China acts on regulating military personnel selection








>>  China, ROK wrap up FTA talks

By Wang Youling and Cheng Jing

China and the Republic of Korea (ROK) have initialed their free trade agreement (FTA), the end of FTA negotiations, the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) announced on Wednesday of February 25 in a brief statement on its website.

China and the ROK began FTA talks in May 2012. President Xi Jinping and his ROK counterpart Park Geun-hye confirmed in Beijing last November a substantive conclusion in negotiations.

The agreement will cover 17 areas, including trade in goods and services, investment and trade rules, and topics such as e-commerce and government procurement.

The MOC said in November last year that the agreement will be signed in 2015 and take effect in the second half of the year.







>>  China-S. Korea FTA to give opportunity for creating advanced industries

By Yoo Seungki

Free trade agreement (FTA) between China and South Korea would give both countries an opportunity to jointly create and develop advanced industries as demand for high- quality products would rise before the bilateral free trade pact is completely implemented.

China and South Korea initialed the bilateral pact on Wednesday of February 25, about three months after the two sides concluded negotiations on it. The two countries began talks on the deal in May 2012.

South Korea’s trade ministry said it aimed to officially sign the deal with China within the first half of this year and implement it as rapidly as possible by getting approval from the parliament. The deal, now written only in English, will be translated into native languages of the two countries before it is officially signed.

The ministry said the country would use the FTA with China as new growth engine as the pact would allow South Korea to make inroads into China. It said the Chinese economy expands more than 7 percent each year.

“China is turning from the world’s factory to the world’s ( consumer) market. Chinese consumers want high value-added products based on state-of-the-art technologies, not products simply assembled with parts,” Han Jae-Jin, senior research fellow at the Hyundai Research Institute, said in a telephone interview.

“(South) Korea-China FTA should act as a chance for both countries to strengthen cooperation in developing high value-added industries to meet such demand. (South) Korea should come up with how to create and develop high value-added industries during the 20-year grace period,” said Han.

Under the accord, South Korea will eliminate tariffs on 92 percent of all products from China within 20 years after the FTA implementation in return for China abolishing tariffs on 91 percent of all South Korean goods.

The 20-year grace period came as Beijing and Seoul shared a view that it needs time before completely opening markets to minimize possible damages to the industries of both countries.

China and South Korea have changed their trade focus from low value-added industries to advanced sectors, but both sides need more advancement in each industry structure. By jointly developing high value-added industries during the grace period, the FTA would become a win-win solution for the two nations, the researcher said.

According to data from the Korea International Trade Association (KITA), trade product between China and South Korea has changed from low value-added to high value-added ones.

In 1992, when the two countries forged diplomatic ties, steel plate was South Korea’s largest export product to China with the former’s annual export of steels to the latter amounting to 420 million U.S. dollars. It was followed by synthetic resins with 300 million dollars in exports.

In 2013, semiconductor was South Korea’s largest export product in trade with China. South Korea exported chips worth 21.67 billion dollars to China, accounting for about 15 percent of the former’s total shipments to the latter, the KITA data showed. It was trailed by flat screens and sensors worth 18.56 billion dollars of exports.

Statistics from the Export-Import Bank of Korea show that from 1992 to 2013, direct investment of South Korean companies in China ‘s electric, electronic and chip industries surged about 190 times from 17 million dollars to 3.1 billion dollars. During the same period, direct investment in China’s auto and auto parts sectors jumped from 6.3 million dollars to 476.4 million dollars.

Technology cooperation has increased. Joint research projects between the two countries rose from 39 in 2005 to 186 in 2011, according to the Hyundai Research Institute.

Trade between China and South Korea kept rising from 6.4 billion dollars in 1992 to 228.9 billion dollars in 2013. China has been South Korea’s biggest trading partner since 2004.







>>  S. Korea to take FTA with China as new growth engine

By Yoo Seungki

South Korea’s trade ministry said on Wednesday of February 25 that the country will use free trade deal with China as new growth engine by making inroads into the world’s largest market.

South Korea and China initialed the bilateral free trade agreement (FTA), about three months after the two sides concluded negotiations on it, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. The two countries began talks on the deal in May 2012.

The deal, currently written only in English, will be translated into native languages of the two countries before it is officially signed.

The ministry said it will push to officially sign the FTA with China within the first half of this year and implement it as rapidly as possible by getting approval from the parliament.

China is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, whose gross domestic product (GDP) expands more than seven percent each year, the ministry said, noting that South Korea got a chance to make inroads into the fast-growing, large market by initialing the pact.

The deal would serve as a new stimulus and growth engine to the South Korean economy, the ministry said.

Under the pact, South Korea will eliminate tariffs on 79 percent of all products from China within 10 years after the implementation in return for China removing tariffs on 71 percent of all South Korean products.

South Korea will eliminate tariffs on 92 percent of all goods from China within 20 years after the implementation, while China will abolish tariffs on 91 percent of all South Korean products.







>>  China calls for political solution to Ukraine crisis

By Pan Jie

China on Wednesday of February 25 called for a political solution to the Ukraine crisis, urging the parties concerned to implement the Minsk agreements and the heavy weapon withdraw plan.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said at a press briefing on Wednesday that China had always believed that a political resolution was “the only way out” for the Ukraine crisis.

Hong’s remarks come after top diplomats from France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine met in Paris on Tuesday to push for the enforcement of the Minsk agreements.

Leaders from Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine reached a series of agreements in Minsk on Feb. 12, including a ceasefire from Feb. 15. However, more than a week after the Minsk agreements, Ukraine’s military continues to refuse to start withdrawing its heavy weapons from the front line in the east, as independence-seeking insurgents had not stopped attacking government positions.

Hong said China hoped that the parties concerned would strictly implement the Minsk agreements, push for a political solution to the crisis and bring peace and stability to Ukraine.







