Supporting women entrepreneurs

One in five SMEs are owned by women, but many tend to be micro-enterprises with limited capital. Extending a helping hand to ensure their success is important because not only would it contribute to economic growth, it would also ensure the well-being of family.

FOLLOWING the talk on women entrepreneurship at our SME Club last May, we joined force with the Secretariat for Advancement of Malaysian Entrepreneurs (SAME), of the Prime Minister’s Department, to launch the Women Talentship Workshop on Oct 6 with the aim of encouraging women to participate in entrepreneurship.

The idea is to equip women with the necessary knowledge and skills in order for them to create and run successful businesses.

The workshop was well received. We had about 300 women participating.

Encouragement and support for women in entrepreneurial activties is important. Based on the latest statistics available (Economic Census 2011), nearly one in five SMEs (19.7%) are owned by women. About 92% of these SMEs are involved in the service sector.

Many of these businesses are likely to be unregistered micro-enterprises operating in the home or on temporary premises, with fewer or no employees and limited capital for expansion.

There are several common challenges faced by these small-scale, women-owned businesses. First of all, the women entrepreneurs constantly struggle with finding a balanced role between career and home.

Women are expected to shoulder the burden of being a mother and a homemaker, apart from being a breadwinner or business woman. And this is a challenging task.

Our workshop was intended to encourage women to participate in entrepreneurship while embracing well-balanced roles through three levels of strategy planning and development, i.e. personal discipline, communication discipline, and business discipline.

SAME’s advisor, Grace Chia, who is an advocator and practitioner of entrepreneurship, says the three disciplines are practised by many successful businesswomen.

By personal discipline, one means the ability to identify, acknowledge and understand your own strengths and weaknesses as the first step to finding your niche in business.

We should focus on leveraging on our strengths and finding peers with skills that we lack.

When we talk about communication discipline, we emphasise the ability to communicate in order to achieve a win-win outcome among family members, business partners and customers. You must be able to persuade your team to share your vision, in order to be able to tap the resulting synergy and move towards common goals.

By business discipline, we are refering to the bankability and marketability of your business. Often, many businesses fail to get financing because they lack solid fundamentals in finance and accounting, and consequently the bookkeeping for the company.

Also, the lack of a workable marketing plan may deter the access to financing as well as opportunities for success.

We must be able to prepare a bankable business plan when we want to obtain financing from a third party. A good bankable business plan would include an attractive and convincing business idea, what problems it can solve, how it fits with market needs, what effective and feasible marketing strategies you have, and what the ROI or return on investment is likely to be.

Also, it is essential to show entrepreneurial elements in the business plan when one is applying for financing. This is to help you to differentiate yourself from the usual business plans. More importantly, the entrepreneurial elements suggest that you are serious and have in mind a long-term endeavour rather than just a profit-making plan.

Equally important is to know your products well.

Who are your target groups? How are you going to promote the products to them? We may have good products, but there may not be a market for the products.

We recognise the importance of promoting women entrepreneurship for the reason that the success of women entrepreneurs will contribute to economic growth as well as the well-being of families. There is no reason for us to neglect the talents and capabilities of women, which form half of the population in Malaysia.

Women entrepreneurs should fully utilise government programmes that promote entrepreneurship among women. Some of the government agencies and programmes that aim to assist women entrepreneurship include SAME’s women talentship initiative, SME Corporation’s Skills Upgrading Programme, and Matrade’s Women Exporters Development Programme.

By Michael Kang, who is the national president of the SME Association of Malaysia.

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US becoming nothing more than troublemaker! Why US resents Beijing-Manila rapport?

US becoming nothing more than troublemaker

The US military revealed to Reuters that its guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur on Friday conducted a so-called freedom of navigation mission in the South China Sea. The US military mentioned China’s Yongxing and Zhongjian islands, and said the Chinese mainland, the island of Taiwan and Vietnam all claim ownership of the Xisha Islands.
It said the destroyer did not come within 12 nautical miles of the islands.

According to China’s Ministry of National Defense, a guided-missile destroyer and a guided-missile frigate were dispatched to identify and expel the US vessel.

