Archive for ‘agriculture’


Seven Silk Road destinations, from China to Italy: towns that grew rich on trade

  • Settlements along the route linking Europe and Asia thrived by providing accommodation and services for countless traders
  • Formally established during the Han dynasty, it was a 19th-century German geographer who coined the term Silk Road
The ruins of a fortified gatehouse and cus­toms post at Yunmenguan Pass, in China’s Gansu province. Photo: Alamy
The ruins of a fortified gatehouse and cus­toms post at Yunmenguan Pass, in China’s Gansu province. Photo: Alamy
We have a German geographer, cartographer and explorer to thank for the name of the world’s most famous network of transconti­nental trade routes.
Formally established during the Han dynasty, in the first and second centuries BC, it wasn’t until 1877 that Ferdinand von Richthofen coined the term Silk Road (historians increasingly favour the collective term Silk Routes).
The movement of merchandise between China and Europe had been taking place long before the Han arrived on the scene but it was they who employed troops to keep the roads safe from marauding nomads.
Commerce flourished and goods as varied as carpets and camels, glassware and gold, spices and slaves were traded; as were horses, weapons and armour.
Merchants also moved medicines but they were no match for the bubonic plague, which worked its way west along the Silk Road before devastating huge swathes of 14th century Europe.
What follows are some of the countless kingdoms, territories, (modern-day) nations and cities that grew rich on the proceeds of trade, taxes and tolls.


A watchtower made of rammed earth at Dunhuang, a desert outpost at the crossroads of two major Silk Road routes in China’s northwestern Gansu province. Photo: Alamy
A watchtower made of rammed earth at Dunhuang, a desert outpost at the crossroads of two major Silk Road routes in China’s northwestern Gansu province. Photo: Alamy

Marco Polo worked in the Mongol capital, Khanbaliq (today’s Beijing), and was struck by the level of mercantile activity.

The Venetian gap-year pioneer wrote, “Every day more than a thousand carts loaded with silk enter the city, for a great deal of cloth of gold and silk is woven here.”

Light, easy to transport items such as paper and tea provided Silk Road traders with rich pickings, but it was China’s monopoly on the luxurious shimmering fabric that guaranteed huge profits.

So much so that sneaking silk worms out of the empire was punishable by death.

The desert outpost of Dunhuang found itself at the crossroads of two major Silk Road trade arteries, one leading west through the Pamir Mountains to Central Asia and another south to India.

Built into the Great Wall at nearby Yunmenguan are the ruins of a fortified gatehouse and cus­toms post, which controlled the movement of Silk Road caravans.

Also near Dunhuang, the Mogao Caves contain one of the richest collections of Buddhist art treasures any­where in the world, a legacy of the route to and from the subcontinent.


Afghanistan's mountainous terrain was an inescapable part of the Silk Road, until maritime technologies would become the area's undoing. Photo: Shutterstock
Afghanistan’s mountainous terrain was an inescapable part of the Silk Road, until maritime technologies would become the area’s undoing. Photo: Shutterstock

For merchants and middlemen hauling goods through Central Asia, there was no way of bypassing the mountainous lands we know today as Afghanistan.

Evidence of trade can be traced back to long before the Silk Road – locally mined lapis lazuli stones somehow found their way to ancient Egypt, and into Tutankhamun’s funeral mask, created in 1323BC.

Jagged peaks, rough roads in Tajikistan, roof of the world

Besides mercan­tile exchange, the caravan routes were responsible for the sharing of ideas and Afghanistan was a major beneficiary. Art, philosophy, language, science, food, architecture and technology were all exchanged, along with commercial goods.

In fact, maritime technology would eventually be the area’s undoing. By the 15th century, it had become cheaper and more convenient to transport cargo by sea – a far from ideal development for a landlocked region.


The Ganjali Khan Complex, in Iran. Photo: Shutterstock
The Ganjali Khan Complex, in Iran. Photo: Shutterstock

Thanks to the Silk Road and the routes that preceded it, the northern Mesopotamian region (present-day Iran) became China’s closest trading partner. Traders rarely journeyed the entire length of the trail, however.

Merchandise was passed along by middlemen who each travelled part of the way and overnighted in caravan­serai, forti­fied inns that provided accom­mo­dation, storerooms for goods and space for pack animals.

