Archive for ‘South Korea’

13/06/2019

Chinese tourists breaking rules ‘all over the place’ in Boracay

  • After a six-month closure, Boracay reopened in October with new rules that prohibit smoking, drinking, dining and littering on the beachfront. But the dos and don’ts seem to have escaped notice, especially among tourists from China and South Korea
  • Tourists enjoy Boracay’s famous White Beach in January. Photo: Shutterstock
    Tourists enjoy Boracay’s famous White Beach in January. Photo: Shutterstock
    Travel has changed a lot since the 19th century. Obviously. But attitudes towards travellers have not, if the diaries of Francis Kilvert are anything to go by.
    “Of all noxious animals, the most noxious is a tourist,” the English clergyman wrote in the 1870s, and while Kilvert asserted that it was the British who were “the most vulgar, ill-bred, offensive and loathsome” of them all – a contention that might be challenged today – an increasing number of places across the globe have had their fill of imprudent outsiders, regardless of where they are from.
    The island of 
    Boracay

    , in the Philippines, the original face of overtourism in the region, is one of them. In February last year, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to

    close

    the popular tourist hotspot, saying, “Boracay is a cesspool. It is destroying the environment of the Republic of the Philippines and creating a disaster.” The septic metaphor was no melodrama – a number of hotels, restaurants and other tourism-related businesses were dumping untreated sewage directly into the ocean, contaminating White Beach’s crystalline waters and tarnishing Boracay’s reputation. As Duterte decreed, the island shuttered for six months from April, during which time infrastructure was to be installed and new environmental requirements implemented.

    When Boracay 
    reopened

    , in October, it was heralded as a rare success in the ongoing fight against the tourist menace, despite the fact that thousands of

    islanders had been left without incomes

    , the nation’s economic growth had suffered and, heaven forfend, holidaymakers had been forced to cancel hard-earned vacations. And the rehabilitation is far from complete. In January, the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force, the organisation overseeing the ecological overhaul, announced a 25.3 billion peso (US$485 million) action plan, which, if approved, will fund 233 projects related to the enforcement of laws and regulations, pollution control and prevention, rehabilitation and recovery of the ecosystem, and the sustainability of land activities, according to a report on Philippine news site Rappler.

    But still the tourists come, albeit in smaller numbers than before, and just as in pre-closure times, not all of them are welcome; in particular those who pay little attention to the new rules, which prohibit smoking, drinking, dining, littering, partying and fire dancing on the beachfront.
    A complaint about Chinese tourists, posted to Facebook in April. Photo: Facebook / @philippinesdefense

    On April 29, Wilson Enriquez, the Boracay Tourism Regulatory Enforcement Unit chief, revealed that tourists from China were the worst violators of these regulations, as stated in an article on the Philippines Lifestyle News website. Since the beginning of the year, 739 Chinese had been apprehended.

    “Tour guides have informed them about the ordinances but [Chinese tourists] are really stubborn,” Enriquez told the news site. Korean tourists took a distant second, with 277 apprehensions, with most infractions recorded for smoking, eating and drinking on the beach, or littering.

    Eighty per cent of the visitors Boracay received in the first quarter of this year hailed from China and South Korea, according to the local tourism office – the former accounting for almost half of all arrivals, 149,019 of 309,591 – so perhaps it is unsurprising that the Chinese break the most rules.

    One disgruntled Filipino took to social media (where else) to air their grievance, writing that Boracay had been “teeming with loud, garbage-throwing, spitting everywhere Chinese tourists” during their Holy Week visit, while another told Philippines Lifestyle News, “I saw [Chinese tourists] with my own eyes, breaking ordinances all over the place.”

    That there has been a recent rise in anti-China sentiment in the Philippines, a reaction to Duterte’s “love affair” with the Middle Kingdom, according to an article on SupChina’s website, should be noted. But really, if we want to be able to enjoy Boracay, or anywhere for that matter, for years to come, we should all stick to the rules and exercise respect for the community and environment hosting us.


    Airbnb bounces back in Japan

    A sign on the door to a block of flats in Tokyo communicating a ban on using units in the property for Airbnb, in March 2018. Photo: Reuters
    A sign on the door to a block of flats in Tokyo communicating a ban on using units in the property for Airbnb, in March 2018. Photo: Reuters
    It has been a year since Japan implemented its minpaku law, aimed at regulating short-term lets, such as those advertised on home-sharing site

    Airbnb

    . It effectively rendered hosts whose homes were not licensed illegal, and all those without the required permit were forced to delist their properties and cancel bookings. Almost 80 per cent of listings disappeared.

