26/05/2019

China Focus: Rare all-white panda spotted in China

CHINA-SICHUAN-ALL-WHITE PANDA (CN)

Infrared camera image taken on April 20, 2019 shows an all-white giant panda in the Wolong National Nature Reserve in southwest China’s Sichuan Province. A rare all-white panda has been captured on cameras in the Wolong National Nature Reserve in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, the reserve management authorities said on Saturday. (Xinhua)

CHENGDU, May 25 (Xinhua) — A rare all-white panda has been captured on camera in the Wolong National Nature Reserve in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, the reserve management authorities said on Saturday.

The panda was captured in mid-April by an infrared camera about 2,000 meters above sea level in the wild, the authorities said.

The panda has no spots on its body and its eyes look red. It was crossing the forest at the time.

“Judging from pictures, the panda is an albino, one to two years old,” said Li Sheng, a researcher with Peking University and a specialist in bears, who studied the pictures.

The panda is a rare all-white individual in wild pandas, which showed that the albinism genes exist in the wild population of giant pandas in Wolong, he said.

“The panda looked strong and its steps were steady, a sign that the genetic mutation may not have quite impeded its life,” Li said, adding that the gender of the panda cannot be decided based on current data.

Albinism exists in different vertebrate species. The albino mutation inhibits melanin synthesis in animal’s body. Albino usually does not affect animal’s physical makeup and functions. It could make them easier to be discovered and more sensitive to direct sunlight, Li said.

The albino mutation is a recessive gene. Only when the parent pandas both carry such gene, can the baby show the albino traits.

If this white panda would mate with a normal panda, their first generation babies will still be black and white. But their babies, carrying the albino gene, will possibly give birth to all-white pandas if their partners also carry such genes, Li said.

In order to better protect the ecosystems, the Wolong nature reserve has been using infrared cameras to monitor the distribution and activities of wild animals in its seven demonstration areas.

Previously, some rare brown giant pandas were found in China’s Qinling Mountains. The cause of the brown fur color was also considered as genetic mutation by some researchers.

Source: Xinhua

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26/05/2019

China’s robot censors crank up as Tiananmen anniversary nears

BEIJING (Reuters) – It’s the most sensitive day of the year for China’s internet, the anniversary of the bloody June 4 crackdown on pro-democracy protests at Tiananmen Square, and with under two weeks to go, China’s robot censors are working overtime.

Censors at Chinese internet companies say tools to detect and block content related to the 1989 crackdown have reached unprecedented levels of accuracy, aided by machine learning and voice and image recognition.

“We sometimes say that the artificial intelligence is a scalpel, and a human is a machete,” said one content screening employee at Beijing Bytedance Co Ltd, who asked not to be identified because they are not authorised to speak to media.

Two employees at the firm said censorship of the Tiananmen crackdown, along with other highly sensitive issues including Taiwan and Tibet, is now largely automated.

Posts that allude to dates, images and names associated with the protests are automatically rejected.

“When I first began this kind of work four years ago there was opportunity to remove the images of Tiananmen, but now the artificial intelligence is very accurate,” one of the people said.

Four censors, working across Bytedance, Weibo Corp and Baidu Inc apps said they censor between 5,000-10,000 pieces of information a day, or five to seven pieces a minute, most of which they said were pornographic or violent content.

Despite advances in AI censorship, current-day tourist snaps in the square are sometimes unintentionally blocked, one of the censors said.

Bytedance declined to comment, while Weibo and Baidu did not respond to requests for comment.

SENSITIVE PERIOD

The Tiananmen crackdown is a taboo subject in China 30 years after the government sent tanks to quell student-led protests calling for democratic reforms. Beijing has never released a death toll but estimates from human rights groups and witnesses range from several hundred to several thousand.

June 4th itself is marked by a cat-and-mouse game as people use more and more obscure references on social media sites, with obvious allusions blocked immediately. In some years, even the word “today” has been scrubbed.

In 2012, China’s most-watched stock index fell 64.89 points on the anniversary day here, echoing the date of the original event in what analysts said was likely a strange coincidence rather than a deliberate reference.

Still, censors blocked access to the term “Shanghai stock market” and to the index numbers themselves on microblogs, along with other obscure references to sensitive issues.

While companies censorship tools are becoming more refined, analysts, academics and users say heavy-handed policies mean sensitive periods before anniversaries and political events have become catch-alls for a wide range of sensitive content.

In the lead-up to this year’s Tiananmen Square anniversary, censorship on social media has targeted LGBT groups, labour and environment activists and NGOs, they say.

Upgrades to censorship tech have been urged on by new policies introduced by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC). The group was set up – and officially led – by President Xi Jinping, whose tenure has been defined by increasingly strict ideological control of the internet.

The CAC did not respond to a request for comment.

Last November, the CAC introduced new rules aimed at quashing dissent online in China, where “falsifying the history of the Communist Party” on the internet is a punishable offence for both platforms and individuals.

The new rules require assessment reports and site visits for any internet platform that could be used to “socially mobilise” or lead to “major changes in public opinion”, including access to real names, network addresses, times of use, chat logs and call logs.

One official who works for CAC told Reuters the recent boost in online censorship is “very likely” linked to the upcoming anniversary.

“There is constant communication with the companies during this time,” said the official, who declined to directly talk about the Tiananmen, instead referring to the “the sensitive period in June”.

Companies, which are largely responsible for their own censorship, receive little in the way of directives from the CAC, but are responsible for creating guidelines in their own “internal ethical and party units”, the official said.

SECRET FACTS

With Xi’s tightening grip on the internet, the flow of information has been centralised under the Communist Party’s Propaganda Department and state media network. Censors and company staff say this reduces the pressure of censoring some events, including major political news, natural disasters and diplomatic visits.

“When it comes to news, the rule is simple… If it is not from state media first, it is not authorised, especially regarding the leaders and political items,” said one Baidu staffer.

“We have a basic list of keywords which include the 1989 details, but (AI) can more easily select those.”

Punishment for failing to properly censor content can be severe.

