(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)
Chinese President Meets UAE Leaders in Abu Dhabi
Friday, 20 July, 2018 – 09:15
Chinese President Xi-Jinping arrives in the UAE on an official visit (WAM)
Abu Dhabi – Asharq Al-Awsat
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in the UAE on Thursday for a three-day visit during which he will hold talks with UAE leaders.
The Chinese leader and his wife were welcomed at the airport by UAE Vice President and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, as well as other senior officials.
The two UAE leaders hoped that the visit would contribute to establishing a new phase of cooperation and joint action to meet the aspirations of the two countries and their peoples.
The two sides exchanged cordial talks on issues of common interest, historical ties and the continuous development of relations, WAM news agency reported. They also pointed to the important role assumed by China in regional and international economic and political files.
For his part, the Chinese President expressed his happiness to visit the UAE, which he said shared with China friendly relations and a common vision on many issues, and wished the Emirates further growth, progress and prosperity.
On the occasion of Xi Jinping’s visit, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed Al Maktoum said: “The historic visit of the Chinese president to the UAE establishes a new phase of strategic partnership that has brought the two countries together for decades.”
“We are delighted to welcome President Xi Jinping to the UAE on this important visit which we view as a cornerstone of wider prospects for prosperous cooperation between the two friendly countries,” he added.
He also underlined the strong economic relations and trade exchanges between the two countries, pointing out that the UAE trade with China represented about a quarter of the total volume of Arab-Chinese trade during 2017, which amounted to nearly 200 billion dirhams ($54.4 billion).
He emphasized the “active tourism movement”, saying that more than one million Chinese people visited the UAE last year alone. He added that economic cooperation extended to include many sectors such as oil and gas, renewable energy, infrastructure and advanced technology.
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China’s President Xi Jinping gives a speech during the 8th Ministerial Meeting of China-Arab States Cooperation Forum at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on July 10, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / WANG ZHAO)
China will provide Palestinians with more than $15 million in aid, President Xi Jinping told top Arab officials Tuesday, as Beijing seeks to build its influence in the Middle East and Africa.
The 100 million yuan pledge to Palestinians was made as part of a plan to give Arab states more than $23 billion in lines of credit, loans and humanitarian assistance for economic development.
The money will be earmarked for “projects that will produce good employment opportunities and positive social impact in Arab States that have reconstruction needs,” said Xi, without providing further details.
It is part of a special Chinese program for “economic reconstruction” and “industrial revitalization,” Xi told participants at a China-Arab States forum in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.
Beijing is also prepared to provide another one billion yuan ($151 million) to countries in the region to “build capacity for stability maintenance,” Xi said, using a term commonly associated with policing and surveillance.
Xi said that Syria, Yemen, Jordan and Lebanon would receive $91 million in humanitarian assistance.
Since taking office, Xi has overseen a concerted effort to expand Chinese influence in the Middle East and Africa, including the construction of the country’s first military base in Arab League state Djibouti.
China has already provided vast sums to Arab countries, with Djibouti alone owing some $1.3 billion, according to estimates from the US-based China Africa Research Initiative.
The financial largess has raised concerns both at home and abroad over the vulnerability of poor nations to such massive debt.
Last year Sri Lanka was forced to hand over majority control of its Hambantota port to China after being unable to repay its loans.
Syrian President Bashar Assad addresses the newly elected parliament in Damascus, Syria, on June 7, 2016. (SANA, the Syrian official news agency, via AP)
China has also provided diplomatic support for Syrian President Bashar Assad in the country’s seven-year civil war.
At the heart of Xi’s vision is the “Belt and Road” initiative, a $1-trillion infrastructure program billed as a modern revival of the ancient Silk Road that once carried fabrics, spices and a wealth of other goods between Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe.
The Arab states’ position at the center of the ancient trade route makes them “natural partners” in China’s new undertaking, he said, adding he expected the summit would end with an agreement on cooperation on the initiative.
“Chinese and Arab peoples, though far apart in distance, are as close as family,” he said, describing a romanticized history of trade along the Silk Road.
The project, which has already financed ports, roads and railways across the globe, has spurred both interest and anxiety in many countries, with some seeing it as an example of Chinese expansionism.
“China welcomes opportunities to participate in the development of ports and the construction of railway networks in Arab states” as part of a “logistics network connecting Central Asia with East Africa and the Indian Ocean with the Mediterranean,” said Xi.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)
The Paracel Islands are surrounded by productive fishing grounds and by potential oil and gas reserves. In 1932, French Indochina annexed the islands and set up a weather station on Pattle Island; maintenance was continued by its successor, Vietnam. China has occupied the Paracel Islands since 1974, when its troops seized a South Vietnamese garrison occupying the western islands. China built a military installation on Mischief Reef in 1999. The islands are claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam.
From 1460 – 1497, under the reign of King Le Thanh Tong, Vietnamese began to organize the exploitation of both the Truong Sa and the Hoang Sa Archipelago farther to the north.This exploitation consisted of harvesting valuable sea-products and conducting salvaging operations to collect cargoes from vessels shipwrecked in the treacherous waters of the Truong Sa.
