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Xi urges stepped-up efforts to eradicate poverty by 2020

President Xi Jinping has urged more intensified and precise poverty relief efforts to accomplish the country’s goal to pull all people out of poverty by the end of 2020.

To eradicate poverty in rural areas on time is the “bottom line for China’s building a well-off society in an all-round way, and also our solemn commitment”, Xi said while chairing a group study session on Tuesday of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee.

During the session, Xi, also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, underscored the importance of stronger leadership, more funding support and better coordination between government departments and between the country’s eastern and western regions.

China has vowed to lift all of its people living below the poverty line out of poverty by 2020. The country’s poverty line is 2,300 yuan ($334) in annual income.

A total of 55.64 million people have been lifted out of poverty since 2013, and “the living standards of poverty-stricken people have significantly improved, and the situation of poverty-stricken areas has markedly improved”, Xi said.

Despite the great achievement, more than 40 million people still live in poverty, which means that in the coming four years, China has to pull at least 10 million people out of poverty on average every year, according to official data.

Xi said that the difficulty of poverty alleviation should not be underestimated, since the people and areas that still suffer from poverty are generally poorer and face weaker backgrounds and more extreme conditions.

Areas that are suffering from extreme poverty should be prioritized to ensure that the targets can be met on time, he added.

Xi also underscored the importance of more targeted efforts to help the poor.

Local authorities were urged to develop economic entities that can help create wealth among the poor, and roll out different measures for different people, households and villages.

They should better implement support measures in education and healthcare to help poor families that suffer from serious or chronic diseases and ensure their children can receive an education, Xi said.

Authorities should also incubate rural entrepreneurship and attract talent to flow back to their hometowns to aid the local fight against poverty, he said.

During the group study session, the top leadership also heard reports from Liu Yongfu, head of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, and governors of Guizhou, Yunnan and Gansu provinces-areas that still have large impoverished populations.

Liu said at a work conference in December that China’s financial input for poverty reduction hit a record high in 2016, with that from the central and provincial governments exceeding 100 billion yuan for the first time.

The country will continue to work on a number of fronts, including promoting industrial development in poor regions, giving the poor easier access to employment services, healthcare and education, and improving infrastructure in poor regions, he said.

Sino-US friendship has strong roots in Muscatine, Iowa

CHICAGO – In the hinterland of the United States and on the upper reaches of the Mississippi River lies a small city — Muscatine. It may be unknown to many Americans, but it has become a household name in China thanks to its special connection with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

FRIENDSHIP IS BIG BUSINESS

In 1985, Xi, then party secretary of Zhengding county in China’s northern province of Hebei, led a five-person delegation to Muscatine in the state of Iowa and stayed with a local family for two days.

Muscatine did not come into the spotlight until Xi, who was so impressed with the hospitality of the local residents, returned to this small city to meet his old friends during his US visit in 2012 as Chinese vice president.

After that, Muscatine and Zhengding became sister cities in 2013, with flourishing cultural and education exchanges between Muscatine and China.

In a cupboard at the entrance to the mayor’s office in the City Hall of Muscatine are two ping-pong paddles, a Chinese tea set and a T-shirt, which are gifts from Xi and Zhengding.

In the gap between the mayor’s office door and the cupboard hangs a picture showing former Muscatine Mayor DeWayne Hopkins presenting a golden keyto the city to Xi when he visited Muscatine in 2012.

The mayor’s office is not the only place that has Chinese elements. Muscatine City Administrator Gregg Mandsager has Chinese tea and sesame candy displayed in his cupboard.

Sarah Lande, an old friend who helped arrange Xi’s itinerary in Muscatine, has a trove of China-related items in her house.

On the mantelpiece, the piano, and the table there are pictures of Xi meeting old friends in her house. Chinese calligraphies hang on the walls of the sitting room and a replica of China’s famous painting from the Song Dynasty (960-1127) Along the River during the Qingming Festival hangs high above the bookcase.

Lande remembered the day when Xi visited her house, where many people gathered. I gave a little welcome as the hostess, then the governor spoke, and Xi Jinping spoke. Each of the old friends gave a memory.

She marveled at Xi’s good memory. He just remembered all the details, she said, adding that they concluded that friendship is big business.

Joni Axel also participated in the planning of Xi and his team’s tour of Muscatine in 1985. She told Xinhua her impression when meeting Xi in Lande’s house in 2012.

We saw the same inviting personality, he has a very pleasant smile, she said, adding that Xi appeared to have an innate sense of curiosity.

