N. Korean Glorious welcome for Predident Xi, China to support security, development concerns


 

Chinese President Xi Jinping and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held talks in Pyongyang Thursday where Xi received an unprecedented welcome. The talks touched on the China-North Korea relationship and the Korean Peninsula issue.

Xi, also general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), kicked off his two-day state visit to the neighboring country at the invitation of Kim, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) and chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Xi said during the talks that the international community expects the DPRK and the US to keep pushing negotiations forward to reach a result, and China is willing to provide assistance to the DPRK in its “reasonable concerns on security and development.”

China is willing to cooperate with the DPRK and other parties involved in the issue to push the political solution, Xi noted.

Kim responded that the DPRK highly appreciated China’s contributions in pushing forward the peace process of the peninsula issue.

His country has made positive efforts to avoid tensions in the past year, but “relevant parties” haven’t offered any positive response, and this is not what the DPRK wants to see, Kim said. But North Korea is patient to keep communicating with “relevant parties” to find a solution that could be accepted by all parties, Kim noted.

Zheng Jiyong, director of the Center for Korean Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, said a key reason why the bilateral negotiations between North Korea and the US can’t move on is that Washington doesn’t want to offer a positive response to Pyongyang’s security concerns. Pyongyang feels insecure and so it is reluctant and suspicious to make more concessions, he noted.

“China is capable of making North Korea feel secure and protecting it from unreasonable bullying and threats,” Zheng said.

Lü Chao, a research fellow at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences in Shenyang, said that although the US prefers a bilateral mechanism, it still needs a third party to guarantee the implementation of denuclearization once it reaches an agreement with North Korea.

A third party or a new international cooperation mechanism is needed at this moment, Chinese experts noted, as the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan will take place at the end of the month, and five parties – China, the US, Russia, Japan and South Korea – of the Six-Party Talks, except North Korea, will gather in Japan, offering a good opportunity for them to discuss such an issue.

China is showcasing its unique influence over the peninsula issue to the US before the G20, Chinese experts noted.

At
the invitation of Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and Chinese president, Kim Jong-un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) and chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), paid an unofficial visit to China from March 25 to 28. During the visit, Xi held talks with Kim at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Xi held a welcoming ceremony for Kim before their talks. Photo: Xinhua

Unprecedented ceremony

From the welcome ceremony at Pyongyang International Airport to the unprecedented salutation at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, Xi received the highest-level reception in the capital of North Korea that shows North Korea attaches great importance to the China-North Korea relationship with firm traditional friendship, Chinese experts noted.

About 10,000 people participated in the ceremony at the airport to welcome Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Pyongyang citizens formed a long welcoming line alongside the highway from the airport all the way to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun. There were national flags and banners with slogans about friendship, unity and welcome everywhere in Pyongyang on Thursday.

This is the first time that a visiting foreign top leader received a salutation from the North Korean people at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, a magnificent building near the northeast corner of Pyongyang that serves as the mausoleum for Kim Il-sung, founder of the DPRK, and for his son and North Korean former leader, Kim Jong-il, who were both posthumously designated eternal leaders of North Korea, Xinhua reported.

Special relationship

“This is like three generations of North Korean leaders are witnessing a new milestone in the bilateral traditional friendship being forged by Xi’s visit,” Lü said.

After the ceremony, Xi and Peng moved into the Guesthouse of Kumsusan. Zheng said that the Kumsusan has unusual meaning in North Korea as it belongs exclusively to the Kim family. Kim was trying to emphasize his close and unique relationship with Xi.

“The ceremony is just like welcoming a family member and this also means the two parties and the two countries have a special relationship,” Zheng said.

Rodong Sinmun, the WPK’s flagship newspaper, said in an editorial Thursday that Xi’s visit to “the DPRK despite the urgent and important tasks due to the complicated international relations vividly shows that the Chinese party and government are placing great importance on the DPRK-China friendship.”

The history of the DPRK-China relations vividly records the comradely friendship between the leaders of the elder generation who closely cooperated with each other hand in hand on the road to accomplishing the cause of anti-imperialist independence, peace and socialism, the editorial said.

Xi said during the talks with Kim that the China-DPRK friendship is a strategic choice made by the two sides with a long-term and overall perspective and will not waver due to changes in the international situation.

It is a steadfast policy of the CPC and the Chinese government to maintain, consolidate and develop China-DPRK relations, he stressed.

The top leaders of China and the DPRK agreed during their talks to work together to create a bright future of inter-party and inter-state relations at a new starting point in history, Xinhua reported.

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Alarm bells ring in Washington as China and Russia TEAM UP


 

Moscow’s strongman this week welcomed Mr Xi to the Kremlin for a three-day state visit to sign new trade deals and investment promises. After the Chinese President touched down in Russia on Wednesday, Mr Putin led him on a tour of Moscow Zoo, where two pandas loaned to Russia by the Chinese for a 15 year project are staying. The offer of Ru Yi, a male, and Ding Ding, a female, who will live at the zoo with the aim of reproducing, was a “gesture of particular respect and trust in Russia,” Mr Putin said.

