More than half of Chinese see war with Japan: poll

NATIONAL SEP. 11, 2014 – 06:50AM JST ( 25 )

A Japanese F-15 jet approaches a Chinese plane (out of frame) in a spot where the two countries’ air defense zones overlap, in June.AFP

More than half of Chinese people think their country could go to war with Japan in the future, a new poll revealed Wednesday, after two years of intense diplomatic squabbles.

A survey conducted in both nations found that 53.4% of Chinese envisage a future conflict, with more than a fifth of those saying it would happen “within a few years”, while 29% of Japanese view military confrontation as a possibility.

The findings come ahead of the second anniversary Thursday of Japan’s nationalisation of disputed islands in the East China Sea that have formed the focus of tensions between the Asian giants.

Underlining the lingering row over the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku Islands, four Chinese coast guard vessels sailed into their territorial waters on Wednesday morning.

China regards them as its territory and calls them the Diaoyu Islands.

The survey was conducted by Japanese non-governmental organisation the Genron NPO and the China Daily, a Chinese state-run newspaper, in July and August.

It questioned 1,000 Japanese aged 18 or older and 1,539 Chinese of the same age range in five cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Shenyang and Xian. Continue reading “More than half of Chinese see war with Japan: poll”

Chinese ships sail in disputed waters after Japan warning ” fears grow over a potential military clash “

→National Aug. 07, 2014 – 06:30AM JST ( 25 )


Chinese coast guard ships sailed into waters off Japanese-controlled islands in the East China Sea on Wednesday, officials said, after Tokyo’s annual defense paper warned over China’s “dangerous acts” near the disputed archipelago.

The report, published Tuesday, said frequent appearances by Chinese ships in the area could lead to “unintended consequences”, as fears grow over a potential military clash between the Asian powers.

English: Aerial Photo of Kitakojima and Minami...
English: Aerial Photo of Kitakojima and Minamikojima of Senkaku Islands, Ishigaki City, Okinawa, Japan, 1978. 日本語: 北小島・南小島(尖閣諸島):沖縄県石垣市、東シナ海 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Three Chinese vessels sailed into territorial waters that extend 12 nautical miles around one of the Senkaku islands, which China also claims and calls the Diaoyus, the Japanese coast guard said.

The ships entered the area around 10 a.m. and left about two hours later, it said.

Continue reading “Chinese ships sail in disputed waters after Japan warning ” fears grow over a potential military clash “”

China tells U.S. to mind it’s own business

US must ‘get used to China’s rise’

(China Daily)    07:38, May 22, 2014

Washington’s engagement in territorial issues ‘complicates problems’

Chinese and Western observers seemed to reach a consensus on Wednesday over President Xi Jinping’s proposal to establish a new framework for security cooperation in Asia, and he also sent a veiled warning to Washington.

“To beef up a military alliance targeting a third party is not conducive to regional common security,” Xi said without mentioning the United States when delivering a keynote speech at a regional security forum in Shanghai on Wednesday.

The Chinese navy conducts drills in the South ...

Continue reading “China tells U.S. to mind it’s own business”

China does not yet find Malaysian reports credible, contiues searching all possible areas for MH370

China sends special envoy to Malaysia, vows to continue search for MH370


Kuala Lumpur

(Xinhua)    07:22, March 26, 2014

THE HAGUE/KUALA LUMPUR, March 25 — China said Tuesday it would send a special envoy to Kuala Lumpur to deal with the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 and vowed to continue the search in targeted waters.

Continue reading “China does not yet find Malaysian reports credible, contiues searching all possible areas for MH370”

China blocks foreign news sites that revealed elite’s offshore holdings

• Guardian among sites blocked over reports • China Digital Times publishes details of directive

Chinese President Xi Jinping
The Chinese government has recently concentrated on improving the image of President Xi Jinping. Photograph: Goh Chai Hin/AFP/Getty Images

The blocking of foreign news sites that revealed details of offshore holdings by the relatives of senior leaders has continued in China as reports emerged of a propaganda directive ordering websites and services to target users posting on the subject.

Details of the order were published by China Digital Times, a website that monitors censorship instructions.

“Immediately find and remove the foreign media report “China’s Secret Offshore Tax Havens” and related content. Interactive platforms must strictly check [users]. Related images and accusatory comments about leaders and the system [of government] must be deleted without exception,” said the instructions, according to CDT. Continue reading “China blocks foreign news sites that revealed elite’s offshore holdings”

ChinaLeaks: Chinese elite’s offshore accounts exposed in unprecedented leak

Family members of Deng Xiaoping and Xi Jinping, along with Tencent billionaire and China’s richest woman, are among 20,000 people in Hong Kong, the mainland and Taiwan whose offshore holdings have been exposed

UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 January, 2014, 11:10am

Patrick Boehler


A combined images of some famous billionaires mentioned in the ICIJ report. Photo: SCMP Pictures

Relatives of at least five current and former members of China’s top leadership have been exposed as holders of offshore accounts, as part of a revelatory report by investigative journalists.

The leak, part of a package of 2.5 million files obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, points to nearly 22,000 offshore clients with addresses in mainland China and Hong Kong and 16,000 offshore clients from Taiwan. Continue reading “ChinaLeaks: Chinese elite’s offshore accounts exposed in unprecedented leak”

Mao Zedong remembered: China’s multi-faceted deep-thinking leader

EEV: What is significant,  this enlightening article was reported by the BBC.

– More, because Mao is the George Washington figure, the founder of the People’s Republic of China, the great unifier of his ancient, far-flung and multifarious people.

Sidney Rittenberg meets Mao Zedong (C 1970)
Sidney Rittenberg met Mao Zedong in the early 1970s

US citizen Sidney Rittenberg spent 35 years in China at a time of momentous upheaval, personally befriending Mao Zedong and other veteran Chinese revolutionary leaders as they seized power from the Kuomintang from 1945 onwards. Here he reveals his unique perspective on the civil war, the early days of Communism and Mao’s philosophy.

Like everything else in China, Mao’s role today is a study in paradox. He is both more and less than the ginormous portrait that dominates the centre of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square – and which will not be coming down anytime soon. Continue reading “Mao Zedong remembered: China’s multi-faceted deep-thinking leader”

Beijing to set up powerful national security body in face of mounting threats

Powerful agency expected to co-ordinate efforts of various government departments covering intelligence, the military and foreign affairs

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 November, 2013, 3:51am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 November, 2013, 10:46am

Teddy Ng and  Keith Zhai

  • beijing_police_net.jpg

Growing social and economic inequality and potential ethnic unrest in Tibet and Xinjiang are considered the main security threats. Photo: AFP

The country’s top leaders have decided to set up a national security committee to chart a coherent security strategy for China – an emerging superpower facing mounting challenges to stability at home and abroad.

The communiqué issued at the end of the Communist Party Central Committee’s four-day plenum said: “A national security committee will be established to perfect the national security system and national security strategy and safeguard national security.”

The Xinhua report on the communiqué gave no details.

Observers said the new agency would absorb representatives from the diplomatic, military, intelligence and commerce agencies, with a view to avoiding the implementation of policies becoming fragmented.

A source with knowledge of the matter said Wang Huning, a Politburo member and long-time policy adviser to top leaders, would be the committee’s executive deputy director.

Beijing has in recent years moved gradually from a low-key foreign policy approach to a more proactive one. The party leadership that took power under Xi Jinping last November is widely seen as being more assertive, especially in territorial disputes with maritime neighbours such as Japan and the Philippines.

Internally, public discontent over social and economic equality and potential ethnic unrest in Tibet and Xinjiang are considered the main security threats.

Until now the country has lacked a powerful agency to co-ordinate security strategies across various departments, such as those responsible for intelligence, the military, foreign affairs and police, even though the idea was floated more than 30 years ago. The establishment of such an agency has long been hindered by vested interests that stand to lose power in a reshuffle.

The concept was most seriously considered in 1997. In that year, then-president Jiang Zemin visited the US National Security Council, the US president’s principal conduit for security advice from intelligence, military and law enforcement officials and other advisers.

Jin Canrong, professor and deputy dean of Renmin University’s school of international studies, said the new national security committee appeared to be inspired by the US body. The NSC includes representatives from a wide spectrum of government agencies, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretaries of state, defence, treasury and homeland security. The council reports directly to the president.

“This ensures that the diplomatic and security policies of the US will be more consistent with its long-term strategy and better co-ordinated,” Jin said. “The structure of China’s national security committee will be similar to that of the US NSC.”

Yue Gang, a Beijing-based military affairs commentator, said the existing mechanism was insufficient to handle heightened external risks stemming from territorial disputes and cybersecurity, especially after the spying allegations of former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

“Some of the external security tasks are now handled by diplomatic agencies and their strength does not match the tasks’ requirements,” Yue said. “Some issues have to be handled with the participation of other parties, such as the military.”

But dissidents fear more domestic crackdowns under the committee, comparing it to the Soviet Union’s KGB.

“All security committees of communist regimes have a bad reputation,” activist Hu Jia said. “It is another step taken by the party to consolidate its power.”


Abe says he is ready to be more assertive against China / “If Japan does resort to enforcement measures like shooting down aircraft, that is a serious provocation to us, an act of war.” China’s Defense Ministry

Politics Oct. 27, 2013 – 06:00AM JST ( 12 )


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in an interview published on Saturday, said Japan was ready to be more assertive towards China as Beijing threatened to strike back if provoked.

A top retired Chinese diplomat said any move by Tokyo to contain China could amount to an attempt to conceal ulterior  motives in the region and prove to be “extremely dangerous”. And the defense ministry warned Japan not to underestimate China’s  resolve to take whatever measures were needed to protect itself.

Abe, interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, said Japan should take the lead in guarding against what he said might be an attempt by China to use force to attain its diplomatic goals.

He said he had realized at recent meetings with South East Asian leaders that the region sought leadership from Tokyo in terms of security amid China’s more forthright diplomacy.

“There are concerns that China is attempting to change the status quo by force, rather than by rule of law. But if China opts to take that path, then it won’t be able to emerge peacefully,” he told the newspaper.

“So it shouldn’t take that path and many nations expect Japan to strongly express that view. And they hope that as a result, China will take responsible action in the international community.”

China took issue with a Japanese media report saying Abe had approved a policy for Japan to shoot down foreign drones that ignore warnings to leave its airspace.

“Don’t underestimate the Chinese army’s resolute will and determination to protect China’s territorial sovereignty,” Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said on the ministry’s website. “If Japan does resort to enforcement measures like shooting down aircraft, that is a serious provocation to us, an act of war.

“We will undertake decisive action to strike back, with every consequence borne by the side that caused the trouble,” Geng added.

Relations have deteriorated sharply in the past year, with the main sticking point being conflicting claims to uninhabited islets in the East China Sea, known in Japan as the Senkaku islands and in China as Diaoyu.

Ties have taken a further battering over visits by Japanese lawmakers this month to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo honoring both war dead and Japanese leaders convicted as war criminals.

China is also at odds with several South East Asian states contesting its claims to large swathes of the South China Sea.

Former Chinese foreign minister Tang Jiaxuan, addressing a forum in Beijing, said that Japan hoped to enlist the United Nations and the international community to curb China’s actions in the region, according to media reports.

Tang made no reference to Abe’s latest comments, but said any attempt to contain China either amounted to a distorted view of China or “the rendering of an image of the ‘Chinese menace’ to achieve an ulterior political goal”.

