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Posts tagged ‘Land of the Hans’

China solar supplier grows in India to avoid trade controls

February 06, 2018

BEIJING (AP) — One of China’s biggest makers of solar panels said Tuesday it will invest $309 million to expand manufacturing in India in a move to guard against what it complained is a rising threat of import controls in the United States and other markets.

Longi Solar Technology Ltd.’s announcement follows the Trump administration’s Jan. 24 decision to impose an extra 30 percent duty on imported solar modules. An Indian regulator says it is considering a “safeguard tariff” of 70 percent on solar panels from China and Malaysia.

Chinese manufacturers dominate global solar panel production. Their explosive growth has helped to propel adoption of renewable energy by driving down costs. But the United States, Europe, India and others complain unfairly low-priced exports hurt their manufacturers and threaten thousands of jobs.

The United States, Europe and other non-Chinese markets account for only 10 percent of Longi’s sales, according to its strategy director, Max Xia. But he said Longi wants to promote global sales of its latest technology this year.

“We think sooner or later anti-dumping and trade protection will be happening in several countries,” said Xia at a news conference. “This is why we choose to do the investment in Malaysia and also in India, because we don’t know when and where it will happen, this kind of anti-dumping. So we prepare to counter it.”

Xia’s comment represented an unusually explicit statement by the Chinese industry that it is moving production to avoid trade controls. Other Chinese producers have set up factories in India and Southeast Asia but usually say they are getting closer to customers or taking advantage of local talent and supply chains.

That migration has complicated efforts by the United States, the European Union and other governments to control imports from China. Some Chinese solar manufacturers responded to earlier U.S. and European trade measures by supplying those markets from factories outside China, avoiding higher tariffs and quotas on Chinese-made products.

Longi already has a solar module factory in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. The latest investment will double production there, the company said. Xia repeated warnings by Chinese manufacturers that import controls are hampering efforts to encourage adoption of renewable energy.

“That possibly could start a ‘green energy trade war,'” he said. “That is, with the whole world concerned about climate change, what people who want to solve energy problems and realize green development aren’t willing to see.”

Longi, headquartered in the western city of Xi’an, ranked No. 7 among global solar panel producers by 2017 output, according to PV Tech, an industry journal. The South Korean-German supplier Hanhwa-Q Cells was the only non-Chinese competitor in the Top 10.

India is regarded by the solar industry as one of the most promising markets but low-cost Chinese imports have undercut the New Delhi government’s ambitions to develop its own solar technology suppliers. Government data show imports, mostly from China, account for 90 percent of last year’s sales, up from 86 percent in 2014.

India’s Finance Ministry said Jan. 5 it was considering adding a temporary 70 percent “safeguard tariff” on solar equipment from China and Malaysia to prevent “further serious injury” to the Indian industry. The ministry said Chinese exporters shifted their focus to India in early 2017 after the United States and Europe stepped up import controls.

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Young Hong Kong activist Wong gets second prison term

January 17, 2018

HONG KONG (AP) — A Hong Kong court sentenced democracy activist Joshua Wong to three months in prison Wednesday for contempt, his second prison term stemming from his role in the 2014 “Umbrella Movement” protests.

The 21-year-old Wong and another defendant were immediately taken into custody at Hong Kong’s High Court, while 14 others, including another prominent former student leader, Lester Shum, received suspended sentences.

“Keep it up, everyone!” Wong called out to the court before officers escorted him away. Ahead of the hearing, he said he had no regrets and vowed to keep fighting for democracy. “They can lock up our body, but they can’t lock up our mind,” he told reporters.

It’s the latest legal setback for Wong, who has been involved in multiple court cases in the aftermath of the protests including one that also resulted in a prison sentence, which he’s appealing. In Wednesday’s case, Wong had pleaded guilty last year for failing to comply with a court order to clear out of a protest camp blocking a main road during the 79-day protests that were held to oppose Beijing’s plans to restrict elections for the top leader of the semiautonomous Chinese city.

High Court Judge Andrew Chan said in the ruling that although Wong only stayed in the camp briefly, his involvement in obstruction was deep and extensive. “He played a leading role on that day. In view of his overall involvement, I am of the view that the only appropriate punishment for Mr. Wong will be one of immediate imprisonment.”

