Posts Tagged ‘Chinese’

Chinese official finds Trump ‘very confusing’; says US warships at China’s doorstep building tension

October 14, 2018

President Trump’s inner circle is “very confusing” for foreign diplomatic officials in Washington to navigate, China’s U.S. ambassador Cui Tiankai told “Fox News Sunday” in an exclusive wide-ranging interview.

Tiankai added that U.S. warships are “on the offensive” near China, days after a U.S. destroyer nearly collided with a Chinese military vessel in the South China Sea. The Pentagon said the Chinese ship came within 45 yards of the U.S. destroyer, in an intentionally “unsafe” maneuver.

Tiankai’s comments come as Chinese President Xi Jinping and Trump prepare for a possible meeting at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, next month, amid a rapidly escalating trade conflict between the two nations that some have called a new cold war.

Asked by host Chris Wallace whether Trump listens primarily to hardliners like trade director Peter Navarro — who has characterized China as the economic “parasite of the world” — or moderates like chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Tiankai responded simply, “You tell me.”

The envoy added that other ambassadors seemingly have the same issue. President Trump has repeatedly said he tries to avoid “telegraphing” his moves to foreign adversaries.

“Honestly, I’ve been talking to ambassadors of other countries in Washington, D.C., and this is also part of their problem,” Tiankai said. “They don’t know who is the final decision-maker. Of course, presumably, the president will take the final decision, but who is playing what role? Sometimes it could be very confusing.”

Trump, citing widespread intellectual property theft in China that cuts into the profits of U.S. companies doing business there, placed tariffs on approximately $200 billion of Chinese imports in September, following his imposition of significant tariffs on nearly $35 billion in Chinese goods in July. China quickly retaliated with $60 billion in tariffs of its own.

The White House has bipartisan support for hitting back at Chinese intellectual property theft. In an interview in June, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., ordinarily a fierce Trump critic, agreed with the administration’s China policy and said that the country “takes total advantage” of the U.S.

“Not only do they steal our intellectual property, they keep our good companies out, and say the only way you’re going to be able to sell your American products in China … is if you come to China, make them there, and give us the techniques and intellectual property,” Schumer said.

And the president has insisted his tariffs are already having a major impact.

“Their economy has gone down very substantially, and I have a lot more to do if I want to do it,” Trump told “Fox & Friends” last week. “They lived too well for too long and, frankly, I guess they think the Americans are stupid people. Americans are not stupid people. We were led badly when it came to trade.”


But in his interview with Fox News, Tiankai denied that China permits or engages in widespread intellectual property theft, and said even the suggestion was an affront to the country’s population.

“I think all of these accusations about how China has developed are groundless and not fair to the Chinese people,” he told Wallace. “You see, China has 1.4 billion people. It would be hard to imagine that one-fifth of the global population could develop and prosper not by relying mainly on their own efforts, but by stealing or forcing some transfer of technology from others — that’s impossible.”

“It’s important to notice who started this trade war. We never want to have a trade war.”

— China’s U.S. ambassador Cui Tiankai

He added: “It’s important to notice who started this trade war. We never want to have a trade war, but if somebody started a trade war against us, we have to respond and defend our own interests.”

Concerns have been raised that China, the largest foreign holder of U.S. Treasurys, might start dumping its holdings as a way to pressure the United States in the trade dispute. But Mnuchin said this possibility didn’t concern him because it would be contrary to Beijing’s economic interests to start dumping its Treasury holdings, and would be “very costly” to China.

Top U.S. officials have warned that the ongoing conflict with China extends beyond trade. In Senate testimony on Wednesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray said that “China, in many ways, represents the broadest, most complicated, most long-term counterintelligence threat we face.”

He added that “Russia is … fighting to stay relevant after the fall of the Soviet Union,” while “China is fighting tomorrow’s fight…and it affects every sector of our economy.”

Vice President Pence, meanwhile, has accused China of trying to interfere with U.S. elections, including by targeting tariffs toward industries that support Trump and even spreading propaganda in U.S. media outlets.

In response, Tiankai effectively called the U.S. the aggressor in several spheres of influence.

“You see, Chinese media, they are just learning from America media to use all these means, to buy commercial pages from newspapers, to make their views known or to cover what is happening here,” Tiankai said. “This is normal practice for all the media.”


The envoy also said that Chinese warships, which harassed and nearly collided with a U.S. destroyer recently in the disputed South China Sea, had responded appropriately to an intervention on their “doorstep.” Beijing has built up military fortifications on two contested Chinese man-made islands there despite pledging not to do so.

