Archive for ‘Politics’

01/02/2018

Theresa May in talks with Chinese president Xi Jinping

Theresa May has met President Xi Jinping for talks on the second day of her visit to China.

At a joint press conference with Mr Xi, Mrs May said Britain and China were enjoying a “golden era” in their relationship.

And she wanted to “take further forward the global strategic partnership that we have established”.

The UK prime minister is in China at the head of a 50-strong business delegation.

With Mrs May’s discussions with Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday largely given over to trade and Brexit, the talks with Mr Xi were due to focus on global issues, including North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

After shaking hands for the cameras, Mrs May and Mr Xi were seated with their delegations on opposite sides of a large conference table at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing.

Mrs May hailed improved trading links between the two nations since Mr Xi’s state visit to Britain in 2015.

She added: “I’m very pleased with the people-to-people links we have been able to build on in education and in culture too.

“Also as you say we are both significant players on the world stage of outward looking countries.

“And as we both sit together as permanent members of the security council of the united nations, there are global challenges which we both face, as do others in the world.”

Image captionTheresa May outside the British Embassy in Beijing

Mrs May is understood to have raised environmental issues with Mr Xi – and she presented him with a box-set of the BBC’s Blue Planet II series, with a personal message from presenter Sir David Attenborough.

The show examined the effect of human behaviour on the environment and was referenced by Mrs May last month when she pledged to eradicate all avoidable plastic waste in the UK by 2042 as part of a 25-year green strategy.

Warm words

On the first day of her trip the prime minister announced a UK-China effort to strengthen international action against the illegal trade in ivory.

After meeting Mrs May in Beijing on Wednesday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said China would further open up its markets to the UK, including to agricultural products and financial services.

UK-China trade is currently worth a £59bn a year and Mrs May has said she expects deals worth a further £9bn to be signed during the course of her visit.

One of the UK companies travelling with the PM, health-tech firm Medopad, has said it signed more than £100m of commercial projects and partnerships with organisations including China Resources, GSK China, Peking University and Lenovo.

BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said the prime minister would want to build on the warm words from China when she meets Mr Xi, amid pressure on her from her own party and Brussels in recent days.

Fox urges Tories to focus on the ‘big picture’

By Laura Kuenssberg, political editor

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox is in China and wants his restive colleagues at home to focus on the big picture.

Listing the number of deals that have been done already this week during the prime minister’s visit he told me that building levels of trade with China is a real “success story”.

No 10 is confident that by the end of this marathon trip well over £9bn of new contracts will have been secured – such a high profile political investment edging deals over the line.

Dr Fox accepts it will take some to get trade deals done in the longer term. The UK will be limited not just before Brexit, but also during the transition period, in how much can get done.

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31/01/2018

Theresa May unveils education deal at start of China visit

Theresa May has announced new education links with China as she arrives for a three-day visit to boost trade and investment after Brexit.

The initiative includes the extension of a Maths teacher exchange programme and a campaign to promote English language learning in China.

The UK prime minister has claimed her visit “will intensify the golden era in UK-China relations”.

But she has stressed China must adhere to free and fair trade practices.

In an article for the Financial Times ahead of her arrival, she acknowledged that London and Beijing did not see “eye-to-eye” on a number of issues – and she promised to raise concerns from UK industry about the over-production of steel and the protection of intellectual property against piracy.

‘Two great nations’

Other issues likely to be discussed include North Korea and climate change. It is not clear whether they will include human rights in Hong Kong.

Mrs May, who will hold talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, is travelling at the head of a 50-strong business delegation, including BP and Jaguar Land Rover, as well as small firms and universities including Manchester and Liverpool.

Her first stop, Wuhan, in central China, is home to the largest number of students of any city in the world.

The education deal includes:

  • Extension of a maths teacher exchange programme for a further two years to 2020, enabling around 200 English teachers to visit China
  • Joint training of pre-school staff in the UK and China
  • Better information-sharing on vocational education
  • The launch of an “English is GREAT” campaign to promote English language learning in China
  • Education deals worth more than £550m, which it is claimed will create 800 jobs in the UK

Mrs May said new agreements signed on her trip would “enable more children and more young people than ever to share their ideas about our two great nations”, helping to ensure that “our golden era of co-operation will endure for generations to come”.

During the three-day trip, Mrs May is expected to focus on extending existing commercial partnerships rather than scoping out new post-Brexit deals.

