Posts Tagged ‘Chinese’

China Steps Up Ideology Drive on College Campuses

September 24, 2017

Party schools: Xi Jinping bolsters lessons in Marxism ahead of leadership congress

 Image may contain: 7 people, people smiling

BEIJING—China may have poured billions into making its universities more globally competitive, but its idea of a quality education is guided more than ever by the Communist Party.

In a drumbeat that has accelerated ahead of October’s twice-a-decade Party Congress, President Xi Jinping’s campaign to rein in civil society, online media and speech has extended to the classroom.

Top universities seen as insufficiently rigorous in their ideological work are being shamed. Professors who speak out are punished. The government is sending observers to nearly 2,600 universities to monitor mandatory ideology classes, which include staples like “Mao Zedong thought.”

“What they most want to see is whether what you’re saying is in line with the official demands on ideology and values,” said Xiao Wei, who will be sitting in on classes in Shanghai this fall as part of a group of some 100 professors examining the quality of ideological education in the city. “They also want to understand how effective [the classes] are,” said Mr. Xiao, a professor of Marxism at Shanghai’s elite Fudan University.

President Xi Jinping said Chinese universities should become “strongholds that adhere to party leadership.” Above, China’s leader arrives for a press conference in Xiamen on Sept. 5.
President Xi Jinping said Chinese universities should become “strongholds that adhere to party leadership.” Above, China’s leader arrives for a press conference in Xiamen on Sept. 5. PHOTO: FRED DUFOUR/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Since the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, the party has kept colleges on a tight leash, fearing a reprise of student-led demonstrations. Nevertheless, there had been some room to deal with sensitive topics in the classroom. Under Mr. Xi, that narrow space is closing.

For years in his class on China’s Cultural Revolution at Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University, Tang Shaojie played “red” songs from the era and showed the movie “Nineteen Eighty-Four” based on George Orwell’s novel. The goal, he told students, was to teach them what brainwashing looked like, former students said.

Image result for Tsinghua University, photos

Tsinghua University

Mr. Tang told them it was a sign of academic freedom that Tsinghua allowed him to teach the class, said Aaron Feng, who took it in 2015 and is now studying at Vanderbilt University. “He said it really proudly.”

The class was canceled this fall. Tsinghua didn’t respond to questions about why.

“It’s not enough just to have economic development,” said Mr. Xiao of Fudan University, explaining the country’s recent emphasis on ideological education. “You need a sense of values and morals.”

The shift in the classrooms comes as President Xi moves to extend his dominance ahead of the Party Congress, a conclave set to anoint him for a second five-year term.

Mr. Xi in December declared that universities should become “strongholds that adhere to party leadership,” and that—amid increasing collaboration with Western universities and more Chinese students studying abroad—China should develop its own vision of education guided by its unique history.

The Ministry of Education has declared 2017 a key year for enhancing the quality of ideological education—an area where classes have long been seen as turgid affairs. Officials are trying to shed that image, encouraging teachers to make lessons more engaging, while giving such classes greater academic weight.

In the northeast city of Tianjin, authorities announced plans to hire 1,300 workers to deepen ideological education in 16 universities. Beijing has long required colleges to employ at least one full-time ideology teacher for every 350-400 undergraduate students, but in practice, many schools have fallen short of that goal.

Along with attempts to improve lessons come warnings against stepping out of line. Students at Sun Yat-sen University in southern China arrived this year to find new instructions affixed to classroom walls telling them not to criticize party leadership; their professors were advised to do the same.

An associate professor at an elite Beijing university said he was told he was rejected for promotion because of social-media posts that were critical of China’s political system. “Now I don’t speak much online,” he said.

People cycle past the auditorium at Tsinghua University in Beijing.
People cycle past the auditorium at Tsinghua University in Beijing. PHOTO: THOMAS PETER/REUTERS

This summer, the party’s discipline inspection agency, in the first report of its kind, criticized 14 top Chinese universities for what the agency said was weak party leadership and poor ideological work.

Since the February release of a State Council document calling for stronger party leadership in schools, at least 30 top-tier universities have tapped university presidents to also take on the role of deputy party secretary. Such joint appointments had taken place before, but the pace has accelerated in recent months.

Over the past two decades, Chinese universities have invested in raising their global standing, and over a dozen U.S. schools have founded degree-granting institutions with Chinese universities. But any hopes that China would in time allow more academic freedom have dimmed under Mr. Xi.

