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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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  16-20.9.2019, No. 786  
    Archiv / Archives
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Table of contents

DPRK

Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

US unlikely to soften stance on China even with more moderate national security adviser, analysts say (SCMP)
2019-09-20
Washington's tough policy stance on Beijing is unlikely to change following US President Donald Trump's naming of Robert O'Brien as his new national security adviser, observers say. While the US State Department's top hostage negotiator is a China hawk, O'Brien is considered less confrontational than his predecessor, John Bolton, who is widely reported to have disagreed with Trump on a range of policies, including Iran and North Korea. Diplomatic observers in China said O'Brien's selection suggested that Trump would remain the core decision-maker within his administration. "O'Brien is much less experienced on foreign policy and national security compared with his predecessors like HR McMaster and Bolton, and much more low profile," said Shi Yinhong, director of the Centre on American Studies at Renmin University of China. "So he could take care of specific issues, but it would be hard for him to offer advice on issues related to national security and diplomatic strategies. But perhaps that what Trump needs." Trump was full of confidence in his selection when he announced the appointment. "I have worked long & hard with Robert. He will do a great job!" the president posted on Twitter, soon after publishing a tweet saying the US would "substantially" increase sanctions on Iran in response to an attack Saturday on Saudi Arabia's oil facilities. Iran denies involvement in the attack. Speaking from the tarmac of an airport in Los Angeles, Trump said he had been impressed with O'Brien's work in securing the release of American citizens detained and imprisoned overseas. Standing beside the president, O'Brien said: "We've got a number of challenges but there's a great team in place. "I look forward to working with them and the president to keep America safe and continue to rebuild our military, and really get us back to a peace-through-strength posture that will keep the American people safe from the many challenges around the world today." Shi said that as the new national security adviser – Trump's fourth in less than three years — O'Brien would be unlikely to make any major changes to the relationship between China and the US, which has slumped to its lowest point in decades because of the trade war and the two nations' growing rivalry on geopolitical and ideological fronts. "Traditionally, it is the president, vice-president or the defence secretary who is in charge of formulating US security policy regarding China," he said. Working as a lawyer in Los Angeles, O'Brien has played only a low-key role within Washington's policymaking circles. In 2005, under President George W. Bush, he was US representative to the United Nations General Assembly, and from 2007 to 2012 under President Barack Obama was involved in judicial reform in Afghanistan. He is believed to support a conservative foreign policy and favours a tough stance on China, Russia and Iran. He was critical of Obama's foreign policies, which he said were too weak. In his 2016 book, While America Slept: Restoring American Leadership to a World in Crisis, he warned against China's "rapid and impressive effort to establish itself as the supreme maritime power in the eastern Pacific and Indian Oceans". Despite those claims, Lu Xiang, an expert on US affairs at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Beijing was keen not to make its already tense relationship with the US any worse. "So far the focus of Sino-US relations has been trade," he said. "There have been some problems over the South China Sea and Taiwan, but while Beijing is preparing for the worst it won't move to escalate the tensions." After a short visit to Taiwan in 2016, O'Brien published an article in the international affairs magazine The National Interest, in which he called on the global community to support the island's democracy. For his part, Bolton called for closer military ties between the US and Taiwan as a counter to Beijing. Lu said that it was a positive for Beijing that Bolton had been replaced, but that it was too earlier to say what O'Brien's position on Taiwan might be. ^ top ^

Chinese envoy explains veto of UN Security Council draft resolution on Syria (Xinhua)
2019-09-20
China's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Zhang Jun said Thursday that China has to vote against a Security Council draft resolution on Syria as the text missed the essence of the humanitarian issue and failed to address China's core concerns. The draft prepared by Belgium, Germany and Kuwait won the support of 12 of the 15 members of the Security Council, but was unable to be adopted because of "No" votes from Russia and China, which have veto power. The Security Council closely follows the humanitarian situation in Syria. Regarding the Idlib issue, starting on Aug. 31, Russia and the Syrian government have implemented a cease-fire, which has been maintained in general. The diplomatic efforts by relevant parties of the international community are ongoing and the situation in Idlib is developing toward a positive direction. Under such a context, pushing a draft resolution that has major controversies to a vote is clearly unconstructive, and this move will not achieve the expected result, Zhang said after the vote. Terrorist organizations continue to expand their sphere of influence in the northwest region of Syria. This is the source of the humanitarian issue in Idlib. It also poses a grave risk to the safety and security in the region. The council should be united in tackling this grave challenge together, he said. China has constructively participated in the negotiations of the text and has proposed reasonable revisions. Unfortunately the draft resolution was put to a vote without touching upon the essence of the issue and addressing China's core concerns. For this reason, China voted against it, the Chinese ambassador said. The humanitarian situation in Syria is a very complicated and sensitive issue. All categories of humanitarian issues in Syria should be considered in a comprehensive manner and be addressed in a balanced way, instead of only selectively focusing on certain issues, much less to politicize humanitarian issues, Zhang said. The international community must fully respect the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria; fully listen to the views of the Syrian government; and seek a comprehensive solution to the Syria issue through political means. At the same time, more attention should be paid to the post-war reconstruction of Syria and its economic and social development so as to help Syrian people lead a peaceful, stable and happy life, said the ambassador. China firmly rejects the groundless accusations made by the representatives of Britain and the United States against China at the meeting, Zhang said. China has the right to make an independent decision on how it votes in accordance with to the rights and wrongs of a situation and the interests of the Syrian people. No country has the right to make willful accusation on this, he said. "I would like to point out that the current situation of Syria and the sufferings of the Syrian people are exactly the results of the wrongful conducts by some countries. It is these countries that should reflect on their own behavior," Zhang said. China attaches great importance to the humanitarian situation in Syria and that is why Russia and China proposed an alternative draft resolution, which takes into consideration the humanitarian and counter-terrorism issues of Syria in a comprehensive manner. The draft includes a call for observance of international law in counter-terrorism and assurance of humanitarian access and reflects the humanitarian needs of the Syrian people, Zhang said, asking for support of the council members for the draft resolution, which was later rejected as it failed to win enough positive votes. ^ top ^

Germany warns of 5G attacks by 'nation states' in veiled criticism of Beijing and Huawei (SCMP)
2019-09-20
Germany, in what European diplomats on Thursday called veiled criticism of Beijing and Chinese telecoms giant Huawei Technologies, warned of cybersecurity attacks that could be launched by "nation states or nation state-backed actors" on future 5G networks within the European Union. The German government made those comments in a national risk assessment exercise conducted by the European Commission, spurred by growing public concern over the potential for attacks on networks, devices, programmes and data linked to superfast 5G, or fifth-generation, data transmission. "It's obvious the German government is referring to Huawei and China, given that the company is the leading player in 5G and the biggest concern for Europe," a European diplomatic source told the South China Morning Post. "It will be interesting to see what other EU member states will say in their submissions." The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, is to prepare a coordinated EU-wide evaluation of the potential risks associated with 5G networks by October 3. The commission will propose measures for addressing the risks identified during the assessment process by year's end. Huawei has been at the centre of concerns raised by intelligence officials in Washington, London and Canberra that telecommunications infrastructure can be used by foreign governments to obtain private data. US officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have lobbied governments worldwide for restrictions on the deployment of the company's systems. Huawei, the world's largest telecoms equipment maker, has been appealing to EU member states to oppose the US effort to block it from supplying EU countries with 5G mobile network hardware and software. The US, in turn, has threatened to cut off intelligence-sharing with countries that use the controversial Chinese company's products. But some European countries have found it hard to resist the appeal of Huawei's lower costs and technological superiority over European rivals Nokia and Ericsson. As well, Huawei already has a foothold in the European market, where its hardware can be found in many 4G networks. The EU will finish collecting risk assessments from the 28 member states on October 3. The German submission – containing the comments seen as criticism of Huawei – is to be released by the EU this week, under the bloc's access-to-information rules. Without referring to any company or country, the German assessment lists six areas of 5G vulnerability. The list includes a "large-scale outage or significant disturbance of telecommunications services by nation states or nation state-backed actors exploiting undocumented functions or attacking interdependent critical infrastructures", especially power supplies. Another risk it cited was "espionage of data initiated by nation states or nation state-backed actors". Europe's largest economy also warned that the increased construction of systems for electronic payments, logistical processes and transport on top of 5G networks raised the potential for attacks to have national impact and "bring daily life to a halt". "We expect that attacks, especially by hacker groups and nation states, will challenge us with great diversity and complexity," the German submission said. As reported by Politico on Thursday, Huawei has been temporarily suspended from the Forum of Incident Response and Security Teams (FIRST), an organisation that shares threat intelligence in security incidents among more than 400 member companies in Europe, the Americas, Asia and elsewhere. Group members include incident response teams from Amazon, Google and Alibaba, as well as governmental cybersecurity centres. Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post. An internal email from the organisation's chairman, Serge Droz, seen by Politico, said its board earlier this month "took the unusual step of suspending the membership of Huawei" because of recent changes to export rules by the US Bureau of Industry and Security. Droz added it was "with great disappointment" that FIRST decided to suspend Huawei, calling it a temporary move to protect the organisation and its members. A Huawei spokesman told Politico the company read the statement from FIRST as an endorsement of the principle of cooperation. "Going back to the walled city-states of the Middle Age in the era of 5G is neither realistic nor desirable," the spokesman was quoted. functions or attacking interdependent critical infrastructures (esp. power supply)". ^ top ^

