Xi Pledges ‘New Era’ for China, Vows to Counter Taiwan Independence Drive

Xi

President Xi Jinping made a pledge on Wednesday to transform China into a modern socialist country, vowing to counter challenges, ranging from corruption, climate change and Taiwan’s separatist drive.

During the opening of the twice-a-decade Communist Party Congress, he painted a vision of a “new era” that will be proudly Chinese, steadfastly ruled by the party but open to the world.

“Through a long period of hard work, socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era, this is a new historical direction in our country’s development,” Xi said, using the term “new era” 36 times.

In his nearly three-and-a-half hours speech, Xi envisioned China developing into a “basically” modernized socialist country by 2035, becoming one of the world’s most innovative countries with the income gap between urban and rural residents significantly reduced, and its environmental woes fundamentally eliminated.

By 2050, Xi said, China would become a modern socialist “strong power” with leading influence on the world stage.

But he signaled there would be no political reforms.

The Communist Party Congress is a week-long, mostly closed-door conclave that will culminate with the selection of a new Politburo Standing Committee that will rule China’s 1.4 billion people for the next five years, with Xi expected to consolidate his grasp on power.

He addressed more than 2,000 delegates in Beijing’s cavernous Great Hall of the People, including 91-year-old former President Jiang Zemin, under tight security on a rainy, smoggy morning.

China’s political system was the broadest, most genuine, and most effective way to safeguard the fundamental interests of the people, said Xi, who has overseen a sweeping crackdown on civil society, locking up rights lawyers and dissidents.

“We should not just mechanically copy the political systems of other countries,” he said. “We must unwaveringly uphold and improve party leadership and make the party still stronger.”

Xi praised the party’s successes, particularly his high-profile anti-graft campaign, which has seen more than a million officials punished and dozens of former senior officials jailed, and warned the campaign would never end as corruption was the “gravest threat” the party faces.

“We must remain as firm as a rock in our resolve to build on the overwhelming momentum and secure a sweeping victory,” Xi said.

On Taiwan’s separatist drive, he stressed that Beijing has the will and power to thwart any attempts at independence.

Beijing claims Taiwan as its own.

Xi warned that China has “the resolve, the confidence, and the ability to defeat separatist attempts for Taiwan independence in any form”.

“We will never allow anyone, any organization, or any political party, at any time or in any form, to separate any part of Chinese territory from China,” he said.

Taiwan’s mainland affairs council called the Communist Party congress’ comments “regrettable”, saying “China cannot win over the people” through its “one China” policy.

Ties between Taiwan and China have turned increasingly frosty since the election of Tsai Ing-wen as president last year.

Beijing cut off official communication with her government shortly after it took office due to her refusal to publicly accept the “one China” concept.

The two sides split after a civil war in 1949, and while Taiwan sees itself as a sovereign nation, it has never formally declared independence.

Xi made no mention of independence movements in China’s semi-autonomous city Hong Kong.

Beijing has tightened control over the city’s affairs in response to high-profile calls for democracy that have increasingly turned to calls for self-determination or even full independence.

On the economic front, Xi said China would relax market access for foreign investment, expand access to its services sector and deepen market-oriented reform of its exchange rate and financial system, while at the same time strengthening state firms, he said.

As expected, the speech was heavy on aspiration and short on specific measures, but during Xi’s first term, China disappointed many expecting it to usher in more market-oriented reforms.

Xi promised, in what was likely an indirect reference to US President Donald Trump’s “America first” policy, that China would be fully engaged with the world, and reiterated pledges to tackle climate change.

China Gears up for National Congress as Xi Seeks to Consolidate Power

Xi

China’s ruling Communist Party is preparing to hold its national congress on Wednesday where President Xi Jinping is expected to consolidate his power and head on a second five-year term in office.

Amid the stability he has achieved in China during his term in office, beyond the borders, the situation is not so calm.

There, he is at the mercy of two unpredictable men, US President Donald Trump and North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un – a predicament that points to the limits of China’s bid to project soft power, said an Agence France Presse report.

Some analysts say Kim could try to cause a stir by testing another missile or nuclear bomb in the middle of China’s most important political event, which is held every five years.

A new test could trigger another 140-character salvo by Trump, who has alternated between prodding and praising Xi’s response to North Korea.

Trump’s mercurial Twitter diplomacy has contrasted with Xi’s unemotional style. The US leader has also pointedly left Xi hanging over whether he will hit China with tariffs over trade grievances.

