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China's Belt and Road Initiative promotes connectivity, development along ancient route www.xinhuanet.com
BEIJING, Jan. 2 (Xinhua) -- More than three years ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed to build the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road.
Looking back at 2016, the Belt and Road Initiative has gained fruitful early achievements, promoting connectivity and opening up possibilities and potentials for development along the ancient trade route.
SILK ROAD ECONOMIC BELT STRINGS ROADS TOGETHER
One day in golden October in Kashgar of China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, a fleet of 50 trucks of a joint trade convoy carrying large containers started to roll along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
After passing the Pamirs, crossing the Har goolun Range, and threading Pakistan's western region, the fleet finally arrived at its destination -- the Gwadar Port of Pakistan, concluding its 3,115-km journey in a month.
The containers carried by the fleet were shipped to the United Arab Emirates and other countries, marking the Gwadar port's first export of containers to overseas destinations, and showing that the port has restored the designed handling capacity.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that CPEC is destined to transform the entire country and open up a world of possibilities for not just Pakistan but also Central Asian states.
In February 2016, China Railway Tunnel Group completed building the Qamchiq Tunnel in Uzbekistan, the longest tunnel in Central Asia. It is part of the 169-km Angren-Pap railway line, a major state project. After completion of the rail line, Uzbekistan's domestic transport will no longer have to go through foreign territories.
"If we say 2013 is the year of proposal, 2014 is the year of guideline, 2015 is the year of top-level design, then 2016 is the year of implementing landmark projects of the Belt and Road Initiative," said Zhao Lei, a professor at China's Central Party School. "Many European countries have high approval rates on the Belt and Road Initiative."
Perhaps the busy-running China-Europe trains give the best illustration to people's acceptance. Since the Belt and Road proposal, trains running between Europe and China have been burgeoning. By June 2016, trains had been running nearly 2,000 times between China and Europe, with a total of import and export value of 17 billion U.S. dollars.
Many other projects are also under way. The China-Belarus industrial park is in development, the Hungary-Serbia railroad is to be constructed by the Chinese side soon, cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European countries has been further expanded.
The Silk Road Economic Belt, with a nature of inclusiveness and openness, has become a vital link connecting regional development and China's transformation.
21ST CENTURY MARITIME SILK ROAD CONNECTS ROADS AND PORTS
In October 2016, the contract for the second phase of the China-Laos railway project was signed in Lao capital of Vientiane.
Kicked off in late 2015, the construction of the project is expected to be completed in five years. Upon completion of the railway, a trip from Vientiane to the Chinese border will take only four hours, turning Laos from a landlocked country into a land-linked nation.
On Jan. 21, 2016, at the ground-breaking ceremony of the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway, Indonesian President Joko Widodo launched the country's first ever high-speed railway project in Walini, West Java Province.
With a maximum design speed of 350 km per hour, the travel time between Jakarta and Bandung will be cut from over three hours to less than one hour once the project is finished.
The Belt and Road Initiative provides opportunities not only for a new round of China's opening-up, but also for the growth of world economy.
On Aug. 10, 2016, Chinese shipping giant COSCO acquired 67 percent stake of Piraeus Port Authority through the Athens Stock Exchange, officially becoming the controlling shareholder of the Greek port.
Piraeus is expected to operate as a hub in Europe for the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, and to connect the Silk Road Economic Belt with the China-Europe Land-Sea Express Line.
According to Chinese ambassador to Greece Zou Xiaoli, Piraeus was not merely an economic project, but also a bridge to connect the peoples of Greece and China.
In Africa, the Chinese-built Ethiopia-Djibouti railway has officially opened service, marking a milestone in cooperation between China, Ethiopia and Djibouti.
In Cambodia, the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone has attracted hundreds of enterprises, providing a model of China-Cambodia cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative.
In Myanmar, a consortium of six foreign companies led by China's CITIC has won two bids to build an industrial park and a deep-sea port in the Kyaukpyu Special Economic Zone in Rakhine State, which will improve the country's infrastructure, local people's employment and livelihood.
In Sri Lanka, the green light has been given to the delayed Colombo Port City. Through the Maritime Silk Road, China will support the country in becoming a shipping, logistics and even financial hub in the Indian Ocean.
A CHINESE MATTER, ALSO A WORLD MATTER
It has been nearly two years since the Chinese-owned company Southeast Asia Telecommunications entered the Cambodian market. With an investment of 150 million U.S. dollars, a fiber network extending 10,000 km, and over 1,000 base stations, the company has improved the efficiency of communications in Cambodia, and was spoken highly of by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Apart from opening up a new market in Cambodia with the dedication to high-speed Internet and high-quality phone calls, the company is also shouldering social responsibility by launching the Youth Sci-Tech Education Base and the Cloud Data Center.
