Posts Tagged ‘Xi Jinping’

Tajikistan launches giant dam to end power shortage as part of China’s plan

November 16, 2018

Tajikistan on Friday inaugurates a $3.9 billion hydro-electric power plant, a mega project that will enable the impoverished country to eliminate domestic energy shortages and export electricity to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Built on the Vakhsh River in southern Tajikistan, the plant championed by President Emomali Rakhmon (Emomali Rahmon) is expected to reach a height of 335 metres (1,099 feet) in a decade, becoming the world’s tallest hydro-electric dam.

The first of six turbines in the Rogun hydroelectric dam goes online on Friday, with the power plant expected to reach capacity of 3,600 megawatts — the equivalent of three nuclear power plants — when completed.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) with Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon.

At present, Rogun still resembles a vast construction site, with rocky earth covering the territory from which the powerful Vakhsh flowing through the Pamir mountains was diverted.

In 2016, Rakhmon, who is a former collective farm boss, climbed into a bulldozer at a groundbreaking for the dam, in a sign of the president’s personal attachment to the project.

It will double energy production in the country of nearly nine million people, alleviating a long-lasting, debilitating national energy deficit. Surplus energy will be sold to neighbours such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan.

Plans to build a dam in southern Tajikistan date back to the Soviet era, but the project was scaled up following the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.

In 2017, Tajikistan raised $500 million from an inaugural international bond to help finance the construction.

Authorities hope that once the dam goes online it will generate money to finance further construction.

– ‘National consolidation’ –

Observers say the project is hugely significant for a country that lost tens of thousands of people in a civil war in the 1990s when rebel groups including Islamists rose up against the government.

Rogun has become “a concept for national consolidation,” political analyst Abdugani Mamadazimov told AFP.

There have been calls by public figures to rename the dam after Rakhmon.

Saidjafar Usmonzoda, chairman of the ruling People’s Democratic Party of Tajikistan, told AFP such a tribute would only be fitting given Rakhmon’s “heroic accomplishment” making Rogun a reality.

If it ever reaches the planned height of 335 metres, the dam will be 30 metres taller than the recently-built Jinping-I Dam in China and 35 metres taller than Tajikistan’s own Soviet-era Nurek dam, also on the Vakhsh River.

The project overseen by the Italian company Salini Impregilo has a number of risks.

Observers warn that the Tajik authorities do not appear to concern themselves with the environmental sensitivities of Rogun, given Rakhmon’s close involvement.

Rogun is located “in a highly seismic area, and several geological studies have warned about the risks of building such a large dam in this setting,” Filippo Menga, a lecturer in human geography at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom, told AFP.

Geopolitical tensions surrounding the project have, for the moment, subsided in a region that suffers from water scarcity.

Uzbekistan’s late leader Islam Karimov once hinted that his downstream agriculture-dependent country might go to war over Rogun and a similar project in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan.

But Uzbek opposition to the dam has evaporated since Karimov’s death in 2016 and in an incredible turnaround, the 32 million population could become one of Rogun’s early clients.

Speaking ahead of the launch, deputy head engineer Sukhrob Ochilov summed up the celebratory mood surrounding the keystone project.

“I have been waiting for this moment,” he said.

“Rogun coming online means the construction of new factories, economic progress and jobs for our people.”


See also:

For Tajikistan, the Belt and Road Is Paved with Good Intentions


Hong Kong lawyers demand explanation over journalist ban — Beijing is running Hong Kong now

November 16, 2018

Steady erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy under President Xi Jinping — “We are all Uighurs now.”

Hong Kong’s powerful bar association, a group of the city’s top lawyers, has upped pressure on the government to explain the blacklisting of a British journalist in what was widely seen as an unprecedented attack on press freedom.

Victor Mallet, a senior journalist with the Financial Times, was refused a work visa extension and then barred from entering the city as a tourist after he chaired a talk by an independence activist at the city’s press club.

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Carrie Lam and Xi Jinping

The government has refused to explain the decision despite calls from the public and rights groups, and criticism from foreign governments including Britain and the United States.

The effective blacklisting of Mallet comes as concern grows that Hong Kong’s cherished freedoms are disappearing as Beijing tightens its grip on the semi-autonomous city.

In a statement late Thursday the bar association said the rights enshrined in Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, including freedom of expression, should be respected “whether one agrees with the information or ideas or not”.

“The HKBA considers that the public, both domestically and internationally, is justifiably concerned whether the decisions (over Mallet’s visa and entry to Hong Kong) constitute undue interferences with the right to freedom of expression,” it added.

