Archive for ‘Vietnam’

17/07/2019

Vietnam, China embroiled in South China Sea standoff

HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnamese and Chinese ships have been embroiled in a weeks-long standoff near an offshore oil block in disputed waters of the South China Sea, which fall within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone, two Washington-based think-tanks said on Wednesday.

China’s U-shaped “nine-dash line” marks a vast expanse of the South China Sea that it claims, including large swathes of Vietnam’s continental shelf where it has awarded oil concessions.

The Haiyang Dizhi 8, a ship operated by the China Geological Survey, on Monday completed a 12-day survey of waters near the disputed Spratly Islands, according to separate reports by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS)

One of the oil blocks it surveyed is licensed by Vietnam to Spanish energy firm Repsol, which was forced last year and in 2017 to cease operations in Vietnamese waters because of pressure from China.

As the Haiyang Dizhi 8 conducted its survey, nine Vietnamese vessels closely followed it. The Chinese ship was escorted by three China Coast Guard vessels, according to data from Winward Maritime, compiled by C4ADS.

In a separate incident days earlier, the China Coast Guard ship Haijing 35111 manoeuvred in what CSIS described as a “threatening manner” towards Vietnamese vessels servicing a Japanese-owned oil rig, the Hakuryu-5, leased by Russian state oil firm Rosneft in Vietnam’s Block 06.1, 370 km (230 miles) southeast of Vietnam.

That block is within the area outlined by China’s “nine-dash line”. A series of dashes on Chinese maps, the line is not continuous, making China’s claims often ambiguous.

Last year, Reuters exclusively reported that Rosneft Vietnam BV, a unit of Rosneft, was concerned that its drilling in Block 06.1 would upset China.
“On July 2 the vessels were leaving the Hakuryu-5 when the 35111 manoeuvred between them at high speed, passing within 100 metres of each ship and less than half a nautical mile from the rig,” CSIS said in its report.
It was not clear on Wednesday if any Chinese ships were still challenging the Rosneft rig.
In 2014, tension between Vietnam and China rose to its highest levels in decades when a Chinese oil rig started drilling in Vietnamese waters. The incident triggered boat rammings by both sides and anti-China riots in Vietnam.

‘READY TO FIGHT’

In response to reports of this month’s standoff, which first emerged on social media, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on July 12 that China’s position on the South China Sea was “clear and consistent”.

“China resolutely safeguards its sovereignty in the South China Sea and maritime rights, and at the same time upholds controlling disputes with relevant countries via negotiations and consultations,” Geng said, without elaborating.

On Tuesday, Vietnam’s foreign ministry released a statement in response to unspecified “recent developments” in the South China Sea.

“Without Vietnam’s permission, all actions undertaken by foreign parties in Vietnamese waters have no legal effect, and constitute encroachments in Vietnamese waters, and violations of international law,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said.

Neither statements confirmed or elaborated on the standoff.

Neither Rosneft nor Repsol immediately responded to an emailed request from Reuters for comment.

In a new statement on Wednesday, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Geng acknowledged that there had been an incident with Vietnam.

“We hope the Vietnam side can earnestly respect China’s sovereignty, rights, and jurisdiction over the relevant waters, and not take any actions that could complicate the situation,” Geng told a regular news conference.

On July 11, as China was conducting its survey of the blocks, Vietnam’s prime minister, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, visited the headquarters of the Vietnam Coast Guard in Hanoi.

State media did not mention the incident, but showed Phuc speaking to sailors on board vessels via a video link.

Phuc told the sailors to “stay vigilant and ready to fight” and to be aware of “unpredictable developments”, the Vietnam Coast Guard said in a statement on its website.

On the same day, Vietnam’s national assembly chairwoman, Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, met her Chinese counterpart, Li Zhanshu, in Beijing, China’s Xinhua news agency reported.

The two officials agreed to “jointly safeguard peace and stability at sea”, Xinhua said.

Source: Reuters

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12/07/2019

Top Chinese, Vietnamese legislators hold talks on cooperation

CHINA-BEIJING-LI ZHANSHU-VIETNAM-TALKS (CN)

Li Zhanshu (R), chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China, holds talks with visiting Chairwoman of the National Assembly of Vietnam Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, in Beijing, capital of China, July 11, 2019. (Xinhua/Zhang Ling)

BEIJING, July 12 (Xinhua) — Top Chinese legislator Li Zhanshu held talks with visiting Chairwoman of the National Assembly of Vietnam Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan on Thursday, agreeing to enhance exchanges and cooperation between the two countries’ legislative bodies.

