Xi sees “new starting point” for China: Evidently Means A Total End Of Any Freedom For The People

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FORTUNE MAGAZINE)

 

Xi sees “new starting point” for China—but where does it end?

Aug 02, 2017

Shanghai changes faster than any place I know. Each time I return, I’m flabbergasted by the pace of development. Pudong’s financial district sprouts new skyscrapers. The Bund sports pricier restaurants. Huaihai Lu, once the Avenue Joffre in the old French Concession, is recolonized by a few more European luxury boutiques. Buildings, city blocks, entire neighborhoods seem to vanish and reemerge as something else. If I am away for more than six months, it feels like coming back to an entirely new metropolis: bigger, richer, sleeker, chic-er.

I have been thinking about the breakneck pace of growth in Shanghai while trying to parse the implications of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s declaration last Thursday that China’s development has reached a “new historical starting point.” Xi’s pronouncement was part of a major policy address he delivered in Beijing to provincial and ministerial officials ahead of this year’s 19th Party Congress. At that gathering, likely to be held in the next few months, Xi is expected to install a new generation of leaders and consolidate his position as the party’s “core” leader. The speech seems to signal Xi’s determination to double down in his second term on the authoritarian policies that have been the hallmark of his first five years in power: a zealous campaign against graft, expanded support for state-owned enterprises, and new measures to strengthen the party’s grip on China’s economy and society.

You can get a flavor of Xi’s remarks from these reports in Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal. Alas, both those outlets are blocked in China. And so, no matter how stylish and seemingly cosmopolitan the lobby of my hotel, to access the global business press from it, I am obliged to rely on a “virtual private network” or VPN. In recent months, Xi’s push to bolster the party has included a sweeping crackdown on the use of VPNs and tightened party control over nearly all permutations of Internet use. In fact, TechCrunch reports today that Beijing has ordered Apple to purge all major VPN apps from the App Store in China. The move was first noted by ExpressVPN, a provider based outside of China—and, as it happens, the service I’m using to write this. The company says it received a notice from Apple that its app was scrapped because it “includes content that is illegal in China.”

This essay was originally published in our CEO Daily Newsletter. Subscribe.

Xi is also putting the squeeze on privately owned Chinese companies the government deems too aggressive in expanding outside China. In recent weeks, China’s state media has been filled with reports deploring the dangers posed by what pundits here are calling “gray rhinos“—large Chinese companies with murky ownership structures, high-debt ratios and extensive holdings overseas. It’s almost as if Beijing’s vaunted “Go Global” investment policy has been rebranded as “Go Home.”

Concerns about the risks over-leveraged firms pose to China’s financial system are well-founded. And yet, of the four gray rhinos China’s bank regulators have singled out for greater regulatory scrutiny in recent weeks, at least one, Dalian Wanda, was an established business with a coherent global strategy.

Shai Oster, a China tech correspondent for The Information, worries in a thoughtful essay published today that all the “euphoria” over the dazzling innovations in China’s tech sector in recent years masks the heavy-handedness with which Xi has dealt with private firms. If Xi himself can order the takedown of China’s most high-profile and politically connected property developer, no one is safe. “Even someone as famous as Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma could face increased political risks in the current climate.” Executives many of foreign firms operating in China say they feel equally vulnerable.

The optimistic view is that the many recent measures to tighten political control in China are temporary and that Xi will loosen up after the Party Congress once he has his ducks in line. It’s a comforting thought. If only there were more evidence to support it.

China Toughens Punishment For Stock Market Irregularities

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

China toughens punishment for stock market irregularities

CHINA’S securities regulator has toughened punishment on illegal market activities this year amid strengthened supervision, which handed out more fines in the first five months than the whole year of 2016.

From January to May, fines totalling 6.14 billion yuan (about 901 million U.S. dollars) were slapped on law violators in the securities sector, according to the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC).

A total of 29 people were suspended from securities business in the five months, the regulator said.

In 2016, the CSRC punished 183 illegal market activities and handed out fines of 4.28 billion yuan, up 288 percent from the 2015 level. Some 38 people were barred from the securities industry.

While affirming improved market supervision, CSRC vice chairman Jiang Yang warned that the economic uncertainties, as well as new technologies,products and trading mechanisms, are likely to trigger new risks and challenge regulation.

