Archive for ‘Germany’


Could Chinese scientists have found evidence of world’s first stoners in 2,500-year-old Xinjiang graveyard?

  • Findings support earliest record of cannabis use, written in 440BC
  • Researchers speculate psychoactive THC had role in grim funeral rites
Researchers say their findings at a burial site in Xinjiang about cannabis use 2,500 years ago back up a Greek record written around 440BC. Photo: Handout
Researchers say their findings at a burial site in Xinjiang about cannabis use 2,500 years ago back up a Greek record written around 440BC. Photo: Handout
Scientists say a burial site in mountainous northwestern China contains evidence that cannabis smoke was used there as far back as 2,500 years ago, corroborating the earliest record of the practice, written by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus.
They said the evidence was found in a wooden bowl containing blackened stones unearthed at a Scythian cemetery in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. Chemical analysis showed traces of THC – tetrahydrocannabinol – the potent psychoactive component in cannabis.
Yang Yimin, lead author of a paper published in the journal Science Advances on Thursday, said the discovery at Jirzankal Cemetery, close to the border of Tajikistan, Pakistan and India, was “jaw-dropping”.

Scythians were horseback warriors who roamed from the Black Sea across central Asia and into western China more than 2,000 years ago. Herodotus wrote in The Histories around 440BC that they used marijuana, the earliest written record of the practice.

Scientists in Xinjiang found hemp had been burned on stones inside these wooden bowls 2,500 years ago. Photo: Chinese Academy of Sciences and Max Planck Institute
Scientists in Xinjiang found hemp had been burned on stones inside these wooden bowls 2,500 years ago. Photo: Chinese Academy of Sciences and Max Planck Institute

“The Scythians take the seed of this hemp and … they throw it on the red-hot stones. It smoulders and sends forth so much steam that no Greek vapour-bath could surpass it.

The Scythians howl in their joy at the vapour-bath,” Herodotus wrote.

Yang, who led an international team of researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany and the University of Queensland, said that until now there was no evidence to back up the Greek historian’s account.

“There was never any archaeological proof to the claim. We thought – is this it?” Yang said.

The discovery posed a question for the research team: where would the plants have come from? While hemp was commonly found in many parts of the world and was used for fabric, cooking and medicine, most wild species contained only small amounts of THC.

Ruins of 2,000-year-old coin workshop found in central China’s Henan province

Yang and his colleagues speculated that the altitude, 3,000 metres (9,843 feet) above sea level, and strong ultraviolet radiation might have resulted in a potent plant strain with THC levels similar to those in marijuana today.

“From here it was selected, probably domesticated and then went to other parts of the world along ancient trade routes with the Scythian nomads, forming an enormous ring of culture that shared the ritual of smoking cannabis,” Yang said.

Archaeologists said the site, with its 40 circular mounds and marked by long strips of black and white stones, could have been a burial ground for tribal members, with human sacrifice and cannabis part of the last rites.

Researchers suspect a potent strain of cannabis grew close to the Xinjiang burial site. Photo: Chinese Academy of Sciences and Max Planck Institute
Researchers suspect a potent strain of cannabis grew close to the Xinjiang burial site. Photo: Chinese Academy of Sciences and Max Planck Institute

So the early pot party might not have been the kind of celebration Herodotus described, the study’s authors suggested.

While the Scythians might have been inhaling the smoke to try to communicate with the dead in the next world, evidence suggested that a sacrifice – perhaps a war captive or a slave – was struck repeatedly on the head with a sword and the body hacked to pieces nearby, the researchers said.

Source: SCMP


Chinese vice president visits Germany, vows closer cooperation


Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan meets with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Berlin, Germany, May, 31, 2019. Wang Qishan paid a visit to Germany from Thursday to Sunday at the invitation of the German Federal Government. (Xinhua/Rao Aimin)

BERLIN, June 2 (Xinhua) — Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan paid a visit to Germany from Thursday to Sunday at the invitation of the German Federal Government.

During his visit in Berlin, Wang met with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas separately.

When meeting with Steinmeier, Wang said that China and Germany were both major world economies and major countries with great influence. The relations between the two countries have gone beyond bilateral scope and bear global significance.

Wang said in recent years the high-level contacts were frequent, and the cooperation in all fields has been constantly deepened, adding he is willing to push for new development of the all-around strategic partnership through his visit.

Noting the ties between China and Germany is currently facing a new situation, Wang called on the two countries to set a model of win-win cooperation for the world through deepening collaboration, to bring stability to the world through guiding the China-EU cooperation, and to strength the power to safeguard multilateralism through boosting global governance.

For his part, German President Steinmeier said that the current international landscape is complicated and turbulent, and multilateralism is under threat.