Li, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China, told Ngan that China stands ready to work with Vietnam to comprehensively implement the important consensus reached by the leaders of the two parties and the two states.

Li called on the two sides to accelerate cooperation on jointly building the “Belt and Road” and the “Two Corridors, One Economic Circle,” jointly safeguard peace and stability at sea, as well as constantly improve the friendship between their people.

On the ties between the two legislative bodies, the National People’s Congress of China and the National Assembly of Vietnam, Li said they could provide legal support for bilateral cooperation. He called on both sides to learn from each other through increased communication, promote people-to-people, local and youth exchanges, and strengthen coordination within multilateral mechanisms.

Ngan said Vietnam is willing to work with China to fully implement the important consensus reached by the leaders of the two parties and the two states, to enhance mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields and promote friendship between the two peoples.

The National Assembly of Vietnam is looking forward to stronger ties with the National People’s Congress of China so as to make greater contributions to the growth of relations between the two countries, she said.

At the invitation of Li, Ngan visited China from Monday to Friday.

Source: Xinhua

04/07/2019

Samsung and other South Korean companies’ exodus from China sets an example to Western firms fleeing trade war tariffs

  • Lotte, Kia and Hyundai are also gradually winding down their China business due to political risks, tariffs and losing market share
  • Western companies fleeing Donald Trump’s tariffs may not have luxury of a managed exit, but should look at the South Korean case studies closely, experts say
Samsung’s last mobile phone production line remaining in China in Huizhou is winding down, implementing a voluntary retirement programme. Photo: He Huifeng
Samsung’s last mobile phone production line remaining in China in Huizhou is winding down, implementing a voluntary retirement programme. Photo: He Huifeng
Upon landing in Australia in 2017 to attend a seminar, a senior politician with South Korea’s parliamentary defence committee was greeted by Julie Bishop, then Australia’s foreign minister, who had a burning question: “How are you dealing with the China threat?”
Bishop was referring to the treatment of South Korean firms in China, which escalated after Seoul agreed in 2016 to a long-standing request from the United States to allow the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence system (THAAD) on South Korean soil.
Lotte Corporation, one of Korea’s chaebol conglomerates that dominate its economy, had sold a plot of land in Seongju county to the South Korean government, on which the system’s radar and interceptor missiles were set up. While both Washington and Seoul said it was meant to counter threats from North Korea, Beijing viewed THAAD as a security risk, since its radar had the range to monitor China’s nearby military facilities.
After it was deployed in 2017, THAAD triggered widespread boycotts of Lotte’s retail operations in China, with the state-owned media acting as aggressive cheerleaders. The company was sanctioned by Beijing, with its expansion plans in China grinding to a halt on the orders of the Chinese government.
The Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) arrived in Seongju in September 2017. Photo: Reuters
The Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) arrived in Seongju in September 2017. Photo: Reuters

Australia – like South Korea – is heavily dependent on trade with China, but is also closely bound to the US in defence and political terms, and Bishop feared that should Australia fall out of favour with Beijing, Australian companies could face similar risks, and so she sought the counsel of the politician, who asked not to be named.

The case of Canadian canola and meat exports being banned from China, reportedly in retaliation for the arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, also known as Sabrina Meng and Cathy Meng, is an example of how third nations can be drawn into the modern day superpower rivalry.

Many analysts say the efforts of South Korean firms in China should be essential study material for Western governments and businesses about the political risks of doing business in the mainland, which are growing as the US-China trade war threatens to draw in other nations and expand into a broader geopolitical struggle.

But large South Korean firms have been gradually withdrawing from China for a number of years – even before the THAAD crisis – and have been able to leave on a managed basis. They are leaving to avoid a repeat of the political crisis that ruined Lotte’s China business, and to avoid tariffs on exports of their China-made products to the US.

