China’s cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-1 docks with Tiangong-2 space lab

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

China’s cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-1 docks with Tiangong-2 space lab

World leaders for Silk Road talks

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

World leaders for Silk Road talks

The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation will be held from May 14 to 15 in Beijing and President Xi Jinping will attend the opening ceremony and host the round table summit of the leaders, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said yesterday.

Xi has championed the “One Belt, One Road” initiative to build a new Silk Road linking Asia, Africa and Europe, a landmark program to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure projects.

China has dedicated US$40 billion to a Silk Road Fund and the idea was the driving force behind the establishment of the US$50 billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Among those attending will be Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Indonesian President Joko Widodo will also be attending the forum.

British finance minister Philip Hammond will come as Prime Minister Theresa May’s representative, while Germany and France will send high-level representatives.

Wang confirmed Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte as one of the leaders coming, along with the Spanish, Greek, Hungarian, Serb and Polish prime ministers and Swiss and Czech presidents.

“This is an economic cooperation forum, an international cooperation platform that everyone is paying attention to, supports and hopes to participate in,” Wang said.

“One Belt, One Road is to date the most important public good China has given to the world, first proposed by China but for all countries to enjoy,” said.

“The culture and historical genes of One Belt, One Road come from the old Silk Road, so it takes Eurasia as its main region,” he said, adding that representatives of 110 countries would attend the forum.

A section of the New Silk Road is in Pakistan, where some projects run through the disputed Kashmir region.

Wang dismissed concerns, saying the Pakistan project had no direct connection to the dispute and India was welcome to participate in the New Silk Road.

“Indian friends have said to us that One Belt, One Road is a very good suggestion,” he said.

During the forum, China is expected to sign cooperative documents with nearly 20 countries and more than 20 international organizations, Wang told reporters.

China will work with countries along the route on action plans concerning infrastructure, energy and resources, production capacity, trade and investment, which will help to turn the grand blueprint into a clear roadmap, he said.

Another task of the forum will be to push forward delivery of cooperative projects, Wang said.

During the forum, parties will identify major cooperative projects, set up working groups and establish an investment cooperation center.

China will also work with all parties on a set of measures that will include improved financial cooperation, a cooperation platform for science, technology and environmental protection, and enhanced exchanges and training of talent.

Participants will sign financing agreements to support their cooperative projects, Wang said.

China will use the forum to build a more open and efficient international cooperation platform; a closer, stronger partnership network; and to push for a more just, reasonable and balanced international governance system, Wang said.

Tougher laws and enforcement needed to stamp out free-for-all on Shanghai roads

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

Tougher laws and enforcement needed to stamp out free-for-all on Shanghai roads

BEFORE the term “lao si ji,” literally old driver, became a popular pun for a hardened philanderer, it used to be an honorary title bestowed on skilled drivers.

Like me.

Although I only started to sit behind the steering wheel about two years ago, I believe that these two years of intensive practicing, training and adaptation on Shanghai’s highly risky roads have turned me into a “lao si ji.” Well, quite.

In order to earn that badge of honor, one simply has to be vastly resourceful and extremely responsive to every possible risk on the road. For example, since many Chinese drivers have the annoying habit of never bothering to signal when making a lane change, it is strongly advised to place one’s foot constantly on the brake, to be on alert for a potential rear-end collision.

During my days as a novice driver, I encountered several situations in which I had to hit the brake violently to avoid crashing into the cars that suddenly cut in ahead of mine. Fuming, I could not help letting loose a torrent of abuse.

Once during the evening rush hours, I was inching forward on an off-ramp from the Yan’an Elevated Highway. Without signaling or approaching the median line, a man driving a Toyota sedan on my right suddenly swerved left. I gasped, slammed on the brake and narrowly escaped hitting the sedan.

Road rage

In an outburst of road rage, I pulled up beside the Toyota, glared at the driver and honked once to protest. He didn’t even stare back. He couldn’t care less. Obviously he is an expert at this willful escapade.