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But while it make take some time for the animals’ partnership to bear fruit – pandas are known to be reluctant breeders – the two leaders’ fellowship has hit “an unprecedented high level”.

Beijing is embroiled in a bitter trade war with Washington while Moscow is suffering the consequences of sanctions imposed by the West over the Ukraine conflict.

As their talks kicked off, Mr Putin told Mr Xi : “Our strategic partnership, we believe, has reached an unprecedented high level.

TRUMP, PUTIN, XI JINPING

Mr Trump’s hard stance against Russia and China has brought the two countries closer together (Image: GETTY)

 

putin and jinping
 Mr. Putin led Mr Xi on a tour of Moscow Zoo to see the two pandas (Image: GETTY)

“We are living in the best of days, in terms of our country’s relations… Our interests are very similar.” The fond words came at the start of the trip which will see the Chinese leader attend Russia’s flagship economic forum in St Petersburg later this week.

Mr Putin and Mr Xi vowed to deepen military technical cooperation at the talks in Moscow, as businesses from both nations signed off deals.

In a statement published by the Kremlin, Mr Xi said: “Over the past six years we have met almost 30 times … Putin is my best friend and a good colleague.”

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The two pandas will stay in Moscow for 15 years (Image: GETTY)

The two men displayed a relaxed demeanour as they toured the zoo to begin the visit hailed as a “milestone” for the two countries’ alliance.

Last week, China’s deputy foreign minister, Zhang Hanhui, said: “The close and effective co-ordination of Russia and China on international affairs… has been an anchor and stabilising force amid rapid changes in the international situation.”

Beijing is Moscow’s top trading partner while Moscow is Beijing’s tenth-largest trading partner.
Later this year, the Power of Siberia pipeline connecting Russia to China is due to be complete, which is reportedly valued at £315bn ($400bn)

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Cooperation with China boosts Philippines’ strategic initiatives


 

 

Schoolchildren wave the national flags of the Philippines and China along the route of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s convoy at the Malacanang palace grounds in Manila on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to the Philippines from Tuesday to Wednesday has caught international attention.

China-Philippines relations have been one of the most vacillating connections among China and its neighboring countries. During the rule of Benigno Aquino III, bilateral relations were at a low ebb due to frictions over the South China Sea. Incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte changed the Philippines’ diplomatic course and brought ties with China back to the right track.

Last year, China surpassed Japan and became the largest trading partner of the Philippines. The two are conducting negotiations over the possible joint exploration of oil and gas in the disputed waters. If they reach an agreement, it could serve as an exemplary model for South China Sea claimant countries.

However, not everybody is happy to see Beijing and Manila set aside disputes and develop friendly ties. Besides obstruction from pro-US factions within the Philippines, some US and Western forces do not want to see rapprochement between China and the Philippines and even pressure the Duterte government to cut relations.

Recently, some Western media claimed that most of the assistance and investment that China promised to the Philippines was never fulfilled. Such tone maliciously aims to drive a wedge between Beijing and Manila.

In recent years, China has been advancing its Belt and Road initiative in Southeast Asia and has no reason to skip the Philippines when seeking investment and cooperation. In fact, relevant departments of the two countries have been working to push forward the implementation of cooperation projects.

The West has been accusing China’s Belt and Road initiative of locking some countries into a debt trap. However, when it comes to the Philippines, the West criticized China for not fulfilling its promises. Behind such hypocritical words lie the West’s deep-seated prejudice and hostility against China.

When the US strategically targets China, it is difficult for the Philippines – geographically adjacent to China while closely watched by the US – to keep independent strategic thinking and remain firm-minded.

But independent thinking and strong political determination are essential for every country. When Duterte first thought about mending ties with Beijing, independent thinking prompted Manila to face the question: What advantages can the country gain from enmity with China, if any? Will the Philippines benefit from it or will it be exploited by external forces?

The whole region should keep alert to whom will benefit from confrontation among South China Sea stakeholders. As one of the US’ allies in Southeast Asia, the Philippines will always be a tool of the West to instigate provocations in the waters. After twists and turns, Philippine society will form its own judgment.

Many Philippine elite might have thought that their country and the entirety of Southeast Asia could rely only on the US and the West before China’s rise, yet most regional countries did not achieve modernization. China offers more options for the Philippines, and because of China’s rise, the Philippines and Southeast Asia have gained more attention. Compared with the Aquino era, the Philippines under Duterte has acquired more strategic initiatives without becoming overly dependent on other countries.

China-Philippines friendly cooperation has changed the strategic position of the Philippines and brought about a new pattern for its development. It is expected that Xi’s visit will accelerate bilateral cooperation.

Newspaper headline: Xi, Duterte upgrade ties, Xi’s Philippine visit a ‘milestone’ event, Improved relations help keep stability in S.China Sea: expert

As cooperation and political trust improve, China and the Philippines agreed on Tuesday to lift ties to a comprehensive strategic cooperation relations while stressing the need to manage disputes in the South China Sea through “friendly negotiations.”

