Keywords: “Two Sessions”, military expenditure, Civil Code, Made in China 2025, China’s retaliation against South Korea, Chief Executive Election in Hong Kong, One-China Policy in Taiwan’s universities.
1. Issues discussed during the Two Sessions
The sessions of the National People’s Congress and the National People’s Political Consultation Conference were held in early March this year. A number of plans by the government have been announced. For the NPC, the report on the work of the government, National Development and Reform Commission Draft Plan for National Economic and Social Development, and Ministry of Finance Budget Report are available here by Wall Street Journal.
According to the summary by China Digital Times, issues being discussed at the NPC include, among other things:
- //Other topics at the Two Sessions have included a modest increase in military spending, despite recent calls for a bigger jump; a new “declaration of rights” and responsibilities for the public; elections in Hong Kong; pledges to fight pollution and poverty; tax and currency policy; a “Greater Bay Area” scheme to boost integration between Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macau, and the proposed transformation of Shanghai’s Free Trade Zone into a “comprehensive reform experiment zone” and “a bridgehead for the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative.” The key document from the event is Premier Li Keqiang’s annual Report on the Work of the Government, available in both Chinese and English at The Wall Street Journal. For those lacking the appetite for the full 16,000-word text, China’s State Council Information Office offers some highlights, while South China Morning Post’s Jun Mai suggests some reading tips including “skip the first half” and “flip to the second-last page.”// Source: China Digital Times, 07 March 2017.
a. Military budget increased by 7% exceeding 1 trillion yuan for the first time
The military budget increase is the lowest compared to the past. Scholars argued that the moderate level of the figure could be attributed to the considerations about the reactions of China’s neighboring countries and to give an olive branch to the US to build a friendlier relationship. In addition to diplomatic factor, Sébastien Colin from CEFC also argued that China’s continued economic slowdown could be another factor that explains the decreasing rate of the military budget rise over the past years.
- //For the first time in decades, Beijing has not revealed its defence spending total for the year despite a stated commitment to transparency in military outlays. The decision is seen as an attempt to downplay the sensitive budget figure, which has not only raised concerns in the international community but also among military personnel who want spending to rise at a faster rate. The total military budget has long been included in the Ministry of Finance’s report released at the start of the National People’s Congress. But the figure was omitted in the 2017 budget report released on Sunday. The social security budget for 2017 was also missing. […] The comment came a day after NPC spokeswoman Fu Ying said the defence budget would be increased by around 7 per cent this year, down from 7.6 per cent growth last year and the slowest annual rate since 2000. But that increase would push national military spending to over 1 trillion yuan (HK$1.25 trillion) for the first time, up from the 954 billion yuan set aside in 2016. Some military personnel attending the NPC said Major General Chen Zhou, a researcher at the PLA Academy of Military Science, briefed them on the budget at a closed door session on Saturday. […] Zhang Yunling, from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the rare move to withhold the figure was to “play down the sensitivity” of the numbers. “The government apparently wants to do this because the outside world is very concerned about the growth rate of [China’s] military spending,” Zhang said. Military analysts said slower growth in spending would upset domestic hawks keen on a stronger armed forces, but would put neighbours involved in bitter territorial disputes more at ease. “The central government didn’t detail the defence budget because it’s likely that this year’s growth rate is even lower than last year’s, and that will make domestic hawks and populists very unhappy,” a retired senior colonel said. “But the moderate 7 per cent will allow Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam and the Philippines to relax.” In contrast, the administration of new US President Donald Trump proposed a near 10 per cent increase in its defence budget last month. During his campaign, Trump pledged to upgrade the US military’s hardware and personnel, including building 80 advanced warships and at least 100 more combat aircraft.// Source: SCMP, 05 March 2017.
- //The state-run news agency Xinhua released the detailed spending figure on Monday amid questions over Beijing’s commitment to transparency in its military outlay, saying defence spending this year would rise by 7 per cent to 1.044 trillion yuan (US$151 billion). The rate surprised both domestic and overseas observers as President Xi Jinping, who also chairs the powerful Central Military Commission, has begun a comprehensive military overhaul, including a cut of 300,000 personnel to turn the bulky army into a nimble and capable fighting force. […] Shanghai-based military commentator Ni Lexiong said the small defence spending increase indicated Beijing’s hopes of building a friendly relationship with Washington, even though the administration of US President Donald Trump proposed a near 10 per cent increase in its defence budget last month. […] However, Professor Jonathan Holslag, head of research at the Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies, said so far neither China nor the US, or any other Asian country, has been able to find a “peaceful way out of the numerous conflicts” as tensions continue to grow in the Asia-Pacific region. “In terms of military spending, China’s budget is already bigger than that of its neighbours combined,” Holslag said. “The US is the only power able to keep it in check and in the long run, China is seeking to break through America’s Pacific line of defence. No doubt.”// Source: SCMP, 09 March 2017.
