“While the dropping flowers pine for love, the heartless brook babbles on.” It is a well-known Chinese saying that was often used in Chinese old fictions when describing the failure of a lovely girl in pursuing a heartless boy.
In my post “CHINA’S GREATER ASIA CO-PROSPERITY SPHERE” January 29, 2012 at http://tiananmenstremendousachievements.wordpress.com, I said that China wants to set a North Korea model as an example of the benefit in cooperation with China in order to establish a greater Asia co-prosperity sphere centered on China.
Kim Jong-un, the young North Korean leader who has received his education in the West, thinks that relying on the US must be a better alternative. His bellicose rhetoric now is but aimed at having direct talks with the US, but “while the dropping flowers pine for love, the heartless brook babbles on.” The US seems to have no interest whatever in having North Korea as its dependency.
China, however, earnestly wants to set a North Korean model by helping it become prosperous, but its love seems also unrequited as described in the above-mentioned Chinese saying.
Reuters gives a vivid description of the so far unrequited love in its article titled “Insight: China’s freeway to North Korea: A road to nowhere”:
A new stretch of China’s G12 expressway arcs toward the northernmost tip of North Korea, connecting one of the world’s most vibrant economies to probably its most stagnant. It is a symbol of China’s long-term goal of building economic ties with its unpredictable neighbor.
But the thin traffic along a highway lined with fallow fields in China’s Jilin province, two years after it was finished, shows how far there is to go and why plans for high-speed rail links to Chinese cities along the border look misplaced.
The problem for Beijing is twofold: getting Pyongyang to buy into the idea of economic reform and the reluctance of Chinese businessmen to venture into one of the world’s riskiest investment destinations.
While China is frustrated with Pyongyang over its threats to wage war on South Korea and the United States, its efforts to build economic links with North Korea from places like Jilin help explain why Beijing is unlikely to crack down hard on the reclusive state.
Since then-Premier Wen Jiabao went to North Korea in 2009 – just months after Pyongyang’s second nuclear test – China has sought to stabilize the Korean peninsula by stepping up its effort to steer the North toward economic reform. China is not about to give up that goal even though it’s under U.S. pressure to get tough after North Korea’s third nuclear test, on February 12.
“It’s not even shepherding anymore. It’s more of just inundating North Korea with all of these influences from the Chinese side where the idea is to essentially corrupt them, show them what it tastes like to make money,” said John Park, a North Korea expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Harvard Kennedy School.
WEN’S VISIT A CATALYST
Chinese investment in North Korea was paltry before Wen’s visit, according to researchers.
Recent statistics are hard to find, but his trip breathed life into two economic zones: one at Rason, 50 km (30 miles) inside the North Korean border, opposite Jilin, and the other near the Chinese city of Dandong, further south in Liaoning province. Some factories and farms are operational in Rason. The zone near Dandong is still being built.
Wen’s trip opened the door to mining deals and allowed China to help expand the small port at the North Korean city of Rajin, the northernmost ice-free port in the region. His visit also paved the way for more North Korean state trading firms to do business in China, Park said.
Annual two-way trade is estimated at around $6 billion, making China the North’s biggest trade partner.
After Wen’s trip, then North Korean leader Kim Jong-il visited China three times before his death in December 2011. Among the places he saw was a flat-screen TV maker, an industrialized farm and a high-tech research and development center. Current ruler Kim Jong-un, the elder Kim’s son, has not visited China since taking power.
But doing business with North Korea is frustrating, even for those in Jilin’s ethnic Korean prefecture of Yanbian, where many residents speak Korean and have links to the North.
The owner of a car company in Yanji, the region’s main city, would love to see truckloads of his vehicles head along the G12 and into North Korea. In an advertisement, the firm is billed almost exclusively as an exporter, but the reality is different.
“Most of our business is in China now,” said the company owner, who declined to be identified because he was concerned it would make it even harder to work with North Korea.
The manager of a Yanji Korean trade association who sells food packaging bags to North Korea also said it was difficult.
“We are doing less and less business with them now,” he said.
While China has halted some overland tourism into North Korea in the wake of the recent tensions, businessmen in Yanbian said most curbs came from North Korea.
“Their demands are higher and higher. Visas are difficult to get, crossing the border is difficult and they limit the things that can go across,” said the trade association manager, who also declined to be identified.
