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Chinese state media urge new status for Xi
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Oct 26, 2016

Dredge report: firm that built China's islands gets Philippines deal
Beijing (AFP) Oct 26, 2016 - A Chinese state-owned company said to have been involved in Beijing's island-building in the South China Sea signed a deal to construct islands for rival claimant the Philippines as its President Rodrigo Duterte visited last week, reports said.

CCCC Dredging will create four artificial islands totalling 208 hectares of reclaimed land in Davao, the port city on the southern island of Mindanao where Duterte was mayor, the Beijing Youth Daily reported.

The islands will spread along eight kilometres of coastline and be used for government buildings, commercial spaces, residences, ports and industry in a project to be completed by 2019, it added.

The deal with the Philippines' Mega Harbour Port and Development was one of several inked as Duterte paid a state visit to China last week, when Beijing offered $9 billion in soft loans for development projects.

Duterte has sought to restore his country's ties with China, brought low by a territorial dispute over the South China Sea, and during his trip announced his "separation" from longstanding Philippine ally the United States.

In a case brought by his predecessor Benigno Aquino, the Philippines won a resounding victory at an international tribunal earlier this year over Beijing's extensive claims, infuriating the Asian giant.

China has built up artificial islands, some with airstrips, capable of hosting military facilities.

Dredging vessels owned by CCCC Dredging subsidiary CCCC Tianjin Dredging were spotted working in the Spratly archipelago disputed by Manila, according to an analysis of satellite imagery from IHS Jane's Intelligence Review.

In the Davao project, a perimeter of sand bags will be dropped into the sea, and sand pumped into the space, displacing water until an island is formed, the Monday report explained.

CCCC Dredging, a subsidiary of the China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), is the world's largest by dredging capacity, according to the official website of the Chinese shipping industry.

It delayed an initial public offering on the Hong Kong stock exchange last year due to concerns over its work in the Spratlys.

Most Chinese people want Communist Party chief Xi Jinping to be a "core" leader in the mould of Mao Zedong, official media said a survey showed, as he seeks to consolidate his control.

The People's Tribune magazine, an affiliate of the Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily, this week published results of a survey of 15,000 people.

It said they agreed "the rise of a great nation calls for strong, core leadership" -- terminology that denotes the supremacy of a single leader.

"General Secretary Xi Jinping's special qualities as the leader of a great nation has won the heartfelt approval of a great majority of cadres," the magazine wrote, adding that all sectors of society "greatly look forward" to Xi's elevation.

The report connected Xi to the legacies of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, China's most powerful rulers of recent decades, who fundamentally changed the direction of the country.

"It was Chairman Mao who made us stand up, otherwise we would have groped around longer in darkness," it said, adding that Deng had made China rich.

"Now China must 'strengthen', ordinary people see it clearly, and for this we must rely on Secretary Xi."

The report came with 400 top party leaders convened in Beijing for a meeting known as the Sixth Plenum to discuss changes to party structure and discipline.

Xi has sought to bend the party to his will since taking its helm in 2012, and has already taken control of more levers of power than any leader since Mao.

Analysts have speculated that Xi could seek to stay in power beyond the traditional 10-year term.

In Chinese politics the "core" denotes a degree of individual authority that is not constrained by term limits, Willy Lam, professor of politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong told AFP.

"The idea of a core would permit him to transcend retirement requirements," said Lam. "This is of course a huge setback for political and institutional reform because this is very blatant building of a personality cult, a revival of the Maoist personality cult."

Regional cadres began using the term "core" for Xi last December, but it then disappeared, suggesting it ran into opposition, he said.

But now Xi's allies are orchestrating a campaign to have the status conferred on him, Lam said.

Earlier this month, a senior official argued in the Guangming Daily newspaper that "a strong core leadership is needed more than ever before to achieve the great dream of the renewal of the Chinese nation".

The People's Tribune said respondents admired Xi's confident strategic thinking, his bravery in facing problems and his "personal charisma".

The survey report included dire warnings that weakening the core can "easily cause civil war, invasion by foreign enemies, and the destitution of the people. This is the painful lesson 100 years of blood and tears in recent Chinese history have given us."

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