China’s carrier fleet must sail beyond offshore zone



China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, as part of a fleet of Chinese warships, set off for an open-sea training exercise recently. American and Japanese analysts believe that the Liaoning and its fleet will go beyond the first island chain and head to the Western Pacific. Some believe it will go to the South China Sea. The drill indicates that the combat capability of China’s aircraft carrier has enhanced and its areas of operation have expanded.

The fleet, including the Liaoning, will grow to have the leading combat capability among Western Pacific countries. But it lags behind the US main aircraft carrier fleet in terms of fighting capacity and experience. The Liaoning and its fleet represent a necessary step as Chinese navy advances.

China’s defense ministry said the Liaoning is used for “scientific research, experiment and training.” The Chinese-made aircraft carriers are under construction, and in a few years, China will have more aircraft carriers that bear more combat capabilities. This will not be far off.

The role of the Liaoning should not be confined to military technological experiments. It should also test the geopolitical role Chinese aircraft carriers play and the response of major world powers to China’s buildup of its navy.

Aircraft carriers are strategic tools which should be used to show China’s strength to the world and shape the outside world’s attitude toward China. It is not built for war only. Chinese aircraft carriers must set off on a long journey. China’s core interests are mainly offshore, but the range of aircraft carriers must go beyond offshore areas. The rivalry must be extended to wider areas so as to ease China’s offshore pressure.

As China’s only aircraft carrier fleet now, it should have the ability and courage to sail further. It should not only pass the first island chain, but also sail past the second island chain and go to the waters where Chinese cruise fleets have never been.

The Chinese fleet will cruise to the Eastern Pacific sooner or later. When China’s aircraft carrier fleet appears in offshore areas of the US one day, it will trigger intense thinking about maritime rules.

The distant sailing of the Chinese aircraft carrier fleet is not aimed at provoking the US nor at reshaping maritime strategic structure. But if the fleet is able to enter areas where the US has core interests, the situation when the US unilaterally imposes pressure on China will change.

China should speed up launching its new aircraft carriers so as to activate their combat.

In addition, China needs to think about setting up navy supply points in South America right now.

Chinese people love peace, but the Chinese military must be resolute. China will not be easily irritated, but once it is, it will take firm countermeasures. The Liaoning and its fleet is expected to experience the cruel geopolitical competition and become a standard bearer of the Chinese navy.

With iron will and key allies, Syria’s Assad defies expectations

Written off by the West, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has defied all expectations of his downfall, thanks to his iron will but also his crucial alliances with Russia and Iran.

Syria’s army declared Thursday it has recaptured all of Aleppo, allowing the 51-year-old president to deal a potentially knock-out blow to the opposition forces that rose up against him in 2011.

“The liberation of Aleppo is not only a victory for Syria but also for those who really contribute to the fight against terrorism, notably Russia and Iran,” state news agency SANA quoted Assad as saying before the army announcement.

For nearly six years, Assad has been able to count on his bloodied but loyal armed forces, his powerful intelligence services and the support of many people in Syria terrified by the rise of jihadist forces such as the Islamic State group.

His opponents, meanwhile, have often been deeply divided and disorganised, and received timid backing from Western and Arab Gulf allies unwilling to stand by their side militarily.

Assad, analysts said, was able to survive because he never wavered in his deep belief that he had no choice but to fight on.

Key dates in the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.© Provided by AFP Key dates in the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.

“It has always been a struggle for life and death. There was no question of stopping this war. It was either win or lose,” said Nikolaos van Dam, a former Dutch ambassador and Syria expert.

“The regime has half a century of experience of how to stay in power. It has the support of the army and security services,” he said.

“Popular support is not that decisive, but comes among others from minorities that feel threatened by Islamists and jihadists.”

Having arrived in power in 2000 following the death of his father Hafez, who ruled Syria with an iron fist for 30 years, Assad was taken by surprise by the revolution.

– Sure of ‘ultimate victory’ –

Inspired by the Arab Spring movement sweeping the Middle East, opponents of Assad’s rule rose up in a wave of protests across the country.

Assad did not hesitate and the protests were violently suppressed, with the Syrian leader denouncing his opponents as either jihadists, foreign agents of a conspiracy concocted by the United States and Israel, or both.

Syrians living in Turkey hold signs during a protest against Russia, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's regime ally, in front of the Russian Embassy along Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul on December 17, 2016© Provided by AFP Syrians living in Turkey hold signs during a protest against Russia, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s regime ally, in front of the Russian Embassy along Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul on December 17, 2016

Opposition forces took up arms and many of the rebels were hailed in the West and Sunni Gulf Arab states — long enemies of Assad’s Shiite-linked regime — as the vanguard of a democratic Syria.