Donald Trump's ready to escalate trade war if deal not agreed soon, says president's adviser on China, Michael Pillsbury (SCMP)
2019-09-19
The United States is set to ramp up the pressure on China if a trade deal is not agreed soon, a key White House adviser said, adding that Washington has so far imposed only "low level tariffs" on the Asian giant. Described by US President Donald Trump as "the leading authority on China", Michael Pillsbury said in an interview in Hong Kong on Thursday that Trump had been "remarkably restrained in the pressure he has brought to bear on China in the trade field". "Does the president have options to escalate the trade war? Yes, the tariffs can be raised higher. These are low level tariffs that could go to 50 per cent or 100 per cent," he said, adding that Trump's critics were wrong to assume the president was "just bluffing" when he threatened an all-out trade war. "There are other options involving the financial markets, Wall Street, you know, the president has a whole range of options," he said. Pillsbury's profile has risen during Trump's presidency, with his book – The Hundred-Year Marathon, which advocates a harder line on China – becoming required reading among Washington politicos. The book claims that Beijing has a century-long plan to usurp the United States as the world's dominant superpower through various tactics, including technology theft. Pillsbury, the American director of the Centre on Chinese Strategy at the Hudson Institute in Washington, is known to speak to Trump regularly on China issues, but has said repeatedly that the president's "most important adviser on China is himself". "I believe President Trump uses social media, especially on China, to convey his thinking. So I reject the idea that I or anyone else is some kind of adviser to him on China," he said. "His focus is revealed frequently in the tweets that I think everybody should take very seriously as presidential statements." In recent months, Trump's Twitter feed has promoted an escalating volume of negative news on China's economy as evidence that his trade tariffs are working. He has commented on the exodus of manufacturers from China to avoid US tariffs, deflation among Chinese factories, job losses related to tariffs, and even "ordered" US firms "to immediately start looking for an alternative to China". Despite those comments, Pillsbury said Trump was not seeking to cripple US-China trade, instead positing that he wanted to "increase the level of trade to rectify the deficit". Trump was not pursuing "cold war 2.0" or "containment", he said, while a much discussed potential decoupling of the world's two largest economies would be "a consequence of no agreement by China". Nor would Trump "instigate demonstrators here in Hong Kong", Pillsbury said when asked if the ongoing protests might become a factor in the trade talks. "We will see this 'black hand' theory proven wrong," he said in reference to Beijing's claim that foreign agents, particularly those from the United States, were supporting the protesters. Pillsbury blamed China for the trade talks in May stalling, when many believed an agreement was imminent. Beijing torpedoed proceedings when it faxed through a heavily redacted version of a 150-page deal, negotiated over a dozen rounds of meetings and more than a year. "It was very close and then something mysterious happened. China reneged," Pillsbury said. "The mystery is the hardliners [in Beijing]. They apparently were not aware of the 150-page deal. They somehow became aware of it in April. Some new players got involved in Beijing and next thing we know their reneging took place." However, should China go back to the original draft text and use it as a template for talks, "we are headed for a really big success". Top trade officials from the two sides are due to resume their negotiations in Washington next month, while lower level discussions to prepare the groundwork for the meetings got under way this week. Speculation is rife that a so-called mini-deal will be agreed, whereby the US agrees to postpone tariffs due to take effect on October 15 and December 15, and in exchange China agrees to mass purchases of US farm products. Pillsbury dismissed the view that the sort of deal in which agricultural goods and national security issues, such as Huawei's access to US supplies, appeared to be conflated was "transactional". Critics of China – including Pillsbury in his bestselling book – have long called for structural changes to the way its economy works. A deal that stopped short of such reforms was likely to face criticism in Washington, but that sort of censure was "the language of the president's enemies" and "fake news", Pillsbury said, adding that such critics "feed on super hawks like Steve Bannon ", who "does not understand much about China". If a major deal was to be achieved it would be via a face-to-face summit between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who had spoken "nearly 30 times on the phone, often an hour each", Pillsbury said. Throughout the interview, Pillsbury – who has advised the White House on Chinese affairs since the presidency of Richard Nixon – repeatedly praised Trump's handling of the trade war and the "personal relationship" he had cultivated with Xi. Asked whether Trump might have jeopardised that connection when he asked his 64 million Twitter followers, "who is our bigger enemy?" – in reference to Xi and Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell – Pillsbury said the president was "joking about the level of damage to the economy" that each man was perceived to have inflicted. ^ top ^

China and Russia agree to continue alliance building in defence of multilateralism (SCMP)
2019-09-19
China and Russia ended their three-day heads of government meeting in Moscow on Wednesday with a pledge to stand together against "unilateralism and protectionism". Their joint statement made veiled references to Washington's trade policy, saying that increasing political uncertainty was making a slowdown in the global economy worse. "The two sides believe that the current multilateral trading system is facing challenges, trade protectionism is rising and unilateral measures that violate the rules of the World Trade Organisation are becoming more frequent," said the statement issued by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and his counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, as their talks ended. At a meeting on Wednesday with Vladimir Putin, Li told the Russian president that China and Russia had taken strides in their relations since Monday, relations that were "upgraded" at a landmark meeting in June between Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Li told Putin that China would continue to work with Russia to uphold multilateral global governance and trade systems, with the United Nations and World Trade Organisation at their heart. Putin called Russia-China cooperation "a most important factor in global affairs", and said that he looked forward to meeting Xi in South America in November, referring to the BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa] summit scheduled for November 13 and 14 in Brazil, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Chile on November 17 and 18. Li and Medvedev promised to push bilateral trade from last year's US$107 billion to more than US$200 billion by 2024. The prime ministers also agreed to reduce barriers to agricultural trade on both sides, and to increase Chinese imports of Russian produce such as wheat and soybeans, goods burdened by tariffs in the US-China trade war. "Russia-China ties may become more intertwined with further alienation of the two by the US," said Danil Bochkov, a contributing author at the Russian International Affairs Council, a non-profit academic and diplomatic think tank in Moscow. He said international issues of mutual concern, including Iran, were pushing Russia and China closer. "President [Donald] Trump opted for maximum pressure tactics [on Iran] while both China and Russia tended to adhere to inclusion of the Islamic republic in the regional security agenda and push for cooperation with it," said Bochkov. Washington blamed Tehran for military strikes on Saudi Arabian oil production facilities this week, while both Russia and China cautioned the US to produce evidence before making accusations. Last month, the Trump administration placed additional sanctions on Russia in connection with the March 2018 poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain. ^ top ^

