Archive for ‘Japan’

19/05/2019

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
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17/05/2019

Chinese police detain driver after three pedestrians are mowed down at roadside

  • Police in Shenzhen look for clues to accident in driver’s medical records
  • Motorist complains of ‘sudden attack’ at time of accident
Police in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, are investigating a driver’s medical history after a fatal accident on Thursday. Photo: Weibo
Police in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, are investigating a driver’s medical history after a fatal accident on Thursday. Photo: Weibo
Police in southern China have detained a motorist after three people were killed and seven injured in a car accident on Thursday night.
Officers said a car went out of control and struck pedestrians on a road in Nanshan district in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, at about 7.20pm. The 23-year-old driver, surnamed Liu, was taken into custody.
In a statement online, the Shenzhen public security bureau said blood and urine tests showed the driver was sober and drug-free. They said medicine for epilepsy was found in the vehicle.
Two dead, six injured in Japan after bus drives through pedestrians in Kobe

During questioning, Liu told officers he lost control of car because he had had “a sudden attack”, but did not elaborate.

Police said they were examining Liu’s medical records.

In China, people with epilepsy are not allowed to apply for a driving licence, according to regulations from the Ministry of Public Security.

Source: SCMP

13/05/2019

China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi to visit Japan ahead of possible Xi Jinping trip

  • Three-day visit comes ahead of Chinese President’s planned attendance at G20 summit in Osaka next month
Yang Jiechi’s three-day visit to Japan starts on Thursday. Photo: Bloomberg
Yang Jiechi’s three-day visit to Japan starts on Thursday. Photo: Bloomberg
China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi will visit Japan for three days from Thursday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Monday.
The visit is likely to work out details of President Xi Jinping’s planned visit to Japan for this year’s summit of the Group of 20 major economies in Osaka in late June, sources familiar with bilateral relations had said last week.
Yang, a member of the Political Bureau of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee, is likely to meet the country’s national security adviser Shotaro Yachi on Thursday and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe the following day, according to the sources.
Xi’s visit, if it goes ahead, would be his first since he came to power in 2013 and the first by a Chinese head of state since Hu Jintao in November 2010.
Yang and Yachi will also hold the sixth China-Japan high-level political dialogue.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pictured at the G20 summit in Argentina last year. Photo: AP
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pictured at the G20 summit in Argentina last year. Photo: AP

At this dialogue, which is an annual consultation plan agreed on by the two sides, the two sides will exchange views on China-Japan relations and issues of common concern, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a regular press briefing.

For years, the two neighbours have been mired in a territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The group of uninhabited islets, which are called Diaoyu in Chinese, are controlled by Japan but claimed by China.

But Sino-Japanese ties have been markedly improving recently, with 2018 – the 40th anniversary of the signing and entering into force of the bilateral Treaty of Peace and Friendship – serving as an incentive to forge better relations.

The dispute over the Senkaku – or Diaoyu – Islands is a long-standing barrier to better relations. Photo: Kyodo
The dispute over the Senkaku – or Diaoyu – Islands is a long-standing barrier to better relations. Photo: Kyodo

In an interview with Japanese media, Chinese vice foreign minister Kong Xuanyou said the relationship between China and Japan has just returned to normal after going through ups and downs over the years, and both sides need to treasure the development.

“China is willing to work with Japan to further promote China-Japan relations,” he was quoted as saying in a Chinese foreign ministry transcript.

Kong also rejected suggestions that ties between China and Japan have become closer because of the China-US trade war – which pushed Beijing to seek support from its neighbours.

“Putting the relations between China, Japan and the US at opposite from each other is a zero-sum game and cold war mentality. China does not agree with it,” he said. “The friendly relationship among these two nations can be developed in parallel. This is welcomed by the region and the world”.

Source: SCMP

12/05/2019

Chinese opera on legendary monk to debut in New York City

NEW YORK, May 11 (Xinhua) — An opera featuring the famous monk Jianzhen of China’s Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) will be presented at New York City’s Lincoln Center next month, according to local theatrical sources.

