Google Makes a Comeback to China?
China's cyberspace is buzzing with Google's reintroduction of its full-function Translate mobile app in China. It has also reignited speculation (link in Chinese) that Google is staging a comeback after it shut down its Chinese search engines and withdrew from the China market in 2010, for reasons due to censorship. Techcrunch reports that the revamped app eliminates the need for software to bypass local censorship. China has about 730 million internet users and Google's absence is conspicuous, especially in apps, where China recently surpassed the U.S. as the most lucrative market for iOS developers. NPR's Aarti Shahani recently traveled in China and compared Baidu's and Google's voice translation apps, which you can listen to here.
China Confirms Xi's Florida Meeting with Trump, and a New Aircraft Carrier
President Trump predicted "a very difficult" meeting in a tweet just hours after both governments announced the summit. China-US Focus contributor David Shambaugh comments, "the Chinese side will come to the summit extremely well prepared on a wide range of complex issues confronting the two governments. The question is: how well prepared will the new American president be?" Another Focus contributor Shen Dingli suggests that the difference between the two countries could range from Taiwan, bilateral trade, the Korean Peninsula, and certainly the South China Sea. As Xi and Trump prepare for their first meeting, The Financial Times' chief foreign affairs commentator Gideon Rachman looks at the tests ahead for China-US ties.
Coinciding with the official announcement of the April 6-7 Xi-Trump meeting in Florida, Xinhua quoted a Defense Ministry spokesman who reported that the outfitting of China's first domestically made aircraft carrier is on target. A major restructuring of the Chinese navy is also expected after the domestically built aircraft carrier is commissioned, possibly in 2019-20. The ship is rumored to be based out of Sanya of Hainan Island, China's largest island in South China Sea.
Higher Stakes in the South China Sea
This week at the Boao Forum in Hainan, China proposed to establish a mechanism of cooperation in the South China Sea. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister, Liu Zhenmin noted, "the mechanism would be complementary to the existing bilateral ones between China and member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as well as multilateral ones between China and ASEAN countries under the framework of Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC)."
Meanwhile, the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) published new photos that indicate new radar antennae on Fiery Cross and Subi Reefs which would enable the deployment of combat planes and other military hardware. Ian Storey, a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies Yusof Ishak Institute told CNN, "I mean, you don't build facilities like that and then not use them."
The Boao Forum's participants stressed that the best way to avoid confrontation between the littoral states would be to share profits and enlarge the pool of resources. International conservation organizations, however, fear that the least discussed issue in the South China Sea are the resources themselves, which are in peril due to overfishing.
Red-hot Housing and Fake Divorces
Over the last decade many people have invested in second homes, leading to a surge in property prices in China's biggest cities. However, one by one, and in many cases without forewarning, city governments are rolling out measures to avoid a potential crash. New rules put a limit on the number of units individuals are allowed to purchase, raise down-payment requirements as high as 60 percent for second homes, and create minimum occupancy requirements. Xinhua reports that Hangzhou, Xiamen, and Fuzhou, where housing prices are skyrocketing, are now using these new rules to curb speculation. There even was a rule introduced last Friday (3/24) from the People's Bank of China to close the loophole of homeowners getting "fake divorces" in order to circumvent second home restrictions. Sixth Tone further commented: "According to a survey (link in Chinese) by the People's Bank of China published on March 21, half of 20,000 respondents from some 50 cities believe that current housing prices are 'high and unbearable.' In spite of this, more than 20 percent still said they were planning to buy a home in the next three months."
There are 20 total in-service aircraft carriers around the globe. The completion of China's first domestically made aircraft carrier would bring its total to two. Do you know how many the U.S. has in service? (see correct answer in the next issue of CTW)
a). 6 b). 8 c). 12