Posts Tagged ‘Beijing’

Vince Cable raises doubts about Brexit ever happening — Plus a final salute to Sir David Tang

September 2, 2017

Image result for Vince Cable, photos

FT Weekend Festival debates life after the EU and political polarisation in a post-truth era

by: Naomi Rovnick There is a growing possibility of a second referendum on Britain leaving the EU as tensions grow within the Conservative and Labour parties about the likelihood of a beneficial Brexit deal being achieved, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable has said.

In a debate at the FT Weekend Festival held at Kenwood House in North London on Saturday, Mr Cable said: “I think there is more than a possibility that Brexit may never happen.

He added: “The balance of probability is still that it does, but there is a strong possibility of it being stopped because tensions within and between major parties are so large, that one or other may want to let the public decide on the facts whether this is something they want to go ahead with.”

Mr Cable, who became leader of the pro-EU Lib Dems at the age of 74, promising voters an “exit from Brexit,” was replying to a point made by pro-Brexit Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan who argued that Brexit would happen, but in a gradual and low-impact way.

Mr Hannan said: “The day after Brexit is going to look very much like the day before. It’s going to be a process. We will still have all the same rules and regulations we’ve assimilated for 44 years, but that’s the day the divergence can begin.”

Mr Hannan added that Britain would not be damaged by losing its access to the EU single market as it could have a “Swiss-style” deal that “keeps the essence of the single market,” despite not being a member. He also argued that leaving the EU would allow Britain to look towards a “more global future,” and strengthen trade links with non-EU economic powers.

Mr Cable, who has a reputation for being one of the most financially literate critics of British governments since 1997, argued there was “a real risk of a train crash” because it had become apparent the UK government was “woefully unprepared” for the Brexit negotiations that started with the EU in June.

The day after Brexit is going to look very much like the day before The Lib Dem leader said that prime minister Theresa May was struggling to prove Britain could strike good trade deals with non-EU economic powers. “We’ve just seen in the last few weeks how absurd this is,” he said.

“The PM has gone off to Japan to negotiate some special trade deal and they have said they would much rather deal with the EU. Mr Cable said that the government had asked India for a special deal on whisky and financial services, and that India had asked for more visas. “To which [Mrs May] said, ‘sorry we can’t, we are trying to keep people out,’ and the Indians said, ‘get on your bike’,” Mr Cable said.


Mr Hannan countered that it was normal for people to feel pessimistic about the future and that Britain had a chance of keeping the advantages of staying in the EU single market in the way Switzerland has. “We are a country of 65m people, an existing [EU] member state, a G7 country.

I can’t believe that we can’t get a similar deal,” he said. In an earlier session at the festival on fake news and social media,

Ms Gibson argued that Donald Trump’s presidential election victory was enabled by the US news audience having split into distinct information consumption spheres. “During an election campaign when the New York Times publishes a piece with maybe 162 examples of Donald Trump being mendacious,” she said, a large part of the non-NYT reading US audience would not have noticed.

“So Breitbart News jumps up and goes ‘Hillary Clinton! Emails!’ and that grabs the attention. That is polarisation.” Mr Barber said that polarisation of information and opinion had begun with the advent of Fox News and other cable news channels in the US, which “has been exacerbated by technology because it can amplify that phenomenon and it is incredibly good at picking out select groups.”

Mr Davis argued that the Facebook audience often knew to be selective about what they believed on the social platform, which has been used by some sites to spread fake news.

Ms Gibson countered: “I don’t believe people are always genuinely as sophisticated as that,” adding that some younger readers “do not know brands” enough to differentiate between trusted news brands and newer sites that may not be publishing truthful reports. An FT reader asked whether think tanks whose funding was not transparent were exacerbating the fake news phenomenon.

Ms Gibson said that when she was deputy editor of the Guardian, she had been taken in by a think-tank with an unknown agenda after NSA whistleblower Edward Snowdon provided the Guardian with top secret documents leading to revelations about surveillance of internet and phone communications. “On the Snowdon story, one [think-tank] said: ‘We want to do a day’s debate on the issues of privacy and national security.’

We took part and we worked with them for a really great seminar, and at the end I realised that the think-tank was funded entirely by [rightwing US billiona0ires] the Koch brothers,” Ms Gibson said. The Kochs “were probably the Guardian’s ideological worst enemies . . . We spent an entire day doing a think-tank with them,” she added.

