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John McCain irks Chinese officials with Arab Spring comments

US Senator John McCain publicly challenged China on it's systematic stomping of political expression.
John McCain at the 48th Munich conference on security policyEnlarge
US senator John McCain looks on during day one of the 48th Munich Security Conference at Hotel Bayerischer Hof on February 3, 2012 in Munich, Germany. The 48th Munich conference on security policy is running till February 5, 2012. (Johannes Simon/AFP/Getty Images)

US Sen. John McCain irked Chinese officials over the weekend by doing something that American officials rarely do anymore — challenging China's narrative in public.

McCain, who lost the president race to President Barack Obama in 2008, told a senior Chinese official that it's only a matter of time before the Arab Spring filters in to China.

Beijing reacted last year to tiny protests in the Chinese capital with overwhelming force and a huge police presence, then systematically spent months clamping down on its critics, arresting, detaining and threatening those who questioned officialdom.

According to Reuters, while speaking at a panel in Germany, McCain told China's Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun that the ongoing protests and self-immolations on the Tibetan plateau are a sure sign that change is inevitable.

More from GlobalPost: China says "No sweat" over Tibet

"It is a matter of concern when Tibetans are burning themselves to death because of the continued repression of the Tibetan people in your country," McCain reportedly said. "I have said on many occasions and I will say again the Arab Spring is coming to China as well."


China: Tibetan activists continue protests

China has ratcheted up security in Tibetan region, cutting internet and phone service.
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Tibetans (L) walk next to a police car on a street in Chengdu in southwest China's Sichuan province on Jan. 27, 2012. (Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images)

China has ratcheted up security in the Tibetan region, cutting internet and some mobile phone services in large swatches as patrols clamp down on protest.

The state-run Global Times newspaper reported from a Tibetan part of Sichuan province on Friday, saying that internet and phone services were cut in a 50-square-kilometer area around protest sites.

The nationalistic newspaper published one of the only available reports in English from the Tibetan region, as foreign journalists in China have been blocked from reporting on the situation.

In a lengthy piece under the headline, "Monks Run Amok," the newspaper focused on a Han Chinese man who said his house and possessions were destroyed when "a knife-wielding mob shouting death threats," stormed his home. The piece said his house was targeted because his brother is a local police official.

More from GlobalPost: China says "no sweat" over Tibet

Tibetan activists based outside of China have documented wide protests across Tibet since late last year, and the Chinese security response, which they say is heavy-handed.

It's been impossible for most foreign journalists to reach the area to independently investigate or verify what has happened.

The Global Times took a party line in painting the conflict, in which several Tibetan monks have set themselves on fire to protest Chinese rule, saying that it was driven by forces outside of China and not an ethnic dispute. The man whose house was destroyed told the newspaper: "There's no conflict between Han and Tibetan people. All the crimes were committed by political monks in foreign countries."

That thinly veiled reference to the Dalai Lama comes a day after the newspaper hinted that China would outlast the Tibetan spiritual leader by waiting for him to die.

More from GlobalPost: Video purports to show Tibetan nun self-immolating (GRAPHIC)


China housing market restricts mortgages for foreigners

China's housing market limits mortgage loans for non-Chinese citizens to stem foreign investments.
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China limits mortgage loans for foreigners to stem investments. Here, two Chinese workers walk pass a huge signboard for a property project in Qingdao, eastern China's Shandong province. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Foreigners looking for a piece of China's property market may be out of luck. 

The country's economic planners have moved against non-Chinese citizens buying homes here, curbing banks from extending home mortgages for non-Chinese citizens.

The move was explained by the National Development and Reform Commission, the government's central economic planning body, as an attempt to help cool China's property sector, though it offered no data on how many foreigners buy homes in China or how their purchases might affect the overall market. The new restrictions, according to Chinese media, will penalize banks for giving mortgages to foreigners.

More from GlobalPost: Should China change international trade rules?

"When evaluating the foreign-exchange quota for medium- and long-term debt [loans with a maturity period of more than one year], we mainly examine the loans for fixed-asset investment. Those medium- and long-term loans given to foreigners for the purposes of home purchases will not be arranged," the NDRC said in a statement, according to China Daily

China has been looking for way to slow down the heated property, seen by many as a major trouble spot in the country's economy. 

More from GlobalPost: China considers fingerprinting foreigners


Chinese paper: "No sweat" over Tibet

Journalists are barred from Tibet as tensions rise.
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Tibetans walk next to a police car on a street in Chengdu in southwest China's Sichuan province on Jan. 27, 2012. (Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images)

As the situation in Tibet grows potentially worse and more unclear because of lack of access to journalists, a major state-run Chinese newspaper has weighed in by saying there's "no need to sweat over minor unrest."