He noted that Germany highly values the ties with China, adding Germany is willing to strengthen communication and coordination with China at all levels, and to continue the pragmatic cooperations in Industry 4.0 and in other fields.

Germany and China, and Europe and China, should join hands to maintain the world peace and stability, free trade, and existing international orders, Steinmeier added.

When meeting with Merkel, Wang said China sticks to peaceful development, and will through steadily deepening reform and opening up, solve the existing problem of imbalance and insufficient development to meet people’s desire for a better life and to fulfill the promises of the party and the government to the people.

Wang said China cannot develop itself in isolation from the world, nor can the world develop without the 1.4 billion Chinese people, and China advocates countries to together build a community of shared future for humankind.

Facing the profound and complex changes in the international situation, China always insists on doing its own share firstly, staying calm and clear-headed, showing composure, shouldering responsibility and reacting rationally, he noted.

Wang called on China and Germany, as all-around strategic partners, to strengthen cooperation in building a more fair and reasonable global governance system, and to jointly face the uncertainties.

The Chinese vice president also said that China has always viewed Europe from a strategic height and with a long-term vision, and firmly supported the European integration. Wang added that China is a trustworthy partner for Europe to have dialogue on an equal footing.

Chancellor Merkel said Germany appreciates China’s great achievements in economic development and believes that China can definitely achieve the ambitious goals of eradicating poverty and finishing building a moderately prosperous society on schedule.

Facing the current complex and volatile international environment in which various new problems emerge, Merkel said, Germany is always committed to safeguarding the principle of multilateralism and the existing international order.

She noted that Germany advocates to strengthen international coordination and collaboration through dialogue, disagrees with the action of exerting threat and pressure to solve problems.

She believed that Germany and China, as well as Europe and China, share broad consensus on a wide range of issues, expressing Germany’s willingness to strengthen communication, exchanges and cooperation with China, and to improve global governance system jointly with China.

When meeting with Heiko Maas, Wang said China and Germany share common interests in many fields such as deepening pragmatic cooperation, safeguarding multilateralism and free trade, improving global governance and promoting world peace.

Looking to the next stage of the bilateral relations, Wang advocates that both sides should set the right direction for the Sino-German, Sino-European win-win cooperation, encourage the enhanced exchanges in ideology, talents as well as science and technology, cement the friendship between the two peoples, and to inject more positive energy into the world.

Echoing Wang’s comments, Maas said Germany is willing to strengthen strategic communication and cooperation on multilateral issues with China, as well as to jointly tackle global challenges, safeguard multilateralism and international order, promote the liberalization of international trade.

During his visit to Germany, Wang also met with mayor of Hamburg Peter Tschentscher and Bavarian governor Markus Soeder and visited the port of Hamburg.

Before his tour to Germany, the Chinese Vice president also visited Pakistan and the Netherlands.

Source: Xinhua


China looks to Russia, Central Asia for support amid tensions with US

  • President Xi Jinping will meet Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin next month and address economic summit in St Petersburg
  • Diplomatic flurry will also include regional security forums in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan
Xi Jinping has met Vladimir Putin more times than any other foreign leader since he took power in 2013. Photo: AFP
Xi Jinping has met Vladimir Putin more times than any other foreign leader since he took power in 2013. Photo: AFP
Beijing is stepping up efforts to seek support from regional and global players such as Russia and Central Asian nations as its geostrategic rivalry with Washington heats up.

President Xi Jinping is expected to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin next month, when he will also address the St Petersburg International Economic Summit,

Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov told state-run TASS news agency earlier.

The Chinese president will also visit the Kyrgyzstan capital Bishkek for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in June, as well as another regional security forum in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

Meanwhile, Vice-President Wang Qishan is visiting Pakistan before he heads to the Netherlands and Germany, according to the Chinese foreign ministry.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan meets Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan in Islamabad on Sunday. Photo: AFP
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan meets Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan in Islamabad on Sunday. Photo: AFP
The latest flurry of diplomatic activity comes as competition between China and the US intensifies on several fronts including trade and technology, the South China Sea and the Arctic, where Beijing’s partnership with Moscow –

funding and building ports, berths and icebreakers off Russia’s shores

– has drawn criticism from Washington.

It will be Xi’s second time at the St Petersburg forum, and observers expect the Chinese leader will reaffirm Beijing’s commitment to multilateralism and promote the nation as a champion of openness and cooperation.
China-Russia ties unrivalled, Beijing warns before Pompeo meets Putin
It will also be his second meeting with Putin in two months, after talks on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing in late April, when the Russian president

offered his support

for the controversial China-led infrastructure and investment initiative.

