No drama NPC; Beijing's water crisis; US-China talks

The Two meetings are almost over. This year so far they have been especially slow, nothing like last year when some were predicting delegates would voice dissatisfaction with Xi and the end of term limits by voting against it, or the NPC in 2012 when Bo Xilai was clearly about to go down and then-Premier Wen hinted at the risks of a return of Cultural Revolution-like policies:

“Although our party has made resolutions on a number of historical issues, after the implementation of reform and opening up, the mistakes of the Cultural Revolution and feudalism have not been completely eliminated...

Reform has reached a critical stage. Without the success of political reform, economic reforms cannot be carried out. The results that we have achieved may be lost. A historical tragedy like the Cultural Revolution may occur again. Each party member and cadre should feel a sense of urgency.”

At the time everyone assumed Wen was warning about Bo Xilai. With seven years hindsight I wonder if Wen was really talking about Bo, or if he had another senior leader in mind?

Some of the top news from today:

  • The annual Supreme Court Work report put more emphasis on protecting the rights of private businesses than it has in years past, which is both in sync with the overall propaganda campaign to reassure private businesses and ironic given the speculation about the Supreme People’s Court President Zhou Qiang’s possible role in the Shaanxi mining case scandal;

  • The top US and China negotiators had another call but not specific progress was announced. A next possible step to watch for are whether the US team heads back to Beijing this weekend or early next week, as soon as the NPC closes. I am still hearing March 29 is a possible date for a Trump-Xi meeting in Mar-a-Lago but the schedule looks tight;

  • More countries are halting flights by Boeing’s problematic 737 Max, so China’s move looks less like something related to the trade dispute and more like a prudent safety move, especially given reporting that Chinese pilots have had issues with the planes, according to the Washington Post:

    A top official with the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said Monday that the Chinese asked their counterparts at the FAA as well as Boeing about piloting software and safety issues of the popular new airliner model after Lion Air Flight 610 plunged into the sea off Indonesia in October, but have not received satisfactory answers...

    Carl Liu, a 23-year-old pilot who has been flying 737s since last June for a Chinese domestic airline, said the new model would sometimes show that the aircraft was climbing steeply even though it was climbing by 10 degrees, and automated systems would nudge the plane’s nose down, causing a temporary loss of control.

Housekeeping note: I will be in Hawaii for the last two weeks of March, the newsletter will be on a normal schedule for most of that period though the daily timing may be a bit off.

Feel free to forward this newsletter to friends and colleagues you think would find it interesting. You my dear readers are always my best source of new subscriptions.


The Essential Eight

1. US-China

Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He discusses trade deal text with US’ Robert Lighthizer and Steven Mnuchin | South China Morning Post:

State news agency Xinhua reported that Liu had a telephone conversation with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at 7am on Tuesday.

“Both sides had consultations on key issues regarding the text, and made a plan for the next stage of work arrangements,” the report said, without giving further details.

Trade war cost $7.8 billion, new paper finds | Berkeley News:

The 2018 trade war cost the American economy $7.8 billion dollars in lost gross domestic product, according to a new paper authored by a team of economists at UC Berkeley, Columbia University, Yale University and UCLA...

The researchers found that protective tariffs helped American producers, such as Rust Belt steel companies, gain $23 billion in new revenue.

But higher costs to consumers and retaliatory tariffs on export-dependent industries, like Midwestern soybean farmers, amounted to a net economy-wide loss of $7.8 billion.

Kennedy and his co-authors also found that the beneficiaries of tariffs on U.S. imports, like steel workers, are more likely to live in electorally competitive counties where 40 to 60 percent of voters identify as Republican. This suggests a possible political motivation for the trade war, Kennedy says.

However, their analysis found that the costs of the trade war are being borne disproportionately by heavily Republican counties, especially those in the Midwestern plains and Mountain West.

“Retaliations by U.S. trade partners offset the benefits of U.S. tariffs in virtually all counties, but especially in rural, agricultural counties,” Kennedy says.

The paper The Return to Protectionism by Pablo D. Fajgelbaum, Pinelopi K. Goldberg, Patrick J. Kennedy, Amit K. Khandelwal

2. Supreme Court report

China’s Top Judge Highlights Rights of Private Firms for 2019 - Caixin:

Zhou Qiang, who is also president of the Supreme People’s Court of China, delivered this year’s report to the National People’s Congress Tuesday morning, as part of the ongoing “Two Sessions” meetings of China’s top legislators and political advisors.

