Constitution Amendments; US-China Relations; Beijing And A US-DPRK Summit; Major Restructuring Of The Foreign Policy Apparatus; Progress In The Battle Against Pollution

The Constitutional amendments passed easily, as expected. Media focus has been on the term limit removal but the inclusion of language about the role of the Party, the Great Rejuvenation and Socialist core values may end up being at least as impactful.

The removal of distractions about a successor in the next several years will probably be beneficial to China's development in the near-term. Expect the country to continue its advance to its "great rejuvenation" as an increasingly confident competitor to the West and its system of alliances. Centralized leadership under Xi, with a stronger, more disciplined and omnipresent Communist Party apparatus, very likely helps the rejuvenation goal in the short-term, while increasing tensions and the risk of the conflict with the West.

Longer term things could get messy inside China if the succession issue is not properly handled, but assuming Xi stays healthy and sane for a couple of more decades the trends outlined above could continue for a while.

In the meantime, what sane politician would want to be seen as a possible successor to Xi?

I see Xi's power grab not as weakness but as strength, and I worry that if policymakers buy the "weakness" argument they could be fundamentally misreading Xi and the Party.

Thanks for reading, and I should say that your guess is as good as mine, for we are all just guessing here...


The Essential Eight

1. Beijing Briefed On Possible US-North Korea Talks

Beijing is happy if tensions on the Peninsula reduce but they are paranoid about being cut out of any US-DPRK deal. They were excluded some of the backchannel discussions that came out of Oslo last year and started to get nervous.

Xi meets ROK president's top national security adviser - Xinhua:

Chinese President Xi Jinping Monday met with Chung Eui-yong, top national security adviser for the President of the Republic of Korea (ROK) Moon Jae-in in Beijing

The meeting was the second story on the 3.12 CCTV Evening News 习近平会见韩国总统特使 

Spotlight: Xi, Trump discuss Korean Peninsula, bilateral relations over phone - Xinhua:

Xi also told Trump that China and the United States should focus on cooperation, control differences, promote win-win economic cooperation, and push for new advancement of bilateral relations in the new year.

Regarding the situation on the Korean Peninsula, Trump said the nuclear issue has shown positive development recently, adding that a high-level meeting between the United States and the DPRK meets the interests of all parties, hoping for an eventually peaceful solution to the nuclear issue.

It has been proved that President Xi is right to insist on a dialogue between the United States and the DPRK, Trump said, adding that the U.S. side highly appreciates and values China's significant role in resolving the Korean Peninsula issue, and is willing to strengthen communication and coordination with China over the issue, Trump said.

White House-Readout of President Donald J. Trump’s Call with President Xi Jinping of China:

President Donald J. Trump spoke today with President Xi Jinping of China about recent developments related to North Korea.  The two leaders welcomed the prospect of dialogue between the United States and North Korea, and committed to maintain pressure and sanctions until North Korea takes tangible steps toward complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization.  President Trump expressed his hope that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un might choose a brighter path for North Korea’s future.


2. NPC Roundup

China’s Legislature Blesses Xi’s Indefinite Rule. It Was 2,958 to 2. - The New York Times:

Sunday’s vote showed Mr. Xi’s control of the National People’s Congress, which in theory is separate from the Communist Party. The handful of dissenting votes this time was lower than the 45 votes of no and abstentions lodged against less important constitutional amendments in 1999, and the 27 no votes and abstentions in 2004...

“The atmosphere was very solemn and dignified,” one delegate, Cai Peihui, said of the discussions about the amendments before the vote. “The democratic process is flawless.”

CPC leadership stressed in constitutional amendment - Xinhua:

China's national legislature adopted a constitutional amendment Sunday, writing "The leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) is the defining feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics" into the Constitution.

The Constitution has always been very clear and consistent on the CPC leadership. By writing the new sentence into the Constitution, the principle was strengthened, deepened and expanded, said Shen Chunyao, chairman of the Commission for Legislative Affairs of the 12th National People's Congress Standing Committee, at a press conference on constitutional revisions.

China Focus: China's national legislature adopts landmark constitutional amendment - Xinhua:

Included are a vision of innovative, coordinated, green and open development for all; the five-sphere integrated plan for coordinated economic, political, cultural, social and ecological advancement; the goal of a "great modern socialist country"; and an oath of allegiance to the Constitution.

The amendment has enriched clauses on the patriotic united front, harmonious relations among ethnic groups, and peaceful foreign policies, including the addition of building a community with a shared future for humanity.

The expression that China will "adhere to the peaceful development path and the mutually beneficial strategy of opening-up" was added to the preamble.

The following sentence was also added in the Constitution to stress the overall CPC leadership: "The leadership of the Communist Party of China is the defining feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics."

