Posts tagged ‘North Korea’

26/08/2016

A horror confronted | The Economist

HUANG YANLAI was 74 when he first raped 11-year-old Xiao Yu.

He threatened her with a bamboo-harvesting knife while she was out gathering snails in the fields for her grandmother in Nan village, Guangxi province, in China’s south-west. Over the following two years, Xiao Yu (a nickname meaning Light Rain) was raped more than 50 times, her hands tied and a cloth stuffed in her mouth. She was a left-behind child, entrusted to relatives while her parents worked in distant cities. Her father returned home once a year. Told that his daughter was in trouble, he asked her what was wrong but she was too frightened to tell him. So he beat her up.

Her abusers bribed her to keep quiet, giving her about 10 yuan (about $1.50) each time they raped her, threatening that “if this gets out, it will be you who loses face, not us.” They were right. When Xiao Yu finally confided to her grandmother and went to the police, the villagers called her a prostitute and drove her out of town.

Xiao Yu’s story came to national attention after it was reported by state media. At the end of May it formed part of a study released by the Girls’ Protection Foundation, a charity in Beijing founded to increase awareness of child sexual abuse, a crime officials preferred not to discuss openly until recently. The study said there had been 968 cases of sexual abuse of children reported in the media between 2013 and 2015, involving 1,790 victims. Wang Dawei of the People’s Public Security University said that, for every case that was reported, at least seven were not. That would imply China had 12,000 victims of child sexual abuse during that period. “I have never seen this many child sexual-assault cases, ever,” ran one online reaction. “Why is it such things were hardly heard of five years ago,” asked another, “and now seem all over the media?”

China is no exception; it is no longer taboo to discuss the problem. In 2015 Fang Xiangming of China Agricultural University, in a report for the World Health Organisation (WHO), estimated, using local studies, that 9.5% of Chinese girls and 8% of boys had suffered some form of sexual abuse by adults, ranging from unwanted contact to rape. For boys the rate is as high as the global norm, for girls it is slightly less so. Because of the country’s size, however, the absolute numbers are staggering. Perhaps 25m people under 18 are victims of abuse.Chinese pride themselves on the protectiveness of their families. That children suffer even an average level of abuse is a surprise to many. But, as everywhere, children hide their experience. In 2014 Lijia Zhang, a journalist, wrote a first-hand account in the New York Times of sexual abuse at her school in the city of Nanjing in the 1970s. She said it never occurred to her and other victims to report the teacher. “We didn’t even know the term sexual abuse.” Even in Hong Kong, where sex is more openly discussed, a study of university students found that 60% of male victims and 68% of female ones surveyed since 2002 had not told anyone about their abuse. These rates of non-disclosure are considerably higher than in the West. Mr Fang, the author of the study for the WHO, says that if Chinese girls were more open, then the true rate of female sexual abuse might turn out to be as high as elsewhere, just as it is for boys.

In any country, child sexual abuse is hard to measure. China has never conducted a nationwide survey, though it is talking about holding one in the next couple of years. There are many provincial or citywide studies. But as in other countries, researchers use different measures and standards. And there are no studies of abuse over time, so it is hard to detect trends. Even so, there are reasons to believe that children are at growing risk.

First, China has huge numbers of “left-behind” children, like Xiao Yu. According to the All-China Women’s Federation, an official body, and UNICEF, the UN agency for children, 61m people below the age of 17 have been left in rural areas while one or both parents migrate for work. Over 30m boys and girls, some as young as four, live in state boarding schools in villages, far from parents and often away from grandparents or guardians. (A growing number of rural children whose parents are still at home have to board, because of the closure of many small schools in the countryside as village populations shrink.) Another 36m children have migrated with their families to cities, but their parents are often too busy to look after them properly.

Time for new thinking

About 10m left-behind children see their parents only once a year and otherwise rely on the occasional phone call. “Every time my mother called, she would tell me to study hard and listen to my teachers,” said one victim of sexual assault by a mathematics teacher at a school in You county, in the central province of Hunan. “I could not bring myself to tell her over the phone what was happening.”

How much abuse is inflicted on left-behind children is not known. Researchers complain that schools with large numbers of them often refuse to allow sexual-abuse surveys. But given their vulnerability, left-behind children are likely to be victims of such abuse more frequently—possibly much more so—than average.