Before long, I realized that there are plenty more of such douche bags on Shanghai’s roads, and since they cannot be made to see how rude they are, the choice left is either to tolerate their derring-do, or as the old adage goes, if you cannot beat them then join them.

On several occasions I did find myself joining this sorry bunch after reconciling myself with the fact that those who don’t signal actually have a good reason for not doing so. Only a handful of motorists, at least in my own experience, showed their civility by yielding to cars signaling for a lane change.

Over time, this led to bewilderment, followed by disillusionment. Despite having spent time to regurgitate the traffic rules to pass the written test for the driver’s license, many seem to give little thought to these rules in reality.

Instead, to be able to survive China’s roads, one of the cardinal principles appears to be to unlearn what is learnt at the driving school and make impromptu changes where necessary. For example, even the forbidden practice of overtaking a slow car from the right side is sometimes an option. Forget about road civility, this is a mere afterthought.

It is with mixed feelings that I salute the recently updated traffic regulation, said to be the strictest ever to be adopted in Shanghai.

On the one hand, I do believe that the laws must be made to have teeth to deal with public hazards like the Toyota driver; to crack down hard on illegal driving behavior that makes Shanghai’s roads a free-for-all where the only rule that applies is “who dares wins.”

On the other, I am less optimistic than some about the odds of the new regulation succeeding in drilling some much-needed sense of civility and road manners into the minds of daredevils.

And this paradoxical mentality became even more agonizing following my recent trip to Germany and Austria. During the eight-day trip, I drove some 2,000 kilometers. Despite the fatigue resulting from long hours of driving — I once drove non-stop for about 450 kilometers from Munich to Vienna — I remained mentally at ease throughout the journey.

Since sections of the German Autobahn, or expressways, are exempt from speed limits, it’s common to see cars hurtling at over 200 kilometers per hour. And I remember being told by a German friend, beaming, that the recklessness often seen in Chinese motorists is nowhere to be found on German roads.

Paradox

To put his assertion to the test, I once hit the gas pedal to take my diesel-powered Volkswagen Golf Variant to over 180kph, only to slow down when my ashen-faced wife begged me to in a trembling voice. Although my palms were sweaty from an adrenaline rush and from gripping the wheel a bit too tightly to avoid lane departure, my mind was fairly relaxed. I even had time to take in the pastoral beauty of the Bavarian countryside and breathe in the crisp March air adulterated with a thick smell of cow manure.

It’s no exaggeration to say that it’s safer to drive 200kph on German motorways than 60kph on Shanghai’s elevated highways. This appears to be born out by statistics. According to a 2015 WHO report, Germany has one of the world’s lowest road fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants: 4.3 compared to China’s 18.8.

The key to understanding the paradox between general road safety and the (partial) absence of speed limits lies perhaps in the German conformity to order and rules.

Given my observation, almost every vehicle would spontaneously leave the fast lane on an Autobahn after overtaking a car in front; you can literally careen down the road at the sight of inverted yellow triangular signs that suggest you have the indisputable right of way; and whenever I slowed down on urban roads, trying to follow the GPS directions, no German driver ever honked at me or intimidated me with high beam headlights. They just followed patiently behind. When their patience did wear thin, they overtook me at a safe distance. By the way, they were more willing to yield to cars that signaled.

In my opinion, one of the most admirable aspects of German traffic is that the rigidity of the rules enforced is softened by a dose of flexibility for personal touch — civility shown to pedestrians is reciprocated with a nod, a smile or a thumbs-up. Respect begets respect.

Culture shock

I experienced a culture shock (or should it be reverse culture shock?) in the first days upon my return to Shanghai. During the morning madness I tried to play the German card in a lane change.

To my dismay, I signaled for 10 seconds, but no cars slowed down to let me pass. In a sign of cussedness, some even revved up the engine and zoomed past me.

Seeing that the German ways didn’t work, I switched back to the Chinese mode: I swerved to force my way into a column of vehicles.

