Secessionism rising in the West; Scotland independence an inconvenient possibility; Scots choose to stay with UK


Scotland Independence
By Luo Jie

Tide of secessionism rising in the West

The Scottish independence referendum has come as a shock to the world at large. Even if the result of the vote vetoes independence for Scotland and maintains the unity of the UK, it is not so much a false alarm as a tremor shaking the whole Western system.

The UK is a representative country in the Western world. Despite the fact that the disintegration of the British Empire saw the painful departure of most of its colonies, the historic referendum on Scottish independence jeopardizes the integrity of its homeland. It is the fiercest outbreak of secessionism that has plagued major European countries in recent years.

The referendum is different from massive riots or disturbances in which immigrants acted as the main forces. It displays in a direct way a division in United Kingdom society. It is a showdown with the purpose of getting a “divorce.”

The referendum conveys a signal that the Western system has taken on numbness and lost efficacy in dealing with conundrums. People in the rest of the UK did not take seriously the term “Scottish independence” years ago, which, however, has kept swelling and become a major factor for the UK’s destiny. UK Prime Minister David Cameron made an appeal for Scotland to stay within the union and the US President also urged Scots to vote against independence, hoping the UK “remains strong, robust and united.” Western countries are making concerted efforts to save a united UK.

There is also secessionism in the Oriental world, notably in China, India and Russia, where, however, legal, political and moral systems play an effective role. Liberal practices in the UK might have worked in the past, but now are facing immense uncertainty.

Since the end of the Cold War, the West has come to the pinnacle of power step by step, while the Oriental world has been threatened by myriad crises. Nonetheless, emerging countries have flourished now after more than 20 years has passed. They have overcome deadly shocks and developed an effective control system.

There are signs that the West has started feeling anxious in front of the collective competition of emerging economies. Western society now apparently lacks confidence in an unprecedented way. Terms like solidarity, cooperation and diligence have long disappeared from the dictionary of many Westerners, who instead pursue maximized profits by using financial or political means.

Meanwhile, the vigor of the Oriental world is deeply rooted in people’s hard work and political progress gained at the cost of bitter lessons in the past. This represents a development trend of the world: Human society is seeing narrower gaps, which will likely be the essence of globalization.

Source:Global Times Editorial

Scotland: An inconvenient possibility 

Scotland Independence1

William Wallace, Robert the Bruce, David Cameron.

It’s ironic but if there is a yes vote in the referendum in Scotland on Thursday, and it is once again ruled from Edinburgh rather than London, it will be in large part thanks to David Cameron, the incumbent prime minister of the United Kingdom. Not only did he have to give his government’s consent for the referendum to go ahead, but he also ruled out the option of what is now being referred to as devo-max, the devolving of more powers to the Scottish parliament, and instead insisted on a straight yes or no choice to the question: Should Scotland be an independent country?

With the opinion polls at the time showing a healthy majority in favor of maintaining the Union, it was decided a straight yes/no independence referendum would result in vote in favor of keeping the union. However, that is looking a lot less like a sure bet now, with the polls showing the yes and no votes running neck and neck.

Just 10 days before the referendum, with the polls showing an upswing in people saying they intended to vote yes, the three main English parties struck a deal and pledged to give more powers to the Scottish parliament. But no details have been forthcoming of what this entails and no timetable presented. So it will probably not sway the minds of many still undecided voters.

If there is a yes vote, the Scottish government will have to set in motion the process for a written constitution, and there are hard negotiations that will need to be completed, not least on key issues such as a currency union, Scotland’s share of the UK’s national debt, and what will happen to the four submarines carrying missiles armed with Trident nuclear warheads that are stationed in Scotland, before the proposed independence date of March 24, 2016.

An independent Scotland will also have to negotiate for membership of NATO and the European Union. The rest of the UK, or rUK as it is known, would retain membership of NATO and the UN Security Council, as the government in London would retain control of Trident, but there would be growing pressure from those living in some cloud-cuckoo land of an imperial past for it to opt out of the EU.

Those claiming that Scotland is better off as part of the UK have been suggesting it is not a foregone conclusion that an independent Scotland will be able to join the EU. They have also tried to paint a dire picture of the future with the support of the oil companies and big banks, which have threatened to head south.

However, while independence does mean uncertainties, most of which can and will be resolved through negotiation, it also offers new opportunities. Despite the no camp’s unproven portents of doom, there is a belief among many, not just in Scotland, but elsewhere in the UK, that too much power is centralized in Westminster, and it favors the wealthy at the expense of the poor. The wealth gap continues to widen and this is evident not just in Scotland, but also elsewhere in the UK.