Another risk factor is a mixture of ignorance, shame and legal uncertainty that makes it very difficult for children to defend themselves. Fei Yunxia works for the Girls’ Protection Foundation, the NGO that released the recent study of abuse cases. She travels to schools, giving sex-education classes. “No one tells these students about their bodies or how to protect themselves from harm,” she told Xinhua, a government news agency. Sex education in China is rare and never touches on abuse. The NGO says that 40% of 4,700 secondary-school pupils polled in 2015, when asked what was meant by their “private parts”, said they did not know. When cases are reported to the authorities, little is done, either because of legal loopholes, or because officials refuse to recognise the problem, or because they cover up for colleagues.

It does not help that China’s statute of limitations is only two years. Wang Yi of Renmin University says this is too short for cases involving child sexual abuse: victims often remain silent for years. There is no national register of sex offenders, though Cixi, a city in Zhejiang province, aroused controversy in June when it said it would publish “personal information” about major sex criminals after their release to let the public monitor them (some commentators worried about an invasion of privacy).

The lack of well-developed sex-crime laws means victims are often failed by the justice system. In Liaoning province eight school girls aged between 12 and 17 were kidnapped, stripped, beaten, and forced to watch and wait their turn while men who had paid $270 per visit raped them repeatedly in hotel rooms. The men were charged with having “sex with under-aged prostitutes”, a charge that shamed the victims into silence. The law that allowed child-rape victims to be classified as prostitutes was scrapped in 2015. But a women’s legal-counselling centre in Beijing, which had led a campaign against it, was itself closed earlier this year as part of a crackdown on civil society launched by China’s president, Xi Jinping. No wonder that, as a lawyer in the You county case put it, “silence is the preferred solution.”

A shift in moral assumptions about sex presents another challenge. China is in the middle of a sexual revolution. Sex before marriage is more common. The age of first sexual experience is dropping. Most researchers into child abuse think there may be a link between such changes and sexual violence against children, if only because the revolution in mores seems to go hand in hand with changes to the traditional child-rearing system that, through intense surveillance, may limit abuse.

Ye Haiyan, challenging abuse

When a country confronts the problem of child abuse it typically goes through three stages, argues David Finkelhor of the University of New Hampshire. First the public and media become alert to the problem. This is happening. With the help of social media, and thanks to a greater willingness to speak out on social matters, campaigners have begun to organise. Ye Haiyan (pictured), known online as “Hooligan Sparrow”, helped arouse public awareness with her protests in 2013 against the rape of six girls aged between 11 and 14 by their school principal. In the next stage the government becomes concerned and starts to tighten laws. Then the police, social workers and public prosecutors begin to deal with problems on the ground. China is moving into this third stage.

Make them safer

Since early this decade, prosecutors and police have been spelling out how cases of abuse should be handled, from the collection of evidence to support for victims and procedures for separating a child from his or her parents. At the end of 2015 China adopted its first domestic-violence law. It says that preventing this is the “joint responsibility of the state, society and every family”. All this, says Ron Pouwels, UNICEF’s head of child protection in China, means that “China gets it and is determined to do something about it.”

But much more work is needed. For example, there are very few social workers. The government has set a target of 250,000 properly qualified ones by the end of 2020. But only 30,000 take up such jobs each year. Crucially, Mr Xi needs to reverse his campaign against civil society and his efforts to stifle media debate. Further improving public awareness of the problem will need the help of NGOs and a freer press (free, for example, to point out that abusers are often people in authority—Ms Ye, the activist, was harassed by officials for trying to do so). Over the past 30 years, China has enhanced the life prospects of millions of children by providing them with better education and health care. Now it is time to protect them from sexual violence, too.

Source: A horror confronted | The Economist

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02/08/2016

India to impose temporary anti-dumping duty on some steel products | Reuters

An Indian government body has recommended provisional anti-dumping duty on imports of hot-rolled steel products, a government statement said on Tuesday, to reduce overseas purchases of the alloy and shield local mills.

The anti-dumping duty will come into effect after New Delhi formally notifies the tax.

The Directorate General of Anti Dumping recommended the duties on steel products from China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, Brazil and Indonesia, the statement said.Indian steelmakers such as the Steel Authority of India (SAIL.NS) , JSW Steel (JSTL.NS) and Tata Steel (TISC.NS) had lobbied for protectionist measures to prevent cheap overseas purchases that were undercutting local mills and squeezing margins.

Source: India to impose temporary anti-dumping duty on some steel products | Reuters

29/07/2016

China Steels Its Resolve, But ‘Zombies’ Abound – China Real Time Report – WSJ

China’s steel industry is a test case for the nation’s ability to restructure overbuilt parts of the economy, and so far it’s not going very well.