Zhou said that in 2019 China would intensify protections of property rights and protect the legal rights and interests of all categories of market participants. The legitimate rights and interests of private enterprises and entrepreneurs should be accorded equal protection under the law, Zhou added.

This marks the third year in a row that the Supreme Court’s work report, which sets the direction of the court’s work for the year ahead, has mentioned the protection of property rights. But this is the first time that private businesses have been specifically pointed out in relation to these rights.

Comment: Meanwhile, lots of speculation that Zhou Qiang is deeply involved in the Shaanxi mining case scandal



China Focus: Chinese judiciary makes headway in ensuring stability, development - Xinhua:

The judiciary also endeavors to serve the country's all-round opening-up, the Belt and Road Initiative, and high-quality development, according to the work reports of the Supreme People's Court (SPC) and the Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP) delivered to the annual national legislative session Tuesday...

Chief Justice Zhou Qiang and Procurator-General Zhang Jun highlighted progress made in the past year when delivering the reports..

Vowing to deepen judicial reform this year, Zhou said, "The SPC will uphold the principle of administrating justice for the people to enhance their sense of fulfillment, happiness, and security."

The report - 最高人民检察院工作报告(文字实录)_正义网

3. Mixed signals on the property market

It’s what they didn’t say – phrases dropped from ‘two sessions’ point to easing of China’s property curbs, according to analysts | South China Morning Post:

President Xi Jinping famously declared in 2017 that “houses are for living in, not for speculation”. The phrase immediately made its way into all official property policy, underpinning measures aimed at reining in China’s runaway house prices.
Fast forward to 2019 and things have changed.

Xi’s mantra was notably missing from a closely-watched economic report at this year’s legislative meetings in Beijing, as was any mention of a government pledge “to curb the rise of home prices”, first officially mooted last July.

The omission of such phrases from carefully worded scripts at the annual “two sessions” has given rise to hope that Beijing may be loosening its tight grip on the property sector.

But, the Minister of Housing and Urban-Rural Development says no change-China to maintain consistent housing policies: housing minister - China Daily:

China will continue policies to stabilize housing and land prices and market expectations, said Wang Menghui, minister of Housing and Urban-Rural Development Tuesday.

In a so-called "minister's passage" interview at the annual meetings of China's national legislature and top political advisory body, Wang emphasized that houses are for living – not for speculation.

"Local authorities need to improve market mechanisms, and apply appropriate policies and regulations in accordance with their own situations, to stabilize market expectation, the price of land and housing, and prevent sudden price increases or slumps," said Wang.

China Vanke Sales Slid 12% in February 2019 - Mingtiandi:

Property sales by China’s top three developers slid in the first two months of 2019 compared to the same period last year as the companies brace for an uncertain year ahead.

4. Italy and the BRI

Any chance the Italian politicians pushing to sign on to belt and road have been offered illicit financial inducements from the PRC side? Great Power competition and bribes to officials go hand in hand, as the US demonstrated in the original Cold War, no?

Italian PM Giuseppe Conte ignores US warnings and pushes for closer cooperation with China’s belt and road plan | South China Morning Post:

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has overruled the foreign ministry and joined right-wing Eurosceptics in his coalition cabinet in calling for closer cooperation with China’s “Belt and Road Initiative”, sources told the South China Morning Post.

In a move that Washington warned would damage Italy’s standing with its neighbours, the Conte government is understood to be planning to give Chinese companies greater access to the port of Trieste – one of the region’s busiest, with access to the Mediterranean – as well as further cooperation between the leading electricity providers of both countries.

Salvini Warns Against ‘Colonizing Italy’ Before China Accord - Bloomberg:

Deputy Premier Matteo Salvini fired a warning shot as his populist government prepares to sign an accord with China, saying he refuses to see foreign companies “colonizing Italy.”

Salvini, whose League party campaigns on the Trump-like slogan “Italy First,” expressed reservations after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the country would sign a framework agreement with China on the massive Belt and Road Initiative infrastructure project.

