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China Reform Monitor - No. 1229

Indonesia confronts Chinese fishing near Natunas;
Deal to bring Chinese high-speed rail to California nixed

Edited by Joshua Eisenman
July 12, 2016

June 3:

During a "high-level conference" Chinese academics called for an end to internet censorship, which they called "detrimental" to scientific studies and "damaging to China's reputation." According to a 
commentary published in the Oriental Daily: "For China to turn free cyberspace into a limited local network, it is working against global trends. The public is outraged, but they dare not complain. People have become smarter - it is an impossible task for censors to silence the public. Censorship is enriching a group of criminals and cheats. Baidu, for example, can only grow rapidly because authorities have shut out companies like Google." 

June 13:

Nine months after announcing that a Chinese consortium would build a high-speed rail line from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, XpressWest, the private U.S. company behind the plan, canceled the $12.5 billion deal. XpressWest said it had failed to comply with the U.S. Department of Transportation 2009 Buy America initiative, which requires trains be made in the U.S. The Nevada-based company said the decision to end the Sino-American partnership was based "primarily upon difficulties associated with timely performance and challenges in obtaining required authority to proceed." A Chinese executive confirmed that the Chinese side refused to make certain concessions, but did not detail the sticking points. China Railway Corporation (CRC), which heads the Chinese consortium, had pledged $100 million in initial funding and work was set to begin in September. CRC criticized XpressWest for its public statement and said the firm violated the contract by making a unilateral announcement, 
the official Caixin reports

[Editor's Note: CRC, which built the largest high-speed rail network in the world in less than a decade, had wanted the U.S. project to be a model for international cooperation. China has been marketing its bullet trains in countries including Mexico, Indonesia, and Thailand. In January 2015, Mexico canceled a multi-billion dollar contract given to a Sino-Mexican consortium to build a 210 km high-speed rail link from Mexico City to Queretaro citing budget woes after oil prices dropped. In late May, a CRC delegation visited Malaysia to lobby for a $15 billion high-speed link between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.] 

June 15:

Differences within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have caused the 10-nation bloc to issue, and then retract, a tough statement on territorial feuds in the South China Sea, AP reports
. In their statement, ASEAN foreign ministers expressed "serious concerns over recent and ongoing developments, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and which may have the potential to undermine peace, security and stability in the South China Sea." All of the ASEAN foreign ministers initially agreed on the joint statement but Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar later withdrew their backing to avoid offending China. China wants to negotiate the dispute bilaterally with each rival claimant, where many believe its size and clout give it a comparative advantage. 

June 19:

Last week, the Indonesian navy opened fire on a Chinese fishing boat in the South China Sea, injuring a fisherman, damaging the boat, and detaining its seven-man crew,ABC News reports. The incident happened off the Natuna islands in the South China Sea in waters claimed by China, but which Indonesia considers part of its exclusive economic zone. China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said the Chinese fishing boat was fishing in its traditional fishing grounds when the Indonesian navy opened fire. The injured crew member was transferred to Hainan Island for treatment and is in stable condition. The MFA strongly denounced the Indonesian navy for "abuse of military force." Since March there have been at least three incidents of the Indonesian navy intercepting Chinese fishing vessels off the Natuna islands.

June 20:

Hong Kong bookseller Lam Wing-kee has held a press conference detailing eight months of extrajudicial detention and mental torture at the hands of Chinese police. Lam said the police told him to go to Hong Kong quietly, collect his store's client records and return to China with them. Lam was one of three Hong Kong booksellers detained last year while visiting mainland China. The two others, who hold European passports, were "renditioned" by Chinese authorities in territories beyond their jurisdiction. Gui Minhai, a Swedish citizen, was taken from Thailand and a UK national, Paul Lee, was "disappeared" from Hong Kong. Lam's account casts doubt on their claims, made to Chinese state media while under detention, that they were voluntarily assisting a police investigation. All three specialized in gossipy, thinly sourced books on Chinese senior leaders' personal lives. The heavy-handed tactics of mainland police have focused global attention on the largely-ignored fringe publishing industry, The Financial Times reports. 


Related Categories: China; China and East Asia Program

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