All Western media have noted that the US maneuver was conducted during Philippine President Duterte’s state visit to China in which bilateral relations have been restored with the signing of a series of cooperative agreements. This was a provocation by the US, flagrantly telling the world that it doesn’t want to see peace in the South China Sea, and that it wants waves there. If no one helps it, it will make them itself.

China  as early as 1996 announced that the territorial waters surrounding Xisha Islands belong to it alone. Unlike the Nansha Islands, the Xisha Islands are under full Chinese control and Beijing doesn’t recognize any territorial disputes there. A US warship coming to the Xisha Islands can be viewed as a way to escalate provocations.

The Philippines has started to shelve its disagreements with China and restore friendly
relations, and has announced the end of its joint military patrols and exercises with the US. Duterte has talked of “separation” from the US, which will severely impact the US’s strategy. The Pentagon dispatching warships to patrol at this moment is a clear response to Duterte’s visit to China, sending signals to the region that it will maintain its
presence and continue trying to exert influence.

They chose the Xisha Islands this time, probably with the intention to arouse the
interest of Vietnam and test its reaction. After Duterte has repeatedly ridiculed Washington, US ships going to China-Philippines disputed waters will be fruitless, therefore the US has decided to change direction.

We hope that Vietnam will see through the US’s intentions and not fall into their trap. Duterte has said the US military is stationed in the Philippines only out of its own  interests and he has decided to leave the road of conflict that the US has forced the Philippines to take, which shows that he and many of his compatriots are fed up with the US profiting from South China Sea tensions at their expense.

Recently, China and Vietnam have also started to control disputes and push for better bilateral ties. As China-Philippine ties improve, the geopolitical situation in the South China Sea has changed, which is good for the whole region. While the US is not willing
to accept this change, as long as China, Vietnam and the Philippines stick to their own interests and put cooperation first, a US warship sailing in the South China Sea will have no effect.

Many critics have overestimated Washington’s tolerance. It has started not to care
about its image as a “world leader,” but is becoming nothing more than a

Why the US resents Beijing-Manila rapport ?

In a signed article published by the latest issue of Foreign Affairs, US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter tried to trumpet the US rebalance to the Asia-Pacific strategy, claiming the US can “help ensure that the next 70 years in the region are as secure, stable, and prosperous as the last.”

He also used more than a few words to criticize China, arguing that “Beijing sometimes plays by its own rules and undercuts those [regional] principles.”

The article was published during Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to China. A number of steps Duterte took, especially this visit, are regarded as undermining the
US’ South China Sea strategy, which is core to the US rebalance to the Asia-Pacific.

As the most outstanding diplomatic and political legacy of Barack Obama’s presidency, Washington’s rebalancing strategy is now in crisis. Besides the Philippines’ fresh start over the South China Sea issue, the chances that US Congress will pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal are slim. Carter’s article is refuting those voices pessimistic about the US strategy of rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific.

Washington has been claiming credit for safeguarding peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific, including the South China Sea.

Now the Philippines and China have reached a rapport after intense conflict
over the maritime dispute. Washington should feel happy about the stabilization of the situation, but look how begrudging it is.

President Obama announced an overall lifting of the weapons ban on Vietnam during
his visit there in May, a move widely seen as targeting China. But Beijing reacted positively about the improved ties between the former foes. Washington should take the same gesture, even if it is faking it, to compliment Beijing and Manila on their return to a friendly track.

However, the US seems to be unhappy and feel betrayed. It is widely believed that
Washington is pressuring Manila to return to confrontation against Beijing. US public opinion is hoping Duterte can retake a tough stand over Huangyan Island.

The major conflicts in the South China Sea are becoming those between China and the US, rather than territorial disputes. It is not difficult to cool Beijing’s disputes with Manila and
Hanoi down to a level that will not seriously jeopardize their friendly cooperation. Whether the US can restrain itself from the urge to dominate regional order and using “rules” as an excuse to contain China is a real test.

To Washington, rules and principles actually mean its leadership. US national strength is losing its advantage, but its obsession and sensitivity to hegemony have increasingly turned extreme, which leads to many problems.

