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European Astronauts Are Learning Chinese

The BBC had published a report that European astronauts received training in China, together with Chinese astronauts.

The training was conducted at the Yellow Sea Training Center, a place close to Yantai City in China’s eastern Shandong Province. For two weeks, German astronaut Matthias Maurer and another astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, both from the European Space Agency, lived and worked with their Chinese counterparts. “We received the training together, lived in the same building with the Chinese and ate the same food. Every day, the schedule was very full,” Maurer told the BBC reporter. “You feel that you are a member of this big family. It’s not like in Houston, where you had to rent a house yourself, and only spent two or three hours of training with your peers.”

Every space agency uses special training to strengthen team spirit, but the Chinese treat the issue in more fundamental way. Maurer said, “Chinese astronauts even go on vacation together. They know each other very well, just like brothers and sisters.” “When we were there, they regarded us as members of a big Chinese space family and we were like one.” Maurer started working at the European Astronaut Center in Cologne, Germany in 2012. He had a relationship with the representatives of the once-secret China manned space program. After one year, he visited the training center in Beijing. In 2016, Chinese astronauts took part in an experiment at the European Space Agency, where astronauts conducted a two-week long underground training in the caves of Sardinia. Maurer, Cristoforetti, and a French astronaut, Thomas Pesquet, are now learning Chinese. The European Space Agency still maintains relations with the United States and Russia, but at the same time it has developed a partnership with another future space power. The BBC reported that Maurer hopes to fly to the space station by 2020. Then in about 2023 he will have the opportunity to be a member of the first group of foreign astronauts to fly to the China Space Station together with Chinese astronauts.

Source: Sputnik News, July 3, 2018

Chinese Embassy Demands Apology from Conference Organizer following Arrest of CCTV Reporter

Beijing News reported that the Chinese Embassy in the U.K confirmed that Kong Linlin, a CCTV news reporter, who the police arrested for “suspicion of common assault” during a meeting held by the office of the London-Based NGO Hong Kong Watch and Britain’s Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, on September 30, has been released. According to a Beijing News article, the spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in the U.K. made the following statement, “The Conservative Party’s Human Rights Commission used the party’s annual meeting to hold an event in which it sided with anti-China separatist forces. China has serious concerns and is experiencing strong dissatisfaction. Our Chinese reporter was obstructed when she asked questions at the side meeting. The Embassy requested that the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission stop interfering in China’s internal affairs and stop interfering with Hong Kong affairs. The Embassy in the U.K. also asked the conference organizers to apologize to the Chinese reporter.”

The article quoted another statement that the CCTV spokesperson made: “Any attempt to advocate the splitting of China is a counter-historical trend and a waste of effort. The spokesperson demanded that the U.K. take effective measures to protect the rights and interests of journalists and to ensure that such absurd incidents do not occur.”

According to a Radio Free Asia article and the embedded video, during the conference, when Benedict Rogers, Deputy Chairman of the Human Rights Commission and Founder of Hong Kong Watch, was wrapping up his speech, Kong Linlin suddenly stood up and started yelling and calling Rogers a liar who wants to separate China. She also called the rest of the people spies. The organizers asked Kong to leave the conference. During the confrontation with the conference organizers, Kong slapped one student volunteer twice and insisted that she has the right to protest. The police later took Kong away.

1. Beijing News, October 2, 2018
2. Radio Free Asia, October 2, 2018

The Growth of China’s Personal Saving Rate Dropped to 7 Percent

The Central Bank has published recent statistics which show that the rate of personal savings of Chinese residents has dropped. Xinhua reported that in August of 2018, the deposit balance in financial institutions in China increased by 8.3 percent compared to the same period last year. In the past 39 years, the growth rate of the deposit balance of financial institutions has never fallen below 9 percent. Meanwhile the growth of the personal saving rate dropped from 18 percent in 2008 to 7 percent in 2018. According to the article, the reason for the drop in the saving rate was attributable to increases in consumption, to a diversion from savings to wealth investment products and to home purchases.