“There’s no question the party is exerting stronger control over universities,” said Elizabeth Perry, Henry Rosovsky Professor of Government at Harvard University, who studies Chinese higher education. “We’ve seen a real backtracking.”

Chinese scholars say government-restricted access to the internet and overseas scholarship have put them at a disadvantage. Li Tao, a postdoctoral fellow at Germany’s Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, said that friends in China often ask him for help downloading articles they aren’t able to access. “If you’re working in the natural sciences or engineering, information changes really quickly, and you need to stay up-to-date,” he said.

Sometimes articles are blocked because they contain sensitive content, he said, though on other occasions it is unclear why they are inaccessible.

Still, Mr. Li said he is contemplating an eventual return to China. “There are more opportunities” than in the West, he said, including for funding and academic jobs.

One key component of Mr. Xi’s call is to build up social sciences “with Chinese characteristics,” outlined in a document issued by the party’s Central Committee this spring. Since 2010, the number of grants for Marxism and party-related research from the National Social Science Fund of China has grown more than most areas, by 72%.

Some Chinese students have in years past been able to write dissertations about nonpolitical aspects of the Cultural Revolution era, such as fashion or gender relations, “but now even this isn’t tolerated,” said Michel Bonnin, an adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who specializes in the Cultural Revolution.

He said he felt fortunate that his book on Chinese youth sent to live in the countryside during the Cultural Revolution was published on the mainland in 2010. Today, he said, “it would be more difficult.”

Write to Te-Ping Chen at te-ping.chen@wsj.com

 

https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-steps-up-ideology-drive-on-college-campuses-1506250801

Related:

Xi calls for more thought control on China’s campuses

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Fighter jets, drones on table as Mattis visits key ally India

September 24, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File / by Abhaya SRIVASTAVA | Fighter jets, drone deals and shared concerns over Afghanistan’s security challenges look set to dominate the agenda when US Defence Secretary James Mattis (L) visits India this week

NEW DELHI (AFP) – Fighter jets, drone deals and shared concerns over Afghanistan’s security look set to dominate the agenda when US Defense Secretary James Mattis visits India this week.Mattis is scheduled to arrive late Monday and is set to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his new defence minister, in the first visit by a top US official since Donald Trump became president in January.

“The United States views India as a valued and influential partner, with broad mutual interests extending well beyond South Asia,” a Pentagon statement said.

Trump and Modi met in June in Washington and the visit by Mattis is a sign “the political leadership in both countries place defence cooperation as a top priority”, Mukesh Aghi, president of the US India Strategic Partnership Forum, told AFP.

Delhi and Washington share concerns about Afghanistan, with Trump announcing a new strategy for the war-torn country last month which cleared the way for the deployment of thousands more US troops.

The president has urged India to increase assistance to Afghanistan’s economy, and has lambasted Delhi’s arch-rival Pakistan for offering safe haven to “agents of chaos”.

Mattis “will express US appreciation for India’s important contributions toward Afghanistan’s democracy, stability, prosperity, and security”, the Pentagon said.

Experts are not expecting any Indian boots on the ground, though there may be some role for Indian military expertise in supporting the US-led training and advisory mission with Afghan security forces.

India has long vied with Pakistan for influence in Afghanistan, building dams, roads and a new parliament in the troubled country. Last year it offered some $1 billion in aid.

Delhi frequently accuses Islamabad of stirring up violence in Afghanistan and harbouring militant groups.

– Arms sales –

In 2016 the United States designated India a “Major Defence Partner” with the aim of increasing military cooperation and cutting red tape to ease defence deals.

Mattis’s predecessor Ashton Carter pushed hard for stronger defence ties and the Trump administration has not signalled any intention of changing course on this.

Trump has praised India for contributing to regional peace and stability and for buying US military equipment.

Mattis is likely to seek to persuade India to buy Lockheed Martin’s F-16 Block 70 aircraft in a deal potentially worth $15 billion.

Lockheed Martin has offered the most upgraded version of the jet fighter to India, the world’s largest weapons importer.

The US manufacturer is competing with Swedish defence giant Saab, whose Gripen E made its maiden flight in June.

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India has said it needs at least 100 single-engine fighters to counter the growing air threat posed by China and Pakistan.

Saab and Lockheed have both offered to build the jets locally to comply with Modi’s “Make-in-India” initiative, which aims to cut imports and build a domestic defence industry.

US giant Boeing has also offered to set up a plant in India for production of its F/A 18 Super Hornet aircraft if it wins a deal.