人民日报社论:为民族复兴提供有力宪法保障--舆情频道--人民网:

九鼎重器,百炼乃成。第十三届全国人民代表大会第一次会议,表决通过了宪法修正案。这是时代大势所趋、事业发展所需、党心民心所向,是推进全面依法治国、推进国家治理体系和治理能力现代化的重大举措,对更好发挥宪法在新时代坚持和发展中国特色社会主义中的重大作用,为实现“两个一百年”奋斗目标和中华民族伟大复兴的中国梦提供有力宪法保障,具有重大现实意义和深远历史意义。

Xi Jinping is changing the constitution, but what’s his endgame?  | South China Morning Post:

Analysts familiar with the party’s thinking said Xi believes the amendments are necessary because the challenges China faces today require not just a strong leader but also a unified and strong ruling party. These revisions will bring an end to the debate over whether the party is above the state.

Li Shuzhong, vice-president of the China University of Political Science and Law, said after the upheaval and violence of the Cultural Revolution, party elders had reflected deeply on the dynamics between the party and the state.

At first they thought the two should have a clear division of labour or even separation..

“But the result is that the party’s leadership gradually became weakened. The party’s administrative efficiency was compromised. He [Xi] believes the party organisation is losing its power and this, together with the corruption problem, is a big issue,” said Li, who was a policy adviser on the constitutional amendments.

“[Xi] believes that to reform China, we first need to reform the party. That strengthening party rule will improve the governance of the state.”

Support for amendments belies naysayers' prejudice: China Daily Editorial:

These naysayers casually disregard the fact that China's political system has developed and is evolving in accordance with the country's unique national conditions.

Instead, they revel in their ignorance of China's reality and hold fast to their mean, even malicious predisposition toward China's political system out of their irrational, subjective and unprofessional ideological bias.

Yet, their deep-rooted ideological bias has led them to make one failed prediction after another about China. Their erroneous judgments are only a litany of short-sighted calumnies against the Party and the nation.

Those Western politicians and media speaking ill of China this time are again showing how much they have staked in the inertia of their outdated thinking and how reluctant they are to put an end to their sport.

Official summary of Zhang's report(两会受权发布)全国人民代表大会常务委员会工作报告(摘要) 

Translation: 2018 Amendment to the P.R.C. Constitution – NPC Observer

A Landscape Desolate and Bare – China Heritage

The day before yesterday the People’s Daily published a commentary about Communist China’s ‘New Style Party Politics’. Not only has this new set-up been lauded by international opinion, it is also uniquely suited to China. The commentary claimed that ‘this is a major contribution to the political culture of humanity itself’! A few days before that, the same paper published an articles that claimed:《人民日報》前天發表評論,說中共國的「新型政黨制度 這種政治模式,不僅受到國際傳媒稱許,也符合本土情況,是「對人類政治文明的重大貢獻」。數日前,這份黨報的一篇專稿說:

Western-style democracy is faced with an unprecedented historical crisis. By eliminating fixed terms [for government leaders] … China has corrected one of the flaws of a dated, sclerotic Western system of competitive elections. It is a major step forward for Chinese-style politics, a contribution to the political culture of humanity itself. This is an inspiration and an exemplar for political systems throughout the world.

Demographics of the 13th NPC – NPC Observer:

With the help of an old friend, we downloaded the publicly available information of all 2,980 delegates from the NPC’s website, including their gender, ethnicity, date of birth, jiguan (籍贯, defined below), and political affiliation. (Unfortunately, information that used to be available, including education background, is missing for the 13th NPC delegates.) We then analyzed the data and made some interesting findings which we present below.

Xi underlines clean, upright political ecology - Xinhua:

Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, compared political ecology to natural ecology that can be easily polluted and, if damaged, will cost a huge price to be rehabilitated, at a panel discussion with deputies to the 13th National People's Congress from southwestern municipality of Chongqing. [在重庆团,习近平为领导干部讲授“政德”课

China Focus: China's national legislature calls Party leadership its "greatest strength" - Xinhua:

The leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) is the essential element and greatest strength of the people's congress system, said Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, when delivering a work report of the committee at the first session of the 13th NPC..

During the period, the national legislature enacted 25 laws, revised 127 ones, passed 46 decisions on legal questions and other major issues, and issued nine legal interpretations.

In terms of their oversight duty, lawmakers have inspected enforcement of 26 laws and one legislative decision, heard and deliberated 83 work reports, and conducted 15 special inquiries and 22 research projects...

According to the report, in next five years China's national legislature will speed up compiling the civil code, formulate a foreign investment law and e-commerce law, and do research on formulating a real estate tax law.

Environment laws will be one of the priorities. The soil pollution prevention law will be drafted while the law on solid waste control will be revised.

It also plans to revise the criminal procedure law and draft a community correction law.


