Archive for ‘China alert’

30/10/2014

United States praises China’s growing role in Afghanistan | Reuters

The United States welcomed China’s growing role in trying to ensure Afghanistan’s stability on Thursday, saying a Beijing conference of foreign ministers on Afghan reconstruction this week shows its commitment to the region as Western troops pull out.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai attend a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing October 28, 2014. REUTERS/Lintao Zhang/Pool

The comments, made by a senior State Department official, are rare U.S. praise for Beijing, which this week hosts Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on his first visit abroad since assuming office in September.

Washington and Beijing, which have typically contentious relations on geopolitical issues from Iran to the South China Sea, have both said they see Afghanistan as a point where their security interests converge.

On Tuesday, China pledged to give Afghanistan $327 million in aid through 2017, more than the $250 million contribution it has so far offered since the fall of the hardline Islamist Taliban regime in 2001.

“China’s view of engaging in Afghanistan over the course of these past few years has really changed significantly, and in our view, in a very positive direction,” the official told reporters during a telephone briefing.

On Friday, foreign ministers from Asian and Central Asian countries will gather in Beijing for a fourth round “Istanbul Process” conference on Afghanistan, which China hopes will help boost development and security there. White House counsellor John Podesta will attend the meeting.

“It’s a real demonstration of China’s commitment to Afghanistan, to its role in the region and one that we greatly welcome,” the official said.

via United States praises China’s growing role in Afghanistan | Reuters.

30/10/2014

China to free clearing market for bank cards | Reuters

China will open up its market for clearing domestic bank card transactions, the cabinet said on Wednesday, in a move that could benefit companies such as Visa Inc (V.N) and Mastercard (MA.N), in a booming market worth over $1 trillion (0.62 trillion pounds) a year.

Access for foreign firms to China’s fast-growing electronic payments market is a controversial issue.

China promised to reform and free its electronic payments market after the World Trade Organisation (WTO) said in 2012 that its behaviour discriminated against U.S. firms.

Wednesday’s announcement by the State Council followed a weekly meeting. Foreign firms that meet its criteria could set up their own clearing companies, it added, but gave no further details.

It was not immediately clear if the move would allow foreign firms to process credit and debit card payments made in yuan in China.

Visa, the world’s largest credit and debit card company, welcomed the move.

via China to free clearing market for bank cards | Reuters.

29/10/2014

China Tries to Track the Corrupt Officials Fleeing Abroad – Businessweek

China’s government estimates that the number of corrupt officials who have moved abroad to sidestep the law and safeguard personal fortunes ranges from 4,000 to 18,000 people. The government charged with corruption nearly 7,000 officials whom it suspected were plotting to flee the country from 2008 to 2013,  according to Cao Jianming, vice president of the Supreme People’s Court.

Cao, the People's Republic of China's top prosecutor and investigator

Government data in an online report from the People’s Daily names the U.S. and Canada as the top destinations–dubbed “corrupt paradises”–for emigrating officials. Records from authorities in Toronto and Vancouver show that Canadian customs officials seized $13 million in undeclared cash from arriving Chinese emigrants and tourists from April 2011 to June 2012.

In July, meanwhile, China launched “Operation Fox Hunt” in an effort to locate and prosecute corrupt officials who have moved abroad. Beijing does not have an extradition treaty with Washington. “We face practical difficulties in getting fugitives who fled to the U.S. back to face trial, due to the lack of an extradition treaty and the complex and lengthy legal procedures,” Liao Jinrong, an official at China’s Ministry of Public Security, earlier told China Daily.

via China Tries to Track the Corrupt Officials Fleeing Abroad – Businessweek.

29/10/2014

Suspect Export-Import Numbers Undermine China’s Economic Data – Businessweek

The numbers don’t match. In September, China exported $37.6 billion to Hong Kong, according to government data compiled by Bloomberg. For the same month, Hong Kong’s government  says imports from the mainland amounted to only $24.1 billion. That’s this year’s biggest gap between Chinese and Hong Kong figures.

