Archive for ‘south china morning post’

17/06/2019

China quiet on Xi Jinping’s G20 meeting and trade talk demands in face of fiery Donald Trump rhetoric

  • It is expected the two leaders will meet in Japan at the end of June
  • Analysts see an increasing caution from China amid low expectations of any deal
Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump last met in Argentina in December on the sidelines of the G20 summit. Photo: AP
Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump last met in Argentina in December on the sidelines of the G20 summit. Photo: AP
China’s relative silence in response to comments by US President Donald Trump in relation to the trade war is due to Beijing redoubling its efforts to take a cautious approach ahead of future talks amid “low expectations” of a quick deal after negotiations collapsed last month, analysts said.
Trump has openly threatened to levy tariffs on additional Chinese products if a meeting with counterpart Xi Jinping does not take place at the G20 summit in Japan at the end of the month, while also urging Beijing to return to talks based on terms negotiated earlier in the year.
“It’s me right now that’s holding up the deal,” Trump said on Tuesday. “And we’re going to either do a great deal with China or we’re not going to do a deal at all.”
China, though, has remained tight-lipped on both a meeting and also the prospects of future talks, with the foreign ministry yet to confirm whether there will be a summit between 
Trump and Xi

in Osaka. The South China Morning Post reported this week that the two leaders could share a more formal dinner, similar to the scene witnessed on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina in December.

That meeting produced a ceasefire and more than five months of negotiations until early May when the talks broke down and the US more than doubled tariffs on US$200 billion in Chinese imports to 25 per cent.
Shi Yinhong, an international relations expert from Renmin University of China, said China had very low expectations ahead of the G20 summit in Japan due to the current level of strained bilateral relations.

Trump’s open threats had put Xi “in a very disadvantageous position”, as any agreement “would be seen as being weak or surrendering to US pressure”, he said.

Instead, the two sides were likely to reach “piecemeal deals” on smaller issues such as people-to-people exchanges and relaxation of visa restrictions, according to Shi, which in turn might help to build a friendlier atmosphere to pave the way for more substantive talks in the future.

It’s me right now that’s holding up the deal. And we’re going to either do a great deal with China or we’re not going to do a deal at all: Donald Trump

China’s state-controlled media outlets have maintained their criticism of the US for starting the trade war, although editorials carried by Xinhua and the People’s Daily have not given concrete information about Beijing’s demands, instead, in its latest editorial, Xinhua urged “US politicians to treat China’s rise with reasonable sense”.
Geng Shuang, a foreign ministry spokesman, said last week that China was aware of hopes emerging from the US side of a meeting between Trump and Xi in Osaka, but that China had no information to disclose on that subject, reiterating government statements from previous days.
Amid a war of words between Beijing and Washington over which side is to blame for the stalled trade talks, both sides have showcased their willingness to talk as long as the conditions are appropriate. Commerce vice-minister Wang Shouwen said at the start of June that China “is always sincere” about negotiating with the US, but the talks must be conducted with mutual respect.
“Otherwise, the negotiation would be meaningless. Even if there’s negotiation, there won’t be an enforceable and sustainable agreement,” Wang said.
Xi said at an economic forum in Russia last week that he did not want to see a decoupling of the US and China and believed that “my friend” Trump did not want that either.
“Trump’s stance that he is unlikely to make any concessions is very clear. So, China should be very cautious when arranging a bilateral meeting with him,” said Liu Weidong, a China-US affairs expert from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a state think tank
Scott Kennedy, a senior adviser at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said Trump and Xi may reach “some sort of truce” as they did in Buenos Aires so that “both sides agree to put on hold their various actions against the other and not further escalate”, but added that the chance was small.
Source: SCMP
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12/06/2019

How Tiananmen crackdown left a deep scar on China’s military psyche

  • Many of those involved feel profound ‘guilt and shame’ over the lives lost in Beijing 30 years ago, according to two former PLA officers
  • Move to tone down language used to describe movement – as ‘political turmoil’ rather than a ‘counter-revolutionary rebellion’ – came from army

The brutal military crackdown on peaceful protesters in Beijing 30 years ago might have saved the Communist Party’s rule, but it has since become a cross to bear for the People’s Liberation Army.

Today, the world’s largest fighting force is still haunted by the 

Tiananmen Square

tragedy in 1989, despite efforts to rebuild its image. After the bloodshed, it was the military that suggested the pro-democracy student movement be referred to not as a “counter-revolutionary rebellion” but as a time of “political turmoil”, two former PLA officers told the South China Morning Post.