>>  Britain’s Prince William to visit China in early March

By Tan Jingjing

Britain’s Prince William is scheduled to visit China from March 1 to 4, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said on Wednesday of February 25.

The Duke of Cambridge will visit Beijing, Shanghai and Yunnan Province at the invitation of the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs, Hong told a routine press briefing.

“We hope the visit will [help Britain's] understanding of China, deepen the friendship between the two peoples and boost bilateral ties in the new year,” Hong said.







>>  Disrupted border traffic slashes Tibet trade in 2014

By Lü Qiuping and Wang Jun

The trade volume of southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region dropped by 32.96 percent year on year to 13.85 billion yuan (2.21 billion U.S. dollars) in 2014, according to the local authority on Wednesday of February 25.

An official with the regional capital Lhasa’s customs said a major landslide in bordering Nepal, Tibet’s largest trade partner since 2006, disrupted road traffic between Tibet and the Tatopani Port in Nepal from August to October.

Border trade contributed 87.91 percent of the region’s foreign trade, but due to traffic disruptions, Tibet border trade stood at 12.1 billion yuan, up only 2.18 percent year on year, according to customs.

Analysts say the region will see a surge in trade volume in 2015, considering the extended railway line between Qinghai and Tibet opened last August; the expansion of Jilung, a China-Nepal border port in Tibet in December; and the idea of establishing the Himalayan economic cooperation belt.







>>  China calls for confidence over Iran nuclear issue

By Wang Huihui

China called on Wednesday of February 25 for confidence from all parties involved in the Iranian nuclear talks to achieve a comprehensive deal after the latest round of talks ended in Geneva.

Representatives from the P5+1 group (the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany, and Iran) met in Geneva Sunday night for fresh talks over Tehran’s disputed nuclear program.

“Sunday’s talks were serious, pragmatic and in good atmosphere. All sides had substantive negotiations over major issues at stakes and yielded some progress though differences remained,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said at a daily news briefing.

As a new round of negotiations will begin, China hopes to work with all parties to play a constructive role in pushing forward the dialogue, he said.

Hong called on all parties to have confidence and work together to facilitate a mutually beneficial comprehensive agreement as soon as possible.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif said Monday that the next round of nuclear talks would be held on the sidelines of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva next week, according to Iranian state media Press TV.

Western nations suspect Iran of developing atomic weapons under the cover of its civilian nuclear plan, but Iran dismisses this, saying its nuclear program is peaceful and the allegation is baseless.

Under an interim deal between Iran and the P5+1 on Nov. 24, 2013, Iran said it would suspend some sensitive nuclear activities in exchange for limited relief of sanctions, with all sides seeking a comprehensive deal by July 20, 2014.

But talks throughout the year failed to reach an agreement. Tehran and world powers agreed to extend the negotiations to July this year.







>>  Diplomat denies Chinese involvement in conflict in northern Myanmar

By Huangyi Jiazi

The ongoing Kokang conflict in northern Myanmar is an internal affair of the Southeast Asian country without any intervention by China, a Chinese embassy official said on Tuesday of February 24, denying any Chinese involvement or support in it.

China is concerned with peace and stability of the border area between China and Myanmar, said the official, who declined to give his name, noting that a number of Myanmar refugees have already fled to China.

It is purely a humanitarian act that China has provided the refugees with some relief, the official said.

China attaches importance to ties with Myanmar, he added.

U Sein Win Aung, president of the Myanmar-China Friendship Association, said no evidence points to any involvement by the Chinese government in the Kokang conflict.

The conflict will not affect relations between Myanmar and China in the long run, he said, adding the two countries attach importance to relations with each other.

He noted that Myanmar and China have settled their border issues in a friendly manner and jointly advocated the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-Existence.

Myanmar-China relations have been upgraded to the level of comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership, the president noted.

Though incidents are unavoidable between two neighbors like Myanmar and China, the Myanmar-China relations will continue to develop in a steady manner if the two countries pay high attention to handling such incidents, he said.

Some media outlets produced inaccurate or untrue reports out of their own position or interests, he noted.

There were some individual acts that broke the law of either country or affected the peace process of Myanmar, however, these acts had nothing to do with China’s policies, he said.

The president said he was confident in the smooth development of Myanmar-China ties, calling for efforts from both countries to safeguard the big picture of Myanmar-China friendship.

Peng Jiasheng, leader of a group of Myanmar rebels engaging in fighting with the government has denied that he was receiving help from Chinese citizens or mercenaries.

His organization has strictly forbidden Chinese citizens from entering Kokang to join the fighting, Peng told the Global Times in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

“Our principle is not to allow Chinese citizens to fight,” Peng said.







>>  N. Myanmar unrest detrimental to Chinese interests

By Li Li

Proximity and ethnicity have bred misleading speculations about Chinese involvement in the ongoing conflict in northern Myanmar close to the bilateral border.

Such allegations and accusations cannot hold water, as it would both violate China’s basic foreign policy principle and harm China’s national interests should Beijing thrust itself into the Kokang fighting.

First of all, China upholds non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs, let alone military intervention. China has always respected Myanmar’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Even if there were indeed some Chinese nationals participating in the fighting, it would be only an individual act, to which the Chinese government is strongly opposed.

As Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying has said, Beijing will never allow any organization or individual to use Chinese territory to undermine China-Myanmar relations or border tranquility.

Meanwhile, it would be unreasonable for China to fan the flames of violence in such a close neighbor, which could eventually spread onto its own soil.

A large number of Myanmar refugees have already fled to China’s southwestern Yunnan Province. Were the violence to persist, the influx would only continue and pose a graver challenge to the security and stability of the border region.

Thus, any escalation of the conflict in northern Myanmar could spell nothing but trouble for China, which shares a profound traditional friendship with Myanmar and is committed to foster a peaceful and prosperous neighborhood.

