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China steps up Afghan role as Western pullout nears

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By Sanjeev Miglani
KABUL – Sun Jun 3, 2012 3:38am EDT

(Reuters) – China and Afghanistan will sign an agreement in the coming days that strategically deepens their ties, Afghan officials say, the strongest signal yet that Beijing wants a role beyond economic partnership as Western forces prepare to leave the country.

China has kept a low political profile through much of the decade-long international effort to stabilize Afghanistan, choosing instead to pursue an economic agenda, including locking in future supply from Afghanistan’s untapped mineral resources.

As the U.S.-led coalition winds up military engagement and hands over security to local forces, Beijing, along with regional powers, is gradually stepping up involvement in an area that remains at risk from being overrun by Islamist insurgents.

Chinese President Hu Jintao and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai will hold talks on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Beijing this week, where they will seal a wide-ranging pact governing their ties, including security cooperation.

Afghanistan has signed a series of strategic partnership agreements including with the United States, India and Britain among others in recent months, described by one Afghan official as taking out “insurance cover” for the period after the end of 2014 when foreign troops leave.

“The president of Afghanistan will be meeting the president of China in Beijing and what will happen is the elevation of our existing, solid relationship to a new level, to a strategic level,” Janan Musazai, a spokesman for the Afghan foreign ministry, told Reuters.

“It would certainly cover a broad spectrum which includes cooperation in the security sector, a very significant involvement in the economic sector, and the cultural field.”

He declined to give details about security cooperation, but Andrew Small, an expert on China at the European Marshall Fund who has tracked its ties with South Asia, said the training of security forces was one possibility.

China has signaled it will not contribute to a multilateral fund to sustain the Afghan national security forces – estimated to cost $4.1 billion per year after 2014 – but it could directly train Afghan soldiers, Small said.

“They’re concerned that there is going to be a security vacuum and they’re concerned about how the neighbors will behave,” he said.

Beijing has been running a small program with Afghan law enforcement officials, focused on counter-narcotics and involving visits to China’s restive Xinjiang province, whose western tip touches the Afghan border.

Training of Afghan forces is expected to be modest, and nowhere near the scale of the Western effort to bring them up to speed, or even India’s role in which small groups of officers are trained at military institutions in India.

China wants to play a more active role, but it will weigh the sensitivities of neighboring nations in a troubled corner of the world, said Zhang Li, a professor of South Asian studies at Sichuan University who has been studying the future of Sino-Afghan ties.

“I don’t think that the U.S. withdrawal also means a Chinese withdrawal, but especially in security affairs in Afghanistan, China will remain low-key and cautious,” he said. “China wants to play more of a role there, but each option in doing that will be assessed carefully before any steps are taken.”

JOSTLING FOR INFLUENCE

Afghanistan’s immediate neighbors Iran and Pakistan, but also nearby India and Russia, have all jostled for influence in the country at the crossroads of Central and South Asia, and many expect the competition to heat up after 2014.

India has poured aid into Afghanistan and like China has invested in its mineral sector, committing billions of dollars to develop iron ore deposits, as well as build a steel plant and other infrastructure.

It worries about a Taliban resurgence and the threat to its own security from Pakistan-based militants operating from the region.

Pakistan, which is accused of having close ties with the Taliban, has repeatedly complained about India’s expanding role in Afghanistan, seeing Indian moves as a plot to encircle it.

“India-Pakistan proxy fighting is one of the main worries,” said Small.

In February, China hosted a trilateral dialogue involving officials from Pakistan and Afghanistan to discuss efforts to seek reconciliation with the Taliban.

It was first time Beijing involved itself directly and openly in efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.

Afghan foreign ministry spokesman Musazai said Kabul supported any effort to bring peace in the country. “China has close ties with Afghanistan. It also has very close ties with Pakistan and if it can help advance the vision of peace and stability in Afghanistan we welcome it.”

(Additional reporting by Chris Buckley in BEIJING; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)

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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China getting ready for war, alerts Navy

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Posted by Mohan Ramraj on December 9, 2011

Beijing, Dec 8 (TruthDive): Chinese President Hu Jintao has asked the Chinese navy to get ready for war as regional tensions over maritime disputes were on the increase in recent times. His call also came in the wake of a campaign portraying U.S as a Pacific power.

The Navy should “accelerate its transformation and modernization in a sturdy way, and make extended preparations for military combat in order to make greater contributions to safeguard national security,” he said.

In an address to the Central Military Commission, Hu said: “Our work must closely encircle the main theme of national defense and military building.”

His comments, which were posted in a statement on a government website, come as the United States and Beijing’s neighbors have expressed concerns over its naval ambitions, particularly in the South China Sea.

The whole of the fight is for the South China Sea, which accounts for one-third of the global sea-trade, also believed to have huge oil and gas reserves. Many countries accused China’s move to build tension over there.

The country’s official news agency quoted the President as saying China’s Navy should “make extended preparations for warfare.”

The U.S carefully responded acknowledging its right to develop its military and called for transparency.

“They have a right to develop military capabilities and to plan, just as we do,” said Pentagon spokesman George Little, but he added, “We have repeatedly called for transparency from the Chinese and that’s part of the relationship we’re continuing to build with the Chinese military.”

“Nobody’s looking for a scrap here,” insisted another spokesman, Admiral John Kirby. “Certainly we wouldn’t begrudge any other nation the opportunity, the right to develop naval forces to be ready.Our naval forces are ready and they’ll stay ready.”

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said: “We want to see stronger military-to-military ties with China and we want to see greater transparency. That helps answer questions we might have about Chinese intentions.”