He had a great memory of things that we did in 1985. He spoke of his interest in Mark Twain, he spoke of the river, he spoke of the hospitality. He could remember what he had for breakfast, with a young teenage girl. He could remember a lot of things, Axel said.

FRIENDSHIP PROJECTS THRIVING

Chinese businessman Glad Cheng traveled to Muscatine in 2013 and bought the house where Xi had stayed for two nights in 1985 and turned it into a Sino-US Friendship House.

Cheng then invested in a hotel project, purchased a travel agency and two homes, and a building in downtown Muscatine.

Cheng plans to turn the downtown building into a Sino-US Friendship Center to showcase to both Chinese and American visitors the story of Ping-Pong Diplomacy, the Flying Tigers heroes, and the cultural, educational and trade exchanges between China and the United States by way of pictures and articles. He also plans to plant peonies in the vast garden surrounding the house he bought on the Mississippi River, to make it a tourist attraction.

Similar to the Sino-US Friendship Center, Cheng also opened two Muscatine Centers in China: one in Jinan, capital of East China’s Shandong province; and the other in Yiwu in East China’s Zhejiang province.

With the help of Cheng and his partner Daniel Wang, Muscatine High School is now offering a 4-year Chinese course, with more than 200 students currently learning Chinese, and the school choir attended the 13th China International Chorus Festival in 2016.

Wanxiang America, a Chinese enterprise with numerous investments in the United States, joined the efforts in February by providing funds for students in Muscatine to study in China.

Strolling on the streets of Muscatine, a Chinese can always find cordial smiling faces and greetings from local residents. Occasionally, you will hear the Chinese greeting ni hao from a local.

To me it’s a good relationship, said Dan Stein, senior vice president of CBI Bank and Trust and chairman of the Muscatine China Initiative Committee. The United States wouldn’t be as good as it is if China didn’t develop like it has. But because it developed so rapidly, it helps our companies, everything is better. I want to keep seeing both countries like this.

Overseas experts expect China’s new economic zone to set example for developing economies

Aerial photo taken on March 31, 2017 shows Baiyangdian, North China’s largest freshwater wetland, in Anxin county, North China’s Hebei province. China announced Saturday it would establish the Xiongan New Area in Hebei province, as part of measures to advance the coordinated development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei (BTH) region. The New Area, about 100 km southwest of downtown Beijing, will span three counties that sit at the center of the triangular area formed by Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei’s provincial capital Shijiazhuang. [Photo/Xinhua]

BEIJING – International experts and media reports say China’s new economic zone will help relieve the burdens of Beijing as a metropolis, promote regional coordinated development and create a new growth pole for China, setting an example for developing economies.

China announced Saturday it would establish the Xiongan New Area in North China’s Hebei province, as part of measures to advance the coordinated development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei (BTH) region.

EASING BEIJING’S URBAN BURDENS

Bambang Suryono, an Indonesian scholar and president of the Jakarta-based Nanyang ASEAN Foundation, said Beijing, a megapolis with a capital history of more than 800 years, is facing “urban ills” such as traffic jams as other big cities are.

Setting up the Xiongan New Area to build a creative and livable city will help ease Beijing’s urban burdens, Suryono said.

The establishment of the Xiongan New Area is “the latest step in China’s efforts to cure severe ‘urban ills,’ such as traffic congestion and air pollution in Beijing by curbing the capital’s population growth and moving certain non-essential facilities, including manufacturing and logistics, to nearby regions,” a report from Press Trust of India said.

Authorities intend to transform the region into a new growth pole, it said.

Ronnie Lins, CEO of Center China Brazil: Research Business, said that to avoid over-development of mega cities is a common issue facing all developing countries.

The Chinese government is actively exploring new development models for big cities, diversifying their functions and easing their burdens, which will solve the environmental issue, promote the development of surrounding areas and provide references for other developing countries, Lins said.

FURTHERING REGIONAL COORDINATED DEVELOPMENT

Zhu Zhiqun, a political science professor with Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, the United States, said the establishment of the Xiongan New Area is an important measure that will greatly influence China’s future development.

Zhu said he believed Xiongan will make the integrated development of the BTH region come true and promote the rapid and comprehensive development of north China.

China’s current development should focus on quality, Zhu said, adding that Xiongan aims to see green, creative, high-quality and high-end development, which will become a role model for other regions in the country.

Huang Bin, a researcher at Thailand’s Kasikorn Research Center, said setting up the Xiongan New Area is an important and strategic plan of the Chinese leadership.

The new economic zone, as well as Beijing and the port city of Tianjin, with their diversified and complementary functions, forms a “triangle” that will open a new space for the development of the BTH region and north China and will explore a completely new model for China’s urban development, Huang said.