China indeed have huge stakes on its relations with Myanmar, and it is nothing but a peaceful and stable Myanmar that best suits China’s interests.

Hence Beijing’s call for an early solution to the Kokang conflict and pledge to continue to play a constructive role in promoting the peace process in Myanmar.

It is also worth mentioning that China’s provision of food and medical services for Myanmar refugees is purely an act of the humanitarian spirit the country has displayed in many other parts of the world. It should not be misinterpreted as a form of support for any side in the conflict.

Regarding neighborhood stability as a foreign policy priority, China is committed to sharing growth opportunities and achieving common development with its neighbors, including Myanmar.

Among the least developed nations in Southeast Asia, Myanmar has witnessed leapfrog economic development and social progress in recent years, largely thanks to a helping hand from China.

During Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to Myanmar in November, the two countries agreed to significantly deepen mutually beneficial cooperation in a wide range of areas, such as inter-connectivity building and poverty alleviation.

In addition, China’s decades-long efforts to promote win-win cooperation with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the Greater Mekong River Subregion, both of which include Myanmar, have brought enormous development opportunities for the region as a whole.

And that is the true involvement China has with Myanmar.







>>  FM: China-Myanmar border not closed

By Liu Hua

China has strengthened management of its border with Myanmar but has not closed it, despite conflict in northern Myanmar, a spokesperson said on Wednesday of February 25.

“China is paying great attention to the current situation in northern Myanmar, which impacts stability in the border areas between China and Myanmar,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said at a daily press briefing.

He urged the sides concerned to exercise restraint to prevent the conflict from escalating, and to alleviate tensions as soon as possible.

Hong said China also hoped the Myanmar side would take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of Chinese nationals and organizations in Myanmar.

According to Hong, China had offered, and will continue to offer, the necessary assistance to Myanmar nationals who had arrived in China for safety reasons.

“China has suggested that Myanmar should reinforce its border management,” said the spokesman.

“China adheres to the principle of non-interference into any other country’s internal affairs, it respects Myanmar’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and does not allow any organization or person to use Chinese territory to hurt the China-Myanmar relationship or stability in its border areas,” said the spokesperson.

Hong said China had always stuck to those principles and maintained close communication with the Myanmar side since conflict broke out in northern Myanmar.

“The Myanmar side has fully acknowledged this,” said the spokesman.







>>  WWII Chongqing bombing survivors lose lawsuit against Japanese gov’t

By Liu Tian

The Tokyo District Court on Wednesday of February 25 ruled against a group of Chongqing bombing survivors who sued the Japanese government and asked for apology and compensation.

Prior to the rule, representatives of the 188-accuser group took a small rally in the Hibiya Park in downtown Tokyo, holding banners saying “cherish peace and against the war.”

Su Yuankui, who headed the accusers’ group, told Xinhua before the rule that he hopes the court could have a just verdict, adding their lawsuit aims at highlighting the importance of peace, rather than keeping hatred in mind.

Chief lawyer of the accusers’ group, Lin Gang, said that the verdict is not their final goal as what they want is to ask the Japanese government to squarely look at its wartime history.

Lin said that if their goal could not be achieved through the lawsuit, they will continue to urge the Japanese government to reflect on the history through other channels, adding they will appeal again.

Keiichiro Ichinose, a Japanese lawyer who helps the survivors seek compensation from the Japanese government, told Xinhua Wednesday that people who born in the post-war era are increasing and they are getting unfamiliar with the aggression war waged by Japan.

“I think this is the Japanese government’s responsibility because they don’t educate people properly about our history. I think we should fix the problem soon. I think it is important to learn from the mistakes in the past so that we would realize the friendship with China,” said Ichinose.

Formed in April 2004, the group formally sued the Japanese government over the catastrophe in March 2006. A total of 188 survivors and relatives of victims from Chongqing and nearby cities have been involved in the lawsuit as accusers.

From February 1938 to August 1943, the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service and Navy Air Service conducted years-long terror blasts against Chongqing and its adjacent areas with over 11,500 bombs, mainly incendiary bombs.

Residential areas, business areas, schools and hospitals were the main targets of the attacks in which tens of thousands of civilians were killed. The bombings of Chongqing is a major war crime committed by Japan during its aggression in China during WWII.







>>  Brazil’s Rio to launch electric-car sharing service with Chinese input

By Chen Weihua

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s second largest city, plans to launch an electric-vehicle sharing service with input from Chinese automaker BYD, local media reported on Tuesday of February 24.

BYD is one of five firms that together make up PPP Radar, the consortium that has won the bid to develop the program, according to O Estado de Sao Paulo daily.

BYD, together with DirijaJa, IDOM, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Albino Advogados Associados, has six months to present their project, the daily said.

“The city of Rio de Janeiro should have a fleet of electric vehicles as of next year … for carsharing,” the daily said, adding that the program will offer some 300 cars initially.

Carsharing, which operates in cities worldwide, allows drivers to rent a vehicle by the hour, a convenience for those who don’t need a car full time or want to try a different model from the one they have.

BYD, which unveiled the world’s first battery-powered coach in January, has other projects under way in Brazil.

In July, the company will launch a battery plant for electric vehicles in Campinas, Sao Paulo state, said the daily. The plant will also produce solar panels and assemble buses.

BYD plans to invest 400 million U.S. dollars in Brazil by 2018.







>>  Chinese, Oceanian scholars discuss China’s regional role in Pacific

By Liu Peng

Scholars and officials from China and Oceania gathered in the Samoan capital of Apia on Wednesday of February 25, participating in a symposium to discuss China’s evolving role in the Pacific region.

Co-organized by the Center for Oceania Studies at China’s Sun Yat-sen University, the National University of Samoa and New Zealand Contemporary China Research Center at Victoria University of Wellington, the three-day conference, themed “China and the Pacific: The view from Oceania,” is expected to take a multidisciplinary approach to examining Pacific islands perspectives on China’s evolving relations with countries in the region, primarily Polynesia and Melanesia.

