December 16, 2017

David Cameron to set up £750m UK-China investment fund

The Telegraph, UK

China's President Xi Jinping drinks a pint of beer with David Cameron during his visit to Britain in 2015 CREDIT: GETTY

 Edward Malnick 

16 DECEMBER 2017 • 10:53AM

David Cameron is helping to set up up a new £750m UK-China investment fund aimed at forging closer ties between the two countries, it has been confirmed.

The former Prime Minister will become vice chairman of the new private equity fund after being approached for the role by Lord Chadlington, a friend and former Tory donor.

The announcement, which confirmed reports published last month, came as the Government prepared to set out details of an agreement between British and Chinese ministers on forging closer economic ties, following a trip to the country by Philip Hammond, the Chancellor.

It is understood that the new investment fund, called the UK-China Fund is a private sector initiative that does not involve any taxpayer money - but it has been welcomed by the Government as providing supporting for UK-China relations.

The fund will help British and Chinese businesses in sectors such as technology, healthcare and infrastructure, expand into each others' countries. It will also help firms to overcome hurdles such as cultural differences and regulations in the two countries.

Mr Cameron's role will include identifying businesses that could benefit from investment and commercial advice from the fund's management team, and setting up talks between the UK and Chinese governments - although advice from the official Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA) will prevent him from engaging in lobbying.

He is expected to spend two to three days a month on work for the fund.

A spokesman for Mr Cameron said: “David Cameron remains very proud of his work as Prime Minister launching the ‘Golden Era’ between the UK and China with President Xi, and strengthening the UK -China trade and investment relationship.

“In an effort to build on that work out of office, he wishes to play a role in a new UK-China bi-lateral investment fund that will invest in innovative and sustainable growth opportunities in both the UK and China to create jobs and further boost trade links.

“Having now received official advice from ACOBA, work is continuing on establishing the fund – including holding discussions with a number of financial institutions in the UK and China. There is still a lot of work to do.”

The post follows a role developed by one of Mr Cameron's predecessors facilitating talks with Chinese figures.

In 2015 the Telegraph revealed that  Tony Blair had privately begun acting as broker between Abu Dhabi and China. A series of documents showed how he had been courting some of the most influential Chinese political and business leaders – and then introducing them to the Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund he worked for

Russia, China Grow Closer As The New Silk Road Unfolds

By ZeroHedge - Dec 15, 2017, 11:00 AM CST

China's Belt and Road Initiative heralds a new era with mega infrastructure projects dotting the landscape...

If you are looking for the latest breakthroughs in trans-Eurasian geo-economics, you should keep an eye on the East – the Russian Far East. One interesting project is the new state-of-the-art $1.5 billion Bystrinsky plant. Located about 400 kilometers from the Chinese border by rail and tucked inside the Trans-Baikal region of Siberian, it is now finally open for business.

This mining and processing complex, which contains up to 343 million tonnes of ore reserves, is a joint venture between Russian and Chinese companies. Norilsk Nickel, Russia’s leading mining group and one of the world’s largest producers of nickel and palladium, has teamed up with CIS Natural Resources Fund, established by President Vladimir Putin, and China’s Highland Fund.

But then, this is just the latest example of Russian and Chinese cooperation geared around the New Silk Roads or the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Beijing is the world’s largest importer of copper and iron ore, and virtually the entire output from Bystrinsky will go to the world’s second largest economy.

Naturally, to cope with production, a massive new road and rail network has been rolled out, as well as substantial infrastructure, in the heart of this wilderness. Yet there is another major BRI initiative about 1,000km east of Bystrinsky. Work started on the Amur River Bridge, or Heilongjiang as the Chinese call it, in 2016 and the road and rail links should be finished in 2019.

The project is being developed by Heilongjiang Bridge Company, a Russia-China joint venture, along a crucial stretch of the Russian-Chinese border. It will also be part of a huge trade corridor, which will transport iron ore to China from the Kimkan mine, owned by Hong Kong’s IRC Ltd, in Russia.

The Amur River Bridge, linking Heihe, in Heilongjiang province, with Blagoveshchesnk in the Russian Far East, is a natural part of the New Silk Roads program. It is well connected to one of BRI six major corridors – the China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor, or CMREC, via the Trans-Siberian Railway all the way to Vladivostok.

CMREC’s additional importance is that it will connect BRI with the Russia-led Eurasia Economic Union, or EAEU, as well as the Mongolian Steppe Road program. CMREC has two key links. One involves China’s Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei to Hohhot before winding on to Mongolia and Russia. The other is from China’s Dalian, Shenyang, Changchun, Harbin and Manzhouli to Chita in Russia, where the Bystrinsky plant is located.