She said she expected China to play a “huge role” in the economic development of the world, adding: “I want that future to work for Britain, which is why, during my visit, I’ll be deepening co-operation with China on key global and economic issues that are critical to our businesses, to our people, and to what the UK stands for.”

She acknowledged that her agenda “will not be delivered in one visit: it must be our shared objective over the coming years”.

Hong Kong concerns

But she added: “I’m confident that, as China continues to open up, co-operation and engagement will ensure its growing role on the global stage delivers not just for China, but for the UK and the wider world.”

In a statement ahead of the visit, a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said Beijing saw Mrs May’s trip as “an opportunity to achieve new development of the China-UK global comprehensive strategic partnership”.

But asked whether the UK had achieved its aim of becoming China’s closest partner in the West, he replied: “Co-operation can always be bettered. As to whether China and Britain have become the closest partners, we may need to wait and see how Prime Minister May’s visit this time plays out.”

Pro-democracy protester in Hong KongImage copyrightEPA
Image captionCritics accuse China of abandoning its “one country, two systems” pledge on Hong Kong

In recent years, both countries have hailed a “golden era” in UK-Sino relations.

China has signalled its desire to invest in high-profile UK infrastructure projects, including the building of a new nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point – although its involvement has raised some national security concerns.

British trade with China has increased by 60% since 2010 and UK ministers are expected to use the trip to stress that the UK will remain an “excellent place to do business” after it leaves the EU next year.

The UK has said it will prioritise negotiating free trade agreements with major trading partners such as the United States, Australia and Canada after it leaves the EU in March 2019.

Earlier this year, the UK said it would not rule out becoming a member of the Trans Pacific Partnership free-trade zone, whose members include Japan, South Korea and Vietnam and which is considered by many as a counter-weight to Chinese influence in the region.

Chinese President Xi Jinping with his US counterpart Donald Trump in NovemberImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionUS President Donald Trump and French counterpart Emmanuel Macron have both visited China recently

Lord Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, has urged Mrs May to use the visit to privately raise what he says has been the steady erosion of freedoms and rights in the former British colony in recent years.

Hong Kong is supposed to have distinct legal autonomy under the terms of its handover to China in 1997.

In a letter to the PM, Lord Patten and ex-Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown said its residents needed assurances that the UK’s growing commercial relationship with China would not “come at the cost of our obligations to them”.

22/01/2018

China’s ambitions in space are growing

America is keeping its distance

The base in a township of Wenchang city is the newest of China’s four space-launch facilities. It is also by far the easiest to visit—thanks in part to the enthusiasm of officials in Hainan, a haven for tourists and rich retirees. Wenchang’s local government has adopted a logo for the city reminiscent of Starfleet badges in “Star Trek”. It is building a space-themed tourist village near the launch site, with attractions that include a field of vegetables grown from seeds that have been carried in spaceships.

If the dream is to turn this palm-fringed corner of Hainan into a tourist trap comparable to Florida’s balmy space coast, there is still a lot to do. Several idle building sites suggest that some investors have gambled rashly. Signs have been taken down from a patch of scrub that was once earmarked for an amusement centre. On a recent weekday, pensioners wintering nearby were among the few visitors to the launch site. A local says that people often come out feeling like they have had a lesson in patriotism, but not much fun.

Perhaps this will change when Wenchang gets up to speed. The base is crucial to China’s extraterrestrial ambitions because it is the only site from which it can launch its latest and largest rocket, the Long March 5 (pictured). Narrow railway tunnels limit the size of the components that can be delivered to the three other bases. Rockets are anyway more efficient the closer they are launched to the equator, where the faster rotation of Earth provides extra lift. Of China’s launch centres, Wenchang is by far the nearest to that sweet spot.

The Long March 5 can carry about 25 tonnes into low orbit, roughly double the maximum load of China’s next most powerful rocket. This is only a bit less than the biggest rocket currently used by America’s space agency, NASA, can carry—but far less than the Falcon Heavy, a behemoth being developed by SpaceX, a private American firm (see article). The Long March 5’s maiden launch, in 2016, was a success. But the second one last summer failed a few minutes after lift-off. Wenchang’s two launch pads have stood empty ever since.

That failure, and another one last year involving another type of Long March rocket, slowed China’s space efforts. Officials had hoped to launch around 30 rockets of one type or another in 2017 but only managed 18 (there were 29 launches in America and another 20 of Russian ones—see chart). But they promise to bounce back in 2018, with 40-or-so lift-offs planned this year. These will probably include a third outing for the Long March 5—assuming its flaws can be fixed in time—and missions that will greatly expand the number of satellites serving BeiDou, China’s home-grown satellite navigation system.