The CSRC has been toughening supervision and punishment of illegal market activities such as insider trading and stock manipulation after the market rout in 2015 shattered investor confidence.

In March, the CSRC slapped a 3.47 billion yuan fine on a company chairman for stock market manipulation, a record high.

China: Explosion At Kindergarten, 8 Dead 65 Injured 9 In Serious Condition

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

At least eight people were killed and 65 were injured, including children, in a blast Thursday near a kindergarten in eastern China, according to Chinese state media.

Two people died at the scene and six died at the hospital, the Xinhua news agency reported. Nine are in serious condition, according to CCTV.
No kindergarten students or teachers are among the dead, the Fengxian government said on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform similar to Twitter. Classes were underway when the incident happened, the government said.
The blast occurred in front of the gate of the Chuangxin Kindergarten at about 4:50 p.m., according to Fengxian police.
“The police and related departments rushed to the scene as soon as it was reported and conducted rescue and investigation work on the site,” police said on Weibo. “Currently, the investigation work is still underway.”
Authorities have not said what caused the explosion, but police were treating it as a criminal case and have targeted a suspect, according to Xinhua. The Fengxian communication department did not answer a phone call from CNN.
Graphic images purporting to show the chaotic aftermath of the blast have circulated on Twitter and Chinese social media.
A child with a bloodied face, stumbling back and forth in only her underwear, could be seen surrounded by children splayed out on the ground. Screams were heard in the background.
CNN has not been able to independently verify that the video is from this incident, but it’s been recirculated by various Chinese state media outlets.
Fengxian is in eastern China’s Jiangsu province, about 370 miles (595 kilometers) northwest of Shanghai.
It’s home to 1.2 million people, according to the government’s website.

Qatar insists it’s ‘business as usual’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

Qatar insists it’s ‘business as usual’

QATAR tried to avoid an escalation of its feud with Gulf neighbors yesterday by telling their citizens they are welcome to stay, while boasting of “business as usual” for vital gas exports.

Iran also announced it had sent tons of vegetables to Qatar, which has seen food imports threatened.

Nearly a week after Saudi Arabia and several of its allies severed ties with Qatar in an unprecedented Gulf diplomatic crisis, there were no signs of the bitter dispute being resolved.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and others accused Qatar of supporting extremist groups, an assertion since backed by US President Donald Trump.

Qatar strongly rejects the allegations and has said it is open to talks on ending the dispute, which also saw the three Gulf states order all Qatari citizens out of their countries within 14 days.

The crisis has raised deep concerns of instability in the region, and yesterday Kuwait’s foreign minister said his country would continue efforts to mediate a solution to the crisis.

Qatar said late on Saturday that it would not retaliate with such measures of its own. A statement carried on Qatari state media said Doha would “not take any measures against residents of Qatar who hold the nationalities of countries that severed diplomatic ties … on the back of hostile and tendentious campaigns against the country.”

The decision will come as a relief to the more than 11,000 people from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain living in Qatar.

Concerns have been raised about the impact of these measures on people who live in all the countries affected.

“For potentially thousands of people across the Gulf, the effect of the steps imposed in the wake of this political dispute is suffering, heartbreak and fear,” Amnesty International has said.

Despite the unprecedented sanctions, Qatar says that its crucial exports of liquefied gas have not been interrupted.

“Qatar Petroleum … is conducting business as usual throughout all its upstream, midstream and downstream businesses and operations, and in all activities across all of QP’s world-class facilities,” a statement read.

Gas has helped transform the tiny emirate into one of the richest countries in the world, fueling its rise into a major regional player and helping fund huge infrastructure projects such as the 2022 football World Cup, which will be hosted by Qatar.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino said yesterday that he was confident the crisis posed no threat to the 2022 World Cup.

Qatar’s rivals have also accused Doha of being too close to the Sunni Arab Gulf states’ arch-rival — Shiite-dominated Iran — in claims that Doha has also denied.

Iranian officials said tons of vegetables had been sent from Iran to Qatar since the measures were taken against it.

Iran Air spokesman Shahrokh Noushabadi said five planes carrying around 90 tons of vegetables each had been sent to Qatar in recent days.