From 1680 – 1705, Do Ba Cong Dao issued Route Maps from the Capital to the Four Directions This is the first Vietnamese documentation of formal exercise of authority over the Hoang sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly)
In 1700s, State-sponsored occupation of the islands can also be traced to the reign of the Nguyen lords. Salvaging operations became formalized with the establishment of the Hoang Sa detachments or brigades, units of 70 men from the village of An Vinh, the recruitment and organization of which were regulated by the Vietnamese government.Portuguese and Dutch maps drawn by navigators in the early 17th century identify the islands as Vietnamese.
From 1802,During the reign of the Nguyen emperors, documentation was produced that distinguished the Truong Sa archipelago from the Hoang Sa Islands and identified both as Vietnamese possessions.
In 1816,the Vietnamese flag was planted in a formal ceremony on the Paracels
In 1836, emperor Minh Mang received a report from his Ministry of Public Works that recommended a comprehensive survey of all the East Sea islands because of their “great strategic importance to our maritime borders.”
In 1838,Phan Huy Chu published the “Detailed Map of the Dai Nam. The map “expressly mentioned the Paracel and Spratlys, under the name Hoang sa , Van Ly Truong Sa , as part of Vietnamese territory. Also in thí year, Bishop Jean-Louis Taberd published the ” Map of Great Annam” (Annam Dai Quoc Hoa Do) confirmed Paracel -Bai Cat Vang – Hoang sa as part of Vietnamese territory.
During 1800s,the Nguyen dynasty continued to exercise jurisdiction over the Truong Sa Islands without protest from any country until the French protectorate was established over Vietnam in 1884.
1932, Paracel Islands was placed on the map of Vietnam by the Nguyen Dynasty. The Paracel were controlled by Nguyen Dynasty of Vietnam.
In 1932, French Indochina and Nguyen Dynasty in Vietnam annexed the islands and set up a weather station on Pattle Island.
In 1939, Empire of Japan invaded and occupied from the French. Ironically, the official reason for the Japanese invasion was that the islands were Chinese territory.
After World War II, the Republic of China government reaffirmed the Chinese sovereignty over the islands like other islands in the South China Sea, and dispatched patrol force to the islands, but this was challenged by the French. However, the dispute was only political and diplomatic as both sides attempted to gain US backing.
In the latter half of 1940s, French reclaimed the Paracel Islands. The Republic of China has never accepted the French claims.
In 1951, at the San Francisco Conference on the Treaty of San Francisco with Japan, which formally nations are sovereign over these islands, Vietnam’s representative claimed that both the Paracel and Spratly Islands are territory of Vietnam, and was met with no challenge from the nations at the conference. However, neither the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China were invited. They were busy fighting a civil war, and both considered the claim was a violation of Chinese sovereignty and neither had accepted it. Both the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China condemned the decision and reaffirmed their control over the islands politically and diplomatically.
After the fall of the nationalist regime in China, the Chinese controlled eastern half of the Paracel islands also fell into the communist hands. Several small clashes occurred between the French and the communist Chinese naval forces during this period but was eventually settled along the actual line of control with the Chinese occupying Woody Island and the Macclesfield Bank while the remainder were held by Franco-Vietnamese forces. Although,there had been no recognition of any country about China claim of the island.
After the French left in 1956, South Vietnam replaced the French in controlling the islands. Again, both the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China politically and diplomatically condemned the decision and reaffirmed their control over the islands. Although the South Vietnamese inherited the same French claim over the entire Paracel Islands, the period was marked by the peace and both sides held on what was in their control without venturing into other’s domain. At the same time, the maps and other official documents of the North Vietnam government during this period had shown that the islands belong to China, mainly due to the fact that China was the largest backer of North Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
The political and diplomatic dispute became an armed conflict on January 20, 1974 in the Battle of Hoang Sa 1974 when the South Vietnamese Government unilaterally declared its intention to survey the island territory for petroleum extraction in early January 1974. During the same time, the South Vietnamese Navy sent a fleet of frigates to the area and positioned the fleet over the line of control. The South Vietnamese fleet fired at and killed several Chinese fishermans operating in the area at the time, as well as firing at patrolling Chinese ships and injuring Chinese Navy personnel. In response, Chinese Naval forces departed from China under order on January 20, 1974 for the Paracel Islands and swiftly overran the South Vietnamese positions on the islands in addition to the defending surface fleet. With the ensuing civil war embroiling South Vietnam’s attention, no military attempt was made to retake the islands from the People’s Republic of China following its defeat, and has been administered by the People’s Republic of China since.
Location: Southeastern Asia, group of small islands and reefs in the South China Sea, about one-third of the way from central Vietnam to the northern Philippines
Geographic coordinates: 16 30 N, 112 00 E
Map references: Southeast Asia
Area: total: NA sq km
land: NA sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area – comparative: NA
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 518 km
Maritime claims: NA
Terrain: mostly low and flat
Elevation extremes: lowest point: South China Sea 0 m
highest point: unnamed location on Rocky Island 14 m
Natural resources: none
Land use: arable land: 0%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 100% (2005)
Irrigated land: 0 sq km
Natural hazards: typhoons
Environment – current issues: NA
Geography – note: composed of 130 small coral islands and reefs divided into the northeast Amphitrite Group and the western Crescent Group
Population: no indigenous inhabitants
note: there are scattered Chinese garrisons
Country name: conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Paracel Islands
Economy – overview: China announced plans in 1997 to open the islands for tourism.
