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China paper defends Syria veto, doubts West’s intentions

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BEIJING | Sun Feb 5, 2012 9:07pm EST

(Reuters) – China’s top newspaper on Monday defended Beijing’s rejection of a U.N. resolution pressing Syria‘s President Bashar al-Assad to abandon power, saying Western campaigns in Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq showed the error of forced regime change.

The commentary in the People’s Daily, the top newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party, was Beijing’s clearest defence of its decision to join Moscow at the weekend in vetoing a draft United Nations resolution that would have backed an Arab plan urging Assad to quit after months of bloodshed.

The commentary suggested that Chinese distrust of Western intervention lay behind the veto, which was described by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as a “travesty.”

“The situation in Syria continues to deteriorate and numbers of civilian casualties keep rising. Vetoing the draft Security Council resolution does not mean we are giving free rein to letting this heart-rending state of affairs continue,” said the commentary in the paper, which echoes government thinking.

China, not its Western critics, was acting “responsibly” for the sake of the Syrian people, it said. The author used the pen name “Zhong Sheng,” which can mean “voice of China” and is often used to give Beijing’s position on foreign policy.

“Currently, the situation in Syria is extremely complex. Simplistically supporting one side and suppressing the other might seem a helpful way of turning things around, but in fact it would be sowing fresh seeds of disaster,” said the paper.

China’s siding with Russia over Syria could add to irritants with the United States. Vice President Xi Jinping is due to visit there next week, burnishing his credentials as the Communist Party’s likely next top leader.

Beijing and Washington have also sparred over Iran, which faces tightened Western sanctions over its nuclear ambitions.

The commentary also laid bare broader Chinese concerns about Western-backed intervention in the Arab world and beyond.

China is one of the five permanent U.N. Security Council members that hold the power to veto resolutions.

In March, China abstained from a Council vote that authorised Western military intervention in Libya. That resolution became the basis for a NATO air campaign that led to the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, despite misgivings from Beijing and Moscow about the expanded campaign, which they said went beyond the resolution.

“Libya offers a negative case study. NATO abused the Security Council resolution about establishing a no-fly zone, and directly provided firepower assistance to one side in the Libyan war,” said the People’s Daily Commentary.

It also cited Iraq and Afghanistan in its case against the Syria resolution.

“The calamities of Iraq and Afghanistan should be ample to wipe clear the world’s eyes. Forceful prevention of a humanitarian disaster sounds filled with a sense of justice and responsibility,” said the paper.

“But are not the unstoppable attacks and explosions over a decade after regime change a humanitarian disaster?” it said.

(Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Paul Tait)

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New Terminal JV in China for Odfjell SE

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Odfjell SE has made an agreement to enter into a joint venture via its subsidiary Odfjell Terminals Asia Pte Ltd (Singapore), with Tianjin Economic-Technology Development Area (TEDA) via its subsidiary Nangang Port Company to develop a terminal and marine facilities for bulk liquid chemicals, petroleum products and gases in the Nangang Industrial Zone (Tianjin) in China.

The initial phase of the joint venture will consist of three deep sea berths and have a total storage capacity of about 150,000 cubic meters.

The joint venture company will be named Odfjell Terminals Nangang (Tianjin), whereby Odfjell will hold 49% ownership and hold the operational management. The initial total investment is estimated to be about USD 160 million. The first phase will start operations during the second quarter of 2014. The Nangang Industrial Zone is located about 120 km from Beijing and will become the major petrochemical complex in the Western Bohai Bay area

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DOE sees rationing as US acts vs Iran

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BY JOHN LOURENZE POQUIZ

The Department of Energy is readying its contingency plan in the event that the problem in Iran escalates and results in a local fuel supply shortage.

Energy Undersecretary Jose Layug said that the DOE is looking at mechanism where the government would ration fuel consumption in the event supplies become tight.

“We are reviewing our contingency plan. Part of that is cutting down consumption,” Layug told Malaya Business Insight.

“We would have a mechanism where people would be given allocations on the oil they consume. It’s a form of rationing,” he added.

