Posts Tagged ‘human rights’

Tillerson: China ‘Predatory’ for Dumping ‘Enormous Levels of Debt’ on Developing Nations

October 20, 2017

In this Sept. 26, 2017, photo, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks at the State Department in Washington. Tillerson is making his second trip to China since taking office in February, and relations between the two world powers have rarely mattered so much. The standoff over North Korea’s nuclear weapons has entered a new, dangerous phase as its leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump exchange personal insults and threats of war with no sign of a diplomatic solution. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Tillerson’s speech comes as a welcome response to the aggressive global agenda laid out by Xi, but it is also surprisingly tough given how hard the Trump administration has worked to get China on board with restraining North Korea.

Tillerson, who usually plays the “good cop” counterpart to Trump’s fiery criticism of global adversaries, was unsparing in his criticism of China’s business practices. The topic of his speech was “Defining Our Relationship with India for the Next Century.” He segued into hammering China during the Q&A session, after praising India’s economic development and efforts against terrorism in glowing terms for a good twenty minutes.

CSIS President John J. Hamre teed up the assault by quoting a “very interesting” passage from Tillerson’s remarks on India, in which he called for a close U.S.-Indian partnership to “ensure the Indo-Pacific is increasingly a place of peace, stability, and growing prosperity” and prevent it from becoming “a region of disorder, conflict, and predatory economics.”

Asked to clarify what he meant by predatory economics, Tillerson described the hunger of emerging economies and “fledgling democracies” in the region for infrastructure investment.

“We have watched the activities and actions of others in the region, particularly China, and the financing mechanisms it brings to many of these countries, which result in saddling them with enormous levels of debt,” said the secretary of state.

“They don’t often create the jobs, which infrastructure projects should be tremendous job creators in these economies, but too often foreign workers are brought in to execute these infrastructure projects,” he continued. “Financing is structured in a way that makes it very difficult for them to obtain future financing, and often has very subtle triggers in the financing that results in financing default, and the conversion of debt into equity.”

“This is not a structure that supports the future growth of these countries,” Tillerson said. “We think it’s important that we begin to develop some means of countering that with alternative financing measures, financing structures.”

“During the East Asia summit, ministerial summit in August, we began a quiet conversation with others about what they were experiencing, what they need, and we’re starting a quiet conversation in a multilateral way with how can we create alternative financing mechanisms,” he revealed. “We will not be able to compete with the kind of terms China offers, but countries have to decide—what are they willing to pay to secure their sovereignty and their future control of their economies? We’ve had those discussions with them as well.”

Tillerson recalled having similar discussions with borrowers during his days as a private-sector oil executive, which is a hopeful sign that he’s the right person to be waging this quiet financial war with China.

“On a direct competitive basis, it’s hard to compete with someone who’s offering something on financial terms that are worth a few points on the lending side,” he conceded, an especially important point when considering the billion-dollar scale of the loans he was describing. “We have to help them put that in perspective of the longer-term ability to control their country, control the future of their country, control the development of their economy in a rules-based system.”

“That’s really what we’re promoting. As you retain your sovereignty, you retain your commitment to a rules-based order, we will come with other options for you,” he said. This will be an interesting challenge when China is so aggressively pushing the idea that sovereignty, both individual and national, is overrated compared to the material benefits provided by authoritarian central control.

Examples of the predatory practices Tillerson described can be found in places like Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan, the latter two of which have been “virtually decimated” by Chinese debt manipulation according to this critique. Not coincidentally, the targets of Chinese financial assault tend to be located along its “New Silk Road” trade route construction project (which is often explicitly linked to the infrastructure projects Beijing funds) or along the borders of China’s great regional adversary, India.

Another case study is Cameroon, which owes China a huge amount of money, and noticed last year that Chinese loggers were illegally cutting down its forests. Critics specifically cited Cameroon’s debt to China for infrastructure loans as a major reason environmental laws were not enforced against it.

Tillerson compared China’s economic growth to India’s and concluded China has acted “less responsibly, at times undermining the international rules-based order.” He called out China’s “provocative actions in the South China Sea” as a direct challenge to international law.

“We’re going to have important relationships with China. We’ll never have the same relationship with China, a non-democratic society, that we can have with a major democracy,” he said.


What Xi Jinping’s second term can bring Asean (Good News and Bad News)

October 20, 2017
 / 03:24 PM October 19, 2017
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Chinese President Xi Jinping. AFP FILE PHOTO

The Chinese Communist Party kicked off its 19th congress on Wednesday, ready to set a fresh course for the country and recast the leadership, although President Xi Jinping will almost certainly be re-elected to a second five-year term and be given even greater power in running the country. Xi’s leadership is utterly crucial as China’s peaceful rise has significant impacts on this region and the world.

At the congress, which continues through Saturday, the party will amend its constitution to incorporate Xi’s political thoughts and philosophy, in effect elevating his status close to that of founding chairman Mao Zedong and of Deng Xiaoping, who initiated China’s sweeping economic reforms.

Xi in his turn seeks to establish a fiscally moderate yet prosperous society by 2020 through reforms, the rule of law and strict party discipline. His thinking prioritises the integrated development of politics, culture, society and environmental protections while ensuring economic stability. It would be an impressive feat indeed if China could in the next five years put that vision into practice without any of the components being cruelly distorted.

Under Xi, however, China has over the past five years become more aggressive and more authoritarian, even with its healthy economy and remarkable technological advances. While China’s economic assistance to countries in Southeast Asia is most welcome, territorial disputes with Beijing in the South China Sea have cast our giant neighbour as an arrogant bully.

