Ongoing Events in China

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The Living Force
Around 3,000 delegates to the annual gathering of China's largely rubber-stamp parliament, the National People's Congress, will meet in Beijing on March 5 to discuss political and economic policy.

February 28, 2019 - Factbox: What to expect from China's Annual meeting of Parliament next week

Factbox: What to expect from China's annual meeting of parliament...
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang addresses delegates during the opening session of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang addresses delegates during the opening session of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Here is an overview of China’s top legislature and this year’s meeting, which will last around 10 days.

ISSUES: Top of the agenda this year is passing a new foreign investment law to replace existing laws that regulate joint ventures and wholly foreign-owned enterprises, and is designed to ease foreign concerns about China’s investment environment.

FUNCTIONS: The NPC meets yearly in March to pass major bills, approve the budget and endorse personnel nominations. Its Standing Committee meets regularly to approve other legislation.

MEMBERSHIP: Delegates represent China’s 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, as well as Hong Kong, Macau and the military. There are also delegates for self-ruled Taiwan, mostly made up of defectors and their descendants but not elected by Taiwan’s people.

VOTES: Votes always follow the Communist Party’s wishes and generally pass by an overwhelming majority, but delegates have in the past strayed from the party line to show frustration over issues such as corruption and crime.

MEETINGS: Parliament meets in the Great Hall of the People to the west of Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing. The main auditorium can seat 10,000 people.

China looks to parliament for reassurances as economy slows
China's leaders will pledge in parliament next week to keep the country on safe footing as the economy faces its biggest test in years, amid pressure to roll out more measures to bolster growth and revive weak business and consumer confidence.

China's envoy says Turkish Uighur criticism could hit economic ties
Turkey risks jeopardizing economic ties with China if it keeps criticizing Beijing's treatment of Uighur Muslims, China's envoy to Ankara warned, just as Chinese firms are looking to invest in Turkish energy and infrastructure mega-projects.

China says Canada has questions to answer on judicial independence
China's Foreign Ministry grabbed a chance to question the state of judicial independence in Canada on Friday, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government faced accusations at home that it had tried to intervene to stop a corruption trial.
 

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The Living Force
China is beginning to follow a path similar to recent developments in economic incentives by President Putin in Family planning.

China lawmakers urge freeing up family planning as birth rates plunge
A graduate of Ayi University, a training program for domestic helpers, holds the child of a potential employer and talks to a staff member in Beijing, China December 11, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Delegates to China's parliament are urging the overhaul or even scrapping of controversial family planning rules and say radical steps are needed to "liberate fertility" and reverse a decline in births and a rapidly shrinking workforce.

Afford me not: Soaring bride prices in China should be curbed, says parliament delegate
Runaway "bride prices" are making marriage unaffordable in rural China and need to be capped, and professional matchmakers should be stopped from overcharging, says a village delegate to China's parliament.

China official says West using Christianity to 'subvert' power
Western forces are trying to use Christianity to influence China's society and even "subvert" the government, a senior official said, warning that Chinese Christians needed to follow a Chinese model of the religion.

U.S. says China's treatment of Muslim minority worst abuses 'since the 1930s'
The U.S. State Department on Wednesday slammed human rights violations in China, saying the sort of abuses it had inflicted on its Muslim minorities had not been seen "since the 1930s."

1.5 million Muslims could be detained in China's Xinjiang: academic
A leading researcher on China's ethnic policies said on Wednesday that an estimated 1.5 million Uighurs and other Muslims could be held in so-called re-education centers in Xinjiang region, up from his earlier figure of 1 million.

China says Xinjiang has 'boarding schools', not 'concentration camps'
(L-R) Nayim Yasen, deputy director of the Ethnic Affairs Committee of the National PeopleÕs Congress (NPC), Shewket Imin, chairman of the Standing Committee of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, Xinjiang Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo, Xinjiang Chairman Shohrat Zakir, and Sun Jinlong, party secretary of Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region Production and Construction Corps, attend the meeting of Xinjiang delegation on the sidelines of the NPC at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China March 12, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee

China is running boarding schools not concentration camps in the far western region of Xinjiang, its governor said on Tuesday, as the United States called conditions there "completely unacceptable".

China hits back at 'prejudiced' U.S. with own rights criticism
Citing poor media freedoms, racism and "ideological prejudice", China hit back on Thursday in unusually strong terms after the U.S. State Department slammed China's rights record, including equating abuses on its Muslim minorities with the 1930s.