Despite the mixed messages, Xi has professed his friendship with Trump, confirming an invitation for the US president to come to Beijing next month, when they will discuss trade and North Korea face-to-face.

His relationship with Kim is also complicated.

The North Korean leader has already interfered with two international summits that the Chinese president has hosted this year, by staging headline-grabbing provocations.

In May, as Xi prepared to address world leaders gathered in Beijing on his signature Belt and Road initiative – a Chinese-led trade infrastructure program – the North successfully launched a new ballistic missile.

Then in September, it conducted its most powerful nuclear test to date, hours before Xi took the stage for a speech before leaders of the developing world at the annual BRICS summit.

The timing was seen as a slight towards Xi and an attempt by Kim to strongarm his Chinese neighbor into convincing Trump to sit down for talks.

A new nuclear test during the party congress “would be more than a loss of face. It will harm the ruling party of China,” said Cheng Xiaohe, an associate professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing. “It will harm Xi Jinping at this crucial moment.”

On Wednesday, Xi will address the nation to lay out his political and economic vision for the world’s second-largest economy over the next five years.

Villages will broadcast news of the congress over loudspeakers, a security crackdown has been extended and monitoring of dissidents strengthened.

Xi, who is expected to get a second five-year term as party leader at the gathering, will kick off events with an address indicating whether his personal political theory will be entered into the party constitution alongside those of predecessors such as Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.

Xi’s speech is also expected to recommit the party to achieving the goals of a “moderately well-off society” by 2021 — the 100th anniversary of the party’s founding — and even greater national power and prosperity by 2049 — the centenary of the founding of the Communist state.

Those achievements will depend on continued economic growth and the lifting of millions out of poverty, alongside the continued rapid expansion of Chinese military and political power, including its growing ability to dominate the Asia-Pacific region.

While the nation’s presidency is limited to two five-year terms, the office of party general secretary is bound by no such restrictions. Xi, 64, could step aside for a younger leader while maintaining ultimate control from behind the scenes.

Whatever the outcome, most analysts say Xi has largely completed the task of sidelining his competitors in other cliques, including those surrounding his immediate predecessor, Hu Jintao, and former leader Jiang Zemin.

“Xi has been extremely successful in purging political rivals,” said Feng Chongyi, an expert on Chinese politics at Sydney’s University of Technology. “There will be only one faction left after the 19th congress.”

The 2,287 carefully hand-picked delegates to the congress are drawn from 40 constituencies, including the 31 provincial-level administrative districts, the government, the military, state industries and grass-roots organizations representing most of the party’s 89 million members.

EU: Washington Does Not Have Authority to Terminate Iran Nuclear Deal

Mogherini

London – European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini stressed on Friday that US President Donald Trump does not have the authority to terminate the nuclear deal world powers signed with Iran in wake of his recent announcement of a new strategy against Tehran.

She said: “The president of the United States has many powers, but not this one.”

Trump had announced during a speech unveiling during which he unveiled the new strategy that he could terminate the deal at any time.

In other European reactions to Trump’s stance, France, Germany and Britain said in a joint statement that preserving the nuclear deal “falls within our national interest.”

French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes Romat said in a statement that the deal was a strong tool to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert stated: “We have a great interest in the continuation of this international unity. If … an important country like the United States comes to a different conclusion as appears to be the case, we will work even harder with other partners to maintain this cohesion.”

Head of the International Atomic Energy Agency Yukiya Amano declared on Friday that Tehran is “subject to the world’s most robust nuclear verification regime.”

He added that Iran is honoring its commitments.

The Russian Foreign Ministry announced that FM Sergei Lavrov had telephoned his Iranian counterpart Mohammed Javad Zarif on Friday, saying that Moscow will remain completely committed to the nuclear deal with Tehran.

Lavrov told Zarif that Russia was firmly determined to implement the deal in the form in which it was approved by the United Nations Security Council, reported Reuters.

The Kremlin meanwhile warned of “negative and dire consequences” if Washington withdrew from the deal, saying that Tehran would reciprocate such a move.

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said that spiking the deal “would undoubtedly hurt the atmosphere of predictability, security, stability and non-proliferation in the entire world.”

Echoing Moscow’s stance, Beijing reiterated its commitment to the nuclear deal with Iran.

A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman hoped that all sides would continue to support and implement the agreement.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres “strongly hoped” the Iran nuclear deal will remain in place, after Trump accused Iran of violating the accord.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric noted that Guterres had long praised the 2015 pact as a very important breakthrough to stem the spread of nuclear weapons and advance global peace.

