Daily Archives: October 18, 2017

Brexit: May offers more assurances to EU nationals

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Theresa May has vowed to make it as easy as possible for EU citizens to remain in the UK after Brexit ahead of a key summit of European leaders.

In a Facebook post, the prime minister insisted the application process for settled status would be “streamlined” and the cost “as low as possible”.

She said representatives of EU citizens will sit on a “user group” which will iron out any problems in the system.

The other 27 EU leaders will assess overall progress in the talks so far.

At a meeting on Friday, at which the UK will not be present, they are expected to conclude officially that “insufficient progress” has been made on the status of EU nationals in the UK and British expats on the continent – and other separation issues – to move onto the second phase of trade discussions.

European Council President Donald Tusk said there would be no “breakthrough” at the two-day summit, but progress could be achieved by the next scheduled meeting of EU leaders in December.

Before leaving for Brussels, Mrs May used her Facebook post to offer further assurances to the three million or so nationals of other EU countries living in the UK and uncertain about their future after Brexit.

In her message, she said those who already had permanent residence would be able to “swap this” for settled status in as hassle-free a way as possible.


Some encouragement for UK

Analysis by Europe correspondent Kevin Connolly

The October summit was always the first date in the EU calendar on which a gathering of the 27 heads of government could declare themselves satisfied with the Brexit divorce negotiations and agree to start talking about trade.

It’s been clear for weeks that they won’t do that – but they will offer the UK some encouragement by starting internal discussions about future trade with the UK – ready for any breakthrough at the next summit in December.

Theresa May isn’t expected to make any big new proposal in her after-dinner remarks but to underline the quality of the financial offer made in her speech in Florence – worth around £20bn.

The EU side wants more though – more money as well as further movement on citizens rights and the Irish border.

There are almost as many predictions about what happens next as there as diplomats in Brussels; one has suggested that the prospects of a December breakthrough are no better than fifty-fifty but an official close to the talks said the signal on Brexit from this summit would be fundamentally positive.


“I know there is real anxiety about how the agreement will be implemented,” she wrote.

“People are concerned that the process will be complicated and bureaucratic, and will put up hurdles that are difficult to overcome. I want to provide reassurance here too.

“We are developing a streamlined digital process for those applying for settled status in the UK in the future. This process will be designed with users in mind, and we will engage with them every step of the way.”

The process of applying for permanent residency, for which EU nationals are eligible after five years, has long been criticised as cumbersome and overly bureaucratic. At one point, it involved filling out an 85-page form.

‘People first’

In simplifying it, Mrs May said she was committed to putting “people first” in the negotiations and expected British nationals living on the continent to be treated in the same way.

“I know both sides will consider each other’s proposals with an open mind and with flexibility and creativity on both sides, I am confident we can conclude discussions on citizens’ rights in the coming weeks.”

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Mrs May, who will address other leaders at a working dinner on Thursday, wants mutual dialogue on the UK’s future relationship with the EU, including trade and defence, to begin as soon as possible.

But Mr Tusk is expected to propose to the 27 EU leaders that they begin talks amongst themselves about Britain’s future relationship with the EU, when it leaves the bloc in March 2019.

As well as citizens’ rights, the two sides remain at odds over the so-called financial “divorce” settlement and the future of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

A group of pro-Brexit Tory and Labour politicians, including former Chancellor Lord Lawson, is urging Mrs May to walk away from negotiations this week if the EU does not accommodate the UK’s wishes.

A letter to the PM, organised by the Leave Means Leave campaign and also signed by pro-Brexit business figures, says the government “has been more than patient” and “decisive action” is now needed to end the “highly damaging” levels of uncertainty facing businesses.

In the event of no progress at Thursday’s meeting, the letter says, Mrs May should formally declare the UK is working on the assumption it will be reverting to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules on 30 March 2019.

Early notification of such a move would allow the UK to “concentrate our resources on resolving administrative issues” and prepare to “crystallise the economic opportunities” of Brexit, it adds.

Kenneth Chenault to step down as AmEx CEO next year

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(Reuters) – American Express Co said Kenneth Chenault will step down as chief executive early next year, ending a nearly 17-year tenure at the helm of the No.1 U.S. card issuer by spending.

Chenault, 66, will be succeeded by Vice Chairman Stephen Squeri, 58, effective Feb. 1, the company said on Wednesday.

His retirement comes at a time when the company is rebounding from the loss of big partnerships such as those with warehouse club retailer Costco Wholesale Corp and JetBlue Airways Corp.

AmEx is also battling rising competition from big U.S. banks who are targeting the company’s affluent clientele. Bank of America last month launched its Premium Rewards credit card, joining rivals JPMorgan Chase & Co and Citigroup.

Chenault, one of the few African American chief executives, has managed to allay some the investor concerns through a two-year turnaround.

Shares are up about 22 percent this year and the company on Wednesday raised its full-year 2017 earnings per share expectations to $5.80 to $5.90, from $5.60 to $5.80.