The good, bad and ugly sides to visiting Chernobyl and Kiev

With so many wheeler-dealers gathering in one place, the hostelries developed into ad hoc marketplaces.

Marco Polo writes of the Persian kingdom of Kerman, where craftsmen made saddles, bridles, spurs and “arms of every kind”.

Today, in the centre of Kerman, the former caravanserai building forms part of the Ganjali Khan Complex, which incorporates a bazaar, bathhouse and mosque.


A fort in Khiva, Uzbekistan. Photo: Alamy
A fort in Khiva, Uzbekistan. Photo: Alamy

The double-landlocked country boasts some of the Silk Road’s most fabled destinations. Forts, such as the one still standing at Khiva, were built to protect traders from bandits; in fact, the city is so well-preserved, it is known as the Museum under the Sky.

The name Samarkand is also deeply entangled with the history of the Silk Road.

The earliest evidence of silk being used outside China can be traced to Bactria, now part of modern Uzbekistan, where four graves from around 1500BC-1200BC contained skeletons wrapped in garments made from the fabric.

Three thousand years later, silk weaving and the production and trade of textiles remain one of Samarkand’s major industries.


A street in old town of Tbilisi, Georgia. Photo: Alamy
A street in old town of Tbilisi, Georgia. Photo: Alamy

Security issues in Persia led to the opening up of another branch of the legendary trade route and the first caravan loaded with silk made its way across Georgia in AD568.

Marco Polo referred to the weaving of raw silk in “a very large and fine city called Tbilisi”.

Today, the capital has shaken off the Soviet shackles and is on the cusp of going viral.

Travellers lap up the city’s monaster­ies, walled fortresses and 1,000-year-old churches before heading up the Georgian Military Highway to stay in villages nestling in the soaring Caucasus Mountains.

Public minibuses known as marshrutka labour into the foothills and although the vehicles can get cramped and uncomfortable, they beat travelling by camel.


Petra, in Jordan. Photo: Alamy
Petra, in Jordan. Photo: Alamy

The location of the Nabataean capital, Petra, wasn’t chosen by chance.

Savvy nomadic herders realised the site would make the perfect pit-stop at the confluence of several caravan trails, including a route to the north through Palmyra (in modern-day Syria), the Arabian peninsula to the south and Mediterranean ports to the west.

Huge payments in the form of taxes and protection money were collected – no wonder the most magnificent of the sand­stone city’s hand-carved buildings is called the Treasury.

The Red Rose City is still a gold mine – today’s tourists pay a hefty

US$70 fee to enter Petra

. The Nabataeans would no doubt approve.


Tourists crowd onto Venice’s Rialto Bridge. Photo: Alamy
Tourists crowd onto Venice’s Rialto Bridge. Photo: Alamy

Trade enriched Venice beyond measure, helping shape the Adriatic entrepot into the floating marvel we see today.

Besides the well-documented flow of goods heading west, consignments of cotton, ivory, animal furs, grapevines and other goods passed through the strategically sited port on their way east.

Ironically, for a city built on trade and taxes, the biggest problem Venice faces today is visitors who don’t contribute enough to the local economy.

A lack of spending by millions of day-tripping tourists and cruise passengers who aren’t liable for nightly hotel taxes has prompted authorities to introduce a citywide access fee from January 2020.

Two thousand years ago, tariffs and tolls helped Venice develop and prosper. Now they’re needed to prevent its demise.

Source: SCMP


First China-Africa Economic, Trade Expo closes in central China

CHANGSHA, June 30 (Xinhua) — The first China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo closed Saturday in Changsha, the capital city of central China’s Hunan Province.

A total of 84 deals worth 20.8 billion U.S. dollars were reached in trade, agriculture, tourism and other fields during the three-day event, which saw 14 activities, including the opening ceremony, seminars, conferences and forums, as well as an exhibition.

Experts, businessmen and officials from China and African countries discussed the new methods of the cooperation between the two sides during the event.

International organizations including the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, the World Food Programme and the World Trade Organization have sent representatives to the expo.

The expo, with an exhibition area of more than 40,000 square meters, attracted over 100,000 guests and traders, including those from 53 African countries, according to the organizing committee.

Source: Xinhua


‘There is no water. Why should people stay here?’