Google's work in China benefiting China's military: U.S. general
FILE PHOTO: A Google sign is seen during the China International Import Expo (CIIE), at the National Exhibition and Convention Center in Shanghai, China November 5, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song

The United States' top general said on Thursday that the Chinese military was benefiting from the work Alphabet Inc’s Google was doing in China, where the technology giant has long sought to have a bigger presence.
 

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China's anti-corruption watchdog said on Saturday it would prosecute Nur Bekri, one of the highest-ranking Uighur officials in the country, over allegations of graft and corruption during his time as governor of Xinjiang province.

China to prosecute top-ranking Uighur official for corruption
Nur Bekri, Chairman of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, attends a news conference during the annual session of China's parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC), in Beijing March 7, 2010. Picture taken March 7, 2010. REUTERS/Jason Lee

Nur Bekri, Chairman of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, attends a news conference during the annual session of China's parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC), in Beijing March 7, 2010. Picture taken March 7, 2010. REUTERS/Jason Lee

The decision comes after authorities launched an investigation in September into Bekri, who as governor between 2008-2014 held the second-highest position of power in the region behind party secretary.

Bekri, who until December was director of China’s National Energy Administration, could not be reached for comment.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) said in a statement that Bekri obstructed the investigations and did not tell the truth during the probe.

It said the investigation had found that he took advantage of his position to obtain “a huge amount of wealth”, either directly or through relatives. He also allegedly demanded the provision of luxury sedans and chauffeur services to his family members, and received bribes.

Bekri “led an extravagant life, was morally corrupt, and used his power for sex,” the statement alleged.


His prosecution comes as the Chinese government ramps up surveillance and suppression of Uighurs in Xinjiang, a group it has long considered prone to dangerous religious extremism.

As governor, Bekri supported policies that restricted religious practices of the Muslim Uighurs, who make up a majority of the overall Uighur population.

Ex-U.S. intelligence officer pleads guilty to attempted espionage for China
FILE PHOTO:  U.S. and Chinese flags are placed for a joint news conference by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China June 14, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee

A former U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency officer pleaded guilty to attempted espionage for China, the Justice Department said on Friday.

Chinese delegation to visit Argentina to discuss stalled nuclear deal: government source
FILE PHOTO: Argentina's President Mauricio Macri (3rd L) and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping (R) take part in a meeting during the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington April 1, 2016.  Argentine Presidency/Handout via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE.

A delegation from China will visit Argentina this month to discuss the construction of a nuclear power plant, signaling potential progress in a deal that could increase Beijing's deepening influence in the South American nation.

Activists in Hong Kong and Taiwan feel heat as China fears 'separatist' collusion
Military honour guards attend a flag-lowering ceremony at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei, Taiwan January 22, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

As Beijing grows wary of pro-independence groups seeking to forge closer ties in Hong Kong and Taiwan, activists say they are coming under increased surveillance and harassment from pro-China media outlets and unofficial "operatives."
 

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The Living Force
A top Vatican official says China's government should not fear "distrust or hostility" from the Roman Catholic Church, writing amid speculation over whether President Xi Jinping will meet Pope Francis this week.

As Xi heads to Italy, Vatican says China should not fear Church
FILE PHOTO: China's President Xi Jinping attends a meeting with Portugal's Parliamentary President Eduardo Ferro Rodrigues at the Parliament in Lisbon, Portugal, December 5, 2018. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes/File Photo

Senior Vatican sources have said Francis is willing to meet Xi and that intermediaries had made overtures to the Vatican, but the Chinese side had not yet formally asked for a meeting. Any encounter would be the first between a Chinese leader and a pope.

Xi’s visit, starting Thursday, is his first to Italy following a historic agreement in September between the Vatican and the Chinese government on the appointment of bishops in China.

Beijing cut diplomatic ties with the Vatican in 1951 and has remained concerned that an independent Church in China could threaten its authority.

While the historic September agreement initiated an unprecedented direct dialogue between the Vatican and China, Beijing and the Holy See have not resumed diplomatic, relations.


It is routine for heads of state and government visiting Italy to also meet the pope. A Vatican source said it could be inserted into Xi’s schedule “at the last minute”. A Vatican spokesman said it is not on the pope’s schedule.

