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Reform commission meets; More on Xi's teacher symposium; Italy and the BRI
Happy Tuesday…no commentary today.
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The Essential Eight
1. Reform commission meets
President Xi Jinping stressed firm implementation of major reforms at the seventh meeting of the central committee for deepening overall reform Tuesday...
Xi stressed efforts to fix the problem of formalities for formalities' sake at the grassroots level through reform, continue to strengthen people's sense of fulfillment, happiness and security, and unswervingly promote the implementation of major reform policies and measures.
Members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and deputy heads of the reform committee Li Keqiang, Wang Huning and Han Zheng also attended the meeting.
Some of the issues discussed:
With joint development of the Belt and Road playing a leading role, the country should accelerate cross-border route and regional hub construction as well as improve the infrastructure network, for a high level of opening-up and economic development...
Participants agreed that efforts should be made to promote further integration of artificial intelligence with the real economy, deepen reform and innovation, optimize the institutional environment and boost the innovation vitality of enterprises.
The meeting also stressed strengthening and improving rural governance, calling for the establishment of a law-based modern rural social governance model under which Party committees exercise leadership, the government assumes responsibility, non-governmental actors provide assistance, and the public gets involved...
The meeting stressed promoting reform in the operation mechanism of the oil and natural gas pipeline network. The country will set up oil and gas pipeline network companies that are state-owned capital controlled and with diversified investors.
Xinhua on the reform commission meeting 习近平主持召开中央全面深化改革委员会第七次会议
Universities and research institutes are a significant force in China's innovation-driven development strategy, according to a statement issued after the seventh meeting of the central committee for deepening overall reform, emphasizing the necessity of giving academic institutions more freedom.
Chinese Communists love their contradictions…see the next item
2. Soul Engineering starts young
Xi...made the remarks when presiding over a symposium in Beijing for teachers of ideological and political theory.
Efforts should be made to foster a new generation of young people capable of shouldering the mission of national rejuvenation, and those who have all-round moral, intellectual, physical, and aesthetical grounding with a hard-working spirit, Xi said...
Xi said that it is essential to gradually open and upgrade ideological and political theory courses in primary, secondary and tertiary schools, which is an important guarantee for training future generations who are well-prepared to join the socialist cause...
He ordered Party committees at all levels to put this work high on agenda and to push forward the project to coordinate the design of ideological and political courses at primary, secondary and tertiary schools.
It's the first time that the CPC Central Committee has held such a high-level symposium of ideological and political teachers with the participation of senior officials from the organization, publicity, reform and education departments.
Xi highlighted the guiding position of Marxism in ideological and political classes, saying China's education should serve the people, the Party's governance and the development of socialism with Chinese characteristics...
Party committees at all levels should make building ideological and political classes their priority, Xi said, adding that Party secretaries, headmasters and principals of schools and universities should promote the building of the classes.
Starting with toddlers, Xi said China must “nurture generation after generation [of young people] who support Chinese Communist Party rule and China’s socialist system”.
“Most importantly, we must emphasise [taking the correct stance] on politics such that people who have faith [in the party] can preach what they believe in,” Xi said.
“And these people must be able to analyse problems with the right political perspective and have a clear mind in telling right from wrong.”
Comment: Teachers are key engineers of the soul…Remember this from John Garnaut? Engineers of the Soul: Ideology in Xi Jinping's China by John Garnaut
3. More on Xi’s Italy trip
The northwestern city of Genoa, Italy’s biggest seaport, said it would sign cooperation agreements with China, while in the south the Sicilian port of Palermo – which Xi is expected to visit this weekend – is the focus of Rome’s efforts to attract Chinese shipping operators. Two ports in the northern Adriatic Sea, Trieste and Ravenna, might also be part of Italy’s memorandum of understanding with Xi as part of a plan to compete with major European ports, the sources said.
The Italian government has said that allowing Chinese state companies to manage or hold stakes in Italian ports would be key to expanding exports.
