Posts Tagged ‘China’

Hong Kong: Student activist Joshua Wong goes on trial

May 3, 2016

Al Jazeera

Activists accused of obstructing justice during 2014 Umbrella Revolution say trial is “politically motivated”.

03 May 2016 18:42 GMT | Politics, Asia Pacific, China

Joshua Wong is being tried for his role in storming government headquarters two years ago [Vincent Yu/AP]

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Four Hong Kong pro-democracy activists accused of obstructing justice in a case dating back to 2014 have appeared in court.

The activists behind the so-called Umbrella Revolution of 2014 said on Tuesday that the case was “politically motivated”.

Joshua Wong, Nathan Law, Albert Chan and Raphael Wong were protesting against Chinese interference in Hong Kong’s electoral process before a vote for a new chief executive in 2017.

“All four defendants have denied the charge of obstruction, an offence that can carry sentence of up to two years in prison,” Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride reported from outside the court.

Q&A: The Hong Kong teenager who confronted China

“Their supporters came to the court chanting political slogans,” he said.

Wong, 19, was the face of the 2014 movement that lasted 79 days to demand free elections for the Chinese-controlled city’s top leader.

The movement caught the world’s attention but did not result in any substantial change, as China wants to keep its control on the territory it inherited from the UK in 1997

In an interview with Al Jazeera last year, Wong said he was afraid to go to prison.

“I know that greater power will result in greater responsibility, and greater responsibility will result in a greater price. I need to pay the price. If I’m in prison, it’s a chance to show what’s really behind myself, to motivate me to fight for three or four years,” he said in September.

Last year, Wong was attacked when he came out of a cinema after watching a film.

“Beijing would like to see tough sentences handed down but the court will be conscious of the potential backlash,” Al Jazeera’s McBride said.

“There is simmering political tension here ever since the Occupy Movement of two years ago. It doesn’t take much for that to spill over into violence on the street.”

Source: Al Jazeera

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/05/hong-kong-joshua-wong-trial-160503055336027.html

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China Presses Economists to Brighten Their Outlooks — Government officials describe a siege mentality taking hold among Chinese leaders — “There are no honest Chinese economists right now”

May 3, 2016

Analysts and business reporters with gloomy views are urged to hew to government’s more-upbeat line

Chinese officials are trying to reassert control of the country’s economic story line after stumbles over the stock markets and exchange-rate policies last year fed doubts among investors about the government’s competence in navigating a hard-to-arrest slowdown in growth. Here, a paramilitary policeman stands guard in front of a portrait of China's late chairman, Mao Zedong, on the Tiananmen Gate in Beijing in March.
Chinese officials are trying to reassert control of the country’s economic story line after stumbles over the stock markets and exchange-rate policies last year fed doubts among investors about the government’s competence in navigating a hard-to-arrest slowdown in growth. Here, a paramilitary policeman stands guard in front of a portrait of China’s late chairman, Mao Zedong, on the Tiananmen Gate in Beijing in March. PHOTO: JASON LEE/REUTERS
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BEIJING—Chinese authorities are training their sights on a new set of targets: economists, analysts and business reporters with gloomy views on China’s economy.

Securities regulators, media censors and other government officials have issued verbal warnings to commentators whose public remarks on the economy are out of step with the government’s upbeat statements, according to government officials and economic commentators with knowledge of the matter.

Lin Caiyi, chief economist at Guotai Junan Securities Co. who has been outspoken about rising corporate debt, a glut of housing and the weakening Chinese currency, received a warning in recent weeks, these people said. It was her second. The first came from the securities regulator, and the later one, these people said, from her state-owned firm’s compliance department, which instructed her to avoid making “overly bearish” remarks about the economy, particularly the currency.

Pressured by financial regulators bent on stabilizing the market, stock analysts at brokerage firms are becoming wary of issuing critical reports on listed companies. At least one Chinese think tank, meanwhile, was told by propaganda officials not to cast doubt on a planned government program to help state companies reduce debt.

While evidence of the clampdown is anecdotal, it appears widespread. Government departments didn’t respond to requests for comment or declined to. Commentary about the economy and reporting on business, unlike on politics or many social policies, have been relatively unfettered in China in a tacit acknowledgment by officials that a freer flow of information serves economic vitality.

Beijing moved to reassert control of the country’s economic story line after stumbles over the stock markets and exchange-rate policies last year fed doubts among investors about the government’s competence in navigating a hard-to-arrest slowdown in growth. During the past two months, the Communist Party leadership has taken to talking up the economy to try to reassure global markets.

This message control risks further constraining information about the world’s second-largest economy and thereby deepening the anxieties of investors already suspicious about the reliability of official statistics and statements.

