Start work on Friday for better luck? Sink or swing with the Monkey: Pay peanuts, get monkeys!


THE fifth day of the Chinese New Year, which falls on Friday, is the best day to start work in the Year of the Fire Monkey, China Press reported.

The best time to report to work on that day is from 5am to 11am and from 1pm to 3pm, according to Feng shui Master Wei Xuan.

However, Wei Xuan said it was not a good date to start work for those born in the Year of the Horse.

He said other good dates to start work are on Feb 15, 16, 19, 22, 24 and 27.

According to Chinese belief, a person will have a prosperous year if he or she starts work on an auspicious date and time at the beginning of the lunar calendar.

Wei Xuan also advised the employees to be dressed decently and not to be late on the first day to work as it will affect their luck.

Bosses and their employees should also give angpows to each other on the auspicious day, he said.


 

Sink or swing with the monkey

There’s a lot to learn about this simian which can be lovable and loathable in equal parts.

WELCOME to the third day of the Year of the Monkey!

I must say it’s a great relief to say goodbye to a wild and woolly Year of the Yang during which we witnessed much sheep-like behaviour and had quite a lot of nasty things rammed down our throats.

A year ago in this column, I shared that yang is Mandarin for a horned ruminant mammal which can mean either sheep (mianyang) or goat (shanyang).

I argued the case for celebrating the Year of the Goat as the animal has more attractive and positive traits than the sheep.

Sheep have been documented as dependent, nervous creatures that require close supervision and are known for being mindless followers.

Goats, however, are a lot smarter, independent, nimble-footed and full of fearless curiosity.

Well, as it turned out that while some Malaysians tried to be goat-like, there were more who were sheep-like and got spooked by scare-mongers who, as usual, used the race and religion cards, and the sheepish ones ended up bunching together even more tightly in fear and suspicion.

So, what now in the Year of the Monkey? What sort of traits does this simian have that can give us some pointers to go by?

But first, we should get some basics right. Just as we had to separate the goats from the sheep last year, I have learned there are 264 known species of monkeys, but the chimpanzee is not one of them. The chimp, like the orang utan and gorilla, is an ape. Monkeys are different from apes, the most obvious difference being apes don’t have tails. So, let’s not confuse monkeys with apes.

Primatologists will tell us that monkeys in the wild behave very much like humans. They are intelligent creatures with the capacity to learn, innovate and live in social structures.

According to monkeyworlds.com, “the hierarchy of the social structure is very detailed. It doesn’t matter if there are only a few members or hundreds of them. They all have their role within that group”.

Interestingly, like humans in political parties, the monkeys can form smaller groups (what we would call factions) within the larger group. What’s more, if the monkeys aren’t happy about their social status within that group, they can leave and create a brand new group.

The similarities don’t end there.

Male monkeys frequently challenge the leaders of the group. Experts say this is to give better opportunities for breeding: a strong alpha male will sire sturdy offspring which will ensure the survival of the species. That happens in monkey groups but sadly doesn’t seem to have the same effect in political parties.

The monkey society is also admirable in that they have a welfare state: they “help each other with finding food, caring for the young, and staying protected” to quote monkeyworlds.com.

But like humans, they can be stressed if they lack food and shelter, which can lead to conflicts. But when there is plenty of food and they don’t feel threatened, monkeys are more likely to live in harmony with each other. Co-existence 101!

Perhaps it is because they are so human-like that the monkey is an animal that evokes both admiration and scorn.

In most African and Asian folk tales, it outsmarts its cunning adversaries like the crocodile and the shark, but in some, the overconfident primate takes the fall.

In Chinese culture, the animal is immortalised as Sun Wukong or the Monkey King, and the main character in the classic novel, Journey to the West.

Sun Wukong is depicted as highly intelligent, mischievous and so bold as to rebel against the Jade Emperor that results in his imprisonment by Buddha for 500 years. He is finally freed to allow him to atone for his sins by accompanying and protecting the monk Xuanzang on his perilous pilgrimage to India to obtain sacred Buddhist sutras to bring back to China.

Then there are Japan’s Three Wise Monkeys. That’s how they are seen – wise – in Asia because their desire to see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil has roots in Confucianism which exhorts people to not look, listen or speak in a manner that is contrary to propriety.

