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Geo-Strategic Trend

Deutsche Welle: Malaysia to Reassess Belt and Road Project

Prior to embarking on a five-day trip to China, Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir once again expressed his intent to cancel two major infrastructure projects in Malaysia that a Chinese company had funded. The Chinese side responded with concern that the cancellation of the projects will cause the Chinese company to suffer a significant financial loss and will also cause a setback in the “belt and road” project. Deutsche Welle reported that, In July, Mahathir said that there was some unfairness in a few of the projects in which the Chinese companies had invested. It will be an important issue that he will bring up when he visits China. On August 13, Mahathir stated again that he intends to cancel several agreements that the previous administration had signed for infrastructure projects that would cost billions of dollars. He stated, “Malaysia does not need these projects.” One high ranking Chinese  bank official who participated in sourcing the funding for the Malaysia projects told Deutsche Welle that cancelling the project would be a major setback for the development of China’s Belt and Road project overseas. It would result in a huge financial loss to the Chinese investors and would result in the loan becoming a bad debt. Mahathir also stated that he will demand that China respect freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, “No one should develop a permanent station in the disputed region in the South China Sea and cause an unnecessary increase in tension.”

Source: Deutsche Welle, August 14, 2018 马来西亚喊停 “一带一路”将受挫

The Paper: China to Cooperate with Panama to Build “21st Century Maritime Silk Road”

The Paper reported that Transportation Minister Li Xiaopeng visited Panama from August 8 to August 11 to attend the signing ceremony of the “Memorandum of Understanding on Maritime Cooperation between the Ministry of Transportation of the Maritime Bureau of the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of Panama.” During his meeting with Li Xiaopeng, Juan Carlos Varela, Panama’s President, expressed the desire to strengthen the pragmatic cooperation between Panama and China in the fields of maritime transportation, air transportation, and transportation infrastructure construction and to utilize the advantage of Panama’s location to build a “21st Century Maritime Silk Road” with China. Currently, Panama’s ships receive preferential tax treatment in China; there are also direct flights between these two countries; and China also participates in canal, railway, and subway construction projects in Panama.

Source: The Paper, August 12, 2018

China Has Second Largest Number of Cultural Centers in Africa

Development Reimagined, a Beijing based consulting Company, announced that China ranked second in terms of the number of cultural centers in Africa, only behind France.

Currently the region has 48 Confucius Institutes, which debuted in 2004. This is the second largest foreign cultural system in Africa. France ranks first with 180 cultural institutions. The others are the United States (40), the United Kingdom (38), Portugal (34) and Germany (21).

What makes the Confucius Institute different is that it is seated inside the campus of universities and its courses are part of the academic programs.

According to Dr. Ishmael Mensah, Dean of the Confucius Institute in Ghana, courses offered by Confucius Institutes are becoming more and more popular, with 2,000 students attending classes during the semester.

Source: Sputnik News, August 14, 2018

Xinhua: The U.S.-Japan Trade Talks Faced Many Conflicts

Xinhua recently reported that the trade talks between the United States and Japan started on August 9. Because of the large number of disagreements, the talks could not be finished as scheduled and the two parties decided to continue on the second day. The Nikkei Index dropped by 1.33 percent citing worries about U.S. trade protectionism. Xinhua referred to a Nikkei (Japan Economics Newspaper) report, which indicated that the U.S. wanted to shift the talks into a free trade negotiation between the two countries, while Japan wanted to frame the talks under the TPP international agreement. The Xinhua article also quoted an Asahi News report on widespread concerns among Japanese industries, especially agriculture. The Trump administration had already threatened, not long ago, to increase the tariff on Japanese automobiles by 25 percent. According to Japanese media, the positions between the two countries are far from each other. Japanese Prime Minister Abe will soon face an election for the head of the party, while the U.S. President is about to be challenged in his first mid-term election. Nikkei is the world’s largest financial newspaper. Asahi News is the second largest Japanese daily newspaper.

Source: Xinhua, August 11, 2018

China’s CNPC to replace French Company Total in Iran’s SP11 Project

On August 12, the Islamic Republic of Iran News Agency (IRNA), the official news agency of Iran, quoted the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), which said that China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) purchased shares of the French oil company Total in the Iranian gas project “South Pars 11.”

Mohamad Mostafavi, investment and business manager at Iran’s National Oil Company, said, “CNPC bought shares of the French company Total. Its shares currently account for 80.1 percent of the ‘South Pars 11’ project.”

He added that cooperation with large Chinese companies also carries strategic importance for NIOC. In June, Total of France announced that, if the company could not obtain a sanction waiver from the US government with the support of France and the European authority, it would withdraw from the “South Pars 11” project.

Source: Russian Sputnik News, August 12, 2018

Open Letter Appeals to Xi Jinping to Stop the Massive Handouts to Foreign Students

A U.S. based blog site – weiquanwang (rights protection site) – recently published an open letter to the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee and requested that China stop providing blanket massive subsidies to foreign students in China. The letter stated that millions of ordinary Chinese people have to tighten their belts for their children’s education, while the government hands out disproportionate subsidies to thousands of international students in China.

As of July 31, 2018, 295 people had signed the letter, which was titled, “Citizens’ Opinion on Requesting an End to the “Universal” Fiscal Subsidies to Foreign Students.” Among them were 49 lawyers (not including one lawyer who withdrew under pressure), six journalists, and 240 doctors, professors, teachers, and other activists.

The author Liu Shuqing, a human rights Lawyer and a lecturer from Shandong Qilu University of Technology, has already mailed it to Chinese President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang, Chair of the National People’s Congress Li Lishu; Minister of Education Chen Baosheng, Finance Minister Liu Kun, and Director of Legal Affairs of the NPC Standing Committee Chen Chunyao.

The letter stated, “We are not a group that suffers from xenophobia.  . . . We understand our government’s moderate assistance to poorer countries. We understand the practice of granting scholarships to a small number of outstanding foreign students, but the principle body of doing this should be schools and universities.  . . . What we are opposed to is the ‘universal’ and high amount of fiscal subsidies to foreign students without considering our national conditions. What we oppose is the irrationality of policies and the lack of procedural justice in the process of policy making. What we value is the Chinese national’s equal rights to education and the taxpayer’s rights to have a say on fiscal expenditures.”

The letter pointed to the fact that China’s per capita income in 2017 ranked 69th in the world, a very low level. By China’s own poverty standard, 40 million people are still living in poverty. Without a system that provides the basic guarantees of education and medical care, incidents of poverty related dropouts have occurred from time to time. Chinese university students need to pay a high tuition. Scholarships, assistantships, and work-study programs cannot offset these payments. For an ordinary Chinese family, a university education is a heavy burden.

The letter criticized the handing out of 60,000 to 100,000 yuan annually to almost every foreign student, the number of which has grown dramatically. It is an immoral policy as the government is obligated to have its actions be approved by the tax payers before it makes such policies of foreign aid.

The letter said it understands that there may be strategic considerations related to the “One Belt, One Road” initiative. By increasing the proportion of foreign students in the country, the regime hopes that they will become the backbone of the local people and help to promote strategic implementation. However this way of using fiscal subsidies to attract foreign students is wrong.

Source: Radio France Internationale, August, 9, 2018

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