Seven months into 2016, China has cut just 30% of the 45 million tons of steel capacity it has pledged to pare this year. And a Renmin University study found that more than half of China’s steel companies are “zombies.

”They define zombie firms as companies that have received below-market interest rates for two years running — a sign that they are being artificially propped up by their local governments or other government financing. Essentially, they are dependent on cheap financing to stay alive.Steel firms led the list, with 51.4% zombies in the sector, followed by the property sector, with 44.5% zombies and construction with 31.2%.

Renmin economists said local governments long nurtured sectors such as steel with the central government’s blessing. Now that the pressure is on to scale back, they tend to resist central government calls for cuts, given the impact on jobs, local economic growth and officials’ promotions, economists say.

An indication of that resistance is seen in recent data. Despite calls from Prime Minister Li Keqiang on down to turn off blast furnaces and shutter steel production lines, the industry posted record daily crude steel production in June, driven by easy money policies and a speculation-fueled upturn in the property market — which is itself suffering from overcapacity. Industry Vice Minister Fei Feng told reporters this week he didn’t expect a recent rebound in steel prices to last.

“For the purpose of political performance and maintaining stability, local governments continued to give blood to those zombie firms in various forms that were on the brink of bankruptcy,” the Renmin report said, adding that governments should interfere less in how companies operate and accelerate reform of state companies.

Officials have blamed this year’s slow progress on capacity trim on the lengthy negotiations required to allocate those cuts among China’s 28 provincial governments.

China, which accounts for half of global steel production, remains confident it will fulfill capacity cut targets for 2016, industry Vice Minister Feng told reporters, adding that the reductions so far this year are in line with expectations.

In all, China has vowed to cut up to 150 million tons of extraneous steel production over the next five years. Even that goal targets only 10% of the nation’s excess steel capacity, which is currently around 30%, according to industry analysts. This comes as rising exports fuel tension with overseas companies and labor groups alleging that China is selling steel at prices below its cost of production.

Beijing’s counter argument is a bit of a circular one: The problem isn’t that China is making too much steel, but that global demand is inadequate.

A disproportionate number of steelmakers are state-owned enterprises, a group that accounts for some 55% of China’s corporate debt but only produces 22% of economic output, according to International Monetary Fund data. China’s corporate debt hit approximately 145% of gross domestic product in 2015, up from less than 100% in 2007, according to the International Monetary Fund, a level it characterized as “high by any measure.

”Across all sectors, zombie firms make up 7.5% of the 800,000 industrial companies between 2005 and 2013 that Renmin studied, down from a peak of about 30% in 2000 shortly before China embarked on its last serious reform of the state sector. President Xi Jinping has called for state companies to remain a core part of China’s economy.

As companies age, they are increasingly likely to become zombies. About 30% of firms founded more than three decades ago qualify as zombie firms, according to Renmin’s research, compared with just 3% among firms with less than five years’ history.

Source: China Steels Its Resolve, But ‘Zombies’ Abound – China Real Time Report – WSJ

01/07/2016

Our bulldozers, our rules | The Economist

THE first revival of the Silk Road—a vast and ancient network of trade routes linking China’s merchants with those of Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe—took place in the seventh century, after war had made it unusable for hundreds of years. Xi Jinping, China’s president, looks back on that era as a golden age, a time of Pax Sinica, when Chinese luxuries were coveted across the globe and the Silk Road was a conduit for diplomacy and economic expansion. The term itself was coined by a German geographer in the 19th century, but China has adopted it with relish. Mr Xi wants a revival of the Silk Road and the glory that went with it.

This time cranes and construction crews are replacing caravans and camels. In April a Chinese shipping company, Cosco, took a 67% stake in Greece’s second-largest port, Piraeus, from which Chinese firms are building a high-speed rail network linking the city to Hungary and eventually Germany. In July work is due to start on the third stage of a Chinese-designed nuclear reactor in Pakistan, where China recently announced it would finance a big new highway and put $2 billion into a coal mine in the Thar desert. In the first five months of this year, more than half of China’s contracts overseas were signed with nations along the Silk Road—a first in the country’s modern history.

Politicians have been almost as busy in the builders’ wake. In June Mr Xi visited Serbia and Poland, scattering projects along the way, before heading to Uzbekistan. Last week Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, made a brief visit to Beijing; he, Mr Xi and Mongolia’s leader promised to link their infrastructure plans with the new Silk Road. At the time, finance ministers from almost 60 countries were holding the first annual meeting in Beijing of an institution set up to finance some of these projects, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Like a steam train pulling noisily out of a station, China’s biggest foreign-economic policy is slowly gathering speed.