Based on true history, “Voyage To The East – A Fearless Buddhist Master’s Mission To Japan” told the story of monk Jianzhen, who started sailing to Japan in 742 A.D., but only succeeded in 754 A.D. after five failed attempts. Apart from spreading Buddhism, he also introduced Chinese art, medicine and craftsmanship to Japan, thus becoming a highly respected figure in both nations.

Famous Chinese-American opera singer Tian Haojiang plays Jianzhen in the opera. Tian reportedly has had over 1,400 performances of some 50 roles in all major opera houses worldwide. In order to better depict the role, Tian lived with real monks for some time in Daming Temple of east China’s Yangzhou city, where Jianzhen had stayed before embarking on his journey to Japan.

Produced by China’s Jiangsu Performing Arts Group, the opera’s score is a fusion of modern opera with the original sound of the Japanese koto, the zither, the Chinese guzheng, temple blocks and Buddhist chants.

The opera will be staged on June 22 to 23 at the David H. Koch Theatre of the Lincoln Center.

Source: Xinhua

07/05/2019

China, Japan to hold talks on maritime affairs

BEIJING, May 7 (Xinhua) — China and Japan will hold their 11th round of high-level consultations on maritime affairs in Otaru, Japan, from May 10 to 11, a foreign ministry spokesperson said Tuesday.

Spokesperson Geng Shuang told a routine news briefing that officials from foreign ministries, defense ministries, maritime law enforcement and management departments of both counties will attend the talks.

China expects to fully exchange views with Japan on maritime issues of common concern to strengthen mutual understanding and trust with Japan, Geng said.

The China-Japan high-level consultations on maritime affairs were established in 2012. The last round of consultations was held in Wuzhen of eastern China’s Zhejiang Province last December.

Source: Xinhua

29/04/2019

China’s quest for clean energy heats up with groundbreaking ‘artificial sun’ project

    • Fusion reactor built by Chinese scientists in eastern Anhui province has notched up a series of research firsts
    • There are plans to build a separate facility that could start generating commercially viable fusion power by 2050, official says
    The Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) device – or “artificial sun” – in Hefei, Anhui province. Photo: AFP/Chinese Academy of Sciences
    The Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) device – or “artificial sun” – in Hefei, Anhui province. Photo: AFP/Chinese Academy of Sciences
    A groundbreaking fusion reactor built by Chinese scientists is underscoring Beijing’s determination to be at the core of clean energy technology, as it eyes a fully functioning plant by 2050.
    Sometimes called an “artificial sun” for the sheer heat and power it produces, the doughnut-shaped Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) that juts out on a spit of land into a lake in eastern Anhui province, has notched up a succession of research firsts.
    In 2017 it became the world’s first such facility to sustain certain conditions necessary for nuclear fusion for 
    longer than 100 seconds

    , and last November hit a

    personal-best temperature

    of 100 million degrees Celsius (212 million Fahrenheit) – six times as hot as the sun’s core.

    Such mind-boggling temperatures are crucial to achieving fusion reactions, which promise an inexhaustible energy source.

    EAST’s main reactor stands within a concrete structure, with pipes and cables spread outward like spokes connecting to a jumble of censors and other equipment encircling the core. A red Chinese flag stands on top of the reactor.

    A vacuum vessel inside the fusion reactor, which has achieved a temperature of 100 million degrees Celsius – six times as hot as the sun’s core. Photo: AFP/Chinese Academy of Sciences
    A vacuum vessel inside the fusion reactor, which has achieved a temperature of 100 million degrees Celsius – six times as hot as the sun’s core. Photo: AFP/Chinese Academy of Sciences

    “We are hoping to expand international cooperation through this device [EAST] and make Chinese contributions to mankind’s future use of nuclear fusion,” said Song Yuntao, a top official involved in the project, on a recent tour of the facility.

    China is also aiming to build a separate fusion reactor that could begin generating commercially viable fusion power by mid-century, he added.

