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Deutsche Welle: Cemetery Prices in China Are Higher Than the Price of Housing

On December 3, Deutsche Welle reported that, not only are housing prices in China’s metropolises rising rapidly, but cemetery plots have become increasingly expensive and scarce. The price of a cemetery plot has soared due to the lack of land. This is true not only in Beijing, but also in many other coastal cities in China. Whether it is Shanghai, Shenzhen, or Hong Kong, cemeteries are becoming fewer and fewer. The article stated that in the capital, Beijing, there are only enough available cemetery plots to last for six years. Hong Kong residents have to wait in line to purchase a cemetery plot. In cities like Beijing or Shanghai, the cost per square meter is over 100,000 yuan (US$14,526) which is higher than the price of housing and it is impossible for an average working class family to afford. The Chinese government hopes to achieve nearly a 100 percent cremation rate, but so far not everyone has responded positively to the government’s call because it is against people’s traditional beliefs in Chinese culture.

Source: Deutsche Welle, December 3, 2018

The 13th Confucius Institute Conference

On December 4 and 5, the 13th Confucius Institute Conference was held in Chengdu, Sichuan Province. During the two-day session, the conference held two panel discussions, eight presidents’ forums, and 20 workshops. According Hanban, the global headquarters of the Confucius Institute, more than 1,500 representatives from more than 150 countries and regions attended the conference.

Sun Chunlan, Vice Premier of the State Council and Chairman of the Headquarters Council of the Confucius Institute, attended and delivered a speech at the opening ceremony. Chen Baosheng, the Minister of Education and Vice Chairman of the Headquarters Council of the Confucius Institute, hosted the opening ceremony. Vice Minister of Education Tian Xuejun attended the closing ceremony and delivered a speech. Forums and workshops had 460 participants who made a total of 220 speeches.

At present, 154 countries and regions have established 548 Confucius Institutes, 1,193 Confucius Classrooms in primary and secondary schools, and 5,665 Chinese teaching centers. 46,000 full-time and part-time teachers have been teaching the Chinese language to 11 million students.

Source: Hanban, December 5, 2018

China Established Online Game Ethics Committee

According to China’s official Xinhua News Agency, under the guidance of the Communist Party’s Central Propaganda Department, an online game ethics committee was recently established in Beijing. Shortly after its establishment, the committee reviewed the first batch of 20 “morally problematic” online games and decided to disapprove of nine of them.

According to official media reports, the establishment of the online game ethics committee is an important measure to follow the guidance of CCP’s National Propaganda and Ideological Work Conference held in August, and to enrich the ideological and cultural contents of online games. The committee consists of experts and scholars from regulators, universities, professional institutions, and news media. Information such as the people and the organizational structure is not known. The committee was entitled to conduct an ethical review of online games and related services that may or may not have produced moral controversy and public opinion discussions.

The news itself has caused controversy among Chinese netizens. Some commented, “Whether a game is ethical or not, it should be judged by the majority of players and the whole society, instead of a few unidentified experts sitting at a desk.” Others voiced worry that such a so-called official “ethics committee” will appear in other areas of society in the future. Some netizens believe that such a unified approval model will limit the diverse and innovative development of the Chinese game industry.

Source: Radio France International, December 7, 2018

China’s Ambition to Dominate the World’s Lithium Market

China’s Tianqi Lithium acquired a 23.77 percent stake in Chilean lithium giant Chemical & Mining Co. of Chile (SQM) for US$4.0 billion. China is therefore one step closer to having a monopoly position in the lithium mining market. This rare metal has the reputation of being the “oil of the 21st century” because it is indispensable for the batteries that charge virtually every electronic product, computers, cell phones, and electric cars.

SQM is the world’s largest lithium producer, accounting for nearly a quarter of all global production. Tianqi Lithium also has shares in Australia’s Albemarle Corp., the world’s second-largest lithium producer. If added to the production of Tianqi Lithium itself, the Chinese company would control 70 percent of the global market for this precious metal.