It is very obvious that the Chinese Premier’s call came in the wake of several American top officials’ visit to Asian countries including President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

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Obama to China: Behave like "grown up" economy

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By Matt Spetalnick and Doug Palmer

(Reuters) – President Barack Obama served notice on Sunday that the United States was fed up with China‘s trade and currency practices as he turned up the heat on America’s biggest economic rival.

“Enough’s enough,” Obama said bluntly at a closing news conference of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit where he scored a significant breakthrough in his push to create a pan-Pacific free trade zone and promote green technologies.

Using some of his toughest language yet against China, Obama, a day after face-to-face talks with President Hu Jintao, demanded that China stop “gaming” the international system and create a level playing field for U.S. and other foreign businesses.

“We’re going to continue to be firm that China operate by the same rules as everyone else,” Obama told reporters after hosting the 21-nation APEC summit in his native Honolulu. “We don’t want them taking advantage of the United States.”

China shot back that it refused to abide by international economic rules that it had no part in writing.

“First we have to know whose rules we are talking about,” Pang Sen, a deputy director-general at China’s Foreign Ministry said.

“If the rules are made collectively through agreement and China is a part of it, then China will abide by them. If rules are decided by one or even several countries, China does not have the obligation to abide by that.”

Even as Obama issued the veiled threat of further punitive action against China, it was unclear how much of his tough rhetoric was, at least in part, political posturing aimed at economically weary U.S. voters who will decide next November whether to give him a second term.

Obama insisted that China allow its currency to rise faster in value, saying it was being kept artificially low and was

hurting American companies and jobs. He said China, which often presents itself as a developing country, is now “grown up” and should act that way in global economic affairs.

The sharp words between the U.S. and China contrasted with the unified front that Asia-Pacific leaders sought to present with a pledge to bolster their economies and lower trade barriers in an effort to shield against the fallout from Europe’s debt crisis.

The members of APEC, which accounts for more than half of the world’s economic output, said they had agreed on ways to counter “significant downside risks” to the world economy.

That followed an appeal by Obama, seeking to reassert U.S. leadership to counter China’s growing influence around the Pacific Rim, for a commitment to expand trade opportunities as an antidote to Europe’s fiscal woes.

International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, in Honolulu to consult with APEC leaders, said the euro zone upheaval risked sweeping the world economy into a “downward spiral” that all countries had a stake in resolving the crisis.

TRADE LIBERALIZATION PROMISED

APEC said in a final communique: “We recognize that further trade liberalization is essential to achieving a sustainable global recovery in the aftermath of the global recession of 2008-2009.”

The communique also expressed a firm resolve “to support the strong, sustained and balanced growth of the regional and global economy” — a clear reference to U.S. concerns about a huge trade deficit with China’s export-driven economy, fiscal problems in developed nations and the low savings rate in the United States.

In another bow to U.S. pressure, APEC committed to reducing tariffs on environmental goods and services to 5 percent as a way to promote green technology trade, overcoming China’s resistance to the idea.

Differences persist among APEC members — a point hammered home by U.S.-China tensions — and the question remains how far leaders will be able to go in turning promises into action. Many, Obama included, will face resistance to opening markets further to foreign competition.

Obama’s public denunciation of China’s policies came as he faces pressure at home, from Republican presidential contenders as well as fellow Democrats, for a tougher line on Beijing. But U.S. leverage is limited, not least because Beijing is America’s largest foreign creditor.

Though Obama acknowledged a “slight improvement” in the value of China’s yuan, he insisted it was not enough.

The United States has long complained that China keeps its currency artificially weak to give its exporters an advantage. China counters that the yuan should rise only gradually to avoid harming the economy and driving up unemployment, which would hurt global growth.

Hu was quoted by Chinanews.com in Beijing on Sunday as saying a big appreciation in the yuan against the dollar would not help U.S. trade and unemployment problems.

The yuan inched up against the dollar. Dealers said Hu’s comments in Honolulu indicated that China had no intention of letting the currency rise faster in the near term.

U.S. ENGAGEMENT

Obama declared U.S. engagement in the Asia-Pacific region as “absolutely critical” to America’s prosperity. By harnessing the potential for expanded trade with the world’s fastest-growing region, Obama hopes he can create U.S. jobs to help him through a tough reelection fight in 2012.

Obama’s drive toward a pan-Pacific free trade zone — the signature U.S. achievement of the summit — got a boost when Canada, Mexico and Japan said they were interested in joining talks now under way among nine countries, and they agreed to complete the detailed framework in 2012.

The Philippines was discussing the matter, U.S. officials said.

The Transpacific Partnership adds momentum to Obama’s pledge to double U.S. exports, made more urgent by the virtual collapse of the Doha round of trade talks. A free trade zone in the region would outstrip the market size of the European Union. But for Japan, such a deal faces major political obstacles at home.

Yet there was little promise of immediate economic dividends as such trade deals often take years to take effect.

Obama is seeking to assure allies of a U.S. “pivot” as China flexes its economic and military muscles in Asia and beyond. But leaders may doubt whether Washington can avoid being distracted by economic woes at home and foreign policy priorities like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran.

(Reporting by Reuters APEC team; Writing by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Stella Dawson)

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What To Watch In Europe Over The Next 24 Hours

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Joe Weisenthal

Following last night’s big meeting — which is being greeted with a strong rally — here’s what to watch next:

We would expect the next 24 hours to be driven by how the Sarkozy call to China President Hu Jintao goes, how investors analyze the sustainability of Greek debt under this program, and the reception that the EFSF proposal will get. We are a bit surprised by the enthusiasm given the lack of detail and lack of surprise. We are also wondering how seriously investors will take the EFSF guarantees (which only apply in the event of a default), given that the banks were strongly encouraged to declare the current restructuring voluntary. Investors may fear that the EFSF – guaranteeing – governments will similarly contrive to avoid paying out on their first-loss guarantees.

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