While other members of the European Union, including France and Germany, have also expressed reservations about the deal with China, supporters in Italy say that there is nothing to worry about and that the critics are merely upset that Trieste — and other Italian ports, like Genoa and Palermo — are going to cut in on their business. They reject comparisons to the port of Piraeus in Greece, which China essentially bought, and say Italian law makes such an acquisition or the laying of Chinese debt traps impossible.
Awakened to the growing Chinese influence, American officials have had more success pushing Italy to avoid using the new 5G networks of the Chinese electronics giant Huawei, which Washington warns could be used by Beijing to disrupt and spy on communications networks. In recent days, the Italians have excised any mention of technology and communications from the Belt and Road agreement, people familiar with the negotiations said…
Mr. Camber dismissed the local and national assurances about Chinese expansion, saying that Beijing would easily outmaneuver officials in Rome.
“It’s like the world champion in chess playing with a couple of guys who play for fun at the Caffè Degli Specchi,” he said, referring to the famous cafe in Trieste’s main square, the Piazza Unità d’Italia. “You can’t imagine what the world’s best chess player is up to.”
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Tuesday that commercial and economic deals he will seal with China have no implications for Italy’s geo-political position, in a bid to reassure the European Union and the United States.
Conte told parliament that a Memorandum of Understanding to be signed with President Xi Jinping hooking Italy up to China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative “do not remotely put into doubt our euro-Atlantic alliance”.
The Vatican is greeting the visit to Italy of Chinese President Xi Jinping later this week with a new round of overtures and says the “door is always open” to dialogue.
Italian media have been speculating for days about the possibility of a meeting between Xi and Pope Francis during Xi’s March 21-24 visit. But there has been no word from either side.
4. US-China trade
China is looking at excluding Boeing Co.’s troubled 737 Max jet from a list of American exports it would buy as part of a trade deal with the U.S., people familiar with the matter said.
Boeing jets were featured on a draft list of American products China would buy to reduce its trade surplus with the U.S., the people said, asking not to be identified discussing private deliberations.
As prospects for an agreement to settle the U.S.-China trade standoff have waxed and waned in recent weeks, Washington has pressed Beijing to buy more than $1 trillion in U.S. goods and services as part of any deal. But U.S. chip makers said they have told President Trump’s administration not to include them in any such agreement.
Because U.S. production costs are so high, mandatory-purchase quotas would essentially force U.S. chip makers to open new factories in China and give Beijing bureaucrats more sway over the U.S. firms, these companies said. That would benefit Chinese competitors and make the U.S. firms more dependent on Beijing, executives at the U.S. companies fear.
China could as much as triple its purchases of American farm goods as part of a trade deal between the nations, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said.
When compared with the nation’s buying in 2017, “we could easily see, if we are able to come to a trade resolution, a doubling or tripling of that kind of number over a period of” two to five years, he said Monday in an interview on Bloomberg Television with Shery Ahn.
That would dovetail with a proposal by Beijing to buy an additional $30 billion a year of American agricultural products.
5. Massage Mogul’s contributions under scrutiny
In a letter to the directors of national intelligence, the F.B.I. and the Secret Service, the Democrats said that recent public reports about the woman, Cindy Yang, raised “serious counterintelligence concerns” about access by foreigners to Mr. Trump’s Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, as well as criminal concerns about possible human trafficking and campaign finance violations.
They also asked for access to any information already gathered by the agencies about the extent of Ms. Yang’s contacts with Trump administration officials, security procedures around Mar-a-Lago and whether Ms. Yang or her clients had violated any lobbying laws.
“Although Ms. Yang’s activities may only be those of an unscrupulous actor allegedly selling access to politicians for profit, her activities also could permit adversary governments or their agents access to these same politicians to acquire potential material for blackmail or other even more nefarious purposes,” the Democrats wrote in the letter, dated March 15.
US politics is vulgar. Media outlets used phrases like "soliciting sex" and "massage parlors" to attract attention. Worse still, the news excited the US political arena as an increasing number of explosive revelations emerged about Yang. The Democratic Party fiercely attacked her. The US political circle was obviously delighting itself in making a big issue out of a Chinese-American businesswoman. US politics looks like a lively massage parlor now.
