Troubled Chinese trust company brings in state help
HONG KONG: China’s Zhongrong International Trust, a shadow-banking giant whose financial troubles have rattled investors, broke its silence late Friday and said it is working with two state-owned institutions to address its problems.
The domestic asset manager last month failed to make payments on high-yielding investment products that it had sold to many companies and wealthy individuals. That sparked concerns that the country's worsening property downturn was developing into a wider financial-sector contagion.
Zhongrong Trust acknowledged late Friday that it had missed payments on some products, and said it would bring in two large state-owned trust companies to help with operations and management.
“Due to multiple internal and external factors, some of the company's trust products could not be paid on schedule," it said. Zhongrong Trust said it has engaged CITIC Trust, owned by state conglomerate CITIC Group, and CCB Trust, owned by China Construction Bank, to work with it for a year.
The asset manager indicated the arrangement isn't a government bailout. It said the two state-backed firms won't be responsible for paying for its trust products, and the arrangement could be terminated early or extended.
Since Zhongrong Trust's troubles bubbled up around the middle of this year, investors have grown concerned that China's $2.9 trillion trust industry could be the next casualty of the country's property crisis.
Trust companies have long been a source of funding for Chinese real-estate developers. A tougher financing environment in recent years meant many privately owned developers were unable to secure loans from big banks to build residential projects. Trust companies filled some of that gap, providing loans at a higher cost to developers.
In 2022, Zhongrong's trust funds had 11% of their assets in the property sector, according to the company's annual report.
Missed payments started to pile up recently. Since August, at least 11 publicly listed companies in mainland China have said in stock-exchange filings that they didn't receive interest or principal payments on products managed by Zhongrong Trust. Those missed payments add up to the equivalent of $82 million.
Some individual investors have also complained on social media that they had not received promised payments from Zhongrong Trust.
The full scope of its financial difficulties isn't known. The privately held company had the equivalent of $108 billion in assets under management at the end of 2022.
Many of its trust funds had promised returns of around 6% to 8% annually, according to public documents for these funds seen by The Wall Street Journal.
Some of these trust products invest in bank deposits, stocks, corporate bonds and other kinds of wealth-management products. One of them, which was purchased by a listed company that supplies maintenance and repair tools, raised money in 2021 for developer Shinsun Property Group to fund the construction of a high-end residential project in the eastern city of Hangzhou, a tech hub south of Shanghai. Shinsun defaulted on its U.S. dollar debt last year after failing to make an interest payment.
Zhongrong Trust was founded in 1987. Its biggest shareholder is a state-owned company called Jingwei Textile Machinery, which last month said it wanted to delist its shares from Shenzhen Stock Exchange. The company cited “significant uncertainties in its operations" due to “market changes," without providing specifics.
Trust funds in China had about $155 billion in exposure to the property sector at the end of the first quarter, according to data from the China Trustee Association. That portion is “under great threat," Nomura analysts said last month. Trust funds also have larger exposures to financial markets, which increases the risk of contagion, they said.
Write to Rebecca Feng at email@example.com
Source: Live Mint
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Pleasures of Dealing with China is That
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in New York on Tuesday spoke about New Delhi's growing profile on the world stage, breaking down India's steady ties with Russia since the 1950s, the “pleasures of dealing” with China, and growing relationship with the United States.
Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations, the minister talked about India's vision and strategy in dealing with the multipolar world. In a conversation with former US Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster, Jaishankar said, “You actually see an India whose footprint is more, whose interest and activities are more.”
Jaishankar said the nature of world politics has changed and the issues have changed, adding that there are a variety of issues driving “heightened Indian activity” on the world stage. “The goal is now to strive to be a developed country in a quarter of a century,” he added.
Jaishankar opened up about the ongoing tensions in India-China ties. He said, “One of the pleasures of dealing with China is that they never quite tell you things. You often end up trying to figure it out. There is always ambiguity out there.”
“It has never been an easy relationship. There was a war in 1962 and military incidents after that, but after 1975, there has never been a combat fatality on the border. In 1988, we normalized the relationship more when then-Prime Minister Rajeev Gandhi went to China. In 1993 and 1996, we did two agreements with China to stabilize the boundary which is disputed. At the Line of Control (LoC), it was agreed that either of us would mass troops there. If we brought more troops, the other side would be notified. So, it was expected the way it was laid out. There were subsequent agreements after that, one in 2005 and one in 2012,” he said.