“Vigorous debate among economists and public confidence in this conversation is critical if China is to successfully navigate the choppy economic waters,” said Scott Kennedy, a deputy director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. “If the party and government only want to hear good news, then they’d be better off hearing nothing because the value of the words would be less than zero.”

A broad-ranging tightening of controls on society has been under way in recent years as President Xi Jinping tries to gird the party and build public support for a rocky economic transition after decades of growth. Targets thus far have included activist lawyers, social media personalities, foreign nonprofit groups and party members who criticize policies.

While restrictions on foreign media have always been tight, they are becoming tighter, with a growing list of foreign publications having their websites blocked from view within China, including The Wall Street Journal.

Some lower-level government officials describe a siege mentality taking hold among Chinese leaders and senior officials as international financiers like George Sorosexpressed gloom about the economic outlook early this year. At high-level meetings the past few months in the walled Zhongnanhai compound where the leaders work, some senior officials called for quashing any criticism that might encourage foreigners to “short China”—or bet against the prospects for growth—officials with knowledge of the discussions say.

“You can see they’re not happy when you tried to tell them foreign speculators are not your biggest problem,” said one of the officials who attended the meetings.

Early this year, Mr. Xi visited the country’s three big state news organizations—Xinhua, the People’s Daily and China Central Television—to lecture them on the need to toe the party line, “tell China’s stories well” and enhance the nation’s influence in the world.

That, Chinese journalists said, has resulted in pressure not only to stay away from critical topics but to produce positive stories about the economy. Reporters covering the country’s stock markets, for example, have been told to focus their reports largely on the official statements issued by the China Securities Regulatory Commission, the stock market regulator, according to Chinese journalists.

“As a Chinese reporter, you can do anything but journalism these days,” said a senior editor at a state-owned media outlet. One colleague, the editor said, was forced by the outlet to take a leave of absence over what senior editors considered the reporter’s aggressive investigation into the causes of last summer’s stock market crash.

Choking off critical views is reaching beyond publicly available news and comments at investor forums to include policy research and market analysis. That potentially could skew the information that leaders, officials and investors rely on to make decisions.

In February, the central bank abruptly stopped releasing data on foreign-exchange purchases by commercial banks—long viewed by market analysts as a key snapshot of China’s capital flows—amid growing worries over more money leaving its shores. In a statement days later, the central bank said it took the step because the data were “no longer a true reflection of China’s capital flows.”

Ms. Lin, the economist at Guotai Junan, said she started getting guidance last fall to tone down her public remarks about the Chinese currency, the yuan or renminbi—something she acknowledged at an economic forum held at Shanghai’s Fudan University in October.

“I was told by regulators not to recommend shorting the renminbi,” Ms. Lin told the gathering, “so I’m just going to recommend buying the dollar.”

Neither Ms. Lin nor her firm responded to inquiries for comment, nor did the regulator.

In the financial hub of Shanghai, the city’s propaganda department recently instructed a local think tank to stop researching a planned debt-for-equity swap program aimed at helping big state companies reduce debt, according to economists familiar with the matter. The reason, these economists said, is that officials don’t want the research to turn up unfavorable evidence after Premier Li Keqiang and others have endorsed the swaps.  The information office of the Shanghai government didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Many analysts have said the plan, which would allow banks to exchange bad loans for equity in companies they lend to, could risk keeping companies afloat when they should sink while leaving banks more strapped for capital.

Given the climate, some are changing their tone. In mid-April, a well-known Chinese economist gave investors in Hong Kong a grim assessment of the economy.

Despite recent signs of a rebound, Gao Shanwen, chief economist at brokerage Essence Securities Co., told investors that “a lot of the official data aren’t reliable” and the economy still faces “big problems,” according to people who attended the closed-door event.

Words of those remarks crackled across social media. Two days later, Mr. Gao issued a clarification on his public account in the popular Chinese messaging app, WeChat, saying those remarks were “made up.” He then released a report on the economy shorn of critical commentary. Mr. Gao and representatives at his firm didn’t return requests for comment.

Write to Lingling Wei at lingling.wei@wsj.com

http://www.wsj.com/articles/china-presses-economists-to-brighten-their-outlooks-1462292316#:hKb5xepAnaqFqA

Feel The Crushing Weight of Beijing? Hong Kong Companies Registry seeks to clear air over controversial search procedure

May 3, 2016

Journalists, researchers and academics expressed concern over the move which they feared could prompt legal liabilities

By Danny Mok
South China Morning Post
Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Companies Registry tried on Tuesday to clear the air over a new and controversial arrangement for users of its online register.

The new arrangement in force since Sunday requires users to choose at least one out of nine listed purposes for their searches.

Six are about whether the searcher has any dealings with a company or its directors. Others include ascertaining the particulars of a company, its directors or former directors.