China's border region expedites reform to build a financial gateway for ASEAN (Xinhua)
2019-09-19
Pham Thi Nguyet Hoa, a vendor living in Vietnam's Mong Cai, comes to Dongxing, a southern Chinese port city, to sell Vietnam fruits every day. When night falls, she often ends up with thousands of yuan in her pocket, much more than what she can earn at home. "Most of my customers are Chinese, and it is very convenient to exchange Chinese yuan to Vietnamese Dong as many banks in Dongxing have this currency exchange service," said Pham. Tourism has been a pillar industry in the border city of southern China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Dongxing port saw 12 million people, of which half were tourists, pass through last year, ranking first among all land ports in China. In the first six months this year, tourism consumption at the port exceeded 6.2 billion yuan (874 million U.S. dollars), up 40.4 percent from the year before. The flourishing border tourism has brought a huge demand for currency exchange, with a slew of financial reforms rolled out in recent years. In 2014, the ABC China (Dongxing Experimental Zone) ASEAN Currency business center was established in Dongxing, allowing direct convertibility of Chinese yuan and Vietnamese Dong. In February 2018, a total of 8 million yuan was transferred in cash from Vietnam to China, marking the first cross-border cash transfer in Guangxi between China and Vietnam. Fan Zuojun, vice president of Guangxi University, said the cross-border cash transfer will further promote the financial cooperation between China and Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as well as deepen reform and push forward the internationalization of the Chinese currency in the region. China and ASEAN countries have always maintained close relations in trade. In January 2010, the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area was set up, which has significantly boosted bilateral trade. China has maintained its position as the largest trading partner of ASEAN for 10 consecutive years, and trade between China and ASEAN has skyrocketed tenfold from 16 years ago to 587.8 billion U.S. dollars in 2018. In the first half of 2019, ASEAN became China's second-largest trading partner, with bilateral trade volume reaching 291.85 billion U.S. dollars, up 4.2 percent year on year. Guangxi's geographical advantages have also given it huge development dividends over the past decades. ASEAN has been Guangxi's largest trade partner for 19 consecutive years, and trade volume between Guangxi and ASEAN in the first seven months of this year topped 128 billion yuan, accounting for 48.7 percent of Guangxi's total foreign trade. Now with the launch of the Guangxi Pilot Free Trade Zone (FTZ) in August, bilateral trade exchanges are expected to embrace another golden opportunity. The pilot FTZ, with a total area of nearly 120 square km, will focus on modern financial services, smart logistics, digital economy, port shipping logistics, international trade and cross-border tourism, among others. Guangxi vows to make greater efforts to consolidate its financial strength and build itself into an ASEAN-oriented financial portal, with over 90 financial reform measures being rolled out to further facilitate trade and investment and promote innovation in financial services with ASEAN countries. ^ top ^

Chinese access to Chilean port may give Antarctic exploration activities a boost (SCMP)
2019-09-19
Chinese access to a strategic port in Chile close to Antarctica, which is under discussion, could boost the country's exploration activities in the resource-rich southern polar region, according to analysts. They also said that while Beijing was steadily expanding its presence in Antarctica, most of its activities were commercial and China had not made public any plans for military deployment in the area. Beijing is in talks with Chile over access to the Punta Arenas port in the South American country's southernmost region "for the realisation of projects at their bases located in the Antarctic continent", according to a Chilean foreign ministry statement. The ministry also said that China hoped to use Punta Arenas "as a base port for the displacement of materials and personnel, both by sea and by air". Hu Zhiyong, an expert with the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said Punta Arenas – which is located on the Strait of Magellan – would be an ideal jumping-off point for Chinese exploration vessels headed to Antarctica. "Oceanic voyages, particularly those with a scientific purpose, need a lot of supplies and it would be much easier if countries near the Antarctic could make it more convenient for Chinese vessels," Hu said. "Most countries would like to offer this kind of support as long as the voyages are not for military purposes," he added. Elizabeth Buchanan, from the Australian National University, said access to the Chilean port could give Beijing more options on where to base its Antarctic operations, since Punta Arenas was much closer to Antarctica than Hobart, capital of the Australian island state of Tasmania. Hobart has become an important gateway for Chinese ships heading to Antarctica since President Xi Jinping visited the city in 2014. "Being able to diversify port options to base Antarctic operations from means that should Hobart, or other avenues, be restricted for whatever reasons, Beijing would still have the capacity to access the continent [and that would make] it difficult to cut Chinese access in a sense," she said. Buchanan said that through robust relationships with key players in Antarctica, such as Chile and Australia, Beijing may also gain political leverage in the region, which could help China to establish its "global polar power identity". China has increased its stake in the region, rich in oil and minerals, since it joined the Antarctic Treaty in 1983. It now has consultative status to vote in the Antarctic Treaty System. There are four scientific stations in Antarctica and a fifth is under construction. China's Kunlun Station, only 7.3km southwest of Dome A, the loftiest point on the Antarctic Plateau, is the highest base in Antarctica. It has also become a popular destination for wealthy Chinese tourists seeking a taste of the world's last great untouched wilderness. Last year, some 8,273 Chinese tourists visited the region, accounting for 16 per cent of the total and second only to US travellers, according to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators. ^ top ^

Beijing welcomes relationship with Solomon Islands after Taiwan split (China Daily)
2019-09-18
Beijing said on Tuesday that it is willing to work with the Solomon Islands to develop a relationship after the Pacific island nation decided to establish diplomatic ties with China. "We believe that to establish and develop diplomatic relations with China, the world's second largest economy with 1.4 billion people and bright prospects, will bring the Solomon Islands unprecedented opportunities for development," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a news conference in Beijing. On Monday, lawmakers voted 27-0 in favor of the Solomon Islands government's decision to sever its "diplomatic ties" with Taiwan authorities and establish a diplomatic relationship with China. This once again "fully testifies to the fact that the one-China principle meets the shared aspiration of the people and constitutes an irresistible trend of the times," Hua said. When asked about the exact date to formally establish ties with the Solomon Islands, the spokeswoman cited a pair of old Chinese sayings: "When a melon is ripe, it falls off its stem; and when water flows, a channel is formed." The Solomon Islands was the sixth country to break official ties with Taiwan authorities and establish diplomatic ties with China since Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen became the island's leader in 2016. Hua also rebuked comments made by some people in Taiwan about "dollar diplomacy". "People who have been accustomed to 'dollar diplomacy' maybe cannot understand that neither principle nor trust can be bought with money," Hua said. In a statement released on Monday night, Hua said China highly commends and supports the decision that the Solomon Islands made "as a sovereign and independent country" to recognize the one-China principle. According to Hua, President Xi Jinping's meeting last year with leaders of Pacific island countries with diplomatic ties to China opened up a new chapter in their relationship. Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman of the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, said the Solomon Islands made the right decision and that it will benefit the country and its people. He condemned the Democratic Progressive Party, the ruling party of Taiwan, who accused the mainland of "dollar diplomacy" and "political suppression". "It is a lie of self-deception that aims to divert attention. The DPP is attempting to drive a wedge between the mainland and the rest of the world," he said. Ma said the DPP is responsible for undermining the common political ground established by the 1992 Consensus and the peaceful development of cross-Straits relations. He urged the island to return to the consensus, saying that it is the only choice to safeguard the interests and well-being of compatriots in Taiwan and the peaceful development of cross-Straits relations. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

China's workforce saving more for retirement amid concerns about state pension, survey finds (SCMP)
2019-09-20
The number of Chinese saving for retirement increased slightly in the past year, data from a new survey showed Thursday, as worries increased that the government's scheme would run out of money before most younger workers retired. Half of the 50,000 respondents aged between 18 and 60 said they had begun putting away private savings, up from 46 per cent last year, according to the China retirement readiness survey released by Fidelity International and Ant Financial. Among 18 to 34-year-olds – roughly three quarters of those surveyed – 48 per cent said they were saving for their future, an increase of four percentage points year-on-year. However, the survey found the average monthly saving dropped from 1,389 yuan (US$196) to 1,052 yuan ($148), due to financial pressures including parental care, education and career development. The results come amid growing concern in China about the financial stability of the state pension fund due to the country's ageing population and shrinking workforce. The government's decision earlier this year to cut company's social security contribution rates to help them weather the economic slowdown only exacerbated the problem. The pension fund, which already relies on government subsidies, held a reserve of 4.8 trillion (US$677 billion) at the end of 2018, with incoming revenue of about 3.7 trillion yuan (US$522 billion) and 3.2 trillion yuan ($451 billion) in outlays. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences warned in April the fund would peak at 6.99 trillion yuan (US$973 billion) in 2027, before gradually running dry by 2035. The gap between contributions and outlays could reach 11 trillion yuan (US$1.5 billion) by 2050, with each retired citizen supported by only one worker, down from the current level of two, the government think tank calculated. China needed to "catch up" to other countries like the United States to avert future problems, said Ren Cheng, a senior research adviser at Fidelity Investments. China has a three-pillar pension system that includes state pension, a supplementary voluntary pension scheme between companies and staff, and a commercial programme, said Dong Keyong, director of pension finance research centre at Renmin University of China. However, the structure was "unbalanced" and too reliant on the first pillar, Dong said. The size of China's annuity plan is about 600 billion yuan (US$85 billion). Regulators approved dozens of pension target securities investment funds from August 2018, with a combined size of more than 1 trillion yuan (US$141 billion). "[China's] biggest problem is demographic changes," Dong said. "Our fast-ageing reality will force us to change our current system. How can you pay [pension] upon receipt?" The number of mainland Chinese citizens older than 60, the normal retirement age at which men can claim pension benefits, reached 249 million at the end of 2018, some 18 per cent of the total population and close to three quarters of the population of the US. Beijing is taking various steps to address the issue, including taking in more money from the disposal of state-owned enterprises and capital from provincial and municipal pension pools. It is also considering extending the retirement age from 60 for men and 55 for women. The National Council of Social Security Fund managed a 2.2 trillion yuan (US$310 billion) reserve of social security funds last year. ^ top ^