Numerous aspects of the Russian-Chinese intranet were extensively discussed at the Third Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok in September. CMREC involves closer cooperation, especially in energy, mineral resources, high-tech manufacturing, agriculture and forestry. Chinese Vice-Premier Wang Yang had already announced even closer economic cooperation with Russia, including a $10 billion China-Russia Investment Cooperation Fund in yuan for BRI and EAAU projects.

Monetary integration

Part of this will include Russian-Chineseinvestment funds, known as Dakaitaowa, or “to open a matryoshka doll”. Monetary integration and energy cooperation are all part of an ambitious Russian-Chinese package. This will allow trade to be settled in yuan, instead of U.S. dollars, in Moscow via the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. Products promoted under the “Made in Russia” brand are bound to get a boost.Related: Struggling Venezuela Launches Tender To Buy U.S. Crude

According to the China General Administration of Customs, Russia continues to be the country’s leading crude oil supplier, exporting more than one million barrels per day, ahead of Saudi Arabia and Angola. Exports of Russian oil to China have more than doubled during the past six years.

Last month, the Russian parliament approved the draft of a conservative 2018-2020 Russian federal budget at $279 billion. This included increased spending in the social sector, a higher minimum wage, and increased salaries for teachers and healthcare workers.

Manufacturing in Russia has actually grown in absolute terms during the past decade along with a slight rise in GDP. Contrary to Western perceptions, energy revenue in Russia amounts to only around 30 percent of the federal budget. In absolute terms, it actually fell from 2014 to 2016, while non-oil and gas income has increased steadily since 2009.

Those were the days when Saudi Arabia and the Gulf petro-monarchies were dumping excess capacity on the oil market in a price war that was bound to ruin Russia’s finances. The draft budget assumes the price of oil will stay around at least $40.80 a barrel during the next few years. In fact, it may actually rise from its current $61.03 for the OPEC basket. Of course, that would boost Russia’s reserves.

Natural resources

As for exports, oil accounts for around 26 percent of Russia’s GDP. Oil and gas as a percentage of total exports fell during the past two years from 70 percent to 47 percent, but they are still the country’s top export money earners. When you add other commodities, such as iron, steel, aluminum and copper, revenue from natural resources come to more than 75 percent of Russia’s total exports.

But the key problem ahead for the country is the debt of provincial governments, and not defense, which is much lower than during Gorbachev’s reign in the late 1980s. Still, the integration of BRI and EAEU now offers excellent opportunities for Russia.

To put this into context, we have to go back to the 1689 Treaty of Nerchisk at a time when Manchus, an ethnic minority in China and the people from whom Manchuria derives its name, were deeply concerned about Cossack incursions into their lands.Related: Is The Oil Glut Set To Return?

Nerchisk was the first Chinese treaty with a European power, and it safeguarded borders and regulated relations between the two neighbors for nearly two centuries. For the first time, Russians could trade directly with the Middle Kingdom and negotiate as equals. No Russian or Manchu was spoken, but Latin, via two Jesuit interpreters. They were well positioned in the Qing court by supplying the Kangxi emperor with weapons, as well as advanced courses in geometry and astronomy.

Century of humiliation

Now, compare this with the “unequal treaties” of the 19th century with England, France, the United States and Germany, known as the “century of humiliation” in China. It is true that Russia gobbled up Chinese lands back then, as well as securing the Amur basin and the eastern side of the Sikhote-Alin mountains, which denied the country access to the Sea of Japan.

At the time, the Qing dynasty was helpless. Everything was later formalized by, well, treaties. China lost what was known as Outer Manchuria and Eastern Tartary. Today this whole region is known as Primorsky Krai, Russia’s Maritime Province. Then in 2006, President Putin solemnly announced the resolution of all border disputes with China along the Amur. Beijing de facto agreed.

With the integration of BRI and the EAEU, Russia has a great chance of fulfilling part of its Pacific Destiny, first envisaged when the Trans-Siberian rail link was finished in 1905. Today, that vision is alive with gold and timber in the mountains north of the Amur, fish in the Sea of Okhotsk and the Bering Sea, and gas reserves from Sakhalin island all part of a modern export chain.

By Zerohedge

Concern Grows In Pakistan Over Cases Of Disappearance



December 14, 2017

Diaa Hadid


For one Pakistani mother, sunburn signals her desperation to find her son.

Zarjan Atta rode rickshaws and buses for four days on desert roads, deepening and reddening her brown skin, as she traveled from her village to Karachi, Pakistan's southern port mega-city.

That's where her son Nawaz, 23, was living with relatives and studying at Karachi University. Her relatives say armed men dragged him from their flat on Oct. 28. They were in civilian clothes.

They pushed the women and children into a room. They warned: If you speak, you'll be next.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan counted 728 alleged disappearances last year. Since 2001, the group estimates that up to 10,000 people have gone missing, with nearly 3,000 still unaccounted for. And this, says Zohra Yusuf, a commission board member, is a conservative estimate.