In the past six weeks, popular services including a Netease Inc news app, Tencent Holdings Ltd’s news app TianTian, and Sina Corp have all been hit with suspensions ranging from days to weeks, according to the CAC, meaning services are made temporarily unavailable on apps stores and online.

For internet users and activists, penalties can range from fines to jail time for spreading information about sensitive events online.

In China, social media accounts are linked to real names and national ID numbers by law, and companies are legally compelled to offer user information to authorities when requested.

“It has become normal to know things and also understand that they can’t be shared,” said one user, Andrew Hu. “They’re secret facts.”

In 2015, Hu spent three days in detention in his home region of Inner Mongolia after posting a comment about air pollution onto an unrelated image that alluded to the Tiananmen crackdown on Twitter-like social media site Weibo.

Hu, who declined to use his full Chinese name to avoid further run-ins with the law, said when police officers came to his parents house while he was on leave from his job in Beijing he was surprised, but not frightened.

“The responsible authorities and the internet users are equally confused,” said Hu. “Even if the enforcement is irregular, they know the simple option is to increase pressure.”

Source: Reuters

25/05/2019

Feature: Governors compete for investment at China-U.S. Governors Forum

LEXINGTON, the United States, May 24 (Xinhua) — Chinese and U.S. governors gathered here on Thursday, competing to promote their state or province for investment at the Fifth China-U.S. Governors Forum.

“I want to be a little bit more objective. I’ll tell you not what I think, but what U.S. News (and World Report) just said,” said Cyrus Habib, lieutenant governor of the U.S. state of Washington, grabbing the opportunity when he took the podium to present his state. “In the U.S. News ranked states in the United States, they ranked Washington state No. 1 overall.”

The national media U.S. News and World Report published its yearly Best States Rankings on May 14, putting Washington state on top based on several criteria including health care, education, economy and opportunity.

“It is not a coincidence for Washington to get ranked the No. 1 place to do business and the No. 1 place to live,” he said. “I always tell them the key is international relationships … We are the No. 1 exporter per capita of any state in the country.”

“We are the No. 1 source of U.S. imports into China and so our relationship with China is absolutely key central to the success that we have had now economically in terms of trade,” he added.

Dianne Primavera, lieutenant governor of the U.S. state of Colorado, advertised her state by saying “according to the U.S. News and World Report, Colorado is home to the No. 1 economy in the United States.”

“Our business climate is an active mix of knowledge-based industries and entrepreneurial activity that drives successful startups,” Primavera said. “Colorado welcomes the opportunity to do business with China.”

Matt Bevin, governor of Kentucky and host of the event, was also eager to grasp the opportunity to talk about the benefits of his state.

“We have rivers and roads and railways that transect through this state. You can put goods on the Ohio River and take them straight to any port in China,” he said. “We want you here, we want your investment here.”

U.S. state of Tennessee Governor Bill Lee introduced his state as a neighbor of Kentucky, saying “when Kentucky or Tennessee has investment from companies, from countries like China, then we both benefit. We are a regional economy and what is good for one state and our region is good for another state in our region.”

Local Chinese officials also presented their province or municipality.

Mayor of Chongqing Tang Liangzhi said the southwestern Chinese municipality has an important role in regional development and China’s opening-up layout, and that he hopes to cooperate with U.S. states in many fields like intelligent industry, auto manufacturing, and environmental protection.

Liu Guozhong, governor of China’s northwestern Shaanxi Province, deliberated on the long-standing history and culture, as well as the recent tax-cutting policies of his province, hoping to expand cooperation in technological innovation and environmental protection between the two countries.

Chinese and U.S. companies signed three cooperation agreements at the forum on Thursday. Meanwhile, China’s southeastern province of Jiangxi and the U.S. state of Kentucky signed a memorandum of understanding.

Initiated in 2011, the China-U.S. Governors Forum has become an important platform to promote exchanges and cooperation between the local governments of the two countries.

Source: Xinhua

25/05/2019

Uzbekistan, China agree to cooperate in preschool education

TASHKENT, May 24 (Xinhua) — Uzbek and Chinese experts discussed innovative approaches to the education of preschool children at a forum held here on Friday.

The one-day forum opens a new direction in cooperation between the two countries, said Agrippina Shin, minister of preschool education of Uzbekistan.

It has become an effective platform for comparing notes, she said in her opening speech.

The forum was held as the two sides are implementing the consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries and are advancing cooperation in people-to-people exchanges and education, said Jiang Yan, Chinese ambassador to Uzbekistan.

Source: Xinhua

25/05/2019

Service trade between China, B&R countries surpasses 120 bln dollars

BEIJING, May 25 (Xinhua) — China’s service trade with countries and regions along the Belt and Road (B&R) reached over 120 billion U.S. dollars last year, according to the Ministry of Commerce (MOC).

In 2018, the import-export volume of the service trade between China and Belt and Road countries and regions amounted to 121.7 billion U.S. dollars, accounting for 15.4 percent of China’s service trade, said Wang Bingnan, vice minister of the MOC.

China has been the world’s second-largest country in service trade for five consecutive years, with the total volume reaching 5.24 trillion yuan (759 billion U.S. dollars) in 2018, up 11.5 percent year on year, MOC data showed.

The share of service trade in China’s total foreign trade went up from 11.1 percent in 2012 to 14.7 percent in 2018, according to the MOC.

China has established bilateral cooperation mechanisms on service trade with 14 countries, endowing the country with a more diversified service trade market, said Wang.

The 2019 China International Fair for Trade in Services will open on May 28 in Beijing and last for five days, attracting 130 countries and regions and 21 international organizations.

Among the delegations, 98 come from the Belt and Road Initiative partner countries. A series of themed activities will be held during the fair, including forums on service trade cooperation.

Source: Xinhua

25/05/2019

Across China: “Sino-British Street” seeks rejuvenation

SHENZHEN, May 25 (Xinhua) — A southern Chinese trade hub boasting special links with Hong Kong is hoping the enhanced efforts to build the g will revitalize its tourism industry and local economy.

