The I.M.F. decision will help pave the way for broader use of the renminbi in trade and finance, securing China’s standing as a global economic power.
HONG KONG — Keith Brasher reports: The International Monetary Fund on Monday approved the Chinese renminbi as one of the world’s main central bank reserve currencies, a major acknowledgment of the country’s rising financial and economic heft.
The I.M.F. decision will help pave the way for broader use of the renminbi in trade and finance, securing China’s standing as a global economic power. But it also introduces new uncertainty into China’s economy and financial system, as the country was forced to relax many currency controls to meet the I.M.F. requirements.
The changes could inject volatility into the Chinese economy, since large flows of money surge into the country and recede based on its prospects. This could make it difficult for China to maintain its record of strong, steady growth, especially at a time when its economy is already slowing.
The I.M.F. will start including the renminbi in the fund’s unit of accounting, the so-called special drawing rights, at the end of September. The renminbi will take its place alongside the dollar, the euro, the yen and the pound.
Many central banks follow this benchmark in building their reserves, so countries could start holding more renminbi as a result. China will also gain more influence in international bailouts denominated in the fund’s accounting unit, like Greece’s debt deal. Read the rest of this entry »
With the South China Morning Post, Jack Ma’s personal politics will move into a global spotlight, for anyone to see and read in English.
Josh Horowitz writes: After lengthy negotiations, Alibaba founder Jack Ma may be close to an investmentin the publisher of the South China Morning Post, according to reports in Bloomberg, the New York Times, and Caixin.
Neither party has commented publicly about a deal, and it is unclear whether Ma would buy all or some of the SCMP Group. He already has a media empire that rivals Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and has invested in two US-based social media apps—Tango and Snapchat. But the maybe-pending SCMP bid has already attracted nearly as much attention as any of those done deals.
That’s because with the SCMP, Ma’s personal politics will move into a global spotlight, for anyone to see and read in English.
The SCMP was once the English-language paper of record for reporting on China. Founded in 1903 as the “printing house for the Chinese revolution,” it covered far more than just Hong Kong. Throughout the fifties and sixties, it was often the first source for information about the famines and political clashes of the Mao era. After the country opened up, its multi-national staff would regularly break stories about political scandals and human rights abuses on the mainland, even after Hong Kong was handed over to China in 1997.
Its reporting was rewarded financially. In 1997 it earned HK$805 million (over $200 million) in net profits, about $420 in profit per-reader. Read the rest of this entry »
Deaths, image of bloodied hostage speed up calls for Chinese intervention in world’s trouble spots.
“To an extraordinary degree, China’s international security policy in recent years has been driven by the political imperative to be seen doing everything it can to protect an estimated five million Chinese nationals living and working outside the country.”
Among the scores of Chinese expatriates who have met violent deaths in the past decade at the hands of extremists, most have been workers in state companies drilling for oil, operating mines or building highways, hospitals and other infrastructure in unstable parts of Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.
“In response to Mr. Fan’s execution, don’t expect Chinese fighter jets to join bombing runs against Islamic State; China lacks the ability to project force in that way, even if it wanted to. It has no overseas military bases, and shuns military alliances.”
But the recent execution of the itinerant Beijing resident by Islamic State, along with a Norwegian hostage, triggered a particularly bitter outpouring of online commentary in China. While France responded to the massacre in Paris by declaring it was at war with Islamic State, and U.S. and Russian jets pounded the group’s strongholds, critics noted that the Chinese government offered only angry rhetoric in response to the killing of Mr. Fan.
“Beyond that, what else can it do?” scoffed one Internet user.
“But it’s only a matter of time, say security analysts, before China sends in special forces to free hostages or rescue Chinese civilians trapped in a crisis.”
Any accusation of impotence abroad, when Chinese lives are at stake, stings Beijing’s leadership. Almost certainly, Mr. Fan’s brutal slaying, together with the deaths of three Chinese rail executives gunned down in the Mali hotel siege, is likely to accelerate a trend for Beijing to intervene in lawless areas of the globe to protect its own nationals and massive investments.
President Xi Jinping vowed to strengthen collaboration with the world community “to resolutely fight violent terrorist activities that hurt innocent lives.” A foreign ministry spokesman said Monday, “In light of new circumstances, we will come up with new proposals to ensure the security of Chinese citizens and institutions overseas.”
To an extraordinary degree, China’s international security policy in recent years has been driven by the political imperative to be seen doing everything it can to protect an estimated five million Chinese nationals living and working outside the country.
That has eaten away at China’s long-standing policy of “noninterference” in the affairs of other countries. Read the rest of this entry »
The right to privacy is usurping the public right to know in Asia’s financial hub.
