Archive for January, 2017

31/01/2017

The Chinese man trapped in India for half a century – BBC News

In 1963 a Chinese army surveyor crossed into India and was captured, weeks after a war between the countries. Wang Qi has been unable to leave India ever since – and longs to see his family in China.

BBC Hindi’s Vineet Khare met him.

Tirodi village is a nearly five-hour drive from the nearest airport in Nagpur in central India.

I am here to meet Wang Qi, a Chinese army surveyor who entered India in 1963 but could never go back. For over five decades, he has been longing to see his family back home.

Sporting cropped white hair, black trainers and a body warmer, Mr Wang, who is now in his eighties, hugs me when we meet. We are about to try and make video contact with his family more than 3,000km (1,864 miles) away in China.

Together we go to the government office, which is the only centre equipped with internet for miles around.

He watches in anticipation as I dial and then his eyes light up as the image of his elder brother Wang Zhiyuan, 82, appears on the screen, seated on a sofa in Xianyang, a city in China’s Shaanxi province.

The two brothers are seeing each other after more than 50 years. The conversation in Mandarin lasts 17 minutes.

“I couldn’t recognise him. He looked so old. He said he was alive just for me,” Wang Qi, also known by his Indian name Raj Bahadur, tells me in strongly accented Hindi as his three Indian-born children gather around to comfort him.

Mr Wang’s story is a long and sad one.

Born to a farmer family in Shaanxi with four brothers and two sisters, he studied surveying and joined China’s People’s Liberation Army in 1960.

Mr Wang says he was “tasked with building roads for the Chinese army” and was captured when he “strayed erroneously” inside India’s territory in January 1963.

“I had gone out of my camp for a stroll but lost my way. I was tired and hungry. I saw a Red Cross vehicle and asked them to help me. They handed me over to the Indian army,” he said.

Mr Wang’s mother died in 2006 before he could go back and see her

Indian officials said Mr Wang “intruded into India” and gave “false background and the circumstances” about his whereabouts to the authorities.

He spent the next seven years in a number of different jails before a court ordered his release in 1969.

Police took him to Tirodi, a far-flung village in the central state of Madhya Pradesh. He has not been allowed to leave the country ever since.

It’s still not clear whether Mr Wang is a prisoner of war. But he has been denied official Indian documents or citizenship and also been denied permission to travel back. His family says Mr Wang needs a document to exit India.

Senior local official Bharat Yadav agrees that there have been “deficiencies” and a “lack of interest” in the case.

“There are no suspicions about his actions. If he wants to go back, we will try and help him,” he said.

An official at the Chinese embassy, which helped him secure a passport in 2013, acknowledged he was aware of the issue. A response to questions sent to India’s federal home ministry is still awaited.

It has been a long, excruciating wait for Mr Wang.

Wang Qi joined China’s People’s Liberation Army in 1960

Be it language, food or a vastly different society, Mr Wang has had to adapt every step of the way.

“I began by working in a flour mill. But I cried in the night as I longed for my family. I missed my mother,” he said.

“I wondered what I had got into.”

Mr Wang married a local girl, Sushila, under “pressure from friends” in 1975.

“I was livid with my parents for marrying me off to an outsider. I had trouble understanding his language. I tolerated him for a few months. Then I got used to him,” she says with a smile.

Mr Wang tried his hand at business but his undefined legal status meant visits by local police.

Mr Wang married a local girl, Sushila, under “pressure from friends” in 1975

“I remember Mr Wang being beaten by the police for not bribing them. He was an honest man,” says BB Singh, his neighbour for many years.

“He always talked about his home in China. His family lived in utter poverty. He would cycle for miles with no break,” another former neighbour Jayanti Lal Waghela says.

Mr Wang wrote letters home but received his first reply only in the 1980s. Family pictures were exchanged.

He spoke to his mother for the first time in more than 40 years on the phone in 2002.

“She said she wanted to see me as her last days were near. I said I was trying to return. I wrote letters to everyone who mattered to provide me with exit documents but nothing moved.”

She died in 2006.

Mr Wang’s family in ChinaMr Wang’s nephew met him when he came to India as a tourist in 2009.

