China’s Xi Urges Self-Reliance Amid Change ‘Unseen in 100 Years’


Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed self-reliance amid “changes unseen in 100 years,” as the country faced an economic slowdown and a more confrontational U.S. under President Donald Trump.

In his annual New Year’s Eve address, Xi stressed China’s capacity to weather the storm, citing a series of industrial and technological achievements in 2018. He said the government would keep growth from slowing too quickly and follow through on a tax cut as part of an effort “to ease the burden on enterprises.”

“Despite all sorts of risks and challenges, we pushed our economy towards high-quality development, sped up the replacement of the old drivers of growth, and kept the major economic indicators within a reasonable range,” Xi said.

The speech followed reminders of Xi’s twin challenges: another dose of weak economic data Monday and a phone call with Trump on Saturday touching on their trade dispute. China’s factories slid back into contraction territory in December, with the manufacturing purchasing mangers index dropping to 49.4.

Meanwhile, a U.S. delegation led by Deputy Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish was preparing for talks in Beijing next week that would test a tariff cease-fire established earlier in the month by the two sides. Trump said he and Xi spoke at length and that “big progress” is being made toward a deal.

Looking Ahead

Next year marks 70 years since Mao Zedong led the Communist Party to power — a milestone that would surpass the Soviet Union. The anniversary underscores the urgency Xi faces in turning around stalled growth and investor confidence, while pushing forward an agenda of political reform that will strengthen his power.

The government launched over 100 reform measures in 2018, Xi said Monday, and stepped up efforts to improve standards of living.

“Our people are the country’s solid foundation and our main source of confidence to govern,” he said.

A little less than a year since he scrapped term limits, clearing the path toward his indefinite rule, Xi has seen his major initiatives — notably the Belt and Road trade and infrastructure program — draw international backlash amid the unprecedented trade war.

Over the next few months, March’s National People’s Congress and April’s Belt and Road Summit, both to be held in Beijing, could see the announcement of new regulations and investments meant to counter skepticism over Xi’s leadership.

China is already considering a new law on the practice of forced technology transfer that has drawn U.S. ire, and stepped up internal scrutiny of Belt and Road as poorer countries adopt a more cautious approach to China’s plans for what it regards as its backyard.

The country’s growth is still slowing as it transitions from a high-growth, export-led model to a consumer- focused state. Top economic policy makers last week pledged to exact “significant” stimulus policies this coming year.

— Bloomberg, with assistance by Shuping Niu, Dandan Li, and Fox Hu

Related:

2018: End of an era – Global Trends 

China will tread own path steadily in 2019

In the face of sudden escalation of China-US trade conflict throughout 2018, Beijing chose neither a concession nor a confrontation. The country has continued advancing and establishing its position as the world’s second largest economy, maximizing its vitality and cooperation. Undoubtedly, that is China’s lifeline to keep steady progress in an increasingly restless world.

 

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Bigger thriller in Manila: Asean point man to deal with China


Point man: Asean has designated Manila its ‘leader’ in dealings with China, but can the moody Duterte, here shown bonding with Xi on a visit to Beijing in 2016, clinch a an agreement from China for the regional association? — AP

NOW that the quartet of Asean-related summits is over for the year, so should the niggling criticisms. At least they should – more important matters are at hand.

Over the week Singapore hosted the 2nd RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) Summit, the 13th East Asia Summit, the 21st Asean Plus Three Summit, and – not least – the 33rd Asean Summit.

These summits were held because it was time they were, and Singapore hosted them because it was its turn. But criticisms were not far behind.

US President Donald Trump was a no-show, and so was Chinese President Xi Jinping. Vice-President Mike Pence and Prime Minister Li Keqiang attended instead.

Trump was criticised for his absence, which allegedly “left the region wide open” for Xi’s China to make further inroads here. That complaint was limited only by Xi’s own absence.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was also criticised for not attending an “informal breakfast summit” between Asean and Australian leaders.

His said it was only an informal event, and it was over breakfast which he did not eat.

A casual observer may be forgiven for sensing that there must be more important developments than these scheduled rounds of handshakes and photo opportunities. There are.

One of these begins in two days: Xi’s state visit to the Philippines, following the scheduled 30th Apec Summit in Papua New Guinea.

Duterte had made three visits to China as President, inviting Xi to visit Manila each time. This will be Xi’s first state visit, coming upon the third invitation to him.

There will be handshakes and photo opportunities too, but the substance and symbolism now may be more than the recent multiple summits in Singapore and Papua New Guinea.