3. Major Restructuring Of The Foreign Policy Apparatus

The South China Morning Post reports that big changes are coming to streamline the foreign policy bureaucracy and make it more efficient. The reports says that Yang Jiechi will report to Wang Qishan. That would be interesting, and perhaps makes it less likely Yang will be a vice premier as well. The role that Song Tao, currently head of the International Liason Department, might play will also be interesting. Song is supposedly close to Xi, unlike Yang Jiechi who is known as a Jiang Zemin crony. Once again it looks like Xi gave Jiang face by putting Yang on the Politburo but in substance may have turned him into a flower pot?

China to restructure foreign affairs team in push for greater role on world stage, source says | South China Morning Post:

Under the plan, the Communist Party department responsible for relations with overseas political parties would be consolidated with the party’s foreign policy coordination office, the source told the South China Morning Post.

“The purpose of the reorganisation is to streamline the structure of the agencies and reduce overlaps,” the person said...

The change would see the Communist Party’s International Liaison Department – which handles relations with political parties from other countries – merge with the Office of the Central Leading Group on Foreign Affairs, the source said.

While the precise details of the plan are a closely guarded secret, the new body is expected to be headed by State Councillor Yang Jiechi, who already has responsibility for the leading group office and was promoted to the Communist Party’s powerful Politburo in October...

In his new role, Yang will report to Wang Qishan, who is set to be named as China’s vice-president with overall responsibility for foreign affairs at the end of the NPC session.


4. US-China Relations

Trump’s China whisperer: How billionaire Stephen Schwarzman has sought to keep the president close to Beijing - The Washington Post:

Stephen Schwarzman, chief executive of the Blackstone Group, a private equity giant, had declined to give Trump’s campaign money or endorse him during the 2016 presidential race. But since the election, Schwarzman has emerged as one of Trump’s most generous donors, as well as a key adviser with rare and regular access to the president.

The New York investor, who has one of the closest relationships to Beijing of any American executive, is in many ways the president’s de facto China whisperer — helping to persuade the man who said Beijing’s leaders were “raping” the United States not to follow through on a campaign promise to declare China a “currency manipulator.”

But on this night, on the patio of the president’s estate, Schwarzman’s pull on Trump was being tested anew. The president said a trade war started by new U.S. tariffs could be successful, according to a person with knowledge of the conversation...

That access was evident when, days after Trump’s inauguration, Xi pulled Schwarzman aside at the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The two had “an animated conversation about Trump’s perception of China,” said former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd, a Schwarzman friend. Schwarzman sought to explain to Xi why Trump believes Americans feel shortchanged by globalism and the China trade deficit, Rudd said.

Then Schwarzman returned to the United States and briefed Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin about his talk with the Chinese leader, according to two people briefed on the matter.

The Little-Known Trade Adviser Who Wields Enormous Power in Washington - The New York Times:

Like his boss, Mr. Lighthizer views China as the biggest offender in the global trading system, accusing the country of using state subsidies to build more factories than it needs and calling China’s trade practices an “unprecedented” threat to the world trading system. He is spearheading an initiative to combat China’s alleged theft of American trade secrets, an effort that may include tariffs on Chinese products and restrictions on Chinese investment flowing into the United States.

At times, Mr. Trump seems to have taken his China-bashing language straight from Mr. Lighthizer, including in late February when the president blamed the World Trade Organization for China’s rise...

At a meeting in the Oval Office just before the trip began, Mr. Lighthizer argued against presenting the Chinese with a list of demands for access to the Chinese market, people briefed on the matter said.

He recited all the market-access negotiations between China and the United States — going back to China’s entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001 — to make the point that none of them had prevented the trade deficit between the countries from ballooning.

I am looking forward to a profile of John Thornton, also a Palm Beach neighbor, and his role in US-China relations. If Wang Qishan will run US-China relations then expect him to work Schwarzman and Thornton hard. Lighthizer may be a tougher nut for Wang to crack. 

U.S.-China trade deficit figure overestimated by about 20 pct: commerce minister - Xinhua:

Different statistical methods widen U.S. trade deficit with China by around 20 percent, Chinese commerce minister said Sunday.

A joint work group found that the trade deficit number tracked by the United States was overestimated by 21 percent last year, Zhong Shan, the Minister of Commerce told a press conference on the sidelines of the first session of the 13th National People's Congress.

China Doesn’t Want Trade War, But Will Defend Itself, Minister Says - Caixin Global:

China doesn’t want to fight a trade war and has no intention of initiating one, but it has the confidence needed to face any challenge and defend its national interests, the country’s top trade official said.

“There is no winner in a trade war. It can only bring disaster to China and the U.S., and the rest of the world,” Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan warned at a press conference on Sunday on the sidelines of the annual meeting of China’s top legislature.


5. Xi Meets With The PLA/PAP Delegation

Xi stresses deepened military-civilian integration for Chinese dream - Xinhua:

President Xi Jinping Monday stressed practical efforts to further deepened military-civilian integration to provide impetus and support for realizing the Chinese dream and the dream of building a powerful military.

Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the remarks when attending a plenary meeting of the delegation of People's Liberation Army and armed police at the ongoing session of the 13th National People's Congress, the national legislature.

The top 10 minutes of the 3.12 CCTV Evening News, shows Xi commenting, reminding those present that training should be modeled after real combat conditions and emphasizing the importance of technology. Xi looks and sounds satisfied and at ease... 习近平在出席解放军和武警部队代表团全体会议时强调 扎扎实实推进军民融合深度发展 为实现中国梦强军梦提供强大动力和战略支撑 :

会上,黎火辉、郭普校、张学宇、王辉青、杨初格西、李伟、朱程、王宁等8位代表围绕推进军民融合、加强实战化训练、加快航天领域发展、深化政策制度改革、做好武警部队改革、完善退役军人管理保障等问题提出意见和建议。习近平同代表们深入交流,详细询问有关情况,会场发言踊跃、气氛热烈。


6. Progress In The Battle Against Pollution, Grassroots Officials Increasingly The Focus

Michael Greenstone, who runs the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago and is the Milton Friedman professor of economics at the university, says the data he sees show real progress—Four Years After Declaring War on Pollution, China Is Winning - The New York Times

China is winning, at record pace. In particular, cities have cut concentrations of fine particulates in the air by 32 percent on average, in just four years.

The speed of the anti-pollution drive has raised important questions about its human costs. But if China sustains these reductions, recent research by my colleagues and me indicates that residents will see significant improvements to their health, extending their life spans by months or years...

Over the past few months, news began to trickle in that the efforts were working. So I decided to dig deeper. Using data from almost 250 government monitors throughout the country, which closely matches monitors maintained by the United States embassy in Beijing and consulates around the country, I found major improvements...

The roughly 20 million residents in Beijing would live an estimated 3.3 years longer, while those in Shijiazhuang would add 5.3 years, and those in Baoding 4.5 years. Notably, my research suggests that these improvements in life expectancy would be experienced by people of all ages, not just the young and old.

Reducing pollution is now a major political task. The head of the CCDI group stationed in the Ministry Of Environmental Protection writes in the 3.12 People's Daily about using CCDI tools to enforce political discipline and adherence to waging the "tough battle" on pollution at the grassroots level --以坚强政治纪律作风打好污染防治攻坚战

通过实地调研了解、约谈等方式,开展对党组织履行全面从严治党责任情况、对严肃党内政治生活情况的监督检查,克服压力传导层层递减的现象,解决一些党组织管党治党宽松软问题,解决一些基层党组织软弱涣散、战斗堡垒作用不强问题,推动工作延伸到基层、责任落实到基层。基层党组织或临时党支部全面从严治党责任落实不到位的,对维护党的政治纪律和政治规矩失责的,坚持失责必问。对该问责而不问责的,要对基层党组织、纪检组织严肃追究。--(作者为中央纪委驻环保部纪检组组长、环保部党组成员)

3 arrested for beating up environmental volunteers inspecting sewage pit - Global Times

Following the arrest on Wednesday, police are still investigating the case and trying to identify other suspects who had beaten the two activists, an officer from Yangliu police station in Sishui county told the Global Times.

Zhang Wenbing, one of the victims, told the Global Times on Thursday that he and Xiao Jiang are volunteers from the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation, a Beijing-based NGO.

China's War on Pollution Will Change the World - Bloomberg:

Four decades of breakneck economic growth turned China into the world’s biggest carbon emitter. But now the government is trying to change that without damaging the economy—and perhaps even use its green policies to become a leader in technological innovation. So, as lawmakers attend the annual National People’s Congress, here’s a look at the impact of the environmental focus, at home and abroad.

Comment: But still no solution in sight for the massive water crisis, and still a long way to go. 

Smog alert issued as official urges action - China Daily:

Beijing's environmental authority has issued an orange alert for smog - its second-highest warning level - with heavy air pollution forecast to persist until Wednesday night.

The weather is due mostly to unfavorable conditions for the dispersal of pollutants, the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau said.


7. Even Chinese Newspapers Are Comparing The Growing Surveillance State To "Minority Report"

China eyes 'black tech' to boost security as parliament meets - Reuters:

Wu Fei, chief executive of LLVision (亮亮视野 http://www.llvision.com/), said people should not be worried about privacy concerns because China’s authorities were using the equipment for “noble causes”, catching suspects and fugitives from the law...

“This year, security at the two sessions has some freshly-baked ‘black tech’ coming online,” wrote the state-run Science and Technology Daily newspaper, using a comic-book term in China for futuristic surveillance gadgets.

The paper said cameras at the event had been upgraded to capture, analyze and compare suspicious faces in around two seconds, powered by a system called “Skynet” - which has a national database of blacklisted individuals.