With China and Russia edging closer, the latest meeting is likely to see efforts to coordinate their strategies on a range of issues – including Venezuela, North Korea, nuclear weapons and arms control, according to observers. Xi has met Putin more times than any other foreign leader since he took power in 2013.

“This time it is very likely that the latest anti-China moves by the US, such as new tariffs and the Huawei ban, will feature prominently in their conversations,” said Artyom Lukin, an associate professor at Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok.

Lukin said Russia’s stagnating economy and sanctions imposed by the West limited its role as a substitute for the foreign markets and technologies China could lose access to because of the US crusade. But he said Putin would “provide political and moral support to Xi”.

“That is also significant as Russia has been withstanding intense US-led sanctions pressure for more than five years already,” Lukin said, referring to sanctions imposed after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Xi and Putin are also expected to talk about Venezuela, where US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido is attempting to oust socialist President Nicolas Maduro, who has the support of China and Russia.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has the backing of China and Russia. Photo: AP
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has the backing of China and Russia. Photo: AP

“Moscow and Beijing are not able to seriously hurt Washington by raising tariffs or denying access to high technology. However, there are plenty of areas where coordinated Sino-Russian policies can damage US interests in the short term or in the long run,” Lukin said. “For example, Moscow and Beijing could intensify their joint support for the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro, frustrating Washington’s efforts to dislodge him.”

China and Russia would also be seeking to boost economic ties. Bilateral trade, dominated by Chinese imports of gas and oil, reached US$108 billion last year – falling far short of the target set in 2011 by Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao, of US$200 billion by 2020.

China and Russia to forge stronger Eurasian economic ties

Li Lifan, an associate research professor at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said bilateral trade was a sticking point. “This is one of the potential hindrances in China-Russia relations and Beijing is hoping to [address this] … in the face of a possible global economic slowdown,” Li said.

Given the escalating trade war with Washington, he said China would seek to diversify its investments and markets to other parts of the world, particularly Russia and Europe.

“China will step up its investment cooperation with Europe and Russia and focus more on multilateral investment,” Li said.

But Beijing was not expected to do anything to worsen tensions with Washington.

“China is currently taking a very cautious approach towards the US, trying to avoid heating up the confrontation and further aggravation of the situation,” said Danil Bochkov, a contributing author with the Russian International Affairs Council. “For China it is important to demonstrate that it has a reliable friend – Russia – but that should not be done in an openly provocative manner.”

Stephen Blank, a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, said Beijing and Moscow would also seek to contain US influence “as far as possible” from Central Asia, where China has increased its engagement through infrastructure building under the “Belt and Road Initiative”.

Leaders from the region will gather in Bishkek next month for the SCO summit, a security bloc set up in 2001 that now comprises China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan. Those members account for about 23 per cent of the world’s land mass, 45 per cent of its population, and 25 per cent of global GDP.

Newly re-elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi could meet the Chinese president for talks in Bishkek next month. Photo: EPA-EFE
Newly re-elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi could meet the Chinese president for talks in Bishkek next month. Photo: EPA-EFE

There is growing speculation that Xi will meet newly re-elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of that summit.

Independent analyst and author Namrata Goswami said India would be seeking a commitment to a WTO-led and rules-based multilateral trading system during the SCO talks.

“This is interesting and significant given the current US tendencies under President Donald Trump focused on ‘America first’ and the US-China trade war,” Goswami said.

Counterterrorism will again be a top priority at the SCO summit, amid concerns among member states about the rising number of Islamic State fighters returning from Syria and Iraq. Chinese scholars estimated last year that around 30,000 jihadists who had fought in Syria had gone back to their home countries, including China.

Alexander Bortnikov, chief of the main Russian intelligence agency FSB, said earlier that 5,000 fighters from a group affiliated with Isis had gathered in areas bordering former Soviet states in Central Asia, saying most of them had fought alongside Isis in Syria.

War-torn Afghanistan, which shares a border with four SCO member states – China, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – is also likely to be high on the agenda at the Bishkek summit.

“With the Trump administration drafting plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, the SCO will assess the security situation there and decide whether to provide training for Afghan troops,” Li said.

Eva Seiwert, a doctoral candidate at the Free University of Berlin, expected the security bloc would also discuss Iran after the US withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and ordered new sanctions against the country.

Iran, which has observer status with the SCO, was blocked from becoming a full member in 2008 because it was subject to UN sanctions at the time. But its membership application could again be up for discussion.

Iran presses China and Russia to save nuclear deal

“The Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 made it easy for China and Russia to present themselves as the proponents of peaceful settlement of conflicts,” Seiwert said. “Discussing the possibility of admitting Iran as a full member state would help the SCO members demonstrate their support of multilateral and peaceful cooperation.

