China Puts into Operation World First 3rd-Generation Nuclear Reactor


In its report “Delayed but still a world first: new breed of nuclear reactor powers up in southern China”, SCMP says “The world’s first of a new breed of nuclear reactors has gone online in southern China after years of safety and design delays. The third-generation European pressurised reactor (EPR) went into operation at the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant 136km west of Hong Kong following extensive tests on Thursday.

According to the report, the reactor was built by a China-France joint venture. It is safer as it was sealed in a “double-wall crust”. “The inner shell could resist internal hazards resulting from severe accidents such as earthquakes, while the outer layer, a reinforced concrete structure, was designed to withstand a plane crash.”

Three such reactors are being been built, all with delays as they are new-generation ones that need careful amendment of the design and cautious security checks. China’s is the first one completed and put into operation, The other two, one in France and the other in Finland will be completed later though began construction earlier than Chinese one.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s report, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.scmp.com/news/china/politics/article/2178099/delayed-still-world-first-new-breed-nuclear-reactor-powers.

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China’s Xi declares an ‘overwhelming victory’ over graft: state media


December 15, 2018

BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese President Xi Jinping has declared an “overwhelming victory” in his fight against graft within the ruling Chinese Communist Party, while still vowing that the campaign to weed out deep-seated corruption will continue, state media reported.

Xi has pledged to wage war on graft until corruption of all kinds has been expunged at all levels of the Communist Party, from high-level “tigers” to low-level “flies”.

He proclaimed during a twice-a-decade meeting of the top party leadership in October 2017 that his fight against graft had achieved “overwhelming momentum”.

However, Xi announced at a meeting of the party’s Politburo on Friday that the fight had now obtained an “overwhelming victory”, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

The shift from “momentum” to “victory” reflects an important judgment from the party leadership, CCTV said.

China’s powerful graft watchdogs handled 464,000 cases and punished 406,000 people in the first nine months of 2018.

“We must forcefully reduce the number of cases and effectively stop them from growing,” the Politburo said, according to CCTV.

Xi said efforts to overhaul China’s extensive anti-graft architecture must continue to modernize the systems of oversight for party members and state employees.

China’s new National Supervisory Commission was formally established in March, extending the graft fight to all state employees and giving legal backing to the party’s controversial internal investigation and detention techniques.

Some Chinese academics have voiced concerns that the reforms will roll back years of work by legal reformers to protect the rights of suspects during investigations.

Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Editing by Paul Tait

Source: Reuters “China’s Xi declares an ‘overwhelming victory’ over graft: state media”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Trump praises China move on autos, says trade deal could happen soon


December 15, 2018

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump welcomed China’s move on Friday to suspend additional tariffs on U.S.-made vehicles, saying it could help push forward a larger trade deal with Beijing.

“U.S. is doing very well. China wants to make a big and very comprehensive deal. It could happen, and rather soon!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Tim Ahmann

Source: Reuters “Trump praises China move on autos, says trade deal could happen soon”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


The U.S. Army Has a Vision for the Future. Is It the Right One?


Steven Metz |Friday, Dec. 14, 2018

Last week the U.S. Army’s Training and Doctrine Command released a new report entitled, “The U.S. Army in Multi-Domain Operations 2028.” The title might seem to suggest that the document would only interest die-hard military geeks. But despite its complex and arcane phrasing, the report is actually a fascinating window into how the Army sees future armed conflict and how it intends to prepare for it.

The report expands on the National Defense Strategy, which the Pentagon unveiled in early 2018. That document identified America’s primary security threat as “revisionist powers,” particularly Russia and China. The Army’s new report expands on this idea, labeling Russia the “pacing threat” that will shape capability development over the next few years, while flagging China as the more pressing long-term adversary. While very different in national objectives and capabilities, the report notes, Russia and China “operate in a sufficiently similar manner to orient on their capabilities collectively.” What works to deter or defeat one of them, the Army believes, will also work against the other.

According to the report, China and Russia “believe they can achieve objectives below the threshold of armed conflict … fracturing the U.S.’s alliances, partnerships, and resolve” using diplomatic and economic actions; unconventional operations; information warfare such as weaponized social media, false narratives and cyber attacks; and conventional military forces. This is what security experts call “gray zone” aggression.

While the Army sees a role for itself in the gray zone, most of the new report focuses on how it would respond if China and Russia resorted to war “by employing layers of anti-access and area denial systems designed to rapidly inflict unacceptable losses on U.S. and partner military forces,” forcing Washington to either accept aggression or pay a high price to reverse it.