Chinese officials call that policy “One Belt, One Road”, though they often eviscerate its exotic appeal to foreigners by using the unlovely acronym OBOR. Confusingly, the road refers to ancient maritime routes between China and Europe, while the belt describes the Silk Road’s better-known trails overland (see map).

OBOR puzzles many Western policymakers because it is amorphous—it has no official list of member countries, though the rough count is 60—and because most of the projects that sport the label would probably have been built anyway. But OBOR matters for three big reasons.

First, the projects are vast. Official figures say there are 900 deals under way, worth $890 billion, such as a gas pipeline from the Bay of Bengal through Myanmar to south-west China and a rail link between Beijing and Duisburg, a transport hub in Germany. China says it will invest a cumulative $4 trillion in OBOR countries, though it does not say by when. Its officials tetchily reject comparison with the Marshall Plan which, they say, was a means of rewarding America’s friends and excluding its enemies after the second world war. OBOR, they boast, is open to all. But, for what it is worth, the Marshall Plan amounted to $130 billion in current dollars.

Next, OBOR matters because it is important to Mr Xi. In 2014 the foreign minister, Wang Yi, singled out OBOR as the most important feature of the president’s foreign policy. Mr Xi’s chief foreign adviser, Yang Jiechi, has tied OBOR to China’s much-touted aims of becoming a “moderately well-off society” by 2020 and a “strong, prosperous” one by mid-century.

Mr Xi seems to see the new Silk Road as a way of extending China’s commercial tentacles and soft power. It also plays a role in his broader foreign-policy thinking. The president has endorsed his predecessors’ view that China faces a “period of strategic opportunity” up to 2020, meaning it can take advantage of a mostly benign security environment to achieve its aim of strengthening its global power without causing conflict. OBOR, officials believe, is a good way of packaging such a strategy. It also fits with Mr Xi’s “Chinese dream” of recreating a great past. It is not too much to say that he expects to be judged as a leader partly on how well he fulfils OBOR’s goals.

Third, OBOR matters because it is a challenge to the United States and its traditional way of thinking about world trade. In that view, there are two main trading blocs, the trans-Atlantic one and the trans-Pacific one, with Europe in the first, Asia in the second and America the focal point of each. Two proposed regional trade deals, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, embody this approach. But OBOR treats Asia and Europe as a single space, and China, not the United States, is its focal point.

Source: Our bulldozers, our rules | The Economist

18/03/2016

Deep in a pit | The Economist

COMMUNIST Party give us back our money”, “We want to live, we need to eat!” Such were the slogans daubed on banners that were displayed on March 12th during a protest by thousands of coal miners in the dingy streets of Shuangyashan, a city in Heilongjiang province near the border with Russia.

The demonstrators gathered outside the headquarters of Longmay, the largest mining company in the north-east and Heilongjiang’s biggest state-owned enterprise (SOE). They demanded wages which they said they had not received for at least two months. Some protesters blocked railway lines; others scuffled with police wearing riot gear. Internet censors deleted pictures of the unrest (such as the one shown) as they spread across social media.

The protest was one of the biggest by workers at an SOE for many years. It was an indication of the problems that China’s government will probably face as it seeks to cut excess capacity among SOEs like Longmay and reduce their enormous losses. In February the labour minister, Yin Weimin, said that 1.3m coal workers and 500,000 steel workers could lose their jobs over the next five years.

Other estimates say 3m-5m people may be thrown out of work in these industries as well as in aluminium production and glassmaking. That is far fewer than the tens of millions who lost their jobs during SOE restructuring in the late 1990s. But the economies of some cities, including Shuangyashan, are driven by a handful of large SOEs. In these, downsizing will be traumatic and possibly turbulent.

Labour unrest is rising everywhere as economic growth slows (see chart). Many firms, like Longmay, are reacting to financial distress by paying wages late or not at all. According to China Labour Bulletin, a Hong Kong-based NGO, there were 2,700 strikes last year, twice the number in 2014. In the two months leading up to China’s lunar new-year holiday in early February, there were over 1,000 strikes and protests, 90% of them related to the non-payment of wages. Three days after the protest in Shuangyashan, an almost equally large one began at Tonghua Steel in neighbouring Jilin province, also over wage arrears.