China Focus: China publishes white paper on progress of women's cause in 70 years (Xinhua)
2019-09-19
China on Thursday issued a white paper on the progress of women's cause in the past 70 years since the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC). The white paper, titled "Equality, Development and Sharing: Progress of Women's Cause in 70 Years Since New China's Founding," was released by the State Council Information Office. The founding of the PRC in 1949 ushered in a new era for women in China, changing their social status from an oppressed and enslaved group in the past thousands of years to masters of their own fate, the white paper said. As the Chinese nation is rising and growing richer and stronger, Chinese women's social status has undergone enormous changes, it said. "The great achievements China has made in the development of women's cause is attributed to the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC)," said Huang Xiaowei, vice president of the All-China Women's Federation, at a press conference. The progress made by Chinese women led by the CPC is not only of considerable significance to China's national rejuvenation but also a notable contribution to human civilization progress, Huang said. As China's development has entered a new era, promoting gender equality and women's overall development at a higher level not only meets opportunities but also has a long way to go, the white paper said. Under the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, China will always adhere to safeguarding and improving women's livelihoods, promote women's all-round development, and lead hundreds of millions of women in working for national rejuvenation, it said. China has promulgated laws and regulations to fully protect women's economic rights and interests, especially the right to equal employment, ensuring equal pay to men and women for equal work and eliminating gender discrimination in employment, the white paper said. Women account for 40 percent of the labor force in China. In 2017, there were 340 million working women, doubling the figure in 1978. Women's job options have greatly expanded. In 2010, 46.8 percent of women worked in industry and service sectors, up 24.8 percentage points from 1982. China has drawn up and implemented laws to guarantee that women share equal rights with men to vote, to be elected, and to participate in the administration of state affairs, the white paper said, adding that over the past four decades since the reform and opening-up, new opportunities and channels have been opened to women to participate in politics. In 2017, women accounted for 52.4 percent of public servants newly-recruited by the central government organs and their affiliates, and the proportion was 44 percent among local governments. The ratio of women deputies to the 13th National People's Congress (NPC) was 24.9 percent, 12.9 percentage points higher than that of the first NPC in 1954. Chinese women's education level has been dramatically lifted over the past seven decades, according to the white paper. The illiteracy rate among females aged 15 and above dropped from 90 percent before the founding of the PRC to 7.3 percent in 2017, which was a historic change. The gender gap in the nine-year compulsory education has been basically eliminated. In 2017, the net primary school enrollment rates of boys and girls were both 99.9 percent while the proportions of girls in primary schools and junior high schools were 46.5 percent and 46.4 percent respectively, 18.5 and 20.8 percentage points higher than those in 1951 respectively In 2017, the gross high school enrollment rate was 88.3 percent, with girls accounting for 47.7 percent of all students in high schools. Meanwhile, women accounted for 52.5 percent of students in regular institutions of higher education, 28.4 percentage points higher than in 1978, 32.7 percentage points higher than in 1949. Women's health has further improved in China. Women's average life expectancy grew to 79.4 years in 2015, an increase of 10.1 years over 1981 and 42.7 years over 1949, according to the white paper. The maternal mortality rate has fallen 79.4 percent from 88.8 per 100,000 in 1990 to 18.3 per 100,000 in 2018, meaning that China has achieved the United Nations Millennium Development Goals ahead of time. ^ top ^

China planning 226GW of new coal-fired power projects, environmental groups say (SCMP)
2019-09-19
China's total planned coal-fired power projects now stand at 226.2 gigawatts, the highest in the world and more than twice the amount of new capacity on the books in India, according to data published by environmental groups on Thursday. The projects approved by China amount to nearly 40 per cent of the world's total planned coal-fired power plants, according to the Global Coal Exit List database run by German environmental organisation Urgewald and 30 other partner organisations. China's new projects would be more than Germany's existing installed power capacity of about 200GW at the end of last year. The environmental groups said that 400 of the 746 companies in their global database were still planning to expand their coal operations. The companies include miners and power generators, and account for 89 per cent of the world's thermal coal production and nearly 87 per cento of its installed coal-fired power capacity. Of the total, 161 are Chinese. China, the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, will be the focus of attention at next week's United Nations summit on climate action in New York, with Beijing promising more ambition when it comes to tackling global warming. China has been under pressure to curb investments in coal at home and overseas but its financial institutions have continued to support such projects. Beijing said on Tuesday in a position paper ahead of the UN meeting that it would remain on "the clean energy and low-carbon development path" but stopped short of setting new targets. China has cut the share of coal in its total energy mix from more than 68 per cent in 2012 to 59 per cent at the end of last year, but overall consumption has continued to increase. The country had 1,160GW of coal-fired power at the end of July, amounting to 62.8 per cent of the its total installed capacity. A Chinese industry group suggested the total capacity could eventually settle at 1,300GW. ^ top ^

Journalists in Chinese state media to be tested on loyalty to President Xi Jinping (SCMP)
2019-09-19
Thousands of reporters and editors working in Chinese state media will have to sit a nationwide exam to test their loyalty to President Xi Jinping. Some will be asked to take part in "pilot tests" in early October, before the exams are held nationwide, according to a notice late last month from the media oversight office of the Communist Party's propaganda department. It did not say when the nationwide exams would be held. About 10,000 reporters and editors from 14 state-run online media outlets in Beijing are expected to sit the "pilot tests" using the Xuexi Qiangguo mobile app, a media source who requested anonymity said on Wednesday. Often compared to the Quotations of Chairman Mao – or the "little red book" as it was known in the West – Xuexi Qiangguo is essentially a news aggregation platform for articles, video clips and documentaries about the president's political philosophy. Launched in January by the propaganda department, it is an example of the party using tech to strengthen its ideological control in China. The name translates as "study to strengthen the nation", but also plays on the character "Xi" to suggest it is a way for people to learn about their head of state. The media oversight office made clear that updated press cards, which are essential for those working in the industry, would only be issued to journalists who had passed the exam. Those who fail will have one chance to take the test again, according to the notice. Reporters and editors will be able to prepare for the exam using sample questions that will be uploaded to the app from Monday, news website Sohu.com reported on Wednesday. The exam has five sections, with at least two of them focused on Xi's political thinking and one on Marxism, according to the report. One editor who works at a state-run news outlet had already begun preparing for the exam, and said he was optimistic that he would pass. "I'm very good at this kind of stuff – I cover it every day pretty much," said the editor, who did not want to be identified. "I'm confident that I won't fail." It was compulsory for all party members to download Xuexi Qiangguo and register using their real names when it was first launched, to "study" Xi's thinking. But after complaints, it is no longer mandatory and members are instead encouraged to use it. The app can keep track of users' progress and information collected can be accessed by propaganda department officials. ^ top ^

