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CHINA: PLA Lets Foreign Press Attend Monthly Briefing for First Time in Bid for Greater Transparency, WH Responds

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Allowing foreign reporters access to the monthly press conferences of the People’s Liberation Army presents a challenge to the U.S. claim of unparalleled transparency.

From the South China Morning Post Associated Press in Beijing reports:

Not many years ago, foreign reporters in China trying to call the country’s secretive military couldn’t even get a connection because phone numbers assigned to the journalists were barred from ringing through to the Defence Ministry.

“We especially hope that international society will have a correct and objective understanding of the Chinese military.”

– PLA Spokesman Yang Yujunjosh-earnest-WH

This morning, the White House issued this statement:

“We believe that sending members of the White House press corps to China was the right thing to do. It is not, as some of our friends in the Republican party have suggested, an effort to limit press freedom, or retaliation for unfavorable coverage of the president.”

– White House press secretary Josh Earnest

On Thursday, members of the foreign press were finally permitted to attend the ministry’s monthly news briefing, marking a small milestone in the increasingly confident military’s efforts to project a more transparent image.

President Xi Jinping, who also serves as chairman of the Central Military Commission, shakes hands with PLA division commanders in Shandong province last year. Photo: Xinhua

President Xi Jinping, who also serves as chairman of the Central Military Commission, shakes hands with PLA division commanders in Shandong province last year. Photo: Xinhua

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“Look, we let these folks in the press keep their cell phones, and some personal effects. We gave them free transportation, courtesy of the Air Force. They’ll eventually be permitted to return. We’ll do our best to get them home by Christmas.”

– President Barack Obama

Restrictions still apply and there is no sign of an improvement in the generally paltry amount and poor quality of information released by the People’s Liberation Army, the world’s largest standing military with 2.3 million members.

Officers who oversee the briefings say the new invitations reflect a desire by the top brass to allay foreigners’ concerns over fast-expanding budgets, vast hardware improvements, and an increasingly clear determination to use the military to assert China’s interests and territorial claims. Read the rest of this entry »

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HONG KONG: Surge in Affordable Micro-Mini Apartments as Demand Remains Strong

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Demand for ever-smaller homes remains strong due to cheaper prices, with developers expected to build increasing numbers of shoe-box flats

This one’s for our Hong Kong Bureau Chief, splitting time zones between a ranch in Houston and a tiny cage Hong Kong:

South China Morning Post reports: Developers are expected to produce more tiny flats in their future projects given the frenetic buying spree for shoe-box homes by young homebuyers and investors, industry observers said.

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[See more: Gary chang on urbanism and his metamorphic apartment - design boom.com]

Demand for cheaper small flats would continue to rise, they said, since Hong Kong home prices have remained buoyant despite the government’s introduction of new stamp duties.avery-klncity

“Building more small flats will become a trend, as they are sought after by younger home seekers and long-term investors.”

– Patrick Chow Moon-kit, head of research at Ricacorp Properties.

A Midland Realty survey showed that land that had been sold in the past two years and designated for building small flats would supply 12,400 units over the next few years.

Here’s how award-winning Hong Kong architect Gary Chang has managed to squeeze 24 rooms – including a home cinema and ”spa” – into 344 square feet of apartment space.

Upcoming new home sales include those at Sun Hung Kai Properties‘ 968-unit The Wings Phase 3 in Tseung Kwan O, which will offer about 200 small units of 334 sq ft to 360 sq ft. The official launch date has not yet been set. Read the rest of this entry »


The Man Behind the Hong Kong Miracle

freeman-HK

Some of us just write about libertarian ideas. This guy actually made them public policy for millions.

For The FreemanLawrence W. Reed writes: Three cheers for Hong Kong, that tiny chunk of Southeast Asian rock. For the twentieth consecutive year, the Index of Economic Freedom—compiled by The Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation—ranks Hong Kong (HK) as the freest economy in the world.

“Maybe this is why socialists don’t like to talk about Hong Kong: It’s not only the freest economy, it’s also one of the richest.”

Though part of mainland China since the British ceded it in 1997, HK is governed locally on a daily basis. So far, the Chinese have remained reasonably faithful to their promise to leave the HK economy alone. What makes it so free is music to the ears of everyone who loves liberty:  Relatively little corruption. An efficient and independent judiciary. Respect for the rule of law and property rights. An uncomplicated tax system with low rates on both individuals and business and an overall tax burden that’s a mere 14 percent of GDP (half the U.S. rate). No taxes on capital gains or interest income or even on earnings from outside of HK. No sales tax or VAT either. A very light regulatory touch. No government budget deficit and almost nonexistent public debt. Oh, and don’t forget its average tariff rate of near zero. That’s right—zero!