FILE PHOTO: Photo illustration of American Express credit cards seen March 17, 2016. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/File Photo

Commenting on Chenault’s departure, billionaire investor Warren Buffett said, “Ken’s been the gold standard for corporate leadership and the benchmark that I measure others against. He led the company through 9/11, the financial crisis and the challenges of the last couple of years.”

Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is American Express’ largest shareholder.

AmEx reported a 19 percent rise in quarterly profit as loan growth and higher card member spending helped offset a jump in costs.

Net income attributable to common shareholders rose to $1.36 billion, or $1.50 per share, in the third quarter ended Sept. 30, from $1.14 billion, or $1.20 per share, a year earlier.

Total revenue, net of interest expense, rose 9 percent to $8.44 billion.

Consolidated expenses surged 6 percent to $5.8 billion.

This is the first quarter without the impact of the loss of the Costco partnership.

Reporting by Pallavi Dewan and Nikhil Subba in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Sriraj Kalluvila and

Xi Jinping at China congress calls on party to tighten its grip on the country

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BEIJING — For 3½ hours, China’s President Xi Jinping commanded the stage and the nation’s television screens as he set out a far-reaching agenda for the Communist Party, outlining a vision of total control, not only of the nation’s economy and the Internet but also of culture, religion and morals.

The Communist Party already has a hand in just about every aspect of life here. But Xi’s speech Wednesday — opening a five-yearly congress of the party’s top leadership — cast the net even wider.

His was a vision of a reinvigorated Communist Party, backed by a strong economy and a powerful, modern military taking an even more central role in the affairs of the nation and a more confident role on the world stage.

“Achieving national rejuvenation will be no walk in the park,” Xi told more than 2,200 members of the party’s elite, speaking beneath gigantic red drapes and a huge hammer and sickle in the mammoth Great Hall of the People, a monument to Communist authoritarianism, on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

“It will take more than drumbeating and gong-clanging to get there,” he added. “Every one of us in the party must be prepared to work even harder toward this goal.”

Yet outside, the run-up to the 19th National Congress has been marked not by confidence but by the Communist Party’s particular brand of paranoia.

Dissidents have been arrested or railroaded out of town, lest they disrupt the celebratory mood by saying anything remotely critical. Ordinary public gatherings — anything from a top-level soccer match to regular gym classes — have been closed down or postponed.

[Why the world is watching China’s party congress]

Censorship of the Internet and controls on private chat groups have dramatically intensified, while long lines built up at subway stations in the capital this week as security checks were stepped up. The WhatsApp messaging service has been blocked. Foreigners living in the city have been visited by police for passport checks, and volunteers with red armbands and security personnel patrol almost every street corner. Banners extolling the party dominate almost every free space.

Factories throughout Beijing were ordered to close in a bid to curb air pollution, while every arm and level of the government has been straining for months to make sure nothing is left to chance, that nothing will spoil this, the big moment for the president.

In a week’s time, Xi will be formally granted another five years in power as general secretary of China’s Communist Party. 

On Wednesday, with a large illuminated red star gleaming in the ceiling 30 yards above his head, he painstakingly set out what he sees as his achievements over the past five years and his vision for the next five — a campaign speech with particularly Chinese characteristics, and with the support of the entirety of the tiny, handpicked electorate already guaranteed.

“For five years, our party has demonstrated tremendous political courage and a powerful sense of mission,” Xi said, boasting of having driven profound and fundamental change in China but also warning of many difficulties and challenges ahead.

His speech beaming across the nation on state television, China’s leader also set out his ideological contribution to the party’s intellectual canon, ponderously named “Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.” One official later described it as the “third milestone” in the party’s “ideological innovation”— after Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping Theory.

[Are we seeing a Chinese version of Putin?]

The congress may formally incorporate that ideology into the party’s constitution next week — a step that could elevate Xi to the ranks of the most powerful leaders in party history.

Behind him, his immediate predecessor, Hu Jintao, listened attentively, his eyes mostly on the text of the speech. But 91-year-old Jiang Zemin, president from 1993 to 2003, seemed less captivated, only occasionally taking out a large magnifying glass to gaze at the text, scratching his ear, yawning. 

Other delegates took notes, or stared straight ahead, looking attentive, stern, impassive, dazed or just tired, as Xi spoke on. In the gallery, one diplomat dozed.

The theme of the congress: that the party should remain true to its original aspiration, hold high the banner of socialism and secure a decisive victory in the battle to build a moderately prosperous society.

It was a call for party members to “snap back into line” and focus on the core tasks of governance, politics and ideology, said Jude Blanchette of the Conference Board’s China Center for Economics and Business in Beijing. “This means we should expect a continuation of calls for cadres to read Marx, study party history and to distrust outside ideologies.”

In bullet point after bullet point, Xi set out a vision of party leadership and discipline, of reform and development, of national security and national pride, of ideological confidence and, above all, of control.

“The party exercises overall leadership over all areas of endeavor in every part of the country,” he said, the first sentence of the first bullet point of his ideological exposition.

It was a message of continuity, said Yanmei Xie, China policy analyst at Gavekal Dragonomics in Beijing. “The policy recipe during his first term has produced results that made him popular with the Chinese people and powerful within the party, and enhanced the party’s legitimacy.”