Image caption Hatkarwadi hasn’t seen decent rains in three years

Every morning Dagadu Beldar, 75, wakes up and cooks rice and lentils in his village home in India’s western state of Maharashtra. After that, there’s little else to do.

For the past three years, Mr Beldar has lived alone in his gloomy one-room hut in Hatkarwadi, a stony hillside outback ringed by forests. Drought forced his wife and three sons out of the village. The earth was parched and the wells were dry. There was little water to drink and bathe in, and the family’s millet farm lay barren.

Two sons found work at a sugar factory in Sangli, a cane-growing district some 400km (248 miles) away. Their mother looked after the third son, who went to school there. Hatkarwadi had become a bad memory.

With age, Mr Beldare is going deaf. He mostly keeps to himself in his dark room.

“He’s a very lonely man. He hasn’t seen his family in three years. All because of water,” says Ganesh Sadgar, a neighbour.

Dagadu Beldar
Image caption Dagadu Beldar lives alone after his family left the village because of lack of water

Across the lane, 75-year-old Kishan Sadgar’s only son left home a decade ago to work in a sugar factory far away. He lives with his wife and a pet dog. “My son hardly comes home,” he says. “And when he comes he wants to leave after two or three days because there’s no water here.”

A few doors away, Saga Bai lives with her 14-year-old deaf mute daughter, Parvati. Her only son, Appa, left home years ago to work in a factory. “He hardly comes home. He says he will come only if it rains,” says Ms Bai.

And Ganesh Sadgar, the only graduate in the village, is unable to find a bride because “no woman wants to come here because there’s no water”.

Hatkarwadi is located in Beed, a sprawling sun-baked district which has been impoverished by lack of rain. Not long ago, more than 1,200 people lived in its 125 squat homes. More than half of them, mostly men, have left, leaving behind bolted, abandoned homes. These water refugees eke a living in faraway towns and cities, where they have found work in cane farms, sugar factories, construction sites or as taxi drivers.

Abandoned house in Hatkarwadi
Image caption Yashwant Sahibrao Sadgar locked his home and left the village a year ago because of lack of water

“There is no water. Why should people stay here?” says Bhimrao Beldar, the 42-year-old headman of the village.

The night before I arrived in the village, there had been a brief burst of rain. Next morning, promising grey clouds seemed to be the harbinger of bountiful rains. By mid-afternoon, however, the sky began burning again, extinguishing any such hopes. That’s how fickle hopes are here. The last time the village had “decent rains” was three years ago.

The cruel summer has sucked the life out of Hatkarwadi. The earth is brown and cracked. Cotton and millet farms have withered away. Only two of the 35 wells have some water left. There are a dozen borewells, but the fast receding water table is forcing farmers to drill deep – up to 650ft – to extract water.

Hatkarwadi pump
Image caption The only source of water is a few functioning borewells

Even a minor gale snaps electricity lines, so the borewells often don’t work. Water tankers – the lifeline of the drought-hit – refuse to supply because of the precarious state of the narrow strip of tar which serves as the connecting road to the village.

There’s nothing to feed the animals, so 300 buffaloes have been moved to a fodder camp uphill where the animals live with their owners under tarp. Some 75 new toilets built under a federal government programme to end open defecation lie unused because there’s no water. Most villagers borrow drinking and bathing water from well-to-do neighbours who own borewells.

Hatkarwadi is a speck on the map of Beed, where more than a million people have been hit by the drought. Deforestation has reduced forest cover to a bare 2% of the total area of the district. Only 16% of the farms are irrigated. When monsoons are good, the rain-fed farms yield cotton, soya bean, sugarcane, sorghum and millet for 650,000 farmers.

Hatkarwadi well
Image caption Most of the village’s 35 wells are dry

For the last six years, Beed has seen declining rainfall. Irregular rainfall patterns have been playing havoc with crops. A 10-day-pause in rainfall can end up damaging crops. Last year’s abundant rains – 99% of the average yearly rainfall of 690mm – still led to crop failure because there were four long interruptions.

The main Godavari river is running dry. Nearly all of the 140 big and small dams in Beed are out of water, as are the 800-odd wells. Two of the major dams now have what officials call “dead water” – low lying stored water, contaminated with sediments and mud. This is the water which is being pumped into ponds from where nearly a thousand tankers pick up supplies, spike them with chlorine and transport them to 300-odd thirsty villages.

