Beijing starts buying US soybeans, Washington needs to reciprocate

In a statement on its website on Wednesday, the State-owned China Grain Reserves Group, or Sinograin, said it had bought soybeans from the US. This is good news for US soybean farmers whose crops were left rotting in fields, and more importantly, an embodiment of Chinese sincerity to fulfill a promise to ease trade tensions with the US.

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce confirmed on Thursday that China and the US will hold negotiations in January as scheduled. But the success of negotiations cannot solely depend on one side’s efforts.

China is implementing the consensus reached between Chinese and US heads of state on the sidelines of the G20 summit on December 1 to alleviate trade tensions, and it’s expected the US will act reciprocally, avoiding any diversions that might curtail the chance of reaching an agreement within the 90-day framework for trade negotiations.

There have been signs that the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, Chinese tech giant Huawei’s chief financial officer, could be used by the US as leverage in trade talks with China. US President Donald Trump said directly last week that he was willing to intervene in the case if that helped secure “the largest trade deal ever made.” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sought to play down the president’s explicit comments on Tuesday before a vice-ministerial-level talk by phone between China and the US. But it is obvious to the outside world the arrest is a politics-driven case.

China will never yield to such political blackmail. It has been increasingly clear that the arrest of Meng is a part of US efforts to suppress China’s high-tech development and the radical action taken against Meng has made the US target of wide criticism. In a Washington Post article, commentator Zachary Karabell called the case against Huawei and its executive “a hideous political mistake.”

The Meng case and trade talks should go on separate tracks and trade friction should be dealt with by trade methods. China’s position is clear: It is committed to protecting its citizens abroad, firmly demanding Meng be set free, while it will fulfill its promises, trying to wrap up trade talks with the US before March 1. Washington should understand there is no room for it to blackmail China.

Seizing the opportunity of the 90-day truce to reach an agreement and stabilize China-US trade and economic relations is in line with US interests. The trade war has exerted a negative impact on the US economy. It’s hoped that the US could treat the trade negotiations with sincerity and not let political factors disrupt trade talks. The 90-day countdown has already started, and the risk of losing opportunities and its catastrophic impact cannot be underestimated.

Economic corridor with China key to Myanmar’s peace process

Myanmar’s State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi was appointed the chairwoman of a panel to oversee Belt and Road initiative (BRI) projects on December 7. The steering committee with Vice President U Myint Swe, ministers, and regional chief ministers as members aims to implement the joint establishment of China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) under BRI.

The committee not only signals the importance Myanmar attaches to BRI, but also demonstrates that the CMEC is an important part of the comprehensive strategic cooperation between China and Myanmar.

Such cooperation includes better control over the northern Myanmar situation and maintenance of peace and stability on the border between Myanmar and China through which the CMEC will pass. Construction of the corridor will help regional stability and could also be a key to breaking the logjam in the peace process.

Beijing proposed the CMEC during the visit of China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Myanmar in November 2017. Wang said China was willing to build a corridor that would connect Kunming, Southwest China’s Yunnan Province, and Myanmar’s major economic checkpoints — first to Mandalay in central Myanmar, and then east to Yangon New City and west to the Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone – in keeping with Myanmar’s development plan and needs.

Speeding up Myanmar’s peace process and border stability is indispensible for the CMEC, which will help drive balanced economic development.

Myanmar is an important neighbor of China. Its stability is linked to China’s southwestern border security. China is not only willing to see a peaceful and stable Myanmar, but would also like to play an active role in promoting the country’s national reconciliation. While maintaining communication with the Myanmar government on the situation in northern Myanmar, China also participated in mediation by sending a special envoy to the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference and promoting participation of ethnic armed groups at the conference.

On December 12, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, Ta’ang National Liberation Army and Arakan Army voiced support for the government’s efforts at national reconciliation and nationwide peace, beginning negotiations with Myanmar’s government in Kunming.