Small adjustments were possible, she said, but a change in the winning formula was not part of the plan.

Yet President Xi also identified key challenges that strike at the heart of the Communist Party’s claim to legitimacy, include the “contradiction” between unbalanced development and people’s rising aspirations, as well as rampant corruption.

[China finds new ways to tighten Internet controls]

“The people resent corruption the most, and corruption is the greatest threat our party faces,” he said.

Xi’s campaign against corruption has been one of his most popular initiatives with the general public, even if it has also been used to take down factional rivals and may have only pushed graft slightly further underground rather than eliminating it.

Xi told party members to resist vices including “pleasure-seeking, inaction, sloth and problem avoidance.” In general society, he said, the party would launch a campaign to raise moral standards and promote family values and personal integrity.

Under Xi, China has taken a more confident role on the world stage, as he was eager to point out, citing his “Belt and Road” infrastructure development project and his controversial program of island-building in the disputed South China Sea. At the same time, he said, the military would be further modernized and strengthened.

“A military is built to fight,” he said. “Our military must regard combat capability as the criterion to meet in all its work and focus on how to win when it is called on.”

The speech was long on aspiration but largely devoid of concrete new policy measures. Much was devoted to the idea of keeping the party’s ideology the center of public life.

“Culture is a country and a nation’s soul,” Xi said, before explaining how he wanted Chinese culture harnessed to the cause of socialism and following the guidance of Marxism.

“Ideology determines the direction a culture should take and the path it should follow as it develops,”’ he said. Writers and artists should produce work that is thought-provoking but also extols “our party, our country, our people and our heroes,” he said.

Religion must also be “Chinese in orientation” and guided by the party to adapt to socialist society, he said.  

Those remarks would appear to pour cold water on talk of a formal rapprochement between the Chinese government and the Vatican, in a country where the party does not recognize the pope’s authority over a population of about 12 million Catholics.

In the run-up to the congress, popular talk shows and costume dramas were taken off the air by order of the government so the entertainment media could focus more wholeheartedly on propaganda and anti-Japanese war films.

State media has been in overdrive in its praise of Xi in recent weeks, gushing on Wednesday about thousands of foreign journalists who were enthusiastically covering the congress and how schoolchildren were inspired, happy and excited after watching Xi’s speech.

Less enthusiastic was anyone who has tried to stand up for the civil rights of the Chinese people or fight injustice. Chinese Human Rights Defenders documented 14 activists who were criminally detained and two cases of enforced disappearance in the run-up to the meeting. Liu Xia, who is the widow of Nobel Prize winner Liu Xiaobo — who died in Chinese custody this year — and who has herself been under house arrest since 2010, was also reportedly forced to leave Beijing by government agents.

Security was so tight that Airbnb abruptly announced it was suspending its service in central Beijing during the second half of October, as did a well-known online retailer of knives and scissors. The five-star Sheraton Hotel, more than 1,000 miles away in the southern city of Dongguan, told guests that wireless Internet would be disconnected in their rooms from Wednesday onward, on local government orders.

Shirley Feng and Luna Lin contributed to this report.

Read more

Xi urged U.S. restraint over North Korea

Hong Kong protests test China’s red lines

China steps up patrols near disputed island

Today’s coverage from Post correspondents around the world

Like Washington Post World on Facebook and stay updated on foreign news

Kenyan election commissioner flees days before new vote, saying it cannot be fair

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NAIROBI — One of the officials in charge of overseeing next week’s presidential election in Kenya resigned Wednesday, fled the countryand said the vote could not be fair.

Rather than contradict her, however, the election commission’s chairman, Wafula Chebukati, also said he did not think a credible election was possible.

Roselyn Akombe, one of seven election commissioners, said in a statement that the Oct. 26 election had no chance of being credible and fair and that it had become “increasingly difficult” for her to perform her duties at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

“We need the commission to be courageous and speak out, that this election as planned cannot meet the basic expectations of a credible election,” she said. “The commission has become a party to the current crisis. The commission is under siege.”

The move is the latest blow to Kenya’s 20-year-old democratic process and comes after a previous election prompted accusations of bias and protests. The social unrest and political uncertainty have hit an economy already faltering because of a severe drought.

Chebukati praised Akombe for her work and said he had not been able to reform the IEBC.

“I have made several attempts to make critical changes, but all my motions have been defeated by a majority of the commissioners. Under such conditions, it is difficult to guarantee free, fair and credible elections,” he said at a news conference. “Without critical changes in key secretariat staff, free, fair and credible elections will surely be compromised.”

President Uhuru Kenyatta handily won reelection Aug. 8 with 54 percent of the vote, but in an unprecedented move, the Supreme Court annulled the results a month later, citing irregularities, and ordered a new election. Opposition candidate Raila Odinga accused the IEBC of bias and demanded that it be scrapped.

[Kenya election rerun raises fear of new violence and economic woes]

On Oct. 10, Odinga pulled out of the fresh election, saying it could not to be free and fair under the current commission.

Kenyatta on Wednesday recommended that Kenyans turn to prayer to see the nation through the election.