German opposition to Italy’s belt and road deal with China ‘unfair’ says former diplomat | South China Morning Post:

Italy’s former ambassador to China has blasted an attempt by Germany and its “satellites” to stop Italy from joining China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” as unfair, saying Berlin was happy to do business with Beijing “in every possible way”.

Alberto Bradanini told the South China Morning Post on Sunday that Rome had decided to go ahead with the plan partly as a result of frustration at the lack of action by the European Union in tackling trade deficits with China.

Lost in translation: ‘Economic diplomacy’ with Chinese characteristics - Sinopsis:

In this policy brief, based on extensive research of original sources in Chinese and local languages, we use the examples of the Czech Republic and Central and Eastern Europe to demonstrate that China’s “economic diplomacy”, while often bringing little economic effect, provides rhetorical cover for the extensive capture of local political elites through “friendly contacts” and targeted corruption.

We map the effects of such elite capture through recent controversies surrounding two Chinese firms, CEFC and Huawei. In the policy recommendations, we stress the need to resolve through effective conflict-of-interest legislation the potential conflicts of interest of current and former politicians employed, or otherwise economically engaged, by Chinese companies. We also call for more effort to study and explain to all stakeholders the fundamentals of the PRC’s unique political and economic systems, and their implications for informed policy-making.

5. A new Chinese money in US politics scandal coming?

The US has not had one since the Clinton-era, when the Chinese were a lot poorer and the economic ties with the US were smaller. Given the increasingly anti-China mood in DC there are certainly elements in place for something to blow up, but the mitigating factor may be that there is little bipartisan support for digging too deep into the money trails?

Cindy Yang, alleged brothel spa founder pictured with Donald Trump, is dismissed by Asian-American Republican group | South China Morning Post:

The National Committee of Asian American Republicans fired 45-year-old Yang, who also goes by the names Yang Li and Yang Lijuan, on Friday following a report by the Miami Herald detailing Yang’s connections with the White House, committee executive director Cliff Li told theSouth China Morning Post...

Li said her position was terminated when the Asian GOP, as the committee is known, became “aware of all the allegations towards her”, but did not elaborate when asked about which specific allegations led to her dismissal...

A New York City-based business partner of Yang, Jing Li, is close to the Trump family and has arranged for Chinese business executives to attend at least two Trump fundraisers, a source who attended one such event in New York told thePost...

Posts on Jing’s account on WeChat, the Chinese social media platform, show her activity in Republican Party politics. A caption on two of the posts reads: “Heading towards Mar-a-Lago after passing through tight security, I’ve already been asked if I’m Wendi Deng. Do we look alike?” The badge she displays in both posts is for a fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago on March 3, 2018.

Jing’s WeChat posts also show frequent contact with Ivanka Trump, often suggesting they meet for lunch.

Cindy Yang's boss at a sleepy PAC enjoyed access to GOP officials too - 1100 Penn:

the executive director of the National Committee of Asian American Republicans, Cliff Zhonggang Li, has enjoyed access to senior GOP elected officials...

Li’s Facebook profile and other social media posts do show him posing with:

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao

then-White House spokesperson Sean Spicer, at Trump’s D.C.-area golf course

Sen. Mike Enzi (R–WY)

then-Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) in the homestretch of DeSantis’s successful campaign for governor

then-Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R)

Rep. Brian Mast (R–FL)

former GOP chair and nominee for U.S. Senate from Virginia, Ed Gillespie

Related: Election Watchdog Hits Jeb Bush’s Super-PAC With Massive Fine for Taking Money From Foreign Nationals – Mother Jones

Neil Bush, who has extensive business dealings in China, solicited the $1.3 million contribution from American Pacific International Capital (APIC), an international investment holding company where Neil is a board member. Although the contribution to Jeb’s super-PAC came from the American arm of APIC, the company’s owners are Chinese, and Neil Bush initially solicited the money from two Chinese nationals—Gordon Tang, the chair of APIC, and Huaidan Chen, a board member. The FEC has fined APIC $550,000 and Right to Rise $390,000.

APIC's Gordon Tang also bought former Commerce Secretary and US Ambassador to China Gary Locke's DC-area house in 2013 - Gary Locke, While Obama’s Ambassador to China, Got a Chinese Tycoon to Buy His House

6. Subversive Christianity

China official says West using Christianity to 'subvert' power | Reuters:

In a speech on Monday, Xu Xiaohong head of the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China, said there were many problems with Christianity in the country, including “infiltration” from abroad and “private meeting places”.