Italy's drive to join China's Belt and Road hits potholes

FILE PHOTO: Chinese President Xi Jinping attends a news conference at the end of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, China May 15, 2017.  REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo
The ancient Silk Road was a network of trading routes that stretched from China to Italy, transporting goods, skills and ideas half way around the world.

Premier Li says China opposes Taiwan independence
China maintains a "one-China" policy and opposes independence for Taiwan, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said on Friday at his annual news conference.

China says Korea peninsula problems cannot be resolved in one stroke
Resolving problems on the Korean peninsula cannot be achieved in one stroke, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said on Friday.
 

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The Living Force
An explosion at a pesticide plant in eastern China has killed 47 people and injured more than 600, state media said on Friday, the latest casualties in a series of industrial accidents that has angered the public.

Blast at Chinese chemical plant kills 47; Xi orders probe
Smoke billows from the pesticide plant owned by Tianjiayi Chemical following an explosion, in Xiangshui county, Yancheng, Jiangsu province, China March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song

Smoke billows from the pesticide plant owned by Tianjiayi Chemical following an explosion, in Xiangshui county, Yancheng, Jiangsu province, China March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song

The blast occurred on Thursday at the Chenjiagang Industrial Park in the city of Yancheng, in Jiangsu province, and the fire was finally brought under control at 3.00 a.m. on Friday (1900 GMT), state television said.

Survivors were taken to 16 hospitals with 640 people being treated for injuries, and 32 in critical condition, it said.

The fire at a plant owned by the Tianjiayi Chemical Company spread to neighboring factories. Children at a nearby kindergarten were also hurt, media said.

The fire at a plant owned by the Tianjiayi Chemical Company spread to neighboring factories. Children at a nearby kindergarten were also hurt, media said.

The cause of the explosion is being investigated, but the company - which produces more than 30 organic chemical compounds, some highly flammable - has been cited and fined for work safety violations in the past, the China Daily said.

Police, some wearing face masks, sealed off roads to the plant. The blast smashed windows in the village of Wangshang two kilometers (1.2 miles) away, and shocked villagers likened it to an earthquake.

China court jails scandal-hit Fanya metals exchange founder for 18 years: Xinhua

A Chinese court on Friday fined the firm behind the now-defunct Fanya Nonferrous Metals Exchange 1 billion yuan ($149.04 million) for illegal fundraising and handed its founder a lengthy prison term, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

China says U.S. hyping threat to justify own rising defense spending
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump salutes a U.S. Army soldier as he observes a military demonstration with U.S. Army Major General Walter “Walt” Piatt, the Commanding General of the Army's 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York, U.S., August 13, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

China's Defence Ministry on Friday accused its United States counterpart of deliberately seeking to hype up the threat from China and other nations to justify its own military expenditure, calling the move short-sighted and dangerous.

United States warns China meddling in Hong Kong hurting business confidence
FILE PHOTO - A woman is reflected in a window behind Chinese and Hong Kong flags after celebrations commemorating the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to Chinese sovereignty from British rule, in Hong Kong, China July 2, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone SiuTyrone Siu

The United States warned in a report on Friday that increased meddling from China in Hong Kong had adversely impacted the city, straining international business confidence in the Asian financial hub.
 

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The Living Force
Italy endorsed China's ambitious "Belt and Road" infrastructure plan on Saturday, becoming the first major Western power to back the initiative to help revive the struggling Italian economy.

March 23, 2019 - Italy endorses China's Belt and Road plan in first for a G7 nation

Chinese President Xi Jinping shakes hands with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte as he arrives at Villa Madama in Rome, Italy March 23, 2019. REUTERS/Yara Nardi
Chinese President Xi Jinping shakes hands with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte as he arrives at Villa Madama in Rome, Italy March 23, 2019. REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Saturday’s signing ceremony was the highlight of a three-day trip to Italy by Chinese President Xi Jinping, with the two nations boosting their ties at a time when the United States is locked in a trade war with China.

The rapprochement has angered Washington and alarmed some European Union allies, who fear it could see Beijing gain access to sensitive technologies and critical transport hubs.

Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio played down such concerns, telling reporters that although Rome remained fully committed to its Western partners, it had to put Italy first when it came to commercial ties.

“This is a very important day for us, a day when Made-in-Italy has won, Italy has won and Italian companies have won,” said Di Maio, who signed the memorandum of understanding on behalf of the Italian government in a Renaissance villa.