It was he who helped him to get the necessary documents for his passport.It is still not clear whether Wang Qi will be able to go to China – and if he did, would he want to return to India?

“My family is here. Where would I go?” he says, playing with his granddaughter in his lap.

Sushila is worried though. “I hope he comes back.”

Mr Wang with his family
Image captionIt is not clear whether Mr Wang will leave his family and return to China
30/01/2017

Inside India’s first department of happiness – BBC News

On a crisp weekday afternoon recently, hundreds of men and women, young and old, thronged a dusty playground of a government high school in a village in India’s Madhya Pradesh state.

Hemmed in by mobile towers and squalid buildings, the ground in Salamatpur was an unusual venue for a government-sponsored programme to “spread cheer and happiness”.

Undeterred by the surroundings and egged on by an energetic emcee, children in blue-and-white school uniforms, women in bright chiffon saris, and young men in jeans and t-shirts participated in games and festivities all morning. Under a tatty awning, people sprawled and a DJ played some music over crackling speakers. People left some food and old clothes for donation near a “wall of giving”.

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On the field, children raced in gunny sacks. A dozen girls, hands tied to their back, sprinted to get their teeth into knotty jalebis, a popular sweet. Women, squealing with delight, competed in tug-of-war contests. Jaunty men from a dancing school vowed the crowd with hip-hop dance moves. A four-year-old girl provided a rousing finale with her Bollywood-style hip-swinging gyrations. At the end of it all, beaming participants received glossy certificates.

On the dais crowded with officials and village leaders, there was mirthful insistence that “happiness week” had kicked off well. Videos and pictures of festivities from all over the state poured into the phones of excited officials: these included grannies tugging rope and grandfathers running with spoons in their mouths, among other things.

A week-long ‘happiness week’ saw girls participating in jalebi races

…and older villagers running with spoons in their mouth

The fun and games were part of a week-long Happiness Festival, organised by the ruling BJP government in what is India’s second largest state, home to more than 70 million people. They also provided a glimpse of the rollout of what is the country’s first state-promoted project to “to put a smile on every face”.

“Even in our villages, people are becoming introverted and self-centred because of TV and mobile phones. We are trying to get people out of homes, come together, and be happy. The aim is to forget the worries of life and enjoy together,” said Shobhit Tripathi a senior village council functionary.

‘Positive mindset’

At the heart of this project is the newly-formed Department of Happiness – the first of its kind in India – helmed by the state Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan himself.

The yoga-loving three-term 57-year-old leader of the ruling BJP believes the “state can help in ensuring the mental well being of its people”.

Under him a gaggle of bureaucrats and a newly formed State Institute of Happiness are tasked with the responsibility of “developing tools of happiness” and creating an “ecosystem that would enable people to realise their own potential of inner well being”. The department also plans to run some 70 programmes and develop a Happiness Index for the state.

Mr Chouhan, who taught philosophy in a local college before embarking on a successful career in politics, told me he had been thinking for a long time on how to “bring happiness in people’s lives”.

He then had an epiphany. Why couldn’t his government run programmes to help citizens have a “positive mindset”? One report said that he was prodded by a popular guru.

The tug-of-war games were keenly contested

Many village children participated in dances

There is more joy sometimes, Mr Chouhan told me, “being poor than being wealthy”.

But one wonders if people would be happy enough if the state was efficient in delivering basic services and be seen to be fair to all its people.

After all, Madhya Pradesh continues to be among India’s poorest states. More than a third of its people are Dalits (formerly known as untouchables) and tribespeople, among the most underprivileged. The world’s worst industrial accident happened in the state capital, Bhopal, in 1984, killing hundreds of people, and thousands of survivors are still fighting for compensation.

Despite impressive strides in farming, infrastructure and public services in recent years, illiteracy, undernourishment and poverty remain major challenges. When Mr Chouhan announced his plan last year, critics warned that the state would have to first deal with several “unhappy areas to make people happy”.

Bureaucracy of happiness?

Mr Chouhan agreed that providing food and shelter remained the primary responsibility of the state. But he said he was also worried about “families breaking up, rising divorces, and the increasing number of single people”. He spoke about the anomie of modern life, and how unwieldy aspirations lead to “excess stress and result in high suicide rates”.