“After consultation with religious leaders, I have reached this decision to call on all Kenyans to pray for their country in their mosques, temples and churches, culminating in a national day of prayer on Sunday,” he said.

In an interview with the BBC on Wednesday from New York, Akombe, who holds a U.S. passport, said she fled to the United States because she feared for her life. She noted that a senior election official, Chris Msando, was killed before the August election.

Some election officials have been attacked in certain parts of the country, and the environment was not conducive for a general election, she said.

“It broke my heart in the last few days to listen to my staff in the field, [the] majority of whom truly want to do the right thing, express to me their safety and security concerns,” she said.

“This was met with more extremist responses from most commissioners, who are keen to have an election even if it is at the cost of the lives of our staff and voters,” Akombe said.

Her comments appear to echo the rallying cry of “no reforms, no elections” from Odinga’s supporters ahead of the rerun.

“Akombe’s resignation just shows us that there is a lot going on behind the scenes that we may not know, but what is for sure is that, as Raila said, we cannot go into the elections with the IEBC as it is,” said Joe Oketch, an opposition supporter in Nairobi’s Kibera slum.

For supporters of Kenyatta, however, the resignation changes nothing. They insist that the country must just get through this fraught electoral season.

“We all experience various challenges in our various places at work. We choose to stay or leave. She chose to leave,” said James Mango, a trader at Nairobi’s Wakulima market.

“Things have to move on,” he said.

Paul Schemm in Addis Ababa, Ethi­o­pia, contributed to this report.

Read more:

Kenya’s Supreme Court annuls election result, orders new vote

Kenyan election thrown into turmoil as top opposition candidate withdraws

Kenya bans protests, setting up showdown with opposition supporters

Today’s coverage from Post correspondents around the world

Like Washington Post World on Facebook and stay updated on foreign news

Russia gets a new candidate for president. Is she serious?

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MOSCOW — Ksenia Sobchak — the socialite, journalist, former opposition figure and daughter of Vladimir Putin’s political mentor — announced her candidacy for president Wednesday, courting a protest vote in a presidential bid that appeared to be officially sanctioned by the Kremlin.

In a campaign statement in the Russian daily Vedomosti that barely mentioned Putin and focused instead on public dissatisfaction with Russian politics, she said that she was “outside of ideology” and not a fan of Russia’s annexation of Crimea (though she denied being against it).

“I am ‘against all,’ ” she wrote, announcing her candidacy. “You are not for Sobchak, you are voting against all — against Yavlinsky, Zyuganov, and Putin.” The first two refer to opposition candidates Grigory Yavlinsky and Gennady Zyuganov . Putin, who has not announced his candidacy despite the elections being in less than six months, has been president or prime minister of Russia since 1999.

In the past six months, Russia has seen a rise in protest sentiment among young people in high school and college, and the government is looking to channel that anger into a safe political movement. Those young protesters were largely inspired by the anti-corruption whistleblower and protest leader Alexei Navalny, who has been disqualified from running by multiple felony charges that he claims are politically motivated.

Sobchak announced her candidacy on the independent TV Rain channel. Half an hour earlier, Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s personal spokesman, told the channel that her candidacy was seen as legitimate by the Kremlin: “If I understand correctly, Ksenia fully falls under the provision of our Constitution: She is a Russian citizen who, according to the Constitution, may run for president, naturally, after the completion of all necessary procedures and formalities, which are also spelt out in our laws.”

The New Times, a liberal Moscow weekly that correctly announced her candidacy several hours before it became official Wednesday, suggested that Sobchak was hoping to break back onto federal television channels, where she had been banned because of her political views. Her participation will probably split the protest vote from Navalny supporters, the magazine said.

 A London public-relations agency, Maltin, sent foreign reporters a brief on Sobchak’s campaign: “Ms. Sobchak outlines her platform as being ‘Against All’: offering a protest vote for those dissatisfied with the status quo.” Russian election ballots had offered an “against all” option for voters who wanted to be counted but disliked every candidate. It was banned in 2006. 

Sobchak is the daughter of Anatoly Sobchak, the former St. Petersburg mayor who hired a young Putin as his deputy mayor in the tumultuous 1990s. It has been rumored, though never confirmed, that Sobchak is Putin’s goddaughter. 

Sobchak spoke during the 2011 and 2012 “white ribbon” protests against Putin, which brought 100,000 people onto the streets in protest of alleged vote rigging and Putin’s return to the presidency in 2011. But she has limited her role in politics since then, largely focusing on a television show on the independent (and often opposition) channel TV Rain, while working on other private projects.

She first gained fame for her role on the Russian “Big Brother” takeoff “Dom-2,” or “House-2,” where contestants from across Russia live in a house together and viewers can watch their daily lives.

Read more

Can Russia have a ‘Bernie’ revolution? A Sanders campaign veteran says he’s trying.