Financial hubs depend on the free flow of information, and nowhere more so than in Hong Kong, gateway to the opaque China market. So a recent case in which an appeals board upheld the censorship of a court judgment to protect the supposed privacy rights of the litigants sets a bad precedent. The territory is following Europe’s lead toward extreme privacy protection at the expense of access to information.
“The right to be forgotten affects more than media freedom. It prevents investors and entrepreneurs from conducting due diligence and managing business risks, and helps people hide from public scrutiny. That may be good for the reputations of the rich and powerful, but it will hurt Hong Kong’s reputation for transparency.”
Luciana Wong Wai-lan, who now serves on several government advisory panels, participated in a matrimonial case in the early 2000s. In 2010 Ms. Wong requested that the court remove the judgments from its online reference system. The court made them anonymous, but hyperlinks to the judgments placed on the website of local shareholder activist David Webb still revealed her name.
Ms. Wong wrote to Hong Kong’s privacy commissioner for personal data in 2013, and the commissioner ordered Mr. Webb to remove the links pursuant to Data Protection Principle 3 (DPP3) of the Personal Data Privacy Ordinance. Read the rest of this entry »
UPDATE: Gunmen have taken 170 hostages, killing three so far at the Radisson Blu hotel in Mali’s capital Bamako. The gunmen are reported to be releasing people that can recite verses from the Quran.
Automatic weapon fire was heard from outside the 190-room hotel in the city-centre where security forces have set up a security cordon, according to Agence France Presse. Security sources told AFP the gunmen were “jihadists” who had entered the hotel compound in a car that had diplomatic plates.
“It’s all happening on the seventh floor, jihadists are firing in the corridor,” one security source said.
Malian soldiers, police and special forces were on the scene as a security perimeter was set up, along with members of the UN’s MINUSMA peacekeeping force in Mali and the French troops fighting jihadists in west Africa under Operation Barkhane.
French troops are believed to have been stationed at the hotel….
BAMAKO, Mali — Gunmen attacked a popular hotel in Mali’s capital on Friday with guns and grenades, authorities and a witness said.
A staffer at the Radisson Blu hotel who gave his name as Tamba Diarra said over the phone that the attackers used grenades in the assault. He did not have information on casualties or the number of assailants involved, but said he was not aware of hostages having been taken at the hotel.
The U.S. Embassy in Mali asked citizens to shelter in place amid reports of an “ongoing active shooter operation” at the hotel, raising fears of an attack by extremists.
Reports of gunfire surfaced Friday morning on social media, though Lt. Col. Diarran Kone, an adviser with Mali’s defense ministry, says it is not yet clear what has happened….(read more)
France simply doesn’t have the stomach for it.
David P. Goldman writes: Ignored in news coverage of the Paris massacre is the single most pertinent piece of background: A 2014 opinion poll found that ISIS had an approval rating in France (at 16%) almost as high as President Francois Holland (at 18%). In the 18-to-24-year-old demographic, ISIS’ support jumped to 27%. Muslims comprise about a tenth of France’s population, so the results imply that ISIS had the support of the overwhelming majority of French Muslims (and especially Muslim youth), as well as the endorsement of a large part of the non-Muslim Left.
“Finding a needle in a haystack is possible only when the haystack helps you find the needles. The French authorities would have to persuade its own Muslim community to turn informer against its radicalized youth.”
Reporting the survey, conducted by the polling organization ICM for a Russian news service, Newsweek’s France correspondent Anne-Elizabeth Moutet wrote, “This is the ideology of young French Muslims from immigrant backgrounds, unemployment to the tune of 40%, who’ve been deluged by satellite TV and internet propaganda.”
“Muslim community leaders would have to fear the French state more than they fear their own radicals, and this would require a large number of arrests, deportations, and other coercive actions. In this case the situation would get worse before it got better.”
After last Friday’s massacres, to be sure, the flip-it-to-them attitude reflected in last year’s poll no doubt has attenuated somewhat. Nonetheless, it is clear that a very large proportion of French Muslims support the most extreme expression of radical Islam, offering the terrorists the opportunity to blend into a friendly milieu. The problem has gotten too big to be cured without a great deal of mess and pain. In the Gallic hedonistic calculus, a massacre or two per year is preferable to a breach of the tenuous social peace. And that is why France will do nothing.
That makes counter-terrorism challenging, but not impossible. There are two successful models for suppressing terrorists who enjoy the passive support of the ambient population: the French in Algeria and the Israelis after the Second Intifada of 2002. The first is infamous for the extensive use of torture and mass reprisals against civilians; the second succeeded on the strength of superb human as well as electronic intelligence and seamless integration of military, police and intelligence organizations. Israel reduced the number of Arab suicide bombings from 47 in 2002 with 238 dead to only 1 in 2007 with 3 dead.