Layug said that the Philippines sources only less than 1 percent of its requirements from Iran.

He said, however, local fuel supply would be threatened if the Strait of Hormuz, which is adjacent to Iran, would be blocked.

The strait is the only passage for ships carrying petroleum from major oil-exporting countries on the Arabian peninsula.

Layug said that because of the supply threats, world oil prices have been going up in past weeks, influencing local pump prices.

“In terms of Iran, (we source a) very small (amount). Less than 1 percent. But more importantly, ever since Iran test-fired its missiles (last week), the international market has gone up,” he said.

“In fact, for the past few weeks, the major reason for the price hikes is Iran. Prices in the international market have gone up,” he added.

Last week, oil firms raised the prices of their unleaded and premium gasoline products by P0.90 per liter. The price of regular gasoline went up P0.60 per liter, while diesel rose P0.30 per liter.

The sanctions approved by President Barack Obama on New Year’s Eve have highlighted the importance of Iranian oil supplies to East Asia’s energy-hungry economies. They have led to a clash of interests between Washington and key commercial and strategic partners over efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear program.

China, the biggest buyer of Iran’s oil, has publicly rejected US sanctions aimed at Tehran’s energy industry, while American allies Japan and South Korea are scrambling to find a compromise to keep critical supplies flowing.

Beijing is buying less Iranian crude this month, but analysts say China is unlikely to support an oil embargo. Instead, they say, the smaller purchases might be a tactic aimed at obtaining lower prices as the West squeezes Tehran.

“We are considering our response and are closely discussing the matter with the US,” a Japanese Foreign Ministry official, Kazuhiro Kawase, was quoted by The Associated Press as saying Friday.

A South Korean foreign ministry spokesman said this week Seoul is in talks with Washington aimed at “minimizing the negative impacts” of sanctions. South Korea imports 97 percent of its oil and depends on Iran for up to 10 percent of its supplies.

China’s foreign ministry rejected the sanctions this week and called for negotiations, leaving unclear whether Beijing might defy Washington, straining relations between the world’s biggest and second-biggest economies.

“Sanctioning is not the correct approach to easing tensions,” said a ministry spokesman, Hong Lei. “China opposes the placing of one’s domestic law above international law and imposing unilateral sanctions on other countries.”

US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is due to visit Beijing and Tokyo next week for talks that officials say will include the sanctions.

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China: Guidelines welcome foreign money

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Government officials and experts said the new guidelines are in keeping with proposals contained in China’s 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015), which seeks to lay the foundations for a more innovative and greener economy. [Photo / China Daily]
 Updated: 2011-12-30 09:03
By Ding Qingfen and Lan Lan (China Daily)

Ministry opens more industries to investment from overseas

BEIJING – China will encourage foreign companies to invest more in domestic industries to further make good on the country’s commitment to open its economy, according to guidelines released on Thursday.

In a new version of the Foreign Direct Investment Industry Guidelines (2011), the Chinese government is encouraging foreign investors to put money into advanced manufacturing, the service industry and certain business concerned with energy conservation, advanced technology, renewable sources of energy, new materials and advanced-equipment manufacturing.

Government officials and experts said the new guidelines are in keeping with proposals contained in China’s 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015), which seeks to lay the foundation for a more innovative and greener economy.

On Thursday, the Ministry of Commerce and the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) issued the guidelines, which will replace a previous version of the rules that was published in 2007. They are expected to come into force on January 30.

Compared with the 2007 version, the new guidelines encourage foreign companies to invest in a greater number of industries and reduce the number of industries that are off limits to such investment.

“The new version indicates China’s strong commitment to opening its market wider,” said Wang Zhile, director of the ministry’s research center for transnational cooperation. “It’s absolutely a positive signal.”

In the new guidelines, the Chinese government will encourage foreign enterprises to invest in new technology and equipment for the textile, chemicals and machinery-manufacturing industries.

The guidelines also call for the encouragement of investment into nine service industries. Among them are those concerned with charging electric vehicles and swapping their batteries, protecting intellectual property rights, cleaning up offshore oil pollution and vocational training.