b. The preamble of China’s first civil code under discussion at NPC
The full text of the preamble is available on the website of NPC in Chinese (here). A few highlights were noted below:
- //National lawmakers on Wednesday started to deliberate draft general provisions of civil law, which, if adopted, will bring the country one step closer to a long-absent civil code. With the draft submitted to the ongoing annual session of the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s top legislature, the country is nearing the end of its crucial first step toward a civil code: laying down basic principles. Last year, the draft went through three readings at the bi-monthly sessions of the NPC Standing Committee. It is rare for a draft law not to be passed after three readings. After the adoption of the general provisions, lawmakers will step up work on compiling individual books on property, contract and marriage, among others, which will be integrated into a unified code. According to the legislation plan, the code will be enacted in 2020. […] The draft, based on the General Principles of Civil Law adopted in 1986, deals with a variety of issues, ranging from ecological conservation to property protection and the guardianship system. Existing provisions in the General Principles have been revised and new ones added in line with new conditions in social and economic activities. The draft establishes a “green” principle, stipulating that in their civil activities, civil subjects must be aware of the need to save resources and protect the environment. […] Fetuses that require protection for the succession of estates and reception of donations shall be deemed as having the capacity for civil law rights, according to the draft. “This is a step forward. Rights of a life without capacity for conduct still need protecting,” said Shen Guoming, deputy head of the China Society of Jurisprudence. The draft lowers the statutory age limit of minors with limited capacity for civil conduct from 10 to six years, for the purpose of attaching more attention to minors’ own discretion. The draft also highlights the protection of online virtual assets and data, as incidents of personal information leakage have increased in recent years. In addition, the draft adds provisions on rural economic collectives and villagers’ committees, among others, to help them better participate in civil life, and protect the members’ legitimate rights and interests. […] In October 2014, the Communist Party of China decided at a key meeting to compile a civil code. It is people’s congresses that translate the Party’s resolutions into the will of the state through legislative procedures. The legislative task has since been treated as a necessary move to perfect the country’s socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics, and significant in modernizing state governance. In March 2015, the drafting of the general provisions started, marking the beginning of China’s journey to a civil code of its own.// Source: Xinhua, 08 March 2017.
- //Public debate over an overhaul of China’s civil law will grow over the next three years as lawmakers begin to write specific provisions that affect the lives of citizens in the world’s most populous nation, a top lawmaker said on Thursday. […] The rules form the preamble of a civil code and are expected to be given the formal stamp of approval next week at the close of the yearly meet of China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress. The code itself is expected to be finalised by 2020, but a top legal advisor to China’s parliament said on Thursday that the drafting process will become more difficult as lawmakers hone in on specific laws for contentious issues. […] China’s laws go through a public consultation process, where early drafts are released to the public for comment. The volume of public input does not necessarily mean more changes to the final provisions, but fierce pushback on issues like property rights has in the past delayed laws from being passed on time. […] The code is part of President Xi Jinping’s wider push to “comprehensively govern the nation by law”, a phrase that is used both to describe updating China’s law for modern realities and increasing Party control via the judiciary. Many legal experts had said that the latest draft of general rules falls short of enshrining sweeping private rights and makes little progress in key areas including property and civil liberties. The final code is expected to touch on everything from child custody battles, “Good Samaritans” who help strangers in emergencies and compensation for people forced to leave their homes during redevelopment. The code is expected to revise aspects of China’s current civil law that are “out of step with reality,” Li Jianguo, vice chairman of the NPC’s standing committee, said on Wednesday.// Source: Reuters, 09 March 2017.
Christian Shepherd from Reuters reported the reactions of legal experts and scholars to the civil code preamble, especially regarding the protection of “personality rights” in China:
- //Many legal experts say the latest draft of general rules that form the basis of the code falls short of enshrining sweeping private rights and makes little progress in key areas including property and civil liberties. Another issue: how far the code will go in defending the rights of individuals, known as “personality rights”, a broad term Chinese legal experts use to talk about the basic rights each individual should enjoy. Health, reputation, image, name and freedom are included, but the term is significantly narrower and de-politicized compared to human rights, according to Chinese academics. Proponents of individual rights have called for a dedicated section of the code, while others worry granting too many private rights could lead to revolution. The current scope of personality rights in the draft rules makes them “seriously imbalanced”, according to Xu Xianming, deputy chairman of the National People’s Legal Association, an advocate for more personal freedoms being included in the code. “First, the list of rights is incomplete; second, the number of rights is insufficient; third, the civil rights system is curtailed,” Xu wrote last year in an essay for the official magazine of China’s parliament. As China’s constitution cannot be cited in court, rights must be passed by parliament before can they be protected, Xu argued. China’s constitution on paper promises freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of assembly among others. In practice, however, such provisions are not considered legally actionable and the party’s right to govern as it sees fit takes precedent. Liang Huixing, a scholar at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, has repeatedly warned that writing personality rights into the civil code might lead to a “color revolution” in China, referring to mass political movements in former Soviet Union states in the early 2000s.// Source: Reuters, 07 March 2017.
Some observers doubted the effectiveness of civil code in protecting “personality rights” given the general disregard for individual rights and the suppression of lawyers in China:
- //Steve Dickinson, an attorney at Seattle-based law firm Harris Bricken who worked for years in China, said that some of the world’s most influential civil codes were adopted by autocrats: France’s was put in place by Napoleon, Germany’s by Otto von Bismarck and Japan’s under the Meiji emperor. “Civil codes tend to be gifts to the people from brutal dictators,” Mr. Dickinson said. “A government can write in a code that citizens have certain rights. If they cannot exercise those rights, who cares what is written?”[… The promise of “fair, reasonable compensation” in property disputes] will be difficult to interpret, likely leaving the problem unresolved, said Yu-Jie Chen, a legal expert and visiting scholar at Columbia University’s Weatherhead East Asian Institute. Civil code aside, plaintiffs remain at a disadvantage, according to Ms. Chen, since lawyers are sometimes jailed and intimidated for fighting for their client’s property rights. “As long as China doesn’t allow the legal profession to robustly represent their clients to fight for ‘fair and reasonable’ compensation, how this legal change is going to help the evictee remains a mystery to me,” she said.// Source: Wall Street Journal via China Digital Times, 09 March 2017.
