China's New Cabinet; Xi The Helmsman and the Oath-taker; Yang Xiaodu To Head The National Supervisory Commission; US-China Tensions May Be Immune To Firefighter Wang Qishan
|Bill Bishop||Mar 19, 2018|
Happy Monday...The NPC has just Tuesday morning left. This weekend saw several key decisions, with a couple of surprises:
Wang Qishan is now Vice President;
Surprise 1-CCDI Deputy Secretary Yang Xiaodu is the head of the new National Supervisory Commission;
Surprise 2-Yi Gang is the new head of the People's Bank of China;
The four vice premiers are Han Zheng, Liu He, Sun Chunlan and Hu Chunhua, while Yang Jiechi looks left out in the cold;
Fu Zhenghua is now Minister of Justice. Lawyers and Guo Wengui can’t be happy…
The propaganda surrounding the NPC has made clear that there is Xi and then everyone else who works for him.
Deng Xiaoping’s position was frequently described as primus inter pares, or first among equals, those "equals" being other senior leaders who had survived Mao and The Cultural Revolution.
Xi Jinping is clearly trying to show that he is just Primus.
Thanks for reading.
The Essential Eight
1. China's New Cabinet
Vice premiers: Han Zheng, Sun Chunlan, Hu Chunhua, Liu He
State councilors: Wei Fenghe, Wang Yong, Wang Yi, Xiao Jie, Zhao Kezhi
Secretary-general of the State Council: Xiao Jie
-- Wang Yi, minister of foreign affairs
-- Wei Fenghe, minister of national defense
-- He Lifeng, head of the national development and reform commission...
-- Zhao Kezhi, minister of public security
-- Chen Wenqing, minister of state security..
-- Fu Zhenghua, minister of justice
-- Liu Kun, minister of finance
-- Lu Hao, minister of natural resources..
-- Li Xiaopeng, minister of transport
Here is the Monday CCTV Evening News on the appointments.It seems noteworthy that Vice President Wang Qishan is now listed and shown along with Xi and the other 6 Politburo Standing Committee members. Is this just an NPC thing or will we see it elsewhere, as Wang is effectively an eighth member of the PBSC, or because due to protocol he is a retired Standing Committee member but still an active official?—[视频]十三届全国人大一次会议举行第七次全体会议 决定国务院其他组成人员 国家主席习近平签署主席令任命_CCTV:
Xi signs order appointing Li Keqiang as Premier--习近平签署主席令任命李克强为国务院总理 - 21经济网
Xinhua on the process to pick the new State leadership--新一届国家机构和全国政协领导人员产生纪实_凤凰资讯:
At 50, Lu is young for a politician by China’s standards and has risen through the ranks quickly, becoming the youngest provincial governor in the country when he was made governor of Heilongjiang in the industrial and cornbelt northeast, in 2013.
Under his tenure, Lu has overseen economic and social upheaval in the region, which was hit hard by the steel and coal industry downturn in 2016 and saw widespread protests by workers over unpaid wages and pay cuts.
Liu Kun, the 61-year-old chairman of the Budgetary Affairs Commission of the National People’s Congress (NPC), the country’s legislature, was named China’s new finance minister on Monday.
2. Xi The Helmsman and the Oath-taker
Things are feeling culty, which is not a good sign...Xi is not only the "People's Leader 人民领袖” he is now also the "State Helmsman 国家的掌舵者”. Mao Zedong was also known as the helmsman, as everyone heard in the Cultural Revolution song "大海航行靠舵手，干革命靠的是猫窒息思想' but the characters for Xi as helmsman are 掌舵者 not 舵手 as for Mao. Maybe there is an important distinction but it is not clear many see it....
With Xi Jinping holding the top positions in the ruling Party and the country's leadership, the world's most populous country has a resolute helmsman to guide its journey of rejuvenation and lead it to the realization of its dream of becoming a prosperous, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious and beautiful modern socialist country.