Some Chinese firms were also starting to lose confidence in investing in the Rason zone, said an official at the Jilin government who had knowledge of the matter. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said last year the zone would get $3 billion in investment from Beijing.
JILIN’S KOREAN SPEAKERS WORK IN SOUTH KOREA, NOT NORTH
While decades of market reforms sparked an economic boom in China’s coastal regions, the dismantling of many state firms as part of those measures took a toll on northeastern provinces such as Jilin and Liaoning.
China has embarked on a program to revitalize its rustbelt northeast, but some economists say a turnaround will partly rely on when Jilin and Liaoning can tap the potential mineral wealth and cheap labor of North Korea.
That, in turn, depends on Pyongyang.
“For the relatively impoverished North Korean government, China’s northeasterly drive ought to represent a golden opportunity,” Adam Cathcart and Christopher Green, editors of SinoNK.com, a website that specializes in ties between North Korea and China, wrote in an article this month.
“However, the response to date has been a complex mix of enthusiasm, investment and retrenchment, fear, and paranoia, abject confusion and even a certain strategic ambivalence.”
China shares a 1,400 km (870 mile) border with North Korea, roughly two-thirds of which belongs to Jilin. More than a million ethnic Koreans live in the province. The government hopes they can one day act as a bridge with North Korea but has instead exported Korean-speaking labor to work in South Korean factories since the early 1990s.
Jilin accounts for 28 percent of Chinese investment in the North, with 34 percent from Liaoning.
Experts say one of Beijing’s top objectives in hosting Kim Jong-il multiple times from 2000 to the time he died was clear: to showcase the fruits of China’s economic reforms.
Indeed, a source with ties to both Pyongyang and Beijing told Reuters last July that the North was gearing up to experiment with agricultural and economic reforms. However, nothing was announced and then North Korea conducted a long-range missile test in December and its third nuclear test in February, prompting fresh U.N. sanctions.
A pro-Pyongyang newspaper last week said North Korea, which has suffered chronic food shortages, had a surge in agricultural production due to a new pay-based incentive system for farmers last year.
The World Food Programme, which has an office in Pyongyang, said it was not aware of any changes in agricultural policy.
LUXURY CARS AND FANCY WATCHES
Across the border, it’s hard to gauge the impact of deepened economic ties with China.
A child nutrition survey in 2012 carried out by North Korea with U.N. assistance showed results in North Hamgyong province, which abuts Jilin, that appeared better in some cases than in South Hamgyong, next to Pyongyang. The usual assumption is that North Koreans live better the closer they are to Pyongyang.
Marcus Noland, senior fellow at the Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics, said that might suggest an impact from increased interaction with China. There was also talk of a building boom in Chongjin, North Hamgyong’s capital and the country’s third biggest city, he said.
“The economic integration with China is proceeding,” said Noland, an expert on North Korea’s economy.
“If it really appears that the Chinese are having an impact up in North Hamgyong I think that will probably spur some sort of internal debate, though probably not a very public one, about what should North Korea’s relationship to China be.”
One recent Chinese visitor who has done business in Chongjin said well-connected North Koreans preferred to ride in Mercedes Benz cars, wore fancy watches and spent hundreds of dollars on mobile phone bills each month.
Park said the North Korean elite were finding ways to tap into China’s economic might.
“If you look at the most senior members of the North Korean regime they are really engaged in business and commerce. You have a situation where, in a way, the elites in North Korea are now trying to leverage their positions of power to monetize them,” he said.
END OF THE ROAD
After the Chinese border city of Hunchun, the four-lane G12 expressway narrows into a smaller road leading to the Quanhe border crossing.
On the other side of the Tumen River that divides the two countries, the dirt road from the Rason economic zone to China was finally paved last summer. Chinese state media called it a big step in Rason’s development.
Jin Qiangyi, director of the Center for North and South Korean Studies at Yanbian University, said he believed the two-lane rural road was originally slated to be a highway. Its downgrade reflected uncertainty about the ability of companies to transport enough cargo to make it economical.
“From the economic angle I don’t think there are many people very enthusiastically investing in North Korea. There’s too much risk,” said Jin.
Still, China’s leaders have little choice but to stick with the economic integration strategy, Jin said, even as North Korea pushes up tensions on the Korean peninsula to their highest in decades.