Xi’s “One Belt One Road” initiative is set to create a multitude of opportunities for economic development spanning much of the world, but building physical links over land and sea will also give China the wherewithal to expand its influence into every connected nation. Its political and economic influence is already evident enough in most member-countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar rely on China for financial and technological aid. Thailand and Laos are in partnerships with Beijing to build a railway that will connect them all, a project requiring not just Chinese investment and technology but also human resources. Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar have bolstered their military ties with Beijing, purchasing hardware from and conducting joint exercise with China.

All of this, though, proceeds in the shadow of the South China Sea conflicts, which put Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam directly at odds with Chinese expansionism. The volatile combination of fiscal reliance on Beijing and confrontation over disputed maritime territory could well split Asean in two. Its members with no land in the South China Sea tend to stand closer to Beijing in all other matters. Every Asean summit has at least one member-country imploring the others to tone down the wording of statements objecting to Chinese territorial incursions. China is poised to take full advantage of such disunity, and in fact might well be encouraging it.

It can be argued that Asean-China relations have suffered under Xi’s leadership. In the interest of maintaining and improving stability in Southeast Asia, Xi would be well advised to review his dealings with Asean. The bloc as a whole is a valuable trading partner for China. Every effort must be made in his second term to resolve the South China Sea issue and to pursue other forms of mutually beneficial cooperation with Asean, not just its individual members.

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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.

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Shiite corridor from Tehran to Damascus)

 (Enslavement Project?)


China is the nation gaining the most, so China should step up to pay for a greater share of the planned railway network, the Thai transport minister said less than a month agao

China leads the way: Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai inspecting a model at the launch of China High Speed Rail Exhibition at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre in December last year. It is undeniable that China garners the most support in the bid for the HSR project, beating countries such as Japan.

China leads the way: Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai inspecting a model at the launch of China High Speed Rail Exhibition at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre in December last year. It is undeniable that China garners the most support in the bid for the HSR project, beating countries such as Japan.



China’s growth will benefit US, says Beijing’s top envoy to Washington

October 19, 2017

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A child holds a Chinese flag while tourists and pedestrians walk past a portrait of former Chinese leader Mao Zedong at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – China’s continued economic growth and its efforts to ramp up international relations will bring “even bigger benefits” to the United States economy and its people, according to Beijing’s top envoy to Washington.

Speaking ahead of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Mr Cui Tiankai, the Chinese ambassador to the US, said he believes the meeting promises to bring about win-win scenarios for China and for its global partners.

Citing figures and sources from the US-China Business Council and JPMorgan Chase, Mr Cui said in an article posted online by CNN on Monday (Oct 16) that China has made headway in its reform, while a booming Chinese economy has proved a boon to the US.

The congress, which opened on Wednesday, is expected to unveil a new leadership and set a blueprint for national development for the next five years and beyond.

“We expect the Party congress will illustrate that China’s unrelenting efforts in reform and opening-up has added further momentum not only to its own development, but also to that of the world economy,” Mr Cui wrote.”By strongly emphasising our outward-looking vision, this year’s congress promises to continue to bring about win-win scenarios for China and for our partners across the world, particularly the US.”

Mr Cui said that the twice-in-a-decade congress can be the beginning of tremendous determination and development, as previously shown.

For example, when the 18th CPC National Congress concluded five years ago, an ambitious plan was introduced by the current leadership to build a new, open economic system.

Since then, Mr Cui said, the country has turned those ideas into structural reform, economic growth and tangible institutions.

“China’s supply-side reform is actually kicking in,” the ambassador wrote, citing Ms Jing Ulrich, managing director and vice-chairman in the Asia-Pacific for JPMorgan Chase.

According to a Sept 14 CNBC report, Ms Ulrich said at the Milken Institute’s Asia Summit in Singapore that the Chinese leadership has been containing capacity growth and closing a lot of factories in the steel and aluminium sectors. “So now, reform actually has come to fruition,” she said.

Mr Cui said China has increased its contributions to international economic governance, especially since the 2012 congress. The country has done this through strong endorsements of globalisation and free trade in the international arena, and through ground-breaking endeavours like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to address Asia’s infrastructure needs, and the Belt and Road Initiative to increase connectivity throughout Eurasia, he said.

Citing figures from the US-China Business Council, a private non-partisan, non-profit organisation of roughly 200 US companies that do business with China, Mr Cui said 2.6 million US jobs are supported by the China-US bilateral trade relationship.

The ambassador also quoted a report by Oxford Economics for the council in January that said US exports to China are expected to reach more than US$520 billion (S$707 billion) by 2030, as China is expected to continue to be one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

However, Mr Cui cautioned that the mutual opportunities afforded by a globally engaged China are not always on the mind of the US, citing the recent investigation initiated by the US into intellectual property.

He said the probe “showed the overemphasised trade imbalance between the two countries, the misunderstandings about China’s debt, and the treatment of foreign investment based on each other’s appeals are all major concerns for the bilateral relationship”.

“Through dialogue, our two countries can address these concerns, which in turn will benefit the global economy,” Mr Cui added.


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China’s conflicted goals: Freer markets, more party control

October 19, 2017

By Joe McDonald
The Associated Press

BEIJING (AP) — China’s ruling Communist Party is expanding its role in business even as it promises freer markets and support for entrepreneurs on the eve of President Xi Jinping’s second five-year term as leader.

Party officials are tightening their control over state-owned enterprises and want a voice in how some foreign companies are run. State companies that dominate energy and other fields are being made even bigger through mergers. Some are forming ties with private sector success stories such as tech giants Alibaba and Tencent to draw on their skills.

Beijing’s conflicting goals are raising concerns that leaders might put off changes needed to reinvigorate a cooling economy that faces surging debt and trade tensions with Washington and Europe.