Saga Bai
Image caption Saga Bai says her son returns to the village ‘only when it rains’

Half of Beed’s 800,000 cattle have been moved to more than 600 cattle camps because of lack of fodder. More than 40,000 people have taken up work under a jobs for work scheme, and officials are opening it up for others to prevent people from going into penury. The drought hasn’t spared people living in towns: the 250,000 residents of Beed town are getting piped water only once a week or sometimes a fortnight.

“This is the worst drought in a decade,” says Astik Kumar Pandey, the senior-most official of Beed. “We are hoping that our drinking water supplies last until end of July and then we have abundant rains”.

The crippling drought in Maharashtra is part of a larger climate catastrophe which has gripped India. More than 40% of the land, by one estimate, is facing drought and more than 500 million people living in at least 10 states are badly affected.

Media caption ‘Men don’t care about drought as women fetch the water’

P Sainath, the founder and editor of the online People’s Archive of Rural India, says the lack of water is an “explosive problem”. But drought alone has not contributed to the crisis, he says. It also has to do with the appropriation of water by the well-to-do at the expense of the poor, and the skewed allocation of water.

“The transfer of water from the farms to the industry, from food crops to water guzzling cash crops, from rural to urban areas, and from livelihood to lifestyle purposes for multiple swimming polls in urban high-rises has also led to this situation.”

Back in his office in Beed, Astik Kumar Pandey peers over a live map tracking the movement of GPS-tagged water tankers in the district. It’s a dense mass of red (stationary tankers picking up supplies) and green (tankers on their way with water) trucks clogging the heart of the district.

“This is how bad the situation is. We are hoping that the rains arrive soon”.

Source: The BBC


India’s rural pain goes beyond farmers, and it may be a problem for Modi

ZADSHI VILLAGE, India (Reuters) – Three years ago, brick mason Pundlik Bhandekar was always busy as farmers in his tiny hamlet in Maharashtra commissioned new houses and nearby towns were undergoing rapid urbanisation. Now, as the rural economy sinks and the pace of construction slows, Bhandekar is struggling to get work.

“I used to get a new construction project before I could even finish one. People would come to my house to check when I would be free to work for them,” said Bhandekar, as he sat with friends under the shade of a tree on a hot afternoon.

From daily wage workers such as masons, to barbers and grocery shop owners – just about everyone in Zadshi village, some 720 km (450 miles) from India’s financial hub Mumbai, says a drop in farm incomes has dented their livelihoods.

Their woes are symptomatic of a wider problem across India, where more than half of the country’s 1.3 billion people are dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods, as the slowdown in the rural economy is felt in the dampening sales of consumer goods, especially the biggest such as car and motorbike sales.

The slowdown has also dented Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity in the hinterland that propelled him to power in 2014, and political strategists say it may mean he struggles to form a majority after voting in a staggered general election that began on April 11 concludes on May 19.

Zadshi has been almost entirely dependent on annual cotton and soybean crops that, according to farmers, have given lacklustre returns in the past few years due to a dip in prices, droughts and pest attacks.

And as incomes have dropped, farmers have cut back on big-ticket spending such as building new houses, digging wells or laying water pipelines, squeezing employment opportunities for people such as Bhandkekar.

“No one is interested in hiring us. We are ready to work even at 250 rupees ($3.60) per day,” said Bhandekar, who charged 300 rupees a day when work was steady, but now gets work only once or twice in a fortnight.


Economic data reflects the plight of farmers and daily wage workers.

Retail food inflation in the fiscal year ended on March 31 fell to 0.74 percent, even as core inflation stood at 5.2 percent, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch Research, eroding the spending power of farmers.

Inflation adjusted wage growth for workers involved in crop sowing was just 0.6 percent 2018/19 compared with 6.5 percent in 2013/14.

The value of farm produce at constant prices grew 15 percent in the past five years, compared with 23 percent in the previous five, while the manufacturing sector grew 40 percent, against 32.6 percent in the previous five years, government data shows.

“Lower rural wages will result in lesser spending, which in turn will reduce demand for goods and services that are part of the rural basket,” Rupa Rege Nitsure, group chief economist at L&T Finance Holdings in Mumbai, told Reuters.