Other organizations present wildly different numbers. Most conservatively, the government-run commission of inquiry into missing persons says 1,498 people are unaccounted for. Activists say many families of missing persons do not approach the commission.

Some families fear coming forward, and Yusuf says she can't blame them. It is rare for the police to issue missing persons reports, she says. Usually that happens only when a rights activist or journalist is present.

A friend of Nawaz Atta waits in a police station in Karachi to report his disappearance. She covers her face to avoid being identified. (NPR)

Farhatullah Babar, a senator who advocates on behalf of the missing, says the military has continuously disappeared Pakistanis since it joined the U.S. in fighting al-Qaida after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. At first, suspected al-Qaida militants and insurgents from Balochistan – a province where the army is battling separatists — were targeted. But the targets, he says, have expanded.

Four middle-class, city-based bloggers who criticized the military vanished for several weeks last December and January. They were released weeks later. Pakistan's urban elites are rarely touched by disappearances, making these cases particularly shocking.

A fifth man, Samar Abbas, who advocated for Pakistan's Shiite minority, was also taken at the same time. He remains missing.

Pakistan's government and military denied holding the bloggers.

The most recent known case of disappearance involves Raza Khan, 40, who advocated for peace between India and Pakistan. Local media reported that a man took Khan from his home in Lahore on Dec. 2. His brother said the abduction came after Khan engaged in a heated political discussion at a public event.

It is these sorts of cases that have prompted increased worry about who is being taken, and why.

Nawaz Atta had been documenting cases of disappeared people from Balochistan, a province bordering Iran and Afghanistan and roiled by a years-long separatist insurgency, before he was picked up. Atta did that work in his capacity as the information secretary for a group called the Baloch Human Rights Organization.

His friends say he was not involved in violence and was not an insurgent.

An army spokesman did not respond to NPR's repeated requests for comment.

Retired Brig. Haris Nawaz, who often provides insight into the military's thinking for journalists, says no Pakistani should ever criticize the army, which is under pressure to end the insurgency in Balochistan.

China is building a trade corridor through the province to the Arabian Sea. The corridor could transform Pakistan – but "unless Balochistan is peaceful," the brigadier says, "our effort will never be successful."

The stakes are exceptionally high. "I would say this is very defining moment of Pakistan," he says. "We are economically weak and this is our road to economic prosperity."

Even reporting on the disappeared can carry deadly risk. In 2011, a Human Rights Commission researcher investigating disappearances in Balochistan went missing.

"His tortured body was found about seven or eight months later," the commission's Yusuf says.

For many who are freed, there is fear in speaking out.

"Because if they go missing again, they will not be able to speak – forever," says Aasim Saeed, one of the bloggers released in January.

Saeed, 36, now lives in London. Since he is outside the country, he feels able to speak about what happened.

It began with a knock at the door, he says.

Men in civilian clothes pushed him into a car. They blindfolded and shackled him. In a detention center, he was interrogated about his Facebook page that mocked the army.

They wanted to know if Pakistan's rival, India, paid him. He told them no.

Blindfolded, he was whipped "with a leather strap or something." He fell. Somebody held his neck between his legs. The whipping continued.

His ordeal ended when he wrote an apology letter. He was freed and fled to the U.K., where he has applied for asylum.

Zarjan Atta's ordeal to find her son continues with a police report.

It's been a year since she last saw Nawaz. She's an illiterate sheepherder, a widowed mother of five, and had no money to visit him in Karachi. Any money she scraped away, she sent to her son to pay for his education. She was waiting for him to finish.

"I wanted my son to help his brothers get an education," she cries, "and make my life easy."

After she arrives in Karachi, she meets Nawaz's activist friends – all women. They ask not to be identified by NPR for fear of being detained themselves.

Atta is a slight, shy woman, and they offer to help. They adjust their colorful scarves to cover their faces as they barrel down a road to a police station.

They have come prepared with a typed-out note saying what happened to Nawaz, to avoid speaking and drawing attention to themselves. 

One of the women tells me that obtaining a police report is the first step to verifying that Nawaz Atta has been taken. They can use a police report to file court cases demanding his return and to verify to human rights groups that Nawaz is missing, so the groups can advocate on his behalf.

"This is the evidence," the woman says. "This is the thing that maybe, maybe, maybe, can save Nawaz life."

At the Gulistan-e-Johar station, the women give a policeman their statement accusing members of a paramilitary unit of seizing Nawaz.

He stares silently at the paper.

He tells the women he can't write a report because they are in the wrong jurisdiction.

He directs them to the nearby King Faisal Street station.

When an officer there hears that Nawaz is a Baloch activist who advocates for missing Baloch people, he berates the women, asking them what they expected.

The women insist on a response. They are told to wait.

They wait for hours.

The station officer arrives. He says the area where the alleged disappearance took place could be in three different jurisdictions, and tries to send them away to another police station.

