China surpasses US as world’s top corporate borrower; Will the IMF headquarters move to Beijing?


Corporate debts_Eurozone_US_China

 

The Chinese mainland has surpassed the US as the world’s top corporate borrower, and higher debt risk in the world’s second-largest economy may mean greater risk for the world, a report said on Monday.

However, Chinese economists noted that the debt risk in China’s corporate sector is still well under control.

Nonfinancial corporate debt in the Chinese market was estimated at around $14.2 trillion by the end of 2013, overtaking the $13.1 trillion debt owed by the US corporations, a progress happening sooner than expected, said a report from the Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services on Monday.

The report expects that by the end of 2018 debt needs of mainland companies will reach $23.9 trillion – around one-third of the almost $60 trillion of global refinancing and new debt needs.

“It [the mainland surpassing the US as the largest corporate borrower] is not surprising at all, as the [size of] mainland non-service sector has already surpassed that of the US,” Tian Yun, an economist with the China Society of Macroeconomics under the National Development and Reform Commission, told the Global Times on Monday.

Cash flow and leverage at mainland corporations has worsened after 2009, and debt risks in the property and steel sectors remain a particular concern, the report said.

Private companies are facing more challenging financing conditions – highlighted by China’s first corporate bond default case of Shanghai Chaori Solar Energy Science and Technology Co in March and another case of default of leading private steel maker Shanxi Haixin Iron and Steel Group.

“The capital market has been sluggish during the past few years, leading to the fast growth in corporate debts,” Xu Hongcai, director of the Department of Information under the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, told the Global Times Monday.

Experts noted that the rapid growth in debt reflected some problems of the  Chinese economy, but the size of the debt is still in a safe range and will not cause major risks as the economy remains stable.

“The problems of the Chinese economy are institutional and structural,” Tian said, “By addressing these issues, debt risks can be managed.”

Tian further noted that most corporate debts in China are internal debts, thus debt problems in the country will have limited impact on the rest of the world.

The report also said a possible contraction in “shadowing banking” will be detrimental to businesses as general.

But Xu noted that China’s tighter supervision of the “shadow banking” sector will make it more transparent and better-regulated, which will reduce the potential risks in the sector.

Local governments face massive debt repayment pressure

China’s local governments are facing huge debt repayment pressure this year with 2.4 trillion yuan ($390 billion) of debts due in 2014, China Business News reported Monday.

From 2009 to 2013, China issued 94 local government bonds raising 850 billion yuan, the report said.

With another 400 billion yuan worth of bonds to be issued this year, the total financing since 2009 will reach 1.25 trillion yuan, according to the report.

However, the total local government debt is much higher than the amount raised through the bonds, the report said, noting that major debt came from bank loans.

Although the central government has stated several times that the overall debt risk is under control, the statistics from China’s National Audit Office show that some local governments have a debt-asset ratio of more that 100 percent and are facing huge repayment pressure, the report said.

Market analysts hold the view that local governments may borrow new debts to pay for the old ones.

The central government allowed local authorities to raise funds since 2009 in the wake of the global financial crisis, while the central government also issued bonds and repaid debts on behalf of the local governments, a practice criticized by some as not conforming to market economy principles.

As the bond issuing backed by the central government is limited and could not fully meet the local needs, the local governments also turned to opaque financing channels including shadow banking activities, the report said.

Despite the big debt pileup, no local government default has so far taken place.

– By Liang Fei Source:Global Times Published: 2014-6-16 23:43:09

 

Will the IMF headquarters move to Beijing?

 

The International Monetary Fund’s headquarters may one day move from Washington to Beijing, aligning with China’s growing influence in the world economy, the fund’s managing director Christine Lagarde said early this month.

Attaching importance to China

Christine Lagarde made the statement at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), saying that the IMF rules require that the institution should be headquartered in the country that is the biggest shareholder. This has always been the U.S. since the fund was formed.

“But the way things are going, I wouldn’t be surprised if one of these days, the IMF was headquartered in Beijing,” she said.

Lagarde remarked that the IMF had a good relationship with China, the world’s second largest economy, and she praised the Chinese government’s commitment to fighting corruption.

Lagarde added that she did not think the IMF should be controlled by Europeans in its first place. Since its establishment in 1945, the IMF headquarters has been headed by Europeans and located in Washington, while the World Bank has been headed by the Americans.

Not satisfied with the U.S.

Lagarde also pointed out that the U.S. government is an “outlier” among the G20 in refusing to approve IMF reform, and the IMF was trying to give emerging economies like China and Brazil a bigger voice through reform.

According to Lagarde, on the part of countries like China, Brazil, and India, there is frustration with the lack of progress in reforming the IMF by refusing to adopt the quota reform that would give emerging economies a bigger voice, a bigger vote, and a bigger share in the institution. “I share that frustration immensely,” she said.

She also claimed that the credibility and the importance of the IMF are closely related to proper representation among the membership. “We cannot have proper representation of the membership if China has a tiny share of quota and the voice, when it has grown to where it has grown,” she said.

The IMF agreed to reform its management structure in 2010 so that emerging economies could play a bigger role, and made China the third largest member. The U.S. is the only member with control weight in the voting; meaning that any major reform must be approved by the United States.