Wong helped lead the protests while still a teenager and gained global attention as a result. Last year he served about two months of a six-month sentence in a separate unlawful assembly case, before being granted bail so he could file an appeal in a hearing on Tuesday. But the judges in that case are not expected to issue their ruling until a later date.

Chinese authorities demolish well-known evangelical church

January 12, 2018

BEIJING (AP) — Authorities in northern China’s coal country have demolished a well-known Christian mega-church, underscoring long-standing tensions between religious groups and the officially atheistic Communist Party.

Witnesses and overseas activists say paramilitary People’s Armed Police forces used excavators and dynamite on Tuesday to destroy the Golden Lampstand Church in the city of Linfen in Shanxi province. ChinaAid, a U.S.-based Christian advocacy group, said local authorities planted explosives in an underground worship hall to demolish the building, which was built with nearly $3 million in contributions from local worshipers in one of China’s poorest regions.

The church, with a congregation of more than 50,000, has long clashed with the government. Hundreds of police and hired thugs smashed the church and seized Bibles in an earlier crackdown in 2009 that ended with church leaders receiving long prison sentences.

At the time, church leaders were charged with illegally occupying farmland and disturbing traffic order by getting together, according to state media. There are an estimated 60 million Christians in China, many of whom worship in independent congregations like the Golden Lampstand. Millions of Christians, Buddhists and Muslims also worship in state-sanctioned assemblies.

But the surging popularity of non-state-approved churches has raised the ire of authorities, wary of any threats to the party’s rigid political and social control. Freedom of religion is guaranteed under China’s constitution, so local authorities are often seen as using technicalities to attack unregistered churches. Charges of land or building violations and disturbing the peace are among the most common.

The state-run Global Times newspaper, citing an unidentified local official, reported Wednesday the official reason for the demolition was that it did not hold the necessary permits. Religious groups must register with local religious affairs authorities under Chinese law, the report said. The church was illegally constructed nearly a decade ago in violation of building codes, it said.

Pictures distributed by ChinaAid showed the church’s steeple and cross toppled in a large pile of rubble. A pastor at a nearby church, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he saw large numbers of paramilitary police on Tuesday blanketing the area around the church, which was being taken apart by heavy machinery.

He later heard, but did not witness, a loud explosion, the pastor said. The Golden Lampstand Church was built by husband and wife evangelists Wang Xiaoguang and Yang Rongli as a permanent home for their followers.

The couple had been preaching around Linfen since 1992, establishing congregations in improvised spaces such as factory dormitories and greenhouses. While authorities did not block the church’s construction, they later cracked down, and the couple and other church leaders were sent to prison.

AP Exclusive: Anger with China drives Uighurs to Syria fight

December 22, 2017

ISTANBUL (AP) — It was mid-afternoon when the Chinese police officers barged into Ali’s house set against cotton fields outside the ancient Silk Road trading post of Kashgar. The Uighur farmer and his cowering parents watched them rummage through the house until they found two books in his bedroom — a Quran and a handbook on dealing with interrogations.

Ali knew he was in trouble. By nightfall the next day, Ali had been tied against a tree and beaten by interrogators trying to force him to say he took part in an ethnic riot that killed dozens in western China. They held burning cigarette tips to Ali’s face, deprived him of sleep and offered him only salt water. When he asked for fresh water, they gave it to him — in buckets poured over his head.

That winter night in 2009, Ali recalled years later, would set him on a path that ended on northern Syria’s smoldering plains, where he picked up a Kalashnikov rifle under the black flag of jihad and dreamed of launching attacks against the Chinese rulers of his homeland.

Since 2013, thousands of Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority from western China, have traveled to Syria to train with the Uighur militant group Turkistan Islamic Party and fight alongside al-Qaida, playing key roles in several battles. Syrian President Bashar Assad’s troops are now clashing with Uighur fighters as the six-year conflict nears its endgame.

But the end of Syria’s war may be the beginning of China’s worst fears. “We didn’t care how the fighting went or who Assad was,” said Ali, who would only give his first name out of a fear of reprisals against his family back home. “We just wanted to learn how to use the weapons and then go back to China.”

Uighur militants have killed hundreds, if not thousands, in attacks inside China in a decades-long insurgency that initially targeted police and other symbols of Chinese authority but in recent years also included civilians. Extremists with knives killed 33 people at a train station in 2014. Abroad, they bombed the Chinese embassy in Kyrgyzstan in September last year; in 2014, they killed 25 people in an attack on a Thai shrine popular with Chinese tourists.