"Previously, people saw most 'Belt and Road' programs in areas such as energy and infrastructure. In 2016, cooperation between China and those countries along the routes have been expanded to education, culture, medical care and telecommunications," said Zhao of the Central Party School
If the "hard connection" of the Belt and Road draws countries geographically closer, then the "soft connection" brings people together.
Till now, over 100 countries and international organizations have expressed willingness to actively support and join the initiative, 40 of which have signed cooperation deals with China.
In 2017, a Belt and Road summit will be held to further map out the blueprint of the initiative, explore business opportunities and deepen alignment of development strategies between China and the relevant parties.
On June 22, 2016, during a speech at the Legislative Chamber of the Uzbek Supreme Assembly in Tashkent, Xi called for building a green, healthy, intelligent and peaceful Silk Road, laying out the future of the initiative.
According to Huang Rihan, Executive Director of the Belt and Road Institute at the Center for China and Globalization think tank, a green Silk Road urges environmental protection and intensive cultivation for sustained development.
A healthy Silk Road means closer cooperation in medical care and health among related countries. An intelligent Silk Road calls for people cultivation and exchanges. A peaceful Silk Road aims at implementing a common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security concept in Asia, then promoting world peace and stability, Huang added.
While addressing the Uzbek Parliament, Xi invited other countries to attend the 2017 Belt and Road summit. The summit will not only look back at the fruitful harvest made so far under the initiative, but also set up a new starting point for the future, observers said.
"The Belt and Road Initiative will not be a flash in the pan, nor will it be formalism," said Zhao, "China will go deep with the initiative and turn it into real benefits."
"The agreement reached in November by the UN General Assembly to further promote the Belt and Road Initiative worldwide shows that its construction involves not just China, but also countries along the routes and the world at large," said Wang Yiwei, a professor at Renmin University of China....
China's new rules on cash transactions and overseas transfers of yuan currency are not forms of capital controls, the state news agency Xinhua said, citing a central bank economist.
Banks and other financial institutions in China will have to report all domestic and overseas cash transactions larger than 50,000 yuan ($7,201.50), compared with 200,000 yuan previously, the central bank said on Friday.
Ma Jun, chief economist of the People's Bank of China (PBOC), said the responsibility of reporting such transactions will be assumed by financial institutions, and there will be no extra documentation or official approval procedures required for companies or individuals, according to the Xinhua report issued late on Sunday.
Ma added that other major economies have similar rules.
China is maintaining the same quota of $50,000 for each individual's annual foreign exchange purchase.
The central bank has said the recent move was aimed at better monitoring of money laundering and financing for terrorism rather than targeting normal business activities, Xinhua said.
Beijing has announced a string of rules in recent months to stem capital outflows after its yuan currency skidded to more than eight-year lows.
(Reporting by Chen Aizhu and Cheng Fang; Editing by Kim Coghill)
The daughter of the woman at the centre of a presidential scandal in South Korea has been arrested in Denmark, say South Korean police.
Chung Yoo-ra, 20, is accused of staying in the country illegally, they said.
Her mother Choi Soon-sil is accused of using her friendship with President Park Geun-hye for personal gain, including getting Ms Chung into a top Korean university.
After weeks of protest, parliament voted on 9 December to impeach Ms Park.
Both women have apologised while denying the accusations.
South Korean authorities had asked for Interpol's help in tracing Ms Chung after she failed to return to answer questions about her role in the scandal.
They are reportedly planning to extradite Ms Chung, a former national equestrian rider.
Her mother Ms Choi is in detention having returned from abroad to face questioning.
She has been charged with various offences, including abuse of authority, coercion, attempted coercion and attempted fraud.
South Korea's constitutional court has six months to uphold or overturn to impeachment vote against Ms Park.
Until then she remains formally president but stripped of her powers, which have been handed to the prime minister, a presidential appointee.
The U.K. Treasury said Sunday that it will begin circulating its new £1 coin on March 28. It has also set a mid-October target for killing off the current version of the coin.
The New Year's Day announcement is the first time the Treasury has laid out an exact timetable for the currency swap.
"This is a historic moment as it's the first time we've introduced a new £1 coin since 1983," said David Gauke, chief secretary to the Treasury.
Britain is switching to a coin with high-tech security features because the current pound coin has been targeted by counterfeiters.
The Royal Mint estimates that 3% of £1 coins in circulation are fakes.
The new 12-sided pound coin will be made with two metals and include a hologram to prevent counterfeits.
But not everyone is excited about the new coin.
Some businesses have expressed concern about the change since the new coin has a different shape and weight, meaning it will not fit into most existing vending machines, lockers and shopping carts.
The Automatic Vending Association estimates it will cost the industry £32 million ($39 million) to ensure the 500,000 vending machines across the U.K. are ready to accept the new coins.
new 1 pound coin
The 'tails' side of the new £1 coin was designed by British teenager David Pearce.