It urged the government to explain the decisions “so that the public can see if good reasons exist for them”.

Hong Kong enjoys freedoms unseen on the mainland, protected by an agreement made before the city was handed back by Britain to China in 1997, but there is growing evidence those rights are being eroded.

A report from the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission this week said there had been a “steady erosion” of Hong Kong’s autonomy under President Xi Jinping and cited Mallet’s visa denial as an example of challenges to freedom of speech.

“Beijing’s encroachment on Hong Kong’s political system, rule of law and freedom of expression is moving the territory closer to becoming more like any other Chinese city,” the report said.

USCC, a congressional body that monitors national security and trade issues between the US and China, also called on the US Department of Commerce to publish assessments of the safety of exporting sensitive technology to Hong Kong.

City leader Carrie Lam denied the accusations in the report, saying it saw the relationship between Hong Kong and Beijing with “coloured glasses”, an expression meaning to view something with prejudice.


Asian Markets End Volatile Week With China-US Trade Speculation, Brexit Unknowns

November 16, 2018

Asian markets mostly fluctuated Friday as investors weighed China-US trade speculation, while the pound struggled to recover from the previous day’s Brexit bruising.

But as a volatile week drew to a close, there did seem to be some stability in the oil sector with the earlier sharp losses tailing off, providing relief to regional energy firms.

Hopes that the world’s top two economies are making efforts to resolve their painful tariffs standoff provided support to global markets, though conflicting reports were keeping any optimism in check.

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On Thursday it was reported that China had handed the US a number of trade concessions as part of a move to smooth relations ahead of a G20 summit where Donald Trump is expected to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The Financial Times also said the two sides were stepping up efforts and that US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer had told business leaders the next round of tariffs would be put on hold. While Lighthizer’s office denied that, observers said the news still provided some hope.

“Maybe if we can get progress in trade relations, that could be a boost,” Jason Browne, chief investment strategist at FundX Investment Group, told Bloomberg News.

However, he added that “the benefits are likely to get offset from expectations of continued (interest rate) hikes from the Fed”.

And Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trade at OANDA, said it appeared the two sides were “looking to kick the can down the road until February to resolve some significant differences”.

– Sterling volatility –

But he warned “the fear here is that this long and winding road to compromise could be dotted with numerous pratfalls”.

In early trade, Hong Kong dropped 0.7 percent and Shanghai fell 0.3 percent, while Tokyo was off 0.5 percent by the break.

Sydney shed 0.2 percent but Singapore added 0.5 percent, Seoul gained 0.1 percent and Manila surged 1.8 percent. Taipei and Jakarta were also up.

Eyes were on the pound after it dropped like a stone Thursday in response to the resignation of Dominic Raab, the man in charge of Britain’s Brexit negotiations, who quit saying he did not agree with Prime Minister Theresa May’s draft deal.

© AFP | The pound is struggling to recover after plunging on Britain’s Brexit woes

His resignation came with those of another key cabinet member and several ministers just hours after May squeezed her hard-fought agreement through the cabinet.

Sterling dropped from a high of $1.3072 Thursday to as low as $1.2724, and has struggled to break back.

And while May has said she will fight on, speculation is swirling that she could be ousted after leading Brexiteer MP Jacob Rees-Mogg formally called for a vote of no confidence.

“Not surprising that in this fast-changing environment, sterling volatility is the highest since the 2016 Brexit referendum,” said National Australia Bank economist David de Garis.

– Key figures around 0230 GMT –

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.5 percent at 21,690.91 (break)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 0.7 percent at 25,916.78

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.3 percent at 2,661.40

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2789 from $1.2778 at 2200 GMT

Euro/pound: UP at 88.68 pence from 88.64 pence

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 113.40 yen from 113.62 yen

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1337 from $1.1325

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: UP nine cents at $56.55

Oil – Brent Crude: UP seven cents at $66.69 per barrel

New York – Dow: UP 0.8 percent at 25,290.39 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.1 percent at 7,038.01 (close)


Congressional commission cites ‘crisis of national security,’ concludes task of rebuilding US military far from complete

November 15, 2018

After two years of full funding for the Pentagon, President Trump has essentially declared victory, and is ready to reverse the trend of ever-rising defense budgets. Last month Trump gave the Pentagon a surprise order to slash upcoming defense spending from $733 billion to $700 billion. From the president’s point of view, the last two defense budget hikes have largely solved the military’s woes, which included aircraft unfit to fly, units unprepared to deploy and stressed troops. “We’re rebuilding our military. We just had approved $716 billion. The year before that, we had $700 billion. So, we’re almost completely rebuilding our military with the latest and the greatest,” Trump said while in France over the weekend.