China will also allow foreign companies to invest in medical institutes and various other industries that were previously off limits to them.

Dirk Moens, secretary general of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, said foreign investors are likely to take heed of the government’s investment guidelines.

This “will indeed facilitate decision-making for foreign investors thinking of coming to China”, Moens said.

Kong Linglong, director-general of the National Development and Reform Commission’s department of foreign capital and overseas investment, had similar thoughts.

“Looking at the changes in the new version, we can tell the way in which the Chinese government would like to transform its industrial structure,” Kong said.

“And another message is that China is now placing more value on the quality of foreign investments rather than their scale.”

The government will also prevent foreign companies from building or operating refineries that have the capacity to distill fewer than 200,000 barrels of crude oil a day. That is up from the previous limit of 160,000 barrels a day.

China, meanwhile, has removed industries from the list of those it encourages foreign companies to invest in. No longer part of that group are automakers, large coal-to-chemical operations and manufacturers of polycrystalline silicon.

“The restrictions generally apply to industries that have excessively large capacities and that pollute the environment,” said Zhang Xiaoji, senior researcher at State Council’s development research center.

“But they will probably be a source of their (foreign companies’) complaints about transparency in China’s market for foreign investment. To alleviate their concerns, China should try to provide detailed information about what will be restricted.”

China issued the first version of its guidelines governing foreign direct investment in 1995. They are now amended every four years.

China released a draft version of the new guidelines in early April, seeking the public’s suggestions and comments.

“We have made reasonable changes in response to foreign companies’ opinions,” Kong said. For instance, the draft version said foreign investors could take no more than a 50-percent stake in joint ventures that produce all of the chief components needed in new-energy vehicles, a proposal that led to heated discussions in the auto industry.

The final version changed the stipulation about “all chief components” to one that only concerns “fuel cell batteries”.

Giving a keynote speech in December at a celebration ceremony for the 10th anniversary of China’s entry into the World Trade Organization, President Hu Jintao said China will continuously open its economy to the world. He said that is especially true for industries concerned with advanced manufacturing, strategic emerging industries, services, agriculture and modern culture.

In April, China issued a directive that encouraged more investment in the high-tech, renewable energy and service industries, and for more attention to be paid to the country’s western and central regions. The directive marked a turning point in China’s policies concerning foreign direct investment.

China is now the second-largest destination for such investment in the world and the largest among developing economies. In 2010, the value of foreign direct investment into China hit a record high, increasing to $105.74 billion, a rise of 17.4 percent from the year before. In 2009, it decreased by 2.6 percent.

From January to November, the value of China’s foreign direct investment increased by 13.15 percent from the same period the year before, reaching $103.77 billion.

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As It Pivots Toward Asia, America Brings an Undefined Era to a Close

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Anindya Novyan Bakrie | December 19, 2011

At the beginning of the 21st century, the Indo-Pacific region, consisting of the Asia Pacific and South Asia, existed in an interregnum. The Cold War and the period that followed had passed into history, and it was time for a new era to begin.

What began, instead, was the Age of Terror, inaugurated by the 9/11 attacks in the United States. However, unless terrorism wins, it cannot define an era, no matter how terrible its tactics and how atrocious its results. This is because neither terrorism nor the war against it can settle the great issues of the day.

Thus, the war on terror could not and did not define the relationship between the great powers of the region, primarily the United States, China, Japan and India. It did not, because it could not, decide the balance of power among these nations on the basis of their economic, political, military and cultural strengths. Terrorism merely postponed the inevitable rebalancing of power in the Indo-Pacific region. The region lived in an interregnum for the first decade following 9/11.

Now, in the closing months of 2011, the United States has terminated the interregnum and initiated a new era. It has decided to pivot to the region in two ways: by expanding the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement and by deciding to station its troops in the Australian city of Darwin, in a move that could alter the security contours of the Indo-Pacific. No country in the region will be immune to the effects of these changes.