Lotte have been forced to close retail operations in China. Photo: Reuters
Lotte have been forced to close retail operations in China. Photo: Reuters

But they are also leaving because Chinese firms have become much more competitive in the domestic market that South Korean companies had found so fruitful for more than a decade – a fate that could easily befall Western companies that are eyeing China’s burgeoning middle-class consumer market. Now, while American firms are considering exiting China and setting up in nations that have lower tariff access to the US, South

Korean competitors have had a few years’ head start.

“In a way, all the problems that some South Korean companies had since 2017 might be a blessing in disguise. It meant that they started all of this [supply chain shift] two years before all the other companies,” said Andrew Gilholm, Seoul-based director of analysis for China and Korea at political risk advisory, Control Risks.

Another chaebol, Samsung Electronics, opened its first plant in Vietnam in 2008 and this long-term presence has enabled it to build a supply chain of South Korean companies, which in turn makes it easier for other South Korean firms to establish a base in the Southeast Asian nation.

We have experienced some of the worst situations in China over the past few years and learnt that the political risk there wouldn’t just simply go away overnight Ex-Lotte Shopping manager

As a result, South Korean investment into Vietnam climbed to US$1.97 billion in the first half of 2018, exceeding the country’s investment in China of US$1.6 billion over the same period for the first time, according to the Export-Import Bank of Korea.

Overall in 2018, South Korea’s total investment to the Southeast Asian country totalled US$3.2 billion. Its exports to Vietnam also increased to US$48.6 billion, 121 times that of 1992, when the two countries established diplomatic relations, and the trend is expected to continue.

“We have experienced some of the worst situations in China over the past few years and learnt that the political risk there wouldn’t just simply go away overnight,” said a former manager of Lotte Shopping, the chaebol’s retail arm, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“China may pass all the legislation ensuring the safety of foreign investments and the rights of multinational companies, but the chance of it swinging away again when there is another political confrontation is just too high … we cannot afford to take any more risk.”

China eventually lifted its economic sanctions on Lotte in April, and the municipal government of Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning province in Northeastern China, gave the company permission in May to resume work on the US$2.6 billion Lotte Town shopping and leisure development.

But according to a person close to the project, Lotte is considering selling the complex after its completion, as it does not wish to continue its retail business in China. A Lotte spokesman declined to comment, saying the situation is “complicated”.

On one hand, its eagerness to leave China reflects the volatility in the market, but on the other, its decision to complete the construction of project before leaving suggests an unwillingness to burn bridges in the process, analysts said.

Samsung is another South Korean giant downsizing its Chinese manufacturing presence after it closed its Shenzhen production line in May 2018, followed by its Tianjin factory in December.

Samsung has been very aware of the potential issues around those closuresJason Wright

Its last remaining mobile phone production line in

China, in Huizhou, is also winding down,

implementing a voluntary retirement programme. Samsung is also considering moving some television manufacturing from China to Vietnam, according to a company insider.

However, it too, is carefully managing its exit strategy, said Jason Wright, founder of Hong Kong-based intelligence firm Argo Associates, who is advising a growing number of South Korean companies seeking to leave China. Samsung is still a large supplier of microchips to Chinese companies like Huawei, and to exit on negative terms could disrupt its ongoing business.
“Samsung has been quite generous in the packages that have been offered [to workers in the factories that it has closed],” Wright said. “Samsung has been very aware of the potential issues around those closures.”
As well as the political risks and tariffs, Samsung has seen its mainland market share in several product queues shrink dramatically due to competition from Chinese rivals. Its share of China’s smartphone market, for example, fell from 20 per cent in 2013 to just 0.8 per cent last year, according to Strategy Analytics, a market research firm.
Over the same period, it has been moving its supply chain out of China in a “subtle and imperceptible” way, according to Julien Chaisse, a professor of trade law at City University of Hong Kong who has advised, among others, Lotte on its plans to relocate to Vietnam.
Samsung Electronics opened its first plant in Vietnam in 2008. Photo: Cissy Zhou
Samsung Electronics opened its first plant in Vietnam in 2008. Photo: Cissy Zhou
As stories emerged in June that Apple was considering a partial exit of China, it was impossible not to see parallels. iPhone sales in China fell 30 per cent in the first quarter of 2019, according to research firm Canalys, while smartphones will be among those facing a potential tariff of up to 25 per cent, although this has been at least delayed after the trade war truce agreed by

US President Donald Trump

and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the

G20 summit in Osaka.

