National China News

  • Michael Kovrig, who works for thinktank, being held in Beijing
  • Move follows arrest of Chinese Huawei executive in Canada

The Guardian
Date: 13 Dec 2018
By: Leyland Cecco in Toronto and agencies Beijing

A second Canadian citizen may have been held by Chinese officials following the detention of

Michael Kovrig works for the International Crisis Group (ICG). Canada’s former ambassador Guy Saint-Jacques observed: ‘In China there are no coincidences.’ Photograph: Julie David de Lossy/AFP/Getty Images

former diplomat Michael Kovrig, according to Canada’s foreign minister Chrystia Freeland.

The Globe and Mail has named the individual as Michael Spavor. He lives in China and runs the Paektu Cultural Exchange, a company that brings tourists and hockey players into North Korea. He was largely responsible for facilitating one of Dennis Rodman’s trips to North Korea, in which the famous former NBA player met with Kim Jong-un.

After Kovrig was detained on Monday, another citizen contacted officials, saying he had been questioned by Chinese authorities.

“We have not been able to make contact with him since he let us know about this,” Freeland said at a news conference on Wednesday afternoon. “We are working very hard to ascertain his whereabouts and we have also raised this case with the Chinese authorities. We are in touch with his family.”

Spavor and Kovrig are said to know each other, The Globe and Mail reported.

Posts on Spavor’s social media showed friends beginning to question his whereabouts, after he failed to show up to a planned visit to Seoul on Monday, the same day Kovrig is believed to have detained by security officials in Beijing. He was scheduled to be in the city, for conferences and social events, until at least Friday.

Canadian officials have been wary of potential retaliation by the Chinese government after the arrest last week of Chinese telecoms executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver.


At Long Last, a U.S. Policy Shift toward China

Taiwan News
Date: 2018/12/11
By: William A. Stanton (Professor, National Taiwan University),Taiwan News

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, left, meets Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on December 2, 2016. (AP)

After more than 40 years, U.S. policy toward China has changed, finally recognizing China as it is, rather than the China we wish it were. A strong and still growing consensus has emerged among U.S. officials, the U.S. Congress, and American elite, media, and public opinion, and even many business people, that the U.S. relationship with China is unbalanced and does not serve U.S. interests.

Although some China experts have been saying this for many years, the public acknowledgment of how badly U.S. policy toward China has failed was perhaps most notably announced in the March/April issue of Foreign Affairs in the essay “The China Reckoning: How Beijing Defied American Expectations” by former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell:

“Nearly half a century since Nixon’s first steps toward rapprochement, the record is increasingly clear that Washington … put too much faith in its power to shape China’s trajectory…. All sides of the policy debate erred ….the liberal international order has failed to lure or bind China as powerfully as expected.”

Predictably, some stalwart U.S. defenders of the status quo have sharply objected. Nonetheless, the surprise is not that U.S. policy toward China is finally changing. The wonder is that it took so long.

After all, U.S. policies toward the PRC have repeatedly proven to be wrong, and consistently failed to promote U.S. interests and goals. The original geostrategic justification for U.S. relations with China as a counter to the Soviet Union was simplistic and short-sighted, and died with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The concrete benefits of supposed US-PRC cooperation on key issues have been few to none, whether the issues have been ending the Vietnam War sooner, non-proliferation (Pakistan, Iran, or North Korea), UN Security Council votes, the South China Sea, or human rights.    [FULL  STORY]

CTV News 
By: Rachel Aiello, Ottawa News Bureau Online Producer
Date: December 11, 2018

OTTAWA – The federal government is considering increasing the risk level for Canadian travellers to China, CTV News has learned.

The prospect of issuing a travel warning for Canadians in China, or for those journeying to China, is being considered among other options.

No final decision has been made about whether this is a step that will be taken, and talks were ongoing as of Tuesday evening.

“Global Affairs has a global surveillance system to identify changing risks and threats to Canadian interests, and to Canadians travelling virtually on an hourly basis, 24 hours a day. So they are watching this one very carefully,” Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said on CTV’s Power Play.

Canadian sources say the primary concern is Canadians’ safety, given possible arbitrary measures taken by China. The country has warned Canada of consequences for arresting a prominent Chinese telecommunications executive in Vancouver on Dec.1, at the request of the United States government.

Then today, news of former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig being detained in China surfaced.