“It must be recognized that our movement’s surname is ‘China’ and not ‘Western’,” Xu said, according to remarks reported on Tuesday by the United Front Work Department, which is in charge of co-opting non-communists, ethnic minorities and religious groups.

“Anti-China forces in the West are trying to continue to influence China’s social stability and even subvert our country’s political power through Christianity, and it is doomed to fail,” he said, speaking to parliament’s largely ceremonial advisory body.

“For individual black sheep who, under the banner of Christianity, participate in subverting national security, we firmly support the country to bring them to justice.”

US Ambassador in Taiwan declares support for religious groups persecuted by China's communist regime | Taiwan News:

U.S. Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback gave an interview with Radio Taiwan International (RTI) radio-host Sen Hong Yang (楊憲宏), on the evening of Monday, March 11.

During the interview at RTI, Ambassador Brownback boldly expressed his hope that religious freedom will come to China soon, and also declared the support of the United States for those suffering from persecution under authoritarian regimes like the one in Beijing.

Echoing his statements from previous addresses over the past few days, Brownback expressed his belief that suppression of religion will inevitably lead to a stronger religious identity among those who are persecuted. The ambassador expressed his belief that the war which China wages against religion is a war that the Chinese Communist Party ultimately can not win.

7. Beijing's water problem

Kudos to this CPPCC delegate for pointing out perhaps the biggest risk to Beijing, the Jing-Jin-Ji integration plan, the Xiong'an new city ("Ximandias"?) and the future of much of Northern China. There is just not enough water to support the Party's plans. Perhaps they can pipe some in from Siberia?

Beijing’s Thirst May Be Too Much for Water Diversion Project, Adviser Says - Caixin:

Beijing has become over-reliant on water diverted from the Danjiangkou Reservoir, which is part of the Yangtze River system in Hubei province, said Zhong Zhiyu, chief engineer and professor at the Changjiang Water Resources Commission’s Changjiang Institute of Survey, Planning, Design and Research. Zhong is also a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee...

The project was designed to provide supplementary water for daily use, but Beijing and Tianjin have grown too dependent on the water coming up through the more than 1,200 kilometers (788 miles) of canals, Zhong said at the annual “Two Sessions” meeting in Beijing this week.

Currently, 70% of Beijing’s water prepared for daily use comes from the diversion project, greatly reducing the amount of water in the Danjiangkou Reservoir. While the greater reliance on supplementary water has slowed the depletion of already-low underground water sources in the area, potential exhaustion of the reservoir could have serious consequences for cities that rely on the diverted water, Zhong said...

The second problem that Zhong noted was that overall demand for water is continuing to increase. With economic development, populations in regions getting diverted water through the massive infrastructure project have grown, requiring more water.

8. Red, expert, disillusioned?

Parallelisms for the Future | China Media Project - Qian Gang:

“Parallelism,” or paibi (排比), is a rhetorical method that when used with appropriate measure can strengthen an article, but when used carelessly can have exactly the opposite effect...

It is my observation that in the eight years since Xi Jinping came to power, his use of parallelisms has been steadily on the rise. This is particularly true since the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in November 2017. So it is probably more accurate to say that the speechwriter or speechwriters in this case merely recognized Xi Jinping’s fondness for the drumbeat quality of the parallelism.

There is immense guiding power in this rhetorical preference. After March 4, every edition of the Study Times has felt obligated to publish a “reflection article” about the March 1 speech. Aside from the March 4 piece, I have read three others, published on March 6, 8 and 11.

This is truly an actualization of the ancient saying: “Whatever is favored at the top, must cause a fever down below” (上有所好, 下必甚焉)...

all of those people using parallelisms so lavishly will probably become, before too many years have passed, our new city secretaries, our news provincial Party secretaries, our new Central Committee members, and our new Politburo members.

What can their temperament and the style of their language tell us about our future?