The Philippines has been vocal about rival claims to territory in the South China Sea. The previous The region is generally unsettled by China’s recent occupation and construction of islands, with Vietnam remaining most disturbed. Duterte’s critics have also blamed him for being soft on Beijing.

However, Xi’s visit is expected to be smooth with an emphasis on the positives. These include mutual interests deemed to be larger than interminable disputes over distant rocks and islets.

Last year Chinese Vice-Premier Wang Yang visited Manila for four days amid more audible protests over territory such as Benham Rise. Yet the visit proceeded unhindered.

This time it is President Xi himself, for a state visit of only two days, with no particular complaint against China outstanding. It will also be after one full year of China having become the Philippines’ main trading partner.

For both sides the focus will be quite intense on specific projects backed by Chinese assistance. Duterte left the merrymaking in Papua New Guinea early to return home to prepare for Xi’s arrival.

For China, it would demonstrate to the region how it can cooperate with even a country locked in dispute with it to mutual benefit. This gains added significance when it is the Philippines, historically a US ally.

For the Philippines, there is a host of projects and programmes on Duterte’s wish list requiring Chinese aid. They span his ambitious 9-trillion peso (RM717bil) “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure plan covering all three regions of the Philippines: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

These come under the Six-Year Development Program (SYDP) signed last year with China as a framework for the Philippines’ “Golden Age of Infrastructure.” It is to be Duterte’s legacy for his country.

The 75 projects include a water pump and irrigation scheme, a dam, a north-south railway, a highway, bridges, a park and a rehabilitated power plant. Economic growth is projected to outpace debt.

Duterte is clear-minded enough to know that only China is able and willing to provide the assistance needed. No other country or combination of countries is in a position to do so.

There are also plans for more Chinese business investments, as well as a framework agreement for joint oil and gas explorations at sea. The latter are understood to cover some disputed areas, with China agreeing to only a 40% share of recoverable deposits.

Countries in dispute over territory and the reserves found therein tend to shy from joint exploration, as legally this may imply recognition of the other disputing party’s claim.

But since this condition applies equally to both parties, the Philippines may be confident that China would also be obliged to acknowledge the Philippine claim. Can there be a lesson here for other Asean countries with claims to the South China Sea?

To ensure the success of Xi’s visit, there had been a positive build-up of Philippines-China relations in recent months. Xi’s state visit in turn is envisaged to lead to even better bilateral relations.

Last August, joint simulated naval exercises were held in Singapore among Asean countries and China without US participation. Manila defended that decision by saying that the “tabletop” drill was meant only for neighbouring countries in the region.

Now as Xi prepares for his visit, the US Pacific Fleet is reportedly readying a series of naval operations as a “show of force” in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Straits. In response to China’s stated concern, the Philippines said it will have no part in those operations.Xi’s visit is important not just for the Philippines but also Asean, which had designated Manila the “point man” in dealings with China. Can Duterte clinch an agreement from China for Asean?

Manila had said that a legally binding Code of Conduct (CoC) in the South China Sea was on the agenda, but Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said it may take another three years.

If China really wants to prove its goodwill in Manila, Xi could suggest it may happen considerably sooner.

The last Chinese President to make a state visit to the Philippines was Hu Jintao in 2005. That occasion also marked the 30th anniversary of bilateral relations, which is as auspicious a time as any.

This Tuesday’s visit by Xi will be the first Chinese state visit in 13 years. That is an auspicious number in Chinese, but not so in Western culture.

Will it be auspicious for the Philippines, the only Christian-majority country in the region once colonised by Spain and then the US? Duterte’s original style of leadership may yet make the difference.

Bunn Nagara

Bunn Nagara is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia.

 

 

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New Malaysia should push for meritocracy


 

The Meritocracy Paradox

Pakatan Harapan’s unexpected win in the recent 14th General Elections sent a signal that it is time for the country to move towards focusing on being more performance oriented and making decisions on the basis of meritocracy for the long-term good of its citizens.

Interview with Tan Sri G.Gnanalingam

Westports Holdings Bhd’s chairman Tan Sri G. Gnanalingam says this is the basis of how the company has been operating all this and notes that it is paying off today.

“Westports has always prided itself on being a performance-oriented organisation, being innovative and treating our employees as family members,” he says.

Gnanalingam, who has been the face of Westports for more than 20 years, says this idea can be extended to how the country can be governed as well.

He says that in the company, everyone is treated equally irrespective of race or gender and this has worked tremendously well.

He notes that this also comes with some form of a safety net for those who can’t perform as well as their counterparts.

“The system should be such that we reward success but provide some safety needs for the unfortunate few who didn’t make it, but the safety net is not so big that it promotes complacency.