Taking advantage of Xi’s visit, Italian firms inked deals with Chinese counterparts worth an initial 2.5 billion euros ($2.8 billion). Di Maio said these contracts had a potential, future value of 20 billion euros.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) lies at the heart of China’s foreign policy strategy
and was incorporated into the ruling Communist Party constitution in 2017, reflecting Xi’s desire for his country to take a global leadership role.

The United States worries that it is designed to strengthen China’s military influence and could be used to spread technologies capable of spying on Western interests.

Slideshow (5 Images) (3 images - 2 blanks)
Italy endorses China's Belt and Road plan in first for a G7 nation

Factbox: Italy signs deals worth 2.5 billion euros with China
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands after signing trade agreements at Villa Madama in Rome, Italy March 23, 2019. REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Italy signed a preliminary accord with China on Saturday that makes it the first country of the Group of Seven industrialized nation to join the Chinese Belt and Road infrastructure project.

Chinese rescuers pull survivor from factory blast rubble, death toll reaches 64
Relatives look for a missing worker at the pesticide plant owned by Tianjiayi Chemical following an explosion, in Xiangshui county, Yancheng, Jiangsu province, China March 23, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song

Rescuers in eastern China pulled a survivor from rubble early on Saturday, two days after a massive explosion at a pesticide plant killed at least 64 people, flattening nearby buildings and shattering windows more than a mile away.
 

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The Living Force
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Tuesday reiterated a call for the region's businesses to have more access to China's domestic market.

March 26, 2019 - Juncker reinforces call for trade reciprocity after meeting China's Xi
French President Emmanuel Macron, Chinese President Xi Jinping, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker hold a news conference at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris, France, March 26, 2019. Thibault Camus/Pool via REUTERS

French President Emmanuel Macron, Chinese President Xi Jinping, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker hold a news conference at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris, France, March 26, 2019. Thibault Camus/Pool via REUTERS

Speaking in Paris, Juncker said he wanted clearer reciprocity between the European Union and China so that “European businesses could have the same degree of access to the Chinese market as Chinese businesses have in Europe.”

Xi says cooperation is mainstream in China-Europe ties
French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker welcome Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, March 26, 2019.   REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

Cooperation is the mainstream in China-Europe relations, and even if there are differences and competition, it is benign competition, Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Tuesday during a visit to Paris.

European leaders press for fairer trade relationship with China
French President Emmanuel Macron poses with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Chinese President Xi Jinping prior to their meeting at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris, France, March 26, 2019. Thibault Camus/Pool via REUTERS
Europe's top leaders told President Xi Jinping on Tuesday they wanted a fairer trading relationship with China, signaling an openness to engage with Beijing's "Belt and Road" infrastructure project if it meant more access to the Chinese market.

France seals multi-billion dollar deals with China, but questions Belt and Road project
French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, March 25, 2019.   REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
France and China signed deals worth billions of euros on Monday, including a huge Airbus plane order, during a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping, despite Paris pushing back against Beijing's "Belt and Road" infrastructure initiative.

France, China sign 15 commercial deals, including with Airbus, EDF
French President Emmanuel Macron and Chinese President Xi Jinping hold a news conference after a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France March 25, 2019. Yoan Valat/Pool via REUTERS
France signed 15 business contracts with China worth billions of euros on Monday, including a 300-plane order with Airbus and a 1 billion euro contract for EDF to build an offshore wind farm in China, the French presidency said.
 

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March 27, 2019 - China to prosecute 'lavish spending' former Interpol chief
FILE PHOTO: INTERPOL President Meng Hongwei poses during a visit to the headquarters of International Police Organisation in Lyon, France, May 8, 2018. Jeff Pachoud/Pool via Reuters/File Photo

China will prosecute former Interpol chief Meng Hongwei for graft after an investigation found he spent "lavish" amounts of state funds, abused his power and refused to follow Communist Party decisions, its anti-corruption watchdog said on Wednesday.

Tibetans in exile struggle to see beyond Dalai Lama
FILE PHOTO: Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama delivers teachings during the first day of New Year or Losar in the northern hill town of Dharamsala, India February 22, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

At a prayer meeting for the health of the Dalai Lama at his base in northern India, Tibetan refugees said they are worried that their fight for a homeland will die with the 83-year-old Buddhist monk as China's international influence grows.