It is reported that Shanghai’s updated traffic regulations include clauses that oblige motorists to yield to pedestrians when making a left/right turn.

For this clause to work, however, stricter law enforcement is critically needed in addition to a public awareness campaign. Until we have a police officer deployed at every intersection to ensure compliance, allow me to be mildly skeptical about the effects of the rule.

In a similar vein, until many drivers learn to treat other “lesser beings” on the road with a little more respect and dignity, they are unworthy of the “lao si ji” title, however skilled they might be.

Turkey’s opposition calls for vote to be canceled after ‘irregularities’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

Turkey’s opposition calls for vote to be canceled after ‘irregularities’

TURKEY’S main opposition party yesterday called on the country’s electoral board to cancel the results of a landmark referendum that granted sweeping new powers to the nation’s president, citing what it called substantial voting irregularities.

An international observer mission who monitored the voting also cited irregularities, saying the conduct of Sunday’s referendum “fell short” of the international standards Turkey has signed up to. It specifically criticized a decision by Turkey’s electoral board to accept ballots that did not have official stamps, saying that hurt the fight against fraud.

Turkey’s electoral board confirmed the “yes” victory in the referendum and said the final results would be declared in 11-12 days.

The state-run Anadolu agency said the “yes” side stood at 51.4 percent of the vote, while the “no” vote had 48.6 percent support.

The margin could cement President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s hold on power in Turkey for a decade and is expected to have a huge effect on the country’s long-term political future and its international relations.

“I suspect the result was narrower than Erdogan expected,” said Howard Eissenstat, associate professor of Middle East History at St Lawrence University in Canton, New York.

“Erdogan has ruled with a narrow victory before. He does not see a narrow victory as anything less than a mandate.”

Erdogan, 63, initially sounded conciliatory in his remarks, saying the result was a victory not just for those who voted “yes,” but for “the whole 80 million, the whole of Turkey.”

But his more abrasive style quickly returned.

“There are those who are belittling the result. They shouldn’t try, it will be in vain,” he told cheering supporters in Istanbul. “It’s too late now.”

Opposition parties still cried foul. Bulent Tezcan, deputy chairman of the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, cited numerous problems in the conduct of the vote.

An unprecedented electoral board decision to accept as valid ballots that didn’t bear the official stamp led to outrage.

Normally for a ballot to be considered valid, it must bear the official stamp on the back, be put into an envelope that also bears an official stamp and be handed to the voter by an electoral official at a polling station. The system is designed to ensure that only one vote is cast per person and to avoid the possibility of ballot box-stuffing.

The board announced on Sunday, however, that it would accept unstamped envelopes as valid after many voters complained about being handed blank envelopes.

“There is only one way to end the discussions about the vote’s legitimacy and to put the people at ease, and that is for the Supreme Electoral Board to cancel the vote,” Tezcan said.

Tana de Zuleta of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which monitored the vote, said the ballot decision undermined important safeguards against fraud and contradicted Turkey’s own laws.

The monitoring group described a series of irregularities, including a skewed pre-vote campaign in favor of the “yes” vote, the intimidation of the “no” campaign and the fact that the referendum question was not listed on the ballot.

De Zuleta said that overall, the procedures “fell short of full adherence” to the standards Turkey has signed up for.

Electoral board head Sadi Guven rejected claims of foul play, saying none of the ballot papers declared valid was “fake” or fraudulently cast.

Guven said the decision was made so voters who were by mistake given unstamped ballot papers would not be “victimized.”

“The ballot papers are not fake, there is no (reason) for doubt,” Guven said.

Tezcan said any decision that changes Turkey’s political system to such a vast extent should have been passed with an overwhelming endorsement.

“This is not a text of social consensus but one of social division,” Tezcan said.

The referendum approves 18 amendments that will replace the parliamentary system with a presidential one.

The changes allow the president to appoint ministers, senior government officials and half the members of Turkey’s highest judicial body, as well as to issue decrees and declare states of emergency. They set a limit of two five-year terms for presidents.