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NOT SO FAST: The first shot in the looming battle over next year’s defense budget was fired yesterday by Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Jim Inhofe, who suggested that he will oppose Trump’s order to cut planned spending by tens of billions of dollars. The Oklahoma Republican insisted that top line for the Pentagon, overseas wars, and the nuclear arsenal should be at least $733 billion in 2019. That “should be considered a floor, not a ceiling, for funding our troops,” said Inhofe, who will return in January as Senate Armed Services chairman after Republicans held the chamber. Once inflation is factored, that would keep Pentagon funding at current levels with no new growth.

COMMISSION’S ‘CRISIS’ REPORT: Lawmakers now have new ammunition in the fight for a bigger budget. Inhofe was responding to a newly released report, “Providing for the Common Defense,” ordered up by Congress, which paints a grim picture of the Pentagon in crisis. “The U.S. military could suffer unacceptably high casualties and loss of major capital assets in its next conflict. It might struggle to win, or perhaps lose, a war against China or Russia,” the National Defense Strategy Commission writes in one of its key findings.

The commission, co-chaired by Ambassador Eric Edelman and retired Adm. Gary Roughead, was created by Congress in 2017, and mainly tasked with reviewing Trump’s National Defense Strategy. “We are concerned that the NDS too often rests on questionable assumptions and weak analysis, and it leaves unanswered critical questions regarding how the United States will meet the challenges of a more dangerous world,” the report said. It’s the latest in a series of recent reviews covering U.S. defense strategy over the past eight years, all of them bleak.

“In the 2010 report, we concluded that budget cuts and an increasingly complex international environment were leading to a potential train wreck. In 2014, the aftermath of the Budget Control Act, we said that the BCA was a strategic misstep that was disabling the U.S. because it was facing greater challenges around the world. In this report, I think, what we had to wrestle with was the consequences of all those warnings having been ignored,” Edelman said during a podcast this week with Michael Morell, former acting CIA director and a member of the commission.

Rep. Mac Thornberry, who was a leading force behind the past two years of defense budget hikes as House Armed Services chairman, said the commission’s report makes clear that Congress should not let BCA spending caps dictate U.S. strategy. “It also echoes some of my own concerns; that we are falling behind on key capabilities, that Congress is not reliably providing appropriate resources, and that we face difficult choices if we are going to provide the country with the defense it deserves,” the Texas Republican said in a statement.

IS MONEY REALLY THE ANSWER? Both Edelman and Roughead are set to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee later this month about their findings, which are likely to set the tone of the debate for now. But not everybody is taking them at face value. “Obviously if we’re vastly outspending Russia and China and we’re losing our competitive edge, our problem is not spending,” said Dan Grazier, a fellow at the Project on Government Oversight.

The findings may be used to justify a third year of defense hikes, but the Pentagon should instead complete its ongoing and first-ever full financial audit to see how its money is being spent, argues Grazier. “This report is in the grand tradition of Washington buck-passing. Whenever elected political officials do not want to have to take responsibility for what they anticipate being unpopular political positions, you assign a blue-ribbon task force to do a study and then the blue-ribbon task force comes back with the unpopular policy discussions,” he said.

BULLET POINTS: The Commission report is replete with nightmare scenarios and dire warnings that America’s military advantage has been eroded by years of budget cuts at home and “authoritarian competitors” abroad — especially China and Russia — who are pursuing determined military buildups aimed at neutralizing U.S. strengths. Here are some key conclusions:

  • Due to political dysfunction and decisions made by both major political parties — and particularly due to the effects of the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011 along with years of failing to enact timely appropriations — America has significantly weakened its own defense.
  • The convergence of these trends has created a crisis of national security for the United States — what some leading voices in the U.S. national security community have termed an emergency.
  • These trends are undermining deterrence of U.S. adversaries and the confidence of American allies, thus increasing the likelihood of military conflict.
  • The U.S. military could suffer unacceptably high casualties and loss of major capital assets in its next conflict. It might struggle to win, or perhaps lose, a war against China or Russia.
  • If the United States had to fight Russia in a Baltic contingency or China in a war over Taiwan, Americans could face a decisive military defeat. These two nations possess precision-strike capabilities, integrated air defenses, cruise and ballistic missiles, advanced cyber warfare and anti-satellite capabilities, significant air, and naval forces, and nuclear weapons — a suite of advanced capabilities heretofore possessed only by the United States.
  • The United States is particularly at risk of being overwhelmed should its military be forced to fight on two or more fronts simultaneously.