He said that the state, borrowing from religious texts and folk wisdom, can help spread the virtues of “goodness, altruism, forgiveness, humility and peace”.

“We need people to have a positive mindset. We will try to achieve this through school lessons, yoga, religious education, moral science, meditation and with help from gurus, social workers and non-profits. It will be a wide ranging programme,” he said.

I wondered whether all this would spawn another gargantuan bureaucracy of happiness and invite allegations of cultural indoctrination by a government run by a Hindu nationalist party.

n this picture taken, 04 May 2007, Indian malnourished child, Viru (R) is comforted by his mother outside their hut at a village in Shivpuri district some 113 kms from Gwalior.Madhya Pradesh is among India’s poorest states

Don’t worry, Iqbal Singh Bains, the senior-most official in the department of happiness assured me. He’s also the top bureaucrat in the energy department.

“This is not about officials delivering happiness. This is not about preachy governance. You cannot deliver happiness to people. You can only bring about an enabling environment. The journey will be yours alone, the government is there to lend you a helping hand,” he told me.

Lending a hand would be more than 25,000 “happiness volunteers” who have signed up with the government. Government workers, teachers, doctors, homemakers and assorted people will work in the state’s 51 districts, holding “happiness tutorials and programmes”. Some 90 of them have already been trained.

‘Inner demons’

Sushil Mishra is one of them. The 48-year-old school teacher, who lives and works in remote Umaria, has already conducted four hour-long happiness classes at a secondary school, a student’s hostel, and government offices.

The classes, as he tells me, essentially have turned into confessionals, where participants talk about their good and not-so-good deeds, and pledge to improve themselves. Mr Mishra says it’s a challenge to create a relaxing, informal environment, where people can “wrestle with their inner demons”.

“Then they can listen to the voice of their soul, they are in touch with inner feelings. Nothing is forced.”

Madhya Pradesh is not the first place to try to “spread happiness”. But the jury is out on whether the state can play the role of a philosopher-counsellor-evangelist and make citizens happy.

In this photograph taken on October 5, 2011, Chief Minister for the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh Shivraj Singh Chouhan (R) poses with a child at a function to honour the 'girl child' in Bhopal
The ‘happiness programme’ is the brainhild of chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan

Three years ago, Bhutanese PM Tshering Tobgay cast doubts on the country’s popular pursuit of Gross National Happiness (GNH), saying that the concept was overused and masked problems with corruption and low standards of living. In 2013, Venezuela announced a “ministry of happiness”, but it did not stop the country from descending into social and economic chaos. Last year, United Arab Emirates announced the creation of a minister of state for happiness to “create social good and satisfaction”.

Many like sociologist Shiv Visvanathan believe the state has no right getting into the business of spreading happiness. Happiness, they say, is no laughing matter and its relationship with ambition is complex.

“The state cannot start defining what exactly contributes to mental well being. The state cannot colonise the subconscious. What happens to dissenting imagination or civil society? Trying to impose something as abstract as happiness on its people is not only bizarre, but downright dangerous,” said Dr Visvanathan.

Mr Chouhan obviously believes otherwise. In November, 24 of his ministers were sent five questions to find out how happy they were. A score of less than 22 meant that the respondent wasn’t happy.

Nobody knows the answers yet.

Source: Inside India’s first department of happiness – BBC News

26/01/2017

Chinese man cycles 500km in wrong direction to get home – BBC News

The milk of human kindness flows through the veins of Chinese policemen.

“A man hoping to cycle home cross-country for Chinese New Year realised 30 days into his trip that he had been travelling in the wrong direction.

The young migrant worker from China was aiming for his home in Qiqihar, Heilongjiang province, after setting off from Rizhao – over 1,700km away.

But he was stopped by traffic police 500km off course, in the central Chinese province of Anhui.

When they found out, the police paid for a train ticket to get him home.

The man had set off from Rizhao, in Shandong province, in December.

A report from the People’s Online Daily said the man had been living in internet cafes and was low on funds.

But he was determined to make it home so he chose to cycle the route.

The unnamed man could not read maps, meaning he had to rely on others for directions.

Police stopped him when he was riding on a highway, which cannot be used by cyclists.