NEW ENGINES FOR DEVELOPMENT

The Xiongan New Area, along with other new economic areas, special economic zones and free trade zones in China, “will greatly contribute to the balanced development of the economy,” a report from South Korea’s Asia Today said on its website.

The report said they will also create “the necessary power” to promote the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk Road routes.

Suryono said establishing the Xiongan New Area forms an important part of China’s strategy to further its reform and deal with the problems that have emerged during the rapid development of the Chinese economy.

It is an important and innovative measure that accords with China’s national conditions, he said.

The establishment of the new economic zone implies a new growth pole for the Chinese economy, said Guo Shengxiang, dean of the Australian think tank of Academy of APEC Creative Finance, adding that it means China is deepening its opening up and will comprehensively embrace globalization and free trade.

Military urged to study Xi’s remarks on ministerial-level workshop

BEIJING – China’s military and armed police are ordered to carefully study the remarks made by President Xi Jinping at the opening session of a workshop.

According to a circular issued by the general office of the Central Military Commission (CMC), the CMC called on officers and soldiers to study and understand the remarks by Xi, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the CMC.

At the workshop on the Sixth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee, attended by provincial and ministerial officials on Feb. 13, Xi told leading officials to practice strict self-discipline and eliminate privileges.

The circular urged leading military officials to be brave in self-examination and conduct strict self-discipline.

Officers and soldiers should acquire the norms of political life within the Party in the new era and the regulation on intra-Party supervision, Xi’s remarks on strict CPC governance, and the new concept of managing state affairs, the circular said.

The circular called on to further the anti-corruption drive, eliminate the pernicious influence of Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou, two corrupt former CMC vice chairmen, and work for better political life in the armed forces.

It also urged to deepen national defense and military reform, and improve military preparedness and fighting capacity, it said.

China’s draft law highlights information security, national territory awareness

BEIJING -Chinese lawmakers are considering draft revisions to the surveying and mapping law to protect geographic information security and raise public awareness on national territory.

The amended draft was submitted to legislators for the second reading at the bimonthly session of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, which runs Monday to Thursday.

The law was formulated in 1992 and amended for the first time 10 years later.

Xi calls for deeper cooperation with Laos

BEIJING — Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday called for deepening cooperation with Laos and creating better future for bilateral ties by taking the opportunity of jointly promoting the Belt and Road Initiative.

Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, made the remarks when meeting with Laotian President Bounnhang Vorachit, who is also general secretary of the Central Committee of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP).

South China Sea issue grows ‘positive’

The situation in the South China Sea issue has cooled down and the issue is developing in a positive way, the Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

China has noticed expressions in the summit chairman’s statement about the South China Sea, ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said of a chairman’s statement issued by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Manila on Sunday.

At present, thanks to joint efforts of regional countries, the temperatures of the South China Sea situation have gone down, things have eased up and the situation is developing in a positive way.

The statement of the 10-country bloc spoke of the improving cooperation between ASEAN and China, and did not include references to tensions.

An ASEAN diplomat told Reuters that the statement was a genuine representation of the atmosphere of the Manila meetings.

We respected the Philippines’ views and cooperated, the diplomat said. It clearly reflected how the issue was discussed. The Philippines holds the rotating ASEAN chairmanship this year.

In another gesture reflecting warming ties, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte visited three Chinese warships on Monday that would berthed in his hometown of Davao city on the southern island of Mindanao.

This is part of confidence-building and goodwill and to show we are friends, and that is why I welcome them, he said.

Duterte also repeated on Monday that he had agreed to hold joint China-Philippine military exercises.

Geng said on Tuesday at the news briefing that Beijing welcomes Duterte’s visit to the warships, which reflects increasing mutual political trust between the two sides.

He said the nations’ ties have improved comprehensively since last year and brought tangible benefits to the people.

This fully confirmed that friendly cooperation is the right choice that is in line with fundamental interests of the two countries and the two peoples.

Wang Baofu, a military strategist at the National Defence University of the People’s Liberation Army, said the Chinese warships visited the Philippines at the invitation of Duterte.

The visit of the warships, under such a situation … is very significant and has drawn close attention from countries in the region, Wang said in an analysis issued on the Defense Ministry’s website.

It is not a symbolic move, but an important step for the two sides to build up military and strategic mutual trust.

lixiaokun@chinadaily.com.cn

Illegally hired foreign teachers face action

A woman from South Africa teaches English at a primary school in Changxing county, Zhejiang province. [XU YU/XINHUA]

New guidelines target rogue recruitment agencies

Mohsine el Baghdadi always wanted to be an English teacher in China, considering such a job to be ideal.

