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23 December 2019


President Xi Jinping and his counterpart in the United States, President Donald Trump, set the tone in a telephone call on Friday for how Beijing and Washington should deal with their frictions in the next stage, after the two sides reached a phase one trade deal, observers said.

The telephone talks were also an opportunity for the two presidents to communicate directly on some other issues that have hampered the two countries' relationship, they said. For example, China has protested US interference in its internal affairs regarding the issues involving the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Xinjiang Uygur and Tibet autonomous regions.

Both Xi and Trump said the phase one economic and trade agreement benefited China, the US and the whole world.

Xi said that economic and trade cooperation between China and the US has made significant contributions to the stability and development of both bilateral relations and world economic growth.

Noting that the interests of the two countries have become increasingly intertwined, Xi observed that there are bound to be some differences along the path of cooperation. But as long as both sides continue to keep in mind the main stream of China-US economic and trade cooperation, which features mutual benefits and win-win outcomes, and always respect each other's national dignity, sovereignty and core interests, they will overcome any difficulties, he said.

For his part, Trump said the phase one deal has received a positive response from the markets of both countries and the world, and the US side stands ready to maintain close contact and communication with the Chinese side for the deal to be quickly signed and implemented.

The phone call came after trade negotiators reached an agreement that resulted in the suspension of new tariffs and the potential reduction of existing ones. New tariffs had been scheduled to kick in on Dec 15.

Observers see the trade agreement as an indication that the two countries are capable of steadying their relationship and are willing to solve problems through negotiation in the face of multiple headwinds.

"It is important to find areas of convergence, areas of agreement, and build upon those," International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said in a video interview on "In that sense, China and the US have found the space to agree on the phase one deal."

"We all see this as a possibility for the two largest world economies to find a pathway for agreement," Georgieva added.

During the phone call with Trump, Xi also expressed "grave concern" over recent "negative statements and actions" from various parties in the US on issues related to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet. He said those have interfered in China's internal affairs and harmed China's interests, which is detrimental to the mutual trust and bilateral cooperation.

Xi told Trump that China hopes the US will seriously implement the important points of consensus reached in various meetings and phone conversations, pay high attention and attach great importance to China's concerns and prevent bilateral relations and important agendas from being disturbed.

Trump said he looks forward to maintaining regular communication with Xi by various means, adding that he is confident both countries can properly handle the differences, and US-China relations can maintain smooth development.

Ruan Zongze, executive vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, said it's important for Washington and Beijing to seek common interests, whether from the perspective of bilateral ties or upholding global peace and stability.

China-US relations are mutually beneficial and win-win in nature, Ruan said, and the key is that each side needs to seriously consider the other's core concerns.

During the call, Xi and Trump also exchanged views on the situation in the Korean Peninsula.



China, Japan and the Republic of Korea will actively push for signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement in 2020 and accelerate the negotiating pace of the China-Japan-ROK free trade agreement, their top economic and trade officials said in Beijing on Sunday at their 12th Economic and Trade Minister's meeting.

The officials also advocated an open, inclusive world economy and said they would work together to oppose protectionism and unilateralism, to maintain the multilateral trading system of the World Trade Organization and to continue to strengthen cooperation under multilateral frameworks such as APEC and the G20

The consensus was reached ahead of the eighth China-Japan-ROK leaders' meeting, to be held in Chengdu, Sichuan province, on Tuesday. It will focus on creating a vision for future cooperation and expanding common interests, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

Speaking on Sunday, Commerce Minister Zhong Shan called upon the other partners to give full rein to complementary industries, to improve the level of trade and investment cooperation and play a positive role in deepening regional economic integration and achieving sustainable development.

He said the three countries must enhance cooperation in the next stage in areas such as regional connectivity, creating solutions for an aging society, conversion of energy and developing digital technologies.

In response, Sung Yun-mo, the ROK's trade, industry and energy minister, said these moves will help advance trilateral free trade agreement talks and enable substantial breakthroughs.

In addition to supporting the signing of the RCEP next year, Sung suggested the three nations should substantially expand their cooperation in areas such as developing fourth-party markets and making breakthroughs in the fourth industrial revolution to cultivate new industries and growth points.

Against the backdrop of increased downward pressure on the global economy and rising protectionism, Hiroshi Kajiyama, the Japanese minister of economy, trade and industry, stressed that it's important to reach a comprehensive, high-level and mutually beneficial FTA for the three economies and to support reform of the WTO to protect fair trade and globalization.

Trade volume between the three countries exceeded $720 billion last year, as they invested $11 billion in each other's markets. More than 31 million individual cross-border trips were made, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

Meanwhile, Japan and the ROK remained China's second- and third-largest trading partners, while China is the largest source of inbound tourists for both of those countries.

Huo Jianguo, a researcher at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges in Beijing, said that because China, Japan and South Korea are three major manufacturing powerhouses and outbound direct investors in Asia, a trilateral FTA should upgrade the level of trade liberalization for cargo, services and investment, and it must be comprehensive, high-level and beneficial to all three.