“There is no grand vision. There are parallel goals that are competing with each other,” said Andrew Polk, an economist at Trivium/China, a research firm in Beijing. “We are not sure which ones are going to win out at a given moment.”

No major policy changes are expected out of the twice-a-decade party congress that is due to re-appoint Xi as general secretary. The party also will name a Standing Committee, the country’s ruling inner circle of power, in preparation for installing a new government in early 2018.

The impact of those choices, by creating jobs and business opportunities or dragging on economic activity, will take time to filter down to ordinary Chinese.

At the opening of the congress Wednesday, Xi repeated official promises to support entrepreneurs and give market forces a “decisive role” but affirmed the dominance of state-owned industry.

“There must be no irresolution about working to consolidate and develop the public sector,” said Xi in a nationally televised address.

Data released Thursday showed economic growth stayed relatively stable in the quarter ending in September, buoyed by strength in consumer spending and exports. Output rose 6.8 percent, down marginally from the previous quarter’s 6.9 percent.

Investors are watching the congress for signs of where the party wants to go and how fast. A key indicator will be which posts go to Xi allies seen as reformers with the personal authority to overcome opposition from party or state industry factions that might lose influence.

One closely watched figure is Wang Qishan, a vice premier and respected problem-solver who oversaw China’s response to SARS and at age 69 is obliged by party tradition to leave the seven-person Standing Committee. If he stays in a leadership post, analysts say that would suggest Xi wants his help to carry out painful changes.

Reform advocates complain that since Xi took power in 2012, the leadership has dragged its feet on fulfilling promises to tackle debt that has soared to dangerous levels, curb the dominance of state industry and give a bigger role to entrepreneurs who create China’s new jobs and wealth.

Instead, Xi focused on an anti-corruption campaign and tightened political control, detained activist lawyers and stepped up internet censorship.

Foreign industry groups complain China is moving too slowly on promises to shrink state-owned steel and aluminum producers they accuse of threatening jobs by flooding global markets with low-cost exports.

“Generally speaking, there has been no major progress in economic reform,” said Sheng Hong, director of the Unirule Institute, an independent economic research group in Beijing.

Regulators closed Unirule’s website and social media accounts in a crackdown in January on liberal voices.

The party’s internal conflict is reflected in a 2013 declaration that promised for the first time to give market forces the “decisive role” but also vowed the party would intensify its control of state industry. Private sector analysts say this appears to be aimed at rooting out corruption and waste.

This year, some foreign companies say the party, which already has cells in all enterprises and controls agencies that regulate them, is trying to expand its authority further by asking for a formal voice in commercial decisions.

Some 32 mainland companies with shares traded in Hong Kong have proposed changes to their legal structure to make the party an adviser to their board. Financial commentators complain this might hurt shareholders.

“This is potentially a huge problem,” said the German ambassador to China, Michael Clauss. “Many foreign companies are very alarmed.”

Foreign companies already are frustrated by rules that give them little access to industries such as finance and technology, plans they say might limit their role in promising fields such as electric cars. That pessimism helped lead to a 1.2 percent decline in investment into China in the first seven months of this year, breaking a series of annual double-digit gains.

A business leader in Wenzhou, a southeastern city known as a hotbed of private sector activity, welcomed Xi’s pledge to do more to help entrepreneurs.

“If private enterprises succeed, China’s economy succeeds,” said Zhou Dewen, president of the city’s Association for Promotion of Development of Small and Medium-sized Companies.

Beijing is pushing entrepreneurs to support state-owned enterprises, or SOEs.

The party pledged in a Sept. 25 declaration to promote “entrepreneurial spirit” while also urging entrepreneurs to learn “socialist core values.”

In August, one of the country’s three major state-owned phone carriers, China Unicom Ltd., sold an $11.7 billion stake to private investors including Alibaba Group, the biggest global e-commerce company by sales volume; Tencent Holdings Ltd., which operates the popular WeChat social media platform, and internet search giant Baidu Inc. There was no indication they would get any voice in management.

In September, Tencent paid $366 million for 5 percent of state-owned investment bank China International Capital Corp. CICC gets access to Tencent’s marketing and other skills, but the private company gained no management control.

Other state companies have announced similar plans to bring in private shareholders.

Meanwhile, authorities are discussing taking a direct state ownership stake in Alibaba and Tencent, The Wall Street Journal reported this month, citing unidentified sources.

“Supposed reforms in state-own companies such as ‘mixed ownership’ can never be called a reform,” said Sheng. “Setting up party committees in companies not only is not a reform, but is a step backward.”

In August, the government announced the merger of Shenhua Group, the world’s biggest coal producer, and Guodian Group, a major power supplier, to form the world’s biggest utility by assets.

“They are being quite clear that they want bigger, bolder, better SOEs, with not just state but party leadership,” said Polk.

The pressure for action is building.

Economic growth has been propped up this year by a lending boom and government stimulus, but that sets back official efforts to build a consumer-driven economy.

Forecasters expect growth to cool as regulators tighten lending controls to rein in debt that has risen to the equivalent of 260 percent of annual economic output — unusually high for a developing country.

“Strains within the country’s banking sector are already glaringly evident,” the Economist Intelligence Unit said in a report.


AP researcher Yu Bing contributed.


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Despite teeming jails, Duterte ‘happy’ with Philippine prisons — “Philippine jails are the world’s most congested”

October 18, 2017
Despite a recent Commission on Audit report showing more than 500 percent congestion in jail facilities, President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said that he was “happy” with situation of the country’s detention centers. Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times/World Press Photo via AP, File

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday expressed satisfaction over the situation of jails in the country despite a Commission on Audit report in June this year showing that its detention centers are bursting with inmates.