With a growing number of people struggling to pay their bills, there is a perception that those supposed to safeguard their interests are too busy finding ways to pad their claims for expenses and voting for their own pay rises to listen to their concerns. It has been said only half in jest that it is London and the South East of England that should go independent, because they are far removed in mindset from the more community based values of the rest of UK.

The Better Together pro-unionists have tried to portray the yes voters as hearts-over-minds anti-English nationalists nursing historical hurts as well as present grievances. Yet to many in Scotland, not just Scots, but residents of other nationalities, including English, better together means people in Scotland working together for a fairer society, one that is not victim to the whims of the unchecked free-market pursuit of profit. The central question for many is which option, a business-as-usual more-of-the-same no vote or an uncertain-hopes-for-the-future yes vote, offers the best chance of creating a more caring and equitable society.

To overseas observers who say Scotland would become irrelevant if it votes for independence and the UK diminished in stature without Scotland, most of those who intend to vote yes might reply, that’s just fine; Scotland is just a small country on the fringe of Europe that doesn’t need or want to strut upon the world stage – something its leaders should bear in mind if the vote is yes.

By Hannay Richards (China Daily)/Asia News Network

Cameron thanks Scots for choosing to stay, promises a more unified UK

 UK Prime Minister David Cameron is now delivering a speech. Let’s go live to see what he is saying.

Showtime for China’s E-commerce giant, Alibaba world-wide


Alibaba_Chinese_logoAlibaba, China’s eCommerce giant, has quickly come onto everyone’s radar as it presents the possibility of being the largest tech IPO ever. According to the New York Times, the company is expected to go on the market at a value of roughly $200 billion – larger than US tech companies Amazon, eBay or Facebook. This week, we bring you articles to explain who Alibaba is and what you can expect from them in the future.

Two weeks, three continents, and 100 meetings. That — and founder Jack Ma celebrating his 50th birthday on the road — is what it will take for Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. to pull off the largest initial public offering in U.S. history.

The Chinese e-commerce company is weighing a plan to start marketing the share sale to investors on Sept. 3, with management traveling across Asia, Europe and the U.S. before an initial public offering in the middle of the month, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The schedule, put forth by banks managing the IPO, would have meetings begin in Hong Kong and Singapore before executives travel to London and eventually host their first U.S. event in New York on Sept. 8, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing private information. The timeline has Alibaba targeting a Sept. 16 trading debut, the people said.

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The investor meetings — called a roadshow — will give Alibaba the opportunity to answer questions from the world’s biggest fund managers and build demand for its shares. With Alibaba and selling shareholders expected to raise as much as $20 billion, the IPO has the potential to be the largest in the U.S. The company’s official price range is expected to be revealed on Sept. 2.


Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

Jack Ma, chairman of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., speaks at SoftBank World 2014 in Tokyo, Japan.

 

Monday Pricing

For trading to start on Sept. 16, Alibaba would have to set a final price the day before — a Monday. It is uncommon for companies in the U.S. to price IPOs on a Monday, in case news over the weekend negatively impacts market sentiment in the final day of the deal.

The plan is tentative and could change, although Alibaba wants to avoid debuting near the Jewish holiday the following week, one of the people said.

With six financial advisers already managing the sale, Alibaba plans to name additional banks that will have smaller roles on the deal, according to people familiar with the matter. The company will also update investors with earnings from the quarter through June, those people said.

Credit Suisse Group AG (CSGN), Deutsche Bank AG, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Morgan Stanley and Citigroup Inc. are the most senior banks on the IPO. Alibaba may end up using more than 20 financial advisers in total, one person said.

Shares of Japanese wireless carrier SoftBank Corp. (9984), Alibaba’s largest shareholder, rose 2.4 percent at the close in Tokyo. Florence Shih, a Hong Kong-based spokeswoman for Alibaba, declined to comment.

Birthday Celebration

At $20 billion, Alibaba’s sale would edge past Visa Inc.’s $19.65 billion IPO in 2008 as the largest in U.S. history, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Alibaba plans to divide executives into two separate teams, which will lead to about 100 meetings in total, according to the people. The teams will mostly be together for the larger group meetings, while separating to meet with individual investors, they said. The company hasn’t yet determined who from management will be attending each meeting, the people said.

In the U.S., Alibaba will also visit with investors in Boston, the Mid-Atlantic region, Kansas City, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco, the people said.

On Sept. 10, when Ma celebrates his birthday, investor meetings will be held in New York, they said.

Alibaba is waiting until September to begin marketing the share sale as it seeks regulatory approval of its prospectus, a person with knowledge of the matter said last month. The company, which originally targeted an early August trading debut, is holding off to avoid rushing the deal as it continues discussions with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, according to the person.