A drone deal for the Indian Navy will also likely be up for discussion, a source familiar with the negotiations told AFP.

“Since Chinese assets have started to dominate the Indian Ocean region, the Trump administration is keen on fast-tracking the acquisition of the drones,” the source said.

Many commentators have said that US-India cooperation is crucial to countering an increasingly assertive China, which has been developing its military capabilities in the Asia-Pacific.

But Afghanistan will be front and centre when Mattis meets Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who will host her highest-level foreign delegation since being appointed earlier this month.

The visit comes as the Indian army takes part in a two-week joint military training exercise in the United States to forge closer ties on counter-insurgency, regional security operations and peacekeeping.

by Abhaya SRIVASTAVA

Why China won’t help US against North Korea

September 15, 2017

Even after multiple rounds of sanctions, Pyongyang is continuing to provoke the international community with weapons testing. China and the US face bad options, and each other, in creating a united front.

Chinese and North Korean flags (Getty Images/K. Frayer)

After North Korea detonated what is suspected to be a hydrogen bomb on September 3, the US spearheaded the toughest sanctions levied to date against Pyongyang by the UN Security Council. But after the second round of “historic” sanctions within a month, the detrimental effect of partially cutting off fossil fuel supplies, freezing individual assets and preventing textile trade are seen by many observers as being just another incremental response to a belligerent regime clearly determined at all costs to continue developing nuclear weapons.

Friday’s ballistic missile launch over Japan, the second over Japanese territory in two weeks, also indicates that sanctions have yet to deter Pyongyang’s provocations. The launch also presents a direct challenge to the US and China to somehow create a united front against the North.

The US had originally pushed for a tougher sanctions regime – including a full oil embargo and travel ban for North Korean officials – but had to soften its demands to ensure full cooperation from China.

Read more: ‘Ultimate sanction’ – Will cutting off oil bring North Korea to its knees?

Aside from the self-congratulation earlier this week in Washington over another unanimous UN vote, the rift between Chinese and US interests moving forward on North Korea is clear, as it is apparent that Beijing is continuing to stop short of taking action that would topple the Kim Jong Un regime.

US China Trade (picture-alliance/AP Photo/S. Loeb)The US is dubious of China’s commitment to enforcing sanctions

This, combined with North Korea’s constant weapons testing and rapid advancements in capability, is exacerbating the already tense relationship between the US and China.

Read more: What is China’s role in the North Korean crisis?

Dialogue – made in China

Following the UN Security Council resolution on September 11, China’s official Xinhua news agency released a commentary stating that the Trump administration was making a mistake by pursuing deeper sanctions rather than seeking diplomatic engagement with North Korea.

“The US needs to switch from isolation to communication in order to end an ‘endless loop’ on the Korean peninsula where nuclear and missile tests trigger tougher sanctions and tougher sanctions invite further tests,” Xinhua said.

China has been advocating a so-called “freeze for freeze” strategy, where the Kim regime agrees to cease all weapons testing and missile launches in exchange for the US diminishing its military footprint on the peninsula and ceasing all joint military exercises with the South.

The US has roundly rejected any new forms of “freeze” agreements that it considers would weaken its strategic posture on the Korean peninsula. Two similar deals struck between the US and North Korea during the Clinton and Bush administrations fell through after they were not honored by Pyongyang.

– Donald Trump rejects diplomacy with North Korea

– How North Korea survives on an oil-drip from Russia

US dollars for Chinese compliance

The US is dubious of China’s commitment to enforcing sanctions, as Chinese individuals and companies have been found in the past to be in violation of UN sanctions for not cutting ties with North Korea.

After the last round of UN sanctions against Pyongyang in August, the US issued an additional set of sanctions against Chinese individuals and companies for allegedly aiding the North Korean weapons program.

A commentary in the Chinese state-run newspaper Global Times responded by accusing the US of “severely violating” international law by sanctioning Chinese companies and individuals, while maintaining that China “strictly implements” UN Security Council resolutions.

“Who grants Washington the right to make judgments on which companies violate UN Security Council resolutions?” said the commentary.

The new round of sanctions on Monday makes it illegal for foreign firms to form commercial joint ventures with North Korean entities.

On Tuesday, the US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told media that if China didn’t follow the UN sanctions on North Korea, the Trump administration would pursue additional sanctions on Beijing to cut off access to the US financial system.

“If China doesn’t follow these sanctions, we will put additional sanctions on them and prevent them from accessing the US and international dollar system, and that’s quite meaningful,” Mnuchin said.