“I hope it’s the former, because if it’s the latter, not only is it futile, it is also extremely dangerous.”

President Xi Jinping adopted a more conciliatory tone at a conference on diplomacy this week, saying good relations with neighbors were crucial to a stable foreign policy.

Abe took office last year for a rare second term and is seen as a hawkish nationalist with a conservative agenda that includes revising a post-war pacifist constitution drafted by the United States, strengthening Japan’s defense posture and recasting wartime history with a less apologetic tone.

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2013.


China’s influence over the media growing globally, says US think tank

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 October, 2013, 9:00pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 October, 2013, 9:36pm

Patrick Boehler

  • kenya-africa-china-media_ken11_30762975.jpg
Africa Live presenter Beatrice Marshall says that through her news show Africans “are telling the story from our perspective”. Photo: AFP

China’s government and state-owned companies are putting more pressure on media outlets around the world to prevent and punish reporting critical of Beijing, a US-based think tank has said.

“These measures obstruct newsgathering, prevent the publication of undesirable content, and punish overseas media outlets that fail to heed restrictions,” the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington DC writes in a report released on Tuesday.

“Indirect pressure [is] applied via proxies – including advertisers, satellite firms, and foreign governments – who take action to prevent or punish the publication of content critical of Beijing,” it said.

The report by the US government-sponsored institution documented a series of efforts by Chinese government diplomats to stop critical coverage in France, Germany, Britain, Indonesia, and New Zealand. It also linked the spending of advertising revenue by Chinese companies and access to the Chinese market with publications’ adherence to the party line.

Last year, the websites of the International Herald Tribune and Bloomberg were blocked in China after the two media outlets reported on the extensive family fortunes of former premier Wen Jiabao and current President Xi Jinping. The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have both traced attempts to hack their networks to China.

Sarah Cook, the author of the study and a senior research analyst at the Freedom House think tank in Washington DC, said Hong Kong has been most affected. “The most notable change under [President Xi Jinping’s administration] has been the reportedly renewed commitment to ‘regain the Hong Kong media’ and subsequent personnel changes, both at the Liaison Office and within some pro-Beijing news outlets, where there is closer scrutiny by internal censors to what is published,” she said.

Hong Kong’s standing in the think tank’s annual freedom-of-the-press index has declined over the past years, falling from 30 to 35 on its 100 points ranking, in which zero denotes completely free and 96 equates to the status of the media in North Korea. In 2008, Freedom House downgraded its assessment of the SAR’s press from “free” to “partly free”.

Chinese-language news outlets outside China have also taken more advertorials and free content from Chinese state media, which have replaced Hong Kong outlets as the pre-eminent source of information, the report said.

“Although living in Australia, ‘new migrants’ from China are still surrounded by the Chinese media dominated by Chinese government views and narratives,” it quoted Feng Chongyi, professor at the University of Technology Sydney’s China Research Centre.

In Canada, Beijing-friendly Chinese-language papers have an inflated circulation, giving them an unfair advantage when obtaining revenue through advertising, Jack Jia, founder of the Toronto-based twice-weekly Chinese News told the researcher.

For Cook, much is at stake: “Those of us outside China, are deprived of potentially important information about a major trading partner, emerging health and environmental crises, and an accurate understanding of the scale and intensity of human rights abuses.”


China says 99.9 per cent of graft defendants found guilty



Tuesday, Oct 22, 2013

BEIJING – A total of 99.9 per cent of the verdicts reached against Chinese corruption defendants find them guilty, judicial authorities said Tuesday.

Nearly 200,000 people were investigated for embezzlement or bribery between January 2008 and August this year, China’s top prosecutor, Cao Jianming, told the National People’s Congress parliament.

Of those, 148,931 had been convicted, or 99.9 per cent of those who had been charged and had their trials completed, he said, according to a statement posted on the Supreme People’s Procuratorate website.

The figures imply that the courts only acquitted 0.1 per cent of those who came before them, or 1 in 1,000.

A total of 37.7 billion yuan ($6.2 billion) in economic losses were retrieved, it added. Of those investigated, 32 were at or above ministerial level, it said.

Authorities apprehended nearly 7,000 fugitives who escaped abroad, said a separate statement on the website.

It is the first time since 1989 that the national prosecutor has reported its anti-graft work to the parliament, according to a report by the government-run Legal Daily on Tuesday.

China’s president Xi Jinping has vowed to crack down on corruption at all levels of the government, calling graft a threat to the future of the ruling party.

But critics say the anti-corruption campaign by China’s new leaders has so far netted a series of low-ranking officials and only a handful of senior figures, with no reforms introduced to increase transparency to help fight graft.

China holds two bloggers as it expands crackdown on rumors

Sui-Lee Wee

Thursday, Oct 17, 2013

BEIJING – Police in China have arrested an influential blogger and are holding a cartoonist in a widening crackdown on online “rumour-mongering”, friends and a lawyer for one of them said on Thursday.

Hundreds of people have been detained since August, say Chinese media and rights groups, as the government has stepped up its campaign to banish rumours. Most have been released, but some are still being held on criminal charges.

The latest moves targeting the bloggers appear to suggest the new government, led by President Xi Jinping, is expanding its crackdown on dissent, although some critics have warned the move could backfire on Communist Party leaders.

“The use of these dictatorship tools to combat the criticism and grievances within civil society could be counterproductive,”said Zhang Lifan, a historian, adding that it could fuel mistrust. “It may not be beneficial for maintaining the regime.” Dong Rubin, 51, who runs an Internet consulting company, has been arrested in southwestern Kunming on “suspicion of falsely declaring the capital in his company’s registration”, state news agency Xinhua said late on Wednesday.

Dong was also suspected of illegal business operations and the crime of “creating disturbances”, Xinhua added.

Dong, who was previously invited by officials in southern Nanjing to speak about being an “online opinion leader”, is well known for participating in a 2009 online probe into the sudden death of a man in a detention house in Yunnan province.

State broadcaster CCTV showed images of Dong admitting to”exaggeration and selectively publishing information” to benefit clients. In September, state media also aired a confession by Chinese-American venture capitalist, Charles Xue, one of China’s best known online commentators.

Dong’s lawyer, Yang Mingkua, told Reuters by telephone it was not convenient for him to be interviewed, but referred to a legal opinion published on his microblog.

“When the air is filled with voices that are unharmonious, that is not a sign of weakness, but a symbol of strength,” Yang wrote on the microblog in September, describing Dong’s case.”The freedom to speak and criticise is a citizen’s right.” Yang said Dong believed he was “fundamentally innocent” in his actions on the Internet.

In Beijing, the capital, cartoonist Wang Liming was taken into custody at midnight on Wednesday and has not yet been freed, his friend, Wu Gan, told Reuters by telephone.

Wu said police told Wang’s girlfriend they summoned him for forwarding a microblog post about a stranded mother holding a baby who had starved to death in the flood-hit eastern city of Yuyao.

“Suppression of this kind by the Chinese government is of no use,” Wu said. “Rumours arise because there’s no freedom to communicate on the Internet. Arresting people will not solve the problem because the problem does not lie with the people, but with the government.” The detentions come slightly over a month after China unveiled tough measures to stop the spread of what it calls irresponsible rumours, threatening jail terms of three years if untrue online posts are widely reposted.

China’s top court and prosecutor have said people will be charged with defamation if online rumours they create are visited by 5,000 internet users or reposted more than 500 times.

Liu Hu, a Chinese investigative journalist accused of corruption was arrested on a defamation charge late in September, his lawyer said last week.

The Internet clampdown reveals the insecurity of the leaders of the ruling Communist Party, said Bo Zhiyue, a professor of Chinese politics at the National University of Singapore.

“They are trying to send China back all the way to the Stone Age,” Bo said. “Where is the hope for political reform? Zero.”


Secret Japan-China talks held over island dispute

Oct. 16, 2013 – 07:01AM JST


A senior Chinese government official has secretly visited Japan for talks with Japanese officials aimed at improving bilateral relations damaged by an ongoing territorial row, a report said Tuesday.

The talks involving a high-ranking official from the Chinese foreign ministry’s Asian division were thought to have been held in early October, Japanese news agency Jiji Press reported from Beijing quoting Chinese government sources.

A high-ranking official from the Japanese foreign ministry attended the meeting, the report said.

A Japanese foreign ministry official declined comment on the content of the report, saying: “Japan and China have been making various exchanges at various levels.”

The Tokyo-Beijing ties took a nosedive in September last year over the ownership of the Japan-controlled Senkaku islands, which China also claims and calls the Diaoyus.

The row over the islands in the East China Sea has led to warnings of a possible armed confrontation.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe managed a brief encounter and shook the hand of Chinese President Xi Jinping last week on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific summit in Indonesia. But China rejected a formal sit-down meeting between them due to the island dispute.

Abe has not held formal talks with Chinese and South Korean leaders since taking office last December. Tokyo also has a dispute with Seoul over a group of South Korea-controlled isles.

The legacy of Japan’s 20th century wartime aggression has also been souring Tokyo’s ties with the neighbors.

(C) 2013 AFP

China’s Xi says political solution for Taiwan can’t wait forever

Sunday, Oct 06, 2013

NUSA DUA, Indonesia – Chinese President Xi Jinping told a senior envoy from self-ruled Taiwan on Sunday that a political solution to a standoff over sovereignty lasting more than six decades cannot be postponed forever, drawing a cool, non-committal response.

China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since Nationalist forces, defeated by the Communists, fled to the island at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949. China considers Taiwan a renegade province and has never ruled out the use of force to bring it under its control.

While relations have improved dramatically since the China-friendly Ma Ying-jeou was elected Taiwan president in 2008, with a series of trade and tourism deals signed, there has been no progress towards political reconciliation or a lessening of military distrust.

Speaking on the Indonesian resort island of Bali ahead of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, Xi told Ma’s envoy to the meeting, Vincent Siew, that political issues could not be put off forever.

“Increasing mutual political trust across the Taiwan Straits and jointly building up political foundations are crucial for ensuring the peaceful development of relations,” the official Xinhua news agency paraphrased Xi as saying.

“Looking further ahead, the issue of political disagreements that exist between the two sides must reach a final resolution, step by step, and these issues cannot be passed on from generation to generation,” Xi added.

“I have already said many times that (we are) willing to have equal consultations with Taiwan on cross-strait issues within the framework of the one-China (principle), and make reasonable and fair arrangements for this.”

Beijing and Taipei agreed to their own interpretations of the “one China” principle, which includes Taiwan as part of China, in 1992.

However, Ma has signalled no urgency to have political talks with China, saying the time is not yet right, a view backed by Siew who said things had to move slowly.

“Both sides need greater understanding,” Siew told reporters, adding he and Xi did not discuss the possibility of a Xi-Ma meeting. “If we can find a consensus, then we can slowly find a reasonable, rational plan to resolve things.”

Despite China and Taiwan’s close business and economic ties, US-armed and backed Taiwan remains a potentially dangerous military flashpoint and a key priority for the ruling Communist Party, which is investing billions in defence modernisation.

Ships patrol Diaoyu Islands in advance of anniversary

China sends large coastguard flotilla to mark Japan’s purchase of disputed islands last year

    Wednesday, 11 September, 2013 [Updated: 10:00AM]
  • _tok520_38015161.jpg
Vessels from the China Maritime Surveillance and the Japan Coast Guard near the disputed Diaoyu Islands. Photo: Reuters

China and Japan entered into a fresh round of bitter exchanges over their territorial row in the East China Sea yesterday – one day ahead of the anniversary of Japan’s purchase of the disputed Diaoyu Islands.