The government needs to spend more in rural areas to generate employment and boost incomes, Nitsure said.

Modi’s Hindu nationalist government did introduce various support schemes in the past six months, such as a 6,000 rupees yearly handout to small farmers.

The main opposition Congress party has gone much further with its pledges though, saying it would introduce a basic minimum income, where the country’s poorest families would get 72,000 rupees annually, benefiting some 250 million people.


In Zadshi, as the mercury touched a searing 40 degrees Celsius(104F), a group of villagers gathered under the trees lining a dusty road and began chatting about everything from crop prices to politics.

“What else we can do? Had work been available in urban areas, we could have moved there but even in the cities construction has slowed down,” said Amol Sontakke, an unskilled labourer who works in farms and on construction sites.

Job opportunities have slowed even in urban areas and India’s unemployment rate touched 7.2 percent in February, the highest since September 2016, according to data compiled by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE). Official data is unavailable for recent periods.

The mood in Zadshi was glum. While four dozen villagers interviewed by Reuters were hopeful that if there was a good monsoon this year it could improve farm incomes, they’ve been cutting back on spending in the meantime.

“People are thinking twice before buying new clothes during festivals,” said Avinash Gaurkar, a farmer currently doubling up as a part-time driver. “Buying big-ticket items such as motorcycles or refrigerators is out of the question.”

Two years ago Gaurkar began building a house, but had to give up midway as his five-acre farm could not generate the money needed, he said, pointing towards a half-finished structure without doors.

In 2018, just four villagers bought new motorbikes compared with as many as 10 a year about four years ago, said cotton farmer Raju Kohale, whose son is sitting at home unemployed after graduating as an engineer.

“Poor monsoon or lower prices, something or the other has been hurting us in the past few years,” Kohale said.


In the 2014 general election, most in Zadshi voted for Modi, but the farmers’ distress has swayed many towards the opposition Congress party. That was clear from Reuters’ interviews with 48 villagers, who cast their ballots last month.

Farmers are at the bottom of the Modi administration’s priority list, said labourer Sagar Bahalavi.

“They are building big roads to connect metros and calling it development. How is that useful for us?” he said.

Some, though, want to give Modi a second chance.
“Modi’s intentions are good, it’s the bureaucratic system that is not supporting him,” said Gulab Chalakh, who owns a 20-acre farm and is among the richest in the village. “We should give him another chance.”
Source: Reuters

Chinese top legislator meets Malaysian prime minister


Li Zhanshu (R), chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, meets with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who is here to attend the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, in Beijing, capital of China, April 25, 2019. (Xinhua/Zhang Ling)

BEIJING, April 25 (Xinhua) — Li Zhanshu, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, on Thursday met with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who is here to attend the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation.

Li said China is willing to work with Malaysia to implement the consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries and outcomes to be achieved at the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation.

He asked for enhanced cooperation between the two countries in agriculture, fishery, e-commerce, technological innovation and people-to-people exchanges, as well as parliamentary exchange and mutual learning in state governance, legislation and supervision.

Mahathir said Malaysia welcomes the Belt and Road Initiative and is willing to learn from China’s development experience and strengthen bilateral cooperation in all areas.

Source: Xinhua


Cambodian, Chinese entrepreneurs meet to explore business opportunities

PHNOM PENH, April 18 (Xinhua) — A Cambodian and Chinese entrepreneurs meeting was held here on Thursday, aiming at exploring opportunities for trade and investment, officials said.

The meeting brought together nearly 20 entrepreneurs from southwest China’s Sichuan province and about 20 Cambodian business executives.

Ek Sam Ol, president of the Cambodia-China Friendship Association, said that currently, many enterprises from Sichuan have been doing businesses in various sectors in Cambodia.

“The forum is a good opportunity for the entrepreneurs from both sides to exchange experiences and to explore opportunities for investments or business partnerships,” he said.

Sam Ol said China is currently the top foreign investor in Cambodia and Chinese investments have importantly contributed to socio-economic development in the country.

He said Chinese investments have focused on a variety of sectors including transport infrastructure, hydropower plants, industrial zones, garment and footwear factories, banking and finance, real estate and construction, agriculture, tourism, and airlines.