But in Western societies, this behaviour has a negative connotation.

It’s associated with pretending to not see, hear or speak about the misconduct or impropriety of others. It’s similar to the idioms “turning a blind eye” and “looking the other way”.

I must say, I am pretty pleased with the Star Media Group’s clever take on the Three Wise Monkeys by turning a passive response to an active one.

The message urges Malaysians to see with clarity, hear with an open mind and speak with kindness.

These are actions we sorely need to connect with each other again. This is especially so in a year that has been predicted to be seriously difficult and challenging on many fronts.

After all, in simian terms, many people feel like they have already started the new year with a monkey (or two) on their back and wish the authorities will stop monkeying around with them.

And I would add, after months of witnessing a lot of monkey business, especially among politicians who seem to turn the state assemblies and Parliament into a monkey house, people would dearly like less monkey see, monkey do behaviour from both leaders and their supporters.

Of course, some people may see antics in the August House as more fun than a barrel of monkeys but I would prefer to throw a monkey’s wrench into that sort of nonsense.

Indeed, many of us keep hoping to return to a time when sanity, equilibrium, inclusiveness and trust and honour prevailed, but cynics will most likely reply, “I’ll be the monkey’s uncle!”

I have saved the last idiom which I think will resonate with a lot of my fellow citizens, which is a reminder to employers thinking of pay-cuts and hiring cheaper and that is “You pay peanuts, you get monkeys”.

But for this festive season, enjoy your peanuts because the huasheng (as it is called in Mandarin) is an auspicious food representing good health and long life, as well as wealth and good fortune.

That’s the Chinese for you. Gong Xi Fa Cai!

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

Aunty was gobsmacked when the pig character Zhu Bajie went missing from the Monkey King 2 movie posters and billboards in Malaysia. If this animal is the cause of so much sensitivity, how in the world are we going to celebrate the Year of the Pig in 2019? Send feedback to aunty@thestar.com.my.
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Chinese New Year Reunion 2016

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Chinese New Year Reunion 2016


‘Falling’ in love: A screengrab of Mah Sing Group’s Chinese New Year video that is going viral on social media.

 

Another year, another reunion

The modern Malaysian Chinese family has come a long way. Many practices have been ‘adjusted’ but some things never change.

NOT many families want to talk about it openly. But the all-important Chinese New Year reunion dinners have become more complicated and in recent years, more stressful for sure.

It is almost impossible and even unfair to expect the patriarch and matriarch of the family to cook the meal, traditionally sumptuous and heavy in some cases, especially when they are getting along in years.

Mum’s cooking sounds good everywhere but in many cases, this has become a fond but distant memory. The maid has taken over this role and of course, our expectations have also become more realistic.

The world has changed. The women family members, whether daughters or daughters-in-law, are part of the work force now.

It is wrong to expect them to take over the kitchen duties. In fact, don’t even expect them to do the dishes. Don’t even think about it if you know what’s good for you especially during the festive season.

Cleaning up the house after a feast is a daunting task. All of us understand and accept the fact that we cannot overwork the maid, who are already grumbling about the weaker ringgit.

So, the modern Malaysian Chinese family settles for a compromised position – have the reunion dinner at a hotel or restaurant. Never mind if the food might be crappy.

For a Penangite like me, where Perakanan dishes are compulsory in the reunion meal, I resign to the fact that I won’t find my favourite jiu hoo char (stir-fried turnip with dried cuttlefish) and lobak (meat rolls) at any hotel banquet.

But you know that’s not all. The family member – perceived to be the most successful in life – always ends up paying the hefty bill. It’s only expected.

And we all know that hotel food, like those served on planes, is bad. But telling the person footing the bill that the meal is “lousy” right after dinner is not exactly the appropriate CNY greeting ….

Next, the giving of ang pow for the kids. While no one wants to admit that the amount in these red packets matter, it does!

It’s not going to look too good on you if the ang pow is small – and I mean the money inside, not the size of the packet – and especially if you are perceived to be better off.

Then, the conversation after the reunion dinner. And that is the most sensitive which can cause friction and great unhappiness.

I am not talking about the 1MDB and the RM2.6bil donation issue but explosive questions to family members, who are past 30 and still unmarried.