    However, Airbnb is back in business. In a statement published on June 6, the company said that 50,000 listings were now available in the country, as well as 23,000 rooms in hotels and ryokan. Just before the rules came into force last June, Airbnb had a total of 60,000 listings.
    Presumably the company’s efforts to appease local regulations will pay off next year, when Japan hopes to receive 40 million visitors as host of the 2020 Summer Olympics. Whether those 40 million will be welcomed by residents remains to be seen.

    Monkey troubles – wild macaque gets cheeky in Bali

    If you need any reminder that the macaques that roam Ubud’s Sacred Monkey Forest, in the uplands of the Indonesian

    island of Bali

    , are wild animals, then this tourist’s experience should jog your memory. While posing for a picture, a monkey climbed onto the lap of Sarah Wijohn, a visitor from New Zealand, had a good old scratch and then yanked down her top, almost exposing her to the world.

    Fortunately, neither Wijohn nor the primate seemed too scarred by the incident, unlike those who have written blog posts about being attacked by the animals and made videos advising how not to catch rabies from the “crazy monkey forest”.
    Here’s an idea: don’t go.
    Source: SCMP
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12/06/2019

China to send defence minister to Singapore security conference as tensions with US rise

  • Observers will be watching to see if General Wei Fenghe holds talks with his American counterpart
  • Forum comes as Beijing and Washington are at odds over issues ranging from security to trade
General Wei Fenghe will be the first Chinese defence minister to attend the Shangri-La Dialogue in eight years. Photo: Reuters
General Wei Fenghe will be the first Chinese defence minister to attend the Shangri-La Dialogue in eight years. Photo: Reuters
China is sending its defence minister to a leading Asian security forum next week, the first time in eight years that a high-ranking Chinese general will represent the country at the conference.
General Wei Fenghe, a State Councillor and China’s defence minister, will speak at the three-day Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, a gathering that comes as Beijing and Washington are at odds over issues ranging from security to trade.
“In a highly anticipated speech, General Wei Fenghe will speak on China’s role in the Indo-Pacific at a pivotal time for the region,” the International Institute for Strategic Studies, an organiser of the conference, said on Monday night.

Chinese military sources said that Wei would lead a “relatively big” delegation to the gathering, which starts on May 31 and is co-organised by the Singaporean government.

South China Sea stand-offs ‘a contest of wills’
The last time Beijing sent a high-ranking officer to the event was in 2011 when General Liang Guanglie, then the defence minister, attended.
Acting US secretary of defence Patrick Shanahan will also attend the conference and deliver a speech.
The spoils of trade war: Asia’s winners and losers in US-China clash

Beijing-based military specialist Zhou Chenming said observers would be watching to see whether the two senior defence officials held talks.

“The whole world will keep a close eye on any possible encounters between the Chinese and the Americans … At least now China has shown its sincerity in sending Wei to attend the conference, who is of equal standing as Shanahan, if the latter is willing to hold talks with him in good faith,” Zhou said.

But he said a meeting between Wei and Shanahan would be difficult because of the current distance between Beijing and Washington on major issues.

How Trump’s tweets bested China in the trade war publicity battle

“It’s not realistic to expect they will make a breakthrough because both sides will just sound their own bugles. The … mistrust between China and the US is actually growing every day,” Zhou said.

Just on Sunday, the USS Preble, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Scarborough Shoal, an area in the South China Sea claimed by both China and the Philippines.

The 

Chinese foreign ministry responded on Monday

by strongly urging “the US to stop such provocative actions” and saying it would “take all necessary measures” to protect its “national sovereignty”.

Military analysts said the size of the Chinese delegation at the conference would underscore the importance of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) attached to the event this year.
One military insider said the delegation would also include Lieutenant General He Lei, former vice-president of the Academy of Military Science, who headed China’s delegation in 2017 and 2018; and Senior Colonel Zhou Bo, director of the defence ministry’s Centre for Security Cooperation. In addition, the PLA would send a number of Chinese academics to speak at various sessions of the forum.
China tries to go one on one with Malaysia to settle South China Sea disputes

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will deliver a keynote speech on the opening day of the annual dialogue.

Japan and South Korea are also sending their defence ministers, according to a report by The Korean Times on Tuesday. The report also said South Korean Defence Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo was keen to hold one-on-one meetings with his Chinese and Japanese counterparts on the sidelines of the conference.