China is just like the West, its officials say: the country is a victim of terror, and Uighur men are pulled by global jihadi ideology rather than driven by grievances at home. Muslims in the Uighur homeland of Xinjiang, as one Chinese official declared in August, “are the happiest in the world.”

But rare and extensive Associated Press interviews with nine Uighurs who had left China to train and fight in Syria showed that Uighurs don’t neatly fit the profile of foreign fighters answering the call of jihad.

There was a police trainer who journeyed thousands of miles with his wife and children to Syria, a war zone. A farmer who balked at fundamentalist Islam even though he charged into battle alongside al-Qaida. A shopkeeper who prayed five times a day and then at night huddled with others in a ruined Syrian neighborhood to study Zionist history.

And there was Ali, a short, soft-spoken 30-year-old with a primary school education who knew little of the world beyond his 35-acre farm when he left China, a home that had become unlivable. Sitting cross-legged one recent evening in an empty apartment overlooking a kickboxing gym in Istanbul, he recalled the vow he made the night Chinese police beat him for participating in a riot he never joined.

“I’ll get revenge,” he said.

SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECY

Ali’s parents eventually got him out of detention — but it cost them 10,000 yuan ($1,500) in bribes to local officials, no small amount for the family of farmers.

Despite his release, Ali was not free.

It was late 2009, and Xinjiang was in lockdown. Four months earlier, hundreds of Uighurs had rioted in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, and attacked the Han, China’s dominant ethnic group. An estimated 200 people died in the unrest that night, the bloodiest ethnic violence the country had seen in decades and an event that would change Ali’s life and that of 10 million Uighurs in Xinjiang.

The government, caught off-guard by the unrest, rolled out an expansive security crackdown and surveillance programs in the region that have accelerated in the last year . Thousands of Uighurs, including moderate Uighur intellectuals, are believed to have been arrested or detained, some of them without trial.

Ali was constantly stopped and questioned wherever he went. He couldn’t check into a hotel, buy a train ticket or get a passport.

“I had nowhere to go,” he said. “Except out.”

As the repression mounted, what began as a trickle of Uighurs fleeing China grew into a mass exodus. In 2013, more than 10,000 left across southern China’s porous borders, according to Uighur exiles. Nearly all the Uighurs who spoke to the AP after returning to Turkey from Syria recounted being persecuted by Chinese authorities as a motive for taking up arms.

“The Chinese government had been accusing Uighurs of militancy for a long time when there hasn’t been much of a threat,” said Sean R. Roberts, an expert on Uighur issues at George Washington University. “That changed after the 2009 crackdown. It’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

ESCAPE AND ROAD TO SYRIA

Desperate to leave China, Ali paid more than 100,000 yuan ($15,000) to human smugglers and made his way overland through Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia, where he received a Turkish travel document.

In Turkey, Ali drifted in Istanbul, working construction and electrical jobs for $300 a month. Within two months, his brother said he had met people who could take them to Syria, where they could learn weapons training and return to China to “liberate” their friends and family.

“We’ll avenge our relatives being tortured in Chinese jail,” he said.

Ali agreed, thinking they would go for a few weeks. They ended up spending two-and-a-half years in Syria.

The story of how Ali ended up in a distant war zone echoed the experiences of other Uighurs the AP spoke to in Turkey, who said they joined religious militant groups at first because of grievances against Beijing or support for the idea of a Uighur nation. Most knew little about political Islam that fueled jihadis in other countries, and none said they met with recruiters inside China.

But that changed as soon as they left China’s borders. As Uighur refugees traveled along an underground railroad in Southeast Asia, they said, they were greeted by a network of Uighur militants who offered food and shelter — and their extremist ideology. And when the refugees touched down in Turkey, they were again wooed by recruiters who openly roamed the streets of Istanbul in gritty immigrant neighborhoods like Zeytinburnu and Sefakoy, looking for fresh fighters to shuttle to Syria.

Uighur activists and Syrian and Chinese officials estimate that at least 5,000 Uighurs have gone to Syria to fight — though many have since left. Among those, several hundred have joined the Islamic State, according to former fighters and Syrian officials.