The Chinese element, which has been dug out, showed that discrimination and special precautions against Chinese-Americans have become unscrupulous in the US. If Yang were a white woman who donated to the president and tried to get close contact with high-level officials, would that be a problem? Yang is already a US citizen. Should she be probed without any evidence to support the allegation, just because she has an Asian face and comes from the Northeast China?
Yang's constitutional rights have clearly been defied.
The United States has long been seen as a beacon of democracy. However, the reality is that the influence of money in US politics has excluded a large number of people from the political process, making it impossible for many people to realize their political rights. The role of money in politics deprives the American people of their democratic rights, thwarts the true will of the people, and creates de facto political inequalities. In recent years, spending by organizations working to influence US elections has been increasing, while the influence of ordinary Americans has been decreasing. Big-money politics exposes the true colors of American democracy
The author is Li Yunlong, a professor at the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China
Speaking in Beijing standing alongside the Chinese government’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, Qureshi said his country appreciated the role China played once again “in standing by Pakistan in these difficult times”.
“I also briefed the foreign minister on the rapidly deteriorating situation on the Indian side of Kashmir, intensification of human rights violations, especially after Pulwama,” he said, referring to where the attack took place.”This is a concern because that leads to a reaction and that reaction at times creates tensions in the region which must be avoided,” Qureshi added.
In a meeting with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Wang said the relationship between China and Pakistan had withstood many challenges.
“China supports Pakistan’s efforts to seize development opportunities and handle challenges, and manage its ties with neighbours,” Wang was quoted as saying by state-run CCTV.
Qureshi, who arrived in China on Sunday, also met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi for the first strategic dialogue between the countries’ foreign ministers.
Representatives from the Communist Party of China (CPC) and nine parties of Pakistan including the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz met in Beijing Tuesday for the first meeting of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Political Parties Joint Consultation Mechanism. The meeting, focusing on the theme of "towards steady and sustainable development of the CPEC: mission and responsibility of political parties," also attracted representatives from think tanks, the business community, media and non-governmental organizations from the two countries.
Contingents from countries including China, Saudi Arabia and Turkey will participate in Pakistan's national day parade, with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad being the guest of honour, the report said.
Hundreds of Indian traders burned Chinese goods on Tuesday and urged the government to raise import taxes on them to protest against China’s trade and foreign policies.
The traders, who also urged consumers to boycott Chinese imports, are concerned that Chinese products are hurting Indian manufacturers.
But there is also anger in India after China used its veto to block the U.N. Security Council from blacklisting a Pakistan-based Islamist leader.
7. Shrinking cities
I am old enough to remember Li Keqiang’s urbanization push early in his first term…
A research team from Tsinghua University used satellite imagery to monitor the intensity of night lights in more than 3,300 cities and towns between 2013 and 2016. In 28 per cent of cases, the lights had dimmed.
China now has 938 shrinking cities, according to Long Ying, an urban planning expert at China’s Tsinghua University, who founded and led the research group, Beijing City Lab. This is more than any other nation on Earth.
The findings are indicative of declining populations and economic activity across almost one-third of the cities monitored, at a time when official economic data also shows that China is facing significant economic and demographic challenges.
8. Another fake medicine mess
American multilevel marketing company Nu Skin offered its condolences on Monday to a Beijing-based vendor who had died of organ failure after allegedly relying solely on the company’s health products to treat her fever.
“First, we would like to pay our respects to the deceased and offer our deepest condolences to her family,” the company said in a press release posted on its Chinese-language website, adding that it had assembled a team to look into the incident. “If there have indeed been unethical sales practices — such as misinformation or exaggeration — we will not shift the blame.”
The statement followed a report earlier that day by news outlet Beijing Youth Daily detailing the circumstances surrounding the woman’s death at the beginning of this month. According to the report, the woman — identified with the pseudonym Lin — joined Nu Skin four years ago and quickly became a dedicated supporter and seller of its health and beauty products.
