Why Chinese are building so many ghost towns?

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Chinese ghost town

In China, there are now countless of ghost towns, entire neighborhoods dotted with modern and often well-decorated buildings, but it seems that they are simply abandoned to their sad fate. But why does this happen?

There are several reasons why the Chinese build new cities. The first consideration is that until a few years ago, virtually all buildings in China were built in the same way. The buildings did not meet the minimum safety requirements; they weren't designed to address the needs of a modern society; they were dirty, difficult to control, and not least they were ugly buildings.

Related: China Suburbia - Chenggong Ghost Town - Xiangyun Ghost Town - Lost Cities, Temporary Ghost Towns in China - City eraser

dirty white tiles building in China
White tiles building in China

In a word, with the economic boom, it became clear that China could no longer be represented by these buildings covered with dirty white tiles. The emerging Chinese middle class could no longer live under certain conditions.

Here it was necessary to build a new China.

This plan that runs parallel to the Chinese project to empty rural areas to thicken the population in large urban centers (in China today there are more than 100 cities with more than 1 million inhabitants, and not for the population growth, which in fact is aging abruptly, but simply because millions of migrant workers left the countryside) naturally inflamed the real estate market, which has greatly contributed to the growth of the Chinese GDP.

Why Chinese are building so many ghost towns

Given that Chinese build these new districts not for fun but because they are simply following their five-year plans of urban development involving the movement of oceanic masses of people from countryside to city, each so, perhaps more frequently than expected, some of these projects will fail, leaving only abandoned buildings with them, huge holes in local budgets, and often leaving countless citizens who had invested their savings or turned on mortgages to buy these glittering apartments.

Photo & text - Matteo Damiani

The Shanghai offices of the A.C. Milan's Chinese buyers don't actually exist

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The Chinese company behind the $780 million purchase of A.C. Milan is registered at a drab office block outside Shanghai, but when Reuters went to investigate, it turned out the offices don't actually exist. Ryan Brooks reports.

AC Milan is one of the world's most prestigious soccer clubs. And this is apparently the headquarters of the mysterious Chinese group that wants to buy it. Sino Europe Sports is the name behind an 800 million dollar bid for Italian giants AC Milan. Registered at a nondescript address two hours outside of Shanghai.

Reuters correspondent Adam Jourdan traveled there to try and find out more about the company behind the bid.

But that was no simple task.

"You have this web- this tangled web of shell companies, which all seem to point back to one place, which is this tower block here right behind me. So we've wondered around the offices, we've spoken to people here, and we've looked for the particular office numbers that they have in their various official and publicly available filings. Now, we haven't been able to find any of these offices. And when you look at the displays - the numbers for each floor - you actually realize that the numbers listed mostly don't really exist, it doesn't go up that high on any of the floors."

It may not be clear where Sino Europe Sports is actually based. But what is clear is the deal has been repeatedly delayed. The company keeps asking for financial extensions. Reports saying Milan has a deadline of early April to pay the latest installment.

"One of the big questions over this deal is what is holding it up? Now in soccer and in sport, in entertainment and beyond, there are concerns currently that investors here in China are having more difficulty getting money out of the country, amid a start of a crackdown on capital flight by Beijing. And so, one of the big question marks here is what's going on? is it that the government support that was there before for this sort of drive, this sort of overseas push, the high-profile investment into soccer is no longer there? Or is it that the main investors are now really struggling to get the money that they promised, and to firm up and close this deal."

Xiangyun Ghost Town in Shijiazhuang

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Xiangyun Ghost Town in Shijiazhuang

Xiangyun International Project is a huge real estate project built in Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province.

Xiangyun International Project (祥云国际楼盘动态) covers an area of about 1800 acres. It was considered a strategic investment by the local government to support the real estate sector, tourism, and cultural sector. The overall project consists of two major parts: the south, an area with more than 1,300 acres of low density high-end residential communities, and the north area, covering 426 acres.

Related: China Suburbia

Xiangyun International Project
The original project

In 2014 Hebei Real Estate Development Group Co., Ltd., a well-known private company in Hebei Province, was put under investigations by local authorities. Since then, housing prices dropped, and the company accumulated billions of debts. Since the real estate project was seized, ten of thousands of owners are not allowed to move there, and the apartments cannot be used.