As Uighurs streamed out of China, militant leaders have seized upon China’s treatment of Muslims as a recruiting tactic. The Islamic State, for instance, regularly publishes Uighur-language editions of its radio bulletins and magazines, while the Turkistan Islamic Party has been releasing videos on a near-weekly basis, said Rita Katz, director of the SITE Intelligence monitoring group.

“How can those who are imprisoned due to their faith be freed? How can they be saved from this humiliation?” a masked Uighur fighter says in a Turkestan Islamic Party video released last year. “Words from our mouths won’t help, but jihad for Allah will.”

A FARAWAY WAR

From Istanbul, several of the former fighters described taking buses or being driven to the border region of Hatay, where they would cross on foot at night through lightly guarded hills. After a three-hour hike into Syria, cars waited in a forest clearing to whisk them to separate camps dotting the country’s north. One fighter said he simply drove in, unobstructed, on the highway from the Turkish city of Gaziantep.

When the Uighurs arrived in Jisr al-Shughour, a strategic town on the edge of Assad’s stronghold of Latakia region, men with families, like Ali, moved into a ruined neighborhood of single-story brick homes where 150 families stayed. Single men lived together in larger apartment buildings.

The men undertook three-month training sessions in the use of Soviet AKM rifles, shoulder-mounted rocket-propelled grenade launchers, physical conditioning and mapping.

At the beginning of the course, the trainers showed off their prized cache of captured American M-16s and German G3 rifles, but each fighter received a battered AKM and cheap Chinese ammunition. Boys as young as 12 and 13 — mostly orphans — were taken to a separate camp for religious classes and physical training.

Two fighters said they received boxes of food from IHH, a Turkish Islamic charity group, that included rice, flour, meat and even fish imported from Thailand. One of the fighters said the food supplies were labeled with the foreign fighting group they were being shipped to — for example, “Turkistanis (Uighurs) or Uzbeks.”

IHH spokesman Mustafa Ozbek said the group distributes aid in refugee camps near the Syrian border to civilians, but not armed groups.

“All of our aid is conducted officially, documented and reported,” Ozbek said.

The Uighurs in Syria have a reputation for administering their territory with a light touch, said Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, a British researcher at the Middle East Forum who has extensively interviewed jihadis in Syria, including Uighur fighters. They don’t enforce an Islamic court system or replace local councils — unlike their close allies, the al-Qaida-linked Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, Arabic for Levant Liberation Committee.

Instead, an older Uighur would convene young fighters in the evenings to discuss history and politics. They looked to an improbable model for building an independent homeland: Israel and the Zionist movement.

“We studied how the Jews built their country,” Ali said. “Some of them fought, some of them provided money. We don’t have a strong background of that.”

Few Uighurs spoke Arabic and most didn’t mingle with locals, but at one point some residents joked that Uighurs should rename the city Shughuristan, a play on “East Turkistan,” the Uighur exiles’ preferred name for their homeland. The Uighurs were unconvinced.

“This is not our homeland,” Ali and his comrades told the Arabs. “We want our homeland, we don’t need yours.”

FEARLESS ‘PAWNS’

Like Ali, Rozi Mehmet wanted to do something to help his people fight Chinese oppression. His grandfather, a wealthy Uighur farmer, had been executed in the tumult of China’s Cultural Revolution in the 1960s.

Three years ago, Mehmet left the ancient oasis town of Hotan and hiked into Syria to join a class of 52 Turkistan Islamic Party trainees.

Within six months, he would be on the front lines with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher strapped to his skinny back, sprinting toward government positions near Jisr al-Shughour.

Jihadi clerics have exhorted Uighurs to take up holy war and reap the rewards of martyrdom. But if he would take a bullet, Mehmet thought as he rushed into battle, he wasn’t dying for Islam — or the virgins that the preachers promised. His homeland was the only thing on his mind.

“I didn’t feel fear,” he told the AP. “If I felt fear, how could I be able to build my country?”

As fighting escalated in 2015 and 2016, hundreds of Uighurs died in its campaigns alongside al-Qaida’s Nusra Front, according to two former fighters who fought in northern Syria.

Radical groups have aggressively recruited Uighurs. Al-Qaida’s leader promised in a video that Islamic militants would repay the Uighurs by striking at “atheist Chinese occupiers” after the Syrian war. The Islamic State has echoed similar pledges and the group in March released a Uighur-language propaganda video vowing to one day shed Chinese blood if Uighurs would join the Syrian struggle.