Business, Economy, Finance And Trade
Will China roll out nationwide property tax in 2019? - CGTN In one of the latest and most detailed official comments on how the long-mooted tax could be implemented, Yin Zhongqing, deputy director of the financial and economic affairs committee of the NPC, said on March 14 that local governments would be allowed a large degree of autonomy regarding when it is levied and at what rate, as "property tax is a local tax." The central government will set a few tax rate brackets for local governments to choose from, Yin was quoted as saying, with the tax to be levied at current property values. All in all, there seems to be a consensus that China is stepping up efforts on the introduction of the property tax. However, it's still difficult to tell how soon it will come out.
Proxy Indicators Suggest China Concerns May Be Overdone: Chart - Bloomberg Extreme seasonal effects from the lunar New Year holiday make it hard to gauge the growth trajectory in China and additionally, there’s deep uncertainty about the credibility of the official data. Bloomberg Economics says such concerns are overdone: Even taking account of seasonal factors, China’s start of 2019 credit growth looks strong. BE’s proxy indicators show growth broadly in line with the official data -- 6.6 percent in the latest reading.
Australian coal in the firing line of Chinese 'environmental' crackdown - Sydney Morning Herald China's crackdown on coal imports has become significantly harsher, with Australian and Mongolian coal being particularly targeted for inspection on "environmental" grounds. Inspectors recently rejected 182 trucks carrying 19,540 tons of Mongolian coal, the biggest coal turn-back in years. And Australian coal continues to suffer long delays at Chinese ports, with coal industry analysts who spoke to The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald saying environmental inspections had been significantly stepped up this year.
Israel's chip sales to China jump as Intel expands | Reuters An official at the Israel Export Institute told Reuters that new data showed semiconductor exports to China jumped 80 percent last year to $2.6 billion. An industry source told Reuters that Intel Israel accounted for at least 80 percent of those sales.
Retail Investors Get First Crack at Buying Local Government Bonds at Banks Ningbo plans to become the first city in China to sell local government bonds to retail investors at bank counters. Previously local governments could only issue bonds on the interbank market and stock exchanges
Inside the Kingdee bubble - David Webb On the face of it, Kingdee International Software Group Co Ltd (Kingdee, 0268) might seem like a made-in-Shenzhen success story, a demonstration of what its Chairman, CEO and largest shareholder Robert Xu Shao Chun (Mr Xu) calls "the Chinese management model". Who knew that there is a better way of doing things, unique to China? The stock has more than tripled in the last 2 years. Dig deeper, and you will find that it's a bubble stock, in a company which has relied on sector-specific tax breaks, government grants, property investment gains and questionable transactions with related parties to book any profit at all. Pour yourself a coffee and we'll explain.
China’s Securities Watchdog Receives 22 Fund Applications Targeting High-Tech Board - Caixin Fund managers also filed applications to set up another 31 funds set to invest in stocks related to technology and innovation listed on all the boards of stock exchanges in Shanghai and Shenzhen.
Bank of Beijing Stuck Making $5.81 Million Payment on Debt It Guaranteed - Caixin The lender said in a stock exchange filing that it signed off as guarantor for the principal and interest from Citic Guoan’s 2.5 billion yuan debt investment plan to finance the renovations of some old buildings in the capital. The debt investment plan will come due in five years on July 31, 2021. However, because the company failed to make a quarterly interest payment in March, Bank of Beijing had to pay 39.45 million yuan in interest on its behalf on March 15.
Power Grid to Spend $25.3 Billion to Support Southern Mega-City - Caixin This week China Southern Power Grid Co. Ltd. said it will invest 70 billion yuan in the next few years to improve the region’s transmission system. Money will also be spent on improving the grid’s resilience to natural disasters, reducing power outages, and charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. At a press conference, the company said it will work with 12 power generators including the state-owned “big five” to develop the Pearl River Delta region’s power supply
A Global Fund Craves China Bonds, Once They Are `Truly Liquid' - Bloomberg Van Eck Associates Corp. has found its timeline to set up access to Chinese domestic bonds via the Bond Connect in Hong Kong longer than it expected, as the company worked through internal procedures and the exchange’s requirements. Assuming it does win approval, it would then encounter trading volumes in government debt that are below those of other major economies -- a challenge awaiting all funds eyeing China’s inclusion in global indexes.