Airports: 1 (2007)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2007)
Ports and terminals: small Chinese port facilities on Woody Island and Duncan Island being expanded
Military – note: occupied by China
Disputes – international: occupied by China, also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam
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(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)
China Criticizes Iran for Threatening to Block Hormuz Strait Oil Shipments
Friday, 6 July, 2018 – 09:15
Trading shows and ships are docked on the Arabian Gulf waters near the town of Khasab, in Oman. (AP)
China condemned on Friday Iran for threatening to block oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz.
Iran should make more effort to ensure stability in the Middle East and get along with its neighbors, said Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong.
He made his remarks during a news briefing ahead of a major summit between China and Arab states that kicks off in Beijing next week.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and some senior military commanders have threatened to disrupt oil shipments from the Gulf countries if Washington tries to strangle Tehran’s oil exports.
Carrying one-third of the world’s seaborne oil every day, the Strait of Hormuz links Middle East crude producers to key markets in Asia Pacific, Europe, North America and beyond.
Asked about the Iranian threat to the strait, Chen remarked that China and Arab countries had close communications about Middle East peace, including the Iran issue.
“China consistently believes that the relevant country should do more to benefit peace and stability in the region, and jointly protect peace and stability there,” he added.
“Especially as it is a country on the Gulf, it should dedicate itself to being a good neighbor and co-existing peacefully,” he continued. “China will continue to play our positive, constructive role.”
Ministers from 21 Arab countries are attending the summit, as well as Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber al-Sabah. Chinese President Xi Jinping will give the opening address on Tuesday.
The United States Navy vowed on Thursday to protect oil routes and international navigation in the Hormuz Strait in wake of Iran’s threats.
“The US and its partners provide, and promote security and stability in the region,” Central Command spokesman Navy Captain Bill Urban said in an email to Reuters.
Asked what would be the US naval reaction if Iran blocks the strait, he said: “Together, we stand ready to ensure the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce wherever international law allows.”
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247, with Sputnik – The US launched a trade war by imposing new 25% tariffs on imports from China on Friday (6), the Chinese Ministry of Commerce says.
“On July 6, the US began imposing 25% tariffs on a series of products imported from China worth $ 34 billion [US $ 132 billion]. The US violated the rules of the World Trade Organization [WTO ] and triggered the biggest trade war in the history of the economy, “the statement said.
In addition, China, which had previously stated that it was not planning to take a “first step”, is now required to take retaliatory action against imported agricultural and automobile products from the US and will notify the WTO of the situation.
On Friday, China is also expected to announce the application of US $ 34 billion in customs duties on products imported from the United States.
Although Beijing’s pace is a response, China will announce measures earlier due to the 12-hour time difference between China and the US.
Washington announced on June 15 its decision to introduce additional 25% tariffs on 818 Chinese products worth a total of $ 34 billion. In response, Beijing said it would take retaliatory action against agricultural products and automobiles imported from the United States.
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BEIJING, CHINA – NOVEMBER 09: (CHINA MAINLAND OUT)China President Xi Jinping and wife Peng Liyuan welcome US President Donald Trump and wife Melania come to China for state visit on 09th November, 2017 in Beijing, China.(Photo by TPG/Getty Images)
China will stay the largest incremental natural gas user for as far as we model. To help clear hazy skies and cut CO2 emissions, China must expand the role of cleaner gas in its energy demand portfolio, now at just 6-7% of total supply, versus nearly 30% for the richest economies. Last year alone, China’s gas demand boomed by over 15%, with imports rising by 30%. China just passed Japan to become the largest natural gas importer in the world, although Japan still imports more than twice as much liquefied natural gas (LNG). Key arteries bringing in foreign supplies, such as the China-Myanmar pipeline, however, often sees utilization rates of just 50-60%, due to numerous economical, political, technological, and weather problems.
Data source: EIA
China’s imports of natural gas have been surging.
To be sure, many of China’s LNG sources have issues that open the door for U.S. LNG. For example, Australia has had major domestic gas shortages, Qatar has had an LNG production moratorium and surging domestic demand, and Indonesia needs to keep more of its gas to support a very energy-deprived poor nation. Indeed, it’s quite telling that China’s retaliatory measures against possible U.S tariffs on its goods will NOT include LNG: leadership knows full well the unique value that U.S. LNG brings to the table. Our sales have very flexible contracts (having no rigid destination clauses that restrict resales), short-term contracts, and prices not linked to oil but based on the transparent fundamentals of gas supply and demand. Started in 2016, U.S. LNG has had 60% of its LNG sold on the spot market. Most other suppliers will still need to use less convenient long-term deals to satisfy lenders and fund high cost projects. And we know that we will continue to have plenty of gas to export. In the decades ahead, for every 100 units that U.S. gas demand increases, U.S. gas production will increase 175 units, a 75% surplus for us to export. By 2020, we could control 20-25% of global LNG supply, up from just 8% now. “U.S. Liquefied Natural Gas To China Is A Game-Changer,” with China ranked third in 2017 taking in 15% of U.S. LNG exports.
Data source: IEA
China gets the great majority of its LNG from Australia and Qatar.
The century-old Yangshupu water plant on the Yangshupu Road in Yangpu District.