Kremlin critic Navalny gets 20 days in jail, calls it a ‘birthday present’ for Putin

Putin becomes longest-serving Russian leader since Stalin

Today’s coverage from Post correspondents around the world

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Xi Jinping at China congress calls on party to tighten its grip on the country

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BEIJING — For 3½ hours, China’s President Xi Jinping commanded the stage and the nation’s television screens as he set out a far-reaching agenda for the Communist Party, outlining a vision of total control, not only of the nation’s economy and the Internet but also of culture, religion and morals.

The Communist Party already has a hand in just about every aspect of life here. But Xi’s speech Wednesday — opening a five-yearly congress of the party’s top leadership — cast the net even wider.

His was a vision of a reinvigorated Communist Party, backed by a strong economy and a powerful, modern military taking an even more central role in the affairs of the nation and a more confident role on the world stage.

“Achieving national rejuvenation will be no walk in the park,” Xi told more than 2,200 members of the party’s elite, speaking beneath gigantic red drapes and a huge hammer and sickle in the mammoth Great Hall of the People, a monument to Communist authoritarianism, on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

“It will take more than drumbeating and gong-clanging to get there,” he added. “Every one of us in the party must be prepared to work even harder toward this goal.”

Yet outside, the run-up to the 19th National Congress has been marked not by confidence but by the Communist Party’s particular brand of paranoia.

Dissidents have been arrested or railroaded out of town, lest they disrupt the celebratory mood by saying anything remotely critical. Ordinary public gatherings — anything from a top-level soccer match to regular gym classes — have been closed down or postponed.

[Why the world is watching China’s party congress]

Censorship of the Internet and controls on private chat groups have dramatically intensified, while long lines built up at subway stations in the capital this week as security checks were stepped up. The WhatsApp messaging service has been blocked. Foreigners living in the city have been visited by police for passport checks, and volunteers with red armbands and security personnel patrol almost every street corner. Banners extolling the party dominate almost every free space.

Factories throughout Beijing were ordered to close in a bid to curb air pollution, while every arm and level of the government has been straining for months to make sure nothing is left to chance, that nothing will spoil this, the big moment for the president.

In a week’s time, Xi will be formally granted another five years in power as general secretary of China’s Communist Party. 

On Wednesday, with a large illuminated red star gleaming in the ceiling 30 yards above his head, he painstakingly set out what he sees as his achievements over the past five years and his vision for the next five — a campaign speech with particularly Chinese characteristics, and with the support of the entirety of the tiny, handpicked electorate already guaranteed.

“For five years, our party has demonstrated tremendous political courage and a powerful sense of mission,” Xi said, boasting of having driven profound and fundamental change in China but also warning of many difficulties and challenges ahead.

His speech beaming across the nation on state television, China’s leader also set out his ideological contribution to the party’s intellectual canon, ponderously named “Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.” One official later described it as the “third milestone” in the party’s “ideological innovation”— after Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping Theory.

[Are we seeing a Chinese version of Putin?]

The congress may formally incorporate that ideology into the party’s constitution next week — a step that could elevate Xi to the ranks of the most powerful leaders in party history.

Behind him, his immediate predecessor, Hu Jintao, listened attentively, his eyes mostly on the text of the speech. But 91-year-old Jiang Zemin, president from 1993 to 2003, seemed less captivated, only occasionally taking out a large magnifying glass to gaze at the text, scratching his ear, yawning. 

Other delegates took notes, or stared straight ahead, looking attentive, stern, impassive, dazed or just tired, as Xi spoke on. In the gallery, one diplomat dozed.

The theme of the congress: that the party should remain true to its original aspiration, hold high the banner of socialism and secure a decisive victory in the battle to build a moderately prosperous society.

It was a call for party members to “snap back into line” and focus on the core tasks of governance, politics and ideology, said Jude Blanchette of the Conference Board’s China Center for Economics and Business in Beijing. “This means we should expect a continuation of calls for cadres to read Marx, study party history and to distrust outside ideologies.”

In bullet point after bullet point, Xi set out a vision of party leadership and discipline, of reform and development, of national security and national pride, of ideological confidence and, above all, of control.

“The party exercises overall leadership over all areas of endeavor in every part of the country,” he said, the first sentence of the first bullet point of his ideological exposition.

It was a message of continuity, said Yanmei Xie, China policy analyst at Gavekal Dragonomics in Beijing. “The policy recipe during his first term has produced results that made him popular with the Chinese people and powerful within the party, and enhanced the party’s legitimacy.”

Small adjustments were possible, she said, but a change in the winning formula was not part of the plan.

Yet President Xi also identified key challenges that strike at the heart of the Communist Party’s claim to legitimacy, include the “contradiction” between unbalanced development and people’s rising aspirations, as well as rampant corruption.

[China finds new ways to tighten Internet controls]

“The people resent corruption the most, and corruption is the greatest threat our party faces,” he said.

Xi’s campaign against corruption has been one of his most popular initiatives with the general public, even if it has also been used to take down factional rivals and may have only pushed graft slightly further underground rather than eliminating it.

Xi told party members to resist vices including “pleasure-seeking, inaction, sloth and problem avoidance.” In general society, he said, the party would launch a campaign to raise moral standards and promote family values and personal integrity.