As the chaotic opposition splintered and reorganized, groups vied for the Uighurs’ support and lauded them for their suicide attacks that often kept the Syrian army off-balance, Mehmet boasted.

An older fighter, also from Hotan, chided the young man, saying he was more cynical about why the Arab jihadis lavished them with praise.

“They praise us, which means they want us to follow them and fight for them,” said Rozi Tohti, 40, who fought near the city of Idlib. They “are trying to lure us to become their pawns.”

DISSENT IN SYRIA

THREAT TO CHINA

But several Uighur fighters insisted that, in their minds, there was a distinct line between themselves and the Islamic militants they fought beside. Some Uighurs complained about being stuck in Syria instead of attacking China, as they had been promised.

“We fight for them and help them control the country, and then Uighurs are left with nothing,” Mehmet said.

After joining the TIP in mid-2015, Uighur fighter Abdulrehim visited a graveyard for fallen militants and wondered why there were no Uighur national banners. At one point, he openly challenged a TIP senior leader, Ibrahim Mansour, about what they were doing in Syria, he recalled.

“We haven’t fired a bullet against our enemy, China,” he told a group of gathered Uighur fighters. “We always fight alongside international terrorists. What’s going on here?”

Many Uighur militants have grown tired of the war and are looking to leave particularly as Assad’s forces gain the upper hand, says Seyit Tumturk, a Uighur activist in Turkey who often speaks to fighters in Syria.

He said it was impossible for Uighurs militants to liberate Xinjiang, currently blanketed with paramilitary forces and riot police. But he said Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambitious project to develop railway lines, ports, and other infrastructure linking various regions to China makes Beijing vulnerable to militant attacks abroad.

The Islamic State took credit in June for kidnapping and killing two Chinese teachers in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province, which is a cornerstone of Beijing’s so-called Belt and Road infrastructure project. In Kyrgyzstan, state security say a suicide bombing of the Chinese embassy in Bishkek was ordered by Uighur terrorist groups active in Syria and financed by al-Qaida’s Nusra Front.

Chinese officials and Western analysts alike say that the Uighurs’ experience in the Syrian jihadi melting pot will likely exacerbate violence against “soft” targets outside China. China’s foreign ministry called the Turkistan Islamic Party a security threat for the Middle East.

“We hope our brothers, including Syria and Turkey, will work with us, strengthen cooperation and cut off the terrorists’ cross-border movements and safeguard regional stability,” the ministry said in a faxed statement in response to questions from the AP.

The ministry did not address questions about the causes of radicalization but said that China’s government has invested heavily in Xinjiang’s economic development, protected its minorities’ rights and treated them just as every other ethnic group.

“Of course, when there are those who try to create tension in Xinjiang, the Chinese government’s commitment to striking against violent terror and ethnic splittism is unquestioned,” it said.

RETURN TO TURKEY AND AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE

By June of this year, Ali had tired of Syria and wanted to get out. For him, the war consisted of spending months at a time manning checkpoints and patrolling borders.

But like many other Uighurs who sought to return to Turkey, he struggled to find a way back. Ali walked for a week to get around a wall built by the Turkish government on the border. He’s now back in Istanbul and selling milk.

Although some of the Uighur returnees said they would attack China if the opportunity arose, others balked at the idea.

Uighur community workers are concerned that many of those cast back into Turkish society would struggle to integrate and be easily pulled back into radical groups. Many of the men make $200 to $300 a month, barely enough to cover rent in Istanbul, and spoke poor Turkish. Many faced daily discrimination.

Activists also worry about TIP recruitment continuing unchecked in Turkey, where it appears to have a degree of official support.

This year, Turkish authorities detained TIP members including a former top commander, ostensibly for his own safety, said a diplomat in Beijing and a Uighur activist who was allowed by Turkish officials to speak with him. But Turkey refused to allow Chinese intelligence to interrogate the former commander, deeply frustrating Beijing, the diplomat said.

Uighur leaders say Turkish police also have released several well-known Uighur jihadi recruiters even after the community offered tips that led to their arrest.

“There are suspicions that these recruiters have links with some individuals or agencies within the government,” said Omer Kanat, director of the Uyghur Human Rights Project in Washington. “They’re turning a blind eye.”