Li Yanduan, Chinese ambassador to Samoa underscored China’s constructive role in the Pacific region while delivering her welcoming speech at the opening of the conference.

“Pacific island countries are an integral and important part of the developing world, which China, as a developing country itself, always attaches great importance to … Although China and PICs ( Pacific island countries) are far apart geographically, both peoples enjoy natural intimacy and time-honored friendly exchanges, ” Li said.

The conference is the first one where a leading Chinese university has joined with universities in New Zealand and the Pacific islands to discuss China’s role in the region, according to Prof. Yu Changsen, executive deputy director of the Center for Oceania Studies at Sun Yat-sen University.

“The holding of this conference is undoubtedly in the context of the development of relations between China and Pacific island countries by leaps and bounds,” Prof. Yu told Xinhua in a telephone interview on the sidelines of the conference.

“The conference will look at issues relating to the contribution of the Chinese government to the people of the Pacific, their role in development and how they are understood by the Pacific countries, New Zealand, Australia and the smaller island countries,” Prof. Fui Le’apai Tu’ua Ilaoa Asofou So’o, vice chancellor and president of the National University of Samoa said ahead of the conference, adding that “relationship will be the main conversation.”

Talking about the National University of Samoa’s Marine Campus, currently under construction and funded by the Chinese government, Prof. Asofou So’o said: “It took us a while to identify some development partners to help with construction until China came to our assistance. This (campus) comprises of the marine training school and marine research arm of the Faculty of Science … Once it’s completed, then we are able to relocate programmes, so a big thank you to the government of China.”

Officially launched on May 4, 2012 by Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, the Center for Oceania Studies’ primary areas of research include political and legal systems in Oceanian countries, economic development of Oceania, external relations of Oceanian countries, as well as society, history and culture of Oceania.

Founded in 1984, the National University of Samoa offers a wide range of programs such as arts, science, business and entrepreneurship, education, and medicine.

The New Zealand Contemporary China Research Center is the country’s national center to promote knowledge and understanding of contemporary China through support for research including collaborative research, lectures, seminars, conferences, visitor exchanges and information sharing.







>>  China’s aid conforms with Pacific island countries’ conditions: expert

By Liu Peng

China’s policies towards Pacific island countries have been very successful, and China’s aid to these countries is in accordance with their national conditions, a Chinese scholar has said.

A symposium was held in the Samoan capital of Apia on Wednesday of February 25, where scholars and officials from China and Oceania discussed China’s evolving role in the Pacific region.

Co-organized by the Center for Oceania Studies at China’s Sun Yat-sen University, the National University of Samoa and New Zealand Contemporary China Research Center at Victoria University of Wellington, the three-day conference, themed “China and the Pacific: The view from Oceania,” is expected to take a multidisciplinary approach to examining Pacific islands perspectives on China’s evolving relations with countries in the Pacific region, primarily Polynesia and Melanesia.

In an exclusive telephone interview with Xinhua shortly before the conference kicked off, Prof. Yu Changsen, executive deputy director of the Center for Oceania Studies at Sun Yat-sen University said, “On assistance towards Pacific island countries, China now ranks the third on the donor list, right after Australia and New Zealand, which I think is a very rapid progress.”

“China’s infrastructure assistance has solved the lack of infrastructure problems in many island countries, and is welcomed by the island countries, which I think is a good deed,” Yu said, adding that it simultaneously complements the assistance of other countries, so the entry of China is a positive factor.







>>  Over 100 Chinese tourists visit Kenya

By Ding Xiaoxi

More than 100 Chinese tourists and tour operators landed in Kenya’s capital Nairobi on Tuesday of February 24 to sell the East African nation as a tourist destination.

Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) said on Tuesday the 114 Chinese tourists arrived on Tuesday, followed by the top managers of tour companies, sales executives whose itineraries are set for different dates within the next three weeks.

“With the direct flight to China where Kenya Airways operates three times a week from Guangzhou to Nairobi, we have no doubt that this market is poised to grow to the next level,” Ndegwa said in a statement issued in Nairobi.

The visit follows a successful collaborative promotion between KTB and Kenya’s Embassy in China held early this year.

“Following our reassurance campaigns in Beijing and Shanghai together with our embassy earlier this year, major Chinese tour operators are beginning to show renewed interest in selling Kenyan destinations,” Ndegwa said.

Kenya’s tourism sector is currently in crisis due to security challenges that have led to issuance of travel advisories by U.S, Australia, France and Britain, Kenya’s traditional sources of tourists.

Since 2004, when China granted Kenya Approved Destination Status for outbound tourist groups, China has become the tourist source for Kenya in Asia, with more than 40,000 Chinese visiting Kenya in 2012, an increase of 10.4 percent compared to 2011.

However, the figures up to November 2014 saw the market drop by 9.8 percent to a record low of 31,486 arrivals, down from 34,923 during the same period in 2013.

Ndegwa attributed the drop that was reported across all the markets to insecurity and the Ebola scare but noted that the market is expected to regain its upward growth trajectory with reassurance campaigns.

According to the KTB, Chinese visitors are expected to exceed 100,000 by 2016. Ndegwa said the strategy is to at least get a group of 100 tourists from China every month especially during the low season.

Last year, KTB conducted a highly successful China Roadshow in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Guangzhou. The initiative is expected to promote Kenya as a tourist destination in the Chinese market.

Kenya’s Ambassador to China Michael Kinyanjui said the tour organized by Polaris Safari Limited in collaboration with Uniway Travel will go a long way in equipping the Chinese tour operators and agents with first-hand experience on Kenya as a destination.







>>  China-Kazakhstan cargo train rolls out of eastern port city

By Cheng Lu and Nie Ke

China has opened a cargo train service linking eastern city port of Lianyungang and Almaty, the financial and technological hub of Kazakhstan.