Still, despite some tentative efforts to provide arms and training to opposition forces, the revolution’s backers never cracked Assad’s conviction that he was going to win the war, analysts said.

“Assad advisers maintained from the beginning that they were confident of success so long as the United States Air Force did not bomb Damascus or get involved in the war,” said Joshua Landis, director of the Centre for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma.

Even at the regime’s worst moment, when his forces were driven in March 2015 from Idlib province, “Assad and his advisers brushed off their defeats as limited”, Landis said.

“They always projected a strong sense of self-assurance in their ultimate victory.”

Patience was vital, analysts said, with Assad — no matter how isolated from the West — willing to hold out for as long as it took to put down the rebellion.

“He was from the same school as his father, and this school has always understood the importance of time, how to turn bad headwinds into good,” said Waddah Abed Rabbo, editor-in-chief of Syria’s influential Al-Watan daily newspaper.

Still, the key to his victory, Abed Rabbo and others said, was the steadfast support Assad was able to count on from his foreign allies.

“He never doubted his victory because he knew that his country had for decades nourished a solid strategic alliance with Russia, Iran and others,” he said.

– Old, strong alliances –

Those alliances date back decades.

The Soviet Union was a major supporter of Assad’s father, and Syria’s ruling elite — hailing from the Alawite branch of Shiite Islam — have long had close ties with Shiite-dominated Iran.

“Syria’s relations with its allies are old and founded on… interests that are still valid today,” said Souhail Belhadj, a political scientist at the Geneva-based Institute of International and Development Studies.

Emboldened by his win in Aleppo, Syria's President Bashar al-Assad now has little reason to make any concessions to the opposition© Provided by AFP Emboldened by his win in Aleppo, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad now has little reason to make any concessions to the opposition

“The Syrian regime has always shown itself to be a loyal military, strategic, political, ideological and economic ally for as long as this alliance has lasted.”

In contrast, as Syria’s war dragged on, the opposition saw its support dwindle away.

The “Friends of Syria” group, formed in 2012 by Western and Gulf nations to support the rebellion, backed the National Coalition as the country’s recognised opposition and imposed sanctions on the regime.

But that support, analysts said, never went far enough.

“The weakness of Assad’s enemies has to a great extent been determined by insufficient support of the ‘friends’ of the Syrian opposition,” van Dam said.

Emboldened by his win in Aleppo, Assad now has little reason to make any concessions to the opposition.

“He will rule much as he has in the past, using a combination of intimidation and patronage,” Landis said. “We have seen that the Assads are unable to change the fundamental nature of the regime.”

Kellyanne Conway Brings Blunt Talk About Gender to the White House

Kellyanne Conway’s appointment Thursday as counselor to the president elevates a woman to a key position of power in an administration that’s faced criticism over being too white and male.

Out of 26 named White House staff or cabinet members thus far, only six, including Conway, are women. She remains the only woman in a top-level staff position in the Trump White House, joining chief of staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon.

In announcing her new role, the Trump administration heralded her as having “shattered the glass ceiling for women” by being the first female presidential campaign manager to win a general election. And the longtime GOP strategist, who rose to prominence in Republican politics in part as a pollster specializing on Republican women, has never been shy about addressing her gender.

“I’m a female consultant in the Republican Party, which means when I walk into a meeting at the RNC or somewhere I always feel like I’m walking into a bachelor party in the locker room of the Elks club,” she once told the New Yorker.

But last week Conway seemed to acknowledge that the flip side of being a woman in politics — having to juggle a nonstop, high-stress job with the demands of parenting four young children — could’ve kept her out of the White House entirely.

“I do politely mention to them the question isn’t would you take the job, the male sitting across from me who’s going to take a big job in the White House. The question is, ‘Would you want your wife to?'” she noted at an event hosted by Politico. “Would you want the mother of children to? You really see their entire visage change. It’s like, ‘Oh, no, they wouldn’t want their wife to take that job.'”

On Thursday, however, she insisted there would be room for both her family and her job in the Trump White House.

“[President-elect Trump] is gracious, he’s a gentleman, and he’s all about family, and he means that with other people’s families. So I’m not worried about the family-friendliness of the Trump White House,” she said on Fox News’ podcast.

And Conway’s years of parenting four children may indeed have contributed to her success during the campaign, and helped make her such an integral part of Trump’s inner circle. She became known as the “Trump Whisperer” for her ability to reign in and guide an unpredictable and often uncontrollable candidate prone to damaging outbursts.

In an October interview with New York Magazine, she memorably described her strategy for dealing with Trump’s penchant for controversial tweets in terms of curbing a child’s sweet tooth.