A friend who taught English in China told the 27-year-old Moroccan that foreign teachers are in high demand, there are boundless opportunities and the jobs are well paid.

Baghdadi’s own experience confirmed this. Replies flooded in after he posted a message on Facebook, stating: “Hello from Morocco. I am an English-language teacher searching for a good job with a good salary in China.”

Many of the replies were job invitations from recruitment agencies, while others came from language institutes. For the most part, they told Baghdadi that applying for a job in China was straightforward. It was sufficient merely to submit a resume.

The salary also was tempting. Baghdadi teaches English in Morocco, where he is paid $500 a month. However, those who approached him from China offered a monthly salary ranging from $1,500 to $2,500, with a bonus.

But he said some of those who replied appeared too eager to hire foreign teachers, and Baghdadi said he was even given “illegal advice” about getting a job.

The regulation on foreign experts’ work permits states that overseas language teachers in China must obtain a work visa and be a native speaker with a bachelor’s degree or higher, have at least two years of related teaching experience and no criminal record.

This means that Baghdadi, who is not a native English speaker and does not have sufficient experience in teaching the language, may never have the chance to work in China as a teacher.

“But some agencies told me that they could help me apply for a Chinese business visa, and I could become a teacher in China, come what may,” he said.

Teaching English is a lucrative business in China, as the country’s opening-up to the world means more people are looking to learn the “universal language”. For foreigners, their nationality and even their skin tone can, at times, be their ticket to securing a teaching job.

According to a report last year from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, 300 million people in China were learning English. There were 50,000 English-language training institutions in the country and the training market was worth as much as 500 billion yuan ($72 billion), the report said.

The high demand for English-language instruction had made finding a job for most foreigners, particularly those who are white, little more than a formality.

According to a survey by Banyuetan, a Xinhua News Agency magazine, in 2017, there were more than 400,000 foreign teachers working in the education sector in China, but only one-third of them were employed legally.

In recent years, the country has been rocked by a number of high-profile scandals resulting from a lack of vigilance in hiring foreign teachers. In some cases, people with questionable backgrounds have landed jobs.

The latest such case occurred last month. On July 23, an English-language teacher from Colombia working at the Hong Huang Lan Kindergarten in Qingdao, Shandong province, was arrested for allegedly molesting a 4-year-old girl.

Earlier in July, 16 foreigners were detained in Xuzhou, Jiangsu province, for allegedly taking drugs. According to Xuzhou police, seven of them work for an education company, and the remaining nine are students.

Media reports later said a number of foreign teachers from the EF Education center in Xuzhou had been detained by police for allegedly taking drugs. According to the company’s website, EF is an international education company based in Sweden, and has centers in many Chinese cities.

In April 2013, media reports said that Neil Robinson, from the United Kingdom, had taught at the Beijing World Youth Academy, an international school, for nearly four years while being wanted for questioning by British police in connection with child sex offences.

Such cases have aroused widespread concern among parents and students, with many of them calling for the qualifications of foreign teachers at English-learning organizations to be subject to nationwide inspection.

On some online expatriate forums, topics such as “How to become an English teacher in China without a work permit”, or “nonnative speakers can also teach in China” are popular. They offer tips for those who want to work in the country without the required documentation or experience.

One of the items stated, “Although a Chinese work visa is the only visa that it is technically legal to teach with, there is also the possibility that they might offer you an alternative one instead, such as a student visa or a business visa.

“These are easier and less costly to obtain, which is why this option is sometimes preferred by schools. Additionally, these visas may also be issued if you don’t meet the requirements for a work visa (i.e. you don’t have a bachelor’s degree). While these alternative visas are not technically legal for work, they will permit you to remain in China for an extended period of time, making it easy to find work as a teacher.”

Alan Coleman, an Australian who is a qualified teacher in Beijing, said many people are teaching because the jobs are well-paid and relatively easy. “It is the fault of the schools, as they employ people who shouldn’t be teaching,” he added.

Most teachers are not qualified. For example, they have not been certified by an internationally recognized English-language teaching and testing program, but still land jobs due to the high demand for native English speakers, Coleman said.

Under the law, only foreigners with teaching qualifications or a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate or TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) certificate, are allowed to teach in China.

Huang Minjiao, who works for a startup English-language teaching institution in Dongguan city, Guangdong province, said, “The truth is, parents seldom ask an agency to look at a teacher’s credentials, but want to see if the teacher ‘looks like a native English speaker’.