Unlike the French in Algeria, Israel undid the Intifada entirely without the use of physical stress on prisoners. Israeli interrogation techniques do not require physical stress; humiliation is a more effective tool than pain with Arab suspects. Prior to 1999, Israeli security forces employed mild forms of enhanced interrogation (sleep deprivation, hooding, and so forth), but eschewed the practice afterwards. By contrast, the French Army shelled and bombed villages that gave refuge to the rebels of the Algerian Front de Libération Nationale, killing tens of thousands indiscriminately and forcing 2 million Algerians out of their homes.
It also used extreme forms of torture to elicit information from captured FLN fighters. Popular revulsion against the conduct of the war brought down the Fourth Republic and returned Gen. Charles De Gaulle to the presidency. More than 90% of French voters backed Algeria’s independence in a 1962 referendum, and France voluntarily abandoned what it had won by brutal methods on the ground. Read the rest of this entry »
Here is a look at some past notable extremist attacks in Western Europe:
• Jan. 7, 2015: A gun assault on the Paris offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo kills 12 people. Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was revenge for Charlie Hebdo’s depictions of the Prophet Muhammad.
• May 24, 2014: Four people are killed at the Jewish Museum in Brussels by an intruder armed with a Kalashnikov. The accused is a former French fighter linked to the Islamic State group in Syria.
• May 22, 2013: Two al-Qaida-inspired extremists run down British soldier Lee Rigby in a London street, then stab and hack him to death.
• March 2012: A gunman claiming links to al-Qaida kills three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three paratroopers in Toulouse, southern France.
• Nov. 2, 2011: Offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris are firebombed after the satirical magazine runs a cover featuring a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad. No one is injured.
• July 7, 2005: 52 commuters are killed when four al-Qaida-inspired suicide bombers blow themselves up on three London subway trains and a bus.
• March 11, 2004: Bombs on rush-hour trains kill 191 at Madrid’s Atocha station in Europe’s worst Islamic terrorist attack.
• Aug. 15, 1998: A car bomb planted by an Irish Republican Army splinter group kills 29 people in the town of Omagh, the deadliest single bombing of Northern Ireland’s four-decade-long conflict.
• July 25, 1995: A bomb at the Saint-Michel subway station in Paris kills eight people and injures about 150. It was one of a series of bombings claimed by Algeria’s Armed Islamic Group.
Source: The Japan Times
In a frenetic commercial district of Hong Kong, sandwiched between shops selling vitamins and clothing to tourists, the Causeway Bay Bookstore touts itself as the authority on Chinese politics.
Juliana Liu reports: The tiny shop specialises in selling gossipy paperbacks that are highly critical of China’s leadership. They are particularly popular with mainland Chinese visitors who cannot buy the banned books at home.
But two weeks ago, four men who work for the bookstore and its affiliated publishing house went missing. Their colleagues believe they have been detained by Chinese officials because of their work.
One of their associates, Mr Lee, told BBC News: “I suspect all of them were detained. Four people went missing at the same time.”
Among them is Gui Minhai, a China-born Swedish national who is the owner of Mighty Current, the publishing house that owns the bookstore.
According to Mr Lee, who declines to give his full name for fear of reprisals by Chinese officials, the publisher last communicated with colleagues via email on 15 October from the city of Pattaya in Thailand, where he owns a holiday home.
Mr Gui had written to tell printers to prepare for a new book and that he would send the material shortly. He has not been seen since.
The others are Lui Bo, general manager of Mighty Current, and Cheung Jiping, the business manager of the publishing house. Both have wives who live in Shenzhen, and were last seen there.
The fourth missing man is Lam Wingkei, manager of the bookstore, who was last seen in Hong Kong.
“I am quite certain that the main target was Mr Gui. They wanted to prevent him from publishing that book,” said Mr Lee, who was not privy to what the publisher had been writing about.
“I think the others were taken because they thought the contents of the book had already been distributed.”
Mr Lee said Mr Lam’s wife had filed a missing persons report with the Hong Kong police, who have confirmed the case to the BBC.
Calls to China’s Foreign Ministry office in Hong Kong have gone unanswered. Attempts to reach the relatives of the four men have been unsuccessful.
The tiny shop sells paperbacks that are highly critical of China’s leadership and banned in mainland China
Sources close to the families fear international attention may hurt more than help.
Rights groups have expressed concern about the disappearances.