Vince Cable on Brexit, ballroom dancing and keeping his balance

Financial Times


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David Tang in 2004. Photo by SAMANTHA SIN – AFP – Getty Images

Sir David Tang, who died this week, had been scheduled to speak at the festival. In his place Algy Cluff, a close friend and mentor, shared stories of the vivacious businessman and FT agony uncle.

Mr Cluff, a natural resources entrepreneur and former Grenadier Guardsman who Tang said he had modelled himself on, said he had only discovered by accident how well-connected Tang was.

Mr Cluff said that he hired Tang as an unpaid intern to help with a Chinese project after receiving a series of letters from him in the early 1980s. “I put him on probation for six months working with me, so he joined as my most lowly junior unpaid employee,” Mr Cluff said, adding that “my secretary kept coming in saying: ‘David wants you to have dinner with him’.”

Mr Cluff finally relented and went to a Chinese restaurant where he asked for Mr Tang. “The waiter bowed from the waist and took me down into a private room,” Mr Cluff said.

“And there David was presiding over a huge table where the guests included the Lord Chancellor and the chairman of ICI.”

Mr Cluff recalled how the Lord Chancellor’s wife commented: “How fortunate you are to be working for David.” Mr Cluff added: “I realised I’d met my match and began paying David a salary from then on.” FT House & Home editor Jane Owen also recalled dealing with Tang when his copy was late.

His excuses included “the Queen said you are working me too hard” and “Kate Moss says I need a day off,” she said. Mr Cluff added that during a banquet at China’s Great Hall of the People where the Chinese president and oil minister of the time were present, he told Tang: “You know, David, you’ve found a country that respects and welcomes foreign investment.”

Tang replied: “I wouldn’t be so sure” and Mr Cluff said that, sure enough, six months later he got a $50,000 bill for the banquet. Mr Cluff also remembered how, at a rehearsal for Mr Cluff’s wedding in Hong Kong, “we smelt burning and it turned out David had left his cigar on the alter”. Ms Owen added that Tang had still insisted on his sickbed that he was going to make a planned “goodbye” party on September 6 at the Dorchester, and that it would “only be 500 of my closest friends. I want it to be intimate”. Naomi Rovnick

See also:

Sir David Tang (1954–2017)


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Backlash in Hong Kong over China rail link (Beijing not worried…) — Hong Kong is being swallowed up by China

July 25, 2017


© AFP | The new rail project linking Hong Kong to the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou is one of a number of cross-border infrastructure projects, including a bridge to the mainland and the neighbouring casino enclave Macau

HONG KONG (AFP) – A plan for mainland border staff to be stationed on Hong Kong soil as part of a new rail link to China sparked a backlash Tuesday as concern grows about Beijing’s reach into the city.It is illegal for mainland law enforcers to operate in semi-autonomous Hong Kong under the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law.

But there are already concerns that Chinese operatives are working undercover after the alleged abductions of a city bookseller and a reclusive Chinese businessman.

The rail link plan comes at a time when fears are worsening that Hong Kong’s freedoms are under threat from an ever more assertive Beijing.

The high-speed connection out of the harbourfront West Kowloon station is set to open in 2018, linking to the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou 80 miles (130 km) away and then onto China’s national rail network.

A proposal backed by the Hong Kong government’s top advisory body Tuesday would see mainland border staff control a special immigration zone at the Hong Kong terminus.

There are already numerous transport connections between Hong Kong and the mainland, but Chinese immigration checks are done on the other side of the border.

City leader Carrie Lam insisted the new checkpoint arrangement was not a breach of the Basic Law and was designed to cut travel time.

“The crux of the matter is really to find a means that is legal to support this convenience for the people of Hong Kong,” Lam told reporters.

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Priscilla Leung said such joint immigration areas were common around the world and that Hong Kong would be “leasing” the portion of land at the terminus to China.

“Outside the zone both the officers and everyone else have to obey the laws in Hong Kong,” she told AFP.

But opponents say the new plan is a clear breach of the Basic Law and another sign that Hong Kong is being swallowed up by China.

Veteran lawyer and democracy advocate Martin Lee, who helped draft the Basic Law in the 1980s, said creating an exception within Hong Kong where mainland Chinese laws are enforced would set a “dangerous precedent”.

It would put at risk the semi-autonomous “one country, two systems” set-up guaranteed when Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997, Lee told AFP.

The government wanted to force through the plan to make Hong Kong people “feel closer to Beijing, the sovereign power”, added opposition legislator Claudia Mo.

The plan now needs approval from the city’s legislature, which is weighted towards the pro-China camp.

The rail link is one of a number of cross-border infrastructure projects, including a new bridge to the mainland and the neighbouring casino enclave Macau.