The decision was announced after visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping’s meeting with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday in Manila, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Chinese experts stressed that the visit is a milestone event in the development of bilateral relations and the two countries will pursue greater cooperation under the framework of the China-proposed Belt and Road initiative (BRI) in the coming years.

As friendly neighbors across the sea, China and the Philippines enjoy geographic proximity and a strong bond that links the two peoples and cultures, Xi said, Xinhua reported on Tuesday.

Since Duterte took office, China and the Philippines have reopened the door of friendship and cooperation to each other, bringing real benefits to the two peoples and making important contributions to regional peace, stability and prosperity, Xi noted.

Xi’s visit will largely promote bilateral relations as the visit shows that China values friendly relations with the Philippines, Gu Xiaosong, a research fellow on Southeast Asian studies at the Guangxi Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

“It is a milestone event in the development of bilateral relations,” Gu remarked.

Glenn Penaranda, commercial counselor of the Philippine Embassy in China, told the Global Times on Tuesday that “Xi’s visit is vital in highlighting the significant relationship between our two countries, particularly in trade and investments. The visit will encourage more and deeper engagements.”

Improved China-Philippines relations will also play an important role in maintaining the stability of the South China Sea, experts noted.

“If China and the Philippines can reach an agreement on the exploration and development of oil and gas resources in the South China Sea, it will be a breakthrough in economic cooperation in the region and will largely promote the safety of the Asia-Pacific,” Gu said.

Growth prospects

The prospects for economic and trade relations between the two countries are very bright as Philippine priorities are aligned with the key directions for industrial capacity cooperation under BRI, in sectors such as infrastructure, construction and building materials, chemicals and manufacturing, Penaranda said.

Gu agrees, saying that bilateral economic and trade ties will be further enhanced to a higher level, and the two countries will pursue more cooperation under the BRI.

As a developing country with more than 100 million people, the Philippines needs to improve its infrastructure and enhance the growth of its industrial enterprises, Gu noted.

“We need to better understand the opportunities for bilateral cooperation through increased engagements by enterprises,” Penaranda said, noting that it is important that the frequent reciprocal visits of officials and business delegations continue.

Experts said China is committed to advancing the development with other countries and the Belt and Road initiative will bring greater growth to other developing countries and promote the economic integration of the Asia-Pacific region.

The two countries have conducted broad cooperation in transportation infrastructure and industrial parks and energy, and China is the Philippines’ largest trading partner.

Trade between China and the Philippines increased 8.5 percent year-on-year to $51.28 billion, according to information released by China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) on Thursday.

As of the end of September, China’s investment in the Philippines was $1.25 billion and the Philippines’ investment in the Chinese market reached $3.33 billion, according to the MOFCOM.

Experts said cultural and educational exchanges between the two countries also see a huge potential.

The hospitality toward Chinese people is easily felt among the Philippine public.

The Chinese and Philippine flags were placed along Roxas Boulevard in Manila a week ago. Many Chinese who live and study in Manila waited along the boulevard on Tuesday to welcome Xi.

“We’re so excited that President Xi has come to Manila. We hope the two countries could strengthen cultural exchanges in the future,” Kui Jiangong, a PhD candidate from China who studies at Adamson University in Manila, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

“I have met many locals who like to discuss Chinese culture with me as they want to know more about China,” he said. – Global Times

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‘America First’ undermines multilateralism, Pence’s APEC speech offers nothing new


 

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

 

‘America First’ undermines multilateralism

According to media reports, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum held in Papua New Guinea (PNG) was concluded on Sunday without leaders issuing the traditional communiqué, and PNG will instead issue a formal “chairman’s statement,” for the first time ever. PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said talks broke down over language about the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The US is a strong advocate for WTO reform. While China has no objection for the necessity of reform, the two powers are widely divided over “what” to reform. The US thinks the WTO doesn’t fit the current world economy and needs massive reform, but China hopes reform will focus on dispute settlement mechanisms.

China’s view is echoed by most WTO members. But some developed countries have vacillated because they worry that the US, if objected, would exit the WTO and build another platform that it thinks enables fair competition. They also hope to benefit from US moves pressuring developing countries. As a major WTO founder, the US intends to overturn the system and start over again. This invites concerns that Washington would choose to support or abandon any international rule based on whether it serves US interest, bringing a fundamental tumult to international trade system.

“America First” has been deeply embedded in US foreign policy. Washington used to pursue its interest by building a US-led multilateral system, but now it just asks for benefits. Multilateral mechanisms are seeing their authority eroded. This will last for some time until Washington feels what repercussions of the collapse of the international system can bring to it.

Such impact will come sooner or later. Current international system carries Western values, endows a US leadership, supports the dollar as a major international currency and helps the US enhance its grip on international relations so that it can secure its interest easily. Destroying such a system will bring itself huge losses in the long run.