Yes, these purportedly choosy types, who think their partner, especially if you are a woman, should have better degrees, bigger car, a house, a club membership, a steady job with hopes of further promotions and of course, good looks, a great sense of humour as well as soft skills. By this, I mean having the ability to appreciate fine food and wine.

For the guys, they expect their partners to be able to cook like their mothers, be as good looking and curvy as the celebrities they see in heavily photoshopped pictures in magazines and of course, have a good career to help pay for the household bills.

But that’s not the end of it. If you are married and have not started a family, you would be offered many unsolicited solutions from busybody aunties – from artificial insemination to eating bull’s penises. Of course, there are subtle accusations of dangerous liaisons in China, what with the frequent business trips there.

No wonder the Chinese population in Malaysia is shrinking fast. But of course, like many Chinese voters, the blame has to fall on the Government. Their failure, or inability or refusal, to start a family, is the fault of the government entirely.

And if you happen to work in the media, all eyes will be on you. In this case, it’s me. With Google and news portals with anti-government slants easily available these days, everyone is now an expert on every issue. We have all become instant analysts and opinion shapers.

Yes, yes, of course, Malaysia’s temperature during the CNY will drop to as low as 16°C and will be the coldest CNY ever.

“That’s what the social media said what, so must be true mah!”

But it’s a reunion dinner. After the interrogation of the poor singles, it undoubtedly has to come to politics. I am not sure if this is a Malaysian thing, like the open house, but do people in other countries whine too?

Probably they do, and by now politicians in modern democracies would have realised that they have to earn their respect.

Don’t expect the people to pay homage to you because no one told you to stand for election and for sure, don’t expect us to be eternally grateful to you because you came begging for our votes with plenty of promises.

They have to learn that they will be belittled, ridiculed and criticised. So don’t run to the powers that be to shut anyone up with sedition charges. Get used to it.

I expect the grumbling and cynical remarks to be louder this year at gatherings with family and friends. There are a lot of unhappy people around.

But politicians do not have to worry too much as the louder yam seng will drown the complaints. To all Malaysians celebrating Chinese New Year, I wish you all Gong Xi Fa Cai!

By Wong Chun Wai on the beat The Star

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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US playing a messy game of provocations in SCS; China build up defense to thwart the provocation


In October, the US guided missile destroyer USS Lassen conducted a “freedom of navigation” operation within 12 nautical miles of China’s Meiji and Zhubi reefs.

In December, a United States Air Force B-52 bomber “accidentally” flew within 2 nautical miles of China’s Huayang Reef.

On Saturday, the Pentagon announced an “innocent passage” by the guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur within 12 nautical miles of China’s Zhongjian Island.

On the surface, these are “routine” operations US Senator John McCain says are “normal occurrences” China will have to accept.

Yet this is not a Tom-and-Jerry kind of game where no party gets seriously hurt.

There is real potential danger, because the US challenges to China in the South China Sea are showing a trajectory of escalation.

Zhongjian Island is part of the Xisha Archipelago, where there is no current, active dispute, and hardly part of the issue of the day.

The Pentagon did display some diplomatic sophistication this time, claiming that the USS Curtis Wilbur “challenged attempts by the three claimants-China, Taiwan and Vietnam-to restrict navigation rights and freedoms around the features they claim by policies that require prior permission or notification of transit within territorial seas”.

Ignoring the fact this violates the US’ recognition of “one China”, reaffirmed by US Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday, the Pentagon’s statement raises legitimate suspicions that it has an agenda to further complicate the South China Sea issue.

As in the rest of the South China Sea, there is no evidence the named “claimants” are attempting to “restrict navigation rights and freedoms”. Enlarging the South China Sea issue by extending it to the Xisha Archipelago may be an attempt to drive a wedge between the mainland and Taiwan by dragging the latter into a long dormant and increasingly forgotten “dispute”.

The US wants a larger role in the Asia-Pacific. And it is bent on preempting a perceived Chinese challenge.

There is no better way to do this than by making things messier, to make itself “needed” and “wanted”.

What China needs and wants is peace, but as the Chinese saying goes, while the tree craves calm, the wind will not abate. Beijing needs to react accordingly, and prepare for all possibilities.