Watchdog: Mercedes-Benz, China JVs to Recall over 350,000 Vehicles

Mercedes-Benz, the global automobile manufacturer, and its Chinese joint ventures will recall 351,218 vehicles because of potential issues with airbags that are made by Japan’s Takata Corp, China’s quality watchdog stated Friday.

The brand is known for luxury vehicles, buses, coaches, and trucks.

The airbags deploy with too much force and spray shrapnel. Official Chinese estimates showed more than 20 million cars in China had airbags made by Takata, which have been related to the cause of at least 16 deaths and 180 injuries worldwide.

The defect is now the main cause behind the biggest recall in automotive history.

The Japanese maker could eventually go bankrupt because it had become burdened with tens of billions of dollars worth of liabilities.

The recall by Mercedes-Benz and its Chinese joint ventures will begin from Oct. 15 and will include domestically built and imported cars produced from 2006 through 2012, with models including the SLK-Class and A-Class, the AQSIQ said.

The Chinese watchdog asked the three automakers in July to recall vehicles in China affected by potentially faulty Takata air bags. Up to that time, the automakers had proposed recalling a small number of vehicles for testing and analysis, Reuters reported.

China: Reshuffling the Party Cadres

China

It is a testimony to the peculiarities of international attention to world events that while every tweet by US President Donald Trump triggers an avalanche of reports, analyses, and outright abuse, little attention is paid as the People’s Republic of China prepares to hold its five-yearly National Congress of the Communist Party in Beijing.

And, yet, China is now established as the world’s largest economy in gross domestic product (GDP) terms and the second biggest exporter after Germany. It also has the world’s fastest-growing portfolio of foreign investments with interests in 118 nations across the globe.

At the same time, at least 10 million Chinese are working abroad, almost always on projects sponsored by Beijing, helping transform large chunks of Africa, South America, and Asia.

According to estimates, there are already more than three million Chinese in Siberia, spearheading a 19th century-style campaign to exploit the region’s vast natural resources. First encouraged by Moscow, the Chinese presence has become a source of concern for the Kremlin which fears losing control of Siberia due to demographic imbalance. This is why Russia now offers free land and seed capital to any Russian citizen who wishes to settle in Siberia. (Few have taken the offer, so far!)

China has launched projects that recall the golden days of European imperial expansion in the 19th century.
The new Silk Route project, the biggest in human history by way of the $1.4 trillion investments, will link the Central Asian heartland to the Indian Ocean via Pakistan, directly or indirectly affecting the economies of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Russia, India, Pakistan, and Iran. A direct rail link, already been tested between Beijing and London, is to be extended to other major European capitals.

China is also studying the building of a Central American railroad as an alternative to the Panama Canal which is incapable of receiving ships with extra-large containers.

In Africa, China has not only established itself as the biggest trading partner but is also emerging as the” wise old aunt” who could bash heads together and persuade local rivals not to upset the apple cart.

In sub-Saharan Africa, China has replaced the United States, not to mention the old colonial powers such as France and Britain, as the principal influence-wielding big power.

On a broader scale, the spectacle of President Trump and his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson begging China to “do something” about North Korea’s provocative behavior is a good indicator of Beijing’s growing influence.

Even in the so-called Shanghai Group, a Chinese initiative, it is now Russia hat is asserting itself as the ringleader with the backing of former Soviet republics in Central Asia.

It is not hard to see that China is all over the place. Or is it?

The question is pertinent because the People’s Republic has not been able or has been unwilling to forge a correspondence between its economic power and its political role on the global scene. Economically high profile, it remains low profile politically, earning the sobriquet of “Economic Giant, Political Dwarf”.

Part of this is a matter of choice. Chinese leaders know that they govern a country that is still ridden by deep-rooted poverty and infrastructural backwardness. In terms of per capita income, China is still poorer than Iran, and even the Maldives islands. In terms of life-expectancy it is world number 102 among 198 nations.

Thus, Chinese leaders have preferred to remain essentially focused on domestic issues with priority to rapid economic growth. To them, getting involved in international politics seems a risky distraction.

However, the Chinese low profile has another reason: lack of experience in international affairs and the skilled manpower needed for punching below its weight in the diplomatic arena. It is interesting that not a single high profile international post is filled by a Chinese diplomat when diplomats from even Burma and Ghana have held the position of United Nations’ Secretary-General.