Forget avocado toast: this vegetable is the taste of financial ‘freedom’ in China | South China Morning Post First it was cherries. Now, the young red leaves of the Chinese mahogany tree are being talked about as a gauge of financial health among the middle class – or China’s avocado toast. The spring vegetable, which tastes a bit like onion and is used in a variety of dishes, is not cheap – and inflation hasn’t helped. At markets in Beijing it has been selling for 80 yuan to 200 yuan (US$12 to US$30) for 500g in recent weeks, China News Service reported.
Politics, Law And Ideology
中国石油思想政治工作部总经理曲广学接受审查调查——中央纪委国家监委网站 general manager of the political thought work department of China National Petroleum Corporation is under investigation
China's first cloned police dog starts training in Kunming - ECNS The two-month-old dog was cloned from a female Kunming dog named "Huahuangma", which belongs to a police unit in Pu’er City, Yunnan. At seven years old, Huahuangma is already a first-class super-dog, acknowledged for her contributions in the investigations of dozens of murder cases. It usually takes about four to five years to train a dog as distinguished as Huahuangma, usually at a cost of up to 500,000 yuan (about $75,000). Therefore, with the support of the MPS, researchers at Yunnan Agricultural University and Beijing-based biotech company Sinogene have cloned the dog, with Huahuangma’s skin biopsy sample obtained on Sept. 12 last year.
Foreign and Military Affairs
Beijing plans ‘strategic service and logistics base’ on Woody Island, two islets in South China Sea | South China Morning Post Zhang Jun, the Communist Party secretary of Sansha, which is located on the island in the Paracels, led a meeting on the development plan there on Friday, according to a statement on the city government’s website. Sansha, part of Hainan province, was established by the Chinese government in 2012. The party chief said it aimed to turn Woody Island, or Yongxing in Chinese, and two smaller islets – Tree and Drummond, or Zhaoshu and Jinqing – into a “national key strategic service and logistics base”.
Netizens honor PLA pilots for protecting civilians in fatal crash - Ministry of National Defense Chinese netizens paid their respect to the pilots and grieved the loss of the two heroes. Hashtag "Naval pilots sacrificed themselves in forced landing" was posted 9,000 times and read 91 million times on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter-like social media platform, as of press time.
Bolton: China Is One Reason US ‘Looking at Strengthening National Missile Defense’ | The Diplomat “China is building up its nuclear capacity now,” Bolton said. “It’s one of the reasons why we’re looking at strengthening our national missile defense system here in the United States.” With that one sentence, Bolton not only contracted the Trump administration’s 2019 Missile Defense Review, which makes clear that Russian and Chinese ICBMs are not the targets of U.S. GMD interceptors, but he also fed into the dynamics that have prompted great concern in Beijing.
Jaw-Jaw: Aaron Friedberg on Asking the Right Questions About Chinese Ambitions - War on the Rocks What are China’s grand ambitions? Did the United States get China “wrong”? And what policies should the United States adopt against a newly assertive China? What Western strategists are on the Chinese Communist Party’s reading list? Professor Aaron Friedberg and Brad Carson discuss these issues and much more in the new episode of “Jaw-Jaw.”
US, Taiwan plan new talks this year in rebuke to Beijing - AP Taiwan and the U.S. will hold talks later this year as part of upgraded efforts to counter Beijing's growing pressure on the island for political unification. The talks planned for September in Taipei will include a senior official from Washington, de facto U.S. ambassador to Taipei William Brent Christensen said Tuesday.
Tech And Media
Yicai Global - Alibaba Nabs Ex-Facebook AI Scientist to Develop Big Data Platforms Jia will lead research and development on Big Data computing platforms, the Hangzhou-based tech giant's AI lab Alibaba Damo Academy said on Quora-like question-and-answer platform Zhihu. The Tsinghua University graduate joined Facebook three years ago as a director involved in developing the California-based firm's solutions for computer vision, natural language processing, speech recognition and augmented reality. Before that, he was a research scientist at Google's deep learning team Google Brain.