Discounted Valuation

The Chinese e-commerce operator may set its set its IPO value at $154 billion, or 22 percent below analyst valuations, in a move that could avoid repeating Facebook Inc. (FB)’s listing flop, according to the average estimate of five analysts surveyed by Bloomberg last month. The same analysts give Alibaba an average post-listing valuation of $198 billion, the survey shows.

Alibaba said yesterday it will sell its small-business lending arm to the company that already controls payments affiliate Alipay, separating itself from the last of its major financial units ahead of the IPO.

The sale takes financial and regulatory risk relating to the operations off of Alibaba’s balance sheet, while increasing the pool of profits the company can generate from them, the filing shows. The agreement also lifts a $6 billion cap, under certain conditions, on funds that Alibaba could receive if Alipay or its parent company go public, the filing shows.

By Zijing Wu and Leslie Picker Bloomberg

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Global bank profits hit US$920bil, China accounted for 1/3 total; Globalized RMB to stabilize world economy


LONDON: China’s top banks accounted for almost one-third of a record US$920 billion of profits made by the world’s top 1000 banks last year, showing their rise in power since the financial crisis, a survey showed on Monday.

China’s banks made $292 billion in aggregate pretax profit last year, or 32 percent of the industry’s global earnings, according to The Banker magazine’s annual rankings of the profits and capital strength of the world’s biggest 1,000 banks.

ICBCLast year’s global profits were up 23 percent from the previous year to their highest ever level, led by profits of $55 billion at Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC). China Construction Bank, Agriculture Bank of China and Bank of China filled the top four positions.

Banks in the United States made aggregate profits of $183 billion, or 20 percent of the global tally, led by Wells Fargo’s earnings of $32 billion.

Banks in the eurozone contributed just 3 percent to the global profit pool, down from 25 percent before the 2008 financial crisis, the study showed. Italian banks lost $35 billion in aggregate last year, the worst performance by any country.

Banks in Japan made $64 billion of profit last year, or 7 percent of the global total, followed by banks in Canada, France and Australia ($39 billion in each country), Brazil ($26 billion) and Britain ($22 billion),The Banker said.

The magazine said ICBC kept its position as the world’s strongest bank, based on how much capital they hold – which reflects their ability to lend on a large scale and endure shocks.
china_construction_bank
China Construction Bank jumped to second from fifth in the rankings of strength and was followed by JPMorgan , Bank of America and HSBC .

ICBC, which took the top position last year for the first time, was one of four Chinese banks in the latest top 10.

Wells Fargo has this year jumped to become the world’s biggest bank by market value, after a surge in its share price on the back of sustained earnings growth. Its market value is $275 billion, about $75 billion more than ICBC.

The Banker said African banks made the highest returns on capital last year of 24 percent – double the average in the rest of the world and six times the average return of 4 percent at European lenders.- Reuters

Globalized RMB to stabilize world economy

RMBBEIJING, June 27 (Xinhua) — The globalization of the yuan, or renminbi (RMB), will not only benefit the Chinese economy, but generate global economic stability, a senior banker has said.

The yuan did not depreciate during the 1997 Asian financial crisis or the 2008 global financial crisis, helping stabilize the global economy, Tian Guoli, chairman of the Bank of China, said at a forum in London last week, according to the Friday edition of the People’s Daily.

China’s economy ranks second in the world and its trade ranks first, so it is thought that use of the RMB in cross-border trade will be a mutually beneficial move for China and its trade partners.

The yuan has acquired basic conditions to become an international currency as China’s gross domestic product took 12.4 percent of the world’s total and its foreign trade 11.4 percent of the world’s total in 2013, Tian said.

According to the central bank, RMB flow from China hit 340 billion yuan (55.74 billion U.S. dollars) in the first quarter of 2014, replenishing offshore RMB fluidity. The balance of offshore RMB deposits hit 2.4 trillion yuan at the end of March, 1.51 percent of all global offshore deposits. Offshore trade between the yuan and foreign currencies doubled in the first quarter from the fourth quarter of last year.

Analysts widely forecast five steps in RMB internationalization: RMB used and circulated overseas, RMB as a currency of account in trade, RMB used in trade settlement, RMB as a currency for fundraising and investment, and RMB as a global reserve currency.

Already, some neighboring countries and certain regions in developed countries are circulating RMB, indicating the first step has been basically achieved.

Data provider SWIFT’s RMB tracker showed that in May, 1.47 percent of global payments were in RMB, a tiny amount compared to the global total but up from 1.43 percent in April. This indicated progress in the second and third steps.

Some countries in southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa have or are ready to take RMB as an official reserve currency. It indicated the fourth and the fifth steps are burgeoning.

Investors are also optimistic about RMB globalization. Bank of China’s global customer survey shows that over half of the respondents expect RMB cross-border transactions to rise by 20 to 30 percent in five years. And 61 percent of overseas customers say they plan to use or increase use of RMB as a settlement currency.