China has no intention to drive the US out of Asia. In many cases, it doesn’t reject the US’ willingness to be a global leader. But we hope it knows that its strength is limited, as well as its understanding of the world. – Global Times

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Malaysia’s Budget 2017 Highlights

Here are the highlights of the 2017 Budget proposals announced on Friday by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak:

Lower corporate tax

* Govt has proposed to reduce the corporate tax for the year of assessment 2017 and 2018

* Reduce tax rate between 1 and 4 percentage points for companies with significant increase in taxable income for year of assessment 2017 and 2018.

* Reduce tax rate from 19% to 18% for SMEs with taxable income up to first RM500,000.

* Extend double taxation promotion on operating expenditure borne by anchor companies for the Vendor Development Programme until 31 December 2020.

Amendment to Bankruptcy Act 1967

* To enable bankrupt individuals to rejoin business activities by amending the Bankruptcy Act for social guarantors and those diagnosed with chronic diseases as well as the elderly.

Infrastructure, railway projects

* New 600km East Coast Rail Line connecting Klang Valley to East Coast, costing RM55b. Conects Port Klang, ITT Gombak, Bentong, Mentakab, Kuantan, Kemaman, Kerteh, Kuala Terengganu, Kota Bharu ends in Tumpat

* RM100m to restore East Coast railway line along Gua Musang – Tumpat that was destroyed during flood.

* To increase trip frequency of ETS for JB-Padang Besar route, RM1.1b allocation to buy more train sets

Boosting investments in small, midcap companies

* Govt-linked investment companies will set aside up to RM3b to fund managers to invest in potential small and midcap firms

* Capital Market Research Institute will set up Capital Market Development Fund with initial funding of RM75m

* Stamp duty on instruments of transfer of real estate worth more than RM1m to rise from 3% to 4% from Jan 1, 2018

Broadband incentives for rakyat

* Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) will provide RM1 billion to ensure the coverage and quality of broadband nationwide reaches up to 20 megabytes per second.

* From January 2017, fixed line broadband service providers will offer services at a higher speed for the same price.

* A subscriber of 5 mbs per second package at RM149 will enjoy a package with twice the speed, which is 10 megabytes per second. Within the next two years, for this package, the speed will be doubled with the reduction in prices by 50%.

BR1M, subsidies

* BR1M’s assistance for 2017. Households with monthly income below RM3,000, raised to RM1,200

* For households earning RM3,000-RM4,000, the BR1M allocation increased from RM800 to RM900

* Government will provide nearly RM10b for fuel subsidies including cooking gas, toll charges, public transport

* For the purchase of reading materials, PCs, sports equipment be combined as lifestyle tax relief up to RM2,500 from 2017

Affordable housing for first time buyers

*Govt vacant lands at strategic locations will be given to GLCs and PR1MA to build 30,000 houses. The selling price RM150,000 to RM300,000.

*Govt to build 10,000 houses in urban areas for rental to eligible youths with permanent job, Rental up to 5yrs, below than market rate

* Rakyat-Centric projects will be continued through Private Finance Initiative with allocation of RM10b

Empowering taxi drivers, Uber

* Taxi drivers to get Govt grant of RM5,000 to buy new vehicles, individual taxi permits, RM60m allocation

* For ride-sharing drivers who don’t own car, down payment can be made using BR1M, rebate RM4,000 to buy Proton Iriz*

Private retirement schemes

* Effective 2017, the Government proposes to introduce a one-off increase of the existing RM500 incentive to RM1,000 to PRS contributors. Minimum accumulated investment of RM1,000 during the otwo years. For this, an allocation of RM165mil will be provided.

* RM400 million will be allocated, among others for clean air and ecotourism initiatives

Source: The Star


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Philippine President Duterte in China for “Historic” Visit ; US Media Churlish!

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte arrives in Beijing on October 18, 2016, beginning his state visit to China. [Photo:]

US media churlish on Duterte’s China visit

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s ongoing trip to China has been seen as a gamble by the American media. Their astonished reaction clearly shows the selfish considerations of the US and its Western allies on the South China Sea issue. They take Philippine willingness to be a loyal part of the US alliance system as granted.

