America vs China: odds narrowing


Leaders meet: A file picture showing Trump welcoming Xi to the Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Florida during the latter’s visit to the US recently. Xi has a growing economy too behind him, whatever the hiccups. Trump only promises one, without any clarity or logic. – AFP

THE contrast could not be greater. While United States president Donald Trump raves and rants – and belts this or that person – China’s president Xi Jinping looks measured and assured as he offers a global future to the world.

Xi is no angel of course, as his political opponents would know, but his system conserves and protects him, as Trump’s would not. If only Trump were the leader in a centrally controlled political order – but even then his temperament would blow it apart.

Leadership, like politics, is the art of managing the possible. Trump does not understand this, and does not know how. Xi does, knows why, and knows how.

He has a growing economy too behind him, whatever the hiccups. Trump only promises one, without any clarity or logic.

His plan to boost the American economy, based primarily on slashing corporate tax from 35 to 15%, is likely to flounder in an American Congress seriously concerned about its causing the fiscal deficit to balloon.

Already Trump has had to climb down from trying to secure funds from Congress for his dreaded border wall with Mexico in order to avoid budgetary shutdown in September.

The stock market has fallen back from the boost to the price of banks and industrial products following his election. Interest now has returned to what might be termed “American ingenuity stocks” such as Google, Apple and Microsoft on Nasdaq – a proxy for much that is great about America, which Trump’s immigration and closed-door policies threaten to destroy.

Meanwhile Xi has been rolling out his “Belt and Road” plans – something he first envisaged at the end of 2013 – for greater world connectivity and development, committing funds from China and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and engaging global financial institutions such as the World Bank.

Malaysia, for instance, will be an actual beneficiary with additional projects thrown in. China is Malaysia’s largest trading partner. But the US has not been a laggard, being Malaysia’s fourth largest trading partner. And indeed the US remains the largest foreign investor in Malaysia, both new investments and total stock.

A staggering statistic not often recognised is that total American investment in Asean is more than its investment in China, Japan and India COMBINED!

The point, however, is that this position is being eroded. Trump’s policies are hastening this process. Abandonment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) means there is no American strategic peaceful challenge to the Chinese economic juggernaut in Asia-Pacific.

Balance is important to afford choice. Absence of choice means serious exposure to risk. Price, quality and after-service standards are affected, not to mention a new geostrategic economic underlining.

Over-dominance by China in the region is a price not only countries in the region will pay, something that most probably is on Trump’s mind. It is a price that America too will sooner or later have to pay.

China’s Belt and Road proposition is not without its challenges, of course. India is deeply suspicious of the connectivity with Pakistan which cuts across India-claimed Azad Kashmir, about 3000km of it.

The link to the Pakistani port of Gwadar, in southwest Baluchistan on the shores of the Arabian Sea, is seen by India as a Chinese presence at the entrance to the Indian Ocean and a hawk eye on the Indian sub-continent. With the Chinese also in Sri Lanka, India is circumspect on China’s Belt and Road initiative.

There have also been commentaries on some uneconomic linkages which extend right across the English Channel.

All these reservations, however, do not take into account the benefit of connectivity to economies, the time it often takes to get those economic benefits and, most of all, the patience, persistence and long view of history of China and its leaders.

One of the most striking things about the Belt and Road map is that America is not there. Of course, Xi Jinping does not preclude America just as much as the US did not say that China was not permanently excluded from the TPP. And of course, in the Old Silk Routes and shipping lanes, the New World – America – had not been discovered.

But in their revival, led by now rising and then ancient China after 150 years of national humiliation to the present time, there is the irony that the last three quarters of a century of America world dominance is on course to be marginalised, if not supplanted, by the old Eurasian world centred in an ancient civilisation.

Trump does not seem to understand history. The art of the deal is purely transactional. Short-tempered and short-term gratification does not a strategy constitute.

So we have leader, system and economic promise distinguishing the two leaders – and the two countries.

Instead of America first, what we are seeing is Trump hurrying America’s decline relative to a rising China.

We are not seeing a world changed from people wanting to be like a kind of American to being people wanting to be a kind of Chinese. Actually, the Chinese people themselves want to be like a kind of American, with all that wealth, influence and power.

What we are seeing is China – not America – leading the way to that desired, if not always desirable, end. It is China that is driving the next phase in the evolution of world economic development.

Under Xi Jinping, China appears to be heroically moving towards an epochal point in its Peaceful Rise. With Donald Trump, America is being led backwards and inwards, with all the problems of its governance now all coming out. It is in grave danger of losing in the peaceful competition.

Not knowing how to play that game – certainly under its current President – there remains the danger of the status quo power lashing out against the rising one.

The Greek historian Thucydides observed: “It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable.”

A Harvard professor has studied what is now called the Thucydides Trap and found in 12 out of 16 cases in which this occurred in the last 500 years, the outcome was war.

There are many potential flash points against the background of China’s rise – the North Korean Peninsula and the placement of THAAD missiles in the south, the South China Sea – where Trump may temperamentally find cause to lash out. This is the trapdoor he might take the world down because of failure to compete peacefully.

By munir majid – crux The Star

Tan Sri Munir Majid, chairman of Bank Muamalat and visiting senior fellow at LSE Ideas (Centre for International Affairs, Diplomacy and Strategy), is also chairman of CIMB Asean Research Institute.
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One Belt One Road paving the way to success


In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed building the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, which became known as the Belt and Road Initiative.

Countries along the Belt and Road have their own resource advantages, and their economies are mutually complementary. This means there is a great potential and space for cooperation.

Connecting facilities is a priority in implementing the initiative. On the basis of respecting each other’s sovereignty and security concerns, countries along the Belt and Road are improving the connectivity of their infrastructure construction plans and technical standard systems, jointly pushing forward the construction of international passageways, and forming an infrastructure network connecting all sub-regions in Asia, and between Asia, Europe and Africa.

