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China Reform Monitor - No. 1324

China to more closely monitor political outlook at universities;
Travel bans for troublemakers

Edited by Joshua Eisenman
April 19, 2018

March 14:

China is gifting a new $31.6 million headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria to the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the bloc has
announced in a formal statement. A MoU to that effect was recently signed by ECOWAS president Jean-Claude Brou and China’s ambassador to Nigeria, Zhou Pingjian. Brou expressed gratitude to China for the gift, saying that it was "a mark of goodwill" and calling for expanded ECOWAS-China cooperation. Design work has already begun for the new complex, which will include offices and conference facilities. After completion, China will maintain the building for a period of three years.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The Abuja facility is not the first of its kind. In 2012, Chinese contractors gifted the new African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Controversy erupted earlier this year, however, when
French newspaper Le Monde reported on the discovery of spy equipment in, and revelations of nightly data harvests from, the building back to China.]

March 16:

Beijing has implemented a new campaign against the spread of "Western values" at universities and sent inspectors to monitor teachers for "improper" remarks in class,
Reuters reports. At the National People's Congress (NPC) news conference, Education Minister Chen Baosheng said that more than 200 "experts in political education" had been sent into more than 2500 higher education establishments and monitored more than 3000 classes. To assess the efficacy of political education classes, 30,000 students filled out "questionnaires" which more than 91 percent said they found "edifying." "In some schools' getting into political education classes is like getting a train ticket during Spring Festival," Chen said, referring to the Lunar New Year holiday when millions pack trains, planes and cars to get home.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Chen comments are in stark contrast to those he made on the sidelines of last year’s NPC, when he said that political education at universities was outdated, and that students in such courses were often there in body but not spirit.]

Beginning May 1st, China will use its new social credit system to stop people from boarding flights and trains, according to
two statements issued on the National Development and Reform Commission’s website on March 2nd. One of the notices was signed by eight ministries, including China's aviation regulator and the Supreme People’s Court. Those on the restricted list include people who have caused trouble, used expired tickets, or smoked on flights or trains, and people that have "spread false information" or "committed financial wrongdoings." In early 2017, the country's Supreme People's Court said that 6.15 million people had been banned from taking flights for social misdeeds, Reuters reports.

March 20:

Wang Shumao, the deputy head of China's maritime militia in Tanmen, Hainan and a NPC deputy, said China should send more missions to safeguard territorial sovereignty and interests in the South China Sea,
according to China Military. Wang said the Tanmen militia, a.k.a. the "marine rights protection vanguard," is made up of 128 local fishermen with 12 ships equipped with GPS and BeiDou navigation systems. They regularly drive away intruding foreign vessels, provide intelligence to the PLA via satellite phone, and have rescued hundreds of fishermen. Established in 1985, the Tanmen militia trains around 60 days per year in maritime rescue, first-aid, and intercepting vessels, as well as conducting a month of regular offshore training and nine days of live-fire drills. In 2013, a maritime militia was also established in Sansha and in 2016 it was expanded from 215 to over 600 members.

March 21:

Beijing should punish U.S. officials who visit Taiwan under the new U.S.-Taiwan Travel Act by denying them entry to China and voting against U.S. resolutions at the UN,
the official Global Times reports. Alex Wong, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, was the first U.S. official to visit Taipei after passage of the act."[Wong's] visit to Taiwan has symbolic implications. Taiwan may even view it as a breakthrough. There have been other visits by U.S. officials to Taiwan in the past. Some were off the record and some took place when cross-Straits relations were better, and Beijing preferred not to embarrass the sitting leader. With Tsai in office, the mainland's patience with official exchanges between the U.S. and Taiwan is particularly thin," said Zhang Wensheng of Xiamen University. "If Washington allows Tsai to visit the U.S. or allows the defense ministers from both sides to meet in person, current Sino-U.S. relations would be disrupted and another Taiwan Straits crisis may be triggered," according to Fudan University's Xin Qiang. Last week, Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu spoke in Washington, DC.

Related Categories: China; China and East Asia Program

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