“Over a wide field of our economy it is still the better course to rely on the nineteenth century’s ‘hidden hand’ than to thrust clumsy bureaucratic fingers into its sensitive mechanism.”

– Sir John James Cowperthwaite, 1962

This latest ranking in the WSJ/Heritage report confirms what Canada’s Fraser Institute found in its latest Economic Freedom of the World Index, which also ranked HK as the world’s freest. The World Bank rates the “ease of doing business” in HK as just about the best on the planet. Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong Street Seen

20140727 LKF Hardware

Lan Kwai Fong hardware store . . . Sunday morning

 

 


GLOBAL PANIC OF 2014 REACHES CHINA: Freakishly Large, Bizzare Flying Insect Found in Sichuan Province, Experts Say

giant-bug-china-gallery

World’s largest flying aquatic insect, with huge, nightmarish pincers, has been discovered in China’s Sichuan province

Large enough to cover the face of a human adult, this scary-looking insect is also known among entomologists as an indicator of good water quality.

(CNN) – According to the Insect Museum of West China, local villagers in the outskirts of Chengdu handed over “weird insects that resemble giant dragonflies with long teeth” earlier this month.

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“Let me be clear. This species was not found in our hemisphere. It was found over there, in China.”

Several of these odd critters were examined by the museum and found to be unusually large specimens of the giant dobsonfly, which is native to China and Vietnam.

 "I think the media is overreacting. I can kick that bug's ass"

“I think the media is overreacting. I can kick that bug’s ass”

The largest one measured 21 centimeters (8.27 inches) when its wings were open, according to the museum, busting the original record for largest aquatic insect held by a South American helicopter damselfly, which had a wingspan of 19.1 centimeters (7.5 inches). Read the rest of this entry »


Why Making Fun of Kim Jong-un Has Been a Thing on the Chinese Web for Years


Free Elections for Hong Kong

Civil Human Rights Front Gather For July 1st Marches - Getty

For The Weekly StandardEllen Bork reports: Over half a million people filled the streets of Hong Kong on July 1, marching for democracy on the anniversary of the British colony’s handover to Chinese Communist rule in 1997.

On June 29, an unofficial referendum organized by democracy activists concluded with 800,000 votes cast—more than one-tenth of Hong Kong’s population. The overwhelming majority supported a democratic election for Hong Kong’s next chief executive.

“The Obama administration’s response to the massive display of support for democracy has been more appropriate to a teenager shrugging ‘whatever’ than a major power expressing itself on a central pillar of the president’s Asia policy.”

Beijing has promised that in 2017, the Hong Kong chief executive will be popularly elected. Hoping to tamp down expectations of an actual democratic election with a competitive nomination process, however, Beijing issued a white paper on June 10 that identified “loving the country” as the “basic political requirement” for civil servants, including the chief executive. For Beijing, “love” means loyalty to the Communist party, disdain for civil liberties undergirded by the rule of law, and hostility to democracy. Read the rest of this entry »


Central Asia’s Energy Rush

energy-rush

Image Credit: REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

For The Diplomat, Michał Romanowski writes: Central Asia is rapidly emerging as the key playing field in the contest to access energy resources and the leverage they offer. The new Great Game is played out once again in the region, only this time it is not over political or territorial influence, but over the vast raw material deposits that are in the possession of the former Soviet Union republics, especially those situated by the Caspian Sea. The Caspian’s share of oil and gas global exports is set to rise to 9 and 11 percent, respectively, in the coming 20 years. Much is at stake.

The region’s major powers compete to control energy sources

Russia, although not a direct producer, was and still is – given the developed pipeline network – supervising much of an energy transit from Central Asia. The Central Asia-Center gas pipeline system, the first line of which was completed in 1960, makes for a good case study. It allows both Uzbek and Turkmen gas to be delivered to Russia, which then resells it at a profit to energy-hungry Europe or uses it for domestic purposes. Moscow exercises its influence over the region and as a consequence gains both politically and economically.

“China in fact controls around 20 percent of Kazakhstan’s oil production and is its key trade partner. Bilateral trade should reach $40 billion next year.”