“You had these people saying, ‘Delete the app! Stop tweeting!'” Conway said. “I would say, ‘Here are a couple of cool things we should tweet today.’ It’s like saying to someone, ‘How about having two brownies instead of six?'”

From her telling, Conway’s White House role will be a little bit of everything — “whatever the President wants it to be,” she said on CNN Thursday.

“It is likely to include communications, and is likely to include data and strategy,” she said.

But she’ll have the time to do it all — parent, strategize inside and outside the White House — precisely because, she said Thursday, she’s not a man in politics. Turning the stereotype of the working mother unable to juggle multiple responsibilities on its head, Conway said on Fox Business News that unlike many men, she doesn’t spend her free time on unnecessary distractions.

“I would say that I don’t play golf, I don’t have a mistress. So, I have a lot of time that these other men don’t. I see people on the weekend, they spend an awful lot of time on their golf games and that’s there right, but the kids, they’ll be with me,” she said.

Chinese underwater robotics industry faces achievement gap: experts


[File photo]

China’s underwater robot technology has advanced significantly in recent years, but the country still faces problems, including a lack of applicable products and relatively slow transformation process from technologies to applicable products, experts said.

In 2016, China’s underwater robot industry saw fast development. In January, the homegrown unmanned autonomous underwater vehicle Qianling-2 accomplished its first undersea mission, searching the seabed and collecting high-precision hydrological data.

In August, Haidou-1, China’s domestic underwater glider, dove over 10,767 meters below sea level, making China the third country after Japan and the U.S. to have built submersibles capable of reaching depths in excess of 10,000 meters.

Though China’s progress in underwater robot technology has been recognized by the international community, the country still lags behind compared to many developed nations. It is time-consuming to transform technologies into actual products, and China still has a long way to go to establish a mature industrial system.

“In the U.S., an underwater robot can be tested hundreds of times per year, while in China we can only test the robot dozens of times [due to the slow process of technological transformation]. In the long run, China will fall even further behind,” Liu Jian, chief designer of Qianling-2, told Economic Information Daily.

Feng Xisheng, an academic at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, pointed out that China needs to build a system covering the research, design, manufacturing, application and talent training of underwater robots. While other countries have established distinct industrial sectors to develop such technologies, underwater robots in China are mainly studied at research centers, with few companies taking part in the process.

Experts believe that favorable policies and a mature system should be established in China to promote its underwater robotics industry, which is crucial for the country’s sustainable development and national security.

Rural Chinese students to visit UK for soccer exchange

Thirteen children from rural areas of Yuzhong County, Gansu province will visit the U.K. for a two-week soccer exchange program before the end of December.

Most of the children are from remote mountainous areas. Though some have played soccer outside the province before, this is the first international exchange in which the students will participate.

“I’ve heard of the U.K., and it’s an ancient country,” said Yang Boyuan, one of the participating children.

Short training courses at Arsenal football club will be arranged for the children after they arrive in U.K. Meanwhile, they will have the opportunity to visit U.K. universities and watch Premier League games.

According to Hu Min, a teacher accompanying the children on the trip, soccer education has not only enriched the after-school lives of the students, but also provided more options for their futures. Ma Anwu, principal of a local middle school, said that the trip is of great significance for the students.

“By experiencing the culture and training methods of a true soccer power, a solid foundation will be laid for the students in terms of soccer expertise,” Ma said. The students will also be shown during the trip that they can alter their own fates through sheer effort, Ma added.

Recently, a series of activities has been carried out in Yuzhong County to promote soccer education. In addition, more and more soccer fields are being constructed in schools around the county, which will be open to the public in the future.

8 iPhone explosions reported in 3 months

The photo provided by Chen

The Shanghai Consumer Council (SCC) received eight complaints from consumers reporting iPhones exploding under normal usage from Sept. 1 to Nov. 30, 2016. So far, no third-party authority has explained the cause of these complaints.

The iPhone 6 Plus belonging to a woman surnamed Chen exploded on Aug. 31 while she was in the car. Fortunately, she was able to throw the device out of the vehicle before sustaining any injuries. Later, Apple rejected Chen’s application for compensation, claiming that the explosion was caused by extenuating circumstances.

The photo provided by Liu

Another woman, surnamed Liu, had a similar experience. Her iPhone 6 Plus exploded while she was charging it. The phone case melted, and the explosion almost set her house on fire. After mediation by SCC, Apple agreed to replace the devices of all eight consumers. However, the company has not given a statement on the cause of these incidents.

Wang Dong, a senior manager of SCC, said that Apple must adopt the right attitude when it comes to Chinese consumers’ rights. He believes Apple should inform consumers about the cause of their phones’ malfunctions after the devices are replaced.