The original editorial--人民日报社论:国家的掌舵者 人民的领路人:
And the accompanying graphic:
With the national emblem hung up high in an auditorium inside the Great Hall of the People, everybody stood and a hard copy of the Constitution was brought to the stage by honor guards as the ceremony started at around 10:49 a.m.
After a chorus of the national anthem was sung by all present, 64-year-old Xi, in a dark suit, took the podium, placed his left hand upon the Constitution, raised his right fist, and read the oath.
"[I pledge to] be loyal to the country and the people, be committed and honest in my duty, accept the people's supervision and work for a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious and beautiful," he said.
The video of Xi taking the oath, quite a scene:
Newly-elected President Xi steers China toward prosperity - Xinhua is an abridged English translation of this piece that is leading all the big news sites 连任国家主席——习近平引领中国走向强盛 :
The year 2018 marks the 200th birthday of Karl Marx and the 170th anniversary of the issuance of "The Communist Manifesto."
Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era is considered the latest adaptation of Marxism to the Chinese context.
A miracle is unfolding -- for the first time in human history, a billion plus people are crossing the threshold of modernization together. Challenges like material shortage and wealth gap will be overcome. People will feel much more fulfilled, happier and safer.
We are witnessing an important modification of the Deng Xiaoping era, personalistic one-man rule enhanced by efficient Party controls of all aspects of life, increasing intolerance of dissent, more direct government controls of business and ever greater repression through the new supervisory commissions.
Ironically, this Constitutional amendment changed the wording in the Preamble from ”健全社会主义法制” to “健全社会主义法治.” I have always understood the newly-inserted last character in the phrase to symbolize the aspiration for China to achieve government under law (法治) rather than merely rule by law (法制). I think its insertion in the current circumstances is an attempt by the Xi Jinping crowd to hijack the term in accordance with his clear preference to rule the country by law rather than continue the reality of lawlessness in some crucial respects, as in shuanggui (双规), the party punishment that lacks any legal basis...
Everyone talks about Xi Jinping wanting to be another Mao Zedong. Some observers compare Xi’s ascent to the story of Putin. I have been saying for a long time that Xi’s goal is to out-do Stalin, without all the killing, and he may well succeed. He really is following the Stalin centralization of power, suppression of dissent, model that emphasized “the stability of law” even as Stalin used it as an instrument to promote the slaughter of millions.
3. Yang Xiaodu To Head The National Supervisory Commission
The bureaucratic position and protocol for this NSC is interesting. Assigning a CCDI deputy to run it appears to make clear the Party is still above the new commission.
It reports to the NPC, led by Li Zhanshu. Yang retains his position as deputy to CCDI head Zhao Leji but he also reports to Li Zhanshu, who ranks higher on the Standing Committee than Zhao does.
There have long been rumors that Zhao had corruption issues, and his former top aide Wei Minzhou was detained last year. No doubt this arrangement will be grist for all sorts of speculation…
Yang, born in 1953, is currently a member of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee Political Bureau and deputy secretary of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI).
Li Ling, a fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna who has studied the anti-graft campaign, said he was not entirely surprised by Yang’s appointment because Xi had been grooming him for a while.
“His promotion was fast-tracked after Xi Jinping took office. He rose from a provincial official with a deputy-ministerial rank to a member of the Politburo in a matter of four years. This is something that most officials will not even dare to have in their wildest dreams. This was an early indicator that Yang was chosen for important tasks.”
4. China's New Central Bank Chief
Don't expect independence, do expect Liu He to be in charge, with Xi the ultimate decider....
Seems risky to overpromise so early in his tenure so maybe something interesting is coming? --China’s New PBOC Chief Promises to Enact Changes Quickly - WSJ $$:
Fresh from his appointment as governor of the People’s Bank of China, announced Monday at the annual legislative session, Yi Gang said “there will be a series of reform and opening-up measures” during the next three weeks.
“You’ll see,” Mr. Yi told throngs of reporters who besieged him inside the Great Hall of the People as he was making his way to take his oath as PBOC governor. He didn’t elaborate.
