Archive for ‘Politics’

14/07/2019

China meets resistance over Kenya coal plant, in test of its African ambitions

  • Court revokes licence for coal-fired power plant in Kenyan town whose Unesco World Heritage status is at stake
  • Beijing’s efforts to cut emissions domestically coincide with coal-financing ventures overseas
A proposed coal-fired power plant in Kenya involving four Chinese companies has provoked protests. Photo: Handout
A proposed coal-fired power plant in Kenya involving four Chinese companies has provoked protests. Photo: Handout
This article is part of a series in which the South China Morning Post examines the local impact of Chinese investment and infrastructure projects in Africa.
There are a few places in the world that have held onto their traditions. One is the island of Lamu, close to Kenya’s northern coast, which is an epicentre of Swahili culture in East Africa and home to its oldest and best-preserved history.
Nowhere combines the culture’s architecture and heritage like Lamu Old Town, where there are two streets, few cars and dozens of mosques and churches. Donkeys and wooden carts are the main modes of transport.
The town is a Unesco World Heritage Site with multibillion-dollar tourism and fishing industries. But it risks losing its global allure after Unesco’s World Heritage Committee warned that a US$2 billion coal-fired power plant planned in the area threatened its heritage site status.
Four Chinese companies are involved in the project. The United States also supported it, with its envoy to Kenya, Kyle McCarter, saying the country needed cheaper power and American energy firm GE promising to inject US$400 million for a 20 per cent stake in Amu Power, the operating company. The Kenyan government has said the plant would enable the country to have a diversified source of electricity.
Lamu Old Town’s Unesco status helps to support its tourism and fishing industries. Photo: Handout
Lamu Old Town’s Unesco status helps to support its tourism and fishing industries. Photo: Handout

However, the project’s future is uncertain after a Kenyan court, the National Environment Tribunal, ordered on June 26 that a fresh environmental impact assessment be carried out. The tribunal, which oversees decisions made by the National Environment Management Authority, also revoked the licence issued by the authority to Amu Power.

A lack of public consultation to date, as well as the environmental risks, were cited by the court, whose ruling is binding on the government. Unesco has urged Amu Power to proceed with the impact assessment, which in turn could have an impact on perceptions of Beijing’s signature transcontinental infrastructure strategy, the

Belt and Road Initiative

.

Two days after the court’s verdict, Wu Peng, the Chinese ambassador to Kenya, met groups opposed to the building of the coal plant, days after they had been dispersed by police when they tried to protest at the embassy. Wu acknowledged the need to develop a different approach to hear the public’s views.

Anti-coal campaigners have been demanding China back out. Of the plant’s estimated US$2 billion cost, US$1.2 billion is coming from the Industrial Commercial Bank of China.

The three Chinese companies – Sichuan Electric Power Design and Consulting, China Huadian, and Sichuan No 3 Power Construction – teamed up with Kenya’s Centum Investments and Gulf Energy in a venture to form Amu Power. Another Chinese firm, Power Construction (PowerChina), was contracted to build the plant, which is expected to generate 1,050 megawatts of electricity.
The Chinese embassy in Nairobi said it had asked the Chinese investors to wait for Kenya’s decision on whether it should go ahead.
“Our position is that the Kenyan people are the final decision makers in this project and the Chinese government respects that,” embassy spokeswoman Huang Xueqing said.
Despite committing to cutting China’s reliance on coal, Beijing is still funding several coal-powered plants around the world. Both China and Kenya signed the

Paris Agreement

on climate change in 2016, promising to cut carbon emissions.

China may be providing a market for its coal by outsourcing its fossil fuel use to other countries, according to 350.org, which campaigns to prevent climate change and works to end use of fossil fuels.
Yossi Cadan, a senior campaigner for the organisation, said many people looked to China to be the new world leader in addressing climate change, given its government’s ambitious initiative to reduce emissions domestically. US President Donald Trump, by contrast, made the controversial decision to 
Activists and Lamu residents have protested about the coal plant. Photo: Handout
Activists and Lamu residents have protested about the coal plant. Photo: Handout

“While China seems determined to meet its Paris climate agreement targets at home, it undermines those efforts to reduce global emissions by simultaneously investing in coal projects across the world,” Cadan said.

According to Cadan, cancellations and delays of coal projects in China left a desperate Chinese coal industry looking elsewhere, assisted by Chinese financial institutions.

He argued that if China was serious about being a global leader in reducing emissions and tackling the climate crisis, it must apply the same restrictions it was 

introducing domestically

to coal financing outside China.

