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China will likely speed up its Belt and Road projects amid US tensions: Citi

Source:CNBC
Writer:Kelly Olsen
Date: December 12, 2018

China will likely speed up infrastructure projects in its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative amid trade tensions with the United States, Citi said in a report Tuesday.

Several Chinese companies and various sectors, including mining and transportation, are poised to benefit from that development, the report said.

The Asian giant announced the BRI in 2013, aimed at recreating and modernizing ancient Silk Road trade routes. It has become the signature foreign policy program of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s government.

 The program is an ambitious infrastructure project aimed at connecting more than 60 countries in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East through overland and maritime routes.

But it has been widely criticized, amid concerns that the high debt incurred for projects might become unsustainable for countries such as Sri Lanka, and others could face risks due to political changes, including those in Malaysia.

China has elevated the program to a top national strategy, Citi said, adding that tensions with the U.S. mean Beijing is prepared to take a different approach in the construction projects in order to expand its influence in countries that are part of the initiative.

 China will likely “escalate the loan and shorten the project approval” process to quicken the pace of infrastructure building “so as to diversify trade and economic activities there away from the U.S.,” Citi analysts said in the report.

“We believe the BRI will primarily benefit the railway sector, given China’s distinct advantages globally in terms of technology and cost in railway infrastructure,” they said, noting that building of power plants, telecommunications facilities and ports should also increase.

‘Kinder, gentler’

Some Chinese firms stand to benefit from this, the report said, stating the examples of China Railway Group and China Railway Construction.

Others include Chinese train manufacturer CRRC — which produces rolling stock such as railroad cars, wagons and coaches — as well as equipment maker China Railway Signal & Communication, Citi said in its report. All are listed in Hong Kong.

Some industries are also set to make inroads.

“We see near-term opportunities for sectors such as commodity and mining, transportation and logistics, as well as finance,” Citi said, citing specific firms such as Chinese oil and gas company PetroChina and the Bank of China, both listed in Hong Kong. Shanghai-listed Conch Cement is also “well positioned to benefit from the initiative,” it said.

In a separate Citi report assessing the progress of the Belt and Road Initiative after its first five years, the U.S. bank suggested that China may be forced to modify the BRI into a “kinder, gentler” version that would sit better with its critics.

Some challenges include the heavy reliance on the U.S. dollar in order to fund the infrastructure projects, Citi said. Other pressures China continues to face include criticisms from recipient countries that projects are too favorable to China and “explicit opposition” from the U.S., the report said.

However, all that could contribute to Beijing becoming more open to changes, as seen in China’s “growing interest” in working with multilateral development banks to jointly finance projects, the report said.

But whatever modifications are made, the program is here to stay.

“Though it might change shape, the BRI is certainly not going away,” Citi noted.

 

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CPEC is Pakistan’s national priority, China told

Source: DAWN
Date: December 11, 2018.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Monday reaffirmed its commitment to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) by pledging to complete it as a national priority.

The assurance was conveyed to the Chinese side by the Foreign Office at the inaugural round of bilateral political consultations. Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua led the Pakistani delegation at the meeting, while the Chinese side was headed by Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou.

“Pakistan side conveyed that CPEC is a national priority for the government and Pakistan remains committed to the successful implementation of CPEC,” the FO said in a statement on the meeting.

“The two sides also resolved to work together towards completion of the ongoing projects and agreed to expand CPEC to new areas of cooperation in line with the vision of the leadership of Pakistan,” it added.

The reiteration comes ahead of the upcoming meeting of the Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) of the CPEC in Beijing next week.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had last month paid his maiden visit to China. During the trip, which analysts say reinforced Pak-China bond, the two countries showed “complete consensus on the future trajectory of CPEC, timely completion of its ongoing projects and joint efforts for realisation of its full potential with a focus on socio-economic development, job creation and livelihoods and accelerating cooperation in industrial development, industrial parks and agriculture”.

However, there is speculation that despite the positivity exhibited during Mr Khan’s Beijing trip, the Chinese have concerns about the future of the CPEC.

The Pakistani and Chinese delegations at their political consultations “agreed to build on the consensus developed during Mr Khan’s visit”, the FO said.

“They reaffirmed ‘all-weather strategic cooperative partnership’ between the two countries and expressed their satisfaction at the strong bilateral ties in political, economic, security, cultural and other spheres,” the statement said.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou also called on Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi after the political consultations.

Mr Qureshi said the prime minister’s visit to China marked “a milestone in the history of bilateral relations and has deepened the bond of trust and friendship between two nations”. Reassuring the Chinese delegation about the CPEC, he said Pakistan would complete this project as envisaged by the leadership of both countries.