Under Xi, China has taken a more confident role on the world stage, as he was eager to point out, citing his “Belt and Road” infrastructure development project and his controversial program of island-building in the disputed South China Sea. At the same time, he said, the military would be further modernized and strengthened.

“A military is built to fight,” he said. “Our military must regard combat capability as the criterion to meet in all its work and focus on how to win when it is called on.”

The speech was long on aspiration but largely devoid of concrete new policy measures. Much was devoted to the idea of keeping the party’s ideology the center of public life.

“Culture is a country and a nation’s soul,” Xi said, before explaining how he wanted Chinese culture harnessed to the cause of socialism and following the guidance of Marxism.

“Ideology determines the direction a culture should take and the path it should follow as it develops,”’ he said. Writers and artists should produce work that is thought-provoking but also extols “our party, our country, our people and our heroes,” he said.

Religion must also be “Chinese in orientation” and guided by the party to adapt to socialist society, he said.  

Those remarks would appear to pour cold water on talk of a formal rapprochement between the Chinese government and the Vatican, in a country where the party does not recognize the pope’s authority over a population of about 12 million Catholics.

In the run-up to the congress, popular talk shows and costume dramas were taken off the air by order of the government so the entertainment media could focus more wholeheartedly on propaganda and anti-Japanese war films.

State media has been in overdrive in its praise of Xi in recent weeks, gushing on Wednesday about thousands of foreign journalists who were enthusiastically covering the congress and how schoolchildren were inspired, happy and excited after watching Xi’s speech.

Less enthusiastic was anyone who has tried to stand up for the civil rights of the Chinese people or fight injustice. Chinese Human Rights Defenders documented 14 activists who were criminally detained and two cases of enforced disappearance in the run-up to the meeting. Liu Xia, who is the widow of Nobel Prize winner Liu Xiaobo — who died in Chinese custody this year — and who has herself been under house arrest since 2010, was also reportedly forced to leave Beijing by government agents.

Security was so tight that Airbnb abruptly announced it was suspending its service in central Beijing during the second half of October, as did a well-known online retailer of knives and scissors. The five-star Sheraton Hotel, more than 1,000 miles away in the southern city of Dongguan, told guests that wireless Internet would be disconnected in their rooms from Wednesday onward, on local government orders.

Shirley Feng and Luna Lin contributed to this report.

Read more

Xi urged U.S. restraint over North Korea

Hong Kong protests test China’s red lines

China steps up patrols near disputed island

Today’s coverage from Post correspondents around the world

Like Washington Post World on Facebook and stay updated on foreign news

Trudeau joins Canadians in mourning their rock poet, Gord Downie

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Tragically Hip lead singer Gord Downie performs with band members at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Center to kick off the band’s “Man Machine Poem” tour in July 2016, in Victoria, B.C. (Kevin Light/Reuters)

Even Canada’s prime minister couldn’t hold back the tears as he spoke about the death of Gord Downie, the frontman for the band the Tragically Hip whose songs about Canada lodged themselves deep into the nation’s consciousness.  

Justin Trudeau spoke to reporters on Wednesday shortly after Downie’s family announced the singer had died Tuesday evening. He was 53.

Downie, dubbed Canada’s unofficial poet laureate, had glioblastoma, an aggressive and incurable form of brain cancer. He died with his children and family close by, according to a statement from his family.

“Gord was my friend,” said a visibly shaken Trudeau. “But Gord was everyone’s friend … our buddy Gord, who loved this country with everything he had. And not just loved it in a nebulous ‘Oh, I love Canada’ way, he loved every hidden corner, every story, every aspect of this country that he celebrated his whole life.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shared his feelings on the death of Gord Downie, the iconic lead singer of the band Tragically Hip, who died Oct. 17. (AP)

Trudeau was one tens of thousands who also took to social media on Wednesday to pay tribute to Downie. Fans, fellow musicians, actors, politicians, the National Hockey League — a broad range reflecting the singer’s wide influence — expressed their heartache and appreciation for the man considered a national treasure.  

Formed in the early ’80s by five friends from high school, the Tragically Hip became one of Canada’s most successful musical groups. Over the band’s 14 studio albums, Downie referenced diverse topics, including poetic and surrealist references to Canadian history and Canadian geography. He penned songs about hockey players and small towns in Ontario and late-breaking stories on the CBC. Significantly, the band was producing these songs at a time in Canada’s history when the country seemed ready to embrace more of its own culture.  

John Tory, the mayor of Toronto, tweeted that Downie’s music was “an essential part of the soundtrack of Canada.”

The Tragically Hip never caught on in the United States the way it did in Canada, but for some Canadians, that made the band even more special.

Downie learned of his illness last year. The Tragically Hip responded by announcing a 15-date tour that, in effect, became Canada’s chance to say goodbye to the much-loved band.

The Hip, as they are also known, played their final concert in their home town of Kingston, Ontario, on Aug. 20, 2016. It was broadcast live on the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., the country’s state broadcaster, and was an unofficial national event with Canadians gathering in community halls and parks around the country to watch the final show. The Toronto police tweeted — half jokingly — that Canada would be closed on the night of the concert.