Analysts said that if the Lamu coal project were to be abandoned, other Chinese-funded coal power projects in Africa would come under the spotlight.
China is funding eight coal-powered projects in Africa, including Egypt’s Hamrawein plant, which has an estimated cost of US$4.2 billion and is expected to generate six gigawatts of power.
Omar Elmawi, campaign coordinator at deCOALonize, was among the campaigners who met ambassador Wu two weeks ago.
“Other African countries could take a cue from [the Kenyan situation],” he said. “Already key financial institutions are coming up with policies that are either cutting back on or refusing to fund new coal plant projects. This will add to the pressure on China to abandon coal projects.”
Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst at Greenpeace’s air pollution unit, said the Lamu case could spur the Chinese government to adapt its criteria for supporting overseas energy projects. This could include requiring coal-fired power projects overseas to meet more stringent emissions standards.
“Currently, essentially all of the overseas coal-fired power projects with involvement from Chinese banks and firms plan to use much weaker emissions control technology than is allowed in China, leading to much worse air quality impacts and public health impacts – which was the case in Lamu,” Myllyvirta said.
“It’s hard to see how [a weaker emissions standard] fits with the Chinese leadership’s objectives of greening the belt and road, and projecting a positive, technologically advanced image of China overseas.”
Source: SCMP
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09/07/2019

Rights violations in contested Kashmir continue unchecked, U.N. report says

SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) – Tensions in disputed Kashmir after a deadly suicide bombing earlier this year are having a severe impact on human rights in the region, a United Nations report released on Monday said.

Muslim-majority Kashmir is claimed in full by India and Pakistan, who both rule it in part and have fought two wars over the territory. They came close to a third in February after the suicide bombing of a convoy claimed by a Pakistan-based militant group killed 40 paramilitary police.

India accuses Pakistan of funding these groups, who want independence for Indian-administered Kashmir, a claim Islamabad denies.

The report, by the U.N. Human Rights Council, says that arbitrary detentions during search operations by Indian troops are leading to a range of human rights violations.

Despite the high numbers of civilians killed in the vicinity of gun battles between security forces and militants, “there is no information about any new investigation into excessive use of force leading to casualties”, it said.

The report was also critical of special legal regimes used by India in Kashmir, saying accountability for violations committed by troops remains virtually non-existent.

The report says that in nearly three decades that emergency laws have been in force in Jammu and Kashmir, there has not been a single prosecution of armed forces personnel granted by the central government in a civilian court.

It called for the repeal of special powers protecting troops from prosecution.

The United Nations also flagged a spike in hate crimes against Kashmiris in the rest of India following the February attacks, calling on India to do more to prevent the violence.

In response, India’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said the report presented a “false and motivated narrative” on the state of the region.

“Its assertions are in violation of India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and ignore the core issue of cross-border terrorism,” Kumar added in a statement.

Though the majority of the allegations in the report pertain to Indian-administered Kashmir, it was also critical of Pakistan for detentions of separatists in its portion of the region.

A spokesman for the Pakistan embassy in New Delhi did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Source: Reuters

08/07/2019

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

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

China

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Afghanistan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iran

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uzbekistan

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jordan

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

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

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

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

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

US$70 fee to enter Petra

. The Nabataeans would no doubt approve.

Venice

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: SCMP

08/07/2019

World cannot shut China out, vice president says, in jab at U.S.

BEIJING (Reuters) – China and the rest of the world must co-exist, Vice President Wang Qishan said on Monday, in an indirect jab at the United States, with which Beijing is trying to resolve a bitter trade war.

Top representatives of the world’s two biggest economies are trying to resume talks this week to try and resolve their year-long trade dispute, which has seen the two countries place increasingly harsh tariffs on each other’s imports.

The Trump administration has accused China of engaging in unfair trade practices that discriminate against U.S. firms, forced technology transfers and intellectual property rights theft. Beijing has denied all the charges.

“China’s development can’t shut out the rest of the world. The world’s development can’t shut out China,” Wang told the World Peace Forum at Beijing’s elite Tsinghua University.

He also warned against “protectionism in the name of national security”, but without mentioning the United States, and urged major powers to make greater contributions to world peace.

China has also been angered by U.S. sanctions against tech giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd over national security concerns, and U.S. visa curbs on its students and academics.

In his speech, Wang, who is extremely close to Chinese President Xi Jinping and rarely speaks in public, reiterated China’s commitment to opening up.

“Large countries must assume their responsibilities and set an example, make more contributions to global peace and stability, and broaden the path of joint development,” he added.