Work is even under way on multi-billion dollar projects to extend bullet train lines to Dandong and Hunchun. The Dandong link is slated for completion in 2015.
“You can’t say they’ve failed yet,” Jin said. “But they haven’t succeeded.”
Source: Reuters “Insight: China’s freeway to North Korea: A road to nowhere”
Nepoch Capital, a new private equity firm founded by the son of a former member of China’s politburo, has launched the first ‘princeling’ fundraising since the new government took power last month vowing to clamp down on cronyism and nepotism.
China’s so-called princelings, the sons and daughters of the country’s elite, have a long association with private equity funds, and their investments – and sometimes bumper profits from a swift exit from lucrative initial public offerings – have drawn accusations of favoritism and corruption.
The view that princelings have the inside track on investments through their families’ political connections is often what attracts investors, industry executives say.
He Jintao, the son of He Guoqiang, who used to be in charge of Communist Party discipline, has quickly raised $200 million from investors despite a tough fundraising climate, and is expected to reach a target of as much as $500 million by the mid-year, two people with knowledge of the plans told Reuters.
The success of He’s fundraising may put Beijing in an awkward position, so soon after Xi Jinping took over as China’s new president pledging to tackle widespread corruption within government. The behavior and wealth of the nation’s princelings came to symbolize that corruption.
Four of the best-known funds with a history of high-level princeling involvement have raised a combined $10.4 billion for investments, according to Thomson Reuters and Preqin data.
Their ranks include Liu Lefei, CEO of CITIC Private Equity Funds Management and the son of politburo standing committee member Liu Yunshan; Winston Wen, co-founder of New Horizon Capital and the son of former premier Wen Jiabao; and Jiang Mianheng, a board member at New Margin Venture Capital in the 1990s and son of former China President Jiang Zemin.
Despite Xi’s drive for more austere government and a clean-up of official excesses such as lavish banquets that fuelled social resentment, the Nepoch launch shows that princelings are still pursuing business interests, attracting investors through their political ties.
“It’s getting harder to make money in Asia, and you need someone with an inside track,” said one investor in China private equity funds, explaining the strong interest in Nepoch.
Skeptics question whether it’s realistic to expect the government to root out endemic Communist Party favors. They see princelings remaining active, though maybe less in plain view.
“They will eventually find some way to find more distant relatives or find more subtle ways to control these economic resources,” said Ho-fung Hung, associate professor of sociology at Johns Hopkins University and author of “China and the Transformation of Global Capitalism”.
Hung believes the opaque nature of private equity makes it more of a safe haven for princelings. “If you say Wen Jiabao’s family has connections to the gem and diamond industry, people immediately understand what that is and how it makes money,” he told Reuters in a telephone interview. “Most people don’t understand how private equity works. That’s why it’s under the radar and people’s reaction won’t be that strong.”
Even if Nepoch’s founder operates entirely outside his father’s circle, the connection between the fund and He Guoqiang’s former position as head of China’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection – responsible for stamping out corruption among government officials – is unavoidable.
“In this market, everyone is looking for distinguishing factors. You could say this distinguishes the fund,” said the private equity fund investor.
Investors in private equity funds usually meet the fund’s founders to discuss investment strategies before they commit money. At Nepoch, investors only get to meet He Jintao after they have agreed to invest, said one of the people familiar with the matter.
Nepoch has already made two investments, including one in the technology, media and telecommunications sector, which is a restricted area for foreign investors, said the people with knowledge of the plans. They declined to name the investments.
Duncan Zheng, a former principal at European buyout firm Triton Partners, is a co-founder with He, the people said, declining to be identified as they are not authorized to talk to the media.
Nepoch, He and Zheng did not respond to phone calls and messages seeking comment for this article.
Returns from China private equity have proved disappointing, and fundraising more than halved last year to $23.4 billion, according to Asia Venture Capital Journal data
Source: Reuters “Exclusive: Princeling-backed firm eyes $500 million China buyout fund – sources”
According to Ming Pao’s exclusive report, Indochina has become an emerging hot spot for investment as Southeast Asian countries hope to establish an economic commonwealth by 2015.
In 2006, about 20 Asian countries signed an agreement on an Asian railway network. China-Laos high-speed railway will be part of the network.