Hello headquarters

Lagarde has no specific schedule for the headquarters’ shift. However, this once again reminds China that there are few international organizations headquartered in its country, which is disproportionate to China’s status as the world’s second largest economy.

This article is edited and translated from 《IMF总部要搬北京?》,source:Beijing Youth Daily, author: Bu Xiaoming. (People’s Daily Online)

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Get pay from spying?


Spying HeroWhistleblowing hero: Germans holding up pictures of Snowden while protesting in front of the Reichstag building which houses the Bundestag (lower house of parliament) in Berlin . — AFP

Heavy-duty spying does not pay 

The hidden costs, and the controversy, of the massive US global spying operation keep on growing.

IF officials behind the US-based “Five Eyes” spying network had hoped the scandal would soon fade away, their obvious disappointment should be an object lesson about their excesses and abuses.

US, British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand spies – together with their Singaporean and South Korean co-conspirators – had violated the implicit trust placed in their governments by friendly and ally nations around the world.

Former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden had exposed how the conspirators had tapped into fibre-optic cables in 20 locations worldwide and infiltrated 50,000 computer networks.

This unprecedented scale of spying makes no distinction between friend and foe. It has provoked questions about the value of being a friend or “ally” of these Western countries.

Countries in the world’s main regions have routinely been spied on: Europe, East Asia, West Asia and Latin America. The spying exceeds all norms of intelligence gathering to target the personal cell phones of national leaders, from German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and even his wife Ibu Ani Yudhoyono.

Snowden’s leaks reveal that Spain, for example, had been spied on so much as to have 20 million phone calls tapped each day. For the US authorities to insist that it was all for the sake of fighting terrorism is too much of a stretch.

The spying covers economic as well as political purposes. It was revealed that a foreign government’s confidential information picked up from spying is also used to give an unfair advantage to US companies against other companies in bids for international contracts.

Today’s supercomputers can do a lot of work in very little time. The ones used in the US global spying scheme apparently had very little ethical human supervision, precisely because that was the intention.

It has long been a “given” that all countries gather intelligence, to varying degrees, through some of their diplomats, expatriates and other undercover operatives. The extent of this activity also varies with the distance in relations between the spying country and the one spied upon.

Between friendly countries, discussions on issues of common interest and concern are the means of updating one another on events. Excessively intrusive and invasive spying, however, such as the kind Snowden has revealed, is supposed to be for untrustworthy governments and enemy nations.

Such universal perceptions and expectations lie at the heart of the current spying controversy. There is little wonder that countries so sordidly spied on take the matter so seriously.

Such spying shows the United States would enforce its will on all other countries, as opposed to sharing information between equal partners with mutual respect. It also implies that rules will be made by the US alone.

At the bilateral meeting in Jakarta during the week between Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Susilo, Malaysia declared full support for Indonesia in placing the spying scandal on the agenda of the next Asean Summit in Myanmar.

In seeking a satisfactory corrective for spying intrusions that breach all known limits, granting a regional profile to the problem is the least that Indonesia and Malaysia can do. Thailand is another Asean country targeted by these spies operating in part from the respective Australian embassies.

France and Germany are particularly outraged by “Five Eyes” snooping. Italy, the Netherlands and Spain are also concerned, as the scandal unites political parties within individual nations as well as European countries throughout the EU – except for Britain.

The aggrieved countries find the excessive spying violating privacy rights, their national sovereignty as well as their domestic laws. US officials predictably reject its seriousness.

The EU now wants a new law requiring private IT companies to inform European regulators if a foreign snooping request is made on any European citizen. That effort could clash with an existing US law that bans any company whose “cooperation” is required from telling anyone.

The potential conflict would pit European determination against US intransigence. It would further test the trans-Atlantic alliance in the post-Cold War period.

As the initial leaks started to provoke European anger, clandestine efforts tried to dilute or divert the upset.

It was somehow also “leaked” that the French government had been spying on its own population, followed by allegations that the German government had known about and even used information obtained by US-connected spies. The truth of these “mitigating” leaks was, however, less clear.

As expected, such efforts at damage control had a very limited effect. The harm perpetrated by US-led spying on the trust, goodwill and relations with Europe was far more serious, and remains a main feature in the foreground.

In Latin America “south of the border”, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela are particularly disturbed by US-led spying activities. Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Uruguay are also concerned.

Several of these countries have already offered asylum to Snowden, who hopes to avoid prosecution in the US after his current one-year asylum stay in Russia. The more Washington pressures and threatens these countries, the more keen they are to protect whistleblowers like Snowden.

The Union of South American Nations (Unasur) is currently working on a new, alternative communications system that will cut the prospect of US spying in the region. As a sign of seriousness, the region’s defence ministers who form Unasur’s defence council are tasked with developing the new system.

Unasur’s 12 member countries may be disadvantaged in lacking sophisticated technological inputs for the system. However, they also enjoy certain advantages in a renewed unity, determination and strength of purpose.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, whose email had been hacked by US spies, has accused Washington of violating human rights and crime. Four days ago, she followed this with a defence procurement contract that spelt out clearly where Brazil stood.