The women insist again, and finally he agrees to send an investigator to check if the incident occurred in his jurisdiction.

The investigator reaches the dusty neighborhood where Nawaz Atta lived. He asks residents if they saw anything. A shopkeeper says nothing happened here – and one of the women with Zarjan Atta, Nawaz's mother, shames him until finally he says, yes, he saw armed men take Nawaz.

The women return to the station. It's nightfall. Zarjan Atta is exhausted.

She vowed to God that she'd fast until her son returned.

Finally, another cop writes up a report. Atta inks it with her thumb.

Her son is officially missing

December 15, 2017

Is Chinese Militarization Of Pakistan Beginning?

Is Chinese Militarization Of Pakistan Beginning?


Retired Colonel, U.S. Army Reserve

9:56 PM 12/15/2017

According to a December 12, 2017 Urdu-language news site report, during a high-level meeting presumably between Chinese and Pakistani officials held on the last day of the November Chinese Economic Summit in Hong Kong, China offered to train Pakistani security forces to protect both the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects in Pakistan and the Chinese nationals working on them. That follows a September 17, 2017 official CPEC announcement, whereby China would “assist” Pakistan in “capacity building” of “civil armed forces.”

At face value, the Chinese offer appears to be a predictable response to the proliferation of Islamic extremist groups, the permanent Taliban support and recruiting network, and the festering independence insurgency, all in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan, a region whose stability is critical to the success of CPEC, a $46 billion Chinese infrastructure investment in Pakistan.

What the December 12th Urdu report states that the official September 17th communique doesn’t is that Chinese training will include the “Special Security Division,” which widens the scope considerably.

The Special Security Division is a 2-star Pakistani military command of up to 15,000 personnel established in September 2016 to protect CPEC from internal and external threats. It is composed of nine Pakistan Army infantry battalions, six “Civil Armed Forces” elements of Army Ranger and Frontier Corps units, and a maritime security command led by the Pakistani Navy, which includes the Maritime Security Agency and the Pakistani Marines.

The number of Chinese military and security trainers to be stationed in Pakistan is undisclosed, but based on the size of the Special Security Division alone, the total complement of Chinese needed to fulfill all the CPEC security requirements is expected to be sizable.

Also in the past week, Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman, Chief of the Air Staff of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), announced a joint China-Pakistan space program that will begin by sending a satellite into orbit within the next two years. In that regard, there have been on-the-ground reports in the past few months of high-level Chinese delegations visiting Sonmiani, Balochistan, the location of Pakistan’s space port. Those reports have also included rumors of Chinese purchases of large blocks of land in the Sonmiani region.

In April 2017, an agreement was signed whereby a state-run Chinese company, the China Overseas Port Holding Company will handle the operations of Pakistan’s strategic Gwadar port for a period of 40 years.

Pakistan is not shy about stating its interest in joint naval operations with China from Gwadar:

“China and Pakistan have found common ground in terms of maritime interest in the region. Gwadar port can be used for joint naval patrols in the Indian Ocean, further increasing the naval outreach of China and Pakistan in the region. Gwadar port will increase the countries’ naval movements and further expand defense cooperation, especially in the naval field.”

In addition, there has been a general shift in Chinese military personnel in favor of naval and marine corps forces at the expense of land forces. According to reports, some of those forces are destined for Djibouti and Gwadar, the strategybeing:

“The Chinese have been attracted to Gwadar primarily because of its proximity to the Straits of Hormuz, through which most of their energy flows. Gwadar provides a base from where they can exercise firm control over this energy flow, both in terms of monitoring and protection when the situation demands such effort. With the establishment of a Chinese military base at Djibouti and the continuing anti-piracy effort, naval operations based out of Gwadar will provide the Chinese with a near-continuous naval presence from the Makran coast [southern Pakistan on the Arabian Sea] to the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb [entrance to the Red Sea and gateway to the Suez Canal].”

The Chinese are also expanding the Gwadar International Airport to handle “heavies.” That will provide an airlift capability linking Gwadar at the mouth of the Persian Gulf and the Chinese base in Djibouti at the entrance of the Red Sea and the Suez Canal.

Also in the past week — similar to the Chinese “management” of Gwadar — Sri Lanka relinquished authority over its southern port of Hambantota to the Chinese, having signed a 99-year lease with the state-controlled China Merchants Port Holdings.

The Chinese presence in Hambantota outflanks both India and the U.S. naval base in Diego Garcia and provides an additional strategic choke point, a potential for regional hegemony and, in combination with the other developments, largely renders current U.S. policy in Afghanistan obsolete.

Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D. is a retired US Army Reserve colonel, an IT command and control subject matter expert, trained in Arabic and Kurdish, and a veteran of Afghanistan, northern Iraq and a humanitarian mission to West Africa. He receives email at