In 2017, Hebei Real Estate Development Group's business has come to an end, undermining the original project, and leaving ten of thousands of people to deal with the controversial situation.

According to public reports, authorities have put under control the company due to the corrupt activities of Mr. Li Sheng, legal representative, and the actual controller.

According to the Shijiazhuang City Intermediate People 's Court notice, the first creditors meeting was held on March 17, 2017.

Photo: AnsticeLi/视觉中国
Source: news.163

Trump administration weighing broad sanctions on North Korea: U.S. official

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sanctions on North Korea
FILE PHOTO: A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during a successful intercept test, in this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency. U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency/Handout via Reuters/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Trump administration is considering sweeping sanctions aimed at cutting North Korea off from the global financial system as part of a broad review of measures to counter Pyongyang's nuclear and missile threat, a senior U.S. official said on Monday.

The sanctions would be part of a multi-pronged approach of increased economic and diplomatic pressure – especially on Chinese banks and firms that do the most business with North Korea – plus beefed-up defenses by the United States and its South Korean and Japanese allies, according to the administration official familiar with the deliberations.

While the long-standing option of pre-emptive military strikes against North Korea is not off the table – as reflected by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's warning to Pyongyang during his Asia tour last week - the new administration is giving priority for now to less-risky options.

The policy recommendations being assembled by President Donald Trump's national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, are expected to reach the president's desk within weeks, possibly before a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in early April, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. North Korea is expected to top the agenda at that meeting.

It is not clear how quickly Trump will decide on a course of action, which could be delayed by the slow pace at which the administration is filling key national security jobs.

FILE PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un looks at a rocket warhead tip after a simulated test of atmospheric re-entry of a ballistic missile, at an unidentified location in this undated file photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on March 15, 2016. KCNA/via Reuters/File Photo

The White House declined comment.

Trump met McMaster on Saturday to discuss North Korea and said afterward that the country's leader, Kim Jong Un, was "acting very, very badly."

The president spoke hours after North Korea boasted of a successful rocket-engine test, which officials and experts think is part of a program aimed at building an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the United States.

'SECONDARY SANCTIONS'

The administration source said U.S. officials, including Tillerson, had privately warned China about broader "secondary sanctions" that would target banks and other companies that do business with North Korea, most of which are Chinese.

The move under consideration would mark an escalation of Trump's pressure on China to do more to contain North Korea. It was not clear how Chinese officials responded to those warnings but Beijing has made clear its strong opposition to such moves.

FILE PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watched the ground jet test of a Korean-style high-thrust engine newly developed by the Academy of the National Defence Science in this undated picture provided by KCNA in Pyongyang on March 19, 2017. KCNA/via Reuters/File Photo

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the situation on the Korean peninsula was at a crossroads and there were two prospects.

One, she said, was that the relevant parties could continue to "escalate toward conflict and potential war".

"The other choice is that all sides can cool down and jointly pull the Korean nuclear issue back to a path of political and diplomatic resolution," Hua told a daily news briefing on Tuesday.

China would strictly and comprehensively implement its duties under the U.N. Security Council resolutions, which meant implementing sanctions but also making efforts to get back to talks, she added.

The objective of the U.S. move being considered would be to tighten the screws in the same way that the widening of sanctions - to encompass foreign firms dealing with Iran - was used to pressure Tehran to open negotiations with the West on its suspected nuclear weapons program. That effort ultimately led to a 2015 deal to restrict Iran's nuclear program in return for sanctions relief.

For such measures to have any chance to influence the behavior of North Korea, which is already under heavy sanctions, Washington must secure full international cooperation -  especially from China, which has shown little appetite for putting such a squeeze on its neighbor.

Analysts also have questioned whether such sanctions would be as effective on North Korea as they were on a major oil producer such as Iran, given the isolated nation's limited links to the world financial system.

North Korea has relied heavily on illicit trade done via  small Chinese banks. So, to be applied successfully, the new measures would have to threaten to bar those banks from the international financial system.

Also under consideration are expanded efforts to seize assets of Kim and his family outside North Korea, the official said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides field guidance at the construction site of Ryomyong Street in this undated picture provided by KCNA in Pyongyang on March 16, 2017. KCNA/via Reuters

MILITARY OPTIONS

The military dimension of the review includes a strengthened U.S. presence in the region and deployment of advanced missile defenses, initially in South Korea and possibly in Japan. The U.S. military has begun to install a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, system in South Korea, despite Chinese opposition.

