Archive for ‘Politics’

28/07/2014

Beijing gets tough on party officials who go private | The Times

China’s intensifying anti-corruption campaign has turned its guns on the people who link government and business, forcing nearly 230 senior Communist party officials to quit the company directorships they hold on the side.

China’s president Xi Jinping

The draconian orders, which have also affected tens of thousands of more junior officials moonlighting for corporate China, are said to have unleashed a mass “exodus” of independent directors from listed Chinese companies in recent months.

The government has promised there will be more to come. China’s state news agency warned that the authorities were planning another “detailed directive” that analysts believe would attempt to tighten further the restrictions on the roles officials can play in the private sector.

The rules are expected to crack down on the activities of retired officials: as the rules stand, they are able to take on company directorships if those positions do not relate to their former specialities as civil servants.

Sources believe that the new directives will broaden the terms of the ban in a way that could affect foreign companies in the mining, energy, banking and pharmaceutical sectors.

The same burst of anti-corruption propaganda also invited the public to “blow the whistle on violations”.

The crackdown began last autumn with a ban on senior government and party officials from working for outside companies. Although a few resignations followed that ban, the real purge did not begin until scores of listed companies were subjected to an inspection a few months later.

That inspection, according to Chinese state media, identified 229 officials at the ministerial or provincial level who were working for outside companies and 40,700 junior officials with a source of company income outside their civil servant salaries.

About 300 Chinese companies listed on the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges have apparently been affected by the shakedown, losing the officials they specifically hired to build relationships with Beijing and bring the companies closer to the government.

The central role of those relationships within Chinese business has been laid bare over the past two years as details have emerged of the fabulous wealth amassed by the families of senior officials.

Also exposed has been the extent to which western companies operating in China have been convinced that their success can only be guaranteed by hiring either former officials or people with exceptionally strong personal links to the central and provincial governments.

via Beijing gets tough on party officials who go private | The Times.

24/07/2014

China plans railway to India, Nepal borders by 2020 | Reuters

China plans to extend a railway line linking Tibet with the rest of the country to the borders of India, Nepal and Bhutan by 2020 once an extension to a key site in Tibetan Buddhism opens, a state-run newspaper reported on Thursday.

Tibetan railway bridge

Tibetan railway bridge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

China opened the railway to Tibet’s capital Lhasa in 2006, which passes spectacular icy peaks on the Tibetan highlands, touching altitudes as high as 5,000 meters (16,400 feet) above sea level, as part of government efforts to boost development.

Critics of the railway, including exiled Tibetans and rights groups, say it has spurred an influx of long-term migrants who threaten Tibetans’ cultural integrity, which rests on Buddhist beliefs and a traditional herding lifestyle.

The Global Times, published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, said that an extention to Shigatse, the traditional seat of Tibetan Buddhism’s second-highest figure, the Panchen Lama, would formally open next month.

That link is scheduled for its own extension during the 2016-2020 period to two separate points, one on the border of Nepal and the other on the border with India and Bhutan, the newspaper cited Yang Yulin, deputy head of Tibet’s railways, as saying, without providing details.

China has long mooted this plan, but the difficulty and expense of building in such a rugged and remote region has slowed efforts.

Tibet is a highly sensitive region, not just because of continued Tibetan opposition to Chinese control, but because of its strategic position next to India, Nepal and Myanmar.

The Chinese announcement coincides with a drive by India, under its new prime minister Narendra Modi, to consolidate its influence with its smaller neighbors.

via China plans railway to India, Nepal borders by 2020 | Reuters.

22/07/2014

Armed bandits demand water in dry northern India – Businessweek

Armed bandits in drought-stricken northern India are threatening to kill hundreds of villagers unless they deliver 35 buckets of water each day to the outlaws in their rural hideouts.

Since the threats were delivered last week, 28 villages have been obeying the order, taking turns handing over what the bandits are calling a daily “water tax,” police said Monday.

“Water itself is very scarce in this region. Villagers can hardly meet their demand,” officer Suresh Kumar Singh said by telephone from Banda, a city on the southern border of central Uttar Pradesh state and caught within what is known in India as bandit country.