The new presidential system takes effect at the next election, currently due in 2019. Other changes will take effect sooner, including an amendment that scraps a clause requiring the president to be impartial, allowing Erdogan to regain membership of the ruling party he founded‚ or even to lead it.

China: Stolen stone tower back from Taiwan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

Stolen stone tower back from Taiwan

A CEREMONY was held at Shanxi Provincial Museum yesterday to welcome the return of a stone tower that was stolen 19 years ago from a village in north China and ended up in Taiwan.

The Dengyu stone tower, which was originally in Dengyu village of Yushe county, Shanxi, features Buddha images carved into its four sides. The piece was made in the Tang Dynasty (618-907).

The tower was 320 centimeters high and composed of a base, a 177-centimeter body, and spire. It is an excellent example of Tang Dynasty stone carving and was given provincial-level protection in 1965.

In 1996, the spire was stolen and is still missing.

The tower body was stolen in 1998, taken out of the Chinese mainland, and donated by a private collector to Taiwan’s Chung Tai Chan Monastery in 2015. The monastery decided to return the tower to Shanxi last year after it confirmed its origins.

The tower arrived at Shanxi Provincial Museum on January 24.

“We really appreciate the temple’s decision,” said Wang Taiming, head of Yushe county’s cultural relic bureau.

“The donation is an excellent example of cultural exchange between Taiwan and the Chinese mainland,” said Master Jian Deng, abbot of the Chung Tai Chan Monastery.

The museum said it will speed up safety improvements to preserve the pagoda and organize an exhibition.

China’s Government Shows It Has Some Morals: Punishes Weibo For Porn

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

China punishes Weibo for porn

WEIBO, a Chinese Twitter-like service, has been punished for spreading pornography, as part of a nationwide crackdown, the anti-pornography authority said Friday.

The National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications in February launched a new round of its national campaign against the production, sale and distribution of illegal publications and online erotic content that could affect juveniles.

Investigators found that Weibo started providing audio-visual programs in February 2015 without obtaining a license, and such content contained obscene videos.

Weibo was fined 30,000 yuan (US$4,359) by Beijing administrative law enforcement, and required to immediately rectify the problem.

The office asked all online service providers to learn lessons from the Weibo case, tackle pornography and shut down accounts with illegal content.

Xi Says Ready To Boost China-US Ties From New Starting Point With Trump

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

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Xi says ready to boost China-US ties from new starting point with Trump

CHINESE President Xi Jinping said here Thursday that he is ready to work with his US counterpart, Donald Trump, to push forward China-US relations from a new starting point.

While meeting with Trump at the latter’s Florida resort of Mar-a-Lago, Xi said there are “a thousand reasons to make the China-US relationship work, and no reason to break it.”

Since the normalization of China-US relations 45 years ago, the bilateral relationship, even though experiencing ups and downs, has made historic progress and brought enormous and pragmatic benefits to the two peoples, Xi said.

The Chinese president said it takes political resolve and historical commitments from leaders of both countries to enhance the bilateral relations in the 45 years to come.

Xi also invited Trump to pay a state visit to China in 2017.

Xi said he has maintained frequent contacts with Trump through phones and letters for some time, and is glad to meet Trump here as his guest.

A sound bilateral relationship will benefit not only the two countries and peoples, but also the world at large, he stressed.

He added that cooperation is the only right choice for China and the United States, saying that the two countries are capable of becoming great cooperative partners.

The Chinese president also underlined the role of four newly-established high-level mechanisms for dialogue and cooperation between China and the United States in such areas as diplomacy and security, economy, law enforcement and cyber security, as well as social and people-to-people exchanges.

Xi urged the two countries to set up a cooperative priority list for early harvest, advance negotiations on the bilateral investment treaty, and explore the pragmatic cooperation in infrastructure construction and energy, among other areas.

He also said the two sides should properly handle sensitive issues, manage and control differences in a constructive manner, and strengthen communication and coordination in major international and regional affairs.

