Archive for ‘China alert’

03/03/2015

Sri Lankan doubts on loans, submarines seen as rebuff to Beijing | Reuters

If last week’s visit to Beijing by Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera was meant to allay fears that the island nation’s new government was distancing itself from China, it failed.

China's Premier Li Keqiang (R) speaks with Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera during their meeting at the Zhongnanhai Leadership Compound in Beijing, February 27, 2015. REUTERS/Wu Hong/Pool

If anything, Samaraweera’s comments on the prospect of Chinese submarines using Sri Lanka as a stopover on long-distance westward missions and of bankrolling it through big loans underlined Colombo’s hardening position, experts said.

That would be welcomed by India, which, as Sri Lanka’s neighbour and traditional protector, had grown alarmed at its lurch towards China under the leadership of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, ousted in a shock election defeat in January.

“Some people say the (Sri Lankan) government had put too many eggs in the China basket,” said Sinderpal Singh, an India expert at the National University of Singapore.

“It’s a symbol to say ‘we would like to recalibrate our policy to one equidistant between India and China’.”

During his trip, Samaraweera said he did not envisage any more visits by Chinese submarines in the near future.

India voiced concern in November when Rajapaksa’s government allowed a Chinese submarine and warship to dock in Colombo, seven weeks after another submarine called at the same port.

One of the submarine dockings coincided with a state visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, himself wary of China’s increasingly assertive projection of naval power.

“…We will ensure that such incidents, from whatever quarters, do not happen during our tenure,” Samaraweera said of the potential diplomatic embarrassment.

Samaraweera made the remarks to the press and did not discuss warships or submarines during talks with Chinese officials, according to a member of the Sri Lankan delegation.

And while his comments do not preclude the future use of Sri Lankan facilities by Chinese submarines, they pointed to greater caution both in economic and military relations.

via Sri Lankan doubts on loans, submarines seen as rebuff to Beijing | Reuters.

03/03/2015

Marks & Spencer to close five Shanghai stores, Asia head quits | Reuters

British retailer Marks & Spencer (MKS.L) has decided to close five stores in the greater Shanghai region following a review of its plans for China that will nevertheless see it stick to a commitment to expand into the country’s other large cities.

Clothes are displayed on hangers in an M&S shop in northwest London July 8, 2014. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

M&S also said on Monday that Bruce Findlay, its regional director for Asia, was quitting the firm after less than two years in the role to take up a position with another retailer.

The company entered China in 2008 with a store in Shanghai, and it now has 15 in the greater Shanghai region. But it has struggled to make a major impact in a country that it said on Monday remains one of its priority international markets along with India, Russia and the Middle East.

For the long term the group is in the process of evaluating potential local partners to expand in China, a path taken by other British retailers such as supermarkets group Tesco (TSCO.L) and home improvements firm Kingfisher (KGF.L).

Updating on its plans for the country following a review announced last April, M&S said it would continue to invest in its existing flagship store portfolio with the complete modernisation of its West Nanjing Road store in Shanghai in the autumn.

However, five of its supporting stores in the greater Shanghai region will close by August. Some 60 jobs will be effected. M&S also plans to reduce the size of its Shanghai head office.

M&S said it has a firm intent to enter other cities such as Beijing and Guangzhou over the next year, while further expansion online would enhance its brand across China.

via Marks & Spencer to close five Shanghai stores, Asia head quits | Reuters.

28/02/2015

China to spend 26 billion yuan to register rights ahead of rural reforms | South China Morning Post

China will spend about 26 billion yuan (HK$33 billion) to help identify and register the contractual rights over the nation’s arable land to pave the way for rural reforms.

Uygur farmers prepare potato beds in Xinjiang province. Photo: Reuters

More than 200 million rural households around the nation will be interviewed to help prepare the accurate record of farming rights.

Calling the task a “massive systematic project”, the Ministry of Agriculture said on Friday that clarifying land tenure and issuing certificates to farmers would form the basis of a series of expected reforms which aimed to help free up the rural land market.

Nearly 200,000 villages around the country – or one third of the total – have begun with the task, by aerial photography or site measurement, said MOA officials in a press conference.

Zhao Kun, a deputy inspector of the ministry’s rural economic system department, said local governments had appropriated a total of 8 billion yuan to carry out the job.

The central government has promised to provide 10 yuan for each mu of arable land – the Chinese unit of land area, which measures 666 square metres – a total of 18 billion yuan according to official data that states the mainland had 1.82 billion mu of farmland up to the end of 2011.