Mr Qureshi confirmed Pakistan’s participation in the 2nd meeting of China-Afghanistan-Pakistan foreign ministers’ trilateral mechanism to be held in Kabul on Dec 15.

The Chinese vice foreign minister also visited the General Headquarters for a meeting with Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.

“During the meeting matters of mutual interest, regional security and enhanced bilateral cooperation came under discussion,” the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said.

Gen Bajwa underscored that Pak-China relations were all-weather and based on mutual trust and confidence. “The visiting dignitary commended the sacrifices and resilience of the people and armed forces of Pakistan and appreciated the role Pakistan Army has played in battling the scourge of terrorism,” the ISPR said.

Last month security forces had foiled a terrorist attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi. The Chinese government had on that occasion praised Pakistani security forces for their timely action and emphasised on ensuring the safety of Chinese institutions and personnel in Pakistan.

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How A Growing U.S.-China Rivalry Is Reshaping The Global Tech Landscape

Source: Forbes
Writer: Alex Capri
Date: December 09, 2018

For observers of the U.S.-China geopolitical rivalry, the arrest of Huawei’s CFO, Meng Wanzhou, in Canada, should serve as a wakeup call for the rest of the tech sector. The allegations against China’s telecom giant for breaching U.S. sanctions highlights the escalating technology race and hybrid cold war between the world’s two superpowers.

Washington and Beijing are now at a historical tipping point, and national security priorities are driving policies that will lead to further decoupling of American and Chinese interests. This, in turn, will lead to further fragmentation of global value chains in the tech sector.

Tech companies—or any firms that depend on cutting edge technology—will need to gauge their risk environment around two key factors: First, how to react to a wave of disruptive policy measures such as export controls, sanctions, blocked acquisitions and blocked technology transfers. Second, how to minimize the damage that will come as a result of disentanglement from existing technology ecosystems.

 Beijing’s provocative tech agenda

At the heart of this competition is the Made in China 2025 plan, Beijing’s strategy to lead the world in AI, robotics, aerospace and other industries.

China’s rapid advancement in technological capability has in many ways caught Washington and its allies flatfooted. Since 2017, For example, Beijing has been creating a navigational satellite constellation to rival America’s GPS. In 2018 alone, it launched 11 BeiDou satellites, some as few as 17 days apart.

 Beijing can now offer its partners an alternate version of America’s GPS, thereby undermining Washington’s geopolitical monopoly in this area, and it can  leverage the BeiDou program to extract concessions from its client states, such as agreements to buy more Chinese digital infrastructure and equipment.In the competition to win the battle of 5G standards— the technology that provides lightning-fast connectivity and better bandwidth in the internet of things (IOT)—China is leveraging its 650 million mobile internet users and its planned infrastructure along the digital Belt and Road to expand its global influence.

In a bid to become self-sufficient and cut its reliance on foreign semiconductor technology, Beijing is reportedly investing $31.5 billion in a National Integrated Circuit Industry Investment Fund, among other funds.

Lately, Beijing’s focus has increasingly turned to what it calls “civil-military fusion.” Recently, a series of state-backed venture capital funds have brought together tech startups and other private companies with the Peoples Liberation Army. In 2017, for example, the Foshan Civil-Military Innovation Industries Fund was launched to the tune of $28.75 billion.

Washington’s technology counter-offensive

The U.S. Department of Defence (DOD) now officially lists China as an “adversary.” A recent DOD report list key areas of strategic focus including Beijing’s efforts to leverage technology to modernize its military, and its plans to harness the Belt and Road Initiative to further enhance its economic clout. This has fed a popular narrative in Washington and beyond that China’s strategic ambitions need to be confronted and contained. Thus, firms should expect to see fewer technology transfers to Chinese companies, the blocking of deals (such as Huawei getting locked out of the U.S., Australia and possibly the U.K. and Japan) and the placement of targeted individuals and firms on sanctions lists. Whether all of this will produce the desired outcome by Washington and its allies is, of course, debatable.

The U.S. Export Control Reform Act, passed in August, will lead to the expansion of an export controls list. There will be new export licensing requirements for a broad range of so-called dual-use technologies–defined as technologies that can be use for commercial and military purposes. In the digital economy, this will impact a wide range of industries: robotics, AI, autonomous vehicles, even facial recognition technology. The effects could be widespread, with collateral damage to foreign firms.

Chinese smartphone maker ZTE serves as a cautionary tale. Its reliance on U.S. technology for both components like microchips and software from the Android operating system highlights China’s dependence on foreign suppliers.