After the release of the draft, at least 126 amendments were proposed. The making of smearing revolutionary martyrs an offence attracts attention. There are already some judicial cases where historians got ruled against in court for their publications that deviate from the original story about revolutionary heroes (see for example the court case related to the “Five Heros of Langya Mountain” at the New York Times).
- //State media reports on Monday said the NPC’s legal committee decided to add the clause after some delegates said comments attacking martyrs of revolutionary lore were harmful to the public interest. The clause would make it a civil offense to “damage the name, likeness, reputation or glory of heroes and martyrs.” […] The clause gives Chinese authorities a new tool in an intensifying campaign to root out sprouts of “historical nihilism,” their term for public skepticism around the party’s version of past events. In the past, the party muzzled critics of official history with censorship, but increasingly it prefers to discredit them in courts of law and public opinion. […] The attack on historical nihilism is part of a vast effort by Chinese President Xi Jinping to clamp down on dissenting views and gird Chinese society against what he sees as ideological threats emanating from Western countries. Calling the new clause “unacceptable,” Peking University legal scholar He Weifang argued Monday that there was no accepted legal standard for deciding who qualifies as a hero. He also noted that doubts over the historical reliability of some of China’s martyr stories were widespread. “To uncover the true face of history in the spirit of seeking truth from facts, but to instead face accusations of malicious slander, that is horrifying,” Mr. He wrote in a social-media post, whose authenticity he later verified to China Real Time. “Real gold fears no fire, true martyrs have no need to worry about ‘being smeared.’ All their defenders need to do is present definitive evidence to back their claims. What are they afraid of?”// Source: Wall Street Journal, 13 March 2017.
Former Editor-in-chief of SCMP Wang Xiangwei pointed out areas of concern that might not be directly addressed during the Two Sessions:
- //This year has taken on particular significance. The world is watching with intense interest the economic agenda, including growth and investment targets to be announced on Sunday, the first day of the NPC session, and for signs of whether the world’s second-largest economy will stabilise this year amid rising global economic uncertainties. […] Even more interesting are the two issues which are not on the agenda but are most likely to be at the forefront of attendees’ One is the Communist Party’s 19th congress scheduled for autumn this year, which will approve a new national leadership line-up for the next five years; the other is how US President Donald Trump’s unpredictable presidency will affect China’s economy and its international relations in the years to come. […] Seeking progress while maintaining stability will remain the motto this year as the government wrestles with its most pressing challenges, including seeking to correct an imbalance between insufficient demand and overcapacity, curbing asset bubbles and debt levels as well as tackling environmental degradation. […] Poverty alleviation will be another key topic. The latest figures show that the drive personally championed by Xi lifted 12.4 million people out of poverty last year. Xi has vowed to eradicate poverty by 2020, which means China needs to reduce the number of people in poverty by at least 10 million annually. […] As Trump constantly tests Beijing’s bottom lines in an attempt to form a coherent strategy towards China, people should expect Xi and the Chinese leaders to use the Two Sessions to set down firm markers for what they see as the nation’s core interests, including Taiwan and the South China Sea. Of course, they will do so without mentioning Trump or America.// Source: SCMP, 04 March 2017.
Some criticisms raised at the NPPCC were censored while some were passed around. Of those dissenting voices, the proposal by Luo Fuhe, the vice-chairmen of China Association for Promoting Democracy which is one of the eight “democratic parties” allowed in China, for less internet censorship was echoed by many others.
- //On March 1, Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference vice-chairman Luo Fuhe issued a proposal, translated in full at CDT, for speeding up access to foreign websites. “While we agree that the monitoring and blocking of foreign websites cannot be neglected as part of government efforts to protect the nation’s peace and stability,” Luo wrote, “we must also note that many foreign sites are not political.” He complained of the scientific and economic cost of current internet controls, citing long load times for some valuable sites and the unreliable VPNs or even foreign travel to which many researchers resort. His suggested remedies included a general unblocking of academic and scientific resources, and greater clarity around remaining controls with the compilation of an authoritative list of “negative foreign sites.” Even in the case of news, he added, information should not be blocked simply because it is “contested.” Reports on Luo’s call for more selective censorship were themselves swiftly targeted, as a leaked directive published by CDT illustrated. But Luo was not the only delegate to criticize the current intensity of information restrictions. Former state TV host Cui Yongyuan argued that censors “simply block everything they don’t like in a way I would call rude and barbarian […] I don’t think they’re helping the Communist Party or the government at all. They are only causing more trouble.” South China Morning Post’s Nectar Gan reported another proposal by a Hong Kong delegate who focused on the commercial, scientific, and political costs of China’s current online controls, including blocks on Facebook and Pinterest as well as academic resources […] At Global Voices, Oiwan Lam wrote that Luo’s proposal was “not one man speaking out, but rather another coordinated effort by scientists who are pushing the authorities to grant access to overseas Internet.// Source: China Digital Times, 13 March 2017.
- //On the sidelines of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which ended in Beijing on Monday, Cui [Cui Yongyuan, a former host on China’s state-run national broadcaster], a delegate, also took aim at the push to stamp out Western values at the nation’s universities, just three months after Chinese President Xi Jinping called for stronger ideological controls at all tertiary institutions. “Political education is fine but it’s important to ask what its content is … Is it social reality or a cooked history?” Cui said. […] CPPCC only has power on paper to make suggestions. But like the NPC, it is largely a rubber-stamp body and subject to Beijing’s ever-tighter restrictions on public debate. Nevertheless, some members of the group are still raising eyebrows with their outspokenness, even if it goes uncovered by domestic media. Businessman Yu Minhong was more veiled than fellow CPPCC member Cui in his questioning of the official line but his barb was just as pointed. Addressing a former minister of education’s 2015 call to fence the country’s universities off from “wrongful” Western values, Yu, founder of New York-listed New Oriental Education & Technology, said: “The statement about fencing off Western values might not be the [top] official line. I don’t think any particular kind of values should be exclusive to others.”// Source: SCMP, 14 March 2017.