The next two years could see big progress in China’s two highest-profile civil programmes in space: lunar exploration and building a space station. In 2013 China sent a rover to the moon’s surface, the first soft landing there since Russia and America discontinued such efforts in the 1970s. Towards the end of this year China hopes to put a robot on the far side of the moon, a region never yet explored from the lunar surface. That landing will help preparations for an attempt—tentatively planned for 2019—to collect rocks from the surface and return them to Earth.

China talks of launching the main module of a permanent space station as soon as 2019, and expanding it with two bolt-ons early in the following decade. It is going it alone with this programme. America passed a law in 2011 that forbids NASA from sharing knowledge or resources with its Chinese equivalent. This ensured that China remained locked out of the International Space Station; America was never keen on letting it in because of the military uses of China’s space programme. China has instead experimented with two temporary orbiters of its own, the newest of which it crewed for a month in 2016 (the older one has reached the end of its mission and looks likely to tumble to the Earth sometime in the next few months).

Eventually, China would like to send its taikonauts to the moon. There is no target date for achieving this, but in 2016 an official speculated that a Chinese citizen might step on the lunar surface within 15 to 20 years. The country has Mars in its sights, too. It plans to land a rover there in 2020 or shortly thereafter. It wants to retrieve rocks from Mars sometime in the 2030s.

China still lags far behind America in its space accomplishments, but it does not appear bent on a cold-war-style race. It spends far less on its civil space programme than the $19.7bn that NASA was allocated last year. China is doggedly pursuing its goals, however. Joan Johnson-Freese of the US Naval War College compares China to Aesop’s tortoise.

One of the Communist Party’s aims is to boost national pride at home. In 2016 Mr Xi declared that April 24th would be celebrated annually as “space day”: it is the anniversary of China’s first satellite launch in 1970. Even if outshining America remains a distant goal, China is mindful of the progress being made by India, another big developing country that dreams of the stars. India is planning its first soft-landing on the moon in March, more than four years after China’s.

Europe is keen to collaborate. Chinese and European scientists launched their first joint satellite in 2003. They are now co-operating in a study of solar wind. Astronauts from the European Space Agency (ESA) recently trained with Chinese counterparts in survival skills. Karl Bergquist, an ESA official, says a few European astronauts are learning Chinese to prepare for possible joint missions.

But America’s worries are growing about the military aspects of China’s space programme. Marco Aliberti of the European Space Policy Institute in Vienna says this has been particularly evident since 2013, when China showed it could launch projectiles into the lofty orbits traced by America’s most sensitive satellites, suggesting it was developing an ability to knock them out. Many American scientists favour a more relaxed approach. But in an era of “America First”, the chances are slim of NASA being allowed to befriend China.

All this rankles among Chinese officials. They note that tense relations between America and Russia have not prevented those two countries’ space agencies from working together (since retiring the space shuttle, America has been dependent on Russian rockets to get astronauts into space). As many people in China see it, America’s behaviour is further confirmation of a long-held belief that America wants to create impediments to China’s rise. Jiao Weixin, a space expert at Peking University, says America is locked in “cold-war thinking”. If American authorities do not wish to work with China, he says, there are others who will.

This article appeared in the China section of the print edition under the headline “Hainan aims high”
07/12/2017

China claims Indian drone ‘invaded airspace in crash’ – BBC News

An Indian drone has “invaded China’s airspace and crashed” on its territory, Chinese state media said.Zhang Shuili, deputy director of the western theatre combat bureau, said the incident took place in “recent days”.

He did not give an exact location.

He was quoted in Xinhua news agency as saying that India had “violated China’s territorial sovereignty”.The Indian army said the drone had been deployed on a training mission and developed a technical problem.

Indian army spokesperson Colonel Aman Anand told reporters that they had lost control of the drone which then crossed into Chinese airspace. They alerted their Chinese counterparts soon after, he added.

The two countries saw relations worsen this summer when they became locked in a dispute over a Himalayan plateau.

What was behind the China-India border row?

China ‘racist’ video on India sparks fury

China and India now in water ‘dispute’In remarks carried widely by state media outlets, Mr Zhang said Chinese border forces had conducted “verifications” of the drone.He added that China expresses “our strong dissatisfaction and opposition regarding this matter” and that it would “steadfastly protect the country’s rights and safety”.

Relations between the two countries soured in June when India said it opposed a Chinese attempt to extend a road on the Doklam/Donglang plateau, at the border of China, India and Bhutan.