The Kwai Tsing Container Terminals in Hong Kong on April 28

Where did all those billions of dollars go? Julian Evans-Pritchard, Capital Economics’ China economist, called the results “very suspicious,” especially since the discrepancies are largely related to the trade of precious metals and stones. “It seems the Chinese customs are basically overvaluing these gems [and] these precious metals,” he told Bloomberg Television on Tuesday. Meanwhile, “Hong Kong customs are valuing them more accurately.”

The China-Hong Kong discrepancy is just one example. Evans-Pritchard points to similar discrepancies regarding Chinese imports from South Korea. “What appears to be happening [is] we have some round-tripping,” he said. Companies may be claiming to import the stones from Korea at a certain price and then export them to Hong Kong at a higher price, pocketing the difference. That helps companies evade Chinese government currency controls at a time when there’s renewed pressure to strengthen the yuan. With such conditions, “it makes a lot of sense” for Chinese companies to borrow money cheaply abroad and find ways to get that money into the country.

The Chinese government is not blind to the problem. China has found almost $10 billion in fraudulent trades nationwide since April of last year ,and companies have “faked, forged, and illegally re-used” documents for exports and imports, Wu Ruilin, a deputy head of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange’s inspection department, told reporters in Beijing in September.

The faked invoices are additional reasons not to take at face value the economic statistics coming from China. “This is definitely another important piece of evidence of over-invoicing exports to Hong Kong to facilitate money inflow into China,” Shen Jiangugan, chief economist at Mizuho Securities Asia, told Bloomberg News. “So we shouldn’t be too optimistic about recent export data from China.”

via Suspect Export-Import Numbers Undermine China’s Economic Data – Businessweek.

29/10/2014

China’s Jobs Picture Not As Rosy As It Looks – China Real Time Report – WSJ

China’s Premier, Li Keqiang, has said repeatedly how happy he is with the strength of the country’s job market, despite a slowing economy. That’s the main reason he sees little need to ease policy aggressively to spur growth, he says.

Officials attribute low unemployment to a drop in the working-age population, along with the development of the service sector, which is more labor-intensive than manufacturing.

But a deeper look into the government’s jobs data shows that the current employment situation is more worrisome than it appears. Across China’s cities, 10.82 million new jobs were created over the first nine months of the year, up 1.5% from the same period of 2013, according to official data released on Friday. That’s slowest rise in five years.

Migrant workers are normally the first to take the brunt of an economic slowdown, since more than one fifth of them work in the construction sector, which is highly sensitive to economic cycles. Employers also tend fire migrant workers first if business is bad rather than laying off urbanites with permanent resident status, economists have said.

“Over the past few years, especially after 2009, the government stepped up investment in infrastructure and property market. That has created many job opportunities for migrant workers,” said Li Shi, an economics professor at Beijing Normal University. “But now a sluggish property market has affected migrant workers.”

The global financial crisis cut China’s economic growth from double-digit rates to 6.6% in early 2009, and left some 200 million migrant laborers facing unemployment and a fraying safety net.

The government responded with a four trillion yuan ($650 billion) stimulus package that helped China rebound rapidly from the global downturn, but also resulted in a series of problems such as industrial overcapacity and environmental pollution.

This time around the economic situation is less dire, and the reaction has been more restrained. Since economic growth started to falter earlier this year, policy makers have contented themselves with a series of targeted easing measures like accelerated spending on infrastructure and special lending programs from the central bank. They have also brought in measures to spur mortgage lending and reduce financing costs and tax burdens for small firms.

via China’s Jobs Picture Not As Rosy As It Looks – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

28/10/2014

Putin Turns to China as Russia’s Economy Is Weakened by Sanctions – Businessweek

Defying the U.S. and Europe is forcing Russian President Vladimir Putin to aid his biggest rival to the east. To avert a recession, Russia is turning to China for investment, granting it once restricted access to raw materials and advanced weapons, say two people involved in planning Kremlin policy who asked not to be identified discussing internal matters. Russia’s growing dependence on China, with which it spent decades battling for control over global communism, may end up strengthening its neighbor’s position in the Pacific. With the ruble near a record low and foreign investment disappearing, luring Chinese cash also may deepen Russia’s reliance on natural resources and derail efforts to diversify the economy.