They said the move to tone down the language around the crackdown reflected the anxiety and shame felt by many rank-and-file officers over a fateful decision that has tainted the military’s reputation and legacy.

Up to that point, the PLA had been widely respected by the Chinese public. Even during the turbulent decade of the Cultural Revolution from 1966, the military was largely uninvolved. Rather, it was instrumental in bringing an end to the chaos and setting China on the path of reform and opening up.

The crackdown in 1989 was unprecedented for the PLA and dealt a crippling blow to its reputation and morale – and the question over the legitimacy of the decision to send in the tanks and open fire on the protesters remains.

“[I believe] the Tiananmen crackdown will be revisited one day – it’s just a matter of time. The ultimate responsibility will fall to those military leaders who directly implemented the decision,” a retired researcher with the PLA’s Academy of Military Science, who requested anonymity, told the Post.

PLA soldiers with automatic weapons eat ice creams as protesters plead with them to leave Tiananmen Square on June 3, 1989. Photo: Reuters
PLA soldiers with automatic weapons eat ice creams as protesters plead with them to leave Tiananmen Square on June 3, 1989. Photo: Reuters

Throughout history and across cultures, following orders has been a fundamental principle of military service. But the absence of a written order on the mission from the commander in chief – late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping – puts its legality in doubt.

It is estimated that hundreds, or perhaps more than 1,000, civilians were killed during the crackdown that began on the night of June 3 and continued until the morning.

“No matter whether it is one or 10,000 people killed, it’s still wrong to shoot at unarmed civilians,” said a retired PLA officer who served in the army’s political department and also declined to be named. “But [the troops] had to do this dirty job because the party’s rule was in danger.”

According to the former military researcher, many commanders involved in the crackdown questioned the decision to use force to quell the protests, particularly since they had only been given a verbal order from above and never saw a written instruction from Deng, who was chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC).
This was further complicated by the fact that Zhao Ziyang, the party’s general secretary at the time, openly opposed a military crackdown. Without the support and approval of the party’s chief, the operation violated the long-held principle of “the party commanding the gun”.
Even then CMC vice-chairman Yang Shangkun and Xu Qinxian, commander of the 38th Army Corps that had been sent to Beijing, had qualms about carrying out the verbal order, according to the former researcher.
It is not known how many troops were sent in to crush the protests, but the number could be as high as 200,000, according to a book by US-based scholar Wu Renhua.
Soldiers patrol Changan Avenue in Beijing on June 4, 1989. Photo: Jeff Widener/AP
Soldiers patrol Changan Avenue in Beijing on June 4, 1989. Photo: Jeff Widener/AP

The retired PLA political officer said the instruction to commanders was to “clear out Tiananmen Square by June 4 – and whoever stands in our way is an enemy of the state”.

“Most officers and soldiers were only trained to use heavy weapons like machine guns and tanks. They didn’t even know there were things like rubber bullets, tear gas or other kinds of non-lethal weapons for crowd control,” said the former officer.

“To meet the deadline to clean up the square, some commanders asked their troops to shoot into the air to scare away the crowds – that was the only thing they could think of doing,” he said.

But although they started off firing into the air, ricocheting bullets hit many protesters as they fled and in the chaos and bloodshed, inexperienced troops panicked and started firing into the crowd, according to the former officer.

The army’s clean image was destroyed overnight, and in the minds of many, renmin zidibing – the army of our sons – became the feared and reviled tool of a killing regime.

It also left a psychological scar on the military, which is reflected in the effort to tone down the narrative around the crackdown.

The former researcher said the push to use “political turmoil” instead of the more provocative “counter-revolutionary rebellion” to describe the movement first appeared in a military academy reference book, the Chinese Military Encyclopaedia, in 1997. He said it was proposed by military advisers who believed it could help soften attitudes towards the crackdown.

Then president Jiang Zemin with American journalist Mike Wallace during an interview in 2000. Photo: Xinhua
Then president Jiang Zemin with American journalist Mike Wallace during an interview in 2000. Photo: Xinhua

Former president Jiang Zemin spoke of the “political turmoil” in 1989 during an interview with American journalist Mike Wallace in 2000, and the wording has since been widely used by state media.

Meanwhile, the suppression of the protesters also prompted calls for a separation of the army and the party, so the PLA would be a “national” force rather than a political one.

But after 

a decade of debate

, the idea was squashed by the top leadership in 2007, on the eve of the PLA’s 80th anniversary. It was labelled as a plot by hostile Western forces to topple communist rule in China and is now a taboo subject.