The first train of nearly 100 containers left Lianyungang in east China’s Jiangsu Province on Wednesday of February 25 and will arrive in Almaty in 12 days.

Two trains will depart each week, passing through Khorgos in Xinjiang , said Liu Bin, general manager of China-Kazakhstan logistics international.

The train will carry medical supplies, auto parts, daily necessities and electronic products from southern parts of China, Southeast Asia, Japan and South Korea.

Two trains will leave Almaty for Lianyungang each week carrying ferro-alloy, potash fertilizer and wheat, he added.

“The transportation time and cost can both be reduced by the cargo train, which will boost the proposed Silk Road economic belt and the economies of the countries along the belt,” Liu said.

Regular cargo train services linking China and other countries are already in operation. Last November, a cargo train service linked the eastern city of Yiwu, the world’s largest wholesale market for small consumer goods, with Madrid in Spain.

Last April, the first regular cargo train left southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality for Duisburg in Germany.







>>  Chinese woman falls into rough seas near Malta, search underway

By Li Jia

A Chinese woman was swept out into rough seas by big waves on Wednesday of February 25 at Malta’s most famous landscape spot the Azure Window in Gozo, the archipelago’s second largest island, local media reported.

The 27-year-old woman fell into the sea at about 2 p.m. local time. Another woman who was with her has been treated for shock at Gozo hospital after witnessing the incident, according to local report.

A Hungarian man, 37, who was also washed out into the sea at the same spot, was rescued.

The search has being conducted by the local police, the Armed Forces of Malta and the country’s Civil Protection Department.

The Meteorological department forecast that a depression over the Tyrrhenian Sea will move over the Strait of Sicily and continue to advance, therefore strong wind prevails in Malta with the see condition forecast as very rough.







>>  Vietnamese footballers praised despite losing to Chinese rival in AFC Champions League

By Zhang Jianhua

Vienames media heaped on Wednesday of February 25 praises on the country’s Becamex Binh Duong despite their 3-2 defeat to China’s Shandong Luneng in the 2015 Asian Football Confederation Champions League (ACL).

The Thao&Van Hoa (Sports and Culture) online newspaper, an edition under Vietnam’s state-run news agency VNA, ran an article titled “Losing 2-3 to Shandong Luneng should be considered Becamex Binh Duong’s success”, saying that the Vietnam’s V-League champion deserves applause as it came close to the stronger Chinese team.

The result of the game held in Vietnam’s southern Binh Duong province on Tuesday is considered an encouragement for the Vietnamese players, added the article.

Meanwhile, Thanh Nien (Young People), an online newspaper based in capital Hanoi, said Becamex Binh Duong produced a good performance against “giant” Shandong Luneng.

Speaking after the match, Becamex Binh Duong coach Nguyen Thanh Son praised his players’ confidence and discipline throughout the match, in which they once held a 2-1 lead.

Son said that his players did a good job although they just gathered for training two days ahead of the match. It was a pity for the team when they lost the game with such performance, Thanh Nien quoted Son as saying.

Commenting on the article on Thanh Nien, reader Minh Quan said “Becamex Binh Duong played a great match. I am happy with their performance. Go ahead Binh Duong!”

Sharing the same view with Minh Quan, a reader wrote on VNExpress online newspaper that “It is hard for Binh Duong to progress from the same group with teams from China, Japan and the Republic of Korea. Binh Duong players performed quite well. Let’s give them applause. I hope that Vietnam will go further at the continental games in a near future.”

Also on Tuesday, Japan’s Kashiwa Reysol started their AFC Champions League with a goalless draw against South Korea’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, winner of 2006 ACL and 2011 runners-up, in another match of Group E.

Shandong Luneng currently stays at the top of Group E with three points. Kashiwa Reysol and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors share the second place with one point while Vietnam’s Becamex Binh Duong is at the bottom.

Shandong Luneng has made seven appearances in the ACL, with its best performance in 2005 when they reached the quarterfinals.

The AFC Champions League is an annual continental club football competition organized by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

A total of 32 teams from Asia’s strongest national leagues featuring the group stage tournament are divided into eight groups, with four groups from West Asia and four groups from East Asia.

Each group will compete under the round robin format, and the first two teams of each group will progress. Finally, the winner of the tournament will be qualified for the 2015 FIFA Club World Cup.

The 2015 AFC Champions League is the 34th edition of the tournament. The group stage will be held from Feb. 24 to May 6, according to the AFC.







>>  Brazilian midfielder Jadson opts against China move

By Michael Place

Brazilian midfielder Jadson has aborted a planned move to China by announcing he will remain at Corinthians.

The Brazilian club and China’s Jiangsu Sainty had agreed in principal to the transfer but the 31-year-old reneged at the last minute.

“The only person that could decide he didn’t want to go was the player himself,” Corinthians’ football director Sergio Luiz Janikian told radio Bandeirantes on Wednesday.

“He thought about it and decided that Corinthians was the best option in terms of his career. The Chinese club also sent us the necessary documents to cancel the operation.”

Despite the club missing out on a reported five-million-euro fee for Jadson, the decision is likely to have satisfied coach Tite and Corinthians’ fans.

Tite has made no secret of his plans to use the playmaker in a permanent starting role this year. The former Shakhtar Donetsk player was man of the match in Corinthians’ 2-0 Copa Libertadores victory against Sao Paulo last week.







>>  New York Philharmonic rings in Year of Sheep with concert

By Wang Fan

The music swells and subsides in the Avery Fisher Hall of the Lincoln Center, New York. The harmonious blend of cello and sheng, a traditional Chinese reed instrument made of bamboo, creates a magic, seamless sound that takes breath away of the audience.

On Tuesday, the New York Philharmonic rang in the Year of the Sheep with its fourth annual Chinese New Year concert.