“There will always be some members of the community who do not do as well as others. This is where we need to lend a hand to support them, regardless of race or gender,” Gnanalingam adds.

This is important because innovation is best built on meritocracy and is a needed ingredient for the country to excel in the new economy of the Internet.

“Innovation is needed as the world prog­resses forward; we cannot move backward. Today, we have a computer in our pocket called the smartphone, which does all kinds of things.

“Malaysia needs to forge ahead as the future is increasingly influenced by information technology, artificial intelligence and Industry 4.0,” Gnanalingam says.

“As for the new Malaysia, I believe that transparency, good governance and people first should be values that are celebrated,” he adds.

Gnanalingam, who is the founder of Westports, also tells of the company’s humble roots, noting that it has grown by leaps and bounds and is now listed on Bursa Malaysia.

“The year 1994 was when we started building Westports. In fact, we were the first private company to build a port after the British left in 1957.

“Prior to the birth of Westports, Port Klang was a port that had less than one million container volume. Malaysia transshipped everything from Penang, Kuantan, Johor and even East Malaysia to Singapore,” he says.

He also highlighted that while the company is primarily a family-owned firm and is now helmed by his son Datuk Ruben Emir Gnanalingam, who is Westports’ group managing director, the family still takes heed of the advice of professional managers.

“Leading Westports is a bit like managing a football team. In order to win, we must assemble the best players, train very hard, formulate specific strategies and out-do our opponents. And we must continuously improve our skills and knowledge of the game. There will always be room for innovation and a better way to do things,” Gnanalingam says.

Westports has grown steadily since its inception in the year 1994.

Today, the company is a RM12.8bil company in market capitalisation on the Bursa Malaysia Main Board.

Recalling the the company’s early days, Gnanalingam says Westports had to focus on what was important: its productivity.

“I always tell our people to focus on raising productivity, being innovative and being cost-effective. Westports is ranked among the top five in the world in terms of productivity.

“Westports has also risen from 27th place to 12th place in the world port traffic league rankings.

“Once Westports was born, we focused on producing the best service for our customers, the shipping lines. To do that, we improved our productivity.

“Our crane operators are well trained. Their performance is world class as they are able to do 35 or more containermoves per hour,” he says.

The company’s terminal tractor operators and stowage clerks have also been upskilled to create a fast turnaround time for the cargo from the container yard to the vessel and vice versa.

While the going seems smooth now, Gnanalingam notes that it was not always smooth sailing for Westports, as it had to go through several financial crises and political uncertainty on the global front, where it threatened or slowed down shipping demand.

However, hHe notes that it has grown its market share steadily and incrementally over the past 20 years.

Today, he notes that Westports captures 16% of the container volume moving through the Straits of Malacca and supports 38% of all container volume in Malaysia.

“And today, we are proud to be one of only three mega-transhipment hubs in the entire Asean region,” he says.

Costs to ship and out of Malaysia have also fallen tremendously and Gnanalingam notes that both exporters and importers pay some 90% lower in freight charges today.

“Before 2005, it cost about US$800 (RM3,280) to freight a container from Port Klang to Busan in Korea. Today, the cost is about US$35 (RM143) only.

“To cite another example, before 2005, it cost about US$500 (RM2,050) to freight a container from Port Klang to Kaoshiung in China. Today, the cost is about US$110 (RM450), which is almost 80% lower,” he says.

Credit to : Daniel Khoo The Star

Related:

Korean historic Kim-Trump summit begins with handshake in Sinapore, is ‘very, very good’


China Air carried Kim to Singapore talks with Trump

The historic meeting on Tuesday between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump began with a handshake at the Capella hotel, Singapore.

The handshake lasted about 20 seconds before the two leaders walked to the meeting room accompanied by their interpreters.

Trump and Kim sat next to each other and answered a few questions from the media. Trump said he hopes the historic summit would be “tremendously successful,” adding, “We will have a terrific relationship ahead” as he faced Kim.

Kim said there were a number of “obstacles” and “prejudices” which made today’s meeting more difficult. “We overcame all of them and we are here today,” he told reporters through a translator.

Of particular note is the display of the two countries’ flags at the hotel, which is unusual between two countries with no formal diplomatic ties. Observers believe that this is a positive sign.

Trump arrived at the hotel about 8:30am, with Kim arriving five minutes after.

Displaying the national flag of North Korea shows that the US wants to express its sincerity and kindness to North Korea, Cheng Xiaohe, an associate professor at the Renmin University of China’s School of International Studies, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

“The move toward establishing formal diplomatic ties could be an achievement of the summit,” Cheng said.