Mr. Yi is also among the rare officials to reach the top ranks after spending considerable time overseas. He earned a doctorate in economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and then taught economics at Indiana University in Indianapolis for eight years.
Comment: I hope no one assumes that because he studied and taught economics in the US that means Yi is some kind of "liberal market reformer"...he could just as easily have become quite disillusioned wit the US economic model...
Not only had he served a 10-year apprenticeship as deputy governor under Zhou Xiaochuan – whose retirement after 15 years was confirmed on Monday – but he had also spent a decade studying and working in financial fields overseas.
As Beijing seeks to raise its profile on the global stage, while also maintaining policy stability and tackling financial risk at home, what better candidate was there?
Deng Haiqing, an economist with Chinese brokerage house JZ Securities said in a note that the appointment of 60-year-old Li sent a strong message that China not only supported globalisation but also “aspired to have a big voice in global economic governance”.
5. Foreign Policy Team Seems Crowded
Vice President Wang Qishan will have a leading role, Wang Yi is still foreign minister with the added promotion to State Councilor, Yang Jiechi is a Politburo member, Song Tao is a rising star. I guess if it all flows smoothly through Wang to Xi then it may work? And how much of nub to Yang Jiechi is this arrangement?
Wang [Yi]'s rise to state councillor – a position not previously held by a serving foreign minister – is among a number of moves expected to raise the profile of diplomats in the nation’s decision-making structure as North Korea, Taiwan and the South China Sea – and the US – loom as more urgent priorities.
It also follows the naming of former anti-graft chief Wang Qishan as a vice-president handling foreign affairs, and Liu He, President Xi Jinping’s most trusted economic adviser, as vice-premier. Liu is expected to manage the country’s financial and economic affairs, a major source of friction with the US...
A source familiar with the leadership’s diplomatic strategy said Wang Qishan was expected to focus on China’s relations with the US, with Wang Yi reporting to Yang, and Yang reporting to the vice-president.
In addition, Wang Qishan will become a member of the Central Leading Group of Foreign Affairs, a party body that oversees international relations.
6. US-China Tensions May Be Immune To Firefighter Wang Qishan
The issues look too structural, and for President Trump, too instinctual to be resolved with more dialogues and endless talking....
Axios has further learned that in an Oval Office meeting on Thursday, Trump told Kevin Hassett, the chair of his Council of Economic Advisers: "Kevin, you've gotta make the number bigger." Hassett told Trump he'd have to go away and study the potential impacts of these larger tariffs against China, according to a source familiar with the interaction. Two sources with direct knowledge tell me the administration's current tentative plan is to potentially put tariffs on hundreds of Chinese products by the end of March.
A top Treasury Department official said he was incorrect in saying that the U.S. had ended formal economic dialogue with Beijing, adding that Secretary Steven Mnuchin continues to hold private discussions with China.
“I misspoke,” David Malpass, Treasury’s undersecretary for international affairs, told reporters in Buenos Aires on Sunday. “Secretary Mnuchin has high-level talks with China,” he said, reiterating that the department has “private” conversations with senior officials in China.
Comment: The Chinese really want the CED to resume but the Trump Administration continues to find reasons to delay the next meeting. I am also hearing that the timing of the next Diplomatic and Security Dialogue will now be pushed back, in part because of the firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Two men in particular have emerged in key roles: Wang Qishan, the former anticorruption chief who took office as deputy head of state Saturday, and Liu He, the architect of Mr. Xi’s economic policies, who was promoted to vice premier Monday.
In recent weeks, Mr. Xi and his two deputies met directly with U.S. officials, people familiar with the matter say—a sign of the president’s heightened concerns about China-U.S. ties.
Mr. Xi hosted the U.S. ambassador to Beijing, Terry Branstad, at an informal gathering of both men’s families in early February, according to people with knowledge of the event....