“Where the incident took place, you were right to say it was in South China Sea. So it’s at China’s doorstep,” Tiankai told Wallace. “It’s not Chinese warships that are going to the coast of California, or to the Gulf of Mexico. It’s so close to the Chinese islands and it’s so close to the Chinese coast. So who is on the offensive? Who is on the defensive? This is very clear.”

Tiankai said, however, that China would continue to “faithfully” implement sanctions against its longtime ally, North Korea, in order to restore stability to the region. He  said a “coordinated, phased, and step-by-step approach” to North Korean denuclearization is the best approach, mirroring the position of that country’s leader, Kim Jong Un.

“How can you convince him to give up all the nuclear weapons without any hope that the U.S. would be following a more friendly policy towards him?” Tiankai asked.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Beijing last week, where top Chinese officials vowed to take “all necessary measures” to safeguard their country. They have since said that high-level communications continue between the two countries.

Still, there were signs tensions between China and the U.S. have eased somewhat in recent days. Global stock market indexes bounced back sharply Friday after their recent plunges, on word of the possible presidential meeting.

And reports have emerged that Mnuchin has advised against labeling China a currency manipulator — a status that could trigger penalties. The Chinese currency has been falling in value against the dollar in recent months, raising concerns that Beijing is devaluing its currency to make Chinese goods more competitive against U.S. products.

Mnuchin did not say this weekend what the forthcoming Treasury report, set to come out next week, will conclude about China’s currency practices. In the past, Treasury has placed China on a watch-list but found that Beijing did not meet the threshold to be labeled a currency manipulator.

The Treasury secretary met Thursday with Yi Gang, head of China’s central bank. “I expressed my concerns about the weakness of the currency.” Mnuchin said.

Tiankai told Wallace that China, despite its ongoing spat with the U.S. on a variety of fronts, remains optimistic about November’s planned meeting between Trump and Jinping. Kudlow, the chief White House economic adviser, said on “Fox News Sunday” that the one-on-one between the two leaders will “probably” happen.

“There’s a good mutual understanding and good working relationship between the two,” Tiankai said. “I hope and I’m sure this will continue.”

Fox News’ Samuel Chamberlain and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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When China rules the world

October 11, 2018

In August 1967, China was in the throes of the Cultural Revolution. Eager to show their revolutionary fervor, Chinese diplomatic staff in London emerged from their embassy wielding iron bars and confronting the police and some journalists who were outside.

No one was significantly hurt in the scuffles that followed, but it was duly reported by Beijing as an attack by “imperialist” police on innocent Chinese.

There were echoes of that well-recorded incident in an event last week in Birmingham, England, at a side event of the annual Conservative Party conference. It was addressed by Benedict Rogers, deputy chairman of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission and activist on Hong Kong issues who established Hong Kong Watch, a group concerned with civil rights in that territory.

A London-based reporter for China Central Television named Kong Linlin stepped outside of her reportorial role and began to shout at the speaker, using words including “You are a puppet. … You are a liar. You want to separate China and you are not even Chinese. … The rest are all traitors. …”



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Happy Chinese tourists

The female reporter was then seen to slap more than once an ethnic Chinese attending the event — Enoch Lieu, who is Hong Kong born but a U.K. resident. The police intervened and Kong was arrested for assault, though later released without charge.

This might have been written off as a minor incident, a nationalistic reporter losing her cool. But CCTV defended her and, despite the visual evidence available, insisted that she was the one who had been blocked from expressing her opinion and then assaulted. Naturally, this claim went down well with the social media masses back home in China. They are ever eager on the lookout for “insults to the Chinese people.”

It was not clear whether Kong acted spontaneously or the incident was a special kind of “assignment,” planned like that one in 1967.

However, a pattern is emerging. It was the third time in as many weeks that China’s state organs — of which CCTV is a key part — have made victims out of Chinese who were “misbehaving.”

In a pattern that is well familiar from Vladimir Putin’s Russia, twisting facts in order to spur nationalist sentiments among the masses has become the new normal in China.

Thusly, a Chinese tourist who refused to leave a Swedish hotel where he did not have the appropriate booking was made into a hero of anti-Chinese victimization when the hotel called the police and had the man arrested. The Chinese Foreign Ministry decided to take up the case and Sweden was widely vilified.

A similar burst of Chinese outrage followed an incident between a Chinese tourist and an immigration official in Thailand. In this case, the official appears to have been at fault in an incident by slapping the tourist who repeatedly refused to obey his instructions.

