7 January 2020
XI URGES BRI EFFORTS WITH KIRIBATI
President Xi Jinping called for joint efforts with the Pacific island nation of Kiribati to build the Belt and Road and expand practical cooperation on Monday.
Xi made the remarks while meeting with Taneti Maamau, president of Kiribati, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Maamau is paying his first state visit to China, which began on Saturday.
Witnessed by the two presidents, China and Kiribati signed a memorandum of understanding on jointly building the Belt and Road and documents covering areas such as diplomacy, investment, agriculture, fisheries and tariff reduction.
China and Kiribati restored diplomatic relations last September after the central Pacific island nation severed its so-called "diplomatic ties" with Taiwan.
The restoration of diplomatic relations on the basis of upholding the one-China principle has opened a new chapter in bilateral ties, Xi said, adding that Kiribati has stood on the right side of history by restoring diplomatic relations with China.
Since the restoration of diplomatic relations, China and Kiribati have launched cooperation in various areas and already made some achievements, Xi said.
The facts have shown that the restoration of diplomatic relations has met the interests of the people of both sides, and there is great potential for the development of bilateral relations, he added.
Hailing the president's visit to China as an important milestone, Xi said that China would like to make joint efforts with Kiribati to further promote the development of relations.
Xi pointed out that the two countries should deepen mutual political trust, saying that all countries should be treated equally no matter whether they are large or small.
China adheres to the principle of peaceful development, and it will not seek hegemony or interfere in other countries' internal affairs, nor will it allow the other countries to interfere in China's affairs, Xi said.
China respects Kiribati's choice of the development path that suits its own national situation, and it would like to exchange the experience of governance with Kiribati, Xi said.
China would like to encourage more domestic companies to invest in Kiribati, and the two countries should enhance people-to-people exchanges, he added.
Maamau said that the decision to restore diplomatic relations with China was made out of trust and confidence toward China.
Maamau said that "as a great power and emerging superpower", China has immense potential on the stage of world affairs. He spoke highly of Xi's leadership in addressing global issues such as maintaining the interests of developing countries and addressing the climate change crisis.
On Monday morning, Premier Li Keqiang also met with Maamau at the Great Hall of the People.
BOOK OF PRESIDENT'S SPEECHES PUBLISHED
A book of three important speeches delivered by President Xi Jinping on occasions last year celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China has been published by Foreign Languages Press.
Xi, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the speeches at three events — a grand gathering celebrating the anniversary on Oct 1, a reception for the same purpose on Sept 30 and a presentation ceremony of national medals and honorary titles on Sept 29.
The book has Chinese and English versions, and it is available at bookstores in China and overseas.
In the speeches, Xi reviewed the historical path that the Chinese people had pursued over the past 70 years through relentless efforts to achieve national independence and liberation, a stronger and more prosperous country and the people's well-being, and demonstrated the country's firm resolve to embark on the path toward national rejuvenation in the new era.
He also used the speeches to reiterate China's commitment to peaceful development and its willingness to work with other countries to jointly build a community with a shared future for mankind.
Xi's speeches have greatly ignited patriotism among the Chinese people, boosted the morale of the Party, the military and the people, enhanced the confidence and sense of pride of Chinese people at home and abroad, and have won international acclaim, said an official announcement on the publication of the book.
CHINA CALLS ON ALL SIDES TO HANDLE IRAN ISSUE WITH FAIRNESS
Tensions escalated in the Gulf region over the weekend as Iran distanced itself from the 2015 nuclear deal amid growing threats and pressure from the United States.
The Iranian cabinet said in a statement on Sunday that the country would "take the final step to reduce commitments to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action", and would not observe restrictions in operational areas, including uranium enrichment capacities, enrichment percentage, the volume of enriched material and research.
Teheran will abandon the last key restriction in the operational field put up in the 2015 nuclear deal regarding "the limitations in the number of centrifuges" and will proceed solely based on the country's technical needs, Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
As an important party to the nuclear deal, China is highly concerned about the current situation in the Middle East, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Monday, adding that the region's peace and stability is of vital importance for the entire world.
Geng said that Iran has exercised restraint, although it was forced to end its commitment due to external factors. "Iran has clearly expressed its political willingness to comprehensively and effectively implement the 2015 nuclear deal and does not break obligations as stipulated by the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons," he said.
Iran's 2015 nuclear accord with the United Kingdom, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US has been hanging by a thread since Washington's unilateral withdrawal in May 2018.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng said the withdrawal was "the root cause of the Iran nuclear tensions".
"It should also be the basic starting point for all related parties to deal with the Iran nuclear issue in an objective and fair way," he said.
Iran's announcement was another sign of the fallout from Friday's assassination of senior general Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad in a drone strike ordered by US President Donald Trump.
On Monday, hundreds of thousands of people in Teheran mourned the death of Soleimani, the former commander of the Quds Force of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Geng said at a regular news conference in Beijing that the risky military behavior of the US "goes against the basic norms governing international relations as well as aggravates the tensions of the regional situation", and the power politics "are neither popular nor sustainable".
TRANSPARENCY PREVENTS PANIC IN VIRUS CASE
After the pneumonia cases were first reported on Dec 31, people immediately began asking if SARS, which broke out in China and large parts of Asia in 2002-03, was back. Instead of giving an immediate answer, the authorities in Wuhan conducted a thorough study before ruling it out on Sunday.
So, why the sudden increase in pneumonia cases? The authorities were honest enough to say they still don't know. They also did not hide the fact that the number of those infected had risen to 59, from 27 on Wednesday and 44 on Friday.
The local authorities' honesty has inspired confidence. A glance through social media networks shows there is no hint of panic among residents; tourist flow to Wuhan has not been hit either.