Xi Focus: Xi stresses ecological protection and high-quality development of Yellow River (Xinhua)
2019-09-19
Chinese President Xi Jinping called for concerted efforts to promote ecological protection and high-quality development of the Yellow River. Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the remarks while chairing a symposium Wednesday during his inspection tour to Henan Province. "The protection of the Yellow River is critical to the great rejuvenation and sustainable development of the Chinese nation," said Xi, adding that it is a major national strategy. Noting that the peace of the Yellow River is significant to the stability of China, Xi said Chinese people have struggled against the floods and droughts of the Yellow River since ancient times, and the Party and the state have attached great importance to the harnessing and development of the Yellow River after the founding of New China in 1949. Originating in Qinghai Province, the Yellow River, known as China's "Mother River" and the cradle of the Chinese civilization, runs through nine provinces and autonomous regions including Shaanxi and Henan before emptying into the Bohai Sea in east China's Shandong Province. The river got its name Huanghe in Chinese because of its yellow, muddy water, which appears as it runs through the Loess Plateau in northwest China. The 5,464-km-long waterway feeds about 12 percent of China's population, irrigates about 15 percent of arable land, supports 14 percent of national GDP, and supplies water to more than 60 cities. Xi also pointed out difficulties and problems in protecting the Yellow River, including fragile ecological environment, severe condition of the water resources preservation and development quality that needs to be improved. Calling for strengthened protection of the ecological environment of the Yellow River basin, Xi said that differences between the upper, middle and lower reaches of the river should be fully considered, given that the Yellow River ecosystem is an organic whole. Further efforts should be made to ensure the long-term stability of the Yellow River, Xi said, stressing that although the river has not seen major dangers for many years, we should not relax vigilance. Over the past 2,500 years, the Yellow River has broken its dikes 1,600 times and has made 26 major changes in its course in the lower reaches. Xi also stressed better use of water resources, with rational planning of the population, urban and industrial development to resolutely curb unreasonable water demand. When pursuing high-quality development in the region, authorities should actively explore new ways with regional characteristics and participate in the construction of the Belt and Road to promote higher level of opening-up, Xi noted. Meanwhile, Xi called for preserving, inheriting and carrying forward the Yellow River culture. "The Yellow River culture, as an important part of the Chinese civilization, is the root and soul of the Chinese nation," Xi said, calling for telling well the "Yellow River story" to pool spiritual strength for the realization of the Chinese dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. For over 3,000 years, some major dynasties in Chinese history built their capitals in the river basin, making the region the centers of politics, economy and culture in the country. The Yellow River witnessed the birth of the four era-defining inventions in ancient China -- printing techniques, papermaking, gunpowder and the compass, which all emerged in the drainage basin. At Wednesday's meeting, Vice Premier Han Zheng, also a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee called for efforts to earnestly study and implement the spirit of Xi's speech and strive to make new progress in the ecological protection and high-quality development of the Yellow River basin. ^ top ^

Penetration rate of Putonghua reaches nearly 80 percent in China (Global Times)
2019-09-19
During China's Putonghua promotion week, which falls on the third week of September, the Ministry of Education said the penetration rate of Putonghua reached nearly 80 percent in China, Guangming Daily reported. The ratio of people who can use standard Chinese characters among the literate population surpassed 95 percent, and the domestic illiteracy rate has seen a large drop from 80 percent in the early stages of the founding of the People's Republic of China to below 4 percent, the ministry noted. As urbanization speeds up in China, the promotional work of Putonghua has changed its mode from "being asked to speak" to "I want to speak," the report said. Qin Heng, a migrant worker from South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, told Guangming Daily that when she was looking for jobs, she lost many opportunities because of her poor Putonghua. "Since then, I kept watching TV to learn the language every night," Qin said. However, there is still a gap between the penetration rate of Putonghua in ethnic minority areas and rural China and that in urban cities, presenting an obstacle for targeted poverty reduction work. "To get rid of poverty, you should keep up your spirits; to keep up your spirits, you should speak the language." This idea has become a consensus in society. In Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, "the level of Putonghua spoken by local children has greatly improved. They can now use relatively standard Putonghua to communicate with people," Gulimila Tursunjiang, a graduate student who has taught children Putonghua in a summer camp, told Guangming Daily. "The promotion and popularization of Putonghua not only aims to help children communicate without barriers, but also to open the door to richer information, knowledge and access for them," Gulimila said. According to the Education Minister Chen Baosheng, "[We should] promote the national common language vigorously, enhance language work at schools and strive to achieve the goal to make Putonghua basically universal by 2020." During the Putonghua promotion week, various activities were held in different parts of China, such as public speaking competitions in Putonghua, language plus vocational skills training and candidate selection events for the popular TV program Chinese Poetry Competition.  ^ top ^

China ramps up security from Beijing to Guangdong ahead of National Day (SCMP)
2019-09-19
China has stepped up security across the country, especially in the capital of Beijing, ahead of National Day celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of Communist Party rule on October 1. The tightened security, which also extends to cyberspace, covers sensitive areas ranging from the Xinjiang region in the far west to Beijing, where a grand military parade is planned, and Guangdong, the southern province neighbouring protest-hit Hong Kong. Public Security Minister Zhao Kezhi stressed the need for heightened measures on Monday, when he chaired a national anti-terrorism conference in Beijing. "[We need to] adopt the most stringent requirements and meticulous measures to prevent violent and terrorist-related incidents and ensure social stability," Zhao said at the forum. In his speech, Zhao made special mention of Xinjiang, warning that the challenges and complexity of the situation there remained acute, and calling on public security officers to maintain tough anti-terrorism measures. Beijing faces a growing international outcry over its detention of an estimated 1 million Uygurs in the remote region. This year's National Day celebrations come amid a protracted trade war with the United States, and as Hong Kong has been rocked by more than three months of anti-government protests sparked by a now-dead extradition bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent to the mainland for trial. In Beijing, the stepped-up security was clearly visible on Wednesday. There were long queues of tourists at Tiananmen Square, with all visitors subject to extra checks at newly added security stations where their bags and belongings were scanned. A security guard outside the entrance to Oriental Plaza, one of the city's biggest shopping malls located in the Wangfujing area, explained the new procedure to puzzled shoppers. "Sorry for the trouble, everyone has to go through a security check now before they go in – it's just until October 2," he said. Two police officers were carrying out random identity checks on passers-by outside a subway station in the shopping area, but insisted they were just "regular checks". According to a Beijing policeman involved in coordinating security in the city ahead of National Day, all officers were told three months ago that they could not take any leave in the lead-up to October 1. "The most important part [of the security work] is the military parade. We have to make sure the traffic arrangements near Tiananmen Square go smoothly, and also the surrounding areas. Other than that, the flow of people in the area and also hotels will be subject to extra security checks," the police officer said. All major roads near Tiananmen Square and along Changan Avenue, where the military parade will take place, were blocked last weekend for rehearsals. The same restrictions will apply this weekend. Security has also been tightened at train stations. A police officer from nearby Tianjin said passengers on all trains going to Beijing would be checked again after they boarded, in addition to the normal luggage checks. "We advise passengers who are not going to Beijing to avoid taking trains that stop in the capital, since they will have to arrive earlier to board the train for the security check," the police officer said. Meanwhile, some residents are being reminded to take safety precautions in their homes. One woman said a security guard from her housing estate was knocking on doors on Tuesday night, handing out notices reminding residents to switch off the power, not to block fire doors, and to secure all windows and doors. "In all my years of living in Beijing, I've never had a visit from a security guard, so I chatted with him and he told me they needed to make sure nothing went wrong for National Day," she said. A ban on flying kites, drones and pigeons in the capital also takes effect from Friday until October 2, according to a notice on the municipal government's website. And courier services in Beijing have been told to take extra security measures during that period. "Any item that poses uncertain safety risks or any sender who doesn't want to have their item checked when asked will not be able to send a parcel," according to a notice from the State Post Bureau last month. Tightened internet controls, meanwhile, have prompted complaints from Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of state tabloid Global Times. Hu took to social media on Wednesday to question the restrictions, saying they had made life difficult for the newspaper's reporters. "National Day is approaching and it's extremely difficult to access the web; even our work at the Global Times is affected," Hu wrote in a post on Weibo, which he later deleted. "The overwhelming majority of Chinese people are patriotic and love the party, with strong political convictions," the post on Hu's personal account said. "This country is not fragile. I suggest society should have greater access to the outside internet, which will benefit the strength and maturity of China's public opinion, scientific research and external communications, as well as China's national interests." ^ top ^

 