Meanwhile, South Korean car companies Kia and Hyundai’s combined market share in China fell to 2.7 per cent last year, from about 10 per cent at the beginning of the decade. Both companies, which have shared ownership, are downsizing their Chinese operations.

“In the past, China was just a great market, but for Korea, now China has become a competitor. So that is really a change in the dynamic over the last five years. China was not really able to compete with Korea in most areas,” said Wright from Argo Associates.

City University of Hong Kong professor Chaisse traces the exodus of South Korean firms back to 2014, before THAAD and before the trade war, and highlighted an arcane arbitration case at the United Nations’ dispute settlement courts as a turning point. After that case, South Korean companies in China faced an increasingly hostile environment.

Filed in 2014 and settled in 2017, the case emerged after South Korean company Ansung Housing had been forced to sell a golf resort it was developing in Eastern China after a change in the country’s real estate legislation.

Ansung took the case to an arbitration panel, claiming it breached a Sino-Korean investment treaty. The company won – only the second defeat for China in two decades of participation in the court, but this ushered in a “change in atmosphere” for South Korean firms.

“My take is that while the Korean case is unique for a number of reasons, it highlights what is going to happen to many other foreign companies operating in China,” Chaisse said.

“I think very soon even European companies will be reconsidering their businesses in China. Every time it will be a different story: different countries, different companies, in different economic sectors will have different reaction times and the magnitude of their withdrawal may vary.”

But for those now fleeing trade war tariffs, they may not have the luxury of long-term planning that companies like Samsung and Lotte have had, said Gilholm from Control Risks.

“Long term, I think the Korean firms that are moving out of China have had it easier because they haven’t had to do it under quite such pressured and scrutinised circumstances as a company which starts to move things now,” he said.

Source: SCMP

23/06/2019

Southeast Asian leaders emphasise economic strength in face of U.S.-China tensions

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Southeast Asian leaders agreed on Sunday to work together on regional economy and security to strengthen their positions amid growing U.S.-China tensions, as they wrapped up this year’s first summit in Bangkok.

The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will need its collective economic strength for bargaining power globally, especially amid the trade tensions between the world’s top two economies, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told a news conference, as chairman of the 34th ASEAN Summit.
Prayuth urged ASEAN nations to complete negotiations this year for the China-initiated Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) pact that includes 16 countries.
“This will help ASEAN handle the changes and uncertainty that will happen in the region going forward, particularly the impacts of trade tension between ASEAN’s important trade partners.”
Negotiations began in 2012 on RCEP, which envisions the creation of a free trade zone encompassing 45% of the world’s population and more than a third of its GDP, but does not involve the United States.
First proposed by China, RCEP’s 16 signatories include the 10 ASEAN member states and six Asia-Pacific countries, including major economies China, India, Japan and South Korea. ASEAN has existing free-trade agreements with all six countries.
“If we can do this, we will have the bargaining power and base for negotiation. Because when combined, we are 650 million people, the largest regional bloc in the world,” the Thai prime minister said.
Four ASEAN countries – Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam – will discuss the trade war in next week’s G20 summit, which assembles 20 major economies, in Tokyo, Prayuth said.
ASEAN countries also agreed on a common approach on a U.S.-led Indo-Pacific initiative, at a time when U.S.-China tensions were rising and forcing ASEAN countries to take sides.
Prayuth hailed the bloc’s agreement on the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific as a “significant step” for the region.
The endorsed outlook document, seen by Reuters, acknowledges “maritime issues such as unresolved maritime disputes that have the potential for open conflict” as existing and emerging geopolitical challenges.
It outlines maritime cooperation “for peaceful settlement of disputes”. It also aims for connectivity in the Indo-Pacific region.
Source: Reuters
03/06/2019

Inside China’s state-owned industrial park in Vietnam, Beijing’s image trumps trade war profits