“Some families in China spend a considerable amount on foreign English-language teachers for their children, but sometimes parents mistakenly think any foreigner-regardless of the level of their skill in the language-can provide quality education in English,” Huang said.

Coleman added: “Even if someone is a native speaker, I don’t believe that they can necessarily become an English-language teacher. Teaching a language is not easy. It’s very difficult and you need to work hard to be able to do a good job.”

With more than 10 years’ teaching experience in Portugal, Sudan and Saudi Arabia, Coleman found his job in Beijing through a recruitment agency.

A report in China Education Daily said the contracts of the majority of foreign English-language teachers at Chinese schools are still handled by for-profit, third-party recruitment agencies, rather than the schools directly.

Eager to make money, many such agencies place applicants’ appearance ahead of their teaching qualifications. For them, hiring English-language teachers simply means recruiting foreigners, no matter where they come from. They often hire from countries such as France, Germany or Cuba, and then pressure the recruits to lie to schools about their backgrounds.

A Ukrainian student who studied in China wrote on her blog that when she was looking for a job in the country, one agency wanted her to “disguise” her identity and state that she came from the UK. A member of staff told her: “You’re blonde and pale-skinned. Anyway, students can’t tell which country you’re from.”

According to some media reports, these agencies also offer contracts to foreigners who do not qualify for work visas, and instruct potential teachers to lie on their visa applications to avoid disclosing their work plans. They also fake documents to employ teachers on tourist or business visas rather than the legally required work visas.

He Chugang, general manager for the South China region at Amber Education, an overseas study consultancy, said, “Chinese parents remain enthusiastic about English-language acquisition, as ‘monotonous’ public education cannot satisfy their diverse demands.”

He said this has led to cases of unqualified, unmotivated and sometimes even non-English-speaking foreigners tutoring Chinese children.

He Shu, an associate professor at Peking University who teaches English as a foreign language, said Chinese parents often think that foreigners can introduce their children to Western cultures and improve their English.

“However, some parents are not educated or experienced enough to tell the difference between a professional teacher and a foreigner who lacks many teaching skills,” she said.

“Also, some non-English-speaking parents believe in the stereotype that every foreigner is supposed to speak English. This phenomenon is not only commonplace in big cities, where overseas tutors are in high demand amid an overwhelming number of foreigners, but English-language tutors are also being sought in smaller provincial towns.”

However, the situation is expected to change soon. On July 15, the Ministry of Education, together with five other central authorities, issued new guidelines on after-school training to specify the qualifications, requirements and supervision needed for such services.

The guideline states that educational institutions must publicly display the personal details of any foreign teachers they employ, including their names, photographs, teaching qualifications and previous academic and professional experience.

Institutions should rectify any “problems” before the end of June next year, or could face punishment ranging from a fine to being suspended or closed, the guideline added.

Chinese police seize 412 kg drugs in border province

KUNMING – Police in Southwest China’s Yunnan province have arrested four suspects and seized 412.4 kg of methamphetamine, the provincial public security department said Sunday.

After receiving a tip-off on cross-border drug trafficking in early January, police in Fengqing county in the city of Lincang dispatched police officers to investigate the case in the counties of Gengma and Cangyuan in Lincang.

After more than two months of investigation, police captured two suspects in Cangyuan county on March 17, seizing 203 packages of methamphetamine from the interlayers of their electric scooters.

The third suspect was caught at a border inspection station in Gengma county on the same day, with 1,480 packages of methamphetamine seized from his electric scooter and residence.

The last suspect was arrested in the neighboring Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region in April, according to the police.

The details of the case were first disclosed on Sunday.

The four suspects have been put under criminal detention. Further investigation is underway.

Yunnan is a major front in China’s battle against drug crime, as it borders the Golden Triangle known for its rampant drug production and trafficking.

Premier calls for better medical education to build “healthy China”

BEIJING – Premier Li Keqiang has instructed education and health authorities to push forward the country’s medical education reform and improve professional training to build a healthy China.

In a written instruction consigned to a national conference on medical education reform held in Beijing Monday, Li urged the Ministry of Education, the National Health and Family Planning Commission and the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine to step up innovation and further coordinate medical practice with education.

They should take into account China’s conditions while learning from other countries, put traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine on equal footing, and train a large number of qualified medical professionals to provide better health services, Li said.

Vice Premier Liu Yandong, who was present at Monday’s conference, also urged medical and education authorities to meet the needs of the people, improve the structure of medical education, improve its quality, in order to train the talent needed for the healthy China scheme.