Rozi Tohti, the middle-aged fighter from Hotan, sat in a meadow facing the ruined walls of old Constantinople and ruminated on the choices facing his compatriots in Turkey: give their lives to a radical Islamic movement that they did not believe in or struggle to settle into a Turkish society where they did not fit in.

One thing was clear. Returning to their homeland was out of the question.

“Who wants to live in a war zone?” Tohti said. “We once had paradise in our country. But it was being erased by the Chinese, so instead we looked for paradise in Syria.”

China to deploy ‘Night Tigers’ to Syria in support of Assad’s forces

29 November, 2017

China will deploy troops to Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, as the East Asian country becomes increasingly concerned about the presence of Islamic militants in its far western region of Xinjiang.

The Chinese Ministry of Defense intends to send two units known as the “Tigers of Siberia” and the “Night Tigers” from the Special Operations Forces to aid regime troops against militant factions, New Khaleej reported, citing informed sources.

Some 5,000 ethnic Uighurs from China’s violence-prone region of Xinjiang are fighting in various militant groups in Syria, the Syrian ambassador to China said earlier this year.

Chinese state media has blamed violence in Xinjiang on extremists who were trained in Syria.

Hundreds of people have been killed in Xinjiang in the past few years, most in unrest between Uighurs and ethnic majority Han Chinese. The government blames the unrest on Islamist militants who want a separate state called East Turkestan.

Uighurs themselves complain of discrimination and say their traditional and religious way of life is being eroded by Chinese domestic policy and an influx of settlers from elsewhere in China.

China has said that “East Turkestan terrorist forces” had posed several threats against the government.

Assad has previously praised “crucial cooperation” between Syria and Chinese intelligence against Uighur militants, adding ties with China were “on the rise”.

Chinese military personnel have been on the ground in Syria since at least last year, training Syrian forces to use China-made weapons.

China has also joined Russia in blocking resolutions critical of the regime at the United Nations Security Council, as one of the five vetoing powers on the panel.

Source: The New Arab.

Link: https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2017/11/29/china-to-deploy-night-tigers-to-syria.

1st panda born in France gets name from China, first lady

December 04, 2017

BEAUVAL, France (AP) — France’s first baby panda has a name four months after his birth: Chinese dignitaries and French first lady Brigitte Macron chose Yuan Meng, which fittingly means “the realization of a wish” or “accomplishment of a dream.”

A naming ceremony held Monday at the Beauval Zoo south of Paris was an important diplomatic moment, but the young male panda had other priorities. Yuan Meng growled and jumped when zoo director Rodolphe Delord reached over his glass-walled enclosure to offer a pet.

The first lady, who was standing next to Delord, recoiled slightly, but with a smile. Yuan Meng’s parents are on loan to Beauval from China, and the cub will be sent to a Chinese panda reserve when he is weaned.

Tradition holds that China retains the right to name panda cubs born in captivity. Brigitte Macron — considered the panda’s “godmother” — officially announced the name. Over 100 reporters attended the ceremony.

“Yuan Meng and his parents represent the bond between the countries which have a lot to share,” Macron said, who was making her first official remarks since President Emmanuel Macron took office. The pandas “are the illustration of an always productive dialogue between our two people, who for centuries have looked at each other, listened to each other and understood each other,” the first lady said.

Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Zhang Yesui read a message from China’s first lady, Peng Liyuan. “The birth of the baby panda is a symbol of the bright prospects of the Franco-Chinese relationship. I express the sincere hope that little Yuan Meng grows up in the best conditions, that he brings happiness to the French people, especially to the French children,” the message said.

There are about 1,800 pandas living in the wild in China and about 400 in captivity worldwide. Baptiste Mulot, chief veterinarian at the Beauval Zoo, said Yuan Meng has learned to move on all fours and “he’s starting to behave really like a child, so he tries to escape from where he’s supposed to be.”

The cub was pink and hairless when he was born, weighing just 142 grams (5 ounces.) He spent much of his first month in an incubator. Now, he weighs 8 kilograms (almost 18 pounds) and his fur has the black and white coloring for which patches are known.

Yuan Meng’s mother, 9-year-old Huan Huan, was artificially inseminated with sperm from partner Yuan Zi this spring. Both are at Beauval on a 10-year loan from China, and their offspring officially belong to the Chinese government.