Capping a 10-year plan, Rousseff announced on Wednesday that Brazil would buy 36 of Sweden’s Saab Gripen fighter jets instead of Boeing’s F/A-18s in replacing the air force’s ageing fleet. Brazil had bargained the price down from US$6bil (RM19.8bil) to US$4.5bil (RM14.8bil).

US officials privately grumbled over having lost “a US$4bil deal” but in fact the cost of NSA spying on Brazil is almost twice that. Boeing’s price for the F/A-18s was US$7.5bil (RM24.7bil).

Over the longer term, the cost to the US economy is likely to grow if Washington does not or cannot seriously mend its ways. US-based companies like Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft are often seen by other countries as part of the problem in having to comply with US laws and demands.

Unasur is already showing the way forward by working on an alternative. In time, other regions like Europe and countries such as Russia, India and China may also develop their own communications systems and software, taking more business away from US companies.

In the short term it is always tempting to blame the messenger such as Edward Snowden rather than the problematic nature of the message itself. Ironically, the development of modern communications has raised awareness of privacy and sovereignty rights – and of their violations.

To level the playing field, IT development as well as spying activities may need to become more equalised. By serving the greater interests of the greater number, that would be democratisation indeed.

Contributed by Bunn Nagara, who is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia, The Star/Asia News Network

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The US Pacific free trade deal that’s anything but free?


The US’s draft TPP deal may grant new patent privileges and restrict net freedom, but it’s secret – unless you’re a multinational CEO

Patent protection increases what patients pay for drugs in the United States by close to $270bn a year (1.8% of GDP). Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

Free trade” is a sacred mantra in Washington. If anything is labeled as being “free trade”, then everyone in the Washington establishment is required to bow down and support it. Otherwise, they are excommunicated from the list of respectable people and exiled to the land of protectionist Neanderthals.

This is essential background to understanding what is going on with the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), a pact that the United States is negotiating with Australia, Canada, Japan and eight other countries in the Pacific region. The agreement is packaged as a “free trade” agreement. This label will force all of the respectable types in Washington to support it.

In reality, the deal has almost nothing to do with trade: actual trade barriers between these countries are already very low. The TPP is an effort to use the holy grail of free trade to impose conditions and override domestic laws in a way that would be almost impossible if the proposed measures had to go through the normal legislative process. The expectation is that by lining up powerful corporate interests, the governments will be able to ram this new “free trade” pact through legislatures on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.

As with all these multilateral agreements, the intention is to spread its reach through time. That means that anything the original parties to the TPP accept is likely to be imposed later on other countries in the region, and quite likely, on the rest of the world.

Government secrets

At this point, it’s not really possible to discuss the merits of the TPP since the governments are keeping the proposed text a secret from the public. Only the negotiators themselves and a select group of corporate partners have access to the actual document. The top executives at General Electric, Goldman Sachs, and Pfizer probably all have drafts of the relevant sections of the TPP. However, the members of the relevant congressional committees have not yet been told what is being negotiated.

A few items that have been leaked give us some insight as to the direction of this pact. One major focus is will be stronger protection for intellectual property. In the case of recorded music and movies, we might see provisions similar to those that were in the Stop Online Privacy Act (Sopa). This would make internet intermediaries like Google, Facebook and, indeed, anyone with a website into a copyright cop.

Since these measures were hugely unpopular, Sopa could probably never pass as a standalone piece of legislation. But tied into a larger pact and blessed with “free trade” holy water, the entertainment industry may be able to get what it wants.

The pharmaceutical industry is also likely to be a big gainer from this pact. It has decided that the stronger patent rules that it inserted in the 1995 WTO agreement don’t go far enough. It wants stronger and longer patent protection and also increased use of “data exclusivity”. This is a government-granted monopoly, often as long as 14 years, that prohibits generic competitors from entering a market based on another company’s test results that show a drug to be safe and effective.

Note that stronger copyright and patent protection, along with data exclusivity, is the opposite of free trade. They involve increased government intervention in the market; they restrict competition and lead to higher prices for consumers.

In fact, the costs associated with copyright and patent protection dwarf the costs associated with the tariffs or quotas that usually concern free traders. While the latter rarely raise the price of a product by more than 20-30%, patent protection for prescription drugs can allow drugs to sell for hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars per prescription when they would sell for $5-10 as a generic in a free market.

Patent protection

Patent protection increases what patients pay for drugs in the United States by close to $270bn a year (1.8% of GDP). In addition to making drugs unaffordable to people who need them, the economic costs implied by this market distortion are enormous.

There are many other provisions in this pact that are likely to be similarly controversial. The rules it creates would override domestic laws on the environment, workplace safety, and investment. Of course, it’s not really possible to talk about the details because there are no publicly available drafts.

In principle, the TPP is exactly the sort of issue that should feature prominently in the fall elections. Voters should have a chance to decide if they want to vote for candidates who support raising the price of drugs for people in the United States and the rest of the world, or making us all into unpaid copyright cops. But there is no text and no discussion in the campaigns – and that is exactly how the corporations who stand to gain want it.

There is one way to spoil their fun. Just Foreign Policy is offering a reward, now up to $21,100, to WikiLeaks if it publishes a draft copy of the pact. People could add to the reward fund, or if in a position to do so, make a copy of the draft agreement available to the world.