In Shuangyashan (its name, meaning Double Duck Mountains, refers to the shape of two nearby peaks), the authorities have tried to soothe the protesters by giving them overdue pay. Some mine workers say they have now begun receiving their salaries for January, and that they have been assured their pay packets for February will be coming soon. But the government remains nervous of further unrest. On March 15th police were still ubiquitous, on the streets of Shuangyashan as well as outside a nearby mine. In the city centre, a row of women who said the men in their families all worked in mines sat holding placards offering their services as cleaners or house painters. “We have no money to eat. What do they expect us to do?” said one woman angrily before being told by police to stop talking. A man who identified himself as a government official followed your correspondent everywhere.

The protests in Shuangyashan were particularly embarrassing for the party, occurring as they did during the 12-day annual session of China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), which ended on March 16th. Every year during the NPC session, officials try even more strenuously than usual to prevent street unrest, lest it tarnish the image of political unity and national prosperity that they want the NPC to project (see article). Party bosses in Heilongjiang will get their knuckles rapped by leaders in Beijing for failing to anticipate this outbreak, which followed months of grumbling among Longmay’s workers about lay-offs and overdue pay. In September, the company said it would shed 100,000 of its 240,000 staff.

Source: Deep in a pit | The Economist

16/02/2016

First train from China to Iran stimulates Silk Road revival – Xinhua | English.news.cn

First cargo train from China to Iran arrived in Tehran on Monday, indicating a milestone in reviving the “Silk Road,” which has opened a new chapter of win-win cooperation between China and Iran.

English: the Silk Road in Central Asia

English: the Silk Road in Central Asia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

silk road

The train, also referred to as Silk Road train, has passed through Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to Iran, travelling a distance of 10,399 kilometers. It had left Yiwu city in east China’s Zhejiang Province on January 28.

This train was carrying dozens of cargo containers, according to the deputy of Iran’s Road and Urbanism Minister, Mohsen Pour-Aqaei, who made a welcome speech after the arrival of the cargo train at Tehran Train Station on Monday.

As known to all, ancient Silk Road trade route had served as an important bridge for East-West trade and brought a close link between the Chinese and Persian civilizations.

The “Belt and Road” initiative was raised by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, which refers to the New Silk Road Economic Belt, linking China with Europe through Central and Western Asia, and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, connecting China with Southeast Asian countries, Africa and Europe.

“To revive the Silk Road Economic Belt, the launch of the train is an important move, since about 700 kilometers of trip has been done per day,” said Pour-Aqaei, who was present at the welcome ceremony of the train in Tehran’s Railway Station.

“Compared to the sea voyage of the cargo ships from China’s Shanghai city to Iran’s Bandar Abbas port city, the travel time of the train was 30 days shorter,” he said.

Pour-Aqaei, also the Managing Director of Iran’s Railway Company, added that according to the plan, there would be one such a trip from China to Iran every month.

The travel of cargo train from China to Iran is part of a Chinese initiative to revive the ancient Silk Road used by the traders to commute between Europe and East Asia.

Tehran will not be the final destination of these kinds of trains from China, the Iranian deputy minister said, adding that in the future, the train will reach Europe.

This will benefit Iran as the transit course for the cargo trains from the east Asia to Europe, he said.

Chinese ambassador to Iran Pang Sen told Xinhua that as one of the cooperation projects after Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Iran, the cargo train is playing a important role to promote construction of the “Belt and Road” initiative.

Meanwhile, the railway line from Yiwu to Tehran provides the two countries an express and efficient cargo trade transportation method, Pang said, adding that the countries along the railway line will furthur upgrade rail technology with the aim to make its transportation ability faster and better.

Source: First train from China to Iran stimulates Silk Road revival – Xinhua | English.news.cn

08/02/2016

Gong Xi Fa Cai! What to expect in China’s Year of the Monkey – SCMP

The Year of the Monkey is expected to be another turbulent year for the world’s second largest economy. Here, SCMP reporters gaze into their crystal balls for what might lie ahead.

An installation celebrates the Year of the Monkey at Ditan Park in Beijing. Photo: EPA

POLITICS: Political jockeying and more crackdowns

The Communist Party will be focused on preparations for a new leadership team, to be unveiled at the 19th Party Congress next year. Apart from President Xi Jinping (習近平) and Premier Li Keqiang (李克強), the rest of the Politburo Standing Committee will have reached retirement age. The new appointments will be keenly observed for clues as to who Xi intends to succeed him.

Two of Xi’s signature campaigns – the drives against corruption and in favour of frugality in public life – are likely to continue to reshape the nation.