Retired US diplomat prolific translator David Cowhig commented on Qian’s article on Twitter:

Disillusioned Bureacrats Are Fleeing China's Ministries - Bloomberg:

Interviews with eight officials in China’s ministries and regional governments show growing dissatisfaction as the party tightens restrictions on its 7 million civil servants, traditionally known as cadres. All these officials either recently quit or plan to do so, and all requested anonymity to speak about sensitive matters...

Many of those interviewed said they felt political performance had become more important for civil servants than ability, and officials were often uncertain about what actions would be deemed disloyal from one month to the next.

Comment: Xi is pushing an intra-Party Cadre Cultural Revolution. It has gone beyond its usefulness in curbing corruption and now looks to be elevating even faster the sycophants and opportunists. Is there such a word as "sychophantocracy?

CPC stresses curbing practice of "formalities for formalities' sake" - Xinhua:

The General Office of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee has issued a circular stressing efforts to address the practice of "formalities for formalities' sake" and alleviate burdens on primary-level authorities.

Listing a series of measures, the circular aims to inspire officials to be "men of action" and demonstrate a keen sense of responsibility, thus greeting the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China with outstanding achievements.

The number or length of official documents and meetings should be drastically cut down by authorities of various levels, according to the circular made public Monday.

中共中央办公厅发出《关于解决形式主义突出问题为基层减负的通知》 明确2019年为“基层减负年” 

Business, Economy, Finance And Trade

Plan to allow horse racing and gambling in Hainan stalls yet again | South China Morning Post “Horse racing in Hainan is not gambling. Our bottom line is that Hainan will not allow [criminal activities] involving prostitution, gambling or drugs,” Mao Chaofeng, a deputy governor of Hainan province, said on Saturday as he attended Beijing’s annual parliamentary sessions, the National People’s Congress, as a delegate. “Any person who sees our plan to develop horse racing as a kind of gambling is totally mistaken.”

Tesla to shut outlets in China while local brands further expand - Global Times Tesla will close some of its locations in China starting in the second quarter and there will be adjustments to two stores in Shanghai, reported on Thursday, citing an unidentified corporate source. The US-based car company will also stop paying Chinese sales personnel commissions, the report said. "We will shut down many stores, but keep a few presentation platforms, sites, and information centers in high-passenger-flow areas," Tesla's office in China said, according to domestic financial media outlet

Chart of the Day: China’s Pet Market Fetched 27% More in 2018 - Caixin Global China’s enthusiasm for pet ownership has been unleashed like never before in recent years. In 2018, the value of the country’s pet market reached 170.8 billion yuan ($25.4 billion), up 27% from the previous year, a report from pet information provider said. There were about 73.55 million pet owners in urban areas last year, according to the report.

Traders Are Paying Close Attention As Farmers Live Stream - Bloomberg With more than 700 million users combined, Kuaishou and Bytedance Ltd.’s Douyin offer a vast potential source of intelligence in an opaque Chinese market where government data isn’t always the most reliable or efficient. Along with social media such as Weibo, traders are gathering information on crop plantings, harvests, stockpiles and sales in real-time, instead of the hours of telephone surveys and physical travel that were once necessary.

Mollybox Secures $13 million In Series B Funding to Support Expansion Of Monthly 'Surprise Box' Product Mollybox has developed a unique business model in China's pet food sector by introducing a subscription-based service. Often referred to as the Chinese equivalent of BarkBox, Mollybox not only provides cat litter and cat food but also sends cat owners a "Surprise Box" every month filled with various kinds of cat snacks and nutrition products to fulfill consumers' pursuit in exploring new products.

Swine flu hurts China soybean demand, raising doubts on trade promises China's pig herd fell 13 percent in January compared with the same month a year earlier, while the number of breeding sows was down 15 percent from the previous year, according to data from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs. "The swine flu will take demand out; you can't make up for the lost pigs right now," said Darin Friedrichs, risk management consultant at INTL FCStone's Asia commodities division.

China's financial anti-corruption drive enters new era - Global Times One such regulatory reform is the action taken by the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection to delegate discipline inspectors directly to 15 central financial companies, including major banks such as the Bank of China and the China Construction Bank as well as financial giants such as China Life Insurance Co, according to a report of the Economic Observer.  In the past, central financial companies were usually supervised by members of the companies' Party committees, who themselves are employees of those companies, Xi Junyang, a professor at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, told the Global Times on Monday.