At the same time, China and countries along the way are making efforts to promote green and low-carbon infrastructure construction and operation management, taking into full account the impact of climate change on any construction.

With regard to transport infrastructure construction, they are focusing on key passageways, junctions and projects, and giving priority to linking up unconnected road sections, removing transport bottlenecks, advancing road safety facilities and traffic management facilities and equipment, and improving road network connectivity.

Countries along the Belt and Road are building a unified coordination mechanism for whole-course transportation, increasing connectivity in customs clearance, reloading and multimodal transport, and gradually formulating compatible and standard transport rules, in order to facilitate international transport.

China suggests pushing forward port infrastructure construction, building smooth land-water transportation channels, and advancing port cooperation, increasing sea routes and the number of voyages, and enhancing information technology cooperation in maritime logistics. We should expand and build platforms and mechanisms for comprehensive civil aviation cooperation, and quicken our pace in improving aviation infrastructure.

In this episode, we will see how Belt and Road helps close the distance between people around the world.

The Belt and Road:

http://watchthis.chinadaily.com.cn/video/column/belt-and-road/

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Mereka Rasuah Kita Bayar! 3J drive: Jangan Kautim, Jangan Hulur, Jangan Settle!



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Working together: Dzulkifli (third from left) and Wong (centre) sharing a light moment with The Star team after launching the 3J Campaign at Menara Star.

Star teams up with MACC for 3J drive

It is an arduous task but the battle against corruption involves all Malaysians.

For that reason, Star Media Group has partnered with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) for the nationwide “Jangan Hulur, Jangan Kawtim, Jangan Settle” (Don’t Give and Don’t Settle) 3J Campaign.

“The battle is neither quick nor easy. But with public support, this fight will end with us winning and our integrity intact,” said Star Media Group managing director and chief executive officer Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai.

The Star, he said, would be focusing on the youth as they were the “most crucial group”.

Speaking at the launch of the campaign at Menara Star yesterday, Wong cited an MACC study conducted last year among students which found that 16% of students in institutions of higher learning were willing to offer bribes.

The number was worrying as it had gone up from the 10.7% rate in 2015, he said.

To educate the next generation on values like integrity, The Star will be going all out to highlight the message of the campaign.

Other than spreading the word via Twitter and Facebook, Wong said it would be combining its media platforms such as The Star newspaper, The Star Online and StarTV as well as its Bahasa Malaysia news portal mStar and radio Suria FM.

Suria FM, which is part of the Star Media Radio Group, will broadcast the campaign message to the public via its road show team – the Suria FM Wheelers.

The month-long 3J Campaign came under the umbrella of the nationwide Gerakan Revolusi Anti-Rasuah or Gerah campaign, which was launched at the MACC headquarters in Putrajaya yesterday.

MACC chief commissioner Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad said the battle against corruption and abuse of power would fail without a concerted effort.

“This is why I believe the fight should be our journey, our cause and our war together,” he said.

Dzulkifli voiced his hope for Malaysians to come together under the 3J Campaign and play an active role in battling the “cancer of corruption”.

He said the words “hulur, kawtim and settle” are synonymous with corruption and the MACC used these terms so that the people were aware of the aim of the campaign.

“We hope this will pave the way for the people to say no to corruption and to create a society that has the courage to stand up and fight not only against corruption but the corruptors too,” he said.

Dzulkifli said he made a bold promise to Malaysians earlier this year when he vowed that the MACC would make one arrest every week, but this had been delivered so far, he added.

He also commended the media for its role as “an important watchdog over corruption” and its effort in exposing such cases.

MACC – two campaigns and a swoop 

 

Ready for war: MACC chief commissioner Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad (centre) and his officers pledging at their headquarters in Putrajaya to wipe out corruption.

PETALING JAYA: Two anti-corruption awareness campaigns were launched nationwide and, to show how serious the fight against corruption is, a swoop on corrupt Immigration officers was carried out too.

An aide of a chief minister, who is a Datuk, was also arrested and is expected to be charged today.

Sources said two senior immigration officers based in Complex ICQ Padang Besar, Perlis, were detained at about 11am yesterday under Ops Lavish.

The suspects, aged 35 and 37, were summoned to the Kedah Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commis­sion (MACC) office on suspicion of accepting bribes in relation to the approval of expatriate passes to hire skilled and professional workers. Also arrested was a 48-year-old contractor.

The contractor is believed to have abetted in the dealings since 2015 and acted as a middleman to transfer a huge sum of money into several bank accounts.

The amount involved was said to be over a million ringgit.

MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki confirmed the arrests.

The anti-graft officers also seized four luxury cars, a high-powered bike, a fixed deposit account with RM1mil, 13 luxury bags and 13 watches worth RM130,000.

All three suspects will be investigated under Section 17(a) of the MACC Act 2009, which carries a jail term of up to 20 years and five times the amount of bribes involved.

It is learnt the 37-year-old suspect, while taking charge of the expatriate services division in the Putrajaya Immigration Depart­ment, carried out the dubious dealings.

He was the division head from Feb 2015 to Dec 2015 and tasked with supervising, approving and cross checking all applicants information in the data system.

Star Media Group managing director and chief executive officer Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai and Dzulkifli go on a ride in the MACC FM mobile after launching the 3J Campaign at Menara Star in Petaling Jaya. — AZMAN GHANI/The Star

Within the short period there, he was said to have approved 339 applications involving 18,626 applicants.

“Some applicant companies were said to be non-existent.

“Initial investigations showed the suspect took a minimum of RM1,500 per applicant from agents as an inducement to approve their applications,” said a source.

Checks also showed that the suspect’s wife had played a role in the dealings by using her registered companies to issue cheques and to transfer money.