Passengers from Hong Kong could reach Beijing in under 10 hours on the new line, but controversies have plagued the project, with snowballing costs now at HK$84.42 billion ($10 billion).

Beijing Protest Forces Road Closures in China

July 24, 2017

BEIJING — Beijing police shut down part of a major road on Monday as they dealt with a rare protest in the Chinese capital, with demonstrators gathering to complain the government had unfairly accused a company they say helps the poor of pyramid selling.

While there are thousands of protests every year in China, over everything from pollution to corruption, large protests are rare in heavily guarded and affluent Beijing, with the ruling Communist Party valuing stability above all else.

State news agency Xinhua said late last week that police had detained executives from a company called Shanxinhui, accusing them of operating a pyramid scheme and duping people out of money in the name of raising funds to help the poor.

On Monday, investors in the company came to Beijing from all parts of China to complain that Shanxinhui had been dealt a huge injustice and that it had genuinely helped a lot of poor people.

Police blocked off a major intersection in a working class southern Beijing neighborhood, lining up police cars and vans along the road and forming a cordon to prevent people accessing the grounds of a small convention center where some of the protesters had gathered.

Dozens of other investors in the company stood on the roads outside the center, as police kept a wary watch but did not attempt to move them on.

It was not immediately clear how many people were inside the grounds of the center or why they had chosen it as the site for their demonstration.

“They have accused the company of pyramid selling but they did nothing wrong. They only wanted to help poor people. It’s an injustice,” said a man who gave his family name as Zhong and said he was from the far western region of Xinjiang.

Another man, who declined to provide his name but said he was from Hebei province, which partially surrounds Beijing, said all the funds in the company had been frozen.

“We want China’s leaders to come and hear our complaints,” he said.

Beijing police declined immediate comment when reached by telephone.

One man showed a Reuters reporter video he said was taken inside the convention center grounds of police manhandling a protester. It was not possible to independently verify the footage.

The government has repeatedly vowed to crack down on financial crime and fraud.

Last year, Chinese authorities shut down peer-to-peer (P2P) lender Ezubao over an online scam state media said took in some 50 billion yuan ($7.41 billion) from about 900,000 investors.

($1 = 6.7483 yuan)

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)


Pyramid Investigation Has Investors Protesting Near Heart of Beijing

BEIJING — Many hundreds of Chinese investors who paid into what the police have called a pyramid investment scheme took to the streets of Beijing on Monday, not to denounce the business in which some had placed their life savings, but to oppose the government investigation that threatened their earnings.

While demonstrations over losses in investment programs are not uncommon in China, the size and timing of Monday’s protest was. Just miles from Tiananmen Square and months before an important Communist Party congress, the protest seemed aimed at embarrassing the government.

Many of the protesters waved Chinese flags, and some held banners appealing to the president, Xi Jinping, to overturn the crackdown on their investment scheme, called Shanxinhui, and the recent arrest of its founder, Zhang Tianming.

“Today’s protest was self organized…

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China’s Growth Masks Unresolved Debt and Real-Estate Problems

July 18, 2017

Behind strong expansion figures are troubling signs including a heavy reliance on real-estate market

Towers under construction in Guiyang in southwest China's Guizhou Province. The property market, together with construction and home furnishings, now contributes to a third of the country’s overall economy.
Towers under construction in Guiyang in southwest China’s Guizhou Province. The property market, together with construction and home furnishings, now contributes to a third of the country’s overall economy. PHOTO: HU YAN/ZUMA PRESS

July 17, 2017 11:03 a.m. ET

BEIJING—China touted its buoyant economic expansion this year as evidence it can reduce debt without harming growth. But the outlook appears hazier when considering the property market’s outsize role in the economy, jittery consumers and signs that significant deleveraging hasn’t fully set in.

Beijing said domestic demand fueled 6.9% growth in the second quarter, a result that matched the first-quarter growth rate and beat economists’ forecasts. However, economists and analysts say the result has to be measured against a continued reliance on problematic sectors such as real estate and a lack of meaningful progress toward cutting the country’s debt.

Meanwhile, Chinese consumers aren’t spending as fast as their wages rise, suggesting many have become more financially strapped because of high property prices.

The latest data is “a blip amid a growth deceleration,” said China economist Larry Hu at Macquarie Securities in Hong Kong.

Still Addicted?

On a mission to wean itself off debt-fueled growth, China credited domestic demand for a stronger-than-expected second quarter. Yet, lending stayed high and consumption rose at a slower pace than wages.