Our political leaders will say that they are worried about the TPP text getting in the hands of terrorists, but we know the truth: they are afraid of a public debate. So if the free market works, we will get to see the draft of the agreement.

Singapore ‘warns’ US on China bashing


Realism as S’pore ‘warns’ US

Behind The Headlines By Bunn Nagara

The city state has begun to adjust to emerging regional realities while pivoting on its pragmatic impulses, as always, while steering a steady course between China and the US.SINGAPORE’S political positions are nothing if not coolly calculated and calibrated. They are specially so when expressed in formal statements at high-level meetings.

In Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam’s keynote address to the CSIS (Center for Strategic and International Studies) gathering in Washington recently, US media reported him as “warning” the US against China-bashing rhetoric.

Words about containing China, particularly in the populist mood of a US election year, would he said cause a “new and intended reality for the region.” It was not the first time Shanmugam had said so, having previously cautioned against the futility of containing a rising China.

However, these statements do mark a shift from previous Singapore policies on the US and China. As a small country overwhelmingly dependent on international trade, finance and therefore regional stability, an unwritten rule for Singapore has long been to avoid making waves while sidling up to the largest kid on the block.

Neither the region’s pecking order nor Singapore’s guiding principles have changed, only the emerging realities on the ground. The wherewithal for continued US pre-eminence has largely flattened out without having yet declined, while China’s stature and substance continue to rise.

The Obama administration has lately pledged to boost the US regional presence, but the extent, duration and consistency of doing so are unclear. China, meanwhile, has no need to risk overstretching itself in East Asia because it is in the region’s centre.

At one level, Singapore’s latest statement confirms a shift from former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew’s pro-US slant following his retirement last May. For half a century, Lee had championed an alliance with the US over other powers like China, lately much of it because of a rising China.

At a more substantive level, Shanmugam’s statement well indicates Singapore’s new and belated efforts to woo an ascendant China. In seeming different now, Singapore is merely reaffirming its standard pragmatism based on an acute sense of self-preservation.

For the region, Singapore’s new tack may be surprising at first but not unwelcome. It simply expressed the obvious when that needed expressing, even if in doing so it made Singapore look more pro-active than its neighbours in acknowledging China’s burgeoning gravitas.

Singapore’s advice to Washington also came on the eve of Chinese vice-president (and prospective president) Xi Jinping’s state visit. The timing had apparently turned up the volume of Shanmugam’s statement to US lawmakers and their constituents.

Like everyone else, the US had long perceived Singapore as a feisty independent state averse to China’s dominance, following its early struggle against ethnic Chinese leftists and then its break-up with Malaysia, while retaining a largely ethnic Chinese population.

Today, Singapore’s “new look” policy is effectively not only for Washington’s benefit or just to showcase a contemporary Singapore to China. It also serves as an oblique reminder to Beijing that any hostile US rhetoric now would be mere campaign posturing and therefore undeserving of a like reaction.

After all, China is also getting set for a leadership change, a time when new directions may be set in ways likely to appease the populace. Its decade-long leadership is more than twice as enduring as a US presidential term and its policy direction could be several times as significant as the US equivalent.

Still, news reports implying how tiny Singapore had “warned” the world’s sole superpower might have seemed strong, if not strange. It is a measure of Singapore’s new posture that far from denying such reports, Shanmugam proceeded to expand on his comments.

He noted with approval how Chinese media widely reported his comments approvingly. Singapore media were also not shy in lingering over the issue.

The Straits Times noted that “a power transition is under way” in the region. Singapore-based Channel News Asia noted how well Shanmugam’s remarks had played in China.

Nonetheless, many US Netizens were not as hospitable to the comments. Among the more common responses was the defensive argument that US rhetoric against China was free speech and so warranted no warning or censure.

Another common reaction was to despise China and its unfolding development even more. A zero-sum mentality prevailed on US-China relations, aggravated by a pervasive sense of a declining US economy in free fall.

The third common reaction among Americans commenting online was to attack the messenger. Thus Shanmugam was criticised for acknowledging China’s success and daring to warn the US over it.

Singapore’s revised articulation of regional realities does not surprise any serious onlooker in Asia. Its concerns are self-evident, its priorities apparent, and its assessment of the region timely.

A contrast comes with the Philippines, where rival claims with China over offshore territory has come to define their relationship. This amounts to allowing marginal interests to determine larger substantive ones: yet again, pragmatism distinguishes Singapore’s policies from the Philippines’.

Even so, Singapore’s recent assessment of regional realities sums up Asean’s understanding of them. What Washington will make of it, if anything, is anybody’s guess.

Republicans are particularly anxious to parade their conservative values, such as by defending US prerogatives, paramountcy and exceptionalism. This has encouraged emotive responses from Americans “in America’s interest.”

Democrats can only respond defensively by trying to match or pre-empt the Republicans’ US-centric aggressiveness. However much the Obama White House may prefer a more mature and measured response, it must also know that is far less likely to “sell”.

Thus Shanmugam’s counsel to Washington comes full circle. He spoke as he did because of the circumstances of the time, and it is those circumstances that now make him an easy target in the US.

As Americans brace for a presidential election in November, all parties can be just as prickly over any foreign reminders that the US needs to behave better. And it is practically a given that enraged US Netizens disconnected from reality will be given a better hearing in Washington than even the most thoughtful of allies in Asia.