    Some 6 billion yuan (US$891.5 million) has been promised for the ambitious project.

    EAST is part of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project, which seeks to prove the feasibility of fusion power.

    Funded and run by the European Union, India, Japan, China, Russia, South Korea and the United States, the multibillion-dollar project’s centrepiece will be a giant cylindrical fusion device, called a tokamak.

    Now under construction in Provence in southern France, it will incorporate parts developed at the EAST and other sites, and draw on their research findings.

    China is “hoping to expand international cooperation” through EAST. Photo: Reuters
    China is “hoping to expand international cooperation” through EAST. Photo: Reuters

    Fusion is considered the Holy Grail of energy and is what powers our sun.

    It merges atomic nuclei to create massive amounts of energy – the opposite of the fission process used in atomic weapons and nuclear power plants, which splits them into fragments.

    Unlike fission, fusion emits no greenhouse gases and carries less risk of accidents or the theft of atomic material.

    But achieving fusion is both extremely difficult and prohibitively expensive – the total cost of ITER is estimated at 20 billion (US$22.3 billion).

    Wu Songtao, a top Chinese engineer with ITER, conceded that China’s technical capabilities on fusion still lag behind more developed countries, and that US and

    Japanese tokamaks have achieved more valuable overall results.

    But the Anhui test reactor underlines China’s fast-improving scientific advancement and its commitment to achieve yet more.

    China’s capabilities “have developed rapidly in the past 20 years, especially after catching the ITER express train”, Wu said.

    In an interview with state-run Xinhua news agency in 2017, ITER’s director general Bernard Bigot lauded China’s government as “highly motivated” on fusion.

    “Fusion is not something that one country can accomplish alone,” Song said.

    “As with ITER, people all over the world need to work together on this.”

Source: SCMP

23/04/2019

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
16/04/2019

Premier Li meets Japanese officials

CHINA-BEIJING-LI KEQIANG-JAPANESE OFFICIALS-MEETING (CN)

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang meets with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and some other cabinet ministers who are here to attend the fifth high-level economic dialogue between China and Japan in Beijing, capital of China, April 15, 2019. (Xinhua/Rao Aimin)

BEIJING, April 15 (Xinhua) — Chinese Premier Li Keqiang Monday met with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and some other cabinet ministers who were here to attend the fifth high-level economic dialogue between China and Japan.

Li said China and Japan are important neighbors. Since last year, through joint efforts, bilateral relations have returned to the right track and achieved new development. On the basis of the principles enshrined in the four China-Japan political documents, the two sides should promote the long-term, healthy and stable development of bilateral relations in the spirit of taking history as a mirror and looking into the future.

He said since China and Japan are two of the world’s major economies, strengthening cooperation is not only in the interests of the two countries but also conducive to peace, stability and prosperity in the region and world.

As both sides support free trade and abide by the rules of the World Trade Organization, they should work together to create a fair, equitable and non-discriminatory business environment for each other’s companies, said Li.

The Chinese side will unswervingly deepen reforms and expand opening up, and welcome Japanese companies to expand investment in China, Li added.

China and Japan successfully held the first meeting of the China-Japan Innovative Cooperation Mechanism this April, said Li, expressing the hope that the two countries further enhance cooperation in the area of innovation and expand cooperation in the areas of finance, third-party market and tourism.

The premier said China stands ready to work with Japan and other relevant parties to promote the negotiation of the China-Japan-Republic of Korea free trade agreement and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) to create more opportunities for regional countries.

China supports Japan in hosting the G20 Okasa Summit this year, Li said, adding that China is willing to jointly promote the reform of global economic governance to inject new impetus into the world economy.

Hailing that Japan-China ties returned to normal last year and the high-level economic dialogue yielded fruitful results, Taro Kono said Japan-China relations in the new era were greatly intensified.

Japan is willing to enhance cooperation with China in areas such as innovation, finance, environmental protection, hydrogen-energy, tourism, youth, smart city and the third-party market, deepen coordination in multi-lateral areas and promote the RCEP negotiation to achieve new progress this year.