“But despite banning discussion of military nationalisation, the calls from within the PLA to rehabilitate the military and for a review of what happened with the student movement have never stopped,” the former PLA political officer said.
“Many senior military officers believe the students weren’t attempting to overthrow communist rule – they were just asking for a better political system. That’s why calling it a counter-revolutionary rebellion is wrong.”
Curious Beijing residents gather to look at the military hardware in Tiananmen Square on June 7, 1989. Photo: AP
Curious Beijing residents gather to look at the military hardware in Tiananmen Square on June 7, 1989. Photo: AP
On Sunday, days ahead of the 30th anniversary, Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe

defended the Tiananmen crackdown

, telling a regional defence forum that putting an end to the “political turbulence” had been the “correct policy”.

“Throughout the 30 years, China under the Communist Party has undergone many changes – do you think the government was wrong with the handling of June Fourth?
There was a conclusion to that incident. The government was decisive in stopping the turbulence,” Wei said at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.
But according to the former PLA researcher, military top brass involved in the crackdown still felt profound “guilt and shame” over the lives lost.
“None of those people in the PLA would feel a sense of honour for participating in the crackdown,” he said. “Instead they harbour a deep feeling of shame.”
Source: SCMP
20/04/2019

Leica China video sparks backlash over Tiananmen Square image

A man stands in front of three tanksImage copyrightREUTERS
Image caption This year marks the 30th anniversary of the pro-democracy protests

A promotional video for camera company Leica has sparked backlash in China for featuring a famous Tiananmen Square image.

The video depicts photographers working in conflicts around the world, including a photographer covering the 1989 protests.

People on Chinese social media site Weibo have called for a boycott of the camera brand.

Leica has distanced itself from the video.

“Tank Man” was a lone protester who brought a column of tanks to a standstill during a crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing in 1989.

He refused to move out of the way and climbed onto the leading tank to speak to the driver. He was later pulled away from the scene by two men. What happened to him remains unknown.

Beginning with the caption “Beijing 1989”, the Leica video features a photographer taking the famous image. The “Tank Man” can be seen in the camera’s lens.

Users on Chinese social media site Weibo have been forbidden from commenting on recent official posts by Leica. However some people are managing to post carefully worded comments on earlier official Leica posts, BBC Monitoring has found.

A search of the hashtag Leica shows that 42,000 users have left posts on Weibo but only 10 are available to view.

Some comments urge users to “boycott the camera” and joke about the company being linked to “patriotic Huawei”.

Chinese technology giant Huawei has been restricted by the US and other countries over security concerns in telecommunications networks. Consumers in China have rallied around the company, which uses Leica technology in its latest mobile phones.

A spokeswoman for Leica told the South China Morning Post that the film was not an officially sanctioned marketing film commissioned by the company. However it features Leica cameras and the company’s logo at the end of the footage.

They added that the company “must therefore distance itself from the content shown in the video and regrets any misunderstandings of false conclusions that may have been drawn”.

The BBC has contacted Leica for additional comment.


How China keeps Tiananmen off the internet

By Kerry Allen, BBC Monitoring China analyst

China has banned all activists’ commemorations of the 1989 Tiananmen incident for years and has strictly regulated online discussion of it.

If users search for “Tiananmen” on domestic search engines like Baidu or social media platforms like Sina Weibo, they only see sunny pictures of the Forbidden City in Beijing. If any pictures of tanks running along Chang’an Avenue are visible in image searches, they are only from Victory Day parades.

Hundreds of references to 4 June 1989 are banned all-year round by thousands of cyber police, and Weibo steps up censorship of even seemingly innocuous references to the incident on its anniversary.

Simple candle emojis, and number sequences that reference the date, such as “46” and “64” (4 June) and “1989” (the year of the protests), are instantly deleted. Small businesses also struggle to market items on 4 June every year, if their sale price is 46 or 64 yuan. Such advertising posts are swiftly removed by nervous censors.

But creative users always find ways of circumventing the censors. For example in 2014, when Taylor Swift released her 1989 album, the album cover featuring the words “T.S.” and “1989” was seen as an effective metaphor by users to talk about the incident – as T.S. could be taken to mean “Tiananmen Square”.


More than one million Chinese students and workers occupied Tiananmen Square in 1989, beginning the largest political protest in communist China’s history. Six weeks of protests ended with the bloody crackdown on protesters of 3-4 June.

Estimates of the death toll range from several hundred to more than 1,000.

China’s statement at the end of June 1989 said that 200 civilians and several dozen security personnel had died in Beijing following the suppression of “counter-revolutionary riots” on 4 June 1989.