According to the latest statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics, in the first half of the year, the per capita disposable income was 14,063 yuan (US$2,047), a year over year increase of 6.6 percent, continuing its steady growth since the first quarter, but it is still less than 9.4 percent of the year over year growth in the consumption rate.

Since the beginning of this year, even though the interest rate of wealth investment products has fallen below 5 percent, people still chose to invest because it is nonetheless higher than the rate the bank offers. According to WIND, which provides the statistics for financial data analysis services, at the end of 2017, the size of the money fund assets was 7.1 trillion yuan (US1.03 trillion). Since the beginning of this year, the size of the money fund has been rising, reaching 8.4 trillion yuan in August (US$1.22 trillion).

Buying a home has become another important channel for the placement of resident’s saving. According to the semi-annual reports that a number of banks released this year, the scale of real estate loans from banks is still high. Among 26 listed banks, 19 banks have real estate industry loan balances higher than the same period last year; only 7 bank loan balances have declined. It is dominated by small and medium-sized banks, especially in the third and fourth-tier cities. Down payments and monthly payments quickly consume household savings.

The August financial statistics that the Central Bank released showed that, in August, RMB loans increased by 1.28 trillion yuan (US$186 billion). In terms of sectors, the household sector loans increased by 701.2 billion yuan (US$102 billion), of which short-term loans increased by 259.8 billion yuan (US$37.8 billion) and medium- and long-term loans increased by 4415 million yuan (US$642 million).

The financial expert warned that the risk of decline in the personal savings rate could increase the pressure on the whole society for debt repayment and make it more difficult for the financial system to bear the risk.

Source: Xinhua, October 1, 2018

Beijing Tightens Control over Teachers Traveling Overseas

The Chinese government issued a notice before the October 1 National Day holiday requiring local schools to strengthen their control over elementary and middle school teachers’ travel abroad. The regulation also applied to kindergarten and retired teachers. Some provinces and municipalities have already collected the passports from the teachers and some places require teachers to go through a review and approval process by education authorities before leaving the country.

At present, at least the teachers from Fujian, Shandong, and Inner Mongolia have received notices that they require the approval from the authorities when leaving the country. Places such as Xiamen in Fujian and Tai’an in Shandong have requested teachers to submit their passports and travel permits to Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan. Whoever violates the regulations will be severely punished.

Teachers in Xinjiang and Tibet were already placed under intensive control years ago.

Radio Free Asia interviewed some teachers in Xiamen City, who are very unhappy about the new measure, as many Fujian residents have a number of overseas relatives.

One local education bureau official said, “We don’t understand it. I also handed in my passport. We were told to turn in our passports and we have to hand them in. We don’t dare to do anything. Sometimes we just go out to visit some relatives, and we feel very confused. This is the way the current situation is and we do not dare to disobey the leaders and the policy.”

Ever since 2012, China has gradually tightened its control over the people’s travel abroad. The scope of the civil servants and workers in public institutions who are required to submit passports has increased from the division level and above to everyone. Approval is required before leaving the country. However, the new regulation to control elementary and middle school teachers, including retired teachers, is the very first time over the past 40 years.

Source: Radio Free Asia, October 1, 2018

Aboluowang Commentary: China’s Private Sector Feels the Squeeze from All Sides

Aboluowang published an opinion article titled, “China’s Private Businesses Feel the Squeeze from All Sides.” The translation follows:

As the trade situation between the U.S. and China deteriorates, China’s debate on the role of private and state owned enterprises in the economy has become more intense. Analysts suggest that the debate has even raised concerns about the possibility that the communist government may decide to nationalize private companies.

Under Xi Jinping’s leadership, especially after he abolished restrictions on the term limit of the president, thus allowing him to be in power for life, the party has begun to re-emphasize its leadership at all levels of society, including business.

In June this year, the party announced that it would require all publicly listed companies to set up party organizations. In the past two weeks, with the intensification of tension between Beijing and Washington, articles on the Internet have suggested that private companies should retreat to second line status, and China should move toward a large-scale centralized public-private partnership economy.