Yicai Global - China's NEV Sales Could Slump 40% Without New Support Policies, SAIC Boss Says New-energy vehicle sales could slump as much as 40 percent next year if the government revokes buyer subsidies and does not bring in replacement policies, according to the chairman of state-backed carmaker SAIC Motor.

China’s Tab at World Bank May Get Squeezed Under Trump’s Nominee - Bloomberg In an interview with Bloomberg Television after being nominated by Trump last month, Malpass said the bank should follow through on a plan to cut lending to upper-middle-income countries such as China (others in the bracket that might be affected include Turkey and Brazil), so it could focus more resources on poorer nations. Malpass has been blunter in the past. In November 2017, he said China has “other resources and access to capital markets” and doesn’t need help from development lenders

China Is Said to Scrutinize $43 Billion Pawn-Shop Loan Boom - Bloomberg The country’s banking and insurance regulator is drafting new rules that will toughen oversight of the industry, people familiar with the matter said, asking not to be identified as the matter is private. The move will target one of the last untouched corners of China’s $9 trillion shadow-banking industry

Search trends in China show interest in iPhone down nearly 50% - CNBC The number of searches for the iPhone on Chinese search engine Baidu crater by 48 percent in February after dropping 50 percent in January, according to Longbow Research

Meituan to Take ‘More Disciplined Approach’ to New Businesses as Mobike Racks Up Losses - Caixin Meituan Dianping said it will take a “more disciplined approach” to entering new businesses, after its latest financial report said that its shared-bike unit lost billions of yuan last year. The cautious tone came in a report released Monday which revealed a net loss of 8.5 billion yuan ($1.26 billion) last year, up nearly 200% from 2.85 billion yuan in 2017.

Politics, Law And Ideology

Another Jasic Struggle confession footage emerges: Ideological struggle drawing a veil over class warfare | Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions On March 2nd, the official website of the Jasic Workers Solidarity group published an article revealing that a number of students from different institutions had been interviewed by the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau; during the interviews, they had to watch a confession video related to the Jasic Struggle and the video content was released in text format. The subjects of the footage are no longer the members of the Jasic Workers Solidarity Group such as Shen Mengyu and Yue Xin, but the founders of a social service organisation in Shenzhen named Qing Ying Dreamworks Social Worker Center — He Pengchao and Wang Xiangyi, staff Hou Changshan, supporter Zheng Shiyou, Peking University graduate Zong Yang, and Beijing Language and Culture University graduate Zheng Yiran.

Corruption Cases Fall by Half After High-Profile Scandals - Caixin Global The Supreme People’s Court of China closed roughly 28,000 corruption and duty-dereliction cases involving approximately 33,000 officials in 2018, Chief Justice Zhou Qiang informed top legislators at China’s annual NPC meetings on Tuesday. The figures declined 50% and 56.58% year-on-year, respectively. Zhou attributed the decline to the government’s sweeping anti-corruption crackdown.

街头屏幕曝光老赖合法吗?江西省高院院长:合法|两会|老赖|高院_新浪新闻 The head of the Jiangxi Provincial Supreme Court says those big screens that publicly identify debt dodgers are in fact legal

Foreign and Military Affairs

Two dead after Chinese navy plane crashes | South China Morning Post A short statement said the crash happened during a training exercise over rural Ledong county in the southern island province. No one else was reported to have been injured after the plane hit the ground and the cause of the incident is being investigated. Footage that purported to be taken from the crash site started circulating on social media after the accident.

China Vows to Continue Crackdown Fueling Muslim Detention Camps - Bloomberg Local security policies had prevented a major terrorist attack in the region for more than two years, Xinjiang government chief Shohrat Zakir told a regional delegation meeting in Beijing on Tuesday. Even so, he said it was still too early to relax the campaign because separatism persisted in the region, which borders Afghanistan and Kazakhstan. “The fight against instability, extremism and secessionism is long, complex and intense,” Zakir told the public question session, held on the sidelines of the annual National People’s Congress. “We can’t relax for a moment at any time.”

Russian Prosecutors Seek to Stop Chinese Bottling Factory at Lake Baikal - Moscow Times The AquaSib company began construction of the 1.5 billion-ruble ($22.7 million) factory in January, with plans to bottle 190 million liters of water per year from Lake Baikal starting in 2021. A contract to supply water from the factory to the Chinese market has already been signed with a Chinese company that co-founded Aquasib and is the project’s investor, according to the official government portal of Irkutsk.