Source: Xinhua

15/04/2019

China, Japan hold 5th high-level economic dialogue

CHINA-BEIJING-JAPAN-HIGH-LEVEL ECONOMIC DIALOGUE (CN)

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi co-chairs the fifth high-level economic dialogue between China and Japan with visiting Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono in Beijing, capital of China, April 14, 2019. (Xinhua/Li Tao)

BEIJING, April 14 (Xinhua) — Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Sunday co-chaired the fifth high-level economic dialogue between China and Japan with visiting Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono in Beijing.

Hailing that China-Japan relations has returned to the right track and yielded new achievements by the joint efforts of the two countries’ leaders and people of all social circles, Wang said the fourth high-level economic dialogue, which was restarted after an eight-year hiatus last April, facilitated policy communication and pragmatic cooperation effectively.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, while Japan will enter the new era “Reiwa”, Wang said, adding that the two countries should uphold the major consensus reached by the two countries’ leaders and jointly construct bilateral economic relations to meet the needs of the new era.

The two sides should make steady headway in promoting bilateral investments and trade cooperation, jointly build the Belt and Road, and actively explore third party market cooperation as well as local cooperation, Wang said.

He also called for consolidating the cooperation results in such areas as energy conservation and environment protection, science and technology innovation, high-end manufacturing, finance, sharing economy, medical care and elderly care industries.

Wang said that China and Japan should make joint efforts to promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, uphold a business environment of fairness, justice and non-discrimination, speed up negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and China-Japan-ROK free trade agreement, and safeguard multilateralism and free trade regime.

Kono said that economic cooperation has been an important foundation and driving force for Japan-China relations.

Facing a global situation of intense uncertainty, the two sides should jointly safeguard the multilateral trade mechanism based on rules, he said.

During the dialogue, senior foreign affairs and economic officials of both countries exchanged views and achieved a series of consensus on macroeconomic policies, bilateral economic cooperation and exchanges, regional economic integration, and global economic governance.

Before the dialogue, Wang and Kono jointly attended the opening ceremony of the “China-Japan Youth Exchange Promotion Year.”

Source: Xinhua

07/04/2019

Greece says EU’s China concerns must not harm its economic interests

  • Deputy prime minister Yannis Dragasakis hopes ‘logic will prevail’ ahead of EU-China summit
  • Affirms Greek support for Beijing’s belt and road plan for global trade
Greece’s deputy prime minister Yannis Dragasakis says the European Union’s suspicion about China is in danger of becoming a “self-fulfilling prophecy”. Photo: Alamy
Greece’s deputy prime minister Yannis Dragasakis says the European Union’s suspicion about China is in danger of becoming a “self-fulfilling prophecy”. Photo: Alamy
The deputy prime minister of Greece has warned that European Union suspicion of China is in danger of becoming a “self-fulfilling prophecy” while reaffirming his country’s support for Beijing’s controversial “Belt and Road Initiative”.
In an exclusive interview with theSouth China Morning Post in Athens on Monday, Yannis Dragasakis said he hoped logic would prevail in the EU’s relationship with the world’s second-largest economy.
“We would like to see the EU having good relations with China,” he said.
“Seriously, we should start [the discussion about China] from the opposite end, which is, what are the needs and problems that we can work on with China?”
Dragasakis was speaking ahead of the annual summit between the EU and China in Brussels on Wednesday, which this year will take place against a backdrop of suspicion among some EU countries over Beijing’s political and commercial ambitions in the region.
Europe has been divided over whether to work with China’s enormous belt and road plan, which aims to link China by sea and land with southeast and central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa, through an infrastructure network along the lines of the old Silk Road.
Italy becomes first G7 nation to sign up for China’s belt and road plan

Washington has criticised the scheme as a “vanity project”, and the EU looks set to refer to China as a “strategic rival”, with some European leaders fearing Beijing’s diplomatic manoeuvres could derail unity among member states.