In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Central Asian states sought to loosen Russia’s firm grip. An independent complex pipeline system was a priority for transporting the resources outward. Given that the Caspian Sea is landlocked, gas and oil need to cross several borders before reaching an end customer. This requires a very substantial investment, yet energy diversification in Central Asia is moving steadily ahead. Read the rest of this entry »


Purity From the Far Left: Chinese Children’s Guide for Politically Correct Behavior

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I can’t verify the authenticity of this, the translation is either a spoof, mischievous liberties were taken, or it really is based on the original text, but it looks like characteristic Mao-era cultural training. One thinks of North Korea, San Francisco, Think Progress, MSNBC, DNC Headquarters, even classrooms in New Jersey as recently as 2009…


Oh Yes They Did: Four Chinese Women Strip Down to Protest Government Corruption

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RocketNews24 reports: Recently, streaking and naked demonstrations have increased in popularity in China. The benefits are clear, as having pictures of naked women (and to a much, much lesser extent men) is a pretty solid way to get attention for your cause. It’s also a more peaceful form of expression that can gain sympathy from the public.

I’d gladly take my political messages from a few people who are standing naked in a park rather than say… driving around shouting through a megaphone while blasting patriotic music at full volume. On the flipside, naked protests also carry the risk of the message getting lost in a sea of people shouting, “Hey! Boobs!”

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These particular boobs belong to four women aged 65, 66, 68, and 73. Sorry to dupe you like this but since you’ve already come this far, might as well listen to their story. Like other naked protest photos this one has made the rounds through China’s social networks like Sina Weibo and websites.

It shows the small band of ladies stripping down to their birthday suits with writing all over their bodies. According to various websites such as Siyibao.org they also set up placards at their protest site outside the US Embassy in Beijing, one of which featured a Chinese character referring to “injustice.”

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This apparently wasn’t the first time either, as Sina Weibo users and other bloggers reported seeing them at other times and places such as the Tiananmen Square anniversary. In these instances they have also been seen getting taken away by police. Read the rest of this entry »


China: Women Graduates Spurn Cap & Gown, Wear Wedding Dresses Instead


Hong Kong’s Occupy Central ‘Referendum’ Explained

<> on June 1, 2014 in Hong Kong, Hong Kong.

Hong Kong: For CNN, Wilfred Chan and Euan McKirdy report: Nearly 800,000 Hong Kongers have done something China’s 1.3 billion people can only dream of: cast a ballot to demand a democratic government.

In an unofficial referendum organized by pro-democracy activists and denounced by Chinese authorities, 787,767 people in the city of more than seven million have called for the right to directly elect their next leader.

But Beijing has insisted Hong Kong politics stays in line with Chinese rule, paving the way for a showdown in thehk-protest city.

Who are the activists?

Occupy Central is a pro-democracy group founded in 2013. Their goal is to allow the Hong Kong public to elect its next leader without strings attached.

If the Hong Kong government doesn’t eventually give the public more voting rights, Occupy Central has threatened to “occupy” Central district, the city’s financial hub, with a sit-in that would disrupt businesses and block traffic.

How is Hong Kong governed now?

Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, with its own executive, legislature, and judiciary.

A former British colony, the city was returned to Chinese control in 1997. But before the handover, China and the United Kingdom signed an agreement giving Hong Kong a “high degree of autonomy” for 50 years after its return to China. This enshrined a principle known as “one country, two systems” in a constitutional document called the Basic Law. Read the rest of this entry »


China stakes its Claims on Mars with Rover Bound for Red Planet in 2020

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For The IndependentJames Vincent writes: Sovereignty in outer space is always a tricky subject, but out of all the lifeless rocks in the solar system it’s safe to say that Mars is more American than most. It may not have a US flag crumpled in mid-wave on the surface, but every robot that’s ever crawled successfully on the planet’s surface has been made in the US. Not for much longer.

Last week China announced that it was planning send a rover to Mars by 2020 and bring back samples from the Red Planet just 10 years later. Ouyang Ziyuan, the Chinese scientist who oversaw the country’s successful Moon rover mission in December last year, said that this would be just the first step in the country’s plans to explore the solar system – with further plans involving sending probes to the Sun.

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The US aerospace industry may be having something of a minor boom at the moment as private companies such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX celebrate engineering successes, but America still can’t match China’s budget nor its concentration of political will.