Defying the frigid weather, an enormous crowd of revelers, some dressed in traditional Chinese costumes, swarmed into the renowned Avery Fisher Hall to enjoy the first-rate performance.

The interior of the hall was lit red and Chinese lanterns hung from the ceiling of the building’s facades, adding to a touch of the festive atmosphere.

“The Spring Festival Overture,” Li Huanzhi’s traditional work celebrating the Chinese New Year, once again opened the concert, yet still offering a fresh feeling to the audience.

The event also featured the aijieke, a traditional Chinese bowed instrument, played by Gulinaer Yiming, and traditional Chinese folk songs performed by vocalist Lei Jia.

The concert culminated in the duo of cellist Yo-Yo Ma and sheng player Wu Tong.

“It is a very nice combination of wonderful pieces. I think the last two pieces were really my favorites,” Marjorie Gurney Hat told Xinhua, referring to the duo of Ma and Tong.

“Sheng is very special, very romantic. It is not unusually done. Yo-Yo Ma’s instrument is a very special cello. It has beautiful sound and of course, he is such a wonderful player. And the composer also did a beautiful job, I think,” the New Yorker said.

The Philharmonic’s salute to the Year of the Sheep also included an outdoor event on Lincoln Center’s Josie Robertson Plaza on Tuesday afternoon.

The Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company performed the traditional Dragon Dance, and public school students from the National Dance Institute staged folk-inspired dances.

“I love their dancing, it is very colorful and their movements are fluent,” said Donna Whitley, who comes from North Carolina and now lives with her daughter in New York City.

The retired dance teacher told Xinhua that she even brought her grandson here to see the performance, who also enjoyed the dance a lot.

The concept of Lunar Chinese New Year seems to seep into ordinary Americans’ lives. The 13 year-old dancer, Flor Massey, told Xinhua that she and her family this year danced together to celebrate the Chinese Spring Festival.

“I also taught them how to use chopsticks,” said Massey, who chose ballet and Chinese dance as two of her favorites.







>>  China acts on regulating military personnel selection

By Hu Longjiang

Chinese military authorities have issued five documents to optimize the selection and management of army officers.

The documents were approved by Chinese President and top military leader Xi Jinping, to “correct improper practices in the selection and appointment of army officials”, according to a statement given to Xinhua on Wednesday of February 25.

The statement did not reveal more details, but it said the documents had clear stipulations on the selection and management of secretaries of senior army officials, and set requirements for the service time and experience of commanding officers in combat troops. It also limited posts for officers’ relatives and subordinates to avoid nepotism.

Earlier this month, the People’s Liberation Army also linked soldiers’ weight to promotion in a five-year reform outline.

The “Reform and Development of Military Physical Training (2015-2020)” guideline stressed that physical training would help cultivate combat power.







>>  China central bank appoints new deputy governors

By Cheng Jing

The People’s Bank of China, the central bank, has appointed Fan Yifei and Guo Qingping as deputy governors, according to the bank website on Wednesday of February 25.

Born in 1964, Fan Yifei was previously deputy manager of the China Investment Corporation and deputy governor of China Construction bank, according to his curriculum vitae on the central bank website.

Guo Qingping, born in 1956, was former assistant to the central bank governor.







>>  Ma Jian disqualified as China’s national political advisor

By Wu Chen

Vice Minister of State Security Ma Jian was disqualified as a member of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) on Wednesday of February 25.

The decision was made at the 25th chairpersons’ meeting of the 12th CPPCC National Committee.

The Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) announced on Jan. 16 that Ma was under investigation for serious discipline and law violations.

The meeting, presided over by Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the CPPCC National Committee, also adopted measures to implement the eight-point anti-graft rule at the upcoming third session of the 12th CPPCC National Committee. Documentation will be reduced, services will be simplified, and commercial activities will be prohibited.

The secretariat of the session will establish a team to supervise on site.







>>  China encourages private capital to invest in elderly care industry

By Wu Chen

China announced on Wednesday of February 25 it would encourage private investment in the elderly care service industry to help with its aging population.

Investors are encouraged to run elderly care facilities, including nursing homes and recreation centers, according to a document issued by the Ministry of Civil Affairs, together with nine other government departments.

It said that private investors could cooperate with the government to build and develop facilities. The government will also increase investment in this sector.

More than 50 percent of welfare funds collected through lottery sales should be channeled to elderly care and no less than 30 percent should be used to support private-owned services, according to the document.

It also required health authorities to support the establishment and operation of clinics inside elderly care facilities.

People aged 60 and over accounted for 14.9 percent of China’s population by the end of 2013, higher than the United Nations’ 10 percent threshold for an aging country, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

It is estimated that the aging population in China will reach its peak in 2030.







>>  Xinjiang to invest heavily in social projects in 2015

By Cheng Lu and Liu Bing

Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in northwest China will invest more in social welfare projects in 2015 to improve the lives of the people there, authorities said on Wednesday of February 25.

The government will allocate more than 72 billion yuan (about 12 billion U.S. dollars) this year to help steer 100 projects — in areas such as housing, employment, agriculture and environment improvement, said Huang Wei, vice chairman of Xinjiang, on Wednesday.

Huang said priority would be given to the region’s 9,611 villages. Each village will be allocated 500,000 yuan to finance transportation, utilities supply, environmental protection and agriculture projects.

He added that the government would continue to build new houses, create job opportunities and bolster the economy at the village level.

Meanwhile, 12 rural projects will be kicked off this year, including the establishment of homes for the disabled and the elderly, as well as educational campaigns, Huang said.

Since 2010, when the regional government initiated such annual livelihood projects, Xinjiang has channeled more than 500 billion yuan to social projects.







>>  China pledges stronger fiscal policy, widens tax breaks

By Cheng Jing

The State Council, China’s cabinet, on Wednesday of February 25 pledged to step up fiscal policy support and strengthen targeted controls to combat downward pressure on the economy.

