July 2019

Blind anger won’t help France out of economic woes

Blind anger will not help France get out of economic and social woes. Riots on the streets of Paris show the bleak French economy and the decline of its manufacturing sector were not caused by greater productivity of other countries including China. They are caused by French people losing the spirit to strive for a better life. They concern their individual interests, but they are not willing to pay for reform.

Starting around November 17, protests were initially staged against soaring fuel prices and a new gasoline tax imposed by President Emmanuel Macron as part of France’s climate change commitments. But as events escalate, the protests have morphed into wider discontent at the state of France’s economy and leadership of Macron, demanding a greater social safety net at a time when France is still grappling with sluggish growth and high unemployment. Protesters hit streets with cars being burned and shops looted, leaving four killed and hundreds injured.

The country has suffered years of anemic growth, high unemployment and budget deficits. Reforms are direly needed to address persistent economic and social problems. Macron has been pushing for sweeping reforms after assuming power, but it seems that the French people are not ready to make sacrifices for reforms.

French citizens live a relatively comfortable life thanks to generous welfare programs under which they are used to taking rather than giving. However, France must reform. Reform will inevitably affect vested interest groups and has a price. There is no free lunch in the world. If citizens only care about their own interests and oppose any reform that undermines their interests, will the country still have hope?

Besides the latest violent protests, a number of street protests broke out in France in recent years, holding back France’s reform process. In 2016, strikes that paralyzed the nation forced Macron’s immediate predecessor, Francois Hollande, to abandon a modest labor market reform. In 2006, president Jacques Chirac shelved a new youth employment contract in the face of devastating student protests.

Today’s France is more known as a country resistant to change. Street protests cannot bring the French people what they want. France has a glorious past built upon the hard work and spirit of sacrifice of predecessors. But the young generation is seemingly forgetting these virtues. When these people hit the streets, their peers in Asian countries such as China, Vietnam and India are in classrooms or factories, fighting hard for their future.

Market value of China’s listed internet companies reach 9.75 tln yuan

Visitors experience VR interaction at the fourth Guangdong International Internet Plus Expo in Shunde, Guangdong province, on Oct 24, 2018. [Photo/Xinhua]

The total market value of China’s listed internet companies was 9.75 trillion yuan (about $1.41 trillion) by the end of June, a quarter-on-quarter decline of 4.3 percent, according to a report released by the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology.

Companies listed in the United States, Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland accounted for 52 percent, 38 percent and 10 percent of the total value, respectively.

Hong Kong-listed companies rose 1.4 percent from the first quarter, while US listed and the Chinese mainland listed companies fell 6.4 percent and 13.2 percent respectively.

In the first quarter of this year, the total revenues of China’s listed internet companies was 520.44 billion yuan, up 24 percent over the previous quarter.

China shows maturity amid US trade demands

Under the global spotlight, the China-US trade negotiations concluded in Beijing on Friday. The Xinhua News Agency reported that the two sides conducted candid, efficient and constructive talks. They agreed that sound and stable China-US trade relationship is crucial for both, and they are committed to resolving relevant economic and trade issues through dialogue and consultation.

Both sides exchanged views on expanding US exports to China, trade in services, mutual investment, IPR protection, resolving tariffs and other issues, and reached a consensus in a few sectors.

They also admitted that major disputes remain in some fields and require further effort, and will keep close contact and establish a mechanism to deal with the issues.

This result is in line with previous expectations of observers. The two sides fell short of achieving an agreement to end the trade conflict, but are willing to continue talks. Between negotiations and a trade war, the situation has started to change toward the former.

The past two months have witnessed an unprecedentedly turbulent period in Sino-US trade relations. China stood firm and won leverage to safeguard the interests of the country and people.

The results have been distinctly different from the initial unreasonable demands of the US. This is the result of China’s countermeasures. The US voluntarily sent a delegation to Beijing, including all its major trade officials, in contrast with its 301 investigation and tariff threats on $100 billion worth of Chinese products.

Sources close to the negotiations said Chinese delegates responded strongly to US demands in the past two days, standing firm on the moral high ground to safeguard free trade and a multilateral trade mechanism. China demonstrated its resolve to the US that China will never trade its core interests.

This round of trade disputes has been widely referred to as a “trade war,” with the US attacking China. However, China has displayed strong will and tenacity beyond the imagination of the US and the world. As of today, Beijing has broken Washington’s psychological advantage and consolidated its position. An equal standing at negotiations has emerged through the struggles.