The ensuing outrage in Chinese media was sufficient for Thai Prime Minister, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, to issue a groveling apology. This was doubtless out of fear of slowing the flow of Chinese tourists who now account for about 27 percent of 35 million annual visitors to the country.

China had earlier been outraged by the Thai deputy prime minister’s suggestion that a Chinese tour operator’s ignoring of a weather warning had been at least partly responsible for the deaths of 44 Chinese when a boat sank off the holiday island of Phuket. Bookings for Phuket plunged. The minister apologized.

Most countries are keen to attract Chinese tourists. Nonetheless, official as well as social media responses to recent incidents also raise questions in foreign minds about China’s self-regard. Other countries have plenty of misbehaving tourists, but — unlike in China’s case — their diplomats are normally the ones apologizing for their countrymen’s behavior, not the ones demanding apologies.

There are two obvious reasons for China’s approach. One is simply to use its commercial power for political ends — amply demonstrated by actions in 2017 to boycott some goods and reduce tourism to South Korea over its missile defense deal with the United States.

Another is for the government to appeal to populist sentiment in being seen to support Chinese people everywhere and anywhere, on the principle “My Country Right or Wrong.” This, in particular, is a tell-tale indication of the nervousness of the Chinese Communist Party’s leadership over the country’s brittle economic course.

Philip Bowring is an Asia-based journalist, formerly the editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review and columnist for the International Herald Tribune.

French Farmers Angry At Chinese “Invasion”

September 8, 2018

Having witnessed its prized Bordeaux vineyards gradually bought by Chinese investors, France is now on its guard against a similar ‘Chinese invasion’ of its farmland

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 September, 2018, 11:28am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 September, 2018, 11:30am
South China Morning Post

Long before bread riots led up to the 1789 French Revolution, the famished citizens of urban France were deeply connected with rural life.

The attachment to the countryside is embedded in the national identity and spelt out every time that rural environment is deemed to be under threat.

Having witnessed its prized Bordeaux vineyards gradually bought by Chinese investors, France is now on its guard against a similar “invasion” of its farmland. Newspaper headlines in recent months have tried to jolt the collective public mood.

“French fields on the Chinese platter”;

“When China launches the race to buy French farmland”;

“China conquering French farmland”;

And the storming-of-the-Bastille-like exclamation: “Chinese investors storm French farmland”.

From the Indre department in central France to Normandy and Brittany in the west, protests against what is seen as the mounting threat of Chinese takeovers of French farming land have been gaining momentum, culminating in a national demonstration in the Indre at the end of August, on land belonging to the Reward Group, whose slogan is “French fields to Chinese plates”.

The purchase of the 1,700 hectares of farm for wheat, barley and rapeseed made headlines in 2016. On it the multinational firm produces organic wheat for flour for the Chinese market.

It’s all part of Chinese billionaire Hu Keqin’s reported plans to “conquer China with baguettes”.

Chinese billionaire Hu Keqin. File photo: AFP

His Reward Group now owns nearly 3,000 hectares of agricultural land in France.

Hu’s plans for 1,500 chic bakeries in China over the next five years hinge on importing top shelf flour from France, Europe’s leading wheat producer, while promoting food security in China.

The group declares on its website that it “has acquired 8 large permanent farms in France, and created joint ventures with the largest French agricultural association, establishing a complete industrial chain that covers agricultural cooperation, flour manufacturing and sales, and translating them by creating a high-end bakery chain”.

All that as part of its “it is actively engaged in strategies to “leave the country” and “introduce from abroad”, as it sets about “globally reaffirming the Chinese presence outside the country’s borders”.

Other conglomerates in China are also eagerly “eyeing up the French countryside to produce wheat flour with the coveted ‘made in France’ label”, the French weekly business magazine Challenges reported recently.

A waitress works in ‘Chez Blandine’, a Chinese bakery in Beijing owned by Chinese billionaire Hu Keqin. Photo: AFP

The swelling national protest movement against such acquisitions comes under the banner of the Confédération paysanne, the Small Farmers’ Confederation, whose rallying call is “Reclaiming Mother Earth”.

Laurent Pinatel, a stock breeder from the Loire region of western France and union spokesperson, said: “Today we are witnessing a massive concentration of the means of agricultural production, especially of land ownership, in the hands of a few, to the detriment of regional farming communities, farmer’s livelihood and the French landscapes.”

