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Beijing fires trade warning after Trump appoints China hawk


China has warned Donald Trump that “co-operation is the only correct choice” after the US president-elect tapped a China hawk to run a new White House trade policy office.

The appointment of Peter Navarro, a campaign adviser, to a formal White House post shocked Chinese officials and scholars who had hoped that Mr Trump would tone down his anti-Beijing rhetoric after assuming office.

Mr Navarro, a Harvard-trained economist and University of California Irvine professor, is the author of Death by China and other books that paint the country as America’s most dangerous adversary.

“Chinese officials had hoped that, as a businessman, Trump would be open to negotiating deals,” said Zhu Ning, a finance professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing. “But they have been surprised by his decision to appoint such a hawk to a key post.”

Adding to rising tensions between the two countries, the US Office of the Trade Representative yesterday put Alibaba, China’s biggest e-commerce platform, back on its “notorious markets” blacklist of companies accused of being involved in peddling fake goods.

China is preparing itself for US trade actions. China will respond with counteractions of its own

Hua Chunying, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, said Beijing would monitor the policy positions of the incoming US administration. “As two major powers with broad mutual interests, co-operation is the only correct choice,” she said on Thursday.

Speaking hours before the appointment of Mr Navarro, which was first reported by the Financial Times, China’s foreign minister Wang Yi told the People’s Daily, the ruling Communist party’s flagship newspaper, that China and the US faced “new, complicated and uncertain factors affecting bilateral relations”. He said the world’s two largest economies must respect each other’s “core interests”.

Cui Fan at the China Society of WTO Studies, a think-tank affiliated with China’s commerce ministry, warned that Beijing would respond to any unilateral action by the incoming Trump administration. “China is preparing itself for US trade actions,” he said. “China will respond with counteractions of its own.”

China has been scrambling to assess Mr Trump’s stance since he took a congratulatory phone call from Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen in early December, defying almost four decades of precedent. Under the “One China” policy, Washington has abstained from official interactions with the island, which Beijing regards as a “rogue province”.

Chinese diplomats have been setting up meetings with current and former US officials who focus on Asia to try to discern what Mr Trump is thinking. But many US experts have little contact with the Trump transition team, which is run out of Trump Tower in New York, complicating efforts to glean meaningful intelligence.

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The highest level contact between China and the Trump team came last week when Yang Jiechi, the top Chinese foreign policy official, met Michael Flynn, the incoming national security adviser, in New York. While much of the Asia team remains unknown, Mr Trump is considering Matthew Pottinger, a former US marine and Wall Street Journal correspondent in China, for the top Asia adviser role in the White House.

Mr Trump’s recent rhetoric about China has given Beijing even more cause for concern. Since the call with Ms Tsai, he has publicly criticised China’s currency policies and island fortifications in the South China Sea. He has questioned Washington’s commitment to the One China policy, and also angered Beijing by alleging at the weekend that a Chinese warship had “stolen” a US navy submarine drone, which was later returned.

Mr Wang told the People’s Daily: “We will lead the way amid a shake-up in global governance and take hold of the situation amid international chaos. We will protect our interests amid intense and complex games.”

Last week, the US Federal Reserve raised interest rates and hinted at three more rises next year. The Fed move and expectations of tax cuts and infrastructure stimulus in the Trump administration are putting more downward pressure on the renminbi, which has been declining in value against the dollar as Chinese authorities struggle to contain capital flight.

He Weiwen, deputy director of the Center for China and Globalisation, added that Beijing could retaliate against US exports and restrict market access for US companies.

Additional reporting by Yuan Yang and Archie Zhang in Beijing

Twitter: @tmitchpk and @dimi

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China tycoon moves jobs to US, citing high taxes at home

Shanghai (AFP) – A Chinese auto glass tycoon has caused a stir by shifting part of his empire to the United States and setting up a factory in Ohio, citing high taxes and soaring labour costs at home.

Cao Dewang’s $600-million investment comes after Donald Trump threatened to declare Beijing a currency manipulator and slap 45 percent punitive tariffs on Chinese imports to protect American jobs.

The 70-year-old tycoon’s decision to open a glass factory in the eastern American state of Ohio in October — a rare case of jobs being exported from China to the US — triggered an outpouring of criticism on social media.

The phrase “Cao Dewang has escaped” became a hot topic, generating nearly 10 million views on the Twitter-like Weibo microblog and many comments urging China to “not let Cao Dewang run away”.