Briefing: WeChat shuts more than 2,500 accounts for illegal loan activity · TechNode The move is a response to the recent complaints from WeChat users about increasingly prevalent illegal lending behavior, and is part of a wider crackdown on illicit activities in the messaging app. Earlier this month, WeChat made a similar announcement announcing its progress on the sale of illegal and contraband products
Society, Art, Sports, Culture And History
The Chinese Deathscape: Grave Reform in Modern China The largest and most controversial grave relocation in contemporary China took place in 2012 in Henan Province, in the greater municipal area of Zhoukou City. In the span of less than nine months, 2.5 million corpses were exhumed and relocated as part of the “digging graves for farmland” campaign (平坟复耕 pingfen fugeng). This translates into a rate of just under four hundred corpses exhumed and relocated every hour—or one corpse every ten seconds.
A woman came to Winter Park from China to look at houses. Her real-estate agent raped her, police say - Orlando Sentinel. A woman who came from China to Winter Park to look at houses was raped by her real estate agent, who told her not to report the crime to law enforcement because police would believe an American citizen over an immigrant, according to a warrant affidavit. Wentworth Huang Wang, 38, faces three counts of sexual battery.
Feeling down? Welcome to the 'flattery group' - SHINE News A new form of 'psychological service' is emerging in China's Internet world. Flattery has become a commodity for people to make others or themselves feel better. On China's online trade platform Taobao, searching for kuakuaqun (literally flattery group) leads you to dozens of results. A Shanghai Daily reporter on Monday afternoon tried a 35 yuan service from an online shop, which claimed to offer 5 minutes of adulation.
China's central bank bans using RMB likeness on sacrificial offerings - Global Times To safeguard the authority of the renminbi (RMB), the People's Bank of China published a regulation on using the currency's likeness, which bans it from appearing on any kind of sacrificial offering, including paper money.
Harsh lesson for star high jumper Zhang Guowei as China stress discipline ahead of 2020 Olympics - CGTN China have sent a warning to elite athletes in the national team about their off-the-field conduct after the country's star high jumper Zhang Guowei was suspended from all domestic and international competitions for violations of team rules. The Chinese Athletics Association (CAA) said in an internal letter that the 27-year-old, who won a silver medal at the 2015 World Championships, attended two commercial events with fabricated reasons, without approval from the authorities.
Chinese Goths Protest Guangzhou Metro Incident With Selfie Campaign | Sixth Tone Goth netizens are posting photos of themselves online in support of a woman who was barred from boarding the subway in southern China last week because of her “horrifying” makeup. On microblogging platform Weibo, users are sharing their selfies alongside a hashtag translating to “Send Guangzhou Metro a Photo,” which had been viewed over 5 million times by noon Tuesday. The campaign was launched to show solidarity with a woman named Lin Lin, whose social media post on March 10 about mistreatment by subway security staff because of her Goth-style makeup went viral last week.
Chinese artist Ye Yongqing breaks silence over plagiarism row with Belgian Christian Silvain amid legal action threat | South China Morning Post Ye, whose buyers are said to include Bill Gates and Rupert Murdoch, denied he was a plagiarist and said he had no choice but to engage the lawyers to protect his own reputation after efforts to contact Silvain failed. Ye posted the open letter on WeChat, China’s most popular social media platform.
Energy, Environment, Science And Health
China is reviving a discredited AIDS immunotherapy — for cancer - STAT The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report saying the procedure “cannot be justified,” and another critic compared its use to the discredited practice of bleeding patients with leeches. Despite the criticism, Heimlich launched trials of the therapy in HIV patients in Mexico and China in the 1990s. Now, the scientist who led the Chinese study is using malarial therapy again — this time to treat cancer patients. And the still-unproven intervention is being hailed in China as a miracle cure.
Jobs And Events
Schieffer Series: China's Rise | Center for Strategic and International Studies Wednesday, March 20, 2019 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm in DC