Beijing

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Shanghai

Shanghai speeds up IPO process for government assets as city's economy slows sharply (SCMP)
2019-09-20
Shanghai has stepped up the process to launch IPOs of 14 government-owned companies after the city reported lacklustre economic growth in the first half. Bai Tinghui, head of Shanghai State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, said on Thursday that a drastic reform to modify the share structure and management style of these companies was under way as the city embarks on an ambitious plan to building a word-class free-trade port at Lingang. "We are making plans for each of the 14 companies," he said. "We need to accelerate the pace [for stock market listing] and strengthen efforts to enforce mixed-ownership." The companies shortlisted for the initial public offerings include Bright Food Group, the mainland's second-largest food conglomerate, semiconductor maker Huahong Group and tourism services operator Jin Jiang International Holding. Bai said that some of the 14 companies had kicked off the IPO process, filing applications to the China Securities Regulatory Commission. But he did not say whether Hong Kong stock exchange would be an optional listing venue for the Shanghai state-owned firms. The Shanghai state-owned asset watchdog said that it would eventually list all the local state-owned companies that face market competition. Since 2014, Beijing has been pushing mixed-ownership in state-owned companies in a bid to introduce privately owned or overseas companies as stakeholders. Initial public offerings, under which public funds are raised to dilute the state ownership, was also being used as part of the mixed-ownership reform. Shanghai's economic output expanded 5.9 per cent between January and June, 0.4 percentage point lower than the national figure of 6.3 per cent. The city's economy grew 6.9 per cent in the first six months of last year. The ongoing US-China trade war continues to affect the city's economy as exports and imports used to be a key driving force for growth. It was this booming trade that made Shanghai the world's largest container port, a ranking which it has held since 2009. The mainland's most developed metropolis recently published guidelines to create a Hong Kong-like free port after including a 119.5 sq km (46.1 sq mi) area at Lingang in its free-trade zone. Lingang is an untapped area covering a total 800 sq km (309 sq mi), which connects to the Yangshan deep water port. Bai said that Lingang Group, a local government-owned developer, would build top-class infrastructure works inside the new area to attract top international industrial firms. US bestselling electric car maker Tesla started building the Gigafactory 3, its first plant outside the US, at Lingang early this year. The plant will be operational later this year. China's state-owned businesses have long been perceived as enjoying market monopoly and raking in easy profit. The incumbent leadership is urging the state-owned companies to conduct ownership reform to enhance their corporate governance and profitability, and in the process boost the slowing economy. ^ top ^

 

Guangdong

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Tibet

New US bill demands China grant consulate in Tibet and stay away from Dalai Lama succession (SCMP)
2019-09-19
US lawmakers have unveiled new legislation that would prohibit Beijing from opening any new consulates on American soil until the US is permitted to establish its own diplomatic office in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa. The bill, introduced in the House of Representatives by James McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat, also lays out a road map for punitive action against Chinese officials who interfere in the Dalai Lama's succession. The legislation was introduced on Friday but only made public this week; a companion piece of legislation in the Senate, led by Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, is expected in the coming days. The law would "strengthen US support for the Tibetan people in their struggle for human rights, religious freedom and genuine autonomy", McGovern said in a statement on Wednesday. The bill's condition that Beijing not be allowed to expand its diplomatic stations in the US until Washington can establish a consulate in Lhasa echoes the tit-for-tat nature of last year's Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act. Signed into law in December, that bill prohibited entry to the US of Chinese officials "substantially involved" in the formulation of policies that restricted foreigners' access to Tibet. The entry ban would continue as long as Tibet access restrictions remained in place. Beijing, which views other governments' critiques of its Tibet policies as interference in its internal affairs, is likely to bristle at the prospect of a foreign consulate in the region, which is currently home to only one diplomatic station – Nepal's. "In itself they shouldn't have [any] issue if they really believe that Tibet is part of China and they really believe that everything is fine in Tibet," said Bhuchung Tsering, who was part of a task force that assisted talks – since stalled – between Beijing and the Dalai Lama's representatives in the 2000s. "But they know that they have questions about legitimacy in Tibet," said Tsering, who is vice-president of the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT). "They know that everything is not fine in Tibet." The new bill, the Tibetan Policy and Support Act of 2019, is an amendment to the Tibet Policy Act of 2002, which codified in broad terms US government support for the Tibetan people. Seventeen years later, supporters of the new legislation say that decreasing religious freedoms for Tibetans, rising concerns about water security and Beijing's recent statements that the central government must approve the successor to the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader who turned 84 this year, call for an updated policy response from the US. The new bill requires that the US administration consider any Chinese official who is "complicit in identifying or installing a government approved candidate" as Tibet's spiritual leader, contrary to the current Dalai Lama's instructions, to be subject to economic sanctions and prohibited from entering the US. Beijing maintains that Tibetans are free to practice religion, provided that expressions of faith abide by regulations set out by the regional government. "The religious and spiritual freedoms and normal religious activities of the masses are protected by law," Wu Yingjie, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) chief of the Tibet autonomous region, said last Thursday at a press briefing in Beijing. Many human rights groups outside China dispute that defence. For example, New York-based Human Rights Watch said in its 2019 annual report that the authorities in Tibet continued to "severely restrict religious freedom, speech, movement, and assembly". Meanwhile, Freedom House this year ranked Tibet as the second-least free region in the world, behind only civil war-ravaged Syria. The Washington-based organisation gave Tibet scores of zero out of four for most of its metrics, including freedom to practice religion, freedom of assembly and due process in the rule of law. "As far as the situation inside Tibet, it was bad 17 years ago, and it's bad [now], if not worse," said Lobsang Sangay, president of the Central Tibet Administration (CTA) – the Tibetan government-in-exile. Sangay, who leads the CTA from its headquarters in northern India, was in Washington last week to encourage senators and representatives to sign on to the new legislation. He also met with members of the Trump administration, though he declined to say exactly with whom the meetings were held. Following a meeting with Sangay last Tuesday, Senator Lindsey Graham said it was a "disgrace what China is doing to the people of Tibet as they're being repressed more and more each year". "We'll continue to stand against China and with the people of Tibet," the Republican from South Carolina said in a Twitter post. Tibet had been a bipartisan issue in Washington for decades, Sangay said, "but to formalise it into a bill makes it into a more concrete and specific and updated policy". The legislation comes as Washington and Beijing remain locked in a trade dispute that has seen bilateral tensions spill out over multiple fronts. The administration's aggressive position on China has dovetailed with the views of an increasingly hawkish Congress, where the Senate last week passed a bill calling for sanctions against CCP officials over the mass internment of Uygurs and other minority groups in western China. Also last week, lawmakers in the House introduced a bill that would prohibit the sale of tear gas and other crowd-control equipment to Hong Kong authorities amid ongoing clashes between police and pro-democracy protesters. Yet while human rights concerns have guided multiple China-focused bills in the government's congressional branch, US President Donald Trump has held back on such matters for fear of derailing trade talks, a source of worry for some in the Tibetan advocacy community. "There is that concern that this administration may sacrifice Tibet and human rights in general when it comes to some kind of reaching [of] an understanding with China [on trade]," said the ICT's Tsering. As with many other State Department positions under the Trump administration, the role of special coordinator for Tibetan issues – established through the Tibet Policy Act of 2002 – has not been filled. If passed, McGovern's bill would expand the special coordinator's diplomatic function, requiring the person to broker international coalitions to oppose restrictions on religious freedom in Tibet. The legislation also includes provisions around water security in Tibet, where Chinese scientists have said temperatures on the Tibetan plateau have risen at a rate that is significantly higher than the global average. The warming trend is accelerating glacial retreat and threatening the supply of fresh water to hundreds of millions of people in East and South Asia, the scientists said. Under the new legislation, the US would be required to collaborate with China in monitoring such environmental challenges and encourage Beijing to work with regional nations to mitigate the downstream effects of its expanding hydropower projects in Tibet. With the US drawing attention to water security, Asian countries may be encouraged to engage with Beijing on Tibet, having previously been hesitant to do so because of the autonomous region's politicisation, Tsering said. "But water is one area where they can take it up without going into the politics of it," he said. ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

UN chief Antonio Guterres rejects claim he did not condemn China over Muslims detained in Xinjiang (SCMP)
2019-09-19
UN secretary general Antonio Guterres has strongly rejected claims by five human rights groups that he has not condemned the Chinese government's detention of more than 1 million Muslims in Xinjiang, saying he has spoken out forcefully. "I don't think anyone has been more persistent and more clear in talking to the Chinese authorities in relation to this issue than myself," he said on Wednesday. "It is absolutely not true that I've only done discreet diplomacy." The official said that on his visit to Beijing in April, "not only did I raise the issue, but I made it public". The five rights groups said in a letter to Guterres circulated on Tuesday that he would make an important contribution to addressing "one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time" by speaking out against China's internment of the Uygurs and members of other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups and calling for the immediate closure of the detention camps. The letter was signed by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists, the International Federation for Human Rights and the World Uygur Conference. Guterres said he told the Chinese "that it is very important to act in a way that each community feels that their identity is respected and that they belong, at the same time, to the society as a whole". "There could not be a more clear message," he said. "So, if there is an area where I believe I've been doing publicly much more than many other leaders around the world [it] is this." Guterres said he would continue acting to guarantee that "all human rights in all circumstances are fully respected in that situation". "It will mean to do everything that is necessary for human rights to be respected," he said when asked if the detention should be closed. Criticism has grown over China's internment of the Uygurs and other Muslims, and Guterres has been criticised previously by human rights groups and some governments for his behind-the-scenes approach and failure to address their plight publicly. China's government insists the detention sites are "vocational" centres aimed at training and skills development. It has sharply criticised 22 Western countries that called for an end to mass arbitrary detentions and other abuses of Uygurs and other Muslims in the Xinjiang region. In a report earlier this year to counter criticism of the camps and other oppressive security in the traditionally Islamic region, China said it had arrested nearly 13,000 people it described as "terrorists" and had broken up hundreds of "terrorist gangs" in Xinjiang since 2014. The five rights organisations cautioned Guterres "against any action that might lend credence to Beijing's narrative that the unlawful detention of over a million Uygurs and other Muslims is a necessary measure to counter terrorism". ^ top ^