Hundreds of journalists are gathered at the Press Filing Center of the JW Marriott Hotel Singapore, where they can watch the livestream of the historic moment. Dozens of photographers attempted to get closer to Sentosa Island in the morning to film and take photos for the two leaders’ motorcades.

Trump and Kim met alone at 9:15 am and held an expanded bilateral meeting 45 minutes after. At 11:00, the two leaders are scheduled to have a working luncheon. Trump will leave Singapore at 7pm on Tuesday, the White House said.

Trump says summit with North Korea’s Kim is ‘very, very good’

SINGAPORE: U.S. President Donald Trump said he had forged a “good relationship” with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the start of a historic summit in Singapore on Tuesday, as the two men sought ways to end a nuclear standoff on the Korean peninsula.

Should they succeed in making a diplomatic breakthrough, it could bring lasting change to the security landscape of Northeast Asia, like the visit of former U.S. President Richard Nixon to China in 1972 led to the transformation of China.

“There will be challenges ahead,” Kim said, but he vowed to work with Trump. Both men sat against in the hotel’s library against a backdrop of North Korean and U.S. flags, with Kim beaming broadly as the U.S. president gave him a thumbs up.

With cameras of the world’s press trained on them, Trump and Kim displayed an initial atmosphere of bonhomie.

Both men had looked serious as they got out of their limousines for the summit at the Capella hotel on Singapore’s Sentosa, a resort island with luxury hotels, a casino, manmade beaches and a Universal Studios theme park.

But they were soon smiling and holding each other by the arm, before Trump guided Kim to the library where they held a meeting with only their interpreters. Trump had said on Saturday he would know within a minute of meeting Kim whether he would reach a deal.

After some initial exchanges lasting around 40 minutes, Trump and Kim emerged, walking side-by-side through the colonnaded hotel before re-entering the meeting room, where they were joined by their most senior officials.

Kim was heard telling Trump through a translator: “I think the entire world is watching this moment. Many people in the world will think of this as a scene from a fantasy…science fiction movie.”

Asked by a reporter how the meeting was going, Trump said: “Very good. Very, very good. Good relationship.”

Kim also sounded positive about the prospects.

“We overcame all kinds of scepticism and speculations about this summit and I believe that this is good for the peace,” he said.

Trump was joined by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton, and John Kelly, White House Chief of Staff, for the expanded talks, while Kim’s team included former military intelligence chief Kim Yong Chol, foreign minister Ri Yong Ho and Ri Su Yong, vice chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party.

MARKETS CALM

As the two leaders met, Singapore navy vessels, and air force Apache helicopters patrolled, while fighter jets and an Gulfstream 550 early warning aircraft circled.

Financial markets were largely steady in Asia and did not show any noticeable reaction to the start of the summit. The dollar was at a three-week high and the MSCI index of Asia-Pacific shares was largely unchanged from Monday.

While Trump and Kim search each other’s eyes and words for signs of trust or deceit, the rest of the world will be watching, hoping that somehow these two unpredictable leaders can find a way to defuse one of the planet’s most dangerous flashpoints.

A body language expert said both men tried to project command as they met, but also displayed signs of nerves.

In the hours before the summit began, Trump expressed optimism about prospects for the first-ever meeting of sitting U.S. and North Korean leaders, while Pompeo injected a note of caution whether Kim would prove to be sincere about his willingness to denuclearise.

Officials of the two sides held last-minute talks to lay the groundwork for the summit of the old foes, an event almost unthinkable just months ago, when they were exchanging insults and threats that raised fears of war.

Staff-level meetings between the United States and North Korea were going “well and quickly,” Trump said in a message on Twitter on Tuesday.

But he added: “In the end, that doesn’t matter. We will all know soon whether or not a real deal, unlike those of the past, can happen!”

The combatants of the 1950-53 Korean War are technically still at war, as the conflict, in which millions of people died, was concluded only with a truce.

On Tuesday morning, Pompeo fed the mounting anticipation of diplomatic breakthrough, saying: “We’re ready for today.”

He earlier said the event should set the framework for “the hard work that will follow”, insisting that North Korea had to move toward complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation.

North Korea, however, has shown little appetite for surrendering nuclear weapons it considers vital to the survival of Kim’s dynastic rule.

Sanctions on North Korea would remain in place until that happened, Pompeo said on Monday. “If diplomacy does not move in the right direction … those measures will increase.”

He added: “North Korea has previously confirmed to us its willingness to denuclearise and we are eager to see if those words prove sincere.”