Cao’s Fuyao Glass Industry Group — a supplier to big names including Volkswagen and General Motors — claims to be the biggest exporter of auto glass in the world, reporting 2.6 billion yuan ($370 million) profits last year.

Cao defended himself in an interview with the Beijing News Wednesday, saying he “did not run and will not run. The centre of my business is in China because I’m Chinese”.

“I’m a business man and I’m doing business in the US,” he said. “I’m merely reminding the government” that taxes and labour costs are too high.

In an interview with the state-owned China Business News last week, Cao said the country was home to the “world’s highest taxes” and that the manufacturing industry suffered under taxes 35 percent higher than those imposed by the US.

Cao is a high-school dropout who began building his fortune as a salesman for a local glassmaker.

The Fuyao group owns production lines in nearly a dozen Chinese cities including the capital Beijing and the commercial hub Shanghai. It also has a factory in Russia, according to its website.

Defending Cao’s remarks, the Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily said Thursday that the fact that “entrepreneurs dare to raise problems means (they) still hold confidence in China’s economy”.

Cao’s comments reflect “strong personal feelings” but they touch on “some of the deep conflicts and problems in China’s economy”, it said.


More Central Americans are giving up on the U.S. and looking instead to a Mexican dream

Unable to find work and terrified by the street gangs that brazenly roamed the streets, Karen Zaldivar was one of tens of thousands of young people who fled Honduras in 2014.

Caught trying to slip across the U.S.-Mexico border, she was promptly deported.

Last year, Zaldivar set out again, but with a new destination: Mexico. She now lives in a small city just north of the Guatemalan border along with growing numbers of other Central Americans who have concluded that if they can’t reach the United States, the next best thing is Mexico.

“I decided to make a life here,” she said at a small open-air restaurant in Tenosique, where she works in the kitchen, frying fish. “It’s calmer, and safer.”

Estimates of how many Central Americans are living in Mexico are hard to come by, in part because some, like Zaldivar, have obtained forged Mexican identity documents. But statistics show more and more are staying legally by seeking political asylum or humanitarian visas.

Asylum applications in Mexico nearly tripled over three years, hitting 3,424 in 2015. Asylum requests this year are poised to be twice that, human rights advocates say, with most filed by Hondurans and Salvadorans.

I decided to make a life here. It’s calmer, and safer. — Karen Zaldivar, Honduran immigrant in Mexico

The number of migrants seeking to stay in Mexico pales in comparison to the droves heading to the U.S. — more than 400,000 people were apprehended at the U.S. southern border in the fiscal year that ended in September, most of them from Central America.

But the burden on Mexico and other countries is likely to increase if President-elect Donald Trump makes good on his promises to beef up border security and deport up to 3 million people living in the U.S. illegally.

Jaime Rivas Castillo, a professor at Don Bosco University in El Salvador who has studied the Central American diaspora, said faltering economies, as well as fear, drive migrants from their homelands. “There aren’t jobs for everybody, and people fear for their life,” Rivas said. “So they go look for other places to live, if not in the U.S. then in Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica or Nicaragua.”

Yessica Alvarado, 20, said she fled El Salvador last month after she was attacked on her way to nursing school by gang members angry that her grandparents had refused to pay an extortion fee.

“It’s hard getting to Mexico, but not as hard as getting to the U.S.,” Alvarado said.

On a recent afternoon, she sat on a sunny patio at a crowded Catholic migrant shelter in Tenosique chatting with a new acquaintance, a 27-year-old woman who escaped Honduras after her gang-member boyfriend beat her and threatened to kill her children. The shelter, La 72, was named for the 2010 massacre of 72 migrants in northeastern Mexico by members of a drug cartel.

Even with its long-running drug war and a sliding peso, Mexico boasts a degree of safety and economic stability not seen in Honduras and El Salvador, which are among the poorest and most dangerous nations in the world. The roots of the violence there can be traced in part to the mass deportation of Los Angeles gang members to Central America in the 1990s. Experts say those countries aren’t prepared to reintegrate large numbers of new deportees.

Javier Eduardo Ferrera, 23, was deported to Honduras from North Carolina in September after police discovered cocaine in the car that he was driving.