On the Galwan border clash in 2020, the minister continued saying, “It was in many ways a very unique situation because what would happen in the boundary areas is that troops on either side would step out of their military bases, they would do their patrolling and go back to bases. If they happened to intersect, there were very clear rules on how they would conduct themselves.”
On the state of current ties with China, the external affairs minister said, “It's hard to be normal with a country that has broken agreements and done what it has done. For the last three years, there has been an abnormal state, contacts have been disrupted, visits have not taken place, and there have been high levels of military tensions. It has also impacted the perception of China in India. This perception was not positive in the 1960s and 1970s. I think there is an immediate issue, a medium-term issue, and a possible long-term issue.”
When asked about India's relations with Russia given the no-limit partnership between Beijing and Moscow, Jaishankar said, “Because its relationship with Europe has been so severely disrupted, Russia is turning to Asia and other parts of the world. I would predict that Russia would make strenuous efforts to build alternative relationships, many of which will be in Asia. This would reflect in the economy and trade and perhaps in other domains as well. Russia-China would have a particular profile and particular salience in this. But I would say that our own relationship with Russia has been extremely steady since the 1950s.
If you look at the last 70 years of world politics, Jaishankar said there have been very big ups and downs in ties between Russia, the US, China, and Europe. “But the India-Russia relationship held very very stead. There is an understanding between the two countries. There is a kind of structural basis for our having to get along and wanting to get along. And we take great care to make sure the relations are working,” he said.
Asked about the limits of the US-India partnership, he said, “Rather than limits, I would put it as possibilities. Let's take a more optimistic view of how relationships work.” “My sense is that the United States is fundamentally readjusting to the world. It is doing so part of is long-term consequences of Iraq and Afghanistan. But that's only one part of it,” he said.
Jaishankar suggested that the US is adjusting to a multipolar world. “We will actually be looking at a world and probably entered that world where the United States is no longer in a way of saying, okay I basically… leave it at my allies. Quad itself is a demonstration of that,” he added.
Where India-US ties are concerned, the minister said the convergence today far outweighs the divergence. “I am no longer prepared to think that where are the limits but I think where are all the opportunities and how much we can step on the gas and take up forward,” he added.
Earlier on Tuesday, Jaishankar addressed the 78th UN General Assembly, and called on UN member states to resist “political convenience” in their responses to terrorism and violence, in an implicit criticism of Canada. He also said that respect for territorial integrity and non-interference in internal affairs must be universal.
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Uyghur Kids Separated from Parents
Uyghur children in China's Xinjiang province are being forcibly removed from their parents and sent to re-education camps styled as boarding schools where they are being raised as ‘orphans', Uyghur activists speaking to CNN-News18 said.
“Their parents are taken away to concentration camps and treated like prisoners. These kids are losing their identity and no one is talking to China except issuing statements,” a Uyghur activist said.
The Uyghur activist also noted that the United Nation expressed concern over the allegations of Xinjiang's state-run boarding school system where children are taught in Mandarin language and are being forced to adopt Han cultural practices.
“The UN statement is welcome but the UN is not clearly talking about concentration camps.
“We are deeply concerned that boarding schools in Xinjiang are teaching almost exclusively in the official language with little or no use of Uyghur as medium of instruction and that the separation of mainly Uyghur and other minority children from their families could lead to their forced assimilation into the majority Mandarin language and the adoption of Han cultural practices,” the UN experts said this week.
They flagged that forced separations and language policies for Uyghur children carry risk of forced assimilation. They pointed out that the discriminatory nature of the policy and the violation of minorities' right to education without discrimination, family life and cultural rights will adversely impact the growth of these children.
UN experts found out this week about large-scale removal of children, mainly Uyghur, from their families this week. Among those children, some of them were very young. The parents of these younger children are in exile or “interned”/detained.
These children are placed in full-time boarding schools, pre-schools, or orphanages where the medium of instruction is almost exclusively Mandarin.
“Uyghur and other minority children in highly regulated and controlled boarding institutions may have little interaction with their parents, extended family or communities for much of their youth,” the experts said
“This will inevitably lead to a loss of connection with their families and communities and undermine their ties to their cultural, religious and linguistic identities,” they further added.
The report also revealed that these children placed in these schools have little or no access to education in the Uyghur language. They face pressure to speak and learn only Mandarin as opposed to achieving bilingualism in both Uyghur and Mandarin. Teachers who may inadvertently use Mandarin as a medium of instruction are also sanctioned for using the language outside of specific language classes.
