Sway of the Chinese language as China rising, but English is still king


Sway of the Chinese language on display  

AT a recent forum in Hong Kong, Jim Rogers, a Wall Street tycoon, played a video of his daughter reciting a classical Chinese poem.

This is not the first time Happy Rogers has exhibited her proficiency in the language.

At an event in Singapore in 2013, the then nine-year-old showed off her nearly perfect Putonghua pronunciation and tone when she recited a not-so-well-known poem by Li Qiao, a Chinese poet during the Tang Dynasty. She won a big round of applause from the audience, most of them Chinese descendants. Happy’s sister Baby Bee, then five years old, did equally well, singing nursery rhymes in Chinese.

While it is not uncommon for young Chinese language learners to recite ancient poems, Happy spoke in classical Chinese with a fluency that could make even some native Chinese speakers envious, according to a report in Guangzhou Daily.

And recently, during US President Donald Trump’s visit to China, his granddaughter Arabella’s recital of Chinese poems went viral online, making her a “popular figure” among Chinese audiences.

There is a long list of foreign celebrities and their children learning Chinese, including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ four children and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his daughter. Even Prince William, media reports say, studied Chinese in school.

The increasing popularity of the Chinese language has led to the introduction of various programmes and classes worldwide. It is estimated that more than 100 million people outside China, including overseas Chinese, are studying the language, as many believe it can be used as a tool to gain access to conveniences in not only China but also some other countries.

The growing enthusiasm of people in other countries to learn Chinese can be attributed to their love for Chinese culture.

It perhaps explains why traditional Chinese cultural elements, from kung fu films to ancient works such as The Analects of Confucius and Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, have won so many global diehard fans. Many foreigners even believe that Chinese characters are an expression of aesthetic appreciation – maybe that’s why many famous personalities including former soccer star David Beckham have got Chinese characters tattooed on their body.

China’s economic and social development is another important factor for the growing interest in the language and culture. As the world’s most populous country and the second-largest economy, China for years has accounted for the largest number of students studying in other countries, which might also have made people overseas interested in the language.

As Jim Rogers said, whether you like or not, the 21st century will belong to China. He always tells people that if they have children, they shall encourage them to learn Chinese, “because Chinese will be the most important language”. For foreign companies intending to do business in China, they can have a huge advantage over their competitors if they can master the language.

And with the Belt and Road Initiative progressing smoothly, a number of Chinese enterprises will venture into countries along the ancient trade routes for business, which means a higher demand for Chinese speakers.

Source: China Daily/Asia News Network


China rising, but English is still king

 

Asia News Network and The Star recently published an article “Sway of the Chinese language”, detailing the rising popularity of learning Chinese as posted above.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, US President Donald Trump’s granddaughter and billionaire investor Jim Rogers’ daughter are among some of the famous people or their family members brushing up on their Chinese language skills.

Tourists from China are splashing their cash all over the world (in some countries such as Thailand and Malaysia, the Chinese can also go cashless by making their purchases through Alipay).

Meanwhile, economists predict that the GDP of China, currently the world’s second largest, would surpass the United States’ within 10 years. As the economic value of the Chinese language grows, it will unseat English to become the world’s leading language. Or so we are told….

But if history is a clue, this may not happen so soon.

In the heyday of the Roman Empire, as the great Julius Caesar and his successors conquered the Mediterranean, Latin became the dominant language of the European continent. The Roman Empire began to disintegrate in the fifth century. Latin, however, remained relevant for many centuries to come. (The Eastern Roman Empire, also known as Byzantine Empire, survived into 15th century, but its capital was in Constantinople, and its official language was Greek.)

In year 1215, the unpopular King John of England, pressured by rebel barons, issued Magna Carta. The document established for the first time the principle that everybody, including the king, was subject to the law. It is considered one of the first steps taken in England towards establishing parliamentary democracy. The Magna Carta was initially written in Latin.

In year 1687, Sir Isaac Newton published three papers which were collectively known as Principia Mathematica. These works form the foundation of classical mechanics. Principia Mathematica, like the Magna Carta, was written in Latin. That was more than 12 centuries after the demise of the Roman Empire.

In ancient times, Malay language was the lingua franca of the Malay Archipelago. Then the Western powers came, created the modern states of Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Indonesia. Post-independence, Javanese, who make up 40% of Indonesia’s population, dominate the republic’s politics and economy. Somehow, Bahasa Indonesia is based on Malay rather than Javanese.

By 2050, China will become the world’s largest economy. The US will drop to second place. In the third spot, as economists believe, will be India. Like Malaysia, India was a British territory. And like our country, English, the language of the former colonial master, is still widely spoken.

By mid-century, the combined GDP of English-speaking and English-as-second-language nations, which include US, India, Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, the Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia, will likely be larger than that of China.