Source: The BBC

18/04/2019

Tobacco vendors illegally advertise and sell cigarettes on China’s social media and e-commerce platforms

  • Health watchdog warns that tobacco products are widely available on both social media and online retailers
A tobacco seller’s advert posted on WeChat. Photo: Handout
A tobacco seller’s advert posted on WeChat. Photo: Handout
Illegal tobacco trading is rife online in China both via social media and e-commerce platforms, a health watchdog has warned.
The Beijing Centre for Disease Prevention and Control released a report on Monday that said almost 52,000 advertisements and listings for tobacco products had been found on 14 social media and e-commerce platforms in the first half of last year.
“Compared with traditional advertising, tobacco promotion on the internet uses methods such as sponsored content, which is more discreet,” the report said.
China’s internet advertising regulations prohibit the online promotion of tobacco products.
Selling cigarettes online is illegal as the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration bans the sale of tobacco across provinces and strictly controls the production, sale and import of the product.
Screenshot from Weibo of an advertisement for imported cigarettes. Photo: Handout
Screenshot from Weibo of an advertisement for imported cigarettes. Photo: Handout

The social network Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, was highlighted as the platform where most of the banned promotion and selling were found, with nearly 43,000 adverts and listings, or 82 per cent of the total.

The South China Morning Post found that tobacco advertising and direct selling proliferates on Weibo, where searching for terms such as “cigarettes” and “women’s cigarettes” yielded almost 1,300 results, many of them offering WeChat and QQ contact information.

Five vendors found through Weibo offered various imported cigarettes such as Marlboro and South Korean brand Esse.

One seller claimed his wares were smuggled into China from places like the US. Another offered refunds for products that were confiscated, but only if they were bought for delivery within the same province.

A 10-packet carton of Kent cigarettes, an American brand, was selling for around 30 per cent less than the retail price in Beijing.

An extraordinary man’: China’s tobacco and orange king, entrepreneur Chu Shijian, dies aged 91
“A few days ago, cigarette sellers on Little Red Book began trending. People in different places have stopped. I’m still going, one step at a time,” a vendor calling herself “24 hours online cigarette hawker” wrote on her WeChat timeline on Wednesday.
She was referring to media coverage of Little Red Book the e-commerce platform popular with influencers selling lifestyle products.
Little Red Book, whose investors include Alibaba, the owner of the South China Morning Post, has pledged to remove as many as 95,000 adverts and listings for tobacco products found on the app on Tuesday in response to a report by newspaper Beijing Youth Daily.
Searches for “cigarettes” or “women’s cigarettes” no longer yielded results on Thursday.
“We are working hard to remove related content. We ask users to promptly report cases and work together to maintain order on the platform,” Weibo’s PR director Mao Taotao said.
Imported cigarettes on sale on Weibo. Photo: Handout
Imported cigarettes on sale on Weibo. Photo: Handout

While advertising and online selling of tobacco are prohibited, e-cigarettes fall in a grey area. China’s tobacco agency has banned the sale of IQOS, a type of battery heated cigarette that delivers nicotine. However, regulations for non-nicotine vaporisers are less clear. These continue to be widely available online.

“In China, even toilet paper has standards. There are none for e-cigarettes,” Li Enze, the industrial law committee secretary for the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control, said.

“I think there needs to be a total ban on the sale of e-cigarettes until standards and regulations are set.”

E-cigarettes and vaporisers come in a variety of flavours and shapes to target women and young people, which poses a serious problem according to Li.

Under-18s can easily purchase vaporisers online and can be induced to smoking the real thing, he said.

Two sets of standards for e-cigarettes have been considered by the Standardisation Administration of China since 2017.

However, both were proposed by organisations associated with the state tobacco monopoly, which Li deemed a conflict of interest.

Source: SCMP

07/03/2019

China ‘exaggerated’ GDP data by 2 percentage points for at least nine years, new study says

  • Mainland has overestimated its nominal and real growth rates by about 2 full percentage points on average between 2008 to 2016
  • Calculations suggest that the current nominal size of the economy is about 18 per cent lower than the official level of US$13.4 trillion at the end of 2018

13 Feb 2019

The paper, “A Forensic Examination of China’s National Account”, was submitted to the “Brookings Papers on Economic Activity”, a journal published by the US-based Brookings Institute. Photo: EPA
The paper, “A Forensic Examination of China’s National Account”, was submitted to the “Brookings Papers on Economic Activity”, a journal published by the US-based Brookings Institute. Photo: EPA
China has overestimated its nominal and real growth rates by about 2 full percentage points on average between 2008 to 2016, with the miscalculation increasing each year, according to a new study published on Thursday.
The results indicate that the actual size of China’s economy at the end of 2018 was well below the government’s official estimate.
It also raises questions not only about the quality of economic data from the world’s second largest economy, but also the willingness of the government to take the steps necessary to accurately report information.
Using the study’s findings and applying them to government figures starting with the level of nominal gross domestic product (GDP) at the end of 2007 and the growth rate for 2008, calculations by the South China Morning Post show that the current nominal size of the Chinese economy is about 18 per cent lower than the official level of 90 trillion yuan (US$13.4 trillion) at the end of 2018.
The calculation assumes that the government’s official 2017 and 2018 nominal growth rates are overestimated by 2 percentage points, as suggested by the study.