Beijing sent seven coastguard ships to patrol around the islands, which are known as the Senkakus in Japan, prompting Tokyo to lodge a formal protest and raise the possibility of stationing Japanese government workers on the island.

The latest Chinese patrol was the 59th since last September, when Tokyo announced that it would buy several of the islands, China’s State Oceanic Administration said.

In response, Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki summoned China’s ambassador in Tokyo, Cheng Yonghua, to protest against the patrol. Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said the ministry was strengthening its surveillance of the islands.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said stationing government workers on the islands was an “option”..

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei hit back at Tokyo’s claims, saying Japan has to “remedy mistakes” and China was “seriously concerned” about Japan’s plans.

“Japan has to bear all the consequences if it recklessly takes provocative moves,” Hong said.

The State Oceanic Administration gave detailed accounts of its law enforcement since last September. It said vessels had gone within 0.28 nautical miles of the islands during the patrols. Japanese vessels had come within 10 metres of Chinese ships.

President Xi Jinping told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a brief encounter on the sidelines of a G20 summit in St Petersburg last week that Sino-Japanese ties faced “grave difficulties”.

A report by Kyodo, citing Japanese government sources, said Japan was exploring a formal meeting between the two leaders at next month’s Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Indonesia, but Tokyo was also planning to set up by 2015 a special military unit dedicated to “reclaiming islands”.

Da Zhigang, an expert in Japanese affairs at the Heilongjiang Academy of Social Sciences, said a quick improvement in relations is unlikely. “No one is sure if Abe is sincere or not,” he said.

Jail time promised for false tweets in China


Xinhua will escape from Olympic 2020 gaffe, no doubt

By   Phil Muncaster

Posted in Policy,   10th September 2013 04:09 GMT

Use of social media in China just got more dangerous after the country’s Supreme Court announced tough new guidelines which could see untrue posts which are viewed more than 5,000 times land their author in jail for several years.

The court document stated that any post containing so-called “online rumours” viewed 5,000 times or reposted more than 500 times by its author can be detained for defamation – a crime which carries a maximum sentence of three years jail in China.

The court also clarified that users could be liable for even more serious offences if the rumours “seriously endanger social order and national interests”, for example if they lead to mass incidents, damage China’s image or lead to ethnic or religious conflict.

Although no specific sentence is given for those crimes, they’re certainly likely to mean more than three years in the slammer.

The clarification document can be seen as another step in new president Xi Jinping’s on-going bid to keep a lid on the free flow of information on the country’s hugely popular micro-blogs (weibo), which are seen by the Communist Party as a potentially destabilising force.

As TechInAsia noted, however, the system is open to abuse, not only because the Party decides what are and what aren’t “rumours”, but because it could be used by the rich and powerful to stick their opponents in jail.

All it would take is for Entrepreneur A to hire a “black PR” firm to repost 500 times a negative comment made about him by his rival, Entrepreneur B, to land B in jail.

It’s also pretty certain that none of the official government news agencies, which are notorious for getting their facts wrong, will be affected by such laws.

Xinhua, for example, has fallen numerous times for satirical stories posted online by The Onion and others, reporting them as fact

Chinese chief engineer ‘tortured to death by six Communist Party investigators who dunked his head underwater trying to extract confession’

  • Yu Qiyi held in detention for 38  days on suspicion  of corruption in a land deal
  • Coroner said he had inhaled fluids that  caused his lungs to malfunction
  • ‘Shuanggui’ interrogations  try to force  officials to confess wrongdoings

By  Richard Shears and Associated Press

PUBLISHED: 11:25 EST, 4  September 2013 |  UPDATED: 11:34 EST, 4 September 2013

Chinese chief engineer Yu Qiyi was tortured to death by Communist Party officials 

Chinese chief engineer Yu Qiyi was tortured to death by  Communist Party officials


The chief engineer of a state-owned Chinese  company was tortured to death by Communist Party officials who repeatedly dunked  his head into a tub of icy water, in an attempt to extract a confession for  corruption, it has been claimed.

Mr Yu Qiyi, who was in his early 40s, had his  head held underwater by six  investigators after being  been  held for 38 days in detention  in the city of Wenzhou.

A coroner’s report concluded  that Mr Yu had  died after inhaling fluids that caused his lungs to  malfunction – an official  way of saying he drowned.

The state-run Beijing Times newspaper,  published photographs of several bruises on the body of Mr Yu Qiyi, and claimed he had been tortured  during a severe  interrogation process know as shuanggui in which  officials are asked to confess  wrongdoings.

The investigators will now be tried for  intentional assault.

A Communist Party member of the Wenzhou  Industry Investment Group, Mr  Qiyi was said by his wife, Wu Qian, to have been  ‘a strong man before  the shuanggui process, but he was thin by the time he  died.’

Yu’s family says the injuries are proof that  he was beaten, starved and  otherwise tortured by investigators in the eastern  city of Wenzhou where he lived.

‘He was thin  like a beggar,’ said Wu Qian,  describing seeing Yu on April 9 in a local hospital. ‘He was lying there so  pitifully. … Anywhere that we could see, there were injuries on  his  body.’

Under shuanggui  interrogations, suspects are  whisked away into a shadowy detention. It operates beyond  the law, with people  held for weeks and months at a time with no regard  for the normal, if often  ignored, legal protections Chinese citizens are supposed to be entitled  to.


Mr Yu Qiyi was picked up on suspicion of corruption in a land deal in the city of eastern Chinese city Wenzhou where he lived and worked  

Mr Yu Qiyi was picked up on suspicion of corruption in a  land deal in the city of eastern Chinese city Wenzhou where he lived and worked


Defenders of the system say party  investigators need unchecked power to prevent officials suspected of malfeasance  from using their influence to block such inquiries.

By keeping them in solitary confinement, the  argument goes, officials are unable contact others who might be implicated or  police or judges they might have influence over.

And it has been used against powerful  officials, most recently Bo Xilai, a high-ranking politician brought down in  spectacular style last year following his wife’s involvement in the murder of a  British businessman.

The former railways minister, Liu Zhijun, who  now faces charges of taking bribes and abusing his power, also was under the  party’s investigative detention system.

Yu was wanted for questioning for possible  corruption in a land deal when he was picked up by investigators.

Run by the party’s Discipline Inspection  Commission, the investigations have time limits of up to six months and usually  take place in hotels or guesthouses, according to a 2010 book on arbitrary  detention in China by legal scholar Flora Sapio.

High-ranking Chinese politician Bo Xilai was also subjected to the shuanggui torture process 

High-ranking Chinese politician Bo Xilai was also  subjected to the shuanggui torture process


Detainees are guarded even when they use the  toilet, Sapio writes, and are subject to sleep deprivation and  beatings.

Because the targets and interrogators are  party members and are bound by the party’s disciplinary code, the process is  girded in silence, its details mostly kept out of public view.

When the probe is concluded, investigators  sometimes turn the suspect along with selected evidence to prosecutors for what  is often a perfunctory prosecution with guilt a foregone  conclusion.

No figures are made public on the number of  people put through the party’s detention system annually. Shen said the number  of corruption cases the party investigates — about 150,000 cases last year —  provides some indication, though the detentions are likely to be far higher  since each case usually involves multiple suspects.

The attention that Yu’s case has brought  comes at an inconvenient time for the party. There is growing pressure from  legal reformers and the public to do away with another form of punishment with  flimsy legal underpinnings: a system that allows police to jail people in labor  camps for up to four years without a court trial or judicial  review.

Because recently installed President Xi  Jinping came to power pledging to root out widespread corruption, the shuanggui  detentions may be used even more frequently, not less — setting back legal  reforms.

‘The use of shuanggui delivers not justice,  but selective and vindictive prosecutions often based on torture, and will do  little to straighten out China’s rotten officialdom,’ Human Rights Watch  researcher Maya Wang said.

Before he died, Yu, a party member since  1998, had been a rising figure in the Wenzhou Industry Investment Group, a  state-owned company that according to its website invests in energy and other  industries and manages 4.6 billion yuan ($750 million) in assets. Yu had been  appointed by provincial leaders for a temporary assignment at the Cabinet agency  in Beijing that oversees China’s biggest state-owned companies.

He was arriving back from the capital on  March 1 but instead of being picked up as usual by his ex-wife, Wu, who was  waiting in the car outside, he made a hurried phone call before being whisked  away by investigators. It was the last time she heard his voice.

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China rules out talks with Japan on disputed Diaoyus

    Wednesday, 28 August, 2013 [Updated: 5:28AM]
  • japan_coast.jpg
A Japan Coast Guard vessel patrols off the disputed Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. Photo: Reuters

China sees no reason to hold talks with Japan over their dispute about ownership of a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, Deputy Foreign Minister Li Baodong said.

Li said Japan’s call for high-level talks was not genuine, but merely grandstanding.

A meeting between leaders is not simply for the sake of shaking hands and taking pictures, but to resolve problems. If Japan wants to arrange a meeting to resolve problems, they should stop with the empty talk and doing stuff for show
Deputy Foreign Minister Li Baodong

“A meeting between leaders is not simply for the sake of shaking hands and taking pictures, but to resolve problems,” Li said ahead of President Xi Jinping’s attendance at the G20 summit next week.

“If Japan wants to arrange a meeting to resolve problems, they should stop with the empty talk and doing stuff for show,” Li said, when asked about the possibility of a meeting of Chinese and Japanese leaders at the G20.

China’s blunt rejection came as Japan yesterday voiced irritation over a remark by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who called on Tokyo to face up to the past and improve ties with its neighbours. Speaking in Seoul on Monday, Ban called for “very deep introspection” by Japanese leaders, especially with regard to moves in Japan to revise its pacifist constitution. “I find it very regrettable that the tension [among the three northeast Asian countries] continues on due to issues of history and other political reasons,” Ban said.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said he doubted if Ban was fully aware of the efforts Japan was making towards dialogue with China and South Korea.

“Prime Minister [Shinzo Abe] has called for dialogue with South Korea and China despite issues of concern,” Suga said. “I feel a strong sense of doubt as to whether the remark was made with full understanding of our country’s position.”

However, Professor Lian Degui , of the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said it was unlikely that a Chinese state leader would meet Abe if Japan did not address Beijing’s concerns over Tokyo’s nationalising of the Diaoyu Islands, which Japan refers to as the Senkakus.

“If Japan really wants to improve ties with China, then it should address our concern,” he said. “It makes no sense for Tokyo to ask for a dialogue if Japan does not change its stance.”

Japan’s coastguard said yesterday that three Chinese coastguard vessels had entered what Japan considered to be its territorial waters near the disputed islands. China said the trip was a routine patrol in its own waters.

Reuters, Agence France Presse; additional reporting by Teddy Ng


China orders all the nation’s journalists to take Marxism classes

Tuesday, 27 August, 2013, 6:05pm

News›China Insider
Class struggle
Patrick Boehler

China has ordered its entire press corps back to school in an effort to shore up ideological unity. The nation’s 307,000 reporters, producers and editors will soon have to sit through at least two days of Marxism classes, the Communist Party’s Propaganda Department has announced along with the press association and the state press regulator.