After discovering his mistake, both police and people working at the toll station he was stopped at contributed to his ticket home.”

Source: Chinese man cycles 500km in wrong direction to get home – BBC News

24/01/2017

Xi Jinping portrays China as a rock of stability | The Economist

DELEGATES at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos often treat politicians as rock stars. But the fawning reception given to China’s leader, Xi Jinping, on January 17th was extraordinary.

He was the first Chinese president to attend the annual gathering of the world’s business and political elite. Even an overflow room was packed when he delivered, in his usual dour manner, a speech laced with literary references—rendered through bulky headsets into equally monotone translations. Mr Xi said little that was new, but the audience lapped it up anyway. Here, at a time of global uncertainty and anxiety for capitalists, was the world’s most powerful communist presenting himself as a champion of globalisation and open markets.

Mr Xi (pictured, next to a panda ice-sculpture) did not mention Donald Trump by name, nor even America, but his message was clear. “No one will emerge as a winner in a trade war,” he said, in a swipe at Mr Trump who has threatened, among other mercantilist acts, to slap heavy tariffs on Chinese goods. Mr Xi likened protectionism to “locking oneself in a dark room”, a phrase that delegates repeated with delight. His words seemed comforting to many of them after a year of political surprises, not least in America and Britain. Mr Xi quoted from Dickens to describe a “world of contradictions”, as he put it. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” he said. Many foreign businesses complain about what they regard as a rise of protectionism in China, too—but no one could accuse Mr Xi of being out of tune with the Davos mood. China, Mr Xi assured delegates, “will keep its door wide open and not close it”.

The Chinese president also portrayed his country as a staunch defender of the environment. He said that sticking to the Paris agreement on climate change, which came into effect last year, was “a responsibility we must assume for future generations”. These, too, were welcome words to many listening: Mr Trump’s threat to reject the pact will make China’s commitment to it all the more crucial. The week of whose inauguration?

The timing of Mr Xi’s trip was fortuitous—according to the Financial Times his aides were working on it before Britain voted to leave the European Union and well before Mr Trump’s election victory. But he must have relished the points that those events enabled him to score at Davos. Mr Xi faces political battles of his own as he prepares for a five-yearly Communist Party congress in the autumn and a reshuffle right after it. He wants to install more of his allies in key positions. Standing tall on the world stage could help (and attending Davos will have reinforced the point to his colleagues that he is in charge of China’s economy, as he clearly is of every other main portfolio).

Mr Xi would have relished the occasion even had the predictions of many in the global elite a year ago proved accurate—that Britain would vote to stay in the EU and that Mr Trump would not win. The forum is one where embarrassing questions about China’s politics are seldom raised openly. Mr Xi could talk airily of China’s openness, with little fear of being asked why he is clamping down on dissent and tightening controls on the internet (last year this newspaper’s website joined the many foreign ones that are blocked). On January 14th China’s most senior judge condemned judicial independence as a “false Western ideal”.

Previously, the highest-ranking Chinese attendees had been prime ministers. In 2016 the vice-president, Li Yuanchao, who ranks lower than the prime minister in the party hierarchy, led the team. So why has Mr Xi waited until his fifth year as president to turn up? He may well have winced at the thought of doing so last year, when discussions were dominated by questions about China’s management of its slowing economy in the wake of a stockmarket crash and a sudden devaluation of the yuan. Many analysts still worry about China’s economy (not least its growing debt), but the West’s problems have loomed larger over the Swiss Alps this week.

And for all his uplifting talk, Mr Xi shows no signs of wanting to take over as the world’s chief troubleshooter, even if Mr Trump shuns that role. Mr Xi is preoccupied with managing affairs at home and asserting control in seas nearby (see article). “Nothing is perfect in the world,” the new Davos man sagely informed the delegates. But he is unlikely to take the lead in making the world a better place.

Source: Xi Jinping portrays China as a rock of stability | The Economist

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24/01/2017

5 Things Narendra Modi Will Be Listening For During His Chat with Donald Trump – Briefly – WSJ

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to speak with U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday in a conversation that will set the tone for future relations.New Delhi hopes it can begin to decipher what the country’s top diplomat, S. Jaishankar, last week called a world in 2017 filled with “known and unknown unknowns”—a reflection on the rapidly-changing global landscape marked by Mr. Trump’s presidency in the U.S., turmoil in Europe and rising Chinese power.