Washington is increasingly concerned, however, that the winner of South Korea's May 9 presidential election might backtrack on the deployment and be less supportive of tougher sanctions.

Tillerson warned on Friday that Washington had not ruled out military action if the threat from North Korea becomes unacceptable.

For now, U.S. officials consider pre-emptive strikes too risky, given the danger of igniting a regional war and causing massive casualties in Japan and South Korea and among tens of thousands of U.S. troops based in both allied countries.

Another U.S. government source said Trump could also opt to  escalate cyber attacks and other covert action aimed at undermining North Korea's leadership.

"These options are not done as stand-alones," the first U.S. official said. "It's going to be some form of 'all of the above,' probably excluding military action."

Trump is known to have little patience for foreign policy details, but officials say he seems to have heeded a warning from his predecessor, Barack Obama, that North Korea would be the most urgent international issue he would face.

In his North Korea briefings, Trump has asked repeatedly how many nuclear warheads and missiles Pyongyang has, at the same time as demanding to know how much South Korea and Japan are paying for their own defense, one U.S. official said.

By Matt Spetalnick and David Brunnstrom

(Reporting by Matt Spetalnick and David Brunnstrom; Additional reporting by John Walcott, and Michael Martina in Beijing; Editing by Kieran Murray, Peter Cooney and Nick Macfie)

Tillerson to face Chinese ire over blame for North Korea tensions

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U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives at Haneda International Airport in Tokyo, Japan March 15, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

BEIJING (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in China on Saturday for what is likely to be a prickly visit, with Beijing angry at being told to rein in nuclear-armed North Korea and Washington repeatedly demanding it do more to control Pyongyang.

China is also expected to voice its strong opposition to this month's deployment of a sophisticated U.S. missile defence system in South Korea.

Tillerson issued the Trump administration's starkest warning yet to North Korea on Friday, saying that a military response would be "on the table" if Pyongyang took action to threaten South Korean and U.S. forces.

He was speaking in South Korea, the second leg of his first visit to Asia since taking office. He was previously in Japan.

In Beijing, he may raise the prospect of imposing "secondary sanctions" on Chinese banks and other firms doing business with North Korea in defiance of sanctions, a U.S. official told Reuters in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity.

U.S. President Donald Trump said in a tweet on Friday that North Korea was "behaving very badly" and accused China, Pyongyang's neighbour and only major ally, of doing little to resolve the crisis over the North's weapons programmes.

The state-run Chinese tabloid the Global Times said on Saturday that it was in China's interests to stop North Korea's nuclear ambitions but to suggest China cut the country off completely was ridiculous as it would be fraught with danger.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) is greeted by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi as he arrives for a bilateral meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China, Saturday, March 18, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Schiefelbein/Pool

"Once there is chaos in North Korea, it would first bring disaster to China. I'm sorry, but the United States and South Korea don't have the right to demand this of China," it said in an editorial.

By not taking China's suggestion that the United States and South Korea should stop military drills in return for North Korea stopping its tests, and then all sides returning to talks, Washington was showing a level of inflexibility that was "really disappointing", it added.

The official Xinhua news agency noted Tillerson's comments in Seoul that military options against Pyongyang were on the table.

"However, there is nothing new in this approach. These same tactics were once used by Trump's predecessor George W. Bush, and failed," it said.

Tillerson however is also expected to firm up a trip by Chinese President Xi Jinping to the United States next month for his first summit with Trump, and could choose to tone down any differences between the world's largest economies, at least for now.

XI MEETING ON SUNDAY

A former oil executive with no prior diplomatic experience, Tillerson will meet China's two top diplomats on Saturday and  Xi on Sunday.

On Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying reiterated that talks were the best way to resolve the problems of the Korean peninsula.

"As a close neighbour of the peninsula, China has even more reason than any other country to care about the situation," she told a briefing.

North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests and a series of missile launches since the beginning of last year.

Last week, it launched four more ballistic missiles and is working to develop nuclear-tipped missiles that can reach the United States.

Washington has been pressing Beijing to do more to stop North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes.