“This would be a strong signal to the US and enhance the SCO’s standing in the international community,” she said.

Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov (right) meets Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Bishkek on Tuesday last week. Photo: Xinhua
Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov (right) meets Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Bishkek on Tuesday last week. Photo: Xinhua

As well as security, Xi’s visit to Central Asia is also likely to focus on economic ties. Meeting Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov in Bishkek last week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Beijing would continue to “provide support and help national development and construction in Kyrgyzstan”.

Li said China may increase investment in the Central Asian region, especially in greenfield projects.

“China will continue to buy agriculture products from Central Asia, such as cherries from Uzbekistan, and build hydropower projects to meet local energy demand,” Li said. “Investment in solar and wind energy projects is also expected to increase too.”

Source: SCMP


Boeing 737 Max: China’s top airlines seek compensation

China’s three biggest airlines are demanding compensation from Boeing over its grounded 737 Max fleet.

Air China, China Southern and China Eastern have filed claims for payouts, according to state media reports.

China’s regulator was the first to ground the fleet in the wake of two deadly crashes involving the US-made aircraft.

It comes on the eve of a meeting of global aviation regulators that will provide an update on the troubled jets.

The Chinese airlines are seeking compensation for losses incurred by the grounded fleet, as well as delayed deliveries of the 737 Max jets, according to reports.

China operates the largest fleet of Boeing 737 Max aircraft and was the first country to take the jets out of service after the Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max 8 crash in March.

The disaster killed all 157 people on board. In October, 189 people were killed in a Lion Air crash involving the same model.

Both crashes were linked to the jet’s Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System, a new feature on 737 Max planes, which was designed to improve the handling of the jet and to stop it pitching up at too high an angle.

Last week, Boeing said it had completed development of a software update for its 737 Max planes.

The planemaker’s entire global fleet of 737 Max aircraft has been grounded since March and the firm is anxious to prove it is safe to return to the skies.

The move by China’s top airlines to seek compensation comes ahead of a closely watched summit of aviation regulators in Texas on Thursday.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is due to provide an update on reviews of Boeing’s software fix and new pilot training.

The meeting in Texas will involve 57 agencies from 33 countries, including China, France, Germany and the UK, as well as the European Union Aviation Safety Agency.

But it is unclear if the planes will be back in the air before the end of the critical summer travel season.

Source: The BBC


Shanghai Bund’s historic buildings saved from demolition … for now

  • Experts win reprieve for two out of three heritage houses but fear their success is only temporary
  • Authorities plan public cultural facilities for the site
The historic buildings on Shanghai’s Bund in the 1930s. One of the three structures has already been demolished but authorities have temporarily suspended plans to knock down the other two. Photo: Handout
The historic buildings on Shanghai’s Bund in the 1930s. One of the three structures has already been demolished but authorities have temporarily suspended plans to knock down the other two. Photo: Handout
Two historic buildings on Shanghai’s famous Bund have temporarily escaped demolition after a group of experts appealed to the government to conserve the heritage sites, but the intervention was too late to save a third.
About 15 architecture, history and culture experts based in Shanghai banded together to write an article on social media app WeChat last month, calling on the city’s government to “protect the city’s memories” by preserving three houses on Huangpu Road.
A few days after the article was published one of the buildings was demolished as part of a plan to build public cultural facilities on the site. But authorities suspended work on the other two and are considering removing only the interior structure while preserving the external walls, according to the group.
The houses, which date back to 1902, witnessed the city’s boom in the first half of the 20th century when it became one of the world’s most important, and famous, ports, the experts said.
The demolition project on The Bund, Shanghai has been suspended, but not before one of the three historic buildings was demolished. Photo: Urban China magazine
The demolition project on The Bund, Shanghai has been suspended, but not before one of the three historic buildings was demolished. Photo: Urban China magazine

All three of the properties originally belonged to Japanese shipping company Nippon Yusen Kaisha Group and were later used as storage facilities for Japan’s military forces during the second world war, according to Yu Hai, a sociologist from Shanghai’s Fudan University.

“These buildings, along with the nearby Yangzijiang port on the Huangpu River, represented Shanghai’s wharf culture and port culture,” Yu said. “They are historically significant as they witnessed Shanghai grow prosperous through shipping and trade industries about a century ago.”

Although the two remaining buildings are safe for now, the experts argue their interiors are also worth preserving.

Liu Gang, an architecture professor at Shanghai’s Tongji University, said the properties featured big wooden beams supported by black iron pillars, which were prominent architectural features of industrial buildings dating back to the 19th century.