“Development is the key to resolving all issues,” Wang, who became vice president last year, after having led Xi’s fight to root out corruption, told an audience that included Western diplomats based in Beijing and former European Council President Herman Van Rompuy.

“NOT A RATIONAL ACTION”

The United States should not blame China for the problems it is facing, Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng told the forum later.

“Viewing China as the enemy is not a rational action,” the foreign ministry quoted him as saying, adding that China would not put up “high walls” or “decouple itself from any country”.

China has been nervous that the United States is seeking to sever, or at least severely curb, economic links, in what has been called a “decoupling”.

Tariff, trade, finance and science and technology wars are “turning back the clock on history,” Le said. “The consequences will be extremely dangerous.”

The two sides have communicated by telephone since last month’s summit of leaders of Group of 20 major nations in Japan, at which U.S. President Donald Trump and Xi agreed to relaunch stalled talks.

Talks broke down in May, after U.S. officials accused China of pulling back from commitments previously made in the text of an agreement negotiators said was nearly finished.

The countries have also been at loggerheads over issues ranging from human rights to the disputed South China Sea and U.S. support of self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as its own.

No matter how the international situation or China developed, Vice President Wang said, the country would follow the path of peace, and not seek spheres of influence or expansion.

“If there is no peaceful, stable international environment, there will be no development to talk of.”

Source: Reuters

06/07/2019

Can China win the soccer World Cup with a handful of naturalised players? Probably not

  • President Xi Jinping has made no secret of his desire for China to one day host and maybe even win football’s greatest prize
  • But a few passport-switching foreigners are unlikely to be enough to make his dreams come true
China’s soccer team has high hopes, but it still has a long way to go before it can even dream of competing on the world stage. Photo: Reuters
China’s soccer team has high hopes, but it still has a long way to go before it can even dream of competing on the world stage. Photo: Reuters
As China targets a place at the 2022 World Cup, England-born 
Nico Yennaris

recently became the first foreign player to join the men’s national soccer team as a naturalised citizen.

On his identity card he is listed as ethnic Han.
Several foreign soccer players and other sportspeople have become Chinese citizens in recent years, many of them drawn by the huge financial rewards on offer.
Naturalisation has a long history in many countries, but it is a new concept in China, whose football association only publicly announced it would use it to boost its talent pool late last year. President Xi Jinping’s passion for the game and ambitions for China to host and maybe one day win the World Cup has been public knowledge since before he became leader.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, pictured on a 2012 visit to Croke Park in Dublin while still vice-president, has big dreams for China’s soccer team. Photo: Reuters
Chinese President Xi Jinping, pictured on a 2012 visit to Croke Park in Dublin while still vice-president, has big dreams for China’s soccer team. Photo: Reuters

John Hou Saeter, who was born to a Norwegian father and Chinese mother, in February became the first professional footballer to switch to Chinese citizenship. The 21-year-old, now known as Hou Yongyong, plays for Beijing Sinobo Guoan, one of the top teams in the Chinese Super League.

Another English player, Tyias Browning, recently joined Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao and is set to complete the process of applying for Chinese citizenship soon, Reuters reported last month.

Yennaris’ naturalisation may help bring China into 21st century
At a work conference in December, Du Zhaocai, the Communist Party secretary of the

Chinese Football Association

(CFA), promised to introduce new policies on naturalisation to help clubs attract players from overseas to join the Super League.

Professor Chen Xiyao from Shanghai University of Sport said such a move would have been unthinkable in the past.

“This is something new in China,” he said. “In the past we only saw our own athletes becoming naturalised citizens of other countries, but not foreign players coming to play for us.”

While the trend was undoubtedly prompted by Xi’s ambitions, Chen said it was also linked to the country’s growing economic prowess and wealth.

“China’s economic growth means it has become better known internationally. Everybody thinks China has money and sports clubs are spending huge sums to attract top players,” he said.

Former Everton player Tyias Browning now plays for Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao. Photo: Reuters
Former Everton player Tyias Browning now plays for Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao. Photo: Reuters

Mark Dreyer, founder of the China Sports Insider website, said naturalised players were motivated not only by money, but also the chance to increase their exposure and possibly play in a major tournament, which they would otherwise not get the chance to do.

“The rewards for the players are fairly clear: more money, more exposure and a shot at playing in the biggest tournaments in the world with China, which they wouldn’t have got if they’d stayed with their original countries,” he said.

“For athletes of Chinese descent, there will also be varying degrees of patriotism built into this as well.”

