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No dialogue between US, China defense chiefs in Singapore



A major regional security forum is underway in Singapore amid rising tensions in the South China Sea and East Asia, with in-person communication between defense chiefs from China and the United States remaining shuttered.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had invited his Chinese counterpart, General Li Shangfu, to a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore but the Chinese minister declined.

China’s decision is “unfortunate,” Austin said before arriving in the city state which has been hosting the annual event since 2002.

“You’ve heard me talk a number of times about the importance of countries with large, with significant capabilities, being able to talk to each other so you can manage crises and prevent things from spiralling out of control unnecessarily,” the U.S. defense secretary was quoted by news agencies as saying in Tokyo on Thursday.

“I would welcome any opportunity to engage with Li,” Austin said. “I think defense departments should be talking to each other on a routine basis or should have open channels for communications.”

Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Li Shangfu (center) inspects the honor guard with Singapore Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen (right) during his official visit to the defense ministry in Singapore, June 1, 2023. Credit: AP

For its part, China said that “dialogue cannot be without principles, and communication cannot be without a bottom line.”

Chinese Ministry of Defense spokesperson Tan Kefei said on Wednesday that the “current difficulties in the exchanges between the two militaries are entirely on the U.S. side.”

“On the one hand, the U.S. keeps saying that it wants to strengthen communication, but on the other hand, it ignores China’s concerns and artificially creates obstacles, seriously undermining the mutual trust between the two militaries,” Tan said.

The spokesperson did not elaborate on the obstacles but the U.S. Indo Pacific Command on Tuesday accused a Chinese J-16 fighter jet of performing an “unnecessarily aggressive” maneuver during the intercept of a U.S. Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft last week.

Beijing responded by calling it a hyped-up accusation, saying the U.S. spy plane “made an intrusion” into the Chinese army’s training zone in the South China Sea and its “aerial forces … professionally dealt with the situation in accordance with law and regulation.”

The Chinese defense minister, who took office in March, has been on the U.S. sanction list since 2018 for the purchase of SU-35 combat aircrafts and S-400 missile system-related equipment from Russia.

This could be another obstacle for an official meeting between Gen. Li and Secretary Austin.

Focal points

In 2019 the then-Minister of National Defense Wei Fenghe had his first in-person meeting with his U.S. counterpart Patrick Shanahan. 

Wei also met with Lloyd Austin on the sidelines of Shangri-La Dialogue in 2022 when the forum returned after a couple years of disruption because of COVID-19.

Analysts say the absence of a U.S.-China bilateral meeting reflects the difficulties in the military-to-military relations between the two powers.

Yet “the U.S.-China competition is a focal point of the Shangri-La Dialogue, since it shapes so much of the dynamics in the region and beyond,” said Ian Chong, an associate professor of political science at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

The Global Times, a sister publication of the Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece People’s Daily, in an editorial on Thursday said that the ball is in the U.S. court. 

“Frankly speaking, the outcome and effectiveness of the Shangri-La Dialogue largely depend on how the U.S. behaves during the conference,” it warned, accusing the U.S. of always trying “to take center stage and set the tone” for the forum.

There are still hopes that, despite the rhetoric, the two delegations from the United States and China would meet “unofficially under a low-key format”, said Hoang Thi Ha, Co-ordinator for the Regional Strategic and Political Studies Program at the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.

Southeast Asian countries “are keen to see whether the U.S. and China would renew their communication especially via the military and defense channel,” Ha told RFA.

“It is in everybody’s interest that Washington and Beijing tone down their hostile posturing towards each other,” the analyst said.

Lloyd Austin (1).JPG
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks at the First Plenary Session of the 19th Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore June 11, 2022. Credit: Reuters/Caroline Chia

Li Shangfu and Lloyd Austin, separately, plan to make speeches at the forum. Li will speak of China’s new security initiatives and Austin on the U.S. leadership in the Indo-Pacific. 

During the three days of the Shangri-La Dialogue, 600 delegates from 49 countries will examine the complex security environment in the Asia-Pacific and the war in Ukraine. 

“Other topics of discussion are the situation in Myanmar and the war in Ukraine, especially when it comes to the issue of food security,” NUS’s Ian Chong told RFA.

In his opinion, the rising tension in the Taiwan Strait will also be discussed, as “any Taiwan crisis will affect the region quite directly because of supply chains, shipping lanes, air lanes, and submarine cables going to Northeast Asia.”

“The problem, however, is that Taiwan has only a token quasi-official presence at the forum,” the analyst said, noting that China, which considers Taiwan one of its provinces, would resolutely object to any official Taiwan attendance.

“More exposure to Taiwanese experts in the Shangri-La Dialogue certainly could provide deeper insights into the situations across Taiwan Strait,” said Norah Huang, research fellow from Taiwanese think tank Prospect Foundation.

The think tank’s president, Lai I-chung, is attending the forum as a guest of the organizer, the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The Shangri-La Dialogue, in its 20 years, is “a unique meeting where ministers debate the region’s most pressing security challenges, engage in important bilateral talks and come up with fresh approaches together,” according to IISS.