Ely Ratner, a former national security advisor with the Obama administration and a China expert at the US Council on Foreign Relations, told DW that the Trump administration would likely impose additional secondary sanctions on Chinese firms, banks, and individuals that continue doing business with North Korea illegally in violation of UN sanctions.

“The Chinese government won’t like this, but it only has itself to blame for not enforcing UN Security Council resolutions that it voted for,” said Ratner.

A Trump administration official told Reuters news agency that any such “secondary sanctions” on Chinese banks and other companies were on hold for now to give China time to show it was prepared to fully enforce the latest and previous rounds of sanctions.

Read more: North Korea sanctions: EU targets main exports with an expanded blacklist

Infografik Timeline Nordkoreas Raketentests 05.07.2017 ENG

China won’t back down

But even if China complies with what the US considers are watered-down sanctions, the bottom line is that it is not in China’s national interest to eliminate the Kim regime in Pyongyang. Observers agree that Beijing is less concerned about the North’s weapons program than it is about a US-sponsored, re-united Korean peninsula.

“China doesn’t want the DPRK to collapse because that would leave many uncertainties regarding its weapons, refugees and a US base at its doorstep,” Eduardo Araral, Vice Dean of research at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore, told DW.

Araral added that the US would not be able to handle North Korea without cooperation from China. “US-China ties are so intertwined that the US cannot continue hurting China, for example on trade, without hurting itself,” he said.

A post- Kim peninsula?

One of the major hurdles in preventing a united front from the US and China in dealing with the Kim regime, is the uncertainty of the geopolitical outcome on the Korean Peninsula if the North were to collapse and be folded into the South.

US and Chinese interests do merge, however, in that both do not want a nuclear-ready North Korean military machine, and China especially does not want nuclear war in its backyard. It should be noted that China does not necessarily have friendly relations with North Korea. Chinese President Xi Jinping has never met with Kim Jong Un and there are signals that China is willing to take a tougher stance on the regime. Nevertheless, these considerations are outweighed by a tangle of Chinese geopolitical interests.

For China to accept a united Korean peninsula, they would need to be assured that the US would demilitarize in the region and that a new regional security architecture could be created with Beijing’s interests at the helm. This scenario presents a problem, not only for US interests, but also for Japan and South Korea.

Noah Feldman, author of “Cool War: The United States, China, and the Future of Global Competition” and professor at Harvard Law School, told a debate organized and broadcast online by Intelligence Squared on September 13, that China presented a “structural problem” for a unified Korea. US security guarantees on the Korean peninsula would be essential for South Korea and Japan to agree to a new geopolitical structure in Northeast Asia, which is something that China won’t agree to.

“Countries are living under the Chinese economic sphere of influence, while depending on the US as a security guarantor. They are playing both ends against the middle and that has worked for those countries,” said Feldman during the debate.

It is worthwhile noting that the only time the US and China have engaged in direct conflict was on the Korean peninsula in 1950, after the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army entered the Korean War to fight on behalf of North Korea against a US-led coalition defending the South. And more than 65 years later, it seems that again decisive action from the Chinese is necessary to tip the balance in Northeast Asia.

 http://www.dw.com/en/why-china-wont-help-us-against-north-korea/a-40525522

Top Chinese bitcoin exchange shuts down

September 14, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | The international value of bitcoin has plunged in recent days amid speculation that the Chinese authorities will shut down the trading platforms

BEIJING (AFP) – One of the biggest bitcoin exchanges in China and the world announced Thursday that it would stop all trading following new Chinese government regulations clamping down on crypto-currencies.The international value of bitcoin has plunged in recent days amid speculation that the Chinese authorities will shut down the trading platforms following last week’s ban on initial coin offerings.

BTCC — China’s second bitcoin platform in terms of volume and the world’s third largest — said on its Twitter account that “after carefully considering” the announcement by Chinese regulators, it will “stop all trading” on September 30.

The Chinese central bank’s announcement last week meant that Chinese firms would no longer be able to issue electronic currency units to raise funds.

Following the decision, the National Internet Finance Association of China said Wednesday that there was “no legal basis for platforms which engage in the trading of various forms of ‘virtual currencies'”.

The association, which was created by the central bank, warned on its website that such currencies are “increasingly used as a tool in criminal activities such as money laundering, drug trafficking, smuggling, and illegal fundraising”.

The crypto-currency sank late Thursday.

