CHINA TODAY: Smog, Japanese Tensions, And Bo Xilai Gets Lucky

The New Year holiday ended on a polluted note as smog enveloped China during the Lantern Festival (China Daily):

The authority issued a yellow smog alert at 10 am. Yellow is the second lowest level in China’s four-tier colour-coded weather alert system.

Thick fog, lowering visibility to less than 1,000 meters, shrouded central and northern parts of Jiangsu and areas in Zhejiang early Sunday morning. Smog choked southern Beijing, and parts of Shanxi, Henan, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, according to NMC monitoring data.

Beijing acted to reduce fireworks as air worsened (Bloomberg) and while this year’s pyrotechnics were noticeably inferior to previous years’, Beijing air on Sunday was horrible, as you can see in this picture of the Central Business district I took at 1:30 PM.

But when the air is clear Beijing can be stunning. Here is a picture I took Friday afternoon on a visit to the Lama Temple. That beautiful Beijing blue sky is not the result of any filters on my phone.

China Daily thinks Japanese Prime Minister Abe’s visit with President Obama was not a complete success. The paper today writes that Abe fails to get full US backing over islands:

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe fell short of achieving his key goal, getting Washington’s unequivocal support for Tokyo’s stance over the Diaoyu Islands, as he concluded his visit to the US capital on Sunday…

But Obama did not mention the islands in his brief remarks after his meeting with Abe.

Abe sees a strong alliance with the US, which he said had been damaged by the previous Japanese government, as a key part of keeping China and the DPRK in check, Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun said on Sunday.

But a Japanese government source said the US decided not to touch upon the issue during the summit to avoid irritating China unnecessarily, it reported.

Kenneth Lieberthal, a senior fellow in foreign policy and global economy and development at the Brookings Institution, said despite the US-Japan alliance, it’s up to China and Japan to work it out themselves.

Any readers know if the US or Japanese governments would agree with this analysis?

The New Year holiday may have been good for Bo Xilai, as John Garnaut of Fairfax Media writes in support for Bo grows before China’s ‘trial of the century’:

The purge of Bo Xilai is in danger of losing momentum as the maverick political star remains defiant and associates question the fairness of keeping him in jail while other tainted leaders remain free.

Support for the charismatic and polarising leader has grown over the Spring Festival break as powerful princelings visit one another’s families and gather to share opinions and information, several princelings and close observers have told Fairfax Media.

One lifelong associate of Mr Bo said the handling of the case was a challenge for the Communist Party rather than Mr Bo, whose political execution was not in doubt…

Difficulties in staging what promises to be China’s ”trial of the century” have been compounded by a Reuters report on Thursday night that Mr Bo has grown a chest-length beard and gone on a hunger strike, requiring him to be taken to hospital.

Sources with connections to the Bo family questioned the veracity of the report but confirmed he had been unwell and broadly uncooperative.

A milquetoast approach to the Bo Xilai prosecution would be a very bad sign for those who believe Xi Jinping has the will and the political capital to at least rollback some of the more egregious corruption and push through difficult economic reforms.

Today’s Links:


Chinese general Luo Yuan’s battle on Weibo | Offbeat China – Just as netizens on Weibo were about to conclude that Luo was finally edged by netizens to insanity, Sina Military channel stood up in Luo’s defence and announced that Luo’s Weibo account has been hacked, and that all the self-praising remarks were not from Luo himself. Not only did netizens not believe the clarification, they even further made fun of Luo: “In my opinion, if general Luo cannot even protect his own Weibo account, it’s simply bullshit that he is capable of protecting our country.” Judging from the development so far, Luo’s hope to win over public favour has been crashed completely. Weibo continues to show Chinese officials that the war of public opinions isn’t one that’s easy to fight. Luo is not the first nor the last to be defeated in the battlefield of China’s social media.