China says Tibet human rights critics 'bewitched' by Dalai Lama
People cross a road under flags marking Tibetan Serfs' Emancipation Day on March 28, in Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region, China March 26, 2019. Picture taken March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

Those who criticize China over human rights in Tibet have been "bewitched" by the Dalai Lama,
a senior Chinese official said on Wednesday, days before the 60th anniversary of the Tibetan spiritual leader's flight into exile in India.

China's censors drop gay scenes from 'Bohemian Rhapsody' film
FILE PHOTO - Actors Ben Hardy, Rami Malek, Gwilym Lee and Joe Mazzello attend the world premiere of 'Bohemian Rhapsody' movie in London, Britain October 23, 2018. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

China has scrubbed at least 10 scenes with gay references from the Oscar-winning biopic "Bohemian Rhapsody" about British rock musician Freddie Mercury,
incensing some domestic viewers who said authorities were overreacting.

U.S. lawmakers introduce bill to boost Taiwan ties, amid China tensions
FILE PHOTO: Flags of Taiwan and U.S. are placed for a meeting between U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce speaks and with Su Chia-chyuan, President of the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, Taiwan March 27, 2018. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo

Republican and Democratic U.S. lawmakers introduced legislation seeking to boost Washington's relations with Taiwan and raise the island's international profile on Tuesday, which could heighten tensions with China.
 

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The Living Force
A plant explosion in China's Jiangsu province has killed seven people, authorities said on Sunday, the second deadly blast in the province this month as Beijing begins a nationwide industrial safety inspection campaign.

March 31, 2019 - Seven killed in China plant explosion; second deadly blast this month
A damaged building of a metal-molding plant owned by Kunshan Waffer Technology Co following an explosion is seen in Kunshan, Jiangsu province, China March 31, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

A damaged building of a metal-molding plant owned by Kunshan Waffer Technology Co following an explosion is seen in Kunshan, Jiangsu province, China March 31, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

Sunday’s blast involved a container of scrap metal that exploded in the outdoor yard of a metal-molding plant in a bonded area in the city of Kunshan, causing the plant to catch fire, the local government said on its official Weibo account.

“The cause of the incident is being investigated,” it said of the blast that killed seven people and injured five others, one of whom was severely hurt.

Kunshan, about 70 km (43 miles) west of Shanghai, is home to more than 1,000 technology companies and manufacturers, including many Taiwanese firms.

Argentine lawmakers seek greater oversight of Chinese space facility in Patagonia
FILE PHOTO: The installations of a Chinese space station are seen in Las Lajas, Argentina, January 22, 2019. Picture taken January 22, 2019.  REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

Argentine lawmakers have proposed legislation to boost oversight of a Chinese space tracking station that has stirred unease among local residents, fueled conspiracy theories and sparked concerns amongst critics about its true intent.
 

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China grapples with forest blaze that killed 30 firefighters
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China Says 30 Killed Fighting Mountain Forest Fire
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The Associated Press

In this aerial photo released by Xinhua News Agency, smoke can be seen from a forest fire in Yalongjiang township of Muli County, Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture in southwestern China's Sichuan Province on Monday, April 1, 2019. The fire high in the mountains of western China's Sichuan province has killed over two dozen firefighters and others, the government said Monday. (Lin Jiping/Xinhua via AP) The Associated Press

Firefighters are struggling to douse a forest fire that broke out in the mountains of southwestern China at the weekend and killed 30 firefighters, state media said on Monday.

The fire broke out on Saturday in the Muli county of Sichuan province, perched at an altitude of more than 4,000 m. (13,000 ft), with poor transport and communication links.

Images broadcast by state media showed flames and thick white smoke rising from a mountainside. It was not immediately clear whether there were any civilian casualties.

By Sunday afternoon, authorities had sent nearly 700 firefighters to put out the fire, but 30 of them went missing after a surge of flames fed by a sudden shift in the wind, state media said.

All the missing fighters were confirmed dead on Monday, state television said, adding that their bodies had been retrieved.
 

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The Living Force
Beijing warned the US against stationing service personnel at a de-facto American embassy in Taipei, after the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) admitted to having a detachment of armed US guard on-site for over a decade.