And right before the start of the legislative session, Mr. Liu went to Washington, holding at times contentious talks with senior U.S. officials including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. A hoped-for meeting with President Donald Trump didn’t materialize.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping discussed overcapacity in world steel markets and agreed on Saturday to work on solutions within the framework of the G20 group of industrialised nations, Merkel's spokesman said.
In a telephone discussion, the two newly reelected leaders emphasised close ties between the two countries, both facing planned U.S. steel and aluminium tariffs, and agreed to deepen their strategic partnership, Steffen Seibert said in a statement.
7. Kuaishou-The Video App For The Rest Of China
A friend is an early investor, told me last year he expects it to be his all-time biggest win when it goes public, likely soon...
Kuaishou, in our opinion, is truly an invention of its own kind; the app is unique not only in its content and people, but more fundamentally, in its way of delivering a mission: to record real lives, of real people...
According to a report released in January 2018, Kuaishou by far has 700 million registered users and over 100 million DAU, topping all other video apps in China. Yet, the life journey of Kuaishou is an abnormality in the Chinese internet history...
The company didn’t even own a marketing department before 2016; there was no celebrity endorsement, no KOL promotions, no monetization or sponsorship channels whatsoever. Manual operations were kept to minimum, algorithms were crafted carefully to avoid interference with user experiences, and there was never any intentional catering towards trending topics. What the app focused on instead was building a community where diversity reigns, where users are given the freedom to establish their own rules, choose their own idols, and to create the type of content completely to their own tastes.
8. Jin Yong In English
The martial arts epic Legends of the Condor Heroes is the magnum opus of China’s most widely read living writer. The first book has finally been translated into English...
Jin Yong is an unfamiliar name in the English-speaking world but a superstar in the Chinese-speaking one. Since his first novels were published in serial form in Hong Kong during the 1950s, Jin Yong – the pen name of Louis Cha Leung-yung – has become the most widely read Chinese writer alive. His books have been adapted into TV series, films and video games, and his dense, immersive world inspires the kind of adoration bestowed on those created by writers like western worldbuilders such as JRR Tolkien, JK Rowling and George RR Martin.
Comment: Not available in the US yet, just the UK
Business, Economy, Finance And Trade
Another Chinese tycoon starts to sell off assets after Xi Jinping’s call to cut debt risk | South China Morning Post Zhongzhi Enterprise Group chief Xie Zhikun plans to sell stake in investment trust to state-run body after president’s warning to businesses
New Home Prices Fall in More Key Cities in February - Caixin Global The broadening drop in home prices indicates that the government’s ongoing measures to keep home prices in check are having an effect. In the first-tier cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, new home prices in February continued to slip from the previous month, with Beijing’s falling 0.3% — after rising 0.2% in January — and Shanghai’s losing 0.2% — after dropping 0.4% in January, according the data from the National Bureau of Statistics.
Bank Regulator Toughens Rules on Data Management - Caixin Global “Data governance urgently needs to be strengthened,” a spokesperson for the China Banking Regulatory Commission said at a news conference on Friday. “There are many problems, such as inaccurate and incomplete data, as well as lack of timeliness and compliance. This is not only holding back an improvement in the quality of banks, it is also affecting the efficiency of regulation.”
Central Bank Slaps Record Fine on Minsheng Bank - Caixin Global China’s central bank handed out its biggest ever fine to China Minsheng Bank, the country’s largest privately owned bank, for breaches in payment and clearing rules, as regulators stepped up a crackdown on financial market irregularities. The People’s Bank of China said in a statement published on its website on Friday that it issued a warning and 163 million yuan ($25.8 million) fine to the Xiamen branch of Minsheng Bank. It is the heaviest fine levied by the central bank in the industry. Ping An Bank, a smaller joint-stock commercial lender, was also fined 13.3 million yuan for violating rules of clearing services, the central bank said in the same statement.
China’s HNA Is Planning to Sell Properties Worth $2.2 Billion - Bloomberg The buildings include Shanghai HNA Tower, Shanghai Yangtze International Enterprise Plaza and Renaissance Shanghai Pudong Hotel, said the people, asking not to be identified as the deliberations are private. Nine properties HNA has put up for sale in Shanghai and Beijing have a combined book value of about 14 billion yuan ($2.2 billion), one of the people said.