“We will continue deliveries as long as there is demand,” Noushabadi added, without saying if the deliveries were commercial exports or aid.

Three ships loaded with 350 tons of fruit and vegetables were also set to leave an Iranian port for Qatar, the Tasnim news agency quoted a local official as saying.

On Saturday, Moscow joined other nations in calling for a dialogue, after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged Saudi Arabia and its allies to ease their “blockade” of Qatar.

Washington has sent mixed signals on the crisis, despite Qatar’s position as a key ally and host to the largest US airbase in the region.

While Tillerson and others have called for an easing of tensions, Trump said on Friday that Qatar had “historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level.”

Kuwait, which has not joined its neighbors against Qatar, has been leading mediation efforts and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled Al-Sabah said yesterday that would continue.

“Kuwait stresses the need for the dispute to be resolved within the Gulf framework,” Sheikh Sabah said in a statement quoted by the KUNA news agency.

Qatar has expressed readiness “to understand the concerns of its brothers and respond to the efforts of the emir (of Kuwait) to strengthen peace and security,” the foreign minister said.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE have announced hotlines to help families with Qatari members, their official news agencies reported, after their cutting of diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar led to travel disruption.

Until the dispute, Gulf societies enjoyed close travel ties and many families are intermarried.

But authorities in the UAE and Bahrain have made praise for Qatar’s government a criminal offense, and some Gulf citizens have worried that the strong rhetoric on Qatar’s foreign policy would divide their peoples.

But the UAE said it drew a distinction between Qatar’s government and its people.

China: Outrage as accident victim left to die in middle of intersection

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

Outrage as accident victim left to die

A SPEEDING taxi knocks a pedestrian off her feet, sending her hurtling through the air. Dozens of people stand gawking or walk past, as if the young woman sprawled in the busy intersection simply doesn’t exist. A full minute passes, and another speeding vehicle, this time an SUV, tramples the prone woman. Her unconscious body churns under its large wheels like a lumpen sack.

After a grainy video of the incident in the city of Zhumadian surfaced on Chinese social media this past week, the initial reaction was one of outrage directed at the more than 40 pedestrians and drivers who passed within meters of the woman, all failing to offer help.

Many Chinese say they avoid helping people on the street because of widespread stories about extortionists who seek help from passers-by and then feign injuries and demand compensation — perhaps explaining reaction to the incident in central China’s Henan Province.

After the video surfaced last week, garnering more than 5 million views in its first 24 hours, local police were forced to disclose that the accident took place weeks earlier, on April 21.

The woman, Ma Ruixia, died, while the two drivers who hit her were held under investigation, police said, without giving further details.

The news swept through social media and even state media outlets.

The Communist Youth League, an influential Party organization, circulated the video on its Weibo account, urging its 5 million followers to “reject indifference.”

An opinion column on china.com, a state media organ, asked citizens to “reflect” on the tragedy. Others used the episode as a starting point to vent about social ills.

A national debate flared up following a similar case in 2011, when an unattended 2-year-old was hit by a truck on a busy street in south China’s Guangdong Province and lay in a pool of blood without any help from bystanders for seven minutes. She later died.

In the following years, several cities, including Shanghai and Beijing, enacted Good Samaritan laws.

Examples of bystander apathy are worldwide, from the case of Kitty Genovese, a woman stabbed to death outside her New York apartment in 1964, to Chicago last year, where a man knocked unconscious in an assault was run over and killed by a taxi as bystanders walked away.

In India, a video showed a man unsuccessfully pleading for help following a road accident that killed his wife and child in 2013. That same year, passers-by refused to stop to help a naked, bleeding gang-rape victim after she was dumped from a bus onto a New Delhi street. The 23-year-old student died of her injuries.

But the Chinese have been particularly self-critical on the matter.

A 2014 state media poll found that Chinese thought “lacking faith and ethics” was the No. 1 social problem, followed by “being a bystander or being selfish.”

Many in China’s intelligentsia reject the idea that an ancient strain of Chinese culture that focuses on the immediate family explains tragedies like Zhumadian. Confucius, after all, taught the Golden Rule. And Mencius, another revered philosopher, urged disciples to love others’ children and respect others’ parents as they would their own.