“The plot of sci-fi film ‘Minority Report’ is now basically becoming a part of daily life,” the newspaper added, referring to the Tom Cruise movie set in a futuristic society where crimes are solved and punished before they even happen.

The original story-厉害!两会安保黑科技碾压科幻大片 

Is China building a nationwide DNA database to track citizens? Why are police collecting the DNA of a person accused of censorship violations? Why is the chairman of a biological engineering firm warning of genetic weapons delivered via blood transfusions?

China steps up internet censorship of criticism of Xi Jinping - The Globe and Mail:

Police seized Yan's computer and took him to a police station where they ordered him to sign a document pledging to delete the tool and refrain from making another – and then drew his blood. "They just told me they needed to collect my DNA," he said. The officers recorded numerous personal details, and "I also saw them marking a box saying 'person of key concern,'" Yan said.

China should protect blood supply from foreign firms: lawmaker - Global Times:

"Blood products are strategically important materials. They contain important genetic information," An Kang, chairman of Hualan Biological Engineering Inc, told the Global Times Sunday.  

"A lethal method of genetic weapon is to take advantage of specific points of other nations' genomes and carry out destruction aimed at these points…thus we should prevent potentially severe results to our national security caused by genetic information losses," said An, without providing any specific example or evidence of such activities.

China's Domestic Security Spending: An Analysis of Available Data - Jamestown:

National domestic security spending (国家财政公共安全支出) can be broken down into central government spending (中央财政公共安全支出) and regional level spending (地方财政公共安全支出), with the latter representing to the sum of domestic security expenditures for all provinces and autonomous regions. [2] Reports on China’s domestic security budgets typically only cite the central government spending figure because it features in Ministry of Finance reports. This figure was also the one cited in the MoF NPC, while the full national spending figure was only shown as a share of total spending. The motivation for this is evident: central level spending is only a fraction (about one fifth) of the national figure.


8. John Garnaut Explains PRC Influence And Interference In Australia

John may be the person most responsible for the "awakening" in Australia over the last couple of years, given his time working for Prime Minister Turnbull after his years as a reporter in Beijing, 

How China Interferes in Australia | Foreign Affairs - John Garnaut

Australia is the canary in the coal mine of Chinese Communist Party interference. Over the past 18 months, the country has been shaken by allegations of the Chinese party-state working to covertly manipulate the Australian political system and curate the wider political landscape. There are claims of Beijing-linked political donors buying access and influence, universities being co-opted as “propaganda vehicles,” and Australian-funded scientific research being diverted to aid the modernization of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)...

If Australia has “woken up” the world on China’s interference, as a senior Pentagon official puts it, it has been able to do so for five reasons. First, the debate originated inside the Chinese Australian community and has distinguished what the party is doing from its subjective impact on those it targets. Second, Australia has sidestepped important but unproductive normative arguments about what China “is” and instead focused on empirical questions about what the Chinese party-state is doing. Third, the government commissioned a thorough cross-agency investigation that supported a firm internal consensus. Fourth, participants have worked hard to define the line that separates legitimate influence in an open society from intrusive interference. Finally, the principles are framed to apply equally to all countries that engage in covert, corrupting, or coercive behavior.


Business, Economy, Finance And Trade

China Battles Hidden Local Government Debt - Caixin Global: There is currently no uniform measure of hidden debt but a number of researchers use related government data to estimate its size. One method used by Shanghai-based Rosefinch Investment takes into account the infrastructure, social security, and housing expenditures of local governments. This method places the total sum of local government debt, including hidden debt, at around 60.7 trillion yuan, according to Rosefinch’s researchers.

China's CEFC was scrambling for loans as authorities swooped - Reuters  CEFC China Energy, the once-acquisitive conglomerate, was prepared to pay annual rates of as much as 36 percent for short-term funding in a sign of the cash crunch faced by the company as authorities were closing in on its chairman, according to multiple people with knowledge of the matter...Its total debt amounted to 117 billion yuan at the end of June, compared to total assets of 169 billion yuan. It reported a 2016 net profit of 4.5 billion yuan

China’s banking watchdogs set sights on rising household debt problem | South China Morning Post Guo Shuqing, chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, and Pan Gongsheng, a deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China, both raised red flags this week on the sidelines of the annual gathering of the National People’s Congress in Beijing.

China Banking Crisis Warning Signal Still Flashing, BIS Says - Bloomberg China, Canada and Hong Kong are among the economies most at risk of a banking crisis, according to early-warning indicators compiled by the Bank for International Settlements. Canada -- whose economy grew last year at the fastest pace since 2011 -- was flagged thanks to its households’ maxed-out credit cards and high debt levels in the wider economy. Household borrowing is also seen as a risk factor for China and Hong Kong, according to the study.