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China's Stand on Ukraine Conflict 'Affecting Country's Image'
China's stance on the Russian war in Ukraine is affecting the country's image, the European Union trade commissioner warned on Monday, saying Beijing's refusal to condemn the invasion poses a “reputational risk”.
China has sought to position itself as a neutral party in the Ukraine conflict, while offering Moscow a vital diplomatic and financial lifeline as its international isolation deepens.
Russia and China frequently tout their “no limits” partnership and economic and military cooperation.
China's position “is affecting the country's image, not only with European consumers, but also businesses”, Valdis Dombrovskis said in a speech in the Chinese capital.
“Territorial integrity has always been a key principle for China in international diplomacy. Russia's war is a blatant breach of this principle,” Dombrovskis added.
“And, China always advocates for each country being to free to choose its own development path.
“So it's very difficult for us to understand China's stance on Russia's war against Ukraine, as it breaches China's own fundamental principles.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping made a state visit to Russia in March and declared that relations between the two countries were entering a new era.
His Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin is due to visit China next month.
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iPhone 15 sales take off
Sales of Apple’s iPhone 15 series smartphones kicked off on a strong note in India on Friday, with at least three retailers complaining of a shortage of top end Pro and Pro Max models.
“We are seeing strong first-day sales of the new iPhone 15 and 15 Plus. However, we haven't managed to fully cash in on the general demand, as supplies of the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max are short right now," said a multi-brand phone retailer from Kolkata, requesting anonymity.
Similar shortages were reported from Delhi and Mumbai as well. A major multi-brand retailer in Delhi said that sales of the iPhone 15 series on the first day were “better than last year's", though the Pro models quickly went out of stock.
Following last year's iPhone 14 launch as well, there were limited supplies of the top models in November and December, leading to long waiting times. However, the previous shortage was sparked by a covid-19 outbreak in the iPhone factories in China, which doesn't trouble the supply chain any more.
However, retailers attributed the iPhone Pro stock-outs to poor supply, not excess demand. Demand for the the priciest iPhones costing as much as ₹2 lakh remains much lower than that for standard iPhones.
“Demand for the iPhone 15 Pro series is much less than the standard iPhone 15 models—for every 10 Pro iPhones sold, we're seeing orders for at least 80 standard models," the Kolkata-based retailer said.
This is in line with historical demand for the iPhone Pro models in India. According to data from market researcher International Data Corp. (IDC) India, the Pro models typically account for around 15% of all iPhone sales in the country, and it's the same this year as well.
The retailer, however, added that Apple has been more proactive about supplies this year. “Our second and third batch of orders are already in line—the second order for supplies is set to be approved today itself, while the third round is expected to be approved and processed by Apple by Monday. Until last year, this used to take up nearly 10 days for every round of orders," he said.
Manish Khatri, a partner at Mumbai-based retailer Mahesh Telecom, however, said overall demand is tepid. “Supplies of the Pro iPhones are low, leading to the devices being out of stock at the moment. But, this is not due to higher-than expected demand. More consumers are inquiring about the older series of Apple's iPhones, and they are likely to await the rollout of festive season offers before we see consumer demand ramp up," Khatri said.
An email query sent to Apple remained unanswered. Analysts expect the company to record its highest-ever shipments of over 9 million units of its iPhones in India this year. Even though this is still around a third of the overall shipments of market leader Samsung, it is expected to help Apple potentially capture the top spot in smartphone market revenue in India this year.
Apple's revenue market share is expected to be driven by its high average selling price (ASP) of its smartphones, which exceed ₹80,000 per unit sold, as compared with an industry average of around ₹20,000 per unit. On 4 August, Apple Inc.'s chief executive Tim Cook said the company achieved “strong double digits" growth to report record revenue in India for the June quarter. “We also opened our first two retail stores during the quarter. And it's, of course, early going currently, but they're currently beating our expectations in terms of how they're doing," Cook said.
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The disappearance of China’s defence minister raises big questions
An ability to groom talented officials, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, once said, “largely determines the rise and fall, as well as the survival or demise" of political parties and countries. After a sweeping reshuffle of ministerial posts in March, the government’s main news agency, Xinhua, recalled Mr Xi’s words in an article aimed at showing how meticulous the selection process had been. Since late June, however, two of the most senior officials who were promoted in that shake-up have disappeared: first Qin Gang, the former foreign minister, and more recently General Li Shangfu, the defence minister. The swiftness of their apparent downfalls has been striking. The questions they raise about China’s politics are big.