China-funded Confucius Institutes targeted under new foreign influence scheme - Sydney Morning Herald Thirteen Chinese government-funded and administered education centres based at Australian universities are facing increased scrutiny from the federal government, which has warned they might be subject to the new foreign influence transparency scheme. The Confucius Institute cultural and language education centres have received letters from the Attorney-General's Department, alerting them to the introduction of the transparency regime, one of the measures put in place by the government in a bid to crack down on foreign interference and influence in Australia.

Andrew Robb blames former Coalition leaders for 'toxic' relationship with China - China power - ABC News Former trade minister Andrew Robb has slammed his ex-colleagues Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce, as well as Australia's security agencies, over what he sees as anti-China sentiment.

Japan to forgo inviting China's Xi as state guest in June - Nikkei Asian Review Japan will likely ditch plans to invite Chinese President Xi Jinping as a national guest in June out of consideration for U.S. President Donald Trump, a vocal critic of Beijing's trade practices who is scheduled to visit the month before. Tokyo and Washington have already agreed for Trump to come to Japan as a state guest from May 26 to May 28. He will meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the new emperor, slated to ascend the throne May 1. Under protocol, Trump will attend a state banquet at the Imperial Palace as well.

Germany’s Self-Delusion About a ‘No-Spying’ Pact with China - War on the Rocks - Peter Mattis Germany’s elected leaders have the right to make any decision they wish regarding Huawei and its future role in critical German infrastructure. However, to make Huawei’s participation contingent upon a “no spying” pact would be farcical if it were not so disingenuous. German leaders may say the risks are acceptable or manageable. They may say nothing and just welcome Huawei. They might be wrong about the former, and the latter is their right. But thinking that a “no spying” agreement will address these risks is the worst form of delusion, because it means locking in future generations of Germans on the basis of wishful thinking.

First China-made polar cruise ship tests water - Xinhua The first China-made cruise ship for polar expeditions tested the water on Tuesday in Haimen, east China's Jiangsu Province. Hu Xianfu, general manager of the shipbuilder China Merchants Group, said the 104.4-meters long vessel is 18.4 meters at the beam. It can operate at a speed of 15.5 knots

Xi attends plenary meeting of delegation of PLA, armed police - Xinhua | The CCTV Evening News report - 习近平在出席解放军和武警部队代表团全体会议时强调 打好我军建设发展“十三五”规划落实攻坚战 确保如期完成国防和军队建设目标任务 //Xi Jinping...stressed on the afternoon of the 12th when attending the plenary meeting of the delegation of the People's Liberation Army and the Armed Police Force at the second session of the 13th National People's Congress that this year is a key year for building a well-off society in an all-round way and achieving the goal of the first century. It is also a crucial year for implementing the 13th Five-Year Plan for the development of our army and achieving the 2020 goals and tasks of national defense and army construction. The entire army should stand at the height of realizing the Chinese dream of strengthening the army. Recognizing the importance and urgency of implementing the 13th Five-Year Plan, we must firmly resolve our will, strengthen our mission, forge ahead with determination, make every effort to carry out the plan and implement the tough battle, and ensure that the set objectives and tasks are completed on schedule. At the meeting, eight representatives, including Zhang Yihu, Wang Huiqing, Li Jun, Zhu Cheng, Wang Ning, Bao Lin, Dang Zenglong and Chen Jianfei, spoke on issues such as giving full play to the traction of military needs, implementing our army's construction and development plan, pushing forward the reform of the armed police force, strengthening border defense construction, stimulating the power and vitality of grass-roots officers and soldiers, and completely stopping paid services.

UN probing North Korea sanctions violations in 20 countries - AP U.N. experts say they are investigating possible violations of United Nations sanctions on North Korea in about 20 countries, from alleged clandestine nuclear procurement in China to arms brokering in Syria and military cooperation with Iran, Libya and Sudan.

PLA invites world’s navies to 70th anniversary review, France and Russia may send aircraft carriers | South China Morning Post The PLA Navy has invited other countries to send aircraft carriers to its 70th anniversary celebrations next month in an effort to cement ties with its military partners and counterparts, according to analysts who monitor developments in China’s armed forces.