I do not doubt that Chinese language will get more important every year, and I encourage everyone to learn it if conditions allow. However, it would be foolish if we, in the advent of “China’s Century”, neglect English.

By CHEW KHENG SIONG Kuala Lumpur

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Chinese are the unsung heroes of South East Asia: Robert Kuok Memoirs


They are the most amazing economic ants on Earth, ‘Sugar King’ writes in memoir

Good Chinese business management is second to none; the very best of Chinese management is without compare. I haven’t seen others come near to it in my 70year career. Robert Kuok

The overseas Chinese were the unsung heroes of the region, having helped to build South East Asia to what it is today, said Malaysian tycoon Robert Kuok (pic).

He said that it was the Chinese immigrants who tackled difficult task such as planting and tapping rubber, opening up tin mines, and ran small retail shops which eventually created a new economy around them.

“It was the Chinese who helped build up Southeast Asia. The Indians also played a big role, but the Chinese were the dominant force in helping to build the economy.

“They came very hungry and eager as immigrants, often barefooted and wearing only singlets and trousers. They would do any work available, as an honest income meant they could have food and shelter.

“I will concede that if they are totally penniless, they will do almost anything to get their first seed capital. But once they have some capital, they try very hard to rise above their past and advance their reputations as totally moral, ethical businessmen,” Kuok said based on excerpts of his memoir reported in the South China Morning Post .

“Robert Kuok, A Memoir’ is set to be released in Malaysia on Dec 1.

Kuok said the Chinese immigrants were willing to work harder than anyone else and were willing to “eat bitterness”, hence, were the most amazing economic ants on earth.

In the extracted memoir published by the South China Morning Post, Kuok, pointed out that if there were any businesses to be done on earth, one can be sure that a Chinese will be there.

“They will know whom to see, what to order, how best to save, how to make money. They don’t need expensive equipment or the trappings of office; they just deliver.

“I can tell you that Chinese businessmen compare notes every waking moment of their lives. There are no true weekends or holidays for them. That’s how they work. Every moment, they are listening, and they have skilfully developed in their own minds – each and every one of them – mental sieves to filter out rubbish and let through valuable information.

“Good Chinese business management is second to none; the very best of Chinese management is without compare. I haven’t seen others come near to it in my 70-year career,” he said.

“They flourish without the national, political and financial sponsorship or backing of their host countries. In Southeast Asia, the Chinese are often maltreated and looked down upon. Whether you go to Malaysia, Sumatra or Java, the locals call you Cina – pronounced Chee-na – in a derogatory way,” he said.

He added that the Chinese had no “fairy godmothers” financial backers.

“Yet, despite facing these odds, the overseas Chinese, through hard work, endeavour and business shrewdness, are able to produce profits of a type that no other ethnic group operating in the same environment could produce,” he said.

Kuok ultimately attributed the Chinese survivability in Southeast Asia to its cultural strength.

“They knew what was right and what was wrong. Even the most uneducated Chinese, through family education, upbringing and social environment, understands the ingredients and consequences of behaviour such as refinement, humility, understatement, coarseness, bragging and arrogance,” he said.

 

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China top paper warns officials against ‘spiritual anaesthesia’, the root of corruptions


The founder of modern China chairman Mao Zedong.

 

BEIJING: China’s top newspaper warned Communist Party officials not to “pray to God and worship Buddha”, because communism is about atheism and superstition is at the root of many corrupt officials who fall from grace.

China officially guarantees freedom of religion for major belief systems like Christianity, Buddhism and Islam, but party members are meant to be atheists and are especially banned from participating in what China calls superstitious practices like visiting soothsayers.

The party’s official People’s Daily yesterday said in a commentary it had not been uncommon over the past few years to see officials taken down for corruption to have also participated in “feudalistic superstitious activities”.

“In fact, some officials often go to monasteries, pray to God and worship Buddha,” it said.

“Some officials are obsessed with rubbing shoulders with masters, fraternising with them as brothers and becoming their lackeys and their money-trees.”

Chinese people, especially the country’s leaders, have a long tradition of putting their faith in soothsaying and geomancy, looking for answers in times of doubt, need and chaos.

The practice has grown more risky amid a sweeping crackdown on deep-seated corruption launched by President Xi Jinping upon assuming power in late 2012, in which dozens of senior officials have been imprisoned.

The People’s Daily pointed to the example of Li Chuncheng, a former deputy party chief in Sichuan who was jailed for 13 years in 2015 for bribery and abuse of power, who it said was an enthusiastic user of the traditional Chinese geomancy practice of feng shui.

“As an official, if you spend all your time fixating on crooked ways, sooner or later you’ll come to grief,” it said.

The People’s Daily said officials must remember Marx’s guiding words that “Communism begins from the outset with atheism”.