The Treasury is launching a public awareness campaign to ensure everyday people spend their old £1 coins or return them to the bank before October 15. They'll become legally worthless on that date.
The Treasury notes that some of the returned coins will be recycled and used to create the new coins, which will be made by the Royal Mint in Llantrisant, Wales.
A number of private Japanese firms plan to begin launching mini-rockets and microsatellites this year.
Microsatellites vary in length from about 10 to several dozen centimeters. They are drawing attention as their low cost offers new opportunities. Mini-rockets are made for such satellites.
Interstellar Technologies, a venture company in Hokkaido, northern Japan, is developing low-cost mini-rockets. The firm has just over 10 employees.
The company plans to carry out a test-launch in March, sending a rocket more than 100 kilometers above the Earth. If it is successful, this will be the first test-launch of a rocket developed solely by a private firm in Japan.
Tokyo-based Axelspace also has just over 10 employees. It plans to start a project this year to launch a total of 50 microsatellites that can photograph large areas of the Earth every day.
Takafumi Matsui is the deputy chief of the space policy committee set up by the Cabinet Office. Matsui says nurturing the space industry will be an important pillar of the Japanese government's policies as space technology can have practical applications for society.
Matsui says companies around the world view the launching of microsatellites as a promising business and he believes many Japanese firms can enter this sector.
He adds that training personnel in this field will be important.
A pilot who was drunk in the cockpit has been arrested shortly before take-off in Canada.
Two hours after his arrest, the 37-year-old man was found to have more than three times the legal limit of alcohol in his body.
His plane, part of the Sunwing budget airline, later left Calgary for Cancun, Mexico, with a different pilot. There were more than 100 people on board.
The incident happened at 07:00 local time (14:00 GMT) on Saturday.
Airline staff noticed the pilot behaving strangely, and then he passed out. They alerted the authorities and the man was escorted from the cockpit.
He has now been charged with being in charge of an aircraft while being impaired.
Calgary police have named him as Miroslav Gronych, 37, a Slovak national.
Police spokesman Paul Stacey said: "It had all the potential for a disaster but I'll tell you this much - the likelihood of a pilot on a major airline like this actually being able to take off when they're impaired like that is pretty slim, because there's a lot of checks and balances.
"There's the other flight crew and there's gate crew and they're all about safety.
"So, I'm not surprised that he got caught before (the plane) left the terminal."
But Mr Stacey said: "He won't be flying anytime soon."
Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) Chairman Paul Achleitner has ruled out a European merger or a state bailout after the lender's mortgage settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung reported.
The bank, Germany's biggest, last week announced a $7.2 billion settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice over its sale and pooling of mortgage securities in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis.
"The management board in principle looks at everything that could help the business," Achleitner said in an interview with the weekly newspaper published on Sunday.
"At the moment, however, enthusiasm for a pan-European merger is muted as we have other priorities," he said, when asked why Deutsche does not merge with Italy's UniCredit (CRDI.MI) or another lender.
Deutsche, which is trying to simplify its operations to make it more efficient, will keep its investment banking operations and ensure they comply with political and regulatory rules, Achleitner said.
Supervisors including Germany's Bundesbank and the European Central Bank have called for more consolidation in the banking sector, saying there are still too many banks despite a steady fall in the number of branches since the 2008 financial crisis.
Higher capital requirements would put European banks at a competitive disadvantage to their U.S. rivals, Achleitner said, referring to efforts by the Basel committee of supervisors to tighten bank capital rules to avoid a repeat financial crisis.
"The global rules, established with the Basel accord, must not one-sidedly reflect the views of the Americans," Achleitner said.
The former finance chief of Allianz (ALVG.DE) said European banks needed to defend their interests more vigorously against rivals in the United States where lenders are helped by state-sponsored bodies such as Fannie Mae, allowing them to shed part of the risk of mortgages.
"It's obvious that national interests are increasingly being defined and represented in a more robust fashion," Achleitner said. "It's about time that we Europeans stand up for our interests too."
Separately, Achleitner said government aid for players in the financial industry would not become an issue in Germany.
"No one in Germany needs to worry about rescuing banks," said Achleitner, who confirmed he will stand for re-election as chairman at the bank's annual general meeting in May.
By contrast, the Italian government has earmarked 20 billion euros ($21 billion) to bolster its ailing lenders.
The Bank of Italy said on Thursday that total costs for the state bailout of Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena (BMPS.MI) would come to about 6.6 billion euros.
(Reporting by Andreas Cremer; editing by Gareth Jones/Ruth Pitchford
SEOUL -- LG Electronics will unveil its premium window-like OLED TV at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week that will each bear a price tag of over $10,000, sending a message to its rivals that the South Korean company is asserting its technological advantage in the high-end TV market with the slimmest model, sources said.