Hikvision, China’s largest maker of facial recognition surveillance equipment, may suffer a fate similar to ZTE, as the U.S. government is threatening to ban Silicon Valley chipmakers from selling it American technology. Unlike ZTE, however, which avoided a likely collapse when Washington agreed to waive the technology ban, Hikvision may not be so lucky.

China’s major Achilles heel continues to be its dependence on foreign semiconductor technology. Every area of Beijing’s Made in China 2025 plan relies on foreign-owned integrated circuit technology, with much of it coming from five American manufacturers: AMD, Intel, Micron, Nvidia and Qualcomm.

Even Yangtze Memory, Beijing’s state-funded national champion, which recently announced that it had developed a state-of-the-art 64-layer 3D NAND flash memory chip, will depend entirely on critical early-stage equipment—needed for mass production—from foreign firms. Primary partners are Applied Materials and KLA-Tencor, both American companies.

The Scale of disentanglement

All of this leaves the global tech sector in a highly vulnerable position. Increasing U.S. export controls that restrict or block access to American technology could cause major damage to Beijing’s geopolitical aims. But foreign firms will suffer collateral damage as well, as they will be penalized for being imbedded with denied parties.

Over the past three decades, for example, the American companies named above have invested billions of dollars in collaborative ventures and production facilities in China. For all the world’s leading semiconductor firms, China will soon become their largest market.

According to PWC’s Global Strategy group, 80% of the corporate research and development (R&D) money spent in China in 2017 came from non-Chinese multinationals. Disentangling these ecosystems will require dismantling complex, intertwined relationships, with potentially heavy economic and financial consequences across global value chains.

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PN celebrates 60th Gwadar Day

Source: The Express Tribune
Date: December 09, 2018

KARACHI.: Pakistan Navy celebrated 60th Gwadar Day with zeal and fervor on Saturday.

Various ceremonies were held in Gwadar under the auspices of Pakistan Navy to celebrate the day and to rejuvenate the spirit of nationalism amongst the local populace.

The main ceremony of the day was held at PN establishment PNS Akram where former naval chief Iftikhar Ahmed Sirohey was the chief guest.

Flag hoisting ceremony was held at PNS Akram followed by boat race, boat rallies and friendly football matches amongst the locals under the auspices of Pakistan Navy.

The celebrations were aimed at revival of history among locals, creating healthy environment and enhancement of national harmony among various local communities.

Gwadar Day is celebrated on December 8th every year to mark annexation of Gwadar with Pakistan in 1958. Gwadar was in possession of Oman since 1783 and was formally handed over to Pakistan in 1958. A naval platoon led by then Lt Iftikhar Ahmed Sirohey was the first to land at Gwadar and raise Pakistan’s flag there.

Being one of the first government organisations at Gwadar, Pakistan Navy has always been cognisant of its responsibilities pertaining to the area and its people and has always been committed to the development of the region.

Pakistan Navy’s role in health and education sector of coastal areas of Balochistan specially Gwadar and its efforts for making China-Pakistan Economic Corridor a reality are a manifestation of its commitment towards the region.

A huge number of locals participated in events arranged by PN while a number of local notables also attended the ceremonies.

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China’s real endgame in the trade war runs through Europe

Source: CNBC
Date: December 08, 2018

SCHLOSS ELMAU, GERMANY – Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban recently shared some history with a friend, explaining why he reached out to China’s then-Premier Wen Jiabao in 2011, seeking urgent financial support and providing Beijing one of several European inroads in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

Orban’s reason was a simple one: survival. Facing a potential debt crisis and unwilling to accept austere loan conditions from Western institutions, Beijing offered a lifeline. For his part, Orban convened some Central European leaders with Beijing, and they laid the groundwork for the “16-plus-one” initiative based in Budapest that since then has provided China unprecedented regional influence.

It didn’t take long for China’s investment to bear fruit. In March 2017, Hungary took the rare step to break European Union consensus on human rights violations, refusing to sign a joint letter denouncing the alleged torture of detailed lawyers. In July of the same year, Hungary joined Greece – another distressed European target of Chinese largesse – in blocking reference to Beijing in a Brussels statement on the illegality of Chinese claims in the South China Sea.

 The Bavarian Alps might seem an unusual place to reflect on China’s growing global influence, in a week that begin with U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping working to avoid a trade war in Argentina and advanced to Canadian authorities arrest of Chinese tech company Huawei’s CFO in Vancouver, at US request on suspicion of Iran sanctions violations.