China has called for a dual track approach, urging North Korea to suspend its tests and the United States and South Korea to suspend military drills, so both sides can return to talks.

Beijing has been irritated by suggestions it has not been doing enough, with the official People's Daily on Friday denouncing what it said was Washington and Seoul's "blind worship" of sanctions and pressure.

"There has been a narrative in the West suggesting that China holds the key to the North Korea nuclear issue. That is a misguided statement," said Wang Dong, associate professor of international studies at China's elite Peking University.

"The bottom line is that the DPRK is not a puppet regime. We do not control them, and we have strongly opposed North Korea's development of nuclear weapons from the very beginning," he said, referring to the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

China has also been infuriated by the deployment of the  THAAD, or Terminal High Altitude Area Defence, missile defence system in South Korea, which it says will both harm China's own security and do nothing to ease tensions.

China says the system's powerful radar will extend into the country's northeast and potentially track Chinese missile launches, and maybe even intercept them. Russia also opposes THAAD, for the same reasons.

There are other tricky issues too, including the self-ruled island of Taiwan which China claims as its own.

The Trump administration is crafting a big new arms package for Taiwan that could include advanced rocket systems and anti-ship missiles to defend against China, U.S. officials said, a deal sure to anger Beijing.

By Ben Blanchard and Yeganeh Torbati

(Additional reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Chongqing flyover is the highest overpass in the world connecting two buildings

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highest overpass in the world connecting two buildings
Yuzhong district, Chongqing. Photo: Zuo Dongchen / Visual China

Two parallel pedestrian flyovers, connecting the opposite roof of two buildings, have been built in Yuzhong district, in Chongqing.

The bridges, planned in December 2016, are long about 23 meters, 68,5 meters above the ground, with an actual width of 3.6 meters. The main structure of the bridge is made of steel frame, covered with stone.

Looking down the bridge has been described as "deep bottomless".

The bridges are sustained by 8 steel cables, connected to the Building B.

The air corridor allows saving about 20 minutes.

The bridges have now become an attraction in the neighborhood, and people arrive for a walk or to take some pictures.

The highest overpass in the world connecting two buildings, images

Yuzhong district, Chongqing. Photo: Zuo Dongchen / Visual China
Yuzhong district, Chongqing. Photo: Zuo Dongchen / Visual China
Yuzhong district, Chongqing. Photo: Zuo Dongchen / Visual China
Yuzhong district, Chongqing. Photo: Zuo Dongchen / Visual China

Photo: Zuo Dongchen / Visual China

Source> news.163.com

China, Saudi Arabia eye $65 billion in deals as king visits

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Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) and Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud attend a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China March 16, 2017. REUTERS/Lintao Zhang/POOL

BEIJING (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's King Salman oversaw the signing of deals worth potentially $65 billion (53 billion pounds) on the first day of a visit to Beijing on Thursday, as the world's largest oil exporter looks to cement ties with the world's second-largest economy.

The octogenarian monarch, who has overseen the launch of an ambitious economic reform plan since his accession two years ago, is on a month-long Asian tour.

The visits to countries that are some of world's fastest growing importers of Saudi oil aim to promote investment opportunities in the kingdom, including the sale of a stake in its giant state firm Saudi Aramco.

Saudi Arabia has sought to boost oil sales to China, the world's second-largest oil market, after losing market share to Russia last year, by working mostly with China's top three state oil firms.

In Beijing's cavernous Great Hall of the People, President Xi Jinping told Salman that China was a reliable and stable oil export market and the two countries should deepen cooperation.

China's President Xi Jinping and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud arrive for a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, March 16, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

"For a long time, China and Islamic countries have respected each other and had win-win cooperation, and have created a model of the peaceful coexistence of different cultures," Xi said, according to China's Foreign Ministry.

Salman told Xi he hoped China could play an even greater role in Middle East affairs, the ministry added.

"Saudi Arabia is willing to work hard with China to promote global and regional peace, security and prosperity," Salman  said.

'OLD FRIENDS'

Deputy Chinese Foreign Minister Zhang Ming said the memorandums of understanding and letters of intent were potentially worth about $65 billion, involving everything from energy to space, but he did not give details.

"President Xi Jinping and King Salman are old friends," Zhang said. "Practical cooperation between China and Saudi Arabia has already made major achievements, and has huge potential."