Hillhouse Capital set to beat KKR’s record with China fund - FT $$ Hillhouse founder, Zhang Lei has told investors he wants no more than $8bn, despite having commitments of over $10bn. Several of them say he will end up with a fund surpassing the record-breaking $9.3bn private equity fund KKR raised last year to deploy in Asia. Mr Zhang’s original target was $6.5bn in addition to the $30bn or so he has under management today. Hillhouse was founded with $20m from the Yale University endowment in 2005.
Regulator shopping in vogue as China's shadow banks evade Beijing's grip - Reuters Financial companies and trusts, which are some of the most popular conduits for banks looking to get around tighter lending rules, have been partnering with other firms based as far afield as desert-locked Gansu province, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia. China’s banking regulator, which oversees trust lending, has bureaus in different regions in the country. Far-flung offices are often less sophisticated and tend also to be supportive of their local enterprises, said nine trust employees, two regulators and one lawyer. Trust firms, including Ping An Trust, prepare loan documents and hand them over to the remote trust, which submits the documents to its local regulator, said two people with direct knowledge of the practice.
Beijing to shorten time for starting business to 5 days - Xinhua The notice, released jointly by the municipal commercial, tax and public security authorities, said Beijing will take measures to complete business registration within five working days by the end of this month.
China turns cautious over Shanghai free-trade port on concerns it might be too free | South China Morning Post According to two sources familiar with the government’s thinking, state authorities and the Shanghai municipality have yet to decide on the size and location for the free-trade port – an upgraded version of the free-trade zone that was launched in late 2012. Officials are still giving priority to safety and stability in reviewing the two proposals for the port, the sources said. One of the concerns is that monitoring mechanisms may not be adequate to ensure that goods and money stay inside the port area and do not flow outside it without being subject to duties.
Burner Phones, Bug Sweeps: How Companies Cope with IP Theft in China - WSJ $$ Several executives with multinational firms said their employees have been discouraged from discussing company business on WeChat , the ubiquitous Chinese social media and messaging service that is not encrypted, and which is closely monitored for censorship purposes.
Politics, Law And Ideology
China plans student conference to show influence of ‘Xi Jinping Thought’ | South China Morning Post The conference is part of a series of measures – including boosting teacher numbers, changing the curriculum and opening research centres – designed to instil in China’s next generation the ideology of the ruling Communist Party. “Improving the quality of ideological and political education will remain a tough war in the years to come as we need to completely change how ideology and politics is taught,” Education Minister Chen Baosheng said on Friday.
Chinese lawmaker pitches 'Red genes' project to 'preserve' Communist ethos of country - Times of India Liu Xianglian, a deputy to the 13th National People's Congress from Central China's Henan Province, made the proposal at the ongoing annual session of China's top legislature. He said, "revolutionary education" needs to be strengthened in the country's elementary and high schools. The Henan lawmaker proposed a "Red gene transmission project" be initiated in schools to foster love of the Communist Party of China and for the country while countering "historical nihilism", which "smears revolutionary heroes and plants incorrect values and views of history". Revolutionary education should be written into textbooks and introduced into academic sessions in schools, Liu said, adding that more red websites and forums should also be launched online. // Comment: The CCP seems to have quite an obsession with genes…
China improves social credit system - Xinhua The Supreme People's Court (SPC) has signed a memorandum of cooperation on setting up a mechanism of information sharing with the Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA) to improve China's social credit system. Chinese courts nationwide can access to a network for shared information including marriage registration, basic living allowance, social organization registration, individual income and social assistance, and a blacklist of dishonest people or groups, according to the SPC Monday.
Foreign and Military Affairs
Xi congratulates Putin on election as Russian president - Xinhua Xi expressed the belief that Russia will definitely be able to keep creating new glories in national development. Currently, the China-Russia comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership is at the best level in history, which sets an example for building a new type of international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness and justice, cooperation and all-win results, and a community with a shared future for mankind, Xi said. China is willing to work with Russia to keep promoting China-Russia relations to a higher level, provide driving force for respective national development in both countries, and promote regional and global peace and tranquility, Xi said.