China and Bhutan have competing claims on the plateau, and India supports Bhutan’s claim.

After weeks of escalating tensions, including heated rhetoric from both sides, the stand-off ended in August when both countries pulled back their troops.

The two nations fought a bitter war over the border in 1962, and disputes remain unresolved in several areas which cause tensions to rise periodically.

Source: China claims Indian drone ‘invaded airspace in crash’ – BBC News

03/11/2017

Five things to watch for on Donald Trump’s first Asia trip | South China Morning Post

The world will be watching as America’s leader makes his first official visit to Asia, where trade deficits and military ties are likely to be among the hot topics

US President Donald Trump’s first official visit to Asia gets under way on Friday, with a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping scheduled for next week likely to one of the highlights.

After a quick stop-off in Hawaii, Trump will travel to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines over the course of 12 days, taking him as close as he is ever likely to get to his greatest adversary – North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.As well as holding talks with state leaders, Trump will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Vietnam and the US-Asean Summit in the Philippines.

Although he pledged during his presidential campaign last year to be “unpredictable” in diplomacy, here are the five issues that we think are likely to dominate his visit:

How will Donald Trump’s Beijing visit shape US strategy on China?

1) US Asia policy

Trump’s attitude towards the United States’ long-term allies, as well as partner-cum-rival China during his trip could set the foundations for US foreign relations for the rest of his presidential term.

In contrast to the “Pivot to Asia” approach adopted by his predecessor Barack Obama, Trump has made no bones about putting “America First”. It will be interesting to see how rigidly he adheres to that policy in talks with his Asian counterparts.

2) North Korea

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and China’s ambassador in Washington Cui Tiankai have both confirmed that the North Korea issue will top the agenda of the Sino-US meeting.

The restive state has conducted 15 missile tests since February and claims to have developed the technology to land a warhead on US soil.In response, Trump has repeatedly pressed China to do more to contain its long term ally’s weapons development programme and he is expected to further push Beijing to implement sanctions against Pyongyang and take additional steps to rein in its restive neighbour.

Trump to hop a flight home from the Philippines instead of attending East Asia SummitAlthough China has cooperated with UN Security Council resolutions on Pyongyang, North Korea’s official state media reported that Xi on Thursday expressed his hopes to promote ties between the two countries.

Before meeting Xi, Trump will visit Japan and South Korea – the United States’ closest Asian allies on the North Korea issue – and his talks there could well shed some light on how things might go in Beijing.

3) US military alliances

During his presidential campaign Trump made repeated claims that the US was bankrolling the defence of its Asian allies Japan and South Korea. Though he has yet to make any defence budget cuts, it will be of great interest not only to the United States’ allies but also other nations in the region how much he commits to America’s military development in Asia.

Will US President Donald Trump’s Asia trip result in deals to rein in North Korea?

With their shared and deepening concerns over North Korea’s nuclear weapons capabilities, Trump’s talks in Seoul may touch on the deployment of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defence anti-missile system, an issue that has caused a year-long conflict between China and South Korea.

In Japan, whose defence ties to the US date back to the signing of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security in 1960, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is likely hoping Trump will continue to honour the deal.In September, Trump said he would allow both Japan and South Korea to buy a “substantially increased amount” of sophisticated military equipment from the US.

4) Trade

Trump on Wednesday referred to the United States’ US$347 billion trade deficit with China as “embarrassing” and “horrible”. It should be expected, therefore, that while in Beijing he will be keen to rebalance that relationship by proposing new trade terms.

The ongoing US investigations into China’s alleged dumping of stainless steel flanges and Beijing’s intellectual property practices could also be on the agenda.

Donald Trump visit sees China’s US ambassador delay retirement

The United States’ second-largest trade deficit – US$69 billion – is with Japan, so Trump may look to continue the talks he began with Tokyo earlier in the year covering tariffs on US agricultural products and American car sales in the Asian country.

Trump has also called for a renegotiation of the 2012 US-S

Source: Five things to watch for on Donald Trump’s first Asia trip | South China Morning Post

03/11/2017

Despite its reputation, Chinese aid is quite effective

CHINA is one of the world’s largest providers of foreign aid. But it has a reputation as a rogue donor: stories abound of shoddy projects, low environmental standards and mistreatment of workers.

A hospital built by the Chinese in Luanda, the capital of Angola, developed alarming cracks and had to be rebuilt. Aid is widely thought to have been diverted for arms purchases by Robert Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe. The list goes grimly on.

