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China Consolidates 18 Armies into 13

At a news conference on April 27, Yang Yujun the Spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Defense confirmed that China consolidated 18 of its armies into 13.

The new armies are given the numbers from 71 to 83, which are brand new designations. China’s armies were named up to 70 in the past.

Consolidating the army is part of Xi Jinping’s 300,000 military cut which he announced in late 2014. He also reduced the number of military regions from seven to five.

Source: Sina, April 28, 2017
http://news.sina.com.cn/c/2017-04-28/doc-ifyetxec6878981.shtml

Chinese Family Pays Record Bail Amount

(In Hillsborough, California, in the United States) after Tiffany Li’s family provided a bond worth over US$70 million to bail Tiffany, 31, out while she was going through a murder trial, Tiffany Li and her family were exposed as having ties to a former top Chinese General.

Tiffany Li and her boyfriend were charged with the murder of Li’s ex-boyfriend, Keith Green, who was found dead last May. The judge granted Li’s motion for bail in the amount of US$35 million. Li’s family provided 13 real estate properties as collateral (collateral needs to be twice the required cash amount). Li was then freed on bail.

This bail amount was a record high for San Mateo County, California and ranked eighth highest bail in U.S. history ever to be posted in a state court.

People started to dig into Tiffany Li’s background. It was found that her mother Li Jihong was the sister of Li Jinai (李继耐), former People’s Liberation Army (PLA) General and Director of the PLA’s General Political Department. An unofficial report indicated that the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection had been investigating Li Jinai for corruption since August 2016.

Li Jihong, 62, immigrated to the U.S. many years ago. In 1992, she founded Top Toyo Lotus Construction Development, Inc. in the U.S. Top Toyo Lotus invested $2.4 million in a joint venture (Ji Tai Construction & Installation Company) with a military construction unit, to conduct a real estate development business in China.

Source: Duowei, April 20, 2017
http://china.dwnews.com/news/2017-04-20/59811598.html

Oriental Daily: Police Search ICBC’s London Branch

Popular Hong Kong newspaper Oriental Daily recently reported that British law enforcement acknowledged a search of the London branch of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC). The search was part of an investigation of money laundering and tax evasion activities that Chinese criminal organizations had been operating. The British Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) refused to comment. ICBC refused to respond either. EU officials suspected that, since 2013, some Chinese criminal groups had illegally imported goods into EU countries via Britain. The total damage to the EU was estimated at around 42.5 billion euro (US$46.38 billion). Spanish police searched ICBC’s Madrid Branch last year. The Luxembourg authorities also searched ICBC’s EU Headquarters. ICBC ranked number one in China’s banking industry in terms of corporate loans and corporate deposits. Oriental Daily has been Hong Kong’s number one newspaper in circulation since 1976, with a record readership of over 3,100,000.

Source: Oriental Daily, April 27, 2017
http://orientaldaily.on.cc/cnt/china_world/20170427/mobile/odn-20170427-0427_00180_019.html

LTN: 2017 Press Freedom Index Put Mainland China Near the Bottom

On April 16, major Taiwanese news media, Liberty Times Network (LTN), reported on the 2017 Press Freedom Index that Reporters Without Borders recently released. Taiwan was ranked number 45, a 6-step improvement from last year’s rank. Taiwan’s rank is now at the top of Asia. The five countries at the bottom of the global list are China, Syria, Turkmenistan, Eritrea, and North Korea. According to Reporters Without Borders, the ranking was based on assessments in multiple categories like media diversity, the degree of media independence, and reporter security. Reporters Without Borders pointed out that freedom of the press has never faced such a threatening level as it does today. Even in democratic countries, press freedom is becoming more and more fragile. Reporters Without Borders also announce that the organization is giving up on Hong Kong and decided to move its Asian branch office to Taiwan. In the 2017 report, the top five countries are Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and the Netherlands. The United States is ranked at 43 and Hong Kong is 73.

Source: Liberty Times Network, April 26, 2017
http://news.ltn.com.tw/news/politics/breakingnews/2048146

China.com: China’s Pension Fund Individual Accounts Face the Risk of Collapsing

China.com recently reported that Tsinghua University just released a study report on China’s Pension Fund Individual Accounts, which are facing more and more serious financial risks. The Tsinghua Report assessment showed the risk level is at Level Three (the top risk level is Four). The Report found that the Pension Fund Individual Accounts currently has “empty accounts” valued at RMB 4.7 trillion (around US$684 billion). The current pension payments are paid out of “accumulated balances” which are only at the level of RMB 3.5 trillion. At the current pace, the Report expects the accumulated balance to be fully consumed in the near future at which point the entire pension system may collapse. The cause of the imbalance was the difficulties that occurred in the national level process of balancing among wealthy and poor regions. The general expectation now is to put hope in the central government to supply money to fill up the black hole. The pension investment funds have not been performing well in the market and spending consistently exceeds income. The Tsinghua Report found that the current model is not sustainable.

Source: China.com, April 25, 2017
http://toutiao.china.com/sh/yw/13000103/20170425/30457617.html

Huangqiu Editorial: China Needs to Be Prepared If the Relationship between China and North Korea Gets Worse

On April 28, Huangqiu published an editorial article on the relationship between China and North Korea. Below is the translation of a few key points from the article.
1) The relationship between China and North Korea has gotten worse. Since King Jong Un became the top leader, there have been no meetings between the top leaders of the two countries. Even though a diplomatic exchange between the two remains open, little strategic trust is left and a serious communication barrier exists between the two.
2) As tension in the situation on Korean Peninsula is increasing, the relationship between China and North Korea could get worse. Pyongyang might openly criticize Beijing or make unfriendly moves. China should be prepared for this.
3) Some Chinese residents are concerned that, as the relationship between China and North Korea gets worse, China will lose its bargaining advantage with South Korea and the U. S. It will also miss the strategic shield in North East Asia. We should be aware that, at this moment, North Korea has a direct conflict of interest with China’s national strategic interest. In the long term, there is no doubt that China still has control over the relationship between these two countries. As long as North Korea gives up on nuclear weapons, these two countries can easily go back to the normal relationship that they had before. Beijing can encourage Pyongyang to loosen up on its attitude on nuclear weapons. However if Pyongyang keeps pushing the conflicts to the irrational edge, China has the ability to be in charge of the situation completely so as to protect China’s national security.
4) Frankly speaking, “double suspension” is the ultimate goal for China. China does not have much of a bargaining chip to pressure the U.S. and South Korea. We need to be very clear with the U.S. and South Korea that China is not the key party in resolving North Korea nuclear issues. China will not use the interest of the U.S. and South Korea to set its policy towards North Korea. The U.S. and South Korea should line up their thoughts close to ours rather than try to use theirs to overpower ours. Beijing wishes to find a common ground that benefits all party’s interests and advocacy. If this fails, the solution to the situation on the Korean Peninsula has to be put on table. China is not afraid of North Korea nor does it fear the U.S. and South Korea. We have enough power to fight back against any parties that will cross the red line of China’s national interest.

Source: Huanqiu, April 28, 2017
http://opinion.huanqiu.com/editorial/2017-04/10555354.html

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