  • China-Vietnam (Shenzhen-Haiphong) Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone is only Chinese state-owned industrial park in Vietnam
  • Venture has attracted increasing interest since start of US-China trade war, but operators say first duty is to support Xi Jinping’s trade initiative
A total of 16 of the 21 Chinese companies that have relocated to the China-Vietnam (Shenzhen-Haiphong) Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone did so after the start of the US-China trade war. Photo: Cissy Zhou
A total of 16 of the 21 Chinese companies that have relocated to the China-Vietnam (Shenzhen-Haiphong) Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone did so after the start of the US-China trade war. Photo: Cissy Zhou
Until the middle of 2018, business was slow for the only Chinese state-owned industrial park in Vietnam, located in the northeastern manufacturing hub of Haiphong and wholly-owned by the Shenzhen city government.
US President Donald Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods enacted last year changed that, with 16 of the 21 Chinese companies that have relocated to the China-Vietnam
(Shenzhen-Haiphong) Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone – many of them electronic device manufacturers – having done so since the start of the trade war.
However, profit-making was never the top priority for the park’s operators, which took over the reins from private investors after a series anti-Chinese riots raged through southern and central Vietnam in May 2014 forced the owners to abandon the project.
Protesters set fire to other industrial parks and factories and attacked Chinese workers, killing more than 20 people and injuring more than 100.

While any commercial organisation would be thrilled at the rush of manufacturing firms into Vietnam, for the park’s operators, the first duty is to showcase the Chinese government’s top international economic cooperation project, the Belt and Road Initiative.

[They] requested that we make this industrial park a showcase for the Belt and Road Initiative, so that when our top leaders pay state visits to Vietnam, they can come to our park Chen Xu

The Shenzhen arm of the State-owned Assets Control and Supervision Commission (SASAC), which oversees all city owned companies “has requested that we make this industrial park a showcase for the Belt and Road Initiative, so that when our top leaders pay state visits to Vietnam, they can come to our park”, Chen Xu, vice general manager at the Vietnam-China Economic and Trade Cooperation Park (VCEP), told the South China Morning Post.
The Chinese industrial enclave in Vietnam is part of a largely untold story of the trade war. The common narrative is that Chinese and international firms are fleeing China to avoid paying tariffs, setting up in low-cost hubs in Vietnam and elsewhere in Southeast Asia, but the picture is more nuanced than that.

In Haiphong, a part of the Chinese government is actively encouraging firms to come to Vietnam, armed with US$200 million in investment capital and with a vision of creating 30,000 jobs by the time the entire three-phase project is completed in 2022.

The then-private VCEP project was suspended after the 2014 riots, and after the local government in Vietnam said it would reclaim the land unless it resumed, the Shenzhen government “decided to fully take over the project”, according to VCEP general manager Zhang Xiaotao.

Newcomers must now buy land from the park and build their facilities themselves as the original buildings have already been rented out. Photo: Cissy Zhou
Newcomers must now buy land from the park and build their facilities themselves as the original buildings have already been rented out. Photo: Cissy Zhou

“Our evaluation then was that we could not make a profit out of this project. Then why did we still take it over? We have to serve the Belt and Road Initiative, as it is a national strategy,” Zhang added. “In fact, we surrender part of our profit [because] we sell the land [in the park] at a lower price and with better facilities than in neighbouring industrial parks. We are still in the red based upon the current land price. Our bosses understand the situation and ask us at least not to lose money.

“To make a profit is of course the priority of any company. But we are different, we are not a pure commercial project.”

Furthermore, it is a commonly held assumption that China is only open to losing low-end, labour intensive and high-polluting industry, as it looks to upgrade its manufacturing profile domestically. And while there is certainly truth to that as examples of low-value Chinese manufacturing plants litter Vietnam, VCEP is keen to avoid that persona.

Because of the need to maintain a relatively high-profile, the park does not welcome labour-intensive manufacturers such as shoes factories, because “it is bad for our image”, Chen said. Instead, it is focused on hi-tech engineering – exactly the kind of industry China is desperate to nurture on its own soil. In this sense, the Shenzhen-Haiphong facility represents something of a paradox.

With 1,500 people currently employed, it is some way from reaching its 30,000 goal, but the number of Chinese manufacturers wanting to set up factories in the park is now about eight times what it was before the trade war started last July, according to both Chen and Zhang. Newcomers must now buy land from the park and build their facilities themselves as the original buildings have already been rented out.

The relatively poor state of the surrounding infrastructure has also led VCEP to spend 30 million yuan (US$4.3 million) on a new road and bridge linking the park to the national highway in Haiphong.