The user can check one or more of the purposes and also has to affirm that “the personal data obtained from the search should only be used for the stated purposes”.

No one can use the register without a declared reason.

The new arrangement, which the registry said was introduced to prevent the abuse of personal particulars in the wake of a privacy commission report last year, drew strong reaction from journalists, researchers and academics.

Reporters said none of the listed options fitted reporting purposes. They were also worried that arbitrary selection might bring legal liabilities.

Their doubts remained even though Privacy Commissioner Stephen Wong Kai-yi said on Monday that there was no need for journalists to be overly worried.

The registry said on Tuesday that one of the options, the seventh, could cover the collection of information for the purpose of news reporting activities. This option did not require a searcher to have any dealing with the relevant company or person, it said.

Hong Kong Journalists Association chairwoman Sham Yee-lan said the group was studying the response of the registry with the help of a lawyer.

Before the registry issued its response, the group wrote to the registrar, Ada Chung Lai-ling, urging her to cancel the new arrangement because it would make the public and journalists worried that they would be exposed to legal risks and might therefore avoid using the register

The association also said company directors already enjoyed significant protection under existing laws.

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 http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/law-crime/article/1940994/hong-kong-companies-registry-seeks-clear-air-over
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China Rolls Up Welcome Mat (Donald Trump May Be Right)

May 3, 2016

Foreigners revisit assumption that openness that started under Deng could only grow

Shanghai in the 1930s was China’s most cosmopolitan city. After the Communist takeover in 1949, almost all its foreigners fled or were kicked out.
Shanghai in the 1930s was China’s most cosmopolitan city. After the Communist takeover in 1949, almost all its foreigners fled or were kicked out. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
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Updated May 3, 2016 2:00 a.m. ET

SHANGHAI— Henry Luce, the founder of Time magazine, was raised in China as the son of a Presbyterian missionary.

He and his family were among a population of foreigners that swelled to as many as half a million before 1949. Some were teachers, doctors and journalists. Others were merchants, engineers, architects and bankers. Within a few years of the Communist takeover almost all had fled or been kicked out. Mao harbored such loathing for Shanghai, China’s most cosmopolitan city, that he considered emptying it out completely after the revolution.

Deng Xiaoping’s “open door” economic reform policies in 1978 brought many of these groups flocking back. Many thought the openness would only grow.

It may be time to review that judgment: These days, foreigners are starting to feel less welcome. The Chinese legislature passed a law last week that puts all foreign NGOs under police administration with onerous registration and reporting requirements, essentially treating them as a security risk. Many will be forced to leave.

In line with this new mood of suspicion, a public poster campaign is warning young female government workers about “dangerous love” with foreign spies, a label frequently attached to the few foreigners who stayed on after 1949, particularly Americans.

State media regularly inveigh against “hostile foreign forces” trying to topple China’s socialist system.

Restrictions on foreign publications are tightening. Time, with a storied past in China, has joined a growing list of foreign news websites blocked by the Great Firewall. It includes the Economist, Bloomberg, Reuters, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times—in addition to search engines and social-network sites like Google, Facebook andTwitter.

Christianity is in the firing line again: Authorities in eastern China, where missionaries labored before the revolution, are tearing down crosses atop churches.

Whole segments of the foreign business community complain that their prospects are narrowing. Last month, Apple Inc.—one of the great China success stories—had to shut down its online book and movie services due to new Internet restrictions.

More frivolously, the China Daily reports that the government plans to order residential compounds to switch from “exotic” English names to Chinese ones. Examples of the genre in Beijing include Merlin Champagne Town and Capital Paradise.

No, China isn’t closing for business. Compared with many other developing countries, it remains wide open. It is the world’s largest manufacturer, biggest trader and a magnet for foreign investment. About three-quarters of China’s high-tech exports come from foreign-invested companies.

China’s antiforeign turn is driven by several related trends. First, President Xi Jinping has a much lower tolerance than Deng for the unwelcome intrusion of foreign ideas about democracy, press freedom and individual rights that come along with trade and investment—what Deng called “flies and mosquitoes.”

The other day, Mr. Xi was railing against “Western capitalist values” invading the Communist Party’s own training schools.

Second, Mr. Xi is pushing ideology harder than any leader in decades. Increasingly, China sees itself in ideological confrontation with the West. In addition to stressing Marxism, Mr. Xi’s administration is seeking to revive traditional Chinese culture to counter Western ideas—thus, the hostility to crosses.

And Mr. Xi is promoting a strident form of nationalism. One aspect of this is much greater Chinese assertiveness in territorial disputes with neighbors, including Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines. Another is an explicit set of government policies aimed at helping Chinese firms replace their foreign rivals in the domestic market.