“Superstition is thought pollution and spiritual anaesthesia that cannot be underestimated and must be thoroughly purged,” it said. — Reuters

 

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Chinese Scientists Make Breakthrough in Replacing WiFi With LiFi


CHANGCHUN, Oct. 3 (Xinhua) — Chinese scientists have made a breakthrough in creating full-color emissive carbon dots (F-CDs), which brings them one step closer to developing a faster wireless communication channel that could be available in just six years.

Light Fidelity, known as LiFi, uses visible light from LED bulbs to transfer data much faster than radio wave-based WiFi.

While most current research uses rare earth materials to provide the light for LiFi to transmit data, a team of Chinese scientists have created an alternative — F-CDs, a fluorescent carbon nanomaterial that proves to be safer and faster.

“Many researchers around the world are still working on this. We were the first to successfully create it using cost-effective raw materials such as urea with simple processing,” said Qu Songnan, an associate researcher at Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which leads the research.

Qu said rare earth has a long lifespan which reduces the speed of LiFi transmission. However, F-CDs enjoy the advantage of faster data transmission speeds.

In previous studies, carbon dots were limited to the emission of lights such as blue and green. The new nanomaterial that Qu’s team has developed can emit all light visible to the human eye, which is a breakthrough in the field of fluorescent carbon nanomaterial.

Qu said this is significant for the development of LiFi, which he expects to enter the market in just six years.

A 2015 test by a Chinese government ministry showed that LiFi can reach speeds of 50 gigabytes per second, at which a movie download can be completed in just 0.3 seconds

Source: Xinhua

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Living at the edge of chaos, climate change is not fake science


 

Nature’s fury: A car dealership is covered by Hurricane Harvey floodwaters near Houston, Texas. The chaos caused by the hurricane proves that climate change is not fake science. — Reuters

THIS month, two Category 4 hurricanes hit the United States within 17 days of each other. In Asia, North Korea is threatening nuclear Armageddon, and floods and famine are putting thousands of lives at risk from Bangladesh to Yemen. How can one survive in this chaotic era?

A first step must be to make sense of the apparent chaos. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have proved that climate change is not fake science, but real threats to home and security. When hailstones the size of golf balls hit Istanbul in the middle of summer, even the agnostics accept that climate change is serious business.

The biggest uncertainty that has hit Asia recently is the shock that North Korea has not only developed possibly a hydrogen bomb, but also the missile capability to deliver it even to the United States. This has changed the geopolitical balance not only in North Asia, but globally because it is no longer possible for the United States alone to contain nuclear proliferation.

Physics teaches us that chaos is often a characteristic of transition from one order to another. Chaos is also a pattern in which there is apparently no discernible pattern.

But there is a seismic transition from a unipolar world led by the United States to a multi-polar world of competing powers and ideology, particularly after the 2007 global financial crisis. As the share of US GDP in the world declines relative to the rest, the rise of China, India and increasing assertion by Russia and non-state players like IS means that the United States’ ability to dominate militarily and ideologically is being challenged.

At the same time, increasing stresses from social inequalities and paranoia of terror, immigration and job loss have tilted the United States to become more inward looking. The Trump administration has dramatically begun to dismantle the neoliberal order of multilateral trade and finance that shaped US foreign policy since the end of the Second World War.

There is a raw open division within the United States in outlook and values. The Democratic Left believes in maintaining the old order of moral leadership on human rights, democracy and multilateral global stability and prosperity. The Republican Right questions these beliefs and prefers America First, negotiating bilaterally to achieve that premier status.

Earlier this year, the Pentagon asked the Rand Corporation to conduct a review on “Alternative Options for US Policy toward the International Order”. The key questions for the New Global Order are: Who sets the rules and how binding are the rules?

The study breaks the future order into two camps of rule-makers – the US and its allies or a concert of great powers. Under such a division, there are two conditions where rules are binding – one dominated by the US camp to enforce rules and the other where the great powers agree to a global constitutional order enforced by institutions. The other two conditions where rules are not binding involve a coalition of states aligned to counteract against revisionism and a new concert of great powers.

The immediate problem with the Rand categorisation of New Order Visions is that the existing liberal, rules-based order is not being challenged by others, but by the US itself.

First, after German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s comment earlier this year that Europe must begin to look after its own interests, it is no longer clear that America’s traditional allies are going to follow the US leadership when there are serious disagreements on trade, climate change and immigration. It is no coincidence that the largest trade imbalances are no longer between China or oil producers with the US, but between Europe and the United States. Germany alone is running a current account surplus equivalent to around 8% of GDP.

Second, within the Middle East, alliances are shifting almost by the day. The quarrel between Saudi Arabia and Qatar has riven the Gulf Cooperation Council, while Turkey is playing an increasingly pivotal role within the shifting alliances.