The union says the French state land agency, SAFER, usually controls the sales of agricultural land, giving it a pre-emption right on the sale of a farm to defend and protect the family farming system which prevails in France.

A member of the French farmers union Confédération paysanne wears a T-shirt that reads: ‘Our farms are not factories’. Photo: AFP

But in this instance Chinese investors are benefiting from a legal loophole which has enabled them not to buy the land itself, but in the case of the Indre, 98 per cent of a company that owned it.

That is a loophole which Pinatel said must be sorted out with stricter laws, on shared ownership of land and the transfer of land titles, which parliamentarians are expected to discuss in coming months.

In February, French President Emmanuel Macron promised “regulatory locks” would be put in place to prevent such acquisitions.

For the regional daily newspaper, La Dépêche, the fact that SAFER was excluded from the Allier sale “raises the question of the food sovereignty of France in the medium-long term” amid the “threat of the national land heritage slipping slowly but surely under a foreign flag”.

“How to resist the ‘jackpot’ in an agricultural sector subject to violent destruction of values?” the paper added noting the Chinese paid up to 12 million for the land, two to three times the market price per hectare.

A tractor drives past protesters on a farm in Murs, near Chatillon-sur-Indre. Photo: AFP

French land is being bought “at the price of gold” other media reports claim, basically because money talks.

“The Chinese have an infallible argument. Money,” concluded a national news report on France 2 television.

“The Chinese offer at least double the going price.”

Tensions are rising it said “between the operator who accepts to work for the Chinese landowners and protesters; because of this speculation, the latter can no longer afford to buy farmland”.

Already faced with the rural exodus, the spectre of Chinese land acquisitions is making the future increasingly uncertain said Yolain Gauthier, a market gardener from Tour in the central west of France.

“We are young, we want to set ourselves up and establish a farming project, but we can’t find financing because there are people with loads of money who speculate on land, on a property, which should normally be protected from all of that.”

A banner that reads: ‘Land of the people’ is used during a protest on a farm in Murs, near Chatillon-sur-Indre. Photo: AFP

The issue has raised the ire not just of farmers across the country but the public, who see their Patrie (fatherland) under threat.

Another investigative report on France Culture radio put it this way: “We knew of the interest of the Chinese for the vineyards of Bordeaux. But why have Chinese investors purchased several thousand hectares of land in the Indre, bypassing control structures? And with what agricultural ambitions?”

In her report, journalist Anne-Laure Chouin suggested the answer lay with a combination of factors, including China’s overpopulation and food safety incidents.

“More than 1.3 billion Chinese live on less than 8 per cent of the world’s arable land. Land often very polluted. With the rural exodus; a rapidly growing middle class who want to consume more meat and milk; recent health scandals that have seen consumers shun certain local products; and a very severe drought – Beijing is thus turning to abroad.

“China buys huge tracts of land: it produces its soybeans in Brazil, palm oil in the Congo and wanted to take back/claim almost 1 per cent of the cultivable land of Australia in the spring.”

Despite having their countryside at heart, the French farmer’s concerns are universal.

“The problem of land grabbing is not just a Chinese problem,” said Pinatel, who is also a goat farmer and cheese producer in Indre.

“It’s the same when French people buy land in Romania.”

Taiwanese evacuated from Typhoon Jebi only if they agreed they’re Chinese – mainland media

September 6, 2018

Transport sent by embassy for tourists stuck in Japan was for Chinese only – forcing those from self-ruled Taiwan to reveal loyalties, state media suggests

South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 September, 2018, 6:03pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 September, 2018, 10:50pm

Taiwanese tourists stranded in Japan by Typhoon Jebi were asked to state whether they identify as Chinese before being allowed emergency help, Chinese state media reported in an apparent attempt to reinforce Beijing’s claim over Taiwan.

Over 3,000 tourists – including around 750 Chinese and 500 Taiwanese – have been stranded since Tuesday in Kansai International Airport in Osaka, where all flights in the coming days have been cancelled after it was forced to close because of flooding.

While Japan has arranged bus and boat evacuations of tourists regardless of nationality, the Chinese embassy has provided buses exclusively for Chinese tourists, according to Chinese state tabloid Global Times on Thursday morning.

The newspaper seized on Chinese tourists’ claims that they told tourists from Taiwan to board buses only if they identified as Chinese. Beijing regards the self-ruled island as a breakaway province to be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary.

“A few Taiwanese asked if they could board the bus provided by the Chinese embassy for evacuation,” a Chinese witness in the airport was quoted as saying. “[Chinese people] all said, ‘Sure, if you identify yourself as Chinese, follow your home country.’”