It is not just soccer players who are making the move top China. It is also happening in other sports, like ice hockey and figure skating.

US-born Beverly Zhu, who won the 2018 US Figure Skating Championships, triggered a heated discussion in China after she joined the Chinese team last year, which means she can compete for the host nation at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

In ice hockey, a number of overseas players have also been naturalised, including Zach Yuen from Canada, who may also represent China in Beijing in 2022.

Beverly Zhu, who won the 2018 US Figure Skating Championships, joined the Chinese team last year. Photo: Instagram
Beverly Zhu, who won the 2018 US Figure Skating Championships, joined the Chinese team last year. Photo: Instagram

Roy Chu, a lawyer with Links Law Offices in Shanghai who specialises in the sports industry, said that as China does not recognise dual nationality, foreigners have to give up their citizenship if they want to get a Chinese passport and apply for naturalisation.

“Therefore, the players to be naturalised have to be willing to represent China on the one hand, and on the other have a Chinese family background so as to simplify the legal procedures,” Chu said.

Browning’ grandfather and Yennaris’s mother are Chinese.

Dreyer said: “The players who choose to swap clearly think that the rewards outweigh the negatives of trading in their passport for a Chinese one.”

Under Chinese law, only foreigners with Chinese ancestry or those who have lived in China for at least five years can apply for Chinese citizenship. All but one of the sportsmen and women who have so far made the switch have Chinese ancestry.

The exception is Pedro Delgado, who was born and raised in Portugal but now plays for Shandong Luneng. He gained his Chinese citizenship last month and, according to the club, is the first foreign player without Chinese ancestry to become naturalised.

John Hou Saeter, who was born to a Norwegian father and Chinese mother, in February became the first professional footballer to switch to Chinese citizenship. Photo: Instagram
John Hou Saeter, who was born to a Norwegian father and Chinese mother, in February became the first professional footballer to switch to Chinese citizenship. Photo: Instagram

The naturalisation process is the same for sportspeople as it is for anyone else.

“The list of paperwork required by the Ministry of Public Security is quite short, but it doesn’t specify how long it takes to finish each step. So in that sense there is quite a lot of uncertainty,” Chu said.

“Those with Chinese ancestry will become the top targets for naturalisation in the short term so clubs can improve their talent pool, while those without may need more policy support,” he said.

London-born Nico Yennaris recently became the first foreign player to join China’s national soccer team as a naturalised citizen. Photo: AFP
London-born Nico Yennaris recently became the first foreign player to join China’s national soccer team as a naturalised citizen. Photo: AFP

Naturalised players also faced many challenges in China, especially if they did not speak the language or knew little about the culture, he said.

“Aside from settling into a completely different environment, they may also face resentment from their teammates, especially if those players lose their places in the team to the new arrivals,” Dreyer said.

“If the national team has several naturalised players, cliques could develop. We saw this in the US football team, when several German-born Americans were drafted in to play for the national team, causing internal rifts.”

And if the “foreign” players did not perform to the highest standards, the fans might also turn on them, he said.

Xi Jinping has made no secret of his desire to improve China’s and supports events at the school level. Photo: EPA
Xi Jinping has made no secret of his desire to improve China’s and supports events at the school level. Photo: EPA
Under a

CFA directive

issued in March, footballers who become Chinese citizens must be also be educated to be patriotic and learn about the Communist Party. Clubs must also issue monthly reports on how the new players are settling in.

Grass-roots organisations within the Communist Party of China would be “in charge of educating such footballers on the history and basic theory of the party”, it said.
Dreyer said that while the naturalisation process might help China’s ice hockey team to perform slightly better at the 2022 Olympics than it had in the past, it was unlikely to have much of an impact on China’s international soccer ranking. China’s national team has only once qualified for the World Cup, in 2002.
“There is a reason they [naturalised players] didn’t play internationally for their original countries – they weren’t considered good enough,” he said.
“So they are not suddenly going to turn into world-beaters simply by pulling on a Chinese jersey.”
Chen agreed.
“I think it is just a short-term measure that will not truly change China’s overall performance in football or other sports,” he said. “After all, it’s an 11-person team game.”
Source: SCMP
05/07/2019