Indifferent to the excitement at the zoo on Monday, they slept during their child’s naming ceremony. Yuan Zi will probably never meet his son, since the zoo tries to respect the habits of animals in the wild.

China for decades gifted friendly nations with its unofficial national mascot in what was known as “panda diplomacy.” More recently the country has loaned pandas to zoos on commercial terms.

As China aims for ‘world-class army’, Asia starts to worry

By Ludovic EHRET

Beijing (AFP)

Nov 1, 2017

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s pledge to build a “world-class army” by 2050 is making his neighbors nervous, but analysts say Beijing’s military ambitions do not constitute a strategic threat — for now.

With purchases and construction of fighter jets, ships and hi-tech weaponry, China’s military budget has grown steadily for 30 years, but remains three times smaller than that of the United States.

Now, Beijing wants to catch up.

“We should strive to fully transform the people’s armed forces into a world-class military by the mid-21st century,” Xi told 2,300 delegates of the Chinese Communist Party, which he heads and which controls the army.

The comments, made during the party’s twice-a-decade congress, were aimed in part at domestic nationalists, but also intended to show other countries “China’s desire to be strong economically as well as militarily,” said James Char, a military analyst at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.

During China’s so-called Century of Humiliation, starting around the mid-19th century, the country lost almost every war it fought, and was often forced to give major concessions in subsequent treaties.

“That’s why China, more than any other country, dreams of a strong army. Not to bully other countries, but to defend ourselves,” said Ni Lexiong from Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.

– Worried neighbors –

But Xi’s call to build a military that can “fight and win” has alarmed China’s neighbors, several of whom are embroiled in tense border disputes with the superpower.

This summer India and China engaged in a bitter, weeks-long military confrontation over a disputed area in the Himalayas.

Japan regularly faces off with Chinese maritime patrols close to the Senkaku islands, which are called the Diaoyu in Mandarin and claimed by Beijing.

And Beijing asserts sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, despite rival claims from countries including Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia.

Beijing has reclaimed islands it controls in the sea in order to cement its claims and installed military aircraft and missile systems on them, causing tensions to spiral in recent years.

“Chinese activities are a security concern for the region encompassing Japan and for the international community,” said a recent Japanese defense report.

“It is incontestable that the country’s rise as a military power is setting off an arms race in Asia,” said Juliette Genevaz, China researcher at the France-based Military School Strategic Research Institute.

“This arms race in Asia has several causes,” she said, noting North Korea’s nuclear weapons program as one of the contributors.

But, “China’s military build-up and reclaiming activities in the South China Sea is a major factor.”

China’s military expenditure in 2016 was an estimated $215 billion, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, putting it in first place in Asia, well ahead of India ($56 billion), Japan ($46 billion) and South Korea ($37 billion).

The country has not participated in any conflict since a month-long border war against Vietnam in 1979 that killed tens of thousands of people and a 1988 skirmish, also with Hanoi, over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, that left 64 dead.

But it has been busy boosting its military activities abroad.

This year, Beijing opened its first foreign military base, in Djibouti. Since 2008, its navy has participated in anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden.

The country is the largest contributor to United Nations peacekeeping operations among the permanent members of the security council, with some 2,500 soldiers and military experts deployed.

The moves are all part of a larger, decades-long effort to modernize the country’s military, which had become riddled with corruption, incompetence and waste.

– ‘Absolute control’ –

But while Xi flexed his muscles at the head of China’s central military commission during his first term, he is likely to observe more caution in future, having consolidated his power base by bringing down two of the country’s highest-ranking army officers for corruption, said James Char.

He also reaffirmed the party’s “absolute control” over the army during the recently concluded congress.

“Now that it’s done, he does not need to risk an external crisis any more. Therefore, we can reasonably expect Beijing will conduct less coercive diplomacy in the near- to medium-term,” Char said.

“The Chinese military will continue to operate further and further away from China’s shores, and probably also establish more overseas bases,” he added.

But, while it will continue to aggressively defend its own territorial claims, “it will likely act cautiously abroad and will not engage in overseas constabulary missions such as those carried out by the US military in Iraq or Afghanistan for example.”

Source: Space War.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/As_China_aims_for_world-class_army_Asia_starts_to_worry_999.html.

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