A “museum cluster” will be built around the 150-year-old Yangshupu Road in Yangpu District to highlight the city’s industrial and cultural heritage.
The 5-kilometer-long road where Shanghai’s earliest water, gas and energy plants were located, is undergoing a renovation to develop it into a city history museum, said Li Yueqi, the Party Secretary of Yangpu.
Apart from the existing water museum, the China Rescue & Salvage Exhibition Hall and the museum at Shanghai Ocean University, the district plans to build a print museum and martial arts museum on the road. A world-skill museum has also been planned for the Yangpu waterfront area along the road, Li said.
“The road itself is an outdoor history museum featuring the city’s early industries and cultures,” Li said in an interview with the city’s radio station.
Yangshupu Road was once dubbed the “No. 1 Road in East Shanghai” because many of China’s earliest industries were located along the Huangpu River on the southern section of the road, and because of the pipelines for water, gas, electricity and sewage that ran underneath it.
To better preserve its historical ambience, the district government has revoked an earlier plan to widen the four-lane road, according to the Yangpu government. More space on both sides of the road will be kept for the protection of historical buildings.
Apart from the industrial relics, several major historical cultural venues will also undergo major renovations and open to the public, Li said.
They include the former Shanghai Library, an 80-year-old structure on Heishan Road, where the radio interview with Li was held yesterday.
Expansion work will be completed by the end of September to realize the original vision of its architect, Dong Dayou (1899-1973), Li said. The completed section of the library is expected to open to the public in October, he added.
The Yangpu grand theater, built around in the 1990s, is being converted into a modern stage art theater named YOUNG. It will offer a platform for young artists, creative designers and private art groups, the government said.
Furthermore, Yangpu also aims to highlight its innovation and new shopping experiences, Li said.
The district plans to set up a Yangpu overseas innovation center in the US’s Silicon Valley later this year. The center will attract foreign professionals and gather creative ideas to serve China’s national strategy of innovation and entrepreneurship.
The University of New South Wales yesterday opened its China center at the Changyang Campus Creative Park in Yangpu. The university’s China headquarters will take charge of recruitment, cooperation, scientific research and knowledge exchange with local universities and enterprises, according to the district government.
To create an innovative shopping experience, the Yangpu government has planned three shopping hubs, themed on “fashion,” “Shanghai flavor” and “international” in Wujiaochang, Kongjiang Road and west Yangshupu Road.
As another highlight, a dozen Soviet-style houses built in the early 1950s at the 228 block of Changbai Subdistrict on Yanji Road E. will be preserved and turned into innovative stores, offices and exhibition halls.
The city government built 2,000 such buildings in downtown Putuo, Yangpu, Xuhui and Changning districts to hold 20,000 households in 1952 and 1953.
The former Shanghai Library, an 80-year-old structure on Heishan Road, will open to public in October as the Yangpu Library.
The Changyang Campus, a major innovative park of the city which is home to a number of startup companies.
Source: SHINE Editor: Wang Xiang
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(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI CHINA NEWS AGENCY ‘SHINE’)
Martial arts are gaining popularity around the world
13:30 UTC+8, 2018-06-30
Aviendha Wang, 7, returned from the 2018 Los Angeles International Wushu (martial arts) Tournament this month with two gold medals in fencing and boxing.
In that competition, Aviendha was one of the 37 kids from Wushu Unlimited, founded by her parents Wei Wang and Jennifer Wang. Wushu Unlimited has around 120 students, one of the largest in Los Angeles.
About one-third of them are Chinese. Wei Wang has been working on simplified wushu for 15 years since he arrived in the United States.
“Wushu is incomparable with other martial arts because it has so many styles and patterns. This makes it very exciting. But on the other hand, it creates more barriers to reaching a broader audience here,” Wang says.
Aviendha does the wushu movements to the rhythm of martial arts music in her class. Completing a standard form her coach assigned, her piercing eyes also illustrate the quotes hanging on the wall: “vigor, energy, spirit,” an English translation of the wushu spirit.
“I planned to start this school in 2015, but it was moved forward to 2013. Because at that time I was performing all over the world, I missed a lot of moments with my daughter, and she grew up so fast,” Wang says.
Wei Wang teaches around 120 pupils at his Los Angeles-based school, Wushu Unlimited. One of his keenest students is his 7-year-old daughter, Aviendha.
Wang was a wushu champion in China when he was young. “Half of the reason I established Wushu Unlimited is because of my daughter. I also wanted to make a difference and spread Chinese wushu culture in the US,” the 43-year-old coach said.
Like many other fathers, Wang feels he should be even stricter with his daughter but it is hard for him to do that. “Learning wushu is pretty hard and tiring, and I do not want to push her too much. But as part of a Chinese traditional sport, I think she has to at least be aware of it and learn something about that,” Wang says.
“She and her dad have this very strong bond. They train together, and they play together,” Jennifer Wang says. “She knows how to distinguish between her coach and her father.”
Soaking up this atmosphere every day after school, wushu is so riveting to Aviendha, and she does not think this sport is as daunting as it once was.
“It is not that hard anymore. It is pretty easy,” Aviendha says. “I like the weapons, all the cool forms, and the fun games.”
She even set herself the goal of winning first place in the Texas competition so that she can be selected for the US National Team.