Why Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping’s mutual admiration society looks like it’s here to stay | South China Morning Post Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping lost little time in congratulating each other after the Chinese and Russian Presidents both secured another term in office over the weekend – despite the much more reticent response from leading Western nations.
Kim Jong-un Congratulates Xi Jinping on His Reappointment to a Second Term as China’s President | The Diplomat North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has congratulated Chinese President Xi Jinping on his unanimous appointment by the Chinese National People’s Congress (NPC) on Friday to a second term as China’s president. In a message carried by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), North Korea’s state-run news agency for external consumption, Kim said he “warmly congratulated” Xi. “Expressing belief that the bilateral relations would develop in the common interests of the peoples of the two countries, the message wished the Chinese president big success in his responsible work,” KCNA paraphrased Kim as saying. KCNA noted that Kim had confidence China would accomplish greater things with “Xi Jinping at the core,” referring to the Chinese leader’s elevated status as the country’s core leader.
North Korea, US representatives to meet in Finland - CNN Representatives of North Korea, South Korea and the United States are set to meet in Finland for talks on denuclearization, according to South Korean and Finnish officials.
Modi congratulates Xi Jinping on election through Weibo, hopes for developing ties In a message on Chinese Twitter-like website Sina Weibo, Prime Minister Modi said, "congratulations on your re-election as chairman of the People's Republic of China", as the post of president is referred to in China. PM Modi's Weibo account has 183,000 followers.
全军将开展“传承红色基因、担当强军重任”教育-新华网 新华社北京3月16日电 经中央军委批准，中央军委办公厅近日印发《关于在全军开展“传承红色基因、担当强军重任”主题教育的意见》。 《意见》指出，要把学习贯彻习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想作为核心内容和根本任务，贯彻学懂弄通做实要求，认真组织学习教育、开展实践活动、加强检查督导等，切实拎起教育的魂和纲，在高举思想旗帜、培育时代新人上取得扎实成效。要突出学好习近平强军思想，牢固确立在国防和军队建设中的指导地位，学习贯彻全面推进国防和军队现代化的战略部署，增强投身强军事业的政治自觉和行动自觉。
Author Alleges China Used Business Deals to Influence Families of Mitch McConnell, Joe Biden - WSJ Mr. Schweizer points to what he claims is evidence of a close relationship between Foremost Group, the shipping company run by the family of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, and Beijing. The author argues that Mr. McConnell, who is Ms. Chao’s husband, has softened his views on China as that relationship grew. A spokesman for Mr. McConnell rejected that conclusion, pointing to multiple recent Senate floor statements in which Mr. McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, referred to China as an “aggressor state” the U.S. must confront. “While he makes some wild accusations, they’re not backed by any credible sourcing—which makes sense, as they are inaccurate,” McConnell spokesman David Popp said of Mr. Schweizer.
China to develop micro rockets, aiming at huge market - Xinhua China plans to develop micro solid-propellant carrier rockets for commercial use to meet growing needs for launching micro-nano satellites. China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT) said that its subsidiary company, China Rocket, was in the process of appraising the plan.
China confirms anti-graft official’s position on military’s ruling body as war on corruption heats up | South China Morning Post General Zhang Shengmin was officially endorsed by the National People’s Congress as one of the four regular members of the Central Military Commission, who will serve under its chairman Xi Jinping and his two vice-chairmen. While Zhang was already head of the defence organisation’s discipline inspection commission, the confirmation of his elevation to the body’s top table is highly significant as Beijing continues to battle institutionalised corruption in the military, and will give him a far greater say in the day-to-day administration of the world’s largest army. Zhang is the first official from the CMC’s anti-graft department to be promoted to such a lofty position.