Six days after he was released in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, Ferrera left for Tenosique. He didn’t feel safe in Honduras, but he also didn’t want to risk ending up in prison if he was caught illegally crossing the U.S. border. Immigrants who have been previously deported and are discovered again in the U.S. can be charged with a federal crime punishable by up to two years in prison — a sentence Trump has threatened to increase to five years once he is in the White House.

“Let’s wait and see whether Trump accomplishes his goals,” said Ferrera, as he unfolded a crinkled document that gives him the right to temporarily stay in Mexico while his request for a humanitarian visa is processed. “If I can’t be there, I’d rather be here.”

A sleepy city built along a muddy river in the oil-rich state of Tabasco, Tenosique has long been a way station for migrants heading north. “La Bestia,” the infamous cargo train that has taken the limbs and lives of many migrants clinging to its roof on their way north, rolls through town.

In the past, immigrants would spend only a few days in Tenosique, resting and waiting for the train, said teacher Gaspar Geronimo Gonzalez. “Now, many stay,” he said. Some families live in cinder-block shacks near the train station, while others sleep near the river. The town’s schools enroll well over 100 children from Honduras, who can be distinguished by their accents and Central American slang.

The migrants are staying despite Mexico’s own crackdown on illegal immigration.

After tens of thousands of Central American children started streaming to the U.S. border in 2014, generating headlines, President Obama responded by requesting money from Congress to help improve conditions in Honduras and El Salvador. More quietly, his administration pressured Mexico to dramatically step up its own border enforcement.

Parts of the southern states of Chiapas, Oaxaca and Tabasco now resemble border communities of Arizona and South Texas, with an influx of federal agents, militarized highway checkpoints and raids on hotels frequented by migrants.

The result?

Mexican authorities deported close to 200,000 people last year, and between October 2014 and May 2015, they detained more Central American migrants than the U.S. Border Patrol. Human rights advocates expect 2016 to be the year with the highest number of detentions and deportations yet.

Advocates have raised concerns about the treatment of migrants by Mexican immigration authorities, citing cases of extortion and abuse. They have also called on the Mexican government to slow deportations and approve more asylum requests. Last year, only 1,207 out of 3,486 were granted.

They say gang violence makes the current exodus from Honduras and El Salvador far different than previous waves of economic migration, and insist the U.S. and Mexico should recognize immigrants from those countries as refugees.

“What we need right now is a humanitarian response to the situation in Central America that recognizes an essential truth: that seeking refuge or asylum is not illegal,” said Geoff Thale, director of programs at an advocacy group called the Washington Office on Latin America. “It is a fundamental human right.”

Some in Mexico have questioned whether the country has the capacity to help Central Americans when it already is struggling to integrate hundreds of thousands of Mexican nationals deported from the U.S. in recent years. Many of them arrive in the country of their birth with little Spanish and face bureaucratic barriers to attending school and finding work.

Teofila Montejo De La Cruz, a 72-year-old woman in Tenosique, worries her Los Angeles-based son will be deported under Trump, and wonders if he will be able to find a job in Mexico if he has to come back.

Montejo has become known as a guardian angel for the Central American immigrants in Tenosique, giving them work in her restaurant and letting them sleep on the floor of her snack shop. But even she doesn’t believe large numbers of Central Americans should be able to stay permanently in Mexico.

“At some point, they have to go back to their own land,” she said.

For now, most people who pass through her shop have eyes only for America. Like Wilmer Mauricio Lopez, 19, and his two friends.

Lopez worked as a bus driver in Honduras but grew tired of being threatened by gang members strapped with guns “like policemen” who would corner him and say: “You’re either with us or we’ll kill you.” He fled to Mexico.

On a recent day, word spread through the shelter where he and his friends were staying that a northbound train was headed towards Tenosique. He said he knew that even if he reached the U.S., immigration agents might catch and deport him. “But I want to go and see what happens,” he said. “Only God really knows.”

He and his friends grabbed their few possessions and set off toward the tracks.

Twitter: @katelinthicum


Mexico instructs its embassy and consulates in the U.S. to increase measures to protect immigrants

‘Mexico is one big cemetery’: The search for the secret graves of ‘the disappeared’

Nearly 1 in 4 students at this L.A. high school migrated from Central America — many without their parents



Inside Fidel Castro’s life of luxury and ladies while country starved

With his shaggy beard and rumpled, olive-drab fatigues, Fidel Castro presented himself to the world as a modest man of the people.