Rather than imitating the British or French styles of empire-building in the 19th century, China has opted for the Dutch model of going for a trade and leaving politics to others. But is such a strategy sustainable? You might not want to go after politics but what if politics comes after you?

This is one of the questions likely to be raised at the five-day 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China due to open next Tuesday.

Though China has historically poor relations with neighbors, except Pakistan, it has a neutral profile elsewhere, notably in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and South America if only because it does not bear the burden of a colonial and/or hegemonic past.

Because the Party’s congresses are prepared in secret it is hard to know whether or not a major review of the nation’s foreign policy is included in deliberations. Next week’s congress will have two priorities.

The first is to consolidate Xi Jinping’s position as “supreme leader”, something more than mere Secretary-General.

This could be done by bestowing on him a lofty title as was the case with Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. President Xi, expected to be unanimously re-elected for a further five-year term, could also strengthen his position by propelling his protégés into key positions in the Central Committee, the Politburo, the Politburo Standing Committee, the Committee for Discipline and Inspection, and the Military Committee, the party’s five key decision-making organs.

The second priority is a change of generations at the top the hierarchy with new figures born in the 1960s or later moving up the ladder. A majority of the 2300 delegates slated to attend belong to the “new generation.”

The new putative leadership consists of individuals with some experience of the outside world, often through studying in the United States and Western Europe. That could provide a greater understanding of world politics and a keener taste for getting involved.

One thing is certain: the international scene is in turmoil and Russia and the United States, still burdened by memories of the Cold War, might not always be able to provide the answers needed.

For its part the European Union, its economic power notwithstanding, cannot mobilize public opinion for a greater political role internationally. India, another rising power, is bogged down by its surrealistic quarrel with Pakistan while hopes of Brazil emerging as a big player have faded; maybe for decades.

In other words, there is room for China to become a key player in global politics.
Will she want that​​?

We shall know the answer in Beijing next week.

China’s Communist Party Makes Final Preparations for Major Congress

A man takes photos of a party flag of Communist Party of China made with flowers, which promotes the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, in Shanghai

Beijing- China’s Communist Party opened a meeting on Wednesday to make final preparations for the 19th National Congress that begins on Oct 18, state media said. During the congress, President Xi Jinping is expected to be re-elected as the party’s leader.

The seventh plenary session of the party’s Central Committee will review draft reports on the work of the party, its discipline and anti-corruption commission, and amendments to be made to the party’s constitution, all of which will be delivered at the twice-a-decade party congress on Oct. 18, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The congress will “summarize historical progress and precious experiences” in advancing socialism with Chinese characteristics gained with Xi at the party’s core, Xinhua said.

“The congress will also thoroughly examine the current international and domestic situation and draw out guidelines and policies that respond to the call of the times,” the news agency said, without giving specifics.

Details of the speech that Xi, the party’s general secretary, will give at the opening session of the congress are confidential, although the event is more about ideology than concrete policies.

Shrouded in secrecy, the five-yearly gatherings have marked key events in the party’s tumultuous 68-year reign over China and remain a source of intrigue today.

It is unclear how long the plenum will last, but it could be just a single day. It will end with a long communique, issued by Xinhua, that is usually full of party phraseology but could be short on specifics.

Last October, the party gave Xi the title of “core” leader, a significant strengthening of his position ahead of the congress, at which a new Standing Committee, the pinnacle of power in China, will be constituted.

The party’s constitution will be amended at the end of the congress, likely to include a reference to Xi’s thinking or ideology as a guiding party principle.

World Hungers for Sand while Germany has much of it

sand

Berlin – As incredible as it sounds, the world is running out of sand. Or at least the kind of sand that industries need.

According to the UN Environment Program (UNEP), sand and gravel, known as aggregates, are used in volumes greater than any other raw material on earth except water. And their use greatly exceeds natural renewal rates, the program says.

Kay-Christian Emeis, director of the Institute of Coastal Research at the Helmholtz Center for Materials and Coastal Research (HZG) near Hamburg, Germany, says that worldwide demand for sand is enormous, an estimated 14 billion tons annually, more than half of which is used in Asia.

UNEP explained that sand is indispensable in the industry of many things, such as glass, paper, toothpaste, detergents, cosmetics, electronics and aeronautics, and it is used predominantly in construction and land restorations. Concrete is made with cement, water, sand and gravel.

Even desert countries, like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, import sand (marine sand) from Australia, for example to build their skyscrapers.

Harald Elsner, a geologist at Germany’s Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) notes that the mineral composition and grain-size distribution of desert sand are not suited to construction.