For Saudi Aramco, the potential investments fit with its strategy to expand its refining and chemicals portfolio in its bid to diversify assets and secure long-term agreements for its oil.

An MoU with state-run Norinco will look into building refining and chemical projects in China, while Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC) and Sinopec have agreed to develop petrochemical projects in China and Saudi Arabia.

The Norinco deal could involve exploring the possibility of a greenfield refinery and chemical plant in Panjin, Liaoning province, while also upgrading an existing refinery and petrochemical facility in the same location, an industry source said.    Sinopec and SABIC, one of the world's largest petrochemical companies, jointly run a refinery in Tinajin.

China's President Xi Jinping and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud arrive for a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, March 16, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

'HONEST BROKER'

China has traditionally played little role in Middle East conflicts or diplomacy, despite its reliance on the region for oil. But it has been trying to get more involved in efforts to end Syria's six-year-old civil war, where Riyadh supports rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad.

Last year China also offered support for Yemen's government, which is backed by a Saudi-led Gulf Arab coalition in a war against the Iranian-aligned Houthi movement that controls much of the country.

Zhang said both the Yemen and Syria crises were discussed by Salman and Xi, and both leaders agreed that these issues must be resolved politically via talks.

China has had to tread a careful line, though, as it also has close relations with Iran. Xi visited both Saudi Arabia and Iran in January last year.

Next week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits China.

One Beijing-based diplomat from a Muslim-majority country told Reuters that China was trying to play the role of "honest broker" in the Middle East, as it lacks the historical baggage of the Americans or the Europeans.

"China does not take sides and that is appreciated," said the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

By Ben Blanchard

(Additional reporting by Reem Shamseddine in RIYADH; Editing by Bill Tarrant)

Relief camp in Yunnan swells as thousands flee conflict in Myanmar

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Refugee who fled fighting in neighbouring Myanmar washes dishes outside the house of a relative in the village of Baiyan near Nansan in the Yunnan province, China, March 12, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

NANSAN, China (Reuters) - Within earshot of mortar fire echoing from beyond a ring of hills, a sprawling relief camp in Southwestern China is swelling steadily after fighting erupted last week between a rebel ethnic army in Myanmar and government troops just across the border.

In a recent Reuters visit to the rugged area in southwestern Yunnan province, aid workers and those displaced expressed fears of a more violent and protracted conflict than a previous flare-up in the Kokang region in early 2015.

"Every day, more people come," said Li Yinzhong, an aid manager in the camp, gesturing at the mostly Han Chinese refugees from Myanmar's Kokang region trudging through the reddish mud earth around rows of large blue huts where they sleep on nylon tarpaulin sheets.

Chinese disaster relief tents
Chinese disaster relief tents housing refugees who fled fighting in neighbouring Myanmar are pitched in the town of Nansan, Yunnan province, China, March 12, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

"We will look after them until they decide they want to go back."

Blue disaster relief tents provided by the Chinese also dotted the terraced sugarcane, maize and tea terraces flanking the mountainous winding road to Nansan. The town, close to the Kokang region of Myanmar's Shan State, is providing refuge for a stream of refugees that Chinese authorities estimate number more than 20,000.

The violence is a blow to efforts by Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, to reach a comprehensive peace agreement with Myanmar's ethnic minorities, some of them in rebellions spanning decades.

The conflict is also fraying ties between China and Myanmar, which Beijing has hoped could be a key gateway in its multi-pronged "One Belt One Road" strategy to promote economic links between China and Europe.

Kokang has close ties to China. The vast majority are ethnic Chinese speaking a Chinese dialect and using the yuan as currency.

Refugee children who fled with their family fighting in neighbouring Myanmar
Refugee children who fled with their family fighting in neighbouring Myanmar pass the time in the house of a relative in the village of Baiyan near Nansan in the Yunan province, China, March 11, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

'STATE OF WAR'

The Kokang began fleeing when the rebel Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) launched a surprise raid on Myanmar police and military targets in the town of Laukkai, resulting in the deaths of 30 people on March 6.

The Myanmar military has launched "56 waves of small and large clashes", using cannons, armoured vehicles and heavy weapons over the past two months, according to a statement published by the military on March 6 after the attack.