Water from a tidal surge floods the Kansai International Airport in Izumisano city, Osaka prefecture on Sept. 5, 2018, after typhoon Jebi.

Taipei and Beijing issue separate passports for their citizens and have separate consular offices, having been ruled by different governments for decades.

Over the past year, Beijing has stepped up pressure on foreign airlines and companies, as well as countries around the world, to refer to Taiwan as part of China.

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A bridge connecting Kansai airport to the mainland was damaged when it was hit by a 2,591-ton tanker pushed by winds from typhoon Jebi in Izumisano, western Japan, Sept. 5, 2018.

Another Chinese witness told Chinese state news outlet “After asking, some Taiwanese tourists queued for the buses like the Chinese tourists.”

A staff member at the Taiwanese Trade Office in Osaka, Taiwan’s representative organisation in the city, told the South China Morning Post that Taipei has not been providing transport for Taiwanese people.

“What we can do now is advise them to transit to other airports or railway stations so they can leave as soon as possible,” said the employee, surnamed Maruo.

“But we are not aware that any Taiwanese boarded the Chinese bus.”

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Containers damaged by Typhoon Jebi are seen in Kobe, western Japan, Sept. 5, 2018.

At least 11 people are dead and more than 600 others injured following the most powerful typhoon to hit Japan in 25 years. Kansai is the country’s third-largest airport and a major hub for western Japan, which has been particularly badly hit by the storm.

Forest City, Malaysia: Without Chinese Money, “Not a White Elephant, Yet”

September 5, 2018

An ambitious $100 billion island city being built off Malaysia has found itself in troubled waters as the new government takes aim at the development, the latest in a series of China-linked megaprojects started under the scandal-plagued ex-premier to come under attack.

Forest City’s futuristic high-rises and waterfront villas are under construction on four man-made islands in southern Malaysia, just an hour from the affluent city-state of Singapore.

The project, which is meant to house up to 700,000 people once finished in 2035, is being developed by Hong Kong-listed real estate giant Country Garden and a firm partly owned by a powerful Malaysian sultan.

© AFP | Visitors view a scale model of the Forest City development on one of the man-made islands off Malaysia

It has been aimed at mainland Chinese investors as an alternative to pricier property in Singapore, with reports saying Chinese buyers have snapped up about two-thirds of units already sold before construction is finished.

But the development, which boasts international schools, shopping malls, hotels and even an immigration centre, was troubled from the start.

A clampdown on capital outflows from China hit demand, while it became a lightning rod for public anger at growing Chinese influence in Malaysia under the government of Najib Razak.

Environmentalists have also warned that dumping sand to reclaim land for the city could destroy marine life.

Now Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has hit out at foreigners buying apartments at the vast development, which is threatening to add to a glut of new residential property in southern Malaysia.

Malaysians are unlikely to buy or stay there due to high prices and its relatively remote location, while foreigners do not automatically get long-stay visas by buying a property.

– ‘Built for foreigners’ –

With the shock defeat of Najib’s government in May and the election of Mahathir, who has long railed against the explosion of Chinese investment in Malaysia, speculation has intensified that Forest City could become a white elephant.

Mahathir, 93, has already shelved $22 billion of Chinese-financed projects struck under the former government during a visit last month to Beijing following criticism the deals were unfavourable to Malaysia, and now he has trained his sights on Forest City.

Last week, he made some of his strongest comments yet on the development, saying he objected to the project because it was “built for foreigners, not built for Malaysians. Most Malaysians are unable to buy those flats.”

He added that Forest City “cannot be sold to foreigners… We are not going to give visas for people to come and live here.”

His nationalist rhetoric was not in line with Malaysia’s laws — it is legal for foreigners to buy houses and apartments in Malaysia — and his office later clarified that he only meant purchasing property does not automatically guarantee residency for a foreigner.

But observers said Mahathir was intending to undermine a project he has long detested. A subsequent announcement that the government was establishing a committee to review the terms agreed on to set up the development and foreign ownership there only added to the sense authorities may be trying to put a halt to it.

It is not yet clear what the committee might recommend. Analysts said the worst case scenario in the short term could be the state government in Johor, where the project is based, raising the minimum price for foreigners buying property or increasing levies.

Yeah Kim Leng, a professor of economics at Malaysia’s Sunway University Business School, said investors would be deterred and predicted the developer might have to delay or scale back the project.