Transatlantic strategy experts – convened at this breath-taking resort by the Munich Security Conference – were left to reflect on Europe’s unique vulnerability to this major power conflict in a world where they are absorbing the unanticipated shocks of greater US unpredictability, greater Chinese assertiveness and deeper European divisions about how to navigate it all.

“China already has shown it can have a veto power over European Union policy,” said Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Security Conference, on the margins of the off-record gathering he convened. He notes that while West European companies are driven by profit, their Chinese counterparts invariably also represent Chinese state interests. “That doesn’t have to be malign, but it can also be malign.”

European Union officials concede that China already has exercised veto power it has over policies that require unanimity, and because some officials are pushing privately for a change to majority voting. Concerns are growing as Beijing’s influence has grown more rapidly than anyone anticipated. Chinese foreign direct investment in the EU has risen to $30 billion in 2017 from 700 million before 2008.

That influence has grown more rapidly than anyone anticipated. Since the 2008 financial crisis, Chinese foreign direct investment in the EU has risen from 700 million Euro to 30 billion Euro in 2017.

A report by two German think tanks, the GPPI and Mercator Institute for China Studies, found that Beijing has taken full advantage of Europe’s openness and has been “rapidly increasing political influencing efforts in Europe.”

Political warfare

Some call it political warfare, using a nonmilitary toolbox of overt and covert means to exert its influence on political and economic elites, academia and public opinion. With these efforts, it weakens Western unity (and US attraction) and improves its image as an alternative to liberal democracy, the report concluded.

Growing Sino-US tensions have brought Europe new export chances in China but at the same time China has shifted considerable export and foreign investment efforts to Europe to replace lost American markets. In the first six months of this year, newly announced Chinese mergers and acquisitions into Europe were nine-fold the North America number at $20 billion compared to $2.5 billion and completed investments were six times higher at $12 billion compare to $2 billion.

At the same time, a new Trump-Xi trade deal could shake Europe as well, as China’s state driven economy could decide overnight to replace European products with US goods for political purposes.

The potential for an escalated Beijing-US struggle has left European experts scratching their heads over how they would choose sides or navigate the perils, particularly in the case where some countries and industries have much more at stake in China.

Some European officials speak of the need for “strategic autonomy” in the face of US sanctions extraterritorial reach on Iran and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speech in Brussels this week where he questioned multilateralism and the European Union. At the same time, they worry more about what some call China’s “political warfare” of gathering economic, financial and thus also diplomatic influence.

The European Union hasn’t yet applied anything as restrictive on foreign investment as the US Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), an interagency committee that reviews the impact of foreign investments on US national security. However, the EU this month passed a bill creating an unprecedented, if non-binding, screening scheme aimed at predatory Chinese investments.

Germans this week increased their focus on questions regarding a company called KUKA Robotics, which has become the poster child for the perils of high tech sales to the Chinese. With its industrial robotics production, KUKA was one of the nation’s greatest innovators for the 21st century economy until it was taken over by the Chinese company Midea in 2016.

Just last month, Midea was reversing previous assurances that it would not remove KUKA’s highly respected and long-time CEO, underscoring China’s ultimate control over cutting-edge robotics technology.

Despite facing new scrutiny, China is undeterred in its European strategy, taking advantage of European divisions, America’s trade strains with Europe and the urgent investment needs of particularly Southern and Eastern European countries.

Xi’s first state visits Spain and Portugal

Tellingly, President Xi made a stop in Spain on his way to Argentina and then again in Portugal for a two-day stint on his way back from the G-20 meeting, his first state visits to both countries.

Even before Xi’s visit, China had invested $12 billion in Portuguese projects ranging from energy, to transport, to insurance, financial services and media. During Xi’s visit, China and Portugal further deepened their economic partnership, with Lisbon agreeing to cooperate in China’s Belt and Road Initiative as it hopes to garner increased Chinese infrastructure and energy investments. China is also poised to take over a majority stake in EDP, Portugal’s largest business and a major EU energy provider.

In short, global markets and news reports miss the real story with their single-minded focus on whether or not President Trump and President Xi can reduce tensions and close a trade deal over the next 90 days. The bigger game, increasingly apparent in Europe, is whether China can replace the United States over time or at the very least significantly reduce its influence.

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Huawei arrest of Meng Wangzhou: A ‘hostage’ in a new US-China tech war

Source: BBC
Writer: Karishma Vaswani
Date: December 6, 2018

It is hard to overstate the symbolism and significance of the arrest of Meng Wangzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer and daughter of its founder. Huawei is the crown jewel of Chinese tech and Ms Meng is effectively its princess.