The latest move signalled a clean up of the Immigration Department by the anti-graft body.

Thumbs up: MACC enforcement officers meeting members of the public at various public places to spread the 3J anti-corruption campaign message of ‘Jangan hulur, jangan kawtim, jangan settle’ (Don’t give and don’t settle.

In March, at least 10 immigration officers who took up to RM5,000 each to allow illegals to enter Sarawak were nabbed. Six of them were women.

Early this year, four Selangor immigration officers were rounded-up to assist in investigations into dubious applications for international passports, causing losses of over RM1mil.

In Malacca, the former special officer to Malacca Historical City Council’s mayor implicated in a corruption case was arrested at 7.30pm yesterday at the Malacca MACC office.

The 56-year-old suspect faces 11 charges under the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Finan­cing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act and another four under the Penal Code.

On Nov 28, the officer was arrested to help with a probe over alleged corruption and money laundering.

The MACC also seized more than RM100mil from the officer, comprising cash, assets and several vehicles.

Source: The Star/ANN

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Angry & frustrated investors lodged report, tell off staffs trying to buy time!


Angry investors who lodged a police report at the Pekan Kinrara station. Waiting for answers:

His first investment scheme failed with losses estimated at between RM400mil and RM1.7bil but JJPTR founder Johnson Lee has brazenly come up with a new one offering even higher returns of 35% a month and with a car, motorcycles and smartphones thrown in as lucky draw prizes. Many of his investors still have faith in him but those in another scheme, Change Your Life, are in a quandary. They now have to choose between getting lower returns or changing to ‘life points’ – and waiting.

Show me the money: Investors making enquiries at Icon City in Bukit Tengah, Bukit Mertajam. The money scam issue has got many who have parted with their savings feeling anxious

 

JJPTR offers ‘better’ plan

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http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2017/05/03/jjptr-offers-better-plan-founder-promises-higher-returns-but-stays-mum-on-refunds/

After the spectacular collapse of his previous financial scheme, purportedly because of a hacked account, controversial scheme operator Johnson Lee has rolled out a new plan, claiming to offer even better returns.

While JJPTR’s earlier scheme – which ended with RM500mil missing from the company’s account – offered returns of 20% a month, this new one offers 35%.

On top of that, it offers special lucky draws with a new car, motorcycles and smartphones as prizes.

What the company did not say in the shining glossary of the new plan is how Lee plans to address the US$400mil (RM1.73bil) losses he claims the company has incurred.

The new scheme also does not explain how he plans to repay those who lost their money to the earlier scheme.

The one-and-a-half minute video Lee uploaded shows that the new plan is based on a “split mechanism” and has three rounds.

The initial investment in US dollars is “split” or doubled in each round. Half of it is re-invested in the scheme and rolls over to the next round.

Each round lasts 10 days and investors are allowed to convert their earnings back to ringgit after three rounds.

Anyone who invests US$1,000 (RM4,331) is expected to receive US$450 (RM1,949) in each round, making it a return of US$1,350 (RM5,847) by the end of round three.

Under the proposed new scheme, investors will also be rewarded with JJ Points, which can be used in exchange for goods via its shopping platform JJ Mart.

The new scheme was announced by the 28-year-old Lee last Tuesday after news broke that his company had gone bust.

The company did not say when the new plan would start.

Attempts to contact Lee were futile and the number listed on the JJPTR Facebook page is already out of service.

A visit to the company’s offices in Penang showed that investors were no longer lining up for answers.

Instead, the staff, who preferred not to be photographed, were seen sitting at empty counters.

Penang-based JJPTR, or Jie Jiu Pu Tong Ren in Mandarin (salvation for the common people), came under the spotlight when investors complained that they did not get their scheduled payment last month.

JJPTR, JJ Poor to Rich and JJ Global Network are among the entities listed as unauthorised companies under Bank Negara Malaysia’s Financial Consumer Alert.

Records from the Companies Commission of Malaysia showed that JJ Global Network was a “RM2 company” owned by Lee and his former girlfriend Tan Kai Lee, 24. Each hold a single share.

Lee’s father Thean Chye, 58, and Tan are also directors of another company called JJ Global Network Holdings Bhd.

Thean Chye, who was an assistant professor at Southern University College in Johor, resigned on Wednesday after the JJPTR losses came to light.

Source: The Star/ANN

Investor tells off staff after failing to get refund 

 

Business as usual: Employees explaining the refund process and new scheme to investors at the JJPTR main office in Perak Road, Penang.

GEORGE TOWN: An investor, frustrated over not getting a promised refund on his stake, told off several female employees at the main JJPTR office in Perak Road.

The man, in his 40s, was heard having an exchange of words with the staff after being told that it may take “a few more days” before he could get his money.

He told them Johnson Lee, the founder of JJPTR, had said that the money was refunded to JJ2 scheme investors some days ago.

“But until today, I haven’t got my money back.

“I just want to know if the refund has been made or are you in the midst of processing the refund?

“If he has not started the refund, just be honest with the investors.”

He insisted on getting a firm date on when he would get back his money but the employees replied that they would need at least five working days.

He then demanded their names but they refused him.

“You don’t even dare give me your names. If I want to lodge a report, I won’t be able to provide the police with details.

“And don’t tell me you need days for a bank transfer. It only takes hours,” he said.

As he left the office, several journalists approached him for comment but were turned down.

“I don’t want to talk to reporters. You are all just causing trouble for us. I can get things done on my own,” he said.

JJPTR, or Jie Jiu Pu Tong Ren (“salvation for the common people” in Mandarin), is a Penang-based company that came under the spotlight when its investors complained that they did not get their scheduled profits last month.