For China the railway connection to Indochina will facilitate closer relations with Southeast Asia that will benefit both sides. Trade between them amounts to $370 billion and is expected to rise to $500 billion by 2015.
Moreover, China signed a cooperation agreement with Laos and Thailand for the construction of a high-speed railway connecting China, Laos and Thailand, which is of great strategic significance for China. It will enable China to go to the Indian Ocean through Indochina without passing through the Strait of Malacca so that China can have access to resources in Middle East and Africa even if the Strait was blocked by the US.
Out of jealousy at China’s rise, Western media fiercely opposed China’s loan to the project of the railway linking Laos with China’s Kunming, alleging that the railway is detrimental to environment due to the construction rubbish along the railway and that the cost of borrowing is too huge.
In fact, China lends the loan at a low interest rate for a long term of 30 years and Laos is to repay the loan by its mineral and agricultural products.
New York Times quotes an anonymous expert and advisor to UNDP as saying that the terms of the loan are too harsh and will threaten Lao’s macroeconomic stability. It moreover quotes an anonymous Asian diplomat as alleging that both Asian Development Bank and World Bank have expressed their worries over the project and that the IMF has warned Laos that it must be prudent.
Well-known rating agency Moody, however, gives a positive comment, saying that it will be a win-win project.
For Laos, the railway is certainly a very important route to the sea as it has no coastline. Laos expects it will receive $95 million from railway transport in the first year while the net profit from the railway transport will amount to $16.39 billion in 50 years.
High officials in Laos government are mostly former members of Pathet Lao who fought against the US along with North Vietnam in the past. They all do not like the US. However, in order to restrain China, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton visited Laos last July in an attempt to draw Laos to its side.
In fact, the Sino-Laos high-speed railway project has encountered impedance now. When Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao attended the Asian-European summit last November, he was unable to attend the ground-breaking ceremony for the railway scheduled then due to the delay caused by the impedance.
In contrast, the project of the high-speed railway linking Laos with Vietnam that Malaysia’s Giant Consolidated invests $5 billion in, met little Western opposition. An agreement on it was entered into during the summit.
Source: Hong Kong’s Ming Pao
SCMP carries Agence France Presse report from Beijing: A desperate search for three people missing in a landslide in southwestern China ended on Saturday when their bodies were pulled from the mud, taking the final death toll to 46 – many of them children.
“Authorities in Yunnan province said that the last three bodies were recovered on Saturday morning after a night of frantic efforts by more than 1,000 rescue workers to locate the final missing residents of the remote village of Gaopo.
“Xinhua said those buried included 27 adults and 19 children.
“Two other people were hospitalised after the landslide struck on Friday morning, engulfing 16 homes, bringing a thunderous crash and throwing up thick clouds of dust, the official Xinhua news agency said.
“Rescuers toiled into the night, braving bitter wind and freezing temperatures, using lamps and specialised detection devices in the hope of locating the missing, Xinhua said.
“Soldiers, police, firefighters and mine rescue workers joined the search operation, using 20 excavators and trucks, it added.”
“Xinhua said that the landslide had been triggered by 10 days of non-stop rain and snow, according to initial geologists’ reports.”
“The Communist Party’s top leaders Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, along with Premier Wen Jiabao, ordered ‘all-out efforts to rescue victims’, Xinhua said.”
“Yunnan province, which borders Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, is a relatively poor part of China where rural houses are often cheaply constructed.
“Gaopo is in Zhenxiong county, in the northeast of Yunnan, a temperate province known for its tobacco industry and for being the home of Pu’er tea.”
For details, please visit SCMP website at:
Relatives of a top Chinese regulator profited enormously from the purchase of shares in a once-struggling insurance company that is now one of China’s biggest financial powerhouses, according to interviews and a review of regulatory filings.
Dai Xianglong, who has had a long career as a regulator, now heads the council overseeing China’s social security fund.
The regulator, Dai Xianglong, was the head of China’s central bank and also had oversight of the insurance industry in 2002, when a company his relatives helped control bought a big stake in Ping An Insurance that years later came to be worth billions of dollars. The insurer was drawing new investors ahead of a public stock offering after averting insolvency a few years earlier.