Source: SCMP

29/05/2019

Short of war, US can’t help but lose to China’s rise in Asia, says think tank Lowy Institute

  • Lowy Institute’s 2019 Asia Power Index puts Washington behind both Beijing and Tokyo for diplomatic influence
  • Trump’s assault on trade has done little to stop Washington’s decline in regional influence, compared to Beijing, say experts
Chinese and US flags at an international school in Beijing. Photo: AFP
Chinese and US flags at an international school in Beijing. Photo: AFP
The 
United States

may be a dominant military force in Asia for now but short of going to war, it will be unable to stop its economic and diplomatic clout from declining relative to China’s power.

That’s the view of Australian think tank the Lowy Institute, which on Tuesday evening released its 2019 index on the distribution of power in Asia.

However, the institute also said China faced its own obstacles in the region, and that its ambitions would be constrained by a lack of trust from its neighbours.

The index scored China 75.9 out of 100, just behind the US, on 84.5. The gap was less than America’s 10 point lead last year, when the index was released for the first time.
“Current US foreign policy may be accelerating this trend,” said the institute, which contended that “under most scenarios, short of war, the United States is unlikely to halt the narrowing power differential between itself and China”.
The Lowy Institute’s Asia Power Index. Click to enlarge.
The Lowy Institute’s Asia Power Index. Click to enlarge.
Since July, US President

Donald Trump

has slapped tariffs on Chinese imports to reduce his country’s

trade deficit with China

. He most recently hiked a 10 per cent levy on US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25 per cent and has also threatened to impose tariffs on other trading partners such as the European Union and Japan.

Herve Lemahieu, the director of the Lowy Institute’s Asian Power and Diplomacy programme, said: “The Trump administration’s focus on trade wars and balancing trade flows one country at a time has done little to reverse the relative decline of the United States, and carries significant collateral risk for third countries, including key allies of the United States.”

The index rates a nation’s power – which it defines as the ability to direct or influence choices of both state and non-state actors – using eight criteria. These include a country’s defence networks, economic relationships, future resources and military capability.

It ranked Washington behind both Beijing and Tokyo in terms of diplomatic influence in Asia, due in part to “contradictions” between its recent economic agenda and its traditional role of offering consensus-based leadership.

The spoils of trade war: Asia’s winners and losers in US-China clash

Toshihiro Nakayama, a fellow at the Wilson Centre in Washington, said the US had become its own enemy in terms of influence.

“I don’t see the US being overwhelmed by China in terms of sheer power,” said Nakayama. “It’s whether America is willing to maintain its internationalist outlook.”

But John Lee, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, said the Trump administration’s willingness to challenge the status quo on issues like trade could ultimately boost US standing in Asia.

“The current administration is disruptive but has earned respect for taking on difficult challenges which are of high regional concern but were largely ignored by the Obama administration – 

North Korea’s

illegal weapons and China’s predatory economic policies to name two,” said Lee.

“One’s diplomatic standing is not just about being ‘liked’ or ‘uncontroversial’ but being seen as a constructive presence.”
CHINA’S RISE
China’s move up the index overall – from 74.5 last year to 75.9 this year – was partly due to it overtaking the US on the criteria of “economic resources”, which encompasses GDP size, international leverage and technology.
China’s economy grew by more than the size of Australia’s GDP in 2018, the report noted, arguing that its growing base of upper-middle class consumers would blunt the impact of US efforts to restrict Chinese tech firms in Western markets.
US President Donald Trump with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. Photo: Reuters
US President Donald Trump with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. Photo: Reuters

“In midstream products such as smartphones and with regard to developing country markets, Chinese tech companies can still be competitive and profitable due to their economies of scale and price competitiveness,” said Jingdong Yuan, an associate professor at the China Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.

“However, to become a true superpower in the tech sector and dominate the global market remains a steep climb for China, and the Trump administration is making it all the more difficult.”

The future competitiveness of Beijing’s military, currently a distant second to Washington’s, will depend on long-term political will, according to the report, which noted that China already spends over 50 per cent more on defence than the 10 

Asean

economies,

India

and

Japan

combined.

TRUST ISSUE
However, 
distrust of China

stands in the way of its primacy in Asia, according to the index, which noted Beijing’s unresolved territorial and historical disputes with 11 neighbouring countries and “growing degrees of opposition” to its signature

Belt and Road Initiative

.

Beijing is locked in disputes in the

South China Sea

with a raft of countries including Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei, and has been forced to renegotiate infrastructure projects in

Malaysia

and Myanmar due to concerns over feasibility and cost.