According to online and media reports, the investors stand to lose RM500mil. They reportedly number in the tens of thousands, comprising Malaysians and foreigners from Canada, the United States and China.

Lee, who has blamed the loss on hackers, put the figure at US$400mil (RM1.75bil) in a widely-circulated video clip.

JJPTR, JJ Poor to Rich and JJ Global Network are listed as unauthorised companies by Bank Negara Malay­sia.

Source: The Star/ANN

JJPTR just trying to buy time, says ‘scam buster’ 

 

“Scam buster” Afyan Mat Rawi has ridiculed JJPTR’s new plan, calling it “unsustainable” and nothing but a forex scheme to placate angry investors.

Once a victim of an investment scam himself, the 37-year-old financial adviser said investors should stay away from the scheme, which he described as “illogical”.

“The investors are angry right now, and JJPTR is trying to pacify them by introducing this new plan.

“A 35% return at the end of the three rounds (one month) is illogical. Where would the company find all the money to reinvest?

“The new plan is just a way for them to buy time,” Afyan said.

He said any investment scheme promising returns of more than 15% in a year will ultimately collapse.

“No legitimate scheme will guarantee an annual return of more than 15%. Any scheme claiming to do otherwise has to be a scam.

“Like most other pyramid schemes, the (JJPTR) forex scheme will collapse when there is no entry of new investors.”

Afyan said that despite getting flak from investors after allegedly losing RM500mil due to its accounts being hacked, it was still “possible” for JJPTR to entice old and new investors to subscribe to the new plan, which promises higher returns and special lucky draws.

“Some investors may leave, because they no longer see hope but those in the “top tier” will continue finding new victims as they’ve already invested so much.

“Unfortunately, there will still be people who believe in them,” he related.

Commenting on a video of founder Johnson Lee announcing the new plan via JJPTR Malaysia’s Facebook page, Afyan said the laws in Malaysia were not harsh enough to serve as deterrent for so-called “scammers”.

He claimed that the only person to have been severely punished for operating an illegal investment scheme was Pak Man Telo, or Othman Hamzah, who was jailed and banished to Terengganu from Perak in the early 1990s.

Othman reportedly enticed 50,000 people to invest in his getrich-quick scheme, commonly known as the Pak Man Telo scheme, and managed to rake in RM90mil before being arrested, tried and sent to prison for two years. He died in Terengganu a few years later.

Ever since then, Afyan claimed, convicted scammers have been getting away easy.

“At most, scammers will be arrested and remanded. But you don’t hear about them serving time in prison. They’ve already made millions, billions, in profits.

“A penalty of a few thousand ringgit is nothing to them,” he said.

Afyan, who lost RM300 to a getrich-quick scheme while he was a university student in 2003, worked in Islamic insurance and financial planning after graduating.

He created a Facebook page in 2008 to share information on questionable investment opportunities, earning him the nickname “scam buster”.

He claims to have uncovered about 50 dubious companies so far.

Source: The Star/ANN

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Belt-road changes world order


Illuminated boards highlighting Xi’s signature One Belt- One Road foreign policy plan in Beijing. Leaders of 28 countries are set to attend the summit in the Chinese capital next month to discuss the infrastructure investment programme to stitch together the Eurasian continent. — AP‘Win-win development will lie at the core of the forum. The Belt and Road has become the most important public good China has provided to the world. It was first proposed by China, but now it is for all countries to enjoy.’ – Wang Yi.  ‘Belt and Road has the power and prestige of President Xi Jinping behind it. It is the centre of his vision for China, and of his ambition to transform China’s place in the world during his time as its leader … And already it is starting to change the geoeconomic and the geopolical landscape.’ – Huge White

 

China’s ambitious economic plan is set to draw up a new global paradigm with countries seeking to engage the Middle Kingdom.

WHEN the ambitious Belt and Road initiative – with projects reportedly worth US$1 trillion – was first announced by President Xi Jinping in the autumn of 2013, many were sceptical of this Chinese move aimed at building up economic connectivity of 65 nations (China plus 64) along its ancient silk road and maritime routes.

For China, this New Silk Road would also serve to redirect the country’s domestic overcapacity and capital for regional infrastructure development to improve trade and ties with Asean, Central Asian and European countries.

Unprecedented in terms of China’s financial commitment, many Western critics have viewed this strategy as a grandiose foreign policy to expand Beijing’s influence to poor nations hungry for economic and infrastructure development.

The initiative was mooted at a time when the United States and the West excluded China from regional trading blocs. Hence, Beijing’s new development vision has been read as a strategy for asserting its leadership role in Asia and beyond.

But after nearly four years of promoting the concept and implementing projects, this initiative – dubbed as a modern-day Marshall Plan – is gaining traction.

It is seen by some Western academics as posing a threat to the US-centric world trade order and economic model.

Without a doubt, China is heading towards achieving its regional economic and diplomatic objectives. And the internationalisation of the renminbi is being boosted.

“We expect the One Belt-One Road (OBOR) to support long-term growth of development in the economies involved, particularly in some of the least developed parts of the world… We also expect it to help boost China’s global influence,” says a report dated April 27 by Oxford Economics.

While the idea of enhancing connectivity has drawn interest, the worry on China’s potential hegemonic ambitions has prevailed among regional rivals India and Japan, as well as the United States.

Despite this, nations that correctly read China’s economic strategy and Xi’s resolve were quick to announce their support for this China-led inclusiveness. And Malaysia had become one of the earliest participants and is now a gainer.

The Belt and Road initiative is largely assessed as having progressed well despite some setbacks.

Many countries are at ease to engage with China, particularly after Xi declared the “Three Nos”: no interference in the internal affairs of other nations; no intention to increase the so-called “sphere of influence”; and no motive to strive for hegemony.

Recipient nations are enjoying higher economic, trade and business activities, as well as a tourism boom helped by the influx of tourists from China – the world’s second largest economy and biggest consumer market.