Source: National Bureau of Statistics (GDP); Wind Info (loans, wages, consumption)

Armed with a more stable yuan and reduced capital outflows, Beijing has been able to tighten credit without causing market panic or affecting headline growth. That effort has forced banks and other financial institutions to cut back on borrowing from each other. But it hasn’t led to significant debt reduction in the economy.

“There hasn’t been too much deleveraging going on,” said Zhu Chaoping, a Shanghai-based economist at UOB Kay Hian.

In June, Chinese banks issued a higher-than-expected 1.54 trillion yuan in new loans, or roughly $227 billion, compared with 1.1 trillion yuan in May. More than a third of that amount went to home lending. Indeed, a resilient property market is the most important driver of China’s growth so far, according to economists including Messrs. Zhu and Hu.

The results mean that in a year that will see a twice-a-decade leadership transition, Beijing will have little problem reaching its full-year growth target of about 6.5%.

But Beijing has to continue to clamp down on credit to shift to a more sustainable growth model, leaders say. If growth slows in the coming months, that clampdown could become more difficult. “We shouldn’t be too optimistic about the economic picture in the second half of the year,” said Sheng Songcheng, a senior adviser at the People’s Bank of China.

Should growth weaken, Mr. Sheng said, the PBOC likely will gradually guide down the short-term interest rates used to price bonds and bank-to-bank loans and ease the liquidity constraints on the country’s financial system to help the economy. That would mark a shift in strategy since late last year, when the PBOC embarked on an untraditional tightening path by pushing up the short-term rates while leaving unchanged the benchmark rates.

Beijing faces a policy dilemma in its battle to tame the property market, which, together with construction and home furnishings, now contributes to a third of the overall economy. It doesn’t want home prices to soar for fear of destabilizing bubbles; on the other hand, it needs to prevent a property crash that could torpedo the economy.

Since late last year, a series of measures intended to curb home buying has helped slow the run-up in home prices in megacities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. Yet those measures have done little to deter potential buyers. Many of them have simply flocked to smaller cities.

Nationwide, property sales jumped 16% from a year earlier in the second quarter, primarily driven by the gains in medium-size and small cities. Property investment continued to accelerate in the first half. Still, there were signs that developers tempered investment toward the end of the period, expecting buyers to scale back amid purchasing restrictions.

In addition, the rising property prices are causing many consumers to tighten their purse strings. In the first six months, wages earned by urban residents increased 6.5%, on average, according to official data. By comparison, their consumption picked up at a slower pace of 5.1%. Property-related expenses represented the second-largest share of consumption after food and alcohol.

The gap indicates the toll that high home prices are taking on consumption as well as growing uncertainty among ordinary Chinese about the economy, economists and labor experts say.

One of them is Wang Jun, a 30-year-old car salesman in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou. Unwilling to be left out of the housing boom, Mr. Wang earlier this year bought a property with a mortgage payment that makes up about 75% of his monthly income. “I have to be frugal,” Mr. Wang said.

Write to Lingling Wei at

Appeared in the July 18, 2017, print edition as ‘China’s Growth Masks Signs of Trouble.’


In China, Xi Jinping’s new mega city Xiongan is expanding underground

June 26, 2017

Geological survey says conditions good at Xiongan to develop shopping and entertainment complexes, plus other infrastructure beneath the surface

By Mandy Zuo
South China Morning Post

Monday, June 26, 2017, 2:32pm

President Xi Jinping’s ambitious scheme to build a new city at Xiongan in northern China will not only change the landscape of the little known area in Hebei province, but also aims to create a new world underground.

Chinese geologists are examining subterranean conditions of Xiong, Rongcheng and Anxin counties, which will become a new district to rival special economic zones such as Shenzhen and Pudong in Shanghai, in the hope of building structures under the ground as well as above, state media reported.

The China Geological Survey, a research agency under the Ministry of Land and Resources, has found the area is “very suitable for underground development” in its preliminary surveys, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

A tentative plan suggested by the agency divided the subterranean areas to be developed into two sections: up to 26 metres underground and below 40 metres, the report said.

The higher sections will be used for storage, shopping and entertainment complexes, parking and civil defence, while lower sections will carry pipes and transportation.

Deeper areas will also carry water storage areas, important infrastructure and special projects including defence structures.

The report did not give an estimate for the amount of land that might be developed underground.

China announced plans in April to build a brand new city in the three counties – about 100 km south of Beijing – to absorb some of the capital’s institutions, schools, laboratories and corporate head offices.