“Perhaps they will put it on hold, or aim for something smaller,” he told AFP.

Malaysian property consultant Samuel Tan Wee Cheng meanwhile warned against turning “the project into a white elephant”, the Star newspaper reported.

Only a fraction of work has been completed on the development and only a small number of people, mainly staff, are living there, according to reports.

– Chinese jitters –

During Najib’s nine-year rule, Chinese investment into Malaysia surged but hastily struck deals fuelled suspicion that the leader was seeking help to pay off debts from a massive financial scandal.

While Forest City is a private project, it was perceived by many in Malaysia as another example of unwelcome mainland Chinese influence and there were fears it could become an enclave for wealthy Chinese.

In reality, however, analysts say it is unclear who will inhabit the development, particularly as foreigners must apply for long-stay visas through a separate programme.

With one-bedroom apartments being offered for about $170,000, the prices are out of reach for most Malaysians.

Despite its troubles, Forest City has remained upbeat. A spokesman pointed out that of 20,000 properties launched by the end of last year, 18,000 have been sold, and stressed the development has brought investment and jobs to Malaysia.



Malaysia: Forest City Golf Resort Opens, Even As Discussions Continue on Chinese Buyers

September 3, 2018

A RM1.8 billion (S$599.6 million) golf resort and golf course at Forest City opened its doors to the public as at Sept 1, with Country Garden touting its economic benefits as the mega-project comes under scrutiny.

“Forest City Golf Resort and the Jack Nicklaus designed Forest City Legacy Course will attract golfing enthusiasts from all over the world and elevate the state of Johor’s golfing tourism reputation in the region as this is a world-class championship course. This will also in turn draw major investments, promote the state tourism, opportunities and skill transfers to the locals,” said Country Garden Malaysia director of strategy, Ng Zhu Hann, in a statement on Monday (Sept 3).

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Prospective buyers look at a model of the development at the Country Gardens’ Forest City showroom in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, on Feb 21, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

The hotel in the golf resort has over 150 local employees making up 90 per cent of total hotel staff, the company said, and Forest City has so far created 1,200 job opportunities for locals, which is what it said is an 80 per cent localisation rate of the total employee workforce through master developer, Country Garden Pacificview (CGPV).

CGPV is a a joint venture between Country Garden (60 per cent) and Esplanade 88 Danga Bay Sdn Bhd (EDSB), an associated company of Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor (KPRJ).

The new golf course, designed by golf legend Nicklaus and his son, has a “desert-style” concept, surrounded by mangroves and natural water features, said Forest City Golf Resort and Golf Course general manager, Arthur Yeo. He said that there will be homes, retail shops and travel offerings surrounding the new golf resort. That brings the number of golf courses in Johor to 27.

Johor Golf Tourism Association president Kol Mohd Jamal Salleh said he was hopeful that the golf course will help revive golf tourism which was popular in the 1990s, but has simmered down due to a gamut of factors including what he said was competition from golf clubs in Indonesia and Thailand, and a lack of direct flights to Johor.

The launch came after Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said last week that foreigners will not be allowed to buy homes or granted visas to live at the mega-project which was marketed primarily to Chinese buyers and is touted to be home to 700,000 people.

Malaysia’s Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali on Saturday said the government is scrutinising the Forest City project because free residential units in the development were allegedly being offered in exchange for investments in China. He said that the the transaction is not done in Malaysia, and this does not benefit the country and its economy.

The developer is continuing with construction and reclamation work and selling apartments, and promoting the Shattuck-St Mary’s Forest City International School, which opened last month.


Is China’s first tax cut in 7 years too — government’s plan to stabilise the world’s second largest economy

August 30, 2018

China cuts individual income taxes for first time since 2011, but hopes for consumer spending boost questioned

South China Morning Post
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 August, 2018, 6:32pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 August, 2018, 6:36pm

China’s taxpayers will be pocketing more of their pay from October after the country’s top legislature agreed on Wednesday to raise the income tax threshold to 5,000 yuan (US$730) per month.

Wage earners, who currently take home 3,500 yuan per month before tax, are waiting to learn how much tax deductions will be expanded from 2019, according to People’s Daily.

The higher threshold, and the proposed tax rates with the highest bracket at 45 per cent, were unchanged from a previous proposal, which economists argued was too modest to increase consumer spending power.

The implementation date of the tax cut was brought forward to October 1 from January 1.

“The revised bill is comparatively mature and [we] agreed to approve and implement it as quickly as possible to let people enjoy the tax cut,” the official newspaper reported on Thursday, citing several participating lawmakers.