At times, he claimed he made just 900 pesos ($43) a month and lived in a “fisherman’s hut” somewhere on the beach.

But Castro’s public image was a carefully crafted myth, more fiction than fact.

“While his people suffered, Fidel Castro lived in comfort — keeping everything, including his eight children, his many mistresses, even his wife, a secret,” wrote Juan Reinaldo Sanchez, Castro’s longtime bodyguard.

Sanchez’s book, “The Double Life of Fidel Castro: My 17 Years as Personal Bodyguard to El Líder Maximo,” describes his former boss’s hidden life of political ruthlessness, mistresses and greed.

Castro, who died Friday night at 90, made a personal fortune offering safe haven to drug traffickers, bedded a bevy of women over the decades, and once threatened his own brother, Raul, with execution when the brother lapsed into alcoholism in the ’90s, Sanchez’s book reveals.

Amazingly, most Cubans had no idea how, or even where, their secretive strongman actually lived.

Even his first and second wives were kept out of the public eye — as was their leader’s two-timing.

Castro cheated on his first wife, the upper-middle-class Mirta Diaz-Balart, with Natalia Revuelta.

“With her green eyes, her perfect face and her natural charm,” Revuelta was one of Havana’s most beautiful women, Sanchez wrote — no matter that she, too, was married at the start of their mid-’50s affair.

Diaz-Balart would bear Castro his first “official” son, Fidel Jr. or “Fidelito,” and Revuelta would bear Castro his only daughter, Alina.

Castro cheated, too, on his second wife, seducing “comrade Celia Sanchez, his private secretary, confidante and guard dog for 30 or so years,” Sanchez wrote.

Castro also bedded his English interpreter, his French interpreter, and a Cuban airline stewardess who attended him on foreign trips, Sanchez wrote.

“He doubtless had other relationships that I did not know about,” Sanchez wrote.

Castro kept 20 luxurious properties throughout the Caribbean nation, including his own island, accessed via a yacht decorated entirely in exotic wood imported from Angola, Sanchez wrote.

Taking control of Cuba on New Year’s Day 1959, after his guerrilla army routed the quarter-century-long dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, Castro vowed that unlike his hated predecessor, he’d share the nation’s wealth with its poorest citizens.

Alina Fernandez RevueltaPhoto: Bolivar Arellano
But while he made good on some of his promises to educate and care for his people — building free schools and hospitals with the help of his Soviet sponsors — Castro’s legacy was also one of repression and hypocrisy.

Deep poverty persisted — teen prostitution, crumbling houses, food rations. Political opponents were executed by the thousands by firing squad, or sentenced to decades of hard labor.

Castro had as many as 11 children with four women — only two of whom he was married to — and numerous other mistresses, Sanchez wrote.

Only those closest to him knew of these affairs.

The only woman who dared to cause him any public scandal was his rebellious daughter, Alina Fernandez Revuelta.

“I remember her in the 1980s, a pretty young woman who had become a model,” Sanchez wrote.

“One day, when I was in Fidel’s anteroom, Pepín Naranjo, his aide-de-camp, showed up with a copy of the magazine Cuba.

“Spread across its second page, Alina could be admired posing on a sailboat in a bikini, in an advertisement for Havana Club rum.”

“What on earth is this?” Fidel exclaimed, according to Sanchez.

“Call Alina, at once!”

What followed was an epic father-daughter blowout.

“Two hours later, Alina strode into his office, not in the least ­intimidated,” Sanchez recalled.

“The ensuing argument was the most memorable of them all: Shouting reverberated all over the room, shaking the walls of the presidential office.”

“Everybody knows you are my daughter! Posing in a bikini like that is unseemly!” Castro raged.

Several years later, in 1993, Fidel learned through his secret service that Alina was plotting to flee to the United States.

“I am warning you: Alina must not leave Cuba under any pretext or in any way,” Castro told his head bodyguard, Col. Jose Delgado Castro, according to Sanchez.

“You’ve been warned.”

Two months later, Alina put on a wig, packed a false Spanish passport, and, with the help of a network of international accomplices, sneaked out of Cuba.

Two months later, Alina put on a wig, packed a false Spanish passport, and, with the help of a network of international accomplices, sneaked out of Cuba.

This, too, ignited the dictator’s temper.

“One rarely sees the Comandante allowing his anger to explode,” Sanchez wrote.

“In 17 years, I saw it only twice. But when Pepín broke the unpleasant news to him that day, Fidel went mad with rage.