Central State-owned Enterprise Debt Under Control at 36.1tn Yuan: SASAC - China Banking News “At the end of 2017 the total assets of central SOE’s were 54.5 trillion yuan, for an average debt-asset ratio of 66.3% and a decline of 0.4 percentage points compared to the previous year,” said Xiao Yaqing (肖亚庆) at a press conference held on 10 March for the 13th National People’s Congress.“Total debt was 35.1 trillion yuan, including 9.5 trillion yuan in bank loans, and 3.8 trillion yuan in various securities, short-term and super-short term financing…overall, central SOE debt levels are under control.”

China to expand capital tools for banks to raise funds - Xinhua The country will improve rules to enable commercial banks to raise funds through multiple channels, including convertible bonds and other loss-absorbing debt instruments, according to the plan jointly issued by the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) and another four regulators.

Eric Carlson: In China investigations, messaging platforms can be a goldmine or a landmine - The FCPA Blog - The FCPA Blog During an investigation, WeChat data can reveal discussions of interest among company employees or between company employees and non-employees. In our experience, employees are often far less guarded on WeChat or similar platforms than they would be in email, and may discuss sensitive issues more freely and openly.

Stock Exchanges Plan Tougher Delisting Rules - Caixin Global The latest changes to the delisting rules mainly involve tougher punishments for offenses already laid out in existing regulations. Six types of wrongdoing lead to delisting, including falsifying or omitting information to help secure regulatory approval for initial public offerings (IPO) or backdoor listings, where companies gain entry to the stock market by injecting their assets into listed shell companies

China Pledges to Lower Auto Import Tariffs - Caixin Global “China will take bigger steps to relax restrictions on consumer products coming into the Chinese market, including cars,” said Zhong Shan, head of the Ministry of Commerce, during a press conference Sunday at the country’s annual legislative sessions. Zhong did not specify by how much the tariffs would be cut.

 

Politics, Law And Ideology

深化党和国家机构改革是推进国家治理体系和治理能力现代化的必然要求 long piece by Ding Xuexiang on page 6 of the 3.12. People's Daily//党的十九届三中全会《决定》明确指出:“党的全面领导是深化党和国家机构改革的根本保证。”《决定》还强调:“把加强党对一切工作的领导贯穿改革各方面和全过程,完善保证党的全面领导的制度安排,改进党的领导方式和执政方式,提高党把方向、谋大局、定政策、促改革的能力和定力。”同时,《决定》从建立健全党对重大工作的领导体制机制、强化党的组织在同级组织中的领导地位、更好发挥党的职能部门作用、统筹设置党政机构、推进党的纪律检查体制和国家监察体制改革等5个方面,对完善坚持党的全面领导的制度作出具体部署。要认真贯彻落实这些要求和部署,优化党的组织机构,确保党的领导全覆盖,确保党的领导更加坚强有力。// CBN summarizes Ding's key points-关于机构改革,中办主任丁薛祥的这篇署名文章说透了 

学习领袖精神风范 强化履责使命担当——中央党校举行学习《习近平在正定》座谈会--理论-人民网 Central Party School holds symposium on "Xi Jinping In Zhending", exhorts cadres to study Xi's model of "lingxiu" spirit...article is top one in latest issue of Study Times

China to revise criminal law to accommodate powerful anti-graft commission - Reuters After the supervision law is passed at this meeting, the standing committee of the parliament will make changes to the criminal procedure law so it fits with the new law, Wang Shenming, vice-chair of the judicial affairs committees of parliament, told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting.

'Every place you go, you are being watched': reporting from Xi's China | The Guardian The Guardian’s outgoing Beijing correspondent Tom Mitchell reflects on six years of increasing repression

As Xi Rises, The Cult of Mao Lives On - Bloomberg Effigies of Mao used to take pride of place in almost every village square and college courtyard. While the practice has been in decline since the 1980s, when the Communist Party acted to rein in the personality cult around Mao, statues and busts of the former leader can still be found in party offices, some universities and in farmers’ homes. There are only about five workers left in the Mao statue workshop at the Jingdezhen Porcelain Factory in China's northeastern Jiangxi province, but they're still plying their craft.  //  Comment: interesting photos

Update on China’s international commercial court | Supreme People's Court Monitor Among the many developments flagged in Supreme People’s Court (SPC) President Zhou Qiang’s 2018 report to the National People’s Congress is that the SPC will establish an international commercial tribunal (court)(最 高人民法院国际商事审判庭), as approved by the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reforms. The timing is unknown. The international commercial tribunal (this post will use the term “court”) as is understood clearly, must fit political and technical requirements. This blogpost will look at those, particularly the technical ones, as those are the ones that have escaped the attention of most commentators outside of China.