Third, North Korea’s bid for nuclear power membership, despite being a small state, means that Great Powers may have to accommodate new players whether they like it or not.

Fourth, climate change in the form of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma demonstrate that nature can impose larger and larger economic losses on nations and regions, which will require global public goods that the current order is neither willing to fund, nor able to agree on how to address. The economic losses from Harvey alone is estimated at US$180bil, equivalent to the annual GDP of a middle-income economy. The existing multilateral bodies such as the United Nations and the World Bank are facing serious resource shortages relative to these new global demands.

The bottom line is that the current order has neither the resources nor the collective will to enforce rules when the human population growth puts increasing competition for scarce water, food and territorial spaces. Chaos arises from the breakdown of rules and borderlines.

In short, globalisation of trade, information and human migration has meant that traditional borders in many regions are becoming non-enforceable. For example, it is 101 years since the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement divided up the collapsing Ottoman Empire into British, French and Russian spheres of interest and eventual control. These borders were drawn and enforced by the Great Powers through their military superiority.

Seen from the long lens of history, with the Great Powers being unwilling to put troops on the ground to enforce borders drawn up under the colonial era, these artificial borders are failing.

A hallmark of the times is that even the best of think tanks cannot map out how to navigate through this era of disruptive technology, unpredictable climate and shifting alliances and interests. What history teaches us is that the fault lines will be at the borderlands, at the confluence of emerging forces and stresses.

We should therefore be prepared for not only disruption at the borderlands of physical space, but within the realms of cyberspace.

By Andrew Sheng

Tan Sri Andrew Sheng writes on global issues from an Asian perspective.

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Citizens’ frustrations, Malaysian youths worry about future; MCA dares to face criticism


Citizen Liow’ plays dual role in National Day video
Myself and I: Citizen Liow (left) comes face-to-face with the politician in ‘Citizens’ in conjunction with National Day.

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‘Citizen Liow’ vents his frustration in short film

KUALA LUMPUR: It is Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai as we have never seen him before – shabby, dispirited and a little rude.

Without his signature full-rim spectacles, Liow, playing an ordinary citizen in a video with a poignant but powerful message, vents his spleen about the country’s current mood.

From the hurtful balik tongsan comment to corrupt practices, Citizen Liow is determined to get his frustrations off his chest.

He even throws a fistful of sweets at a guest in his home. The guest is also played by Liow, who essentially portrays his everyday role of a politician.

The on-screen sparring between both Liows is a creative, yet brutally frank, account of the general sentiments of the local Chinese community.

It is almost painful to watch the heated encounter, but that is exactly why the six minute-long video Citizens is so compelling.

Producers Pete Teo and Liew Seng Tat did not attempt to paint a rosy and glowing picture even though the clip was meant for the upcoming National Day celebrations.

The video boldly addresses the grievances and fears of the Chinese community in Malaysia, which means there will inevitably be “anger, helplessness and conflict”, as Teo explained on his Facebook.

Liow, in his real life as Transport Minister, Bentong MP and especially MCA president, must have often been at the receiving end of the kind of harsh comments hurled by “Citizen Liow” in the clip.

“Politicians only know how to talk!” is perhaps the most common sweeping statement that disregards the efforts and contributions of community and government leaders. In the video, Liow the politician admits there are shortcomings.

The seasoned politician says: “I can find excuses and try to defend ourselves by saying that circumstances do not work in our favour, but no, I won’t do that.”

“We didn’t say there weren’t mistakes. We did not handle many things well, but it is not easy to rule a country.”

“We have seen many politicians from both sides dwelling on the negatives when support for them fades. This alienates the people even further,” he said.

With the National Day just days away, the video is a timely reminder to those with political ambitions to reflect on their vision for the country.

Similarly, the public can look back at the past 60 years of the country’s development, from a mining and agricultural-based economy to today’s multi-sector economy anchored in manufacturing and services.

Of course, there will always be challenges and sacrifices as we progress. Good governance is a must if we are to continue on that path of growth and prosperity.

But as Citizens reminds us, it is important not to lose hope. We must believe that our founding father Tunku Abdul Rahman’s vision of Malaysia will come true.

At the end of the video, “Citizen Liow” has a change of heart. He quietly retrieves the Jalur Gemilang from storage and displays it on his balcony, with his real-life wife Datin Seri Lee Sun Loo at his side.

When met by reporters yesterday, Liow was visibly pleased with how the video has turned out. He said the message he wanted to send through the video was for Malaysians to unite and work together to make the country a progressive nation.

“We love this nation. We are proud to be Malaysians and we are working hard to make this country a stronger nation. That’s the aspiration and message we want to send out,” he said.

By Tho Xin Yi The Star/ANN

‘Youths worry about future, not politics’

Future wave: Liow and Chong (second from left) sharing a light moment with students after the TN50 DialogueUTAR in the Sungai Long Campus.