Chinese disaster relief tents
Chinese disaster relief tents housing refugees who fled fighting in neighbouring Myanmar are pitched in the town of Nansan, Yunnan province, China, March 12, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Rebel forces who lay historic claim to the Kokang region have attacked government troops with rocket-propelled grenade launchers and other military hardware.

In an "urgent notice" posted on Sunday on its official website, the MNDAA said the Kokang area was now in a "state of war" as fighting worsened.

On the Chinese side, paramilitary police have sent in battalions of reinforcements, mostly in readiness for disaster relief, according to Chinese officials who spoke on background.

Myanmar Refugee children
Refugee children who fled with their family fighting in neighbouring Myanmar reach for a mobile phone in the house of a relative in the village of Baiyan near Nansan in the Yunan province, China, March 11, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Reuters saw seven Chinese armoured personnel carriers moving west along the hilly road towards Myanmar and the relief camp sprawled across a muddy wasteland the size of 10 football fields.

The fresh unrest comes after fighting in early 2015 and in 2009 involving the MNDAA, both flare-ups displacing tens of thousands of people.

Refugees who fled fighting in neighbouring Myanmar find shelter in the house of a relative in the village of Baiyan near Nansan in the Yunnan province, China, March 11, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Ordnance has occasionally strayed into China, with five people in China killed in 2015 during a round of fighting then.

This time round, the door to a village house was blown out, and the upper floor of the Anran hotel in Nansan was shelled forcing its closure, according to local residents and one official. Reuters was unable to corroborate these accounts.

Refugees who fled fighting in neighbouring Myanmar sit in the house of a relative in the village of Baiyan near Nansan in the Yunnan province, China, March 11, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

China has lodged "solemn representations" with Myanmar over its citizens put at risk by the conflict, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular news briefing on Monday.

"The Chinese will be very angry if it escalates to the level of 2015," said Sino-Myanmar expert Yun Sun, a senior associate with the Stimson Center in Washington D.C.

A man rides a motorbike in the in the village of Baiyan near Nansan, where an people fleeing fighting in neighbouring Myanmar found refuge, Yunnan province, China, March 11, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Beijing wants the Kokang to be included in the comprehensive peace negotiations that Aung San Suu Kyi initiated last August, she said.

The military has blocked that, saying the rebels can only join if they lay down arms first. "The Chinese actually tacitly and privately support the Kokang being included in the negotiations, but they can't say that," Sun said.

UNRESOLVED PEACE

At around three in the morning on the day of the rebel raids, loud explosions and gunfire woke the Cao family, prompting them to flee at first light with few possessions.

"I was scared," said Cao Junxiang, who fled in a convoy of four rudimentary, three-wheel farm lorries tethered to powerful motorcycles -- joining a nearly 15-hour snaking exodus of jeeps, trucks, buses, carts and motorcycles bound for China.

A refugee boy who fled with his family fighting in neighbouring Myanmar rests in the house of a relative in the village of Baiyan near Nansan in the Yunnan province, China, March 11, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

"More than half the people (in my village) left," he said, as others crowded around an open sitting area of a Chinese village house transformed into a makeshift refuge.

Yao Xiao'er, the 49-year old head of the household, said she sent the farm vehicles across the border soon after hearing the first bursts of distant thudding.  She eventually got nearly 100 relatives and friends to safety including a two-year-old toddler and a nonagenarian, half-blind, family matriarch, who was dozing on a tatty sofa.

One young mother with a baby strapped to her back said many refugees were seeking out odd jobs to make ends meet.

Refugees who fled fighting in neighbouring Myanmar gather in the house of a relative in the village of Baiyan near Nansan in the Yunnan province, China, March 11, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

"We have no money so some of us cut sugar cane," she said. "We get around one yuan for every 20 sticks we chop, peel and uproot."

A Chinese taxi driver plying the route between a Chinese airport in Lincang and the seedy frontier casinos of Myanmar's Laukkai, said business was drying up.

"No one is coming here anymore."

(Reporting by James Pomfret; Additional reporting by Christian Shepherd in BEIJING; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Clarence Fernandez)

Refugees who fled fighting in neighbouring Myanmar stand in a Chinese disaster relief tent camp in the town of Nansan, Yunnan province, China, March 12, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Japan plans to send largest warship to South China Sea, sources say

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Japan largest warship
FILE PHOTO: A helicopter lands on the Izumo, Japan Maritime Self Defense Force's (JMSDF) helicopter carrier, at JMSDF Yokosuka base in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, Japan, December 6, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan plans to dispatch its largest warship on a three-month tour through the South China Sea beginning in May, three sources said, in its biggest show of naval force in the region since World War Two.

