China Digest

 Xi and May push to advance Sino-UK ties

China and Britain should enhance connection of development strategies and deepen cooperation in such areas as finance, nuclear power and investment, President Xi Jinping told visiting British Prime Minister Theresa May on Feb 1.

The two countries should design bilateral ties from a strategic and overall vision, continue to carry forward high-level dialogues in strategic, financial and cultural areas, and enhance exchanges between the legislatures, political parties and militaries of both sides, Xi said.

The president called on the two countries to boost mutual understanding, respect each other’s core interests and major concerns, and properly handle sensitive issues.

May said that in 2015, the “golden era” of United Kingdom-China relations was established when Xi made a successful state visit to the UK.

“Since then, I think we have indeed achieved a great deal in enhancing the links between our two countries, both in terms of people links but also trading links,” May said.

Tackle ‘sensitive’ issues, premier tells Japan

Premier Li Keqiang has described China-Japan ties as undergoing “warmth mixed with chills”, and he called on Japan to effectively tackle sensitive issues, including historical ones, and properly manage and control divergences.

Li also urged Tokyo to present positive prospects to all walks of life in both countries when he met with visiting Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono in Beijing on Jan 28.

It is hoped Japan will create an ideal atmosphere for expanding cooperation, restarting the dialogue involved and promoting East Asia regional cooperation, Li said.

During Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s talk with Kono, earlier on the same day, Beijing and Tokyo agreed to convene a new round of the China-Japan-Republic of Korea Leaders’ Meeting as soon as possible.

 The Foreign Ministry said the two sides agreed to create an enabling environment for convening the trilateral gathering.

Rejection of flights ‘harms Taiwan people’

Taiwan’s rejection of additional flights during Spring Festival harms Taiwan people’s rights by obstructing them from returning home for family reunions, a Chinese mainland official said on Jan 31. Spring Festival begins on Feb 16 this year.

“The move is very stupid and unpopular among people,” Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said at a news conference.

He noted that the Taiwan authority is linking additional flights during Spring Festival with the M503 air route, which are two completely unrelated issues.

“The Taiwan authority is taking Taiwan people hostage to get revenge on mainland airlines,” he said.

The island’s aviation authority rejected 176 additional cross-Straits flights operated by China Eastern Airlines and Xiamen Airlines, claiming safety concerns over the south-to-north operation of the M503 air route, which both airlines use. The decision is expected to affect 50,000 passengers.

FM: Beijing to ensure success of year’s events

China will ensure the success of a slew of international events it will host this year to boost opening-up and development, which is the trend of this era, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Jan 30.

Wang also reaffirmed China’s commitment to reform and boosting economic globalization. He was speaking at the Foreign Ministry’s New Year’s reception for foreign diplomats based in Beijing.

This year, China will host the Boao Forum for Asia, Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit, the leaders’ summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation and the China International Import Expo.

Wang said that in this year, the 40th anniversary of the start of China’s reform and opening-up, it has become clear that the past four decades have followed “an indispensable path for achieving development and prosperity”.

Monitoring system gets an upgrade

China is revising its environmental monitoring regulations to prevent officials from interfering or falsifying data. The move came after local officials were recently exposed for spraying mist near stations to improve air quality readings.

The Regulation on Environmental Monitoring and Management will be updated to strengthen the rules, “providing a stronger tool for environmental authorities to punish violations”, Liu Zhiquan, head of the monitoring department at the Ministry of Environmental Protection, said on Jan 31.

Several cases were uncovered in January, including one in Northwest China’s Ningxia Hui autonomous region, where a district environmental authority used a mist cannon to trick a national air pollution monitoring station’s equipment atop a building. But the water turned to ice, creating solid proof of their deception.

Eye in the sky begins its watch 

China’s first space-based X-ray observatory, the Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope, started formal operations on Jan 30 after more than seven months of an in-orbit trial run.

Results of the trial run show that the satellite’s devices work well and its capabilities are good. During the period, it played an important role in global efforts to learn more about gravitational waves, according to a statement by the China National Space Administration.

The telescope’s operation will enable scientists around the globe to better study the activities of black holes and neutron stars as well as X-ray radiation. The satellite’s devices will also allow engineers to explore ways of using pulsars as benchmarks for a new generation of space navigation technology to possibly be used on future spacecraft, the statement said.

Xuelong scientists help obtain Antarctic data

Scientists on the icebreaker Xuelong have obtained, for the first time, seabed topographic data of Antarctic waters after a full exploration, the Polar Research Institute of China said on Jan 30.

They have also acquired important data on oceanic gravity and magnetic forces during an ongoing expedition, China’s 34th national scientific expedition to the Antarctic, which started on Nov 8 and is scheduled to be back in Shanghai in mid-April.