“We guess it was hard to move these giant beams with vehicles at the beginning of the 20th century. Quite possibly they were transported on the river. We guess that the wood was chopped down and processed in places across the Pacific [from North America] and shipped to Shanghai.”

In the WeChat article, Liu called for the protection of the interior structure of the buildings. “Without solid research, we cannot simply take them down to be replaced by new ones.”

Yu agreed, saying: “The building with a new inside structure would be a fake and this plan will destroy historical heritage.”

Experts say the interiors of the historic buildings are also worth preserving. Photo: Urban China magazine
Experts say the interiors of the historic buildings are also worth preserving. Photo: Urban China magazine

Huangpu Road, where these houses sit, is rich with history. It features the Garden Bridge of Shanghai – the city’s first steel bridge, built in 1907 – and was once home to the consulates of the United States, Russia, Japan, Germany, Denmark and the Austro-Hungarian empire.

Other notable landmarks on the road include the Astor House Hotel, built in 1846, where Charlie Chaplin, Albert Einstein and George Bernard Shaw stayed in the 1920s and 1930s. The hotel is still there.

“History happened here,” Yu said. “But it’s a pity that most of the old buildings in this area no longer exist.”

Despite their success in winning a stay of execution for the two buildings, the experts are cautious in their expectations.

“The demolition work was suspended, but that does not mean they have accepted our proposals. We are not optimistic,” Yu said.

About two weeks ago as part of their effort to save the buildings, Yu and three other scholars approached officials from Shanghai’s Planning and Natural Resources Bureau, the government body behind the demolition project.

“Officials emphasised the difficulties of keeping the completeness of the old buildings and we just pointed out the damage to their historical values,” Yu said.

The Shanghai bureau did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Shanghai nightclub king opens new art space – in disused oil tanks
Appeals by the public to conserve historical buildings have generally not been successful. Shenyuli, a typical Shanghai residential community built in the 1930s, was included in the city’s protected list of historical buildings in 2004.
The listing was not enough to prevent its demolition eight years later to make way for a public green land space.
Three years ago, the Shanghai government announced it was suspending the planned demolition of a former sex slavery station used by Japanese soldiers during the second world war, following media reports and a public outcry.
However, the building was later demolished, according to Su Zhiliang, history professor from Shanghai Normal University and a researcher on sex slavery, who predicts a similar outcome for this latest conservation effort.
“I think the government is just using the same tactic to postpone their plan. After the public’s attention is over, they will continue demolishing,” Su said.
Source: SCMP

Europe wants to deal with China as a group – German minister

BEIJING (Reuters) – Major European Union countries want to deal with China as a group rather than sign bilateral agreements as individual states, German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said on Friday, attending a summit in Beijing on China’s Belt and Road plan.

European countries have generally signalled their willingness to participate in China’s programme to re-create the old Silk Road joining China with Asia and Europe.

But key states like France and Germany have said China must in turn improve access and fair competition for foreign firms.

Italy in March became the first major Western government to back China’s initiative, even as some EU leaders cautioned Rome against rushing into the arms of Beijing.


“In the big EU states we have agreed that we don’t want to sign any bilateral memorandums but together make necessary arrangements between the greater European Economic Area and the economic area of Greater China,” Altmaier said when asked if he could see Germany signing a similar bilateral agreement to Italy.

A spokesman for Altmaier’s office later said he was talking about general arrangements and not specifically the Belt and Road.

The minister said he was encouraged by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s pledge to pursue free trade, multilateralism and sustainability as part of Belt and Road.

“We will take this promise seriously” and make suggestions on how to achieve these goals in both Asia and Europe, he said.

China is a partner and a competitor at the same time and the EU must define its interests, Altmaier said.

“And for that we need an industry strategy. For that we need our own connectivity strategy,” he added.

Source: Reuters


How China’s ban on plastic waste imports became an ‘earthquake’ that threw recycling efforts into turmoil

  • When recycling businesses gravitated to Malaysia, a black economy went with them
  • Some countries treat China’s ban as an opportunity and have been quick to adapt
For years, China was the world's leading destination for recyclable rubbish, but a ban on some imports has left nations scrambling to find dumping grounds for growing piles of waste. Photo: AFP
For years, China was the world’s leading destination for recyclable rubbish, but a ban on some imports has left nations scrambling to find dumping grounds for growing piles of waste. Photo: AFP
From grubby packaging that engulfs small Southeast Asian communities to waste that piles up in plants from the US to Australia, China’s ban on accepting the world’s used plastic has thrown recycling efforts into turmoil.
For many years, China took the bulk of scrap plastic from around the world, processing much of it into a higher quality material that could be used by manufacturers.
But, at the start of 2018, it closed its doors to almost all foreign plastic waste, as well as many other recyclables, in an effort to protect its environment and air quality, leaving developed nations struggling to find places to send their waste.
“It was like an earthquake,” Arnaud Brunet, director general of Brussels-based industry group The Bureau of International Recycling, said.
“China was the biggest market for recyclables. It created a major shock in the global market.”
Instead, plastic was redirected in huge quantities to Southeast Asia, where Chinese recyclers have shifted.