Chung Ying Street, or “Sino-British Street,” straddles the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the mainland city of Shenzhen and has been a special zone where local residents from both sides are allowed to cross the border freely.

It was once a boomtown popular among mainland visitors, who entered with a special permit to snatch duty-free goods from Hong Kong, but fell into decline after travel to Hong Kong was made easier for mainlanders.

The street derived from a small village, which was divided by the “Sino-British” borderline after Hong Kong became a British colony in the 19th century.

Sha Jintao, a 73-year-old resident, remembers how the street became a boomtown as China opened up and tightened links between the mainland and Hong Kong.

“When I was a child, there were only a few farmers and fishermen living on the mainland side of the street, while the Hong Kong side bustled with shops and businesses,” Sha said.

But as Shenzhen rose as a forefront of China’s reform and opening up starting in the late 1970s, the street became the center of changes. New shops and factories propped up with the inflow of Hong Kong investments, and the fancy commodities from its Hong Kong stores wooed in large numbers of mainland tourists.

Historical records show the number of tourists flocking into the 250-meter-long street peaked at 100,000 a day in the 1980s. As many as 89 jewelry stores opened in its heyday and sold 5 tonnes of gold jewelry in half a year.

SURVIVAL CRISIS

The heyday was however short-lived. After Hong Kong returned to the motherland in 1997, the street began to lose its appeal, as shopping in Hong Kong was made much easier for mainland tourists. Its daily visitors dropped below 10,000 after 2003, when mainlanders were allowed to independently travel to Hong Kong.

Many stores closed due to a loss of customers, and some survived by selling fake jewelry, winning the street much notoriety, recalled Sha, who then headed the local neighborhood committee.

Sha said the ephemeral boom was limited to the era when most Chinese had limited access to the outside world, so as the country opened its door wider, the street’s function as a “window” faced an inevitable doom.

“Now with a smartphone, a consumer could easily buy goods from across the globe,” he said, referring to China’s cross-border e-commerce boom. “So if is just for the purpose of shopping, why take the trouble of traveling to the Chung Ying Street?”

The street is now more of a cultural site, dotted with relics and museums displaying its history, but locals are hopeful that the ongoing construction of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area will usher in another golden era for their neighborhood.

China has planned to turn the greater bay area, which encompasses Hong Kong, Macao and nine cities in Guangdong Province, into the world’s largest bay area in terms of GDP by 2030.

Earlier this month, the city government of Shenzhen said it will upgrade its ports with Hong Kong to boost the greater bay area development. The Shatoujiao Subdistrict, where the Chung Ying Street is located, was reserved for a new cooperation zone featuring tourism and consumption.

Optimism is running high in the community. New industries like artificial intelligence (AI), health and high-end shipping service have taken root in Yantian District, which administers Shatoujiao, and Sha is buzzing around to connect business people from Hong Kong and Shenzhen.

“Shatoujiao and its Chung Ying Street have boasted the one-of-the-kind advantage in Shenzhen-Hong Kong cooperation. We’ll work hard to turn the blueprint of the greater bay area into a reality here,” said Chen Qing, party secretary of Yantian.

Source: Xinhua

25/05/2019

Recognise Taiwan’s title and then we’ll talk, Foxconn billionaire Terry Gou tells Beijing

  • Presidential hopeful takes a stand on ‘Republic of China’ after critics question his sovereignty credentials
  • Foxconn chief’s investments on mainland and close contact with mainland leadership have brought him under intense scrutiny
Taiwanese presidential hopeful Terry Gou. Photo: Reuters
Taiwanese presidential hopeful Terry Gou. Photo: Reuters
Foxconn’s billionaire chairman and aspiring Taiwanese presidential candidate Terry Gou has called on Beijing to recognise the “Republic of China”, Taiwan’s official title.
Gou also said he had no plan to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping, countering critics who claim he would sell out the self-ruled island because of his multibillion-US dollar manufacturing empire on the mainland.
The businessman, who hopes to be the nominee for the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) in the presidential race next year against incumbent Tsai Ing-wen, gave the assurances after the Tsai government accused him of spreading erroneous information about Taiwan’s sovereignty – a highly sensitive election issue.
In Taipei on Monday after returning from a trip to the United States,

where he met US President Donald Trump

, Gou said he would do all he could to defend the interests of the island.

“And since I have announced that I will take part in the KMT primaries to run on the party ticket for president, I will continue to do so without hesitation. As the president of the [Republic of China] of course, I must make the interests of the ROC the priority without a second thought,” he said.
He said he had long required Foxconn employees to sing the island’s anthem and hoist the island’s flag during annual parties.
Taiwan can turn a hi-tech profit from China-US rivalry: Foxconn chief

He also said he had the island’s flag displayed prominently during a ceremony marking his purchase of Japanese electronics maker Sharp in 2016 – all because he wanted the world and the mainland to note the existence of the ROC.

“If the Chinese mainland does not want to take note of the existence of the ROC, then what does it want us to be?” he said.

Gou added that he decided to run for president because he wanted to talk to Beijing about this issue “on an equal basis”.

Beijing considers Taiwan a wayward province that must returned to the mainland’s fold – by force if necessary.

It has suspended exchanges with Taiwan since Tsai became president in 2016. She refused to accept the “1992 consensus” – an understanding that allows the two sides to continue talks as long as they support the principle that there is only one China.

Since Gou launched his presidential bid last month, his huge investments on the mainland and his close contact with the mainland leadership have brought him under intense scrutiny from the pro-independence camp.

On Monday, Chen Ming-tung, head of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, which charts the island’s cross-strait policy, took aim at Gou for “incorrectly” saying that Taiwan was a part of the People’s Republic of China – mainland China’s official title.

Chen was responding to various Taiwanese media outlets that reported Gou as saying in the US that Taiwan was an inseparable part of China.

Cho Jung-tai, chairman of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, also accused Gou of diminishing the island’s sovereignty.

In response, Gou said he was describing historical and religious links between the island and the mainland – not commenting on sovereignty.