Sat Apr 06, 2019 - China Protests Deployment of US Soldiers to Guard Washington’s ‘Embassy’ in Taiwan

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China Protests Deployment of US Soldiers to Guard Washington’s ‘Embassy’ in Taiwan

“The US sending military personnel to Taiwan under whatever pretext constitutes a violation of the one-China principle,” a foreign ministry spokesperson stated, urging the US to correct its “wrongdoing” to avoid “serious damage” to bilateral ties,
RT reported.

While rumors of American Marines being posted in Taipei have circulated for a while, the institute has never acknowledged their presence, until Wednesday.

“Since 2005, US government personnel detailed to AIT have included active duty military, including service members from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines,” AIT Spokesperson Amanda Mansour revealed, noting that the military personnel, whose numbers remain undisclosed, are disguised as civilians.

Mansour added that US soldiers will also be stationed to secure AIT's new offices when they officially open on May 6.

US President Donald Trump has previously vowed to honor the One China policy, which views Taiwan as an integral part of mainland China, but his actions have left Beijing questioning the sincerity of his pledge. Besides the repeated transits of US warships through the Taiwan Strait, Beijing has also repeatedly expressed concerns over Trump’s military support to Taiwan and deepening US ties with the island via the Taiwan Travel Act.
 

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China's Belt and Road project is not a "geopolitical tool" or a debt crisis for participating nations, but Beijing welcomes constructive suggestions on how to address concerns over the initiative, the government's top diplomat said on Friday.

April 19, 2019 - China says Silk Road not geopolitical tool, understands concerns

A man walks past a flower installation set up for the upcoming Belt and Road Forum in front of the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing, China April 18, 2019. Picture taken April 18, 2019. Jia Tianyong/CNS via REUTERS
A man walks past a flower installation set up for the upcoming Belt and Road Forum in front of the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing, China April 18, 2019. Picture taken April 18, 2019. Jia Tianyong/CNS

China’s Belt and Road project is not a “geopolitical tool” or a debt crisis for participating nations, but Beijing welcomes constructive suggestions on how to address concerns over the initiative, the government’s top diplomat said on Friday.

Beijing will host a Belt and Road summit next week which 37 foreign leaders will attend,
including some of China’s closest allies, though the United States which has been critical of the project is only sending low level representatives.

The Belt and Road Initiative, as it is formally called, is a key initiative of President Xi Jinping, and envisions rebuilding the old Silk Road to connect China with Asia, Europe and beyond with massive infrastructure spending.

But it has proved controversial in many Western capitals, particularly Washington, which views it as merely a means to spread Chinese influence abroad and saddle countries with unsustainable debt through nontransparent projects.

The United States has been particularly critical of Italy’s decision to sign up to the plan last month, during Xi’s visit to Rome, the first for a G7 nation.

Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi, the government’s top diplomat, told reporters that the Belt and Road scheme had brought real benefits to participating countries.

“This partnership relationship is not a geopolitical tool, but a platform for cooperation,” he said. “You can’t put hats like ‘debt crises’ onto the head of the Belt and Road, and this is not something any participating country would recognize,” Wang added.

“Of course, there is a development process for the Belt and Road. You can’t get there in one step, and it’s unavoidable it will cause some worries during its development. So we welcome all sides to come up with constructive suggestions,” he said.

CLOSE ALLIES COMING - The number of foreign leaders at the April 25-27 summit is up from 29 last time, mainly from China’s closest allies like Pakistan and Russia but also Italy, Switzerland and Austria.

The United States will not send high-level officials, a U.S. State Department spokesman said earlier this month, citing concerns about financing practices for the initiative.

Wang said there would be Americans at the summit, made up of diplomats, state-level officials, executives and academics, though he did not give details. “We welcome any country that is interested to take part. When the United States participates, or whether it participates, is up to them to decide,” he added.

While the United States and China are currently working to end a bitter trade war, they have numerous other areas of disagreement, including human rights and U.S. support for self-ruled Taiwan.

China on Monday condemned as “slanderous” criticism U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made of Beijing’s policies in South America last week. “The United States has no plans to send high-level officials from Washington to the Belt and Road Forum,” a U.S. Embassy in Beijing spokesman said.

“We call upon all countries to ensure that their economic diplomacy initiatives adhere to internationally-accepted norms and standards, promote sustainable, inclusive development, and advance good governance and strong economic institutions.”