The announcement comes a week after Xi Jinping called for increased unity in a much publicised speech and amid a widening crackdown on online dissent. Last week, a reporter with the Modern Express, Liu Hu, was detained in Chongqing on charges of “causing trouble” when he openly called for a corruption investigation into a deputy director of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce.

Xi Jinping’s administration has also started a campaign against “internet rumours”, unverified reports circulating online, and those sharing such information. Influential media commentator Charles Xue was detained for soliciting prostitution over the weekend, according to Beijing police, in what observers have called trumped-up charges related to the clampdown.

“The internet has become the main battlefield in the fight for public opinion,” Xinhua quoted an unidentified official in charge of the Marxism classes as saying. “At present, the situation in the ideological field is complex, journalism and propaganda hold even greater responsibility and the task is becoming increasingly difficult.”

The official also pointed to a changed media environment where journalists were younger and less ideologically reliable in their reporting. “Journalists’ ideological and political qualities vary greatly,” the official said.

A woman sits beside a portrait of Karl Marx at a market in Beijing. Photo: AP


Last week, Li Baoshan, the publisher of the Central Party School’s magazine Seeking Truth, called on journalists [1] to focus on positive reporting, even though bad news sell well. “Socialist outlook on news puts emphasis on social benefits, if there is a conflict between [commercial and social] benefits, then [commercial] benefits have to conform to social benefits,” Li wrote.

Marxism classes are scheduled to begin this month in main provincial publications and then spread to minor publications. Until next February, central government monitors’ will inspect the programme’s progress.

Journalists have reacted with muted apathy to the announcement made by Xinhua on Tuesday. “I’ve studied Marxism for so many years, the more I study it, the less I understand it,” was a Beijing-based journalist’s reaction. “Speechless,” Lv Minghe, an investigative reporter with Southern Weekly commented in a Sina Weibo post.

Links: [1] year/this year16/this year08/tthis year0813_259118.htm

Hollywood’s in need of a hero – to recover its money from China

Beijing accused of taking box office receipts from American studios

Tim Walker

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

China is likely to become the world’s biggest film market within the next five years, making it a potential source of vast profits for Hollywood studios – but only if the Chinese decide to pay them. And, according to reports this week in the US trade papers Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, China stopped paying Hollywood for its movies months ago.

Remarkably, it seems that the studios have continued to send their big releases to Chinese cinemas, despite not having received a penny of their box-office takings since the end of last year. In several cases, the withheld payments are thought to total tens of millions of dollars, and all because of a dispute over a new tax.

Last year, the US Vice-President Joe Biden and China’s then Vice-President Xi Jinping, who has  since become the country’s President, negotiated a landmark World Trade Organisation deal, relaxing strict restrictions on foreign film releases in China.

Under the agreement, Beijing agreed to allow more overseas movies to be screened in Chinese cinemas than in previous years, and raised to 25 per cent the share of box-office takings to be returned to US studios.

Towards the end of 2012, however, the state-run China Film Group told studios that it intended to levy a 2 per cent value-added tax on each film  release. Studios are refusing to pay the VAT, claiming it breaches the WTO deal. The ongoing dispute means Western studios have seen none of their agreed 25 per cent of Chinese box-office earnings for some of this year’s biggest releases.

Warner Brothers is probably owed more than $31m (£20m) for blockbusters including Man Of Steel and The Hobbit, while Sony has supposedly seen nothing for its James Bond movie Skyfall. Disney could be more than $30m out of pocket for Iron Man 3 alone, which made more than $121m in China, and 20th Century Fox has said it is still waiting for an estimated $23m return on its Chinese success with Life Of Pi.

Historically, dealing with China has been difficult for Hollywood film-makers, who must contend with the whims of Chinese censors. Many films have been banned with little or no explanation, others have been withdrawn from screens at a moment’s notice. Yet Chinese audiences are fast becoming so crucial that US studios are more anxious than ever to please them, and the censors who control what they see. Several Hollywood blockbusters, including Iron Man 3, specifically altered their content to make them more attractive to the Chinese market.

Chris Dodd, a former US Senator who now chairs the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), is working to resolve the dispute, which has reportedly reached the US Trade Representative. A source at the USTR told Variety that the agency was working with the MPAA and “counterparts within the Chinese government to resolve the issue”.

Chinese court executes man for fraud and illegal fundraising without telling family: media

AFP Sunday, Jul 14, 2013

BEIJING – A Chinese court executed a man on death row without notifying his family and then defended its actions, sparking anger online, local media reported Sunday.

Businessman Zeng Chengjie was executed on Friday after being sentenced in 2011 for fraud and illegal fundraising involving 3.4 billion yuan (S$694 million), the Beijing Times said.

His daughter complained on Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like microblog, that the court in Changsha, central China, had not notified the family beforehand.

The court replied via its own weibo account on Saturday, saying “the law does not have a written rule that convicts being executed must see their families”.

It generated criticism online with users criticising the “ice cold” response.

The court then apologised in a second post, stressing that its weibo account managers had not studied the law closely enough, the Beijing Times said. It later issued a third post, saying Zeng was given the option to see his

family but declined.

Weibo users dismissed the court’s replies – which along with all other posts on its account were later blocked from view – though netizens and media outlets shared images of the earlier statements.

Zeng’s daughter said: “Everything they did should be condemned”.

The controversy comes as China’s leaders have called for a more credible judiciary, even although it is largely beholden to political authorities.

“China has a long, long way to go before it has the rule of law,” weibo user Lin Lvshan wrote.

Xu Xin, a law professor, wrote online that the court had “severely damaged public confidence in judicial bodies”.

China’s new leader Xi Jinping has called in recent months for a fairer and more transparent judiciary that delivers justice for ordinary Chinese.

But China’s courts lack independence. Many cases, particularly sensitive ones, are decided beforehand by political authorities, and the country’s conviction rate is high.

China state media blames Syria rebels for Xinjiang violence

Source: Mon, 1 Jul 2013 09:30 AM

Author: Reuters

Armed paramilitary policemen run in formation during a gathering to mobilize security operations in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, June 29, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer


BEIJING, July 1 (Reuters) – Chinese state media on Monday blamed Syrian opposition forces in unusually specific finger pointing for training Muslim extremists responsible for the deadliest unrest in four years in China’s far-western region of Xinjiang.

China has traditionally blamed violence in Xinjiang, home to Muslim Uighurs, on Islamic separatists who want to establish an independent state of “East Turkestan”.

This appears to mark the first time Beijing has blamed a group in Syria and fits a common narrative of the government portraying Xinjiang’s violence as coming from abroad, such as Pakistan, and not due to homegrown anger.

Chinese President Xi Jinping presided over a forum in Beijing last Saturday on maintaining stability in Xinjiang. Paramilitary police have flooded the streets of the regional capital Urumqi after 35 people were killed in two attacks last week, which China has blamed on a gang engaged in “religious extremist activities”. (Full Story)

Many Uighurs in Xinjiang resent what they call Chinese government restrictions on their culture, language and religion.

The Global Times, a tabloid owned by the Communist Party mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, said that some members of the East Turkestan faction had moved from Turkey into Syria.

“This Global Times reporter has recently exclusively learned from the Chinese anti-terrorism authorities that since 2012, some members of the ‘East Turkestan’ faction have entered Syria from Turkey, participated in extremist, religious and terrorist organisations within the Syrian opposition forces and fought against the Syrian army,” the newspaper said.

“At the same time, these elements from ‘East Turkestan’ have identified candidates to sneak into Chinese territory to plan and execute terrorist attacks.”

Authorities had arrested a 23-year-old “terrorist”, known in Chinese as Maimaiti Aili, belonging to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), the report said, adding that he had taken part in the Syrian war.

Dilxat Raxit, the Sweden-based spokesman for the exiled World Uyghur Congress, called the report unrealistic.

“Uighurs already find it very difficult to get passports, how can they run off to Syria?” Raxit told Reuters by telephone.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying declined to directly answer questions on whether Syrian rebels had joined forces with the East Turkestan movement.

Hua only said at a regular briefing that China has “also noted that in recent years East Turkestan terrorist forces and international terrorist organizations have been uniting, not only threatening China’s national security but also the peace and stability of relevant countries and regions.”

Officials in Xinjiang and China’s ministry of public security were not immediately available for comment.

Pan Zhiping, a retired expert on Central Asia at Xinjiang’s Academy of Social Science, said it was possible that the attackers in Xinjiang were involved in the Syrian war, citing members of the East Turkestan movement who had taken part in the Chechnya war, and were extradited by Russia to go on trial in China.

“They are definitely more dangerous, these people, we can call them desperados. They are highly trained and not ordinary citizens,” Pan said.

The report by the Global Times follows attempts by China to take a more proactive role in solving the crisis in Syria. China, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, has been keen to show it is not taking sides and has urged the Syrian government to talk to the opposition.

Police in Xinjiang have detained 19 people for spreading online rumours that triggered Wednesday’s attack in northern Shanshan county, state media said on Monday.

The increased security comes four days before the fourth anniversary of the July 2009 riots in Xinjiang that pitted Uighurs against ethnic Chinese, resulting in nearly 200 people being killed.

Two days after the deadly attack, more than 100 people riding motorbikes and wielding knives attacked a police station in Xinjiang, state media reported.

(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee, Michael Martina and Li Hui; Editing by Nick Macfie)


Chinese businessman behind $40 bln Nicaragua canal denies special ties

Tue, Jun 25, 2013     Reuters

BEIJING – The mysterious Chinese businessman behind a US$40 billion (S$50.8 billion) plan to build a canal through Nicaragua pledged transparency on Tuesday – but refused to reveal where he attended college.

Wang Jing, 40, who says his initial wealth came from a gold mine investment in Cambodia, is the only public face for a project that on paper would challenge the Panama Canal’s monopoly on transporting oil, ore and containers between Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico ports and Asian markets.

Nicaragua’s Congress last week granted Wang’s Cayman Islands-registered HKND company a 50-year concession to develop the canal, following a September agreement with president Daniel Ortega. HKND in turn is a unit of HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co., Ltd, a firm Wang had registered in Hong Kong just a month before the deal with Ortega.

Wang denied any family connection to the Chinese government, military or ruling Communist Party. Connections, or guanxi, are often the hidden ingredient behind sudden success in China.

“I always hoped people would pay attention to the project and not to me personally,” he told a news conference at a luxury hotel in central Beijing.

“I am a very normal Chinese citizen. I couldn’t be more normal.”

The plan – which has generated a lot of scepticism from industry experts – is to build a 286-km (178-mile) canal connecting the Caribbean with the Pacific via Lake Nicaragua, Central America’s largest freshwater lake.

It would cost about four years’ worth of Nicaragua’s annual gross domestic product, and would likely be three times longer than the Panama Canal, which took a decade to build.

Speaking later in an interview with Reuters, Wang said HKND would head a consortium of partners that would operate “fairly, impartially and openly” and might include international firms.

It would be financed by large Chinese and international banks that he declined to name, although he said financing negotiations were going smoothly.

A likely partner is China Railway Construction, one of the country’s largest state-owned infrastructure developers, according to HKND materials promoting the project. Another of Wang’s companies, the unlisted Xinwei Telecom Enterprise Group, signed a cooperation accord with China Railway earlier this year.

On one point, Wang was explicit – he would maintain at least a 5 per cent stake in HKND, and he would remain in charge. He owns 100 per cent of HKND.

“Any future partners or consortium will respect my views and opinions very much,” he said.

