Major Taiwanese news network Liberty Times Network (LTN) recently reported that the well-known freedom monitoring agency Freedom House just released its 2018 Freedom in the World report. Among 195 countries/regions, 88 were classified as “free nations.” However, the report indicated that the global degree of freedom has suffered a 12-year decline. With the full score of 100 points, Taiwan obtained 93 points, which is an increase of 2 points from last year. Japan scored 96 points and South Korea scored 84. According to the report, Russia got a score of 20, and Mainland China got only 14, which was even one point less than last year. The report indicated that the non-democratic nations are taking advantage of the weakened global trend to influence the international community. China even declared that it is showing the developing countries a “new road.” It appears China is seeking a true leadership role in the world. Signs are now visible that China is actively interfering with domestic politics in countries such as Australia and New Zealand.
Source: LTN, January 16, 2018
Well-known Chinese news site Sina recently reported that South Korean duty-free stores experienced a major loss of customers last year due to the conflict with China on the issue of deploying the U.S. THAAD missile defense system. For example, in the month of November, Chinese visitors to South Korea declined by 42.1 percent. Chinese visitors were the primary buyers at duty-free stores; the headcount reduction caused major concerns earlier last year. However, last November’s nearly US$1 billion in duty-free sales set a historic high for November. This became a typical situation in almost all months last year and duty-free stores achieved their best sales records when having the lowest number of Chinese visitors. Analysts found that the high sales volume were supported by the Chinese proxy shopping channels, which allowed Korea-based agents to make purchases for their Chinese buyers when paid a small fee. The duty-free stores saw a significant increase in sales through these channels.
Source: Sina, January 13, 2018
China News recently reported that China’s rating agency, the Dagong Global Credit Ratings, just lowered the sovereign rating of the U.S. Dollar from A- down to BBB+. The outlook for the U.S. sovereign rating was marked as negative. Dagong explained that this move was due to the fact that the U.S. capability of paying back debts significantly weakened after the newly passed tax cut bill. The U.S. government’s credit is directly associated with the amount of tax it collects, which is the primary source for backing its debts. Dagong expressed its belief that the U.S. Federal government’s income will decline due to the tax cut, while defense spending and infrastructure investment will see massive increases. The U.S. deficit is expected to climb higher in the foreseeable future. Also, the promised upcoming U.S. interest rate hikes will further worsen the situation. The Chinese government certified Dagong’s rating qualifications.
Source: China News, January 16, 2018
VOA reported that, according to The Daily Star of Bangladesh, the Finance Minister of Bangladesh told the reporter that Bangladesh has canceled the Dhaka-Sylhet road expansion project that was awarded to the China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd. (CHEC). CHEC has been added to the Bangladesh blacklist for alleged bribery of a Bangladesh official and is forbidden from participating in any future projects in Bangladesh. CHEC is a subsidiary of the China Communications Construction Company Ltd. (CCCC) and is a star company in China’s “one belt one road” project. A news article from the Indian media The Print stated that there was also a dispute about the total amount of the project where CHEC proposed a cost that was twice the amount that the Bangladesh Highway Department estimated. The Dhaka-Sylhet road project is one of the US$2.1 trillion investment projects that Xi Jinping signed with Bangladesh when he visited in October 2016.
According to The Daily Star, this is not the first time that CHEC attempted to bribe Bangladesh officials. The CHEC’s last attempt at bribery cost the sons of two Bangladesh senior officials a sentence to six years in jail. China is the largest country to provide foreign aid to Bangladesh. Currently it has several other projects including a highway, an Industry Park, and a harbor expansion going on in Bangladesh. The Daily Star reported that the termination of CHEC contract does not affect these projects.
Source: Voice of America, January 19, 2018
An article published on Haiwainet summarized the amendments to the constitution which were passed at the second plenary session of the 19th Party Central Committee held on January 18 and 19. According to the article, four revisions have been made since the first Constitution was adopted in 1954. They were in 1988, 1993, 1999, and 2004.
Below is a summary of the amendments made at the recent plenary session:
1) Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics was the result from the latest achievements of Marxism in China. It is 21st century Marxism and should serve as the guiding principal for the party and the nation to follow on a long term basis.
2) The leadership of the Chinese Communist Party is the most essential feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics and the greatest advantage of the socialist system with Chinese characteristics. We must uphold and strengthen the party’s leadership over all work.
3) Form “five developments” in “economic, political, cultural, social, and ecological civilization” by using the concepts of “innovation, coordination, greenness, openness, and sharing” to develop China into a Well-off Society by 2020, a basic socialist modernized nation by 2035, and a powerful modern socialist country by the middle of this century. At the same time, we also need to realize the great renaissance of the Chinese nation. It is of great significance to inspire and guide the entire party and the people as well as the people of all nationalities to make a concerted effort.
4) Adhering to the road of peaceful development, adhering to the opening-up strategy for mutual benefit, and promoting the development of a common community of human beings are of great significance in promoting the lofty cause of mankind’s peaceful development.
5) The reform of the state supervisory system is a major reform of the political system that is related to the overall situation. It is a major policy-making plan for strengthening the self-supervision of the party and the state. It is necessary to establish a law on an anti-corruption work organ under the unified leadership of the party; to establish a centralized, authoritative, and efficient national surveillance system; and to achieve the full coverage of all public officers exercising their public authority.
Source: Haiwainet, January 19, 2018
Xinhua reported that, on January 11, Xi Jinping made an important speech at the second plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee. Xi analyzed the existing anti-corruption environment and vowed to continue to “fix the issue on the surface while looking for the root cause in order to achieve an overwhelming victory in combating corruption.” Xi listed the following six targeted areas:
1) Be persistent with zero tolerance on the anti-corruption effort and with 100 percent coverage. Where corruption is involved, apply restraint, pressure, and threats. Investigate both parties – those who offer and those who accept – bribes. Clean up past due corruption cases and minimize the increases in the number of corruption cases.
2) Change the focus of the anti-corruption effort so it shifts more towards the grassroots level and apply severe remediation on corruption cases among the officials who work closely with the general public.
3) Tackle gang organizations and the “protective umbrella” behind them.
4) Increase collaboration with international legal teams to threaten the corrupt criminals.
5) Make the officials fearful and conscious so they are afraid of corruption and don’t want to be corrupt.
6) Launch a reform of regulations and form effective systems to cut off the network among the interested parties while enforcing legal restrictions and supervision.
Source: Xinhua, January 19, 2018