Stories do not abound, however, about who gets China’s aid and what it goes on. The government says that it spends about $5bn a year on assistance to other countries. But it has no aid ministry comparable to, say, Britain’s Department for International Development. Most details of the aid programme are kept secret, perhaps because the largesse is unpopular domestically. Many Chinese think that their country is too poor to give handouts and the money ought to be spent at home. When the health ministry tried to investigate whether Chinese projects in Africa made people healthier, the rest of the government flatly refused to co-operate.

The most detailed study so far of Chinese aid, published this week by AidData, a research group at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, shines a light on the murky data. The report looks at 4,400 projects which China has either committed to, is building or has finished, between 2000 and 2014. It finds that the country gave or lent about $350bn over that period—not much less than the total of American aid, which was $424bn in those years. But almost all of America’s aid is in the form of grants, compared with a fifth of China’s. The rest is concessional lending at below-market interest rates, mostly to Chinese companies working abroad—the kind of aid that used to be common in the West but went out of fashion in the 1990s because it overburdened recipients with debt. The grant component of China’s aid was $75bn, still a lot (about the same as Britain’s), but not a tidal wave of money.

Previous AidData studies of Chinese aid have been controversial. In 2013 the researchers reckoned that aid to Africa alone (which accounts for half of China’s total foreign aid) was $75bn between 2000 and 2011. Deborah Brautigam of Johns Hopkins University in Maryland said their calculation was “way off”. She criticised what she described as its excessive reliance on unreliable news reports. AidData’s new estimate appears to be better grounded. It is based more on official announcements from Chinese commercial offices abroad and from the finance and planning ministries of recipient countries.

The authors use their new numbers to look at whether Chinese aid works—an equally controversial subject. In a study published along with the data set, researchers including Bradley Parks of the College of William and Mary find that the grant kind does. They reckon a doubling of Chinese grant aid is associated with a 0.4-point increase in the rate of GDP growth of the recipients after two years. That is more than can be said for China’s no-strings-attached concessional lending, which, according to AidData, has no effect on the receiving country’s GDP. It appears to be tantamount to an export subsidy to Chinese firms, with a side order of backhanders for local elites.

On a happier note, the study looks at whether Chinese aid damages Western assistance. The researchers do this by calculating whether aid effectiveness declines in countries that receive Western aid and then get an influx of Chinese cash. It finds no decline, implying Chinese aid does not harm efforts by other donors.

Three conclusions can be drawn from AidData’s findings. First, Chinese aid could do more good in poor countries if more of it came in the form of grants, rather than cheap loans. Next, Western aid agencies should not be so wary of co-operating with the Chinese. Co-ordination is important in aid-giving because otherwise you might find, say, three aid agencies each building a hospital in the same city. Because China is regarded as a rogue, it is not roped into the co-ordination efforts among Western donors. That should change. Lastly, the paucity of information about China’s aid (despite AidData’s efforts) is caused by the opacity of China’s government. Perhaps it might consider being more open about a programme that appears, for all its flaws, to be moderately effective.

Source: Despite its reputation, Chinese aid is quite effective

11/10/2017

China to shut down North Korean companies – BBC News

China has told North Korean companies operating in its territory to close down as it implements United Nations sanctions against the reclusive state.

The companies will be shut by early January. Joint Chinese and North Korean ventures will also be forced to close.China, Pyongyang’s only major ally, has already banned textile trade and limited oil exports.

The move is part of an international response to North Korea’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test.

The UN Security Council, of which China is a member, voted unanimously for fresh sanctions on 11 September.China’s commerce ministry said it had set a deadline of 120 days from the passing of the resolution for any North Korean companies within its borders to close.

North Korea is politically and economically isolated, and the vast majority of its trade is with China.

Beijing has traditionally been protective of its neighbour, but has sharply criticised its nuclear tests and escalating rhetoric.

Was your T-shirt made in North Korea?

Earlier this year, it clamped down on its purchase of coal from Pyongyang and on seafood and iron trade across the border.

Coupled with the textile trade ban, North Korea has lost several of its scant sources of foreign currency income.

Beijing has been under public pressure to take action from US President Donald Trump, who has both applauded and denounced Chinese policy at different times.

N Korea: Trump exploiting student’s death

North Korea crisis in 300 wordsMr Trump has also been involved in a direct war of words with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, labelling him a “rocket man” on “a suicide mission”. The US president warned that he would have no choice but to “totally destroy” North Korea if forced to defend the US or its allies.