According to the Bitcoin Price Index, which offers an average of the various global platforms, the currency had plunged as low as $3,640 by Thursday evening after peaking at an all-time high of around $4,359 on Tuesday.

The Chinese central bank’s move last week was seen as a way for Beijing to gain control over crypto-currencies, which are created using blockchain technology and are sold and bought online without any government regulation.

In an attempt to halt capital flight overseas and clean up its financial system, Beijing began early this year to tighten controls on bitcoin trading platforms by restricting, in particular, transactions considered excessively speculative.

The two main Chinese platforms, BTCC and Okcoin which operate in yuan, account for 22 percent of the world trade in bitcoins, according to reference website bitcoinity.org.

Only one Singaporean is fit to be president — So who decides in a democracy? — Or who cares if it is a democracy?

September 14, 2017

Or so the government concludes

IT IS very important, Lee Hsien Loong, Singapore’s prime minister, explained last year, that all Singaporeans feel they have a genuine chance of becoming president. To that end, his government tinkered with the eligibility criteria for candidates. Yet Singaporeans primed for a festival of inclusiveness at this year’s election must be confused. On September 11th a committee of senior officials declared that only one candidate was eligible to stand, and that the woman in question, Halimah Yacob, a former speaker of parliament, was thus deemed to have been elected unopposed. She will be sworn in on September 14th.

Singapore’s democracy can sometimes seem a little regimented: the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) has been in power since before independence in 1965. So when the government decided to amend the constitution in 1991 to allow direct elections for president, ostensibly to deepen popular engagement with politics, observers were suspicious—and rightly so. The criteria for eligibility were set so narrowly that only two of the subsequent five elections have involved more than one candidate. Even so, at the previous election, in 2011, the PAP’s preferred candidate came within a whisker of losing.

The government says this close shave had no influence on its decision to narrow the eligibility criteria yet more before this year’s election. The intention, Mr Lee explained, was to make sure that none of Singapore’s three main ethnic groups—Chinese, Malays and Indians—was excluded from the job for too long. In November the government duly changed the constitution to reserve presidential elections for members of a particular ethnic group if no one from that group has held the job for the previous five terms. On this basis, the presidential election this year was limited to Malays, who make up 13% of the population but have not held the office of president since 1970. Coincidentally, the new rules prevented the candidate who fell just 7,383 votes short last time, Tan Cheng Bock, from running again, as he is one of the 74% of Singaporeans who are Chinese (9% of the population is Indian).

Cynics point out that the government’s concern with diversity goes only so far. All holders of the much more powerful post of prime minister have been Chinese—two out of three of them from the Lee family. Singapore normally prides itself on being a meritocracy, in contrast to neighbouring Malaysia, where Malays and other indigenous groups are accorded special privileges. And while candidates for president this year had to be Malay, not just any Malay could apply. They also needed either to have served in an extremely senior government job or to have run a profitable company with S$500m ($371m) in shareholder equity. The figure used to be S$100m but a decision to raise the bar was announced last year. Undaunted, two other Malays beside Ms Halimah applied to run, but were judged not to have met the criteria.

Popular and competent, Ms Halimah seemed very likely to win even with some competition. Disqualifying her challengers robs her of the modicum of legitimacy the election could have given her. Voters excited to mark ballots for Singapore’s first female president are particularly disappointed. Then again, Singapore’s repeated tightening of the rules suggests a lack of faith that voters, given a wider choice, would make the right decision.

https://www.economist.com/news/asia/21728865-or-so-government-concludes-only-one-singaporean-fit-be-president

Philippines President Duterte Refuses Call to Open His Bank Accounts to Scrutiny — Chinese money?

September 13, 2017

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine president has refused a demand by his most vocal critic to publicly release details of his bank accounts to disprove allegations that he had large sums of undeclared money.

President Rodrigo Duterte said in a news conference early Wednesday that if opposition Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV wanted “to get evidence, do not get it from my mouth. You must be stupid … Why would I give you the pleasure?”

Trillanes first alleged Duterte had unexplained wealth during the presidential campaign last year. Duterte revived attention recently when he alleged Trillanes has undeclared foreign bank accounts.

Trillanes denied he has undeclared wealth and signed about a dozen waivers for authorities to look into the alleged bank accounts.

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‘Go fly a kite’: Duterte ducks Trillanes’ bank waiver dare

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said that what he claimed was not that the President had P200 million in his accounts, but rather over P2 billion, which President Rodrigo Duterte never declared in his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN). Philstar.com/Efigenio Toledo IV, File

MANILA, Philippines — “Go somewhere else and fly a kite.”