However, the country learned the significance of comprehensive national strength the hard way. It should not be distracted. It should rise above stress responses and stay focused on its development agenda. – China Daily)

Build up defense to thwart US provocation 

China firmly upholds her sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea. [Photo/Xinhua]

The US on Saturday sent one of its naval vessels within 12 nautical miles of the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea. The move, according to the Pentagon, was about “challenging excessive maritime claims that restrict the rights and freedoms of the United States and others.” The Chinese side criticized the behavior of a “serious political and military provocation.”

Until recently, China-US frictions have been fixed on the Nansha Islands. The latest intrusion by US vessels is a high-profile US provocation that has expanded to the Xisha Islands. Xisha is under China’s actual control and China has released the territorial sea baseline of the Xisha Islands, including Zhongjian Island. Therefore, the US provocation this time is more vicious.

Currently, China and the US have been focused on making their own moves in the South China Sea disputes. China is building islands in accordance with the law, and the US cannot prevent China from doing so despite strong protests. The US sent warships to provoke, and China protests against it strongly, yet with few effective countermeasures.

It is hard to evaluate the strategic nature of Sino-US confrontations in the South China Sea. China seems to have more room to maneuver, while the US apparently has more control over the overall situation.

Since it happens at the door of China, China feels that the US is circling to contain it and the US vigilance against China is aggressive. There is a long way to go before China can have an equal footing with the US. Such equality can only be achieved with the build-up of strategic strength.

China’s military strength still significantly lags behind that of the US. If the US is ready for a face-off in the South China Sea, it can quickly gather its military strength despite the far distance.

We also face similar setbacks in the East China Sea. We bear enormous pressure from Washington in our peripheral areas, and the relative backwardness of China’s military might is the weakest link in our competition with the US. Chinese people must be clear about the broader strategic significance of this reality.

The US provocation comes ahead of the 2016 two sessions which are scheduled in March. This reminds us that we must retain a high growth rate of military spending in spite of the economic downward trend.

The defense expenditure of a big power must constitute a certain percentage of its overall expense. China’s military budget only takes up 2 percent of its GDP, much lower than the US figure of 4 percent. Before we reach the same ratio as the US, we should hold a cautious attitude toward decreasing the defense budget.

China needs to accelerate its speed of building up strategic strike capabilities, including a nuclear second-strike capability. The US provocation will not stop due to Chinese objections. In the short-term future, we will have limited means to counter the US.

It will probably take China a dozen years or longer of military build-up before it faces a different situation in the South China Sea. – Global Times

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Liberating Malay mind: Shed ‘excess baggage’ of privileges !


  Malays must shed ‘excess baggage’ of privileges, says Rafidah 

 

SHAH ALAM: The Malays should drop the “excess baggage” hobbling them, such as the thinking that they are “special” and deserving of certain privileges, says Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz.

Instead, she said they should move forward by nurturing themselves with a recalibrated mindset.

Speaking at the launch of a book titled Liberating The Malay Mind by author Dr M. Bakri Musa, Rafidah said that the excess baggage of the Malays included the obsession that the community was special and more privileged than the others, in an ideal that was bolstered since the formation of the New Economic Policy (NEP).

“We (Malays) have been taught that we are special and privileged. But, we must know that the NEP was introduced because we were so far behind in knowledge and economy, and we needed assistance.

“It was not because we deserved it, nor was it that we must have it because the Malays were special,” she said in her speech.

Rafidah said it was a shame that after all these years, the Malays were still imprisoned by the thinking that they were special and deserving of certain privileges.

“It is shameful that we still want the “crutches” although our legs are fine, or still want to depend on the special status when we are able. It is our mindset that is stopping us from moving forward.”

Rafidah called on the Malays to face the future by eradicating the narrow thinking as well as their over admiration on foreign culture.

“All Malays are Muslims in Malay­sia. So, be a Malaysian Muslim. We are not Arabian, we are Malaysian first.

“We must realise that we are an integral component in Malaysia.

“It is necessary for us to nurture the younger generation with good universal values, such as integrity, trustworthiness, responsibility, accountability, discipline and respect for others.

Otherwise, we will be stuck in a time warp and end up going nowhere, she added.

Sources: The Star/Asia News Network

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Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, opens to lay down milestone for global economic governance tone for global economic governance


  Xi pushes for ‘perfection of the system
http://players.brightcove.net/4405352761001/default_default/index.html?videoId=4707720864001

BEIJING: China has pledged US$50mil (RM221.25mil) to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to support infrastructure projects in less developed countries.