Though the number of bandits has declined drastically in recent decades, they are still common in the hard-to-reach forests and mountains of the Bundelkhand region. Banditry dates back some 800 years in India to when emperors still ruled.

The area is cut off from supply lines, leaving the bandits reliant on surrounding villages. Since 2007, it has been starved for rain, with the yearly monsoon bringing only half the usual number of 52 rainy days a year.

“A few bandits are still active in the ravines,” Singh said. “They ask for water, food and shelter from the villages.”

via Armed bandits demand water in dry northern India – Businessweek.

21/07/2014

China and the Arctic: Polar bearings | The Economist

CHINA does not loan out its pandas to just anyone, so a deal in April for two of the bears to head to Copenhagen zoo raised some eyebrows in Scandinavia. Some commentators suggested that this was all about the Arctic and especially about Greenland, which Denmark partly administers, and its mineral resources.

Certainly China is interested in the Arctic. On July 11th its icebreaker, Xue Long (“Snow Dragon”), embarks on the country’s sixth Arctic expedition, with 65 scientists on board. A new 1.3 billion yuan ($210m) icebreaker will soon be launched, and last December a China-Nordic research centre was opened in Shanghai.

New freight opportunities interest China along the Northern Sea Route (NSR) as ice recedes. In 2010 four ships took the route. Last summer 71 vessels did so. Each ship that takes the route must, at certain points, be accompanied by an ice-breaker, so it is unclear how soon the NSR will be suitable for mass transit, if at all.

Some climate models predict the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in summer by the middle of this century. The route cuts the distance between Rotterdam and Shanghai by 22% and Yang Huigen of the Polar Research Institute of China has predicted that 5-15% of China’s international trade will use the NSR by 2020. But Linda Jakobson, of the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, says that is a “rather optimistic assessment” and that talk of the NSR as a new Suez Canal is overblown. Weather conditions and environmental sensitivities will make the route a difficult one.

As for energy, China is one of the biggest investors in mining in Greenland. A deal with Rosneft, a state-controlled Russian company, will explore offshore Arctic fields for oil. But the undersea resources in the Arctic are largely within the Exclusive Economic Zones of the littoral states (notably Russia), so if China wants to look for energy it will have to do so jointly.

Meanwhile, other relationships have thawed. A rift with Norway over the awarding of the Nobel peace prize to Liu Xiaobo, a detained Chinese activist, is healing. But the new Chinese presence is not without concerns. Huang Nubo, a tycoon, recently bought 100 hectares (250 acres) of land in northern Norway and has bid for a plot on the island of Svalbard, where China has a research station. He aims to develop a resort for Chinese tourists. Mr Huang had similar plans in Iceland in 2011, but local protests quashed them. A Norwegian newspaper has called him a “suspected imperialist”. Perhaps Norway is in need of some pandas.

via China and the Arctic: Polar bearings | The Economist.

21/07/2014

To No End: Why China’s Corruption Crackdown Won’t Be Stopping Soon – China Real Time Report – WSJ

One major question hovering over China’s anti-corruption campaign – already the longest the country has ever seen — is when it’s going to wind down.

According to anti-corruption czar Wang Qishan, who briefed fellow officials on the campaign last week (in Chinese), it won’t be any time soon.

And the major reason for that may well be that Beijing hasn’t yet figured out how to end it.

Wang laid out the anti-corruption strategy in unusual detail during these meetings, supplying a road map that outlined where the campaign had been and where it’s now headed (in Chinese).

Beijing’s anti-graft crusade isn’t just a one-off initiative, but an extended battle which began last year, taking down, as President Xi promised, both high-ranking “tigers” and lower-level “flies.”

And it’s accelerating.  According to an analysis that appeared on the website of the People’s Daily earlier this month, from January to May this year, Wang’s inspection teams disciplined 62,953 people, an increase of 34.7% over the same period the previous year (in Chinese).