While providing security to the Philippines, Washington treats Manila as a pawn. The alliance requires the Philippines to serve US interests. To Washington, the Philippines’ value lies in providing military bases and legitimacy for the US containment of China in the South China Sea. As to the price Manila has to pay, it isn’t a problem at all for Washington.

We don’t foresee that the Philippines under the Duterte administration will break with the US. The majority of Chinese scholars on international strategy don’t think it will ever happen. Duterte appears more to be striving for increased diplomatic autonomy. Instead of serving Washington’s rebalance to the Asia-Pacific strategy, he is redesigning Philippine foreign policy based on Philippine interests.

Manila has shifted its China policy from one of confrontation during the Aquino era to being friendly and cooperative, as China’s support is essential for its economic development. Washington needs Manila to stick to its geopolitical role, but 100 million Filipinos want a better life more.

The Philippines needs support to improve infrastructure, for which the US offers no help. Washington only sends soldiers and military equipment, but the security threat it paints is exaggerating to Filipinos.

Duterte’s China visit burst the “China threat” bubble jointly blown by Aquino and the US. Arbitration and US aircraft carriers are useless in solving maritime disputes between Beijing and Manila. Friendly engagement and negotiations are more beneficial to the Philippines. Aquino was more like a gambler, betting that confronting China would win public support and that all ASEAN countries would follow the US. He lost the bet.

Development and cooperation are the major theme in Southeast Asia, but the US is pushing the region to the opposite pole for its selfish strategic gains. It is a costly strategy. Washington ties Manila and Hanoi to its chariot for its China-containment strategy in the South China Sea, but the latter could have more room to cooperate with China.

A BBC opinion piece expects Duterte to focus on the maritime disputes and re-evaluate the importance of the alliance with the US some day. Beijing does not expect the Philippines to swing fully to China, but we are also clear that the Sino-Philippine friendship is in line with the long-term interests of Duterte and the Philippines as a whole. That’s enough. The US and Western mainstream media would be foolish to expect a Manila that is hostile to Beijing for Washington’s South China Sea strategy. Such a scenario will probably not reappear during Duterte’s term of office.

China should reciprocate Duterte’s overture

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte embarked on his state visit to China today. This visit would have been unimaginable three months ago when the Philippines, as an initiator of the South China Sea arbitration and a key pivot of the US strategy of rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, was in sharp conflict with China over maritime disputes. Duterte has made a fresh start with Beijing-Manila ties and the nation’s regional strategies after coming into office, and thus is widely regarded as a “subverter.”

Duterte’s straightforward way of speaking and acting has made a deep impression on the world. He extended the olive branch to China soon after taking office, making China the first country outside ASEAN for an official visit and speaking publicly in favor of Beijing. Now it’s China’s turn to receive his olive branch.

Since assuming office, Duterte reprioritized national affairs, taking the public’s attention from the South China Sea back to domestic governance. Meanwhile, he insists on Manila’s right to an independent foreign policy and opposes Washington’s excessive control over the Philippines, which has riled the US. The announcement of a suspension of Washington-Manila joint patrols and military drills has particularly rocked this alliance.

The Philippines plays a special role in the South China Sea situation. Manila is Washington’s ally and the most ideal pawn for Washington and Tokyo to intervene in the South China Sea issue. Duterte’s predecessor Benigno Aquino III provoked strongly as he was backed by the US and Japan. Washington also counts on Manila to acquire legitimacy to launch South China Sea joint patrols. Once the Sino-Philippine relationship is returned to a friendly track, the US strategy of rebalancing will be undermined in the South China Sea.

Some are suspicious of Duterte’s sincerity toward China. However, Duterte’s policy has clear logic. China is his best partner in the anti-drug fight and for infrastructure construction. He is realistic and clear that the Philippines is only serving the US China-containment policy if it goes against China on the South China Sea issue.

Duterte’s understandings on the Sino-Philippine relationship reflect his left-wing political ideas. Whether he can resist pressure from domestic pro-US forces is key to the issue.