It’s delusional of some US elites to think that China is the largest beneficiary of the international system since they mistakenly blame China for the US’ own problems. China has realized its development through hard work, not by taking advantage of the international system. Though China’s economy has rapidly expanded, it is due to China taking up a lot of work that US society doesn’t want to do. A large share of China’s foreign exchange that the country earned through toils has been borrowed by the US.

“American First” cannot become “America takes all.” The US should give other economies room for further development and take care of its relationship with developing countries. All Western countries need to rethink the meaning of fairness. They can’t take their vested interests for granted while hoping the developing countries stay at disadvantaged position forever.

Modifying WTO rules must aim at win-for-all, instead of interest redistribution for a few specific countries. It’s impossible for the US to be the only winner. If it blocks the development path of other countries, the US itself will go nowhere either.

The APEC summit this year concluded without issuing a communiqué, but it is not a big deal. The summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Donald Trump during the G20 meeting later this month will carry much more weight. It is hoped Washington makes serious preparations for the summit and not pin its hopes on exerting pressure.– Global Times.

Pence’s APEC speech offers nothing new

 

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

US Vice President Mike Pence aimed bluntly-worded criticism toward China while delivering a speech at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Papua New Guinea on Saturday. He repeated the US’ hardline approach in its trade conflicts with China, reiterated the US’ determination of freedom of navigation and criticized China’s foreign aid and cooperation with other countries.

Pence is considered the spokesperson for the US’ tough position on China. Apparently, he shoulders the responsibility of piling pressure on China before the summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump during the G20 meeting later this month.

But a few hours before Pence said that the US will not back down from its trade disputes with China unless Beijing bows to US demands, Trump told a number of journalists in the White House that he may not impose more tariffs.

Washington has made quite a lot of noise recently, and Pence’s speech at APEC barely offers anything new. Pence said that China’s assistance drowns recipient countries in a sea of debt and makes them compromise sovereignty, and that the US offers a “better option.”

“We don’t coerce, corrupt, or compromise your independence. The United States deals openly and fairly,” Pence said. In reality, however, the country that does as Pence described is China and the one that jeopardizes the sovereignty of recipient countries is in truth the US.

The most prominent feature of China’s international assistance and cooperation is that it comes with no political strings attached. Is there a better way than this to show respect for others’ sovereignty? A big problem in the US’ relations with developing countries is that Washington often interferes in their internal affairs. In fact, many Western countries have preconditions, mostly political, attached to their assistance, which touches upon the social governance system of developing countries and hence puts them in difficult positions.

Just look at how many times the US has found political fault with China when it comes to economic cooperation, with human rights issues often brought up during trade negotiations with China. The US also wants to intervene in the business of China’s State-owned enterprises. With the US treating the strongest country among its cooperative partners this way, it’s easy to imagine what a difficult time it gives to less powerful and underdeveloped countries in trade relations.

If the US can truly behave as Pence claims and make economic cooperation separate from others’ sovereignty and based on an equal footing, there would be no major divergence in principles between China and the US. It’s a blessing for the world in the 21st century that China emphasizes both sovereignty and equality when it comes to international economic cooperation.

We especially welcome the US to adopt this attitude toward China-US relations and make comprehensive China-US cooperation a role model for the world.

The core consideration of US diplomacy is geopolitics rather than global development. Washington cares about the neighboring regions of major powers and offers its assistance to these regions so as to weaken the influence of regional major powers. Meanwhile, distant countries are forgotten by the US and other Western countries. The South Pacific is one such region. It is China’s mutually beneficial cooperation in the region that has drawn the attention of the US and other Western countries back there. The same goes for Africa. A number of African countries used to be ignored by the West in its geopolitical map. However, China’s cooperation with Africa has reshaped the attitude of Washington and other Western countries toward Africa.

The China-proposed Belt and Road initiative has been warmly received by a large number of countries because it’s not a geopolitical strategy, but a development plan guided by the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. It meets the pressing needs of developing countries and hence has ignited their passion for the initiative. When meeting with Xi on Friday, leaders and government representatives of eight South Pacific countries expressed their gratitude for China’s longtime assistance and loans that have had no political requirements attached. This is the epitome of how welcome the Belt and Road initiative is.

It is hoped that Pence’s words concerning sovereignty, respect and equality can become real action taken as part of US foreign policy. As long as the US has goodwill and real action, it will no longer need to criticize China and other countries will sense this and support it. Belittling a third party is not a noble act on the international stage.- Global Times

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China meets an unequal detractor in US

The Chinese public has the enthusiasm and creativity in executing public diplomacy. They can, and will, find their own way of fighting against foreign provocation. Chinese government shouldn’t always be the target and Western countries should also be confronted with China’s strong non-governmental voices.

 

High-tech export controls will bring the US no good

Beijing needs to remain calm while Washington is impulsive. It has become a trend in the US to expand technological export restrictions against China, but it’s uncertain to what extent Washington will enforce the restrictions. China shouldn’t be swayed from the course of opening-up because of Washington’s restrictions.