Li Daokui, head of the Center for China in the World Economy under Tsinghua University, said RMB internationalization is a long-term process and should be made gradually based on China’s financial reforms, including freeing interests and reforms on foreign exchange rates.

Dai Xianglong, former central bank governor of China, forecast that it will take about 10 to 15 years to achieve a high standard of RMB internationalization.

Among the latest moves toward RMB internationalization is the naming of two clearing banks to handle RMB business overseas.

The central bank announced last Wednesday that it has authorized China Construction Bank to be the clearing bank for RMB business in London, and the next day named the Bank of China as clearing bank for RMB business in Frankfurt.- Xindua

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Malaysian Minister admits poor education system, students are below par


Minister admits poor education system, says blueprint is the answer

Education Minister II Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh has admitted that Malaysia’s education system was below par as shown in global rankings, and cited Putrajaya’s National Education Blueprint as the solution.

Education Min_IDRIS-JUSOH“It is vital to assess and compare our education system against the international standards. Out of 74 countries, Malaysia ranked in the bottom third in the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) 2009+.

“This is below the international and OECD average,” said Idris, referring to member states in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

“Primary and secondary school education standards need to improve, particularly so in bridging the gap between urban and rural areas… at the higher education level, we continue to face challenges mainly in the area of graduates’ ability to be employed,” Idris (pic) said in his speech at the 18th Malaysian Education Summit in Petaling Jaya, today.

Idris said the Education Blueprint, launched in September last year and formulated with the help of 55,000 stakeholders, would benefit Malaysia as international education standards continued to rise.

He added that another blueprint for the higher education sector was currently being prepared to among others, to empower university governance, democratise access to higher education and improving employability of graduates.

He also said a “war room” was being planned to ensure that the higher education blueprint, to be launched by year’s end, would be carried out smoothly.

“I know the responsibility is great, I cannot shoulder the burden alone. But we must keep on listening, we have to keep deliberating to ensure that Malaysian education is at par ‎at least with other countries.

“But that’s not good enough for me.‎ I want Malaysian education to be better than other countries in the world,” Idris told some 200 delegates comprising academics and education stakeholders.

On Tuesday, the annual QS University Rankings: Asia 2014 revealed that Malaysian universities lagged behind those from neighbouring Singapore and Hong Kong.

The National University of Singapore topped the list of Asian countries, but the University of Malaya was placed at the 32nd spot. Other local universities in the top 100 include Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in the 56th place, Universiti Sains Malaysia (57), Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (66) and Universiti Putra Malaysia (76).

Malaysian public universities last month were left out of the latest ranking of the annual Times Higher Education (THE) Top 100 Universities under 50 years old.

Four Asian universities were ranked among the top 10 of the world’s young universities, including South Korea’s Pohang University of Science and Technology which took the top spot, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (3), Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (4) and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (5).

Malaysia, however, failed to get on the list for the second year running. In the first rankings list in 2012, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) was ranked 98th.

Malaysia was also absent from the Times Higher Education World Reputation rankings list which was released in March, losing out to other Southeast Asian countries.

Malaysia’s continuous failure to feature in any university rankings despite a huge education budget every year has not gone down well with the opposition, which has taken Putrajaya to task for the miserable performance.

The Education Ministry received RM38.7 billion in 2013 and has been allocated a total of RM54 billion this year – the biggest allocation yet.

Contributed BY ANISAH SHUKRY, The MalysianInsider

Malaysian students are below par, says Idris

Malaysian students are below par when compared with their contemporaries in other countries, acknowledged Education Minister II Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh.

Although literacy rates were rising in Malaysia, it was vital to assess and compare the Malaysian education system against international standards, he added.

“Out of 74 countries, Malaysia ranked in the bottom third in the Programme for Interna­tional Student Assessment (Pisa) 2009+. This is below the international and OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) average,” he said during the 18th Malaysian Education Summit yesterday.

“Primary and secondary school education standards need to improve, particularly so in bridging the gap between urban and rural areas. Though Malaysia has achieved commendable results in terms of providing access, we have to now ensure that access comes together with quality education of international standards.”

Meanwhile, at the higher education level, he said that the challenge was producing knowledgeable, competent and globally competitive human capital.

“Employers in Malaysia face a major problem when it comes to having fresh graduates fill out vacancies,” he said, citing poor command of English as one of the reasons.

The solution to this is the Malaysia Education Blueprint (MEB) 2012-2025, which was launched last September, as well as the soon-to-be-released National Education Blueprint for Higher Education 2015-2025 (Higher Education Blueprint).

Idris said the MEB offered a vision of the education system and students’ aspirations that Malaysia both needed and deserved and outlined 11 strategic and operation shifts that would be required to achieve that vision.