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US-China heralded a new ‘great power relationship’


China seeks ‘great power relationship’ with U.S. but warns against meddling in Tibet, Taiwan

Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

China’s Vice President Xi Jinping: “China welcomes the United States playing a constructive role in promoting the peace, stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region, and at the same time we hope the U.S. side will truly respect the interests and concerns of countries in the region, including China.”

By Chris Buckley and Doug Palmer

WASHINGTON – China’s Vice President Xi Jinping on Wednesday offered deeper co-operation with the United States on trade and hot spots like North Korea and Iran, but warned Washington to heed Beijing’s demands on Tibet, Taiwan and other contentious issues.

“Sino-U.S. relations stand at a new historic starting point,” China’s expected next leader told U.S. business groups after meetings on Tuesday with President Barack Obama and other top U.S. officials.

China and the United States should strive to create “a new type of great power relationship for the 21st century,” Xi said.

But he said the two powers also had to “strive to avoid misunderstandings and avert misjudgments” and should “truly respect each other’s core interests and major concerns.”

Xi’s visit to United States this week presents a chance for him to boost his international standing before his expected promotion to head of China’s communist party later this year and president of the world’s most populous nation in 2013.

Even as Xi continued his U.S. visit, Obama, at a campaign-style stop in Milwaukee, took aim at China’s trade practices, saying he will not stand idly by when American’s competitors “don’t play by the rules.” “I directed my administration to create a Trade Enforcement Unit with one job: investigating unfair trade practices in countries like China,” Obama told factory workers.

Xi met with House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Harry Reid on Wednesday morning and after his speech was headed to Iowa for the next leg of his trip, which finishes later this week in Los Angeles.

Xi addressed a number of sore spots in the U.S.-China relationship, including Beijing’s currency policy.

Many U.S. lawmakers complain the yuan is significantly undervalued, giving Chinese companies an unfair price advantage that helped lift the U.S. trade deficit with China to a record US$295.5-billion in 2011.

Xi said currency reforms already taken by Beijing helped boost U.S. exports to China to more than US$100-billion in 2011 and has significantly reduced China’s overall trade surplus.

“China has become the United States’ fastest growing export market,” Xi said. “The trade surplus as a proportion of GDP has been falling from over 7% to 2%, at a level internationally recognized as reasonable.”

U.S. Treasury Secretary Geithner acknowledged on Wednesday that Beijing is gradually letting its currency rise, but not fast enough to please the United States.

“We think they have some ways to go, we would like them to move more quickly,” he told a congressional panel.

SHARED CHALLENGES

Xi is poised to become China’s next leader following a decade in which it has risen to become the world’s second largest economy while the United States has fought two wars and endured the deepest and longest recession since the Great Depression that sapped its resources.

“The world is currently undergoing profound changes, and China and the United States face shared challenges and shared responsibilities in international affairs,” Xi said.

“We should further use bilateral and multilateral mechanisms to enhance coordination between China and the United States on hotspots, including developments on the Korean peninsula and the Iran nuclear issue,” he said.

At the same time, he urged Washington not to support movements in Taiwan and Tibet for independence.

China deems the self-ruled island of Taiwan to be an illegitimate breakaway from mainland rule since 1949, and has warned that the island must accept eventual reunification.

In recent years, tensions between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have eased as economic flows have grown. But Beijing remains wary of U.S. involvement in the issue, which it calls an internal affair.

In early 2010, the Obama administrations decision to move forward with proposed arms sales to Taiwan triggered vehement criticism from Beijing, including warnings of sanctions against U.S. companies involved in the sales. Those warnings petered out, but Xi made clear that Taiwan remains an acute concern for Beijing’s dealings with Washington.

Tensions over Chinese control of Tibet have flared in past months when a succession of protests and self-immolations have exposed volatile discontent. Chinese officials have repeatedly blamed those tensions on separatists or supporters of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Buddhist leader of the region.

Xi also acknowledged the Obama administration’s recent “pivot” toward Asia, but warned it not to push too far.

“China welcomes the United States playing a constructive role in promoting the peace, stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region, and at the same time we hope the U.S. side will truly respect the interests and concerns of countries in the region, including China.”

© Thomson Reuters 2012

Xi sees new ‘starting point’ for US-China ties

By Andrew Beatty (AFP)

WASHINGTON — Chinese heir apparent Xi Jinping heralded “a new historical starting point” for ties with the United States, wooing US business leaders with a glimpse of a more cooperative future.

Speaking during a lavish ballroom luncheon with the upper crust of corporate America, Vice President Xi described deeper Sino-American ties as an “unstoppable river that keeps surging ahead.”

Glossing over the tumultuous twists and turns in 30 years of Cold War-dominated relations, Xi said interests had become ever-more intertwined. “It is a course that cannot be stopped or reversed,” he said.

Xi welcomed Washington’s interest in the Asia Pacific region, and said cooperation was needed on a range of challenges from North Korea to Iran, so long as China’s interests are also respected.

Xi is on his maiden visit to the United States as a top official, a trip many hope will help close a chapter in relations characterized by mistrust and mudslinging, particularly in the commercial sphere.