 

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Bigger thriller in Manila: Asean point man to deal with China


Point man: Asean has designated Manila its ‘leader’ in dealings with China, but can the moody Duterte, here shown bonding with Xi on a visit to Beijing in 2016, clinch a an agreement from China for the regional association? — AP

NOW that the quartet of Asean-related summits is over for the year, so should the niggling criticisms. At least they should – more important matters are at hand.

Over the week Singapore hosted the 2nd RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) Summit, the 13th East Asia Summit, the 21st Asean Plus Three Summit, and – not least – the 33rd Asean Summit.

These summits were held because it was time they were, and Singapore hosted them because it was its turn. But criticisms were not far behind.

US President Donald Trump was a no-show, and so was Chinese President Xi Jinping. Vice-President Mike Pence and Prime Minister Li Keqiang attended instead.

Trump was criticised for his absence, which allegedly “left the region wide open” for Xi’s China to make further inroads here. That complaint was limited only by Xi’s own absence.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was also criticised for not attending an “informal breakfast summit” between Asean and Australian leaders.

His said it was only an informal event, and it was over breakfast which he did not eat.

A casual observer may be forgiven for sensing that there must be more important developments than these scheduled rounds of handshakes and photo opportunities. There are.

One of these begins in two days: Xi’s state visit to the Philippines, following the scheduled 30th Apec Summit in Papua New Guinea.

Duterte had made three visits to China as President, inviting Xi to visit Manila each time. This will be Xi’s first state visit, coming upon the third invitation to him.

There will be handshakes and photo opportunities too, but the substance and symbolism now may be more than the recent multiple summits in Singapore and Papua New Guinea.

The Philippines has been vocal about rival claims to territory in the South China Sea. The previous The region is generally unsettled by China’s recent occupation and construction of islands, with Vietnam remaining most disturbed. Duterte’s critics have also blamed him for being soft on Beijing.

However, Xi’s visit is expected to be smooth with an emphasis on the positives. These include mutual interests deemed to be larger than interminable disputes over distant rocks and islets.

Last year Chinese Vice-Premier Wang Yang visited Manila for four days amid more audible protests over territory such as Benham Rise. Yet the visit proceeded unhindered.

This time it is President Xi himself, for a state visit of only two days, with no particular complaint against China outstanding. It will also be after one full year of China having become the Philippines’ main trading partner.

For both sides the focus will be quite intense on specific projects backed by Chinese assistance. Duterte left the merrymaking in Papua New Guinea early to return home to prepare for Xi’s arrival.

For China, it would demonstrate to the region how it can cooperate with even a country locked in dispute with it to mutual benefit. This gains added significance when it is the Philippines, historically a US ally.

For the Philippines, there is a host of projects and programmes on Duterte’s wish list requiring Chinese aid. They span his ambitious 9-trillion peso (RM717bil) “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure plan covering all three regions of the Philippines: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

These come under the Six-Year Development Program (SYDP) signed last year with China as a framework for the Philippines’ “Golden Age of Infrastructure.” It is to be Duterte’s legacy for his country.

The 75 projects include a water pump and irrigation scheme, a dam, a north-south railway, a highway, bridges, a park and a rehabilitated power plant. Economic growth is projected to outpace debt.

Duterte is clear-minded enough to know that only China is able and willing to provide the assistance needed. No other country or combination of countries is in a position to do so.

There are also plans for more Chinese business investments, as well as a framework agreement for joint oil and gas explorations at sea. The latter are understood to cover some disputed areas, with China agreeing to only a 40% share of recoverable deposits.

Countries in dispute over territory and the reserves found therein tend to shy from joint exploration, as legally this may imply recognition of the other disputing party’s claim.

But since this condition applies equally to both parties, the Philippines may be confident that China would also be obliged to acknowledge the Philippine claim. Can there be a lesson here for other Asean countries with claims to the South China Sea?

To ensure the success of Xi’s visit, there had been a positive build-up of Philippines-China relations in recent months. Xi’s state visit in turn is envisaged to lead to even better bilateral relations.

Last August, joint simulated naval exercises were held in Singapore among Asean countries and China without US participation. Manila defended that decision by saying that the “tabletop” drill was meant only for neighbouring countries in the region.

Now as Xi prepares for his visit, the US Pacific Fleet is reportedly readying a series of naval operations as a “show of force” in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Straits. In response to China’s stated concern, the Philippines said it will have no part in those operations.Xi’s visit is important not just for the Philippines but also Asean, which had designated Manila the “point man” in dealings with China. Can Duterte clinch an agreement from China for Asean?

Manila had said that a legally binding Code of Conduct (CoC) in the South China Sea was on the agenda, but Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said it may take another three years.

If China really wants to prove its goodwill in Manila, Xi could suggest it may happen considerably sooner.

The last Chinese President to make a state visit to the Philippines was Hu Jintao in 2005. That occasion also marked the 30th anniversary of bilateral relations, which is as auspicious a time as any.

This Tuesday’s visit by Xi will be the first Chinese state visit in 13 years. That is an auspicious number in Chinese, but not so in Western culture.