"It will also tap into the potential for trilateral economic and trade cooperation, enable deep integration of industrial chains and provide fresh momentum for the global economy," he said.



China decided to adjust tariffs on some imported goods from Jan 1, the Customs Tariff Commission of the State Council announced on Monday.

Temporary tariff rates may apply to more than 850 items of imported goods, which will be lower than the most-favored-nation tax rates, to increase imports and optimize the import structure, the commission said in a statement on the website.

From July 1, 2020, China will cut the most-favored-nation tax rates for 176 items of information technology products, and adjust some products' temporary tariff rates accordingly, it said.

For frozen pork, the tariff rate will be temporarily reduced from 12 percent to 8 percent, a measure to increase the pork supply and tame pork prices in the domestic market. The rate for some raw materials of medicines for asthma and diabetes will be lowered to zero. Some equipment and parts for making semiconductor products will also be added to the temporary tariff rate list, according to the statement.

These tariff adjustments are conducive to reducing import costs as well as promoting orderly and free flows of international and domestic production factors. The move will also facilitate high-quality opening-up and accelerate the construction of free trade zones, to improve the global trade environment, the commission said.



A total of 3.41 million people were expected to take part in China's 2020 national entrance exam for postgraduate studies from Saturday to Monday, 510,000 more than last year, the Ministry of Education said.

That's a rise of 17.5 percent, and with a record 8.74 million university students expected to graduate next year, a survey by education website found that growing competition in the job market was the primary reason for the increase.

Asked whether postgraduate study would help them find a job, 57 percent of exam applicants said they believed it could make them significantly more competitive in the job market, 42 percent said it would be somewhat helpful, and only 1 percent did not expect it to improve their chances.

When asked why they wanted to pursue a master's degree, 61 percent of respondents said it would boost their competitiveness in the job market, 53 percent said they wanted to obtain a higher degree, 25 percent said they did not like their undergraduate majors, and 25 percent said they wanted to wait for a few years before entering the job market.



The South-to-North Water Diversion Project has delivered both socio-economic as well as environmental benefits, said Wang Yisen, a leading engineer of the mega project.

Wang said environmental protection was put on top of the agenda when the master plan of the project was approved by the State Council in 2002.

"The guiding principle is that the project should realize economic, social and environmental benefits at the same time," said Wang, the former chief engineer of the South-to-North Water Diversion Project.

To safeguard water quality in the water resource region, "grain-to-green" initiative has been launched, mountainous areas have been sealed off for reforestation, and pollutant emission is restricted in the areas surrounding the water resource, said Wang.

And efforts have been made to minimize the influence of the project on the water resource area.

For example, Danjiangkou Reservoir, the water source for the central route of the project, is located on Hanjiang River, a major tributary of the Yangtze River. To ensure water supply to lower reaches of Hanjiang River downstream the reservoir, water has been diverted from the Yangtze to feed the Hanjiang River.

Since Dec 12, 2014, the first phase of eastern and central routes of the project has delivered nearly 30 billion cubic meters of water to the country's parched north.

It has benefited 120 million people along its routes and serves as a lifeline of water supply for more than 40 major cities in the north, according to data from the Ministry of Water Resources.

In addition to providing water for urban living and industrial uses, the central route of the project also sends water to dried rivers in Henan and Hebei provinces by transferring water from the Danjiangkou Reservoir during its flood season. It has improved the ecological environment, purified the air and increased the green coverages along the water recipient areas, Wang said.

Also, a "green corridor" has been built along the central route, with belts of trees planted on both sides of the water channel, he said.

The eastern route of the project, following the path of the ancient Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, has revitalized the ancient water channel through dredging and renovation of river embankment, according to Wang.

It has greatly restored the navigational capability of the ancient canal by supplying water to lakes that serve as its sources of water supply and connecting the canal with water bodies along its routes such as Hongze Lake and Luoma Lake.

In a word, the water diversion project has formed a shared community of life with the natural environment along its routes, forming an ecological barrier, said Wang.



A farmer harvests organic rice in Caofeidian district of Tangshan city, North China's Hebei province, Oct 30, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]

Guided by readings of a speech by Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, the two-day central rural work conference that concluded in Beijing on Saturday laid out a 2020 road map for progress in agriculture, rural areas and rural people.

Xi delivered the speech at a recent meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, which was convened to study issues concerning agriculture, rural areas and rural people.

The work in 2020 will largely decide the quality of China's anti-poverty campaign and the success in becoming a moderately prosperous society in all respects, Xi said in the speech.

Efforts will be made to pool resources, enhance support and take targeted measures to strengthen weak links in the rurally oriented work, he said.

Xi also urged related departments and local governments to shoulder their responsibilities and sustain farmers' enthusiasm for grain production.

To implement Xi's concepts, the central rural work conference discussed a document outlining ways to increase efforts on major rural work to ensure that the national goal of moderate prosperity is achieved on time.

The conference stressed the importance of winning the battle against poverty and called for consistent efforts to lift the remaining poor population out of poverty, as well as steps to prevent people from slipping back in.



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