Last month Italy, which is grappling with its third recession in a decade, became the first G7 nation to join the belt and road programme, in a bid to boost exports and upgrade its port facilities.

Last year Greece – ranked second lowest in economic competitiveness within the EU by the World Economic Forum in 2018 – signed up to the scheme, after years of relying on China to help it through its own financial crisis.

Chinese state-owned shipping company Cosco bought a 51 per cent stake in Pireaus Port, Greece’s most important infrastructure hub in 2016 with an option to buy another 16 per cent after five years.

China aims to make the port the “dragon head” of its belt and road programme, serving as a gateway for its cargo to Europe and North Africa.

Will Greece be China’s bridge to the rest of Europe?

With its warming relationship with Beijing, Athens has, at times, departed from EU positions on China.

In 2016, Greece helped stop the EU from issuing a unified statement against Chinese aggression in the South China Sea. The following year, Athens stopped the bloc from condemning China’s human rights record. Days later, it opposed tougher screening on China’s investments in Europe.

Dragasakis was clear that the EU should not devise any policies that may hinder Greece’s ability to revive its economy.

“Greece badly needs investment. We hope logic will prevail at the end of the day, which means we should take advantage of all opportunities and build on these prospects to further our collaboration,” he said.

“Greece will keep following a multidimensional policy, an inclusive policy, without excluding anyone.”

Dragasakis hit back at France and Germany for treating China as a geopolitical rival, while simultaneously signing up to trade agreements with Beijing.

Days before receiving Chinese President Xi Jinping in France last month, President Emmanuel Macron declared that the “time of European naivety” towards China was over – a remark the Greek deputy prime minister described as “interesting” during the interview.

“It’s so interesting, yes. Mr Macron, despite his statement, actually signed very large-scale agreements with China,” he said, adding: “Germany, the same”.

French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Chinese President Xi Jinping to the Elysee Palace in Paris last month. Photo: AFP
French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Chinese President Xi Jinping to the Elysee Palace in Paris last month. Photo: AFP

Macron invited German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to his meeting in Paris with Xi, where the four sought to reassure each other over economic cooperation between the European trading bloc and China.

Dragasakis said Greece’s relations with China were based on “very solid ground” with the two countries sharing complementary interests, particularly through the belt and road plan.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is understood to be considering joining Foreign Minister George Katrougalos at the belt and road summit in Beijing, which will be hosted by Xi later this month.

More than 40 heads of state are expected to attend the summit, with China’s foreign ministry recently saying that Europe had started to see the value of the scheme.

If confirmed, Tsipras’ presence at the summit will be interpreted as an attempt by Greece to consolidate Chinese support in the wake of Italy’s joining of the scheme.

He will also need to mend ties with Beijing, following a recent decision by Greece’s archaeological body to block a plan by Cosco to upgrade facilities at the Piraeus port, throwing the future of the multimillion euro privatisation deal into uncertainty.

Portugal’s support for China’s belt and road plan ‘bad news’ for EU

Dragasakis said there were strong prospects for the future relationship between Greece and China because of the two countries’ reciprocal interest.

Relations with other Asian countries, while not yet as close as Greek ties with China, would continue to be developed, he said.

Dragasakis said Athens would not adopt discriminatory policies against any country as it looked to shore up foreign investments to boost its economy.

India, for instance, has set its sights on Greece as a potential business partner, with President Ram Nath Kovind becoming its first titular head of state to visit Greece last year.

“Relations with India are lagging behind – they are not at the same level as with China, but of course we are mulling further developments with India,” Dragasakis said, adding that Greece would also work more closely with Japan, South Korea and Vietnam.

EU leaders hold out olive branch to Chinese ‘rival’ by saying they want active role in Belt and Road Initiative

EU leaders hold out olive branch to China over belt and road

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China will not divide Europe, senior diplomat says

China will not divide Europe, senior diplomat says

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Beijing calls for ‘objective’ assessment of human rights record.


Source: SCMP

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continuously updated blog about China & India

What's wrong with the world; and its economy

continuously updated blog about China & India