Here are five things Mr. Modi will likely be listening for.

1 Pakistan

Mr. Trump has vowed to be tough on terror, a goal he shares with Mr. Modi. But it isn’t clear how that will shape the new U.S. administration’s views on Pakistan, India’s rival neighbor that Mr. Modi has called the epicenter of global terrorism.India’s security establishment will be watching to see if Mr. Trump puts greater pressure on Pakistan to stamp out terrorist groups on its soil and whether U.S. supply of aid and weapons to Islamabad, a long-standing thorn in India-U.S. ties, will diminish.Mr. Trump’s Pakistan policy will depend in large part on his approach to the conflict in Afghanistan, another big unknown Indians will be looking for more clarity on.

2 China

India is closely watching for clues on how Mr. Trump plans to tackle China, given the new U.S. president’s combative tone toward Beijing. A more-assertive China has in recent years driven closer U.S.-India collaboration on defense and security issues. In an address last week, Mr. Modi, without naming China, spoke about “rising ambitions and rivalries” in Asia as “visible stress points” and called for “predictable behavior rooted in international norms and respect for sovereignty.”But if U.S.-China differences spilled into a military confrontation, it is unclear how India, which is involved in territorial disputes with its more-powerful neighbor, will respond.

India will also be looking for signs of a different outcome analysts have predicted—a more inward-looking U.S. under Mr. Trump emboldening an ambitious Chinese leadership to expand the country’s power. Such a development could push India to play a bigger role in Asia and to further strengthen strategic ties with Japan, which is also wary of China’s rise.

3 H-1B visas

Indian officials are anxious to see if Mr. Trump moves to tighten visa rules that would affect the country’s outsourcing giants like Tata Consultancy Services Ltd., Infosys Ltd. and Wipro Ltd. that send programmers and engineers to the U.S. on high-skilled worker, or H-1B, visas. Mr. Trump at times during the campaign criticized the program for supplying “cheap labor.”

4 Russia

Among the biggest potential shifts under a Trump presidency is closer ties between the U.S. and Russia. India, which has long-standing ties with Moscow, would welcome such a development. Analysts in India believe U.S.-Russia tensions under President Barack Obama pushed Russia closer to China. New Delhi will keep an eye on whether Mr. Trump considers easing U.S. sanctions on Russia.

5 NSG membership

India is counting on U.S. backing to help it become a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group that controls trade in nuclear fuel and technology. Mr. Modi has made a big push for New Delhi’s entry, but has repeatedly been stymied by China. He will hope Mr. Trump finds a way to override Beijing’s objections.

Source: 5 Things Narendra Modi Will Be Listening For During His Chat with Donald Trump – Briefly – WSJ

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23/01/2017

China’s first aircraft-carrier bares its teeth | The Economist

FOR Admiral Wu Shengli, the commander of China’s navy since 2006, it must have been a sweet swansong to mark his imminent retirement. In November China announced that its first and only aircraft-carrier, the Liaoning, was combat ready.

On December 24th its navy duly dispatched an impressive-looking carrier battle-group with three escorting destroyers, a couple of frigates, a corvette and a refuelling ship. It sailed from the northern port of Qingdao down through the Miyako Strait, past Taiwan and into the South China Sea.

Three weeks later the Liaoning (pictured) was back in port having sailed home via the Taiwan Strait, thus completing a loop around the island. The point was not lost on the Taiwanese, who scrambled fighter jets and sent naval ships to monitor the group’s progress. The Chinese ships showed off their firepower, with Shenyang J-15 fighters staging a series of take-off and landing drills. That everything went smoothly was evidence of the navy’s transformation under Admiral Wu (his career perhaps destined by his forename, which means victory). He had meticulously prepared for this moment, which came just four years after the carrier, acquired as a partially built hulk from Ukraine in 1998, formally entered naval service.

