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News from China
Pingxiang chosen as pilot zone
15th August 2016

 CHINA’S State Council has approved Pingxiang, a city in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region on the border with Vietnam, to be a new opening-up pilot zone, a statement said on Friday.

The plan for the new zone will be published by the National Development and Reform Commission, the top economic planner.

Pingxiang is Guangxi’s second “key pilot zone for development and opening-up” after Dongxing, approved in August 2012.

Southwestern Yunnan Province’s Mengla bordering Laos, and Ruili, a major border crossing between China and Myanmar, as well as northern Inner Mongolia’s Manzhouli city and northeastern Heilongjiang Province’s Suifenhe-Dongning zone on the Russian border are also on the pilot zone list.

Source: Shanghai Daily, August 15, 2016
Cutting steel overcapacity on track
11th August 2016

 EFFORTS to reduce China’s steel production overcapacity are forging ahead according to plan, the top economic planner said yesterday.

In a medium-term roundup of the drive, the National Development and Reform Commission said, in an online statement, that the central government has rolled out general guidelines and the NDRC has also strongly guided local governments and major steel producers in drawing their own plans to cut capacity.

The State Council guidelines, issued on February 4, dictated that steel production capacity must be cut by 100 million tonnes to 150 million tonnes over the next five years, with 45 million tonnes cut in 2016.

Xia Nong, head of the NDRC industry department, said that the resolute measures have proven effective, the “People’s Daily” reported yesterday.

The drive will pick up speed in the second half of this year to achieve the goal, he said.

Inspection teams will be dispatched to local governments to oversee their work starting from mid-August, the report said.

Crude steel output posted a year-on-year fall of 1.1 percent in the first half of 2016.

China’s crude steel production capacity utilization rate of 71.2 percent in 2015 was higher than the global average of 69.7 percent, data from the World Steel Association showed.

In the first half year, China slashed steel capacity by 13 million tons, about 30 percent of the planned cuts for 2016, a figure in line with expectations, said Feng Fei, vice minister of industry and information technology.

The campaign gathered pace in July, when another 17 percent of the target was finished.

In the first half year, work focused on breaking down tasks so that they could be allocated to provincial-level regions, and on measures to support steel capacity cuts, Feng said.

In the second half, capacity cuts and supportive measures will gain speed, according to Feng.

Source: Shanghai Daily, August 11, 2016
China to extend protection of rare earth industry
9th August 2016

 CHINA will continue to crack down on illegal mining, processing and sales of rare earth elements, experts said yesterday.

In the 13th Five Year (2016 to 2020) period, Chinese ministries and departments will enhance cooperation, increase inspection, and take a zero-tolerance approach toward illegal mining of rare earth metals, said Zhou Changyi, head of the department of raw materials under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

A tracking system will also be implemented to trace the source of rare earth elements to curb illegal mining, he said.

“The next few years are an important period for the overhaul of China’s rare earth industry and promoting its healthy development,” he said.

China is the world's largest rare earth producer and exporter, but the industry is beset by numerous problems, such as illegal mining, smuggling and a lack of competitiveness due to weak research and development. Excessive exploration has also caused environmental damage.

“Illegal mining is the principal reason for gloominess in the industry,” Zhou said.

During the 12th Five-Year Plan period, 14 illegal rare earth mines and 28 companies were closed. More than 36,000 tons of illegal rare earth products were seized, and 230 million yuan in fines were imposed, according to statistics from the ministry.

Monitoring systems have been created in key mining districts such as Baiyun Ebo in Inner Mongolia, Ganzhou in Jiangxi Province, and Maoniuping in Sichuan Province.

Source: Shanghai Daily, August 9, 2016
Florida judge rules bitcoin is not real money
8th August 2016

 BITCOIN, a Florida judge says, is not real money. Ironically, that could provide a boost to use of the crypto-currency which has remained in the shadows of the financial system.

The July 22 ruling by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Teresa Pooler means that no specific license is needed to buy and sell bitcoins.

The judge dismissed a case against Michel Espinoza, who had faced money laundering and other criminal charges for attempting to sell US$1,500 worth of bitcoins to an undercover agent who told the defendant he was going to use the virtual money to buy stolen credit card numbers.

Espinoza’s lawyer Rene Palomino said the judge acknowledged that it was not illegal to sell one’s property and ruled that this did not constitute running an unauthorized financial service.

“He was selling his own personal bitcoins,” Palomino said. “This decision clears the way for you to do that in the state of Florida without a money transmitting license.”

In her ruling, Pooler said, “this court is unwilling to punish a man for selling his property to another, when his actions fall under a statute that is so vaguely written that even legal professionals have difficulty finding a singular meaning.”

She added “this court is not an expert in economics,” but bitcoin “has a long way to go before it is the equivalent of money.”

Bitcoin, whose origins remain a mystery, is a virtual currency that is created from computer code and is not backed by any government.

Advocates say this makes it an efficient alternative to traditional currencies because it is not subject to the whims of a state that may devalue its money to cut its debt, for example.

Bitcoins can be exchanged for goods and services, provided another party is willing to accept them, but until now they have been used mostly for shady transactions or to buy illegal goods and services on the “dark” web.

Bitcoin was launched in 2009 as a bit of software written under the Japanese-sounding name Satoshi Nakamoto. This year Australian programer Craig Wright claimed to be the author but failed to convince the broader bitcoin community.

In some areas of the United States bitcoin is accepted in stores, restaurants and online transactions, but it is illegal in some countries, notably France and China.

It is gaining ground in countries with high inflation such as Argentina and Venezuela.

But bitcoin values can be volatile. Over the past week its value slumped 20 percent in a day, then recouped most losses, after news that a Hong Kong bitcoin exchange had been hacked with some US$65 million missing.

Arthur Long, a lawyer specializing in the sector with the New York firm Gibson Dunn, said the July court ruling is a small victory for bitcoin but that it’s not clear if the interpretation will be the same in other US states or at the federal level.

“It may have an effect as some states are trying to use existing money transmitting statutes to regulate certain transactions in bitcoin,” Long said.

Charles Evans, professor of finance at Barry University, said the ruling “absolutely is going to provide some guidance in other courts” and could potentially be used as a precedent in other countries to avoid the stigma associated with bitcoin use.

Source: Shanghai Daily, August 8, 2016

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