All of this adds uncertainty to the outlook for foreigners who have landed on China’s shores. The 2010 census put their number at almost 600,000, not including residents from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

Inevitably, NGOs working on sensitive issues like legal reform, labor rights and gender equality will be monitored even more closely.

Multinationals can expect a rougher ride. U.S. tech companies, in particular, are threatened as China increasingly insists on using homegrown products in strategic sectors like banking and telecommunications.

Foreign businesses in general need to brace for the unexpected in a more politically charged atmosphere.

The new mood is reaching into Hong Kong. Businesses there were startled this year when a group of booksellers who specialized in salacious works about Chinese leaders went missing and popped up on the mainland. If, as many believe, they were abducted by Chinese security agents it raises troubling questions about the territory’s autonomy and rule of law that underpin its status as a global financial center.

The Henry Luces of our era are especially beleaguered. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has tried almost everything to break into China. In March, as part of his wooing efforts, he took off on a run through Tiananmen Square on a miserably polluted day.

Looming through the haze in the background was a portrait of Mao—the great expeller of foreigners whose ideas are making a big comeback in Mr. Xi’s more ideological China.

Write to Andrew Browne atandrew.browne@wsj.com

http://www.wsj.com/articles/china-rolls-up-welcome-mat-1462251879

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in gray shirt, runs past Mao’s portrait at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on a severely polluted day in March. PHOTO: AFP/GETTY IMAGES/FACEBOOK
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World Leaders in Law Enforcement and Human Rights Join Forces: Chinese police join Italian officers to patrol tourist hotspots in Rome and Milan

May 3, 2016

Teams will offer language and legal help to mainland visitors under landmark exchange between the two countries

By Celine Ge
The South China Morning Post
Tuesday, May 3, 2016, 2:29pm

Chinese police are patrolling the streets of Italy to protect mainland tourists as part of a groundbreaking new programme – the first time China has sent officers to Europe to look after visitors there.

Four Chinese officers received special training in Beijing before their assignment, and can speak Italian as well as English. Each has been paired with a local partner, and they will be deployed at the busiest tourist attractions in Rome and Milan.

It was the first time China had sent officers to Europe to protect tourists, said Liao Jinrong, who heads up international cooperation at the Ministry of Public Security, at the launch of the programme in Rome, Xinhua reported.

The teams can offer language assistance and explain local laws and procedures to visitors who run into trouble.

The programme will last until May 13, and Italian police will later head to Beijing and Shanghai to offer a similar service.

 The Italian Carabinieri and the heroes of Tiananmen are now working together in Rome. Xinhua photo

About 3 million Chinese visit Italy every year, according to Beijing authorities, making the mainland the fourth biggest source of tourists for the southern European nation in 2014.

There have been media reports in recent years that thieves were increasingly targeting Chinese because they had a reputation of carrying more cash than other tourists.

Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said at the launch he expected to deepen law enforcement cooperation with China and expand the joint patrols to other Italian cities.

Similar initiatives had been rolled out by Italian police in cooperation with the United States, Poland and Spain during peak tourism seasons.

A plan to have Chinese officers deployed in Paris was scrapped in 2014, reportedly over concerns they might have difficulty operating in a legal environment that was so different from the mainland’s.

Liao, of the Chinese ministry, said the two nations had jointly carried out crackdowns on international criminal networks and the latest move reflected mutual trust cultivated through past collaborations.

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/1940677/chinese-police-join-italian-officers-patrol-tourist

Hong Kong Remains “Unsettled” After Newspaper Editor at Ming Pao Fired — Increasing Influence from Mainland China Feared

May 3, 2016

By Al Jazeera

Hong Kong: Freedom of the Press rally outside the Ming Pao Industrial Centre, Monday, May 2, 2016. AP photo

Hundreds of people have protested in Hong Kong against a veteran newspaper editor’s dismissal that has increased concerns about press freedom in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

The sacking of Keung Kwok-yuen, Ming Pao daily’s second-in-command editor, came after the newspaper published a report on the Panama Papers document leak revealing offshore business dealings of the rich and powerful.

Hong Kong police drew their guns and confronted the “fish ball protesters” in Mong Kok on New Years.

The newspaper said Keung was dismissed to save operating costs.

Journalists, activists and politicians attended Monday’s rally, held outside the Ming Pao Industrial Centre.


READ MORE: Panama Papers – huge leak alleges elites hiding money


Protesters carried signs saying “Protect journalists, protect Ming Pao, protect press freedom”.

Al Jazeera’s Sarah Clarke, reporting from the protest, said: “The anger is not only confined to this particular newspaper but is spread around the whole news industry in Hong Kong.

“Some say that the city’s press freedoms have been steeply eroded by the increasing influence from mainland China.”