“Standing up, he stamped his feet on the ground while pointing his two index fingers down to his toes and waving them around.”

“What a band of incompetent fools!” he cried. “I want those responsible! I demand a report! I want to know how all this could have happened!”

Alina remains one of her father’s most outspoken opponents.

“When people tell me he’s a dictator, I tell them that’s not the right word,” she told the Miami Herald.

“Strictly speaking, Fidel is a tyrant.”

Castro’s second wife and widow, Dalia Soto del Valle, is the least known of Castro’s women, Sanchez noted.

They met in 1961. Castro noticed her in the audience as he gave an open-air speech, Sanchez remembered.

“Fidel spotted in the first row a gorgeous girl with whom he rapidly started exchanging furtive and meaningful glances,” Sanchez wrote.

After being vetted by his aide-de-camp, del Valle was installed in a discreet house just outside Havana.

Eventually, they married and had five sons, who grew up in hidden luxury on an estate outside Havana.

“With its orange, lemon, mandarin, grapefruit and banana trees, the estate resembled a veritable garden of Eden — especially if one compared it with the notorious ration book that all Cubans had to use to buy food,” Sanchez wrote.

Each member of the family possessed his or her own cow, “so as to satisfy each one’s individual taste, since the acidity and creaminess of fresh milk varies from one cow to another.”

Disloyalty exacted a heavy price. Dissidents were jailed for as little as handing out books on democracy.

Castro himself displayed little loyalty, either professionally or personally.

Even his closest aides faced execution if it suited his agenda.

In the late ’80s, when an international scandal brewed over Castro’s exchanges of safe haven for cash with Colombian cocaine traffickers, Castro had no problem throwing those closest to him under the bus.

“Very simply, a huge drug-trafficking transaction was being carried out at the highest echelons of the state.”

Castro “was directing illegal operations like a real godfather,” Sanchez wrote.

Revolutionary Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa, who had fought alongside Fidel and Raul Castro, was at the center of the drug dealings, Sanchez said.

But when the US caught wind, Castro vowed an “official inquiry.”

Raul was forced to watch on closed-circuit TV as a kangaroo court tried and convicted Ochoa — and then to watch the general’s execution by firing squad.

“Castro made us watch it,” Sanchez recalled.

“That’s what the Comandante was capable of to keep his power: not just of killing but also of humiliating and reducing to nothing men who had served him devotedly.”

After Ochoa’s death, Raul plunged into alcoholism, drowning his grief and humiliation with vodka.

“Listen, I’m talking to you as a brother,” Castro warned him.

“Swear to me that you will come out of this lamentable state and I promise you nothing will happen to you.”

Raul, who perhaps knew best what his brother was capable of, complied.

Donald Trump certainly wasn’t shedding any tears over Castro’s death.


Pope’s possible deal with China would ‘betray Christ’, says Hong Kong cardinal

Senior Catholic Joseph Zen says the pontiff ‘may not know the Communist persecutors who have killed hundreds of thousands’

Cardinal Joseph Zen, a former bishop of Hong Kong, says most supporters of the potential Vatican deal do not truly know China. Photograph: Benjamin Haas for the Guardian China Pope’s possible deal with China would ‘betray Christ’, says Hong Kong cardinal Senior Catholic Joseph Zen says the pontiff ‘may not know the Communist persecutors who have killed hundreds of thousands’

The most senior Chinese Catholic has slammed a potential rapprochement between the Vatican and Beijing, saying it would be “betraying Jesus Christ”, amid a thaw in more than six decades of bitter relations.

Talk of a deal between the two sides has been building for months, with some saying the diplomatic coup for Pope Francis would be resolving the highly controversial issue of allowing China’s Communist government to have a hand in selecting bishops.

But Cardinal Joseph Zen, the 84-year-old former bishop of Hong Kong, has been an outspoken critic, saying any agreement where Beijing would have a hand in approving clergy would be “a surrender”.

“Maybe the pope is a little naive, he doesn’t have the background to know the Communists in China,” Zen said at the Salesian school in Hong Kong where he still teaches. “The pope used to know the persecuted Communists [in Latin America], but he may not know the Communist persecutors who have killed hundreds of thousands.”

Chinese Catholics are free to go to mass and attend government-sanctioned churches, but barred from proselytising. The state-controlled China Catholic Patriotic Association controls the church and appoints bishops, currently without any input from the Vatican.