Wang projected annual shipping revenues of $5.5 billion when the canal is at full capacity. The deal calls for construction to be completed in five years, but contains no penalties for delay. Once constructed, ownership of the concession would gradually return to Nicaragua.

The tall, round-faced Wang was unknown when he privatised loss-making state-owned Xinwei in 2010 and transformed it. Xinwei booked over 2 billion yuan (S$412 million) in profits last year, Chinese media reported, mostly building wireless networks in other countries.

Xinwei’s website carries photographs of Xi Jinping, now China’s president, and Li Keqiang, now premier, visiting Xinwei.

Wang told journalists he studied traditional Chinese medicine, but added it was “inconvenient” to say at which university. He then took an interest in mining in Southeast Asia, including the Cambodian gold mine, he said.

Wang said he lived in his native Beijing with his mother, younger brother and daughter. Corporate records show a hotel management company registered to Wang and his brother, Wang Peng, as well as other small entertainment and telecommunications companies under their names.

Reuters was not able to locate the hotel management company at its registered address.

Wang’s nearly 40 per cent stake in Xinwei is worth about $1 billion, based on the asking price for a minority share in the firm currently on sale by state-owned Datang Telecommunications.

Chinese censors target Winnie the Pooh and Tigger

China’s army of internet censors have picked an unusual target in their battle to wipe dissent from the country’s computer screens: Winnie the Pooh and Tigger.

The two images were published side by side this week on the Twitter-like Chinese social media site Weibo.

The two images were published side by side this week on the Twitter-like Chinese social media site Weibo. Photo: REUTERS


By , Shanghai

1:38PM BST 14 Jun 2013

Following the recent California summit between Barack Obama and Chinese president Xi Jinping, Chinese micro-bloggers picked up on an uncanny resemblance between a photograph of the two presidents strolling through the Sunnylands estate and a cartoon image of A. A. Milne’s cartoon creations.

The two images were published side by side this week on the Twitter-like Chinese social media site Weibo.

But the posts were almost immediately “harmonized”, as censors appeared to take exception to the comparison between their president and a podgy bear who once roamed Sussex’s Ashdown Forest.

Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post said over-zealous censors had “nipped in the bud what could have been a positive PR campaign tailor-made for President Xi Jinping.”

The Communist Party’s internet censors often appear determined to delete even the slightest hint of government criticism from social media sites.

Earlier this month, authorities targeted a photo-shopped image – also on Weibo – of the famous Tiananmen Square photograph in which a lone protester faces down a line of tanks. The image – in which the tanks were replaced with giant rubber ducks – irritated authorities enough that not only did they remove the picture itself, they also blocked all internet searches related to the squeaky bath toys.

But a recent Harvard study, which analysed millions of micro-blog posts, concluded that posts “with negative, even vitriolic, criticism of the state, its leaders, and its policies are not more likely to be censored” than other posts.

In fact, the study found that the censors’ key aim was to curtail “collective action by silencing comments that represent, reinforce, or spur social mobilisation”.

There is no suggestion that Winnie the Pooh or Tigger had been plotting to stir up social unrest in China.

New Chinese President Xi aims to paint Africa red

Nile Bowie is a political analyst and photographer currently residing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Published time: March 12, 2013 10:51                                                                            
China's Communist Party Chief Xi Jinping (Reuters/Jason Lee)

China’s Communist Party Chief Xi Jinping (Reuters/Jason Lee)

The fact that China’s incoming president, Xi Jinping, is set to visit Africa on his first foreign trip is a strong indication of where Sino-African relations are headed. But as Beijing focuses on building African industry, Washington has other plans.

At a recently held meeting of the National People’s Congress in Beijing, China’s leaders unveiled a dramatic long-term plan to integrate some 400 million countryside dwellers into urban environments, by concentrating growth-promoting development in small- and medium-sized cities. In stark contrast to the neglected emphasis on infrastructure development in the United States and Europe, China spends around $500 billion annually on infrastructural projects, with $6.4 trillion set aside for its 10-year mass urbanization scheme, making it the largest rural-to-urban migration project in human history.

China’s leaders have mega-development in focus, and realizing such epic undertakings not only requires the utilization of time-efficient high-volume production methods, but also resources – lots and lots of resources. It should come as no surprise that incoming Chinese president Xi Jinping’s first trip as head of state will take him to Africa, to deepen the mutually beneficial trade and energy relationships maintained throughout the continent that have long irked policy makers in Washington.

The new guy in charge – who some analysts have suggested could be a populist reformer that empathizes with the poor – will visit several African nations with whom China has expressed a desire to expand ties with, the most prominent being South Africa. Since establishing relations in 1998, bilateral trade between the two jumped from $1.5 billion to $16 billion as of 2012. Following a relationship that has consisted predominately of economic exchanges, China and South Africa have now announced plans to enhance military ties in a show of increasing political and security cooperation.

During 2012’s Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, incumbent President Hu Jintao served up $20 billion in loans to African countries, which were designated for the construction of vital infrastructure such as new roads, railways and ports to enable higher volumes of trade and export. In his address to the forum, South African President Jacob Zuma spoke of the long-term unsustainability of the current model of Sino-African trade, in which raw materials are sent out and manufactured commodities are sent in.

This picture taken on June 12, 2012 shows the managing editor of China Central Television (CCTV) Africa Pang Xinhua (L) talking to local journalist as he shows them how the organization has expanded in different parts of Africa, in the premises of the television in Nairobi. (AFP Photo/Simon Maina)

This picture taken on June 12, 2012 shows the managing editor of China Central Television (CCTV) Africa Pang Xinhua (L) talking to local journalist as he shows them how the organization has expanded in different parts of Africa, in the premises of the television in Nairobi. (AFP Photo/Simon Maina)

“Africa’s past economic experience with Europe dictates a need to be cautious when entering into partnerships with other economies,” Zuma said. “We certainly are convinced that China’s intention is different to that of Europe, which to date continues to attempt to influence African countries for their sole benefit.”

Xi’s visit highlights the importance China attaches to Sino-African ties, and during his stay, he will attend the fifth meeting of the BRICS, the first summit held on the African continent to accommodate leaders of the world’s most prominent emerging economies, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. The BRICS group, which accounts for around 43% of the world’s population and 17% of global trade, is set to increase investments in Africa’s industrial sector threefold, from $150 billion in 2010 to $530 billion in 2015, under the theme ‘BRICS and Africa: Partnership for development, integration, and industrialization.’

With focus shifting toward building up the continent’s industrial sector, South Africa is no doubt seen as a springboard into Africa and a key development partner on the continent for other BRICS members. Analysts have likened the BRICS group to represent yet another significant step away from a unipolar global economic order, and it comes as no surprise. As eurozone countries languish amidst austerity, record unemployment and major demand contraction, the European Union has declined as a share of South Africa’s total trade from 36% in 2005 to 26.5% in 2011, while the BRICS countries’ total trade increased from 10% in 2005 to 18.6% in 2011.

The value and significance of the BRICS platform is its ability to proliferate South-South political and economic ties, and one should expect the reduction of trade barriers and the gradual adoption of economic exchanges using local currencies. China’s ICBC paid $5.5 billion for a 20% stake in Standard Bank of South Africa in 2007, and the move has played out well for Beijing – Standard has over 500 branches across 17 African countries, which has drastically increased availability of the Chinese currency, offering yuan accounts to expatriate traders.

It looks like the love story that has become of China and Africa will gradually begin shifting its emphasis toward building up a viable large-scale industrial base. Surveys out of Beijing cite 1,600 companies tapping into the use of Africa as an industrial base, with manufacturing’s share of total Chinese investment (22%) fast gaining on the mining sector’s (29%).

Gavin du Venage, writing for the Asia Times Online, highlights how Beijing’s policy toward Africa aims to be mutually beneficial and growth-promoting: “Chinese energy firm Sinopec teamed up with South African counterpart PetroSA to explore building a US$11 billion oil refinery on the country’s west coast. Refineries are notoriously unprofitable, with razor-thin margins. Since South Africa has no significant oil or proven gas reserves itself, the proposed plant would depend on imports, and would have to serve the local market to be viable. The plant will therefore serve the South African market and not be used to process exports to China. This is only the latest of such investments that demonstrate a willingness by Chinese investors to put down roots and infrastructure in Africa. It also shows that China’s dragon safari is about more than just sourcing commodities for export.”

Indeed, and Beijing’s dragon safari is loaded with a packed itinerary, with Mao-bucks flying everywhere from Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to Nigeria and Angola. Xi Jinping will also grace the Angolan capital of Luanda, where China has provided the oil-rich nation with some $4.5 billion in loans since 2002. Following Angola’s 27-year civil war that began in 1975, Beijing played a major role in the country’s reconstruction process, with 50 large-scale and state-owned companies and over 400 private companies operating in the country; it has since become China’s largest trading partner in Africa with a bilateral trade volume at some $20 billion dollars annually. Chinese Ambassador Zhang Bolun was quoted as saying how he saw great potential in further developing Sino-Angolan relations and assisting the nation in reducing its dependence on oil revenues while giving priority to the development of farming, service industries, renewable energies, transport and other basic infrastructure.

Chinese commercial activities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have significantly increased not only in the mining sector, but also considerably in the telecommunications field. In 2000, the Chinese ZTE Corporation finalized a $12.6-million deal with the Congolese government to establish the first Sino-Congolese telecommunications company, while Kinshasa exported $1.4-billion worth of cobalt to Beijing between 2007 and 2008.

The majority of Congolese raw materials like cobalt, copper ore and a variety of hard woods are exported to China for further processing, and 90% of the processing plants in resource-rich southeastern Katanga province are owned by Chinese nationals. In 2008, a consortium of Chinese companies were granted the rights to mining operations in Katanga in exchange for $6 billion in infrastructure investments, including the construction of two hospitals, four universities and a hydroelectric power project; the International Monetary Fund intervened and blocked the deal, arguing that the agreement violated the foreign debt relief program for so-called HIPC (Highly Indebted Poor Countries) nations.

China has made significant investments in manufacturing zones in non-resource-rich economies such as Zambia and Tanzani, and as Africa’s largest trading partner China imports 1.5 million barrels of oil from Africa per day, accounting for approximately 30 percent of its total imports. In Ghana, China has invested in Ghanaian national airlines that primarily serve domestic routes, in addition to partnering with the Ghanaian government on a major infrastructural project to build the Bui Hydroelectric Dam. China-Africa trade rose from $10.6 billion in 2000 to $106.8 billion in 2008, at an annual growth rate of over 30 percent.

By the end of 2009, China had canceled out more than 300 zero-interest loans owed by 35 heavily indebted needy countries and the least developed countries in Africa. China is by far the largest financier on the entire continent, and Beijing’s economic influence in Africa is nowhere more apparent than the $200 million African Union headquarters situated in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – which was funded solely by China.

Barack Obama and Xi Jinping speak during meetings in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, February 14, 2012. (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

Barack Obama and Xi Jinping speak during meetings in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, February 14, 2012. (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

China’s deepening economic engagement in Africa and its crucial role in developing the mineral sector, telecommunications industry and much-needed infrastructural projects is creating “deep nervousness” in the West, according to David Shinn, the former US ambassador to Burkina Faso and Ethiopia. During a diplomatic tour of Africa in 2011, former US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton insinuated China’s guilt in perpetuating a creeping “new colonialism.” When it comes to Africa, the significant differences in these two powers’ key economic, foreign policy strategies and worldviews are nowhere more apparent. Washington has evidently launched efforts to counter China’s influence throughout the African continent, and where Beijing focuses on economic development, the United States has sought to legitimize its presence through counterterrorism operations and the expansion of the United States Africa Command, better known as AFRICOM – an outpost of the US Military designated solely for operations on the African continent.