We call on China to grasp this major strategic opportunity brought by the Duterte administration. At the moment, China can make more efforts to facilitate the turnaround of the bilateral relationship. Beijing-Manila ties suffered an overall retreat during Aquino’s rule. Two-way trade dropped, Chinese tourist groups to Philippines stopped and fruit imports to China were affected. Changes are now happening.

The Philippine media has focused on the issue of fisheries around Huangyan Island. Duterte, under great domestic pressure, is strongly expected by Philippine media to bring a breakthrough on the issue.

Sovereignty is non-negotiable, but China can adopt a flexible policy on the Philippines’ fishing rights. Filipino fishermen fish on a shoestring and are unlikely to jeopardize the ecosystem of China’s waters.

A flexible fishing policy will bring the Sino-Philippine relationship to a new stage. As a major power, China should express its goodwill to Filipino fishermen and their president at this time. Washington’s strategy of rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific has increased China’s diplomatic and economic costs in Southeast Asia, and it is necessary for Beijing to reciprocate Manila for its clear stance of not willing to serve the US’ China strategy.

It is more effective to address the disputes in a friendly, instead of a confrontational way. China should make this clear to the world to win more respect in the world.  – Global Times

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World doubts the leadership of Uncle Sam: expert

The culture of guns

As the US has lost more international status and influence since the global financial crisis in 2008, the international community is raising doubts about its leadership and ability to contribute to the world, an expert said, analyzing that such a decline of influence can be attributed to some deep-seated reasons, including its self-willed overseas military operations.

Since the financial crisis, the US can neither provide effective solutions to a host of global challenges, nor sustain its control over other countries, Zhang Ruizhuang, Director of the Center of American Studies at Nankai University, wrote in an article published in the People’s Daily on Sunday.

In the commentary titled “The City upon a Hill is not there any more,” he gave an in-depth analysis on the reasons of such changes.

Zhang says that “A City upon a Hill,” often cited by American politicians as their political creed, verified the self-labelling of the arrogant Americans as “God’s Chosen Ones” to lead the world. After the Cold War, the preaching about the superiority of its values brought US much popularity and pulled the country to a commanding stage.

But it over-consumed its accumulated political capital during the last quarter of the 20th century, which resulted in a decline in its global influence, Zhang said, adding that the most destructive threat to its dropping status can be attributed to overseas military operations.

After the Soviet Union collapsed with the end of the Cold War, the US dominated the world and launched a series of capricious measures. With the excuse of protecting democracy, human rights and the world order, Uncle Sam trampled on the post-war international law based on the UN Charter and norms governing global relations by bringing the flames of war to many parts of the world.

Panama, Somalia, Haiti and Kosovo are all victims of such wars waged by the superpower. With a made-up excuse, it pulled Iraq into a war and this political farce finally brought the latter millions of civilian casualties, endless terrorist attacks and ceaseless disturbance.

What the US gained, after it paid a price of trillions of dollars for the war, was a hotbed for terrorist organizations which in turn threatened the security of itself and other Western countries. The war against Iraq ultimately turned out to be a foolish one that not only crumbled its diplomatic morality, but undermined its own strategic interests, Zhang concluded.

Despite the lessons, the US never gave up every opportunity to start “color revolutions.” Its attacks on Libya and Syria, once again, dragged these nations into raging wars. What’s worse, as a result of the wars, a number of regulation vacuums provided ISIS and other religious extremist organizations a bed in which to grow stronger.

The US, its Western allies, as well as the whole world, are now swallowing the sour fruits resulted from its self-willed deed, he added.

According to the scholar, apart from its frequent diplomatic mistakes, its economy, politics and society, in which the Americans once took pride, are all in a predicament, arising more doubts over the superiority of the US system.

The global financial crisis breaking out in 2008 exposed the defects of capitalism once again. It brought to light not only the failure of Keynesian policy to narrow the wealth gap and boost effective demand, but the greed and corruption of financial executives, the ineffectiveness of financial supervision, plus the government’s shielding of tycoons.

The US public felt shock, despair and anger towards such defects, and the ensuing “Occupy Wall Street” movement is one of their ways to express dissatisfaction. The protest wave later spilled to other part of the world, triggering worldwide query over the US system and its values.

Zhang also criticized US domestic politics, citing its notorious presidential election system as an example.