If Trump kills off Huawei, do Asia’s 5G dreams die?
Xin Qiang, a professor at the Centre for American Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, said Beijing still needed to persuade its neighbours it could be a “constructive, instead of a detrimental, force for the region”.
“There are still many challenges for [China to increase its] power and influence in the Asia-Pacific,” Xin said.
Wu Xinbo, also at Fudan University’s Centre for American Studies, said Beijing was having mixed success in terms of winning regional friends and allies.
“For China, the key challenge is how to manage the maritime disputes with its neighbours,” said Wu. “I don’t think there is growing opposition to the Belt and Road Initiative from the region, actually more and more countries are jumping aboard. It is the US that is intensifying its opposition to the project as Washington worries it may promote China’s geopolitical influence.”
Yuan said the rivalry between the

US and China

would persist and shape the global order into the distant future.

“They can still and do wish to cooperate where both find it mutually beneficial, but I think the more important task for now and for some time to come, is to manage their disputes in ways that do not escalate to a dangerous level,” Yuan said. “These differences probably cannot be resolved given their divergent interests, perspectives, etc, but they can and should be managed, simply because their issues are not confined to the bilateral [relationship] but have enormous regional and global implications.”
Elsewhere in Asia, the report spotlighted Japan, ranked third in the index, as the leader of the liberal order in Asia, and fourth-placed India as an “underachiever relative to both its size and potential”.
China’s wrong, the US can kill off Huawei. But here’s why it won’t
Lee said the index supported a growing perception that Tokyo had emerged as a “political and strategic leader among democracies in Asia” under

Shinzo Abe

.

“This is important because Prime Minister Abe wants Japan to emerge as a constructive strategic player in the Indo-Pacific and high diplomatic standing is important to that end,” Lee said.

Russia

, South Korea, Australia,

Singapore

, Malaysia and Thailand rounded out the top-10 most powerful countries, in that order. Among the pack, Russia, Malaysia and Thailand stood out as nations that improved their standing from the previous year.

Taiwan

, ranked 14th, was the only place to record an overall decline in score, reflecting its waning diplomatic influence

after losing three of its few remaining diplomatic allies

during the past year.

Source: SCMP
29/05/2019

Shangri-La Dialogue: ‘win for China’, as hopes for Japan-South Korea talks fade

  • The Asian security forum in Singapore had been seen as an ideal venue for a breakthrough in the growing diplomatic spat – but Tokyo has got cold feet
  • That will ease the pressure on Beijing in the South China Sea, analysts say
Hopes are fading for a breakthrough in Japan-South Korea relations at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. Photo: Kyodo
Hopes are fading for a breakthrough in Japan-South Korea relations at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. Photo: Kyodo
Hopes that

Japan

and

South Korea

could use the Shangri-La Dialogue in

Singapore

to address their growing diplomatic spat are receding.

The three-day Asian security forum, which begins on Friday, had been seen as an ideal neutral venue for the two countries’ defence ministers to hold formal talks on issues including Tokyo’s claim that in January a 
South Korean warship locked its fire control radar

onto a Japanese reconnaissance aircraft.

The issue is one of the biggest deviling the bilateral relationship, alongside Japan’s perception that Seoul has backtracked on a promise to draw a line under Japan’s use of 
Korean sex slaves

– euphemistically known as “comfort women” – in military-run brothels during World War Two.

However, Tokyo appears to have concluded that formal talks on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue would be premature. The Yomiuri newspaper has reported that a formal meeting will no longer take place and that Takeshi Iwaya and Jeong Kyeong-doo, his South Korean opposite number, will now be restricted to a brief, stand-up exchange of their positions.
Despite the report, South Korean officials were guarded when asked whether the meeting had been shelved. “A detailed plan [on the bilateral talks] has yet to be fixed. Consultations are still underway between authorities of the two countries,” said the South Korean defence ministry spokesperson Choi Hyun-soo on Tuesday.
Analysts suggested Japan had run out of patience with South Korea and that the biggest winner in the stand off between two US allies would be China.
Japanese Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya. Photo: Kyodo
Japanese Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya. Photo: Kyodo

“My sense is that Japan sees South Korea as not engaging in negotiations on a number of issues and not adhering in good faith to agreements that it has already signed,” said Stephen Nagy, a senior associate professor of international relations at Tokyo’s International Christian University.

Tokyo has been incensed that the administration of

President Moon Jae-in

has gone back on a 2015 agreement that was meant to draw a final line under the “comfort women” issue. Its anger deepened when Seoul said it would not intervene in a South Korean Supreme Court ruling, which ordered Japanese companies to pay up to 120 million won (US$100,000) to each of a dozen

Koreans forced into labour during Japan’s colonial rule

of the Korean peninsula from 1910-1945.