The Land Administration Law states that the ownership of rural land belongs to village collectives, with farmers given contractual rights to the land they farm for 30 years.

The central authorities decided to increase the security of land tenure in 2008. A directive issued that year said that contractual land management rights for farmers should “remain unchanged for a very long time”.

However, unlike urban home owners, rural residents do not yet hold any certification to prove their legal rights to their homes and farmland.

This makes it hard for them to transfer the land, which is forbidden by existing regulations but now being reformed in order to encourage larger scale farming and improve utilization efficiency of rural land.

Zhang Hongyu, head of the rural economic system department, said when farmers were given contractual rights of farmland in the first round of rural reform a few of decades ago, there were only rough estimates made about the size of their land plots owing to limitations over measuring methods at the time.

“Any related document the farmers previously had – either a contract or some other sort of certificate – showed different figures from what we are now finding,” he said.

Zhao said the project was not only a technical issue of measurement.

“It also involves interviews with each of the more than 200 million rural households [around the nation], which are really important for farmers as they need to know how big their plots are and where they’re located,” he said.

via China to spend 26 billion yuan to register rights ahead of rural reforms | South China Morning Post.

27/02/2015

China bans ivory imports ahead of royal visit: Xinhua | Reuters

China has announced a one-year ban on the import of African ivory carvings ahead of next week’s visit by Britain’s Prince William, a strong critic of the ivory trade.

China will halt approval for imports until late February next year, newsagency Xinhua reported on Thursday, citing the State Forestry Administration, which regulates the trade. The ban will affect carvings acquired after 1975, it added.

Prince William has previously been critical of China over its consumption of ivory, while animal rights groups say the country’s growing appetite for the contraband material has fueled a surge in poaching in Africa.

“The move is to protect African elephants, and the one-year timeframe is designed to assess the effects,” Xinhua said.

China crushed 6.2 metric tonnes (6.83 tons) of confiscated ivory early last year in its first such public destruction of any part of its stockpile. However, the country still ranks as the world’s biggest end-market for poached ivory according to conservation body the World Wildlife Fund.

China signed a pact banning global trade in ivory in 1981, but it got an exemption in 2008 to buy 62 tonnes of ivory from several African nations. It releases a portion of that stockpile each year to government-licensed ivory carving factories.

via China bans ivory imports ahead of royal visit: Xinhua | Reuters.

26/02/2015

A Shot at Solving China’s Angry Worker Problem – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Labor unrest is on the rise in China and likely to increase as the leadership grapples with a dangerous combination of an economic slowdown and the lack of effective institutions to cope with worker unrest.

A new set of regulations put forward by one province offers a potential solution while at the same time illustrating the difficulty the Communist Party faces in effectively addressing workers’ grievances.

Regulations for “collective contracts” adopted by the Standing Committee of the People’s Congress in southern China’s Guangdong Province took effect on January 1, 2015, giving employees more leeway to initiate collective bargaining with their employers.  Observers in the government, chambers of commerce, the state-backed All-China Federation of Trade Unions and workers’ rights organizations will be watching to see whether the new rules represent a meaningful step forward in advancing labor rights.

The need for rules that would allow China’s workers to negotiate better conditions is great.  Labor disputes are the most prevalent form of social conflict in the country, according to the Chinese Academy of Social Science’s annual report on social trends. Labor incidents during the fourth quarter of 2014 rose to 569, more than three times the number in the previous year, according to the China Labor Bulletin (CLB), which finds that 87% of  workers’ demands are for “wage arrears, pay increases and compensation.”

In 2014, workers went on strike around the country in a range of industries, from manufacturing to teaching to transportation.

The causes of the unrest varied accordingly: In April, for example, the majority of workers at a Taiwanese-owned factory in Guangdong that makes products for Adidas struck to protest the company’s failure to pay its 40,000 workers their full social security and housing allowances. The strike, which cost an estimated $27 million in loses to the factory, drew large numbers of police into the streets. Workers later accused local officials and company executive of using force to get them to return to work, though the government denied any force was used.

In December, thousands of teachers went on strike in six cities or counties in Heilongjiang to protest low salaries and the required contributions to pension plans; in Guangdong, teachers’ strikes protested low monthly salaries that were below what the government had promised.