US criticises China’s ‘empire and aggression’ in Asia

November 15, 2018

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Pence takes veiled swipe at Beijing’s regional ambitions ahead of Trump-Xi meeting at G20 Mike Pence: ‘Empire and aggression have no place in the Indo-Pacific’ — Photo: ASEAN leaders with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (5L) pose for a photograph

By Stefania Palma in Singapore

Mike Pence, US vice-president, has condemned “empire and aggression” in Asia in a veiled swipe at China’s growing influence across the region, fuelling tensions ahead of a meeting between the two countries’ leaders at the G20 summit later this month.

The rhetoric marks one of Washington’s strongest attacks on Beijing’s growing sway in the region, and comes amid a trade war that has seen the world’s two biggest economies slap duties on more than $350bn worth of trade, rattling global financial markets.

“We all agree that empire and aggression have no place in the Indo-Pacific,” Mr Pence told a gathering of Asian leaders at the Asean summit in Singapore. “In all that we do, the United States seeks collaboration, not control. And we are proud to call Asean our strategic partner.”

The US delegation has used the Singapore meetings to reassert its commitment to Asean — the Association of Southeast Asian Nations — from which the White House seeks support to push back against Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and to urge North Korea towards denuclearisation.

Mr Pence’s speech highlighted the tensions dominating Sino-US relations ahead of a key meeting between Mr Trump and Mr Xi in Buenos Aires later this month, the scheduling of which had signalled a potential breakthrough in the countries’ escalating trade dispute.

Wang Qishan, Chinese vice-president and close confidant of Mr Xi, last week said that Beijing was ready to talk with Washington to resolve the trade dispute, while the US and China held high-level talks in Washington that included a meeting between John Bolton, Mr Trump’s national security adviser, and Yang Jiechi, a Chinese state councillor with responsibility for foreign affairs.

The stakes of the meeting in Argentina are high.

These “significant” talks will cover a wide range of issues including trade and “will help give [the two presidents’] senior advisers guidance as to how to proceed going forward,” Mr Bolton told journalists at the Asean summit.

If no deal is reached, the most likely scenario is that the tariff rate on most of the $250bn of targeted Chinese exports to the US will rise from 10 per cent to 25 per cent in January. Mr Trump could then proceed to what US officials describe as phase three of the trade confrontation with Beijing, imposing tariffs on all US imports from China.

Mr Pence on Thursday said that the US’s vision of the Indo-Pacific “excludes no nation. It only requires that every nation treat their neighbours with respect, that they respect the sovereignty of our nations and the international rules of order.”

Recommended China’s Belt & Road Initiative Beijing insists BRI is no Marshall plan

Washington has accused China of military intimidation and economic coercion of other countries in the region.

It argues that Beijing’s militarisation of the South China Sea has effectively robbed rival claimants of fair access.

Washington also says that the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the foreign policy framework that builds Chinese influence through massive infrastructure projects, forces less powerful countries into dangerous dependence.

At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in Papua New Guinea this weekend, Mr Pence is due to unveil details of America’s Indo-Pacific strategy, aimed at providing an alternative to China’s BRI.

The US plan “stands in sharp contrast to the dangerous debt diplomacy that China has been engaging in throughout the region and has led several countries . . . to have serious debt problems from accepting loans that are not transparent”, a senior US administration official told reporters in Singapore.

China Outlines Possible Trade Concessions to U.S. Before G20, Sources Say

November 15, 2018
A sign that both sides are trying to find outlines of a deal — But Beijing’s offer is said to fall short of Trump’s demands

Chinese officials have outlined a series of potential concessions to the Trump administration for the first time since the summer as they continue to try to resolve a trade war, according to three people familiar with the discussions.

Credit Tim Rue, Bloomberg

The commitments for now fall short of the type of major structural reforms that President Donald Trump has been demanding, two of the people said, cautioning that a long road lies ahead in negotiations. One person said that talks between the world’s two largest economies are continuing and constructive.

As a result, one of the people said, it raised doubts over how substantive a deal Trump could make with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping when the two leaders meet later this month on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires.

Xi Jinping  Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

Most of the document appeared to be a rehash of previous changes already made by Beijing, such as raising equity caps on foreign investment in certain industries, according to one person. It did not contain the sort of commitment to change industrial policies such as Xi’s “Made in China 2025” that Washington has been seeking, according to one person familiar with the discussions.