CHERAS: Youths are more concerned about their future than politics. This is the feedback gathered during the recent TN50 dialogues with students from several universities, said MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.

“However, I don’t think they are indifferent towards politics. They are aware of issues.

“For instance, they know that this is about TN50 and about a future that they want,” Liow said after attending a TN50 Dialogue @UTAR with 700 students at UTAR Sungai Long Campus here yesterday.

He cited education and health issues, including the ability to earn a decent living, as some of the aspirations raised by the students during the hour-long dialogue session.

Liow said it is crucial for youths to continue upholding the core value system practised by Barisan Nasional.

He added that Barisan’s core values such as consensus, mutual respect, unity, cooperation and harmony are shared by Malaysians.

“Barisan upholds values of consensus and mutual respect but DAP is sowing the seeds of hatred. The party is also sowing the seeds of anger towards the Government which is causing a split in our society,” he said.

Liow added that the Opposition lacked the core values and was now in a chaotic state.

There was a casual air about the dialogue session where students were asked by moderator MCA youth chief Datuk Chong Sin Woon to address Liow as “Ah Liow” and himself as “Ah Chong”.

Earlier during the dialogue, Chong warned students to be wary of fake news on social media.

“The reality is that most news on social media are fake.

“You should check the source and not blindly believe all that you read,” he said.

He also said that youths were more concerned about “bread and butter” issues rather that politics.

At another function, Liow said more skilled workers were needed as the country progresses.

“It is important for us to train more technical professionals. For MCA, we would like to expand VTAR Institute because of our significant growth in students from 100 to 700 in these few years.

“We will find the right place to expand VTAR and we hope to have more than 1,000 students here,” he told reporters after launching the PW2 wireman competency licence course at the institute in Setapak here yesterday.

VTAR is the vocational education arm of MCA.

Earlier during the function, VTAR CEO Tan Cheng Liang signed a memorandum of understanding with the Federation of Malaysian Electrical Appliances Dealers Association (Fomeda) president Gan Cheng Swee to run the PW2 programme. – The Star

‘Citizen Liow’ plays dual role in National Day video

国民 CITIZENS

A screengrab from the video short “Citizens”.

PETALING JAYA: You’re not seeing double – it really is Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai playing two roles in a National Day video by producers Pete Teo and Liew Seng Tat.

The six minute-long video short entitled Citizens was released on Monday in conjunction with the upcoming National Day celebrations.

In the video, he portrays himself in his everyday role as Transport Minister, having a no-holds-barred conversation with a citizen who has grouses about the way the country is run – a role also played by Liow.

Liow, the minister, is smartly dressed in a long-sleeved shirt and slacks, while “Citizen Liow” is dressed very casually, with his hair a little unkempt and wearing a grey T-shirt, without spectacles.

Teo, in a Facebook post on Friday, said the project took months to put together.

“Largely this was because the script required a Federal Minister who had the gumption to submit to what we wanted to shoot.

“We kept trying and eventually found our man,” he said.

Teo said they did not want to make a film that could be confused for a “tourism video.”

Citizens reflects the current mood of the country, especially the fears of the Chinese community.

“It would therefore have to contain anger, helplessness and conflict. Yet it must contain hope – for we are even now not without hope – and so the film should also unite us in hope across the political spectrum,” said Teo.

This is not Liow’s first film. He previously acted in other 15Malaysia and Hari Malaysia shorts, also produced by Teo.

“What is different this time is that while he was civilly treated as a cabinet minister before, he will be brutalised this time; and while he was stereotyped as a politician before, he is now a human being – filled with the same fears, regret, conflicts and hope as all of us,” said Teo, adding that he thought long and hard about the casting.

Also making an appearance in the film is Liow’s wife Datin Seri Lee Sun Loo.

Teo said that it took courage for Liow, who is MCA president, to act in the film especially since he and MCA “are deeply maligned in sections of the Chinese community”.

‘Citizens’ Liow trends at second spot

PETALING JAYA: As Pete Teo expected, his National Day video in which Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai plays two roles is gaining traction among Malaysians.

The six-minute clip Citizens clinched the second spot on YouTube’s Malaysian trending list as at yesterday afternoon. It had 127,766 views, trailing Taylor Swift’s new music video. The rest were content related to SEA Games.

In the video, Liow, 56, portrays himself as the Transport Minister having an honest conversation with a citizen, also played by Liow, who has grouses about the way the country is run.

Teo, who produced the video with Liew Seng Tat, was glad to see it attracting attention.

“We expect the video to do well, because we think it is a good video and it has something important to say that goes beyond party politics,” he told The Star.

Teo said there were twice as many likes as dislikes.