The Washington Post
Date: December 11, 2018
By: Rob Gillies | AP

In this image made from a video taken on March 28, 2018, Michael Kovrig, an adviser with the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based non-governmental organization, speaks during an interview in Hong Kong. Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale confirmed on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, that Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat, was arrested Monday night in Beijing, China. The arrest comes amid a dispute between the two counties over Canada’s arrest of a Chinese executive at the request of the United States. (Associated Press)

TORONTO — A former Canadian diplomat has been detained while visiting Beijing amid a dispute between the two counties over Canada’s arrest of a Chinese executive at the request of the United States.

Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale on Tuesday confirmed the detention and said Canada is very concerned.

Michael Kovrig, who previously worked as a diplomat in Beijing, Hong Kong and the United Nations, was taken into custody Monday night during one of his regular visits to Beijing, said the International Crisis Group, for which Kovrig now works as North East Asia adviser based in Hong Kong.

The detention came after China warned Canada of consequences for its recent arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at Vancouver’s airport. A Canadian judge granted Meng bail Tuesday while she awaits possible extradition to the U.S.

“We’re deeply concerned,” Goodale said in response to a question about Kovrig. “A Canadian is obviously in difficulty in China … We are sparing no effort to do everything we possibly can to look after his safety.”

Goodale said there was no explicit indication at this point that it was related to the Meng arrest.

However, Guy Saint-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to China, said he had no doubt Kovrig was detained in relation to the arrest of the Huawei executive.

“In China there is no coincidence,” he said. “Unfortunately Canada is caught in the middle of this dispute between the U.S and China. Because China cannot kick the U.S. they turn to the next target.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada’s government has contacted Chinese officials about the detention. “We are engaged with the file (case), which we take very seriously,” he said.

Illustration: Guardian Design Team/Christophe Gowans

The Guardian
Louisa Lim and Julia Bergin
Date: Fri 7 Dec 2018 01.00 EST

Beijing is buying up media outlets and training scores of foreign journalists to ‘tell China’s story well’ – as part of a worldwide propaganda campaign of astonishing scope and ambition. 

As they sifted through resumes, the team recruiting for the new London hub of China’s state-run broadcaster had an enviable problem: far, far too many candidates. Almost 6,000 people were applying for just 90 jobs “reporting the news from a Chinese perspective”. Even the simple task of reading through the heap of applications would take almost two months.

For western journalists, demoralised by endless budget cuts, China Global Television Network presents an enticing prospect, offering competitive salaries to work in state-of-the-art purpose-built studios in Chiswick, west London. CGTN – as the international arm of China Central Television (CCTV) was rebranded in 2016 – is the most high-profile component of China’s rapid media expansion across the world, whose goal, in the words of President Xi Jinping, is to “tell China’s story well”. In practice, telling China’s story well looks a lot like serving the ideological aims of the state.

Date: December 3, 2018
By: Ciara Nugent

Chinese authorities are trying to put a end to the country’s increasingly extravagant wedding culture, saying it goes against “socialist core values” and reflects “declining morality.”

Chinese weddings have featured elaborate rituals and traditions for thousands of years. But officials say modern ceremonies have gotten out of control, with competition between couples prompting ever-more lavish celebrations, expensive gifts and extreme rituals for “hazing” the bride and groom.

The tradition of hazing, originally seen as a way to drive away evil spirits, has grown particularly extreme in recent years, with grooms, brides and bridesmaids subjected to sometimes violent pranks.

In November, a man in southern China was hospitalized after being hit by a car as he tried to escape his friends’ hazing ritual. The South China Morning Postreported that he had been tied to an electric pole and beaten with a strip of bamboo.

Families in rural areas have also been setting massive “bride prices” – sums of money given to a bride’s family by the groom’s parents. In Hubei province, The Guardian reports, local officials have already intervened after bride prices reached almost $30,000 – around ten times the average average yearly wage in the area.    [FULL  STORY]

Rodrigo Duterte seems all too happy to sell Philippine territory to the highest bidder.

The News Lens
Date: 2018/11/30
By: Michael Beltran

Credit: Reuters / Mark Cristino

It could not have gone better for Chinese head of state Xi Jinping during his recent two-day visit to the Philippines.

Months ahead of the meeting, President Rodrigo Duterte had already declared that he “simply loves Xi Jinping.” It represents a pretty 180 degree turn from his campaign promise of taking the country’s flag and taking a jet ski to China to proclaim Philippine independence.

Many Filipinos, on the other hand, did not appreciate Xi coming to town. There were protests, unbearable traffic jams due to unannounced road closures, airport delays and a slew of memes making use of Xi’s Winnie the Pooh moniker as an insult. Duterte, unsurprisingly, was portrayed as the hapless and dependent piglet.