Mr Kim, in turn, has called Mr Trump “deranged” and a “dotard”, and said the US president’s comments have convinced him he is right to seek a nuclear deterrent, and has even accused Mr Trump of declaring war.

At a news briefing on Thursday, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said: “We are opposed to any war on the Korean peninsula.”

“Sanctions and the promoting of talks are both the requirements of the UN Security Council. We should not overemphasise one aspect while ignoring the other.”

North Korea’s slowly growing economy

Pyongyang does not publish accounts or economic data, which leaves economists guessing over the country’s performance. But South Korea’s central bank bases its estimates on information from its National Intelligence Service.

It believes that last year, North Korea’s economy grew at its fastest pace in 17 years – with GDP up 3.9% despite international economic sanctions. Small shops and markets have been springing up in the capital over the past decade.

But that does not mean ordinary people are doing well. North Korea’s economy is geared towards supporting its large military – which analysts believe consumes up to 25% of the country’s GDP. Income inequality is rife, with some shops in Pyongyang stocked with all sorts of luxury goods, while other citizens have very little.

Even the latest sanctions have exceptions. China, for example, can still trade oil to its neighbour in limited supply.

Source: China to shut down North Korean companies – BBC News

22/09/2017

China ahead of schedule on construction of hydropower plant in Pakistan | South China Morning Post

Facility in disputed Kashmir could be completed nine months before its December 2021 deadline

China is racing to finish one of the biggest hydropower projects in Pakistan ahead of schedule, yet its location in the long-contested region of Kashmir will draw ire from India.

Construction of the 720MW Karot power station on the Jhelum river began in December and looked set to finish nine months ahead of its December 2021 completion date, a first for a Pakistan hydro-project, said Qin Guobin, chief executive officer of the state-owned China Three Gorges South Asia Investment Ltd.

The company has put in place an aggressive strategy to cut the project’s financing costs.“For us, Pakistan is a strategic market,” Qin said at the site. “If we managed to complete it earlier we can save financing costs and make it more competitive.”

China pips US in race to start the world’s first meltdown-proof nuclear power plant

Pakistan’s energy demand is expected to grow by 6 per cent to 35,000MW by 2024 as its population of more than 200 million people grows along with the economy. For more than a decade, it has been struggling to overcome daily power shortages that have left industry and residents in the dark.

China has stepped in to meet some of those shortages, financing projects worth more than US$50 billion in an economic corridor that runs through Pakistan. The route is part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “Belt and Road Initiative” to connect Asia with Europe and Africa with a web of ports, railways and motorways links for trade.

Three Gorges’ focus in Pakistan is clean energy and it has a US$6 billion portfolio in three hydro and three solar power plants. The Karot project is in the Pakistan-administrated part of Kashmir, which India and Pakistan both claim and have fought two wars over since independence in 1947.

The ‘Belt and Road’ projects China doesn’t want anyone talking about

India’s foreign ministry said its views on “Pakistan’s illegal occupation” of Kashmir was “a matter of record”.

“We have objected, they have proceeded nevertheless,” said G. Parthasarathy, a former Indian high commissioner to Pakistan. “This has been going on since the 1960s and 1970s, when they built the Karakoram highway” that links Pakistan with China through the disputed territory, he said.

China has a neutral stance on the Kashmir dispute, said Zhao Gancheng, director of the Centre for South Asia Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies.

“The ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ cannot be delayed or sidetracked by the territorial disputes,” he said.

Relations between China and India hit a recent low during a dispute between a three-way junction between Bhutan, China’s Tibet and India’s Sikkim, which was resolved with both sides standing down in August.

China, Pakistan and the challenges of Silk Road connectivity

More broadly, New Delhi is wary of Chinese investments in neighbouring countries such as Pakistan and Sri Lanka, while Beijing is irked by India’s lack of support for its infrastructure and trade initiative.

India’s concern did not bother Qin. “It’s a political issue and not the concern of a private investor,” he said.

Pakistan considers the hydropower site a national security priority. It is dotted with army pickets and plain clothes security officials. None of the Chinese staff can leave the camp office without registering his or her name at the main gate. Of the 2,070 workers at the site, 750 are Chinese.

The concern is being taken seriously by both sides. Pakistan had created a special force of 15,000 troops to defend the Chinese projects and that number might be doubled, according to people with direct knowledge of the plans, who asked not to be identified as they were not authorised to speak to the media.