If this sounds like what Saddam Hussein tried to do when he invaded Kuwait in 1990, it is. The difference is that the U.S. military of 1990 was so superior to the Iraqi armed forces that it could reverse Saddam’s aggression at a politically acceptable cost. The Army and the other services believe that without augmented capabilities, they might not be able to do that in the future against the technologically advanced Russian and Chinese militaries. The way to regain clear superiority over potential opponents is by developing “multi-domain operations” that tightly integrate military formations and operations across all of the domains of warfighting: land, air, sea, space and cyber. Once this integrated approach is in place, the Army will be able to “overmatch the enemy through cross-domain synergy and multiple forms of attack all enabled by mission command and disciplined initiative.”

The Army’s vision is based on strategic and political assumptions that may or may not hold.

In a sense this, too, is similar to what the U.S. military did to Iraqi forces in 1991, except faster, more complex, more tightly integrated and generally better. But this makes sense only if Russia and China actually plan to attack nearby nations, and if American policymakers would be willing to go to war to throw them out. Therein lies the rub: The new Army report and, more broadly, the U.S. military’s vision of the future are based on strategic and political assumptions that may or may not hold. As is always the case, assumptions are the foundation of any vision of the future but also its greatest potential weakness.

The Army’s vision, for instance, assumes that Russia and China would gobble up weaker nations unless the United States prevents them from doing so, and that Americans are willing to pay any price for a military to deter or reverse their gains. But it is equally plausible that Russia and China are self-deterred by the political and economic costs of invading and ruling nearby nations. If that is true, the United States might spend trillions of dollars on unnecessary military capabilities to prevent something that wasn’t going to happen anyway. Al-Qaida tried to goad the United States into spending itself into weakness and failed. Russia and China might pull it off.

The vision also assumes that Americans will continue to consider armed aggression by adversaries intolerable, and that they will be willing to bear the cascading economic costs of war to prevent or reverse it. This might have been true in 1991, when the United States stood atop a global economy not as interconnected as it is today. Whether it will still enjoy this paramount position in the future is an open question. Would a U.S. president and Congress truly risk a catastrophic global economic crisis to save a nation invaded by Russia or China?

Throughout history, militaries often have prepared to fight the previous war rather than the one they were eventually confronted with. Could this be happening again? The U.S. military’s vision of the future as described in the new Army report is astute from an operational perspective, but its underlying strategic and political assumptions are straight out of 1991. But this is not a slam on the Army. As it should, America’s land force is thinking about how it might fight in the future. It cannot decide why it might fight.

To make the Army’s future vision even more effective, America’s political leaders and security intellectuals need to reach a working agreement on the purpose of U.S. military power. The Army and the other services need to be told by the civilian leadership what they should prepare to do rather than having to invent their own predictions of the future strategic environment. In lieu of that, the best the Army can do is prepare for a replay of Operation Desert Storm and hope that this is what America asks it to do.

Steven Metz is the author of “Iraq and the Evolution of American Strategy.” His WPR column appears every Friday. You can follow him on Twitter @steven_metz.

Source: World Politic Review “The U.S. Army Has a Vision for the Future. Is It the Right One?”

Note: This is World Politic Review’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


China commerce ministry would welcome U.S. trade delegation visit


December 13, 2018

BEIJING (Reuters) – China and the United States are in close contact over trade, and any U.S. trade delegation would be welcome to visit, a commerce ministry spokesman said on Thursday.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping this month agreed to a truce that delayed the planned Jan. 1 U.S. increase of tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods while they negotiate a trade deal.

China has agreed to cut tariffs on U.S.-built cars and auto parts to 15 percent from 40 percent, a Trump administration official said on Tuesday, setting the stage for new talks aimed at easing the dispute between the world’s two largest economies.

China’s tariff cut was communicated during a phone call between Vice Premier Liu He, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the official said.

Both sides are in touch, said Gao Feng, spokesman at the Chinese commerce ministry, when asked at a regular news briefing about details of the Tuesday telephone conversation.

“Both sides exchanged views on the timetable and roadmap for next steps,” said Gao, who was also asked if China was planning to send a delegation to the United States to discuss trade.

“At this time, both sides are in close contact. China welcomes the U.S. side to come to China for consultations, and also is open to visiting the United States for talks,” he said.

Separately, China on Wednesday bought at least 500,000 tonnes of U.S. soybeans in its first major purchase of the oilseed since Trump and Xi struck their trade truce at Dec. 1 talks in Argentina, traders said.

“Soybeans have always been an important import product from the United States,” said Gao.

“We have a huge domestic market demand.”

Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Writing by Ryan Woo; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

Source: Reuters “China commerce ministry would welcome U.S. trade delegation visit”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Exclusive: China makes first big U.S. soybean purchase since Trump-Xi truce


Karl Plume December 13, 2018

CHICAGO (Reuters) – China on Wednesday made its first major purchases of U.S. soybeans since President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping struck a trade war truce earlier this month, providing some relief to U.S. farmers who have struggled to find buyers for their record-large harvest.

