China is gearing up to endorse the largest package of constitutional changes since 2004 that is aimed at reshaping the country ideologically in line with the vision of General Secretary of the ruling Communist Party Xi Jinping, Kommersant business daily writes on Tuesday. The amendments will be discussed at the three-day meeting of the Communist Party’s Central Committee that began on Monday in Beijing and will be adopted on March 5 at the Chinese parliament’s session.
On the 40th anniversary of launching the Reforms and Openness policy of prominent Chinese politician Deng Xiaoping, the Communist Party will abolish many key regulations that have ensured China’s prosperity for many years. The crucial change will be scrapping presidential term limits, which were included in the constitution in 1982. This will pave the way for Xi Jinping, 64, to rule the country indefinitely.
The proposed changes have evoked a mixed response in China, Kommersant writes. The Chinese leader’s supporters say ten years would not be enough to implement the reforms he proposed, while opponents claim the country might go down the path towards a dictatorship.
At the meeting, the party will also discuss economic reforms and decide on who will head the country’s central bank.
"What is happening now means that many political rules introduced at the beginning of the reforms at the initiative of Deng Xiaoping are no longer relevant for modern-day China," Igor Denisov, senior research fellow at the Center for East Asian and SCO Studies at MGIMO told Kommersant.
This year, Russia’s Defense Ministry will resume testing naval missile and torpedo weapons off Crimea’s coast near Feodosia and for this objective the Black Sea Fleet will receive the Viktor Cherokov special vessel, Izvestia writes. Experts say the Russian Navy is in dire need of a firing range in an offshore zone not situated in a frigid climate.
The first testing of new missiles and torpedoes in the Black Sea is expected during the second half of 2018, sources told the paper.
The Feodosia firing ground used to be a major site for testing armaments of the Russian Navy during the Soviet era, including new torpedoes and anti-submarine bombs. It is located in an underwater dead volcano area and has a unique deep depth landscape. Now naval drills, involving ships and submarines of the Black Sea, and live fire exercises are conducted there.
Naval armaments expert Alexander Mozgovoy told the paper that the Black Sea is the best place for accommodating the key testing ground for the Russian Navy and it is important to restore the Feodosia testing ground.
Russia has another facility in the White Sea, but it cannot be used throughout the year due to the frigid climate. Similar facilities exist in the Baltic Sea, but they are closely monitored by Russia’s neighbors from NATO countries. That said, the Far East region does not have the required infrastructure, he said.
Ukraine’s law on reintegration of Donbass is another attempt by Kiev to stage provocations against Moscow ahead of the March presidential election and the FIFA World Cup, Chairman of the People’s Council (legislature) in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic Denis Pushilin told Izvestia.
The document, which has been pushed by extremist Ukrainian politicians, is aimed at legitimizing the war in the southeast and launching a large-scale offensive against the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, Pushilin said.
Similar scenarios were used during the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi. A day before the closing ceremony President Viktor Yanukovich was toppled in Kiev. In 2008, Georgia’s then-President Mikhail Saakashvili launched a military offensive against South Ossetia trying to depict Russia as "an aggressor" in the eyes of the whole world, the paper writes.
In fact, the Donbass reintegration initiative is "legitimizing criminal activity against the Donbass population that the Ukrainian government is carrying out," the DPR politician said. The situation in Ukraine is changing and the authorities in Kiev are trying to be on the safe side, especially ahead of the domestic presidential election, he noted.
Donbass is ready for such a scenario, but the new round of clashes may result in numerous deaths on both sides, the politician warned.
The Donbass reintegration law allows Poroshenko to fully put the military operation in Ukraine’s east under his control. The document in fact legitimizes a military solution to the conflict thus turning a blind eye to the Minsk peace agreements, the paper says.
Not everyone in the Ukrainian parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, welcomes Kiev’s military plans for Donbass. Ukrainian MP from the Opposition Bloc Tatyana Bakhteyeva said the goal of the law is to "drag out the war." "This creates obstacles for establishing peace in the country. There are the Minsk agreements outlining a clear plan of settlement, and this legislation, on the contrary, is aimed at exacerbating the situation," she said.
Gazprom, Russia’s energy giant, expects that annual gas output will grow to 520-560 bln cubic meters by 2025. The company’s forecast is based on expectations of a "sufficient demand in Russia and favorable conditions on external markets," the company said, according to Vedomosti. In November 2017, Gazprom had a less optimistic output forecast of 495-520 bln cubic meters in eight years. Last year, the company’s output reached 471 bln cubic meters.
According to its plans, by the mid-2020s, Gazprom will have reached full design capacity at the Chayanda and Kovykta gas fields in East Siberia and launch production at the Yuzhno-Kirinskoye field on the Sakhalin shelf.
However, Gazprom primarily counts on a significant consumption growth in Europe, Director at Fitch Corporations Department Dmitry Marinchenko told the paper. Last year, Gazprom raised its gas exports to a record high level, and its share on Europe’s gas market grew to 35%.
The structure of gas supplies to Europe by 2025 may significantly change, Marinchenko said. "Due to the lack of global liquefied gas capacities, most LNG supplies to Europe may be rerouted to countries in the Asia-Pacific Region. The dwindling extraction in the EU may enable Gazprom to increase its share on the European market." Although selling an additional amount of 35 bln cubic meters of gas is an optimistic scenario, the company may still increase its export to Europe by 10-15 bln cubic meters, the expert said.
Portugal’s Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva wrapped up his visit to Moscow on Monday where he met with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov. The Portuguese top diplomat told Kommersant in an interview that the European Union’s sanctions against Moscow would remain a mechanism of bringing the parties to the Ukrainian conflict closer.
"The fact is that there have been no significant positive changes in carrying out the Minsk agreements. We are calling on the conflicting parties to honor the accord adopted in Minsk and we don’t accuse either side. We see that both parties to the conflict are working hard to achieve progress at the talks and in steps towards a settlement, but unfortunately, we see no grounds for lifting the sanctions, so we will retain the sanctions as a tool to bring the parties closer," Santos Silva said.
The Portuguese foreign minister noted that Russia needed to take some steps to reach the goals of the Minsk agreements, "taking into consideration the presence of military forces in Donbass."
"This also means that the Ukrainian authorities have to talk to the Donbass leaders. I think we will be ready to review sanctions as soon as some progress is made towards settling the conflict," he said.
Security is what matters most, the foreign minister stressed. "We should find a way to help the two key parties to the conflict [Kiev and Donbass leaders] to fulfill measures on restoring security in the region with the assistance of the mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe or the United Nations."
Another important area is "defining principles under which Donbass will get autonomy and elections will be held." "We [the European Union] don’t see any alternative to the elections where all sides must come to an agreement."
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