President Xi, the mastermind of the scheme, wants to ease Beijing’s heavy pollution and population by relocating “some city functions” of the capital to neighbouring Hebei and Tianjin.

 President Xi Jinping (centre) discussing the scheme in Hebei province in February. Photo: Xinhua

Of the over 1,400 square kilometres of land the geological survey has investigated so far, more than 96 per cent is free from heavy metal pollution and about 13 per cent is in good shape for farming, the agency said.

There is “slight pollution” in underground water, with 98 per cent from deep layers and 72 per cent from shallow strata qualified as fit to drink after treatment.

The three counties, which cover over 1,500 square kilometres, have not been hit by any earthquake above magnitude 6, classified as strong, in a thousand years, the survey found.

Land subsidence, a serious issue in northern China, is less serious in the area, geologists said.

Rich geothermal resources in the area will also help the city become greener.

Using existing technologies geothermal resources equivalent to 2.2 million tonnes of coal could be exploited each year, enough to provide heating for about 40 million square metres of buildings, according to the article.

Dozens of state-owned enterprises, including the country’s aircraft carrier builder, have pledged to support Xi’s plan and move some operations to the new city.

The most immediate consequence of the announcement to create the Xiongan New Area was that speculators moved in, with prices of property or locally related company stocks soaring.


Hidden Away for 28 Years, Tiananmen Protest Pictures See Light of Day

June 1, 2017
Protesters aboard a truck near Tiananmen Square in Beijing in May 1989. One appears to be in a police uniform. It was not unusual then for police officers to join the demonstrators.Credit David Chen

For nearly 28 years, David Chen hid away a treasure chest of black-and-white photographs that he took of the protest movement that erupted at Tiananmen Square in Beijing in the spring of 1989.

The Chinese government declared martial law in urban Beijing on May 20, and later military helicopters dropped leaflets over Tiananmen Square warning protesters to leave. CreditDavid Chen

When students occupied the square to demand democracy and an end to graft, Mr. Chen was a 25-year-old student at Dalian Maritime College in northeastern China. He became a supporter of the protests from afar, and he helped to organize pro-democracy demonstrations in Dalian, a port city.

Protest leaders addressing the crowd over a loudspeaker. CreditDavid Chen

But like many provincial sympathizers of the swelling movement, Mr. Chen was not content to stay put. He joined a tide of students who crammed onto trains to Beijing and camped on Tiananmen Square, Mr. Chen said in an interview from San Francisco, where he now lives and runs restaurants. (He asked to use his English personal name to protect his family in China from possible recriminations.)


During the protests, students commandeered public buses to carry people and supplies and to spread their message. CreditDavid Chen

But unlike most others on the square, Mr. Chen came with a camera, a luxury in China back then. An uncle from Taiwan had given him a Japanese-made Yashica, and before leaving for Beijing, Mr. Chen bought four rolls of film. He took photographs around the square and at other protest sites until his film ran out a week into his 10-day stay.

Marchers in Tiananmen Square denounced the government’s condemnation of the student demonstrators. The banner says, “The charges against the students are baseless.’’ Credit David Chen

Back in Dalian, Mr. Chen developed his black-and-white photographs and glued them onto pieces of cardboard, which he and a few other students held up outside a department store for three days to drum up support and donations for the protesters.

David Chen, then a student at Dalian Maritime College, striking a pose beside heroic revolutionary statues near the entrance to the mausoleum of Mao Zedong in Tiananmen Square. The banner voices support for the students on a hunger strike. CreditDavid Chen

But a week after Mr. Chen left Tiananmen Square, armed troops seized central Beijing in a night of bloodshed starting on June 3 and culminating with the clearing of the square early on June 4. Hundreds of civilians died around the city.

A foreign television crew filming protesters near Tiananmen Square. The world’s news media converged on the square, especially with the visit of the Soviet leader, Mikhail S. Gorbachev, to Beijing in mid-May. CreditDavid Chen

Mr. Chen hid his film negatives with his parents. The rolls lay untouched for more than two decades, until Mr. Chen converted them into digital images that he took with him when he migrated to the United States in 2012.

Mr. Chen has now decided to share his photographs of the protests.

“Twenty-eight years have passed, the world should know what happened,” he said.

The protests grew to include residents of Beijing, including blue-collar workers. The banner in front of the Gate of Heavenly Peace, or Tiananmen, says “Beijing Workers Autonomous Federation,” the main group of worker protesters. Credit David Chen

China’s Secret Weapon in South Korea Missile Fight: Hackers

April 21, 2017

China denies it is retaliating over the Thaad missile system, but a U.S. cybersecurity firm says they are

This 2015 handout photo from the U.S. Department of Defense shows a terminal High Altitude Area Defense interceptor being test launched on Wake Island in the Pacific Ocean.