Xinjiang's fight against extremism, terrorism paying off (China Daily)
2019-09-19
China has adopted a series of measures to combat extremism and safeguard rights in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region in recent years, and the region has achieved notable results in socioeconomic development, experts said at a United Nations meeting in Geneva. The meeting, a side event of the 42nd session of the UN Human Rights Council, themed "The Fight Against Extremism and Human Rights Protection in Xinjiang", was held on Monday by the China Society for Human Rights Studies at the Palace of Nations. Some 50 representatives, including government officials and personnel from international and nongovernmental organizations, were in attendance. Chairing the meeting, Wu Leifen, deputy secretary-general of the China Society for Human Rights Studies, told the audience that Xinjiang was once deeply threatened by religious extremism, terrorism and ethnic separatist activities, leading to the violation of local people's basic human rights. To tackle these problems, Xinjiang has adopted a series of measures in recent years and achieved good results, Wu said. The security situation there has fundamentally improved, the number of terrorist attacks has been greatly reduced and the basic human rights of the people have effectively been safeguarded, she said. Gu Yingsu, a member of the China Society for Human Rights Studies' council, recalled how religious extremism had seriously affected the normal lives of the people and inflicted substantial harm on women and children. She said that in modern civilization, care for women and children is an important component of social development. Wuji'ahamaiti Tuerxun, president of Xinjiang Uygur Medical College, said that due to religious extremism, medical knowledge and skills were difficult to access in the past. "Extremist thoughts have caused a large number of innocent people to suffer," he said, adding that in some places, believers of extremist thoughts even declined to accept medical treatment. In recent years, he said, the government has vigorously made a series of anti-extremism efforts, such as providing vocational education and training for locals, achieving remarkable effects and winning heartfelt support from the people. Mao Junxiang, executive director of the Center for Human Rights Studies at Central South University, in Hunan province, said that in recent years, Xinjiang has carried out anti-terrorism and anti-extremism campaigns in accordance with the law. The basic rights of people of all ethnicities have been secured, social order has been restored and comprehensive development has been made possible, which has won widespread international acclaim, Mao said. Chang Jian, director of the Center for Human Rights Studies at Nankai University, in Tianjin, said that to curb terrorism and violent extremism, it is necessary not only to crack down on violent acts but also to eliminate the root causes and propagation pathways of violent extremism. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

HKSAR chief executive to attend 1st community dialogue on Sept. 26 (Xinhua)
2019-09-20
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government said on Thursday that HKSAR Chief Executive Carrie Lam will attend the first Community Dialogue session on the evening of Sept. 26, and 150 people from the community will be invited to the dialogue. Lam, together with some principal officials of the HKSAR government, will attend the first Community Dialogue session from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium, Wan Chai, on Sept. 26. The session will be an open dialogue platform aimed at reaching out to the public to invite people from all walks of life to express their views to the government, so as to fathom the discontent in society and to look for solutions, the HKSAR government said. It also said that the session was open for public registration and interested participants may submit their registration forms online from Thursday to noon on Sept. 23. The session has an admission quota of 150 places, it said, adding that should the number of registrants exceed the quota, places will be allocated by computer lot drawing, and successful applicants will be notified on or before Sept. 24. Lam said in a televised speech on Sept. 4 that the HKSAR government will take four actions to find a way out of the current impasse for Hong Kong, including she and principle officials of the HKSAR government reaching out to the community to hold direct dialogues. ^ top ^

Sino-British Joint Declaration has no paragraph about "dual universal suffrage": HKSAR gov't (Xinhua)
2019-09-20
The government of China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) has clarified that the Sino-British Joint Declaration does not have any paragraph which sets out the implementation of "dual universal suffrage." In response to an organization's claim on a social media platform that "the fact that dual universal suffrage has yet been implemented in Hong Kong is a serious violation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration," a spokesman for the HKSAR government made the clarification on Thursday. Paragraph 3(4) of the Sino-British Joint Declaration stipulates that "the chief executive (of the HKSAR) will be appointed by the Central People's Government on the basis of the results of elections or consultations to be held locally." Annex I of the joint declaration stipulates that "the legislature of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be constituted by elections." Both are not related to the implementation of "dual universal suffrage," the spokesman said. The spokesman reiterated that universal suffrage of "one person, one vote" for selecting the chief executive and electing all members of the Legislative Council is enshrined as an ultimate aim in the Basic Law of the HKSAR of the People's Republic of China. To achieve this aim, there is a need to conduct dialogues to narrow differences with a view to attaining a consensus agreeable to all sides, the spokesman said, adding that the HKSAR government will assess the situation carefully and take forward constitutional development in accordance with the Basic Law and the relevant Interpretation and Decisions of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. ^ top ^

China urges U.S. to immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs (Xinhua)
2019-09-19
China on Thursday strongly urged the U.S. side to respect China's sovereignty and immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs in any form. Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang made the remarks in response to reports that U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a news conference on Wednesday with House members as well as Joshua Wong Chi-fung and Denise Ho to back the so-called Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019. "China is strongly dissatisfied with and firmly opposes this move," Geng said at a press briefing, accusing Pelosi and other U.S. politicians of confusing right from wrong, engaging with Hong Kong separatists and grossly interfering in China's internal affairs. Geng reiterated the position that Hong Kong affairs are purely China's internal affairs and brook no interference from any outside forces. "We strongly urge the U.S. side to abide by international laws and basic norms governing international relations, respect China's sovereignty, and immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs in any form and advancing the Hong Kong-related act," Geng said. He also called on the United States to stop backing the violent and radical forces as well as Hong Kong separatists and desist from supporting any moves undermining Hong Kong's prosperity and stability. ^ top ^

Court orders MTR Corp. to preserve CCTV footage of police incidents at two stations (HKFP)
2019-09-19
The High Court has ordered the MTR Corporation (MTRC) to preserve CCTV footage captured on August 31 at Prince Edward and Lai Chi Kok stations pending a hearing over whether the clips must be publicly released. On the night in question, baton-wielding police stormed Prince Edward station making arrests and deploying pepper spray. They ordered journalists to leave and later moved injured people to Lai Chi Kok station. Kex Leung Yiu-ting, head of Education University's student union, was arrested at Prince Edward station on the night and said he was beaten by police. Leung said he was passing through the station and was not participating in any protest. He applied to the court for a "Norwich Pharmacal Order" to force the disclosure of the security camera footage. The MTRC opposed the request, and said in press releases that the relevant footage from the relevant stations would be kept for three years. The lawyer representing Leung said that it would be up to the transit firm to decide what footage would be relevant, though the MTRC did not clearly state if clips from Lai Chi Kok station would be kept, Apple Daily reported. Judge Anderson Chow said he has no reason to question the intentions of the MTRC, but he cannot ignore the possibility that the firm may erase footage relating to Lai Chi Kok station. Chow ruled that the recordings must be kept secure until there is a formal hearing over whether the footage must be handed over. He said that both sides should offer potential dates between this December and next March for a hearing. An initial paramedics' report at around midnight on August 31 noted that ten people had been hurt in the police raid. But the figure was adjusted about 45 minutes later to just seven, with the three in a critical condition removed from the logs. The change fuelled unsubstantiated rumours that three people had been killed, but the police, fire department and the Hospital Authority have denied the online claims. ^ top ^

 