With a large Chinese-speaking minority, Malaysia was a top choice for Chinese recyclers looking to relocate, and official data showed plastic imports tripled from 2016 levels to 870,000 tonnes last year.

China to collect applications for scrap metal import licences from next month, trade group says
In the small town of Jenjarom, close to Kuala Lumpur, plastic processing plants appeared in large numbers, pumping out noxious fumes around the clock.

Huge mounds of plastic waste, dumped in the open, piled up as recyclers struggled to cope with the influx of packaging from everyday goods, such as foods and laundry detergents, from as far afield as Germany, the US, and Brazil.

Residents soon noticed the acrid stench over the town – the kind of odour that is usual in processing plastic, but environmental campaigners believed some of the fumes also came from the incineration of plastic waste that was too low quality to recycle.

“People were attacked by toxic fumes, waking them up at night. Many were coughing a lot,” resident Pua Lay Peng said.

“I could not sleep, I could not rest, I always felt fatigued,” the 47-year-old added.

Representatives of an environmentalist NGO inspect an abandoned plastic waste factory in Jenjarom, outside Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Photo: AFP
Representatives of an environmentalist NGO inspect an abandoned plastic waste factory in Jenjarom, outside Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Photo: AFP

Pua and other community members began investigating and, by mid-2018, had located about 40 processing plants, many of which appeared to be operating without proper permits.

Initial complaints to authorities went nowhere but they kept up pressure, and eventually the government took action. Authorities started closing down illegal factories in Jenjarom, and announced a nationwide temporary freeze on plastic import permits.

Thirty-three factories were closed down, although activists believed many had quietly moved elsewhere in the country. Residents said air quality had improved but some plastic dumps remained.

Chinese recycling expert breeds thousands of flies to turn kitchen waste into cash

In Australia, Europe and the US, many of those collecting plastic and other recyclables were left scrambling to find new places to send it.

They faced higher costs to have it processed by recyclers at home and in some cases resorted to sending it to landfill sites as the scrap piled up so quickly.

“Twelve months on, we are still feeling the effects but we have not moved to the solutions yet,” said Garth Lamb, president of industry body Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia.

Some have been quicker to adapt to the new environment, such as some local authority-run centres that collect recyclables in Adelaide, South Australia.

The centres used to send nearly everything – ranging from plastic to paper and glass – to China but now 80 per cent is processed by local companies, with most of the rest shipped to India.

Rubbish is sifted and sorted at Northern Adelaide Waste Management Authority's recycling site at Edinburgh, a northern suburb of the city of Adelaide. Photo: AFP
Rubbish is sifted and sorted at Northern Adelaide Waste Management Authority’s recycling site at Edinburgh, a northern suburb of the city of Adelaide. Photo: AFP

“We moved quickly and looked to domestic markets,” Adam Faulkner, chief executive of the Northern Adelaide Waste Management Authority, said.

“We’ve found that by supporting local manufacturers, we’ve been able to get back to pre-China ban prices.”

In mainland China, imports of plastic waste dropped from 600,000 tonnes per month in 2016 to about 30,000 a month in 2018, according to data cited in a recent report from Greenpeace and environmental NGO Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives.

Once bustling centres of recycling were abandoned as firms shifted to Southeast Asia.

How China’s plastic waste ban has left Japan to deal with mountains of trash
On a visit to the southern town of Xingtan last year, Chen Liwen, founder of environmental NGO China Zero Waste Alliance, found the recycling industry had disappeared.
“The plastic recyclers were gone – there were ‘for rent’ signs plastered on factory doors and even recruitment signs calling for experienced recyclers to move to Vietnam,” she said.
Southeast Asian nations affected early by the China ban – as well as Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam were hit hard – have taken steps to limit plastic imports, but the waste has simply been redirected to other countries without restrictions, such as Indonesia and Turkey, the Greenpeace report said.
With only an estimated nine per cent of plastics ever produced recycled, campaigners said the only long-term solution to the plastic waste crisis was for companies to make less and consumers to use less.
Greenpeace campaigner Kate Lin said: “The only solution to plastic pollution is producing less plastic.”
Source: SCMP

How much of Europe does China own?