Manipulated by capital, the “winner takes all” election system in many states gives no chance to other newborn parties besides the two major parties. The American elections of the past two to three decades have been more like technical games.

The candidates now focus more on technical details for the sake of more votes rather than their political ideas and governance philosophies, and the whole process has fallen into personal attacks between the two candidates, he added.

Coupled with some other faults, the US and even the whole world began to question on the effectiveness of US democracy, as well as its leader selected in such a flawed way.

The article analyzed that one key reason for its flopping election lies in a lack of innovative governing ideas.

Barely stimulated by major crisis, US society tends to be mediocre and conservative about its ideas, the commentary further explained, adding that the prevailing philosophy of so-called “political correctness” also created an unfavorable environment for the candidates to come up with new ideas acceptable to the public.

Lack of foresighted candidates with outstanding capability is another reason for its unsuccessful election, Zhang wrote.

He explained that some capable politicians are not willing to embarrass themselves on the election stage at the cost of their privacy and that of their family as the butt of jokes.

“As a result, the world was presented with an election farce performed by the two unqualified and big-mouth candidates selected by the two parties,” the author concluded.

“It is obvious that the US is seeing a decline in terms of both prestige and influence, but such a drop is not so eye-catching as it has no strong competitors yet. It would be a complicated historic path,” the scholar said, calling for more attention to the course of the world pattern.

(People’s Daily)

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China successfully launched their 6th manned spaceflight with Shenzhou 11 to Tiangong-2 space lab

Graphics shows the launching process of Shenzhou-11 manned spacecraft.(Xinhua/Lu Zhe)

China launches manned spacecraft

China launched the Shenzhou XI manned spacecraft on Monday morning to transport two astronauts to the Tiangong II space laboratory.

The spacecraft was sent skyward at 7:30 am atop a Long March 2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Northwest China. It is carrying two male astronauts – 49-year-old Jing Haipeng and 37-year-old Chen Dong.

After the launch, the spacecraft will travel two days before docking with the Tiangong II, which was lifted from the Jiuquan center in mid-September. Then the astronauts will enter the space lab and stay there for 30 days, which will be the longest space stay by Chinese astronauts.

The core tasks of the Shenzhou XI mission are to test rendezvous and docking technologies for the country’s planned space station, to verify the life-support capability of the spacecraft-space lab combination as well as conduct scientific research and test engineering experiments, according to Wu Ping, deputy director of the China Manned Space Agency.

Prior to the Shenzhou XI, China had sent five spacecraft and 10 astronauts to space since 2003, when it lifted the Shenzhou V to carry the nation’s first astronaut Yang Liwei, who is now a senior space official, into space.

China is the third country in the world that has independently fulfilled manned spaceflight following the former Soviet Union and the United States.

China’s manned space program, a source of national pride, aims to place a permanent manned space station, which will consist of three parts — a core module attached to two labs, each weighing about 20 metric tons —into service around 2022, according to the manned space agency.

Lab shows early results

After being launched into orbit on Sept 15, the scientific applications of the Tiangong II space laboratory have been tested and have returned data. Here are some of the results:

The cold atomic space clock, the first of its kind in space, has carried out several tests with stable results, as expected. Scientists believe that such a clock can help to synchronize other atomic clocks more precisely, and that the technological development will create more possibilities for further explorations in space.

The multi-angle wide-spectral imager has captured a range of information on oceans and land as well as changes to clouds, aerosols and water.

The stereoscopic microwave altimeter has applied interference image technology to observe sea surfaces, parts of the Yellow River, the Taklimakan Desert, lakes on the Tibetan Plateau and the Lancang-Mekong River.

An agricultural experiment has sprouted seeds of Arabidopsis thaliana, a small flowering plant, and rice. Samples will be cultivated in space and carried back to the Earth by astronauts.

The space-Earth quantum key distribution and laser communications experiment has established stable connections between the space lab and ground stations.

China to enhance space capabilities with launch of Shenzhou-11

Monday’s successful launch of the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft is another step forward to put China among leading players in space technology, said Alexander Zheleznyakov, a Russian expert on history of space flights.