The new TVs will have panels that use organic light-emitting diodes and are so light and thin that they can be fitted on walls like windows, or hung like pictures, according to industry sources familiar with the project. The premium TV, which may come in a few sizes starting from 50-plus inches, could be available in the market as early as the first quarter of 2017.
"LG plans to introduce its new high-quality TV, which is very light and thin at the CES. It can be hung on the wall like a window or a picture," an industry source, asking not to be named, told Nikkei Asian Review. "The company completed its preparations for the production. The TVs will be released in the market a few weeks after the CES."
The CES, one of the largest consumer electronics exhibitions in the world, will be held from Jan. 5 to 8.
Another source said that OLED panels used in the new model are slimmer than the 2.5mm ultra-slim panel applied in LG's Signature OLED TV. The model will be the slimmest on the market, but he did not reveal how thin they are. The OLED panels will be supplied by its affiliate LG Display.
Sources said that LG Electronics was betting everything on the TV to keep its leading position in the premium OLED television market. OLED sets now account for about 1% of global television sales in value terms, with LG Electronics controlling most of that meager share.
Earlier last month, Sony announced that it would put OLED TVs on shelves worldwide by summer 2017. The Japanese electronics and media giant said it would source panels from LG Display and draw on its own proprietary technology for image processing.
Panasonic put a 65-inch OLED model on sale in Europe in 2015 and now plans to bring the sets to Japan and Southeast Asia as early as April. Toshiba is scrambling to develop OLED sets of its own. Samsung Electronics, meanwhile, has halted the introduction of new OLED offerings after selling the sets for a time.
LG Display is the frontrunner in the OLED TV panels. The company holds a near monopoly in the market, giving its Japanese rival Sony little choice but to source key components from the display affiliate of LG group.
But, more panel-makers are now challenging the market leader. Japan's JOLED, whose stakeholders include Sony, Panasonic and Japan Display, is developing panels of the size used in televisions. China's BOE Technology Group is working on similar offerings.
BEIJING, Jan. 1 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday called on BRICS countries, namely, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, to deepen their partnership for a brighter future.
Xi made the call in a letter sent to Russian President Vladimir Putin, South African President Jacob Zuma, Brazilian President Michel Temer and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to brief the leaders on China's blueprint for promoting BRICS cooperation during Chinese presidency over the bloc in 2017.
China will host the ninth BRICS leaders' summit in Xiamen, a coastal city in southeast China's Fujian Province, in September, Xi said.
Over the past decade, BRICS countries have made joint efforts to yield fruits in cooperating on politics, economy and people-to-people exchanges, Xi said.
BRICS countries have also made great strides in their leaders' summits, which has injected new dynamism into their cooperation, he added.
"The BRICS cooperation, a model for cooperation among emerging markets and that among developing countries, has brought benefits to people of BRICS nations and made great contributions to boosting global economic growth, improving global governance and promoting the democratization of international relations," Xi said.
In the second decade for BRICS cooperation starting in 2017, BRICS nations will make greater progress in their cooperation and play a bigger role in international affairs, the Chinese president said.
Facing growing uncertainties and instabilities in international situation, BRICS countries need to enhance solidarity and cooperation and safeguard common interests, he said.
Xi said the Xiamen summit will focus on four aspects -- deepening pragmatic cooperation for common development; enhancing global governance to jointly counter challenges; carrying out people-to-people exchanges to consolidate public support for cooperation; promoting mechanism building to construct broader partnership.
"In accordance with an open, inclusive and win-win BRICS spirit, China will work with other BRICS countries to make the Xiamen summit a success and move forward BRICS cooperation to a new level," Xi said.
The BRIC cooperative mechanism was established in 2006. The first BRIC summit was held in Yekaterinburg, Russia, in 2009. South Africa was admitted by the other BRIC leaders in 2010, adding the "S" to the original grouping. Eight BRICS summits have taken place so far.
With 3 years until the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, parties involved are still haggling over who should shoulder more than half the cost.
The organizing committee had planned to cover the entire cost of the Games. But the committee wants Tokyo, the central government, and local authorities to make up the cost overrun of 950 billion yen, or about 8.1 billion dollars.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has said she accepts making up part of the shortfall, but she has been calling on the central government to chip in.
The cabinet minister in charge of the Tokyo Games, Tamayo Marukawa, says Tokyo and other local governments should basically cover the cost.
Ten local governments are strongly opposed to the new financial burden. They say the organizing committee should stick to the initial plan.
Existing venues outside Tokyo need to be made barrier-free and add more spectator seats.
Officials say the cost of remodeling such facilities depends on whether the makeover is temporary or permanent. They say another factor is who will pay for it.
Critics say that since time is limited, the parties involved need to agree on cost-sharing as soon as possible.