A phone call between leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France to discuss the implementation of last week’s agreements to end the Ukraine conflict will take place on Thursday, RIA news agency reported on Thursday, citing Kremlin’s spokesman. Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman, said the call between Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, initially planned for Wednesday, did not take place due to scheduling issues.
China’s Contradictory War Against Corruption
Unfortunately, China’s war on corruption is hobbled by a central contradiction that President Xi has yet to acknowledge. Mr Xi clearly believes that, unless corruption is tackled, the legitimacy of Communist party rule could be fatally undermined. And yet, paradoxically, the main impediment to an effective anti-corruption campaign is, precisely the dominant role of the Communist party in Chinese society. A campaign against corruption can only truly succeed if it is administered impartially by prosecutors and courts that are independent of government.
Last month, the speaker of the Russian parliament solemnly instructed his foreign affairs committee to launch a historical investigation: was West Germany’s ‘annexation’ of East Germany really legal? Should it be condemned? Ought it to be reversed? Why, that would require undoing the whole post-Cold War settlement! Which is indeed a very amusing notion — unless you think that this is exactly what the Russian speaker, the Russian foreign minister, and indeed the Russian President, a man who once called the collapse of the Soviet Union ‘the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century’, are in fact trying to achieve.
Plunging sales to Europe and falling energy prices are not only sapping the revenue of Russia’s top natural gas producer Gazprom but also depriving the country’s budget of much-needed funds. Gazprom usually contributes almost one fifth of federal budget revenue, an amount the finance ministry would love to have this year as it tries to build up its resources to weather an economic crisis deepened by Western sanctions over Ukraine.
Ling Jihua’s Youngest Brother Rumored to Be Hiding in US
The 54-year-old Ling Wancheng, a journalist-turned-businessman from north China’s Shanxi province, is said to have disappeared along with his wife Li Ping since his brother Ling Jihua, best known as the “political fixer” of China’s former president Hu Jintao, was placed under investigation for “serious disciplinary violations” in December by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Communist Party’s anti-graft watchdog. The World Journal, the leading Chinese-language newspaper in the US, reported earlier this month that Ling Wancheng owns a luxurious property in the town of Arcadia in Los Angeles county. The mansion, previously owned by NBA player Beno Udrih, was said to have been sold to “Cheng Wang” — allegedly Ling Wancheng’s alias — and Ping Li in 2011 when the basketballer was traded from the Sacramento Kings to the Milwaukee Bucks.
President Xi Jinping is expected to authorise robust defence spending for this year despite China’s slowing economy, determined to strengthen the country’s armed capabilities amid growing unease in Beijing at Washington’s renewed focus on Asia. While China keeps the details of its military spending secret, experts said additional funding would likely go toward beefing up the navy with anti-submarine ships and developing more aircraft carriers beyond the sole vessel in operation. The military budget will be announced at the start of the annual meeting of China’s parliament on March 5. Last year, defence spending rose 12.2 percent to $130 billion, second only to the United States.
Xu Jinhui, the SPP’s anti-bribery head, said that prosecutors across the country investigated 30,414 cases involving 39,533 people on suspicion of bribery between January and November 2014. Of them, 3,077 officials were at the county level or higher, up 36.3 percent. The number of cases was 11.7 percent higher than the same period the year before while the number of people under investigation was 7.1 percent higher.
China’s crackdown on corruption has cost Australian billionaire James Packer dear by eating into profits at his Macau casinos. Packer’s Crown Group said on Thursday that first-half net profit slumped 47.2% as revenue from gambling hub Macau fell sharply while the firm was also hit by write downs from a US investment. Profit for the worldwide gambling empire was A$201.8m (US$157m) in the six months to December 31, down from A$382.5m in the previous corresponding period. It was weighed by weakness at Macau subsidiary Melco Crown amid a Chinese government corruption crackdown. Crown’s 34.3% share of Melco fell A$62.2m, or 42.2%, to A$85.3m.