China: Keeping the peace in Darfur

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

Keeping the peace in Darfur

Moody’s Downgrades China Over Worries About Its Growing Debt

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

SHANGHAI — Moody’s Investors Service downgraded its credit rating on China’s sovereign debt by a notch on Wednesday, saying that the steady buildup of debt in the Chinese economy would erode the country’s financial strength in the coming years.

In a bluntly worded statement, Moody’s said that the Chinese government remained committed to achieving high economic growth despite slowing productivity gains and a shrinking population of working-age adults. The only way for China to achieve that high growth is to allow its debt to continue to grow as a way to stimulate the economy, Moody’s warned.

”The downgrade reflects Moody’s expectation that China’s financial strength will erode somewhat over the coming years, with economywide debt continuing to rise as potential growth slows,” the credit rating firm said.

Moody’s moved down China’s debt rating to A1 from Aa3, but changed its outlook for further ratings adjustments to stable, from negative.

Moody’s action is still likely to anger Chinese officials, who have tried hard to persuade the Chinese public and the international financial community that they have the country’s debt troubles well in hand.

Stock markets in China and Hong Kong opened slightly lower on Wednesday on the news. The Australian dollar, which is widely considered a barometer of investor sentiment about China because Australia sells so much of its raw materials to that country, weakened against the United States dollar.

For China And The U.S. ‘Cooperation Is The Only Way Forward’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

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Cooperation the only way forward

COOPERATION is the only correct choice for China and the United States, President Xi Jinping told visiting US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Beijing yesterday.

There are important development opportunities resulting from China-US relations, said Xi during the meeting in the Great Hall of People in Beijing.

Xi said he had maintained sound communications with his US counterpart Donald Trump through phone calls and messages, and they had agreed that the two countries could be good cooperative partners.

Xi said that to advance China-US ties in a healthy and steady manner, both sides could enhance exchanges at various levels; expand cooperation in bilateral, regional and global fields; and properly address and manage sensitive issues.

Xi suggested the two countries increase strategic trust and mutual understanding, review bilateral ties from long-term and strategic perspectives and expand fields of cooperation for their mutual benefit.

The two countries should also enhance coordination on regional hotspot issues, respect each other’s core interests and major concerns and encourage friendly exchanges between their two Peoples.

Tillerson told Xi, who extended an invitation for President Trump to visit China, that the US president valued communications with his Chinese counterpart and looked forward to meeting Xi and visiting China.

The US side is ready to develop relations with China based on the principle of no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation, said Tillerson.

China and the US are discussing arrangements for a meeting between the two presidents and exchanges at other levels, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said during his talks with Tillerson on Saturday.

“We attach great importance to your visit,” Wang told the US visitor at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing.

It was Tillerson’s first visit to China since he assumed office last month and he is also the first Cabinet-level official in the new US administration to visit.

China-US ties are developing steadily in a positive direction, Wang said.

He called for more cooperation in foreign affairs, the economy and trade, the military, law enforcement, people-to-people exchanges and local communication.

The essence of China-US trade relations is mutual benefit, said Wang, and he encouraged both countries to expand trade and investment cooperation.

Wang also restated China’s position on Taiwan and South China Sea issues, emphasizing that China and the US should respect each other’s core interests and major concerns, discreetly deal with sensitive issues to protect bilateral ties from unnecessary influences.

Tillerson said the US adheres to the “One China” policy and added that closer cooperation and coordination between the two countries was necessary in the face of a changing international situation. The US would like to have more high-level exchanges with China, and more dialogue in diplomatic security, macroeconomic policy coordination, law enforcement, cyberspace and people-to-people exchanges, he said.

Tillerson’s visit aims to make “political preparations” for the meeting between two presidents, and both sides would make the best use of this chance to seek common ground, said Jia Xiudong, a researcher with the China Institute of International Studies.

Tillerson arrived in Beijing on Saturday from Seoul. His first official Asian tour began on Wednesday and also took him to Japan.

SWIFT Messaging System Cuts Off Remaining North Korean Banks

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

SWIFT messaging system cuts off remaining North Korean banks

By Tom Bergin | LONDON

SWIFT, the inter-bank messaging network which is the backbone of international finance, said it planned to cut off the remaining North Korean banks still connected to its system, as concerns about the country’s nuclear program and missile tests grow.