The Texas competition is the biennial wushu national team trials organized by the USA Wushu Kungfu Federation, which was held in Texas this year.
Aviendha took part in this year’s competition in the 7-11 age-group category. She didn’t win but she performed very well, Wang says.
The Chinese champion father and his wife Jennifer have a bigger dream beyond their daughter’s gold medals. Growing up in San Marino, California, where more than half of the population is Chinese, Jennifer has been always interested in kung fu movies, which even took her far from her home to China several years ago.
Aviendha Wang enjoys her training at the school. She has just got two gold medals in fencing and boxing at the 2018 Los Angeles International Wushu Tournament.
From her perspective, she understands the core of Chinese culture as “balance.” With the background in education and experiences both in America and China, she tries to put the emphasis on “being well balanced” both academically and physically at their school.
But teaching wushu in China and here is quite different. “Here it is a hobby. If people find it is boring, they would leave, whereas in China people may spend six months only do kicking,” Jennifer says. “Wushu itself has to change in America, to be adaptable, so that people would stay interested.”
Wang agrees with his wife. He said the way he learned wushu at his daughter’s age is totally different from how his daughter learns today. For him, there were not many options. Based on the different cultural backgrounds and education methods, he thinks it is important to have the combination of both wushu’s form and practical application.
“One of the most beautiful times we have now is every time Jennifer and I talk about the future of our school,” Wei Wang says. “Although we sometimes have different opinions, it is a communication between the two different cultures, and we have the same goal to achieve.”
Wei Wang teaches simplified wushu movements at the Wushu Unlimited, a school he and his wife founded in Los Angeles five years ago.
Source: Xinhua Editor: Liu Qi
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(WHEN IT COMES TO THE INTERNET THE GOVERNMENT OF CHINA AND PRESIDENT XI JINPING SHOW THAT THEY ARE SCARED TO DEATH OF THE PEOPLE HAVING ANY KNOWLEDGE OF THEIR COWARDLINESS AND CRIMES TOWARD THE PEOPLE, IN THIS SENSE XI JINPING IS NO BETTER THAN NORTH KOREA’S KIM JONG UN, COWARDS, LIARS AND MURDERERS WITH NO INTEGRITY AT ALL.)(OPED BY oldpoet56)
The great firewall of China: Xi Jinping’s internet shutdown
Before Xi Jinping, the internet was becoming a more vibrant political space for Chinese citizens. But today the country has the largest and most sophisticated online censorship operation in the world. By Elizabeth C Economy
In December 2015, thousands of tech entrepreneurs and analysts, along with a few international heads of state, gathered in Wuzhen, in southern China, for the country’s second World Internet Conference. At the opening ceremony the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, set out his vision for the future of China’s internet. “We should respect the right of individual countries to independently choose their own path of cyber-development,” said Xi, warning against foreign interference “in other countries’ internal affairs”.
No one was surprised by what they heard. Xi had already established that the Chinese internet would be a world unto itself, with its content closely monitored and managed by the Communist party. In recent years, the Chinese leadership has devoted more and more resources to controlling content online. Government policies have contributed to a dramatic fall in the number of postings on the Chinese blogging platform Sina Weibo (similar to Twitter), and have silenced many of China’s most important voices advocating reform and opening up the internet.
It wasn’t always like this. In the years before Xi became president in 2012, the internet had begun to afford the Chinese people an unprecedented level of transparency and power to communicate. Popular bloggers, some of whom advocated bold social and political reforms, commanded tens of millions of followers. Chinese citizens used virtual private networks (VPNs) to access blocked websites. Citizens banded together online to hold authorities accountable for their actions, through virtual petitions and organising physical protests. In 2010, a survey of 300 Chinese officials revealed that 70% were anxious about whether mistakes or details about their private life might be leaked online. Of the almost 6,000 Chinese citizens also surveyed, 88% believed it was good for officials to feel this anxiety.
For Xi Jinping, however, there is no distinction between the virtual world and the real world: both should reflect the same political values, ideals, and standards. To this end, the government has invested in technological upgrades to monitor and censor content. It has passed new laws on acceptable content, and aggressively punished those who defy the new restrictions. Under Xi, foreign content providers have found their access to China shrinking. They are being pushed out by both Xi’s ideological war and his desire that Chinese companies dominate the country’s rapidly growing online economy.
At home, Xi paints the west’s version of the internet, which prioritises freedom of information flow, as anathema to the values of the Chinese government. Abroad, he asserts China’s sovereign right to determine what constitutes harmful content. Rather than acknowledging that efforts to control the internet are a source of embarrassment – a sign of potential authoritarian fragility – Xi is trying to turn his vision of a “Chinanet” (to use blogger Michael Anti’s phrase) into a model for other countries.
The challenge for China’s leadership is to maintain what it perceives as the benefits of the internet – advancing commerce and innovation – without letting technology accelerate political change. To maintain his “Chinanet”, Xi seems willing to accept the costs in terms of economic development, creative expression, government credibility, and the development of civil society. But the internet continues to serve as a powerful tool for citizens seeking to advance social change and human rights. The game of cat-and-mouse continues, and there are many more mice than cats.