Weibo Whack-a-Mole | ChinaFile Following is our [Weivoscope] ranking of the 10 Most-Censored Weibo Events of 2017 according to our repost-to-survival-time ratio. Hangzhou Nanny’s Arson; China Central Television New Year’s Gala; Beijing Kindergarten Sexual Abuse Scandal; Survey on Middle East Refugees; “Low-End Population” Migrants Evictions; Liu Xiaobo’s Death; Sacking of Head Table Tennis Coach Liu Guoliang; 19th Communist Party Congress; Sexual Assault at the Beijing Film Academy; Child Bride in Wushan

 

Foreign and Military Affairs

Sweden criticises China's 'unacceptable' behaviour in detaining bookseller | World news | The Guardian Foreign minister Margot Wallström demands that Beijing give Gui Minhai access to medical and diplomatic staff // Comment: But Beijing does not care what the Swedish government thinks at this point as they Sweden having o credible leverage to use

China's attendance at Vatican organ conference hailed as boon to ties, peace - Reuters Chinese academics will join the Vatican conference on Monday and Tuesday, for the second year in a row, state media reported. “Relations between Beijing and the Vatican authorities are moving forward. So are relations between the two peoples,” Huang Jiefu, a former Chinese vice-minister of health and current head of the National Human Organ Donation and Transplant Committee, was cited in the state-run Global Times as saying.

China in Greenland: Mines, Science, and Nods to Independence - Jamestown Miguel Martin has previously published on Arctic affairs under the name Jichang Lulu--The Greenlandic government is enthusiastic about China as a key investor in mining and infrastructure projects, as well as a source of tourism and a customer for seafood, with a foreseeable central role in reducing economic dependence from Denmark. Such enthusiasm has not been reciprocated through major investments, although that might be about to change. Chinese companies remain cautious, as the development of the mining industry is hindered by high costs, low commodity prices, a lack of infrastructure and financial uncertainty. In political contacts, China avoids any signs of support for Greenland’s independence, but the topic is now open for academic discussion. Although it remains unstated, an independent Greenland with China as a key trade and investment partner and good political relations would be a valuable geopolitical asset in the context of China’s long-term Arctic strategy.

Featured Young China Watcher – Mohammed Al-Sudairi: Research Fellow and Head of Asian Studies, King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies | YCW bilateral relations are near-guaranteed to be endowed with considerable strategic significance, due to the energy dynamic: Since 2013, China has been the world’s largest net-importer of petroleum and other liquids, averaging an import of nearly six million barrels a day. Aramco has pursued a strategy of building downstream refining infrastructure in places like Fujian, Shandong, and potentially Yunnan to ensure that Arabian sweet crude continues to be processed for use in the Chinese market. All this should be considered against the backdrop of how much of Saudi Arabia’s energy exports now flow eastward to the Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indian, and ASEAN markets, in contradistinction to Western markets, primarily the U.S., where the shale oil revolution and various economic shifts have diminished reliance on foreign oil imports over the last decade. I don’t expect a strategic shift in Sino-Saudi relations anytime soon, however: Saudi elites remain normatively invested in maintaining the American-backed security structure in the Gulf, despite their attempt to chart a more independent foreign policy. Beyond that, China does not yet have the diplomatic wherewithal, power projection capabilities, and perhaps even the will, to push the relationship in a strategic direction.

Security alarm sounded over Chinese company Huawei's possible involvement in Australia's 5G network - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) The Australian Financial Review reported late last month that the Critical Infrastructure Centre within the newly created Department of Home Affairs would conduct a national security assessment of the company.

India China: India, China try to reset ties ahead of Modi’s SCO trip | Times of India India and China are preparing for a series of high-level interactions leading up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in June and both sides are expected to tone down some of the hardline approaches that have characterised bilateral relations in the past few months.

 

Hong Kong, Macao

Hong Kong’s Pro-Democracy Bloc Loses Seats in Election - The New York Times Hong Kong’s pro-democracy lawmakers have lost two seats in the territory’s legislature, another setback for the bloc whose members were previously disqualified after modifying their oaths of office to defy Beijing. While the pro-democracy camp widely anticipated losing one of the four vacated seats up for a vote in Sunday’s by-election, a second loss, by a margin of just over 1 percent after a recount, was a less expected and more painful blow.

 

Taiwan

Cabinet, DPP seek to boost penalties for spying for China - Taipei Times The Executive Yuan has submitted a proposal to amend the Classified National Security Information Protection Act (國家機密保護法) to the legislature, which, if passed, would boost the penalties for people convicted of spying for China.