Like its stance on “comfort women”, Japan believed a line had been drawn under the issue, this time in a 1965 pact that normalised relations between the two countries. Seoul argues that the 1965 treaty, which it signed after receiving US$800 million in grants and soft loans from Tokyo as compensation, does not cover individual victims of colonial-era atrocities.
As rift between Japan, South Korea deepens, how hard can Seoul afford to push?

“Japan is not ready to get into any more agreements because it fears that Seoul will not follow through or that they will become politicised in the future,” Nagy said.

“Tokyo wants binding, long-lasting agreements rather than having to renegotiate something each time a new Korean government comes in,” he said.

“The biggest winner in this stand-off between the US’ two most important allies in the region is, of course, China,” he added. “They must be delighted to see this playing out because it means the US is not able to exert nearly as much pressure in areas such as the 

South China Sea

.”

A long-standing strategic aim in US foreign policy circles has been to form a trilateral alliance with South Korea and Japan to present a united front against common security concerns, including China’s growing influence. However, the seeming inability of the two countries to get along has long thwarted this ambition.
“If Japan, South Korea and the US could find a way to cooperate, imagine the influence they could exert over the South China Sea or over 
North Korea

,” Nagy said. “If Japan and Korea could find a way to put their differences aside and with their security capacity, it would be a powerful deterrent to Beijing and Pyongyang.”

South Korean protesters demonstrate against Japan’s use of sex slaves – euphemistically termed ‘comfort women’ in World War II. Photo: AFP
South Korean protesters demonstrate against Japan’s use of sex slaves – euphemistically termed ‘comfort women’ in World War II. Photo: AFP

Toshimitsu Shigemura, a professor of international relations at Tokyo’s Waseda University, agreed that the schism between Seoul and Tokyo would be of serious concern to Washington, but he believed that US pressure had already been brought to bear on the two neighbours.

“By avoiding talks in Singapore, Japan is doing its best to avoid public problems between the two sides and I believe that talks are already taking place between the two governments on these issues,” he said.

US wants Japan and South Korea to tag team China. But history is in the way

“The US will have told Tokyo and Seoul that it does not want to see more disagreements and that it is very important that they cooperate and calm things down a bit,” he said.

“I am sure that Washington knows exactly what happened when the Korean warship locked onto the Japanese aircraft in January, but they’re not publicly taking sides and instead they’re telling both governments to put the dispute behind them and to move on,” he added.

Other analysts were more pessimistic.

“The dynamics in domestic politics in both countries are currently overwhelming any diplomatic motives to improve bilateral ties,” said Bong Young-sik, a researcher at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Photo: AFP
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Photo: AFP
“For President Moon Jae-in, Japan-bashing is a useful political card to appeal to his supporters while for

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

, giving the impression that South Korea is going too far in pressing Japan is also beneficial for his own political gains.”

Professor Ha Jong-moon at Hansin University said there were “no solutions in sight” to resolve the differences over forced labour and wartime sex slavery, but said there would be a chance to “smooth ruffled feathers” at the G20 summit in Osaka, which takes place at the end of June.
The last time the defence ministers of the two countries met was in October last year, when they held talks on the sidelines of the Asean Defence Ministers’ Meeting in Singapore.
Source: SCMP
24/05/2019

Chinese police arrest 20 over pornographic live-streaming app that attracted 1 million users

  • Streaming platform Huahua earned US$2.3 million in profit in five months, according to media report
  • Final two suspects arrested in Philippines, police say
Chinese police with the last two principal suspects in the Philippines on April 26. Photo: Weibo
Chinese police with the last two principal suspects in the Philippines on April 26. Photo: Weibo
Chinese police have arrested 20 people from a cross-border group accused of operating illegal live streaming platforms to broadcast pornographic content, according to mainland online news outlet The Paper.
After an investigation lasting over a year, police in Macheng in central China’s Hubei province said they arrested the last two main suspects, a man surnamed Hong and a woman surnamed Li, in the Philippines on April 26.
Their 
live-streaming

platform, which was initially called Huahua, had more than 900,000 registered users, earning the group 16 million yuan (US$2.3 million) in profit in five months from November 2017, according to the report.

The Chinese government announced in February 2018 it was 
launching a campaign

against pornographic and illegal publications to foster a healthy online environment.The next month, Macheng police received a tip-off that people were distributing QR codes to download Huahua in chat groups on the popular Chinese messaging app QQ.

On the Huahua platform, live streamers gave erotic performances, with the most popular streamers drawing more than 2,000 viewers at a time and users able to make requests by paying up to almost 2,000 yuan (US$290).