- //Luo Fuhe, a vice-chairman of the CPPCC and executive vice-chairman of the CAPD, told journalists that his party’s first proposal was to urge the authorities to ease internet restrictions to enable faster access to overseas academic websites and search engines. […] Judging by the reaction from the authorities, Luo’s suggestion stands little chance of gaining traction. The internet censors have apparently ordered mainland websites to delete or play down reports on the proposal by Luo’s party and block comments on them. An internet search can still find the reports on CAPD’s own website and some other smaller sites, but the comment sections are unavailable. […] Interestingly, the Chinese-language website operated by the usually nationalistic Global Times ran a commentary saying that the whole society should constructively respond to Luo’s proposal without compromising internet security. But the English version of the Global Times printed a more strident article last week that said China was unlikely to ease internet regulation due to national security concerns and slow access to overseas websites would remain unchanged.// Source: SCMP, 11 March 2017.
c. Economic forecast for China and challenges ahead
- //At the National People’s Congress gathering on Sunday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said the country was aiming for 6.5 per cent growth or “higher if possible” for 2017 – a target slightly less ambitious than last year’s range of 6.5 to 7 per cent. The year-end figure fell in the middle at 6.7 per cent, but still the slowest pace in a quarter-century. Meanwhile, Li said China would face a “more complicated and grimmer” environment and must be highly alert to vulnerabilities in the financial system. […] “China is at a crucial and challenging stage in its own development endeavours,” Li said as he read out the annual government work report to the nearly 3,000 NPC deputies gathered in Beijing. “World economic growth remains sluggish while de-globalisation and protectionism are growing.” There were many uncertainties about “the direction of the major economies’ policies and their spillover effects”, which could affect China, he said. […] Zhang Yunling, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the target reflected the likely focus of the economy this year – slowdown and restructuring – with the 6.5 per cent as a bottom line to ensure employment. “Stability is the best choice for this year,” Zhang said. “Basically keeping stability is the priority, and there are no new major initiatives.”He added that China would face headwinds if Trump carried through with his threats to impose tariffs on China’s exports, label China a currency manipulator or ignore WTO rulings on cases brought against US interests. […] Zhang Yiping, an economist at China Merchants Securities, said Beijing was moving to reduce financial risks and reliance on debt-fuelled growth – China’s total debt surged to 260 per cent of its GDP last year, up from 125 per cent in 2008. Property and the stock market are two sources of risk that the government has been trying to address. Beijing has poured significant funds into the financial system, triggering property bubbles in major cities, with housing prices rising more than 30 per cent in some areas last year.// Source: SCMP, 06 March 2017.
d. Plan of heavy investment in high-tech industries as embodied in “Made in China 2025” Program
- //Foreign companies have become increasingly vocal about business barriers, intellectual property theft and other problems in the Chinese market. Some are turning elsewhere to establish a base for production. Mr. Li held out an olive branch, promising to “make big moves to improve the environment for foreign investors.” He said that service industries, manufacturing and mining would become more open to these investors. He also promised that, contrary to most expectations and previous experience, foreign companies would not be discriminated against on license applications, setting standards or government procurement. The country has laid out plans — called the Made in China 2025 initiative — for it to seize a global lead in a long list of key high-tech and manufacturing industries in the next eight years.// Source: New York Times, 04 March 2017.
- //China has charted out a $300 billion plan to become nearly self-sufficient by 2025 in a range of important industries, from planes to computer chips to electric cars, as it looks to kick-start its next stage of economic development. But big companies in the rest of the world worry that it is more than that: an unfair advantage in China’s home court, and perhaps elsewhere. A report by a European business group on Tuesday said the “Made in China 2025” program, which calls for enormous Chinese government assistance to 10 industries, would force out competitors from abroad and lead to government-subsidized global players that would compete unfairly. […] “We will fully implement our plan for developing strategic emerging industries,” Premier Li Keqiang said in his annual speech to the National People’s Congress on Sunday. “We will accelerate R. & D. on and commercialization of new materials, artificial intelligence, integrated circuits, bio-pharmacy, 5G mobile communications and other technologies, and develop industrial clusters in these fields.” In addition to the sectors Mr. Li cited, the plan also covers the manufacturing of aircraft, robots, electric cars, rail equipment, ships and agricultural machinery. China seeks to wean itself off imports from companies like Boeing, Airbus, General Electric, Siemens, Nissan, Renault, Samsung and Intel. […] Along with subsidies at home, the Chinese plan calls for a shopping spree overseas. “Chinese high-tech investments need to be interpreted as building blocks of an overarching political program. It aims to systematically acquire cutting-edge technology and generate large-scale technology transfer. In the long run, China wants to obtain control over the most profitable segments of the global supply chains and production networks,” according to a report on “Made in China 2025” released in December by the Mercator Institute for China Studies, a German think tank.// Source: New York Times, 07 March 2017.
The above-mentioned report (here) argued that foreign companies could benefit from the business opportunities presented by the Program, given the Chinese suppliers are still at the initial stage of high-technology development. However, the report also showed concerns about the unfair competition faced by the foreign enterprises and the state-backed nature of some Chinese enterprises which will actively pursue overseas acquisition of hi-tech companies aboard.