– Cary Huang

DIPLOMACY: Conflicts and tensions to escalate

Following Xi’s maiden presidential visit to the Middle East, Beijing is expected to increase its role as a broker in the region’s conflicts. Beijing has already hosted representatives from Syria and Afghanistan for talks. But other than calling for dialogue, China’s options are limited, partly because it does not want to be seen as interfering in the internal affairs of other nations.

With the Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank having just started operations, China is expected to boost its economic diplomacy by funding infrastructure projects overseas.

Tensions in the South China Sea are also expected to rise, as China is likely to continue building structures in the disputed waters. How the United States and China handle the issue – especially the Pentagon’s deployment of warships within 12 nautical miles of Chinese-controlled islands – will be the biggest concern.

– Teddy Ng

DEFENCE: Band(s) of Brothers?

The top priority of the military will be to rebuild morale and its integrity following its restructuring into five theatre commands. Xi set the tone this month by visiting Jinggangshan, the cradle of the communist revolution in China. The Eastern Theatre Command’s land force quickly followed his lead and visited Gutian in Fujian (福建) province, where the Red Army pledged obedience to the party in 1929, and saluted the party flag. Other commands are expected to make similar displays of fidelity.

It will be a bumpy road: the old ways of managing operations, carrying out orders through personal connections and using favoured contractors, has been upended. Xi wants to turn the PLA into a fighting force that meets international standards, with all the efficiencies and accountability that entails.

– Minnie Chan

ECONOMY: Pandora’s Box to open?

There’s actually little disagreement between billionaire investor George Soros and Beijing decision-makers over China’s economic prospects in 2016 – both agree growth will be lower in 2016 than that of 2015. Where they disagree is on how much and how quickly.

One thing is for sure, China will never admit an economic “hard-landing”, though investors may find plenty of evidence for one – from factory closures to rising unemployment and financial strains.

– Zhou Xin

UNEMPLOYMENT: What’s the real picture?

Of all of China’s official economic indicators, the registered urban jobless rate is possibly the least reliable. The rate, released quarterly, has barely ever moved from 4.1 per cent in recent years, regardless of the economic cycle. Another jobless rate compiled by the statistics agency, which is increasingly being cited by the premier, claims a level of about 5 per cent.

Neither of these official rates are likely to change much throughout 2016.

– Zhou Xin

A-shares: Beware the bear!

The mainland’s stock market, after witnessing a sharp fall at the beginning of 2016, is expected to continue a bear run in the Year of Monkey amid a crisis of confidence.

A depreciating yuan, the imminent launch of the new initial public offering (IPO) mechanism and a bleak outlook for corporate earnings are set to exacerbate weak sentiment with millions of retail investors suffering paper losses following a market rout last year.

Local investors are increasingly betting on a further downturn in the A-share market.

Corporate earnings are likely to stay flat in 2016 despite Beijing’s increased efforts to navigate a transition to a consumer-led growth.

– Daniel Ren

Consumption: Bittersweet for retailers

Online stores are continuing to take business from their brick-and-mortar counterparts.

While overall consumption growth is expected to further slow in 2016, bringing problems for both sectors, shopping malls and big stores face their own particular woes.

Hypermarkets could see custom slow, but business at smaller formats such as mini-marts and convenience stores should remain stable.

People will continue to spend more on tourism, leisure, food and health-related products.

Domestic brands will continue to gain ground on foreign ones.

Women will continue to take a greater role in driving spending. Consulting firm Mintel found more than half of Chinese mothers control the family budget and that women are more willing to try new products and experiences than men.

– Mandy Zuo

E-commerce: Click, click, click to buy, buy, buy

The personal computer era is over. Mobile-commerce, which enables people to buy everything from anywhere via the internet, is dominating the online sector and this trend shows no sign of stopping.

Retail on WeChat, the most popular social media platform, is expected to grow steadily. The mobile platform is also becoming an important tool of advertising and communication for businesses.

Online to offline (O2O) business will continue to boom as mainlanders show growing interest and loyalty in professional home services such as home cleaning and massage.

With growing demand from mainland consumers for prime goods overseas, fiercer competition is expected in cross-border business. Internet giants, entrepreneurs and small businesses will flock to the sector, which the Ministry of Commerce projects will grow an average 30 per cent in the next few years.

– Mandy Zuo

P2P lending: More closures, collapses and runaway owners

The long-awaited regulations reining in peer-to-peer lending are expected to bring an industry shakeup that will knock out a significant number of players.

Industry data showed the number of P2P lending platforms dropped a second consecutive month to 2,566 at the end of January from 2,595 in December.