“The need for the Education Blueprint is justified in the context of raising international standards; the government aspiration of better preparing Malaysian children for the needs of the 21st century; and increased public and parental expectations of education policy,” he said.

“We have had international experts from the World Bank, Unesco, and OECD to work with our national partners to evaluate the performance of our national education system in the development process of the Education Blueprint. Overall, more than 55,000 stakeholders were consulted in its formulation.”

“The Higher Education Blueprint will also be introduced in order to ensure consistency with the primary and secondary education system, and allow for seamless progression in terms of educational offerings, opportunities and advancement,” he added.

The Higher Education Blueprint will address challenges such as empowering university governance, democratising access to higher education and improving graduate employability.

contribute by Jeannette Goon The Star/Asia News Network

Here’s The New Ranking Of Top Countries In Reading, Science, And Math:

The OECD is out with new global rankings of how students in various countries do in reading, science, and math. Results of the full survey can be found and delved into here.

You can see below how Asian countries are obliterating everyone else in these categories.

The United States, meanwhile, ranks below the OECD average in every category. And as the WSJ notes, the US has slipped in all of the major categories in recent years:

The results from the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which are being released on Tuesday, show that teenagers in the U.S. slipped from 25th to 31st in math since 2009; from 20th to 24th in science; and from 11th to 21st in reading, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, which gathers and analyzes the data in the U.S.

Here are the top countries

OECD_Pisa screen shot 2013-12-03

Sources: Business Insider.com
 
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Always in sight, forever in my heart

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Asians can and must think strategically, not to be dominated by the West


Can Asians think?

CAN Asian Think is a provocative book written in 1998 by the dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, Kishore Mahbubani, a prolific and brilliant thinker.

The book is a combative rebuttal of the idea that the dominant Western (read American) ideas are universalist, arguing that the Rest (of the World) has a lot to teach the West.

Re-reading it after more than 16 years, the questions raised by Mahbubani are as relevant as ever. Personally, I found the title rather condescending – of course Asians can think! The real issue is whether Asians can think strategically in their own interest, or whether they think that the dominant Western philosophy and values are so comfortable and relevant that they simply accept that the West is best.

The intellectual tide is going full circle. Since 1998, we have experienced two full-scale crises – the Asian financial crisis of 1998-1999 in which some Western polemicists gloated over Asian hubris, and the Great Recession of 2007-2009, when even Western intellectuals questioned whether unfettered capitalism was a dead end.

As one Asian leader said, when our teacher stumbles, what does the student do? This strategic question has not been completely answered, or at least the answers are different for different Asian countries.

Now that the West has begun to recover, we are going through a reversal of fortunes. Emerging economies are going to bear the brunt of global adjustment. At least three Asian economies are counted among the Fragile Five (India, Indonesia, Turkey, Brazil and South Africa), and there is considerable worry that China may be going through a hard landing.

President Obama’s trip to Asia was a belated personal confirmation of his “Pivot to East Asia” policy, first articulated in 2012 by then Secretary of State and Presidential wannabe Hillary Clinton. As the United States began to withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan, and its discovery of shale oil making it less dependent on the Middle East, the Pivot strategy involved strengthening bilateral ties with allies in East Asia, and working relationships with emerging powers, such as China. The immediate unintended consequence of the Pivot policy was the eruption of the Ukraine crisis, whereby Russia took advantage of European weakness and diversion of US attention to effectively bring Crimea back to the Russian sphere of influence.

All of a sudden, the Cold War, defined as the struggle between Big Powers, re-emerged into the global risk equation.

Russian  Victory Day parade
Russian soldiers march at the Red Square in Moscow during a Victory Day parade. Thousands of Russian troops marched in Red Square to mark 69 years since victory in World War II in a show of military might amid tensions in Ukraine following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea. -AFP

The word “pivot” originally arose from a paper “The Geographical Pivot of History”, delivered exactly 110 years ago by Sir Halford Mackinder (1861-1947), then director of the London School of Economics. In his second book in 1919, Mackinder, considered the father of geopolitics and geostrategy theory, enscapsulated his theory of the Heartland in a dictum: “Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; Who rules the Heartland commands the World Island; Who rules the World Island commands the World.”

The Heartland is of course Central Asia, previously part of the Soviet Union, and the World-Island is the largest landmass of Euroasia, from Atlantic Europe to the East Asian Pacific coast, which commands 50% of the world’s resources. Many of today’s areas of geopolitical risk are at the frontiers of the Heartland – Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and the South China Sea.

Mackinder’s innovation was to examine national strategy on a global scale, recognising that the British empire must use geography and strategic policy to its advantage against competing great powers.