- //While Chinese high-tech companies enjoy massive state backing, their foreign competitors in China face a whole set of barriers to market access and obstacles to their business activities: the closing of the market for information technology, the exclusion from local subsidy schemes, the low level of data security and the intensive collection of digital data by the Chinese state. As China’s own smart manufacturing capabilities mature, it is likely that the Chinese state will further step up its discriminatory practices and restrictions of market access in the field of smart manufacturing. At the moment, however, these barriers are not yet as established in smart manufacturing as in other areas such as the service sector and the aviation industry. Made in China 2025 is in its early days and there are still opportunities to adjust its direction and targets, at least in some sectors. […] Made in China 2025 also has an outward-looking dimension: the accelerating acquisition of international high-tech companies by Chinese investors. To speed up China’s technological catch-up and to leapfrog stages of technological development, Chinese companies are acquiring core technologies through investment abroad. In itself, this is neither surprising nor objectionable. However, China’s technology acquisitions are partly supported and guided by the state. […] In addition, structural factors will further diminish the effectiveness of the policy: China’s economy is currently experiencing downward pressure. Upgrading the production processes might result in job losses among the less skilled workforce. On the other hand, China’s education system is not prepared for training skilled personnel capable of operating sophisticated smart manufacturing tools. As a result, the overarching goal of Made in China 2025, the deep transformation of China’s entire manufacturing base, will most probably not be reached within the ambitious timeframe set by the Chinese leadership.// Source: Mercator Institute for China Studies, December 2016.
2. Updates on China-South Korea relationship
According to Oiwan Lam on Hong Kong Free Press, the online criticisms against the Lotte Group were turned into small-scale protests.
- // It didn’t take long for words to become action. Following the call for boycott, Chinese authorities took steps to punish Lotte. Thus far, Chinese officials have shut down 39 out of Lotte Mart’s 99 stores in the country over fire safety concerns, a Lotte spokesman said. In addition, several online shopping platforms, including JD.com and Jumei Youpin, have removed Lotte brand products. The boycott is not confined to the web. Small-scale protests have sprouted across China. Reportedly, a number of Korean brand vehicles were crushed in Shandong province. And below is screenshot from a video showing a boycott demonstration outside a Lotte retail store in Jilin.// Source: Hong Kong Free Press, 08 March 2017.
- // About 80 tour buses and guides had to cancel their services on Saturday when the Chinese tourists refused to disembark for the scheduled stop at Jeju, South Korea’s Yonhap News reported. The report said the local travel agency organising the stop was not notified of the passengers’ decision prior to their arrival, and it was the first time that such a large group had refused to disembark at Jeju since the route was opened in the late 1990s. […] The boycott follows Beijing’s orders to mainland travel agencies to stop offering tours to South Korea from last Wednesday, including flights, hotels and cruises. In line with the orders, Costa Cruises has cancelled 26 sailings to Jeju from the middle of this month to the end of June.// Source: SCMP, 14 March 2017.
- //The South Korean politician expected to become its next president, Moon Jae-in, called on China on Tuesday to stop economic retaliation against South Korean firms over the deployment of a U.S. missile-defense system. Moon, speaking in a debate with other presidential contenders from the main opposition Democratic Party, said South Korea must stand up to China and protest against any unjust moves, but also make diplomatic efforts to resolve the issue. “We should complain about what needs to be complained about and we should make diplomatic efforts to persuade China,” Moon said. “It is also not desirable for China to harm our relationship with excessive retaliation,” Moon said. “I call on China to immediately stop“.// Source: Reuters, 14 March 2017.
Analysts renewed the situation when Park Geun-hye was confirmed to leave the presidential office and a new presidential election will be followed in Korea:
- //Analysts immediately began to weigh the implications for South Korea’s relationship with China, strained in recent months by Park’s decision to deploy the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) missile-defence system as a precaution against the threat posed by North Korea. Beijing has vigorously protested the move. […] Cai Jian, a Korean affairs expert from Fudan University, suggested Park’s dismissal would “reduce some uncertainties” but did not expect a radical shift under a new president. “I would not expect a new president could dramatically improve the China-South Korea relationship,” he said, noting that Moon Jae-in, a liberal from the Minjoo Party, is the current front runner in polling. “Lawmakers from his party visited China to talk about THAAD. But even he says he would only want to ‘postpone’ the deployment. It is hard to expect any South Korean president to give up on THAAD. In fact, it is highly likely THAAD will be in place before the new administration takes over.”// Source: SCMP, 10 March 2017.
1. State Council’s plan for Hong Kong’s development in the greater framework of Pearl River Delta Development
- //Beijing will press ahead with a controversial plan for greater integration between Hong Kong and the mainland, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announced on Sunday.Delivering his annual work report at the start of the National People’s Congress, Li said the authorities would push on with the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area concept. The plan surfaced in a State Council policy paper in March last year but this is the first time it has been mentioned in the premier’s annual report. It is designed to coordinate economic and infrastructure development in the area to tap into markets in Southeast Asia and South Asia. The concept dates back to 2011 when it was proposed in a study called “The Action Plan for the Bay Area of the Pearl River Estuary”. In Hong Kong, Joe Fang Zhou, chief research officer at the One Country Two Systems Research Institute, said the crux of the concept was to make better use of each city’s strengths. “Research and development can take place in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, while manufacturing can take place in Guangdong,” Fang said.// Source: SCMP, 06 March 2017.