“Now that Putin has turned away from the West and toward the East, China is drawing maximum profit from Russian necessity,” says Masha Lipman, an independent political analyst in Moscow who co-authored a study on Putin with former U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul. China is wasting no time filling the void created by the closing of U.S. and European debt markets to Russia’s largest borrowers. A delegation led by Premier Li Keqiang signed a package of deals on Oct. 13 in Moscow. Among them were an agreement to swap $25 billion in Chinese yuan for Russian rubles over three years, a treaty to protect companies operating in Russia and China from having their profits taxed twice, and cooperation on satellite-navigation systems and high-speed rail. To promote trade, Export-Import Bank of China agreed to provide credit lines to state-owned VTB Group and Vnesheconombank, Russia’s development bank, as well as a trade finance deal with Russian Agricultural Bank.

Russia’s economy is more vulnerable than it’s been since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Unlike then, Russians are united in support of their leader, and with $455 billion in foreign currency and gold reserves, the country isn’t broke, according to Lipman. “The economy was much worse then, but Russia was in a much better position geopolitically because it had the support of the U.S. and Europe,” she says. Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov didn’t respond to requests for comment.

via Putin Turns to China as Russia’s Economy Is Weakened by Sanctions – Businessweek.

28/10/2014

Top Chinese prosecutor guarantees protection for whistleblowers | Reuters

China’s top prosecuting body said on Tuesday that whistleblowers who expose corruption and other wrongdoing would receive legal protection against reprisals.

President Xi Jinping has made fighting graft a central theme of his administration, warning that the problem was so severe it could threaten the survival of the ruling Communist Party.

The party is keen to harness the power of the Internet in the fight, although it has been hampered by public suspicion that complaints will be ignored, and also by arrests of and even attacks on online whistleblowers.

A statement on the website of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate said it was clarifying the rights of whistleblowers for the first time through new regulations.

“The ‘regulations governing the work of whistleblowers’ require that when the prosecutor’s office receives a whistleblowing report from someone giving their real name, it has to assess the risks from the whistleblowing and develop whistleblower protection plans when necessary to prevent and end acts of retaliation against the whistleblowers,” the statement said.

The prosecutor also promised to respond quickly to such reports.

Last year, the party’s anti-corruption watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, set up a new website for whistleblowers.

The government had previously set up a website in 2009 specifically for the reporting of corruption. Authorities have investigated some online accusations and jailed several low-level officials.

It is unclear how many tips the site has received in recent months. From 2008 to 2012 the commission said it received 301,000 whistleblowing reports online.

via Top Chinese prosecutor guarantees protection for whistleblowers | Reuters.

28/10/2014

China trainmakers CSR, CNR in talks to merge – state media | Reuters

China’s top trainmakers, China CNR and CSR Corp, are in merger talks to create a giant able to compete globally with the likes of Siemens and Bombardier, state media reported on Tuesday.

A handrail hangs in one of the 45 new train wagons that were bought from China's CNR, in a Buenos Aires' subway station February 14, 2013. REUTERS/Enrique Marcarian

China built the world’s longest high-speed train network in less than a decade and has expressed its desire to export its technology. The two state-owned firms however have fiercely competed against each other while trying to sell trains abroad.

The official China Securities Journal, citing unidentified sources, said the firms had set up working groups to discuss the integration, and that investment bank China International Capital Corp had been appointed to oversee the reorganisation.

“The heads of CNR and CSR are in agreement on the companies’ integration,” the newspaper quoted an industry source as saying.

“As the State Council is in charge of this, it can be done at great speed and at the moment the biggest concern is related to their projects and personnel changes.”

CNR and CSR halted trading on Monday and subsequently issued statements saying they would resolve “major issues” as soon as possible. Trading would resume within five working days, they added.

The companies did not respond to requests for comment on the Journal report.

Last month, CNR and CSR dismissed a report by financial news magazine Caixin that the government was looking to merge the firms to create a giant that can better compete with foreign rivals such as Germany’s Siemens and Canada’s Bombardier.

A merged CNR-CSR would have combined annual revenue of about 200 billion yuan (20.28 billion pounds) based on 2013 company data, compared with Siemens’ 75.9 billion euros ($96.5 billion) revenue last year and Bombadier’s $18.2 billion (11.28 billion pounds).