Duterte said during his jail visit to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology that he was “happy” with the conditions of jails he had seen.
He told his audience that he was already working to give detainees their needs, but in the meantime, he would provide television sets to each jail cell by the end of the month.
“I was looking at the situation of our prisons, and I think they are okay and I’m happy. Of course, we would want to give them everything, but I told them that I would provide each and every cell with a TV by the end of the month,” Duterte said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Image result for OVERCROWDED JAILS, philippines, photos

Eye-opening images reveal the daily life inside Quezon City jail in Manilathe capital of the Philippines; where 3,800 inmates serve time behind the walls of a prison built for just 800

“The situation is okay. They [prisoners] are comfortable, clean. I’m satisfied by the way it is being run by the BJMP,” he added.
The president’s assessment, however, was in contrast to a COA report released in June this year painting a dire situation of the country’s detention facilities.
According to the COA, the total jail population of the Philippines had already exceeded the total capacity of its detention cells.
The total average of overcrowding of jail cells was at 511 percent, the COA said.
“As of December 31, 2016 the BJMP (Bureau of Jail Management and Penology) has a total jail population of 126,946 which exceeded the total ideal capacity of 20,746 having a variance of 106,200 or has a total average of 511 percent of congestion/overcrowding or clogging,” the COA said.
From 2015, the number of inmates increased by more than 30,500, and congestion in district jails, city jails, municipal jails, extension jails and female dormitories was a violation of BJMP’s own manual and regulations as well as those of the United Nations, according to the COA.
The audit agency attributed that overcrowding of jails mainly to the increase in the number of drug-related cases in the country as well as the slow or non-action of courts on pending cases.
Many of the detainees qualified for bail remain also incarcerated due to poverty, the COA noted.
BJMP director Serafin Barretto also admitted the congestion in BJMP’s facilities.
In July, he said that more than 140,000 inmates had been squeezed into the agency’s 466 detention centers nationwide as of June 30, higher than the 98,000 prisoners recorded before Duterte became president.
The president also assured BJMP personnel that the government would double their salaries by next year if the country’s economic conditions continued to improve and the government collected more taxes.
The president also promised better housing units for the police, the military and jail personnel.
Modern equipment would also be given to these government agencies, the president stated.
“I want to build a strong army. I want to build a strong police, a strong BJMP,” he said although the chief executive noted that the purchase of fire trucks was hampered following allegations of anomalies surrounding the deal.
Men take turns to sleep on the cracked cement floor of an open-air basketball court, the steps of staircases, underneath beds and hammocks made out of old blankets (pictured) 

Filipino en take turns to sleep on the cracked cement floor of an open-air basketball court, the steps of staircases, underneath beds and hammocks made out of old blankets (pictured)

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Xi’s Grand Vision for China Prioritizes Party Power Over Reform — “Deceleration in economic growth that leads to economic dislocation among workers could all of a sudden overwhelm the agenda.”

October 18, 2017


  • Speech has few clues on whether Xi will back painful changes
  • Xi confident in supremacy of one-party development model
What Xi’s Party Congress Speech Means for Investors
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Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech at the opening session of the Chinese Communist Party’s five-yearly Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on October 18, 2017. Credit Wang Zhao – AFP – Getty Images

President Xi Jinping laid out a sweeping vision to transform China into a strong global power while guaranteeing Communist Party rule for decades. Investors are skeptical it will lead to any major economic reforms.

In a speech to party cadres that went on for more than three hours, Xi on Wednesday outlined a three-decade road map to entrench China’s great power status. By 2050, Xi said the country would be a global leader in innovation, influence and military might.

“Our country is approaching the center of the world stage and making continuous contributions to humankind,” Xi told almost 2,300 delegates gathered for the party’s twice-a-decade congress in Beijing. “The Chinese nation is standing tall and firm in the East of the World.”

Xi warned of the severe challenges faced by China. Bloomberg’s Tom Mackenzie reports from Beijing.

Source: Bloomberg

Xi’s vision to expand party control over all aspects of the nation revealed a greater certainty in the supremacy of China’s one-party system as political upheaval draws Western democracies inward and growth tilts toward Asia. Still, it provided no strong clue over whether Xi would embark on painful structural reforms in the next five years that foreign companies say are necessary to foster sustainable growth in the world’s second-biggest economy.

The stakes are high for Xi to strike the right balance, both at home and abroad. As one of the top global growth drivers, China’s ability to prevent an abrupt slowdown is crucial to maintaining the stability of the world economy. Any failure to deliver prosperity would also undermine the Communist Party’s legitimacy among China’s 1.4 billion people.

“Xi is now openly confident that China has its own development model, which is not capitalistic and not to be linked to democratisation,” said Steve Tsang, director of SOAS China Institute at the University of London. “The implication is that if the Party gets it right, China will develop well. But if the Party should get it wrong, then God — or, shall one say, Marx — help China.”

Much of Xi’s plan focused largely on fortifying the party, which he said “leads everything.” His remarks on reform — pledging to open up to foreign businesses, deepening state-run enterprise reform, strengthening financial sector regulation — hewed closely to language that has underwhelmed investors looking for a more decisive structural overhaul.

Xi’s team took steps to ensure against any financial-market disruptions in the run-up to the congress, with the stock market seeing its lowest volatility in 25 years. A last-hour surge by some of China’s biggest companies kept the nation’s benchmark stock index in the green on Wednesday, while the yuan was little changed.

Rising wages and a shrinking workforce are speeding automation at factories as growth settles at the slowest pace in a quarter century. Borrowing has soared as policymakers tried to meet growth targets, and the International Monetary Fund estimates that household, corporate and government debt will reach almost 300 percent of gross domestic product by 2022.