This 2015 handout photo from the U.S. Department of Defense shows a terminal High Altitude Area Defense interceptor being test launched on Wake Island in the Pacific Ocean. PHOTO: AFP PHOTO / DOD / BEN LISTERMAN

April 21, 2017 5:20 a.m. ET

Chinese state-backed hackers have recently targeted South Korean entities involved in deploying a U.S. missile-defense system, says an American cybersecurity firm, despite Beijing’s denial of retaliation against Seoul over the issue.

In recent weeks, two cyberespionage groups that the firm linked to Beijing’s military and intelligence agencies have launched a variety of attacks against South Korea’s government, military, defense companies and a big conglomerate, John Hultquist, director of cyberespionage analysis at FireEye Inc., said in an interview.

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The California-based firm, which counts South Korean agencies as clients, including one that oversees internet security, wouldn’t name the targets.

While FireEye and other cybersecurity experts say Chinese hackers have long targeted South Korea, they note a rise in the number and intensity of attacks in the weeks since South Korea said it would deploy Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or Thaad, a sophisticated missile-defense system aimed at defending South Korea from a North Korean missile threat.

China opposes Thaad, saying its radar system can reach deep into its own territory and compromise its security. South Korea and the U.S. say Thaad is purely defensive. The first components of the system arrived in South Korea last month and have been a key issue in the current presidential campaign there.

One of the two hacker groups, which FireEye dubbed Tonto Team, is tied to China’s military and based out of the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang, where North Korean hackers are also known to be active, said Mr. Hultquist, a former senior U.S. intelligence analyst. FireEye believes the other, known as APT10, may be linked to other Chinese military or intelligence units.

China’s Ministry of Defense said this week Beijing has consistently opposed hacking, and that the People’s Liberation Army “has never supported any hacking activity.” China has said it is itself a major hacking victim but has declined to offer specifics.

Mr. Hultquist said the two hacking groups gained access to their targets’ systems by using web-based intrusions, and by inducing people to click on weaponized email attachments or compromised websites. He declined to offer more specific details.


Recent cyberattacks attributed to Chinese state-backed groups.

  • Since February Spear-phishing* and watering hole** attacks were conducted against South Korean government, military and commercial targets connected to a U.S. missile defense system.
  • February, March Attendees of a board meeting at the National Foreign Trade Council were targeted with malware through the U.S. lobby group’s website.
  • Since 2016 Mining, technology, engineering and other companies in Japan, Europe and North America were intruded on through third-party IT service providers.
  • 2014-2015 Hackers penetrated a network of U.S. Office of Personnel Management to steal records connected to millions of government employees and contractors.
  • 2011-2012 South Korean targets, including government, media, military and think tanks were targeted with spear-phishing attacks.
  • *Sending fraudulent emails made to look as if they come from a trusted party in order to trick a target into downloading malicious software.
  • **A strategy in which the attacker guesses or observes which websites a targeted group often uses and infects them with malware to infect the group’s network..
  • Sources: FireEye, Trend Micro, Fidelis, PricewaterhouseCoopers and BAE Systems, WSJ reporting

Mr. Hultquist added that an error in one of the group’s operational security provided FireEye’s analysts with new information about the group’s origins.

South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said last month that its website was targeted in a denial-of-service attack—one in which a flood of hacker-directed computers cripple a website—that originated in China.

A spokesman said that “prompt defensive measures” ensured that the attacks weren’t effective, adding that it was maintaining an “emergency service system” to repel Chinese hackers.

The ministry this week declined to comment further, or to say which cybersecurity firm it had employed or whether he thought the attacks were related to Thaad.

Another cybersecurity company, Russia’s Kaspersky Lab ZAO, said it observed a new wave of attacks on South Korean targets using malicious software that appeared to have been developed by Chinese speakers starting in February.

The attackers used so-called spear-phishing emails armed with malware hidden in documents related to national security, aerospace and other topics of strategic interest, said Park Seong-su, a senior global researcher for Kaspersky. The company typically declines to attribute cyberattacks and said it couldn’t say if the recent ones were related to Thaad.

The two hacking groups with alleged ties to Beijing have been joined by other so-called hacktivists—patriotic Chinese hackers acting independently of the government and using names like the “Panda Intelligence Bureau” and the “Denounce Lotte Group,” Mr. Hultquist said.