The trade disputes have posed a great challenge not seen before to China, and represented a test of China’s strength, courage and wisdom.

Beijing demonstrated its ability to navigate through complexities as China grows into a world power, while Chinese society has united in the face of the challenge. China has shown toughness and maturity when forced to deal with the trade disputes.

It is unlikely that all problems between China and the US would be resolved by one dialogue. The world’s two major countries will either hurt each other and the world through conflicts or benefitthe worldthrough cooperation. More people have understood the logic in the past two months. Neither China nor the US will intimidate the other. Therefore, seeking common ground will be more useful to break the deadlock. The game of “who blinks first” is no longer relevant.

It is also a fight for China to safeguard fair trade and a multilateral trade mechanism, which is the righteous thing to do in a globalized world. The interests China is fighting for transcends national borders, a test to the buildup of a mankind of common interest. China is a nation of diligent work and honest trade, and we have a clear conscience. Regardless of the length of the trade war and the way it ends, diligence and honesty will never lose.

Taiwan Travel Act to meet countermeasures

Alex Wong, US deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, arrived in Taipei on Tuesday. He became the first senior US State Department official to visit Taiwan after US President Donald Trump signed the Taiwan Travel Act. Some analysts said that with this trip Washington intended to sound out how Beijing would react and there is a possibility that Washington will send higher-ranking officials to Taiwan or invite senior Taiwan officials to visit the US.

Washington and Taipei enhanced the level of visiting officials to upset Beijing. This easy trick is supported within the US, but can be troublesome for Beijing to launch a counterattack. Hence this is a trump card for the US.

Beijing can downplay the influence of senior US-Taiwan officials’ two-way travel since they are largely ceremonial and aimed at enraging the Chinese mainland. But the question is: The trick may go on endlessly until some day a US secretary of state or defense visits Taiwan or same-level Taiwan officials are invited to Washington, or even worse, a meeting of US and Taiwan leaders. Meanwhile, other countries will likely follow suit. To stop them will come at a diplomatic cost.

We must strike back against Washington’s implementation of the Taiwan Travel Act. First, Beijing should not invite senior officials of the US Department of State and Defense who visit Taiwan, to the mainland during their terms. For instance, Wong should not be invited to the mainland until he no longer occupies the post. Senior Taiwan officials who visit the US and meet publicly with high-level US officials should be treated alike. This won’t make the mainland suffer diplomatically. After all, Beijing and Washington have various channels to communicate.

Second, China can pressure the US in other areas of bilateral cooperation: for example, the Korean Peninsula issue and Iran nuclear issue. China can also set itself against the US in international organizations such as the UN. In addition, China needs to move fast to establish diplomatic ties with allies of Taiwan to further squeeze the island’s space in the international community.

The mainland must also prepare itself for a direct military clash in the Taiwan Straits. It needs to make clear that escalation of US-Taiwan official exchanges will bring serious consequences to Taiwan. This newspaper has suggested that the mainland can send military planes and warships across the Taiwan Straits middle line. This can be implemented gradually depending on the cross-Straits situation.

Preventing the Taiwan independence movement and promoting unification through peaceful ways can be costly, perhaps costing more than the short-term loss brought about by forceful unification. It’s a misunderstanding to think that peaceful unification will be a harmonious and happy process. The Taiwan authority will only turn around when left with no choice. Sticks matter more than flowers on the path to peaceful reunification.

In the grand games between China and the US, how we evaluate Sino-US relations should be based on whether the relationship is conducive to China’s domestic politics and economic growth. Let’s see which side cares more about the face of Sino-US relations: Beijing or the Trump administration. The next presidential election will be staged soon. If the bilateral ties turn into a mess, how will Trump explain it to his constituency?

Time for U.S. to abandon misleading China trade deficit rhetoric

China’s current account surplus in 2018 narrowed further, as its external position was assessed to be “in line with fundamentals and desirable policies,” the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said in a report.

The IMF’s newly released annual External Sector Report piles up proof that U.S. accusation of China’s massive trade surplus is ill-intentioned and misleading.

China’s current account surplus continued its decline in 2018, reaching 0.4 percent of GDP of the year, down substantially relative to its peak of about 10 percent of GDP in 2017, and reflecting progress in rebalancing, according to the report.