Former British colonies understood very well the British strategy of “divide and rule”, playing off one faction against the other, so that Britain could rule a subcontinent like India without expending too much resources. But Britain did not hesitate to apply gunboats or cannon to maintain the strategic balance. Similarly, Britain played off one European power against another, until weakened by two world wars, her former colony, the United States emerged as the global superpower.

Seen from the long lens of history, we are in the second Anglo-Saxon empire, with America being the new Rome. Just as the Roman empire shifted its capital from Rome to Constantinople (now Istanbul) in the 20th century, power shifted westward from London to Washington DC.

In the 20th century, two island economies, Britain and Japan, played leading roles in intervening in the continents of Europe and Asia through maritime power, but by the 21st century, air and technological power through size and scale changed the game in favour of the United States. The United States is a continental economy defended by two oceans, the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic, without a military rival within the Americas.

In contrast, Asia has been historically riven by war and territorial disputes.

In his new book, the Revenge of Geography, geostrategist Robert Kaplan argued how politics and warfare were determined throughout history largely by geography.

Even though the arrival of air travel and Internet suggest that the world may become borderless, the reality is that the world is becoming more and more crowded.

When the First World War broke out in 1914, the global population was only 1.7 billion, with a death count of 16 million. By the Second World War, the death count reached as high as 85 million, when world population was only 2.3 billion.

The next World War will be fought over water and energy resources, because there are limits to natural resources even as the global population exceeds 7 billion, going towards 9 billion by 2030.

For the world to avoid global conflict will require great skills and mutual understanding, because the geopolitical risks of political miscalculation and accidents are extremely high in an age of rising tensions due to inequality, chauvinism, religious and ethnic polarisation. As an old African saying goes, when elephants fight, the grass gets trampled. In the next big fight between the nuclear powers, there will be no winners.

Now that is something that not just Asians must seriously think about.

- Contributed by Tan Sri Andrew Sheng

Tan Sri Andrew Sheng is Distinguished Fellow of the Fung Global Institute. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

Internet Speed in Asia, Telekom Malaysia Not so broadband but a chore !


Internet_speed_Asia
 Malaysia’s Speed is slower than Vietnam and Cambodia
Slow and costly: An internet user waiting for a page to load.

PETALING JAYA: Malaysians may be one of the most globally-connected people but it’s not necessarily at a speed they want.

According to a new global survey, the average broadband speed in Malaysia is slower than Vietnam and Cambodia in the region, and barely ahead of Myanmar.

Almost three times slower than Vietnam, Malaysia at 5.48 Megabits per second (Mbps) was ranked a low 126 out of 192 countries surveyed from May 2013 to April this year in the recent Net Index.

Zooming to the number one spot was Hong Kong with a speed of 78.3 Mbps. Singapore sped to second placing at 66.6 Mbps while South Korea was ranked fourth (53.77Mbps), the United Kingdom 23rd (26.85Mbps) and the United States, 32nd (23.9Mbps).

The survey was conducted by Ookla – a global broadband testing and web-based network diagnostic applications company that compares the download, upload and line quality of broadband connections.

Commenting on the survey results, Federation of Malaysian Manu­facturers (FMM)’s ICT and multimedia committee chairman Dr Neoh Vee Heng said its 2,678 members were generally concerned about the country’s slow Internet speed, the unavailability of wireless and fibre connections, and the high cost of connectivity.

“One member who is investing in a big project in Sepang is very worried about the slow 1Mbps broadband speed in that area.

“More and more FMM members are becoming heavily dependent on the Internet for their global business communications and transactions. Unfortunately, connectivity in Ma­­laysia is slow and costly compared with our neighbouring countries,” he said, adding that it was important for businesses to have fast Internet connectivity at a reasonable cost.

The FMM would meet with the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to discuss how broadband services could be improved and its cost reduced, he said.

Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) secretary-general Datuk Paul Selvaraj said slow Internet connection was among the top grouses of consumers.

“Consumers sign up for pricey packages expecting fast, stable connectivity but on most occasions, the telco companies fail to deliver. Despite having highlighted the problem many times before, the telco companies have failed to respond,” he said.

He urged the MCMC to act on telco companies that did not keep their promises because of a clause that says “the speed is not guaranteed due of various factors”.

“It is the telcos’ responsibility to ensure that all the necessary infrastructure is in place before they go around promising speedy Internet connectivity,” he said.

Symantec Malaysia systems engineering director Nigel Tan said the Government had announced an allocation of RM1.8bil under Budget 2014 for the second phase of the High-Speed Broadband (HSBB) project to increase the speed and extend the access areas in the urban, suburban and rural areas.

“This is a key initiative in making access to information easier as the nation moves into an information-driven economy.

“The need for speed correlates with how a huge part of our lives are conducted online – from sending e-mails and e-banking to watching videos and video-chatting.