Downie was a talented lyricist who was equally well known for his strange and hypnotic stage presence. He was also a published poet, an environmentalist and an activist for indigenous causes.

Shortly after the news of his death was reported, his name was trending worldwide on social media with many acknowledging his cultural impact on the country — and his grace, too.

The Wizards are the fourth-best team in the East

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Wizards guard John Wall averaged 22.9 points and 10.5 assists per 36 minutes of play last season, with his efforts worth 11.6 wins above replacement. (Nick Wass/Associated Press)

The Washington Wizards finished with a 49-33 record last season and fell one game shy of the Eastern Conference finals, and they decided to keep that team largely intact. The backcourt tandem of John Wall and Bradley Beal, one of the best in the NBA, and all-star forward Otto Porter Jr. will all be Wizards for the foreseeable future, making both the short- and long-term expectations for the franchise higher than ever.

Using updated win totals from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook to establish preseason projected win rates, adjusting for injuries, such as the one sustained by Boston Celtics’ Gordon Hayward, we can project the regular season win totals for each NBA team. By this method, the Wizards have a 60 percent chance to win 50 or more games in 2017-18. They have a 1 in 6 chance (17 percent) of winning at least 55 games. That optimism still puts them fourth in the conference behind the Cleveland Cavaliers, Celtics and Toronto Raptors, with the latter two having the benefit of playing in the Atlantic Division, home of the hapless New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets and the rebuilding Philadelphia 76ers.

But those are just totals set by oddsmakers looking to make money. If the Wizards truly are to ascend that high in the Eastern Conference, ending the reign of LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the process, a lot has to change.

The biggest barrier to success is the team’s bench. The Wizards’ starting lineup played 1,347 minutes together last season, 467 more minutes than any other lineup in the league, because their reserves were outscored by 3.4 points per 100 possessions during the regular season. That worsened to a net rating of minus-15.5 during the playoffs, limiting the amount of rest Coach Scott Brooks could afford to give his starters.

  Points per 100 possessions
2016-17 Wizards Scored Allowed Net
Starters 110.5 106.6 3.9
Bench 103.9 107.4 -3.4

Guards Tim Frazier and Jodie Meeks were brought in as reinforcements, but it’s unclear how much help they can provide. With Frazier on the court last season, the New Orleans Pelicans were outscored by three points per 100 possessions; the team was outscored by less than a point per 100 possessions with him on the bench. The Orlando Magic had a net rating of minus-5.4 with Meeks on the court during 2016-17, on par with the production Washington got from its reserve guards last season. Compare that to the Wizards’ plus-6.1 net rating with both Wall and Beal on the court and you can quickly see why this could again be a problem during the 2017-18 campaign.

Not only does the bench need to improve, the core of Wall, Beal and Porter needs to be as good or better, a tall order considering all three had career seasons.

Wall averaged 22.9 points and 10.5 assists per 36 minutes of play last season, with his efforts worth 11.6 wins above replacement. Beal chipped in a career-high 23.9 points per 36 minutes and was one of the most-efficient scorers in the NBA, averaging 1.1 points per possession last season. Porter, the third overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft, exceeded expectations, averaging a league-high 1.2 points per possession (minimum 500 possessions during the regular season), a better mark than Kevin Durant (1.17), Steph Curry (1.1), 2016-17 MVP Russell Westbrook (0.94), MVP runner-up James Harden (1.01) and James (1.05). Players such as Porter can sneak up on the NBA only once; after that defenses will game-plan to stop them.

That puts even more pressure on Kelly Oubre Jr. to take the next step.

Oubre played 20 minutes per game last season, pitching in 6.3 points and 3.3 rebounds per contest in addition to 2.5 deflections and 4.6 contested shots per game. His shooting accuracy, however, particularly from behind the three-point line, leaves a lot to be desired. The 21-year-old forward has made less than 30 percent of his three-point shots over his two-year career, including going 28 for 82 (34.1 percent) on his open catch-and-shoot attempts. Unfortunately, his preseason performance suggests more of the same: He was 3 for 8 on unguarded catch-and-shoot attempts and 3 for 15 overall on jump shots behind the three-point line.

One bright spot has been Jason Smith. A 7-foot, stretch-four forward, Smith scored 1.24 points per possession this preseason, producing an effective field goal percentage of 76.3 percent as the team’s spot-up shooter, which includes going 9 for 16 with his no-dribble jumper. During the 2016-17 regular season his efficiency with that shot placed him in the top 30 percent of the NBA, making him a valuable piece off the bench and perhaps difficult to dislodge from the starting rotation once Markieff Morris gets healthy.

There are questions about this team defensively, too.

The Wizards’ defensive rating last season, 106.9 points allowed per 100 possessions, was the 10th worst in the NBA, with opponents scoring the fifth-most points off second-chance opportunities (13.8 points per game). Washington also allowed the seventh-highest effective field goal percentage to spot-up shooters, with only non-playoff teams performing worse against these possessions.

The defense also got progressively worse as the season went on. They allowed almost six points more per 100 possessions after the all-star break including 111.4 points per 100 possessions over the final two months of the regular season.