Speakers at this year’s event include the ministers of defense from Germany, Australia, the U.K., Canada, Sweden, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia and Cambodia.

Two key Southeast Asian players – Malaysia and Vietnam – are keeping…

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The Latest Updates on China’s Visa-Free Policies



China has fully reopened its borders, allowing international tourism to recover. Visa-free travel policies are reinstated, and visa fees for foreign travelers will be reduced by 25% from December 11, 2023, to December 31, 2024. China and Singapore are also pursuing a 30-day visa-free travel arrangement.

China has fully reopened its borders, promising recovery of international tourism and travel. Many of the visa-free travel policies that were in place prior to the pandemic have therefore come back into effect, enabling people from a wide range of countries to visit

UPDATE (December 8, 2023): On December 8, 2023, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released the Notice on Temporary Reduction of Fees for Applying Visa to China. According to this notice, during the period from December 11, 2023, to December 31, 2024, China shall cut visa fees by 25 percent across the board for foreign travelers. For more details, please consult with your local Chinese embassy or consulate.

UPDATE (December 7, 2023): China and Singapore are seeking to establish a mutual 30-day visa-free travel arrangement to boost people exchanges between the two countries, according to Reuters. At the time of writing, no further details have been released regarding the timeline or the eligibility, requirement, and application procedures of this new arrangement. Click here for more information regarding this mutual 30-day visa-free travel between China and Singapore. 

This article is republished from China Briefing. Read the rest of the original article.

China Briefing is written and produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The practice assists foreign investors into China and has done since 1992 through offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Please contact the firm for assistance in China at

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Analysis of UK Investments in China for 2023: Evaluating Deals, Values, M&A, and Investments



British Government underwent reshuffle with pro-China David Cameron as Foreign Minister. Possible mild rapprochement with Beijing. Analysis of UK investments in China this year reveals potential trends. Report includes unique Q1-Q3 data and predicts outlook for 2024.

By Chris Devonshire-Ellis & Henry Tillman   

With a reshuffle in the British Government and ex-Prime Minister – and generally pro-China politician David Cameron now as the UK’s Foreign Minister, there have been early signs of a potential mild rapprochement in the British governments overall attitude towards Beijing.

But before people get carried away, we can look at what investments the UK has made into China this year – as investments made while anti-China politics have tended to be the norm are typically indicative of stronger trends. In this report I include unique data that has not previously been made public, and examine the Q1-Q3 investment trends to see what may lie ahead for 2024.

This article is republished from China Briefing. Read the rest of the original article.

China Briefing is written and produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The practice assists foreign investors into China and has done since 1992 through offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Please contact the firm for assistance in China at

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Ratings agency cuts China’s credit outlook



Financially strapped local governments and state-owned enterprises pose a risk to China’s future economic growth, the ratings agency Moody’s said today in a report downgrading the country’s credit outlook from stable to negative.

Growing evidence suggests that the central government will be required to shore up the debt-laden entities, creating “broad downside risks to China’s fiscal, economic and institutional strength,” Moody’s said.

Local governments are thought to have accumulated trillions of dollars of debt due to spending during the COVID pandemic and a loss of income due to a troubled real estate market.

Despite the challenges, Moody’s maintained China’s overall credit rating of A1, which it describes as low-risk though not the safest category of investment. Moody’s said the rating reflects its belief in the country’s “financial and institutional resources to manage the transition in an orderly fashion.”

“Its economy’s vast size and robust, albeit slowing, potential growth rate, support its high shock absorption capacity,” Moody’s said. 

Even so, the outlook downgrade signals some concern about China’s future creditworthiness.

In a statement, China’s Foreign Ministry said it was disappointed in the ratings change and that Moody’s concerns about its growth and financial stability were “unnecessary.” 

In recent years, through the continuous efforts of relevant departments and local governments, China has established a system to prevent and resolve the risks of local government debt,” the ministry said. “The trend of disorderly and illegal borrowing by local governments has been initially curbed, and positive results have been achieved in the disposal of local government debt.”

An employee works at a steel plant in Huaian, in China’s eastern Jiangsu province, Dec. 3, 2023. (AFP)

Moody’s projects China’s annual growth rate will be 4% in 2024 and 2025 but average 3.8% from 2026 to 2030, at which time it might drop again to 3.5%. 

Derek Scissors, the chief economist at China Beige Book, a firm that analyzes China’s economy for investors, said in an email that the downgrade was to be expected.

“It’s a recognition of long-standing conditions, not a new development,” said Scissors, who is also a senior fellow at the free-market think tank American Enterprise Institute in Washington. “I think growth will be faster than Moody’s thinks in 2024 and decelerate more than they think after that.”

Fees from local land sales account for nearly 40% of the revenue to local and regional governments. But China’s real-estate sector has been hit hard by overbuilding. One giant, Evergrande, defaulted under massive debt last year, triggering a broader real estate crisis.

Moody’s report said that “the downsizing of the property sector is a major structural shift in China’s growth drivers which is ongoing and could represent a more significant drag to China’s overall economic growth rate than currently assessed.”

Edited by Tara McKelvey

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