Will it be auspicious for the Philippines, the only Christian-majority country in the region once colonised by Spain and then the US? Duterte’s original style of leadership may yet make the difference.

Bunn Nagara

Bunn Nagara is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia.

 

 

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Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit 2018: Good reason for China’s rising popularity in South Pacific


Pence’s APEC speech offers nothing new

 

 

Good reason for China’s rising popularity in South Pacific

Chinese President Xi Jinping met with leaders of eight Pacific island countries and officials in the Papua New Guinea (PNG) capital on Friday and all agreed to elevate their relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership based on mutual respect and common development.

On Friday, Xi also attended the hand-over ceremony of the China-assisted Independence Boulevard, as well as an opening ceremony for the Butuka Academy, a public service project funded by China. This is seen as evidence of the enhanced cooperation between China and Pacific island nations.

The US and Australia have mixed feelings about the cooperation between China and Pacific island countries. Their anxieties stem from their long-standing view of geopolitics. Australia has announced a plan to increase investment to Pacific island nations, while the US is also setting up a fund to boost aid in the region to counter China’s perceived influence.

Interestingly, China has entered the Pacific island region with nothing but technology, funds and its friendly willingness to cooperate. Although the region has been regarded as being under Australia’s influence, it was half-abandoned by Canberra. Western countries have become used to poverty in the islands. Now China has come to improve infrastructure, which has not only stimulated regional economies, but also caused the region to reclaim the attention of Western countries, such as Australia and the US.

Pacific Island countries certainly have every reason to welcome China because China’s cooperation has revitalized the region. China’s aid is pragmatic, and not subject to any political conditions. It benefits those countries, without causing harm.

Some have made the analogy that just like some member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) want to see a balance between the US and China in the region, Pacific nations also expect China to weigh in to counter the influence of Australia. However, what makes this case different is that China brings engineering equipment to the Pacific, while in contrast, the US sends warships to the South China Sea. Pacific island countries hope to see more Chinese equipment, but ASEAN is calling on the US to stop its sabre rattling. On Friday, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told the US that it does not wish to see warships in ASEAN waters, but that small patrol boats are fine.

Geopolitics still exist in today’s international arena, but it must not be the dominant issue. It is understandable that Australia and the US have doubts about China’s cooperation with Pacific Island countries. However, everyone should refrain from the “geopolitical reverie,” and fully respect the growing influence of international economics.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has gradually formed a tie among some Pacific Island nations, and it is based on economy to economy. If we were to summarize its political significance, it has built up friendships and increased mutual trust among countries. It also highlights new relations between nations in the region.

More than ever before, there has been unprecedented competition in the South Pacific, and more and more funding has been channeled into the region. Pacific Island countries have never enjoyed so many options and for those countries, such competition is a good thing.

On the international stage, competitions introduced by the BRI are always positive. From the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean, such benign competitions are indeed a phenomenon that has not seen before. Although some countries have made inappropriate comments regarding the BRI, they are using funds and technology to participate in the competitive process.

China has been implementing the principle of achieving shared growth through discussion and collaboration under the BRI. The “zero sum” struggle has recurred throughout Western history, which shows that China’s firm pursuit of mutual benefit and win-win requires time.

China is confident and patient about reaching more consensus, but what is important is that Western society must also emancipate their minds of the 21st century international relations and break free from the shackles of the “zero sum” struggle and various historical memories.

There are six countries in the Pacific that have so-called “diplomatic” relations with Taiwan. Economic cooperation between Beijing and Pacific island nations that have established diplomatic relations with Beijing may change the mindset of Taiwan’s allies in the region. Taiwan shall find nobody to blame for the change of the political landscape. As a proverb says, it is common that “man struggles upwards, and water flows downwards.”

Australia and New Zealand are China’s largest partners in the South Pacific region. There is no reason for China and the two countries to get into a duel in the region. Instead, the South Pacific should become a platform where new types of international relations are forged and tested.- Global Times

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Import expo to improve trade balance: Xi addresses opening ceremony of the CIIE; When realities hit the ‘Road’


The first ever China International Import Expo (CIIE) kicks off in Shanghai today. President Xi Jinping attends the opening ceremony and delivers a keynote speech at the ceremony.

The China International Import Expo (CIIE), the world’s first import-themed national expo, kicks off on Monday. More than 3,000 enterprises from some 130 countries and regions will exhibit their products, taking this as a premier opportunity to enter or expand their presence on the Chinese market.

But there are still fault-finding reports about the event. Some say sarcastically that no state leader or government head from the G7 will attend the expo. Some even link the CIIE with the China-US trade war in spite of the fact that China announced the CIIE in May 2017 at the Belt and Road Initiative on International Cooperation, before the trade war hadn’t started.

Why do these media always want to dig out some political ends from the CIIE, which is in any way a good thing for global trade as well as the exports of Western countries?