2. Univocal message of opposing Hong Kong independence by China leaders
- //The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China’s top political advisory body, has told its members from Hong Kong to promote national education in local schools, a move aimed at eliminating the idea of Hong Kong independence on campus, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports. In his work report on March 3, when the fifth session of the 12th National Committee of the CPPCC began, chairman Yu Zhengsheng said Beijing will unwaveringly implement the “one country, two systems” principle and abide by the guideline of “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy”. But on Monday, the last day of the session, the committee decided to add to the work report, including a statement resolutely objecting Hong Kong independence and calling on Hong Kong deputies to help in promoting national education in schools. The CPPCC’s move came after Premier Li keqiang said at the opening of the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress (NPC) on March 5 that there is absolutely no hope for Hong Kong independence. Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, has also mentioned in his work report that Beijing is totally against the ideology. […] Political commentator Johnny Lau Yui-siu said CPPCC members will not be able to crack down on the independence ideology on campus if Beijing does not change its ways of seeking to control Hong Kong.// Source: Hong Kong Economic Journal, 14 March 2017.
3. CY Leung becomes vice-chairman of NPPCC
- // Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying was elected vice-chairman of China’s top advisory body on Monday, becoming the first chief executive to hold the two roles simultaneously. The move is seen as an acknowledgement of his efforts to curb pro-independence forces in Hong Kong as the city’s top official. Leung had announced in December that he would not seek another term as chief executive, citing family reasons. […] A vice-chairman needs to first secure majority support from the Standing Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) to be nominated as a candidate before being voted in by more than 2,000 CPPCC delegates. Last Friday, 294 members of the standing committee voted in favour of a motion to nominate Leung, with two abstaining. A total of 2066 delegates voted to support his promotion on Monday. […] Will new role clash with his chief executive duties? CPPCC delegates, including Professor Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, have said Leung’s new role will not clash with that of the chief executive as the CPPCC is only an advisory body. But the pan-democrats have argued there will be a conflict of interests as the chief executive under the “one country, two systems” principle should not be a state leader at the same time. How many CPPCC vice-chairmen are there? Twenty-one in total, including former chief executive Tung Chee-wah and ex-Macau chief executive Edmund Ho Hau-wah. Both Tung and Ho were appointed as the top advisory body’s vice-chairmen after they stepped down as chief executive. The body’s current chairman is Yu Zhengsheng, who is also a member of the Politburo Standing Committee – Beijing’s highest decision-making body.// Source: SCMP, 13 March 2017.
4. Updates on Chief Executive Election
A variety of public polling has been conducted to gauge the popularity among the three Chief Executive candidates in recent days. All except one results indicated that John Tsang enjoyed the highest public approval rating, followed by Carrie Lam and Woo Kwok-hing respectively. The election will take place on 26 March 2017.
Future at Hong Kong found that John Tsang received 43.9% of support from respondents, followed by Carrie Lam (27.6%) and Woo Kwok-hing (12.7%). This survey also found that 53.1% of the respondents who thought they are “pro-establishment” do not want Beijing to express its preference in the election.
- // John Tsang Chun-wah was the most popular candidate with a support rate of 43.9 per cent, followed by Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor at 27.6 per cent, and Woo Kwok-hing at 12.7 per cent. The survey, conducted between March 1 and 7, was commissioned by Future at Hong Kong, formed by a group of moderate pan-democrats and scholars. […] Of the 1,014 people polled, 69.4 per cent said it was “inappropriate” for Beijing to indicate its preference for a candidate. […] Further data showed that 53.1 per cent of respondents who considered themselves “pro-establishment” wanted Beijing to keep its views to itself, while 66.4 per cent of those “without political leaning” also felt the same way. Core member of Future at Hong Kong and City University political scientist Professor Linda Li Che-lan said: “A majority of people wanting Beijing to shut up shows that we do treasure autonomy and “one country two, systems”. That is a good sign.”// Source: SCMP, 14 March 2017.
Public Opinion Programme of the University of Hong Kong found that Tsang was selected by 48% of respondents for the next Chief Executive, followed by Lam (34%) and Woo (11%). The survey was conducted during March 5 to 9, 2017.
- //受訪者被問到若明日投票「三揀一」選特首時會如何選擇，問題為「如果聽日畀你投票選特首，而參選人只有以下人士，你會選邊個？」結果曾俊華以48%的支持度佔新高，其次為林鄭月娥（34%）和胡國興（11%），另有7%受訪者表示「全部都唔選」或「唔知／難講／棄權」。目前曾俊華和林鄭月娥的支持度差距拉闊至14個百分點。// Source: Hong Kong 01, 10 March 2017.
Centre for Communication and Public Opinion Survey of the Chinese University of Hong Kong found that Tsang enjoyed 42.2% approval rating, followed by Lam (34.3%) and Woo (11.8%). 51.8% of those who support Tsang believed Tsang could mend the polarized Hong Kong society, while 38.8% of those who support Lam believed she could improve people’s well-being. The survey was conducted during March 1 and 5, 2017.
- //距離新一屆行政長官選舉投票日尚餘17天，3名取得足夠提名入閘的候選人，民望支持度逐漸整固，形勢愈趨明顯。本報獨家委託中文大學於本月初進行民意調查，結果顯示前財政司司長曾俊華支持度較一個半月前急漲7個百分點至41.2%【圖1】；前政務司司長林鄭月娥亦由30.9%攀至34.3%，惟兩人支持度差距由上次調查的2.6個百分點，拉闊至6.9個百分點。另一候選人退休法官胡國興的支持度雖由8.1%反彈至11.8%，但繼續遙遙落後。[…] 本報委託中大傳播及民意調查中心，在本月1日特首提名期結束後進行第四輪民調，為期5天。[…] 被問到支持曾俊華的最主要原因，51.8%「薯粉」認為他能修補社會撕裂關係【圖2】，20.9%認為他可以改善民生。[…] 至於支持林鄭的原因，38.8%「奶粉」認為她能夠改善民生【圖3】、23.9%指她獲得中央信任。// Source: Hong Kong Economic Journal, 09 March 2017.