“Our increasingly digital lifestyle consumes vast volumes of bandwidth,” he said.

He, however, warned that the grass may not be greener on the other side as cybercriminals tend to target computers that were connected to high-speed broadband Internet.

Netizens: Viewing rich content files a chore 

PETALING JAYA: Internet speed in the country is still lagging and varies according to locations, according to netizens here.

IT executive T.Y. Teoh, 29, said the country’s current Internet speed was all right for light browsing of news portals but “absolutely unacceptable” for viewing multimedia-rich content or downloading movie and audio files.

“Even watching a short clip on YouTube is frustrating because it keeps buffering,” he complains. His 3G package is supposed to be for speeds of between five and 10Mbps, but he usually only surfs at the speed of two to 3Mbps.

“For more than RM100 monthly, I feel shortchanged.”

He said 4G connectivity was no better because at different locations, the speed varied vastly.

Citing an example, he said in Petaling Jaya, the speed was usually 50Mbps but in Penang, it was only 20Mbps.

“It is the same telco provider, yet there is a big 30Mbps difference. Why?” he asked.

Bank staff P. John Eric, 38, who is “always online”, said free public hot spots and 4G data plans were still unreliable and unstable.

“In other countries, you get the speed that is advertised – usable hotspots and decent speeds.

“Here, it is all hype,” he said.

Source: by Christina Chin The Star/Asia News Network

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Asian students dominate global exam; Are the Chinese cheating in PISA or are we cheating ourselves?


Asian Student Dominate ExamMemento: In this file photo, parents take pictures of their children outside a high school in Beijing after they finished their national college exams. — AP

AS a ninth-grader, Shanghai’s Li Sixin spent more than three hours on homework a night and took tutorials in Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry on the weekends.

When she was tapped to take an exam last year given to half a million students around the world, Sixin breezed through it. “I felt the test was just easy,” said Sixin, who was a student at Shanghai Wenlai Middle School at the time and now attends high school.

The long hours which focused on schoolwork — and a heavy emphasis on test-taking skills — help explain why young students like Sixin in China’s financial hub once again dominated an international test for 15-year-olds called the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa).

Students from Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan — all from Asia — were right behind. In the wealthy city of Shanghai, where affluent families can afford to pay for tutors, the results are not representative of China overall, although they are ranked as a group alongside national averages for countries such as tAS a ninth-grader, Shanghai’s Li Sixin spent more than three hours on homework a night and took tutorials in Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry on the weekends.

When she was tapped to take an exam last year given to half a million students around the world, Sixin breezed through it. “I felt the test was just easy,” said Sixin, who was a student at Shanghai Wenlai Middle School at the time and now attends high school.

The long hours which focused on schoolwork — and a heavy emphasis on test-taking skills — help explain why young students like Sixin in China’s financial hub once again dominated an international test for 15-year-olds called the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa).he United States and Japan.

Still, they are indicative of education trends in China and elsewhere in Asia — societies where test results determine entrance into prestigious universities and often one’s eventual career path.

Shanghai scored an average of 613 on Maths, as compared with the nearest rival Singapore (573), and the global average of 494. Hong Kong ranked third in Maths, scoring 561, while Japan was ranked seventh and scored 536. The test is given every three years.

In China, educators say hard work is key to their students’ impressive showing. “They listen carefully in the class and do their homework,” said Bai Bing, the headmaster of Sixin’s school, where about 40 students were chosen to take the global test.

Still, Chinese educational experts say the results are at most partial and covers up shortcomings in creating well-rounded, critical thinking individuals. “This should not be considered a pride for us because overall, it still measures one’s test-taking ability. You can have the best answer for a theoretical model but can you build a factory on a test paper?” asked Xiong Binqi, a Shanghai-based scholar on education.

“The biggest criticism is that China’s education has sacrificed everything else for test scores, such as life skills, character building, mental health, and physical health,” said Xiong.

“Shanghai is an exception, and it is by no means representative of China,” said Jiang Xueqin, deputy principal at the High School Attached to Tsinghua University in Beijing. “It’s an international city where its residents pay great attention to education and where there are many universities.”

Affluent Shanghai parents annually spend an average of 6,000 yuan (RM3,190) on English and Math tutors and 9,600 yuan (RM5,100) on weekend lessons.

Shanghai Normal University president Zhang Minxuan said Pisa does not measure students’ social abilities, physical health and aesthetics, and he cautioned against extrapolating to the rest of the country.

“Shanghai students’ top placement in Pisa is no proof of equal development of education in China,” he said, as reported by Shanghai Education News. “There’s no denying, China’s education still has a long way to go.”

By Didi Tang — AP
 
Are the Chinese cheating in PISA or are we cheating ourselves?