This was President Rodrigo Duterte’s reply to Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV after the lawmaker dared him to sign a waiver on his bank records.

Addressing Trillanes’ challenge to him, Duterte, in a late night media interview on Wednesday, said: “If he want[s] to get evidence, do not get it from my mouth. You must be stupid, even if it is true or false.”

Duterte did not give a categorical answer when asked if he was declining Trillanes’ dare and instead insulted the senator’s intelligence.

“I don’t know his IQ… Maybe he’s just lucky that he was able to enter PMA (Philippine Military Academy). But ang Quotient nito ni Trillanes, it’s about 14. Hindi nga umabot ng 15,” the president remarked.

“Kaya sabi ko, “Ikaw, Trillanes, kung bright ka talaga, t*** i**, vice president ka na ngayon. Eh bakit ka natalo?”

Trillanes signs waivers

Trillanes, one of the most vocal critics of the administration, recently signed waivers on bank secrecy and presented them to the media.

Duterte had threatened to expose Trillanes’ alleged foreign bank assets after the senator implicataed Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte and Manases Carpio, the presdient’s son-in-law, in smuggling.

In response, Trillanes issued the waivers and dared the president to do the same even when the latter enjoys immunity from criminal suit.

But, according to the president, Trillanes’ waivers were useless.

He added that he used his “contacts” to get information on Trillanes’ bank accounts.

“Alam mo naman, si Trillanes, he thinks that really people are ignorant… ‘Yang joint account niya, may partner siya na Chinese,” Duterte said.

“So even if he signs a waiver, if the co-signer does not, walang mangyari niyan. And the bank would never, never name who is the partner. Eh, nakuha lang namin ‘yan sa — Well, a foreign government supplied that,” he added.

“We are building a case. Mahirap kasi. Bank Secrecy Law.”

During last year’s national campaign, the senator accused the then Davao City mayor of owning more than P200 million in deposits in a bank in Pasig City not reflected in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth.

Duterte vehemently denied the allegations but this did not satisfy Trillanes, who had repeatedly challenged him to sign a waiver on the secrecy of bank deposits so that the details of his bank accounts would be made public.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/09/13/1738718/go-fly-kite-duterte-ducks-trillanes-bank-waiver-dare

Japan’s Abe to Launch $17-Billion Indian Bullet Train Project as Ties Deepen

September 12, 2017

NEW DELHI/TOKYO — Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will lay the foundation stone for India’s first bullet train in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state this week, in a tightening of ties just days after New Delhi ended a dangerous military confrontation with China.

The move by Abe, who starts a two-day visit to India on Wednesday, highlights an early lead for Japan in a sector where the Chinese have also been trying to secure a foothold, but without much success.

Modi has made the 500-km- (311-mile-) long high-speed rail link between the financial hub of Mumbai and the industrial city of Ahmedabad in western Gujarat a centerpiece of his efforts to showcase India’s ability to build cutting-edge infrastructure.

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The leaders will launch the start of work on the line on Thursday, India’s railways ministry said in a statement.

“This technology will revolutionize and transform the transport sector,” said Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, welcoming the prospects for growth brought by Japan’s high-speed “shinkansen” technology.

In Tokyo, a Japanese foreign ministry official told reporters, “We would like to support ‘Make in India’ as much as possible,” referring to Modi’s signature policy to lure investors in manufacturing.

“And for that, we want to do what’s beyond the Mumbai-Ahmedabad line and achieve economies of scale.”

India would make “all-out efforts” to complete the line by August 2022, more than a year earlier than planned, the government said this week.

Japan is providing 81 percent of the funding for the 1.08-trillion-rupee ($16.9-billion) project, through a 50-year loan at 0.1 percent annual interest.

TIES BLOSSOMED

Ties between India and Japan have blossomed as Modi and Abe increasingly see eye-to-eye in countering growing Chinese assertiveness across Asia.

Japanese investment into India has surged in areas ranging from automotives to infrastructure in the remote northeast, making Tokyo its third-largest foreign direct investor.

India and Japan are also trying to move forward on a plan for New Delhi to buy Japanese amphibious aircraft – ShinMaywa Industries’ US-2 – in what would be one of Tokyo’s first arms transfers since ending a self-imposed embargo.

Tokyo hopes that by gaining a head start on rival exporters of rail technology such as China and Germany, its companies will be able to dominate business in one of the most promising markets for high-speed rail equipment.