Terry Gou: Taiwan’s wealthiest man – and future presidential candidate
“I hereby solemnly clarify that what I meant was that ‘China’ is the ROC as underlined in our constitution, and Taiwan, of course, is part of the ROC,” he said, adding “the ROC was never a part of the PRC”.
Gou said Foxconn had invested greatly in businesses not just on the mainland but also in other parts of the world, and it was unlikely for him to bow to Beijing simply because of his huge investments on the mainland.
He said he wanted to run for president because he hoped to be the peacemaker between Taiwan, the mainland and the US.
“No [Taiwanese] business can escape a conflict between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait,” he said.
During his meeting with Trump, Gou said he told the US leader of his desire to forge a mutually beneficial peace and improve commercial links between the three sides.
Observers said Gou must work out a cross-strait policy to convince voters that he would stand firm on Taiwan’s interests, and the scrutiny from the pro-independence camp would only grow if he was on the KMT’s presidential ticket.
Source: SCMP
25/05/2019

‘No place like home’: ethnic Chinese who fled Indonesia for Taiwan remember the deadly 1998 riots that changed their lives

  • A deepening economic crisis in Indonesia led to rumours of ethnic Chinese hoarding rice, and resulted in mobs attacking their homes and businesses in May 1998
  • Researchers estimate thousands of them fled the country for Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong and elsewhere in the wake of the riots that left more than 1,000 people dead
Indonesian mobs burning cars and Chinese shops as they plundered shops in Jakarta during the 1998 riots. Photo: AFP
Indonesian mobs burning cars and Chinese shops as they plundered shops in Jakarta during the 1998 riots. Photo: AFP
Tony Thamsir, an ethnic Chinese from

Indonesia

, was in his fourth semester at Taipei’s National Chengchi University when anti-Chinese riots broke out in Jakarta and several other Indonesian cities in May 1998.

Thamsir, now 42 and a television and radio announcer, remembers a frantic phone call from his mother describing how their family was trying to flee, after a mob burned down a neighbouring house in Jelambar, a sub-district in West Jakarta home to many Chinese residents.
“‘We cannot do anything now, but luckily, there is a river in front of us,’ my mother said,” Thamsir recalls, explaining that residents had blocked the bridge that would have allowed the mob to cross the river and access the house that his mother, father and younger brother were living in.

“Then my younger brother took over the phone and told me to stop talking. He said the family members would take turns to patrol but he would stab anyone who broke in.”

Radio presenter Tony Thamsir is a third-generation Chinese Indonesian. Photo: Handout
Radio presenter Tony Thamsir is a third-generation Chinese Indonesian. Photo: Handout

Thamsir, who was studying political science, was shocked and angered by the eruption of violence. A third-generation Indonesian-Chinese born in Medan and raised in Jakarta, he had moved to Taiwan for college as his mother wanted him to learn Chinese.

In August 1998, he joined demonstrators on the streets of Taipei to demand the Indonesian government end what he described as a “vile act that had an impact on the Chinese community”.

Lest we forget: graphic novel on Jakarta anti-Chinese riots of 1998

He knocked on the doors of Indonesia’s representative office in Taiwan and Taiwan’s foreign ministry in Taipei, asking them to put a stop to the pogroms against ethnic Chinese, who made up about 2 per cent of the population.

Rioters attacked homes and businesses owned by ethnic Chinese, provoked by rumours they were hoarding rice during a deepening economic crisis. Human rights groups estimate more than 100 women were raped and more than 1,000 people were killed.

Protests against Suharto continued and several government ministers refused to participate in his cabinet reshuffle. He eventually agreed to resign on May 21, 1998, leaving his deputy BJ Habibie to take over and set Indonesia on the path to democratic reform.

Opinion: Anti-Chinese sentiment likely to grow in Indonesia ahead of 2019 election

In a September 1998 report, international NGO Human Rights Watch suggested “tens of thousands of ethnic Chinese” fled Indonesia for Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong and elsewhere, fearing a recurrence of violence. Aihwa Ong, an anthropology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote in 2003 that 150,000 ethnic Chinese left Indonesia due to the riots.

Two years ago, the Taipei Times quoted Kuomintang (KMT) legislator Apollo Chen’s office saying he heard from a source there were about 1,000 Indonesian-Chinese “who took refuge in Taiwan to avoid anti-Chinese riots and violence”.

Thamsir was among them. When he finally heard from his mother a few days after the first call, it was a bittersweet conversation. The family was safe but their sole source of income, his father’s factory that produced electric cables, had been burned to the ground.

Opinion: As the belt and road reaches Indonesia, Chinese firms must deal with culture shock

With their finances in tatters, the 21-year-old Thamsir would need to fend for himself, his mother continued. Thamsir took on jobs at a fast-food restaurant and as a part-time radio announcer to support himself while finishing his bachelor’s degree.

But, he says: “I kept wondering, why Indonesia was like that? Why?”

NEVER STOPPED CARING

Thamsir graduated in 2000 and found a job in the Taipei city government. He was a counsellor to then mayor Ma Ying-jeou, and used his Indonesian and Mandarin skills to work on issues affecting Indonesian migrant workers.

He left the job in 2006 and has since run an Indonesian-language magazine for readers in Taiwan, owned a restaurant and invested in various businesses.

He is currently a counsellor at the union of Indonesian migrant workers in Taiwan (IPIT), and is popular within the community, as he also hosts Indonesian-language programmes on Taiwanese television and radio. He has 23,000 fans on Facebook.

There are an estimated 270,000 Indonesians in the country, many of them living in Taipei and working as caretakers and domestic helpers.

Why more Chinese Indonesians are learning Mandarin

Despite his disillusionment with his country, Thamsir still holds an Indonesian passport and plays an active role in Indonesian politics.

He was part of the an elections supervisory committee when overseas voting was held in Taipei for the 2009 elections. Two years ago, he organised a flash mob to support former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic Chinese, who was seeking re-election.

But Purnama was charged with blasphemy against Islam after a doctored video showed him telling a group of voters not to be fooled by a Koran verse saying Muslims should not vote for non-Muslims. It led to hardliners rallying for his downfall. He was subsequently jailed before being released in January.