“We could not wait for the Vietnamese government to build the infrastructure. They don’t have the money and their efficiency is low, so we built it ourselves,” said Li Meng, a member of VCEP’s Strategic Investment Department, who said it took less than nine months to finish the project.

The cost of the bridge was more than triple what it would have cost in China as “the efficiency is much lower here and we needed to import a lot of material from China due to lack of material in Vietnam”, Li added

“Every inch of the road and the bridge linking the national highway in Haiphong to VCEP is paved with renminbi.”

The Vietnam-China Economic and Trade Cooperation Park has a vision of creating 30,000 jobs by the time the entire three-phase project is completed in 2022. Photo: Cissy Zhou
The Vietnam-China Economic and Trade Cooperation Park has a vision of creating 30,000 jobs by the time the entire three-phase project is completed in 2022. Photo: Cissy Zhou

TP-Link, the Shenzhen-based Chinese manufacturer of computer networking products, has rented a plant in the park and will start testing its equipment in July. The company, the world’s largest provider of consumer Wi-fi networking devices, has bought an additional 140,000 square metres of land in the park to expand production.

When TP-Link bought the land in late-2018, the price was between US$75 to US$80 per square metre, Chen said. Now, six months later, the price has risen to US$90 per square metre. This is indicative of the huge spike in interest in manufacturing in Vietnam caused by the trade war. Data from Vietnam’s Foreign Investment Agency shows that Vietnam attracted US$16.74 billion in foreign capital over the first five months of 2019, a year-on-year increase of 69.1 per cent. Of this, 72 per cent was invested in the processing and manufacturing sectors.

“Chinese local governments are, of course, unhappy with the increasing number of manufacturers who are relocating to Vietnam, but President Xi has clearly put forward the Belt and Road Initiative, which local governments cannot disturb. So local governments are not encouraging manufacturers to relocate, but they dare not try to stop them,” said vice-general manager Chen.

The Chinese inflow has also met with opposition in Vietnam, although far from the scale of the deadly riots of 2014.

“Some local [Vietnamese] media have been demonising China, with local prime time TV news talking about fake Chinese meat and poisoned food and hyping these cases. High-ranking Chinese officials have asked the Vietnamese government to guide public opinion in the right direction,” Chen added.

General manager Zhang added that the Vietnamese authorities have also become more sensitive to investment from China, a view reflected by Lam Thanh Ha, a senior lecturer at the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam university which operates under the management of Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “Overreliance on foreign cash in general and Chinese capital in particular may pose risks for Vietnam in terms of exchange rate fluctuations and external influences,” Ha warned.

“As production is generally dependent on transnational supply chains, foreign enterprises in Vietnam are often deeply engaged in both import and export processes, leaving the Vietnamese economy vulnerable to global economic conditions,” Ha added.

In a 

commentary published

by the Post earlier in May, Ha warned that Vietnam should avoid “becoming China’s dirty industrial backyard”, although Zhang had the opposite view.

“We are not shifting all our low-end industries to Vietnam, which would be irresponsible. China is trying to help Vietnam with sincerity, even if we don’t make a profit, we still want to proceed with the project,” he said.
Source: SCMP
29/05/2019

Scholar points to Beijing’s ‘maritime militia’ in the South China Sea after lasers force Australian navy helicopter to land

  • Academic on-board the HMAS Canberra says pilots were struck by lasers on a voyage from Vietnam to Singapore, during which they were being tailed by a Chinese warship
US Navy personnel point at a computer screen showing Chinese activity on the Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. An Australian scholar said Chinese ships pointed lasers at them during a flight over the disputed sea. Photo: Reuters
US Navy personnel point at a computer screen showing Chinese activity on the Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. An Australian scholar said
Chinese ships pointed lasers at them during a flight over the disputed sea. Photo: Reuters
Australian navy helicopter pilots were hit by lasers and forced to land during exercises in

the South China Sea

, according to one witness on-board the aircraft.

Scholar Euan Graham, who said he was on the Royal 
Australian Navy

flagship HMAS Canberra during a voyage from Vietnam to Singapore, said the lasers had been pointed from passing fishing vessels while the Canberra was being

trailed by a Chinese warship

.