He applauded Liow for being able to rise above his persona as MCA president and act as an ordinary citizen.

The video was released on Monday in conjunction with National Day celebrations.

Meanwhile, Tan Sri Pheng Yin Huah said the video was “unpretentious and right to the point” and therefore, was well received by the community.

The Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia (Hua Zong) president said it rightly captured the country’s current situation.

“A main point stressed is that the situation warrants the need for us to listen to each other, consolidate our strengths, stay united and be loyal to our country.

“This is a way to overcome the challenges, instead of just venting our frustrations,” Pheng said.

Apart from acknowledging the people’s disappointments and empathising with them, he said Liow had been tirelessly reaching out to the community to guide and help them in whatever ways possible.

Pheng pointed out that Liow had to draw on the party’s strengths and his role in the Government to help the community effectively.

In conjunction with National Day, Pheng said it was timely for all Malaysians to reinforce respect, love and tolerance among themselves and for the country so as to move forward together.

‘Citizen’ producer all praise for Liow – Nation


PETALING JAYA: The producer of the National Day video titled Citizen says it was brave of Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai to come onboard a production which had an “edgy” script.

Saying he would absolutely cast the Transport Minister in such a role again, filmmaker Pete Teo (pic) brushed aside some of the adverse comments on the casting choice.

“We think he did a great job playing the dual role of minister and citizen.

“That his casting is controversial has nothing to do with the job he does.

“We hope Datuk Seri Liow’s contribution will at least be acknowledged in the good spirit that it was given,” Teo said when contacted.

Teo, who produced the clip with writer-director Liew Seng Tat, said they had expected some form of backlash as soon as they decided that the role would be best played by a real-life politician.

“The fact that we eventually cast a Barisan National politician is besides the point, really. If we had picked an Opposition politician, the situation would be the same, except the accusations would be from Barisan supporters.

“So in a way, it was a no-win for us unless we had cast an actor,” he pointed out.

According to Teo, the film would have lost immediacy if they had cast an actor to play the role.

“So the decision was made to cast a politician. In fact, our choices were more limited than that because the script ideally required a Federal Minister.

“This narrowed down the choice to only several people. In the end, Datuk Seri Liow agreed to play the role and we went with him,” he added.

Teo said through the film, he and Liew wanted to drive home the message that it was important not to lose hope and to stay united when the going got tough.

“As said in the film’s opening lines, the last decade or more have been tough for the country. Non-Malay communities, in particular have felt alienated, helpless and fearful.

“That is why we are getting such hyper-emotive response to a Merdeka PSA film promoting hope and unity featuring a serving Cabinet minister from the MCA.

It would be easy to dismiss these aggressive social media outbursts as rantings of opposition cybertroopers, but these are real people with real grievances,’’ he added.

Teo, a multiple award-winning singer-songwriter, also praised Liow for having the courage to be involved in a film with “brutally frank dialogue”.

“Many have ignored the fact that the minister explicitly said in the film that he doesn’t mind who citizens voted for as long as they let their conscience be their guide.

“This is a massively important statement. It underlines our film’s non-partisan credentials,” Teo said.

In the six-minute video, Liow portrays himself in his everyday role as Transport Minister, having a no-holds barred conversation with a citizen who has grouses about the way the country is run – a role also played by Liow.

The video clocked in more than 200,000 views in four days since it was uploaded on YouTube.

 

‘MCA dares to face criticisms’ , Liow: We understand the voices and feelings of the people

 

Liow chatting with China’s Ambassador to Malaysia Dr Huang Huikang.

KUALA LUMPUR: MCA understands the voices and feelings of the people and dares to face criticism, said Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.

The party president said having understood the people’s grievances, MCA is committed to overcoming the problems.

“I must stress here that I am aware of the people’s opinions and feelings. Therefore, I am willing to face the reality as I know that is the only way for us to change for the better,” he said.

Liow, speaking at the Blossom Arts Festival Malaysia (BAFM) 2017 awards ceremony and closing at Wisma MCA last night, was responding to some of the responses towards his double role in “Citizens”, a National Day video.

In the clip produced by Pete Teo and Liew Seng Tat, Liow portrays himself as the Transport Minister having an honest conversation with a citizen, also played by Liow, who has grouses about the way the country is run.

Liow also explained that the video aimed at telling people to have faith in the country and never give up, besides showcasing the inner voices of a Cabinet minister and a layman.

Liow added that MCA is steadfast in performing its role in Barisan Nasional.

“We will continue to be the defender of the Federal Constitution, the corrector and the balancing force against hegemony.

“History would reveal that during critical moments, be it fighting for citizenship, persistency on multi-stream education, pushing for the establishment of National Economic Action Council or the recent movement against PAS’ Private Member’s Bill to amend Act 355, MCA has been consistent in playing its role in Barisan,” he said.