At the first Belt and Road summit two years ago, the United States submitted a diplomatic note to China complaining about North Korea’s participation, though since then Washington and Pyongyang have sought to re-set ties, including with two summits between their leaders.

Wang said North Korea would also take part in this year’s summit, but gave no further details. “I think this is normal as it’s an economic cooperation initiative. All countries have the freedom to attend, but I think they don’t have the right to prevent any other country from participating. This is an open, inclusive platform.”

More than 150 countries are sending delegations, and there will be some 5,000 guests, Wang said.


April 19, 2019 - Putin to address Belt and Road forum in Beijing
Russian President Vladimir Putin will address the upcoming Belt and Road forum in Beijing, Russia’s Ambassador to China Andrei Denisov said at a press conference on Friday.

"China considers the president to be the summit’s most honored participant," Denisov said. "He will be provided with an opportunity to address the upcoming forum and present his view of the One Belt, One Road project and related international initiatives," the ambassador added.

Denisov pointed out that the Russian president would not have a chance to visit other Chinese cities during his short stay in the country but his Beijing agenda was rather heavy.

The second Belt and Road forum, scheduled to take place in Beijing on April 25-27, will involve about 40 foreign leaders, representatives of 150 countries and regions of the world, as well as heads of a number of organizations, including the United Nations.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said earlier that Putin would visit the Chinese capital on April 26-27 to attend the Belt and Road forum.


April 19, 2019 - China's politburo meets to discuss economic situation: Xinhua

FILE PHOTO: Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during the meeting with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (not pictured) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China April 1, 2019. Kenzaburo Fukuhara/KYODONEWS/Pool via REUTERS
A top decision-making body of China's ruling Communist Party met on Friday to discuss the current economic situation, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
 

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The Living Force
China shows off new destroyer as Xi views naval parade April 24, 2019
Chinese President Xi Jinping reviews the honor guards of the Chinese People’s Liberation (PLA) Navy before boarding the destroyer Xining for the naval parade celebrating the 70th founding anniversary of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy in Qingdao, Shandong province, China April 23, 2019. Xinhua via REUTERS
China showed off the first of its new generation of guided missile destroyers on Tuesday as President Xi Jinping reviewed a major naval parade through mist and rain to mark 70 years since the founding of China's navy.

China wants 'tranquillity', navy chief says ahead of new warships reveal
Chinese navy personnel attend an event celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in Qingdao, China, April 22, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee
China's navy wants maritime "tranquillity and good order", its chief said on Monday, ahead of a parade to mark its 70th anniversary at which the military is expected to display new warships including nuclear submarines and destroyers.

China to announce rules soon to regulate commercial rocket industry
Security officers rest on steps at an exhibition to mark China's Space Day 2019 on April 24, in Changsha, Hunan province, China, April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song
China's national space agency said on Tuesday it will soon announce rules to regulate commercial rocket manufacturing, test flights and launches, state media reported, as the number of private startups in the nascent sector surged in the past year.
 

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The Living Force
Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in China to take part in the One Belt One Road international forum on April 26-27.

April 25, 2019 - Putin arrives in Beijing

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© Mikhail Metzel/TASS

Putin travelled to Beijing from Vladivostok where he held talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Putin’s working program will begin on Friday. Together with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, he will speak at the opening ceremony of the forum in Beijing's National Convention Center. The Russian leader will also hold a series of meetings, specifically, with the leaders of Azerbaijan, Serbia, Egypt and Cyprus and Myanmar’s foreign minister. Putin’s bilateral talks with Xi Jinping are due to be held too.

The forum’s three working sessions are scheduled for April 27. Putin plans to address one of them.

Putin says Russian-Chinese relations at their highest, will develop steadily
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© Mikhail Metzel/TASS

According to the Russian leader, bilateral military and defense cooperation demonstrates the high level of trust in bilateral relations.


Peru to sign MoU to join China's Belt and Road club in coming days: Chinese ambassador

FILE PHOTO: Jia Guide, China's ambassador to Peru, speaks during an interview with Reuters at the Chinese embassy in Lima, Peru April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo
Peru will sign a memorandum of understanding to join China's Belt and Road infrastructure initiative in coming days, China's ambassador said on Wednesday, despite recent warnings from the United States about the Beijing's rise in Latin America.