There is no sign that this is an existential moment for the Communist Party, or Mr Xi's rule. Adulation of Mr Xi continues unabated in state media. He stayed away from the G20 summit in Delhi on September 9th and 10th—an unprecedented absence. But on September 16th and 17th Wang Yi, who succeeded Mr Qin as foreign minister in late July, met America's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, in Malta. According to Bloomberg, they discussed a possible meeting between Mr Xi and President Joe Biden at a gathering of Asia-Pacific leaders scheduled for November in San Francisco. China's military activities appear unaffected, too. On September 17th and 18th about 100 Chinese fighter jets flew round Taiwan, an unusually high number in such a space of time.
But the churn at the highest levels of the state and military apparatus has been unusually fast, even by the standards of Mr Xi's purge-filled tenure. General Li has not been seen in public since August 29th, when he appeared at a China-Africa security forum. He was supposed to attend an annual meeting with Vietnamese defence officials on September 7th and 8th. But that plan was scrapped, with Chinese officials citing the general's health. Unspecified illnesses seem to be a common problem for those in political trouble. Mr Qin was said to have a health problem, too. But according to the Wall Street Journal, senior Chinese officials were told in secret last month that he had “lifestyle issues". They allegedly involved an extramarital affair, resulting in the birth of a child, while Mr Qin was ambassador in Washington before becoming foreign minister.
On official websites, no change has been indicated in General Li's duties. But American and other officials have told Western media that they believe he has been relieved of his duties. Reuters reported that he was suspected of corruption related to the procurement of military equipment, which General Li oversaw from 2017 to 2022. The news agency said that eight senior officials from the procurement department were also being investigated.
There is also speculation that graft is a reason for the replacement in late July (announced in state media) of General Li Yuchao and General Xu Zhongbo. They were the two most senior commanders of the Rocket Force, which controls China's nuclear and conventional missiles. General Li Yuchao had been put in charge only last year. A less high-profile but equally unusual personnel change came to light on September 1st with the dismissal of Major General Cheng Dongfang as president of the People's Liberation Army military court after just eight months in the job. No reason was given. General Cheng had previously served as spokesman of China's military garrison in Hong Kong.
On Chinese social media, censors have stifled most discussion. Only one comment is visible on the post of a user with more than 670,000 followers who hinted at the defence minister's absence. “Aren't you afraid of having your account closed down?" it says. “Don't talk about him." But given Mr Xi's efforts to portray China's political system as a more stable and effective alternative to liberal democracy, the purges have provided rich pickings for his foreign critics. On X (formerly Twitter) America's ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, compared the turnover to Agatha Christie's novel, “And Then There Were None". He later offered another literary analogy: “As Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, ‘Something is rotten in the state of Denmark'."
To be sure, the posts of defence minister and foreign minister are not as critical in China as they often are in other countries. Neither General Li nor Mr Qin are among the 24 members of the Politburo, the apex of political power. But the ministerial jobs involve defending the country's interests abroad. (In China's eyes, Mr Qin's alleged behaviour may have made him a security risk.) And the purges raise questions about Mr Xi's ability to select the right talent and his capacity to scare officials into avoiding corruption.
The moves have targeted people who were clearly Mr Xi's men. Mr Qin's elevation to the rank of foreign minister was unusually rapid, suggesting he may have impressed Mr Xi during a stint as the chief organiser of his foreign trips. He was promoted last year to the party's Central Committee and in March got the additional title of state councillor (a senior role in China's cabinet). Only four others hold that rank, including General Li. The defence minister is also a Central Committee member and one of the six officers who work under Mr Xi in the armed forces' governing body, the Central Military Commission.
Team of no rivals
General Li and Mr Qin were among many people close to Mr Xi who benefited from the reshuffle in March as well as another one last October involving party jobs. The overhaul produced a ruling team more seemingly in lockstep with the paramount leader than any since the era of Mao Zedong. In China, questions will certainly be asked (in whispers) about how stable it is.
But Mr Xi must be used to muttering. His previous purges have affected hundreds of thousands of officials, high and low, including many in the services most vital to maintaining the party's grip on power: the armed forces, the police and the spy apparatus. Many of the fallen have been accused of corruption, but some, too, of political wrongdoing. Last September courts imposed lengthy prison sentences on several security chiefs accused of being corrupt, as well as members of a disloyal cabal. They included a former deputy minister of public security and a former justice minister. In 2015 Zhou Yongkang—a retired head of China's internal security services and former member of the Politburo's Standing Committee—was sentenced to life in prison for bribery and leaking state secrets. Mr Xi accused him and other jailed associates of attempting to “seize power".