Shipping containers at PiraeusImage copyrightAFP
Image caption China now has a majority stake in the Greek port of Piraeus

The European Union has introduced a new mechanism for screening foreign investment.

It’s widely believed to have been prompted by concerns over China’s economic ambitions in Europe.

It will allow the European Commission – the EU’s executive arm – to give an opinion when an investment “threatens the security or public order” of more than one member state or undermines an EU-wide project such as the Galileo satellite project.

In March, the European Commission called China a “systemic rival” and a “strategic competitor”.

The Chinese Ambassador to the EU urged the bloc to remain “open and welcome” to Chinese investment, and not to “discriminate”.

How much foreign investment is in the EU?

China’s ownership of EU businesses is relatively small, but has grown quickly over the past decade.

A third of the bloc’s total assets are now in the hands of foreign-owned, non-EU companies, according to a report from the European Commission in March.

Of these, 9.5% of companies had their ownership based in China, Hong Kong or Macau – up from 2.5% in 2007.

That compares with 29% controlled by US and Canadian interests by the end of 2016 – down from nearly 42% in 2007.

So, it’s a significant increase, but the total amount is not huge, comparatively speaking.

China in the EU

Foreign direct investment into the 28 member stAlthough the levels of Chinese foreign direct investment in the EU have been increasing rapidly, it peaked at €37.2bn in 2016 amidst a slowdown in Chinese investment globally, according to the Rhodium Group and the Mercator Institute for China Studies.

In European countries outside the EU, investment also dropped in 2018.

What and where is China investing?

A large proportion of Chinese direct investment, both state and private, is concentrated in the major economies, such as the UK, France and Germany combined, according to the Rhodium Group and Mercator Institute.

Chinese investment by top EU countries

Analysis by Bloomberg last year said that China now owned, or had a stake in, four airports, six maritime ports and 13 professional soccer teams in Europe.

It estimated there had been 45% more investment activity in 30 European countries from China than from the US, since 2008.

And it said this was underestimating the true extent of Chinese activity.

What about infrastructure?

In March, Italy was the first major European economy to sign up to China’s new Silk Road programme – known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

It involves huge infrastructure building to increase trade between China and markets in Asia and Europe.

Officially more than 20 countries in Europe (including Russia) are part of the initiative.

For example, China is financing the expansion of the port of Piraeus in Greece and is building roads and railways in Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and North Macedonia.

This could prove attractive to poorer Balkan and southern European countries, especially as demands for transparency and good governance can make EU funding appear less attractive.

However, analysts point out that Chinese loans come with conditions – such as the involvement of Chinese companies – and also risk burdening these countries with large amounts of debt.

Will Chinese investment grow?

Globally, China’s outward direct investment has slowed over the last year or two, after more than a decade of expansion.

“This is mainly the result of stricter controls on capital outflows from China, but also of a changing political environment globally concerning Chinese investment,” says Agatha Kratz of the Rhodium Group.

China’s global investment slows

The Trump administration is taking a tougher line towards China’s economic activities.

Governments elsewhere are more cautious – particularly when it comes to investment in sensitive areas of the economy, such as telecommunications and defence.

But there’s little doubt China is now a significant player in Europe, whether through direct investments or via the new Silk Road project.

Source: The BBC


China asks Britain for help to boost image of Belt and Road Initiative

  • China’s Ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming cites ‘rule-making’ as an area for bilateral cooperation with the UK
Chinese Ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming gives a keynote speech during the ‘Chinese Bridge’ Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign College Students UK Regional Final in London. Photo: Xinhua
Chinese Ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming gives a keynote speech during the ‘Chinese Bridge’ Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign College Students UK Regional Final in London. Photo: Xinhua
China has asked Britain for help to offset claims its “Belt and Road Initiative” investments are opaque and justify its overseas spending to critics.
It made the move days before UK Chancellor Phillip Hammond was expected to head to the belt and road forum in Beijing.

In an article in London’s Evening Standard on Wednesday, China’s Ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming cited “rule-making” as an area for bilateral cooperation.

“Britain has played a leading role in the establishment and management of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank,” Liu said. “In [belt and road] development, Britain could have a big role to play in ensuring that the projects are of higher quality, at a higher standard, with higher return.”
Four years ago the UK defied the US and joined the AIIB.
Liu’s comments followed news the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) was asked to join a new initiative aimed at improving China’s international accounting and transparency standards.
China is thought to see DFID as a model for its new aid outfit, China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA), which was established last year to oversee Beijing’s foreign aid.
Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond. Photo: EPA-EFE
Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond. Photo: EPA-EFE

The DFID was the third most transparent donor in the world after the Asian Development Bank and UNDP, according to the aid data-crunching website Publish What You Find. China was the least.