Macau

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Taiwan

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Economy

China can handle much slower GDP growth rate and still create enough jobs, government economists say (SCMP)
2019-09-19
China should not be alarmed by a much slower economic growth rate in the coming years, perhaps as low as 5 or even 4 per cent, with the economy now large enough to still create sufficient jobs at these growth rates, according to three prominent Chinese economists who advise the government. The headline gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate slowed to 6.2 per cent in the second quarter this year, the lowest figure since quarterly records began in March 1992, due to the headwinds created by the slowing economy and the trade war with the United States. The risks are also growing that it could slip below 6.0 per cent next year which would fall outside of the government's target range of between 6 and 6.5 per cent for 2019. "China had to put growth as a top priority because China had to create enough jobs, and when China's economic size was small, China had to achieve a high growth rate to ensure [sufficient] employment," said Zhang Yuxian, the head of the economic forecasting division at the State Information Centre, a think tank under the Chinese government's economic planning agency. "But for now, a 6 per cent growth rate means 5.4 trillion yuan (US$761 billion) worth of additional GDP and China's labour force supply has stopped growing. In other words, a 6 per cent growth rate is enough to absorb the new labour supply. When China's economic size grows to 100 trillion yuan (US$14 trillion) or 110 trillion yuan, a growth rate of 5 or 4 per cent will be enough, so what's the point of aiming for an overly high growth rate?" In 2018, China reported a growth rate of 6.6 per cent with a nominal GDP size of 90 trillion yuan. China's labour force, defined as those aged between 16 and 59, shrank by 540,000 to 897.29 million in 2018, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Chen Wenling, the chief economist for the China Centre for International Economic Exchanges, said China's GDP growth will be higher than 6 per cent this year and be "about 6 per cent" in 2020, a rate that is high enough for Beijing to claim victory in realising its goal of "quadrupling per capita GDP between 2000 and 2020". "GDP growth rate is just a number – it doesn't matter whether it's 6 or 5. The growth rate in the US is 2 per cent, but that doesn't hurt the US as the most powerful country," Chen said. "GDP is no longer the only target for China. China is now pursuing being a powerful country and it requires more than GDP, including manufacturing, healthcare and education, people's living standards as well as national governance." Chen added that China is facing "structural" employment pressure as the trade war with the US has hit certain exporters who rely on the American market, but China, as a whole, is able to create enough jobs. Zhang Yansheng, the chief research fellow at the China Centre for International Economic Exchanges, said China's economic growth is unlikely to witness significant changes over the next two years. But at the same time, Zhang said it is possible for China's year-on-year growth to dip below 6 per cent in a specific quarter. Many independent economists are also expecting a gradual slowdown in China's growth rate as the economy matures. Louis Kuijs, the head of Asia Economics at Oxford Economics, said that China's trend growth will remain solid and decelerate gradually to 4 per cent by 2030 and 2.8 per cent by 2040. In a scenario where economic and technological decoupling between China and the US-led developed economies is modest, China's trend growth can average at 5.2 per cent in the coming decade, Kuijs wrote. ^ top ^

 

DPRK

Russia arrests 80 North Korean fishermen after three border guards injured in clash (SCMP)
2019-09-18
Three Russian coastguards were injured on Tuesday in a clash with North Korean fishing boats in the Sea of Japan, or East Sea, after which 80 fishermen were detained, Russia's FSB security service said. The FSB security service, which controls the border and coastguard, said in a statement that guards observed two fishing vessels and 11 motor boats while on duty in Russian waters. The larger boat's crew attacked coastguard officers who boarded the vessel, and three officers "received injuries of varying degrees of severity," the FSB said. Both vessels were eventually detained. "Two fishing vessels and over 80 North Korean citizens were detained," the FSB told TASS news agency. "Activities of North Korean poachers has been thwarted." The North Korean chargé d'affaires was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry over the incident, but no official comment was made by either diplomacy. Russian coastguards frequently detain North Korean fishermen in the Far East, many of whom use rudimentary, illegal wooden boats. Some of them are sentenced to prison. There are frequent disputes over fishing rights in the Sea of Japan, or East Sea, which is surrounded by Japan, Russia and both North and South Korea. In July, North Korea released a Russian fishing boat with a crew of 15 Russians and two South Koreans after it was detained for violating entry regulations. ^ top ^

Did North Korea's Kim Jong-un invite US President Donald Trump to visit him in Pyongyang? (SCMP)
2019-09-16
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un invited US President Donald Trump to visit Pyongyang last month, according to a report in South Korean media. The offer for another Trump-Kim summit came in a letter delivered in the third week of August, the Joongang newspaper said, citing multiple people familiar with the matter. When asked in a parliamentary session on Monday about the report, South Korea's Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told lawmakers that the government had "received a detailed explanation from our US counterparts that a letter of that kind has been delivered". "What was written in the letter, when the letter was delivered, is not for us to confirm," she added. However, later on Monday, the ministry issued a statement saying Kang was referring to a different letter that Kim had sent to Trump. "What Kang meant when she confirmed a letter earlier was the letter that Trump tweeted August 10," the foreign ministry said in a statement. "There is nothing to be confirmed about the Joongang article inviting Trump to Pyongyang." The White House offered no immediate comment on the report. Trump had said in early August that Kim had sent him a "very beautiful letter" that mostly complained "about the ridiculous and expensive" joint military drills between the US and South Korea, adding that Kim had apologised for recent short-range missile tests. Joongang reported the second letter came soon after that one, and it was not clear whether Trump has responded to either letter. Working-level talks on denuclearisation have stalled since Trump and Kim's last official summit in Hanoi ended without a deal. The pair agreed to restart talks in June at an impromptu meeting in which Trump made history by stepping across the border into North Korea, though little progress has been made since then. North Korea last week agreed to return to talks at a "time and place to be agreed late in September," its state-run Korean Central News Agency said, citing vice foreign minister Choe Son-hui. Choe, however, threatened to walk away from future talks if the US returns with the same "worn-out scenario," KCNA reported, without elaborating further. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Interview: Mongolians reap tangible benefits from BRI humanitarian projects (Xinhua)
2019-09-19
Mongolians have been reaping tangible benefits from humanitarian activities under the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the Mongolian Red Cross Society (MRCS) General Director Nordov Bolormaa said here on Thursday. "Humanitarian activities play a crucial role in strengthening cooperation between countries and friendship between their peoples," Bolormaa told Xinhua in an interview. "We are very happy that many Mongolian citizens have been benefiting from humanitarian projects under the BRI." A total of 98 Mongolian children with congenital heart disease have received free surgeries in China under a BRI humanitarian aid program launched in 2017, she said. The heart surgeries were among multiple humanitarian aid programs conducted by the MRCS, the Red Cross Society of China (RCSC), and the latter's Inner Mongolian branch, according to the RCSC of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. In addition, over 300 Mongolian seniors have received free cataract surgeries under a project called "The Belt and Road-Brightness Trip" since June, Bolormaa said. The plan aims to provide at least 1,000 free cataract surgeries within five years. Moreover, the RCSC Inner Mongolia branch helped build a first-aid training center equipped with advanced devices at the headquarters of the MRCS in June on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the MRCS. "We provide first aid trainings to students, teachers, employees of organizations and others 3-4 times a week at the center," Bolormaa said, adding that this is another example of fruitful cooperation of the humanitarian organizations between Mongolia and China. She said that the MRCS will further contribute the development of bilateral relations between Mongolia and China by more actively cooperating with the RCSC in disaster relief, first aid, prevention of traffic accidents and disaster risk reduction. ^ top ^

President departs on visit to India (Montsame)
2019-09-19
Today, President Kh.Battulga has departed from the country to pay a State visit to the Republic of India at the invitation of his Indian counterpart Ram Nath Kovind. During the visit, President Battulga will hold official talks with President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the Republic of India. President Battulga also plans to meet M. Venkaiah Naidu, Vice President and Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, and members of the Government of the Republic of India. Within the framework of the visit, which is the first by the head of state of Mongolia to India in the last 10 years, bilateral talks will focus on strengthening of the Strategic Partnership between Mongolia and India in political, security, defense, trade, investment, economical, educational, cultural, and humanitarian spheres. Moreover, the sides will exchange views on bilateral cooperation at the international and regional arena. The President also intends to visit Gaya and Bengaluru cities, as well as historical and cultural sites that are associated with Mongolia and science and information technology centers in India. Mongolia and India established the diplomatic relations on December 24, 1955 and are now experiencing the Strategic Partnership relations. Mongolia sees India as a main partner in the region and third neighbor. ^ 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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