BEIJING, September 5 -- China’s commerce ministry said that a phone call on Thursday with US top trade negotiators went very well, adding that Beijing opposes any escalation in the trade war.
Both sides will strive to achieve real progress during a high-level meeting scheduled for early October, ministry spokesman Gao Feng told reporters in a weekly briefing. China and the United States agreed to hold high-level trade talks in Washington, the ministry said earlier on Thursday, following a phone call between China’s Vice-Premier Liu He and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Commerce Minister Zhong Shan, People's Bank of China Governor Yi Gang and deputy head of the economic planning commission Ning Jizhe were also on the call. The call came amid fears that an escalating trade war could trigger a global economic recession. "Both sides agreed that they should work together and take practical actions to create good conditions for consultations,” the ministry said. Trade teams from the two countries will hold talks in mid-September before the high-level talks next month, the ministry said. Both sides agreed to take actions to create favourable conditions, it said. A spokesman for the US Trade Representative’s office confirmed that Mr Lighthizer and Mr Mnuchin spoke with Mr Liu and said they agreed to hold ministerial-level trade talks in Washington “in the coming weeks”.
Washington began imposing 15 per cent tariffs on an array of Chinese imports on Sunday, while China began placing new duties on US crude oil. That prompted China to lodge a complaint against the United States at the World Trade Organisation. The United States plans to increase the tariff rate to 30 per cent from the 25 per cent duty already in place on US$250 billion (S$346 billion) worth of Chinese imports from Oct 1. US President Donald Trump warned on Tuesday that he would be tougher on Beijing in a second term if trade talks dragged on, compounding market fears that ongoing trade disputes between the United States and China could trigger a US recession. Chinese leaders will have a packed schedule next month, gearing up for National Day celebrations scheduled for Oct 1. They will also hold a key meeting in October to discuss improving governance and “perfecting” the country’s socialist system, state media has said, more than a year after the last was held. “Neither China nor the US want to be blamed by the rest of world for escalating the trade war and damaging the world economy,” said Mr Zhou Xiaoming, a former Chinese commerce ministry official and diplomat. “But the talks don’t mean the two sides will inch closer or that their stances soften,” he added.
Some within the Trump administration are sceptical that China is willing to make the sort of broad commitment to reforms sought by the US that caused a breakdown in talks in May, according to people familiar with the officials’ thinking. Others have become increasingly focused on trying to calm financial markets and forestall any further economic fallout in the US where Mr rump’s tariffs and the uncertainty surrounding the trade war are being blamed for a slowdown in manufacturing. It is unclear if the two sides will go back to a May draft agreement as the United States has been seeking. "No one is holding their breath” with regard to the talks, said Mr Chua Hak Bin, an economist at Maybank Kim Eng Research in Singapore. “Investors are slowly coming to terms that a trade deal is increasingly remote, with both sides talking tough and preparing for a long battle.”
HONG KONG, September 4 -- Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Wednesday formally withdrew a contentious extradition Bill following months of protests.
"The government will formally withdraw the Bill in order to fully allay public concerns," she said in a pre-recorded address in Cantonese and English that was carried by all major broadcasters in Hong Kong. Mrs Lam said a motion to withdraw with be tabled when the Legislative Council reconvenes. Although Mrs Lam had previously suspended the Bill – saying it was “dead” – her move did little to appease demonstrators, who continued protesting and expanded their demands to include calls for greater democratic freedom. Without the Bill’s formal withdrawal, it could be reintroduced in a matter of days. This essentially responds to one of five demands protesters have asked for. The others are: the retraction of the word “riot” to describe rallies; the release of all arrested demonstrators; an independent inquiry into the police; and the right for Hong Kong people to democratically choose their own leaders. While she ruled out setting up an independent commission to look into the events that have led to recent mass protests, she said that the Independent Police Complaints Commission will be reinforced by former director of education Helen Yu and senior lawyer Paul Lam. The government will also meet with various stakeholders and members of the public in a bid to address the various social issues she said.
