China Digest

Multiparty ties need new impetus, says Xi

Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, has called for multiparty cooperation to better meet the needs of the new era of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics.

Xi, who is also president and the chairman of the Central Military Commission, expressed the hope when he attended a gathering in Beijing on Feb 6 and extended Spring Festival greetings to representatives of non-Communist parties, the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, and those without party affiliation.

Non-Communist parties and their members have conducted in-depth research and made more than 150 policy suggestions in 2017, said Xi.

Leaders of the non-Communist parties introduced the latest successful elections of their party leaderships. They also briefed on how they are studying the spirit of the 19th CPC National Congress and Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.

President pledges to develop Sri Lanka ties

China is willing to work with Sri Lanka for better development of a strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries, President Xi Jinping said in a message addressed to Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Feb 4.

In the message to congratulate Sri Lanka on the 70th anniversary of its independence from British colonial rule in 1948, Xi recalled the traditional friendship and mutual assistance between China and Sri Lanka. “I pay high attention to the development of China-Sri Lanka relations, and I am willing to make concerted efforts with President Sirisena to push the China-Sri Lanka strategic cooperative partnership of sincere mutual assistance and long-standing friendship to keep achieving greater development in the better interest of the two countries and the two peoples,” Xi said.

Dutch king hails Belt, Road opportunities

The China-Netherlands relationship stands at a new starting point with fresh opportunities for development, and it is hoped the two countries cooperate more this year through the Belt and Road Initiative, President Xi Jinping said on Feb 8.

Xi made the remark as he and his wife, Peng Liyuan, met with visiting Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima at the Zhongnanhai leadership compound in Beijing.

King Willem-Alexander said the Belt and Road Initiative, which seeks to revive the ancient Silk Road trade routes, will bring more opportunities to the Netherlands.

The king’s two-day visit to China concluded on Feb 9, ahead of the Spring Festival.

He offered festive greetings to Xi and the Chinese people and voiced his hope for new achievements by China in the new year as well as progress in his country’s relationship with China.

Rural life a priority of Party and State

China’s central leadership on Feb 4 released a package of policies as the No 1 Central Document of the year, charting the road map for rural vitalization.

There is a lot of work to be accomplished in Chinese villages, where opportunities for development have arisen as the country enters a new era, said the document, jointly released by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the State Council, China’s cabinet.

The strategy of rural vitalization was first proposed as one of the major aspects of developing a modernized economy in a report delivered to the 19th CPC National Congress.

In this latest document, the strategy was described as a “historical task” essential to accomplishing China’s modernization goals and building a moderately prosperous society.

Ground-based missile defense system tested

China on Feb 5 launched its first ground-based midcourse missile defense interception test in four years, a move experts said would further improve China’s long-range missile defense capability during wartime.

The test met expectations and was conducted in Chinese territory, the Defense Ministry said in an online statement on Feb 6. The test was defensive in nature and not targeted at any country, it added.

When asked about the test, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Feb 6 that China resolutely follows the path of peaceful development and upholds a defensive military policy.

China has conducted three similar tests, in January 2010, January 2013 and July 2014.

The latest test came amid the recent fruition of the $453 million arms deal between the United States and Taiwan, which was approved in 2015.

Yuan hits 30-month high against dollar

China’s currency strengthened to a 30-month high against the US dollar on Feb 7, driven by capital flows into the country, with its improving economic fundamentals expected to provide solid support.

The yuan’s daily reference exchange rate set by the central bank appreciated to 6.2882 per dollar on Feb 7, the strongest since Aug 11, 2015. The onshore and offshore spot exchange rates both hit record highs on the same trading day, according to China Foreign Exchange Trade System data.

“Most of the yuan’s strengthening against the US dollar has been because of the general weakening in the greenback,” said Louis Kuijs, head of Asia economics at the Oxford Economics think tank, who expects the yuan’s exchange rate to touch 6.32 per dollar by the end of 2018.

Top judge urges action on wrongful conviction

The country’s top judge said on Feb 5 that courts across the country must improve the quality of case hearings and rulings to effectively avoid wrongful convictions and better protect human rights.

“Courts at all levels nationwide must learn from wrongful judgments to uphold justice and prevent innocent people from being wrongfully convicted,” said Zhou Qiang, president of the Supreme People’s Court.

Zhou made the remarks at the annual work conference of the top court, highlighting the principles of “no punishment for doubtful incidents” and “excluding evidence obtained illegally in handling criminal cases”.

“Each court must meet the requirement to punish offenders and free the innocent,” he said, urging courts to fight crime and avoid wrongful convictions by strengthening the quality of case hearings.