China’s deployment of an aircraft-carrier is not a military game-changer. But it is a conspicuous symbol of the country’s ambitions as a maritime and global power. The Liaoning has been a crucial building block for the navy in its evolution from a coastal defence force into what is now a modern navy that China uses to assert its (contested) maritime claims in the East and South China Seas. Within the next 25 years China expects its navy to become a powerful blue-water fleet that can guard China’s sea lanes of communication against any aggressor, push the US Navy beyond the “second island chain” far out into the Pacific (see map) and protect the country’s far-flung commercial interests.

Scary, perhaps, but also easy to sink

To that end, probably around 2004, China made up its mind that it must have aircraft-carriers. A second, indigenously designed one, based on the Liaoning but with the latest radar and space for more aircraft, is nearing completion at the northern port of Dalian. Many analysts believe that a third such vessel, larger and more complex, is under construction in Shanghai. Andrew Erickson of the US Naval War College says Admiral Wu adopted a “crawl, walk, run” approach to developing a carrier capability, recognising the difficulties involved. Carrier operations are inherently dangerous—America lost 8,500 aircrew in the 40 years to 1988 on its way to reaching what Mr Erickson calls its current “gold standard” of carrier expertise.

 

Commissioning the Liaoning was a good way to start. Much modified and fettled by the Chinese, the ship is based on the Soviet Kuznetsov-class design. It is big, with a displacement of about 60,000 tons, but nowhere near the size of America’s super-carriers such as the USS Ronald Reagan, which is based in Japan. That Nimitz-class ship displaces around 100,000 tons.

In other ways, too, the Liaoning pales in comparison with America’s 10 Nimitz-class carriers. They can carry more than 55 fixed-wing aircraft. The Liaoning can only handle 24 J-15s (based on the Russian Sukhoi SU-33) and a handful of helicopters. Unlike the American carriers, it lacks a catapult to propel aircraft from its deck. Instead it relies on a “ski-jump” prow to provide extra lift. As a result, the J-15s have to carry a lighter load of weapons and fuel. Heavier, slower airborne early-warning and anti-submarine aircraft cannot take off from the Liaoning at all. That limits the type of missions the ship can perform and makes the vessel vulnerable when operating beyond the range of shore-based aircraft. The Liaoning also depends on a notoriously unreliable Soviet-era design for its steam turbines, which cuts its range and speed compared with the nuclear-powered Nimitz-class carriers.

The US Office of Naval Intelligence has dismissed the Liaoning’s ability to project naval power over a long distance. But the ship does have military value. It can provide air-protection for China’s fleet, and would be a major asset in disaster-relief or evacuation missions. Peter Singer of the New America Foundation, a think-tank, says that a Liaoning-led battle group would also seem pretty formidable to neighbours, such as Vietnam or the Philippines, should China feel like bullying them.

But the main value of the Liaoning is the experience that it is giving the navy in the complex choreography of carrier operations. Those skills will help in the eventual deployment of indigenously designed carriers. The Chinese have been training with catapult-launch systems on land. This has fuelled speculation that the carrier thought

Source: China’s first aircraft-carrier bares its teeth | The Economist

21/01/2017

Updated PAGES in Chindia Alert Weblog

Dear Follower – I only realised very recently that whereas my new or updated Posts (like this one you’re reading) is sent to you via email, LinkedIN, Facebook or Twitter, my updated Pages are not.

  1. Posts sit in the middle of your screen when you open my blog, but Pages are sort of hidden.  You access Pages through clicking on the tabs under the title banner.  For example, if you hover over the Home tab to the extreme left you will see two pages: Home: Why Chindia and Chindia sources.
  2. Since the New Year, I’ve updated the following Pages:

https://chindia-alert.org/social-cultural-diff/major-events-or-changes-in-china-social-cultural/

https://chindia-alert.org/social-cultural-diff/major-events-or-changes-in-india-social-cultural/

https://chindia-alert.org/economic-factors/recent-economic-situation-in-china/

https://chindia-alert.org/economic-factors/recent-economic-situation-in-india/

https://chindia-alert.org/political-factors/recent-chinese-politics/

https://chindia-alert.org/political-factors/recent-indian-politics/

 

If you are interested in the Pages, I suggest you review them once every six months or so.

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20/01/2017

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen aspires to create ‘new era’ of peace with Beijing | South China Morning Post

Taiwan aspires to create a “new era” of peace with mainland China, which should set aside the baggage of history and have positive dialogue, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen said in a letter to Pope Francis, adding military action could not resolve problems.