Chinese social media users fume over Indian magazine’s omission of Tibet and Taiwan from ‘map’

Yet risks remain after two Chinese nationals were killed in southwestern Balochistan in June. Islamic State claimed their murders.

The stakes are high for Pakistan, with the planned power generation projects potentially adding US$13 billion to its economy in the next seven years, according to an International Monetary Fund report published in July.

Pakistan’s hydropower generation potential is an estimated 40,000MW, although the existing installed capacity was only 7,116MW in the 2015-16 financial year, according to the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority’s latest report.

Three Gorges is now eyeing the contract for the construction of a 4,500MW Diamir-Bhasha power project in northern Gilgit-Baltistan and northwestern Chillas district.

“Pakistan’s total installed capacity is equal to one big Chinese city, like Shanghai,” Qin said. “That’s not enough.”

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Source: China ahead of schedule on construction of hydropower plant in Pakistan | South China Morning Post

18/09/2017

China and India water ‘dispute’ after border stand-off – BBC News

The river gets severely flooded during monsoon season every year causing huge losses in northeast India and Bangladesh

China and India may have defused a potential border conflict but the stand-off seems to have led to dispute over another contentious issue: water.Delhi says it has not received any hydrological – the scientific study of the movement, distribution and quality of water – data for the Brahmaputra river from upstream China this monsoon season, notwithstanding an agreement.

One of Asia’s major rivers, the Brahmaputra, originates in Tibet and flows down to India before entering Bangladesh where it joins the Ganges and empties into the Bay of Bengal.

Beijing has said its hydrological stations are being upgraded which means it cannot share data..

But the BBC has found that China continues to share data for the same river with Bangladesh, the lowest downstream country in the Brahmaputra basin.

The river data issue between China and India comes after the two countries ended a tense stand-off over a disputed Himalayan border area that lasted more than two months.

The Brahmaputra gets severely flooded during monsoon season every year, causing huge losses in northeast India and Bangladesh.

Megadams: Battle on the Brahmaputra

  • The two countries have agreements with China that requires the upstream country to share hydrological data of the river during monsoon season between 15 May and 15 October.
  • The data is mainly of the water level of the river to alert downstream countries in case of floods.

“For this year…we have not received the hydrological data from the Chinese side beginning 15 May until now,” Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson of India’s External Affairs Ministry said last month at a regular briefing.

“We don’t know the technical reasons behind this but there is an existing mechanism under which China is to provide hydrological data to us.

Disputes along the long border between China and India remain unresolved in several areas

The Chinese side last week said there was a technical problem.

“Last year, due to the needs for reconstruction after being damaged by the flood and out of such technological reasons as upgrading and renovation, the relevant hydrological stations in China do not have the conditions to collect relevant hydrological data now,” China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a press briefing last week.Officials from Bangladesh, however, said they were still receiving water level and discharge level data of the Brahmaputra from China.

“We received data of water level of the Bramahaputra from China few days ago,” Mofazzal Hossain, a member of the joint rivers commission of Bangladesh told the BBC.

“We have been receiving such data from three hydrological stations in Tibet since 2002 and they have continued to share the figure with us even during this monsoon season”.

Uncertainty

Bangladesh’s water resources minister Anisul Islam Mohammad also confirmed to the BBC that his country was receiving hydrological data from China.

But for India, China has hinted at an uncertainty over resumption of sharing of data.

“As regards whether the providing of relevant hydrological data will be resumed, it depends on the progress of the above-mentioned work,” spokesperson Geng Shuang said.

India only recently secured the agreement with China on receiving monsoon data of the Brahmaputra river, after years of efforts.

Delhi has also asked for data for non-monsoonal flows of the river, because there are suspicions in India that China could divert the waters of the Brahmaputra to its parched regions during dry seasons.

The river flows down to India before entering Bangladesh

Beijing has constructed several hydropower dams on the river, which is known as Yarlung Zangbo in Tibet.

It says they do not store or divert water and they will not be against the interest of downstream countries.

But in recent years, particularly in northeastern India, fears are also growing that China could suddenly release a huge amount of water.Residents of Dibrugarh in Assam, where the river has one of its widest stretches, say they have witnessed the water levels of Brahmaputra sharply rise and fall in very short periods of time.

There have also been increasing incidents of landslides blocking rivers and unleashing sudden floods in the Himalayas.

Flood warnings

A recent study has in fact, shown Tibet topping the list of places across the globe that has experienced an increase in water. Experts say all these factors make early flood warnings from China even more crucial.

Officials with India’s water resources ministry say the recent developments have left them somewhat worried.