An “underground” Catholic church exists, with some estimates saying it is larger than the official one, and its members and clergy have faced persecution by authorities.

Protestant Christians also face similar challenges, and a recent campaign by authorities in eastern China has seen more than 1,200 crosses removed from buildings and churches demolished.

Zen complained that most supporters of the deal did not truly know China, lacking first-hand experience with the state of the church under the Communists. He spent seven years frequently teaching in cities across China in the wake of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters that was followed by severe tightening of freedom of expression and religion.

One motivation for the Vatican is the relatively small number of Catholics in a country filled with people who are increasingly searching for meaning in their lives. There are roughly 10 million Catholics, just a 10th of the overall number of Christians in the country.

With “fake freedom” under a proposed deal, priests could more easily preach and more churches would open, Zen predicted, but “it’s only the impression of freedom, it’s not real freedom, the people sooner or later will see the bishops are puppets of the government and not really the shepherds of the flock.”

“The official bishops are not really preaching the gospel,” Zen added “They are preaching obedience to Communist authority.”

Francesco Sisci, an Italian scholar and journalist who is based in Beijing, said “a very wide-ranging agreement” appeared to be on the horizon but that it remained unclear exactly when the deal would be unveiled. No observers expected it to lead to full diplomatic relations.

Sisci, who conducted a rare interview with Pope Francis at the start of this year in which the leader of the Catholic church backed the idea of dialogue with Beijing, said he believed the deal would represent a “a major breakthrough” for China, the Vatican and people of all faiths.

Sisci rejected the idea that the Vatican was abandoning its principles by engaging with Beijing and claimed many within the church leadership believed it would be more effective to talk to China’s Communist leaders than to “wage war” against them on issues such as human rights and religious freedom.

“The church doesn’t want crusades … and doesn’t want to start a new one with China,” he said.

The Italian academic said he believed the pope thought the church could play “a crucial role in helping China move into the modern world, to become a modern society”.

“He may be naive but it is his job being naive, being a man of faith,” Sisci added.

But that naivety could harm the Catholic church in China for decades to come, according to Zen, and a perception is building that the pope is pushing a pact he may not fully understand.

“You cannot go into negotiations with the mentality ‘we want to sign an agreement at any cost’, then you are surrendering yourself, you are betraying yourself, you are betraying Jesus Christ,” Zen lamented.

“If you cannot get a good deal, an acceptable deal, then the Vatican should walk away and maybe try again later,” he added. “Could the church negotiate with Hitler? Could it negotiate with Stalin? No.”

Ordinary Catholics who attend the government-controlled church welcome the negotiations as any deal would legitimise what is essentially a schismatic church.

“If they could really strike a deal, not only would us Catholics be happy, but all of the Chinese people should rejoice,” said Zhao, 36, who has been a Catholic for 20 years and works at the oldest Catholic church in China, close to Tiananmen Square in Beijing. He declined to give his full name because of the sensitivity of discussing religion.

“Chinese society needs faith right now,” he added, saying a warming of ties would increase the number of Catholics, “which is a benefit to all society”.

But Zen warned that gains, diplomatically and in the number of faithful, could be short-lived.
In the long run people would leave the church as they became disillusioned with the “fake” institution, Zen said, adding “the clergy need to side with the people, the poor and the persecuted, not to government”.

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of new Christians,” Zen said. “If that blood is poisoned, how long will those new Christians last?”

Additional reporting by Christy Yao


Indonesian woman flogged for close proximity with a man

Banda Aceh (Indonesia) (AFP) – An Indonesian woman screamed in agony Monday as she was caned in Aceh, the latest in a growing number of women to be publicly flogged for breaking the province’s strict Islamic laws.

Aceh is the only province in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country that imposes sharia law. People can face floggings for a range of offences — from gambling, to drinking alcohol, to gay sex.

In the latest caning, five people — two women and three men — were flogged in front of a cheering crowd at a mosque in the provincial capital Banda Aceh.

The 34-year-old woman who yelled in pain had been found guilty of spending time in close proximity with a man who was not her husband in contravention of Aceh’s Islamic regulations.

She was lashed seven times with a rattan cane by a man wearing long robes and a hood, with just slits for the eyes.

“It hurts so bad,” the woman said, raising her arms into the air, as she was beaten.