If General Li Shangfu is replaced, as observers expect, there could be an upside for America. Last August, in response to a visit to Taiwan by the then speaker of America's House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, China halted regular talks between the two countries' defence establishments. America is keen to restart them, seeing them as useful for discussing ways of preventing unintended clashes. But while working in procurement, General Li was placed under American sanctions in 2018 for buying fighter jets and missiles from Russia. China wants the sanctions to be lifted before talks resume. Removing the man himself may resolve an impasse.
© 2023, The Economist Newspaper Limited. All rights reserved. From The Economist, published under licence. The original content can be found on www.economist.com
Source: Live Mint
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With Eyes on Meetings with Biden
China held 12 hours of talks on Saturday and Sunday in Malta with the US as foreign minister Wang Yi and White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan agreeing to continue high-level discussions in the coming months.
China is seeking to stabilise relations with the US while also drawing Russia closer as Xi Jinping, the Chinese President, seeks to set up meetings with both counterparts towards the end of this year.
The Chinese vice president Han Zheng met on Monday with US secretary of state Antony Blinken in New York and assured him that China's growth is a plus for the US and not a risk.
A report by Nikkei Asia said that a summit could be held between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping in November in San Francisco during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.
Wang Yi was expected in New York for the UN General Assembly and to meet with Blinken to discuss the possibility of the summit. But Wang Yi is in Russia where he met counterpart Sergey Lavrov and reaffirmed the close bonds between Beijing and Moscow.
Both agreed to strengthen their commitment to fighting “mounting unilateral acts, hegemonism and bloc confrontation”. Wang also met Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia's National Security Council. “We expect that substantive bilateral talks between President Vladimir Putin of Russia and President Xi Jinping of China will take place in Beijing in October,” Patrushev was quoted as saying by Russian media outlets.
Xi Jinping invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation next month.
Xi Jinping wants to extract concessions from the US ahead of a meeting with Joe Biden by highlighting cooperation with Moscow, the Nikkei Asia report said.
The report also pointed out that the US does not want to give in to Beijing's demands of ending cooperation with Taiwan and end restrictions on semiconductor exports but since these are core issues, there is very little scope for negotiations.
The report also said that the US demands of reopening military-to-military dialogue to help avoid accidental clashes and stop China from sending arms to Moscow for use in the Ukraine war were met with little interest.
However, reports of a probe on General Li Shangfu and claims of his removal from the role of Chinese defence minister opens up possibilities of military-to-military dialogue as the US had sanctioned Shangfu. The sanctions on Shangfu were the reason China ignored US' requests to hold a ministerial level meeting between him and defence secretary Lloyd Austin in Singapore in June.
Xi will also urge Putin in Beijing to seek a political solution in Ukraine, hoping that if Moscow takes a step in that direction then Washington will lower its pressure on Beijing.
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China’s Ex-Foreign Minister Ousted After Alleged Affair
NEW YORK—Senior Chinese officials were told that an internal Communist Party investigation found ex-Foreign Minister Qin Gang to have engaged in an extramarital affair that lasted throughout his tenure as Beijing’s top envoy to Washington, according to people familiar with the matter.
Qin, once considered a trusted aide to leader Xi Jinping, was stripped of his foreign minister title in July—without explanation—after he disappeared from public view a month earlier. At one point leading up to his ouster, the Foreign Ministry said the absence of 57-year-old Qin was due to health reasons.
Senior Chinese officials—including ministers and provincial leaders—were briefed last month on the party's investigation into Qin, who served as the Chinese ambassador to the U.S. from July 2021 until January this year, the people said. The senior officials were told the formal reason for Qin's dismissal was “lifestyle issues," a common party euphemism for sexual misconduct, according to the people.
The officials were further told that the probe found that Qin had engaged in an extramarital affair that led to the birth of a child in the U.S., two of the people said.
Names of the woman and the child weren't disclosed to the party officials when they were informed about Qin's investigation, the people said, and the Journal couldn't confirm their identities. The investigation is continuing with Qin's cooperation, the people added, and it is now focusing on whether the affair or other conduct by Qin might have compromised China's national security.
The State Council, China's cabinet, still lists Qin as one of the five state councilors. China's Foreign Ministry and the State Council Information Office didn't respond to questions.
The downfall of Qin, who was in the foreign minister post for just seven months, comes as China's leadership seeks to cut off any security vulnerabilities amid the the country's intensifying competition with the U.S. and its allies.
Scrutiny of the party's senior ranks, insiders say, is zeroing in on officials involved in dealing with foreigners and the top brass in the Chinese military in charge of ensuring the armed forces' capacity to fight.