Just like the IMF, many economists have dismissed the notion that bilateral trade imbalance matters, but stressed the need to focus on a country’s overall trade balance with all trading partners, an argument repeatedly ignored by the White House, which has been pressing China to cut the trade surplus, as one of the objectives in its unilaterally initiated trade row.

Moreover, the IMF said that America’s persistent deficit with its trading partners resulted from its macroeconomic policy, urging it to adopt “fiscal consolidation” and implement “structural policies” to address external imbalances, instead of resorting to “distorted” trade actions.

U.S. attempt to reduce its trade deficit with China has been counterproductive, as data from the U.S. Commerce Department shows that in spite of the additional tariffs, U.S. goods trade deficit with China expanded by 44 billion U.S. dollars in 2018 from the previous year.

From a broader perspective, IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath also noted that trade actions and tensions so far have not significantly affected global current account imbalances, as trade has been diverted to other countries with lower or no tariffs.

Latest data confirmed her conclusion, showing that even though the United States imported several billions of dollars less in goods from China from January through May this year than in the same period of 2018, it has imported more from other partners, with its overall trade deficit in goods going up by 6.6 billion dollars.

“The protection aimed at China is not likely to improve the overall U.S. trade deficit because value chains relocate to other partners and the U.S. dollar appreciates,” said David Dollar, an economist and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, who has argued that Washington’s trade row strategy against China is “a poor one” and has already “failed.”

Such viewpoint, however, has fallen upon deaf ears in the White House, as some U.S. China hawks continue to tout the rhetoric of large trade deficit, accusing China of taking advantage of the United States in bilateral trade relationship and portraying itself as “loser” in a zero-sum game.

In regard to the so-called “unbalanced” trade relationship, there should be no reason to worry, according to numerous economists, including Robert Z. Lawrence, a nonresident senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

“Trade deficits are not necessarily bad, do not necessarily cost jobs or reduce growth, and are not a measure of whether foreign trade policies or agreements with other countries are fair or unfair,” Lawrence has said in a report published last year.

The truth is China-U.S. trade relationship has always been mutually beneficial, and will continue to be so. Bilateral goods trade surged from 2.5 billion dollars in 1979, when the two countries established diplomatic ties, to 633.5 billion dollars in 2018, and trade in services exceeded 125 billion dollars last year, according to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.

China’s surplus came mainly from labor-intensive products, and the country saw deficits for products including aircraft, integrated circuits, automobiles and agricultural products, as well as in services trade, showing both countries have capitalized on their respective industrial advantages, China’s Ministry of Commerce said in a recent research report.

Considering China’s goods trade surplus is generated by foreign firms, the surplus from processing trade and trade deficit in services, the overall U.S. trade deficit to the Asian country is actually much smaller than Washington has claimed, the report added.

The United States has in fact gained greatly from bilateral economic and trade cooperation with China, as exports to the world’s second largest economy have supported U.S. jobs, and imports of high-quality products at affordable prices have contributed to its comparatively low inflation and reduction in production costs, among other benefits.

It’s time for Washington to abandon its misleading rhetoric and seek to improve bilateral trade relations based on facts and facts only. Recklessly blaming others might sound tempting, but it leads nowhere in terms of resolving the real issue at the cost of sabotaging bilateral relationship.

China is ready for both a trade war and talks

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He had a phone conversation with US Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin Saturday morning. The talks generated much attention at the time when Washington moved to slap high tariffs on $50 billion worth of products from China, and Beijing had decided to strike back with retaliatory measures.

The Trump administration had hoped to overwhelm China with the threat of a trade war. They had thought China would be pressured to make concessions in view of China-US trade and overall bilateral relations.

After announcing the restrictive tariffs on Chinese products, Washington tried to appease Beijing, claiming that “there won’t be a trade war with China.” It hopes Beijing will accept the comforting words and give up its business interests according to Washington’s will. However, China’s response is resolute and clear that it won’t accept US extortion. China doesn’t want a trade war, but it will not be afraid if the US starts it.

The plan China unveiled Friday to impose tariffs on $3 billion worth of products from the US is in retaliation to US tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum products. More importantly, China’s retaliation against the 301 investigation will target US products worth tens of billions of dollars. Beijing’s countermeasures are expected.

Intimidating China won’t work. If Washington moves ahead with a trade war, it will mire itself in great loss. A day after President Trump signed the executive memorandum, the prospect of a US trade offensive against China is clear.