Meanwhile, MCA vice-president Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun said the next edition of BAFM would be put on hold pending the general election.

“My comrades and I, as well as MCA staff, must turn our full attention towards preparing for the coming general election,” Chew, who is also the Malaysian Chinese Culture and Arts Consultative Council chairman and BAFM organising chairman, said.

Big celebration: Drummers performing during the closing ceremony of the Blossom Arts Festival Malaysia at Wisma MCA. (Right) Liow chatting with China’s Ambassador to Malaysia Dr Huang Huikang.

She said BAFM has received the attention of foreign academicians.

Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Department of Cultural and Religious Studies, for instance, sent professors and students to observe the event, she added.

“If we persevere, we are confident of becoming a household name and a premier event among artists,” she said in her speech.

The month-long BAFM concluded yesterday. Also present at the event was China’s ambassador to Malaysia Dr Huang Huikang.

By Yimie Yong The Star Online

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Head to Bentong to refresh your lungs

Ti: ‘Citizens’ parody shows DAP’s true face – Nation

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The rail economics of East Coast Rail Link (ECRL)


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Rail link seen as game changer but cost is a concern.

TOK Bali, a fishing village in Kelantan with its beautiful sandy beaches and pristine blue waters has long been a hidden gem among well-travelled backpackers. But that may soon change. The idyllic town is one that is touted to potentially become a tourist hotspot, as it sits along the alignment of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), a multi-billion infrastructure project that promises many economic spin-offs.

After almost a decade in planning, ECRL was launched with great pomp this week.

Touted as a key game-changer for the east coast states of Peninsular Malaysia, the interstate ECRL is expected to help the economy of the four states that it covers by an additional 1.5% per year over the next 50 years.

On a micro level, more employment opportunities, particularly skilled jobs, will be made available to Malaysians. Domestic industry players especially in the construction sector, can now anticipate construction contracts to the tune of RM16bil, at least.

   
Another milstone:Najib checking out a train model at the ground-breaking ceremony this week.He called ECRL ‘another milestore in the country’s land public transport history”.

The ECRL is expected to benefit freight transport because it would link key economic and industrial areas within the East Coast Economic Region such as the Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park, Gambang Halal Park, Kertih Biopolymer Park and Tok Bali Integrated Fisheries Park to both Kuantan Port and Port Klang.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak called it “another milestone in the country’s land public transport history”.

Despite the much highlighted economic benefits from the rail network, the venture is attracting its own share of controversies from the way the contract was awarded to the price of contract.

For one, China’s state-owned China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) has been appointed for the construction of ECRL via a direct negotiation method.

Detractors have labelled ECRL – at a cost of RM80mil per kilometre – as the world’s costliest rail project. Note that, the Gemas-Johor Baru double-tracking stretch costs RM45mil per km.

ECRL, however, will go over hilly terrain and has several tunnels to be built.

There are questions on whether the 688km rail venture, at RM55bil, will be financially feasible.

Sources say the price tag is unlikely to have included land acquisition costs.

They indicate that close to half of the land plots required for the rail link sit on private land and would require land acquisition. At this point, the total land acquisition cost is unknown.

No money in rail

The concerns of the critics are understandable, given the fact that public infrastructure projects, namely rail projects are usually not commercially viable.

A quick check on the finances of Malaysia’s very own Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd (KTMB) and a number of major rail operators abroad, affirms the fact that rail projects do not promise easy money.

The loss-making KTMB which was corporatised in 1992, has not been able to financially sustain itself, resulting in the deterioration of its level of service despite attempts to turn around the company.

According to the railway service operator’s latest publicly available audited report for financial year 2013, the group registered a total net loss of RM128.2mil. However, note that, the net loss had narrowed by 46% from RM238.5mil in the previous year.

Had it not been for the government’s subsidy which kept it afloat, KTMB would find it difficult to continue its operations without a further raise of its fare.

In India, where railway is a favoured mode of transportation, the Indian Railways has been incurring losses on passenger operations every year. Earlier this year, the lower chamber of the Indian parliament was told that the state-owned rail operator recorded a loss of Rs359.18bil (RM24.04bil) in the period of 2015 to 2016.

This was slightly higher than its loss of Rs334.91bil (RM22.42bil) in the period of 2014-2015.

On the other hand, China’s state-owned rail operator, China Railway Corp, was reported to have recorded a 58% increase in earnings last year despite huge losses in the first nine months. However, a zoom into its finances reveals that the high profit made was only possible due to a significant annual government subsidy.

Similarly, Singapore’s SMRT Corp which manages the city-state’s rail operations posted a profit of S$7.4mil (RM23.33mil) in its financial year of 2016. This was on the back of a revenue of S$681mil (RM2.15bil), which rose by 4.1% year-on-year.