Rich and powerful

The trove of documents, released in April by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, has exposed how Mossack Fonseca, a Panama-based law firm, helped China’s rich and powerful to move their wealth into tax havens.

“The public is very concerned over press freedoms in Hong Kong. We have been doing a good job… covering a lot of news including sensitive political issues such as human rights in China,” AFP news agency quoted Phyllis Tsang, head of the newspaper’s staff association, as saying.

Counting the Cost – Panama Papers: Inside the shady world of tax havens

“We demand a clear explanation [from the management] on the real reasons for the firing of Mr Keung.

“Was there any relation to this kind of reporting?”

Before Keung’s dismissal, Ming Pao carried a front-page report on Hong Kong politicians and businesspeople named in the Panama Papers.

There has been growing anxiety in recent years among many Hong Kong journalists and politicians about the influence of China on the territory.

Hong Kong retained its own civil liberties when it was handed over from Britain in 1997.

Media groups with close business and personal ties to Chinese politicians have been accused of soft-pedalling their coverage of issues that are potentially embarrassing to China and its allies in Hong Kong.

101 East – Hong Kong’s Missing Booksellers

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

“The Free World Has Lost a Lot of Ground”

May 3, 2016

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Old, retired military officers everywhere and in ever era, we suspect, discuss long-ago battles, the high points and the losses — the men lost, the battles won.

Yesterday, a three-star general about to retire told Peace and Freedom, “These last eight years we sure lost a lot of ground.”

I thought I knew what he meant, but I ask him to clarify anyway — I wanted to hear it from him.

“Well, we lost Crimea and part of Ukraine. We lost Syria and much of the Middle East. Our key allies in the Middle East, like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, Israel — they’re all worried.”

“How About Libya?” we asked.

“Well, in Libya we destroyed a government that was getting more easy to work with. Now we have chaos. Egypt could turn out the same way. Anyway, for U.S. foreign policy it is getting hard to find any success stories,” he said.

“How about Asia?” we asked.

“That may be a bigger mess. Eight years ago we hardly noticed China. Now China seem to be the owner of the South China Sea. North Korea has everyone worried. There’s an arms race going on with the notion of being ready to face China but they could overwhelm anybody.”

“How about Hong Kong?” Peace and Freedom asked.

“Well, John, everyone in the world knows that’s one of your favorite places along with Singapore. The people of Hong Kong made a move toward democracy, as you know, and the rest of the world hardly noticed. Now Xi Jinping is cracking down.”

“Oh, and Thailand is a mess,” the general added.

The general ended with this: “If you love democracy, peace, stability, and human rights — the last eight years have been a very negative turning point for the world. A disaster for America and American allies.”

The general asked to honor his request of anonymity until he retires.

John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom

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China Stocks Rise Following President’s Backing of ‘Healthy Development’ of Markets

May 3, 2016

But traders still concerned about slow pace of economic recovery

China’s stock markets are substantially down overall for the year. Above, investors sit in front of a screen showing stock market movements at a securities firm in Fuyang, in eastern China's Anhui province on April 20, 2016.
China’s stock markets are substantially down overall for the year. Above, investors sit in front of a screen showing stock market movements at a securities firm in Fuyang, in eastern China’s Anhui province on April 20, 2016. ILLUSTRATION: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
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Updated May 3, 2016 12:59 a.m. ET

Most Asian shares rallied Tuesday, with Australia led higher by a cut in the country’s benchmark interest rate and China rising on fresh confidence in Beijing’s stated support of its stock markets.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 led the Asia-Pacific region with a 2.1% gain buoyed by strength in banking shares. Shares rose to their highest level in six months after the Reserve Bank of Australia cut the cash interest rate to 1.75%, a new record low, from 2%. Central bank officials hope easing policies will combat low inflation and a strong local currency.

The Australian dollar fell sharply after the rate cut, weakening almost 2% to as low as US$0.7557.

Meanwhile in China, the Shanghai Composite Index closed up 1.9%, while the smaller Shenzhen Composite Index rose 2.9%. Markets resumed trading after being closed Monday.

Analysts attributed the gains to Chinese traders who were encouraged by President Xi Jinping’s after-market hours call late last Friday to maintain a “healthy development of the stock market.” On Friday, Mr. Xi chaired a Communist Party’s Politburo meeting of Chinese leaders who urged “strengthening market supervision and protecting investor interests,” according to a statement carried by official media. Top leaders rarely show such public support of the stock market, so traders pay more attention to their comments when it occurs, analysts said.

Shares of Chinese consumer staples, health care and IT stocks led mainland markets higher. Shares of NanJing Pharmaceutical Co. jumped 7.6%

Chinese investors “continue to believe that China will continue to maintain the stock market to become more bullish,” said Castor Pang, head of research at Core Pacific-Yamaichi International, a Hong Kong brokerage.