During a visit to AFRICOM in 2008, Vice Admiral Robert T. Moeller cited AFRICOM’s stated mission of protecting “the free flow of natural resources from Africa to the global market,” before emphasizing how the increasing presence of China is a major challenge to US interests in the region. Washington recently announced that US Army teams will be deployed to as many as 35 African countries in early 2013 for training programs and other operations, as part of an increased Pentagon role in Africa – primarily in countries with groups allegedly linked to Al-Qaeda.

Given President Obama’s proclivity toward the proliferation of UAV drone technology, one could imagine these moves as laying the groundwork for future US military interventions using such technology in Africa on a wider scale than that already seen in Somalia and Mali. Here lies the deep hypocrisy in accusations of Beijing’s purported ‘new colonialism’ – China is focused on building industries, increasing development and improving administrative and well as physical infrastructure . The propagation of force, which one would historically associate with a colonizer, is entirely absent from China’s approach.

Obviously, the same cannot be said of the United States, whose firepower-heavy tactics have in recent times enabled militancy and lawlessness, as seen in the fallout of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s 2011 bombing campaign in Libya, with notable civilian causalities. As Xi Jingping positions himself in power over a nation undertaking some of the grandest development projects the world has ever known, Beijing’s relationship with the African continent will be a crucial one. While everything looks good on paper, Xi’s administration must earn the trust of their African constituents by keeping a closer eye on operations happening on the ground.

The incoming administration must do more to scrutinize the conduct of Chinese conglomerates and business practices with a genuine focus on adhering to local environmental regulations, safety standards and sound construction methods. The current trajectory China has set itself upon will do much to enable mutually beneficial economic development, in addition to bolstering an independent Global South – a little less red then how Mao wanted it, but close enough.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Washington warns N. Korea against ‘provocative steps

Cheng Guangjin

China Daily

Publication Date : 17-01-2013

The United States is pushing for tough sanctions against North Korea amid reports that the country is possibly preparing for a third nuclear test

The United States is pushing for tough sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and warned Pyongyang yesterday against any “provocative” act, media reported.

“We anticipate formal steps in the Security Council in the immediate future,” Kurt Campbell, top US diplomat for East Asia, told reporters in Seoul, according to Reuters.

He added that Washington was “in the middle of really rather intense deliberations” at the United Nations.

Security Council resolutions have already banned the DPRK from developing nuclear and missile technology.

In December, Pyongyang launched a long-range rocket. The West suspected it was a disguised missile test, but Pyongyang said the launch was intended only for scientific and peaceful purposes.

Recent reports said the DPRK is possibly preparing for a third nuclear test.

“We are very clear in our position that provocative steps are to be discouraged,” Campbell told reporters when asked about the nuclear test speculation, AFP reported.

He also stressed that Washington was in “very detailed conversations” with key players such as China and Russia.

China has been insisting on denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and reconcilliation between the DPRK and the Republic of Korea (ROK).

Now is actually a good time to improve the situation on the Korean Peninsula, and the countries involved should deal with it cautiously, said Liu Jiangyong, deputy dean of the Institute of Modern International Relations at Tsinghua University.

ROK President-elect Park Geun-hye has taken a more flexible stance toward the DPRK, compared with her predecessor Lee Myung-bak, and this has paved the way for economic cooperation between Seoul and Pyongyang, Liu said.

DPRK leader Kim Jong-un did not criticise Park’s victory, which, Liu said, has helped to create a friendly atmosphere.

“As long as Pyongyang refrains from moves that are provocative, I am optimistic about the situation on the peninsula,” Liu said.

Zhang Liangui, an expert on Korean studies at the central Party school, said the news about a third nuclear test was possibly leaked intentionally by the DPRK to see what the response would be.

“If the international community responds furiously, Pyongyang may put off the plan,” Zhang said.

A flurry of diplomatic activity has been under way because tension remains high in the region.

The ROK will send a delegation of special envoys to China next week to meet Xi Jinping, China’s top political leader and head of the military, and other government officials, Seoul-based Yonhap News Agency reported.

After meeting Park later yesterday, Campbell was scheduled to continue his trip to Japan, another key player in the Six-Party Talks on the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, which has been involved in disputes with the ROK and China over territorial and historical issues.

Washington hopes the ROK and Japan can put a lid on their disagreements and seeks to reassure Tokyo in its standoff with China, analysts said.

Pu Zhendong contributed to this story


Japan urges China to use sea power peacefully: ” Tokyo’s own formidable armed forces are not to be underestimated “

NationalNov. 09, 2012 – 06:50AM JST( 30 )


Japan called on China Thursday to use its sea power peacefully, after President Hu Jintao staked a claim in Beijing for his country to become a maritime force.

Tokyo said its neighbor must act as a “responsible member of the international community”, a challenge it has made to Beijing repeatedly in recent months as tempers have flared over a disputed island chain.

“It is not surprising to hear leaders in (China) speak about their intention to engage in maritime activities,” Naoko Saiki, deputy press secretary at the foreign ministry, told reporters in Tokyo. “But those activities must be carried out in a peaceful manner based on international law.”

The comments come hours after Hu told the five-yearly Communist Party congress that Beijing should “resolutely safeguard China’s maritime rights and interests, and build China into a maritime power”.

Saiki said both countries—the two largest economies in Asia with a trade relationship worth well over $300 billion a year—had a duty to preserve the region’s stability and prosperity.

“I think China must be a responsible member of the international community,” she said.

Beijing and Tokyo are at loggerheads over the sovereignty of an uninhabited archipelago in the East China Sea.

Chinese government ships have loitered around the Tokyo-administered Senkaku islands, which Beijing calls the Diaoyus, for weeks, sending diplomatic temperatures soaring and leading to calls from Washington for cool heads.

The islands lie in rich fishing grounds and their possession theoretically grants access to a potential energy reserve in the seabed.

But they also have strategic significance, with some observers suggesting they could provide a beachhead for Chinese projections of military might.

Japan has watched warily over the last decade as China’s military prestige has grown. But commentators say Tokyo’s own formidable armed forces are not to be underestimated despite the nation’s officially pacifist stance.

A defense ministry spokesman said the ministry “has great interest in China’s maritime activities” and pledged “utmost efforts in maintaining safety in our territorial air and waters.”

“The issue of use of the sea in a stable manner is directly linked to the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region,” the spokesman said.

“It is important to act on the principle of freedom of navigation, compliance with international laws and peaceful resolution of conflicts.”

The dispute over the Senkakus has rumbled in the background of Tokyo-Beijing relations for decades but came into focus earlier this year when a Japanese nationalist politician announced he wanted to buy them.

Rightwingers on both sides launched landings on the rocky outcrops before Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda stepped in to buy part of the chain from their private owner.

Beijing reacted with fury, allowing sometimes violent demonstrations across the country that targeted Japanese business interests and put a dampener on the huge bilateral trade relationship.

Takashi Terada, professor of international politics at Doshisha University in Kyoto, said there was no end in sight to the territorial row.

Terada said Hu, due to be replaced as party chief by Vice President Xi Jinping, was using the congress speech as a call to arms for his successors.

“This is Hu’s message to the next leaders that it is a long-term issue and China should not give up (the islands),” he said.

“Although Xi’s diplomatic policies are still unknown, he is going to take it over. This problem is unlikely to make progress until after a power change occurs in Japan as China is so disappointed with Noda’s decision to nationalise the islands.”

Pigeons set China Congress security plans aflutter, as authorities in China ban the words “death”, “die” or “down” from songs on television.

Pigeons set China Congress security plans aflutter

By Sui-Lee Wee and Michael Martina

BEIJING |Thu Nov 1, 2012 11:27pm EDT

(Reuters) – Potentially sinister threats to China’s ruling Communist Party sit unnoticed in cages perched on a rooftop above a small alleyway in southwestern Beijing. Not dissidents. Pigeons.

A week before the party’s all-important congress opens, China’s stability-obsessed rulers are taking no chances and have combed through a list all possible threats, avian or otherwise.

It isn’t just the usual suspects like activists who have ruffled the party’s feathers.

Their list includes handles for rear windows in taxis — to stop subversive leaflets being scattered on the streets — balloons and remote control model planes.

The goal is to ensure an image of harmony as President Hu Jintao prepares to transfer power as party leader to anointed successor Vice President Xi Jinping at the congress, which starts on Thursday.

Li Zhonghe, 65, a retired construction worker, told Reuters he would have to keep his 40 to 50 pigeons in their coops when the congress starts.

“There are currently some extra restrictions, so we are not supposed to let the pigeons out to fly,” Li said, adding he did not know the reason why. “It’s this way every time there is a congress. I’m accustomed to it by now.”

Unlikely as it seems, pigeons, often raised as a hobby in China, have been used as a tool of subversion before. In the late 1990s, dissidents released pigeons carrying slogans written on ribbons tied to the birds’ feet in southern China.

The Beijing Carrier Pigeon Association said in an online notice two annual autumn races, originally scheduled during the congress, would be postponed until December. It did not say why.

Beijing police did not respond to a faxed Reuters inquiry.

Stability is the watchword this month, as it is before every important meeting, and some of the preparations for the congress resemble past precautions.

But Hu Jia, a dissident who was made to leave Beijing ahead of the congress, said the measures taken this time were the most excessive he had seen.

“Don’t you think this is absurd?” Hu told Reuters by telephone from his father’s hometown in central Anhui province. “They’ve reached a new level of psychosis.”


Taxi drivers were instructed recently by their companies to remove handles from rear windows. A driver surnamed Xu said a text message from his company also advised him to keep the windows closed when his taxi passes by Tiananmen Square.

“We were asked not to take petitioners to government buildings, but we should take them straight to the police office instead,” said another driver, surnamed Han, adding he was told to avoid taking passengers with bags for safety reasons.

The five-yearly Congress is a magnet for thousands of petitioners from provinces across the nation who see the meeting as a rare chance for them to seek redress for their grievances.

More than 1.4 million people have fanned out across Beijing to boost security, the Beijing News newspaper reported.

Residents have complained of snail-paced Internet speeds as censors comb though sites to remove subversive content. Beijing police have also banned residents from flying remote control model aircraft. Windows of buses heading toward “political centers” must be closed to prevent the “throwing of leaflets and other issues”, according to the influential Caixin magazine.

Authorities have also banned the words “death”, “die” or “down” from songs on television. Music composer Gao Xiaosong wrote on his microblog the words were deemed “unlucky”.

At least 130 people have been detained or placed under restrictions since September, according to U.K.-based rights group Amnesty International, a tactic often used ahead of important political events.

Beijing-based rights activist Liu Shasha said she was forced back to her hometown in the central Henan province on October 22.

“At first they were very nice but then as soon as I got in a car with them they put a black hood over my head,” she said by telephone. “When I tried lifting it up to breathe better they kept forcing it back down, until they eventually tied my hands behind my back. I’m really angry.”

Another dissident forced to leave Beijing is Woeser, a prominent Tibetan writer who was told to leave in August.