"After more than two months of social unrest, it's obvious to many that the discontentment extends far beyond the (extradition) Bill," Mrs Lam added. The announcement follows a meeting with pro-establishment political figures, the South China Morning Post newspaper and other media reported, citing people they did not identify. The gathering included local legislators and the city's representatives to national legislative bodies. The meeting follows a weekend of demonstrations that saw some of the fiercest clashes between protesters and riot police. Activists have lobbed petrol bombs and set bonfires in the streets, while police officers fired tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray, making more than 1,100 arrests since early June. Hong Kong stocks jumped, led by property developers, after news reports said Mrs Lam will formally withdraw the extradition Bill that has sparked months of protests. The benchmark Hang Seng Index surged as much as 3.9 per cent before paring gains to 3.4 per cent at 3.06pm local time. The turmoil that followed Mrs Lam's attempt to introduce the ill-fated Bill - including mass marches that drew more than 1 million people and protests that shut the city's busy airport - have turned into the biggest crisis for Beijing's rule over the former British colony since it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
HONG KONG, August 26 -- Hong Kong stocks dived more than 3 per cent in the first few minutes of business on Monday.
Caused by United States President Donald Trump ramped up his trade row with China and the city was hit by fresh violent protests over the weekend. The Hang Seng Index plummeted 3.27 per cent, or 857.33 points, to 25,322 at the open. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index sank 1.6 per cent, or 46.41 points, to 2,851.02, and the Shenzhen Composite Index, which tracks stocks on China's second exchange, shed 1.96 per cent, or 30.87 points, to 1,547.83.
HONG KONG, August 26 -- China sent the strongest warning yet of using troops on Hong Kong's streets, where Beijing says protests have turned into a "Colour Revolution", with water cannons and tear gas fired in skirmishes between police and demonstrators in the 12th straight weekend of unrest.
"It's not only the China central government's authority but also its responsibility to intervene when riots take place in Hong Kong," the state-run Xinhua News Agency said on Sunday (Aug 25) in a commentary, recalling comments by former top leader Deng Xiaoping that Beijing has to act under such circumstances. United States President Donald Trump said on Aug 13 that reports from US intelligence agencies show the Chinese government is moving troops to its border with Hong Kong. A day earlier, Global Times, a Chinese tabloid run by the People's Daily, reported that the Chinese People's Armed Police were assembling in Shenzhen ahead of "apparent large-scale exercises", where "numerous" armoured personnel carriers, trucks and other vehicles of the paramilitary force were seen heading towards Hong Kong's neighbouring city. In Sunday's commentary, Xinhua said Hong Kong's protests have turned into a Colour Revolution aimed at overturning the Special Administrative Region's constitutional institutions, a signal it was ready to take further action. Previously, Chinese officials described the protests as having some characteristics of a "Colour Revolution". Protesters' violent acts have pushed Hong Kong to an extremely dangerous edge, the city's government said in a statement after a day full of violent clashes between demonstrators and the police, where an officer fired warning shots in the air.
HONG KONG, August 25 -- Protesters left the northern district of Tsuen Wan, where police had earlier deployed two water cannon, at first during dispersal operations, regrouping in the working class district of Sham Shui Po on Sunday night.
Amid heavy rain, scores of protesters with umbrellas shouting "hak seh wui", or "triads", at riot police gathered to disperse the crowd. Earlier, police deployed two vehicles equipped with water cannons on the streets of Tsuen Wan, a town in the New Territories area close to the Chinese border. The vehicles slowly cruised down streets and directed their water cannons at makeshift barricades as police cleared roads after protesters retreated southward, and most had dispersed by about 7.30pm (local time). This came as multiple rounds of tear gas were fired to clear protesters, following an approved protest march earlier in the day. But as protesters dispersed, a splinter group targeted several shops in Yi Pei Square in Tsuen Wan, the site of clashes between pro-democracy protesters and government supporters, trashing several shops including a restaurant and a mahjong parlour. Shortly after 8pm, at least three officers drew their service revolvers on a group of protesters who had attacked them, resulting in a standoff at a nearby building with reporters unhappy that a gun had been pointed at them. Riot police were brought to reinforce the officers. A uniformed officer had fired a warning shot during the encounter, a senior police officer told journalists at the scene but did not go into further details citing the need for further investigation.
Earlier in the day, groups of demonstrators occupied the streets in Tsuen Wan with barricades made of dismantled roadside fences, bamboo poles, water-filled barriers, traffic cones and dustbins near Tsuen Wan Park, the official end point of the march that started at Kwai Chung Sports Ground. One water-cannon vehicle was used to clear the barricades on Tai Ho Road, which was not occupied by protesters, according to local TV footage. In a statement, police said the situation in Tsuen Wan had escalated, with protesters hurling bricks and aiming strong laser beams at officers. The police appealed to people in the area to leave immediately.