Xi rallies the ‘Second Generation Red’- The Ageanother interesting piece from John Garnaut//–Mr Xi enjoys natural prestige among the “Second Generation Red” because he is one. His father, Xi Zhongxun, helped establish the revolutionary bastion of Yan’an in the 1930s.Mr Xi’s first 100 days in power, which he reached on Thursday, has been marked by high-profile campaigns against corruption, pomp and conspicuous consumption among the Party and military elite. He has adopted a more nationalistic and militaristic tone in pursuing territorial claims against Japan and making repeated high-profile visits to military commands.  Less visibly, in internal speeches and oblique public references, Mr Xi has elevated the prestige and legacy of Chairman Mao Zedong and held himself out as a leader who has the courage to fight to save the regime – in explicit contrast to Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union.

Words of caution for China bulls | FT Alphaville – The consensus is for growth of a touch more than 8 per cent this year, roughly in line with what Beijing itself is forecasting. Yet Zhiwei Zhang and Wendy Chen, economists at Nomura, argue this is too bullish, and offer five reasons why they think 7.7 per cent is more realistic, with growth slowing to 7.3 per cent in the second half of 2013.

Analysis: China central bank takes lead in economic reform push | Reuters – Central bank insiders interviewed by Reuters say the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) is the country’s most potent force for reform in the face of powerful vested interests, echoing sources with leadership ties who last week said Zhou would keep his job despite reaching the mandatory retirement age of 65. Keeping Zhou ensures that the PBOC will remain a trusted instrument through which China’s leaders can enact financial reforms designed to boost free markets and private enterprise, rebalance the economy, reinvigorate growth and ultimately heal a socially divisive rift between the country’s rich and poor.

Rhodium Group » Chinese Investment: Europe vs. the United States Chinese direct investment in the United States and Europe has grown fast since 2008. In the past two years, Europe has attracted twice as much investment as the US as Chinese investors seized commercial opportunities arising from the European crisis. Flows to the US can be expected to remain strong on the back of the US economic recovery and growing Chinese interest in high tech and modern service assets. However, policy and politics have become important factors for investment in sectors like infrastructure and high tech, and they will become even more critical for future deal making.

China’s New Leaders Plan First Government Overhaul in Five Years – Bloomberg – The scandal-hit Ministry of Railways will be merged into the Ministry of Transport, while the Ministry of Civil Affairs may widen its responsibilities over social management, Caijing magazine reported yesterday. The changes will also include nationwide reform of food safety and more responsibility for the State Oceanic Administration, according to a report on the magazine’s website. New York-based Duowei News, which accurately predicted in July that the Politburo Standing Committee would be reduced to seven from nine members, said in a Feb. 21 report on its website that the transport ministry will take over responsibility for railway construction and network planning, while the railway ministry’s operational units will be separated into a new company.

Official suspended after outbreak of airport rage — Shanghai Dailyhuge play on Weibo// A MINING company official in southwest China was suspended yesterday after a video showing him flying into a rage at an airport was posted online [A must watch Youtube. And you wonder why there is a sense a lawlessness…].  Yan Linkun also faces punishment as the member of Shizong County’s political advisory body in Yunnan’s Qujing City. Repeated cases of outright lawlessness at Chinese airports. China needs to start sending these people to jail, as the US would if people were dumb enough to behave this way in American airports these days.

The cyber age demands new rules of war ––Zbigniew Brzezinski – But to make that process productive, the US itself – while resisting the temptation to do to others what America condemns others for doing – must make certain that its vulnerabilities are not easily exploited by adversaries that are difficult to identify. It is perplexing that the US, which apparently is able to use computers to inject undetectable viruses into sensitive foreign targets, seems so vulnerable and so uninformed regarding foreign hacking into its assets. Calm and determined deterrence – including intensified efforts credibly to identify perpetrators as well as readiness in effect to retaliate in kind – must be the point of departure for new and genuinely reciprocal rules of the game. The need for such rules is becoming urgent.

Be Informed About China. The Sinocism China Newsletter. Free.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.