The group had a structure and rules designed to avoid the police’s attention, the report said. Members did not know each other’s identities and each had only one point of contact.

Some recruited streamers, others promoted the app on social platforms to attract traffic, and members in Mongolia laundered money with foreign bank accounts, while the app’s appearance and servers were changed several times, the report said.

After 18 people were arrested by April 2018 across the country, including in Shanghai and Guangdong, the No 1 suspect, the Mongolia-based Hong, fled to South Korea then to the Philippines, where he met Li and they built a similar app, according to the report.

The report said Hong had owned a company in Shanghai focusing on developing video games before turning to pornographic live streaming to make money quickly when the gaming business struggled.

Source: SCMP

29/04/2019

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

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

    , and last November hit a

    personal-best temperature

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Japanese tokamaks have achieved more valuable overall results.

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

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

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

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

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

Source: SCMP

07/04/2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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China will not divide Europe, senior diplomat says

China will not divide Europe, senior diplomat says

Read more

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


Source: SCMP

01/03/2019

Chinese navy’s 70th birthday parade set to showcase country’s rising sea power

  • Next month’s nautical spectacle will allow country to show off its most advanced warships to an international audience
  • More than a dozen foreign navies are expected to join in, including the United States

Chinese navy’s 70th birthday parade showcases rising sea power

1 Mar 2019

Chinese warships pictured at the end of joint exercise with the Russian navy in 2016. Photo: Xinhua
Chinese warships pictured at the end of joint exercise with the Russian navy in 2016. Photo: Xinhua
China will hold a naval parade next month to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army Navy and will invite more than a dozen of foreign navies to participate.
The parade will take place on April 23 in the Yellow Sea off the coast of Qingdao in Shandong province, Ren Zhiqiang, a spokesman for the Ministry of National Defence, said on Thursday.
Ren did not provide further details of the parade but military analysts said the exercise would give the navy the opportunity to display its rapidly growing strength and show how that has increased in the past 12 months.

In April last year a naval review in the South China Sea featured a total of 48 vessels and 76 planes, including China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, its Type 094A and 095 nuclear submarines, 052D guided missile destroyers and J-15 fighter jets.

The experts expect that next month’s event will provide a showcase for several new and more powerful vessels including its home-grown aircraft carrier Type 001A, the Type 055 – Asia’s most powerful destroyer – and several nuclear submarines.

“The fact that China is holding the naval parade just one year after the South China Sea review shows the great importance [the leadership] attaches to the development of China’s maritime interests, the navy and its expansion,” navy expert Li Jie said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping joined the crew on the deck of the cruiser Changsha following last year’s naval review. Photo: Xinhua
Chinese President Xi Jinping joined the crew on the deck of the cruiser Changsha following last year’s naval review. Photo: Xinhua

China also held a major naval parade in 2009 to mark the navy’s 60th anniversary.

It was smaller in scale than the upcoming extravaganza with 25 PLA vessels and 31 fighter jets taking part.

Fourteen foreign navies sent ships to the 2009 parade, including the USS Fitzgerald from America and the guided-missile cruiser Varyag from Russia. France, Australia, South Korea, India and Pakistan also joined in the event.

More foreign countries are expected to join the party this year as the PLA has become more active internationally and China has sold more warships to foreign navies.

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“The parade is more like a birthday party for the PLA Navy and the participation of foreign navies is a matter of diplomatic courtesy with few military implications,” said Yue Gang, a former PLA colonel.

Yue said the US and its allies would attend despite the rising tensions between the two sides.

Since 2015 the US and Chinese navies have engaged in a series of confrontations in the South China Sea as China strengthens its military presence in the region and the US has sought to challenge Beijing’s claims to the waters by conducting what it describes as “freedom of navigation” operations.

“I don’t expect they will send any of the warships that have taken part in such operations [to the parade],” Yue said.

China has greatly expanded its naval capabilities in recent years. Photo: AP
China has greatly expanded its naval capabilities in recent years. Photo: AP

It has been reported that the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force has expressed an interest in joining the parade and the Philippines – which has a rival claim to the South China Sea – is planning to send a vessel to the event for the first time.

Li said militaries such as the US and Japan would not want to miss the chance to observe the PLA Navy closely.

“In addition, greater transparency [through the parade] will also help reassure smaller regional partners such as the Philippines that China is a friendly power despite its growing military strength,” he said.

China held its first naval parade in 1957 and April’s display will be the sixth such event.

Sailors also took part in the parade through Tiananmen Square to mark the foundation of the People’s Republic on October 1 1949.