Notably, Xi didn’t explicitly state growth targets into the next decade, a sign that China may start focusing more on the quality of economic expansion. He also characterized the principal challenge facing the country as improving the overall quality of life of China’s citizens.

‘Big on Rhetoric’

Xi presented China’s one-party system as a “new choice” for developing countries. He touted signature policies such as his Belt-and-Road Initiative, in which China is seeking to sponsor trade and infrastructure investments across much of the globe.

“Xi Jinping’s speech as expected was big on rhetoric and vision,” said George Magnus, an associate at Oxford University’s China Centre and former adviser at UBS Group AG. “But we shall see in due course the messy nitty gritty of policy implementation, and the political/party sand in the gears of a modern state that is moving further away from the reform ethos that lifted China in the past.”

Xi, who already was seen as China’s most powerful leader in a generation, was expected to emerge from the week-long congress even stronger. The event gives him a chance to remake about half the party’s top leadership ranks, including potentially naming a successor or laying the groundwork to retain influence after his second term ends in 2022.

The road map presented by Xi stretched far beyond that milestone to the middle of the century, after the People’s Republic of China celebrates its 100th anniversary. He laid markers along the way: Build a moderately prosperous society by 2020. Join the most innovative countries by 2035. Achieve a first-class military by 2050.

Mao, Deng, Xi

Xi cast his tenure as a “new era” in China’s rejuvenation, elevating himself alongside lionized predecessors such as Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. But his plan also assumes the Communist Party can manage host of vexing issues, from and aging population and the demands of a growing middle class to soaring debt and the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump.

“There’s a very good chance that Xi’s tenure may very much be defined by events external to China and to some extent outside of his control,” said Trey McArver, co-founder of research firm Trivium China, listing internal challenges that could also morph into a crisis. “Something like a faster than expected deceleration in economic growth that leads to economic dislocation among workers could all of a sudden overwhelm the agenda.”

— With assistance by Ting Shi, Keith Zhai, Peter Martin, and Enda Curran

Confidence, control, paranoia mark Xi Jinping’s speech at China party congress

October 18, 2017

By Simon Denyer
The Washington Post

A Chinese People’s Liberation Army officer practices conducting a military band before the opening session of the Chinese Communist Party’s five-yearly Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Oct. 18, 2017. (Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty Images)
 October 18 at 6:32 AM
 China’s President Xi Jinping set out his Communist Party’s far-reaching agenda on Wednesday, using his opening speech at a twice-a-decade leadership meeting to set out a vision of total control — with the party guiding not only the economy and the Internet but culture, religion and morals.China’s leadership already has a hand in just about every aspect of life. But Xi’s speech — three-and-a-half hours long — cast the net even wider.It was a vision of a reinvigorated Communist Party, backed by a strong economy and a powerful, modern military that increasingly has challenged U.S. influence in the Pacific.“Achieving national rejuvenation will be no walk in the park,” Xi told more than 2,200 members of the party’s elite in the mammoth Great Hall of the People, a monument to Communist authoritarianism in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, beneath gigantic red drapes and a huge hammer and sickle.

“It will take more than drumbeating and gong-clanging to get there,” he added. “Every one of us in the Party must be prepared to work even harder toward this goal.”

Yet outside, the run-up to the 19th Party Congress has been most marked by the Communist Party’s particular brand of paranoia.

Dissidents been arrested or railroaded out of town, lest they disrupt the celebratory mood by saying anything remotely critical. Ordinary public gatherings — including a top-level soccer match — have been closed down or postponed.

Censorship of the Internet and controls on private chat groups have dramatically intensified, while massive lines built up at subway stations in the capital this week as security checks were stepped up. Volunteers with red armbands and security personnel patrol almost every street corner, while banners extolling the Party dominate almost every free space.

Every arm and level of the government has been straining for months to make sure nothing was left to chance, that nothing would spoil this, the big moment for China’s President Xi.

In a week’s time, Xi will be formally granted another five years in power as general secretary of China’s Communist Party.

On Wednesday, with a large illuminated red star gleaming in the ceiling 30 yards above his head, he painstakingly set out what he sees as his achievements over the past five years and his vision for the next five — a campaign speech with particularly Chinese characteristics, where the support of the entirety of the tiny, handpicked electorate is already guaranteed.

“For five years, our party has demonstrated tremendous political courage and a powerful sense of mission,” Xi said, boasting of having driven profound and fundamental change in China but also warning of many difficulties and challenges ahead.

His speech beamed around the nation on state television, China’s leader also set out his ideological contribution to the Party’s intellectual canon: ponderously named “Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era,” One official later described it as the “third milestone” in the Party’s “ideological innovation”— after Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping theory.

The Congress may formally incorporate that ideology into the Party’s constitution next week — a step that could potentially elevate Xi to the ranks of the most powerful leaders in Party history.

Behind him, his immediate predecessor Hu Jintao listened attentively, his eyes mostly on the text of the speech. But 91-year-old Jiang Zemin, president from 1993 to 2003, seemed less captivated, only occasionally taking out a largely magnifying glass to gaze at the text, scratching his ear, yawning.

Other delegates took notes, or stared straight ahead, looking attentive, stern, impassive, dazed — or just tired, as Xi spoke on, and on. In the gallery, one diplomat dozed.

The theme of the Congress: that the party should remain true to its original aspiration, hold high the banner of socialism, and secure a decisive victory in the battle to build a moderately prosperous society.

In bullet point after bullet point, Xi set out a vision of Party leadership and discipline, of reform and development, national security, and national pride, of ideological confidence and above all, of control.

“The party exercises overall leadership over all areas of endeavor in every part of the country,” he said, the first sentence of the first bullet point of his ideological exposition.