Launching the China-led bank here yesterday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said this proved China’s willingness to shoulder more international responsibility and “push for the perfection of the international system”.

“This is a historic moment,” he added.

With an authorised capital of US$100bil, AIIB was proposed as a global multilateral financial institution by Xi in 2013 to finance infrastructure development in Asia, including energy/power, transportation/telecommunications, rural infrastructure/agriculture development, and water supply/sanitation.

Representatives from 57 founding members, including Malaysia, attended the ceremony at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse.

Malaysia, which holds 0.11% share and 0.36% of voting share in AIIB, was represented by Treasury deputy secretary-general Datuk Mohd Isa Hussain.

The three largest shareholders of AIIB are China, India and Russia, with a 30.34%, 8.52% and 6.66% stake respectively.

Each allocation is based on the size of the member country’s economy.

The bank, based here, is largely seen as a rival to the US-led World Bank and Interna­tional Monetary Fund.

The United States and Japan have shunned the AIIB while US allies – including Britain, France and Germany – have signed up as founding members.

AIIB president Jin Liqun promised to run AIIB as an organisation that is “lean, clean and green”.

“The bank will make a positive and significant difference in Asian development,” he said.

Speaking on behalf of the non-regional founding members, Luxembourg Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna said the fact that the idea to form AIIB came from the east was a testament to the rebalancing of the world’s economy.

“Without basic infrastructure, markets cannot function well and growth is limited. AIIB will be a boost to the Asian economy, and become a platform for cooperation that will foster economic integration and inter-regional connectivity,” he said.

By Tho Xin Yi The Star/Asia News Network

AIIB opens to lay down milestone for global economic governance

BEIJING, Jan. 16, 2016 (Xinhua) — Chinese PresidentXi Jinpingaddresses the opening ceremony of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in Beijing, capital of China, Jan. 16, 2016. (Xinhua/Li Xueren)

BEIJING, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) — The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a China-initiated multilateral bank, started operational on Saturday, marking a milestone in the reform of global economic governance system.

Representatives of the 57 founding countries gathered in Beijing for the AIIB opening ceremony in Diaoyutai State Guesthouse. Chinese President Xi Jinping made a speech.

With joint efforts of all the members, the AIIB will become “a professional, efficient and clean development bank for the 21st century” and “a new platform to help foster a community of shared future for mankind, to make new contribution to prosperity of Asia and beyond and lend new strength to improvement of global economic governance,” Xi said.

During the ceremony, Chinese Finance Minister Lou Jiwei was announced to be elected as the first chairman of the AIIB board of governors. Jin Liqun was elected the first AIIB president.

In addition to subscribing capital according to plan, China vowed to contribute 50 million U.S. dollars to the project preparation special fund to be established soon, to support the preparation for infrastructure development projects in less developed member states.

The AIIB will promote infrastructure related investment and financing for the benefit of all sides, Xi said, keeping Asia’s enormous infrastructure development demand in mind.

Calling the initiative to establish the AIIB “a constructive move,” Xi said it will enable China “to undertake more international obligations, promote improvement of the current international economic system and provide more international public goods.”

Statistics from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) show that between 2010 and 2020, around eight trillion U.S. dollars in investment will be needed in the Asia-Pacific region to improve infrastructure.

Xi expected the China-initiated institution and other existing multilateral development banks to complement each other for mutual strength and cooperate on joint financing, knowledge sharing and capacity building.

In his address at the founding conference of the AIIB council on Saturday afternoon, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said the operation of the new multinational development bank is “of positive and constructive significance for the global economic governance reform.”

Hailing Asia “an engine” for the global economic growth, Li said the sustainable development of the Asian economy and regional economic integration rely on the infrastructure construction and connectivity, which would help facilitate the flow of trade, investment, personnel and information.

The aim of China initiating the AIIB is to widen financing channels, expand general needs and improve supply so as to bring along the common development in the region and promote world economic recovery with its own achievements, he said.

The premier called on the AIIB to integrate the China-proposed Belt and Road initiative with each country’s development strategies, promote international cooperation on production capacity and innovate more modes to realize a diverse and inclusive cooperation.