The issue of self-ruled and proudly democratic Taiwan has shot to the top of the international agenda since US President-elect Donald Trump broke with decades of precedent in December by taking a congratulatory telephone call from Tsai.

Pope Francis hails ‘good’ relations with China after getting gift from Xi Jinping

That, along with subsequent comments by Trump that the one-China policy was up for negotiation, has infuriated Beijing, which views Taiwan as a wayward province, to be bought under its control by force if necessary.

Mainland China is deeply suspicious of Tsai, whose ruling Democratic Progressive Party espouses the island’s formal independence, a red line for Beijing, and has cut off a formal dialogue mechanism with Taiwan.

In her January 5 letter to the Pope, released by her office on Friday, Tsai said upholding peace across the Taiwan Strait called for goodwill and communication.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen continues call for Beijing talks but refuses to accept ‘one China’ principle“

Based on many years of experience in cross-Strait negotiations during my political career, I am convinced that military action cannot resolve problems,” Tsai said.

“Taiwan and mainland China were once embroiled in a zero-sum conflict that caused tension in the region and anxiety among our peoples.In contrast, today people on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait enjoy stable lives and normal exchanges under peaceful separate governance.

”China’s priests wary of Vatican’s Beijing olive branchTaiwan was committed to maintaining its democracy and the status quo of peace, but would not bow to pressure, she added.

“I urge the governing party across the Strait, together with the governing party in Taiwan, to set aside the baggage of history and engage in positive dialogue,” Tsai said.

The Vatican is one of only a handful of countries which still maintains formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, although the Pope is trying to heal a decades-old rift with mainland China where Catholics are divided between those loyal to him and those who are members of a government-controlled official church.

Tsai said she sought to live up to the Pope’s words on nonviolent action.

“As the first female president in the ethnic Chinese world, I aspire to live up to your words as I devote myself to enhancing the well-being of the Taiwanese people and creating a new era for cross-Strait peace.”

Source: Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen aspires to create ‘new era’ of peace with Beijing | South China Morning Post

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19/01/2017

Parking in China Can Be a Long March – China Real Time Report – WSJ

After spending half an hour driving around the Olympic Park area of Beijing in search of a parking space near his home, a furious Xu Fei pulled over to the curb, ditched his car and walked the 10-minute journey home.

With no spaces near his apartment, parking illegally was his only option, risking a fine of 200 yuan ($30).  “I usually bargain with the grocery-store owners downstairs to rent their driveways for parking,” said the 24-year-old finance specialist who lives in a 1970s building that has no parking for any of its 30 apartments. “That evening they were all rented out.”

Once known as the land of the bicycle, China is now the world’s largest automotive market. While the rapid expansion of car ownership has created millions of jobs and helped drive the economy, with it has come congestion, pollution and a shortage of at least 50 million parking spaces in a country where 180 million vehicles ply the roads.

Beijing has 4.4 million private cars, Shanghai 2.1 million cars and the southwestern city of Chengdu 3.3 million cars. By contrast, New York City has 1.9 million cars, Chicago 1.1 million and San Francisco 408,000.

Some major cities have taken measures to restrict car purchases and created tens of thousands of parking spaces over the past years. A Shanghai Municipal Transportation Commission official told the city legislature this week that the agency is considering jacking up parking fees, state media reported.

These measures aren’t keeping pace with car ownership, and there is plenty of room for further growth—vehicle ownership in China is 1/7 that of the U.S.A 2002 residential complex, the Shanghai Grand Garden, comprises 20 high-rise blocks with 1,560 units. The property developer initially assigned 450 spots for cars. Now there are 1,500 resident vehicles.

Cars occupy most of the nearby sidewalks, with some pulled into tiny spots between flower beds, squeezing out pedestrians. The situation gets much worse in the evening, said Tao Baosen, a doorman, pointing at a charcoal Volvo crossover that was pulled over onto the artificial turfs last night.

“Even though it’s very clear how bad the situation is, the number of cars is still growing,” Mr. Tao said.