Such optimism, however, could prove short-lived, analysts said.

Fresh economic data gave investors a mixed picture of factory activity in China, which added to existing worries about the slow pace of China’s economic recovery.

On Sunday, official data showed that China’s manufacturing activity grew in April, albeit at a slower pace than in March.

Then Tuesday morning, an unofficial gauge indicated that manufacturing activity contracted in April, thanks to sluggish new orders and soft foreign demand for Chinese goods. The Caixin China general manufacturing purchasing managers’ index fell to 49.4 in April compared with 49.7 in March. A reading below 50 indicates economic contraction.

In Hong Kong, investors were more dismayed by the weaker data than mainland investors, analysts said. Energy, financial and property shares dragged the benchmark Hang Seng Index 1.5% lower, in contrast to the gains in Shanghai and Shenzhen markets.

“The current correction [in Hong Kong] seems to be just because investors are trying to unload part of their shares, to try to reduce their risk exposure” after the weaker China manufacturing data, Mr. Pang said. “That’s why the market is still dropping.”

Elsewhere in Asia, Korea’s Kospi was up 0.4%. Shares slipped briefly after data in the morning showed the consumer price index rose 1% in April from the year before as the decline in oil prices capped inflation below the 2% target.

Japan’s stock market was closed Tuesday in observance of a three-day public holiday. It will reopen Friday. The Nikkei Stock Average had tumbled 3.1% Monday on the continued disappointment that the Bank of Japan left interest rates and its easing policies unchanged last week.

In other markets, the Japanese yen strengthened to 105.61 to one dollar in late Asian trading hours.

Brent crude oil prices were up 1% to $46.27 per barrel.

Write to Dominique Fong at Dominique.Fong@wsj.com

http://www.wsj.com/articles/china-stocks-rise-following-presidents-backing-of-healthy-development-of-markets-1462250647

President Obama: The TPP would let America, not China, lead the way on global trade — But China In Giant Infrastructure Spending Scheme for Allies

May 3, 2016

By Barack Obama
The Washington Post

Over the past six years, America’s businesses have created more than 14 million new jobs. To keep this progress going, we need to pursue every avenue of economic growth. Today, some of our greatest economic opportunities abroad are in the Asia-Pacific region, which is on its way to becoming the most populous and lucrative market on the planet. Increasing trade in this area of the world would be a boon to American businesses and American workers, and it would give us a leg up on our economic competitors, including one we hear a lot about on the campaign trail these days: China.

Of course, China’s greatest economic opportunities also lie in its own neighborhood, which is why China is not wasting any time. As we speak, China is negotiating a trade deal that would carve up some of the fastest-growing markets in the world at our expense, putting American jobs, businesses and goods at risk.

This past week, China and 15 other nations met in Australia with a goal of getting their deal, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, done before the end of this year. That trade deal won’t prevent unfair competition among government-subsidized, state-owned enterprises. It won’t protect a free and open Internet. Nor will it respect intellectual property rights in a way that ensures America’s creators, artists, filmmakers and entrepreneurs get their due. And it certainly won’t enforce high standards for our workers and our environment.

 

Nguyen Phu Trong, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Hanoi on Thursday.
Nguyen Phu Trong, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Hanoi on November 5, 2015. Since becoming head of state in China, Xi Jinping has been embarked upon a vast trade and investment effort from China westward all the way to Europe. Photo: Zuma Press

Fortunately, America has a plan of our own that meets each of these goals. As a Pacific power, the United States has pushed to develop a high-standard Trans- Pacific Partnership, a trade deal that puts American workers first and makes sure we write the rules of the road for trade in the 21st century.

This agreement strengthens America’s economy. The TPP brings together 12 countries representing nearly 40 percent of the global economy to make sure that private firms have a fair shot at competing against state-owned enterprises. It keeps the Internet open and free. It strengthens the intellectual property protections our innovators need to take risks and create. And it levels the playing field by setting the highest enforceable standards and by removing barriers to selling our goods overseas — including the elimination of more than 18,000 taxes that other countries put on products made in America. Simply put, once the TPP is in place, American businesses will export more of what they make. And that means supporting more higher-paying jobs.

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This agreement also strengthens America’s national security. When fewer people suffer in poverty, when our trading partners flourish and when we bind our economy closer to others in a strategically important region, America is both stronger and safer.

But none of this will happen if the TPP doesn’t become a reality. That’s because the Asia-Pacific region will continue its economic integration, with or without the United States. We can lead that process, or we can sit on the sidelines and watch prosperity pass us by.