The Public Governance Programme of Lingnan University found that Tsang was supported by 42.5% of the respondents, followed by Lam (30%) and Woo (11%). The survey was conducted between March 8 and 11, 2017.
- //本台委託嶺南大學，公共管治研究部，在剛過去的星期三至星期日，即提名期結束後一星期進行民調。名單剔除了葉劉淑儀及梁國雄，曾俊華支持度有5%，上升三個百分點；林鄭月娥的支持度微升0.6個百分點，有三成人支持；胡國興支持度上升至一成一。對比過去六次調查，曾俊華的支持度一直領先，而近兩次調查，曾俊華與林鄭月娥的支持度差距維持在兩位數。// Source: Now News, 13 March 2017.
Hong Kong Research Association found that 40% of respondents support Lam, followed by Tsang (37%) and Woo (12%). The survey was conducted between March 6 and 12, 2017.
- //香港研究協會昨日公佈的民意調查結果顯示，在3名候選人中，最多受訪者支持林鄭月娥出任特首，佔40%，第二次領先曾俊華（37%），胡國興則以12%包尾。被問到最有機會出任特首的候選人，最多受訪者認為是林鄭月娥，佔71%，曾俊華僅得18%，胡國興繼續以3%包尾。調查結果反映大部分市民認為林鄭月娥擁有較高的勝算。香港研究協會於3月6日至12日舉行第四次特首民調，成功訪問了1,365名18歲或以上市民。對於下任特首所需具備的條件，最多受訪者對此表示為「堅持『一國兩制』、『港人治港』、高度自治」，佔22%，較上一次調查微跌1個百分點，「有助促進社會和諧」亦有22%，其次為「中央政府信任」，佔18%，較之前上升了2個百分點。// Source: Wen Wai Pao, 14 March 2017.
1. Refresh warning about Taiwan’s potential independence during Mainland’s Two Sessions
During the two sessions in Mainland China, the PRC’s premier Li Keqiang expressed strong words against any intention of separating Taiwan from Mainland China. When the Director of Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council Zhang Zhijun (张志军) was interviewed, he said the end point of independence must be unification, but that will bring harm to the Taiwanese society and people as they will pay a huge price. The head of the Mainland Affairs Council of the Executive Yuen responded by saying it was not conductive for positive development of the cross-strait relations by the use of irrational and threatening words. The Taiwanese officials reiterated that they stuck to a policy of peaceful stable status quo for cross-strait relations.
- //大陸國台辦主任張志軍今天厲聲批評台獨，指這些分裂行徑如果得不到有效遏制，必定對兩岸關係和平發展和台海和平穩定帶來「非常直接重大的威脅」。他說，台獨之路走到盡頭就是統一，但那樣的統一方式一定會給台灣社會和民眾帶來傷害，「他們會付出巨大的代價」。// Source: United Daily News, 06 March 2017.
- //對此，行政院大陸委員會晚間表示，政府對維護兩岸關係和平穩定現狀的政策始終堅定不移，任何非理性的恐嚇言詞，只會增加兩岸間的誤解；任何試圖以非和平方式處理台海議題，只會讓兩岸同蒙其害，無助兩岸關係的正向發展。陸委會並呼籲，中國大陸在發展對台政策的過程中，應掌握兩岸與區域情勢的動態變化，尊重與理解台灣民主制度與民意基礎的政策核心，透過溝通對話化解雙方分歧，才有助於開展互利雙贏的兩岸關係。// Source: Central News Agency, 06 March 2017.
According to the analysis on the United Daily News, Mainland policy towards Taiwan has two main approaches: re-unification and anti-independence. The officials will use different wording to express the focus of their work towards Taiwan in annual work report. The wording used this year is strong and similar to that during the period of Chen Shui-bian. It warns the Taiwanese society to take it more seriously.
- //大陸對台政策有促統與反獨兩主軸，大陸歷年的政府工作報告使用的不同表述方式，正反映對台工作重點是促統或反獨。例如，二○○九年至二○一四年，大陸總理的政府工作報告中，都未提及「反對台獨分裂活動」，而是著眼於推動和拓展兩岸各方面交流與合作，即促統為主。隨著台灣政局的變化，二○一六年一月民進黨贏得大選，北京出於對民進黨的不信任，是年三月大陸政府工作報告再度出現「堅決反對台獨分裂活動」，且今年的表述比去年更加嚴厲與強烈。除「堅決反對台獨分裂活動」外，還增加「絕不允許任何人以任何形式、任何名義把台灣從祖國分裂出去」的句子。這一表述上次出現，是在陳水扁主政時代。去年民進黨政府上台以來，大陸從期待、等待台灣當局接受「九二共識」，甚至因民進黨政府認為「九二共識」是大陸與國民黨的共識，大陸還提出可以有新模式，但內涵要體現兩岸同屬一中，然卻遲遲未獲回應。民共雙方缺乏信任，甚至相互猜疑，民進黨政府的一些「去中國化」作為，讓北京逐漸拋棄「幻想」。[…] 張志軍昨天的「變臉」與狠話，是北京對台獨的嚴厲警告，其潛台詞就是「台獨即沒有和平」，台灣社會對此必須慎重認真地對待，不可不慎。// Source: United Daily News, 07 March 2017.
