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China policy round-up: US and China begin crucial trade talk, finance ministry transfers more money into social security fund, state employees get new sanction rules

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By Rebecca Feng
11 Oct 2019

In this round-up, vice premier Liu He started a two-day negotiation in Washington DC, the Chinese Ministry of Finance transferred 10% of its stake in Bank of Communications into a state-run fund and the National People’s Congress released draft rules to regulate state employees’ public discourse.

Chinese vice premier Liu He was in Washington DC on Thursday and Friday, holding a much anticipated minister-level trade talk with US trade representative Robert Lighthizer and US secretary of treasury Steven Mnuchin. 

Chinese commerce minister Zhong Shang and governor of People’s Bank of China, Yi Gang, were with Liu, state-owned media Xinhua News reported on Tuesday.

Before the talks even began, the media reported that the Chinese side was narrowing the scope of topics they were willing to talk about.

That wasn’t all. Just three days before the talk began, the US Department of Commerce placed 28 Chinese companies on its Entity List, accusing them of being allegedly involved in human rights violations against the Muslim people in Xinjiang province. Companies blacklisted include surveillance video camera producers Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology and Dahua Technology. 

In a statement, secretary of commerce Wilbur Ross said that the US “cannot and will not tolerate the brutal suppression of ethnic minorities within China”. 

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Guang Shuang hit back in an October 8 press conference. 

“I must point out that what is happening in Xinjiang belongs to the domestic affair of China,” he said. “No country has the right to interfere. There are no human rights issues in Xinjiang as the US said. These accusations are only excuses for the US to interfere with China’s domestic business.”

Geng’s comments did little to appease the US, however. On Wednesday, the US State Department put a visa ban on Chinese officials involved in mass detention of Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang.  

Despite that backdrop, talks seemed to have gone well on Thursday. US president Donald Trump tweeted on Thursday confirming a meeting between him and Liu He on Friday at the White House, seen as a positive signal. 

“Big day of negotiations with China,” the president tweeted. “They want to make a deal, but do I?”

Meanwhile, Chinese president Xi Jinping is in India meeting with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi on Friday and Saturday in the city of Chennai.

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Last week, the Chinese Ministry of Finance transferred10% of its shares in Bank of Communications to the government-backed National Council for Social Security Fund, according to a filing by the bank. Local media estimated the amount to be  worth Rmb10.7bn ($1.5bn). 

Previously, the MoF had transferred stakes in Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Agricultural Bank of China and the People’s Insurance Company to the fund. 

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The National People’s Congress released draft rules on government sanctions for public employees on Tuesday. Public employees include executives of state-owned enterprises and top management at public hospitals and universities. 

According to the draft rules, state employees can be punished for publishing articles and giving speeches opposing the country’s guiding ideology, the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, the socialist system, or the reform and opening-up strategy. 

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Liu Shiyu, the former chief of China Securities Regulatory Commission, has received his verdict after being investigated for five months, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said on Friday. 

Liu was found using his position to seek personal gains for others and helping relatives illegally purchase properties, according to the statement

He also made improper public comments and lacks political and confidentiality awareness, the statement added. 

However, Liu will remain a member of the Communist Party, in contrast to the usual punishments given to disgraced officials. 

By Rebecca Feng
11 Oct 2019