The very first email in China was sent in September 1987 – 16 years after Ray Tomlinson sent the first email in the US. It broadcast a triumphal message: “Across the Great Wall we can reach every corner in the world.” For the first few years, the government reserved the internet for academics and officials. Then, in 1995, it was opened to the general public. In 1996, although only about 150,000 Chinese people were connected to the internet, the government deemed it the “Year of the Internet”, and internet clubs and cafes appeared all over China’s largest cities.
Yet as enthusiastically as the government proclaimed its support for the internet, it also took steps to control it. Rogier Creemers, a China expert at Oxford University, has noted that “As the internet became a publicly accessible information and communication platform, there was no debate about whether it should fall under government supervision – only about how such control would be implemented in practice.” By 1997, Beijing had enacted its first laws criminalising online postings that it believed were designed to hurt national security or the interests of the state.
China’s leaders were right to be worried. Their citizens quickly realised the political potential inherent in the internet. In 1998, a 30-year-old software engineer called Lin Hai forwarded 30,000 Chinese email addresses to a US-based pro-democracy magazine. Lin was arrested, tried and ultimately sent to prison in the country’s first known trial for a political violation committed completely online. The following year, the spiritual organisation Falun Gongused email and mobile phones to organise a silent demonstration of more than 10,000 followers around the Communist party’s central compound, Zhongnanhai, to protest their inability to practise freely. The gathering, which had been arranged without the knowledge of the government, precipitated an ongoing persecution of Falun Gong practitioners and a new determination to exercise control over the internet.
The man who emerged to lead the government’s technological efforts was Fang Binxing. In the late 1990s, Fang worked on developing the “Golden Shield” – transformative software that enabled the government to inspect any data being received or sent, and to block destination IP addresses and domain names. His work was rewarded by a swift political rise. By the 2000s, he had earned the moniker “Father of the Great Firewall” and, eventually, the enmity of hundreds of thousands of Chinese web users.
Throughout the early 2000s, the Chinese leadership supplemented Fang’s technology with a set of new regulations designed to ensure that anyone with access to China’s internet played by Chinese rules. In September 2000, the state council issued order no 292, which required internet service providers to ensure that the information sent out on their services adhered to the law, and that some domain names and IP addresses were recorded. Two years later, Beijing blocked Google for the first time. (A few years later, Google introduced Google.cn, a censored version of the site.) In 2002, the government increased its emphasis on self-censorship with the Public Pledge on Self-Discipline for China’s Internet Industry, which established four principles: patriotic observance of law, equitableness, trustworthiness and honesty. More than 100 companies, including Yahoo!, signed the pledge.
Perhaps the most significant development, however, was a 2004 guideline on internet censorship that called for Chinese universities to recruit internet commentators who could guide online discussions in politically acceptable directions and report comments that did not follow Chinese law. These commentators became known as wu mao dang, or “50-cent party”, after the small bonuses they were supposedly paid for each post.
Yet even as the government was striving to limit individuals’ access to information, many citizens were making significant inroads into the country’s political world – and their primary target was corrupt local officials.
In May 2009, Deng Yujiao, a young woman working in a hotel in Hubei province, stabbed a party official to death after she rejected his efforts to pay her for sex and he tried to rape her. Police initially committed Deng to a mental hospital. A popular blogger, Wu Gan, however, publicised her case. Using information gathered through a process known as ren rou sousuo, or “human flesh search engine”, in which web users collaborate to discover the identity of a specific individual or organisation, Wu wrote a blog describing the events and actions of the party officials involved.
In an interview with the Atlantic magazine at the time, he commented: “The cultural significance of flesh searches is this: in an undemocratic country, the people have limited means to get information … [but] citizens can get access to information through the internet, exposing lies and the truth.” Deng’s case began to attract public support, with young people gathering in Beijing with signs reading “Anyone could be Deng Yujiao.” Eventually the court ruled that Deng had acted in self-defence.
During this period, in the final years of Hu Jintao’s presidency, the internet was becoming more and more powerful as a mechanism by which Chinese citizens held their officials to account. Most cases were like that of Deng Yujiao – lodged and resolved at the local level. A small number, however, reached central authorities in Beijing. On 23 July 2011, a high-speed train derailed in the coastal city of Wenzhou, leaving at least 40 people dead and 172 injured. In the wake of the accident, Chinese officials banned journalistsfrom investigating, telling them to use only information “released from authorities”. But local residents took photos of the wreckage being buried instead of being examined for evidence. The photos went viral and heightened the impression that the government’s main goal was not to seek the true cause of the accident.
A Sina Weibo poll – later blocked – asked users why they thought the train wreckage was buried: 98% (61,382) believed it represented destruction of evidence. Dark humour spread online: “How far are we from heaven? Only a train ticket away,” and “The Ministry of Railways earnestly requests that you ride the Heavenly Party Express.” The popular pressure resulted in a full-scale investigation of the crash, and in late December, the government issued a report blaming poorly designed signal equipment and insufficient safety procedures. As many as 54 officials faced disciplinary action as a result of the crash.