The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s legislature, is scheduled to give final approval to the proposal on Friday. It will be the first tax cut since 2011.

The tax cut is part of the government’s plan to stabilise the world’s second largest economy, which has started to slow due to the effects of Beijing efforts to reduce risks in the financial system and the effects of the trade war with the United States.

Chinese leaders are now looking for domestic growth drivers, including infrastructure spending and increased consumption, to underpin growth.

National retail sales have slowed this year, with the annual growth rate falling to 8.8 per cent in July, down from 9.0 per cent in June, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

There was great disappointment among China’s online community after the amendment to the tax bill was announced, especially from residents of the biggest cities, who pay the vast majority of national income tax.

Despite repeated calls for a larger tax cut, the latest amendment failed to lift the symbolic tax-free threshold beyond the 5,000 yuan initially proposed. Chinese netizens submitted more than 100,000 comments to the legislature on the tax proposal.

There are concerns the tax burden for some could actually increase under the new bill. Beijing has made clear that it intends to crack down on tax avoidance, saying it will increase scrutiny of all income — including salary, investment income, remuneration and other items — in applying the new tax law.

Tax bureaus currently depend largely on employers to collect personal income tax. As they have few means and little motivation to check individual’s comprehensive incomes, it has relied on salary earners, while entrepreneurs and the self-employed can often avoid significant amounts of tax.

For instance, dozens of Chinese movie stars were recently forced into embarrassing disclosures that they have two contracts, one based on actual income and one with lower income for tax purposes, allowing them to evade much of their tax obligation.

State media reports and government statements have largely concentrated on the special deductions, which will allow taxpayers to subtract from their taxable income some spending on home mortgage, children’s education and parental elderly care.

However, the size and scope of the deductions is not yet clear, and will be decided by the State Council, the government cabinet, on the advice of the Ministry of Finance, after the final passage of the tax law on Friday.

Some lawmakers expressed concerns that without specific details on the tax deductions, taxpayers would find the new law disappointing and fail to boost spending.

“How will the special deduction items work? If they can’t be made clear, the law will be discounted” by taxpayers, lawmaker Song Kun was quoted as saying in the review session.

Ministry of Finance reported that tax revenue grew 14 per cent to 10.8 trillion yuan in the January-July period, far faster than GDP or income growth. Personal income tax revenue increased 20.6 per cent year on year to 922.5 billion yuan in the same period, already exceeding the intake from the whole of 2015.

Malaysia: Mahathir foreign-ownership ban rattles $100bn China-led Forest City project

August 28, 2018

Developer Country Garden says Forest City development complies with all laws

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Prospective buyers look at a model of the $100 billion Forest City development at a showroom in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, in February 2017.    © Reuters

SINGAPORE — Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has thrown stakeholders in the country’s Forest City development into a state of confusion, with an abrupt declaration of a ban on foreigners buying residential units in the China-led project — which some argue contradicts the country’s laws.

Forest City is being built by a joint venture between Chinese real estate developer Country Garden Holdings and a company backed by the state of Johor.

The venture acquired the land for the project in 2013. Comprising four man-made islands covering 13.8 sq. kilometers, the $100 billion development will include commercial, residential and other facilities, and is scheduled for completion in 2035. Its proximity to the border with Singapore has appealed to foreign homebuyers, especially from China.

This kind of investment resonates with the “Malaysia My Second Home,” or MM2H program, a government initiative encouraging foreigners to put down roots in the country. “Any foreigner may purchase any number of residential properties in Malaysia, subject to the minimum price established for foreigners by the different states,” reads the program’s website.

On Monday, however, Mahathir’s comments appeared to go against the policy. “One thing is certain, the city that is being built cannot be sold to foreigners, we are not going to give visas for people to come and live here,” he said. “Our objection is because the project is built for foreigners, not built for Malaysians. Most Malaysians are unable to buy those flats.”

The MM2H scheme allows successful applicants largely unrestricted travel into and out of Malaysia. However, it comes with stringent eligibility criteria, including liquid assets of 350,000 ringgit ($85,000) to 500,000 ringgit, fixed deposits and a minimum price cap on purchasing property, designed to curb market speculation.

According to data from August 2017, the latest official figures, Chinese nationals were the largest participating group in the scheme. Between January and August last year, nearly 1,500 Chinese received long-term visas through the scheme, accounting for 46.7% of the total. South Koreans were the second-largest group, with about 300 enrollments, or 9%.