In an editorial published on Thursday, the nationalistic Global Times said foreign hand-wringing over Tibet was fruitless and unhelpful. In recent weeks, Tibetan rights groups have chronicled a growing crackdown in the region, where monks and others have reportedly staged protests and set themselves on fire to protest Chinese rule of the Tibetan region.

More from Globalpost: China increases security following Tibetan protests

The protests and heavy-handed response from Chinese security forces have been accompanied by a virtual closing off of the area, which extends beyond the borders of Tibet proper and into other Chinese provinces. Several foreign correspondents who have attempted to access the region have been stopped, detained and sent back to Beijing.

In a statement on Thursday, the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China said: "The Chinese authorities have set up a massive security cordon in an attempt to prevent journalists from entering Tibetan areas in Western Sichuan Province where major unrest — including killings and self-immolations — has been reported."

More from GlobalPost: Buddhist monk "first to self-immolate in Tibet"

The Global Times said China shouldn't worry about such things. But violent protests in Tibet that erupted in 2008 gave Beijing a black eye just ahead of its first-ever Olympics and led to anti-China protests around the world as the Olympic torch circle the globe.


The new Chinese diplomacy

China seems to be building their diplomatic efforts, literally.
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A Chinese worker of the China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) looks on January 30, 2010 at the site of the new African Union (AU) conference center in Addis Ababa. (Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images)

BEIJING, China — There is a very specific formula to Chinese diplomacy.

From national soccer stadiums to plush and modern conference centers, Chinese architecture bestowed as governmental gifts is making an indelible mark. If you've ever wondered how China has risen so quickly in global stature, this ongoing list of buildings compiled by Chinese internet users might be worth a thousand words by way of explanation.

The Ministry of Tofu has translated the posts and some of the comments about China's largesse, a showcase of Chinese government gifts in the form of buildings, around the world.

More from GlobalPost: Asia’s skyscraper supremacy

All the buildings are in developing countries, predominantly in Africa, where China has been working for decades to leave a diplomatic impression.

The compulsive curation of photos comes amid a huge hubbub among Chinese netizens in recent days with the unveiling of what may be the biggest show yet of China's largesse. In the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, the showy new highrise headquarters of the African Union, reportedly build and paid for by China for $200 million, opened a few days ago. 

More from GlobalPost: AU's new Chinese-built headquarters opens in Addis Ababa


Should China change international trade rules?

Global Times says China should reconsider its attitude toward the WTO and global trade practices.
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China, which marks the 10th anniversary of its accession to the World Trade Organization on Dec. 11, has seen its GDP almost quadruple over the past decade, and exports and imports rise nearly fivefold. Here, a Chinese man dressed as a mythical figure hands out discount coupons to a tourist in Beijing. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

The World Trade Organization's latest ruling against China drew a typical response from China's Ministry of Commerce, but a somewhat more intriguing one from one of the country's main patriotic newspapers.

While official China said it "regretted" the WTO's ruling on its exports of nine different types of raw materials, the Global Times said in an editorial on Wednesday that maybe China shouldn't be following all the rules.

Whether China does follow the rules is up for debate, a topic that even US President Barack Obama has addressed in calling for trade partners to act like grown-ups. International companies in China have complained that this country falls far short of meeting the promises it made to get in the WTO 10 years ago. In some cases, China may be backsliding on those pledges.

More from GlobalPost: China loses WTO appeal on raw materials

But according to the Global Times, China should reconsider its attitude toward the WTO and global trade practices. The editorial says:

"China has generally been following WTO regulations and rulings. But it should find the best balance between applying WTO rules and protecting its national interests. Getting approval from the West is not our top concern. Admittedly, joining the WTO has boosted China's rise. However, entry was granted at the cost of China accepting some unfair terms, from which the aftereffects have gradually emerged, including this ruling. They may become a hidden problem for China's economy."

"The latest WTO ruling has highlighted the urgency of amending some of the unfair terms of The Protocol of China's Entry into the WTO. It is also necessary to express China's dissatisfaction and garner public support for the revision."

More from GlobalPost: China and the WTO, 10 years later


Hong Kong: Mainlanders are like locusts

Resentment over wealth fuels the battle between Hong Kong residents and Chinese from the mainland.
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A girl holds a Hong Kong newspaper with an anti-mainland China advertisement with a picture of a locust looking over the Hong Kong cityscape on Feb. 1, 2012. (Aaron Tam/AFP/Getty Images)

The escalating feud between Hong Kong residents and Chinese from the mainland reached a new level on Wednesday, when Hong Kong internet users who pulled together nearly $13,000 published a full-page newspaper ad comparing Chinese from the mainland to locusts threatening to overrun the territory.