Scott Pace, a former Nasa administrator and director of the Space Policy Insitute at George Washington University, told The Independent that China’s plans were “ambitious but not impossible,” adding that despite their success on the Moon, Mars is “much, much more difficult to reach and operate on than the Moon”.

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Of the seven rovers that have been sent to Mars only the four US missions have been successful. A pair of Soviet rovers sent in 1971 failed to stay in touch with Earth for longer than 20 seconds and in 2003 the Beagle 2’s ‘Planetary Undersurface Tool’ (only a ‘rover’ in the most generous of terms) failed to even make it to the surface. Read the rest of this entry »


Want to Be a Millionaire? Move to Hong Kong

A luxury car parks at an old district area in Hong Kong Wednesday Jan. 15, 2014. Associated Press

A luxury car parks at an old district area in Hong Kong Wednesday Jan. 15, 2014. Associated Press

For China Real Time ReportJason Chow writes: Hong Kong mints millionaires faster than any of the world’s other top 25 economic powerhouses, according to a new survey on the rich by Capgemini and RBC Wealth Management.

“Hong Kong is a particularly fertile place for millionaires.”

Tis the season of wealth reports – the new 2014 World Wealth Report is the second global survey of the world’s rich in as many weeks (Boston Consulting Group released its wealth tome last week). And again, the latest survey confirmed an obvious outcome of Asia’s economic boom: The region is home to more millionaires than ever.

“The city’s booming real-estate market, along with its ties to China, were cited as reasons for the huge surge in the wealthy ranks.”

But the Capgemini/RBC report says Hong Kong is a particularly fertile place for millionaires. In the past five years, the total number of high-net-worth individuals—those with more than US$1 million in investable assets, not including primary residence, collectibles or consumer goods—grew at an annual rate of 27%.

That growth rate of wealthy individuals is by far the fastest, above the global 10% average and far higher than the growth rates for Singapore and China, which sat around 12% and 16%, respectively. Read the rest of this entry »


Street Fight: Congress Renames Road by Chinese Embassy After Jailed Dissident

Workers prepare the Nobel Peace Prize laureate exhibition 'I Have No Enemies' for Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo

Beijing is not amused by the “provocative action,” as Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo “has been convicted in accordance with the law”

For TIMEHannah Beech reports: Alert the post office. The official address for the Chinese embassy in Washington is to be changed to 1 Liu Xiaobo Plaza. On June 24, the House Appropriations Committee voted to rename 3505 International Place, a strip of asphalt that runs in front of the Chinese mission in northwest D.C., after the jailed Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

The bid for the new Chinese embassy mailing address was tacked on as an amendment to the 2015 State Department spending bill. The road in front of the Chinese embassy is federally owned, giving Congress some latitude in deciding its fate. (The D.C. Council will also consider the resolution.) Fourteen bipartisan Congressmen, led by Virginia Republican Frank Wolf, shepherded the provision, which calls for U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to institute the name change. A street sign adorned with Liu’s name is planned.In 2009, the veteran activist and writer was sentenced to 11 years in prison for inciting subversion against the Chinese state. Liu, 58, helped draft Charter 08, a pro-democracy petition that called on Beijing to abandon one-party rule and uphold basic human rights. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman in Beijing labeled the road-renaming movement a “provocative action,” noting that Liu “has been convicted in accordance with the law.” Read the rest of this entry »


Chinese Investors Buying Up U.S. Golf Courses

obama-golf-sidebarFor the Los Angeles TimesE. Scott Reckard reports: Eight years ago, Du Sha cashed out his chain of home-improvement centers — the first superstores of their kind in China — with a sale to Home Depot for $100 million.

Today, with a net worth of more than $600 million, the former economics professor has taken up the conventional pastime for those with money and time: golf.

Du has bigger plans than reducing his handicap. Teaming with a Canadian golf executive, he has bankrolled Pacific Links International, which now owns 10 high-end U.S. courses, including the $20-million Dove Canyon Golf Club, in a private community abutting the Cleveland National Forest in south Orange County.

Du and other wealthy Chinese investors are quickly adding golf courses to their growing portfolios of U.S. holdings. In the last year, Chinese investors have bought prime properties including the 2,000-acre Sea Trail Golf Resort, built around three Sunset Beach, N.C., courses, along with smaller ones, such as Rancho Duarte Golf Club, a nine-hole, par-31 course built on a former dump in the San Gabriel Valley.