In 2015, China won a contract to assess the feasibility of a high-speed link between Delhi and Mumbai, part of a network of more than 10,000 km (6,214 miles) of track India wants to set up, but little progress has been made.

Bullet train critics say the funds would be far better spent to modernize India’s slow and rickety state-controlled rail system, the world’s fourth largest.

But a $15-billion safety overhaul has hit delays as a state steel firm proved unable to fill demand for new rail.

(Additional reporting by Sanjeev Miglani and Rupam Jain in NEW DELHI; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Related:

China Facing Intensified Threat of Religious Infiltration, Extremism: Official

September 12, 2017

BEIJING — China is facing heightened threats from foreign infiltration via religion and from the spread of extremism, a top official for religious affairs said on Tuesday, after strict new rules were passed to manage religious practice in the country.

President Xi Jinping has emphasized the need to guard against foreign infiltration through religion and to prevent the spread of “extremist” ideology, while also being tolerant of traditional faiths that he sees as a salve to social ills.

China’s cabinet last week passed updated rules to regulate religion so as to bolster national security, fight extremism and restrict faith practiced outside state approved organizations. The new rules take effect in February.

Wang Zuoan, the head of China’s religious affairs bureau, said the revision was urgently needed because “the foreign use of religion to infiltrate (China) intensifies by the day and religious extremist thought is spreading in some areas.”

“Issues with religion on the internet are starting to break out … and illegal religious gatherings in some places continue despite bans,” he added, writing in the official paper of the ruling Communist Party, the People’s Daily.

Wang said that freedom of religious faith is protected by the new rules.

“At the same time, freedom of religious faith is not equal to religious activities taking place without legal restrictions,” he added.

Religion within China needed to be “sinicized”, a term officials use to describe the adjusting of religion to fit Chinese culture as interpreted by the Party.

“These rules will help maintain the sinicization of religion in our country … and keep to the correct path of adapting religion to a socialist society,” he said.

China’s five officially sanctioned religions – Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Christianity – vowed to fight “desinicization” at a forum on the topic held in Beijing last week, according state media.

China has seen a revival of religious practice in recent decades after faith was effectively banned during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s.

Official estimates put the number of believers at around 100 million, but scholars argue that the real number could be many times higher, due to many believers being unregistered with authorities.

China requires places of worship to be registered with authorities, but many believers shun official settings in preference for private gatherings often known as “underground” churches.

(Story corrects to reflect that rules were passed by China’s cabinet, not parliament, in third paragraph.)

(Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Editing by Richard Pullin)

China Tightens Regulation of Religion to ‘Block Extremism’ — “Need to protect China’s national security against threats from religious groups.”

September 7, 2017

BEIJING — China’s cabinet on Thursday passed new rules to regulate religion to bolster national security, fight extremism and restrict faith practiced outside organizations approved by the state.

The document passed by Premier Li Keqiang updates a version of rules put into place in 2005 to allow the regulation of religion to better reflect “profound” changes in China and the world, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Image result for Muslims in China, photos

The rules released by Xinhua use strong and specific language about the need to protect China’s national security against threats from religious groups.

“Religious affairs maintenance should persist in a principle of maintaining legality, curbing illegality, blocking extremism, resisting infiltration and attacking crime,” the regulations say.

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“Any group or individual must not create conflict or contention between different religions, with a single religion or between religious individuals and non-religious individuals,” they say.

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As World Watches Kim, China Quietly Builds South China Sea Clout — “There is a willingness on their part to push things as far as they can.”

September 6, 2017

Bloomberg

By Jason Koutsoukis and Dan Murtaugh

September 5, 2017, 5:00 PM EDT September 6, 2017, 4:07 AM EDT
  • U.S. under Trump shows greater focus on North Korea threat
  • Tensions rising over oil exploration blocks with Vietnam

Why China’s Maritime Disputes Could Lead to War

As Kim Jong Un’s antics in North Korea capture global attention, China is quietly moving to bolster its grip on disputed territory in the South China Sea.

Last month, a Philippine lawmaker released photos he said showed Chinese fishing, coast guard and navy vessels surrounding a Philippine-occupied isle in the Spratly island chain, preventing planned repairs to a runway. Vietnam in July halted drilling in an area leased to Spain’s Repsol S.A, amid reports it did so under Chinese duress.

The incidents suggest China is taking advantage of a perceived U.S. vacuum on Southeast Asia under President Donald Trump, whose administration has focused on Chinese trade tensions and North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests.