Source: SCMP

24/02/2019

North Korea’s Kim on his way by train to summit with Trump in Vietnam

SEOUL/HANOI (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made his way across China by train on Sunday, media reported, bound for a high-stakes second nuclear summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Vietnam’s capital of Hanoi.

Few details of Kim’s trip have been announced but he left Pyongyang by train on Saturday afternoon for the Feb. 27-28 summit accompanied by senior North Korean officials as well as his influential sister, North Korea’s state media reported.

Trump and Kim will meet in Hanoi eight months after their historic summit in Singapore, the first between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader, where they pledged to work towards the complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

With little progress since then, the two leaders are expected to focus on what elements of North Korea’s nuclear programme it might begin to give up, in exchange for U.S. concessions.

In rare, revealing coverage of Kim’s travel, while it is still going on, the North’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper featured photographs of him getting a red-carpet send-off in Pyongyang and waving from a train carriage door while holding a cigarette.

 

He was accompanied by top officials also involved in the Singapore summit, including Kim Yong Chol, a former spy chief and Kim’s top envoy in negotiations with the United States, as well as senior party aide Ri Su Yong, Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and defence chief No Kwang Chol.

The North Korean leader’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, who acted as a close aide in Singapore, is again part of the delegation, the North’s KCNA news agency reported. It made no mention of his wife, Ri Sol Ju.

The extensive coverage in the secretive North’s official media was a contrast to the limited reporting that has traditionally prevailed during his foreign trips.

Other senior officials, such as his de facto chief of staff Kim Chang Son and Kim Hyok Chol, negotiations counterpart to U.S. envoy Stephen Biegun, were already in Hanoi to prepare for the summit.

With scant progress since the June summit, the two leaders are likely to try to build on their personal connection to push things forward in Hanoi, even if only incrementally, analysts said.

Both sides are under pressure to forge more specific agreements than were reached in Singapore, which critics, especially in the United States, said lacked detail.

 

“They will not make an agreement which breaks up the current flow of diplomacy. (President Trump) has mentioned that they’ll meet again; even if there is a low-level agreement, they will seek to keep things moving,” said Shin Beom-chul, a senior fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

LEARNING FROM VIETNAM

The Trump administration has pressed the North to give up its nuclear weapons programme, which, combined with its missile capabilities, poses a threat to the United States, before it can expect any concessions.

North Korea wants an easing of punishing U.S.-led sanctions, security guarantees and a formal end of the 1950-1953 Korean War, which ended in a truce, not a treaty.

Few details of summit arrangements have been released.

Some lamp posts on Hanoi’s tree-lined streets are decked with North Korean, U.S. and Vietnamese flags fluttering above a handshake design, and security has been stepped up at locations that could be the summit venue, or where the leaders might stay.

It could take Kim at least 2-1/2 days to travel to Vietnam by train.

Some carriages of a green train were spotted at Beijing’s station on Sunday, but it was not confirmed it was Kim’s.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said Kim’s train had passed through a station in China’s port city of Tianjin, southeast of Beijing, at around 1 p.m. (0500 GMT).

China has given no details of his trip. Its foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Two top North Korean officials who were not in Singapore but will be in Hanoi are Kim Phyong Hae and O Su Yong, vice chairmen of the party’s Central Committee, respectively in charge of personnel management and industrial affairs, KCNA reported.

O is a former minister of electronics and vice minister of metals and machine building. He might try to learn about Vietnam’s development of manufacturing, analysts said.

Kim Jong Un may tour some economic facilities while in Vietnam.

Vietnam, like North Korea, fought a war against the United States and keeps tight control over its people and economy. It has been touted as a model for North Korea’s development.

Vietnamese media reported that a North Korean cargo plane arrived on Sunday carrying personnel who appeared to be Kim’s security guards and state media workers. They were driven under police escort to a downtown hotel.

Source: Reuters

15/02/2019

Seizing on Huawei’s troubles, Samsung bets big on network gear

SEOUL (Reuters) – Samsung Electronics is pouring resources into its telecom network equipment business, aiming to capitalize on the security fears hobbling China’s Huawei, according to company officials and other industry executives.

Those efforts include moving high-performing managers and numerous employees to the network division from its handset unit, two Samsung sources said.
Potential customers are taking notice of Samsung’s efforts to reinvent itself as a top-tier supplier for 5G wireless networks and bridge a big gap with market leader Huawei and industry heavyweights Ericsson and Nokia.
French carrier Orange’s chief technology officer, Mari-Noëlle Jégo-Laveissière, visited Japan last year and was impressed with the pace of 5G preparations using alternative equipment makers including Samsung, a company representative told Reuters.