With growing attention on the wealth amassed by families of the politically powerful in China, the investments of Mr. Dai’s relatives illustrate that the riches extend beyond the families of the political elites to the families of regulators with control of the country’s most important business and financial levers. Mr. Dai, an economist, has since left his post with the central bank and now manages the country’s $150 billion social security fund, one of the world’s biggest investment funds.
How much the relatives made in the deal is not known, but analysts say the activity raises further doubts about whether the capital markets are sufficiently regulated in China.
Nicholas C. Howson, an expert in Chinese securities law at the University of Michigan Law School, said: “While not per se illegal or even evidence of corruption, these transactions feed into a problematic perception that is widespread in the P.R.C.: the relatives of China’s highest officials are given privileged access to pre-I.P.O. properties.” He was using the abbreviation for China’s official name, the People’s Republic of China.
The company that bought the Ping An stake was controlled by a group of investment firms, including two set up by Mr. Dai’s son-in-law, Che Feng, as well as other firms associated with Mr. Che’s relatives and business associates, the regulatory filings show.
The company, Dinghe Venture Capital, got the shares for an extremely good price, the records show, paying a small fraction of what a large British bank had paid per share just two months earlier. The company paid $55 million for its Ping An shares on Dec. 26, 2002. By 2007, the last time the value of the investment was made public, the shares were worth $3.1 billion.
In its investigation, The New York Times found no indication that Mr. Dai had been aware of his relatives’ activities, or that any law had been broken. But the relatives appeared to have made a fortune by investing in financial services companies over which Mr. Dai had regulatory authority.
In another instance, in November 2002, Dinghe acquired a big stake in Haitong Securities, a brokerage firm that also fell under Mr. Dai’s jurisdiction, according to the brokerage firm’s Shanghai prospectus.
By 2007, just after Haitong’s public listing in Shanghai, those shares were worth about $1 billion, according to public filings. Later, between 2007 and 2010, Mr. Dai’s wife, Ke Yongzhen, was chairwoman on Haitong’s board of supervisors.
A spokesman for Mr. Dai and the National Social Security Fund did not return phone calls seeking comment. A spokeswoman for Mr. Che, the son-in-law, denied by e-mail that he had ever held a stake in Ping An. The spokeswoman said another businessman had bought the Ping An shares and then, facing financial difficulties, sold them to a group that included Mr. Che’s friends and relatives, but not Mr. Che.
The businessman “could not afford what he has created, so he had to sell his shares all at once,” the spokeswoman, Jenny Lau, wrote in an e-mail.
The corporate records reviewed by The Times, however, show that Mr. Che, his relatives and longtime business associates set up a complex web of companies that effectively gave him and the others control of Dinghe Venture Capital, which made the investments in Ping An and Haitong Securities. The records show that one of the companies later nominated Mr. Che to serve on the Ping An board of supervisors. His term ran from 2006 to 2009.
The Times reported last month that another investment company had also bought shares in Ping An Insurance at an unusually low price on the same day in 2002 as Dinghe Venture Capital. That company, Tianjin Taihong, was later partly controlled by relatives of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, then serving as vice premier with oversight of China’s financial institutions. In late 2007, the shares Taihong bought in Ping An were valued at $3.7 billion.
The investments by Dinghe and Taihong are significant in part because by late 2002, Beijing regulators had granted Ping An an unusual waiver to rules that would have forced the insurer to sell off some divisions. Throughout the late 1990s, the company was fighting rules that would have required a breakup, a move that Ping An executives worried could lead to bankruptcy.
It is unclear whether Mr. Wen or Mr. Dai intervened on behalf of Ping An, but in April 2002 the company was allowed to reorganize and retain its brokerage and trust division. Two years later, Ping An sold shares to the public for the first time in Hong Kong. In 2007, after a second stock listing in Shanghai, the value of the company’s shares skyrocketed. Today, Ping An is one of the world’s biggest financial institutions, worth an estimated $65 billion.
The decision to grant the waiver came after Ping An executives and the insurer’s bankers had aggressively lobbied regulators, including Mr. Dai.
The Times reviewed copies of letters written to Mr. Dai. In one, Ma Mingzhe, the chairman of Ping An, pleaded with Mr. Dai to approve an overseas stock offering in 1998, saying, “It would be rather difficult to raise such a huge amount of money in the domestic market.”