China and the US can choose to negotiate after both suffered considerably from a trade war. They can also start talking now after weighing each other’s leverage and deducing carefully. China has been consistent that it is ready to talk and also prepared to fight at any time.

Mnuchin called Liu and both sides agreed to maintain communications over the issue. We hope that Mnuchin’s phone call at this critical juncture can make the US side more rational, instead of leading to more high stakes.

It’s hard to predict what impact a trade war between China and the US will have on their economies, social life and politics. But there are a few things that are clear.

First, Chinese society will be more united than American society in the face of the trade war. Most Chinese will firmly support every countermeasure the Chinese government makes because they know this is essential to safeguarding their interests. The US is already divided on the issue. This opposition will rise when the US suffers more from the trade war.

Second, China has a system advantage that enables the country to be more resilient to the impact of a trade war than US society. China doesn’t fear a long trade war with the US and will never be the first one to retreat.

Third, China has been well prepared for possible rising tensions with the US brought about by the trade war. China has the strength to resolutely hit back if the US uses non-economic means to aid the trade war.

China doesn’t support a trade war, but it is determined and prepared not to be the defeated side. To have a trade war or talks, that’s the US’ call.

Xi-Putin summit boosts China-Russia ties

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in China on Friday to kick off his first state visit to the country since re-election and attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Qingdao. This is also Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first meeting with Putin since Xi began his new presidential term. There have been five meetings in 2017 between the two leaders and each meeting was significant in reinforcing China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership and broadening bilateral cooperation.

As one special item on Putin’s agenda, Xi on Friday awarded the first Friendship Medal of the People’s Republic of China to Putin at the Great Hall of the People. This is no doubt a cheerful moment for both countries.

International geopolitical environment has witnessed many complicated changes in recent years. During the time, China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership has provided support for the diplomatic stability of both countries and played a constructive role in maintaining global strategic stability and balance. There are favorable contemporary conditions for China and Russia to become close partners, but the two countries are also subject to other disturbances. The strategic determination from both leaders to resolutely develop China-Russia relations as well as their leadership have played a primary and decisive role.

China and Russia share one of the longest land borders and yet that border has become one of the most peaceful borders in the world. The first bridge that spans across the trans-border river, the Heilongjiang River, is about to be completed, and another bridge is also under construction. China-Russia border regions are prospering based on peace and stability.

The US is strategically containing both China and Russia. Western media frequently attacked the two countries, yet the West cannot represent the entire world. Strategic composure of China and Russia is one of the major contributors to world peace and justice. China and Russia’s mutual support upheld the sound atmosphere in the 21st century international relations and contributed to the protection of diversity of human civilization.

Openness in the China-Russia relations is valuable. The comprehensive strategic partnership suggests that the two countries support each other back-to-back, but both countries maintain a positive attitude in developing relations with other major powers, including those in the West. China-Russia relations were not used as leverage in hostile situations with a third county but played an active role in promoting exchanges with the rest of the world. When you have a powerful friend, making friends becomes easier but it doesn’t mean other friends are less important. This has always been the inner value in China-Russia relations.

Both countries should cherish the good momentum of China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership. Both countries should do more to improve friendly cooperation and promote friendly public opinions. There have been some extreme ideas viewing each other as potential threat. These ideas echo West narratives that aim to sow discord in China-Russia relations and pose a hidden risk in the bilateral ties.

For example, some Chinese people criticize China for being too close with Russia and they seem to believe that cozying up to the West is more “noble.” We will not be surprised to see similar comments in Russia. This rhetoric showed that a small group of people in both countries have been brainwashed by Western values and cannot see clearly on national interests.

SCO summit will start on Saturday. The equal, mutually beneficial and cooperative China-Russia relations have deeply impacted the development of SCO. Western media are always able to find differences between SCO members but cooperation between SCO members only deepens. This is the charisma of a new type of international relations.

First US murder conviction overturned using DNA evidence

An American man was exonerated Wednesday for a decades-old murder he did not commit, using evidence based on DNA and a genetic family tree, the first such result using a revolutionary investigative technique.

Christopher Tapp, 43, had served 20 of his 30-year sentence for the 1996 rape and murder of Angie Dodge.

On Wednesday, a court in the state of Idaho completely overturned his conviction based on evidence found with “genetic genealogy” – the technique used to identify the suspected “Golden State Killer” by making DNA matches with his distant relatives.