Orange, which operates in 27 markets and counts Huawei as its top equipment supplier, will run its first French 5G tests with Samsung this year.

Underscoring the growing importance of the business, South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon visited Samsung’s network division in January. In a closed-door meeting during that visit, Samsung heir Jay Y. Lee asked for government help with recruiting high-level engineers.
Huawei is battling allegations by the United States and some other Western countries that its equipment could enable Chinese spying and should not be used in 5G networks, which will offer higher speeds and a host of new services.
Australia and New Zealand have joined the United States in effectively barring Huawei from 5G, and many other countries, especially in Europe, are considering a ban. Huawei denies that its gear presents any security risk.
Its woes have presented Samsung with a rare opportunity. Telecom firms would ordinarily stick with their 4G providers for 5G upgrades as they can use existing gear to minimize costs, but many firms may now be under political pressure to switch.

“We’re bolstering our network business to seize market opportunities arising at a time when Huawei is the subject of warnings about security,” said one of the Samsung sources.

The sources, who did not disclose specific figures for the employee moves, declined to be identified as they were not authorized to speak on the matter.

Keen to seek new growth, particularly as sales of its mainstay chips and smartphones have begun to drop, Samsung plans to invest $22 billion in 5G mobile technology and other fields over three years. It declined to break down how much will go to 5G and the other areas – artificial intelligence, biopharma and automotive electronic parts.

“Samsung is focused on building trust with our partners and leading the global 5G markets, regardless of other companies,” it said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

Asked about Samsung’s big push into network equipment, Huawei said in a statement that it welcomed competition in the market.

INDIA OPPORTUNITY

In India, Samsung is now in talks with Reliance Jio to upgrade its network to 5G, looking to build on what has perhaps been its biggest network success – becoming the key supplier for the upstart carrier.

“We don’t think 5G is far away in India,” a Samsung official with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters. He declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Samsung’s clients include U.S. firms AT&T Inc, Verizon Communications Inc and Sprint Corp and it has 5G network contracts with all three, though it was not clear how extensive those contracts are. It also sells to South Korean carriers and has partnered with Japanese mobile carriers to test its 5G equipment.

In many cases, Samsung supplies only small pieces of networks. According to market tracker Dell’Oro Group, the South Korean firm holds just 3 percent of the global telecom infrastructure market compared with 28 percent for Huawei.

Its network business made 870 billion won ($775 million) in operating profit last year, according to Eugene Investment & Securities. Filings show Nokia’s network business made about 1.2 billion euros ($1.4 billion) while Ericsson’s network operations made 19.4 billion Swedish crowns ($2.1 billion). Figures for Huawei were not available.

FINDING THE PEOPLE

One major hurdle for Samsung will be attracting talent amid a dearth of software engineers in South Korea.

“We need more software engineers and want to work with the government to find that talent,” Lee was quoted as saying by government officials at his meeting with the prime minister.

Samsung’s network business unit employs roughly 5,000 people, according to a government official in the southern city of Gumi where Samsung operates its manufacturing plants.

Kim Young-woo, an analyst at SK Securities, expects Samsung to hire 1,000-1,500 people for 5G network equipment this year. Samsung declined to comment on network employee levels and hiring plans.

But Samsung’s bet remains risky as the long-term nature of telecom network investment means change comes slowly.

Sweden’s Ericsson and Finland’s Nokia, which acquired the remnants of once-powerful network equipment companies Alcatel-Lucent and Nortel, have as yet seen little sales growth from Huawei’s problems, company executives said.

Both are in cost-cutting mode, even in the face of the 5G opportunity and the problems confronting their biggest rival.

Indeed, some network operators in Europe are warning that a Huawei ban – now under consideration in France, the UK, Germany and other countries – could push back deployment of 5G by as much as three years.

Others warn Samsung may struggle to develop a global sales and support organization.

“The way telcos purchase products and services from their suppliers demand a lot of time and resources, which is why Ericsson and Nokia have around 100,000 employees and Huawei almost twice as many,” said Bengt Nordstrom, CEO of telecom consultancy Northstream.

But Samsung is taking the long view. In December, it agreed to extend its Olympic partnership with the International Olympic Committee through to 2028 and expand its sponsorship to 5G technology.

The company did not want to leave its sponsorship spot open to Chinese rivals, a separate source with knowledge of the matter said.

“If Samsung dropped the top mobile sponsorship for the Olympic games beyond 2020, then who would have taken that spot? It would only have been China, Huawei.”

($1 = 1,122.8000 won)

Source: Reuters

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