The regulatory filings show that Dinghe, the company partly controlled by Mr. Dai’s relatives, got an extremely good deal on the shares of Ping An it had bought. In December 2002, Dinghe bought 66.5 million shares from Cosco, a Chinese state-owned shipping giant, paying about 40 cents a share, after adjusting for a later stock split, according to public filings and a report in a state-run newspaper. It was the same price paid by Taihong, the company affiliated with the relatives of Mr. Wen.
The price was much lower than what the British bank HSBC paid for a 10 percent stake in Ping An in October of that year. HSBC paid what at today’s exchange rates would be $1.60 a share.
It is unclear why Cosco would have sold Ping An shares at such a substantial discount. Cosco did not return calls seeking comment. A spokeswoman for Ping An also did not return calls.
Mr. Dai, 68, has had a long career as a government regulator and an executive at state-owned companies. He held high-level positions at the Agricultural Bank of China, China Pacific Insurance and, in the early 1990s, at the Bank of Communications, where he oversaw Haitong Securities, the bank’s brokerage division.
In 1995, he was appointed head of China’s central bank, one of the nation’s most powerful financial posts. He stepped down in December 2002 to become mayor of Tianjin. Then, in 2008, he became head of the National Council for Social Security Fund. During much of his career, he developed close ties with senior Chinese leaders, including Mr. Wen, who served with him on the powerful Central Financial Work Commission. The commission oversaw China’s banking, securities and insurance regulators, and the biggest financial institutions.
Big financial services companies also sought Mr. Dai’s aid in navigating the state’s tight regulatory environment. For instance, Ping An’s longtime chairman, Mr. Ma, kept a telephone directory with Mr. Dai’s name, as well as the name of his wife and son-in-law, according to records reviewed by The Times and an interview with a former staff assistant to Mr. Ma.
In addition, Li Chunyan, who once ran Ping An’s Beijing office, said last month in a telephone interview that he had set up meetings between Mr. Ma and relatives of Mr. Dai, including his son-in-law, Mr. Che.
“I wouldn’t say I introduced them, but I brought them,” he said, declining to give details. “I’m just a small potato, you know.” He added, “I’m very familiar with the family of Mr. Dai.”
Later, at the National Council for Social Security Fund, Mr. Dai began overseeing a huge fund that has acquired stakes in Haitong and Ping An. Last September, the government-controlled social security fund said it would allocate $3.6 billion to a group of 16 Chinese private equity funds, including New Horizon Capital, a fund whose founders include Wen Yunsong, the only son of the prime minister
Source: New York Times “Family of Chinese Regulator Profits in Insurance Firm’s Rise”
SCMP reports: “US newspaper The New York Times said yesterday it had been ‘forced to relocate’ one of its Beijing-based reporters outside the mainland over a visa problem.
“Chris Buckley, a veteran correspondent in China who joined the newspaper in October from the Reuters news agency, arrived in Hong Kong yesterday, the same day that his mainland journalist’s visa expired.
“‘I regret that Chris Buckley has been forced to relocate outside of China despite our repeated requests to renew his journalist visa,’ Times executive editor Jill Abramson said. ‘I hope the Chinese authorities will issue him a new visa as soon as possible and allow Chris and his family to return to Beijing.’
“The newspaper has recently reported on the alleged accumulation of huge wealth by some of the relatives of Premier Wen Jiabao, largely through holdings in Ping An Insurance.”
For details, please visit SCMP website at:
SCMP reports: “Premier Wen Jiabao is expected to make a push for economic and energy co-operation with a bloc of central Asian countries and Russia when he attends the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO) summit this week.
“Wen will travel to Kyrgyzstan for the 11th prime ministers’ meeting of SCO member states, and then to Moscow for meetings with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and President Vladimir Putin, in a three-day trip beginning tomorrow.
“The last SCO summit, held in Beijing in June, saw the six-country bloc – which also includes Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – present a united front on major international issues, with Beijing and Moscow criticised for voting against a United Nations resolution calling for stronger action against Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime.
“However, analysts expect Wen to focus on energy deals and economic talks this time around, further promoting initiatives discussed during the bloc’s previous meetings but not yet finalised because support from other member states, including Russia, was lacking.”
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Reuters reports: “China’s second-biggest insurance company has threatened to take legal action against the New York Times for reports that Premier Wen Jiabao’s relatives had accumulated massive wealth, largely through holdings in the firm.