And earlier this year, taxi drivers walked out in the cities of Nanjing, Chengdu, Shenyang, and Qingdao to protest local government limitations on taxi fares and smartphone apps that allow passengers to negotiate fares.

As the CLB notes, the majority of enterprise trade unions are controlled by and represent the interests of management. ACFTU officials, meanwhile, are “essentially government bureaucrats with little understanding of the needs of workers or how to represent them in negotiations with management.” The state-sanctioned trade union, CLB adds, “still sees itself as bridge or mediator between workers and management rather than as a voice of the workers.”

In recent years, the government emphasized mediation as a way to solve labor disputes and protect social stability, followed by what University of Michigan expert Mary Gallagher has called a “more interventionist stance” that involved government officials helping to settle disputes typically in favor of workers.  All the while, Gallagher writes, collective organizations outside the ACFTU have been restricted to prevent any workers’ collective action from growing into “anything long-term, programmatic, or institutional.”

via A Shot at Solving China’s Angry Worker Problem – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

26/02/2015

China’s top court unveils deadlines for legal reform | Reuters

China’s top court set a five-year deadline on Thursday for legal reforms to protect the rights of individuals, prevent miscarriages of justice and make its judiciary more professional as the ruling Communist Party seeks to quell public discontent.

Zhou Qiang, President of China's Supreme People's Court, attends National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing, March 7, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

A statement on the Supreme Court’s website promised specific deadlines for each goal, including support for a “social atmosphere of justice” by 2018.

It gave more details of a decision reached at a four-day meeting last year, when the party pledged to speed up legislation to fight corruption and make it tougher for officials to exert control over the judiciary.

Despite the legal reforms, Chinese President Xi Jinping‘s administration has shown no interest in political change and has detained dozens of dissidents, including lawyers.

China’s top court stressed that one of the five basic principles of legal reform was adhering to the party’s leadership and “ensuring the correct political orientation”.

He Xiaorong, the director of the Supreme People’s Court‘s reform division, said the court “would make officials bear responsibility for dereliction of duty” for cases that have a wide impact.

“Only through the establishment of such a system can we ensure that we can guarantee social fairness and justice in every case,” He told a news conference, according to a transcript on the court’s website.

The measures reflect worries about rising social unrest. Anger over land grabs, corruption and pollution – issues often left unresolved by courts – have resulted in violence between police and residents in recent years, threatening social order.

via China’s top court unveils deadlines for legal reform | Reuters.

25/02/2015

Big national birthrate rise signals new peak|chinadaily.com.cn

Change to family planning policy likely to result in 1m extra babies each year

Big national birthrate rise signals new peak

A new peak in births is likely to occur as a result of the relaxing of the family planning policy and could continue for several years, according to experts.

They estimate that the number of babies born annually will rise by more than 1 million from current levels, bringing the total number of births each year close to that recorded during the last peak.

Last year, 16.87 million babies were born in China, 470,000 more than in 2013, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

“This is a dramatic increase compared with previous years,” Yuan Xin, a professor of population studies at Nankai University in Tianjin, said.

The number of births declined steadily between 1999, when more than 18 million babies were born, and 2006.

Since then, the number of births has remained stable at less than 16.4 million, according to the bureau.

The big increase in the number of births last year was caused by a series of moves to relax the family planning restrictions, Yuan said.

Since late 2013, 29 of the 31 provincial regions on the mainland have enacted policies that allow couples to have a second baby if either partner is a single child, according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission.

About 1.07 million such couples had registered with the authorities to have a second child by the end of last year, the commission said.

via Big national birthrate rise signals new peak[1]|chinadaily.com.cn.

25/02/2015

Tourist Spots Across Asia Learn to Say ‘Nihao’ for Lunar New Year – China Real Time Report – WSJ

“Nihao, huzhao dai le ma?”

At a number of the Tokyo stores of Japanese clothing retailer Uniqlo over the last week, the words coming out of cashiers’ lips are not Japanese, but Chinese.

The occasion was the Lunar New Year, a celebration in China that is supposed to be all about family and spending time at home. But increasingly, Chinese tourists have been flocking overseas – mostly to Asian destinations – to spend their yuan in a migration of an annual rite that has been dubbed China’s Golden Week.

Bolstered by a strong currency and greater wealth, more Chinese than ever before are traveling abroad for their not-so-Chinese New Year compared to those staying home, with South Korea, Thailand and Japan leading the top picks this year, according to the China National Tourism Administration.