Key challenges that strike at the heart of the Communist Party’s claim to legitimacy, he said — the contradiction between unbalanced development and people’s rising aspirations — as well as rampant corruption.

“Development is the underpinning and the key for solving all our country’s problems,” he said, adding later: “The people resent corruption the most; and corruption is the greatest threat our country faces.”

Indeed, Xi’s campaign against corruption has been one of his most popular initiatives with the general public, even if it has also been used to take down factional rivals, and may only have pushed graft slightly further underground rather than eliminated it.

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Xi told party members to resist vices including “pleasure seeking, inaction, sloth and problem avoidance.” In general society, he said the Party would launch a campaign to raise moral standards, enhance the work ethnic, and promote family values and personal integrity.

Under Xi, China has taken a more confident role on the world stage, as he was eager to point out, not only citing his “Belt and Road” infrastructure development project but also his controversial program of island-building in the disputed South China Sea. At the same time, the military would be further modernized and strengthened.

“A military is built to fight,” he said. “Our military must regard combat capability as the criterion to meet in all its work and focus on how to win when it is called on.”

The speech was long on aspiration but largely devoid of concrete new policy measures. Much was devoted to the idea of keeping the Party’s ideology the center of public life.

“Culture is a country and a nation’s soul,” Xi said, before explaining how he wanted Chinese culture harnessed to the cause of socialism, and following the guidance of Marxism.

“Ideology determines the direction a culture should take and the path it should follow as it develops,”’ he said. Writers and artists should produce work that both thought-provoking but also extols “our Party, our country, our people and our heroes.”

“Erroneous” ideology must be opposed, he added, while religion must be “Chinese in orientation,” and guided by the Party to adapt to socialist society.

Those remarks would appear to pour cold water on talk of a formal rapprochement between the Chinese government and the Vatican, in a country where the Party does not recognize the Pope’s authority over a population of around 12 million Catholics.

In the run-up to the Congress, popular talk shows and costume dramas were taken off the air by order of the government, so the entertainment media could focus more wholeheartedly on propaganda and anti-Japanese war films.

Indeed state media has been in overdrive in its praise of Xi in recent weeks, gushing on Wednesday about thousands of foreign journalists were enthusiastically covering the Congress and how schoolchildren were inspired, happy and excited after watching Xi’s speech.

Less enthusiastic was anyone who has tried to stand up for the civil rights of the Chinese people or fight injustice.  Chinese Human Rights Defenders documented 14 activists who were criminally detained and two cases of enforced disappearance in the run-up to the meeting. Liu Xia, the widow of Nobel Prize winner Liu Xiaobo — who died in Chinese custody this year — and who has herself been under house arrest since 2010, was also reportedly forced to leave Beijing by government agents.

Security was so tight that Airbnb abruptly announced it was suspending its service in central Beijing during the second half of October, as did a well-known online retailer of knives and scissors.


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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte Accused of “imagining conspiracy with communists” for those “unarmed and not engaged in armed struggle” taxi drivers — Creating a rebellion?

October 18, 2017
Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr stressed the activist groups President Rodrigo Duterte mentioned are “unarmed and are not engaged in armed struggle.” Noel Celis/AFP

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncement that protest groups are in conspiracy with communists endangers activists’ lives, leaders said.

In a televised speech in Pili, Camarines Sur on Tuesday, Duterte accused transport group Piston (Pinagkaisahang Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide), human rights group Karapatan and labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno of committing rebellion alongside the Communist Party of the Philippines, which advocates armed struggle and has been in conflict with the government since 1969.

“This Karapatan, KMU, Piston, they are just the legal fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines… It’s one big conspiracy but they are at the same time—all of them—are committing right now rebellion. They are just helping each other,” Duterte, who identified himself as a leftist early in his term, said in English and Filipino.

He added: “It’s a one big conspiracy, mayroon sila,  look at Piston, they have a star… that’s the logo of the communists.”

Piston’s logo is actually a stylized steering wheel and a map of the Philippines.

READDuterte says transport strike group ‘committing a rebellion’

‘Dangerous, no basis’

Bagong Alayansang Makabayan Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr told in an online exchange that “these are very dangerous pronouncements coming from no less than the commander-in-chief.”

Reyes also said that Duterte’s claim about the protest groups has no basis because the activists he mentioned are “unarmed and are not engaged in armed struggle.”

Support for or membership in an activist group does not equate to membership in the CPP or the New People’s Army. The president himself has claimed past membership in Kabataang Makabayan, now an underground youth group, but has said he is not a communist.

“I am a socialist, not a communist. We socialists are for the people,” he declared at a campaign rally in April 2016.

Duterte accuses transport group of conspiring… by philstarnews

Piston National President George San Mateo also said the president is putting the lives of his members in danger.

“The president is accusing us without giving evidence and without due process. Violation of our right to due process [is a violation of] basic human right,” San Mateo told

Duterte’s attacks came amid Piston’s two-day nationwide strike to protest a jeepney modernization program that the group said would force small cooperatives and single-unit operators out of business.

READ: Why some transport groups oppose jeepney phaseout

The president said he would not change his mind to modernize the country’s transport system. Jeepney drivers who continue to defy the transport modernization plan would be arrested, he said.

The chief executive has repeatedly accused left-leaning groups, the “Reds” — the CPP-NPA-National Democratic Front of the Philippines — and the Liberal Party of conspiring with the communists to oust him from office.

READDuterte warns ‘communist front’ Piston of arrest

Red-tagging, red-baiting

Reyes said Duterte’s pronouncement suggested that he was ordering state forces to persecute activists or file false charges against them.

“Is Duterte now signalling to the AFP to shoot activists? Is he setting the stage for a crackdown on a legal activists through the filing of trumped-up charges?” he said.