China still committed to getting rid of ‘big, foreign and weird’ place names

  • Civil affairs ministry reaffirms plan to eradicate names that ‘violate the core values of socialism, damage national confidence’
  • One man says it reminds him of the dark days of the Cultural Revolution
Beijing wants to eradicate place and property names, like “East Rome’s Garden”, that are influenced by foreign or “weird” words. Photo: Weibo
Beijing wants to eradicate place and property names, like “East Rome’s Garden”, that are influenced by foreign or “weird” words. Photo: Weibo
Beijing has reiterated its commitment to rid Chinese cities of “big, foreign and weird” property and place names, sparking a backlash from the public.
The campaign began last year when six government departments introduced a joint policy requiring provincial and county authorities to identify all such properties within their jurisdictions and rename them by the end of March.
On Friday, the Ministry of Civil Affairs reaffirmed its support for the plan, but reminded local governments to implement it “prudently and appropriately”.
Many Chinese properties, especially hotels and apartment buildings, incorporate famous foreign places, like Manhattan, California or Paris, into their names, but under the new rule they all have to go. According to a report by local newspaper Sanqin Metropolis Daily, in one city in Xian, the capital of Shaanxi province, at least 98 apartment projects, hotels, townships, communities and office towers need to be rebranded.
Many Chinese properties, like the Vienna International Hotel, incorporate famous foreign places into their names. Photo: Weibo
Many Chinese properties, like the Vienna International Hotel, incorporate famous foreign places into their names. Photo: Weibo

But for some people, the plan is nothing more than a waste of time and money.

“If projects are forced to change their names, what about the name on the property certificate, the enterprise licence and tax registration? Do they have to be changed too?” asked Zhu Yun, a woman who lives in Guangzhou, the capital of south China’s Guangdong province.

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“And what’s the standard for the new names, and who’s going to do the renaming? It’s just a waste of people’s energy and money, and will do nothing for the national culture or confidence.”

Zhu Min, an octogenarian who also lives in Guangdong, said the scheme had echoes of a darker time in China’s history.

“It reminds me of the bad times of the Cultural Revolution,” he said. “At that time, a great number of streets, roads and stores were forced to rename, because they contained elements of old customs and old culture.”

The debate has also been raging online, with tens of thousands of people airing their views on social media.

“Cultural and national confidence is about respect for multiculturalism,” one person wrote on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform.

Tsinghua University sues kindergartens for using its name

Despite the outcry, the civil affairs ministry said the implementation of the scheme was “an important measure … to carry forward the national and local culture”, Xinhua reported.

“The relevant regulations and guidelines of the campaign should be strictly observed to prevent the campaign from being expanded in an arbitrary manner,” it said.

The plan announced last year stated that “big, foreign, weird” place names and those based on homonyms “violate the core values of socialism, damage national confidence, and affect the production and lives of the people, and must be rectified and cleaned up”.

Source: SCMP

05/07/2019

Shanghai begins new waste sorting era, as China eyes cleaner image

  • The city’s ambitious waste and recycling rules took effect on Monday, aiming to emulate successes of comparable policies in Japan, Taiwan and California
  • President Xi Jinping has urged China – the world’s second-biggest waste producer after the United States – to sort rubbish better
Recyclables such as plastic must be separated from wet garbage, dry garbage and hazardous waste under the new rules in Shanghai. Photo: AFP
Recyclables such as plastic must be separated from wet garbage, dry garbage and hazardous waste under the new rules in Shanghai. Photo: AFP
At 9pm, Li Zhigang was sitting in front of his fruit shop on a bustling street in central Shanghai’s Xujiahui area, peeling the thin layers of plastic from rotten pears and mangoes.
“This is so much trouble!” he mumbled to himself while throwing the plastic into one trash can and the fruit into another.
In the past, Li simply threw away what could not be sold with the packaging on, but from July 1 he could be fined up to 200 yuan (about US$30) for doing so.
Like Li, many of the tens of millions of residents in the eastern Chinese city have been complaining in recent weeks that the introduction of compulsory 
household garbage sorting

is making life difficult, but at the same time have been having to learn to do it.

Calls for garbage sorting have brought little progress in China in the past decade, but Shanghai is leading a fresh start for the world’s second-largest waste producer with its new municipal solid waste (MSW) regime, observers have said.
China generated 210 million tonnes of MSW in 2017, 48 million tonnes less than the United States, according to the World Bank’s What a Waste database.

“If we say China is now classifying its waste, then it’s Shanghai that is really doing it,” said Chen Liwen, a veteran environmentalist who has worked for non-governmental organisations devoted to waste classification for the past decade.

“It’s starting late, comparing with the US, Japan or Taiwan, but if it’s successful in such a megacity with such a huge population, it will mean a lot for the world,” she said.