Two other people familiar with the talks also said the Chinese offer was a sign of what they characterized as constructive discussions between the two sides ahead of the planned G20 meeting between the two leaders.

A Treasury Department spokesman didn’t reply to an emailed request for comment.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry didn’t immediately respond to a fax seeking comment that was sent before regular working hours on Thursday.

‘At All Levels’

Larry Kudlow.  Photographer: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Xi’s main economic emissary, Liu He, spoke last Friday for the first time in months. Since then, lower-level discussions have been held and Larry Kudlow, the head of Trump’s National Economic Council, on Tuesday said the two capitals were in touch “at all levels.”

On the American side, the discussions are currently being led by Mnuchin and the Treasury, which has raised questions among some observers about the process.

Mnuchin is seen as an advocate within the administration of a deal, while others such as Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. trade representative, have been pushing to continue raising pressure on Beijing to try to push for more meaningful reforms.

Robert Lighthizer.  Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Mnuchin also was behind a framework deal announced in May that Trump later backed away from amid criticism from Democrats and Republicans in Washington that he was going too easy on China.

“Mnuchin and Kudlow cannot create a trade deal. They are not capable of it,” said Derek Scissors, a China expert at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, who pointed to the two men’s lack of experience in difficult trade negotiations. “Until I see Lighthizer ordered into the fray I don’t think there will be a trade deal.”

Scissors, who has previously advised the Trump administration on its China trade stance, said in an interview Wednesday the most likely outcome of the Trump-Xi meeting at the G20 was a “cease fire,” or a deal to avoid any further escalation in tariffs while the two sides hold deeper discussions.

But he said the chasm between the two sides on issues such as Chinese industrial policy and intellectual property theft remained vast and that any post-G20 negotiations were likely to be difficult as a result.

Over Dinner, New Zealand’s Leader Presses Pence on Free Trade

Trade has been a key topic as leaders gather this week for regional summits in Asia. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who sat next to U.S. Vice President Mike Pence at a gala dinner in Singapore last night, told Bloomberg TV in an interview Thursday that she used the opportunity to push the case for free trade.

— With assistance by Sharon Chen


China ‘on track to meet American military challenge’ in Indo-Pacific

November 15, 2018

China will be able to contest US operations throughout the entire Indo-Pacific region by 2035 – if not before, according to a commission that advises the US Congress on the national security implications of the US-China trade and economic relationship.

— PLA is already able to contest US ground, air, maritime and information operations in some strategic areas, report says

— The report also warns that as Beijing’s confidence in its army grows, there is a danger that it ‘will use force as a regional hegemon’

South China Morning Post
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 November, 2018, 12:33am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 November, 2018, 11:49am
 China will be able to contest US operations throughout the entire Indo-Pacific region by 2035, according to a US report. Photo: Xinhua

In a report to be delivered to the US Congress on Wednesday, the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission said China could already contest US operations in the ground, air, maritime and information domains within the “second island chain”.

The second island chain is a strategic defence line for the United States formed by the Ogasawara Islands, Japan’s Volcano Islands, the Mariana Islands and Palau.

That military capacity presented fundamental challenges to the US armed forces’ long-standing assumption of supremacy in these areas in the post-cold war era, the report said.

The conclusions were based on classified and unclassified hearings with witnesses from government, academia and the private sector, as well as research trips to Taiwan and Japan. Commission members were not granted visas to visit China to conduct research.

The report said that under the administration of Chinese President Xi Jinping, China had significantly accelerated its military modernisation.

“As military modernisation progresses and Beijing’s confidence in the People’s Liberation Army increases, the danger will grow that [US] deterrence will fail and China will use force as a regional hegemon,” it said.

The PLA’s Strategic Support Force, a unit established in late 2015, poses a fundamental challenge to the US ability to operate effectively in space, cyberspace and the electromagnetic spectrum, according to the report.

And after years of development, China’s missiles also presented “serious strategic and operational challenges for the US and its allies and partners throughout the Indo-Pacific”, the report said.

China’s coastguard had also removed all civilian functions and helped Beijing advance its maritime interests, it said.

Beijing has ramped up development and upgrades weapons across all military services, from unmanned underwater vehicles and amphibious aircraft to laser guns and supersonic fighter jets.

In addition, China has built several artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea, installing missiles and constructing airstrips in a challenge to the US presence in the region.

China’s DF and HN series missiles have a range of up to 15,000km, putting the entire United States within their reach.