Museum fighting prejudice against Chinese Indonesians

Last year, Thamsir became active in Banteng Muda Indonesia, a youth wing of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle led by former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, the daughter of Indonesia’s founding president Sukarno.

He also mobilised support for incumbent Joko Widodo, who is expected to be announced the winner of last month’s presidential election, when official results are released next week.

“I am considered an Indonesian [by the Taiwanese]. I’ve never been seen as Taiwanese or even mainland Chinese [even though I look Chinese],” Thamsir says. “I think this shows how much I care for Indonesia. My concern for my country has never stopped.”

Amina Tjandra came to Taiwan in 1999 after the riots ended. Photo: Randy Mulyanto
Amina Tjandra came to Taiwan in 1999 after the riots ended. Photo: Randy Mulyanto

Like Thamsir, Amina Tjandra chose to stay in Taiwan, leaving Indonesia one year after the riots. Originally from Pontianak in West Kalimantan and armed with a degree in economics and management from Atma Jaya University in Yogyakarta, Tjandra says going to the Indonesian capital to look for work was not an option, given the recent violence.

She came to Taiwan to live with her aunt and stayed on in the city of Taoyuan after she married a Taiwanese man. Now 43, she has two sons aged eight and 13, and works as an Indonesian-language radio announcer. She felt safer being among other Chinese people in Taiwan than being in Indonesia, she says.

Why anti-Chinese rhetoric is a potent political force in Indonesia

While Taiwanese people still see her as different “because of my facial features such as my eyes, which are bigger and not as narrow as theirs, and my accent”, it has sparked curiosity rather than dislike.

“Because there’s a difference, they want to know more about Indonesia or the Chinese in Indonesia and anything about Indonesia,” she said.

“It’s because Taiwan’s society can accept differences, live tolerantly. There is an emphasis by the government on multiculturalism and Taiwanese society is now able to accept newcomers.”

MIXED FEELINGS ABOUT HOME

After the May 1998 riots, both Beijing and Taipei raised concerns about the protection of ethnic Chinese with the Indonesian government.

When the countries’ leaders, Jiang Zemin and Habibie, met in November 1998, following protests at the Indonesian embassy in Beijing, Jiang said: “We hold that the proper solution of the issue of the Chinese Indonesians will not only serve … the long-term stability of Indonesia, but also … the smooth development of the relationship of friendly cooperation with neighbouring countries.” 

A woman cycles past a shopfront daubed with the words ‘Muslim’ by fearful non-Chinese residents to keep rioters from attacking their homes in Sukamandi in 1998. Photo: AP
A woman cycles past a shopfront daubed with the words ‘Muslim’ by fearful non-Chinese residents to keep rioters from attacking their homes in Sukamandi in 1998. Photo: AP

Author Jemma Purdey, in her book Anti-Chinese Violence in Indonesia, published in 2006, said Taiwan was more active and vocal in response to the riots, “demanding that the Indonesian government investigate and try perpetrators and provide protection for victims”.

The Taiwanese government, the book added, threatened to withdraw its investments in Indonesia, which were expected to surpass US$13 billion in the middle of 1998. It also threatened to stop accepting Indonesian migrant workers into Taiwan, of which there were already more than 15,000.

Monika Winarnita, an academic from Australia’s La Trobe University, says the shock of May 1998 still resonates within the community today, especially among the older generation who were already “very assimilated” and felt “they were more Indonesian” than anything else.

Indonesian Chinese still face discrimination 20 years after Reformasi

She gives the example of Chinese who had intermarried with people from different ethnic groups, adopting Javanese and other cultural practices.

During Suharto’s reign from 1967 to 1998, he forced members of the Chinese community to assimilate by discouraging the teaching of all Chinese dialects, banning Chinese-language media and the celebration of festivals, and instituting a regulation requiring them to take on Indonesian names.

“The May 1998 riots were, therefore, a huge shock to some who gave up all semblance of Chinese identity post-1965, [who] changed their names, and stopped speaking or reading any Chinese,” Winarnita says. “They were supposed to be Indonesian first and foremost yet the events of May 1998 meant that they were differentiated and singled out based on their ethnic features.”

Indonesian looters ransack an ethnic Chinese-owned shop in 1998. Photo: AP
Indonesian looters ransack an ethnic Chinese-owned shop in 1998. Photo: AP

For Tjandra and Thamsir, memories of the riots and of the racial slurs they endured when growing up has resulted in them having mixed feelings towards Indonesia.

Tjandra sees herself as an Indonesian in Taiwan and says she might want to return when she is older: “Who knows? So I still hold an Indonesian passport [after living in Taiwan for about 20 years].”

She laments that anti-Chinese sentiment still exists in Indonesia: in the run-up to the recent elections, fake news on social media about increased Chinese investment and an influx of mainland Chinese workers stoked fears among ethnic Chinese that they might be targets of violence and unrest.

“But it seems like there is progress,” Tjandra says. “I think little by little, there could be change that in people’s mindset, they would accept differences.”

Thamsir says he has grounds to dislike Indonesia but in fact, he feels he has never been detached from it, given his work with the Indonesian community in his adopted home.

“I love Indonesia,” he says. “I never thought of hating it, although I have tonnes of reasons to hate it.”

Source: SCMP

25/05/2019

The spoils of trade war: Asia’s winners and losers in US-China clash

  • Tiger economies like Hong Kong will feel bite from trade war, but as US tariffs push up cost of Chinese products, Asia’s low-cost manufacturers stand to gain
  • Still, it’s a fleeting victory – in the long term, everyone’s a loser
Vietnamese employees weld at a car plant in Hai Duong. The country stands to gain from the US-China trade war. Photo: AFP
Vietnamese employees weld at a car plant in Hai Duong. The country stands to gain from the US-China trade war. Photo: AFP
For Bangladeshi garment maker Viyellatex Group, the spiralling trade tensions between China and the United States that have roiled global markets have instead been a boon for business.
US tariffs have pushed up the cost of Chinese-made products so buyers have turned to the company, a leading producer in Bangladesh, the world’s second-largest exporter of ready-made garments.
“Until recently much of our exports were to the European market, but since the 
US-China trade war

began, we are getting more and more bulk orders from US buyers,” Viyellatex Group chairman David Hasanat said.