Keeping this team intact means that defense remains largely the same, with little reason to expect it to improve greatly from one season to the next. You could also argue that Washington overachieved last season. Based on the Wizards’ points scored and allowed last season, we’d expect them to win 46 games, not 49, showing how small a margin for error they are working with in the upcoming season — even the slightest downturn on either side of the ball could turn a very good season into a precarious one.

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PM’s offer to EU citizens ahead of crunch summit

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On the eve of a crucial Brussels summit, the Prime Minister has appealed directly to EU citizens living in the UK that she wants them and their families to stay after Brexit.

The appeal comes as Jeremy Corbyn redoubles his attack on the Government’s “ever more damaging Brexit bungling” and on a possible “no deal Brexit that would be a bad deal for Britain, threatening jobs and living standards”.

The Labour leader is also on his way to Brussels on Thursday to meet with three EU prime ministers and the EU’s lead Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.

In a social media post and open letter to three million citizens of EU countries resident in Britain, Theresa May says an agreement on their post-Brexit rights is “in touching distance”.

The Prime Minister tries to reassure them a streamlined process, in which they will have a direct say, will govern arrangements for maintenance of their rights as the UK leaves the EU.

The Government will waive the requirement in EU law that EU citizens have to show they have had comprehensive sickness insurance in order to qualify for permanent residence.

The Home Office will also create a mechanism whereby those citizens with permanent residence can swap that for the new post-Brexit “settled status”.

In addition, the Home Office plans to form “user groups” of EU citizens so they can have a say on these processes.

But in words that could be interpreted as painting the EU27 as the roadblock on citizens rights, Mrs May also writes: “As I travel to Brussels today, I know that many people will be looking to us – the leaders of the 28 nations in the EU – to demonstrate we are putting people first.”

The Prime Minister says “citizens rights are my first priority”, adding: “When we started this process, some accused us of treating EU nationals as bargaining chips.

“Nothing could have been further from the truth.

“I couldn’t be clearer: EU citizens living lawfully in the UK today will be able to stay.”

While that personal guarantee is an unconditional offer, Downing Street stressed the rest of the package was conditional on a general deal with the EU, and reciprocal rights for UK citizens living in the rest of the EU.

However, the EU has until now shown little desire to separate out individual issues, with key politicians claiming “nothing is settled until everything is settled”.

Some in the EU are likely to see this as a UK gambit to split the EU27 and achieve progress on an issue of particular concern to Baltic and other Eastern European nations.

Image:Jeremy Corbyn is also heading to Brussels on Thursday

On Wednesday, Number 10 struggled to answer why, as the Government has suggested of its own departments, EU citizens should not be planning themselves for a failure by Mrs May to reach a Brexit deal.

The Liberal Democrat’s Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake attacked “empty hypocritical words” from the Prime Minister and claimed EU citizens who have waited 15 months to have their rights protected “will be deeply disappointed”.

Mr Brake added it was “despicable” that Mrs May “has the brass neck to deny she has bartered with citizens’ rights”.

Number 10 said the Prime Minister will give an update on the UK position over Article 50 negotiations to the European Council summit dinner in Brussels on Thursday.

A spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister will reiterate commitment to a successful Europe with the UK as a strongly committed partner.

“She will urge fellow leaders to focus on shared opportunities and challenges ahead and encourage them to move the conversation on to consider the future partnership and the implementation period so that they are ready to engage in that discussion as soon as possible”.

The EU27 will consider whether Brexit talks have achieved “sufficient progress” on key divorce issues, their condition for allowing trade talks to begin, after the Prime Minister has left the summit on Friday.

But the language in draft communiques to be discussed by the EU27, prepared before the summit, has hardened at the behest of Berlin and Paris in recent days.

Trudeau’s tears: Canada PM mourns rock star

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Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has broken down in tears as he paid tribute to the lead singer of rock band Tragically Hip on national television.

Gord Downie, who had brain cancer, died on Tuesday at the age of 53.

An emotional Mr Trudeau, speaking in Parliament in Ottawa, said “we are less as a country without Gord Downie in it”.

He said: “We all knew it was coming but we hoped it wasn’t.

“I thought I was going to make it through but I’m not. It hurts.”

Image:Gord Downie was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2015

In a written statement, he added: “Downie uncovered and told the stories of Canada. He was the frontman of one of Canada’s most iconic bands, a rock star, artist, and poet whose evocative lyrics came to define a country.”

A statement on the band’s website said he died “with his beloved children and family close by”.

Downie was diagnosed with glioblastoma – an aggressive and incurable brain cancer – in December 2015.

In a statement, his family said: “God knew this day was coming his response was to spend his precious time as he always had, making music, making memories and expressing deep gratitude to his family and friends for a life well lived.

Image:Mr Trudeau said Canada is ‘less as a country’ following the singer’s death

The band, which released its first album in 1987, has a huge following within Canada but has only had limited international success.

During his final show, Downie called out to Mr Trudeau, who was at the concert, to help fix problems in Canada’s indigenous communities.

He is survived by his wife and four children.