CIIE is being held to serve enterprises and exporters worldwide, not Western leaders. Japan ranks first in terms of the number of participating companies, followed by South Korea, the US, Australia, Germany and Italy. This fully demonstrates how much passion companies from developed countries hold toward the expo and heralds the expo’s success.

If more countries and regions with a trade surplus can host import expos, that will promote global trade balance. Those with a trade deficit should not blame others, but encourage their enterprises to grasp every opportunity to promote their products. Sometimes the problem lies in information asymmetry and an import expo can provide a platform for suppliers and buyers to communicate at a low cost.

China has long had a trade surplus and too much of it is not helpful for the country. More imports of high-quality products can help Chinese to upgrade their consumption and advance the production. The inherent drive for hosting CIIE is to translate part of China’s foreign exchange reserve into social progress.

China started very early by holding trade fairs in Guangzhou and later became a leading exporter in the world. Now we are holding the import expo in the hope of promoting our imports.

Tangled in a trade war with the US, China could have shut US companies out of the expo as a way of pressuring, but it has acted the other way around. By contrast, the US now thinks everything about the Chinese economy is wrong and whatever China does is a trick. The two countries differ in their visions.

We believe that the CIIE, if held regularly, will help China enhance the quality of its imports and balance its imports and exports. China doesn’t need to care what the outside world thinks of the expo, nor should it intentionally enhance the volume of transactions as a proof of kindness.

As long as the Chinese market grows larger, CIIE will attract more attention and will be remembered in world trade history as a positive event.

Countries, businesses look forward to CIIE

As the first China International Import Expo (CIIE) nears, officials and entrepreneurs around the world aim to seize the opportunity to explore the Chinese market, voicing greater confidence in China’s further opening up.

“We understand the CIIE as … showcasing China’s greater openness to importers. These are all moves in the right direction,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said. “We support what China is doing to expand imports and address global trade imbalances.”

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite told Xinhua that “the expo is a ‘win-win’ event for both, China and the world, as it provides new opportunities for cooperation, helps companies across the globe enter the Chinese market and paves the way for China to satisfy its growing demand for high-quality products.”

Pakistan is confronted with current account deficit and the CIIE “is a great opportunity for Pakistan to have a pavilion where we will be exhibiting our exports,” Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said.

Khan hailed China’s reform and opening up policy which provides Chinese industries a better environment to compete in international trade. “China has set a good example,” he said.

Madagascar will showcase products such as vanilla, cocoa beans, coffee beans and minerals at the CIIE. China offers a great opportunity for everyone, and everyone must know how to seize this opportunity, Minister of Tourism Jean Brunelle Razafintsiandraofa told Xinhua.

“Australia thinks it (the CIIE) is a great celebration of … the economic contribution that China makes to the region and the world. That is why we’re delighted that some 180 Australian businesses and brands are participating,” said Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham.

“We are in global markets, we are all together and we want to cooperate,” Israeli Scientific Minister Ofir Akunis said, adding that it is a “very good idea” and the “right way” that China hosts the CIIE where people from all over the world will meet meet on cooperation in the future.

“I think (the CIIE) is a great opportunity to show the players in the global economic environment the opening of China to world trade, and it is also a contribution to the growth of the global market,” Marco Tronchetti Provera, CEO of Italian-Chinese tyre maker Pirelli, told Xinhua.

The CIIE, a significant move by the Chinese government to further open the Chinese market, has attracted about 2,800 exhibitors from over 130 countries and regions. Economic and trade exchanges are bringing more benefits to all sides.

“We are going to Shanghai to represent more than 89 of our members who are able to export a range of products (to China),” Sandile Ndlovu, Executive Director of the South African Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Export Council, said. “China could be one of our biggest customers as there is so much potential for trade with China.”

Marathon Ginseng, a U.S. Wisconsin-based ginseng grower, will have a stall at the CIIE. It registered for the expo the first time it heard of the fair.

“It is a big event in China,” Jiang Mingtao, founder of Marathon Ginseng, told Xinhua. “We hope to enhance the reputation of ginseng produced in the state of Wisconsin … and let more Chinese consumers know our products – Global Times

Highlights of Xi’s keynote speech at import expo – Chinadaily.com.cn

When realities hit the ‘Road’

 

JUST 11 weeks into his election victory, Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan has already had to accomplish a task that seriously tests his diplomatic skills.

More than that, it is a task that would tax his diplomatic creativity. And that is in addition to the dire economic challenges he already faces at home.

Confronted with multiple needs and demands, it has taken some time for the new Government to form a Cabinet. Pakistan’s economy has taken some beating. Imran’s opposition party won the August election on a tide of change, against an incumbent party in government whose leaders had been charged with corruption.

Worse, the novice Prime Minister also has to contend with unfavourable terms that the previous government had agreed to with China in its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects.

Imran is in Beijing this weekend to try to negotiate those terms.

He is a self-confessed fan of Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Even so, he could not possibly have planned to follow in Dr Mahathir’s footsteps so closely. Imran’s toughest task is to present his case in China so persuasively as to avoid a cynical sense of déjà vu among China’s leaders. But what can this new Prime Minister say that has not already been said by his much more experienced Malaysian counterpart, to any greater effect?