Credit: Reuters / Eloisa LopezStudent rallyists wear masks in the likeness of Rodrigo Duterte and Xi Jinping during a rally against China outside the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila during Xi’s recent state visit to the Philippines.
The two leaders ironed out 29 deals mainly purporting to enhance economic ties. The nail in the coffin, though, seemed to be the Joint Exploration Deal, which outlines what could be a future resource grab in the West Philippine Sea, the contested territories. This came despite the Philippines having won in the International Court of Arbitration two years ago, as the area was historically part of the Southeast Asian nation’s fishing activity.    [FULL  STORY]

BBC News
Date: November 4, 2018
By Reality Check team

Image copyrightGETTY IMAGESImage captionPresident Xi and African leaders at the FOCAC summit in Beijing, September 2018

Africa is facing a looming debt crisis, say leading development economists.

“Almost 40% of sub-Saharan African countries are in danger of slipping into a major debt crisis” according to the Overseas Development Institute, ahead of a major conference on debt being held in London this week.

And the relationship between African nations and China is often seen as a significant part of the problem.

Its critics say that major infrastructure projects carried out by Chinese companies in Africa are too expensive, and burden the host countries with enormous debts they can’t hope to repay.

The Chinese government is adamant that its economic relationships with African countries are mutually beneficial and rejects suggestions that it is using debt to expand global influence.

Date:  November 3, 2018
By: Serenitie Wang, CNN

Beijing, CNN (CNN)Spike Wang, a 29-year-old financial professional based in Shanghai, is struggling to live the Chinese dream.

Wang is one of millions of Chinese middle-class men and women who grew up in a roaring economy. Now, amid soaring rents and a plunging stock market, they are finding daily life increasingly difficult.

The past year has been especially tough.

Like many middle-class investors, Wang dumped most of his shares in Chinese stocks after his portfolio suffered a 40% loss in just two years.

Unable to afford a 37% rent increase, he left his old apartment in Beijing this year and moved to a cheaper apartment in Shanghai. But he still found the cost of living in China hard to handle.

“I can clearly feel that groceries are more expensive, especially in the second half of the year,” he said.

The problem of economic distress among Chinese citizens is so common that there is a buzzword on China’s cybersphere for people like Wang — “jiucai” or leeks.

“I’m a typical leek that is picked in the stock market, rental market and as a consumer,” said Wang.

Middle-class Chinese consumers call themselves “leeks,” the popular green vegetable used in a Chinese cuisine, to express their fears about the economy or financial issues online.

It’s a self-deprecating term implying they are being played for suckers, just faceless vegetables harvested by big companies and the government, especially amid the escalating US-China trade war and slowing economy.

Tongue-in-cheek reactions such as “the government is going to harvest the leeks again” or “we’re being picked like leeks” are common among members of the middle class.    [FULL  STORY]

Taiwan News
Date: 2018/10/10

Grace Meng, the wife of former Interpol chief Meng Hongwei. (By Associated Press)
LYON, France (AP) — The call came at night and was chilling.

“You listen, but you don’t speak,” the man on the other end said. “We’ve come in two work teams, two work teams just for you.”

In her first one-on-one interview since her husband’s disappearance in China, the wife of the former head of Interpol described the threatening phone call that prompted authorities in the French city where the international law enforcement agency is headquartered to place her under police protection.

French authorities are still trying to determine whether China did indeed, as the mysterious caller menaced, dispatch agents to get to Grace Meng, the wife of Meng Hongwei. But she has good reason to be fearful: Speaking out about the fate of her high-profile husband risks China’s ire and, she said, is putting her “in great danger.”

However, she hopes that doing so will help other families in similar circumstances.

“He has disappeared for so long and nobody has given me any information or told me where he has gone. This is very common now in China,” she told The Associated Press during an interview. “I feel like I have a responsibility to stand up. Only when you’ve been through this much pain can you understand that even more people have been suffering.”

Meng Hongwei — who was China’s vice minister of public security while also leading Interpol — vanished while on a trip to China late last month. A long-time Communist Party insider with decades of experience in China’s sprawling security apparatus, the 64-year-old is the latest high-ranking official to fall victim to a sweeping purge against allegedly corrupt or disloyal officials under President Xi Jinping’s authoritarian administration.

Speaking to the AP late Monday at a hotel in Lyon, the French city where she lives and Interpol is based. Grace Meng said she had put their two boys to bed when she got the threatening call. It was one week after her last contact with her husband. On Sept, 25, he sent her from China an emoji of a knife — suggesting to her he was in danger.

The man who called her on her mobile phone spoke in Chinese, she said. She said the only clue he gave about his identity was saying that he used to work for Meng, suggesting that the man was part of China’s security apparatus. He also said he knew where she was.    [FULL  STORY]

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