On December 1, the same day as President Trump and President Xi sat down at the G20 over grilled sirloin and caramel pancakes, to work on easing the trade war, Ms Meng was arrested in Canada and is now facing extradition to the US.

Although it’s still not clear what the charges against her are – we know that the US has been investigating Huawei for possible violations of US sanctions on Iran – this is not simply a case about the arrest of one woman, or just one company.

This arrest could materially damage the relationship between the US and China at possibly one of the most sensitive times between the two countries in their long and torrid history.

“It could not come at a worse time and it is probably going to put a cloud over any upcoming negotiations,” Vinesh Motwani of Silk Road Research told me. “The market had already turned more sceptical over the G20 agreement in recent days. This is only going to make the market more sceptical any deal can be reached.

Rapprochement averted

Tensions have been rising between Washington and Beijing, not just on trade. But at that G20 meeting in Buenos Aires, it looked like the two sides had at least decided to talk, and thrash things out over a 90-day period.

Amongst those issues are technology concerns, which are front and centre of this trade war. Even if it wasn’t clear how united China and the US may have been on the objectives, the very fact that discussions were taking place were seen as a semi-positive for the global economy.

‘Hostage taking’

But this arrest is likely to be seen by China as an attack and “hostage taking”, says Elliott Zaagman, who has covered the Chinese firm for the better part of the last two decades.

“China has a reputation for making agreements and not keeping them, not following through,” he told me on the phone from Boston. “There’s a theory that this could be a way for the US to hold Beijing to its word on the trade war.”

If so, it is a move the Chinese media has not taken well.

Meng Wanzhou, file picture 2 October 2014Image copyrightEPA
Image captionMeng Wanzhou, Huawei’s CFO, was detained while transferring between flights in Vancouver

“The US is trying to find a way to attack Huawei,” says Hu Xijin, editor in chief of the Chinese and English editions of the Global Times – a publication often seen as a mouthpiece of the Chinese government.

“It is trying to keep Huawei down. That’s why it has pressured its allies not to use Huawei’s products. It is trying to destroy Huawei’s reputation.”

What Mr Hu is referring to is the recent rejection of Huawei’s services by a number of US allies, including Australia, New Zealand and most recently the UK’s BTwhich says it won’t be using Huawei equipment in the heart of its 5G mobile network when it is rolled out in the UK (although it does still plan to use Huawei’s mast antennas and other products).

There’s no evidence of Huawei having ever been engaged in any spying or handing over of data to the Chinese government. In fact, whenever I talk to Huawei executives privately they tell me how frustrated they are because of how the US government and Western media unfairly paints them as a Chinese state-owned company that does Beijing’s bidding.

Company sources tell me that Huawei should be seen as the modern, dynamic and law-abiding global firm that it is, and that the US’s narrative is flawed and unfounded.

Still, Huawei’s founder, the father of Ms Meng, is Ren Zhengfei – a former military officer in the Chinese army. And the fact remains, as Mr Zaagman points out in a recent piece for The Lowy Institute, “the firm’s relationship with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army remains an issue of concern and opacity”.

Which is why the US says countries must be wary of Chinese companies like Huawei. Under China’s laws, private companies and individuals may be obliged to hand over information or data to the government if they are indeed asked.

It’s that possibility, government sources say, that is scaring them off doing business with Huawei.

Huawei has told me this is completely untrue, and other Chinese academics and business people have also rejected this notion.

Huawei logoImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionHuawei is one of the largest telecommunications equipment and services providers in the world

Mr Hu of the Global Times agrees: “The Chinese government would not do this. China would not hurt its own enterprises. If it hurts its own companies, how would it benefit the country? Even if a middling or low-level official were to ask it, Huawei will have the power to refuse any kind of government request.”

Many in China will see this as yet another attempt to contain the country’s rise, by limiting its most global firms’ access to international markets.

“This could further endanger Huawei’s 5G aspirations outside of emerging markets,” says Tony Nash of Complete Intelligence, on the line from the US.

“If Huawei is being investigated it could put both Huawei and ZTE on the back foot as other equipment makers gain a lead in North America, and potentially other developed markets.”

Other countries

It’s not just developed markets where Huawei may be losing ground. The scrutiny is building in emerging markets too. Industry sources tell me that the US has been putting pressure on Asian allies to stop them from using Huawei’s equipment. The Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea were the latest recipients of this pressure, and India is thought to be next.

So what does this mean? The gloves are off. You should be under no illusion what this latest move by the US means for the relationship between the world’s two largest economies: things have taken a dramatic turn for the worse.