JF-17 Block 3 jet expected to be fitted with active electronically scanned array radar - Global Times Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military analyst, told the Global Times on Monday that the JF-17 Block 3 is expected to be fitted with an active electronically scanned array radar, which can gather more information in combat, enabling the fighter jet to engage from a farther range and attack multiple targets at the same time. A helmet-mounted display and sight system could also allow pilots to aim whatever he sees. Pakistan, the main user of the JF-17, could further share information between the fighter and other platforms, taking advantage of the whole combat system to effectively defend against strong opponents like India, Wei said.


US envoy calls China's Muslim camps 'horrific,' wants probe - AP At the end of a three-day visit to Taiwan, Brownback met with Lee Ching-yu, the wife of Taiwanese pro-democracy activist Lee Ming-che, who is serving a five-year prison sentence in China on charges of subverting state power. Lee Ming-che’s physical condition has reportedly deteriorated markedly since his 2017 detention and Brownback said the meeting aimed to “try to highlight that and to call on the government of China to release him.” China last week angrily protested Brownback’s earlier remarks made in Hong Kong that criticized Beijing’s polices toward religious minorities and accused the country of being “at war with faith.”

Taiwan Requests New Combat Aircraft From the US: What Happens Next? – Taiwan Sentinel Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) on March 6 announced it had submitted a formal request for the purchase of new combat aircraft from the U.S. The request, which it is speculated involves the acquisition of as many as 66 U.S.-made F-16 “Viper” aircraft, signals Taiwan’s intention to better defend itself against Chinese threats and pressure. But don’t bring out the champaign just yet: the sale is not a done deal, and the process of acquisition is likely to become politicized due to the general elections in January 2020 as well as a complicated geopolitical environment.

Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen’s diplomatic mission to Palau, Nauru, Marshall Islands may include US stopover | Reuters Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen aims to shore up her government’s diplomatic ties with three of the self-ruled island’s remaining allies with a visit next week to Palau, Nauru and the Marshall Islands. Deputy foreign minister Hsu Szu-chien said talks were ongoing about a possible stopover in US territory – a move that would likely anger Beijing, which regards Taiwan as a breakaway province to be brought back to the mainland fold, by force if necessary. The aim of the eight-day visit, starting on March 21, was to “deepen ties and friendly relations” with Taiwan’s Pacific allies, Hsu said.

Tech And Media

Huawei caught passing off DSLR camera photos for P30 image - Business Insider Huawei tried to pass off a professional photo as an image taken with its new flagship phone, the P30, which will launch later this month. Images uploaded to Huawei's Weibo account seemed to show the P30's camera in action, but they were actually stock photos taken with a DSLR.

Baidu, Chery launch electric car with face-scanning payment, AR navigation features | South China Morning Post A new version of the Exeed TX, an electric sports utility vehicle that Chery first sold in China last year, will have Baidu’s DuerOS, an AI platform that supports face-scanning payment, augmented reality navigation and remote control of home appliances among other features, according to a WeChat post by Baidu on Monday...DuerOS was embedded into more than 200 million devices with voice-command functions at the end of last year, according to Baidu’s recent corporate filing.

Energy, Environment, Science And Health

UN hails air quality improvement in Beijing as model for mega cities - Xinhua: The improvement in air quality that has been recorded in Chinese capital of Beijing in the last two decades could serve as an inspiration to world's mega cities grappling with atmospheric pollution, said a UN Environment report launched in Nairobi on Saturday. According to a report titled "Review of 20 years' Air Pollution Control in Beijing," Beijing has leveraged on new technologies, strong regulatory tools, public education and enhanced monitoring to boost air quality// The full report: A review of 20 Years’ Air Pollution Control in Beijing 

New national parks in Tibet to benefit nature, tourism - People's Daily Online The five locations encompass areas around Qomolangma, Bome and Medog counties, the Zanda Earth Forest in western Tibet, the Changtang Plateau and Serling Tso, which is Tibet's largest lake, according to Yao Tandong, honorary director of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who spoke with China Daily in an exclusive interview.


Univ. Of Maryland Professor Resigns Following Discrimination Allegations Raised By Chinese Students | WAMU