The data was obtained from recent geophysical surveys spanning nearly 3,000 square kilometers carried out in the Ross Sea’s Terra Nova Bay near a planned research base, where construction will begin soon and may be finished in 2022.

“Such data made us clear about the terrain features of the sea area where we will build the new station,” Yang Huigen, chief scientist of the expedition, told Xinhua News Agency.

Joint action against relic-trafficking rings

China will strengthen intelligence-sharing and joint-investigation cooperation with other countries to fight rampant cross-border trafficking of cultural relics, a senior official from the Ministry of Public Security said.

Law enforcement agencies from China and other nations, including European and some Southeast Asian countries and the United States, will work together to smash major transnational cultural heritage trafficking rings, said Chen Shiqu, deputy director of the ministry’s Criminal Investigation Bureau.

Crimes involving grave robbing and smuggling of cultural relics are on the rise due to strong market demand and temptation driven by huge economic interests.

“China has a large number of cultural treasures, of high cultural, artistic and research value, that are sought after by collectors from home and abroad, and such relics always fetch a high price, all of which contributes to the high incidence of such crimes,” Chen said.

Athletes put to test with 2022 in mind

China is determined to expand its winter sports prowess by sending its largest-ever delegation to vie with the world’s best at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

In preparation for the Winter Games in China in 2022, the nation will dispatch a 186-member delegation, including 82 athletes, to participate in 55 events in five sports at the Pyeongchang Olympics in South Korea from Feb 9 to 25.

This comes as the country is seeing breakthroughs in new events, and with its delegation being the largest since China’s Winter Olympics debut in 1980.

 In Pyeongchang, Chinese athletes will make their debuts in 10 events — including freestyle skiing half-pipe, bobsled and parallel giant slalom in snowboarding — in an effort to diversify the country’s winter sports strength.

Smog fight in Beijing gets $95 million boost

Beijing has boosted funding for the war on smog by almost 600 million yuan ($95.3 million) this year. One of its main targets is the growing threat from vehicle exhausts, especially diesel trucks.

The city government has allocated 19 billion yuan to support comprehensive measures against air pollution, up by 590 million yuan year-on-year, according to information released recently.

The extra resources will go toward controls on coal consumption, dust and industrial production, as well as technological improvements. Vehicle emissions will be a major focus, said a Jan 31 report by acting Mayor Chen Jining to the first session of the 15th Beijing People’s Congress.

The capital recorded 226 “blue sky” days in 2017, an increase of 28 days from the previous year, data from the Environmental Protection Bureau showed.

Sina Weibo suspends ‘hot’ lists after rebuke

Sina Weibo, one of China’s most popular social media, has been ordered by Beijing’s Internet watchdog to suspend its “hot” rankings after failing to stop the spread of illegal content.

The Beijing office of the Cyberspace Administration of China issued the weeklong ban on Jan 27 after accusing the technology company of promoting improper materials uploaded by users, including pornography and ethnic discrimination.

The website, which had more than 360 million monthly active users in 2017, was told to suspend several lists including its “hottest topics”.

Many netizens use such rankings daily to keep track of what is trending. But the potential exposure has led some companies and celebrity users to pay agencies to artificially drive up the popularity of their posts.

Global confidence in yuan use rising: Survey

Expectations of China further opening up its financial sector this year have boosted bankers’ and experts’ confidence in the broader use of the yuan in global trade, investment and foreign reserves.

A survey done by the Bank of China published on Jan 31 indicated that in 2017, 76 percent of respondents from 3,134 overseas enterprises and 118 financial institutions in 25 countries and regions believed that the yuan will play a role as important as other major international currencies, including the US dollar, British pound, euro and Japanese yen.

This compared with 72 percent in the 2016 annual survey, reflecting strengthened confidence in the yuan’s global usage, said the bank.

More than 60 percent of respondents indicated they will increase their use of yuan in global trade, investment and foreign reserves.

Beijing responds to US cybersecurity jitters

Beijing called on Jan 29 for the international community to enhance dialogue and cooperation on the basis of mutual trust to jointly cope with cybersecurity threats.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, in a daily news conference, sought cooperation after a senior US official said on Jan 28 the United States government is considering a superfast 5G wireless network to counter the threat of spying by China on US phone calls.

The official, confirming the gist of a report from the news site, said the option was being debated at a low level in the administration and was six to eight months away from being considered by the president himself.

The 5G network concept is aimed at addressing what officials see as China’s threat to US cybersecurity and economic security.

China holds a consistent stance on the issue and the government firmly forbids and cracks down on all forms of cyberattacks, Hua said.


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