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China’s BRI to write new chapter in China-Portugal ties

Source: The Herald
Dated: 6th December,2018

LISBON. — Portugal, a country with indelible imprints on maritime trade, has well-grounded interests in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Portuguese experts said ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit.

The BRI, proposed by Xi and aimed at promoting common development along the ancient Silk Road trade routes and beyond, provides a good opportunity to boost China-Portugal cooperation and the two countries’ development, they noted. “The most important period of our history was linked with the Maritime Silk Road,” said Dr. Fernanda Ilheu, president of the New Silk Road Friends Association, adding that Portuguese interests in the BRI are rooted in history.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, China was involved in the Maritime Silk Road in which Portugal played a pioneering role, said Ilheu.

In 1987, the Chinese and Portuguese governments reached an agreement on resolving the issue of Macao left over from history, setting a successful example for countries to deal with issues of this kind, Chinese Ambassador to Portugal Cai Run said.

“The relations of friendship and cooperation between Portugal and China are centenarian, without ever having a conflict between the two countries,” said Jorge Correia, CEO of Fidelidade, a leading insurer in Portugal.

“It was the Portuguese that introduced tea in Europe and kept its original Chinese name,” said Correia, also a global partner of Fosun, a Chinese private conglomerate. “If we were able to maintain fruitful cooperation at very difficult times in history, there is no reason to think that this could not be the case in the future,” he added.

“It is difficult to separate the Portuguese enthusiasm about the BRI from the overall state of bilateral relations,” said Carlos Rodrigues, head of the Department of Social, Political and Territorial Sciences at University of Aveiro, noting that the political, economic and cultural relations between Portugal and China are “at the highest point.”

Portugal has been a high-profile destination for Chinese direct investment in recent years, with prominent Chinese companies like Fosun injecting significant capital into key sectors of the country such as banking, insurance and health.

In May, Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said that the relations between Portugal and China have been developing very smoothly and bilateral economic cooperation in recent years has been lifted to a very high level. Portugal has been supporting the BRI since the initiative’s very commencement. Portugal, with its finest ports in Europe, is willing to give full play to this advantage so as to strengthen cooperation with China and further push forward BRI construction, the president said at that time.

Boasting a “geostrategic location in the Atlantic, between Africa, America and Europe,” Portugal has seen an opportunity to align its development strategies with the Chinese initiative, according to Dr Paulo Duarte, a researcher and lecturer at the University of Minho.

“Portugal is strategically located in the scope of the Maritime Silk Road, as the first port that ships encounter when traveling the Atlantic Ocean is located in the country,” said Dr Virginia Trigo, a professor emeritus at the University of Lisbon. Portugal has well-equipped deep water ports close to the airport and railway facilities, which allows products to be transported throughout Europe, Trigo said when explaining Portugal’s role in the BRI.

Noting that the Portuguese government intends to place Portugal among the leading countries in taking advantage of the sea and the sea economy, Rodrigues said the objective to transform Portugal into an international maritime hub is a major reason for Portuguese authorities to align its development strategy with the BRI.

“I think there is a large consensus on the importance of sustaining and reinforcing good relations between the two countries,” he said. – Xinhua

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National Assembly dedicated 8% agenda to CPEC, foreign affairs, anti-terrorism issues

ISLAMABAD: The last National Assembly took up China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), foreign affairs and anti-terrorism issues by dedicating 8 per cent of agenda during its five-year tenure that ended on May 31.

The 14th Assembly preferred these issues on the government-sponsored and supplementary business items over private lawmakers’ interventions, said a press release by Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) issued here Wednesday.

Pakistan witnessed crucial foreign relation challenges during last five years, including increasing tensions with neighboring India and Afghanistan, various conflicts in the Muslim world and strained ties with the United States (US) amidst warming relationship with Russia and the development of CPEC.

Despite the urgency warranted by many of these issues, the government avoided proactive deliberation on foreign affairs in the National Assembly. In fact, some efforts by private lawmakers, particularly by the Opposition members, to take up these issues in the House were stalled.

On the anti-terrorism front, the government formulated the National Security Policy 2014-18, the National Action Plan 2015 (NAP) and the National Security Policy 2019-2023. The development of these policies did not involve debate or deliberation in any parliamentary forum. The debate occurred only on the National Security Policy 2014-18 after it had been formulated.

Parliamentary business on foreign affairs accounted for nearly five per cent of the regular agenda tabled in the House during the Assembly’s term, of which almost 85 per cent was addressed during House proceedings while the remaining lapsed.