“To ensure the economy operates within a reasonable range, proactive fiscal policy needs to be stronger and more effective,” said a statement released after the executive meeting, which was presided over by Premier Li Keqiang.

The meeting decided to extend tax break policies to more micro and small businesses. From 2015 to the end of 2017, companies with annual taxable income under 200,000 yuan (32,573 U.S. dollars) will have their corporate tax halved. Previously, the threshold was 100,000 yuan.

In an effort to activate private investments, the cabinet said taxes on investment earnings from non-monetary assets would be levied in stages rather than a one-off collection.

In addition, China will reduce the unemployment insurance rate to 2 percent from 3 percent previously, which is estimated to save over 40 billion yuan for businesses and employees annually.

The State Council also pledged to speed up construction of major water projects in the less developed central and western regions. Approvals on the new projects will be finished by the end of July and over 90 percent of funds from the central budget will be allocated by the end of June, according to the statement.

The set of policy adjustments comes in the wake of the economy growing by 7.4 percent in 2014, its weakest annual expansion in 24 years. A string of economic indicators, including manufacturing and trade data, all suggest continued weakness.

Data on Wednesday showed the HSBC flash manufacturing purchasing mangers index (PMI) improved slightly in February, rising to a four month high of 50.1, but the bank cautioned that domestic economic activity was likely to remain sluggish and external demand looked uncertain.

Despite subdued economic strength, policymakers have moved more cautiously than the market expected. To support growth, the central bank earlier this month decided to lower reserve requirement ratio, the minimum level of reserves banks must hold, by 50 basis points from Feb. 5, the first universal RRR cut since May 2012.

This followed an unexpected move to slash interest rates last November, also the first cut in more than two years.







>>  Agricultural modernization reduces rural poverty

By Zhang Yi, Jiang Chenrong and Li Hua

Miao Yuchun, a farmer from Zichang County in northwest China’s Loess Plateau, never imagined he would have a life of financial stability.

The 33-year-old man was forced to drop out of high school due to poverty, and a botched attempt at growing tomatoes left him penniless, driving him to look for work in the city.

However, Miao could not forget his farming roots, even when he was doing well in the city.

Three years ago, inspired by organic soilless cultivation, he returned to his hometown to grow strawberries.

He enrolled on technical training programs organized by the local government, consulted with experienced farmers, and explored ways of improving his crops so they could meet “green product” standards.

Miao’s organic farm last year earned him 500,000 yuan (about 81,460 U.S. dollars) and he employed 15 people.

The government is encouraging more farmers to follow Miao’s path out of poverty through agricultural modernization, helping farmers change to either industrial, intensive farming or organic, sustainable agriculture.

Top policymakers have called for more efforts to modernize agriculture, boost farmers’ consumption and spur rural investment.

In response, the central government earlier this month, pledged to develop agriculture with a balanced emphasis on quality and quantity rather than high output, which comes at the cost of resource depletion.

It also promised to boost policies that would benefit farmers, deepen rural reforms and strengthen the rule of law in rural issues.

The Communist Party of China’s (CPC) flagship magazine “Qiushi” last Monday published an article by Premier Li Keqiang that advocated agricultural modernization.

Li wrote that agricultural modernization could stabilize economic growth and promote structural transformation.

Tian Guangping, a sweet potato farmer in Ganguyi Town, Yan’an City, could benefit from the push.

With techniques passed through generations and soil particularly suited to sweet potatoes, Tian made 90,000 yuan last year from a half hectare plot of rented land.

However, Tian has big dreams. The government in his town plans to launch a 24-hectare organic sweet potato farm. He hopes to be involved in the project so his sweet potatoes can be labeled “green products”, as the domestic market is preoccupied with food safety concerns.






>>  China’s manufacturing activity rises to four month high in February

By Rong Jiaojiao

China’s manufacturing activity improved slightly in February thanks to increased output and new orders, according to HSBC’s preliminary purchasing managers’ index (PMI) released on Wednesday of February 25.

The HSBC flash manufacturing PMI for February rose to a four month high of 50.1, from a reading of 49.7 in January, HSBC said in the report.

A reading above 50 indicates expansion, while anything below that represents contraction.

The output subindex stood at 50.8 in February, up from 50.3 in January, representing a five month high, according to the monthly report.

The new export orders subindex fell to 47.1 this month, the sharpest rate of decline since June 2013, reflecting rising uncertainty in external demand.

“Today’s data pointed to a marginal improvement in the Chinese manufacturing sector going into the Chinese New Year period in February. However, domestic economic activity is likely to remain sluggish and external demand looks uncertain,” said HSBC chief China economist Qu Hongbin.

“We believe more policy easing is still warranted at the current stage to support growth,” Qu added.

Despite the turnaround in the PMI, several worrying signs in the economy can still be observed, according to a research note from Barclays.

“Real interest rates remain elevated due to falling inflation; liquidity conditions continue to be tight, reflecting capital outflows; deflation risks are rising given that core inflation has started to drift lower,” the note said.

It suggested a more accommodative macro policy package, forecasting two 25 basis points (bp) cuts in benchmark interest rates in the first half of 2015 (H1 2015), and two additional 50bp cuts in the reserve requirement ratio.

China’s economy grew 7.4 percent in 2014, the weakest annual expansion in 24 years, but remains in line with market expectations.

To avoid a sharp slowdown, the central bank cut the benchmark interest rates in November for the first time in more than two years. Earlier this month, it relaxed the amount of reserves banks are required to hold with the central bank, the first such move in more than two years, and injected more liquidity through open market operations.







>>  Yuan slumps in New Year

By Fang Dong and Jiang Lin

The Chinese currency renminbi, or the yuan, slumped on Wednesday of February 25, the first trading day of the Year of the Sheep, with the fluctuation approaching the 2-percent daily trading band.