In late September, a Chinese destroyer nearly collided with a US warship in the disputed waters after making what the Americans described as an “unsafe and unprofessional” manoeuvre in an attempt to warn it to leave the area.

And in late October, Xi ordered the military region responsible for monitoring the South China Sea and Taiwan to assess the situation it faced and boost its capabilities so it could handle any emergency.

China makes opening bid to US on trade ahead of Trump-Xi meeting

November 15, 2018

The Chinese government has presented an offer to the United States to try to push forward stalled trade talks before the leaders of the two economic superpowers meet at the end of this month, according to two people briefed on the discussions.


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The opening bid falls short of many of the core demands the White House has repeatedly detailed as must-haves in trade talks with Beijing, including addressing technology transfers and intellectual property theft, according to one of the people briefed. Instead, the proposal has been described as a rehash of previous commitments Chinese leaders have publicly announced, like selectively lifting tariffs.

Updated 1:07 AM ET, Thu November 15, 2018

“What they are offering is not new,” this person said. “I think the two sides remain at an impasse. The channels are now open again, but there’s a lot of work to get to — whether it’s a modest de-escalation or ceasefire.”
A Treasury spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment late Wednesday. The Chinese Commerce Ministry in Beijing didn’t immediately respond to a fax seeking comment on Thursday.
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Beijing’s proposal comes after US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He spoke by phone on Friday to jump start trade discussions ahead of an expected meeting between the two countries’ leaders. US President Donald Trump has said he will have a “good meeting” with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, on the sidelines of the G20 leaders summit in Buenos Aires later this month.
It remained unclear in recent days whether the Chinese government would be willing to present any offer ahead of the planned dinner between the two leaders in Argentina.
The United States was demanding that the Chinese come up with a clear offer before negotiations on a trade deal could start, while Beijing had been reluctant, seeking talks ahead of making any firm proposals.
Both sides have been working toward a path to end the escalating trade war, which has left investors jittery over its impact on consumers and companies in the world’s top two economies.
“What the offer did is now create an opportunity for the US government to respond,” said the person briefed.
Still, the reformulated offer — which includes easing restrictions on foreign investment and eliminatingrequirements for joint ventures with Chinese partners in some sectors  raises the stakes over whether the two sides will be able to strike a framework agreement in the two weeks ahead of the G20 summit.
“They have a lot of work to do and they’re going to have to find a way to make up for lost time,” added the person, who described the bid as not “forward leaning enough” to push the negotiating process to a positive outcome.
The offer was first reported by Bloomberg News.
Even Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross raised doubts earlier this week over whether the governments could reach a deal anytime soon.
“The issue with China is not just tariffs,” Ross said at a Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit. “If it was just tariffs, I think we could work it out very, very, very quickly.”
“The real issue is intellectual property rights, forced technology transfers, industrial espionage, that kind of thing. We can’t tolerate abuses of that sort,” he said.
Top US officials have sent conflicting signals in recent weeks.
The Trump administration has been divided between free traders — including those with Wall Street backgrounds like Mnuchin and White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow — and hardliners like US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and White House trade adviser Peter Navarro.
Just last week, Navarro took a shot at Wall Street, warning “globalist elites” against meddling with the Trump administration’s policy on China.
“If and when there is a deal, it will be on President Donald J. Trump’s terms — not Wall Street terms,” Navarro, a former economics professor, said during a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Speaking to reporters on the White House lawn Tuesday, Kudlow said that Navarro “misspoke” and “wasn’t authorized” to speak on the matter.
The Trump administration has already slapped tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese products since July. The tariffs on $200 billion of those goods are set to increase to 25% from 10% on January 1, which would further escalate the conflict.
China retaliated with tariffs on $110 billion of US products and is likely to respond with more if the United States goes ahead with the increase at the start of January.
Trump has made it a priority to take an aggressive stance against China for what he says are unfair trade practices, including intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers. He’s threatened to escalate the trade war further by imposing tariffs on all the remaining goods that China sells to the United States.
Many American manufacturers, farmers and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle say they appreciate the administration’s efforts to change China’s economic policies. But some argue the tariffs aren’t the best way to address the problems. They pose a dilemma for US importers who must decide whether to absorb the higher cost of the goods or pass it on to consumers, and some exporters are hurting from China’s retaliatory tariffs.
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Trump, stung by midterms and nervous about Mueller, retreats from traditional presidential duties

November 14, 2018

For weeks this fall, an ebullient President Trump traveled relentlessly to hold raise-the-rafters campaign rallies — sometimes three a day — in states where his presence was likely to help Republicans on the ballot.