The White House said later that discussions with North Korea had moved “more quickly than expected” and Trump would leave Singapore on Tuesday night after the summit, rather than Wednesday, as scheduled earlier.

Kim is due to leave on Tuesday afternoon, a source involved in the planning of his visit has said.

One of the world’s most reclusive leaders, Kim visited Singapore’s waterfront on Monday, smiling and waving to onlookers, adding to a more affable image that has emerged since his April summit with South Korean leader Moon Jae-in.

‘CHANGED ERA’

Just a few months ago, Kim was an international pariah accused of ordering the killing of his uncle, a half-brother and scores of officials suspected of disloyalty.

The summit was part of a “changed era”, North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency said in its first comments on the event.

Talks would focus on “the issue of building a permanent and durable peace-keeping mechanism on the Korean peninsula, the issue of realising the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and other issues of mutual concern”, it added.

Ahead of the summit, North Korea rejected unilateral nuclear disarmament, and KCNA’s reference to denuclearisation of the peninsula has historically meant it wants the United States to remove a “nuclear umbrella” protecting South Korea and Japan.

Trump spoke to both South Korea’s Moon and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday to discuss developments ahead of the summit.

“I too, got little sleep last night,” Moon told his cabinet in Seoul as the summit began in Singapore.

“I truly hope it will be a successful summit that will open a new age for the two Koreas and the United States and bring us complete denuclearisation and peace.” – REUTERS

 

Related:

Kim Jong-un visits China for 3rd time in three months

Chinese President Xi Jinping met North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Beijing on Tuesday, and the two leaders discussed topics including the US-North Korea summit in Singapore.

The notorious National Civics Bureau – Biro Tatanegara (BTN)


Controversial: The BTN has been accused of
promoting racism, bigotry, disunity and intolerance in the name of
instilling patriotism through its activities, like this in the National
Transformation Training Programme.

National Civics Bureau – Biro Tatanegara

Pretty hate machine

Biro Tatanegaran has not only survived, but festered in a multinational country.

Its review is long overdue!

IF there’s one government agency which needs a complete overhaul by the new federal government, it must be the notorious National Civics Bureau, better known to Malaysians as Biro Tatanegara.

Over RM1.1bil of taxpayers’ money has been outrageously spent to promote racism, bigotry, disunity and intolerance in the name of instilling patriotism.

The BTN was set up in the 1970s as a Youth Research Unit under the Youth Ministry. But by the 1980s, the obscure agency had evolved into the BTN we know, and placed under the Prime Minister’s office.

Its objective is to nurture the spirit of patriotism among Malaysians, and train them into future leaders who are “well-rounded intellectually, emotionally and spiritually” to support national development efforts.

This monstrous machine was wellfed, not just during the Najib administration, but during the reign of the Mahathir administration as well. And certainly, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, too, used it as a political tool.

But that’s in the past. Malaysia has rebirthed. And as the perfect paradox, only Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, as the new prime minister, can set things right again.

Anwar would surely support any move to review, if not, bury the BTN, because he ended up the bogeyman in its lectures in later years while he was in the political wilderness.

The BTN has been fraught by controversy for over three decades, with allegations of racism and political propaganda mainstays.

It is inconceivable that good taxpayers’ resources are poured into such an organisation, which many participants have said, blatantly drums up race and hate politics.

BTN’s brickbats come from either side of the political divide, yet the uproar seems to have fallen on deaf ears, presumably shackled by the lack of political will, or worse, tacit political support from the top.

In 1999, PKR leader Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad claimed that the BTN camp he attended was “racial and political in nature,” with trainers impressing on attendees that Malays required affirmative action. It even criticised PAS as “deviationist.”

Another party leader, Amirudin Shari, said “participants are indoctrinated with propaganda about ketuanan Melayu” or Malay dominance.

Another alumnus alleged she was told “the Malays were the most supreme race in the world, we were God’s chosen few, that the others were insignificant. We were warned about certain elements in our society and abroad, determined to undermine Malay excellence.”

In 2009, then minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz ticked off BTN, squashing excuses raised in a Parliament debate that allegations of racist teachings might have come from mere “minor slip-ups” by BTN lecturers.

“Don’t think that people outside do not know about the syllabus based on patriotism for Malays. They know what the syllabus is all about, so who are we to say that it did not happen? You want to lie? You make people laugh.

“I mean, there are people who attended the courses who came out very angry. There were many instances of the use of words like Ketuanan Melayu. It is ridiculous. Do they want to say that Malaysia belongs only to the Malays and the government is only a Malay government? Should only the Malays be given the spirit of patriotism? Other races are not patriotic about their country?”