Exclusive: In rare move, French warship passes through Taiwan Strait April 25. 2019
FILE PHOTO: Tugboat escorts French Navy frigate Vendemiaire on arrival for a 5-day goodwill visit at a port in Metro Manila, Philippines March 12, 2018. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Tugboat escorts French Navy frigate Vendemiaire on arrival for a 5-day goodwill visit at a port in Metro Manila, Philippines March 12, 2018. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco/File Photo

A French warship passed through the strategic Taiwan Strait this month, U.S. officials told Reuters, a rare voyage by a vessel of a European country that is likely to be welcomed by Washington but increase tension with Beijing.

The passage, which was confirmed by China, is a sign that U.S. allies are increasingly asserting freedom of navigation in international waterways near China. It could open the door for other allies, such as Japan and Australia, to consider similar operations.

The French operation comes amid increasing tensions between the United States and China. Taiwan is one of a growing number of flashpoints in the U.S.-China relationship, which also include a trade war, U.S. sanctions and China’s increasingly muscular military posture in the South China Sea, where the United States also conducts freedom of navigation patrols.

Two officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a French military vessel carried out the transit in the narrow waterway between China and Taiwan on April 6.

One of the officials identified the warship as the French frigate Vendemiaire and said it was shadowed by the Chinese military. The official was not aware of any previous French military passage through the Taiwan Strait.

The officials said that as a result of the passage, China notified France it was no longer invited
to a naval parade to mark the 70 years since the founding of China’s Navy. Warships from India, Australia and several other nations participated.

China said on Thursday it had lodged “stern representations” with France for what it called an “illegal” passage.

“China’s military sent navy ships in accordance with the law and the rules to identify the French ship and warn it to leave,” defense ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang told a regularly scheduled media briefing, while declining to say if the sailing had led to the withdrawal of France’s invitation to the parade of ships this week.

“China’s military will stay alert to firmly safeguard China’s sovereignty and security,” he said. Colonel Patrik Steiger, the spokesman for France’s military chief of staff, declined to comment on an operational mission.

The U.S. officials did not speculate on the purpose of the passage or whether it was designed to assert freedom of navigation.

Mounting Tensions -
The French strait passage comes against the backdrop of increasingly regular passages by U.S. warships through the strategic waterway. Last month, the United States sent Navy and Coast Guard ships through the Taiwan Strait.

The passages upset China, which claims self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory.
Beijing has been ramping up pressure to assert its sovereignty over the island.

Chen Chung-chi, spokesman for Taiwan’s defense ministry, told Reuters by phone the strait is part of busy international waters and it is “a necessity” for vessels from all countries to transit through it. He said Taiwan’s defense ministry will continue to monitor movement of foreign vessels in the region.

“This is an important development both because of the transit itself but also because it reflects a more geopolitical approach by France towards China and the broader Asia-Pacific,” said Abraham Denmark, a former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia.

The transit is a sign that countries like France are not only looking at China through the lens of trade but from a military standpoint as well, Denmark said.

Last month, France and China signed deals worth billions of euros during a visit to Paris by Chinese President Xi Jinping. French President Emmanuel Macron wants to forge a united European front to confront Chinese advances in trade and technology.

“It is important to have other countries operating in Asia to demonstrate that this is just not a matter of competition between Washington and Beijing, that what China has been doing represents a broader challenge to a liberal international order,” Denmark, who is with the Woodrow Wilson Center think-tank in Washington, added.

Washington has no formal ties with Taiwan but is bound by law to help provide the island with the means to defend itself and is its main source of arms.

France in contact with China over warship's Taiwan Strait passage April 25, 2019
France is in contact with Chinese authorities after a French warship passed through the Taiwan Strait earlier this month, a source close to French Defense Minister Florence Parly told Reuters on Thursday.

China expresses regret South China Sea issue has harmed UK ties
Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond meets Chinese Vice Premier Hu Chunhua at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China, April 25, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee/Pool
Chinese Vice Premier Hu Chunhua expressed regret on Thursday to visiting British finance minister Philip Hammond that the South China Sea issue had harmed ties, after a British warship sailed close to islands claimed by China last August.

Brazil's vice president to visit China, top trading partner, next month
Brazil's Vice President Hamilton Mourao delivers a speech during the opening of LAAD, the biggest military industry expo in Latin America, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil April 2, 2019. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes
Brazil's Vice President Hamilton Mourao said on Wednesday he will travel to China on May 16, staying for 10 days with stops in Be
 
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