China and the United States should expand their cooperation in addressing global challenges, such as non-proliferation and the fight against cross-border crimes, Xi said.

Xi called on the two counties to strengthen communication and coordination in such multilateral mechanisms as the United Nations, the Group of 20 and APEC, so as to jointly safeguard world peace, stability and prosperity.

For his part, Trump accepted the invitation for a state visit to China with pleasure, and hoped to make the trip at an early date.

The United States and China bear heavy responsibilities as major countries in the world, he said, adding that he is full of expectations for the meeting and hopes to establish a sound working relationship with Xi for the greater development of bilateral relations.

The two heads of state also informed each other of their current priorities in domestic and diplomatic agenda, and exchanged views on regional hot-button issues.

Upon their arrival at Mar-a-Lago, Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan, were greeted by Trump and US First Lady Melania.

Before the in-depth, friendly and long-time conversation between Xi and Trump, the two couples also enjoyed the singing of a traditional Chinese ballad and the recitation of Chinese ancient poems by Trump’s grandchildren.

Xi arrived in the southeastern US coastal town of Palm Beach earlier in the day for the first meeting with Trump, in a bid to chart the course of bilateral ties in a new era.

China and Finland look to the future: President Jinping Visits Finland In Route To U.S.

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

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China and Finland look to the future

CHINA and Finland yesterday agreed to establish and promote a “future-oriented new-type cooperative partnership,” with both sides pledging to enhance political mutual trust and deepen pragmatic cooperation.

During talks between visiting President Xi Jinping and his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto, the two heads of state stressed that to build a more forward-looking and strategic bilateral relationship that keeps pace with the times was in the fundamental interests of both countries.

“China and Finland are good friends and partners who respect each other, treat each other as equals and enjoy mutually beneficial cooperation,” Xi said. “The peoples of our two countries have always cherished a friendly sentiment toward each other.”

Noting that the development needs of China and Finland fit well with each other, Xi called on both sides to increase high-level exchanges, build up strategic mutual trust, explore potentials for cooperation and give support to each other in development.

Niinisto warmly welcomed the Chinese president for his visit on the occasion of the centenary of Finland’s independence.

Finland highly values China’s achievements in development and its important role in international affairs, he said.

The Finnish side hopes to carry out more high-level contacts and exchanges in all areas with China, and deepen cooperation in economy and trade, investment, innovation, environmental protection, tourism, winter sports and Arctic affairs, as well as within the framework of China’s Belt and Road initiative linking Asia with Europe and Africa, Niinisto said.

Finland also wants to strengthen communication and coordination with China on major international issues and push for an even closer cooperation between the European Union and China, he said.

In a written speech delivered on his arrival, Xi first extended congratulations to the Finnish government and people on the centenary of Finland’s independence.

“Since China and Finland established diplomatic ties 67 years ago, our relationship has maintained a steady and sound development no matter how the international landscape changes,” Xi said.

“Our relationship has become a model of friendly co-existence and mutually-beneficial cooperation between countries that are different in population and size, history and culture, social system and development level,” he said.

Xi said he looks forward to having in-depth exchanges of views with Finnish leaders on the China-Finland relationship and other issues of mutual concern, thus charting the course for the future development of the bilateral relations.

“I believe that with concerted efforts of both sides, my visit will achieve a complete success,” he added.

Finland was one of the first Western countries to establish diplomatic ties with the People’s Republic of China, and the first Western nation to sign an intergovernmental trade agreement with China.

Currently, Finland is China’s third largest trading partner in the Nordic region, while China has been Finland’s biggest trading partner in Asia for 14 years.

The two sides have cooperated in areas such as high technology, clean energy, innovation and Arctic research, and further cooperation on winter sports is expected as China will host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

Xi’s visit to Finland is his first trip to a European Union member state this year, and also his first to the Nordic region as president.

After Finland, Xi will travel to Florida today for a meeting with US President Donald Trump.

It will be the first meeting between Xi and Trump, heads of state of the two biggest economies in the world.