Trump told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday the Chinese were already buying a “tremendous amount” of U.S. soybeans and would also soon cut tariffs on U.S. autos.

The purchase of over 1.5 million tonnes of beans is the most concrete evidence yet that China is making good on pledges the U.S. government said Xi made when the two leaders met on Dec. 1 and agreed to a 90-day detente to negotiate a trade deal.

Global markets had whipsawed since then, with little sign that China was making the substantial purchases of U.S. farm, energy and industrial products that Trump said would start immediately after the meeting.

Investors have been skeptical about the progress made toward ending a trade war that has disrupted the flow of hundreds of billions of dollars of goods between the world’s two largest economies. The arrest in Canada of a top Chinese executive from technology giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd also stoked concern in markets that the trade war could worsen.

In another sign of concessions to the United States, China appears to be easing its high-tech industrial push, dubbed “Made in China 2025,” which has long irked Washington.

China has also told state oil trader Unipec to buy U.S. oil, and the United States is expecting Beijing to cut tariffs on U.S.-made autos and car parts.

BACK IN BUSINESS

The soybean purchases by Chinese state-owned companies, valued at more than $500 million, will do little to reduce the $43.1 billion U.S. trade deficit with China, which Trump wants to narrow over the long term.

The purchases will, however, provide a goodwill gesture before the next round of U.S.-China talks to change their terms of trade. The United States has a long list of complaints against China on intellectual property, forced technology transfers and industrial subsidies.

The soybean exports will also provide relief to U.S. farmers. Soybeans are the single most valuable U.S. agricultural export product and China bought 60 percent of those exports in 2017, worth $12.25 billion.

But China has been out of the market since Beijing imposed a tariff on U.S. soy imports in July, pushing prices of the oilseed to decade-lows.

Benchmark soybean futures Sv1 on the Chicago Board of Trade hit their highest level since midsummer on Wednesday.

Chinese state-run firms Sinograin and Cofco bought the soybeans, said one European trader. The sellers included global agricultural merchants Cargill Inc, Louis Dreyfus Company and U.S. farmer-owned agriculture company CHS Inc (CHSCP.O).

he trader said China was seeking to buy a total of 2.5 million to 3 million tonnes of U.S. soybeans.

Cargill and CHS declined to comment. Dreyfus did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

One U.S. trader with direct knowledge of the deals said Chinese state-owned firms bought at least 12 cargoes for shipment from January to March. Another trader with direct knowledge of the deals and one who sells beans to exporters involved said around 30 cargoes had traded by Wednesday afternoon.

“China was buying right out of the gate this morning. It looks like we’re back in business now,” the first U.S. trader said.

The soybeans are expected to be shipped mostly from grain terminals in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, the most direct route to Asia, the U.S. traders said.

JUST A START

U.S. farmers welcomed the deals.

“This is a start,” said Valley City, North Dakota farmer Monte Peterson. “Any business that we can put together we’re pretty grateful for.”

The White House this week delayed additional payments from a $12 billion aid package for farmers stung by the trade war because it expected Beijing to resume buying U.S. soybeans.

U.S. farmers stored soybeans after the fall harvest, instead of selling them to grain traders and processors, because of low prices and lack of alternative buyers.

Commodities traders and analysts said soybean prices may struggle to build on Wednesday’s gains unless China buys considerably more soybeans.

“If this is all we’re going to get, it is a whopping disappointment and we are adding at least 200 million bushels to our soybean stocks,” said Ted Seifried, chief market strategist for Chicago-based Zaner Ag Hedge. “We need follow-up sales in short order in order to keep the momentum higher in soybeans.”

The 25 percent tariff on U.S. soybeans Beijing imposed on July 6 remains in effect. The higher duties discouraged private Chinese importers from making purchases as Brazilian soybeans, which are not subject to the tariffs, are less expensive.

China this year has relied on Argentina and top exporter Brazil for most of its soybeans used to feed the world’s largest pig herd. Brazil will start harvesting its next crop in early 2019 – leaving a window for the U.S. to sell.

“The Chinese evidently want the beans quickly as they have not been able to cover all their needs in South America,” the European trader said.

Reporting by Karl Plume; additional reporting by Michael Hogan in Hamburg and Julie Ingwersen, Tom Polansek and Michael Hirtzer in Chicago; editing by Caroline Stauffer, Simon Webb, Bernadette Baum and Richard Chang

Source: Reuters “Exclusive: China makes first big U.S. soybean purchase since Trump-Xi truce”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


China says second Canadian being probed for harming state security


Christian Shepherd, Michael Martina December 13, 2018

BEIJING (Reuters) – Canadian businessman Michael Spavor, who worked with North Korea, is being investigated on suspicion of harming China’s security, China said on Thursday, days after a former Canadian diplomat was detained in an escalating diplomatic row.