“Was this startled fishermen reacting to the unexpected? Or was it the sort of coordinated harassment more suggestive of China’s maritime militia? It’s hard to say for sure, but similar incidents have occurred in the western Pacific,” he wrote on the website The Strategist run by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, an independent, non-partisan think tank based in Canberra.

His account of the incident appeared on Tuesday.

The Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, where China is said to be increasing its military presence. Photo: Reuters
The Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, where China is said to be increasing its military presence. Photo: Reuters
China maintains a robust maritime militia in the South China Sea, composed of fishing vessels equipped to carry out missions just short of combat. China claims the strategic waterway virtually in its entirety and is sensitive to all foreign naval action in the area, especially by

the US and allies

such as Australia.

Similar incidents involving lasers and the Chinese military have been reported as far away as Djibouti, where the US and China have bases. Last year, the US complained to China after lasers were directed at aircraft in the Horn of Africa nation, causing minor injuries to two American pilots.

China denied that its forces targeted the US military aircraft.

Graham said that while bridge-to-bridge communications with the Chinese during the voyage were courteous, the Chinese requested the Australian warships notify them in advance of any corrections to their course.

That was something the Australian navy was “not about to concede while exercising its high-seas freedoms”, Graham wrote.

In South China Sea, Asean has a choice: ‘Asian values’ or rule of law?

He wrote that the constant presence of Chinese vessels shadowing foreign ships appeared to indicate that the Chinese fleet had grown large enough to allow it to have vessels lying in wait for just such orders.

He said their trailing actions also appeared to show that China’s over-the-horizon surveillance capability was also maturing, supported by technology based at points such as Fiery Cross Reef in the contested Spratly island group where China has built military installations and an airstrip atop coral reefs.

Five other governments have claims in the South China Sea that overlap with China’s, and the US and its allies insist on the right to sail and fly anywhere in the area is permitted under international law, despite China’s differing interpretation of such guidelines.

Graham, who is executive director of La Trobe Asia at La Trobe University in Australia, was one of several academics invited to observe Australia’s engagement exercise Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2019.

Source: SCMP

27/04/2019

Premier Li meets Vietnamese PM

(BRF)CHINA-BEIJING-LI KEQIANG-VIETNAMESE PM-MEETING (CN)

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (R) meets with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, who is here attending the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, in Beijing, capital of China, April 26, 2019. (Xinhua/Liu Weibing)

BEIJING, April 26 (Xinhua) — Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Friday met with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, who is here attending the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation.

Li said China is willing to enhance high-level contacts with Vietnam, deepen pragmatic cooperation, and better align the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with Vietnam’s “Two Corridors and One Economic Circle” plan.

China is willing to expand bilateral trade and achieve balanced and sustainable development in trade with Vietnam, and welcomes the entry of quality Vietnamese products into the Chinese market, Li said.

China supports Vietnam in assuming its role as the rotating chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2020, and is willing to work with Vietnam and other parties to steadily advance the consultations on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, the premier said.

Nguyen Xuan Phuc said Vietnam actively supports the BRI and is willing to build greater synergy of the two countries’ development strategies.

Vietnam is willing to work with China in implementing the high-level consensus and safeguarding the long-term stability in the South China Sea, he said.

Source: Xinhua

23/04/2019

How China’s ban on plastic waste imports became an ‘earthquake’ that threw recycling efforts into turmoil

  • When recycling businesses gravitated to Malaysia, a black economy went with them
  • Some countries treat China’s ban as an opportunity and have been quick to adapt
For years, China was the world's leading destination for recyclable rubbish, but a ban on some imports has left nations scrambling to find dumping grounds for growing piles of waste. Photo: AFP
For years, China was the world’s leading destination for recyclable rubbish, but a ban on some imports has left nations scrambling to find dumping grounds for growing piles of waste. Photo: AFP
From grubby packaging that engulfs small Southeast Asian communities to waste that piles up in plants from the US to Australia, China’s ban on accepting the world’s used plastic has thrown recycling efforts into turmoil.
For many years, China took the bulk of scrap plastic from around the world, processing much of it into a higher quality material that could be used by manufacturers.
But, at the start of 2018, it closed its doors to almost all foreign plastic waste, as well as many other recyclables, in an effort to protect its environment and air quality, leaving developed nations struggling to find places to send their waste.
“It was like an earthquake,” Arnaud Brunet, director general of Brussels-based industry group The Bureau of International Recycling, said.
“China was the biggest market for recyclables. It created a major shock in the global market.”
Instead, plastic was redirected in huge quantities to Southeast Asia, where Chinese recyclers have shifted.