“It’s a new life, a new beginning, a new world for me, and I’m just gonna enjoy every day,” Tapp said at the end of the hearing, local media reported.

Tapp’s exoneration came after police arrested another suspect, Brian Dripps, in May. Dripps, who was identified using genetic genealogy, confessed to the crime.

Genetic genealogy first made headlines in April 2018, after it was used to find the alleged “Golden State Killer” in California who is blamed for 12 murders and more than 50 rapes dating back to the mid-1970s.

In that case – as well as about 70 others that have been solved since – DNA found at crime scenes was compared to the databases for genealogy websites.

The websites – widely advertised in the United States – allow users to post DNA test results and then generate a list of people with similar genomes, enabling users to find distant relatives.

The databases also allow police officers to search through people with similar genetic profiles to DNA found at crime scenes. Tracing back through family trees and seeing where the DNA crosses can lead investigators to a suspect.

But Tapp’s case is the first in which genetic genealogy has been used to prove innocence.

“It’s just such an incredible feeling to be a part of clearing an innocent man’s name,” CeCe Moore, the genetic genealogist who worked on the case, said in an interview with ABC.

The case against Tapp began to crumble before investigators started to use genetic genealogy.

In 1998, Tapp was sentenced to 30 years in prison based solely on his confession, which he then retracted.

In 2017, he was freed from prison in a court agreement, but the murder charge was not dropped.

A year later, his defense team obtained the right to test sperm traces found in Angie Dodge’s bedroom. Genetic genealogy led investigators to Brian Dripps.

China calls for multilateralism, int’l cooperation to address climate change

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (R), Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (C) and former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon attend the inaugural ceremony of the Global Center on Adaptation China Office at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, June 27, 2019. (Xinhua/Wang Ye)

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday called for the adherence of multilateralism and international cooperation to deal with climate change.

Li made the remarks when delivering a speech at the inaugural ceremony of the Global Center on Adaptation China Office at the Great Hall of the People after holding talks with visiting Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Rutte and former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also attended the ceremony.

The Global Center on Adaptation is the executive body of the Global Commission on Adaptation which was co-founded by 17 countries including the Netherlands and China in 2018. The commission was designed to promote the international community adapting to climate change and enhancing partnership and to help those countries that are vulnerable to climate change improve their adaption capacity.

Addressing the global challenge of climate change is not only the consensus of the international community but also the need for China’s economic transformation and upgrading, said Li. “As the world’s largest developing country, China has always focused on economic development while paying attention to improving people’s livelihood, and continued efforts are needed for China’s modernization.”

“China will implement a national strategy of actively addressing the climate change in accordance with its own national conditions,” said Li, adding that China will continue to shoulder due responsibility and obligation and provide other developing countries, particularly small island countries, with aid within its own capacity and under the framework of the South-South cooperation to help them improve the capacity.

The Chinese premier pointed out that developed countries should provide developing countries with financial and technological assistance to help them adapt to climate change, and jointly make unremitting efforts in implementing the Paris Agreement and accelerating the global adaptation to climate change.

Rutte said the Netherlands is ready to work with China to enhance cooperation with the Global Commission on Adaptation, facilitate experience and technology exchanges among different countries and take collaborate actions to make more efforts in addressing climate change.

Ban Ki-moon, also president of the Global Commission on Adaptation, said climate change has no national boundaries, and only through global collaboration and joint actions can the shared future world be protected.

He said the commission will continue to enhance cooperation with government, society and private sectors from countries around the world to promote a synergy to effectively address climate change and advance global sustainable development.

White paper expounds on missions, tasks of China’s armed forces in new era

A white paper titled “China’s National Defense in the New Era” released by the State Council Information Office Wednesday expounded on the missions and tasks of China’s armed forces.

China’s armed forces endeavor to provide strategic support for consolidating the leadership of the Communist Party of China and the socialist system, safeguarding national sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, protecting China’s overseas interests, and promoting world peace and development, said the white paper.

The missions and tasks of China’s armed forces were laid out in seven aspects:

— Safeguarding national territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests;

— Maintaining combat readiness;

— Carrying out military training in real combat conditions;

— Safeguarding interests in major security fields;

— Countering terrorism and maintaining stability;

— Protecting China’s overseas interests;

— Participating in disaster rescue and relief.