Source: Xinhua


U.S., China agree to establish trade deal enforcement offices – Mnuchin

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States and China have largely agreed on a mechanism to police any trade agreement they reach, including establishing new “enforcement offices,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday.

Mnuchin, speaking on CNBC television, said that progress continues to be made in the talks, including a “productive” call with China’s Vice Premier Liu He on Tuesday night. The discussions would be resumed early on Thursday, Washington time, he added.

“We’ve pretty much agreed on an enforcement mechanism, we’ve agreed that both sides will establish enforcement offices that will deal with the ongoing matters,” Mnuchin said, adding that there were still important issues for the countries to address.

Mnuchin declined to comment on when or if U.S. tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods would be removed. Although President Donald Trump said recently that a deal could be ready around the end of April, Mnuchin declined to put a timeframe on the negotiations, adding that Trump was focused on getting the “right deal.”

“As soon as we’re ready and we have this done, he’s ready and willing to meet with President Xi (Jinping) and it’s important for the two leaders to meet and we’re hopeful we can do this quickly, but we’re not going to set an arbitrary deadline,” Mnuchin added.

The United States is demanding that China implement significant reforms to curb the theft of U.S. intellectual property and end forced transfers of technology from American companies to Chinese firms.

Washington also wants Beijing to curb industrial subsidies, open its markets more widely to U.S. firms and vastly increase purchases of American agricultural, energy and manufactured goods.

The Chinese commerce ministry on Thursday confirmed that senior trade negotiators from both countries discussed the remaining issues in a phone call following the last round of talks in Washington.

“In the next step, both trade teams will keep in close communication, and work at full speed via all sorts of effective channels to proceed with negotiations,” Gao Feng, the ministry’s spokesman told reporters in a regular briefing in Beijing.

Mnuchin did not address whether the enforcement structure would allow the United States a unilateral right to reimpose tariffs without retaliation if China fails to follow through on its commitments.

People familiar with the discussions have said that U.S. negotiators are seeking that right, but that China is reluctant to agree to such a concession. Alternatively, the United States may seek to keep tariffs in place, only removing them when China meets certain benchmarks in implementing its reforms.

Mnuchin said he and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who is leading the negotiations, are focused on “execution” of drafting the documents in the trade agreement.
The two sides are working on broad agreements covering six areas: forced technology transfer and cyber theft, intellectual property rights, services, currency, agriculture and non-tariff barriers to trade, according to two sources familiar with the progress of the talks.
“Some of the chapters are close to finished, some of the chapters still have technical issues,” Mnuchin said.
Source: Reuters

China to make forced technology transfer illegal as Beijing tries to woo back foreign investors

  • Issue a key demand made by US President Donald Trump as part of the ongoing US-China trade war
  • China expected to pass new foreign investment law next week during National People’s Congress

26 Feb 2019

Foreign direct investment in China amounted to US$135 billion in 2018, an increase of 3 per cent from a year earlier, according to Chinese government data. Photo: EPA

Foreign direct investment in China amounted to US$135 billion in 2018, an increase of 3 per cent from a year earlier, according to Chinese government data. Photo: EPA
Beijing will make it illegal to force foreign investors to transfer their technology to Chinese partners while also lowering market barriers for foreign firms to enter the domestic market, a senior economic planning official said on Wednesday, highlighting an effort to lure overseas investment inflows.
China is expected to pass a new law next week intended to protect the interests of foreign investors, both as a response to demands from the United States that have formed part of the ongoing trade war negotiations, and to help shore up economic growth, which slowed last year to its lowest rate in 28 years.
Foreign investors will be allowed to set up ventures in which they have full ownership, instead of being forced into joint ventures with local partners, in more industries, said Ning Jizhe, a vice-chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, in Beijing on Wednesday during the National People’s Congress.

But foreign investment into the world’s second biggest economy have slowed over last decade, which could deprive China of access to advanced technologies and marginalise the country in the development of future global supply chains.

Beijing is trying to lure more foreign capital and technology to support its plan to upgrade its manufacturing industries and boost the development of new, hi-tech sectors.

“China will roll out more opening-up measures in the agriculture, mining, manufacturing and service sectors, allowing wholly foreign-owned enterprises in more fields,” Ning said.