Earlier this month, Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu, who is mainly responsible for military relations with other countries, was taken away by authorities for questioning, The Wall Street Journal reported. In July, the commander and political commissar of the People's Liberation Army Rocket Force, which controls the country's strategic missiles, were both dismissed with no reason given publicly.
Some economic officials, who have traditionally been granted more leeway to interact with their western counterparts and foreign business executives, have also increasingly found themselves having to report greater details than before on their dealings as scrutiny deepens, party insiders said.
The high-profile troubles involving the senior diplomatic and military officials, whose appointments were all approved by Xi, are dealing a blow to the leader's efforts to uphold the Chinese-style governance as a more stable and effective alternative to the Western model, political analysts say. China's economy, meanwhile, is suffering a crisis of confidence not seen since the country's opening to the world in the late 1970s.
Turmoil at such high levels in the government and military “would suggest political instability in China at a time when stability is desired due to the economic slowdown," said Yun Sun, director of the China program at the Stimson Center, a Washington think tank. “It also calls into question whether Xi is truly in control of the overall situation."
The sudden dismissal of Qin also comes as Beijing and Washington have been working for months to pave the way for Xi's expected attendance at a summit of Asia-Pacific leaders to be held in San Francisco in November—and a possible summit there with President Biden. Officials on both sides see that meeting as a potential boost to months of tentative efforts to stabilize ties.
Xi replaced Qin as foreign minister with Wang Yi, a member of the party's elite Politburo and China's top foreign-affairs official. Wang, who met in Malta over the weekend with U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan, has assured Washington the recent thaws in high-level contacts will continue.
With a polished demeanor, Qin was seen as a measured diplomat in his time serving as the Chinese ambassador to the U.S. Xi picked Qin to be China's foreign minister less than two years after he was named Beijing's top envoy to Washington—an unusually fast promotion in a system that traditionally has valued experience in addition to political connections.
Before being named U.S. ambassador, Qin served as a vice minister responsible for planning events for Xi and accompanied the Chinese leader on many of his overseas trips. Qin's close association with Xi has made his fall from grace more intriguing. An information void has fed furious speculation on social media for months, including around the possibility of an extramarital affair.
In China's opaque system, sexual misconduct is often used as a way to discredit fallen officials considered to be disloyal to the party leadership. In Qin's case, according to the people familiar with the matter, the affair disclosed by the party's investigation triggered his downfall partly because Qin's U.S.-born child could potentially compromise his ability to represent China's interests in dealing with the Americans.
In recent years, Xi has tightened restrictions on high-ranking officials having significant financial or other connections overseas, such as owning large amounts of assets abroad.
The rules are intended to minimize geopolitical risks for Beijing amid growing concerns that officials with significant overseas exposure could become a liability if the U.S. and other Western powers impose sanctions against them, similar to what was done against Moscow following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
In addition, in his more than a decade of rule of China, Xi has time and again directed his ire at corruption in the party and the tales of senior members' lavish lifestyles and harems of mistresses that fed public cynicism about the party's leadership.
“You people, you either eat and drink yourselves into the grave, or die between the sheets," Xi said at a meeting with senior officials earlier in his tenure, according to people briefed on the remarks.
Write to Lingling Wei at Lingling.Wei@wsj.com
Source: Live Mint
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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Visit China on Thursday
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is to visit China this week, his office said Tuesday, his first trip to the allied country since before civil war broke out in Syria more than 12 years ago.
“In response to an official invitation" from Chinese President Xi Jinping, Assad and his wife “will visit China starting Thursday", the presidency said in a statement.
“The visit includes a number of meetings and events" in Beijing and Hangzhou, the statement said, adding that the president would be accompanied by “a political and economic delegation".
China will be the third non-Arab country Assad has visited since war broke out in Syria in 2011.
Beijing has provided Damascus with international support, particularly at the UN Security Council, where it has repeatedly abstained from resolutions against Damascus.
Officials from both countries have also visited over the years.
The announcement comes six months after a surprise China-brokered deal saw longtime regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran agree to restore diplomatic relations and reopen their respective embassies.
The move sparked a flurry of diplomacy in the Middle East, where Arab outreach to Assad, an Iran ally, had already gained momentum after a deadly February 6 earthquake struck Syria and Turkey.
Following the deal, Riyadh championed the return of Syria to the Arab fold at a summit in Saudi Arabia in May, ending more than a decade of Damascus's regional isolation.
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