But his mood apparently has changed as he has taken measure of the electoral backlash that voters delivered Nov. 6. With the certainty that the incoming Democratic House majority will go after his tax returns and investigate his actions, and the likelihood of additional indictments by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, Trump has retreated into a cocoon of bitterness and resentment, according to multiple administration sources.

By Eli Stokols
Los Angeles Times

Behind the scenes, they say, the president has lashed out at several aides, from junior press assistants to senior officials. “He’s furious,” said one administration official. “Most staffers are trying to avoid him.”

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, painted a picture of a brooding president “trying to decide who to blame” for Republicans’ election losses, even as he publicly and implausibly continues to claim victory.

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President Trump at the Suresnes American Cemetery and memorial outside Paris on Sunday.

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and Kirstjen Nielsen, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, who are close allies,“seem to be on their way out,” the official said, noting recent leaks on the subject. The official cautioned, however, that personnel decisions are never final until Trump himself tweets out the news — often just after the former reality TV star who’s famous for saying “You’re fired!” has directed Kelly to so inform the individual.

And, according to a source outside the White House who has spoken recently with the president, last week’s Wall Street Journal report confirming Trump’s central role during the 2016 campaign in quietly arranging payoffs for two women alleging affairs with him seemed to put him in an even worse mood.

Publicly, Trump has been increasingly absent in recent days — except on Twitter. He has canceled travel plans and dispatched Cabinet officials and aides to events in his place — including sending Vice President Mike Pence to Asia for the annual summits there in November that past presidents nearly always attended.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II was in Washington on Tuesday and met with Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, but not the president.

Also Tuesday, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis announced plans to travel on Wednesday near the U.S.-Mexico border to visit with troops Trump ordered there last month in what is ostensibly a mission to defend against a caravan of Central American migrants moving through Mexico and still hundreds of miles from the United States.

Trump had reportedly considered making that trip himself, but has decided against it. Nor has he spoken of the caravan since the midterm elections, after making it a central issue in his last weeks of campaigning.

Unusually early on Monday, the White House called a “lid” at 10:03 a.m. EST, informing reporters that the president would not have any scheduled activities or public appearances for the rest of the day. Although it was Veterans Day, Trump bucked tradition and opted not to make the two-mile trip to Arlington National Cemetery in northern Virginia to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, as presidents since at least John F. Kennedy have done to mark the solemn holiday.

Trump’s only public appearance Tuesday was at a short White House ceremony marking the start of the Hindu holiday Diwali at which he made brief comments and left without responding to shouted questions.

He had just returned Sunday night from a two-day trip to France to attend ceremonies marking the centennial of the armistice that ended World War I. That trip was overshadowed, in part, by Trump’s decision not to attend a wreath-laying at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, the burial place for 2,289 soldiers 60 miles northeast of Paris, due to rain.

Kelly, a former Marine Corps general, and Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, did attend to honor the American service members interred there. Trump stayed in the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Paris, making no public appearances.

Other heads of state also managed to make it to World War I cemeteries in the area for tributes to their nations’ war dead on Saturday.

Trump and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin were the only world leaders to skip a procession of world leaders to another commemoration, on Sunday, at the Arc de Triomphe. About 80 heads of state walked in unison — under umbrellas in the pouring rain — down Paris’ grand Champs-Elysees boulevard. Trump arrived later by motorcade, a decision aides claimed was made for security reasons.

Nicholas Burns, the former U.S. ambassador to NATO under George W. Bush, said the weekend events, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of a war in which 120,000 Americans were killed, were ripe for soaring words and symbolic gestures, which Trump failed to provide.

“Not only did he barely show up, he didn’t say anything that would help Americans understand the scale of the loss, or the importance of avoiding another great war,” Burns said. “He seemed physically and emotionally apart. It’s such a striking difference between the enthusiasm he showed during the campaign and then going to Paris and sulking in his hotel room.”

He added, “The country deserves more energy from the president.”

Trump took heavy flak on social media, especially for his no-show at the military cemetery.

“President @realDonaldTrump a no-show because of raindrops?”tweeted former Secretary of State John F. Kerry, a Navy veteran. “Those veterans the president didn’t bother to honor fought in the rain, in the mud, in the snow – & many died in trenches for the cause of freedom. Rain didn’t stop them & it shouldn’t have stopped an American president.”

Nicholas Soames, a member of Britain’s Parliament and grandson of Winston Churchill, tweeted, “They died with their face to the foe and that pathetic inadequate @realDonaldTrump couldn’t even defy the weather to pay his respects to The Fallen.”