Zhuzhou CSR Times Electric, a CSR subsidiary, also suspended trading. CNR is due to report third-quarter results on Wednesday, while CSR is scheduled to report on Friday, according to the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

via China trainmakers CSR, CNR in talks to merge – state media | Reuters.

27/10/2014

China considers abolishing death penalty for nine crimes | Reuters

China is considering trimming nine crimes from the list of offences punishable by death, state media said on Monday, as the ruling Communist Party considers broader reforms to the country’s legal system.

Rights groups say China uses capital punishment more than any other country, raising public concern of irreversible miscarriages of justice.

A draft amendment to China’s criminal law, which includes the use of the death penalty, was submitted for initial review to the country’s National People’s Congress, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Crimes that would be exempt from capital punishment under the amendment include “smuggling weapons, ammunition, nuclear materials or counterfeit currencies; counterfeiting currencies; raising funds by means of fraud; and arranging for or forcing another person to engage in prostitution”, Xinhua said.

The crimes of “obstructing a commander or a person on duty from performing his duties” and “fabricating rumors to mislead others during wartime”, are also under review, the news agency said.

Officials had previously said that China would review the application of the death penalty, which applies to 55 offences, including fraud and illegal money-lending.

China guards the number of people executed every year as state secrets.

The San Francisco-based Dui Hua Foundation, which seeks the release of political prisoners in China, estimated that 2,400 people were executed in 2013. By comparison, 39 people were executed in 2013 in the United States, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The reduction in death penalty crimes, however, is not expected to greatly reduce the number of executions per year, scholars have said.

The Communist Party, worried about rising social unrest and anger over land grabs, corruption and pollution unveiled legal reforms aimed at improving judicial independence at a key meeting last week.

The Party has stressed that it will remain in overall control of the judiciary, and despite the move to implement legal reforms, few analysts expect significant political change any time soon.

via China considers abolishing death penalty for nine crimes | Reuters.

26/10/2014

Height discrimination: The rise of China | The Economist

WHEN two security guards in Dalian in north-east China got their first month’s pay packet earlier this year, they questioned why each received different amounts for identical work. The company responded that one man was 5cm (two inches) taller than his peer. Workers over 180cm earn more, they said, because bigger guards make people feel safer.

Stature is often a desirable attribute of guards, but in China height requirements are routinely specified for jobs which seem to have no need of them. To study tourism and hotel management at Huaqiao University in Fujian province, men topping 170cm are favoured, and women over 158cm. A post as a female cleaner in Beijing is advertised to women of at least 162cm. Many companies are less explicit about such demands than they used to be, but candidates often list height (and weight) on their curricula vitae.

The height premium is most pronounced for women, according to a study from Huazhong University of Science and Technology. It found that each centimetre above the mean adds 1.5-2.2% to a woman’s salary, particularly among middle- and high-wage earners. A group at China University of Political Science and Law is working on a draft law against employment discrimination for height and other physical characteristics.

Ever more Chinese are rising above such constraints, however. A 45-year-old man in China today is around 5cm taller than 30 years ago, according to the RAND Corporation, a think-tank. Soldiers are growing too tall for the diminutive tanks favoured by the People’s Liberation Army; in 2010 the government raised by 10cm the height under which children in China travel free on trains (a rare scheme that benefits the small).

Greater heights mostly reflect greater incomes. Richer people tend to eat more and live in cleaner, better homes. Meat consumption per person has increased more than fourfold since 1980. Infant mortality is less than a tenth of what it was 60 years ago. Household size has also helped. Historically people from big families have been shorter (not just in China) because food supplies must stretch further. In China the birth rate fell sharply from the 1970s nationwide.

But there are differences across the country which partly reflect the uneven benefits of the economic boom. Eighteen-year-olds from the richest cities are on average 7-8cm taller than those from the poorest ones. The height gap between prosperous and impoverished rural areas is similar. Southerners have long been shorter than northerners. Although the difference between rural and urban heights has narrowed since 1975, other discrepancies persist. The World Health Organisation says around 20% of children in poor rural areas are “stunted”, a common indicator of chronic malnutrition. This compares with 2.5% of city children. Employers’ preference for high and mighty staff exacerbates that inequality. It is time they grew up.

via Height discrimination: The rise of China | The Economist.

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