Overestimates of growth in 2007 and previous years would further reduce the current size of the Chinese economy.

SCMP calculations show the adjusted nominal GDP level in China is about US$11.5 trillion using current exchange rates, still more than twice the size of Japan’s economy at US$5.16 trillion, but well below the economy of the United States at US$20 trillion.

The paper, “A Forensic Examination of China’s National Account”, was submitted to the “Brookings Papers on Economic Activity”, a journal published by the US-based think tank Brookings Institute twice a year on macroeconomic issues that are influencing the public policy debate. It will be formally presented in Washington on Thursday.
“Our estimates suggest that the extent by which local governments exaggerate local GDP accelerated after 2008, but the magnitude of the adjustment by the NBS did not change in tandem,” the authors said.

The study focuses primarily on nominal, non-inflation adjusted growth.

The paper comes at a sensitive time for Chinese policymakers, who are battling a slowing economy due to their campaign to reduce debt and risky lending as well as the effect of the trade war with the United States. The inflation-adjusted growth rate of 6.6 per cent last year was the slowest since 1990.

On Tuesday, the government announced that it had lowered its growth target for 2019 to a range of 6 to 6.5 per cent, down from “about 6.5 per cent” last year due to the multiple headwinds the economy is facing. The government also announced new tax cuts and additional government spending to help stabilise growth.
The paper’s four authors – Chen Wei, Chen Xilu and Michael Song from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Chang-Tai Hsieh from the University of Chicago – used a mix of economic indicators that are less likely to have been manipulated by authorities to prove that the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) have not done enough to correct the errors in the data collected from provincial governments over the past decade.

Our estimates suggest that the extent by which local governments exaggerate local GDP accelerated after 2008, but the magnitude of the adjustment by the NBS did not change in tandem.Report authors

It has long been believed that local Chinese officials inflate figures reflecting their economic performance, which is closely tied to their opportunity for promotion. Since 2003, the NBS has produced a national gross domestic product (GDP) figure that is lower than aggregate provincial data after examining other data such as the census and land sales.

Local statistics bureaus generally overstate industrial output as a portion of overall production as well as the size of investment within overall expenditures, the two different approaches to calculating GDP, according to the paper. The methods of data collection are often the cause, for example, calculations of investment spending have been based purely on government reports on specific projects rather than on the financial statements of the investing firms involved.

One method that the authors used to probe the accuracy of the NBS’s adjustments was comparing the growth of official GDP with the growth of revenue from value-added tax (VAT), which taxes the value added to a product at each stage of production.

Local governments have fewer incentives to manipulate VAT revenue, since a large portion of it is eventually transferred to the central government, therefore overstating VAT would only increase fiscal revenue losses.

Premier Li Keqiang confirmed China had lowered its growth target for 2019 to a range of 6 to 6.5 per cent at the National People’s Congress on Tuesday. Photo:
Premier Li Keqiang confirmed China had lowered its growth target for 2019 to a range of 6 to 6.5 per cent at the National People’s Congress on Tuesday. Photo:

Although the NBS adjusts downwards local statistics, it does not report the adjusted local statistics, perhaps out of a desire to not confront powerful local leaders.Report authors

“Although the NBS adjusts downwards local statistics, it does not report the adjusted local statistics, perhaps out of a desire to not confront powerful local leaders,” the authors said.

Since September, the NBS has named and shamed local governments on its website for manipulating data, but it remains to be seen if local governments fall in line.

In a post in January, the NBS said it had passed 14 cases of data falsification on to local governments before February 2018 but that it had not been updated even though local officials are required by law to punish those responsible for manipulating data within six months after receiving a notice of a violation.

The NBS’s ability to fix China’s GDP data problem is bound by its limited political power, the authors indicated.

“There are three problems with China’s GDP. One is that it doesn’t necessarily measure the right thing. Two is statistical bias in the way data is collected. Three is really a macro policy problem by the government which should write down all the bad debt,” said Michael Pettis, professor of finance at Peking University.

“The NBS is only trying to fix the second problem.”

Source: SCMP

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