Hong Kong-listed Country Garden’s share price dropped 3.29% on Tuesday.

Over 90% of the developer’s assets are held in China, and the Forest City project is pivotal to its overseas expansion plans. Mo Bin, Chief Executive at Country Garden, said earlier this month that the company would only move on to new overseas projects if existing ones go well.

In response to Mahathir’s remarks, the company released a statement on Monday saying that the project had “complied with all laws and regulations with the necessary approvals to sell to foreign purchases.”

According to the statement, Mahathir met the company’s chairman on Aug. 16, and the prime minister “reiterated that he welcomes foreign investments, which could create employment opportunities, promote technology transfer and innovations that could benefit Malaysia’s economic growth and job creation.”

Mahathir’s comments also came as a surprise to the Johor state government. According to local publication The Star Online, Johor Housing and Rural Development Committee Chairman Dzulkefly Ahmad said that there had been no discussion between the central and local governments on the issue. “We are still trying to make sense of this new move as we have yet to be informed,” he said.

Mahathir has expressed strong opposition to Forest City, as well as the $13 billion East Coast Rail Link project.

Chinese investment in Malaysia has soared in recent years. In 2017, about $2.36 billion left China for Malaysia, an increase of almost 350% from 2013, according to DBS Bank estimates.

Nikkei staff writers Coco Liu and Nikki Sun contributed to this report.


Malaysia says Forest City project residential units off limits to foreign buyers

August 27, 2018

Critics had said that Forest City was to become a Chinese neocolonial outpost to which Malaysia had largely conceded sovereignty to advance China’s expansionist agenda

Malaysia will not allow foreigners to buy residential units built at the $100 billion Forest City project in Johor, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Monday.

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Artists’ rendering of Country Gardens’ Forest City project in Johor Bahru, Malaysia

The project has been wracked by uncertainty since Mahathir’s coalition scored a shock victory at a May general election, as developer Country Garden Holdings Co looks to revive faltering demand for its plans to build a city that would be home to 700,000 people.

“One thing is certain, that city that is going to be built cannot be sold to foreigners. We are not going to give visas for people to come and live here,” Mahathir told reporters at a press conference.

“Our objection is because it was built for foreigners, not built for Malaysians. Most Malaysians are unable to buy those flats.”


Reporting by Joseph Sipalan; Editing by Vyas Mohan


Over the past decade, an acceleration of Chinese state and private investment in urban infrastructure and real estate has transformed many skylines around the world. In 2014, a private Chinese company in collaboration with Malaysia’s Sultan of Johor state started construction on Forest City, a private gated luxury mega-development for 700,000 people on four reclaimed islands in the narrow strait that separates Malaysia and Singapore. While the official material for Forest City claims it is for all nationalities, it is being marketed predominantly in China and to ethnic Chinese communities in Southeast Asia.

Forest City is more than a Chinese-financed real estate development, rather it constitutes a Chinese neocolonial outpost to which Malaysia has largely conceded sovereignty and advances China’s expansionist agenda. Second, Forest City challenges current geopolitical dynamics and threatens to undermine Malaysia’s relationships with neighbouring countries.

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Image-conscious China appoints new global propaganda czar

August 23, 2018

China’s increasingly image-conscious government has appointed a trusted member of the ruling Communist Party to head up its international propaganda operation.

Former top internet regulator Xu Lin will be in charge of efforts to portray China as a progressive force for good in the world at a time when it’s facing criticism over its allegedly unfair trading practices, human rights abuses and militarization of island claims in the South China Sea.

Xu’s appointment to the position of head of the Cabinet-level State Council Information Office was announced by state media outlets on Tuesday.

Since President Donald Trump took office in 2017, Beijing has sought to draw a contrast with his administration by emphasizing its role in promoting free trade and addressing global issues such as climate change. Critics say that contradicts China’s roles as the most restricted major economy and a leading polluter.

Chinese President and party leader Xi Jinping has also gone to lengths to promote his trademark, trillion-dollar “Belt and Road” initiative that seeks to link China with other parts of Asia, Europe, Africa and beyond through transport and infrastructure projects.

Meanwhile, China’s entirely state-controlled media has been aggressively expanding overseas in hopes of countering unflattering images of the country and promoting Beijing’s take on global political, economic and cultural matters.

Xu, 55, had earlier been brought in to enforce China’s strict regulations on the internet after predecessor Lu Wei was ousted in a corruption scandal.

The Associated Press


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Europe Turns Down Chinese Offer For Grand Alliance Against The US