Andreas Schleicher Andreas Schleicher

Whenever an American or European wins an Olympic gold medal, we cheer them as heroes. When a Chinese does, the first reflex seems to be that they must have been doping; or if that’s taking it too far, that it must have been the result of inhumane training.

There seem to be parallels to this in education. Only hours after results from the latest PISA assessment showed Shanghai’s school system leading the field, Time magazine concluded the Chinese must have been cheating. They didn’t bother to read the PISA 2012 Technical Background Annex, which shows there was no cheating, whatsoever, involved. Nor did they speak with the experts who had drawn the samples or with the international auditors who had carefully reviewed and validated the sample for Shanghai and those of other countries.

Others were quick to suggest that resident internal migrants might not be covered by Shanghai’s PISA sample, because years ago those migrants wouldn’t have had access to Shanghai’s schools. But, like many things in China, that has long changed and, as described by PISA, resident migrants were covered by the PISA samples in exactly the way they are covered in other countries and education systems. Still, it seems to be easier to cling to old stereotypes than keep up with changes on the ground (or to read the PISA report).

True, like other emerging economies, Shanghai is still building its education system and not every 15-year-old makes it yet to high school. As a result of this and other factors, the PISA 2012 sample covers only 79 per cent of the 15-year-olds in Shanghai. But that is far from unique. Even the United States, the country with the longest track record of universal high-school education, covered less than 90 per cent of its 15-year-olds in PISA – and it didn’t include Puerto Rico in its PISA sample, a territory that is unlikely to have pulled up US average performance.

International comparisons are never easy and they are never perfect. But anyone who takes a serious look at the facts and figures will concede that the samples used for PISA result in robust and internationally comparable data. They have been carefully designed and validated to be fit for purpose in collaboration with the world’s leading experts, and the tests are administered under strict and internationally comparable conditions. Anyone who really wants to find out can review the underlying data.

Short of arguments about methodology, some people turn to dismissing Shanghai’s strong performance by saying that Shanghai’s students are only good on the kind of tasks that are easy to teach and easy to test, and that those things are losing in relevance because they are also the kind of things that are easy to digitise, automate and outsource. But while the latter is true, the former is not. Consider this: Only 2 per cent of American 15-year-olds and 3 per cent of European ones reach the highest level of math performance in PISA, demonstrating that they can conceptualise, generalise and use math based on their investigations and apply their knowledge in novel contexts. In Shanghai it is over 30 per cent. Educators in Shanghai have simply understood that the world economy will pay an ever-rising premium on excellence and no longer value people for what they know, but for what they can do with what they know.

PISA didn’t just test what 15-year-olds know in mathematics, it also asked them what they believe makes them succeed. In many countries, students were quick to blame everyone but themselves: More than three-quarters of the students in France, an average performer on the PISA test, said the course material was simply too hard, two-thirds said the teacher did not get students interested in the material, and half said their teacher did not explain the concepts well or they were just unlucky. The results are very different for Shanghai. Students there believe they will succeed if they try hard and they trust their teachers to help them succeed. That tells us a lot about school education. And guess which of these two countries keeps improving and which is not? The fact that students in some countries consistently believe that achievement is mainly a product of hard work, rather than inherited intelligence, suggests that education and its social context can make a difference in instilling the values that foster success in education.

And even those who claim that the relative standing of countries in PISA mainly reflects social and cultural factors must concede that educational improvement is possible: in mathematics, countries like Brazil, Turkey, Mexico or Tunisia rose from the bottom; Italy, Portugal and the Russian Federation have advanced to the average of the industrialised world or close to it; Germany and Poland rose from average to good; and Shanghai and Singapore have moved from good to great. Indeed, of the 65 participating countries, 45 saw improvement in at least one subject area. These countries didn’t change their culture, or the composition of their population, nor did they fire their teachers. They changed their education policies and practices. Learning from these countries should be our focus. We will be cheating ourselves and the children in our schools if we miss that chance.

International comparisons are never easy and they aren’t perfect. But PISA shows what is possible in education, it takes away excuses from those who are complacent, and it helps countries see themselves in the mirror of the educational results and educational opportunities delivered by the world’s leaders in education.
The world has become indifferent to tradition and past reputations, unforgiving of frailty and ignorant of custom or practice. Success will go to those individuals, institutions and countries which are swift to adapt, slow to complain and open to change. And the task for governments is to help citizens rise to this challenge. PISA can help to make that happen.

Andreas Schleicher is deputy director for Education and Skills, and special adviser on education policy to the OECD’s Secretary General.

In response to criticisms and questions regarding the validity of high scores achieved by 15-year-olds from Shanghai, China, in the recent PISA assessment, he posted this article to the OECD’s education blog http://oecdeducationtoday.blogspot.fr/.

Sources: The Sydney Morning Herald

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