While the U.S. is still doing what it calls “freedom of navigation” naval operations in the South China Sea, testing China’s claims to exclusive access — it plans to conduct two to three such maneuvers in the next few months, according to the Wall Street Journal — and a rear admiral publicly chiding Beijing for its behavior, the intensity of its actions and statements on the waters has faded since Trump took office.

Doubts over the future of U.S. commitment could leave some Southeast Asian states reluctant to publicly challenge China on their own. The risk is that while the U.S. is occupied further north, China expands its presence in the South China Sea in a way that becomes impossible to unwind, giving it the strategic advantage over time.

“China knows that Trump is very focused on North Korea, and not too worried about Southeast Asia,” said Jay L. Batongbacal, director of the Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea at the University of the Philippines. “There is a willingness on their part to push things as far as they can.”

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The recent actions are a far cry from the clashes at sea that occurred in mid-2014 when China dragged an oil rig into waters also claimed by Vietnam. After an international outcry, Beijing withdrew the rig several months later.

When a 2005 agreement to share the area’s resources expired in 2008, the Philippines and Vietnam opposed China’s so-called nine-dash line — marks on a map covering more than 80 percent of the South China Sea — as a basis for joint exploration.

Now, under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Beijing and Manila are negotiating a deal for the Sampaguita gas field at Reed Bank as a starting point. Without strong support from the U.S. or Southeast Asian nations, Vietnam could find itself less able to push back against China’s efforts to drill in other areas.

Vietnam is concerned about the potential of a U.S. pullback in the region. “We are watching them with worry,” said Tran Viet Thai, a deputy director general at the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam in Hanoi, where the country’s diplomats are trained. “We want to see the positive contribution of the U.S. to regional stability and international security.”

China’s focus is on pushing joint exploration that ties economic fortunes together and takes the focus off strategic ambitions. Standing alongside Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano in Manila in July, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said joint exploration was an idea “full of political wisdom.”

According to a 2013 estimate by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the South China Sea has in total about 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas rated as proved or probable reserves.

Block 136-03

The latest tensions are over exploration block 136-03, which is located around 350 miles (560 kilometers) southeast of Ho Chi Minh City and which China calls Wanan Bei-21.

It’s not the first time the area has been an issue. In 1994, Chinese warships blocked a Vietnamese oil drilling rig from working in the area, and in 2011, Vietnam said a Chinese fishing boat rammed a PetroVietnam ship doing a seismic survey. The BBC reported in July that Vietnam had terminated drilling by Repsol “following strong threats from China.”

Repsol confirmed the suspension in an earnings call in July but said it would not comment further. Asked about the matter on July 25, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China urged the relevant party to stop its “unilateral actions that infringe upon China’s rights.”

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said in a statement on the ministry’s website in July that Vietnam asked parties to respect its rights in the waterway. China’s live-firing drills in the Paracel archipelago violate Vietnam’s sovereignty and threaten peace in the region, she said in a statement on Sept. 5.

“It will be critical to watch how China responds to other drilling activities,” said M. Taylor Fravel, associate professor of political science at MIT and a member of the board of directors for the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. Other Vietnamese blocks overlapping China’s claims involve Exxon Mobil Corp.Murphy Oil Corp. and KrisEnergy Ltd., according to Jean-Baptiste Berchoteau, an Asian upstream research analyst for Wood Mackenzie.

KrisEnergy spokeswoman Tanya Pang said the company has no current drilling activity in the area. Murphy Oil did not respond to a request for comment.

“We are not conducting drilling operations and have not received any similar such request,” Exxon spokesman Aaron M Stryk said in an emailed statement. “At this time, we are working very constructively with our partners and the government of Vietnam to develop the Ca Voi Xanh field.”

The foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China have now endorsed a framework for a code of conduct in the South China Sea.

Exploration done in accordance with Philippine law “would be a constructive development for future foreign relations within Southeast Asia,” said Albert del Rosario, a former Philippine foreign secretary. “Respect for the rule of law by China would be welcomed not only by Asean but by the responsible community of nations.”

For now, the lack of public comment from Vietnam on Block 136-03 is probably recognition that “it’s not a good time to rock the boat,” said Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

“There is a growing uneasiness about China and the way it has been behaving in the region,” said Koh. Still, for now, “Vietnam sees that it has to give the code of conduct a chance to work.”

— With assistance by Keith Zhai, John Boudreau, and Luu Van Dat

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-05/as-world-watches-kim-china-quietly-builds-south-china-sea-clout

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.