The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reports that the inflammatory ad, published in today's Apple Daily, was paid for by a group of Hong Kong natives upset, among other things, over the growing number of Chinese mothers who travel to Hong Kong to give birth. Chinese mothers have strained Hong Kong's hospitals in recent years with a new wave of birth tourism to the island.

But the tensions go far beyond just anger over medical services. Cultural differences and resentment over wealth seem to be at the core of the battle, which cuts both ways.

Most recently, a Beijing professor discussing a viral video that showed a subway fight between Hong Kong and mainland residents referred to Hong Kongers as "running dogs" of the British empire and "bastards."

More from GlobalPost: Outrage in Hong Kong over "dog" comments

Hong Kong, which returned to China from British control in 1997, still retains a certain degree of autonomy and with that, a higher standard of living that cities within China proper, from world-class shopping to medical care. As China's wealth has grown and its rich become hungry consumers, Chinese citizens have flocked to Hong Kong. The locals' resentment toward impolite guests from the mainland has risen accordingly over the years.

"[Mainlanders] have already crossed our bottom line," a user of the internet forum that funded the locust ad told the SCMP. "Why are mainland mothers flooding in to take up resources in public hospitals, getting our benefits and social welfare? Why do mainlanders ... refuse to follow our rules and order? We can't accept that."


Where Republican presidential candidates stand on China

China has become a major political issue in the presidential race.
Republican presidential candidates, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (L) listens to former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) during the Florida Republican Presidential debate January 26, 2012 (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

China has become a major political issue for America this election year, with presidential candidates casting about for their own take on how to deal with the emerging superpower.

Writing on the website of the Carnegie Center for International Peace, Michael D. Swaine and Oliver Palmer break down where the GOP candidates stand on China.

Former US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, who left the race recently, was widely regarded as the candidate with the best grasp of China. With Huntsman gone, the Republican field looks somewhat shallow when it comes to knowledge and policy toward the world's second-largest economy.

More from GlobalPost: Jon Huntsman leaves presidential race (VIDEO)

Of the candidates still standing, Swaine and Palmer appear unimpressed. They describe frontrunner Mitt Romney as focusing almost exclusively on economic issues rather than security concerns related to China and say his views are "narrowly expressed, leaving many issues untouched and others only indirectly addressed."

More from GlobalPost: US needs popular support for viable foreign policy

Romney still comes off better than his main threat. As Swaine and Palmer write on the Carnegie Center's website:

"Newt Gingrich, Romney’s main rival in the primaries, has not articulated a coherent policy, choosing instead to employ fear-mongering rhetoric about a threatening China. Indeed, Gingrich’s policy statements fail to exhibit a detailed understanding of China, despite his profession that he has 'been studying China since the 1960s.'"

President Obama gained fans for an increasingly tough and nuanced China policy. Republicans might want to study up.

More from GlobalPost: Florida debate roundup: Five highlights (VIDEO)


China ships rice to North Korea after Kim Jong Il's death

Kim Jong Il's death might have been good news to the hungry citizens of North Korea.
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China is shipping rice to North Korea, where malnutrition for children is still high. Here, children attend a nursery with special food provided by the World Food Program in Pyongyang. (Gerald Bourke/Getty Images)

A Japanese newspaper reports that China has initiated big shipments of rice to the Hermit Kingdom in recent days, something it agreed to do only after the Dear Leader departed.

The Tokyo Shimbun reported that China's president and others decided in late December to begin massive food shipments to North Korea in the wake of Kim Jong Il's death. AFP says shipments were made over 10 days earlier this month, before the Chinese New Year.

More from GlobalPost: Will North Korea change for the better?

It's unclear how Kim's son and successor was involved in making the deal with China for food aid, but one of China's interests doesn't seem to have changed. With its own political power transition afoot, China remains set on maintaining stability in North Korea and preventing a flood of refugees.

More from GlobalPost: An in-depth series: After Kim Jong Il

Following large-scale North Korean refugee incursions during recent famines, the Chinese government has made a practice in recent years of returning North Koreans to their country when they're caught here. Returnees faced punishment and possible death back home, and China's unspoken policy seems to have stemmed the tide of North Koreans.

Rice shipments might ensure that fewer people feel compelled to leave during the leadership transition. 

More from GlobalPost: The AP opens bureau in North Korea