The 32-year-old man with whom she was caught was also flogged seven times.

Two university students, both 19, received 100 lashes of the cane after they confessed to sex outside marriage. They stared at the ground as they were flogged, showing little emotion.

A man found guilty of sex outside marriage was flogged 22 times although his partner, who is two-months pregnant, is still waiting to learn her fate after facing trial at an Islamic court.

However Aceh authorities typically spare pregnant women from canings.

Aceh, on Sumatra island, began implementing sharia law after being granted special autonomy in 2001, an attempt by the central government in Jakarta to quell a long-running separatist insurgency.

Islamic laws have been strengthened since the province struck a peace

deal with Jakarta in 2005, and there has been a particular increase in the number of women being caned in recent times.


Trump Has Chairman of Top Nordic Bank Predicting Better Times

The chairman of the biggest Nordic bank says Donald Trump’s election win is good news for the U.S. economy, thanks to the real estate mogul’s pledge to deliver tax cuts and deregulation.

“Based on the expectation that the American President and Congress are likely to act on taxes, and perhaps on regulation as well, I think there is a slightly more positive outlook for the American economy over the intermediate horizon,” Bjorn Wahlroos, the chairman of Nordea Bank AB, said in an interview in Stockholm on Thursday. But for the rest of the world, things will probably continue “as before,” he said.

Wahlroos’s view of Trump’s policies contrasts with criticism he has leveled at Sweden’s government for pushing laws he says are too tough on banking. The ruling coalition in Scandinavia’s largest economy, whose banks are among the world’s best capitalized, is planning a new financial tax to help cover welfare spending. The finance industry warns such a levy may wipe out 16,000 jobs as firms either move operations abroad or rely on robots instead of humans. The government says banks are exaggerating.

There’s much to suggest Sweden’s regulatory environment has done little to hamper its banks from thriving. In the years following the 2008 financial crisis, Sweden’s four biggest banks — Nordea, Handelsbanken, Swedbank and SEB — have consistently outperformed most of their peers in European stress tests.

Global Banks
Since the beginning of 2009, Nordea has doubled its market value, making it roughly twice as big as Deutsche Bank. JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs have both seen their market values rise about 150 percent over the same period. Wells Fargo is up almost 80 percent, while Citigroup is down about 16 percent.

There’s evidence to suggest that a more rigorously regulated environment supports rather than impedes economic health. Under Democratic administrations, which have tended to lean more heavily toward regulation than their Republican counterparts, the U.S. economy grew an average of 4.33 percent a year. Republican administrations have overseen an average growth rate of 2.54 percent, according to a 2015 paper by Princeton University economists Alan S. Blinder and Mark W. Watson covering 64 years of data.

Wahlroos said he wants Nordea to stay in Sweden, but warned that there are limits to how far his loyalty to the country will stretch if the business environment becomes too difficult. He’s previously signaled a readiness to shift parts of the bank’s operations outside Sweden and his talks this summer over a potential merger with ABN Amro Group were widely seen as a hint to the government in Stockholm that he was willing to turn words into actions.

‘Mild Words’
By approaching ABN Amro, Nordea has “made the point, in mild words, that it is important from our point of view that we need to be competitive,” Wahlroos said. The commitment to Sweden “may change if indeed new sort of levies or new regulations are placed on the banking industry,” he said.

As for the U.S. under a President Trump, Wahlroos said the reality TV star’s protectionist views may ultimately undo any good that is expected to come from his other policies.

“It remains to be seen whether Trump’s negative stance on some issues such as free trade will over the longer run have a negative impact,” he said.

“But over the short term, his approach to taxes and implicit promise of tax cuts, particularly corporate taxes, have a positive outlook.”

Saw Brexit Coming
While Wahlroos was relatively upbeat on Trump’s election win, he was gloomier on Britain’s efforts to disentangle itself from the European Union. Though the Nordea chairman said he saw Brexit coming, after numerous trips to rural England, the sheer complexity of the task ahead is still only just dawning on people, he said.

“The technical perplexity of this thing — clause 50 and what it all entails — the task is just daunting,” he said. Nordea itself isn’t really exposed to any Brexit risks, he said.

“There might be a small negative in our London operation, which is not all that big, but on the other hand you can also say that we gain in competitiveness relative to the British banks.”


imagesTrump’s election has China’s former critics looking to it to defend globalization — willingly or not

Just months ago, world leaders were fretting over the threat posed by an increasingly assertive China.