The impact of the Chinese strategy is particularly conspicuous in the least developed nations in Africa and West Asia, as well as Asean nations such as Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia and Malaysia.

“Many belt-road countries have for many years been neglected by the West and Western investors, so even though there are concerns, some countries see China as offering once-in-a-lifetime chance to get out of poverty and under-development,” observes Dr Ngeow Chow Bing, deputy director of Institute of China Studies, Universiti Malaya.

China says it has invested more than US$50bil (RM220bil) on belt-road projects over the past three years, and signed project contracts worth US$926bil (RM4.16 trillion) covering mainly railway networks, highways and ports.

But China and its construction companies have also benefited from these endeavours. Its economy has been stimulated by exports from industries with overcapacity such as steel, cement and aluminium. Its GDP growth of 6.9% in the first quarter of 2017 was higher than expected.

Significantly, China’s state-owned construction conglomerates have successfully ventured out into belt-road nations. With these giants leading the build-transfer-operate schemes, smaller private enterprises have followed suit.

With China’s infrastructure projects and industrial investments extended to over 60 nations, the belt-road strategy is challenging the US-led world order and a new economic paradigm is definitely emerging, according to analysts.

Teoh: ‘OBOR will reshape the world’s economic dynamics
  “OBOR will significantly reshape the world’s economic dynamics. It will sharply increase accessibility and trades, across over 65% of the world’s population and 25% of global trade and services,” says Teoh Kok Lin, founder and chief investment officer of Singular Asset Management, a Kuala Lumpur-based regional asset investment company.

“Emerging economies, in particular, will benefit most from the increased global trades and services as well as improved infrastructure. OBOR will expand trade globalisation at a time when the world is worried about the Trump administration push towards the Buy America policy,” adds Teoh.

Closer economic relations with Beijing has helped reduce regional tension and friction, as seen in the case of the South China Sea where the Philippines under its current president saw economic cooperation with China as more practical.

Despite concerns over China’s rapid reclamation of reefs in South China Sea, in which Manila and several Asean nations have contesting territorial claims with China, the Asean Summit is unlikely to kick up a storm.

According to Reuters, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday “it is pointless” discussing Beijing’s contentious activities in the South China Sea at this summit, and “no one dared to pressure China anyway.”

Referring to the Belt and Road initiative as “a brilliant plan”, CLSA in its report remarks: “Xi Jinping’s ambitious strategic initiative – an adaptation of the historical Silk Road – marks the beginning of a new geopolitical era.”


May 14-15 summit and forum

The major achievements of the belt and road initiative are expected to be further highlighted at the coming two-day Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, which will be opened by President Xi on May 14 in Beijing.

This summit could be the most important diplomatic event this year to discuss what is expected to be the largest global economic programme.

“Amid challenges and the perceived fear of China’s influence of regional geopolitical landscape, China’s OBOR initiative has achieved commendable progress since 2013,” says Datuk Ter Leong Yap, president of the Associated Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia.

“China has made significant headway by kick-starting infrastructure and connectivity projects to facilitate trade and investment, promote financial cooperation as well as deepening cross border flow,” he adds.

Since 2013, China’s businessmen have built 56 economic and trade cooperation zones in belt-road countries, generating nearly US$1.1bil (RM4.7bil) in tax revenue and creating 180,000 jobs, according to Xinhua.

Large-scale infrastructure projects – along with funding – have led to a boom of economic activity in countries like Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Belarus, and Poland.

And in Asean, rail and ports projects are either being constructed or planned. These include the China-Laos Railway, Jakarta–Bandung High Speed Rail, Malaysia’s East Coast Rail Link and a high-speed rail project in Thailand.

And Eurasia, the vast landmass from China to Europe, is being interconnected into a massive market via high-speed China-Europe, trans-Eurasian direct trains.

These modern freight rail systems, which have replaced the silk-laden camels of the Han Dynasty, could transport goods at lower costs and more efficiently from China to European cities (and vise versa), compared to shipping.

In sum, China’s overland belt-road projects have achieved the objective of building a trans-national network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa, and promoting economic development in participating countries.

And it looks like the current objective and scope will be widened to embrace nations outside the belt-road routes.

“China is upbeat about the initiative in boosting mutual development and is willing to channel more energy into it,” declared Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on April 21, when he briefed the media on the coming summit and forum.

“Win-win development will lie at the core of the forum. The Belt and Road has become the most important public good China has provided to the world. It was first proposed by China, but now it is for all countries to enjoy,” Wang said.

A total of 28 heads of state and government – including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak – have confirmed they will be attending the May 15 summit.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim and International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde will also be present.

Over 80 leaders from international organisations, 100 ministerial-level officials, as well as 1,200 delegates from various countries will be there, too.

President Xi will deliver a keynote speech, as well as host a roundtable meeting to brainstorm on policy and strategic development and interconnected development in the world.

There will be another high-level meeting to discuss infrastructure, trade and economic cooperation, energy resources, financial cooperation, eco-environment, and people-to-people exchanges.

According to Wang, China expects to sign agreements with around 20 countries and 20 organisations at the event to turn the grand blueprint into a workable road map, and to push for the delivery of joint projects under earlier MOUs.

He clarified that China has no intention of drawing geographical boundaries to areas covered by the initiative.

“As long as the spirit of the Belt and Road is recognised… everyone can enjoy its opportunities,” he said.

Japan sprang a surprise last week when Toshihiro Nikai, the secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said he would attend the New Silk Road summit.

“Given the international situation starting with North Korea, mutual understanding between Japan and China is vital,” he was quoted by Jiji News Agency as saying.

What lies ahead in 2017?

Over the past two years, China had generated huge momentum for its New Silk Road initiative by signing many MOUs on infrastructure projects with belt-road countries.