Agenda related to foreign affairs included 24 Calling Attention Notices (CANs), 55  resolutions, 27  Motions under Rule 259, 671 questions and a private member’s bill which did not proceed beyond committee’s deliberation.

Lawmakers raised matters concerning Pakistan’s relations with Muslim countries, particularly in the context of Middle Eastern crises, with India in the context of the Kashmir issue and with the US in the backdrop of the War on Terror and the Pakistan Foreign Office’s performance in facilitating overseas Pakistani citizens, especially workers and prisoners in jails abroad. More than two-thirds of the resolutions on foreign affairs were moved as supplementary agenda i.e. they were not included on the House’s Orders of the Day.

Through these resolutions, the House expressed its opinions and recommendations to the government regarding various matters in the ambit of foreign affairs.

The House, in a resolution, recommended that the government should consider suspending diplomatic ties with the US following President Trump’s statement deriding Pakistan’s role in and contributions to international anti-terrorism efforts in Afghanistan. However, the fate of this resolution, among others, remains unknown. Lawmakers underlined similar issues through CANs; of 24 notices, 83 per cent were successful in drawing responses from the government whereas the remaining 17 per cent were not addressed.

Moreover, only 30 per cent of the Motions under Rule 259 moved on foreign affairs issues were discussed in the House.

The majority of the Motions discussed were initiated by the government whereas similar Motions by private lawmakers were largely ignored during the Assembly’s five years.

Through a private member’s bill, the Opposition party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) proposed that the government should be bound to seek parliamentary approval prior to entering into any international agreement. However, the bill did not return to the House after its first reading and subsequent referral to the National Assembly Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Lawmakers also sought clarifications on several foreign affairs matters from various Ministries during the Question Hour and 90 per cent questions received responses.

The Assembly’s business on issues regarding terrorism and anti-terrorism constituted only about one per cent of the House’s total agenda.

The House addressed 61 per cent of these agenda items whereas the remaining 39 per cent remained unaddressed. The agenda included 3 percent CANs, 8 per cent resolutions, 16 6 per cent Motions under Rule one per cent questions and 16.8 per cent government bills.

Through these agenda items, lawmakers expressed reactions to various incidents of terrorism in the country and formulated a collective response on anti-terrorism measures to be suggested to the government. Militancy in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan and rehabilitation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) were recurring themes in these agenda items.

In a bid to strengthen the anti-terrorism regime in the country, the 14th Assembly passed laws that included extending the jurisdiction of military courts to civilians.

These included amendments in the constitution and other relevant laws. Additionally, the Assembly introduced changes in the laws governing the registration of foreigners in the country and the functioning of the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA). However, a resolution tabled by a PPPP lawmaker on measures to improve NACTA’s effectiveness was rejected by the majority due to the Treasury’s opposition.

The House held discussions on government-sponsored Motions under Rule 259 following every major terrorist attack in the country. All such discussions were centered on the Opposition urging the government to activate NACTA and the government reiterating its commitment to eradicate terrorism from the country.

The National Security Policy 2014-2018 was also discussed in the House, however, private lawmakers’ Motions to discuss the law and order situation, the NAP, attacks on polio-vaccination workers and cross-border terrorism were ignored by the House. Moreover, lawmakers sought information from the government on terrorism-related matters through 131 questions, of which 61 per cent received responses during the Assembly’s term.

Business concerned specifically with CPEC included one CAN and 116 questions only, which account for roughly one per cent of the total questions asked during the Assembly’s five-year term. Lawmakers sought information on various CPEC projects, CPEC routes and security provisions for projects and personnel.

SOURCE:https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/06/28/na-dedicated-8-agenda-to-cpec-foreign-affairs-anti-terrorism-issues/

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SECURING THE CPEC (Threats from India)

The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is the world’s largest platform for economic cooperation. The CPEC is located at the hub of the BRI and is a pivotal component of its 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. It can fetch unprecedented and unconditional prosperity and peace dividends for the entire South and Central Asian region and scores of the 60 plus BRI countries. As part of the CPEC, the Gwadar port can offer indirect benefits to many of the 32 littoral states of the Indian Ocean that may not be part of the BRI. Regrettably, some powers are opposing this progress for their own perverted and trivial reasons. They are creating overt and covert hurdles in its implementation and are displaying competitive, rather than cooperative reactions. Rival projects like the US sponsored  ‘New Silk Road package’,  in partnership with India and Afghanistan and the ‘Indo-Pacific Freedom Corridor’ proposed by India and Japan, have  been prompted by the CPEC. Similarly, Indian investment in the Iranian port of Chabahar is intended to contest with growth of Gwadar port.  China and Pakistan have rightly not shown any aversion to the competition, though India has already started misusing the Chabahar project for aiding, abetting and sponsoring RAW terrorist networks to disrupt the CPEC. Of greater concern are the numerous efforts and international conspiracies, engineered by India and supported by others, to sabotage the CPEC. Indian hostile activities in Pakistan intensified within days of the inauguration of the CPEC shipments. Attempts include numerous Indian terrorist activities in Balochistan in collaboration with Afghanistan that are mentioned in the confessions of Commander Jhadav.