South Korea’s Lotte Group has become a particular focus of Chinese ire after the conglomerate approved a land swap this year that allowed the government to deploy a Thaad battery on a company golf course.

Last month, just after the land swap was approved, a Lotte duty-free shopping website was crippled by a denial-of-service attack, said a company spokeswoman, who added that its Chinese website had been disrupted with a virus in February. She declined to comment on its source.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs didn’t respond to questions about the website attacks. The ministry has previously addressed Lotte’s recent troubles in China by saying that the country welcomes foreign companies as long as they abide by Chinese law.

The U.S. has also accused Chinese state-backed hacking groups of breaking into government and commercial networks, though cybersecurity firms say such activity has dropped since the two nations struck a cybersecurity deal in 2015.

The two Chinese hacking groups named by FireEye are suspected of previous cyberattacks.

FireEye linked Tonto Team to an earlier state-backed Chinese hacking campaign, identified by Tokyo-based cybersecurity firm Trend Micro Inc. in 2012, which focused on South Korea’s government, media and military. Trend Micro declined to comment.

Two cybersecurity reports this month accused APT10 of launching a spate of recent attacks around the globe, including on a prominent U.S. trade lobbying group. One of those reports, jointly published by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and British weapons maker BAE Systems, said the Chinese hacker collective has recently grown more sophisticated, using custom-designed malware and accessing its targets’ systems by first hacking into trusted third-party IT service providers.

Because of the new scrutiny from that report, FireEye said in a recent blog post that APT10 was likely to lay low, though in the longer run, it added, “we believe they will return to their large-scale operations, potentially employing new tactics, techniques and procedures.”

Write to Jonathan Cheng at and Josh Chin at



The hype about China’s newest city

April 12, 2017

Faced with overcrowding in Beijing, China plans to build an annex

UNTIL the start of this month, no one had ever heard of Xiongan. Today, it is the most talked-about place in China. When the government announced on April 1st that it would create “Xiongan New Area” as a metropolis from scratch, it immediately set off a frenzy. Housing prices in the zone, about 100km (62 miles) south-west of Beijing, more than tripled overnight before authorities ordered a halt to property transactions. Local hotels were booked up and roads packed with cars as prospective investors flocked to what is still largely farmland. The shares of companies such as local cement-makers and real-estate developers soared in value. State media extolled the promise of the city, touting it as a new chapter in China’s urban development. What is all the fuss about?

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The government’s intention is to make Xiongan an annex of Beijing, to take pressure off the Chinese capital, which is struggling to cope with a population of more than 20m people. Beijing’s traffic jams are horrendous, its subways overloaded and its water supply running low. In recent years planners have encouraged people to move away from the centre, to suburbs and nearby cities. The creation of Xiongan marks an escalation in these efforts: China wants to make it a model city, with a clean environment, fast transport and high-tech industries, to attract millions of people. The hope is that a big slice of Beijing’s “non-capital functions”, from businesses to universities, will move to Xiongan. Initially, it will cover 100 sq km, nearly twice the size of Manhattan. Eventually, the aim is to reach 2,000 sq km, more than twice as big as New York city or Singapore.

There are no blueprints yet and details are hazy, but it is sure to entail a massive amount of investment. The three counties that will be converted into Xiongan are mainly made up of scrubby fields and drab towns (pictured). Analysts at UBS, a bank, reckon that as much as 4trn yuan ($580bn) could be spent on building Xiongan over the next two decades—hence the rally in construction-related shares. But punters might be getting ahead of themselves. Given the size of the Chinese economy, Xiongan will, even in the most bullish assessments, add less than half a percentage point to annual GDP growth while it is being built. And that is if all goes well. The government has pointed to Shenzhen, a southern metropolis, and Pudong, Shanghai’s financial district, as examples of successful urban developments that it hopes to replicate. Yet there are also plenty of new areas—notably, Binhai in Tianjin, just east of Xiongan—that have failed to take root.

One problem that has plagued these urban projects is changes in government leadership. When they lose their sponsors, they often also lose their funding. Xiongan should fare better in this regard. It appears to have strong backing from Xi Jinping, China’s powerful president who is on the cusp of another five-year term. The bigger concern is whether it will actually be a smart investment. Rather than creating a new city, it might be cheaper and more efficient to improve Beijing’s design and infrastructure. More subway lines, denser neighbourhoods and better water conservation are all needed. Upgraded transport links to nearby cities would also help. But China has the political will and the financial muscle to start afresh and build a city from the ground up. Next stop: Xiongan.