In his briefing last week, Wang conceded that the campaign didn’t start all that well.  Indeed, in the early stages of the campaign, Wang said, the sense among his inspection teams was that corruption was buried so deep within China’s political marrow that it couldn’t be defeated, only deterred from growing.  Party officials were only too comfortable with political business as usual, where bribes and personal connections overrode considerations of actual talent when it came to selecting and promoting cadres.

“Some localities and departments, as well as some party organizations saw the pursuit of honest government as not their main responsibility,” Wang said, adding that the only option at that point was to “not allow corrupt elements to gain a foothold” in the few institutions where corruption was not already omnipresent.

The tide turned, he said, when cadres were finally given political cover by Beijing to report on their comrades engaging in corruption, especially those selling access to government officials and offering bribes for promotion.  That routine had become worrisome to Beijing because unqualified and immoral officials were becoming policy-makers.

Moreover, Wang argued, by focusing on specific areas known to be rife with graft—such as land development and real estate projects, mining rights, and public welfare funds—inspectors showed skeptics and potential targets that this campaign was a serious effort to rollback misconduct.

So what’s next?

That’s the tricky part.  Punishing corruption is one thing; preventing its reemergence could be a far-greater problem.  As one Chinese analyst admitted despondently in the pages of the People’s Daily (in Chinese), unless the system is thoroughly reformed, there’s a good chance that “the rot will come back.”

Continuing to press hard against corruption seems to make sense if Beijing’s expanding fight against graft is finally starting to show success and developing the party’s legitimacy as a problem-solver on issues that matter to the masses. But there’s also concern about just how much longer the campaign can be maintained when, as the analysis above notes, there is “a danger of overdoing something, leaving some people in a constant state of anxiety.”

Fear is evidently freezing some officials from becoming more actively engaged in supporting Xi’s call for changes in how the government operates—a passivity that has led to complaints in the Party media (in Chinese).

And there’s a greater danger:  That this effort to tear down corruption is simply dealing with the existing problems and not doing anything about building a new way of decision-making.

As a leading Chinese commentator on the current leadership’s policies put it in the same People’s Daily essay, the real need is “to create a good political environment, allowing officials to devote oneself, heart and soul, to do things, and not focus on the small circle of relationships one has with one’s superiors, doing always what one is told to do.”

That’s an attractive vision, but one that would require a major restructuring of politics in China.

via To No End: Why China’s Corruption Crackdown Won’t Be Stopping Soon – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

20/07/2014

Seven People Attempt Suicide Protesting Illegal Land Seizures – Businessweek

On Wednesday morning at about 8:10 a.m., seven people who had traveled together to Beijing from southeastern Jiangsu province met outside the offices of the China Youth Daily newspaper. They carried with them black bottles containing pesticides, which they opened and quickly drank.

Seven People Attempt Suicide Protest in Beijing Over Illegal Land Seizures

In rural China, consuming pesticides is one of the most common methods of suicide; the seven chose this as an act of desperate protest. Petition papers that lay askew, near where the five men and two women fell unconscious on the pavement, indicate that the group had come to Beijing to petition national authorities to intervene over land seizures and forced demolitions in their hometown.

Photos of the seven lying on the ground, all wearing white t-shirts, were distributed widely over Chinese social media. Soon police and ambulances arrived, and the victims were taken to local hospitals. According to China newspaper reports, they remained alive and in stable condition as of Thursday evening.

via Seven People Attempt Suicide Protesting Illegal Land Seizures – Businessweek.

20/07/2014

China appoints special envoy for Afghanistan | Reuters

China’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday that it had appointed a special envoy for Afghanistan, underscoring Beijing’s concerns that the withdrawal of NATO troops will leave a hotbed of militancy on its doorstep.

English: US Army map of Afghanistan -- circa 2...

English: US Army map of Afghanistan — circa 2001-09. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sun Yuxi, a former ambassador to both Afghanistan and India, has been named to the new position and will have “close communication” with Afghanistan and other relevant parties, the ministry said in a statement.

“China and Afghanistan are traditional friendly neighbors. China pays great attention to developments in Afghanistan and is committed to deepening both countries’ strategic partnership, and so decided to appoint a special envoy,” it added.

via China appoints special envoy for Afghanistan | Reuters.