“The last time a president did this kind of red-tagging, hundreds of activists were killed and arrested, in one of the worst period for human rights in the Philippines, between 2005-2008,” Reyes noted.

Red-baiting, as defined by the International Peace Observers Network, is the practice of publicly and detractively classifying government-critical individuals and organizations as communist terrorists, state enemies or subversives.

The term red-baiting stemmed from the political campaign against communist elements in the United States during the 1950s.

The Bayan secretary general was referring to former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s administration.

During her term, Arroyo institutionalized a counter-insurgency campaign called Oplan Bantay Laya which tagged organizations critical of the government like Bayan, KMU, among others as “communist fronts.”

According to the Karapatan 2009 Report on the human rights situation in the Philippines, there were a total of 1,188 victims of extrajudicial killings and 205 who have been forcibly disappeared since Arroyo assumed office in 2001.

Then United Nations Special Rapporteur on EJKs Philip Alston criticized the practice.

Alston called on Arroyo to “take concrete steps to put an end to those aspects of counterinsurgency operations which have led to the targeting and execution of many individuals working with civil society organizations.”

READ: Activists chant Duterte off rally stage

Philippines: The State of the Nation — Police Killings With Impunity

October 15, 2017

Image result for Eduardo Serino Sr., photos, zamboanga

The last time Eduardo Serino Sr. was seen alive was with these policemen accosting him

The Philippine Inquirer

The case of farmer Eduardo Serino Sr., last seen alive being held by policemen on Sept. 30 and brought dead two hours later to a hospital, deserves the full attention of the government and the public at large. It is a classic reflection of the plight of poor folk, those without influence and therefore without power, prey to a cop’s sly grin.

In an ideal world, there’s a basic premise in being taken in by policemen: You are safely in their custody while due process runs its course.

But that is not what happened in Serino’s case. According to a report by the Inquirer’s Julie Alipala, from the account of Rosherl Lumpapac, the employer of Serino’s wife, the farmer from Sibuco, Zamboanga del Norte, had traveled to Zamboanga City to bring money to pay for his young son’s hospital bill.

He was probably on his way to the bus terminal and back to Sibuco when he lost his way and wound up walking on RT Lim Boulevard. It was there that cops stopped him and demanded that he open his backpack. He refused.

What happened next is obvious from a photograph that went viral online: Serino is sitting on the sidewalk with his hands behind his back, likely cuffed. His forehead is bloodied; he is wincing. He is being held down by a policeman with a stick. Three other cops are standing around him.

In a post (since deleted) on the Facebook page of the Zamboanga City police office, Senior Insp. Edwin Duco said Serino had resisted the cops and managed to get free of the handcuffs.

The photo, the last image of the farmer alive, was posted by Lumpapac, who described the Serinos as “kindhearted, hardworking and very respectful people.” She added: “I felt bad about the way cops treated manong (Serino). This man has never been violent.”

From the police station on Old Mercado Street, Serino’s bruised corpse was brought by cops to the Zamboanga City Medical Center. Duco claimed that the bruises were caused, not by policemen beating Serino, but by Serino “hurting himself” in the police station. This is why Serino died, Duco claimed.

But he refused to show reporters the police blotter report, citing “guidelines from Camp Crame.” He also would not release the medical report, citing the alleged refusal of hospital authorities.

The Commission on Human Rights is now looking into the case.

At the other end of the country last Oct. 10, a scene of power and influence played out with the arrival at Naia Terminal 1 of Ralph Trangia, a suspect in the hazing death of law freshman Horacio “Atio” Castillo III.

Trangia and his mother, who flew to Chicago in the United States through Taiwan two days after news of the hazing death broke, were well covered by at least three lawyers and one police officer, Chief Insp. Rommel Anicete, said to be a family friend.

For good measure, agents of the Manila Police District and the National Bureau of Investigation were on hand to provide security for the suspect and his mother if needed, reporters were told.

One of the lawyers present denied what had been on almost everyone’s mind: that the Trangias were on the lam; he presented as proof the fact that mother and son had bought return tickets.

A photograph of the future lawyer showed a healthy, bespectacled young man with his whole life ahead of him — not far removed, the attentive observer would note, from the other young man, Atio Castillo, before his life was snuffed out in a night of unspeakable violence.

There is no warrant for Trangia’s arrest, “so he will be treated as an ordinary citizen,” Bureau of Immigration-Naia chief Marc Mariñas told reporters.

As though to complete the arrival scene, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre issued a statement welcoming Trangia’s return and hoping that it is “covered in good intentions to clear his name and to tell the truth.”

“I encourage Mr. Trangia and his family to fully cooperate, to tell the truth and, as a future lawyer, to work for justice,” Aguirre said, adding that “depending on what he will tell our investigators, he could be a potential witness” under the  government’s witness protection program.

Not entirely apropos of nothing, the attentive observer musing on the state of the nation will recall that 6 out of 10 Filipinos surveyed by the Social Weather Stations believed that drug suspects who had surrendered were still killed by raiding cops, and that, per the reckoning of the police force, there was only one extrajudicial killing in the administration’s war on drugs. (Later it said there was none.)

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As Anti-U.S. Felling Grows in Cambodia, China Cashes In

October 15, 2017

If it’s business as usual with Washington, as Phnom Penh’s Ministry of Commerce claims, what’s behind Hun Sen’s increasingly fevered rhetoric?


South China Morning Post

Chinese businesses are quietly expanding their footprint in Cambodia as relations between the Southeast Asian nation and Washington worsen and the din of anti-American sentiment grows louder.

The United States and Cambodia have never been on the best of terms, with the small country’s long-time ruler Hun Sen rarely missing an opportunity to take potshots at the Western superpower.