Legal experts argue that Apple is obliged to solve the problems for consumers, since it establishes a contractual relationship with consumers whenever Apple products are sold. SCC may file a lawsuit against Apple if the latter fails to offer a satisfactory response.


First telecom scam avoided after issuance of new money transfer rules

A Hunan branch of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) successfully identified a case of telecom fraud on Dec. 1, recoverng 28,000 RMB ($4,069) for a customer. This is the first telecom fraud case to be identified and avoided in China since new rules were issued to crack down on illegal practices.

The customer, who had transferred money to a bank account he believed to belong to his friend, came to the bank after realizing he had been cheated. Ten minutes later, bank clerks informed him the transfer was revoked.

New rules regulating the application and use of bank cards took effect on Dec. 1. According to the rules, money transferred to another account via ATM will be “frozen” by the bank for 24 hours, and customers can apply to have transfers revoked within that period.


Expert calls for students to learn safe, proper sit-up form

Reports of a 25-year-old Taiwanese man who was almost paralyzed after doing sit-ups have recently led to heated online debate. Some people argue that it’s time to say goodbye to physical education classes in primary and middle school, but one expert says that’s the wrong reaction; instead, people need to learn to do sit-ups the right way.

Last year, a U.S. media outlet stated that people should stop doing sit-ups entirely, arguing that U.S. military experts have scrapped the exercise, which can lead to back injuries.

A sports and physical health professor with Beijing Sport University explained that it is bad to do sit-ups with one’s hands behind one’s head, because if the exercise is not done right in that position, it can result in spinal injuries. The professor also pointed out that sit-ups are unlikely to cause paralysis even when done incorrectly, as the canalis spinalis protects the spine from excessive pressure.

The professor added that planks and sit-ups strengthen different muscle groups, and therefore have different training effects. He also suggested that physical education teachers guide students to properly draw on their abdominal muscle strength when they do sit-ups.

China intensifies environmental inspections

China’s central government has organized a second group of inspection teams to review environmental protection efforts in local governments. Inspection teams will be dispatched to seven provincial regions including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong, according to the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

The strict supervision system for environmental protection was approved by the central government in 2015. According to the arrangement, central inspectors will visit all provincial-level regions by the end of 2017, strengthening supervision over key decision-makers.

The first round of inspections took place in Heilongjiang, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Henan and Yunnan provinces, along with Inner Mongolia, Guangxi Zhuang and Ningxia Hui Autonomous Regions. Through the efforts of these seven teams, over half of all Chinese provinces will be inspected.

Inspection teams will keep a close watch over prominent environmental issues and potential mismanagement or inaction on the part of local governments.

Chinese market demands more quality goods: People’s Daily

A survey found that both Chinese and foreign businesses adopted double standards toward product quality for goods sold in the Chinese and overseas markets, according to a People’s Daily report on Dec. 2. Products in the Chinese market are usually of a lower quality compared to goods sold in the overseas market.

Experts explained that such difference can be attributed to industrial standards, market demand and incomplete supervision systems, among other factors. According to the report, Chinese consumers often “chase” high-quality products overseas, only to find that many are actually made in China. Over 99 percent of food exported from China passes industry standards, but food in the domestic market only has a 90 percent passing rate, despite management and regulations.

After coming to China, some international brands, such as McDonald’s, KFC and Pizza Hut, become more lax with their standards, leading to several food safety scandals in recent years. Some have even refused to recall products after quality issues emerged. For example, in September, Samsung recalled its Note 7 smartphones in the U.S. and Australia, excluding the Chinese market from its recall list. Toshiba did the same thing by opting not to recall defective notebooks, TVs and other products in China.

Zhao Ping, a researcher at the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, said that consumers are more focused on quality these days, but high-quality products in China cannot satisfy the current needs of consumers. Persistent double standards have aggravated supply and demand conflicts in China.

In addition to lower-quality products in the Chinese market, a supply and demand imbalance, overall supply and improper management have also contributed to dissatisfactory products in China, analysts believe.

On the other hand, the phenomenon of high-quality products being made in China but sold abroad can be explained by the fact that high prices suppress sales among Chinese consumers, so producers choose to seek profit in international markets instead.

Jing Linbo, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, pointed out that the government cannot only rely on the market to make adjustments, but should encourage producers to pursue higher quality in case of market failure.

Price wars can no longer be the only point of competition between different enterprises; a good mechanism for product quality management must be established, the report stated.

China should raise its current standards in order to accomodate shifting demands. Furthermore, China should improve its protection of intellectual property rights in order to encourage more innovation among producers, the paper said, citing experts.