Trump, clearly feeling on the defensive days later, tried to explain himself on Tuesday, in a tweet.

“By the way, when the helicopter couldn’t fly to the first cemetery in France because of almost zero visibility, I suggested driving,” he wrote. “Secret Service said NO, too far from airport & big Paris shutdown. Speech next day at American Cemetary [sic] in pouring rain! Little reported-Fake News!”

In that tweet, Trump falsely described the weather at the Sunday visit to another U.S. cemetery. Rather than “pouring rain,” photos showed him standing without a hat or an umbrella under overcast skies when he delivered remarks, though he did grasp an umbrella at one point while paying tribute at one soldier’s grave.

Just as Trump was returning to Washington on Sunday evening, Pence was heading to Asia in the president’s place, and at his first stop greeted Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Trump’s absence, experts said, is notable, and a glaring affront to many Asian leaders.

“It matters more in Asia than other regions because ‘face’ is so important,” said Matthew P. Goodman, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former White House coordinator for Asia-Pacific strategy during the Obama and George W. Bush administrations. “Your willingness to go out there is a sign you’re committed and not going is a sign you’re not.”

Putin is attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, looking to expand his country’s influence in Asia. Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea are also attending regional summits. And China’s President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang are simultaneously attending meetings across the region looking to broaden their country’s influence in the South China Sea and expand multilateral trade agreements.

Although Trump is set to meet with Xi at the Group of 20 summit of wealthy countries this month in Buenos Aires, his absence from the major Indo-Pacific meetings for a second straight year will “have some consequences for our position and our interests in the region,” Goodman continued. “Other countries are going to move ahead without us.”

What makes Trump’s perceived snub to the Asian powers more significant is that it comes on the heels of his brief European trip, which showcased his growing isolation from transatlantic allies. French President Emmanuel Macron rebuked Trump in a speech, stating that “nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism” as the U.S. president looked on sullenly.

Trump’s relations with Latin America, already strained, are little better after the White House last week announced that he was reneging for a second time on a commitment to visit Colombia. He had planned to go there later this month on his way back from the G-20 meetings.

In April, he’d sent Pence in his place to the Summit of the Americas in Peru, citing a need to remain in Washington to monitor the U.S. response to a chemical weapons attack in Syria. He’d planned to visit Bogota on the same trip.

This time around, there appeared to be no extenuating circumstances preventing a visit.

In a statement, the White House simply said, “President Trump’s schedule will not allow him to travel to Colombia later this month.”

Xi Jinping Visit to The Philippines Will Speed Implementation of China-Financed Infrastructure Projects

November 14, 2018

The Philippines on Wednesday said Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Manila next week will likely hasten the implementation of China-financed infrastructure projects, amid growing concerns the Duterte administration’s pivot to Beijing is not paying off.

President Rodrigo Duterte secured a pledge for $9-billion official development assistance, or ODA, during his trip to Beijing in 2016 — which highlighted his “separation” from the Philippines’ only treaty ally, the US, while he cozies up to China.

Of the 10 big-ticket projects in the pipeline that China promised to finance, the Philippines has so far completed only one loan agreement — the $62.09 million Chico River Pump Irrigation Project.

In this Oct. 20, 2016 photo, Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, shows the way to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte during a welcome ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China.

AP/Ng Han Guan, File


“This visit of the head of state of China will put pressure on the speed of implementation of all these projects,” Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno told a press conference.

“I think with his visit this will actually speed up. We’re very optimistic… their head of state will pressure their bureaucracy to speed up the process,” Diokno added.

To date, the Philippines and China have signed four grant agreements totalling about $198.77 million, data from the Department of Finance show. Last July, two bridges across Pasig River to be bankrolled with Chinese grants broke ground.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III earlier admitted there had been “roadblocks” on the flow of Chinese aid, particularly Beijing’s hesitation to co-finance certain projects with other lenders and use renminbi in aid disbursement instead of US dollars. These issues had been resolved already during the visit of Philippine economic officials to Beijing last August, he said.

According to the Department of Transportation, the contract and loan agreement for the PNR South Long Haul Line are scheduled to be signed during Xi’s trip to the Philippines this month.

Meanwhile, the commercial agreement for the $947.64-billion cargo train connecting Subic to Clark was supposed to be sealed during Xi’s visit here, but the signing has been moved to a later date, the DOTr added.

Despite Duterte’s warm relations with China, the Philippines has a long history of mistrust of it as the two countries continue to spar over the resource-rich South China Sea. — Ian Nicolas Cigaral