“They said I can come back once the congress is over, so I suppose at the end of the month,” she said by telephone from her home town of Lhasa, the tightly controlled Tibetan capital.

So overwhelming are the security measures that Chinese Internet users have gone on microblogs to pour out their feelings about the smothering security. One compared it to “1984”, the George Orwell novel that described life under a government that put its people under pervasive surveillance.

“In the face of these absurdities, we are powerless,” a microblogger wrote. “It’s a reminder that no matter how ridiculous and comical, this is an era that we can’t laugh in.”

(Additional reporting by Sabrina Mao, Ben Blanchard, Hui Li and Huang Yan; Editing by Paul Tait)

New York Times blocked by China after report on wealth of Wen Jiabao’s family

Authorities censor publication after revelations that the premier’s relatives have accumulated billions during his leadership

China's premier Wen Jiabao

Reports are highly embarassing for China’s premier Wen Jiabao, who has urged officials not to abuse their influence. Photograph: Christophe Karaba/EPA

China‘s foreign ministry has accused the New York Times of smearing the country by reporting that the premier Wen Jiabao‘s extended family has controlled assets worth at least $2.7bn (£1.67bn).

A spokesman, Hong Lei, said the report “blackens China’s name and has ulterior motives”. Authorities have also blocked the news organisation’s main and Chinese-language websites and banned searches for “New York Times” in English and Chinese on microblogs.

“China manages the internet in accordance with laws and rules,” Hong told reporters at a daily briefing when asked why the sites were inaccessible.

The New York Times reported that several of Wen’s close relatives had become extremely wealthy since his ascent to leadership. But in many cases their holdings were obscured by layers of partnerships and investment vehicles involving friends, colleagues or business partners, it said, in a detailed and lengthy account based on an extensive review of company and regulatory filings.

A single investment held on paper by Wen’s 90-year-old mother Yang Zhiyun – a retired schoolteacher – was worth $120m five years ago, the New York Times said. It added it was unclear if Yang was aware of the holdings in her name.

The report is embarrassing not only for Wen himself – who comes from a modest background and is widely seen as the sympathetic, populist face of the government – but for the party. It is the latest in a string of unwelcome revelations about the vast wealth amassed by those around senior leaders.

Authorities blocked the Bloomberg website earlier this year after it exposed the multimillion-dollar assets held by the extended family of Xi Jinping, heir-apparent to the presidency. The news agency has also reported that relatives of the disgraced politician Bo Xilai accumulated at least $136m in assets.

Many people – particularly among the elite – had been aware of rumours about Wen’s relatives, but the full detail of the report and the scale of their assets is striking. The timing is also sensitive, given that the once-a-decade leadership transition is weeks away.

But the blocking of the websites and censorship on Chinese microblogs means that many may remain unaware of the New York Times report.

Several users commented on the article on the Sina Weibo service, but the remarks were quickly deleted. A BBC news report was blacked out in Beijing as it referred to the article.

Wen has repeatedly stressed the need to curb corruption, urging leaders to ensure their families and associates do not abuse government influence, and pushed for officials to disclose the assets of their immediate families.

Such declarations are not made public and the Times said four-fifths of the assets they found were held by relatives such as his mother, younger brother and various in-laws – none of whom would be covered by the party rules.

A former government colleague of Wen’s, who spoke anonymously, told the Times: “In the senior leadership, there’s no family that doesn’t have these problems … His enemies are intentionally trying to smear him by letting this leak out.”

A US diplomatic cable obtained by WikiLeaks, dating from 2007, quoted an executive in Shanghai as saying: “Wen is disgusted with his family’s activities, but is either unable or unwilling to curtail them.”

In March, the prime minister made a point of telling reporters at his annual press conference that he had “never pursued personal gain”, adding that while he had faced criticism, “history will have the final say”.

Wen’s mother’s shares, and those of other relatives, were held via an investment vehicle, Taihong, run by Duan Weihong, a wealthy businesswoman close to Wen’s wife. Weihong told the Times that the investments were actually her own but she had sought a low profile so asked relatives to find other people to hold the shares on her behalf; they had by “accident” and without her knowledge chosen the prime minister’s relatives.

Wen’s wife, Zhang Beili, who is rarely seen with her husband, works in the diamond trade. Their son Winston Wen runs New Horizon Capital, now one of China’s biggest private equity funds.

His wife Yang Xiaomeng told the Times: “Everything that has been written about him has been wrong.

“He’s really not doing that much business any more.”

The Times said members of Wen’s family had declined to comment or did not respond.

Separately, the Brookings Institution said the brother of the man expected to replace Wen Jiabao – Li Keqiang, already vice-premier – should be moved from his post as a senior official at China’s state-owned tobacco monopoly. Li oversees public health as part of his duties.

His younger brother Li Keming is deputy director of the tobacco body and Cheng Li, author of the Brookings report, suggested his role might have set back attempts to curb tobacco use in China.

Chinese leader Wen Jiabao’s family accumulate billions during his time in office

The family of Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, has controlled assets worth at least $2.7 billion (£1.67 billion), according to a detailed review of company and regulatory filings.

Wen Jiabao said it a matter of 'regret' that he failed over his term of office to remove the arms embargo

Family of Wen Jiabao control assets worth at least £1.67 bn according to detailed review of company and regulatory filings.
Malcolm Moore

By , Beijing

2:30AM BST 26 Oct 2012

The revelation of the Wen family fortune is another damning example of how relatives of China’s top leaders often trade on their political connections to amass huge wealth.

The scrutiny of the family’s extensive holdings was published by the New York Times on both its English and Chinese language websites. Both were made instantly inaccessible within China by government censors.

The report came as the Communist party prepares to unveil a new generation of leaders for the first time in a decade, and with public confidence in its government badly bruised by a series of scandals.

Mr Wen, 70, is about to retire after a ten-year term as China’s premier.

During that time, he has often cast himself as a reformer determined to stamp out the corruption, cronyism and abuse of power that has become systemic in the Communist party.

In March, he gave a speech to the State Council in which he warned that the “greatest danger” facing the Communist party is graft and that the party could be dethroned if no action is taken. “If this issue is not resolved, the nature of political power could change,” he said.

However, rumours that Mr Wen’s family, and in particular his wife, have exploited his premiership to build their fortunes have circulated for years.

The report in the New York Times confirmed that Mr Wen’s mother, son, daughter, younger brother, brother-in-law and his wife had all become rich during his tenure.

The newspaper is likely to face severe retribution for its investigation: when Bloomberg News reported in June that the family of Xi Jinping, China’s presumptive next president, had a wealth of at least $376 billion, its website was blocked and Chinese banks were told to stop using Bloomberg’s financial data services, potentially costing it millions in lost revenue.

The New York Times only started its Chinese language website at the end of June.

Top Chinese leaders like Mr Wen are not supposed to have family wealth or lucrative business careers. They are expected to live on modest salaries, thought to be around 140,000 yuan (£14,000) a year for a government minister.

But many leaders have intricate financial dealings, often through their children and other relatives.

The New York Times said Mr Wen’s mother, 90-year-old Yang Zhiyun, who was a schoolteacher, held an investment in Ping An, one of the world’s largest financial services companies, worth $120 million five years ago.

The name recorded on his mother’s shares was Taihong, a holding company registered in Tianjin, Mr Wen’s home city.

The report said Mr Wen’s relatives had accumulated shares in banks, jewelers, tourist resorts, telecommunications companies and infrastructure projects, often using aliases, holding companies and offshore entities.

The family’s stake in Ping An was worth some $2.2 billion in 2007, the last time the holding was disclosed in a public document. Ping An said in a statement that it did “not know the background of the entities behind our shareholders.”

Duan Weihong, a wealthy businesswoman whose company was used as the vehicle to buy the shares, claimed the stakes as her own and said her relatives had found other names, including those of Mr Wen’s family, to hold the shares for her to conceal the size of her stake.

Mr Wen’s family also reportedly had interests in “a villa development project in Beijing; a tire factory in northern China; [and] a company that helped build some of Beijing’s Olympic stadiums, including the well-known ‘Bird’s Nest'”

Mr Wen’s wife, Zhang Beili, reportedly helped to control the Chinese diamond market, while his younger brother, Wen Jiahong, was said to control $200 million in assets, including wastewater treatment plants and recycling businesses.

Wen Yunsong, or Winston Wen, sold a technology company he started to Li Ka-shing, the Hong Kong tycoon, for $10 million and established New Horizon Capital, now one of the country’s largest private equity firms.

A general belief in China that corruption in the Communist party was confined to the lower ranks, while top leaders kept their hands clean, has been exploded by a series of recent scandals, including the fall of Bo Xilai and the death in a Ferrari crash of the son of Ling Jihua, a close aide to the president.

Chen Jieren, the nephew of He Guoqiang, of China’s nine most senior Politburo members, told American diplomats in 2009 that the Communist party has carved up the country’s economic “pie” among its leaders.

“It was ‘well known,'” Chen stated in a cable since released by Wikileaks, “that former premier Li Peng and his family controlled all electric power interests; Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) member and security czar Zhou Yongkang and associates controlled the oil interests; the late former top leader Chen Yun’s family controlled most of the banking sector; Politburo Standing Committee member Jia Qinglin was the main interest behind major Beijing real estate developments; Hu Jintao’s son-in-law ran; and Wen Jiabao’s wife controlled China’s precious gems sector.”


China delays approval of working visas

Firms made to wait as Beijing retaliates amid Senkakus flare-up

Sunday, Sep. 23, 2012

BEIJING — Japanese companies are experiencing delays in obtaining working visas for their employees from Chinese authorities due to the Senkaku Islands row, domestic business sources said.

The delays have triggered concerns among corporations about possible staff shortages at their facilities and installations in China, the sources said.

Beijing vowed to retaliate against Japan after the government announced earlier this month that it had bought and nationalized three of the Senkaku islets, which are also claimed by China and Taiwan, in the East China Sea.

According to the business sources, it typically takes four to five business days for China’s immigration authorities to issue Japanese companies working visas for their employees, but a number of firms are still waiting for them after eight workdays.

Businesses say they have no idea when Chinese authorities will return to the normal processing speed. “We have been told they won’t issue visas at present,” a Japanese business source said.

Beijing has accused Tokyo of ratcheting up the territorial dispute over the Japan-controlled Senkakus, which it calls Diaoyu, and warned that it will affect bilateral economic relations. China is Japan’s largest trading partner.

China’s customs authorities have already tightened clearance procedures for goods imported from Japan, including key components for electronics and other labor-intensive products used by Japanese companies to assemble products at Chinese plants.

Chinese customs took a similar measure in 2010 when ties soured over the arrest of a Chinese trawler captain who rammed two Japan Coast Guard cutters.

Meanwhile, tour agencies in China have cancelled sightseeing tours to Japan and the public has vowed to boycott Japanese goods in retaliation.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has said Beijing will not yield “half a step” in the sovereignty dispute while Vice President Xi Jinping, who is expected to be appointed leader of the Communist Party this fall, has dismissed Japan’s purchase of three islets from a Saitama Prefecture businessman as “a farce.”

The government was mum when China’s heir apparent Xi Jinping went missing, and political jitters persist now that he’s reappeared. How many scandals can the leadership take?

Is China Losing It?