China claims almost all the disputed waters and its growing military presence has fuelled concern in Japan and the West, with the United States holding regular air and naval patrols to ensure freedom of navigation.

The Izumo helicopter carrier, commissioned only two years ago, will make stops in Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka before joining the Malabar joint naval exercise with Indian and U.S. naval vessels in the Indian Ocean in July.

It will return to Japan in August, the sources said.

"The aim is to test the capability of the Izumo by sending it out on an extended mission," said one of the sources who have knowledge of the plan. "It will train with the U.S. Navy in the South China Sea," he added, asking not to be identified because he is not authorized to talk to the media.

A spokesman for Japan's Maritime Self Defence Force declined to comment.

Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei also claim parts of the sea which has rich fishing grounds, oil and gas deposits and through which around $5 trillion of global sea-borne trade passes each year.

Japan does not have any claim to the waters, but has a separate maritime dispute with China in the East China Sea.

Japan wants to invite Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has pushed ties with China in recent months as he has criticised the old alliance with the United States, to visit the Izumo when it visits Subic Bay, about 100 km (62 miles) west of Manila, another of the sources said.

Asked during a news conference about his view on the warship visit, Duterte said, without elaborating, "I have invited all of them."

He added: "It is international passage, the South China Sea is not our territory, but it is part of our entitlement."

On whether he would visit the warship at Subic Bay, Duterte said: "If I have time."

Japan's flag-flying operation comes as the United States under President Donald Trump appears to be taking a tougher line with China. Washington has criticized China's construction of man-made islands and a build-up of military facilities that it worries could be used to restrict free movement.

Beijing in January said it had "irrefutable" sovereignty over the disputed islands after the White House vowed to defend "international territories".

Izumo helicopter carrier
FILE PHOTO: Japan Maritime Self Defense Force's helicopter carrier Izumo is seen at JMSDF Yokosuka base in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, Japan, December 6, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

The 249 metre-long (816.93 ft) Izumo is as large as Japan's World War Two-era carriers and can operate up to nine helicopters. It resembles the amphibious assault carriers used by U.S. Marines, but lacks their well deck for launching landing craft and other vessels.

Japan in recent years, particularly under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has been stretching the limits of its post-war, pacifist constitution. It has designated the Izumo as a destroyer because the constitution forbids the acquisition of offensive weapons. The vessel, nonetheless, allows Japan to project military power well beyond its territory.

Based in Yokosuka, near to Tokyo, which is also home to the U.S. Seventh Fleet's carrier, the Ronald Reagan, the Izumo's primary mission is anti-submarine warfare.

By Tim Kelly and Nobuhiro Kubo

(Additional reporting by Martin Petty in Manila; Editing by Nick Macfie)

China official says two-child policy showing 'notable results'

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China's two-child policy
Vice Minister of the National Health and Family Planning Commission Wang Pei'an speaks to the media during a press conference in Beijing, November 10, 2015. REUTERS/China Daily

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's two-child policy is showing "notable results" with the fertility rate expected to rise through to 2020, a senior health official said on Saturday.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of China's annual meeting of parliament, Wang Peian, vice-minister of the National Health and Family Planning Commission said there were "notable results" in 2016, with the largest annual number of newborn babies since 2000.

Wang said 18.46 million live births were recorded last year, two million more than the average of the previous five years.

The total fertility rate also rose to 1.7 children per woman, compared to 1.5-1.6 between 2000 and 2015, he added.

China introduced its controversial "one-child policy" in the 1970s to limit population growth, but authorities are now concerned the country's dwindling workforce will not be able to support an increasingly ageing population.

In 2015, China said it would allow all married couples to have two children, to address those concerns.

Wang said the rising trend will continue through to 2020, during which the annual number of newborns is expected to range between 17 million and 19 million.

"We are very optimistic," he added.

China's birth rate, one of the world's lowest, was considered an achievement by the government, which was concerned about over-population, but has since become a source of anxiety for authorities worried about an ageing workforce.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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