“In a written statement on Monday, Ping An Insurance (Group) Co of China Ltd said it had “noted recent media coverage related to the company, which contains serious inaccuracies, facts being distorted and taken out of context, as well as flawed logic’.
“It added that it ‘will take appropriate legal action commensurate with the damage and adverse impact the media reports have caused to the company’.”
“The New York Times issued a report in October, citing corporate and regulatory records that it said showed Wen’s family had amassed massive wealth during his time in power, the biggest source of which it said was large stakes in Ping An.
“On Saturday, it issued a follow-up report, saying that in 1999, Ping An Chairman Ma Mingzhe wrote to Wen – who was vice premier at the time – and another official, imploring them to relax rules aimed at containing risk in the financial sector that would have required a breakup of the company.
“Ping An remained intact, and relatives of Wen eventually came to control Taihong, a company that acquired a large stake in Ping An in December 2002, eight months after the waiver on breaking up the company was granted, the Times said.
“The price paid by Taihong was one-fourth that paid by HSBC Holdings PLC for a stake it bought two months earlier, the Times added.”
“Since its initial report on the wealth of Wen’s family in late October – including documents that showed the premier’s mother had holdings of $120 million worth of Ping An stock in 2007 – the newspaper’s English and Chinese language websites have been blocked in China.”
For details, please visit Reuters website at:
SCMP reports: “The police bureau in Zhaotong city, Yunnan province, cleared a woman of wrongdoing for stopping Premier Wen Jiabao’s motorcade in September to petition him about land compensation.
“On Monday, Yiliang county authorities gave Liang Yonglan, 29, seven days of administration detention for disturbing the public order, after kneeling on the road as Wen’s motorcade approached during a tour of the quake-hit area on September 8.
“She was released after her husband paid 1,000 yuan (HK$1,240) in bail, according to an initial report by Caixin News.
“But Zhaotong Public Security Bureau spokesman Li Jie acknowledged that Liang was charged in error.
“The sanction was nullified under a section of the police law that allows police authorities to correct mistakes made by lower-level officials. Zhaotong police released a statement online, saying that its officers decided to act after investigating the case on Wednesday.”
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SCMP reports: “The image projected by Premier Wen Jiabao on his many travels abroad, analysts say, fits in with China’s attempts to project its soft power
“When Premier Wen Jiabao went overseas he would often seize the chance to show the personable side of the Chinese leadership to overseas audiences, who sometimes perceive it as stern and rigid.
“In addition to serious business talks and deals, Wen would chat with ordinary citizens and on some occasions delivered remarks considered sensitive that were downplayed by the state media at home.
“In contrast to the serious, stiff look of most Chinese leaders, who appear reluctant to express their personal feelings, Wen, who will step down in March, commonly referred to Chinese idioms and poems, allowing others to get a glimpse of what he thinks.”
“Professor Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a political scientist at Hong KongBaptistUniversity, said Wen’s approach was a concerted effort to deliver an image that many overseas people “are happy with China” – at a time when Beijing is becoming increasingly assertive.
“One notable example was when Wen played baseball with students at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto in 2007, on trip aimed at getting Sino-Japanese ties back on track after a visit to Tokyo’s controversial Yasukuni Shrine the previous year by then Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi. In that game, Wen wore a baseball jersey with the number 35, symbolising the anniversary of the countries’ diplomatic ties. Three years later, Wen was seen jogging in Tokyo’s YoyogiPark. On another trip to Tokyo last year, he even asked popular Japanese boy band SMAP to sing a song to him.
“Visiting Indonesia last year, Wen launched into a version of a traditional Moluccan folk song, ‘Ayo Mama’ (Let’s Go Mama).”-
“He has also raised eyebrows with his calls for political reform. In an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in October 2010, Wen said he would advance the restructuring of China’s political system to the full extent of his capabilities. ‘I will not fall despite the strong wind and harsh rain, and I will not yield until the last day of my life,’ Wen said in the interview – a remark that was censored on the mainland.’ He made similar call on his Indonesia trip. And in Britain and Germany last year, when China was criticised for arresting but later releasing outspoken artist Ai Weiwei , Wen pledged that China would uphold democracy.
“‘Without democracy, there is no socialism. Without freedom, there is no real democracy,’ Wen told the Royal Society in London.”
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