“Immediately after [US President Donald] Trump started the trade war last year, three American buyers who had folded their business in Bangladesh two years ago came and placed bulk orders with us.”

Three out of every 10 clients Hasanat now serves are from the US, up from two in 10 last year – including top American brands Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger. The company’s turnover was close to US$200 million last year.

Like Bangladesh, other Asian economies that are home to low-cost manufacturing hubs such as 
Vietnam

,

Thailand

and

Malaysia

are not in a state of panic, despite both superpowers announcing tit-for-tat tariffs on each other’s goods that economists say will cripple global growth and hit exporting countries hard.

After Washington

hiked tariffs from 10 to 25 per cent on US$200 billion worth of Chinese imports

, to take effect in the coming weeks, Beijing on Monday announced

US$60 billion worth of new duties

on US imports from June 1.

Trump’s Huawei ‘ban’ gives Asian tech firms 70 billion reasons to worry

According to almost all of the 14 analysts This Week in Asia spoke to, Asia’s low-cost manufacturing hubs will continue benefiting as firms seek to move their production or supply chains out of China amid rising business costs, despite the likely continuation of a region-wide decline in exports.

But for

Singapore

, Hong Kong,

Taiwan

and South Korea – once known as the “Asian Tigers” for their high-growth economies – the outlook is gloomy as shipping volumes are expected to fall and uncertainty leaves companies’ plans for growth in limbo.

In a further blow to trade, Trump on Wednesday issued an executive order 
banning US firms from using technology

produced by any firms assessed to be a national security risk.

Huawei and its 70 affiliates have been added to an Entity List that would clear the way for a ban on the firm buying US components and technology. Photo: Reuters
Huawei and its 70 affiliates have been added to an Entity List that would clear the way for a ban on the firm buying US components and technology. Photo: Reuters
Hours later,

Huawei

and its 70 affiliates were added to an Entity List that would clear the way for a ban on the firm buying US components and technology, unless the sellers had government approval.

The curbs added another dimension to the US-China trade war, fanning fears in Beijing that Trump is seeking to control China’s rise. Huawei had been targeted by the US government for some time, through pressures on its allies to not allow the Chinese telecoms firm to take part in the setting up of their superfast 
5G

networks.

Jakob Korslund, CEO of Deutsche Risk Group, said that firms across Asia would see the latest developments as a reminder of how business activities “are so tightly woven into the political context that is unfolding right now”.
A trade deal is still possible, but it’ll need a Xi-Trump one-on-one

“That’s something that is increasingly talked about in boardrooms and business circles. Sometimes I have this image in mind of elephants, when they are fighting it out, smashing a lot of things around them.”

WHAT IT TAKES TO WIN

Some of 

Asean

’s largest economies, experts say, have been laying the groundwork to benefit from the realignment of the global supply chains that the trade war is already contributing to – particularly Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia.

Vietnam will see opportunities in furniture and apparel, Malaysia in liquefied natural gas, and Thailand in automobiles – with all three benefiting in the information technology equipment and electronics manufacturing sectors, according to data from this month’s Asean+3 Regional Economic Outlook 2019 report (AMRO).
A garment factory in Bangladesh. Photo: Phila Siu
A garment factory in Bangladesh. Photo: Phila Siu

The combination of predictable regulatory environments, transport infrastructure, and ability to ramp up public spending leaves Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia poised to receive the wave of investment the trade war is expected to bring, and to weather the region-wide decrease in exports in the process.

As the cost of production rises in China, it is adopting policies to encourage low-skilled manufacturing to move south.

The relocation is also part of the central government’s effort to move the drivers of the nation’s economic growth from production to consumption, experts say – a trend that has been accelerated by trade tensions with the US.

The trade war could 

knock a full percentage point off China’s economic growth

this year, Wang Yang, one of seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee, said on Thursday – the first comments by a top policymaker about the impact of the trade dispute on the government’s growth goals. Beijing had previously forecast 6-6.5 per cent growth for the year.

Trade war is putting Chinese tourists off visiting the US

This had made Asean increasingly the driver of global economic growth, said Siwage Dharma Negara, senior fellow and coordinator of the Apec study centre at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.

While the trade war has added fuel to the fire for growing Southeast Asian economies, only those which have laid the right groundwork will be able to take advantage of the opportunity it presents.

“The factor which limits the extent to which countries can benefit from the trade tensions is infrastructure,” said Michael Taylor, chief credit officer for Asia at Moody’s in Singapore, adding that Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia had made major investments to that end.

Workers load cylinders onto a container vessel at a port in Qingdao in northeast China. Photo: AP
Workers load cylinders onto a container vessel at a port in Qingdao in northeast China. Photo: AP

The Asian Development Bank has estimated that developing economies in Asia will need US$1.7 trillion in infrastructure spending each year until 2030.

Companies hesitated to invest in costly new factories in times of uncertainty, said Jon Cowley, senior international trade lawyer at Baker McKenzie in Hong Kong.

“But if it seems the new tariffs might stick around for a while, more companies will be investing in new production capacity. Southeast Asia is in a prime position to benefit.”

Until now, most of the shift has taken place in low-skill industries such as textiles, rather than high-skill sectors like IT, though some aspects of hi-tech value chains have begun relocating from China.

Friendly panda, fiery dragon: how China and Asean fell in (and out) of love

While seemingly fuelled by recent tensions between Washington and Beijing, many analysts see the shifting supply chains as part of a permanent realignment – and believe increased protectionism could even herald the collapse of the international trading system.

John Woods, chief investment officer for Asia-Pacific at Credit Suisse, said: “The die is cast now. More than likely, the trade protectionism we’re seeing may be a long-term phenomenon.”