As Dr Mahathir settles in and combs through the list of government agencies, this is surely one Malaysians would want scrutinised as part of the process of trimming the fat.

In a piece in Malaysiakini, the writer aptly said, “the BTN is an anathema to the need to nurture critical and creative thinking among Malaysians.”

While it began as a youth research unit in 1974, under the Youth Ministry, it was reinvented as the BTN in the PM’s Department under Dr Mahathir.

BTN was run by many supporters of Anwar, himself a regular speaker at these courses, though he would come to regret the things he said then.

It has turned into an ethnic hate machine, as one writer put it, and has metamorphosed into an out of control monster.

Surely, Dr Mahathir wouldn’t have imagined what it has become. Even if he allowed it to evolve into a political tool to indoctrinate civil servants and scholarship holders, especially Malays, it is time for him to sort this out.

BTN may have been set up with the noble intention of “nurturing the spirit of patriotism and commitment to excellence among Malaysians, and train leaders and future leaders to support the nation’s development efforts”.

But that’s not what has happened. It has, instead, from all accounts, attempted to instil hate and prejudice among Malaysians, aspiring to produce leaders and future leaders with a jaundiced view.

Malaysians would remember that in September 2010, BTN deputy director Hamim Husin was reported for referring to the Chinese as “si mata sepet” (the slit-eyed) and Indians as “si botol” (the drinkers) during a Puteri Umno closed-door function.

Despite the outcry and media revelations, BTN was allowed to continue as it is, and with huge allocations streamed into these indoctrination camps.

According to Lim Kit Siang, the budgets for BTN multiplied tenfold in the 1990s (RM200mil) compared to the 1980s (RM20mil), and continued to increase. It more than doubled to over RM550mil in the first decade of the 21st century. From 2010 to 2015, the allocation for BTN totalled some RM365mil.

Now that the DAP is part of the government, it should be able to push for the right course of action, given its consistently strong stand against the organisation.

This is the most opportune time to can BTN. Malaysians believe the new federal government won’t be angling to allocate more funds to keep this monster alive.

By Wong Chun Wai who began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various capacities and roles. He is now the group’s managing director/chief executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.

On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.
Related:

The writing is on the wall for BTN – Nation

//players.brightcove.net/4405352761001/default_default/index.html?videoId=5790576186001

 

Syed Saddiq backs abolition of BTN 

Review the position of political appointees individually 

Image result for National Civics Bureau - Biro Tatanegara (BTN) images
National Civics Bureau | HAKAM

This Week in Asia

Where will it end? Najib’s 1MDB chickens come home to roost

 

Malaysia's former prime minister Najib Razak after being questioned by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission. Photo: AFP
This Week in Asia

Where will it end? Najib’s 1MDB chickens come home to roost
27 May, 2018 – 08:43 am
The
1MDB scandal had haunted the administration of Najib Razak after first
coming to light in 2015. Now there is a new sheriff in town, the public
is on the edge of its seat as it watches the wheels of justice begin to
turn.

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Singing and dancing to world domination


 

 

This year’s CCTV Spring Festival Gala shows off China’s power, both soft and hard.


China now intends to lead the world in just about everything.”

BY the end of the show, there was no doubt left in my mind that China is ready for world domination.

This was the CCTV Spring Festival Gala, an immensely popular national event by China Central Television that is telecast live on the eve of Chinese New Year. I watched a day later on YouTube.

The gala, which started in 1983, has all the elements of a variety show with lots of singing, dancing, acrobatics and comedy skits. This year’s edition followed the same mix and ran for more than five hours.

Thanks to livestreaming, for the first time, it hit an all-time high worldwide viewership of a billion people, according to China Global Television Network (CGTN), CCTV’s international arm.

The gala is therefore an extremely important platform for China to present itself at its best. Clearly, a great deal of planning, with no expenses spared, went into the production that showcased Chinese creativity and culture, as well as the country’s military might and technological advancements.

The result: an awesome spectacle that would have put the 2008 Beijing Games opening ceremony in the shade.

Most of the action was in CCTV’s auditorium in Beijing supported by performances staged in four provinces: Guizhou, Guangdong, Shandong and Hainan.

These four stages were outdoor and unique. Guizhou, one of China’s most diverse provinces, showed off its minority groups like the Miao and Hmong in their elaborate traditional costumes in a hi-tech setting.

The Guangdong show took place on a section of the magnificent Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, the world’s longest sea bridge that is slated for opening the middle of this year.