The TPP sends out an economic message that the United States is thinking big. At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Honolulu last month, US President Barack Obama unveiled the framework of a Pacific-wide free trade agreement involving nine countries.

What had begun in 2005 as an agreement among Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore took on larger-than-life proportions with the inclusion of Australia, Malaysia, Peru, the United States and Vietnam. Japan announced that it, too, would join the grouping.

Covering 505 million people in an economically exciting part of the world who enjoy a gross domestic product of $16.97 trillion and a GDP per capita of $33,546, the TPP is a super-league FTA in the making.

The United States, with the largest economy in the world, has joined hands with Japan, the third largest economy, and several other vibrant economies in a move that could set the cat among free-trading pigeons, including the European Union.

On the strategic front, the message is the same: the Americans are thinking big. The pivot has taken the form of a US agreement with Australia for the eventual deployment of up to 2,500 Marines on rotational missions in Darwin. These numbers are not big in themselves. What is big is the strategic intention behind them. At one go, America has inserted itself in the swiftly-changing scenario in the Indo-Pacific theater created by the military rise of China and manifested in its assertiveness in the South China Sea.

Are the TPP and the coming Darwin deployment attempts to exclude, encircle and contain China? They do not have to be.

China, the world’s second largest economy, is welcome to join the TPP and make it the apex FTA of the future. In the process, Beijing would become enmeshed in the emerging economic architecture of the Indo-Pacific. True, this would mean concessions on its part and agreement to play by the rules of TPP, but then the same rules would bind the other players as well, all of whom would have to make concessions. This is not containment, unless Beijing decides to see it that way.

As for the Darwin deployment, it is an American signal to the Chinese to moderate their naval assertiveness. China’s military build-up leaves no one in any doubt of its desire to protect its national interests in the Taiwan Strait. China seeks to be in a position to deal effectively with the eventuality of American (or other) intervention should Taiwan declare independence and seek foreign help.

But the South China Sea is another matter: It is contested maritime territory. For Beijing to elevate it to a “core interest,” on par with Taiwan’s and Tibet’s place in China’s territorial integrity, cannot but make the other claimants look for support from another great power. America provided diplomatic support to Southeast Asian countries worried about China, particularly Vietnam and the Philippines, by reasserting Washington’s commitment to freedom of navigation in the international waterways.

The Darwin deployment reinforces Washington’s military resolve not to let Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea carry the day by default. It is now up to China to recalculate its options. This is not containment — unless Beijing chooses to see it that way.

Indonesia has not been vocal on these game-changing events and developments, but it has a role to play in them for obvious reasons. Even before American strategic thinking recognized Indonesia’s position as a pivotal power in the Indo-Pacific, geography had assigned it that role.

The Indonesian archipelago forms a crossroad between the Indian and the Pacific oceans, and it is a bridge between the continents of Asia and Australia. Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world to form a single state and Southeast Asia’s largest country. With a GDP of more than $700 billion, its economy is the biggest in Southeast Asia and has won it membership of the Group of 20.

Whether Indonesia wishes to join the TPP will depend on a calculus of costs and benefits that must take into account the fact that, for all the nation’s achievements, it remains a developing country. At the moment, what is crucial is that Indonesia contributes to the viability of the Asean Economic Community, whether or not that vision is achieved by 2015.

On the strategic front, Indonesia is not, and will not be, a part of any attempt to contain China. At the same time, however, Indonesia cannot have its options constrained in dealing with the United States, Japan, India or any other country.

This is true not only of Indonesia but of Asean in general. No country in Asean wants to be forced by either the United States or China to choose between the two. Indonesia, as Southeast Asia’s pivotal country, must continue to pursue a free and independent foreign policy that welcomes extra-regional powers without becoming a part of any exclusive agenda they might have.

All in all, these are interesting times in which Indonesia must remain relevant. Or should I say that these are pivotal times?

Anindya Novyan Bakrie is chairman of VIVA Media Group, chief executive of Bakrie Telecom, vice chairman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin), and a presidentially-appointed representative for the APEC Business Advisory Council.

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