A cleaner re-sorts household waste left at a residential facility in Shanghai. Photo: Alice Yan
A cleaner re-sorts household waste left at a residential facility in Shanghai. Photo: Alice Yan

Household waste in the city is now required to be sorted into four categories: wet garbage (household food), dry garbage (residual waste), recyclable waste and hazardous waste.

General rubbish bins that had previously taken all types of household waste were removed from buildings. Instead, residents were told to visit designated trash collection stations to dispose of different types of waste during designated periods of the day.

Companies and organisations flouting the new rules could be fined 50,000-500,000 yuan (US$7,000-70,000), while individual offenders risked a fine of 50-200 yuan.

The city’s urban management officers will be mainly responsible for identifying those who breach the rules.

Huang Rong, the municipal government’s deputy secretary general, said on Friday that nearly 14,000 inspections had been carried out around the city and more than 13,000 people had been warned on the issue since the regulations were announced at the start of the year.

As July 1’s enforcement of the rules approached, it became a much-discussed topic among Shanghainese people. A hashtag meaning “Shanghai residents almost driven crazy by garbage classification” was one of the most popular on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform.

“My daughter took a box of expired medicine from her workplace to the trash collection station near our home yesterday because she couldn’t find the local bin for hazardous waste,” Li said.

While the measures force a change of habits for most people, they bring opportunities for some.

Du Huanzheng, director of the Recycling Economy Institute at Tongji University, said waste sorting was crucial for China’s recycling industry.

“Without proper classification, a lot of garbage that can be recycled is burned, and that’s a pity,” he said. “After being classified, items suitable to be stored and transported can now be recycled.”

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Shanghai’s refuse treatment plants deal with 19,300 tonnes of residual waste and 5,050 tonnes of kitchen waste every day, according to the municipal government. By contrast, only 3,300 tonnes of recyclables per day are collected at present.

Nationwide, the parcel delivery industry used more than 13 billion polypropylene woven bags, plastic bags and paper boxes as well as 330 million rolls of tape in 2016, but less than 20 per cent of this was recycled, according to a report by the State Post Bureau.

Prices of small sortable rubbish bins for home use have surged on e-commerce platforms, while bin makers are also developing smart models in response to new needs.

Some communities are deploying bins that people are required to sign in with their house number to use, and are equipped with a “big data analysis system”. The system records households have “actively participated” and which have not, so that neighbourhood management can publicise their addresses and make house visits, according to a report by Thepaper.cn.

In a residential community in Songjiang district, grocery store owner Nie Chuanguo has found something new to sell: a rubbish throwing service.

He has offered to visit homes, collect waste and throw it into the right bin at a designated time. He charges 30 yuan a month for those living on the ground and first floors, 40 yuan for those on the second and third, and 50 yuan for the fourth and fifth.

“This service will start from July 1. Many people have come to inquire about it,” he said.

According to Du, waste classification is not only about environmental impact or business opportunities. “Garbage sorting is an important part of a country’s soft power,” he said.

For China, it was an opportunity to improve its international reputation, he said. “In the past, Chinese people were rich and travelled abroad, but they threw rubbish wilfully, making foreigners not admit we are a respected powerhouse.”

He added: “It’s also related to 1.3 billion people’s health, since the current waste treatment methods – burying and burning – are not friendly to the environment.”

Shanghai’s part in tackling waste comes amid President Xi Jinping’s repeated calls for the country to sort waste better.

“For local officials, it is a political task,” said Chen, who heads a waste management programme in rural China called Zero Waste Villages.

Huang said the president had asked Shanghai in particular to set a good example in waste classification.

In March 2017, the central government set out plans for a standardised system and regulations for 

rubbish sorting by 2020

, with a target for 46 major cities, including Shanghai, to recycle 35 per cent of their waste by then.

In early June, Xi issued a long statement calling for more action from local governments.

However, it was a long process that required input from individuals, government and enterprises, Du said.

“Japan took one generation to move to doing its waste sorting effectively, so we shouldn’t have the expectation that our initiative will succeed in several years,” Du said.

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“The lessons we can learn from Japan include carrying out campaigns again and again, and paying close attention to educating young pupils about rubbish classification.”

Chen echoed that Shanghai’s waste sorting frenzy now was only a beginning.

“What we can see now is that people are being pushed to sort waste by regulators, but what’s next? How shall we keep up the enthusiasm?” she asked.

She suggested that how well officials worked on garbage sorting should be included in their job appraisal, and that ultimately people should pay for waste disposal.

“The key to waste classification, going by international experience, is making polluters pay,” Chen said.

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