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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

100,000 Lawyers Participated in Ceremony Giving Pledge to the Constitution

On Sunday December 2, one day before Constitution Day in China, nearly 100,000 lawyers from more than 400 cities across the country participated in a group ceremony held in their region making a pledge to the constitution. The judicial administrative entity and the lawyer’s associations around the country organized the ceremony. Sohu reported that “the ceremony was not only for the legal profession to show respect for the constitution, a willingness to study the constitution and for their observance and maintenance of the constitution, but also to strengthen the ideological and political, as well as the professionalism of education among lawyers.” Fu Zhenghua, the Chinese Attorney General, even went to Hohhot in Inner Mongolia, serving as a witness to the pledges of hundreds of lawyers. The media described it as the first occurrence of such an event in the history of Communist China.

According to the newly revised “lawyers’ pledge rules,” the pledge is expressly required as a necessary procedure for lawyers to perform. Lawyers must execute the pledge and comply with the procedures and dress requirements that the authorities set. If lawyers do not take the pledge, a penalty will be imposed. However, according to Radio Free Asia, many lawyers in China still haven’t participated in the ceremony despite the potential penalty. One rights lawyer from Shanghai told RFA that he was not invited to the ceremony, but even if he had been invited, he still would not have gone because he dislikes putting on a show. Another lawyer said that the party treats lawyers as party members by organizing a group pledge ceremony. The pledge ceremony should be held individually not as a group, he said. Both lawyers said that China does not have judicial independence. The so-called “ruling the country according to law” is nothing but empty talk.

1. Sohu, December 3, 2018
2. Radio Free Asia, December 4, 2018

Chinese Companies in Panama

On June 13, 2017, Panama dropped Taiwan and established diplomatic relations with China. Since then, many Chinese companies have entered Panama. At present, the Panamanian Chinese Chamber of Commerce has 40 members.

China Harbour Engineering has moved its regional headquarters to Panama and taken over an expansion project of the Colon Port and a cruise terminal project. Not long ago, China Harbour also won the bid for the project of the fourth bridge over the Panama Canal. In 2017, China’s Lan Bridge Group also started the Colon Margarita port expansion project. China State Construction Engineering has successively undertaken infrastructure projects such as the Panama government’s “City of Hope” Housing Project, the Amador Convention Center, and Panama City’s San Isidro Bus Station.

China CAMC Engineering also established an overseas warehouse in the Panama Free Trade Zone in Colon. Goldwind Technology supplies equipment for the Panama wind power project and drives the export of Chinese equipment.

The Bank of China, Huawei, and Nuctech have also made considerable progress in their respective fields. At present, China Railway Engineering Corporation is conducting a feasibility study related to passenger and freight transportation.

Wei Qiang, China’s first ambassador to Panama, said that the enormous energy accumulated during the long-term relationship between China and Pakistan is to be fully released and will comprehensively be promoting cooperation in trade, investment, shipping, civil aviation, finance, agriculture, tourism, and infrastructure. The two sides signed a memorandum of understanding on jointly promoting the construction of the “Belt and Road.” Panama is the first Latin American country to sign this memorandum with China.

The Panamanian Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Luis Miguel Hincapie said that Panama hopes to become China’s gateway to other parts of Latin America.

Source: Xinhua, December 3, 2018

Lianhe Zaobao: China Had to Buy U.S. Pork to Fight Swine Fever

Singapore’s primary Chinese language newspaper Lianhe Zaobao recently reported that China has been importing a massive amount of U.S. pork although China is charging punishing tariffs on pork originated from the United States. Highly infectious swine plague is sweeping across China, putting heavy damage on the pork market and industry in China. According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, very recently, Chinese entities placed the largest order for U.S. pork since the beginning of the trade war. The active purchasing moves gave the observers the impression that the Chinese pork market is seeing a significant shortage. This may actually ease the tension between China and the U.S. that the trade war introduced. China is currently charging a 62 percent tariff against U.S. pork. For the week of November 22, purchases of 9,384 tons of 2019 U.S. pork originated from China. This represents a 72 percent share of all U.S. pork export deals during that week. U.S. pork futures increased by four percent.

Source: Lianhe Zaobao, November 30, 2018