As the tectonic plates of global trade have shifted in recent decades, China and the United States — the world’s two largest economies — have frequently collided, jutted and bumped against each other, sometimes to damaging effect for both.

With Xi widely tipped to lead China from 2013 and Obama in a November re-election battle, the visit is being seen as a dress rehearsal for the next generation of US-China relations.

During the trip, Xi has worked US constituencies key to the bilateral ties: official Washington, corporate leaders and, in Iowa, a return to small-town America which he visited more than two decades ago.

His stops in Washington have included the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department, Congress and the US-China Business Council.

Throughout his trip Xi has received the trappings of a state visit — even if he is only head of state in waiting.

In a broad-ranging speech that was short on specifics Wednesday, Xi told business leaders that increased understanding, mutual respect for core interests, trade and cooperation in international affairs should form the basis for relations.

“Over the past 33 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties, the friendship between our two peoples has deepened, mutually beneficial cooperation has expanded and our interests have become increasingly interconnected,” he said.

At the luncheon Xi was introduced by former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger whose secret trip to China in 1971 paved the way for the normalization of relations between Washington and Beijing.

The pair were flanked by a cadre of Chinese Communist Party officials, as well as executives from Coca Cola, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Procter & Gamble and Estee Lauder.

Coca Cola CEO Muhtar Kent expressed the cautious optimism felt in the US business community about future ties with China.

He described Xi’s visit as “another important milestone toward building an enduring and constructive relationship between our two nations.”

The Chinese vice president largely steered clear of specific policy pronouncements, but stressed the mutual benefits of trade, pointing out that 47 of 50 US states had seen their exports with China grow in the last decade.

Despite deepening ties, many Americans and their lawmakers angrily accuse Beijing of not playing by the rules.

They accuse China of keeping the value of its currency unfairly low to fuel inexpensive exports, which have catalyzed China’s headlong dash toward becoming an economic superpower.

From June 2010, Beijing has allowed the yuan to rise 8.5 percent against the dollar, in part because of domestic inflation pressures — making the yuan an increasingly dubious scapegoat for lopsided trade.

In the last decade, trade between the two countries has increased over 275 percent and is now worth half a trillion dollars a year.

But Chinese exports still make up 80 percent of bilateral trade, despite China joining the World Trade Organization a decade ago, leading to accusations of protectionism from US industry.

Xi, repeating a long standing gripe, said the US would need to reform its own trade restrictions on exports to China in order to right that imbalance.

“It is very important for addressing the China-US trade imbalance that the United States adjusts its economic policies and structure, including removing various restrictions on exports to China, in particular easing control on civilian high-tech exports to China as soon as possible,” he said.

China has often blamed the US deficit on Washington’s own rules on exporting sensitive equipment that could be adapted for military or intelligence use.

Copyright © 2012 AFP. All rights reserved

Occupy Wall Street/DC: Change-mongering U.S. needs change too, backed by Democrats!


The group included protesters affiliated with Occupy DC, to make a point about the massive military spending and the use of deadly drones – AP

“Occupy DC” protesters comprise various groups and have split up to protest and meet later in the square [Reuters

Change-mongering U.S. needs change too

(Xinhua)

BEIJING, Oct. 9 (Xinhua) — The Occupy Wall Street protests have grown over the past three weeks into a coast-to-coast movement targeting corporate greed and money influence in the United States.

Popular protests are not uncommon these days. From the Arab world to debt-ridden European countries, people are taking to the streets to make their voices heard for different reasons.

For Washington, the irony is that the United States, which has long branded itself as a staunch defender of human rights and a force for change across the world, is suddenly confronted by its people defending their own rights from the greedy Wall Street and demanding to change the status quo.

Young people, many unemployed or under-employed, compose the bulk of the protesters. Their frustration has exposed some fundamental problems with the economic and political system of the world’s sole superpower.

Unbiased eyes can see through these anti-Wall Street protests a clear need for Washington, which habitually rushes to demand other governments to change when there are popular protests in their countries, to put its own house in order.

First of all, Washington should rein in its runaway financial sector. The Wall Street, as the global financial center, has its role to play in allocating resources more efficiently not only for the United States but also for the world economy.

But when more and more people on the Wall Street are trying to make quick money by pure speculation or by creating complex derivatives that no one really understands, there are legitimate reasons for concern.

Simon Johnson, former chief economist with the International Monetary Fund, once blasted the “overgrown” financial service industry in the United States for creating the global financial crisis.

In a speech at Peking University of China in June 2010, he said the U.S. financial industry, which was getting bigger each day, not only was the cause of the latest financial wipeout, but also could bring about other crises in the future.

Besides bringing the Wall Street back to its original purpose of better allocating resources, Washington should also face up to its own problem of income gap.

Over the years, the gap between the rich and the poor in the United States has kept widening.

According to Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz, the protesters’ “We are the 99 percent” slogan refers to the fact that the top 1 percent of Americans own more than 40 percent of the nation’s wealth, while the bottom 80 percent only have 7 percent of the wealth.

Meanwhile, the top 1 percent “is taking in more of the nation’s income than at any other time since the 1920s,” said the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a U.S. premier policy organization working on fiscal policy and public programs.

Moreover, such an inequality in social wealth distribution has been exacerbated by the global financial crisis.

