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Beijing tests Manila’s nerves in disputed reef



China was once again trying to block Philippine ships from delivering supplies to the troops stationed at the Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea on Friday.

Earlier in the day, “China Coast Guard (CCG) and Chinese Maritime Militia (CMM) vessels recklessly harassed, blocked, executed dangerous maneuvers in another attempt to illegally impede or obstruct a routine resupply and rotation mission to BRP Sierra Madre (LS 57) at Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal),” the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea said in a statement. The West Philippine Sea is the name that Filipinos use for waters claimed by Manila in the South China Sea.

“CCG vessel 5203 deployed water cannon against Philippine supply vessel M/L Kalayaan,” it said. M/L, or motor launch, implies a small-sized, motor-powered boat. 

The Kalayaan and another supply boat, the Unaizah Mae 1, were “also subjected to extremely reckless and dangerous harassment at close proximity” by Chinese vessels inside the shoal’s lagoon during their approach to BRP Sierra Madre, said the Philippine National Task Force.  

“Nonetheless, both supply boats were able to successfully reach LS 57 (BRP Sierra Madre),” it said.

“We condemn, once again, China’s latest unprovoked acts of coercion and dangerous maneuvers … that has put the lives of our people at risk.”

Manila deliberately ran the World War II-era Sierra Madre aground in 1999 to serve as its outpost at the shoal and has to dispatch ships on a regular basis to deliver fresh supplies to the military personnel there.

The Philippines’ rotation and resupply (RoRe) missions have recently been increasingly impeded and blocked by Chinese ships.

Philippine ships were surrounded by a large number of Chinese vessels, Nov. 10, 2023. Credit: Ray Powell on X

In a graphic provided by Ray Powell from the U.S. Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation, Philippine Coast Guard ships accompanying the two supply boats were surrounded by a large number of Chinese vessels.

“In total, 24 Chinese ships were involved in the incident, including four Coast Guard ships. The rest were maritime militia ships,” Powell said.

Continuing blockade

“Beijing is testing Manila’s nerves,” said Malcolm Davis, a defense analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI).

“China will keep on conducting such blockades with the hope that Manila will give up its RoRe missions but it won’t happen,” Davis told Radio Free Asia.

When and how the United States, the Philippines’ treaty ally, will get involved remains to be seen, according to the analyst. By a mutual defense treaty, Washington is obliged to defend its ally in the case the latter is being attacked.

The U.S. has repeatedly said that Article IV of the 1951 U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty “extends to armed attacks on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, and aircraft – including those of its Coast Guard – anywhere in the South China Sea.”

The Chinese Coast Guard quickly issued a statement calling Manila’s mission “illegal.”

Spokesperson Gan Yu said that “two small transport ships and three coast guard ships from the Philippines entered the waters adjacent to Ren’ai Reef (Chinese name for Second Thomas Shoal) in China’s Nansha (Spratly) Islands without permission from the Chinese government.”

“The Chinese Coast Guard follows Philippine ships in accordance with the law, takes control measures, and makes temporary special arrangements for the Philippines to transport food and other necessary daily supplies,” Gan said.

“The Philippines’ actions violate China’s territorial sovereignty, violate the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and violate its own commitments,” he said, “We urge the Philippines to immediately stop its infringing actions.”

For its part, Manila said the Philippine Embassy in China “has demarched the Chinese foreign ministry and protested” against China’s actions.

As of Nov. 7, the Philippines has made 58 diplomatic protests against what it sees as China’s violations of its sovereignty in the South China Sea.

Last month Manila summoned the Chinese ambassador to the Philippines to protest over two similar incidents, one of which led to a small collision of ships.

Second Thomas Shoal is about 200 kilometers (124 miles) from the Philippine island of Palawan, and more than 1,000 kilometers from China’s Hainan island. It is claimed  by the Philippines, China, Vietnam and Taiwan, but is located inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Edited by Mike Firn and Elaine Chan.

BenarNews is an RFA-affiliated online news organization.

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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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