The draft rules, released by the China Banking Regulatory Commission at the end of 2015, define P2P lending platforms as internet financing intermediaries and forbid them from selling wealth management and other financial products that attract investors with promises of high returns.

– Kwong Man-ki

Tourism: Slowdown, what slowdown?

Despite the economic slowdown, the depreciation of the yuan and turmoil in the stock markets, Chinese tourists passed a milestone last year – making a record 120 million outbound trips and spending US$104.5 billion to make China the world’s leading source of tourists.

The boom is expected to continue this year, thanks to a relaxation in visa policies in more countries as well as a strong yuan against the euro and yen.

– Laura Zhou

Childbirth: More buns in the oven

The Year of the Monkey is traditionally regarded an auspicious year for giving birth, so it will prove popular with people planning families. Some of those may have delayed their plans from the Year of the Goat, which is decidedly inauspicious.

More of the newborns are likely to be second children, as parents seek to benefit from the new policy allowing all couples to have two children.

– Zhuang Pinghui

URBANISATION: Millions to relocate

Urbanisation will maintain its pace with millions relocating, most of them rural residents.

They will continue to move to cities near rivers, railway lines and coastlines and more of them will be migrating with spouses and children.

The policy of issuing residence permits to migrants and granting urban household registrations to rural residents are helping them to access public services and integrate in urban life.

– Zhuang Pinghui

ENVIRONMENT: More smoggy days?

As the new five-year plan period (2016-2020) begins, cities will need to set targets on how to improve water and air quality. But whether much can be done to reduce smog problems – especially in heavily polluted city clusters near Beijing and Shanghai – depends largely on how determined local governments are to slash overcapacity in heavy industries.

At the end of 2015, Beijing’s persistent smog pushed the city authorities to pledge better management of small-scale coal burning. If other cities follow suit, the move could impact China’s environmental footprint.

– Li Jing

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/1910019/kung-hei-fat-choy-what-expect-chinas-year-monkey

14/12/2015

‘Spice-Girl Diplomacy:’ North Korean Girl Band’s Beijing Shows Abruptly Cancelled – China Real Time Report – WSJ

The Moranbong band’s shows at China’s National Center for the Performing Arts have been cancelled “due to some reasons,” an employee at the venue told China Real Time Saturday night.

A person who had a ticket to one of the band’s invitation-only shows confirmed that he received a cancellation notice late Saturday afternoon. Short hair, glittery miniskirts, electronic pop music and perhaps even the theme song from the 1976 Hollywood hit “Rocky” were expected to grace the stage of Beijing’s top music hall Saturday night as the Moranbong band was set to kick off three days of shows in the Chinese capital.

The group — which was accompanied by an army orchestra, the State Merited Chorus – arrived in Beijing on Thursday and was expected to stay until next Tuesday on what the North Korean official news agency KCNA described as a “friendship visit” to China.

Zuma Press China’s state-run media lit up with news reports on the group’s visit in recent days, with the official Xinhua News Agency publishing a slideshow showing the women arriving in Beijing dressed in military-style frocks and fur hats. It was unclear Saturday evening whether the band was still in Beijing.

Japan’s Kyodo News Service reported that band members were seen at Beijing’s Capital International Airport and had flown back to Pyongyang late Saturday afternoon. But no updates were forthcoming from Xinhua and other Chinese state-run media. The visit was to have been the group’s first overseas tour — although no one, it seemed, knew how to obtain a ticket.

Neither the concert venue nor China’s foreign ministry was able to provide instructions on buying a ticket when asked by China Real Time this week. A ticket agent at the National Centre for the Performing Arts said before Saturday’s cancellations that the performances were being treated as a national-level foreign affairs activity and that the concert hall was responsible only for providing the venue. “We don’t have a single ticket on hand; we even don’t know yet which room will be offered for the performance,” the ticket agent said.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Friday that she had no details on the show or its audience — and had not been invited herself. ”This performance is not organized by the foreign ministry so I have no more information to offer,” she said at a regular briefing. “As for where to buy the tickets, I have no information. I myself have no ticket to the performance.”

Some speculated that the tour was being organized by another official organ, the International Department of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee. Neither that department nor the North Korean Embassy responded to requests for comment. China has long been North Korea’s economic and diplomatic lifeline. Yet the traditional alliance between the two has come under strain in recent years, particularly after Pyongyang conducted its third nuclear test in 2013 and North Korean forces seized a Chinese fishing boat later that year.