Equally painful to the protesters is the fact that these days politicians in Washington appear more interested in political wrangling for personal and partisan gains rather than working together to solve the fundamental problems facing their country.

The U.S. officials have urged their European counterparts to work together to solve the sovereign debt crisis, but the country itself has chronic fiscal shortfalls and trade deficits that are just as grave.

And there is another somber fact: In the run-up to the 2012 presidential election, the chance of the Democrats and Republicans working together to bring the U.S. fiscal house into order is rather slim.

While the protests have garnered support from more and more students, unions, small business owners, celebrities and elected officials, no one wants to see the Occupy Wall Street movement evolve into violent demonstrations or spin out of control.

The rationale is clear: Political chaos in the world’s largest economy is the last thing investors need at this time of renewed tensions in the global markets.

But if Washington fails to heed the calls of the protesters and address its fundamental problems, its messy house could become a headache for others in the world as well.

by Liu Qu, Ming Jinwei

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Democrats back ‘Occupy’ protesters

Eric Lichtblau, Washington,October 12, 2011

LEADING Democratic figures, including party fundraisers and a top ally of US President Barack Obama, are embracing the spread of the anti-Wall Street protests in a clear sign that members of the Democratic establishment see the movement as a way to align disenchanted Americans with their party.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the party’s House fundraising arm, is circulating a petition seeking 100,000 party supporters to declare: ”I stand with the Occupy Wall Street protests.”

The Centre for American Progress, a liberal body run by John Podesta, who helped lead Mr Obama’s 2008 transition, credits the protests with tapping into pent-up anger over a political system that it says rewards the rich over the working class – a populist theme now being emphasised by the White House and the party.

Leading Democratic figures are embracing the spread of the anti-Wall Street protests.Leading Democratic figures are embracing the spread of the anti-Wall Street protests. Photo: Getty Images

Judd Legum, a spokesman for the centre, said that its direct contacts with the protests have been limited, but that ”we’ve definitely been publicising it and supporting it”.

He said Democrats are already looking for ways to mobilise protesters in get-out-the-vote drives for 2012.

But while some Democrats see the movement as providing a political boost, the party’s alignment with the eclectic mix of protesters makes others nervous.

They see the prospect of the protesters pushing the party dangerously to the left – just as the Tea Party has often pushed Republicans further to the right and made for intra-party conflict.

Mr Obama has spoken sympathetically of the Wall Street protests, saying they reflect ”the frustration” that many struggling Americans are feeling. Vice-President Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, have sounded similar themes.

The role of groups like the Democratic campaign committee and Mr Podesta’s group, sometimes working with labour unions, moves support from just talk to the realm of organisational guidance.

It is not clear whether the leaders of the amorphous movement actually want the support of the Democratic establishment, given that some of the protesters’ complaints are directed at the Obama administration.

Among their grievances, the protesters say they want to see steps taken to ensure that the rich pay what they see as a fairer share of their income in taxes, that banks are held accountable for reckless practices, and that more attention is paid to finding jobs for the unemployed.

The protests also provide yet another dividing line between Democrats and Republicans in Washington – one that seems likely to help shape the competing themes of the 2012 presidential election.

Leading Republicans have grown increasingly critical of the protests.

Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, called the protesters ”a growing mob”, and Herman Cain, a Republican presidential candidate, said the protests are the work of ”jealous” anti-capitalists.

Robert Reich, the former labour secretary under president Bill Clinton, wrote in a blog post last week that the protesters’ demands on taxes dovetail with Democrats’ themes, but that the protests should still make the party wary – not least because the Democratic Party relies on Wall Street for significant campaign contributions.

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Wall Street protest grows to “occupy” Washington against corporate greed

Wall Street protest grows to “occupy” Washington against corporate greed


Wall Street protest grows as unions swell ranks

An Occupy Wall Street protester marches up Broadway in New York City, October 5, 2011. Protesters, who have staged demonstrations about the power of the financial industry and other issues and who have camped in Zuccotti Park near Wall street for nearly three weeks were joined by hundreds of Union members in a march and demonstration through lower Manhattan. [Photo/Agencies]

* Protests in New York number at least 5,000

* Regular American workers bolster protest numbers

NEW YORK – Anti-Wall Street demonstrations swelled on Wednesday, as nurses, transit workers and other union members joined a rally at the heart of New York’s financial district to complain about unfairness in the US economy.

College students walked out of classes in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has grown in less than three weeks from a ragged group in downtown Manhattan to protesters of all ages demonstrating from Seattle to Tampa.

The protesters object to the Wall Street bailout in 2008, which they say left banks enjoying huge profits while average Americans suffered under high unemployment and job insecurity with little help from the federal government.

By late afternoon the crowd in New York numbered at least 5,000 and was growing. Union members made up a good portion of the demonstration, which was more than twice as large as the largest previous crowd last weekend of about 2,000.

Protesters carried signs reading “Jobs Not Cuts” and “Stop Corporate Greed” and chanted “Wall Street is our street” and “All day, all week, occupy Wall Street.”

“Our workers are excited about this movement. The country has been turned upside down. We are fighting for families and children,” said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.

Along with the swelling numbers in New York and smaller protests springing up in other US cities, there were signs the protesters are winning broader support.