The internet also provided a new sense of community for Chinese citizens, who mostly lacked robust civil-society organisations. In July 2012, devastating floods in Beijing led to the evacuation of more than 65,000 residents and the deaths of at least 77 people. Damages totalled an estimated $1.9bn. Local officials failed to respond effectively: police officers allegedly kept ticketing stranded cars instead of assisting residents, and the early warning system did not work. Yet the real story was the extraordinary outpouring of assistance from Beijing web users, who volunteered their homes and food to stranded citizens. In a span of just 24 hours, an estimated 8.8m messages were sent on Weibo regarding the floods. The story of the floods became not only one of government incompetence, but also one of how an online community could transform into a real one.
While the Chinese people explored new ways to use the internet, the leadership also began to develop a taste for the new powers it offered, such as a better understanding of citizens’ concerns and new ways to shape public opinion. Yet as the internet increasingly became a vehicle for dissent, concern within the leadership mounted that it might be used to mobilise a large-scale political protest capable of threatening the central government. The government responded with a stream of technological fixes and political directives; yet the boundaries of internet life continued to expand.
The advent of Xi Jinping in 2012 brought a new determination to move beyond deleting posts and passing regulations. Beijing wanted to ensure that internet content more actively served the interests of the Communist party. Within the virtual world, as in the real world, the party moved to silence dissenting voices, to mobilise party members in support of its values, and to prevent foreign ideas from seeping into Chinese political and social life. In a leaked speech in August 2013, Xi articulated a dark vision: “The internet has become the main battlefield for the public opinion struggle.”
Early in his tenure, Xi embraced the world of social media. One Weibo group, called Fan Group to Learn from Xi, appeared in late 2012, much to the delight of Chinese propaganda officials. (Many Chinese suspected that the account was directed by someone in the government, although the account’s owner denied it.) Xi allowed a visit he made to Hebei to be liveblogged on Weibo by government-affiliated press, and videos about Xi, including a viral music video called How Should I Address You, based on a trip he made to a mountain village, demonstrate the government’s increasing skill at digital propaganda.
Under Xi, the government has also developed new technology that has enabled it to exert far greater control over the internet. In January 2015, the government blocked many of the VPNs that citizens had used to circumvent the Great Firewall. This was surprising to many outside observers, who had believed that VPNs were too useful to the Chinese economy – supporting multinationals, banks and retailers, among others – for the government to crack down on them.
In spring 2015, Beijing launched the Great Cannon. Unlike the Great Firewall, which has the capacity to block traffic as it enters or exits China, the Great Cannon is able to adjust and replace content as it travels around the internet. One of its first targets was the US coding and software development site GitHub. The Chinese government used the Great Cannon to levy a distributed denial of service attack against the site, overwhelming it with traffic redirected from Baidu (a search engine similar to Google). The attack focused on attempting to force GitHub to remove pages linked to the Chinese-language edition of the New York Times and GreatFire.org, a popular VPN that helps people circumvent Chinese internet censorship.
But perhaps Xi’s most noticeable gambit has been to constrain the nature of the content available online. In August 2013, the government issued a new set of regulations known as the “seven baselines”. The reaction by Chinese internet companies was immediate. Sina, for example, shut down or “handled” 100,000 Weibo accounts found to not comply with the new rules.
The government also adopted tough restrictions on internet-based rumours. In September 2013, the supreme people’s court ruled that authors of online posts that deliberately spread rumours or lies, and were either seen by more than 5,000 individuals or shared more than 500 times, could face defamation charges and up to three years in jail. Following massive flooding in Hebei province in July 2016, for example, the government detained three individuals accused of spreading “false news” via social media regarding the death toll and cause of the flood. Some social media posts and photos of the flooding, particularly of drowning victims, were also censored.
In addition, Xi’s government began targeting individuals with large social media followings who might challenge the authority of the Communist party. Restrictions on the most prominent Chinese web influencers, beginning in 2013, represented an important turning point in China’s internet life. Discussions began to move away from politics to personal and less sensitive issues. The impact on Sina Weibo was dramatic. According to a study of 1.6 million Weibo users, the number of Weibo posts fell by 70% between 2011 and 2013.
The strength of the Communist party’s control over the internet rests above all on its commitment to prevent the spread of information that it finds dangerous. It has also adopted sophisticated technology, such as the Great Firewall and the Golden Shield. Perhaps its most potent source of influence, however, is the cyber-army it has developed to implement its policies.
The total number of people employed to monitor opinion and censor content on the internet – a role euphemistically known as “internet public opinion analyst” – was estimated at 2 million in 2013. They are employed across government propaganda departments, private corporations and news outlets. One 2016 Harvard study estimated that the Chinese government fabricates and posts approximately 448m comments on social media annually. A considerable amount of censorship is conducted through the manual deletion of posts, and an estimated 100,000 people are employed by both the government and private companies to do just this.
Private companies also play an important role in facilitating internet censorship in China. Since commercial internet providers are so involved in censoring the sites that they host, internet scholar Guobin Yang argues that “it may not be too much of a stretch to talk about the privatisation of internet content control”. The process is made simpler by the fact that several major technology entrepreneurs also hold political office. For example, Robin Li of Baidu is a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, an advisory legislature, while Lei Jun, founder and CEO of mobile phone giant Xiaomi, is a representative of the National People’s Congress.
Yet Xi’s growing control over the internet does not come without costs. An internet that does not work efficiently or limits access to information impedes economic growth. China’s internet is notoriously unreliable, and ranks 91st in the world for speed. As New Yorker writer Evan Osnos asked in discussing the transformation of the Chinese internet during Xi’s tenure: “How many countries in 2015 have an internet connection to the world that is worse than it was a year ago?”