Delhi & Dhaka go into huddle as boat carrying ‘Chinese Arms’ seized in Bangladesh - The Economic Times top Bangladeshi military officials have come under scanner of the Sheikh Hasina government after Chinese boats carrying arms entered Bangladesh waters and arms were smuggled into the country allegedly for local extremist groups and insurgent outfits in northeast India.
Embracing China, Facebook and Himself, Cambodia’s Ruler Digs In - The New York Times “The Chinese leaders respect me highly and treat me as an equal,” Mr. Hun Sen said last month during the groundbreaking of a $57 million Chinese-funded bridge in the district of Stung Trang. “Let me ask those of you who have accused me of being too close to China,” he added. “What have you offered me besides cursing and disciplining me and threatening to put sanctions on me?”
Malcolm Turnbull unveils ASEAN-Australia infrastructure cooperative | afr.com Australia has taken the first step in joining Japan, India and the US in creating an infrastructure body to counter the rising influence of China's multibillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative. The government used a meeting of regional leaders in Sydney to quietly unveil the so-called "ASEAN-Australia Infrastructure Co-operation Initiative", which aims to channel private and public money into projects across the region.
Push China and they’ll push back, ASEAN leaders told - The Australian The secretary, who represented President Rodrigo Duterte at the weekend’s ASEAN Special Summit in Sydney, also pushed back against Australian criticism of the Philippines over its failure to champion an international court ruling on the South China Sea. He said the Philippines had to deal with China to stop “bleeding” territory as the US would be very unlikely to help it defend its maritime claims.
Prague Opened the Door to Chinese Influence. Now It May Need to Change Course. – Foreign Policy When CEFC China Energy, a once-unknown private Chinese conglomerate, decided to make a play for global dominance, it chose the Czech Republic as its staging ground. In 2015, the company opened its European headquarters in Prague, making huge investments in the country’s real estate and media industries and forging close ties with the Czech government. That year, company chairman Ye Jianming was named an advisor to Czech President Milos Zeman....But after Ye’s detention in China, announced on March 1 and allegedly at the personal orders of President Xi Jinping, the Czech Republic appears to be rethinking its embrace of China and Chinese investment...Zeman deployed two aides, Vratislav Mynar and Martin Nejdely, on a presidential delegation to China this week to find out what, exactly, is going on.
Hong Kong, Macao
How Hong Kong Makes Evading North Korea Sanctions Easier - WSJ $$ The city presents itself as one of the world’s easiest places to do business—which goes for front companies, too
Mainland says US Taiwan Travel Act a wrong signal - Xinhua "Once again, I would like to sternly warn Taiwan that relying on foreigners to build you up will only draw fire against yourself," said An Fengshan, spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council. An said the bill had caused a severe blow to the complex and grave situation of cross-Strait relations and the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.
Chinese netizens go bananas after Beijing Walmart lists Taiwan as separate country | Taiwan News On Friday, a Chinese user of Weibo (the Chinese version of Twitter) posted a video taken from inside the Dongguan branch of a Walmart in Beijing's Changping District which showed imported products being displayed at a discounted price. Products imported from the UK and South Korea were labeled as "place of origin UK" and "place of origin South Korea," but for a group of products imported from Taiwan, the sign read, "country of origin Taiwan."
Tech And Media
Alibaba injects a further $2b in Lazada - TechInAsia Alibaba will invest US$2 billion more in unit Lazada and appoint one of its most senior executives to run it. Lucy Peng, chairman of Lazada, will now assume the additional role of CEO. Peng is one of Alibaba’s 18 founders and also the executive chairman of the Chinese behemoth’s fintech affiliate, Ant Financial.
Baidu video streaming unit iQiyi launches $2.4 billion U.S. IPO - Reuters Baidu owns 69.6 percent of the Netflix-like video platform and will continue to be its controlling shareholder upon completion of the offering, iQiyi said. At the end of February, iQiyi had 60.1 million subscribers, over 98 percent of whom were paying members, it said. IQiyi saw its 2017 revenue jump to 17.38 billion yuan ($2.7 billion), a gain of 55 percent over the previous year. It made a net loss of 3.74 billion yuan.