Global leaders extended congratulations to the opening of the multilateral development bank.

“The ADB will cooperate closely with AIIB in supporting the development of the Asia Pacific region,” said ADB President Takehiko Nakao in a congratulatory message to the opening of the AIIB.

“We will cooperate closely to provide support and constructive suggestions for the AIIB development,” said Yoo Il-ho, deputy prime minister of the Republic of Korea at the opening ceremony.

China’s Vice Finance Minister Shi Yaobin said in an interview with Xinhua that China does not intend to apply for financial support from AIIB in the initial stage.

“Though as the biggest shareholder of AIIB and the biggest developing country in the world, China is fully qualified to gain loans from the AIIB, but we made the decision mainly because that many other countries in the region are in more urgent need for infrastructure development,” said Shi.

Shi said China holds 30.34 percent of the whole capital stock, with the first batch of capital stock worth 1.19 billion U.S. dollars already in place.

The AIIB was proposed by President Xi Jinping in October 2013. Two years later, the bank was formally established as the Articles of Agreement took effect on Dec. 25 last year.

As its name suggests, the AIIB will finance construction of infrastructures — airports, mobile phone towers, railways and roads — in Asia.

Amid the evolving trend of the global economic landscape, Xi expected the AIIB will help make the global economic governance system more just, equitable and effective. – Xinhuanet

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Father’s diet has effect on health, weight of his children, new studies show


 
Two independent studies by teams in China and North America have found evidence to suggest that a father’s diet can influence the health and weight of his children. — AFP pic

Two independent studies by teams in China and North America have found evidence to suggest that a father’s diet can influence the health and weight of his offspring.

Published in the journal Science, both studies looked at the effects of different diets of male mice on their offspring.

The first study, by a group of researchers in China, took sperm from two groups of mice, one receiving a high-fat diet and one receiving a normal, healthier diet, and used it to impregnate female mice. Once the offspring were born, the team monitored their weight, level of glucose intolerance and insulin resistance.

The results showed that although the offspring of the males who were fed the high-fat diets did not gain more weight than the offspring fed the normal, healthier diet, they did show a decreased resistance to insulin and a glucose intolerance, both factors in the development of diabetes.

In the second study, researchers from the US and Canada instead fed mice a low-protein diet and compared the results to a control group. In their study, the team found changes to a group of genes responsible for the development of stem cells, which in early life can develop into many different types of cells within the body, as well as repair and replace body tissue; however, no other changes were found.

The results go against the previous assumption that the only impact males have on their offspring is from their DNA, and support the findings of other recent studies which suggest that the diet and lifestyle habits of males, like females, can have an important effect on their offspring’s health.

A 2013 study by McGill University found that when male lab mice had a diet that was low in vitamin B9, also known as folate, they fathered offspring with a 30 per cent higher rate of birth defects, compared to the offspring of mice who had consumed sufficient amounts of folate.

The results led the team to conclude that although women are often encouraged to take folic acid supplements to reduce the risk of miscarriage and birth defects, “(the) research suggests that fathers need to think about what they put in their mouths, what they smoke and what they drink and remember they are caretakers of generations to come.”

A 2014 study from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, also showed similar results when the team of researchers mated two groups of male rats with slim, healthy female rats. One of the groups of male rats was fed a high-fat diet, while the other received a normal, healthy diet.

The results showed that the offspring born to the obese fathers who were fed a high-fat diet showed a genetic predisposition for obesity and changes to the pancreas, the organ responsible for producing insulin and regulating blood sugar levels, both important factors in diabetes.

And in the first study to be conducted on humans, after collecting medical information from both parents, as well as DNA from the umbilical cords of newborn babies, a team from Duke University, USA, found a link between obesity levels in fathers and an increased risk in their children developing health-related cancers. — AFP=Relaxnews

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Connected by mountains and waters


 

Relations between Asean and China are already strong, but expect them to draw even closer as they mark the 25th anniversary of dialogue relations.

THERE is a narrative in China that illustrates the interdependence of trade between Asean countries and China.

The little story, told in a programme produced by the state television broadcaster, goes like this: 36g of palm oil from Indonesia are needed to deep-fry three packets of instant noodles that would be consumed by Chinese customers.