Frequent disinformation campaigns about CPEC have also simultaneously been launched inside Pakistan. All these highly provocative actions are part of a well thought and integrated, international conspiracy that is   tantamount to an undeclared war, as they pose a direct threat to the national interests of not only China and Pakistan but many other countries that could benefit from the BRI and the CPEC.  US support to India on the matter, under this environment is very short sighted indeed.

Though challenges to CPEC appear daunting but they can be surmounted. The Pakistani Foreign Office has taken note of some of more serious developments and has initiated appropriate action to condemn and reject hostile measures against the CPEC, calling them as an infringement of the UN Charter and impingement of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. However, this has been done somewhat cautiously and at a rather low level, so far. There   is a need to concomitantly and officially communicate our concerns, at the highest level, to the heads of the foreign governments that are opposing the CPEC. This should be done jointly and severally by Pakistan and China, in consultation with the other countries that are part of the BRI.  Our response should include manifold collective remedies and counteractions, to compel the antagonists of the CPEC to desist from hurting our economic interests. The BRI has recently been written into China’s constitution. Being a vital interest, the Pakistani government must also provide constitutional protection to the CPEC. Negative propaganda against the CPEC must be dispelled through Sino-Pak state and private media, ensuring transparency of planning, as well as execution and arranging seminars and workshops.

While the government has raised special security force for the protection of the CPEC, this must be augmented with a Pak-China CPEC intelligence organization, satellitemonitoring and enhanced maritime collaboration. Another multinational organization, led by China, must be formed to respond to the threats posed to the BRI, through coordinated political, diplomatic, economic, security and surveillance measures.

Despite heavy odds, many CPEC projects are already up and running. This is a clear message about the resilience and determination of the Chinese and the Pakistani people, who are committed to its success, not only for their own benefit, but also for others to diversify and develop their economies. This should inspire everyone to support, rather than oppose the CPEC.

SOURCE:https://pakobserver.net/securing-the-cpec-2/

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CPEC to help PR improve performance: PM

Prime Minister Nasir-ul-Mulk Tuesday said that with CPEC, there is a huge potential and scope for Pakistan Railways to further improve its performance and increase its share both in passenger as well as freight transportation sector by offer quality services to its customers.

During a briefing about the performance of Pakistan Railway, the prime minister directed that a comprehensive plan would be worked out to overcome the existing challenges for the consideration of the incoming elected government.

The briefing was attended by Minister for Railways Roshan Khursheed Bharucha, Secretary to the PM Suhail Aamir, Secretary Railways Muhammad Javed Anwar and senior officers of Ministry of Railways. The prime minister was informed that as a result of right mix in service the passenger share in Railways has increased from 13percent in 2013 to 31 percent in 2017.

Pakistan Railways recorded a revenue of Rs50 billion in 2017-18 as compared to revenue of Rs15.5 billion in 2011-12.

The prime minister was briefed about organizational structure, rail network, past performance and the future development strategy under National Vision 2025 in the Railways sector.

The prime minister was also briefed about the new business plan and various initiatives taken, both in freight as well as passenger transportation sector, for the revival of Railways and increasing its revenues. The prime minister was also briefed about the progress made in various rail network extension projects under the CPEC.  It was informed that Main Line-1 (ML-1) project from Karachi to Havelian was being upgraded as Early Harvest Project under the CPEC.

It was informed that feasibility study for upgradation of ML-2 (Kotri-Attock) project has also been completed. Similarly, feasibility studies were in progress on extension of ML-2 (Gwadar-Basima-Jacobabad and Basima-Quetta) and extension of ML-3 (Quetta-Bostan-Zhob-DI Khan-Kotlajam) projects.

The prime minister was also apprised about the challenges faced by the organisation including the issue of pension liabilities that contributed to 34 percent of the total expenditure of the organisation.

The prime minister appreciated the performance of Pakistan Railways especially various initiatives taken under the strategic business plan.

SOURCE:https://nation.com.pk/20-Jun-2018/cpec-to-help-pr-improve-performance-pm