BEIJING, August 25 -- United States trade groups have joined in a chorus of opposition to the latest escalation of tariffs Washington threatened for all the Chinese imports.
It's been heard that "enough is enough" as intensified tensions roil stock markets, ruin businesses and rid farmers of their most important export markets. Last Friday, US President Donald Trump announced that he would hike duties on US$250 billion (S$346 billion) worth of Chinese goods from the current 25 per cent to 30 per cent starting from Oct 1, and the remaining imports of US$300 billion from the planned 10 per cent to 15 per cent from Sept 1. The move followed Beijing's plan last Thursday to raise tariffs on US$75 billion worth of US goods in retaliation to the US side's planned taxing on an additional US$300 billion worth of Chinese imports, which was announced earlier this month. China's Ministry of Commerce said on Saturday that the country is "firmly opposed" to Washington's "unilateral and bullying acts of trade protectionism and extreme pressure", and urged it to immediately stop its "erroneous practices". The ruling Communist Party's People's Daily said on Sunday that China will fight back against the latest US step to increase tariffs on Chinese goods. “China is confident that it will follow its own path and do its own things well, and will never waver in its stand on countering any provocations by the US side,” the newspaper said in a commentary.
US politicians, seeking to hamper China’s economic development, still want to use the tactics of exerting maximum pressure on China that has achieved few results, the paper said. But the US will not win the trade war because of the plight faced by its farmers and businesses. In the US, Mr Gary Shapiro, president and chief executive officer of the Consumer Technology Association, said that "enough is enough", as shown by the 623-point drop in the Dow last Friday. "Global markets are reeling on fears of a global recession. And today's (last Friday) announcement only inflicts more pain on American businesses, workers and families," said Mr Shapiro. "These escalating tariffs are the worst economic mistake since the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 - a decision that catapulted our country into the Great Depression," Mr Shapiro said. "Instead of making America great again, the president is using tariffs to make a great economic mistake - again." He continued: "How much longer will our families, companies and economy be forced to bear the financial burden of this misguided trade policy?" Mr Rick Helfenbein, president and chief executive officer of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, also lamented that what the US businesses now get is "a 1930s trade strategy" that will be a disaster for consumers, businesses, and the economy.
HONG KONG, August 25 -- Hong Kong police on Sunday said they arrested 29 people after clashes overnight, in which volleys of tear gas were fired to break up anti-government protests and as the Asian financial hub braced for further demonstrations in the day.
Aged between 17 and 52, the suspects - 19 men and 10 women - were arrested for offences including the possession of offensive weapons and assault of police officers, police said in a statement. Those arrested included the organiser of Saturday's march, Mr Ventus Lau, public broadcaster RTHK reported. The force also strongly condemned protesters for "breaching public peace" on Saturday. On Sunday, transport to the city's international airport appeared normal, despite protesters' plans for a day-long "stress test" of transport in the aviation hub. Another protest was planned for Sunday in the working class district of Tsuen Wan, while demonstrators also plan a city-wide strike and class boycotts at universities in coming weeks. Hong Kong's metro operator MTR said on Sunday that a number of stations on the Tsuen Wan line would be closed from 1.30pm, RTHK reported. The Kwai Fong and Tsuen Wan stations on the Tsuen Wan line as well as the Tsuen Wan West station on the West Rail line would be temporarily closed.
Activists on Saturday threw petrol bombs and bricks in the gritty industrial area of Kwun Tong, a densely populated area of the Chinese territory on the east of the Kowloon peninsula. Four MTR subway stations were closed due to the protests. Police used tear gas after some protesters threw Molotov cocktails and bricks and others tore up "smart" lamp posts equipped with surveillance cameras. Others had set up roadblocks with bamboo scaffolding. It was the first use of tear gas in more than a week after a series of mostly peaceful demonstrations in the former British colony. Strongly condemning the "vandalistic and violent acts of radical protesters" on Saturday, the Hong Kong government said in a statement that the police would strictly follow up on all the illegal acts. It also appealed to the protesters to stop the violence so that order can be restored in society as soon as possible.
FIGHT FOR DEMOCRACY
The protests, which started over a now-suspended extradition Bill and have evolved into demands for greater democracy, have roiled Hong Kong for three months. Demonstrators' demands include an independent inquiry into what they describe as police brutality, a full withdrawal of the extradition Bill, and universal suffrage. The wider calls for democracy have plunged the city into an unprecedented crisis posing a direct challenge for Communist Party leaders in Beijing. Demonstrators say they are fighting the erosion of the "one country, two systems" arrangement that enshrines a high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong since it was handed back from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
HONIARA, August 25 -- In June, then newly elected Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare announced that the Pacific nation would decide within 100 days whether to switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China.