In one article, Wu Xiaoping, a senior financial specialist, wrote that the private economy has fulfilled its mission of helping the public economy and should withdraw from the historical arena.

Frank Xie, an associate professor at the University of South Carolina, said that although Wu’s article was strongly opposed, and that even the official media criticized it, the article was not immediately deleted because the government wanted to test public opinion.

Recent remarks that Qiu Xiaoping, the deputy director of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Resources Protection made, were also slammed. Qiu Xiaoping said that private enterprises should be more democratic and called on the Party to lead workers to manage private enterprises jointly and to share profits with each other.

Last week, however, in Northeast Liaoning, Xi Jinping encouraged private companies to be confident. Xi also promised that the Party will resolutely develop, support, guide and protect the private sector. It is unclear whether his remarks meant that the government would be more involved in private companies.

Lu Suiqi, an associate professor at the School of Economics at Peking University, said, “In the context of the US-China trade war, there are concerns that China’s economy will shrink and that the leaders of the Party may sacrifice private enterprises to support state owned enterprises. Although the government has stated that the development of private enterprises is guaranteed, the guiding position that state owned enterprises enjoy should not change.”

Chinese state owned enterprises have long enjoyed a monopoly in important and lucrative areas. They are also hotbeds of corruption, but even though they have 70 percent of China’s financial resources, they only account for about 30 percent of the economic contribution. Private companies receive less money but create 80 percent of jobs and contribute to 60 percent of economic growth.

Many people in China and abroad believe that the state owned enterprises are dragging China’s economy and are an obstruction to free trade. The U.S. in particular is dissatisfied with Chinese state owned enterprises in terms of trade, but the Party may still expand the scale of state owned enterprises.

“The purpose of either nationalizing private companies or expanding the size of state owned enterprises is to increase (the party’s) control,” said Darson Chiu, a scholar at the Taiwan Economic Research Institute. From China’s perspective, “expanding the size of state owned enterprises will enhance the planned economy and make it easier to avoid risks.”

Frank Xie, however, said that if China takes this path, China and the U.S. will have conflicts because this is contrary to what Trump wants China to do. Xie said, “This will only encourage Trump to continue to the next step and then tax the balance of US$ 267 billion worth of goods.”

The major risks China faces, of course, are not just the trade wars. China’s stock market has fallen to its lowest point in four years, and industrial growth has slowed for four consecutive months.

Its economy is facing many problems, including large scale government and corporate debt, as well as tight liquidity.

Last week, Yu Liang, head of China’s real estate giant Vanke, said at a regular meeting that the main goal of the company now is “to live.”

In the auditorium of Vanke, a red banner with two characters “to live” was hanging on the wall. Yu Liang said that China has reached a turning point and no industry can be immune from a negative a economic impact.

Source: Aboluowang, October 3, 2018

Zambia’s Official Newspaper Publishes Article in Chinese

Times of Zambia, a state-owned newspaper in Zambia, published an article in Chinese on Tuesday October 2, sparking widespread controversy.

Civil society groups condemned the newspaper for publishing in Chinese which is not the main local language. They suspect that the Zambian government was using the tactic to win over Chinese sponsors, who have loaned hundreds of millions of dollars to the country in the past few years.

Laura Miti, leader of the Alliance for Community Action and a human rights activist, told Voice of America, “This is very sudden. If it were April 1, it might be considered an April Fool’s Day joke.”

She said, “I think this is a very real feeling. If we are not careful, one day we will wake up and find that we have become a province of China.”

Earlier, the Zambia Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services and Chief Government Spokesperson Dora Siliya said on Twitter, “Times of Zambia is aiming to increase revenue by targeting the Chinese market. Today’s edition has a Chinese version of the top story. They want to tap into Chinese advertising.”

But many people expressed disappointment on social media, saying that the newspaper undermined Zambia’s sovereignty.

Source: Voice of America, October 2, 2018

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