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If we don’t get the TPP done, American goods will continue to face high tariffs and other trade barriers in the region. American businesses will lose competitive access to Asian markets, which would mean fewer of the cars our autoworkers manufacture would make it to growing markets, more of our farmers’ and ranchers’ products would run into barriers abroad, and small-business owners hoping to sell their goods abroad would still find themselves ensnared in red tape. If we don’t get the TPP done, employers across America will lose the chance to compete with other countries’ companies on a level playing field. And when American workers and businesses compete on a level playing field, no one can beat us.

I understand the skepticism people have about trade agreements, particularly in communities where the effects of automation and globalization have hit workers and families the hardest. But building walls to isolate ourselves from the global economy would only isolate us from the incredible opportunities it provides. Instead, America should write the rules. America should call the shots. Other countries should play by the rules that America and our partners set, and not the other way around.

That’s what the TPP gives us the power to do. That’s why my administration is working closely with leaders in Congress to secure bipartisan approval for our trade agreement, mindful that the longer we wait, the harder it will be to pass the TPP. The world has changed. The rules are changing with it. The United States, not countries like China, should write them. Let’s seize this opportunity, pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership and make sure America isn’t holding the bag, but holding the pen.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/president-obama-the-tpp-would-let-america-not-china-lead-the-way-on-global-trade/2016/05/02/680540e4-0fd0-11e6-93ae-50921721165d_story.html

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May 2, 2016

Members must work harder to seal RCEP deal by year-end: Malaysia

China funding infrastructure projects for neighbors along Silk Road

PTI (India)

New Delhi, May 2 () Malaysia today said the 16 countries, including India, need to “work harder” to seal the RCEP deal by the year-end amid persisting differences over various issues such as tariff cuts and market access.

Malaysian Minister for Trade and Industry Mustapa Mohamed, who is currently on a visit to India, said countries involved in the negotiations need to “work harder” to achieve the year-end deadline for conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

Elaborating on hurdles being faced in the negotiations, he said there were issues related to scheduling of market access and a “higher level of ambition” in terms of some countries wanting steeper tariff cuts.

“It (RCEP) is going to be a historic agreement when it is completed hopefully by the end of 2016,” Mohamed said while addressing business leaders at a meeting organised by Ficci.

Besides, the Minister told reporters he had a “good meeting” with Union Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman where the two discussed issues including review of the free trade agreement between India and Malaysia.

The Malaysia-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (MICECA), which came into force in 2011, was slated to be reviewed after five years.

Besides, Mohamed said he expects bilateral trade to touch USD 15 billion by 2017.

Bilateral trade between India and Malaysia stood at USD 13.84 billion in 2014, but came down to USD 12 billion in 2015.

Mohamed attributed the decline in bilateral trade to the sharp depreciation in Malaysia’s currency Ringgit witnessed in 2015.

“We hope this year there will be some recovery in bilateral trade,” he said.

RCEP is being negotiated amongst the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) trading bloc – Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, Brunei, Myanmar, Bangkok and Philippines with six of its partner countries – China, Japan, India, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea.

The mega trade deal aims to cover goods, services, investments, economic and technical cooperation, competition and intellectual property rights.

The pact has assumed greater significance post the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) accord led by the US. Indian industry is apprehensive that the TPP will adversely impact India’s exports.

India has offered to open its market the most for ASEAN countries — with which it has an FTA in place — and has proposed to eliminate duties or tariffs on 80 per cent of items for the 10 nation bloc.

Besides, the Minister invited Indian businesses to invest in Malaysia, describing Malaysia as the gateway to the ASEAN market.

He said that Indian investments in Malaysia amount to only USD 1.3 billion, which is far less than the USD 4.1 worth of Malaysian investments into India. RSN MKJ

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/Members-must-work-harder-to-seal-RCEP-deal-by-yr-end-Malaysia/articleshow/52079397.cms

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China’s national strategy is to re-create the wealth and trading excellence of past Chinese Emperors. China views the ocean passages from China, through the South China Sea and into the Indian Ocean and the oil rich Middle east as a necessary re-birth of the “Silk Road” of centuries long ago. Xi Jinping’s “One Road, One Belt” is the reason for lavish infrastructure investments in Thailand, Indonesia, Pakistan,  Sri Lanka and elsewhere. There is even a plan to build a new seaport in the Bay of Bengal. This is not a pipe-dream but a rational national endeavor meant to restore China to greatness and world leadership. Most Chinese are afraid to speak candidly about the plan — for fear of the their Chinese Communist enforcers. But it is clear: this is a very real effort and the U.S. is in the way and, from China’s perspective, has no reason to be interested. To China, the U.S. is a decadent and dying former super-power.
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Every man woman and child in China is expected to participate in some useful way in the “Chinese Dream.” Chinese people are are now tourists is just about every part of the world — including the Arctic. China’s economic boom years which are now mush slower and measured, created a huge Middle Class. At the same time, the American middle class has been shrinking while the nation spends more and more on social spending. To many Chinese, China is rising — America and Europe are in decline. Thus, the Chinese are taught that all “Western Values” are bad — which fuels the war against churches, minority groups, Uighurs, Muslims, Tibetans, NGOs and etc.
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Most Westerners don’t appreciate the Chinese way of doing things. “Wise man who lives with tiger better not to sleep too deeply.”
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South China Sea: Eyeball To Eyeball at Sea and Arbitration Results Could Come At Any Time