The spot exchange rate of the yuan at one point weakened to 6.26 against the U.S. dollar, marking a decline of 1.98 percent compared to the central parity rate of 6.1384 released by the authorities.

In China’s spot foreign exchange market, the yuan is allowed to rise or fall by a maximum of 2 percent from the official rate each trading day.

Analysts believe the currency still faces remarkable downward pressure and will probably continue to depreciate in line with market expectation.

Guan Tao, head of the international payments department at the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE), has said that big fluctuations will be a major risk in 2015.

Although the yuan has weakened against the U.S. dollar since the beginning of 2015, two-way fluctuation, instead of a continued depreciation, is the market consensus, Guan said.

The SAFE has vowed to speed up the yuan’s convertibility under the capital account and maintain the “basic stability” of the currency while keeping its exchange rate at a “reasonable and balanced level”.







>>  Steel demand limited this year: Moody’s

By Han Qiao

Chinese demand for steel will be limited in the next 12 months by the slowing domestic economy and weakness in the real estate market, according to a Moody’s report released on Wednesday of February 25.

The situation will pressurize steelmakers in China and throughout Asia as the country accounts for about 70 percent of the region’s steel demand, the report said.

Despite the sluggish demand, Moody’s forecast that Chinese steel companies will keep 2015 production close to 2014 levels and boost exports, given the price premiums outside of China.

The rise in exports will increase downward pressure on steel prices regionally and to a lesser extent globally, the report said.

Moody’s also pointed to growing threats to the stable outlook of the Asian steel industry. Moody’s has classed its outlook as stable since August 2014, when the agency changed it from negative.







>>  Guangdong reports 3 more H7N9 cases

By Xiao Sisi and Li Baojie

Three more H7N9 human cases are reported in south China’s Guangdong Province, raising total infections to 62 this year, local health authorities said on Wednesday of February 25.

A 59-year-old man in Zhaoqing City was diagnosed with the disease on Sunday. An 18-year-old girl in Foshan City and a four-year-old boy in Heyuan City were both confirmed infected on Tuesday, the provincial health and family planning commission said in a press release.

The boy is in stable condition and the other two are critical.

H7N9 is a bird flu strain first reported to have infected humans in March 2013. It is most likely to strike in winter and spring.

To prevent an epidemic, the provincial government banned live poultry trading at all markets from Feb. 19 to 28, the first 10 days of the Chinese lunar year.

Human cases of H7N9 have been reported this winter in several other Chinese localities including Shanghai, Fujian, Jiangxi, Guizhou and Zhejiang.







>>  Two more H7N9 human cases reported in E. China

By Coa Bing and Bao Xiaojing

Two H7N9 human cases were reported in east China’s Anhui Province, the provincial health authority said on Wednesday of February 25.

Both patients are in a critical condition. It has been confirmed that both had been in contact with live poultry, in two different cities, before showing symptoms on Tuesday.

H7N9 is a bird flu strain first reported to have infected humans in March 2013. Humans are most susceptible in winter and spring.

So far 59 cases have been reported in south China’s Guangdong Province. Several other Chinese localities including Shanghai, Fujian, Guizhou and Zhejiang have also reported human cases of H7N9 this winter.







>>  22 dead, 38 injured as bus overturns in Xinjiang

By Li Baojie, Yu Tao and Cao Zhiheng

A long-distance bus overturned on an expressway in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region late Tuesday night, killing 22 people and injuring 38 others, local authorities confirmed on Wednesday of February 25.

The accident occurred at about 11:27 p.m. Tuesday in Bachu County, Kashgar Prefecture, the prefecture’s government said in a statement. The 428-km-long expressway links Kashgar with Aksu.

The injured have been rushed to hospital.

An investigation into the cause of the accident is under way.







>>  3 dead in Chengdu tunnel explosion

By Fang Ning and Ye Hanyong

The death toll has risen to three following a gas explosion in an incomplete road tunnel in Chengdu, capital of southwest China’s Sichuan Province, on Tuesday afternoon of February 24.

According to the project undertaker, the Power China Road Bridge Group Co. Ltd., a body retrieved by rescuers at around 1 p.m. on Wednesday was one of the four construction workers it lost contact with when the blast happened in the No. 1 Tunnel of Wuluo Road at around 1:20 p.m. on Tuesday.

It is not known how many people were inside at the time of the accident.

One of the other two bodies recovered earlier has been identified as a local farmer. The other body has been burnt and can not be identified immediately.

The high concentration of gas in the tunnel is making the rescue very difficult, said Huang Xinchu, head of the rescue headquarters.

Local hospitals have taken in 20 people injured in the blast. Two of them are still in critical condition.

Wang Zhichang, an expert with the Chengdu Safety Inspection Bureau, who is with the rescue team at the blast site, said the tunnel has two lanes designed for traffic to flow in opposite directions. Workers had dug in 800 meters before the blast happened.

Ventilation has resumed in one of the lanes so that 110 rescuers aided with sniffer dogs can enter. Workers have blocked the other lane and are pumping in carbon dioxide to quench the fire and gas there, said Wang.

An investigation is under way into the cause of the incident.







>>  Air China flight makes emergency landing after explosive claim

By Cheng Lu, Wang Jun, Han Zhen and Tan Xingxing

An Air China flight was forced to make an emergency landing in southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality Wednesday due to a bomb scare.

Flight CA1336 left Nanning City in south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region for Beijing at 12:24 p.m. It was forced to land in Chongqing airport at 1:59 p.m., after a passenger claimed that an explosive device was onboard, said sources with the Chongqing branch of Air China.

Witnesses said emergency services were at the airport.

As of 5 p.m., three passengers were taken away by police for questioning. The remaining passengers continued the journey on to Beijing after a security check.

The investigation continues.







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