The picture is not all rosy, though. Economists warn that the trade war could see China’s demand for goods made in Asean decline, a phenomenon some firms are already witnessing.

Declining demand from China is one reason why countries that are projected to benefit from production relocation may still take a hit if the tariffs are implemented, somewhat dampening potential benefits.

Wang Yang, one of seven members of China’s Politburo Standing Committee, said the trade war could knock a full percentage point off China’s economic growth this year. Photo: AFP
Wang Yang, one of seven members of China’s Politburo Standing Committee, said the trade war could knock a full percentage point off China’s economic growth this year. Photo: AFP

“Asian countries are large suppliers of parts and components to China, to be assembled into final export products, for which the final destination is often the US,” Seung-Youn Oh, an assistant professor at Bryn Mawr College in Philadelphia, explained. “These countries thus indirectly face large negative impacts from the trade war.”

Economists also warn that a weakening

yuan

could make Chinese goods more competitively priced vis-a-vis those from Southeast Asia.

How the US-China trade war will make or break Asean
At Guangken Rubber in southern Thailand, a main source of business, Chinese tyre manufacturers, have cut back on their purchases in the wake of US tariffs.
“We have felt the impact of the trade war since last year,” said Panida Ta-en, deputy marketing manager at the plant based in Satun province. “Our clients in China are mostly tyre manufacturers and we only export to China.
“We usually sent around 3,000-4,000 tonnes of processed rubber to China each month, but these past few months, we sent 2,500-3,000 tonnes.”
Click to enlarge

VIETNAM

Perhaps more than any other economy, Vietnam – which expanded 7 per cent last year – has raced to position itself as a sanctuary for investors escaping the tensions between the world’s two largest economies.

In January, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said his country was ready to “grab the opportunity” presented by the ongoing spat.

Tommy Wu at Oxford Economics in Hong Kong said: “Beyond the near term, Vietnam will likely be the main beneficiary of a supply chain shift, given its close proximity to China, low wages and favourable trade and foreign direct investment policies.”

The nation’s exports rose more than 12 per cent from just a year before during the second half of last year, according to data from HSBC.

Foreign investment into Vietnam this year rose 86.2 per cent to US$10.8 billion in the first quarter. Chinese investment made up nearly half of the total, according to Chinese state-run media.

Last month alone, exports from Vietnam to the US rose 29 per cent, while capital investments from overseas soared more than 200 per cent.

Chinese firms keep quiet on trade war to avoid wrath of authorities

GoerTek – a major Chinese supplier to Apple – and massive Taiwanese tech firm Hon Hai Precision Industry Company, better known as Foxconn, are among prominent firms to have moved their production to Vietnam in recent months.

Clients of Vietnamese furniture company Xuan Hoa, which include global giant Ikea, have also redirected production from China to Vietnam in the wake of the tariffs. The company’s chief executive told Bloomberg last month that at least 10 prospective clients had called from abroad already this year, and he expected sales to double in the next five years.

“Vietnam is one of the most open economies in Asia,” said Kiran Nandra-Koehrer, specialist in emerging market economies at Pictet Asset Management.

Shifting supply chains from China would be part of an influx in foreign direct investment coming to Vietnam, suggested Nandra-Koehrer, especially in textile manufacturing and even consumer electronics.

Xi and Trump’s negotiators have been locked in bargaining for a trade deal. Photo: AP
Xi and Trump’s negotiators have been locked in bargaining for a trade deal. Photo: AP

MALAYSIA

Malaysia is also well-placed to attract supply chains relocating from China, especially in the tech sector, analysts suggest. Compared with its neighbours, average wages are higher in the nation, which has a per capita GDP of US$10,000.

Malaysia’s biggest gains could come from liquefied natural gas, communication technology, and electronic integrated circuits, according to a report released late last year by Nomura Global Markets Research analysing the then 7,705 products on the tariff list.

How can Vietnam avoid becoming China’s dirty industrial backyard?

Malaysian companies topping the report’s list of trade war winners included Inari Amerton, Globetronics Technology, Petronas Chemicals Group and Mi Equipment Holdings.,

Wu of Oxford Economics said that the country stood to gain on the back of having relatively advanced infrastructure and a “business-friendly environment” already in place.

Experts say that despite the dramatic change in national administration last year with the election of 

Mahathir Mohammad

’s Pakatan Harapan coalition, the continuity of its stable business regulatory environment has made it a good bet for investors.

“There’s a renegotiating going on with the new government, but they still value much of what was decided by the last,” said Siwage Dharma Negara at ISEAS. That, plus its higher-skilled labour force and growing technological capacity, could make it a good bet for hi-tech investment, he said.
However, analysts say the tech sector is risky. Already existing electronics value chains supplying China are exposed to risk if China’s electronics sector takes a significant hit, warns the Asean AMRO Regional Economic Outlook released this month.
THAILAND
Thailand may also be able to capitalise on shifting supply chains, according to analysts, although its economy could take a hit in the short term.
In December, Thailand’s Kasikorn Bank predicted that the country’s “strong fundamentals and proximity to China” would see it reap the benefits of production relocation and foreign direct investment, particularly in electronic goods, integrated circuits and auto parts.
A cargo ship is seen docked at the Yangshan container port in Shanghai. Photo: AP
A cargo ship is seen docked at the Yangshan container port in Shanghai. Photo: AP

“Almost 50 per cent of Thai exports to the US consist of machinery equipment and electrical products,” said Sundi Aiyer, an independent management consultant in Singapore.

“This amount may go up even more. The automotive sector in Thailand may also see a boost as some auto manufacturers choose to move or increase their production and supply chain operations here.”

Uncertainty due to the ongoing trade war and opaque political situation will negatively impact Thailand’s growth, this month’s AMRO regional economic outlook predicted, but the nation’s strong domestic infrastructure investment will soften the impact.

