China Investigates Regulator of Fast-Moving Insurance Industry
Keith Bradsher, THE NEW YORK TIMES
China’s anti-corruption investigators are targeting the country’s top insurance regulator, throwing doubt over an industry that has been behind a wave of blockbuster global deals but has raised concerns about financial risk in the world’s second-largest economy. The Chinese Communist Party’s anti-corruption investigation agency said Sunday afternoon that the regulator, Xiang Junbo, had been placed under investigation for “severe violations of discipline.” In China, that language is commonly used in reference to a corruption inquiry. Mr. Xiang is just the latest top Communist Party official to fall afoul of Communist Party Leader Xi Jinping’s years long anti-corruption campaign. He is a member of the party’s Central Committee, a group of about 200 officials who make major decisions about how the party is run.
China and Norway Resume Free Trade Negotiations After Diplomatic Freeze
Philip Wen, REUTERS
China and Norway signed a pact on Friday to resume free trade negotiations, marking the end of a six-year diplomatic freeze, a move China called internationally significant, against the backdrop of a rise in protectionist sentiment worldwide. The memorandum of understanding was one of six pacts covering cooperation on economic development, technology, health, science and sport during Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s visit to China, the first since the countries resumed diplomatic relations in December. Until then relations between Oslo and Beijing had been on ice, following the award of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.
North Korean Railroad Workers Jailed for Criticizing Missile Launch
RADIO FREE ASIA
Seven North Korean railroad workers heard criticizing a recent missile test by their secretive, sanctions-hit regime were arrested by authorities in Jagang province at the end of last month, sources say. The workers, members of North Korea’s quasi-military “stormtrooper” construction brigades, had openly questioned the value of the launch, saying that the money spent on weapons tests would be better spent on the country’s crumbling infrastructure, one source told RFA’s Korean Service. “While they were playing their game, a report of the missile launch was being aired over and over again on television,” the source said. “This annoyed them, and they said, ‘If I had the money to make missiles, I would rather buy more construction equipment.’”
Foreigners Run in North Korea Marathon
Hundreds of foreigners have been taking part in North Korea’s annual marathon in Pyongyang. The race is a rare chance for outsiders to meet local people in the secretive country. Officially called the “Mangyongdae Prize International Marathon,” it became an instant hit with tourists when it was opened up to amateur foreign runners in 2014.
Gov. Walker Breaks Down His Alaska Meeting with Xi Jinping
Jeannette Lee Falsey, ALASKA DISPATCH NEWS
As Chinese Communist Party Leader Xi Jinping and his large entourage gazed at the wintry mountains along Turnagain Arm during a surprise visit to Anchorage this week, he mentioned to Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, who stood at his side, that China was hosting the Winter Olympics in 2022 and its athletes were looking for snowier venues to train. The relationship between China and Alaska is one of customer and merchant, and the Chinese delegation was here to browse. The interest in Alaska resources from the highest echelons of China’s Communist Party was a welcome bit of good news for a state whose economy and budget have been pummeled by recession. But it’s unclear what comes next—whether the opportunity to bend the ear of China’s paramount leader will translate to more investment, more tourists and more exports—or not.
Trade War Averted as China and US Agree to 100-Day Plan
Tom Mitchell and Shawn Donnan, FINANCIAL TIMES
As Donald Trump’s first 100-day clock runs out on a tumultuous start to his presidency, he and Xi Jinping have set a second clock in an effort to avert an all-out trade war between the world’s two largest economies. A 100-day plan to address trade imbalances between China and the US was the most important outcome of the two presidents’ meeting last week in Mar-a-Lago, Florida. The details of the plan are still being worked out but are likely to include Chinese concessions on everything from agricultural imports to foreign investment in its financial sector, according to Chinese and US officials involved in the negotiations.
In Venezuela Power Play, Another Opposition Leader is Sidelined by Dubious Accusations
Mery Mogollon and Chris Kraul, LA TIMES
Venezuela’s opposition leader, accused by authorities of mismanaging government funds, has been barred from running for office for 15 years in a move that critics of embattled President Maduro said was a ruse to remove a potential rival in 2019 elections. Henrique Capriles, the 44-year-old governor of Miranda state, narrowly lost to Maduro in the highly disputed 2013 presidential election to choose a successor to Hugo Chávez, the longtime socialist leader who had died of cancer. On Thursday, Interior Minister Nestor Reverol blamed Capriles for leading demonstrations that threatened to “destabilize the country.” A day later, the controller general’s office said Capriles was disqualified from running for office again because of improper use of his state’s budget on unspecified contracts, funeral expenses, and for publicity.
10 Days of Unrest in Venezuela Come to a Head in Massive Protest
Eline Gordts, HUFFINGTON POST
Days of angry protests in Venezuela came to a head over the weekend, when tens of thousands of people took to the streets to demand the departure of the country’s unpopular President Maduro. Rallies went out in cities across the country on Saturday, the largest of them in the capital, Caracas. Protesters in the capital chanted “Liberty, Liberty” and carried signs saying “Dictator Maduro!” and “Elections Now!” While protesters say Saturday’s demonstration in Caracas started peacefully, the day ended in fierce clashes between demonstrators and security forces. Officers in riot gear used tear gas and water cannons to prevent marchers from proceeding. Around a hundred protesters broke into an office of the Supreme Court. Opposition activists say dozens of people were detained.