The country’s government oversaw the worst crackdown on dissent in nearly three decades. The Chinese built, then militarized, islands in disputed waters of the South China Sea. They tightened controls over the Internet, freezing out foreign firms while allowing their domestic competitors to prosper.

Then the United States elected Donald Trump as president.

Now some of those same countries are looking to Beijing to defend international cooperation on matters as diverse as trade and climate change, propelling China to new heights on the world stage.

And yet China doesn’t sound particularly enthused about its elevation.

The Global Times, a Communist Party mouthpiece, this week called it “beyond imagination to think that China could replace the U.S. to lead the world.”

The 21st Century Business Herald, China’s leading business newspaper, referred to the country as “a promoter, a reformer, not a revolutionary.”

China “wants to be a force of stability,” said Min Ye, an associate professor at Boston University’s Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies. “But it’s not into changing the global order. It’s a big responsibility … China still sees itself as a growing power.”

China, whose leaders’ greatest concern is domestic stability, is also battling a slowing economy and rampant income inequality at home.

“Factor one is whether China has the capacity to be leader, and factor two is whether China has the willingness to be leader,” said Chen Dingding, professor of international relations at Jinan University in Guangzhou.

“If the U.S. — No. 1 power — not interested in global leadership, why should China be?”

The election of a U.S. president who takes an inward and sometimes contradictory approach to foreign policy has already handed China major geopolitical wins, analysts say.

The president-elect’s vow to block President Obama’s signature trade pact, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, has drawn some countries closer to China’s economic orbit.

Malaysia, once a backer of the 12-nation free trade deal, is shifting its focus to a Chinese alternative, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. Vietnam recently decided not to ratify the U.S.-backed agreement, leaving an opening for China’s pact. Even longtime American ally Australia plans to seek out other trade options.

Obama saw the TPP — which excluded China — as vital to expanding America’s influence in the region. China considered it a blatant attempt to contain its growing economic and political clout.

Trump’s dismissal of the pact “leaves a gap,” said Claire Reade, a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “Is China going to walk into that gap to encourage regional and global integration? I think the answer is yes.”

The region’s pivot toward China on economic matters hurts the United States’ ability to shape developments on the political front. The U.S. typically ties its international aid and loans to causes such as gender equality, government transparency and human rights — issues on which China’s authoritarian leaders rarely engage.

“U.S. hegemony is not great, but it’s the best hegemony we’ve had in a long time,” said David Zweig, a Canadian who researches Sino-American relations at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

China has reason to defend globalization.

Although Beijing has chafed at perceived U.S. incursions, including criticism of its human rights record and U.S. naval operations in the South China Sea, it has benefited greatly from closer economic cooperation with the rest of the world. The struggling country that entered the World Trade Organization in 2001 has grown into the world’s second-largest economy.

While Trump has been promoting his “America first” platform, China has sought to reassure world leaders about its reliability and consistency on international matters.

“China will not shut the door to the outside world but will open it even wider,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said Nov. 20 at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Peru.

Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin last week dismissed Trump’s assertion that climate change is a “hoax” invented by China to destroy U.S. competitiveness and pledged to defend a landmark agreement to fight global warming “whatever the circumstances.”

This year, China opened the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a Beijing-based rival to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. The country has also greatly expanded its “One Belt, One Road” initiative, which aims to revive ancient Silk Road trade routes by building roads, ports and other infrastructure across Asia, Europe and North Africa.

Nations far outside China’s regional sphere of influence are paying heed.

In 2012, China struck a deal with 16 Central and Eastern European countries to deepen economic, tourism and education ties.

That framework has encouraged Eastern European countries to see China as “sort of a savior” in difficult economic times, when there is a need for investment that the West cannot provide, said Anastas Vangeli, a sociologist at the Polish Academy of Sciences.

China’s economic rise, combined with the shock of the recent global financial crisis and the wave of populism now sweeping the U.S. and Europe, has some people in the region questioning the virtues of Western-style democracy.

“When you take a lot of people who don’t know much about China, and you show them snatches of Beijing and Shanghai, they get fascinated with it,” Vangeli said. “Often in their statements, they say things like, ‘Maybe China got some things right.’”

For more news from Asia, follow @JRKaiman on Twitter

Meyers is a special correspondent. Nicole Liu in The Times’ Beijing bureau contributed to this report.


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