mongolia and the Economic Research Institute with the support of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Partnership for Economic Policy (PEP) under the theme, 'Current state of the economy and its future trend-2019', on March 12. In his speech, senior private sector specialist at the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank Group Xavier Forneris noted the importance of the policy on attracting foreign investments by developing other sectors, such as agriculture and tourism, as the economic structure based on mining cannot continue for a long period of time for Mongolia. Warning that the insufficient foreign investment is due to the country risk of Mongolia, the analysts underlined the necessity of a state regulation to protect from risks to regain investors' confidence. The participants all agreed that once the sustainable environment is created, the country has the possibility to boost export earnings by increasing the number of types of export from non-mining sectors. ^ top ^

 

Jennia JIN
Embassy of Switzerland
 

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