In the case of Japan, staff at big shopping destinations like Uniqlo said they brought over Chinese-speaking staff to deal with Chinese tourists during the period. The question in Chinese that the cashier was asking China Real Time translates as: “Hello, do you have your passport?” Some Japanese stores offer tax-free shopping for tourists – lopping a generous 8% off the tab – if they can produce a foreign passport. Uniqlo didn’t immediately respond to a message for comment.

For this week at least, destinations like Japan have rolled out the welcome mat for visitors who raid foreign stores for everything from luxury handbags to sophisticated toiletry. Staff in even the most traditional of Japanese restaurants have learned to say “xiexie!” – Chinese for thank you.

Some 5.2 million Chinese are estimated to be spending 140 billion yuan ($22.4 billion) this year, up from 4.73 million last year, the Chinese tourism administration says. While nearly 40% went to the top three destinations, the balance of the mainlanders also made beelines for Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

via Tourist Spots Across Asia Learn to Say ‘Nihao’ for Lunar New Year – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

25/02/2015

Xi Jinping Hopes to Count in Chinese Political History With ‘Four Comprehensives’ – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Connoisseurs of Chinese political numerology can finally take a breath: After more than two years in office, Chinese President Xi Jinping has uncorked his own ordinal political philosophy.

In the past, Chinese leaders have tended to fall into two camps when expounding their theories of development: those who favor numbered lists, and those who opt for more conventional proclamations. Late Premier Zhou Enlai and former President Jiang Zemin were in the former camp, pushing the “Four Modernizations” and “Three Represents,” respectively. Meanwhile, Deng Xiaoping (“Reform and Opening Up”) and former President Hu Jintao (“Scientific Outlook on Development”) opted to eschew the integers.

Questions have loomed about what slogan Mr. Xi, who replaced Mr. Hu at the helm of the Communist Party in November 2012, would use to represent himself in the party’s theoretical pantheon. For a time, some thought he might follow his non-numeric predecessor and go with the “Chinese Dream” of national rejuvenation, a notion he put forward shortly after taking power.  It now appears he has decided otherwise.

On Wednesday, the Communist Party’s flagship newspaper People’s Daily and other Chinese media gave blanket coverage to what Mr. Xi has taken to calling the “Four Comprehensives,” a set of principles emphasizing the need to “comprehensively build a moderately prosperous society, comprehensively deepen reform, comprehensively govern the nation according to law and comprehensively be strict in governing the party.”

Aside from the idea of a moderately prosperous society — a Confucian ideal revived and popularized under Mr. Hu — the other catch-phrases are all closely associated with Mr. Xi, who has cracked down hard on corruption in Communist Party ranks while pushing for legal reforms and warning of the need to be resolute about reforms in general.

It wasn’t the first mention of “Four Comprehensives” in the Chinese press. Mr. Xi introduced the idea during an inspection tour in eastern China’s Jiangsu province in mid-December, according to People’s Daily, and the phrase made a few scattered appearances on Chinese-language news websites earlier this month. But Wednesday was the first time the theory was propagated on a wide scale, suggesting that it had earned widespread acceptance at the top of the party.

via Xi Jinping Hopes to Count in Chinese Political History With ‘Four Comprehensives’ – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

25/02/2015

China drops leading technology brands for state purchases | Reuters

China has dropped some of the world’s leading technology brands from its approved state purchase lists, while approving thousands more locally made products, in what some say is a response to revelations of widespread Western cybersurveillance.

A Cisco logo is seen at its customer briefing centre in Beijing, November 14, 2013. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Others put the shift down to a protectionist impulse to shield China’s domestic technologyindustry from competition.

Chief casualty is U.S. network equipment maker Cisco Systems Inc (CSCO.O), which in 2012 counted 60 products on the Central Government Procurement Center’s (CGPC) list, but by late 2014 had none, a Reuters analysis of official data shows.

Smartphone and PC maker Apple Inc (AAPL.O) has also been dropped over the period, along with Intel Corp‘s (INTC.O) security software firm McAfee and network and server software firm Citrix Systems (CTXS.O).

The number of products on the list, which covers regular spending by central ministries, jumped by more than 2,000 in two years to just under 5,000, but the increase is almost entirely due to local makers.

The number of approved foreign tech brands fell by a third, while less than half of those with security-related products survived the cull.

An official at the procurement agency said there were many re

via Exclusive: China drops leading technology brands for state purchases | Reuters.

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