Even so, both countries have played up their ties again since this fall when senior Chinese official Liu Yunshan stood alongside Mr. Kim at a military parade in Pyongyang to mark the 70th anniversary of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party. Mr. Liu, who is a member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, also passed along to Mr. Kim a letter from Xi Jinping in which the Chinese president called for closer relations.

Whether Moranbong’s short-lived visit to Beijing was intended to show a further warming of ties between China and North Korea — also known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK — remains open to debate. Asked Friday about the group, Ms. Hua called the tour “a major event showing the friendship between the DPRK and China.” “We believe it contributes to our mutual understanding and the sound and sustainable development of bilateral ties,” she added.

Zhang Yushan, a researcher at the Jilin Social Science Academy who studies North and South Korea, cautioned against reading too much into the visit. “This spice-girl diplomacy doesn’t really mean China and North Korea’s relations really will become warmer,” he said. This week, a top United Nations official called for the Security Council to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court over “gross human rights violations.” China called a vote to stop the meeting, although it failed to halt it. “North Korea was seeking help from China”, Mr. Zhang of the move. “We are both very practical.”

Members of the Moranbong Band are believed to have been selected by Kim Jong Un himself. The group has become the most well-known girl band in North Korea since its debut in 2012. In addition to anthems urging listeners to “support our supreme commander with arms,” Moranbong’s repertoire also includes a surprising number of foreign pieces, including the “Rocky” theme song

Source: ‘Spice-Girl Diplomacy:’ North Korean Girl Band’s Beijing Shows Abruptly Cancelled – China Real Time Report – WSJ

01/11/2015

Japan, China and South Korea ‘restore’ fraught ties – BBC News

The leaders of Japan, China and South Korea say they have “completely restored” trade and security ties, at their first meeting in three years.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang meet for trilateral meeting in Seoul - 1 November

They said in a statement they had agreed to resume regular trilateral meetings, not held since 2012. They also agreed more economic co-operation.

The talks in the South Korean capital Seoul were an attempt to ease ill-feeling fuelled by territorial disputes and historical disagreements. China and South Korea say Japan has not done enough to atone for its troops’ brutality in World War Two.

The BBC’s Stephen Evans in Seoul says the real significance of the talks is that they happened. They were held regularly until three-and-a-half years ago, when they were called off as bad feeling towards Japan intensified. “We shared the view that trilateral cooperation has been completely restored on the occasion of this summit,” South Korean President Park Geun-hye, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a joint statement, quoted by AFP.

Ms Park said the three leaders had agreed to work together to conclude the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a 16-nation free trade area favoured by Beijing. She said they maintained their goal of “denuclearising” North Korea, AFP reported.

Our correspondent says that South Korea and Japan are torn between their allegiance to the US and their need to get on economically with Beijing. Mr Li met Ms Park on Saturday and the two agreed to try to increase trade, particularly through more Korean exports of food to China and co-operation on research into robotics. The two leaders were joined by Mr Abe on Sunday.

Source: Japan, China and South Korea ‘restore’ fraught ties – BBC News

02/04/2015

Pakistan close to buying eight Chinese submarines – FT | Reuters

Pakistan is close to agreeing a multi-billion dollar deal to buy eight submarines from China, the Financial Times reported on Thursday, in what would be one of China’s largest overseas weapons sales.

The decision had been agreed “in principle”, the newspaper said, citing a hearing in the Pakistani parliament‘s defence committee. Pakistani newspaper the Dawn said negotiations with China were at an advanced stage.

Pakistani defence officials could not immediately be reached for comment. China’s Ministry of Defence declined to comment.

A former senior Pakistan navy officer with knowledge of the negotiations told the Financial Times the contract could be worth $4 billion to $5 billion.

It was unclear what type of submarine Pakistan was looking to buy but China has poured resources into developing diesel- and nuclear-powered submarines in recent years.

China and Pakistan call each other “all-weather friends” and their close ties have been underpinned by long-standing wariness of their common neighbour, India, and a desire to hedge against U.S. influence across the region.

President Xi Jinping will travel to Pakistan this month, the government in Islamabad has said. China has said Xi would visit this year but given no timeframe.

China is Pakistan’s top supplier of weapons, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which tracks global arms sales, selling 51 percent of the weapons Islamabad imported in 2010-2014.

China has also surpassed Germany to become the world’s third largest arms exporter, SIPRI said in a report last month. Little is known about China’s arms exports because the country does not publish data on such sales.

via Pakistan close to buying eight Chinese submarines – FT | Reuters.

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