Qingdao seeks to boost global cachet

Qingdao, a coastal city in East China’s Shandong province, plans to hire foreign employees in government departments and public institutions starting this year, marking a major breakthrough in China’s government personnel recruitment and overseas talent initiative.

A guideline published by the city’s human resources and social security bureau on Feb 4 gave the green light to State-owned enterprises and institutions, as well as government departments under the city’s administrative regions, to recruit qualified foreigners in permanent or short-term job positions, or hire them as technical directors or consultants.

The guideline follows China’s top-level policy on talent recruitment. The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in October stated that talent is a strategic resource for China.

Intelligent highway to break ground by 2022

A super highway, extending 161 km, equipped with intelligent transportation systems to support autonomous vehicles, is expected to break ground by 2022 in East China’s Zhejiang province, the provincial transport authority said.

The highway, connecting Hangzhou, Shaoxing and Ningbo — three relatively prosperous cities — is designed to ease traffic congestion on the highway linking Hangzhou and Ningbo, and aims to reduce travel time by a third to just 60 minutes.

“The ultimate goal is to realize a top speed limit of 150 km/h, or even eliminate speed limits, like on German highways,” said Ren Zhong, deputy director of transport for Zhejiang.

The intelligent highway system will allow vehicles to freely flow past toll booths, which means drivers do not need to stop and charges will be automatically billed, he said.

Earthquake destroys Taiwan tourist spot

Rescue workers pulled survivors and bodies from buildings tilting precariously in the Taiwan county of Hualien on Feb 7 after an overnight earthquake killed at least seven, injured more than 200 and left dozens missing.

Emergency responders focused on a 12-story apartment block and a nearby hotel, both of which were leaning dangerously after their lower floors pancaked when the 6.5-magnitude quake hit the popular tourist county late on Feb 6.

Zhang Zhijun, head of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said the mainland was willing to send rescue teams to help.

Spring Festival to see rise in domestic tourism

The domestic tourism market expects a boom during the Spring Festival break, with 385 million domestic trips anticipated, up 12 percent from a year earlier, senior officials said on Feb 6.

The government predicted the travelers will spend up to 476 billion yuan ($75.3 billion) during Spring Festival, up by 12.5 percent year-on-year.

“We found that the northerners love to travel to the south for sunbathing while southerners want to experience the snow in the north,” said Wang Xiaofeng, vice-chairman of the China National Tourism Administration.

Wang noted two significant changes in people’s travel habits this year, with 53.7 percent opting for a do-it-yourself approach without relying on travel agencies. Half of all tourists choose leisure activities as their top motivation rather than shopping or sightseeing.

Leading Sinologist Jao dies in Hong Kong

World renowned Sinologist Jao Tsung-i passed away in Hong Kong early on Feb 6. He was 101 years old. 

Premier Li Keqiang hailed him as the “pride of Hong Kong” during a meeting in Beijing in 2015.

Jao was born in Chaozhou, South China’s Guangdong province, in 1917 and home-schooled in his childhood. He arrived in Hong Kong in 1949 and studied a broad range of disciplines, spanning the East and the West, the ancient and the modern, touching on 13 genres covering the entire field of Sinology, including ancient history and oracle bone inscriptions. He initiated research on the Dunhuang Manuscripts (now known as Dunhuangology) and on Chaozhou Studies.

An asteroid — numbered 10017 — was named after Jao in 2011, by the International Astronomical Union as a tribute to his contributions.

Li praises foreigners for help in opening-up

China will continue with supply-side structural reform and produce more appealing policies to attract foreign professionals to work in the country in an enhanced effort at opening-up further in 2018, Premier Li Keqiang said on Feb 5.

“With our country’s door to the world opening even wider, we will produce more appealing policies to attract foreign talents to work in China and provide more convenience for your lives here,” Li told a gathering of outstanding foreign experts working in China.

Ten days ahead of Chinese New Year, Li attended the annual event in the Great Hall of the People to send greetings and collect wisdom from more than 60 scholars and business leaders on achieving high-quality development, smart manufacturing and improving the quality of higher education.

Services sector spike shows growth resilience

China’s services sector activity expanded strongly in January, the fastest pace in almost six years, according to a major private survey. Analysts said the survey result shows China’s growth remained resilient at the start of this year.

The Caixin/Markit services Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), released on Feb 5, was 54.7 in January, up from 53.9 in December. It was the highest reading since May 2012.

The reading is in line with the official services business index, which stood at 54.4 in January, 1 point higher than the previous month. The 50 mark separates growth from contraction.

The composite Caixin PMI, which combines manufacturing and services indexes, was 53.7 in January, up from 53 in December, the highest in seven years. 

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