 

Tech And Media

China’s Emerging Data Privacy System and GDPR | Center for Strategic and International Studies

China Box Office: ‘Black Panther’ Wins Weekend – Variety “Black Panther” opened on top of the China box office with a strong $66 million gross, defying doubts that Chinese audiences would warm to a movie with black lead actors. The film debuted strongly on Friday and dominated on each of its first three days

China Altered Public Vulnerability Data to Conceal MSS Influence - Recorded Future CNNVD altered the original publication dates in its public database for at least 267 vulnerabilities we identified as statistical outliers in our research published in November 2017. We assessed in November that CNNVD had a formal vulnerability evaluation process in which high-threat CVEs were evaluated for their operational utility by the MSS before publication, and that the publication lag was one way to identify vulnerabilities that the MSS was likely considering for use in offensive cyber operations. CNNVD’s outright manipulation of these dates implicitly confirmed this assessment.

Tencent invests in two game streaming platforms in one day: Huya & Douyu · TechNode Chinese live-streaming platform Huya (虎牙) yesterday announced that it has pocketed $461.6 million in its series B financing round led by Tencent, marking Tencent’s second major investment in the live-streaming sector within one day after it revealed an RMB 4 billion ($630 million) investment in game streaming platform Douyu (斗鱼).

Alibaba’s Jack Ma and Joe Tsai invest $20 million in Rent the Runway | TechCrunch Rent the Runway first launched in 2009 to rent designer dresses to people for special events. Since then, the company has evolved its business to include an everyday-wear type of service that lets people rent out their closets to other people.

China’s race for the mother of all supercomputers just got more crowded | South China Morning Post Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent jockey for position in the development of quantum computing, which delivers a faster and more efficient approach to processing information than today’s fastest computers

 

Society, Art, Sports, Culture And History

A Catholic bishop and his rural Chinese parish worry about a deal between Beijing and the Vatican    - The Washington Post LUOTIANBA, China — The bishop can’t really talk about religion right now.  His unofficial church is caught in a fight over the future of the Roman Catholic faith here, a struggle for control between the Vatican and the Communist Party that will determine the fate of the estimated 10 million Catholics in China and shape the legacy of Pope Francis.  Bishop Zhuang Jianjian, 88, under watch and already in trouble, knows it is not safe to speak out. But he can still deliver a sermon.

Bishop Zhuang’s true Story: faithful to the Pope and “patriotic” - La Stampa The 87-year-old pastor of Shantou does not belong to the “underground” Catholic community, and yet he is fully integrated in the “patriotic” bodies controlling the Church. Important details removed from the orchestrated campaign that wanted to present him as a victim of the agreements between the Holy See and Beijing

In search of Tang Lanlan | Chublic Opinion The Paper withdrew the report from its website amid mounting criticism. Beijing News defiantly continued to publish new materials on the case, but its Weibo account was muted by the platform for a few days. And representatives of the Supreme Procuratorate reportedly met with two of the newly released and their lawyer. The High Court of Heilongjiang province, on the other hand, denied reports that it had initiated processes for a retrial. No one, at least for now, managed to get hold of Tang Lanlan. If the girl has been watching all this from somewhere, she might feel vindicated that so many total strangers have spoken up on her behalf. Or, she might be appalled by the magnitude of the online storm that left behind a massive field of weird debris upon which the rest of her life needs to be built.

Why has Cantonese fallen out of favour with Guangzhou youngsters? | South China Morning Post In provincial capital, formerly known as Canton, grandparents and parents find themselves having to communicate with children in Mandarin

What do the Lianghui mean for China's sports industry? - China Sports Insider Politics trumps everything in China, so when all the top leaders gather in Beijing for their annual meetings, it’s worth paying attention. Sports is not – it must be stressed – a top priority at the “Two Sessions” or Lianghui, but it does get a mention every now and then. Below are the relevant moments from the week’s major speeches, plus some attempts to read the tea leaves.

 

Education

US postsecondary enrollments in Mandarin fall | Pinyin News The real decline from 2013 to 2016 is 14.3 percent, not 13.1 percent. // Comment: I believe high school enrollments are down as well

 

Food And Travel

No Room to Rest in China’s ‘Toilet Revolution’ - Caixin Global It may sound like dirty business, but China’s National Tourism Administration is leaving no stone unturned with its latest campaign to promote the nation’s public restrooms. That includes a new ranking system offering praise for cities with the best public-toilet networks, and an app helping people to find their nearest public potties.

 

Beijing

Drunken Teddy Bear Theft by Beijing Expats Draws Chinese Condemnation | the Beijinger But what may seem like a joke to these expats has real consequences for the other people involved. Querida1221 said her father, who is employed as a security guard at the building, has been forced to pay RMB 3,000 in compensation while Sanlitun police authorities are said to have begun investigating. Far from being a laughing matter, the theft has sparked condemnation by Chinese netizens. Referencing a pivotal moment from the Opium Wars, one commenter said, "Do these foreign trash think it's the Summer Palace from 100 years ago?" Another person sarcastically said, "How can it be called stealing when its done by these distinguished foreign gentlemen?"  //  Comment: Wonder how long until Beijing requires facial scans of every foreigner in the country.