2. Universities to uphold “One-China” principle if admitting students from Mainland China
Recently It was revealed that certain proportion of universities in Taiwan were asked to sign a “guarantee letter” which promises the Chinese universities not to give students from Mainland China any education related to sensitive political issues, particularly activities related to “One China One Taiwan”, “Two Chinas”, “Taiwan Independence”, etc. The revelation stirs up discussions in Taiwan. The Ministry of Education of the Taiwanese government was concerned and argued that universities appeared to break the law that regulated the activities of academic exchange between Mainland and Taiwan. Universities in Taiwan argued that they have not broken the law and the letter should not be regarded as a guarantee letter for “One China” policy as it aims to uphold political neutrality in academic exchange.
- //世新大學遭爆料為招收來自中國大陸的研修生，去年底發出「研修承諾書」，承諾陸生的研修課程內容不涉及政治敏感活動，還標明不從事「一中一台」、「兩個中國」、「台灣獨立」等活動，承諾書由該校終身教育學院院長邱志淳簽名。// Source: Apple Daily, 03 March 2017.
- //世新大學則表示，終身教育學院負責中國學生來台的研修，近年來陸續跟五十多所中國大專校院合作，但二○一五年二月起，有三所學校提出「研修承諾書」，必須簽署才願意送學生來台灣；校方也同意教學內容不應涉及政治敏感議題，所以簽下承諾。三校每學期約送卅人到四十五人來台，但不便透露要求承諾書的學校。[…] 據了解，要求繳交「一中承諾書」是來自中國浙江省涉台單位，與浙江省大學進行兩岸學生交流的台灣私立大學都需繳承諾書，有某個需交「一中承諾書」學校不知如何下筆，中方相關部門回傳世新承諾書當範例參考，因此外流。// Source: Liberal Times Net, 02 March 2017.
- //學校均主張自己未違法，也絕非簽署一中承諾書，且強調所簽署的承諾書，是給中國學生申請來我國短期研修之用，我國大學和中國的大學之間所簽署的合作協議書，有依規定事先送教育部審查獲得同意。但教育部國際司長楊敏玲認為，學校對學校簽署的合作協議書，雖有向教育部申報，但承諾書屬於協議書的一部分，學校所簽的承諾書並未向教育部申報，屬於程序不備，內容部分也有涉及政治性的問題，已違反兩岸人民關係條例第33條。// Source: Liberal Times Net, 04 March 2017.
- //教育部長潘文忠表示，兩岸人民互動應以「兩岸人民關係條例」為基準，若簽署的書面文件內容觸法，就涉及相關罰則，會視實際簽署文件內容進行議處。依據「兩岸人民關係條例」規定，我國學校與中國學校的書面約定應先向教育部申報，內容不得違反法令規定或涉有政治性內容，否則可罰款一萬至五十萬元，且要限期改善。據了解，中國不僅是研修生要求承諾書，連姊妹校交換生也要求承諾書，承諾書儼然已成為中國研修生來台讀書的應備文件，而且已行之多年，例如清大早在二○一○年就已簽署，台大二○一二年也簽過承諾書；但也有大學如台科大是姊妹校交換生要求簽署不涉政治議題的承諾書。// Source: Liberal Times Net, 05 March 2017.
Meanwhile, a university staff and convenor of the Social Democratic Party Fan Yun (范雲) staged a petition campaign against the “guarantee letter”, followed by a number of student associations in Taiwan.
- //但在學界顯然對此有不同意見。台大社會系副教授、社會民主黨召集人范雲反問「學術交流怎可能不涉及政治？」，認為設定不談議題就是政治操作。為此，她更於5日在 Facebook 發起「台灣高教不低頭」網絡串連活動，號召高等教育工作者一同反對校方簽署相關承諾書，活動在一天內獲得多位教育工作者響應。參與串連活動的政大教授陳芳明批評，稱「兩岸學術交流不涉及政治」的說法非常虛偽，因為顯然與歐美學校交流從不需要簽署任何同意書。他認為無論簽署的形式及實質影響為何，「一旦簽下去時，本身就是高度的政治行為」，而這正是台灣高等教育的危機。全台學生組織也於網絡上發起聯署，指校方承諾不涉特定議題違背大學追求知識的自由，並呼籲校方不要推卸責任、自我降格，並應公開承諾書內容、承諾未來不再簽署可能影響學術自由的文件。截至3月6日下午，已有約22個學生自治組織及社團參與聯署。// Source: The Initium, 06 March 2017.
Background about academic exchange between Mainland China and Taiwan:
- //The number of short-term university students from China has declined in Taiwan this academic year in what some fear is retaliation by Beijing against a president who takes a guarded view toward relations. The number of university students from China to Taiwan for non-degree programs, often lasting a single semester, fell from 34,114 in the 2015-2016 academic year to 32,648 the current year, according to Taiwan Ministry of Education figures. The number had risen steadily from 823 just 10 years ago, and it more than doubled from 2011 to 2013. At Ming Chuan University in northern Taiwan, enrolment from China dropped by two-thirds between September of last year and the semester starting this month. A private technology university in southern Taiwan received 10 students in September, down from an expected 200, the Taipei-based China Post newspaper reported. […] Chinese officials do not acknowledge a role in pushing down the number, but academics in Taiwan suspect a political motive. China has bristled toward Taiwan since President Tsai Ing-wen took office in May. Tsai disputes Beijing’s view that the two sides belong to a single China, making any talks impossible. Educational exchanges are political for China, said Lai I-chung, former vice president of Taiwan Think Tank. “It’s always used by China as a political tool or something for their political statement,” Lai said. “The student exchanges and the youngsters are able to come to each other’s countries to study, to feel the culture and the different sentiments.// Source: Voice of America, 17 February 2017.