How the world's largest bitcoin miner is taking on AI's most powerful players · TechNode Bitmain’s foray into AI started in 2015, long before China’s regulators started viewing cryptocurrencies with suspicion. Their AI chip division Sophon—named after the alien technology in Liu Cixin’s sci-fi trilogy The Three Body Problem—aims to “solve all the puzzles in the universe,” or in layman’s terms, accelerate AI applications with the help of chips called ASICs ( application-specific integrated circuit).
Society, Art, Sports, Culture And History
As China tightens rules on religion, unregistered churches wince - The economist $$ Although Christians are growing more numerous, the wriggle room allowed to them is shrinking. Of most recent concern is a revised set of religious regulations that came into force in February. The old rules had stopped short of explicitly outlawing informal religious gatherings, but the new ones state more clearly that unregistered churches are beyond the pale. Fearing a clampdown, some bigger churches have split their congregations into small house groups that they think officials will find less bothersome, says Fan Yafeng, a pastor and legal scholar. Others are appointing chains of substitute ministers and managers to keep things running should the main ones be arrested.
Energy, Environment, Science And Health
China has new three-year plan to clean up environment, minister says | South China Morning Post China is looking to set tougher goals in a new three-year “green” plan to improve air quality and tighten regulations, minister of environmental protection Li Ganjie said on Saturday.
Chinese lawmakers push to build "Beautiful China" - Xinhua When China's national legislature approved Saturday the forming of a ministry of ecological environment, Wen Juan could not help applauding. The new ministry will incorporate the old environment ministry with relevant functions segmented in other ministries, enabling the government to accelerate environmental protection and ecological conservation in a more comprehensive way.
Beicology: The Plight of China's Snow Leopards | the Beijinger Conservationist Justine Shanti Alexander has spent hours at towering altitudes in icy cold weather to learn more about these heralded creatures and their plight. Her research details how retaliatory killings, livestock rearing, contribution to loss of prey, and the increasing penetration of development projects into snow leopard areas have all been contributing factors to the snow leopards’ decline in China and across Asia. She tells us more below.
DNA Nobel Laureate James Watson Joins Shenzhen Research Center – China Money Network James Watson, the Nobel laureate who co-discovered the structure of DNA, has thrown his support behind a life science research center being established by the Shenzhen city government. In fact, the 90-year-old scientist will work at the facility, according to Chinese media.
Illicit Ivory Trade Through Laos Thrives Despite China Ban - Sixth Tone At the start of this year, China, formerly the world’s leading destination for ivory, completely outlawed its domestic market. Trade in the country is down, but ivory is regularly smuggled into China from Laos, where the illicit industry continues unabated.
Agriculture And Rural Issues
For China corn farmers, prices trump policy ahead of planting - Reuters China’s farmers are expected to plant more corn this year, eyeing higher prices and profits despite a push to reduce acreage devoted to the cereal under the government’s latest five-year plan
China campus cracks down on PDAs with camouflaged squads - Global Times A college in East China's Shandong seems to be going all-out in their crackdown on touchy-feely couples on campus using military-like monitors and threats of public shaming. Video shows one of the squads at Binzhou Vocational College marching in formation and outfitted in camouflage uniforms. The move first stirred controversy on social media last week after video of three uniformed, helmet-wearing monitors circling a couple accused of hugging each other went viral.
Food And Travel
China to merge ministry of culture, tourism administration - Xinhua The move is aimed at coordinating the development of cultural and tourism industries, enhancing the country's soft power and cultural influence, and promoting cultural exchanges internationally, said the document.
Beijing sees fewer native migrant workers in 2017: report - Xinhua Beijing saw fewer migrant workers from the city's rural areas in 2017, according to a report released by the Survey Office of the National Bureau of Statistics in Beijing. Native migrant workers in Beijing totalled 724,000 in 2017, 2,000 fewer compared with the previous year, the report showed.