Affordable housing a distant dream for ordinary Hongkongers — Will Xiongan New Area in Hebei be good for housing? Probably not.

April 6, 2017

Michael Chugani says residents in city should blame all parties involved, including politicians, tycoons and themselves

By Michael Chugani
South China Morning Post


April 4, 2017

China’s Hebei promises new assault on smog after 2017 spike — “Taking action to shut backward coal-fired power plants”

April 1, 2017


Heavily-polluted Hebei province in northern China will take more action to shut “backward” coal-fired power plants, promote new energy vehicles and relocate more industries, it said on Saturday after a surge in smog levels in January and February.

Hebei, home to six of China’s 10 smoggiest cities in the first two months of 2017, is on the frontline of a three-year “war on pollution”, and has already promised to slash coal consumption and close inefficient industrial plants.

But the province has been accused of pursuing “form over substance” when it comes to fighting pollution.

Despite improvements, Hebei, together with neighboring Beijing and Tianjin, saw concentrations of small breathable particles known as PM2.5 rise 48 percent in the first two months of 2017 after several bouts of persistent smog.

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At a meeting of government officials on Friday, Hebei Communist party chief Zhao Kezhi said the province had now drawn up 18 new “special implementation plans”, but he also called for “patience”, saying there was still a long way to go before Hebei’s problems could be resolved.

Hebei is China’s biggest steelmaking region, and despite cutting capacity, output rose 2.3 percent to 192.6 million tonnes last year, nearly a quarter of the national total.

The steel city of Tangshan saw output rise 6.8 percent to 88.3 million tonnes last year, and it is the target of a tough new inspection campaign aimed at rooting out firms that break rules.

In one of its new plans, Hebei promised to shut or relocate all “backward” power generation capacity in urban areas by 2020.

Hebei, which will host events for the 2022 Winter Olympics, has lagged the rest of the country when it comes to replacing coal, with the share of renewables in its total energy mix less than half the national level last year.

Hebei aims to cut PM2.5 by 10 percent this year and by 15 percent in the winter. It has promised to replace coal-fired furnaces in 1.8 million households with gas or electric heaters.

The official Xinhua news agency said on Saturday that a total of 28 northern cities have now drawn up detailed action plans to address winter smog, promising to shut small polluting enterprises, establish “coal-free zones” and halve coal and steel production in winter.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection will publish a monthly progress report aiming to “name and shame” cities that fall behind, Xinhua added.

(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Eric Meijer)


Smog Taiyun

Smog billows from chimneys and cooling towers of a steel plant during hazy weather in Taiyuan, Shanxi province. China’s middle class is becoming less tolerant of pollution. (Reuters)

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From 2014:

Hebei province eyes foreign experts to ease smog

North China’s Hebei province will recruit 200 foreign experts to assist with 50 projects on air pollution control in the next four years.
North China’s Hebei province will recruit 200 foreign experts to assist with 50 projects on air pollution control in the next four years. (Photo:

North China’s Hebei province will recruit 200 foreign experts to assist with 50 projects on air pollution control in the next four years, and set up an industrial zone in which companies are encouraged to develop solutions.

Jing Qingyu, deputy director of the provincial human resources and social security department unveiled the plan at a recent meeting.”We will attract projects and experts mainly from the United States, Britain, Germany and other developed countries”, said he, adding that, companies could find ideal conditions for developing environmental protection projects in the two designated zones dedicated for this purpose.

The province had seen an overabundance of smog in 2013, having recorded 236 days with an air quality index worse than the national standard for good air. Jing said that to alleviate smog this year, the province plans to slash polluting industries and also make use of foreign experts to lead a campaign against air pollution with a funding of 20 million yuan ($6.2 million) for imported talent this year.

All 11 major cities of the province will introduce programs to attract experts for environmental projects in an effort to ease worsening air quality. For example, Zhangjiakou, Beijing’s northern neighbor, has already taken a step forward. The city, generally upwind of the capital, launched a zone for environmental protection industries and research centers in September.

Song Xinwei, director of the new zone said the headquarters of the zone will open on April 2 to provide services for candidate companies and experts. Another facility of 20,000 sq meters will be ready in five months. “We will restrict companies and institutions in the zone to those associated with environment protection-related high technology”, said he, adding that “we will do our utmost to guarantee clean air for the capital and support the bid for the Winter Olympics in 2022.”

Guo Bin, who also leads environmental protection research in Hebei said “we already possess the main technology for air pollution control, so what we need are experts with cutting-edge knowledge and also advanced models on forecasting and early warning of air pollution based on numerical calculations.”