China law to protect intellectual property, ban forced tech transfer
Since December, China has been rushing to draft legislation for a new foreign investment law, a key clause of which prohibits local government’s from forcing transfer of technology in return for being allowed to conduct business in their jurisdictions.
The National People’s Congress is expected to endorse the new 

“After passing the law, the government will take serious measures to obey and implement it,” Ning added.

He said that China will remove market entry restrictions for foreign investors to ensure that domestic and foreign firms “are treated as equals.”

Ning Jizhe, a vice-chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission. Photo: EPA
Ning Jizhe, a vice-chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission. Photo: EPA

However, the jury is still out whether Beijing’s promises of fair treatment, market access and protection for intellectual property rights will be enough to generate a steady inflow of hi-tech investment.

The US has long complained that China has been unwilling to implement previous commitments under the World Trade Organisation to open up its market – allegation Beijing denies.

Shen Jianguang, chief economist at JD Digits, an arm of Chinese e-commerce firm, said restrictions on foreign investment will exist in China despite the government’s promises.

China’s domestic market remains large and attractive for some foreign investors, he said.

“Foreign investors are still very interested in the Chinese market, if the openness of the economy is sufficient,” Shen added.

Source: SCMP


China’s commerce ministry comments on WTO report on U.S. complaint about agricultural subsidies

BEIJING, March 1 (Xinhua) — An official with China’s Ministry of Commerce on Friday commented on a World Trade Organization (WTO) panel report regarding the complaint from the United States about Chinese agricultural subsidies.

The WTO panel report, released Thursday Geneva time, ruled against the United States in terms of China’s corn subsidy policies. “The Chinese side welcomes this [ruling],” the unidentified official said.

China regrets that the panel did not support China’s proposition on calculating the subsidy levels in its minimum procurement price policies for wheat and rice, the official said.

Agriculture is a basic industry that concerns the national economy and people’s wellbeing. It is a common practice for governments to support agriculture, ensure farmers’ incomes and safeguard grain security, and such practices are allowed under WTO rules.

China consistently respects WTO rules and will seriously evaluate the panel report and properly handle the case following WTO dispute settlement procedure, safeguard the stability of the multilateral trade mechanism and continue to push ahead with its agricultural development in lines with WTO rules, the official said.

Source: Xinhua


Trump to delay further tariffs on Chinese goods

Donald Trump and China's Vice Premier Liu He in the Oval OfficeImage copyrightAFP
Image captionPresident Trump met China’s Vice Premier Liu He on Friday

President Donald Trump has announced that the US will delay imposing further trade tariffs on Chinese goods.

The rise in import duties on Chinese goods from 10% to 25% was due to come into effect on 1 March.

Mr Trump said both sides had made “substantial progress” in trade talks, which sent Chinese stocks up nearly 5%.

He added that he was planning a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Florida to cement the trade deal if more progress was made.

A report from China’s official news agency Xinhua also noted “substantial progress” on specific issues such as technology transfer, intellectual property protection and agriculture.

Mr Trump’s decision to delay tariff increases on $200bn (£153bn) worth of Chinese goods was seen as a sign that the two sides are making progress on settling their damaging trade war.

Last week, Mr Trump noted progress in the latest round of negotiations in Washington, including an agreement on currency manipulation, though no details were disclosed.

Sources told CNBC on Friday that China had committed to buying up to $1.2 trillion in US goods, but there had been no progress on the intellectual property issues.

What has happened in the trade war so far?

Mr Trump initiated the trade war over complaints of unfair Chinese trading practices.

That included accusing China of stealing intellectual property from American firms, forcing them to transfer technology to China.

The US has imposed tariffs on $250bn worth of Chinese goods, and China has retaliated by imposing duties on $110bn of US products.

Mr Trump has also threatened further tariffs on an additional $267bn worth of Chinese products – which would see virtually all of Chinese imports into the US become subject to duties.

US and China's tariffs against each other

The trade dispute has unnerved financial markets, risks raising costs for American companies and is adding pressure to a Chinese economy that is already showing signs of strain.

It has also stoked fears about the impact on the global economy.

Last year, the International Monetary Fund warned the trade war between the US and China risked making the world a “poorer and more dangerous place”.

Source: The BBC