“We think that if the information is true, it is a deeply troubling case and it will have serious implications about the deterioration of freedom of expression in Hong Kong,” said Amnesty International‘s China researcher Patrick Poon.
Freedom of the press is guaranteed in Hong Kong. But many in the publishing business say the Chinese government has begun to exert its influence in the industry. Read the rest of this entry »
Koji Murata was dismissed Friday as president of a prestigious Japanese university for supporting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s policies. Photo: Kyodo
“Japan’s academics are known to be a largely liberal lot, but the concerns over free speech in the Murata case reflect Japan’s larger problems. At root, it’s about how the country will face both its past and its future.”
A favorite claim of liberal academics and activists is that Japan remains one of the most conservative societies. In recent years, their invective has been directed toward Mr. Abe, who is charged with repressing and intimidating liberal views. Media outlets argue that they have been pressured, and academics warn that government forces are trying to stifle debate about the country’s wartime past.
Yet punishing free speech in Japan is no prerogative of the right. Last week, the president of the prestigious liberal-arts college Doshisha failed to be re-elected due to his support earlier this year of Mr. Abe’s controversial security legislation to relax post-World War II restrictions on the use of the military.
Koji Murata is a well-known and respected academic and public intellectual in Japan. A fixture on news shows, the nattily dressed Mr. Murata is also an expert on foreign policy and security. In July, he was one of several experts testifying in front of Japan’s Parliament in favor of Mr. Abe’s security bills, which would modestly expand Japan’s ability to conduct military operations abroad. Read the rest of this entry »
Sheila O’Malley writes:The visuals are, quite literally, overwhelming. There were shots that were so beautiful I practically could not take it in, in one glance: it’s like trying to “take in” the Grand Canyon. Thankfully, Hou’s camera is not of the quick-cut variety. He lets scenes breathe, and the shots are very long. I had time to settle in, to look up at the misty ranks of mountains in the background, the vast space in the foreground, the line of trees reflected perfectly in the dawn-blue water, the row of fog breaking up a vertical cliff of green trees. Nature photography? Well, yes, kind of. But it’s part of the story and the atmosphere. This is one of the most beautiful looking films this year, or any year.
Hou Hsiao-Hsien is such a world-class visionary filmmaker (the hyperbole fits) and yet it’s been relatively rare that his stuff makes it to our shores. The Assassin won him the Best Director award at Cannes, thrilling news for those of us who love his work and were already eagerly anticipating The Assassin….(read more)
Four people linked to a Hong Kong bookstore which has stocked titles highly critical of the ruling Chinese Communist Party have been “delayed,” believed detained by Chinese authorities, while on a visit to Thailand.
Owner Gui Haiming, general manager Lu Bo, store manager Lin Rongji, and staff member Zhang Zhiping of publisher and bookstore company Sage Communications are believed to be in China after having been detained there or in Thailand, their associates told RFA.
Gui and Lin called their wives to reassure them on Friday, but little information about their whereabouts was forthcoming, according to a fellow Sage shareholder surnamed Li.
“They said they were OK, but they’re not OK,” Li said. “They just told their loved ones they would be coming back a bit later than expected, and told them not to worry.”
“But they didn’t answer any questions about where they were or what they were doing,” he said.
Gui, who holds a Swedish passport, went missing in mid-October while on a trip to Thailand, where he owns a holiday home, while Lu and Zhang stopped communicating around Oct. 22-24 after trips back to their family homes in mainland China, Li said.
Li only discovered that Gui, whose company publishes 3-4 books a month on Chinese politics and current affairs, was incommunicado after being contacted by the printers of the next book.
“Usually, he would get back to the printers by the following day if it was urgent, but the printers had been looking for him for a week,” he said.
It is unclear where Lin was when he lost contact with friends and family.
“He used to sleep over at the bookstore a lot, so his wife didn’t know he was missing,” Li said.
Gui has previously published titles critical of the administration of President Xi Jinping, including The Great Depression of 2017, and The Collapse of Xi Jinping in 2017.
Calls to Lu Bo’s and Zhang Zhiping’s cell phones rang unanswered on Friday, while Lin reportedly owns no cell phone.
Repeated calls to the Shenzhen municipal police department, just across the internal border from Hong Kong, also rang unanswered.
An employee who answered the phone at the Swedish consulate in Hong Kong said the consulate was unaware of the reports.
Gui and his colleagues wouldn’t be the first in their profession to be targeted by Beijing.
In May 2014, a court in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen on Wednesday handed a 10-year jail term to 79-year-old Hong Kong publisher Yiu Man-tin after he edited a book highly critical of President Xi Jinping. Read the rest of this entry »