While the rail operations saw higher ridership in that year, SMRT Corp would have registered a loss of S$9.6mil (RM30.26mil) for its rail business, if not for the net property tax refund of S$17.1mil (RM53.9mil).

Considering the lack of commercial viability in such rail projects, ECRL would ultimately require assistance from the government in ensuring smooth operations, while maintaining an affordable service for its users. This is akin a crucial trade-off, to complement the government’s move to provide an integrated transportation system in Malaysia, which is long overdue.

AmBank Group’s chief economist Anthony Dass tells StarBizWeek that for every ringgit spent on capital projects such as transportation, it generates a return or multiplier effect of around 5% to 20%.

In his estimation, he says the ECRL should create around RM50-55bil in terms of gross domestic product.

“The impact of this project to the economy will be multilevel. Impact on the respective states’ GDP and national GDP will be evident, though the magnitude of the impact on the respective states is poised to vary.

“On a longer term, once the entire project is completed, we expect strong benefits seeping into services related activities. Properties in the major towns is likely to enjoy more especially the port-connected towns, driven by logistics- and trade-related businesses.

“Other areas would benefit from the movement of tourism. As for the smaller towns, they are more likely to enjoy from the spillovers of this connectivity through movement of people commuting to work and new areas of business growth especially in areas like the small and medium businesses,” says Anthony.

High cargo projections

By the year 2040, an estimated 8 million passengers and 53 million tonnes of cargo are expected to use the ECRL service annually as the primary transport between the east coast and west coast.

By 2040, ECRL is projected to support a freight density of 19 million tonnes.

The freight cargo projections of the rail network stands in stark contrast to the total cargo volume running through the entire Malaysian railways today.

As of 2015, the entire Malaysian railways operations handled a sum of 6.21 million tons of cargo, according to a study related to the ECRL.

To note, the revenue from the operation of the venture is projected to be obtained through a transportation ratio of 30% passengers and 70% freight.

If the projections of ECRL are anything to go by, the planners are anticipating a ballistic growth in volume of cargo being moved along the tracks.

Is this realistic?

Socio Economic Research Centre executive director Lee Heng Guie remains concerned on the details of the project financing, albeit the expected trickle-down benefits of ECRL.

“While ECRL has been identified as a high impact public transport project that will connect east coast states with the west coast, especially Greater KL and Klang Valley, the high cost of RM55bil requires further justification. More clarity on the cost structure and terms and conditions of the loan is needed to ease public genuine concerns.

“It must be noted that the high costs, low profits and long gestation periods of transportation projects do not always make them financially viable. The financial viability of the ECRL would depend on the revenue generated to cover operating cash flow, including interest expenses.

“As the loan will have a seven year moratorium, the bunching of loan repayment together with interest payment will be substantial in the remaining 13 years,” he says.

Lowering cost the key

In terms of funding, 85% of the total project value of RM55bil would be to be funded by Exim Bank of China’s through a soft loan at a 3.25% interest.

The balance 15% would be financed through a sukuk programme by local banks.

There is no payment for the first seven years, and the government starts paying after the seventh year over a 13-year period.

At 3.25% interest per annum, the interest servicing bill for the project is huge.

“Hence the main challenge to this project will be to bring down cost as low as possible. The lower the cost, the lesser it would be the burden on the government’s balance sheet,” says an industry player.

Echoing a similar view, Lee noted the ERCL project loan is expected to be treated as “contingent liability” as it will be taken by Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd, a special purpose vehicle owned by the Ministry of Finance.

This is also to ensure that the Federal Government will not breach the self-imposed debt to GDP ratio of 55%.

As at end-March 2017, the Federal Government’s debt stood at RM664.5bil or 50.2% of GDP.

At the end of the day, despite the concerns on the possible cost overrun in the ECRL project, proper management and efficiency in project delivery could lead to cost savings and ultimately lower overall expenditure for ECRL.

History has shown that Malaysian companies can lower the cost, especially on rail projects compared to foreign players.

In the late 1990s, a consortium of India and China state-owned companies were awarded the contract to build a double track electrified railway system from Padang Besar to Johor Baru. The cost was estimated at RM44bil and paid through crude palm oil.

However, an MMC Corp Bhd-Gamuda Bhd joint venture managed to win the job in 2003 with a RM14.3bil proposal. However this project was shelved and subsequently continued after a lull of few years.

ECRL is a seven year project to be built in stages. Many factors can come into play in that period like delay in construction and rise in material costs.

However in the bigger picture, the infrastructure venture should not merely be seen from a commercial-viable lens alone. The trickle-down benefits on the economy and the Malaysian population should also be factored into the calculations.

The lower the cost, the higher the multiplier effect.

Source: The Star by ganeshwaran kanaandgurmeet kaur

Related Link:
Debate on ECRL

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