Parking is a universal problem in densely populated cities. While many developed countries require new buildings to create a specific number of parking spaces, they also take measures to restrict parking. For example, New York City reduced 25,000 off-street parking spaces in Manhattan’s central business district from 1978 to 2010 to prod commuters to take public transportation. London levies costly congestion charges to drive a vehicle into the city center.

By contrast, China is “too lenient towards drivers,” said Liu Shaokun, a vice country director at The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, a New York-based nonprofit outfit.China has encouraged government and private capital to build more parking spaces. The central government in 2015 required cities with a population of more than 500,000 to target a ratio of 1.3 parking spaces per car when planning residential and commercial developments.

By comparison, every 100 households in New York City’s Brooklyn borough share 40 parking spaces and in Queens, the ratio rises to 60 spaces per 100 households, according to the institute’s research.

“Increasing supply is unlikely to achieve the desired effect,” said Mr. Liu, noting high vacancy rates at many public and commercial parking lots and garages. “Many drivers go to cheaper off-street parking spaces, or just pull over onto the sidewalks since the costs of violating laws are low,” he said.

A variety of services and parking apps has sprung up to try to match cars and parking spaces for money. Edaibo, a Shanghai-based startup that provides valet parking services, has operated at 23 airports in China and last year received an investment from French tire maker Michelin Group to provide the service in major city centers.

D Parking, a Beijing startup, offers an app to connect drivers and parking spots. It aims to take advantage of commuting and business patterns. The company’s research found that more than 70% of the parking spaces in residential communities are idle in the daytime, while office buildings, shops and hospitals nearby face a dearth of spots. The opposite occurs in the evening.

Some efforts to increase supply have also upset drivers who complain they are now being charged to park in areas that were once free.

“We’re used to parking for free. When it comes to money, most of us will drive round and round for a free one,” said Fang Yi, a finance manager for a local hospital in Yiyang, a small city in the center of the country. He said he now spends 15 minutes searching for a free spot when going out

Source: Parking in China Can Be a Long March – China Real Time Report – WSJ

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18/01/2017

Why Are Party Symbols Like the Bicycle So Important in Indian Elections? – India Real Time – WSJ

A familiar Indian political saga played out in the country this month, as two factions of a party squabbled over what emblem to identify themselves with for upcoming state elections.In a democracy of over 1.2 billion people, many of whom are still illiterate and identify their choice on the ballot paper by the symbol adopted by the party, the answer has more than symbolic importance.

In the case of Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state, a bloc of the ruling Samajwadi Party is hoping to pedal to success using the symbol of a bicycle in regional polls that start next month.

The Election Commission of India ruled earlier this week that the right to use the name of the Samajwadi Party, or the Socialist party, and its logo—the bicycle–belonged to Akhilesh Yadav, the incumbent chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, and not his father and party founder Mulayam Singh Yadav.

The Yadav father and son have been dueling over control of the party, each claiming to be its head, since it split earlier this month. At the center of the contention was whose faction gets to use the bicycle, the party’s logo since its inception in 1992.The Election Commission of India said the group led by younger Akhilesh Yadav is the genuine Samajwadi Party and “is entitled to use its name and (the) reserved symbol ‘bicycle’” because it had the support of the majority of the party cadre.

Jostling over political symbols is an established trend in India, especially when parties split.

The emblems are valuable because they could be used to solicit voters’ loyalty that would have taken years to cultivate.

Congress, the current national main opposition party, has had to choose new symbols in the past after party splits. It settled for its current symbol–an open palm, which a party leader said stands for hard work and toil–ahead of the 1980 elections.Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party meanwhile has retained its original election symbol– the lotus flower, that epitomizes creativity and prosperity in Hinduism–since its formation in 1980.

The bicycle has significant brand value for the Samajwadi Party, which has its voter base in the mostly rural and agrarian Uttar Pradesh, where the human-powered vehicle is one of the most-favored and affordable means of transportation. To connect to voters, the party’s leaders often cycle during campaigns and distribute bikes to their supporters.

The party says on its website that it “gives immense importance to the development of common man and thus adopted the vehicle of the common man–a bicycle as its symbol.”

Source: Why Are Party Symbols Like the Bicycle So Important in Indian Elections? – India Real Time – WSJ

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