For China, it is important to control such an important raw material around the world. Liu Ying, a researcher at the Chongyang Financial Research Institute of Renmin University of China, believes that the demand for lithium in the future can only grow. The world will gradually abandon oil and switch to new energy sources, mainly electricity. Nothing has been found to replace the lithium which is necessary for the production of storage batteries. A monopoly of the lithium market would have a very attractive future.

Sputnik News, December 6, 2018

A Former Politburo Member Rumored to Retire in the United States

According to Hong Kong based Apple Daily, a senior Chinese official is now retiring in the United States. Jiang Chunyun once served as a member of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee, Vice Chairman of the National People’s Congress, and Vice Premier of China’s State Council. He has now settled in the United States. The Politburo, or Political Bureau, is the leadership organization of the CCP Central Committee, a collection of the top 25 some most powerful senior CCP cadres in China. The news was widely spread via the Internet and was not confirmed. There have been quite a few rumors about former Chinese officials living in the United States, but the exact number is not known.

Jiang became the secretary of the Shandong Provincial Party Committee during the period in of Student Movement in 1989. After the 14th National Congress of the CCP, he was promoted as a member of the Politburo of the CCP Central Committee, while still serving as CCP secretary of Shandong. In 1994, he became a member of CCP Central Committee Secretariat. A year later, he was appointed as the vice premier of the State Council in charge of the agricultural economy.

Source: Radio France International, December 2, 2018

RFI: “Sponsored” Journalists from Asia and African Countries Were Told They Could Only Write Positive Reports about China

Radio France Internationale reported that, according to The Print, an Indian Media, in order to cooperate with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “One Belt and One Road” project, Beijing formulated a plan to target media in South Asia, Southeast Asia and Africa. The plan was to set up a “scholarship program” to host foreign journalists in China free of charge, including living in a luxury residence outside Beijing’s Jianguomen which is normally reserved for diplomats. Once these journalists finished the program, they would receive a certificate from a Chinese university and tour other regions in China. A requirement is that they must write positive reports on Beijing’s authorities.

According to The Print, starting from 2016, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has hosted about 100 journalists from Asian and African media to complete a so-called scholarship program which lasted for ten months. These foreign journalists would receive red carpet-style hospitality and live free of charge in the residences reserved for diplomats. The monthly rent for a two-bedroom unit in the area normally is 22,000 yuan (US$3,200). The journalist could travel to other provinces free of charge every month and earn an allowance of 5,000 yuan (US$728) per month. At the end of the program, a Chinese university would issue a certificate in international relations and they would be given the right to interview Chinese government officials and ministers. As part of the program, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Public Diplomacy Association jointly set up the China Africa News Center, the China Southeast Asia News Center, and the China South Asia News Center. These centers granted a press permit to the sponsored foreign journalists. The journalist identity of the original news organization did not work in China. During the 10-month stay, they were not allowed to do interviews about sensitive topics such as human rights, Tibet, and Xinjiang.

According to The Print, in the past three years, journalists participating in the program have come from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines, and other countries and regions. These journalists’ news organizations published most of their news reports, but those media wouldn’t disclose that China gave their journalists special treatment. India, however, was an exception. According to The Print, the Indian Embassy in Beijing clearly separated these journalists from the rest of the Indian journalists who are independently registered to work in China. Indian Journalists who attended China’s sponsored program were not allowed to participate in official Indian events or obtain official background information. Those China sponsored journalists were told that, when they wrote their reports, they had to bear in mind that China has a friendly relationship with their countries, especially about the “one belt and one road” project. One journalist from a Southeast Asia country told The Print that they were specifically informed that they could not report about the conflicts in the South China Sea. The Print quoted one as saying, “We were told that if we wished to complete the sponsorship program, we must write positive reports about China.”

Source: Radio France Internationale, December 1, 2018