Shandong, the birthplace of Confucius and Taoism, chose a citadel-like building as its backdrop. Finally, Hainan, famed for hosting several Miss World pageants, presented itself as a balmy tropical paradise.

Apart from the skits, which seemed very 1970s but obviously still very popular with the audience, the other acts were extremely elaborate and performed by what seemed like a million people, who danced in perfect precision, sang in total harmony, aided by dazzling use of LED screens and special effects.

In keeping with the joyous occasion, the venues were so brightly multi-coloured and busy, it was almost eye-watering. There was never a dull moment.

I couldn’t help comparing the show to the dance and acrobatic performances from the 1980s. That was when China started opening up and sending out performing troupes in cheap tracksuits and canvas shoes who excelled in contortions, twirling plates and bowls, balancing on ladders and chairs, and creating formations on a single bicycle in motion.

The performers were certainly well-trained and competent, but they hardly smiled and came across as rather soulless and robotic.

Well, how things have changed. The Chinese people are no longer poor, suppressed and grim. That’s long gone.

When it comes to national pride, the Chinese are beating out the Americans, who made flag and country a Hollywood staple.

When you have the likes of Jackie Chan singing a patriotic song about Chung-kuo, backed by a whole pride of stylishly clad smiling young people and footage of gorgeous scenery, modern cities and wind tur­bines, it sure does make the heart beat faster.

Over the Guangdong bridge, drones and acrobatic planes weaved magic in the night sky, while off Hainan, a flotilla of boats lit up the waters.

And when it comes to culture and heritage, China has it in spades, from Chinese opera to kung fu and wushu to traditional dances and songs.

A jaw-dropping performance featured a huge ensemble of women dressed as bodhisattvas moving in unison so fluidly they were like one body; their entire performance made more mesmerising by the play of lighting that changed their costumes from yellow, to white to fuchsia.

One of my favourite acts was singer Jay Chou performing with a blend of virtual reality magic that was beautifully choreographed and synchronised with his movements.

I was also happy that among the foreign guest artistes was my dear boy from Kazakhstan, singer extraordinaire Dimash, whom I wrote about in my April 19, 2017, column which brought me the most number of e-mails from around the world.

What I liked about this year’s gala was its restrained presentation of China’s armed forces. Usually, the stage is filled with uniformed military personnel doing formations or singing a martial song.

This time, it was a more arty performance and China’s military might subtly conveyed by a strongman doing incredible handstands.

As with previous galas, the meaning of Chinese New Year was beautifully conveyed in a heart-tugging video of people returning for and preparing for the reunion dinner that brought home the importance of family and traditions.

Except for one misstep – a dreadful segment that tried to showcase Sino-African relations that critics have savaged as “a racist blackface” skit – CCTV Spring Festival Gala 2018 was a truly spectacular show that fuelled nationalistic pride among China’s citizens and left the rest of the world gobsmacked. It paid homage to the nation’s rich past, revelled in a confident present and announced an ambitious future.

I shut down my PC at almost 4am and as I lay me down to sleep, I recalled what I wrote in a commentary in June 2016 in which I described China as a shy superpower that actually tried to pretend it wasn’t one.

Not anymore. On Oct 18 last year, President Xi Jinping announced at the 19th National Communist Party Congress that China now intends to lead the world in just about everything, be it military presence, economic and development policies like the Road and Belt, technological innovations and artificial intelligence or even sports and entertainment.

Don’t believe me? Consider this then: China is the world leader in applications for inventions with 1.36 million patents and it has been the leader for seven consecutive years.

When it comes to investing in research and development, it ranked second in the world last year.

It’s all part of China’s blueprint for world domination. And that’s no song and dance!

So aunty, so what? June H.L. Wong

Aunty wished she could highlight more of the five-plus hour-long gala. If you haven’t watched it, you should check it out on YouTube. Feedback: aunty@thestar.com.my

Related Links:

Beijing tops again in patent applications worldwide – ASEAN/East Asia …

China leads patent applications worldwide | Business

R&D input ‘2nd-highest in the world’ 

China Dominates Top Western Economies in Patent … – VOA News

China dominates top Western economies in patent … – Phys.org

China dominates top economies in patent applications | Asia Times

China applying for more patents than ever before as companies push …

http://www.scmp.com › Business › Companies

Source: World Intellectual Property Organization

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Pooch and prejudice: years of the Dog 2018 and Pig 2019


No puppy love: To immortalise Hachiko’s loyalty, a shiny bronze sculpture stands near the Shibuya train station.

I decided to celebrate Chinese New Year away from Malaysia this year, so my wife and I chose Tokyo as our destination.