Scientific innovation, particularly prized by the Chinese leadership, may also be at risk. After the VPN crackdown, a Chinese biologist published an essay that became popular on social media, entitled Why Do Scientists Need Google? He wrote: “If a country wants to make this many scientists take out time from the short duration of their professional lives to research technology for climbing over the Great Firewall and to install and to continually upgrade every kind of software for routers, computers, tablets and mobile devices, no matter that this behaviour wastes a great amount of time; it is all completely ridiculous.”
More difficult to gauge is the cost the Chinese leadership incurs to its credibility. Web users criticising the Great Firewall have used puns to mock China’s censorship system. Playing off the fact that the phrases “strong nation” and “wall nation” share a phonetic pronunciation in Chinese (qiangguo), some began using the phrase “wall nation” to refer to China. Those responsible for seeking to control content have also been widely mocked. When Fang opened an account on Sina Weibo in December 2010, he quickly closed the account after thousands of online users left “expletive-laden messages” accusing him of being a government hack. Censors at Sina Weibo blocked “Fang Binxing” as a search term; one Twitter user wrote: “Kind of poetic, really, the blocker, blocked.” When Fang delivered a speech at Wuhan University in central China in 2011, a few students pelted him with eggs and a pair of shoes.
Nonetheless, the government seems willing to bear the economic and scientific costs, as well as potential damage to its credibility, if it means more control over the internet. For the international community, Beijing’s cyber-policy is a sign of the challenge that a more powerful China presents to the liberal world order, which prioritises values such as freedom of speech. It also reflects the paradox inherent in China’s efforts to promote itself as a champion of globalisation, while simultaneously advocating a model of internet sovereignty and closing its cyber-world to information and investment from abroad.
Adapted from The Third Revolution: Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State by Elizabeth C Economy, published by Oxford University Press and available at guardianbookshop.com
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Li Qiang (center), Shanghai’s Party secretary, speaks during a panel discussion on the sidelines of the fourth plenary session of the 11th Shanghai Committee of the Communist Party of China yesterday. He said Shanghai will need to develop in five core areas — economy, finance, trade, shipping, and scientific and technological innovation — in the next five years.
Shanghai yesterday approved an ambitious “future and global-oriented” plan to become a city of global excellence and a modern international metropolis with world influence.
The Shanghai Committee of the Communist Party of China said the city must improve its capacity and core competitiveness as it takes on the tasks entrusted by the central government, including enhancing its development as global centers for economy, finance, trade, shipping and innovation, serving the Belt and Road Initiative, promoting integrated development of the Yangtze River Delta region, deepening free trade zone reforms, and carrying out further reform and opening-up.
Li Qiang, the city’s Party secretary, emphasized at yesterday’s fourth plenary session of the 11th CPC Shanghai Committee that Shanghai will need to develop in five core areas — economy, finance, trade, shipping, and scientific and technological innovation — in the next five years to improve its attraction, creativity and competitiveness.
In 10 years, it aims to have the city’s capacity in the five areas “comprehensively increased and become a relatively influential member in the global city network.”
By 2035, Shanghai should have developed itself into “a city of global excellence that matches China’s comprehensive strength and international status, an admirable innovative, cultural and ecological city, a Socialist modern international metropolis with global influence, and a leading city in a world-class metropolis cluster.”
To enhance the city’s capacity and core competitiveness, the city will need to make new breakthroughs in core functions as a global center of economy, finance, trade, shipping and innovation.
In the economic area, it will seek high-quality development and promote economic size and efficiency by improving its economic density and input-output rate, according to the committee.
Shanghai will accelerate establishment of an industrial system to develop the economy, scientific and technological innovation, modern financing, and human resources industries.
It will focus on the modern services, advanced manufacturing and strategic emerging industries, and develop intelligence-intensive industries to reduce simple and repetitive labor and promote unmanned models.
In finance, the key task is to enhance Shanghai’s capability in allocating global finance resources. It will also quicken the opening of finance market for participation of overseas investors and encourage diversified cooperation between the domestic and overseas markets.
International and Chinese financial institutions will be wooed to set up headquarters in Shanghai. The city also intends to create several important asset-management agencies to set up a global center.
To improve its function as an international trade center, it will develop high-level “headquarters economy” by encouraging headquarters of multinational companies to expand their function and capacity.
As an international shipping center, the city will focus on high-end services to promote Shanghai’s shipping brand. It will attract famous shipping service providers and international shipping organizations, carry out innovation in system, business model and technology, and develop shipping finance to promote its capacity in relocating shipping resources.
It will also improve its capacity as an aviation hub, expand the coverage of its airline network and promote the construction of an airport cluster in the Yangtze River Delta.
It will promote the development of cruise industry and build an international cruise home port.
To build itself as an international center for science and technology innovation, it should focus on leading-edge researches and strive to be a global source of new academic thoughts, new scientific findings, new technological inventions and new development trends. It will actively promote science research programs.
The city will also focus on eight other areas — mechanism innovation, opening-up, branding, innovation and entrepreneurship, global network, development platform, talent aggregation and quality life.
Source: SHINE Editor: Zhang Shunyi
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