May 2, 2016

By William Ide

FILE - Filipino student activists hold mock Chinese ships to protest recent island-building and alleged militarization by China off the disputed Spratlys group of islands in the South China Sea, during a rally in Manila, Philippines, March 3, 2016.

FILE – Filipino student activists hold mock Chinese ships to protest recent island-building and alleged militarization by China off the disputed Spratlys group of islands in the South China Sea, during a rally in Manila, Philippines, March 3, 2016.

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As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling that challenges China’s claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is likely to intensify.
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A ruling is expected in the coming weeks and, while China has made it clear that it rejects the entire procedure, many are already beginning to watch for signs of what actions China may take in response.Some suggest that much like it has done elsewhere, Beijing may continue to expand its buildup of what U.S. Pacific Commander Admiral Harry Harris has called the “Great Wall of Sand.”
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Since the Philippines filed a case with the International Tribunal for Law of the Sea in 2013, China has moved quickly to bolster its claims, reclaiming enough land on some features it controls in the South China Sea to create airstrips and other facilities.China claims ‘sovereignty’

Some believe China could start reclaiming land to build up Scarborough Shoal, a disputed reef China calls Huangyan Island.  The reef is a little less than 200 kilometers from Subic Bay, well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone or EEZ.

For now, Chinese officials haven’t ruled out the possibility.

Responding to questions about China’s possible response at a recent press briefing, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said, “I want to reiterate that the Scarborough Shoal is an inherent part of the Chinese territory.  No matter what kind of action that China may take or not, it is something within the scope of China’s sovereignty.”

FILE - U.S. Navy amphibious assault vehicles with Philippine and U.S. troops on board are seen during joint exercises near a beach facing one of the contested islands in the South China Sea known as the Scarborough Shoal, April 21, 2015.

FILE – U.S. Navy amphibious assault vehicles with Philippine and U.S. troops on board are seen during joint exercises near a beach facing one of the contested islands in the South China Sea known as the Scarborough Shoal, April 21, 2015.

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China has long rejected what it calls international intervention in resolving the dispute and has argued claimants should hold bilateral negotiations instead.

Beijing argues growing U.S. military ties and presence in the region is what is really what is driving up tensions in the South China Sea – not its vast claims that cut into other countries EEZs.

US says not provoking anything

U.S. officials say the buildup is not aimed at China.

“We are strengthening our military role in the region, both unilaterally and through this wide range of partnerships and alliances we have, but that isn’t in order to provoke anything,” said U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter during a recent visit to the Philippines.

“It’s to continue to stand with the system of principles and peace and security that has kept, that has allowed this region to prosper for many decades here.”

Clearly, concerns about Beijing’s intentions and actions in the region are having an impact and boosting cooperation, much to the displeasure of Chinese officials.

Last month, a flotilla of vessels from Japan visited the Philippines, the first such visit to include a submarine in 15 years.  During his visit to the Philippines, which confirmed a boost in the United States military presence there, Ash Carter also visited an aircraft carrier that was operating in the South China Sea.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter (center, in blue shirt) watches a jet take off from the USS John C. Stennis in the South China Sea (C.Babb/VOA). Carter says the U.S. is strengthening its military role in the region but is not aiming to provoke anything.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter (center, in blue shirt) watches a jet take off from the USS John C. Stennis in the South China Sea (C.Babb/VOA).

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Carter says the U.S. is strengthening its military role in the region but is not aiming to provoke anything.

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The United States, Britain and others have urged Beijing to abide by the decision when it is finally announced.  But China is showing no signs of shifting its stance.

China drumming up support

And as international support is growing for the Philippines before the ruling, which some believe is likely to tilt in Manila’s favor, China is trying to drum up support as well.

During recent meetings, Russia put its weight behind Beijing, arguing against so-called international interference in South China Sea disputes.  Three Southeast Asian nations, Cambodia, Laos and Brunei, have also voiced support for countries handling the disputes bilaterally, but only one of them actually has claims in the disputed waters.

Also, the U.S. aircraft carrier John C. Stennis, the same vessel Defense Secretary Carter boarded last month, was recently denied entry to Hong Kong, an apparent slap on the wrist to Washington.

http://www.voanews.com/content/south-china-sea-dispute-philippines/3311925.html

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