Critics say part of the problem is Beijing prefers to deliver loans and other investments through local elites. There are also often several government departments involved, each directed by their own rules and priorities, making financial reporting more complex.

“I think the Chinese are instead playing by a different set of rules, not all of them in conflict with the West’s … but most definitely not fully aligned with what the West wants or expects”, said Eric Olander, managing editor of Shanghai-based The China Africa Project. “Therefore, I would not expect to see the kind of meaningful change in its accounting and financial standards in the near term.”

‘Cooperate or stop criticising’, China’s foreign minister Wang Yi says as belt and road summit nears

The MOU proposed by China is more a statement of intent than a plan of action but the UK welcomed it as a positive sign

“China’s proposal to set up a ‘Multilateral Cooperation Centre for Development Finance’ has real potential to ensure its huge investments in developing countries meet the key international standards that matter to all of us – on debt, transparency, environment and social safeguards,” UK International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said at the World Bank Spring Meeting recently.

A source at DFID told the SCMP that the UK has not signed the MOU yet but said while other countries are aware of the proposal, it is the only country so far to be formally invited to participate by China.

France and Germany were two possible future signatories, and MCCDF has been discussed in EU member state meetings in Beijing.

“[China] is clearly frustrated that it feels misunderstood by the international community,” said Olander.

“I have attended one seminar after another where African stakeholders ask the Chinese for more transparency and the Chinese respond with a sympathetic smile that says ‘I’d love to but I’m not sure how we can do that given our political culture and the current political realities’.”

With the Chinese economy slowing at home and the losses abroad in places like Venezuela starting to mount, there are indications that the Chinese policy banks are becoming far more risk-averse in places like Africa and the Americas.

Even so according to figures released on Thursday, the Export Import Bank of China provided more than a trillion yuan (US$149 billion) to more than 1,800 Belt and Road projects since 2013. China Development Bank (CDB) said in March it had provided US$190 billion in the same period.

“The UK is very concerned by rising debt levels, particularly in emerging market economies and in low-income countries,” Mordaut told the World Bank.

“Unsustainable debt levels are a real risk that can undermine or reverse development gains.”

The IMF said recently 24 out of 60 of the poorest countries are either in debt distress or at a high risk of falling into it.

China is also looking to the UK to help manage the BRI projects and organise part of the financing, something the City of London and the government are keen to do, Liu said.

Describing it as “third-party involvement in BRI development” he said: “The UK, with its unique strengths in professional services, project-management and financing, could tap into this potential.”

China is keen for the UK to sign a BRI MOU like Italy, and soon Switzerland, but so far it has resisted. A report released earlier this month by the parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee called for a rebranding of the “golden era” started by the former chancellor George Osborne, now the editor of the London Evening Standard.

Britain is keen to cement closer ties with Beijing as the world’s fifth largest economy looks to reinvent itself as a global trading nation if and when it leaves the European Union.

Source: SCMP


China supports France, Germany’s efforts in upholding multilateralism: spokesperson

BEIJING, April 8 (Xinhua) — China on Monday voiced its support for multilateralism after France and Germany jointly proposed an “Alliance for Multilateralism” during a recent session at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and his German counterpart Heiko Maas intended to officially launch the Alliance during the 74th session of the UN General Assembly scheduled for September.

“China has always staunchly upheld, supported and practiced multilateralism,” spokesperson Lu Kang said at a press briefing while commenting on the proposed Alliance, adding that China supports the efforts of the international community including France and Germany in maintaining multilateralism.

Lu said China stands ready to work with all parties in preserving the international order and regime with the purposes and principles of the UN Charter at its core, and the rule-based multilateral trade regime with the World Trade Organization (WTO) at its core, with a commitment to multilateralism.

Against the backdrop of a surging trend toward economic globalization and multi-polarization as well as a constant increase in global challenges, the world needs multilateralism more than ever before, the spokesperson said.

Speaking of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s remarks at a forum on global governance attended by French, German and EU leaders during Xi’s recently-concluded European visit, Lu mentioned Xi’s advocacy for safeguarding multilateralism, enhancing international dialogue and cooperation, and jointly addressing the deficits in governance, trust, peace and development, so as to improve global governance.

“China is ready to work with all parties in facilitating a new type of international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness, justice and win-win cooperation, to jointly build a community of shared future for mankind,” Lu added.

Source: Xinhua

Law of Unintended Consequences

continuously updated blog about China & India

ChiaHou's Book Reviews

continuously updated blog about China & India

What's wrong with the world; and its economy

continuously updated blog about China & India