They expressed their desire to work with government to settle military disputes and political issues through dialogue. To achieve peace as early as possible, the three armed groups would suspend attacks. The CMEC is aimed at development and social progress. The corridor will link the least and most developed areas of Myanmar, a move conducive to the country’s economy. The development of border trade and the establishment of economic and trade cooperation zones and industrial parks with complete infrastructure, leading industries and sound public service functions are the main features of the CMEC, which will help create more jobs in the adjoining areas.

Development is a general key to resolving problems, so is it for Myanmar. Balanced and rapid development will strengthen economic ties between ethnic groups in different areas, and make central and local governments aware of the CMEC’s advantages. .

Northern Myanmar is the key to national reconciliation and the peace process. Conflicts in the area were mainly responsible for deadlocking the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference. With the construction of the CMEC, the situation in northern areas of Myanmar has seen unprecedented improvement, which led to breaking of the stalemate.

As Myanmar’s officials pointed out, the country’s national reconciliation and peace process still has a long way to go, and the CMEC would probably be a decisive factor.

The author is a research fellow at The Charhar Institute and the College of ASEAN Studies at China’s Guangxi University for Nationalities.

Reading is enough, one need not read between the lines

Ma Sichun, a young Chinese actress, known for the film Qi yue yu an sheng, or Soul Mate, may not have received so much attention as she has today. Her latest book reviewed has been panned across the board. Her impression of The First Incense Burnt by Eileen Chang, one of the most influential modern Chinese novelists, came in for severe criticism after Ma sighed how humble but charming love can be after reading it. The review put her in the firing line on social media with scornful posts making fun of her intellectual ability.

“It’s like after you read Chang’s Lust, Caution, you comment ‘being a mistress is wrong,'” said one Chinese netizen, who corrected Ma saying there is little about real love in the novel, “it’s like treating Hamlet as Harry Potter.”

The sarcasm rapidly caused heated online debates. Some said, “I have read all books of Keigo Higashino but have never showed off about it.” Others commented, “Chang’s most loyal readers have not yet dissed Ma, who do you think you are?” The squabbling went on for a few days, but actually only few of those commenting against Ma have read Chang’s novels. All they do is pretend to be intellectuals.

Even if they are well-read people, aren’t they supposed to be ones that are easy to communicate with, rather than those who take delight in nitpicking?

Many argue entertainment stars should not pretend to be knowledgeable. But showbiz celebrities are not the only ones to make mistakes. At least Ma wrote the book title right. Quite a few media editors and netizens are even confused with the name and turned The First Incense Burnt into The First Brazier.

Sometimes, even well-known intellectuals could be treated harshly for mistakes. After former president of Peking University, Lin Jianhua, also a renowned chemist, mispronounced a character during an official speech earlier this year, there were demands for his resignation. Lin later apologized, saying “Your president is not a flawless man. I have shortcomings and deficiencies, and I make mistakes.”

The problem of making mistakes emanates from less reading. One can nowadays become a successful entrepreneur, make a big fortune, and turn into a celebrity without reading tons of books.

We have numerous choices today than we’ve ever had. Today’s youth deem it enough to check their social media accounts periodically, click on the most recent news event every once in a while, watch a movie in the theater and enjoy a concert. Reading books is not their priority. Perhaps because books will always be there waiting for them on the shelves, but everything else could be missed out. There are other excuses to be tossed out!

That being said, shouldn’t we make more efforts to reignite the passion of reading?

For some, reading is as normal as eating and sleeping, they need no special reason to read. And they would certainly not declare every single book they read, not trying to flaunt it as an achievement.

Unfortunately, a majority of people are not great readers. They tend to enjoy the sense of accomplishment, like boasting what Higgs- Boson or who Thucydides is. So let them be. If they are lucky, they will obtain more wisdom from reading at some point.

Some may be arty-farty, so what, at least they have a pursuit for erudition. They may make a lot of laughable mistakes. That’s not important. What’s more important is acknowledging the value of reading itself.

Everyone has the right to comment, mildly or harshly. Yet it would be nice to be a bit gentle on those who are still willing to read. It may be a good choice to do some reflection before finding fault with others’ book reviews – are we real readers? And real readers are tolerant.

The author is an engineer based in Beijing.