Most desert sand cannot be used for concrete or land reclamation, as wind erosion shapes round grains that do not blend well, UNEP added.

When Dubai created a group of 300 artificial islands representing a map of the world, it used 450 million tons of Australian sand. As the HZG explains, desert sand would be blown away much too quickly.

The worldwide construction boom, particularly in China, has not left Germany a bystander. According to government statistics, more than 270,000 dwellings in Germany were either newly built or reconstructed in 2016, which is a high record.

This year, the German Construction Industry Federation expects the number to top 300,000.

Indian Military Chopper Crashes Near China Border, 7 Dead

An Indian airforce helicopter crashed in a remote mountain area near the border with China on Friday, killing all seven troops on board, officials said.

The Russian-made Mi-17 helicopter was ferrying military officials to a forward post in the northeastern state of
Arunachal Pradesh, defense spokesman Suneet Newton said.

The crash happened in Tawang, which is also claimed by China.

Tawawng is a strategically important border district and came briefly under Chinese control during the 1962 war between the two neighbouring countries. 

India’s Air Force has a high rate of crashes owing to its ageing fleet. More than 170 pilots have lost their lives over the last three decades.

India is spending billions of dollars trying to modernise its airforce with new planes and helicopters but the procurement process has been slow.

Newton said the cause of Friday’s crash was not known immediately.

India has also been expanding its military infrastructure in the area to narrow the gap with China which
has superior road and air links.

China Orders North Korean Businesses Closed by January

China on Thursday ordered North Korean-owned businesses to shut down by January, cutting foreign revenue for the isolated North under UN sanctions imposed over its nuclear and missile programs.

North Korean businesses and ventures with Chinese partners must close within 120 days of the Sept. 11 approval of the latest sanctions, according to the Ministry of Commerce. That would be early January.

China is North Korea’s main trading partner, making Beijing’s cooperation essential to the success of sanctions imposed in an effort to top the North’s pursuit of weapons technology. China has long been North Korea’s diplomatic protector but has gone along with the latest penalties out of growing frustration with leader Kim Jong Un’s government.

The latest round of sanctions approved by the UN Security Council ban member countries from operating joint ventures with North Korea.

The sanctions also ban sales of natural gas to North Korea and purchases of the North’s textile exports, another key revenue source. They order other nations to limit fuel supplies to the North.

North Korean companies operate restaurants, trading outfits and other ventures in China, helping to provide the North with foreign currency.

China, which provides the bulk of North Korea’s energy supplies, announced Saturday it would cut off gas and limit shipments of refined petroleum products, effective Jan. 1. It made no mention of crude, which makes up the bulk of Chinese energy supplies to North Korea and is not covered by the UN sanctions.

China also has banned imports of North Korean coal, iron and lead ore, and seafood since early September.

On Thursday, the Ministry of Commerce defended its recent imports of North Korean coal as permitted by UN sanctions.

A ministry spokesman, Gao Feng, said imports that were reported in August trade data were allowed by a “grace period” for goods that arrived before the UN ban took effect.

The imports are “in line with the (UN) resolution,” Gao said.

Aramco in Talks with Russia’s Biggest Petrochemical Producer

Logo of Saudi Aramco is seen at the 20th Middle East Oil & Gas Show and Conference (MOES 2017) in Manama

Kuwait- Saudi Arabian Oil Co. Aramco is in talks with Sibur Holding PJSC, Russia’s largest petrochemical producer, about forming a joint venture in the kingdom. Saudi Aramco and Sibur are expected to sign a memorandum of understanding for the project next month when Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz visits Russia.

This would be the second rubber-producing venture with a foreign firm. In 2015, Aramco announced acquiring a stake of 50 percent in a joint venture to produce rubber with the Dutch company Lanxess.

Aramco and Sibur aspire to expand in the petrochemical field since Aramco is willing to diversify income sources through introducing several projects in the refining and petrochemical fields. Sibur has been expanding in markets outside Russia since 2011 when the company reached an agreement with Sinopec to set up two rubber joint ventures.

Sinopec and Silk Road Fund bought 10 percent each in the Russian company. Aramco is linked with Sinopec in oilfield project in China while the kingdom is holding talks with China to discuss investment opportunities in the Silk Road, supported by China.

In May, the official magazine of Aramco The Arabian Sun revealed that the giant government oil company plans to establish a new unit for chemicals. The weekly magazine added that the board of directors approved to establish a new unit that handles chemical activities of the company.