US Representative Louise Slaughter, a New York Democrat, endorsed the movement.

“The gap between the haves and have nots continues to widen in the wake of the 2008 recession, precipitated by the banking industry. Yet we are told we cannot afford to raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires,” she said in a statement. “I’m so proud to see the Occupy Wall Street movement standing up to this rampant corporate greed.”

The American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, Communications Workers of America and the Amalgamated Transit Union joined the New York march, as did the nation’s largest union of nurses, National Nurses United.

Students on college campuses added their voices. At the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, students walked out of their classrooms at noon, holding signs reading “Eat the Elite” and “We Can Do Better than Capitalism.”

The protests began in New York on Sept 17 and have spread to Los Angeles, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Tampa, St. Louis and elsewhere. A protest in planned in Washington on Thursday.

The protests have been largely peaceful, although last Saturday in New York, more than 700 people were arrested when demonstrators blocked traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge.

In San Francisco on Wednesday, a crowd of several hundred marched in a loop around the financial district, chanting “They got bailed out, we got sold out” and “Join our ranks, stop the banks.” Union nurses had a large presence at the protest.

“This is the beginning of a movement,” said Sidney Gillette, a nurse at Children’s Hospital in Oakland.

In Boston, protesters have set up a makeshift camp in the financial district. Retired teacher Frank Mello said he joined the movement to “demonstrate that we are stronger when we are united and Wall Street is as powerful as we allow them to be.”

In Chicago, where dozens of protesters have gathered at the heart of the financial district every day, banging drums and holding up signs, office worker Tom McClurg, 52, said Wednesday was the first day he had joined the group.

“I’m hoping it’s going to raise awareness here of people’s opposition to domination by financial interest of their elected representatives,” he said, adding, “I think there are a million times more people not here who are sympathetic.”

Camped out in Zuccotti Park in downtown Manhattan, the New York protesters have sometimes been dismissed by Wall Street passersby or cast in the mainstream media as naive students and mischief makers without realistic goals. Members of the group have vowed to stay through the winter.

Protesters to “occupy” Washington against corporate greed

(Xinhua)

WASHINGTON, Oct. 5 (Xinhua) — As ranks of protesters grew in New York in the “Occupy Wall Street” demonstration, protesters are also converging in U.S. capital Washington D.C. for a planned ” Occupy D.C.” rally on Thursday, which is to take place at Freedom Plaza on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Organizers told Xinhua that the rally is aimed at raising awareness of the American people in fixing the political system corrupted by corporate greed, and concentrating attention on people’s needs.

Lisa Simeone, a spokesperson with the October 2011 movement, which is central in organizing the rally, said the protest has been in the making for about a year, and was scheduled to coincide with the start of the Afghanistan War. After the “Occupy Wall Street” movement in the U.S. city of New York took place, they decided to join the many occupations that’s been going on around the country.

“Our main focus is that we are against corporatism and militarism,” said Simeone in a telephone interview on Wednesday with Xinhua. She said that protesters want money out of politics, tax the rich and corporations, as well as cut military spending, end the wars and bring the troops home.

“People come to the rally for a lot of reasons,” Jeremy Ryan, an activist participating in the rally told Xinhua in an earlier interview, noting many come because they are angry that big corporations are having too much influence on Washington politics.

“The over-arching theme” of the rally, said Simeone, is “human needs, jobs, homes, education, health care, not corporate greed.”

Just like the New York demonstrations, which has been going on for weeks, the Washington rally is not likely to last only one day. Simeone said that they look at the rally as a beginning, not the end, and they will “occupy” Freedom Plaza, possibly for weeks to come.

“This isn’t the be all and end-all resistance in this country,” she said, noting that they want to create both philosophical and physical space for people to “realize they have to take this country back.”

Simeone said that she doesn’t know how long the occupation will go on or what the next steps will be.

“I do know whenever it ends, we are not going to stop acts of civil disobedience, and various acts of civil resistance and organization. That will be done in the myriad of ways around the country, and again, this is not the end, but only the beginning.”

TROUBLE FOR BOTH DEMOCRAT, GOP

Simeone said that the rally is neither pro-Democrat nor pro- Republican. In fact, she said that the rally is “against both major political parties,” noting the Democrats and Republicans are “equally corrupt,” and “equally in the pocket of corporations and Wall Street and the military-industry” complex.

As the general election is approaching in the coming year, such sentiment could spell trouble for both the Democrats and the Republicans. Some might argue the Democrats could take a harder hit as the “occupy” movement took place mainly in “Blue States.”

Simeone, however, said while many who participate in the rallies identify themselves as left-leaning, “there are many people in this movement who are from the right, or who identify as libertarian on economics or who have sons and daughters in Afghanistan or Iraq and have always been Republican or conservatives all their lives.”

“They agree that the wars have to end, and they agree we have to get money out of politics,” said Simeone, and she believes the movement has the potential to bring in a lot of people from all over the political spectrum.

According to the organizers, about 5,000 people have signed online pledges to come to the rally, but Simeone would not make a prediction on how many would show up. In keeping with the “occupy” rallies’ tradition, the D.C. rally is also going to be fun, with musicians, poets and art activities, as well as classes and shops.

“This is also about building community with each other,” said Simeone.

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