Trump absent as China pushes free-trade agenda at Asean summit
MYANMAR, INDONESIA
Myanmar is likely to supply China the agricultural and food products the People’s Republic has previously sourced from the US, especially cattle, fish and wood, according to Matteo Vidiri at Mekong Economics.
Reforms to local investment laws could also entice some manufacturers to relocate to the nation’s special economic zones established in 2017.
Indonesia might not benefit as much as its neighbours, said Siwage at ISEAS.
Discrepancies in business regulations between the national and local levels leave international investors leery.
THE DOWNSIDE
The big downside will be for trade-dependent Tiger economies.
There are fewer signs of a silver lining for economies that rely heavily on trade and transshipment, such as Singapore and Hong Kong, or for highly developed economies such as South Korea and Japan.
Taiwan-owned electronic equipment manufacturing firms in China will almost inevitably be affected.
“Taiwanese tech companies have a high proportion of China-based production,” said Pictet Asset Management’s Nandra-Koehrer. “We are already seeing this ‘going home’ shift, and it may only accelerate.”
Taiwan’s Foxconn last month said though it would be difficult to rival its plants in China, it planned to expand production into Vietnam as well as India.
Taiwan’s Foxconn says though it will be difficult to rival its plants in China, it plans to expand production into Vietnam as well as India. Photo: AFP
Taiwan’s Foxconn says though it will be difficult to rival its plants in China, it plans to expand production into Vietnam as well as India. Photo: AFP

The Tiger economies, touted for their massive economic growth spurts throughout the latter half of the 20th century, are likely to suffer the biggest fallout from the trade war.

All have experienced recent economic slowdowns.

As well as being among the most export-dependent economies in Asia, their high-wage labour forces make them unlikely destinations for firms looking to relocate production out of China.

LOSERS, LOSERS, EVERYWHERE

But, ultimately, everyone will be a loser.

Though some economies in Southeast Asia might benefit in the short and even medium term, economists warn that a global shift towards trade protectionism is bad news in the long run for the global economy.

Even with the benefits of shifting production for certain countries, a continuous decline in exports worldwide risks precipitating a global economic slowdown.

“A key question is the extent to which we retain the rules-based trading regime that we have become accustomed to over the last 30 years, which has been extremely good for economies in Asia,” said Michael Taylor at Moody’s in Singapore.

US-China trade war set to make big winners out of Asean countries

The IMF has estimated that imposing tariffs on all Chinese goods – which Trump has repeatedly threatened – would shave 1.6 per cent off China’s GDP and .09 per cent off of US output.

A sustained, full-scale trade war could depress global growth by 0.8 per cent next year, and keep it 0.4 per cent below its trend line over the long term, according to the fund.

Last month, the Asian Development Bank forecast regional growth would slow to 5.7 per cent this year, down from 5.9 per cent last year, citing the trade tensions as the biggest risk factor to economic expansion.

The regional development bank predicted an even weaker performance of 5.6 per cent for next year.

In an even more dire prediction this week, Morgan Stanley warned the global economy could slip into recession if Washington and Beijing continued to claw at each other’s throats.

The US and China both reported weaker-than-expected retail sales and industrial production last month, even before the latest tariffs were announced.

Michael Plummer, trade economist at Washington DC’s Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, said rising protectionism would ultimately be bad for Asia.

“The world has become much more integrated today than it was in the 1970s, and the damage can be much greater,” he said.

Some are not convinced the impacts will be that far-reaching.

“It’s going to be more of a short-term hit,” said Woods at Credit Suisse. “There will definitely be an identifiable impact, and short-term dislocation for more developed economies, but they will adjust as they always do. Over the long term, the impact will diminish over time.” 

Source: SCMP

25/05/2019

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi tells US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ‘don’t go too far’

  • United States’ actions have harmed Chinese interests, firms, but Beijing still willing to negotiate a solution, Wang says
  • China also opposed to comments, actions regarding Taiwan, Xinhua reports
Foreign Minister Wang Yi said recent US actions had harmed China’s interests. Photo: Reuters
Foreign Minister Wang Yi said recent US actions had harmed China’s interests. Photo: Reuters
The United States’ recent words and actions have harmed the interests of China and its enterprises, and Washington should exercise more restraint, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday, according to state media.
In a telephone conversation, Wang said the US should not go “too far” in the current disputes between the two sides, adding that on trade issues, China was still willing to resolve differences through negotiations, but that they should be on an equal footing, Xinhua reported.
China had stated its firm opposition to Washington’s negative words and acts regarding Taiwan, he said, adding that the United States should recognise the one-China principle, adhere to the three China-US joint communiques, and handle issues related to the self-ruled island carefully and properly, Xinhua reported.

On the issue of Iran, Wang said China hoped all parties would exercise restraint and act with caution to avoid escalating tensions.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (left) says China is willing to resolve its differences with the US through negotiations. Photo: AP
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (left) says China is willing to resolve its differences with the US through negotiations. Photo: AP

US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement that Pompeo spoke with Wang and discussed bilateral issues and US concerns about Iran, but gave no other details.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have increased in recent days, raising concerns about a potential US-Iran conflict. Earlier this week the United States pulled some diplomatic staff from its Baghdad embassy following attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf.

China ‘in no rush’ for another Mnuchin trade war talks trip

China struck a more aggressive tone on Friday, suggesting a resumption of trade talks between the world’s two largest economies would be meaningless unless Washington changed course.

The tough talk capped a week that saw Beijing unveil fresh retaliatory tariffs, US officials accuse China of backtracking on promises made during months of talks, and Washington level a potentially crippling blow against one of China’s biggest and most successful companies.

The US said on Thursday it was putting Huawei Technologies, the world’s largest telecoms equipment maker, on a blacklist that could make it extremely hard to do business with US companies. But a day later the US Commerce Department said it may soon scale back restrictions on the Chinese firm.

It said it was considering issuing a temporary general licence to “prevent the interruption of existing network operations and equipment”.

Potential beneficiaries of this licence could, for example, include telecoms providers in thinly populated parts of US states such as Wyoming and Oregon that bought network equipment from Huawei in recent years.

On Friday, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang, when asked about state media reports suggesting there would be no more trade negotiations, said China always encouraged resolving disputes with the United States through dialogue and consultations.

Source: SCMP

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