Chinese firms, mainly state-owned or controlled, had reportedly signed investment deals worth US$171bil (RM742bil). Among these was the US$46bil (RM200bil) China-Pakistan economic corridor.

The government of Xi is expected to start making good on these projects this year and help facilitate their financing and implementation.

Nearer home, the financing and construction of Malaysia’s RM55bil East Coast Rail Link is expected to start this year. The rail project is set to spur economic activities in the east coast states of the peninsula.

Wake Shepard, a China watcher and writer, expects increased economic participation from Europe.

“Beyond the further development of key trans-Eurasian logistics hubs on the Poland/Belarus border and a port in Greece, look for more high-end European products going overland by rail to China,” he wrote on Forbes.com.

Many Europe-based logistics giants have been promoting Europe-China rail transport in 2016, and in 2017 they should see results from these efforts, he added.

“European freight forwarders, manufacturers and policy makers are now waking up to the fact that these newly enhanced trade corridors are providing ample opportunity to get more of their high-value products to the booming markets of China and the rest of Asia,” says Shepard.

For China, the forum may be a good platform for it to listen to views on why some ventures did not progress well, such as its port-city investment in Sri Lanka.

Complaints that Chinese firms have posed unhealthy competition and threaten to wipe out small businesses of belt-road countries could also be on the table for deliberation.

The Middle Kingdom may also have to assess whether it is worthwhile to take risks in countries clouded by security issues, political instability and racial conflicts.

Belt road implications

The importance China has attached to the Belt and Road summit and forum goes to show how vital this international economic inclusive programme is to China and Xi.

It is imperative for Xi, who took over the presidency in late 2012, to show his ability to transform China into a global, influential leader.

After three decades of rapid growth, China needs to seek new investment and trade opportunities beyond its borders and the belt-road initiative mooted by Xi is addressing this predicament.

The infrastructure projects China build in belt-road countries will help absorb a significant portion of the country’s overcapacity, and counter its economic slowdown.

As western China has often been troubled by tension between the financially-weak Uighur Muslims and China’s Han majority in Xinjiang Province, economic development in this old silk road region may pacify the Uighurs and reduce ethnic conflicts.

But Hugh White, professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University in Canberra, sees China as having much bigger ambitions.

“China wants to consolidate its position at the centre of the global supply and manufacturing networks which will be the key to the global economy over the coming decades,” he wrote in a recent comment.

The initiative will also help China to realise its ambition to become a middle-income country and reinforce its parallel ambition to take the lead over the coming decades in developing key technologies and setting global standards – including for high-speed rail and data networks, he added.

He opined the Belt and Road Initiative could not be dismissed as a mere dream.

“It has the power and prestige of President Xi Jinping behind it. It is at the centre of his vision for China, and of his ambition to transform China’s place in the world during his time as its leader. And already it is starting to change the geo-economic and geopolitical landscape.”

“If America and its allies are determined to resist China’s challenge to the old US-led liberal global order, they have to counter Beijing’s powerful vision. And to do that they need an equally powerful and ambitious global economic vision.”

Source: by Ho Wah Foon The Star/ANN

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Get-rich-quick schemes thriving in Penang: many losers in the money game!


CALL them pyramid, Ponzi or get-rich-quick schemes and people might shy away. But call them money games, and suddenly they are just games, is that right?

What can be so diabolical about that?

Penang lang (people) are very much into money games. That’s what Ben, a Penangite who now lives in Australia, found out when he came back for a holiday three weeks ago.

Ben’s friends and relatives tried to rope him into money games. They themselves had “invested” in a few “games”.

He was astounded by their obsession. It does seem as if money games are on the minds of many Penangites now.

I hear about them at the coffee shops and watering holes. And yes, many of my buddies are into them too.

You will likely be the odd one out if you are not into such schemes these days.

JJPTR is a now household acronym after almost two years in the market. It stands for JJ Poor-to-Rich and the very name resonated well with middle-class families.

Its 20% monthly payouts were always on time, until the recent hacking job.

Then came Richway Global Venture, Change Your Life (CYL) and BTC I-system, but they too are said to be in troubled waters these days.

Attempts by many journalists to contact them have been unsuccessful.

The money game list is quite long, and Penang has the dubious honour of being the home base for many.

Another friend, Robert, had a jolt when a doctor he knew told patients to put their money into such a scheme. A doctor!

From the cleaners at his office to the hawkers and professionals he met, everyone, it seems, was convinced. None questioned how the high returns could come to fruition in such a short time.

But Robert is a harsh critic of these games and would not go anywhere near them. He didn’t believe in their economic “principles”.

He even got into a big fight with his father, who put money into JJPTR.

And now, Robert has been proven right. Fortunately, his father was one of the lucky ones because he managed to recoup his principal sum, on top of the thousands more he had received over the past few months.

Billy, a man well-versed in such operations, said operators would always use forex trading or investment in foreign projects as cover stories to woo new members.

They paint vivid pictures of those joining becoming part of big-time developments in Third World countries like Cambodia and Vietnam.

Once you get closer to them, they will tell you outright it is a money game and that you are among the pioneers, sure to make a profit before the scheme bursts.

Things tend to be smooth sailing for the first few months. You see money coming back in and pride yourself in taking the risk.

But soon the saturation point is reached as new members to the pyramid slow to a trickle.

Then you can expect the scheme to collapse.

Billy pointed out that the higher the return on investment, the faster the scheme bursts.

That’s because the operator cannot get enough new members to keep the scheme sustainable. At the same time, he has to deal with huge monthly payouts.

Some in Penang may remember the chance to invest in a cafe chain known as Island Red Cafe around 10 years ago. Then there was that company that sold gold bars and coins. There was also a Swiss cash scheme which took the country by storm.