One theme Imran’s delegation may be pursuing is explaining to Beijing the plight currently facing Pakistan: in its dire economic straits, Islamabad has to choose between negotiating terms with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or renegotiating terms with China.

Neither option is ideal by any means. Going with the IMF may even be a worse debt trap than China has ever been accused of fostering. The fact that Imran is in Beijing shows that the lesser evil may be to renegotiate the BRI terms, such as reducing the costs to Pakistan by a couple of billion US dollars.

If Pakistan opts to go with China, it would prove that any conceivable terms with the IMF would be more onerous and risky. Both the new Finance Ministry and Imran’s task force are leaning that way.

Alternatively the BRI projects could be deferred, but would China agree? Much of that remains to be seen, or heard, in the following days. For now, it is important to remember that such situations are prone to misinterpretation and misrepresentation – including of the deliberate kind.

Predictably, the largely Western international media have already portrayed Pakistan as “saying no” to the China-led BRI.

But why would Pakistan ever do that? The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as a vital segment – indeed, the flagship – of the BRI is of far greater value and importance to Pakistan than to China.

Whatever strategic or symbolic significance the US$62 bil (RM258bil) CPEC may have or be said to have for China, it is dwarfed by the immediate and tangible benefits for Pakistan’s development.

It is situated fully and squarely in Pakistan, not China, covering much of Pakistani territory and set to boost such sectors as energy, telecommunications, tourism, trade and transportation. Pakistan’s Railways Ministry calls CPEC the “backbone” of the country.

Its strategic value to China is access to the Arabian Sea at the corridor’s south-western corner in the port of Gwadar. It is access that China does not need now, and may or may not need sometime in the future. China is comfortable investing heavily in Pakistan’s development because the two countries have a special relationship in South Asia. Western observers who still consider Pakistan a Western ally need to have their perspective of Asia updated. Casting Islamabad as a US ally is merely harking back to the 1950s era of the US-led South-East Asia Treaty Organisation (Seato) in the early phase of the Cold War.

Times have moved on, as have China and Pakistan. Their leaders have repeatedly declared their respective countries “all-weather friends” – perhaps even allies.

To India, China and Pakistan have no common border, their link being only Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). The territory is bitterly disputed with India following the 1963 China-Pakistan boundary agreement.

Controversy with India flared again two days ago when a bus service was launched linking Lahore with Kashghar in Xinjiang, with the route running through contested PoK.

The term “debt trap” in reference to allegedly risky China-led projects was not coined by China, Pakistan or even Sri Lanka. It was coined by an Indian economist.

If any doubt still lingers over the China-Pakistan relationship, BRI cooperation continues between them and may even expand. Both countries are now seeking to extend CPEC into Afghanistan.

On a stellar scale, China helped Pakistan launch two satellites this year. By 2020, Pakistan hopes to send its first astronaut into space under China’s space programme.

India’s problem with the BRI is essentially its passage through territory disputed with Pakistan. That has now been conflated with what is said to be “Pakistan’s problem” with the BRI.

Western pundits in particular tend to draw such hasty and hazy conclusions since they accord with preconceived US notions of a rising China threat. Such misperceptions are not only wrong but misleading.

Asian countries have a different perspective because a rising China as Asia’s main economy also means a rising Asia. It is the proverbial rising tide that lifts all boats in this region of the continent.

Even the classic anecdotal “debt trap,” Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Port, was never quite the disaster its detractors claimed it to be. That controversy was built up principally between Sri Lanka’s contending political parties and their different positions on China at the time.

Now that Mahinda Rajapaksa – prime mover of the Hambantota project and defeated in the 2015 presidential race – has returned as Prime Minister nine days ago, punditry should be buzzing.

The point, however, is to arrive at reasoned analysis away from wild speculation. China is a rational player whatever the objective may be, so that a rational approach can only help understanding.

For its part, China should also empathise with its BRI partners in the conditions they find themselves in. Financially strapped and economically challenged, nations that wish to work with the BRI are constrained by factors beyond their control.

First, these countries may have new governments that have inherited a broken economy from their predecessors. Much urgent repair work first needs to be done. Second, BRI projects are largely about massive infrastructure, usually the most expensive public projects to be undertaken by any government. Third, much of the BRI runs through developing countries and regions that may not have the largest financial resources even at the best of times.

How will Pakistan’s appeal to China for revised terms hold out? Prime Minister Imran Khan should be able to win some concessions.

After all, China has helped other Asian countries before in times of need, even at some expense to itself. When the 1997-98 Asian Financial Crisis struck, China postponed its scheduled currency revaluation to absorb some of the cost so that the afflicted countries do not go under from excessive loan repayments. Such a generous gesture from Beijing would not be out of character, whether the beneficiary is Pakistan or Malaysia.

After all, each boasts a special relationship with Beijing.

Bunn NagaraBy  bunn nagara

 

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