“We thought we would now be able to convince them to share the hydrological data of the non-monsoon season so that there is no suspicion that they would divert water during lean season,” an official, preferring anonymity, told the BBC.”

“But now we are not getting even the monsoon flow information, this is a worrying sign and it also shows their [China’s] intention.”

A year ago, China blocked a tributary of the Yarlung Zangbo river as part of its most expensive hydro project, Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua reported.

The news came just when Indian media were suggesting that Delhi could pull out of the Indus Water Treaty – signed with Pakistan – following a militant attack in Indian-administered Kashmir.

As an upstream country for Bangladesh and Pakistan, India too has time and again been accused by these downstream countries of ignoring their concerns.

Experts say these are compelling evidences that water is indeed emerging as a key issue in South Asia’s geopolitics.

Source: China and India water ‘dispute’ after border stand-off – BBC News

15/09/2017

China declares itself a global power

N RECENT days government employees across China, from postal officials in the north-east to tax auditors in the south-west, have been corralled into watching state television.

The Communist Party often orders bureaucrats to study propaganda. This time, however, the mandatory viewing has deviated from the usual themes of domestic politics and economic development. Instead, it has focused on China’s emergence as a global power, and the role of the president, Xi Jinping, in bringing this about.In late August and early September the state broadcaster aired six 45-minute programmes on this topic at peak viewing hours. The Chinese title could be rendered as “Great-Power Diplomacy”, but some state media prefer to call it “Major-Country Diplomacy”. That sounds a little more modest. Describing China’s growing global clout has long been a problem for propagandists. In 2003 they seemed to have settled on the term “peaceful rise”, only to abandon it a few months later in favour of “peaceful development”—the word “rise”, they thought, risked causing alarm abroad.

There is not a hint of reticence, however, in the series’ portrayal of China’s purported foreign-policy successes under Mr Xi, and his personal involvement in them. The programmes, made with the help of the party’s own Publicity Department, are peppered with fawning remarks by Chinese and foreigners alike. In a clip from a speech given in 2015, Zimbabwe’s leader, Robert Mugabe, says of the smiling Mr Xi: “We will say he is a God-sent person.” (China has long admired Mr Mugabe’s contempt for the West.) “I really liked him, we had a great chemistry, I think,” America’s president, Donald Trump, is shown telling an American television interviewer after meeting Mr Xi in Florida in April.

Must-Xi TV

The main message is that Mr Xi is responsible for crafting a new approach to foreign policy that has won China global admiration: “great-power diplomacy with Chinese characteristics”. Mr Xi emphasised the need for this in November 2014 in a speech on foreign affairs (official translations of which often used the words “major country” instead). Last year the term appeared for the first time in the government’s annual work report. Like Deng Xiaoping’s “socialism with Chinese characteristics”, the phrase serves more to obfuscate than enlighten.

The nub of it is said to be “win-win co-operation”. But its introduction marked a clear departure from Deng’s more reticent approach to foreign policy, which was often described in China as taoguang yanghui, or “hiding brightness, nourishing obscurity”. By contrast, in the television series, the narrator says: “Maintaining world peace and stability is the unshirkable responsibility and burden of a great power.” It shows Chinese troops evacuating Chinese (and others) from strife-torn Yemen in 2015, the Chinese navy on anti-piracy missions off the Horn of Africa and Chinese marines setting off in July to establish the country’s first overseas military base in Djibouti.

While the series was being aired, a party newspaper published an article by the foreign minister, Wang Yi, on Mr Xi’s “diplomatic thought”. It said the president’s approach to foreign affairs had “blazed new trails and gone beyond traditional Western international-relations theory of the past 300 years”. The programmes aim to show that, unlike other rising powers in history, China (thanks to Mr Xi) has managed to maintain stable relations with established powers. They gloss over huge underlying tensions with Japan and America. Time and again Mr Xi is shown standing still while foreign leaders walk towards him to shake his hand. “It’s the ancient Chinese tributary system re-enacted,” says a Chinese academic, referring to emissaries from neighbouring states who brought gifts to the Chinese emperor as a means of securing peace.

But for all the talk of Mr Xi’s skills as a global leader, he still shares Deng’s aversion to risk-taking abroad. The series skates over the crisis on the Korean peninsula (a day after the final episode was shown, North Korea tested what appeared to be a hydrogen bomb.) Mr Xi’s great-power diplomacy had clearly failed to avert a grave international crisis—one that has developed not least as a result of China sitting on its hands.

Source: China declares itself a global power

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