The state security bureau in the northeastern Chinese city of Dandong, which borders North Korea, has been investigating Spavor since Dec. 10, an official news site for the Liaoning province government said.

It gave no further details.

The announcement follows the detention in Beijing on Monday of former diplomat Michael Kovrig, who works for the International Crisis Group (ICG).

State media in China has reported Kovrig is being investigated on the same charges.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang, asked about Spavor’s detention, said both he and Kovrig were suspected of harming national security, reiterating state media announcements.

“The legal rights and interests of these two Canadians have been safeguarded,” Lu told a daily news briefing. “These two cases are in the process of being investigated separately.”

The Canadian embassy has been notified of the detentions, he added, declining to provide further details of the investigations.

Lu said he had not heard of any other cases of Canadians being investigated.

China has reacted angrily to Canada’s arrest on Dec. 1 of Chinese executive Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies [HWT.UL], and Spavor’s investigation is likely to escalate the diplomatic row.

Meng’s arrest was made at Washington’s request. She has been accused by U.S. prosecutors of misleading banks about transactions linked to Iran, putting the banks at risk of violating sanctions.

Officials say China had not tied Kovrig’s detention to Meng’s arrest, though Canadian diplomatic experts have said they have no doubt the two cases are linked.

Asked if Meng’s release would see the two Canadians released, Lu reiterated that Meng’s arrest was mistaken action and Canada should immediately let her go.

He said authorities had taken measures “according to the law” in the Canadians’ cases, and China welcomed foreign visitors, and they had nothing to fear so long as they obeyed the law.

Hu Xijin, editor of the state-backed Global Times, a nationalistic tabloid, said on the Weibo social media platform the Chinese government would never concede that the Canadians’ detentions were related to Meng’s case.

“But the use of a complete set of laws to prove the rationale for arrest is one and the same as what the U.S. and Canada did to Meng Wanzhou,” he wrote.

Canada has been unable to contact Spavor since he notified the government that he was being questioned by Chinese authorities, Foreign Ministry spokesman Guillaume Bérubé said in statement issued in Canada.

Canadian officials were working hard to ascertain Spavor’s whereabouts and would continue to raise the issue with the Chinese government, Bérubé said.

Phone calls, messages and emails to Spavor went unanswered.

NORTH KOREA LINKS

Friends of Spavor told Reuters he was due to fly out of Dalian, in Liaoning province, on a Korean Air flight to South Korea at 2:05 p.m. (0605 GMT) on Monday but had not arrived.

Kovrig and Spavor were acquainted, according to people who know them, although there has been no official indication from China that their cases are linked or are related to North Korea.

Kovrig had carried out research on China’s diplomatic ties to North Korea in his work on security issues for the ICG, a think-tank focusing on conflict resolution.

Spavor, who is based in Dandong, is the head of Paektu Cultural Exchange, a China- and UK-based non-profit social enterprise.

The group says on its website it is “dedicated to facilitating sustainable cooperation, cross-cultural exchanges, activities, trade, and investment” with North Korea.

It also says it maintains an “array of contacts” within North Korea and is “nonpolitical”.

Spavor has acted as a translator and facilitator for former U.S. National Basketball Association star Dennis Rodman on trips to North Korea and shared Long Island Iced Teas with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on board one of his private boats after they went jet-skiing in 2013.

More recently, he has been trying to facilitate investment in North Korea in anticipation of sanctions being lifted, often hosting both North Korean officials and potential investors at his office in Dandong, as well as on trips inside North Korea, Spavor told Reuters in earlier interviews.

A U.S.-based friend of his told Reuters that Spavor was involved in a few projects in North Korea, including sporting exchanges and trying to broker investment, though given U.N. sanctions that was a challenge.

“It was as far as I know pretty anodyne stuff,” the friend said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“He is a very gregarious, affable guy and Korea watchers know him and like him. North Koreans seem to like him a lot too. I’m not sure what he could have done to get in this sort of situation.”

China’s foreign ministry suggested on Wednesday that Kovrig might have broken laws on non-governmental organizations if he was conducting work in China for the ICG, which is not registered.

Reuters could not find a registration for Spavor’s group on government databases for NGOs or social enterprises.

Reporting by Christian Shepherd and Michael Martina; Additional reporting by David Ljunggren in OTTAWA, Ben Blanchard in BEIJING, John Ruwitch in SHANGHAI, Sue-Lin Wong in SHENZHEN, James Pearson in HANOI, and Josh Smith in SEOUL; Editing by Paul Tait, Robert Birsel

Source: Reuters “China says second Canadian being probed for harming state security”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.