The pneumonia cases in Wuhan are a good example of how transparency in governance prevents rumors from spreading and people from panicking. Only when people are well informed about what is happening around them will they ignore rumors and feel confident in the government.
Absence of panic will prevent mass migration from places that purportedly face medical emergencies and help the government to effectively control the spread of any disease.
As for the pneumonia cases, the fact that the authorities have ruled out SARS and MERS does not mean we become complacent. Until the virus is identified, we won't know how to deal with it. But with everybody's joint efforts, we should be able to control it soon.
EXPORT CURBS ON AI SHOW WASHINGTON'S 'INSECURITY'
Washington's decision to limit exports of certain artificial intelligence software will expedite Chinese companies' efforts to use their in-house alternatives, and the move will have a limited impact on China's booming AI industry, experts said.
Their comments came after a new US rule, which took effect on Monday, requires that companies from the United States apply for a license when they export AI-powered geospatial imagery software to other countries, apart from Canada.
The rule, from the US Commerce Department, comes as it is working to tighten exports on sensitive technology to potential rivals, including China.
Xiang Ligang, director-general of the telecom industry association Information Consumption Alliance, said using AI to process geospatial imagery is a common practice. It can be used to help sensors, drones and satellites automate the process of identifying targets for military and civilian purposes.
"The move is the latest effort by the US government to keep sensitive technologies out of the hands of China. It showcases Washington's insecurity amid Beijing's technological rise," Xiang said.
Chinese drone maker DJI said on Monday the new rule won't affect its business. Instead, it can be a boon for the Shenzhen-based company, as DJI has self-developed aerial survey software called DJI Map. This software provides autonomous route planning and supports aerial photography, the company added.
"The rule won't affect our research using satellite imagery. The analytical tools are developed by ourselves. But this once again serves as a reminder that more efforts are needed to build a self-developed AI-powered satellite research platform," said Wu Haishan, deputy manager of the AI department at WeBank, an online bank affiliated with internet heavyweight Tencent Holdings.
The US government has been targeting the ascent of China's AI sector with multiple means. In October, the US Commerce Department placed eight Chinese AI pioneers including iFlytek on its "Entity List", banning them from buying components from US companies without special government approval.
Bai Ming, a senior research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, said Washington has intensified its push to keep important technologies away from China, even by sacrificing the interests of US tech companies.
The New York Times published a story last year about how Silicon Valley fears losing its edge due to possible government curbs on AI exports. The story quoted experts as saying that blocking exports of AI to other countries would help such industries flourish in those nations−China, in particular−and compete with US companies.
Ren Zhengfei, founder of Huawei Technologies Co, the world's largest telecom equipment maker, which has been on the US Entity List since May, said earlier that if developing countries cannot buy technologies from the US, they will find or develop their own alternatives.
PEDESTRIAN STREETS TO BOLSTER ECONOMY
The State Council has decided to revamp and modernize more pedestrian streets nationwide as part of broader efforts to spur consumer spending and investment in urban infrastructure and shore up economic growth.
At its executive meeting on Dec 30, the Cabinet said giving face-lifts to more pedestrian streets will encourage new models of business to grow and improve the shopping experience for consumers.
It highlighted a market-oriented approach and the introduction of tailored policies and measures to create more job opportunities, according to a statement released after the meeting.
Premier Li Keqiang said at the meeting that the revamping of pedestrian streets must be moved forward with the development of small shops so that the streets can be more popular, distinctive and indicative of cultural backgrounds.
The renovation of pedestrian streets must be led by local authorities and be in line with market principles and consumer choices, he said.
"We need to research the possibility of encouraging private capital to take part in the policy measures so the market's role can be further amplified," he said, adding that the new pedestrian streets must see sustained economic returns.
The meeting also stressed the necessity for greater strides in cutting red tape, innovative approaches to government oversight and developing more convenient and intelligent facilities, with greater efforts to integrate online and offline commercial models. It also called for policies to be fine-tuned to local conditions, with proper arrangements to prevent vanity projects.
The growth of China's consumer spending last year, as represented by retail sales, was estimated to have fallen by 1 percentage point year-on-year to 8 percent, the Ministry of Commerce said in a statement on Dec 30. The country's retail sales volume for the year is expected to total 41.1 trillion yuan ($5.89 trillion).
In the face of mounting downward pressure on the economy, the central government has unveiled 20 measures to boost domestic consumption, from improving commercial pedestrian streets and encouraging night markets to canceling restrictions on car sales.
The Ministry of Commerce issued a work plan in September that set a target of revamping 30 to 50 model pedestrian streets in the next three years with the aim of boosting consumer flows and business turnover by 30 percent.
The ministry said it will not encourage the construction of new pedestrian streets during the process or the demolition and rebuilding of existing ones, with digital upgrading being a main focus. Measures will be adopted to expand the coverage of wireless networks, the application of fifth-generation mobile communication technology and the use of big data for operational monitoring, it added.
The ministry launched a pilot program at the end of 2018 to upgrade 11 pedestrian streets nationwide, a project that enabled the refurbishment of over 800,000 square meters of commercial areas and introduced over 900 name brands and dozens of flagship stores.
The 11 streets saw their business turnover surge 17.3 percent year-on-year in the first 11 months of 2019 to 115.1 billion yuan, with the flow of customers up by 21.2 percent to some 825 million visits.
Yin Hong, an official with ministry's department of circulation industry development, which manages industries related to the market circulation of goods, said the revamping of the pedestrian streets has focused on improving transport networks, facilities and equipment and greening projects.
The authorities will also focus on cracking down on counterfeit products, she said.