Solomon Islands has been allied with Taiwan since 1983, and with a population of just over 600,000, it is the largest of the six Pacific states that recognize the self-governed island, which China considers a renegade province. However, with the 100-day deadline soon approaching, the islands' government appears more torn than ever over the impending decision, and lawmakers say the final call could be postponed for months. Opposition leader Matthew Wale told Kyodo News that while the decision of whether to switch ties lies entirely with the government, he understands that an outcome "will maybe be reached by November." Wale's comments come as former Prime Minister and current Minister for National Planning and Aid Coordination Rick Houenipwela told Radio New Zealand that a vote in parliament would not happen at all this year. Houenipwela was one of 16 pro-government lawmakers who on Wednesday publicly announced their strong support for the Solomon Islands remaining with Taiwan, citing fears of "debt-trap diplomacy" with which China's Belt and Road infrastructure development initiative is often associated. "We state very clearly that we will not support any policy to change Solomon Islands diplomatic ties from Republic of China (Taiwan) to the People's Republic of China (PRC)," the statement, published on the Solomon Business Magazine Facebook page, read. "We believe the long term interests of our country -- in terms of our development aspirations, as well as respect for democratic principles, human rights, rule of law, human dignity, and mutual respect -- lie with Taiwan, not the PRC," it said. Signatories to the letter account for over half of government ministers, including Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele and Deputy Prime Minister John Maneniaru. The prime minister is also understood to continue to "cherish Solomon Islands relations with Taiwan," according to the letter.
TAIPEI, August 24 -- A US Navy ship passed through the Taiwan Strait on Friday, only three days after the US government approved an US$8 billion arms sale to the island’s military.
Taiwan’s defence ministry said in a statement that the transport landing ship sailed through the Taiwan Strait in a south-to-north direction, adding that the military has been keeping close watch on the situation so the Taiwanese public should rest assured. The passage of a US Navy vessel through the strait was the seventh of this year, and the first since the US government officially notified Congress on Tuesday of the proposed sale of the F16 fighter jets to Taiwan. That move added to already tense relations between Beijing and Washington and Beijing threatened to take “all necessary measures” to safeguard its interests, including sanctioning the US companies involved in the arms sale. Taiwan’s air force hopes to receive the 66 advanced variants of the F-16 Fighting Falcon multi role fighter by 2026. It is expected to use them to replace its ageing fleet of F-5E fighters at a base in Taitung county, eastern Taiwan. The F-16 is one of the mainstay fighters of the air force, the others being the Indigenous Defence Fighter, or IDF, and the Mirage 2000. Taiwan already has a fleet of F-16s, which are undergoing upgrades. The air force took possession of its first four upgraded F-16s in April. The Taichung-based Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation hopes to complete the retrofit programme by 2023.
Since 2008, US administrations have notified Congress of more than US$24 billion in foreign military sales to Taiwan, including the sale of M1A2 tanks and Stinger missiles valued at US$2.2 billion in the past two months. To date, the Trump administration alone has notified Congress of US$4.4 billion in arms sales to Taiwan. Taiwan and mainland China have been governed separately since the end of the civil war in 1949. Beijing, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province, insists the self-rule island must eventually be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary.
HONG KONG, August 24 -- Hong Kong kicks off its 12th straight weekend of anti-government protests with an approved march in Kwun Tong.
It is taking a tense turn as demonstrators again resort to blocking roads, while earlier, residents engaged MTR staff in a stand-off over suspended train services. More than a thousand people showed up in the industrial district, calling for the full withdrawal of the now-shelved extradition bill and demanding an explanation over a plan to set up "smart lamp posts" along roads. The devices measure traffic conditions, weather and other data, but critics say they infringe upon privacy. The march follows a plan in the morning to cripple transport links to the airport, but that protest action failed to take off because of low numbers. The Kwun Tong procession will head from Tsun Yip Street to Zero Carbon Building in Kowloon Bay, and marks the latest in nearly three months of demonstrations that have rocked the city. The political crisis was sparked by the hated extradition bill, which would have allowed the transfer of fugitives to jurisdictions with which Hong Kong has no such agreement, including mainland China.