As long as there is greed, such schemes will always re-emerge. As they say, a fool and his money are soon parted.

Honestly, the quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket.

Please bless the money game

Still very much alive: Investors of Mama Captain are allowed to continue trading their virtual money at any outlet displaying the ‘Barrel2U’ banner.

GEORGE TOWN: Some investors are seeking “divine intervention” for money games to last.

A 10-second video clip of a man praying aloud before a temple shrine is fast circula­ting on social media and phone chat groups.

His prayer goes: “Datuk Gong (deity), I pray to you. Please bless money games. Please help them stay afloat for a few more months.”

His prayer is in Penang Hokkien and he mentions “money game” in English.

It is believed to be a satirical meme on money games, and there are several more spreading.

Memes on the Penang-based JJPTR, or Jie Jiu Pu Tong Ren in Mandarin (salvation for the common people), have also gone viral online.

One of them, titled “Life without JJ” in Chinese, is accompanied by a picture of a plate of plain rice topped with a few strands of fried vegetable.

Another similarly titled meme shows grubby, tattered underwear and is captioned: “Don’t ask me how my life is lately. The underwear explains everything!”

Meanwhile, a man known as Bingyen has cynically adapted the lyrics of a popular Mandarin song Zui Jin Bi Jiao Fan (Troubled Recently) to relate to JJPTR.

Interestingly, the Chinese name of JJPTR founder Johnson Lee rhymes with one of the song’s singers, veteran Taiwanese musician Jonathan Lee. Both their names are similar in pinyin – Li Zong Sheng.

Bingyen, in his lyrics, also advised the people to stay away from money games.

According to speculation online and media reports, JJPTR investors, said to number in the tens of thousands locally and internationally, including Canada, the United States and China, stand to lose RM500mil.

Lee, who has blamed the company’s losses on hackers, however, put the figure at US$400mil (RM1.75bil) in a widely-circulated video recording later.

The 28-year-old founder, in a video posted on the JJPTR Malaysia Facebook page last week, made a promise to repay its members by May 20. Also on the same day, the company is supposed to hold a dinner gathering at Berjaya Times Square in Kuala Lumpur.

The forex trading company, along with its associate entities JJ Poor to Rich and JJ Global Network under http://www.jjptr.com, is among the 288 entities and individuals listed on Bank Negara’s Financial Con­sumer Alert as of Feb 24.

Source: Pinang points by Tan Sin Chow

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Turmoil in Korean Peninsula


 

Park Geun-hye – Ousted from office

 

Park ousted but her policy stays in S.Korea

The South Korean Constitutional Court on Friday upheld the parliament’s decision to impeach Park Geun-hye, making her the first democratically elected president in the country to be deposed. Park may also face criminal charges.

A few months back, when Park’s close friend Choi Soon-sil was first exposed of wrongdoing, few people thought Park would be impeached. But as her misdeeds including her involvement in Choi’s illegal profiteering and graft by herself were disclosed one by one, the true life of Park startled South Korea and the entire world.

The impeachment of Park has no direct connection with its diplomatic policies. However, if the leader of the opposition party is elected president later, South Korea may have a chance to shift diplomatic policies.

During the first half of Park’s presidency, China-South Korea relations changed for the better, as Seoul maintained a balance between Beijing and Washington.

Despite South Korea being an ally of the US, its trade volume with China reached more than double that with the US.

There is a strong pro-US political faction in South Korea. Whenever South Korea’s relations with North Korea become strained, they would try their best to push the country back to its old route of aligning with the US.

The leader of South Korea’s biggest opposition party has been leading a popular poll as a presidential contender. He holds a negative attitude toward THAAD. South Korea may change its diplomacy if he wins the election, though the scale of change is still hard to predict.

South Korea appears to have completely overthrown Park, however, Park’s policies, especially her signature work to deploy THAAD in South Korea, are still being 100 percent implemented by the caretaker government.

If Park is only a “princess” lacking the ability of judgment and easily being manipulated, then her presidential decisions should be thoroughly re-examined; if she was truly strategically visionary for the country, then her relationship with Choi would not be so scandalous.

We have to say that South Korean society’s attitude toward Park is full of contradictions.

Attacking Park and in the meantime upholding her policy is not a reasonable behavior.

Park’s decision to accept THAAD has pushed her country closer to the US, which is a serious geopolitical mistake.

It turned South Korea from as a country benefiting from its proximity to two big countries into a pawn of the US in Asia, making it a miniature Japan instead of an independent country. If South Korea doesn’t correct its path, Park’s legacy would still be in control of the country, as if she remains in the presidential hall.

Seoul shares fate with Pyongyang, not Washington

The South Korea-US Combined Forces Command kicked off their annual joint Key Resolve military exercise on Monday. The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and F-35B stealth fighters will arrive in South Korean waters to conduct the exercise, which will simulate a preemptive strike against North Korea’s nuclear and missile facilities when signs of attack are detected. The US military is also deploying a new-type of Gray Eagle drone in South Korea that is capable of striking North Korean targets.

The Yonhap news agency, citing government sources, reported that the drills will include missions that could penetrate Pyongyang and target war command and key military facilities. They send an explicit radical threat to Pyongyang.

To decapitate the North Korean leadership and to punish “the South’s imperialist running dogs” with nuclear weapons are both the craziest threat Pyongyang and Seoul have sent to each other. They are equally hysterical, expressing both sides’ viciousness to destroy the other.

The US-South Korean joint drills without doubt are a deterrent against North Korea. How can Pyongyang remain indifferent facing a military exercise that includes more than 300,000 military personnel to carry out missions targeting its war command and top leader? In such a case, by no means will both sides be in the mood for negotiations. Even if they sit down, they cannot establish a minimum degree of trust for talks.