“We’re seeing a lot of tires getting kicked by the Chinese,” said broker Jeffrey Woolson in Carlsbad, managing director for golf and resorts at real estate services giant CBRE Group Inc. “They only recently came forward and started buying. They do love golf, so it makes sense.”

The influx is restoring the fortunes of some unprofitable clubs such as Dove Canyon, where Pacific Links has committed $6.2 million to refurbishments after buying the property last year.

The investments also mark the third wave of golf course purchases by Asian investors. Unlike the Japanese and the South Koreans before them, the Chinese are buying at the bottom of the market. But they are entering an overbuilt industry that has suffered from declining American interest in golf since well before the Great Recession drove many courses into bankruptcy.

The purchases of U.S. golf courses follow a long series of investments by wealthy Chinese in other areas — such as Gov. Jerry Brown’s pet housing project in Oakland and the AMC Theatres chain. Chinese investors also have purchased Sheraton hotels in Universal City and at Los Angeles International Airport and helped ignite such red-hot California housing markets as Arcadia and Irvine.

Major Chinese investments in U.S. businesses doubled to $14 billion last year — and added $8 billion more in the first three months this year, according to Rhodium Group, a New York economic consulting firm. Read the rest of this entry »


China: Meet Yuan Meixia, She Has 100,000 Cockroaches, Says They Are Her Family

Yuan Meixia says she was inspired to breed the Palmetto bugs after seeing a show about the insect last year. Photo: Nandu.com

Yuan Meixia says she was inspired to breed the Palmetto bugs after seeing a show about the insect last year. Photo: Nandu.com

”These are all my children, my babies.”

Most people hate cockroaches and would do just about anything to keep them out of their homes. But that is not the case for one woman.

Keira Lu Huang at the South China Morning Post is reporting that Yuan Meixia in China shares her home with 100,000 cockroaches, which she considers her children.

(Photo by PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL/AFP/Getty Images)

(Photo by PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL/AFP/Getty Images)

“They are most active at night, mating and hunting for food. They mate with each other after eating. The mating process lasts for two hours, and then spawning happens. Every spawn hatches dozens of baby cockroaches.”

– Yuan Meixia

She breeds them and raises them so she can sell them to a pharmaceutical company, which uses them for medicine.  She lives in separate home, but visits the breeding home everyday. She was inspired to start breeding them after she saw a program on television which talked about their potential healing properties.

Although she calls them her 'babies' or 'children', the insects are killed and dried before being sold to a factory. Photo: Nandu.com

Although she calls them her ‘babies’ or ‘children’, the insects are killed and dried before being sold to a factory. Photo: Nandu.com

[Also see China: At Least 1 Million Cockroaches Escape Farm in Jiangsu]

”These are all my children, my babies,” she says to a Southern Metropolis News reporter on a tour of the facility in Linbian village. Yuan resides at another house in Siqian county, but visits the breeding house every day. Read the rest of this entry »


Chinese Military Tied to Prolific Hacking Group Targeting U.S. Aerospace Industry

In this Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013 photo, a crew member of Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy monitors on the deck of the China's aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, sailing on the East China Sea for sea trials. The Liaoning departed for its first-ever sea trials in the South China Sea, a mission likely to draw scrutiny amid Beijing's drive to assert its claims to those waters and their island groups. (AP Photo) CHINA OUT

In operation since 2007, “Putter Panda” is latest group to be implicated by researchers 

For Ars TechnicaDan Goodin reports: Investigators said they have identified a secretive hacking group that has spent years systematically targeting US partners in the space and satellite industry, most likely on behalf of the Chinese military.

“Putter Panda is a determined adversary group, conducting intelligence-gathering operations targeting the Government, Defense, Research, and Technology sectors in the United States, with specific targeting of the US Defense and European satellite and aerospace industries.”

– Crowdstrike researchers

The group typically gains a foothold in sensitive networks by attaching booby-trapped documents to e-mails, according to a 62-page report published Monday by Crowdstrike, a firm that conducts forensic investigations on behalf of customers who have suffered security breaches. When employees click on the documents, the attackers are able to gain control over their PCs. The attackers then use the PCs to take control of servers housing blueprints, customer lists, or other sensitive data. The group, dubbed as Putter Panda, is connected to Unit 61486 of the People Liberation Army’s (PLA’s) Third General Staff Department, according to the report. Read the rest of this entry »


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