With a large Chinese-speaking minority, Malaysia was a top choice for Chinese recyclers looking to relocate, and official data showed plastic imports tripled from 2016 levels to 870,000 tonnes last year.

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In the small town of Jenjarom, close to Kuala Lumpur, plastic processing plants appeared in large numbers, pumping out noxious fumes around the clock.

Huge mounds of plastic waste, dumped in the open, piled up as recyclers struggled to cope with the influx of packaging from everyday goods, such as foods and laundry detergents, from as far afield as Germany, the US, and Brazil.

Residents soon noticed the acrid stench over the town – the kind of odour that is usual in processing plastic, but environmental campaigners believed some of the fumes also came from the incineration of plastic waste that was too low quality to recycle.

“People were attacked by toxic fumes, waking them up at night. Many were coughing a lot,” resident Pua Lay Peng said.

“I could not sleep, I could not rest, I always felt fatigued,” the 47-year-old added.

Representatives of an environmentalist NGO inspect an abandoned plastic waste factory in Jenjarom, outside Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Photo: AFP
Representatives of an environmentalist NGO inspect an abandoned plastic waste factory in Jenjarom, outside Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Photo: AFP

Pua and other community members began investigating and, by mid-2018, had located about 40 processing plants, many of which appeared to be operating without proper permits.

Initial complaints to authorities went nowhere but they kept up pressure, and eventually the government took action. Authorities started closing down illegal factories in Jenjarom, and announced a nationwide temporary freeze on plastic import permits.

Thirty-three factories were closed down, although activists believed many had quietly moved elsewhere in the country. Residents said air quality had improved but some plastic dumps remained.

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In Australia, Europe and the US, many of those collecting plastic and other recyclables were left scrambling to find new places to send it.

They faced higher costs to have it processed by recyclers at home and in some cases resorted to sending it to landfill sites as the scrap piled up so quickly.

“Twelve months on, we are still feeling the effects but we have not moved to the solutions yet,” said Garth Lamb, president of industry body Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia.

Some have been quicker to adapt to the new environment, such as some local authority-run centres that collect recyclables in Adelaide, South Australia.

The centres used to send nearly everything – ranging from plastic to paper and glass – to China but now 80 per cent is processed by local companies, with most of the rest shipped to India.

Rubbish is sifted and sorted at Northern Adelaide Waste Management Authority's recycling site at Edinburgh, a northern suburb of the city of Adelaide. Photo: AFP
Rubbish is sifted and sorted at Northern Adelaide Waste Management Authority’s recycling site at Edinburgh, a northern suburb of the city of Adelaide. Photo: AFP

“We moved quickly and looked to domestic markets,” Adam Faulkner, chief executive of the Northern Adelaide Waste Management Authority, said.

“We’ve found that by supporting local manufacturers, we’ve been able to get back to pre-China ban prices.”

In mainland China, imports of plastic waste dropped from 600,000 tonnes per month in 2016 to about 30,000 a month in 2018, according to data cited in a recent report from Greenpeace and environmental NGO Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives.

Once bustling centres of recycling were abandoned as firms shifted to Southeast Asia.

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On a visit to the southern town of Xingtan last year, Chen Liwen, founder of environmental NGO China Zero Waste Alliance, found the recycling industry had disappeared.
“The plastic recyclers were gone – there were ‘for rent’ signs plastered on factory doors and even recruitment signs calling for experienced recyclers to move to Vietnam,” she said.
Southeast Asian nations affected early by the China ban – as well as Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam were hit hard – have taken steps to limit plastic imports, but the waste has simply been redirected to other countries without restrictions, such as Indonesia and Turkey, the Greenpeace report said.
With only an estimated nine per cent of plastics ever produced recycled, campaigners said the only long-term solution to the plastic waste crisis was for companies to make less and consumers to use less.
Greenpeace campaigner Kate Lin sa