By deterring North Korea, the US and South Korea are encouraging the country to take a firm grip on the nuclear capabilities it has acquired so far. They intend to scare Pyongyang, but the actual effect is the opposite. Instead, Pyongyang believes that nuclear weapons are the reason why Washington and Seoul dare not put their plan of subverting the North’s regime into practice.

Through joint drills, more and more US strategic weapons are deployed on the Peninsula, posing a greater potential threat to China. Seoul may have more sense of security. But it disregards China’s security concern, it may even feel schadenfreude. To the Chinese people, the South Korean government has lost its rationality on the security issue.

China has participated in the tough sanctions the US and South Korea launched against the North, while the two countries rejected China’s proposal that the US and South Korea suspend their military exercises in exchange for a halt of North Korea’s nuclear activities.

The US and South Korea often accuse China of being uncooperative, but the reality is they are uncooperative over China’s mediation.

The US is here to stir up more trouble in Northeast Asia. By hitching itself to the US chariot, South Korea naively thinks it shares a common destiny with the US. However, if war breaks out, the battlefield is bound to be the Korean Peninsula while the US is on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. South Korea and North Korea are the two who really share a common destiny.

Put a break on Peninsula vicious cycle 

 
US and South Korean diplomats gave a negative response to the proposal raised by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi Wednesday on the issue of the Korean Peninsula. During a press conference Wednesday on the sidelines of the ongoing annual sessions of the National People’s Congress, Wang noted that Pyongyang, which is promoting its development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, and Washington and Seoul, which are holding large-scale military exercises to pile increasing military pressure on North Korea, are like “two accelerating trains coming towards each other, with neither side willing to give way.” Wang stressed that the priority for now is to “flash a red light and apply the brakes on both trains.”

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley responded Wednesday local time that the US must see “some sort of positive action” from North Korea before it could take Pyongyang seriously at the negotiation table. Cho Tae-yul, South Korea’s UN ambassador was more direct, saying “This is not a time for us to talk about freezing or dialogue with North Korea.”

However, those two diplomats’ remarks do not mean that the appeal from Beijing only had a life that lasted several hours.

In fact, Wang’s solution is the only way out to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue apart from the use of force. It won’t be easy for all three sides, the US, South Korea and North Korea, to take a step back, but when warfare is so imminent, if they don’t want to fight, they might eventually be forced to choose the path which China suggested.

Of course, if they are so determined to go to war, although China does not wish to see that, still, they are free to go ahead.

In the eyes of the Chinese people, the North Korean nuclear issue was not created by Pyongyang alone. The country’s insistence on developing a nuclear program is without doubt a wrong path, yet Washington and Seoul are the main forces that have pushed North Korea to this path.

Now they want to stop Pyongyang from going ahead while refusing to reduce the impetus they are giving to North Korea. In the end, they failed to reach their goal and blame China for not being cooperative enough.

Wang’s suggestion aims at stopping the vicious circle on the Peninsula through an abrupt brake.

It must be uncomfortable to do so, nevertheless, it can avoid the worst-case scenario. It is believed that even if Washington, Seoul and Pyongyang refuse to admit it ostensibly, they will consider the option raised by China to avoid war.

China has expressed its willingness to be a “railway switchman” over the Korean Peninsula issue, but what happens next depends on Pyongyang and Seoul, as well as on whether the new US President has the boldness to make a peaceful decision. If the two trains resolve to have a head-on collision, a switchman will be of no use even if he wants to help.

THAAD provides a reason for China to elevate nuclear prowess

According to reports from South Korea and the US Tuesday, the two countries have started deploying the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system in South Korea. Parts of the shield, including launch vehicles, have already arrived, and service personnel and other equipment will be put in place within two months.

It seems that Washington and Seoul are determined to accomplish the installation of THAAD before the coming South Korean presidential election.

In the end, China has not been able to prevent THAAD from being set up in South Korea, but this was predicted by most observers at the beginning. Therefore, Beijing should keep calm and adopt resolute and efficient measures to minimize its threat toward China. In the subsequent games, Beijing will step by step make South Korea feel the pain and make the US realize its mistake.

We should start from increasing sanctions toward Seoul in an orderly way, comprehensively lower the level of Sino-South Korean exchanges, roll back all the privileges that Seoul has gained from China, and just maintain a normal relationship between the two.

Over the past years, South Korean commodities and cultural products have been particularly popular among Chinese consumers given the close ties between Beijing and Seoul. But we can take the current opportunity to squeeze South Korean cultural products out of the Chinese market. This is the price the country must pay for the THAAD deployment.

China should also focus on military countermeasures and strategically deal with more threats. The deployment of THAAD in South Korea has two consequences – it directly threatens military activities within China, moreover, it sets a precedent that Washington can arbitrarily implement its anti-missile arrangements around China. Both will jeopardize China’s security.

Can we neutralize THAAD technically? Research in this field must be enforced. If possible, Beijing must realize it at all costs. One thing is for sure, China’s related strategic weapons must target South Korea’s Seongju County, where THAAD will be installed.

We must prevent the US from setting up more THAAD batteries to China’s southeast or redeploying tactical nuclear weapons on South Korean soil. All that cannot be achieved by simply sanctioning the Lotte Group. The THAAD deployment will become a turning point in the Northeast Asian paradigm. When we take one step forward, we must think two steps, three steps ahead.

The most essential task for China now is to boost its military power. The THAAD installation has offered China a crucial reason to increase and improve its tactical nuclear weapons. It would be worth it if Beijing can comprehensively elevate its strategic nuclear power because of THAAD.

The world has come to a crossroad where Washington is attempting to establish global military hegemony through its anti-missile system, while Beijing and Moscow are trying to smash that plan. This is the essence of the reality.

Sources: Global Times

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