We wanted somewhere that was a short flight’s distance for a brief getaway to celebrate our 28th wedding anniversary, an occasion marked auspiciously by Valentine’s Day and of course, this time around, the Chinese New Year holidays too.

Now, the problem with Tokyo is the absence of any form of Chinese New Year mood there since it is not observed by the Japanese. But the cool weather was a refreshing change from the stifling heat currently enveloping Malaysia.

That said, the Year of the Dog would not be complete without tipping the hat to Japan’s most revered dog at Tokyo’s Shibuya metro station.

There, a statue of the faithful and fabled canine Hachiko has been erected as a homage, where selfie opportunities are mandatory for anyone visiting Tokyo to realise their trip.

The dog, from the Akita prefecture, has long become a symbol of faithfulness, a trait familiar with dog lovers.

This legendary canine was born in the city of Odate but ended up being owned by university professor Hidesaburo Ueno, who lived in the Shiba neighbourhood.

Hachiko would wait patiently at the same spot in the train station for his owner to return on the 4pm train from his workplace, the Tokyo Imperial University.

But one day in May 1925, the professor never returned to greet his loyal friend after suffering a fatal cerebral haemorrhage on campus.

A forlorn Hachiko would return to that same spot for the next 10 years, hoping to be reunited with his master.

“It is said that the dog would wait outside the station every evening – a model of fidelity and patience,” the Japan Times reported.

To immortalise the canine’s loyalty, a shiny bronze sculpture stands at the Shibuya station. The art fixture was put up in 1934 and has since become one of the area’s main tourist attractions.

The story inspired the 2009 film Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, starring Richard Gere. And less known, perhaps, is Hachiko Monogatari from 1987, which relates the same tale.

The body of golden-brown Hachiko, which has been described as the most faithful dog in history, was found in a Tokyo street in 1935. He had died of old age. To keep his memory alive, he was preserved and placed on display at the National Science Museum.

He also has his own memorial beside his master’s grave at the Aoyam cemetery.

In 2015, a new statue was installed at the University of Tokyo, the new name of the imperial university, to mark the 90th anniversary of Ueno’s death and the 80th of his dog’s.

“The statue depicts a joyous image of the professor and his loyal dog being reunited. It tells a happy tale of master and dog reunited forever at last,” a news article reported.

As we celebrate the Year of the Dog, the Malaysian Islamic Development Department must be applauded for assuring Muslims that using images of dogs for Chinese New Year celebrations “is something that must be respected by all” and “according to the Islamic concept of co-existence, as well as Malaysia’s practice of moderate Islam”.

Jakim director-general Tan Sri Othman Mustapha’s statement was certainly welcome and was even a pleasant surprise for many non-Muslims, who often view the authority as conservative.

After all, this is the same agency that insisted popular pretzel chain Auntie Anne change the name of its “Pretzel Dog” to “Pretzel Sausage”.

Non-Muslims have always been respectful of how Muslims consider dogs unclean under Islamic tradition.

Some have gone to ridiculous lengths to ensure that such sensitivity is observed – even leaving out the likeness of two animals, the dog and pig, from the Chinese zodiac!

Believe it or not, a T-shirt maker printed tops like these to represent the 12 zodiac animals for the Chinese New Year recently.

And some malls even chose not to use image of dogs in their Chinese New Year decorations.

Not surprisingly, the over-reaction of these business entities have irked their Chinese customers, judging from the response on social media.

It may seem surprising that Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) has produced some of the best veterinary doctors in this country, the majority of them Muslim.

My late dog Jezz, a gorgeous white Spitz, lived for 16 years and endured that long because of the loving affection of a Muslim vet at UPM.

She showed her care, not just as an animal doctor, but as someone who consistently reminded her students and visiting pet owners that dogs are also God’s creations.

A young tudung-clad Muslim vet from a clinic in Aman Suria, Petaling Jaya, has also been doing a wonderful job of looking after the health of my poodle, Paris.

In all my visits to consult these two doctors, neither has ever displayed any apprehension or disdain in handling my pets. They have always been professional and are true animal lovers, even graciously accepting dogs.

Next year, the Chinese will celebrate the Year of the Pig. For whatever reason, we have become more afraid these days, a situation far different from the past.

Well, the last time we celebrated the Year of the Pig in 2008, nothing untoward happened and the chubby animal didn’t disappear into thin air then either.

I have always had complete faith in the sense of reasoning and maturity of our people, and I believe no one will lose their head over a zodiac sign.

Wong Chun WaiBy Wong Chun Wai
Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various capacities and roles. He is now the group’s managing director/chief executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.

On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.
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