SWIFT said the four remaining banks on the network would be disconnected for failing to meet its operating criteria.

The bank-owned co-operative declined to specify what the banks’ shortcomings were or if it had received representations from any governments.

Experts said the decision to cut off banks which were not subject to European Union sanctions was unusual and a possible sign of diplomatic pressure on SWIFT.

Belgium-based SWIFT has previously refused to cut off Burmese, Russian or Syrian banks which were subject to sanctions by other countries, such as the United States, citing a policy of remaining politically neutral.

SWIFT ignored years of pressure linked to Iran’s nuclear program, and only cut off Iranian banks in 2012 after the EU passed specifically tailored sanctions. SWIFT is overseen by the central bank of Belgium which is subject to EU law.

“The DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) banks remaining on the network are no longer compliant with SWIFT’s membership criteria,” SWIFT spokeswoman Natasha de Teran said in a statement.

“As a result, these entities will no longer have access to the SWIFT financial messaging service. Given the increased ongoing international attention on the DPRK, SWIFT has informed the Belgian and EU authorities,” she added.

Last week, the Belgian authorities said they would no longer allow SWIFT to provide services to North Korean banks which were under U.N. sanctions.

That followed a U.N. report in February that said North Korea was relying on continued access to the international banking system to flout sanctions imposed in relation to its nuclear program.

Former SWIFT chief executive Leonard Schrank said the only previous occasions he could remember when SWIFT had cut off banks not subject to EU sanctions was when the banks had lost their banking license or a country’s central bank had ceased functioning.

“This is a very, very serious action,” he said, adding it could open SWIFT up to pressure in respect of other countries.

A spokesman for the European Commission denied leaning on SWIFT: “This is a commercial matter for SWIFT. We do not interfere in the business decisions of any such company,” he said.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury and Belgian Foreign Ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

China’s President Xi Jinping Tells Government Leaders They Must End Their ‘Special Privileges’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

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Privileges must end, Xi urges leading officials

PRESIDENT Xi Jinping told leading officials yesterday that they should practice strict self-discipline and eliminate special privileges.

Xi made the remarks at the opening session of a workshop on the Sixth Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee. The workshop was attended by senior provincial and ministerial officials.

Xi, who is also general secretary of the Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, said implementing the decisions of the plenum would have far-reaching and profound significance for both the Party and socialism with Chinese characteristics.

Xi urged leading cadres to “build a fence” against special privileges to prevent themselves and those around them from abusing power.

Leading officials should use their power “impartially, cautiously and legally,” Xi said.

The workshop was being held to help senior provincial and ministerial officials understand two documents — one on the norms of political life within the Party in the new era, and a regulation on intra-Party supervision — which were approved by last year’s plenum.

“Leading officials should strengthen their political capability, firm their political ideals, uphold political direction, be steadfast in their stance and strictly observe political rules,” Xi said, stressing that they should enrich their political experience and match their political capability with the positions they were holding.

Xi said upholding the authority of the Central Committee with strict observance of orders and rules was related to the future and fate of the Party and the nation as well as the fundamental interests of all people across the nation.

Xi called on all Party members to become more aware of the need to uphold political integrity, keep in mind the bigger picture, follow the Party as the core of the Chinese leadership, and act consistently with Central Committee policy.

Safeguarding the authority of the Central Committee and the centralized and unified leadership chimed with democratic centralism, Xi said.

The Party sets great store by intra-Party democracy, as all major decisions follow strict processes, and are informed by wide opinions and suggestions, Xi said.

Strengthening and regulating political life within the Party requires the correct political direction, and advancing with the times, said Xi, who also stressed principles of political life and its spirit of holding firmly to the truth and rectifying errors.

Self-development is the most distinctive characteristic of the Party, and its biggest advantage, because the Party has no interests except for those of the country, the nation and the people, Xi said.

Leading officials, especially those in senior roles, must strengthen their self-discipline, he said.

They should ensure their words and deeds are in line with the Party constitution, and embody the Party spirit in all they do.

Xi called for thorough study of the two documents, which were designed to address contradictions and problems within the Party.

Xi also said Party organizations must improve inspections and ensure accountability. He also stressed that high-raking cadres should take the lead in complying with the Party’s code of conduct.