Sep 16, 2012 4:45 AM EDT

This year has been Beijing’s annus horribilis. The Chinese regime has been pummeled by a steady stream of political controversies, purges and rumor mongering, made all the more nerve-wracking because a once-in-a-decade succession is due to kick off this autumn, though the date has yet to be revealed. When heir apparent Xi Jinping went missing from public view for two weeks this month, government officials had provided some mimimalist explanations about a minor health problem, but in the absence of transparency the rumor mill ran wild. Even after Xi reappeared on Saturday, some jittery cadres leaked speculation that his disappearance augured possible glitches in the coming leadership transition, expected to begin in October.

What does it all mean? For decades, China’s post-Mao leaders guided their nation’s modernization based on the belief that economic reform and liberalization were possible, even desirable, without a similar transformation in Beijing’s ossified political system.  Thirty years ago the late Deng Xiaoping dazzled the world by adopting capitalistic tools and practices to remake China’s moribund centrally planned economy. “To get rich is glorious,” he was quoted as saying.  And many Chinese did get rich.

What’s more, their country—now the world second biggest economy—became increasingly interconnected with the world. Yet much of that phenomenal growth hinged on Deng’s Grand Bargain with the people: the communist party promised to raise their living standards and modernize the economy, in exchange for political obedience from the citizenry in the face of continuing autocratic, secretive, one-party rule.

Today, scandals that have tainted China’s leadership suggest that Deng’s Grand Bargain is unraveling.  The same old political habits—opacity, corruption, cover-ups, nepotism, disregard for laws, and a sense of impunity among the ruling elite—now clash with the rising expectations of a population that’s not just wealthier but also more politically demanding, Internet-savvy, and conscious of its rights than ever before.

Take the mindboggling lack of information about Xi’s disappearance from public view.  Since the health of senior leaders is considered an issue of national security, those who knew Xi’s status weren’t really talking, partly for fear of revealing “state secrets.” a serious crime. And those who were talking didn’t really know—leading to a proliferation of ludicrous speculation. “This sort of thing was common in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, but it’s astounding now that China’s so interdependent with the outside world,” says China analyst David Zweig at the Hong Kong Institute for Science and Technology. “Just imagine if the Chinese currency, the renminbi, were convertible—there would have been a run on the renminbi. If you want to be interdependent with the world, you can’t be so opaque.”

Secrecy and covering up are default positions in China’s political environment.

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping talks to German Chancellor Angela Merkel (not pictured) during their meeting at the Great Hall of the People on August 30, 2012 in Beijing, China. (Diego Azubel-Pool / Getty Images)

Yet secrecy and covering up are default positions in China’s political environment. The latest shoe to drop in Beijing’s web of interlocking scandals  is Friday’s news that former Chongqing top cop Wang Lijun will go on trial Tuesday, Sept. 18  on charges of defection, bribe-taking, “bending the law for selfish ends,” and abuse of power.  It was Wang’s startling flight in February to the American consulate in Chengdu—where he revealed a jaw-dropping tale of blood and intrigue involving his onetime boss and then-Politburo member Bo Xilai and Bo’s wife Gu Kailai—that led to Bo’s purge, Gu’s trial on murder charges, and China’s messiest succession in decades. (Last month Gu was given a suspended death sentence for killing British businessman Neil Heywood).

What infuriates ordinary Chinese and amazes foreign Sinologists is the aura of total impunity which cloaked Gu as she poisoned Heywood, and then tried to cover up the crime. If Wang hadn’t divulged secrets to U.S. diplomats, many Chinese believe Gu literally could have gotten away with murder. And in a more recent controversy, senior official Ling Jihua was demoted after reportedly trying to cover up the fact that his son, and two scantily clad young women, had been in a fiery high-speed Ferrari crash in March. At the root of all these dramas is the fact that many senior officials’ families live way beyond their apparent means — Bo’s annual salary was a measly $20,000 yet “housewife” Gu purchased British real estate worth millions — and feel no need to account for the disparity. “The leadership’s credibility gap is growing because of these scandals,” says Hu Xingdou, a political economist with Beiing’s Institute for Technology.

Many Chinese see the uncertainties and opacity of the current leadership succession as omens that the regime’s old strategy of tinkering with the economy while keeping a tight lid on politics is no longer sustainable. Zhang Lifan, a former researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, says, “The scandals are very serious, and require some leaders to push for greater and more genuine transparency.  It’s a life-or-death matter for the communist party.” The big question is whether Deng’s old bargain between the government and the governed is about to expire—and if so, whether China’s new leadership team can come up with a better deal

China’s next leader Xi Jinping ‘suffered heart attack’

China’s next leader has not been seen in public for 11 days because he suffered a heart attack, a source has told The Daily Telegraph.

Xi Jinping in Germany last month.

Xi Jinping in Germany last month. Photo: Getty Images
Malcolm Moore

By , Beijing

7:30PM BST 12 Sep 2012

Xi Jinping is expected to be unveiled as the leader of the Communist party in the coming weeks, but his disappearance from the public eye has sparked increasing speculation.

“Although people have said he suffered a back injury, he actually had a heart attack, a myocardial infarction,” said Li Weidong, a political commentator in Beijing and the former editor of China Reform.

The magazine is influential among Chinese policymakers and under the aegis of the National Development and Reform Commission.

Other unnamed sources have also suggested that Mr Xi, 59, suffered a heart attack, while Willy Lam, the former editor of the South China Morning Post, believes China’s president-in-waiting had a stroke and is currently unable to show his face in public.

Mr Xi has not been spotted since September 1 and cancelled a series of meetings with foreign leaders, including one with Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of State, on September 4.

The Communist party has remained tight-lipped about his situation. For the third day in a row, the foreign ministry batted away repeated questions at its daily press conference. A spokesman merely said: “I have no information.”

For the second day in a row, almost all of China’s other top leaders were featured on the country’s evening news bulletins, but Mr Xi was absent.

Mr Li said that Mr Xi’s illness was not severe enough to disrupt the 18th Party Congress, at which China will unveil its first set of new leaders in ten years. The date of the Congress has not been announced, but most observers believe it will occur in mid-October.

“I heard the agenda for the Congress will not be changed, which means that Mr Xi will have recovered beforehand,” he said. Other sources have also indicated that, so far, plans for the Congress have not been affected.

However, since the 1990s, the Communist party has typically given at least a month’s notice before a Congress. If there is no announcement this week, that could indicate that this year’s event has been postponed.

One of the five main hotels in Beijing booked out by delegates also reportedly suggested yesterday that there may be a delay, but the other four said they had been block-booked from the end of September to the beginning of November and that no date had yet been set.

In the vacuum of information, other rumours spread yesterday that Mr Xi was, in fact, perfectly healthy but hard at work. A magazine in Hong Kong, iSun Affairs, said a relative of Mr Xi’s had sent a text message indicating that “all is well”.

And Fan Jinggang, the manager of the “Leftist” Utopia forum, which espouses the ideas of Chairman Mao, said a “reliable source” had told him that “Mr Xi is in good health”. Mr Fan blamed the fevered rumours in Beijing on a foreign media bent on stirring up controversy ahead of the Communist party’s leadership transition.

At the 301 Military Hospital in Beijing, the facility that often treats top leaders, there was no sign of any extra security. Staff said they had not noticed any unusual activity and that they did not know if Mr Xi was in the compound.

Linda Jacobson, a China expert at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney, wrote in a comment piece yesterday that if Mr Xi was genuinely ill, she would expect senior leaders to change their schedules.

“That is standard Communist party practice at a time of crisis,” she noted. “Yet Hu Jintao did not cut short his trip to Vladivostok for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum; another senior leader, Wu Bangguo, travelled to Iran; and a third high-ranking official has visited Sichuan this week.”

If he has suffered a heart attack, Mr Xi’s aides may be delaying an announcement until he is well enough to present an image of strength.

When Chairman Mao was dealing with party infighting in 1965, he demonstrated his power by swimming across the Yangtze river at the age of 72.

It is also not unknown for Chinese leaders to suffer serious illnesses in secret. In April 1993, Li Peng, the then premier, disappeared for six weeks after a heart attack. The foreign ministry said he had “a cold” and confirmation that he had been treated in hospital did not come until this July.

Additional reporting by Valentina Luo

Where is China’s president-in-waiting? Mystery surrounds absent politician who hasn’t been seen for a week

By Anna Edwards

PUBLISHED:10:15 EST, 10  September 2012| UPDATED:10:19 EST, 10 September 2012

Xi Jinping, Vice President of the People's Republic of China, has had his meetings cancelled
Xi Jinping, Vice President of the People’s Republic of  China, has had his meetings cancelled

China’s president-in-waiting Xi Jinping has  not been seen in public for more than a week, prompting a wave of speculation on  the reason for his absence.

Mr Xi cancelled meetings with visiting  foreign dignitaries including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and  Singapore prime minister Lee Hsien Loong.

But his sudden absence has not been  reportedly fully explained by Chinese authorities and his movements have been  shrouded in mystery.

China may now be a lynchpin of the global  economy and a force in international diplomacy, but the lives of its leaders  remain a puzzle to its 1.3 billion population.

So when the presumptive head of that opaque  leadership disappears from public view, rumour mills naturally go into a  frenzy.

‘There is a long-standing practice of not  reporting on illnesses or troubles within the elites,’ said Scott Kennedy,  director of Indiana University’s Research Centre for Chinese Politics and  Business in Beijing.

‘The sense is that giving out such  information would only fuel further speculation.’

Adding further fuel to the fire, a scheduled  photo session with visiting Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, which  the media were asked to cover, was abruptly taken off the programme.

In the dark: After his meeting with Hilary Clinton was cancelled, the Chinese population are speculating where their vice-president is
In the dark: After his meeting with Hilary Clinton was  cancelled, the Chinese population are speculating where their vice-president  is

The Foreign Ministry claimed the Xi and  Thorning-Schmidt meeting was never intended to take place.

‘As I said last week, China’s state  councillors will meet the Danish prime minister,’ Foreign Ministry spokesman  said.

When asked about the rumours of an injury,  he said ‘we have told everybody everything,’ and refused to  elaborate.

Most online speculation about the portly  59-year-old Mr Xi has centred on a back problem, possibly incurred when he took  a dip last week in the swimming pool inside the Zhongnanhai leadership compound.  Another rumour has the back being hurt in a soccer game.

This year, China has seen an unusual amount  of political intrigue.

There was the downfall of Politburo member  Bo Xilai, a foprmer Party secretary of  Chongqing, exposing divisions within the  leadership and prompting rumours of nefarious activity ranging from the  wiretapping of top leaders to an attempted coup.

The sudden transfer of a key secretary to  president Hu Jintao earlier this month also spawned conjecture about a Ferrari  crash involving the aide’s son and an ensuing attempted cover-up.

The tension and uncertainty are heightened by  the timing ahead of a generational shift to a new leadership that is to be  headed by Mr Xi.

Mr Xi is expected to first assume Mr Hu’s  mantle as Communist leader at a party congress held once every five years.

Yet the dates for the meeting, expected in  the second half of October, have yet to be announced, prompting talk that at  least some of the seats on the nine-member Standing Committee remain up for  grabs.

Wang Xiangwei, editor-in-chief of Hong Kong’s  South China Morning Post and a long-time state media insider, wrote that Chinese  leaders’ meetings are planned well in advance and cancellations are extremely  rare.

‘Baring Mr Xi himself offering a very  unlikely explanation today about his cancelled meetings last week, the outside  world may never know the exact reason, and the rumours are unlikely to fade  away,’ he wrote

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