The bio waste generated from producing the palm oil, meanwhile, can power 200 five-watt energy-saving light bulbs in Singapore for an hour.

To China, Asean is its “close neighbour connected by mountains and waters”. Collectively, the 10 nations in Asean are China’s third largest trading partner, while China is Asean’s largest trading partner.

In 2014, the two-way trade reached US$480bil (RM2 trillion) and investment was valued at US$130bil (RM558bil), with both sides aspiring to elevate the figures to US$1 trillion (RM4.3 trillion) and US$150bil (RM644bil) respectively by 2020.

To help realise this goal, China and Asean sealed a deal during the Asean summit in Kuala Lumpur to upgrade their Free Trade Area in November.

The geographical proximity makes Asean countries the first participants of China’s 21st century Maritime Silk Road (MSR), an initiative to foster connectivity and collaboration with countries along the route.

One of the flagship aspects of Belt and Road is railway connectivity. Last year, China embarked on rail projects with three Asean countries as part of Beijing’s ambition to connect China and Asean in order to facilitate the movements of goods and people.

In October, China won the bidding for the first high-speed rail (HSR) project in South-East Asia – the Jakarta-Bandung HSR in Indonesia.

A ground-breaking ceremony for the joint Lao-Chinese railway was held in December, followed by another ceremony to launch the Thai-Chinese railway project for two medium-speed lines.

Cooperation between ports is another key area of the MSR.

Malaysia, which is China’s largest trading partner in Asean, forged a port alliance with China during Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s official visit to Malaysia in November.

China-Asean Business Council executive president Xu Ningning said Port Klang, which is the world’s 13th busiest port, can become an important locale for Chinese to “go out”, referring to China’s policy that encourages its enterprises to invest overseas.

“Malaysian investment in China is still higher than Chinese investment in Malaysia at the moment. I’d suggest Malaysia step up its promotional activities on investment opportunities to attract Chinese enterprises to Malaysia,” he commented on the sidelines of a China-Asean forum on the MSR in Beijing recently.

Former minister counsellor (economic affairs) in the Malaysian Embassy in China Datuk Ong Chong Yi pointed out that the two-way trade between Malaysia and China, which has reached US$ 102bil in 2014, accounted for one-fifth of the China-Asean trade.

Ong, who had just assumed the role as the CEO of China-Malaysia Qinzhou Industrial Park (Guangxi) Development Co Ltd, said once the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal and other multilateral or bilateral trade agreements are put in place, Malaysia would be an ideal destination to help China to enter other markets.

To provide capital support and drive infrastructure projects, China has set up the US$40bil (RM171.6bil) Silk Road Fund and a US$10bil (RM42.9bil) China-Asean Investment Cooperation Fund (CAF).

CAF CEO Li Wen said the fund, which focuses on investment opportunities in infrastructure, energy and natural resources in Asean, has invested in 10 projects in eight countries since its establishment five years ago.

Silk Road Fund Co Ltd managing director Luo Yang said the fund is interested in collaborating with Asean countries under the framework of connectivity.

A discussion of China-Asean relations will surely involve the South China Sea territorial row, which sees China and four Asean neighbours – Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and the Philippines – laying overlapping claims on the busy passageway.

While China has carried out extensive construction on the Spratly Islands (which it calls Nansha), it said it preferred direct consultation with other claimants to tackle the problem, and rejected the Philippines’ move to file claims with the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea over the dispute.

“The dispute is only temporary. As long as China and countries along the MSR have enough goodwill, political wisdom and sincerity, it will be solved through friendly negotiation,” Bai Tian, the deputy director of Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Asian Affairs Department, said.

He added: “South China Sea will be a sea of peaceful cooperation and prosperity.”

It is important to note that despite the territorial disagreement, all parties are still engaging each other actively in economic cooperation. For example, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and the Philippines have all joined the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as founding members.

The Beijing-based multilateral lender aims to help Asia build roads, power grids and other essential infrastructure. It will hold the first meetings of its board and executive council on Jan. 16-18, 2016. The AIIB counts 57 founding members.

This year, China and Asean will mark the 25th anniversary of the establishment of dialogue relations.

A series of commemorative activities, including a summit, is expected to be held to mark the milestone and draw the region and China closer to each other.

By Tho Xin Yi Check-in China

 



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