17/07/2014

Ex-Mongolia party officer gets life imprisonment for taking millions in bribes | South China Morning Post

A mainland regional official was sentenced to life imprisonment today for bribe-taking, a court said, the first high-ranking bureaucrat to be jailed in the corruption crackdown overseen by President Xi Jinping.

afp_emblem_wangsuyi-0717-1.jpg

Wang Suyi, 53, was last year removed from his post as chief of the Communist party’s United Front Work Department in the northern region of Inner Mongolia, an agency that liaises between the ruling organisation and non-communist groups.

He was convicted of bribery and sentenced to life in prison by the First Intermediate People’s Court of Beijing, the court said on its official account on Weibo.

He was charged with taking more than 10.73 million yuan (HK$13.5 million) in bribes between 2005 and last year in exchange for securing business deals for companies and promotions for individuals, earlier local media reports said.

Wang was the first official to face criminal trial among the 40 of vice-ministerial or higher rank investigated since China’s once-in-a-decade power transition in 2012 that anointed Xi as chief of the ruling Communist Party, according to the reports.

The South China Morning Post previously quoted a senior editor with a regional party newspaper as saying that Wang’s mistresses accused him of taking 100 million yuan in bribes, and of nepotism involving about 30 relatives.

Xi took office as president last year and has vowed to root out corrupt officials, warning that graft could destroy the ruling party.

Corruption causes widespread public anger in China and the drive has been widely touted.

At least 10 mainland provinces have launched investigations to track down so-called “naked officials”, those whose relatives have moved abroad, and the party is increasingly punishing members on charges of “adultery”, as it tries to clean up cadres’ reputation for corruption and womanising.

But critics say no systemic reforms have been introduced to combat it, while citizen activists calling for such measures have been jailed on public order offences.

via Ex-Mongolia party officer gets life imprisonment for taking millions in bribes | South China Morning Post.

17/07/2014

With Tensions Rising, Japanese Investment in China Plummets – Businessweek

Another consequence of the worsening Sino-Japanese relations: Japanese investment into China dropped by nearly half in the first six month of 2014, according to a new report by China’s Ministry of Commerce. As recently a 2012, Japanese investment posted growth of 16.3 percent, reaching $7.28 billion. The decline actually started last year, with a 4.3 percent drop.

Zhang Jifeng, director of the Japanese economy department in the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the China Daily that Japan’s entrepreneurs are “waiting and watching.” He added: ”They’re profoundly aware of the connection between the political climate and their commercial performance [in China]. They don’t want to put their assets at risk.”

English: Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo.

English: Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

China and Japan are in a dispute over the ownership of the uninhabited Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe further angered Beijing in December when he visited Tokyo’s Yasukuni shrine, a temple that honors Japanese soldiers but also its war criminals. Earlier this month Japan’s cabinet passed a resolution reinterpreting its pacifist constitution so its military can defend its allies.

via With Tensions Rising, Japanese Investment in China Plummets – Businessweek.

17/07/2014

Indian eatery run by murder convicts praised for politeness, hygiene – India Insight

As India’s capital baked under a heat wave this month, banker Gaurav Gupta sat down for lunch at a new air-conditioned restaurant, and was greeted by a smiling waiter who offered him chilled water and took his order — a traditional “thali” meal of flatbread, lentils, vegetables, rice and pickle.

Nothing unusual, except that the employee, like most of his co-workers, is a convicted murderer serving time in South Asia’s largest prison complex.

“Tihar Food Court” on Jail Road in west Delhi is part of a wide range of reform and rehabilitation initiatives undertaken at the Tihar prison. It opened in the first week of July on an “experimental basis” while waiting for formal clearances, and is located half a kilometre from the prisoners’ dormitories.

With a spacious interior lined with gleaming wooden tables and walls adorned with paintings by prisoners, the 50-seat restaurant is coming in for praise from customers, especially for being clean and for the polite behaviour of its employees, who were trained by the Delhi Institute of Hotel Management, an autonomous body under the state government.

“The food is average. But the hygiene factor is really good, very clean. And it’s a good thing they are employing prisoners,” said Gaurav Gupta.

via India Insight.

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