In recent weeks, the prime minister has unleashed a flood of conspiracy theories centred around the US – often perpetuated by state mouthpiece Fresh News – that claim Washington is promoting insurrection and wants to topple the government led by Hun Sen and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

These allegations reached fever pitch when opposition leader Kem Sokha was arrested in early September on charges of treason for what the government says is a US-backed plan to overthrow the government.

US Ambassador to Cambodia William Heidt. The ambassador strongly denied allegations by Prime Minister Hun Sen that Washington is seeking to dislodge his government. Photo: AP

In late August, the US imposed visa restrictions on senior foreign ministry officials after Cambodia suspended a controversial 2002 agreement to receive from the US Cambodian deportees who had been convicted of felonies. In response, Hun Sen said Cambodia would no longer help find the remains of American soldiers who had died in Cambodia during the Vietnam war. He also lambasted the US for its role in Cambodia before the Khmer Rouge regime and invited the ambassador to inspect two chemical bombs, which were found in the countryside, as a reminder of America’s past actions.

Hun Sen has also hinted that Peace Corps volunteers should leave the country and suggested the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas was a “mocking of fate” because the US warned its citizens about safety and “anti-American rhetoric” in Cambodia.

US-Cambodia trade relations have been growing in past years, with bilateral trade reaching about US$3 billion in 2016, when nearly 240,000 American tourists visited the country.

More than 21 per cent of Cambodian exports went to the US last year, making the superpower the second-largest importer of garments from the Southeast Asian nation, following the EU.

Supporters of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party hold up a portrait of party leader Kem Sokha, who was jailed last month on treason charges. Photo: AP

With so much at stake, the Cambodian Ministry of Commerce insisted business ties between the two countries would not be affected by the diplomatic row.

Soeung Sophary, spokeswoman for the ministry, said: “I think for the business mindset, people do not get scared by [political tensions between the US and Cambodia]. There are many factors that keep them here and assure that the situation will not be getting worse.”

Hun Sen counts on China as he cracks down in Cambodia: has he miscalculated?

Meanwhile, an investment expert speaking on condition of anonymity, said they had not noticed a drop in investment, and those investing in Cambodia would probably not be paying attention to the country’s politics.

“Time and time again, the US has turned a blind eye to human rights issues or stood by Hun Sen because he has brought stability and commerce,” he said.

But not all parties share the same laissez-faire attitude towards American business interests in the kingdom. The US-Asean Business Council has explicitly warned investors of the inherent risks of doing business in Cambodia.

Chinese construction projects in Phnom Penh. Photo: SCMP

“Certain Cambodian politicians and government officials are more likely now to distance themselves from publicly engaging with US firms until after the July 2018 elections, making government advocacy tougher than it normally would be,” the council wrote in a recent alert to members.

Sophal Ear, professor of diplomacy and world affairs at Occidental College, Los Angeles and co-author of The Hungry Dragon: How China’s Resources Quest is Reshaping the World, also expressed anxiety over the current political climate.

“Elections are usually a bad time for investments anyway, but especially now in Cambodia when there seems to be little recognition for what value Americans, in general, bring to the country,” he said.

Chinese businesses, on the other hand, betray no such anxiety. Chinese investments in Cambodia ballooned by US$200 million last year to US$4.8 billion, making it the single largest investor in the country. A big reason for Beijing’s growing funding is the absence of rights oriented conditions that Cambodia faces when accepting cash from Western countries.

“China doesn’t want a mirror held to its face when it comes to human rights. That’s what criticising human rights would mean,” said Ear.

Liu Yunshan, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, meets Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. Photo: Xinhua

“With respect to human rights [concerning Cambodia and China], we’re dealing with Dr Evil and Mini-Me. Even with Trump, the US still gives some lip service to human rights.”

In exchange, the Cambodian government often looks the other way for Chinese companies. For example, one Chinese company has development rights over about 20 per cent of Cambodia’s coastline. Rights organisations say a resort development by the firm has led to forced evictions of local residents, sometimes at gunpoint.

End of the road for Indonesia’s motorbikes?

Long before Hun Sen called China his country’s “most trustworthy friend”, the two countries’ relationship had been growing at a steady clip. In the 1970s, Beijing backed the deposed King Norodom Sihanouk against the US-backed Lon Nol regime.

Now, China funnels staggering amounts into Cambodia in exchange for loyalty: military uniforms, vehicles, loans for equipment and a training facility in the southern reaches of Cambodia.

In the capital Phnom Penh, Chinese construction projects are popping up everywhere.

And in provincial areas, a host of companies are involved in mining, infrastructure and hydropower industries, among others.

From 2011 to 2015, Chinese firms pumped nearly US$5 billion worth of loans and investment into Cambodia, accounting for about 70 per cent of all industrial investment during that time.

“For a small country, Cambodia garners a disproportionate amount of China’s attention,” Ear said. “It has sold itself as an outpost of China down to promoting a Khmer-language version of [Chinese President] Xi Jinping’s governance book and learning about the judiciary from China, as well as praising Xi’s anti-corruption programme.”

On the diplomacy side, Cambodia acts as a bulwark against anti-Chinese sentiment within Asean. Last July, Phnom Penh’s devotion to Beijing was made clear when it caused a deadlock within the 10-member bloc over a statement on the South China Sea. Cambodia would not allow mention of an international court ruling that refuted China’s claims in the waterway.

For Ear, it’s easy to see why China is happy to court Cambodia, a country whose premier was once labelled an “ironclad friend” by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“[It’s about the] South China Sea, undying devotion to Beijing and anti-Americanism, which for Chinese bureaucrats in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is always a plus, because they see the world as zero-sum.

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”