The craft with two astronauts aboard is planned to dock with China’s second experimental space lab Tiangong-2 launched in mid-September.

The move marked China’s latest effort in a couple of months toward a space power, after successes in the maiden flight of its new generation carrier rocket Long March-7 in June, and the launch of the world’s first quantum satellite “Micius” in August, among other developments.

China’s achievements and programs in space missions, in particular the lunar exploration program that is well planned and steadily advanced with achievable goals, are impressive and admirable, said Zheleznyakov, who is also member of the Tsiolkovsky Russian Academy of Cosmonautics.

He thought that qualities of the Tiangong-2 space lab indicate the way how China would build its planned space station, which is similar to that of the International Space Station, by gradually docking other space modules with the basic cabin.

Zheleznyakov believed that China’s experimental space lab will help provide solutions for spacecraft of different functions to approach and dock, and for a long-term operation of life support system, among others, in order to increase both the safety of astronauts and the service life span of the space station.

He expected to see a node module at China’s future space station with multiple docking ports, compared to the only one currently at the Tiangong-2.

The Russian expert added that manned space missions can help push the development of other industries, especially high-tech ones, as space projects involve new materials, advanced application programs and innovative technical solutions, including cutting-edge results in many areas.

Igor Lisov, a prominent Russian space expert and an editor at the industry magazine Cosmonautics News, also spoke highly of China’s steady progress in its manned spaceflight programs.

With the achievements made, China can now test technologies for cargo spacecraft docking, life support system operation and water recycling, among others, so as to ensure a long-term continuous operation of its space station in future with less dependance on replenishment from the Earth, he said.

Sergey Zhukov, a test cosmonaut and president of the Moscow Space Club,said it will be the right choice for China to build a space station on the basis of the cylinder structure of the Tiangong-2 space lab.

On the prospects of China’s space station, Zhukov believed that advances in technology would likely turn future space station into a terminal to enable manned space missions further beyond as well as stopovers of spacecraft such as mooncraft for maintenance and cargo relays.

Broader space cooperation between Russia and China will benefit each other, he added. Xinhua

The future of the space race

The history of the space race goes back as early as the 1960s. Back then, the former Soviet Union and the United States were competing for the power of technological superiority.

But now, China has made it a 3-way race, with all three countries developing their respective space programs. However, the three countries are all headed in different directions, as each space program has its own aims and priorities.

Let’s take a closer look at what the future of the space race could look like.

The space race of the 1960’s between the former Soviet Union and the United States was about power, bragging rights which nation was technologically superior.

Today, the space race is well, maybe a brisk walk. And the three major space faring nations the U.S., China and Russia appear at this point, headed in different directions. So where are the big three going

Since the Shuttle Atlantis landed back at the Kennedy Space Center five years ago, the U.S. has not had the capability to put humans in space. You heard me right.

The U.S. relies on the Russians, at a cost of 65 million dollars a seat, to carry its astronauts to and from the International Space Station. That could change by 2018 when private companies Boeing and Space X should have vehicles ready to ferry astronauts.

With these Station missions turned over to private companies, NASA, the U.S. space agency is now concentrating on building a massive new rocket and a spacecraft, Orion, to carry astronauts first to an asteroid rendezvous and then Mars in the 2030s. Some U.S. partners would like to see a moon mission as a stepping stone to Mars. But NASA rarely uses the moon and Mars in the same sentence.

China on the other hand seems destined and determined to send humans to the moon.

Methodically and in measured steps, China is building toward a permanent presence in space. The Tiangong 2 Space Lab with improved living quarters and life support will be home to two Chinese astronauts for at least thirty days conducting experiments in physics, biology and space medicine.

A mission to put a lander on the moon’s dark side is in the works for 2018. And a permanent space station could be in orbit by the early 2020s. All are precursors to landing its astronauts on the moon.

Russia would like to go to the moon too. But the country’s struggling economy has forced a tightening of the space budget. Plans for a powerful new rocket that would take cosmonauts to the moon is delayed. But the Russians are still planning a sample return mission in the 2020’s and eyeing a 2030 lunar landing. A morale boost could come this week.

A joint Russia-European Space Agency probe is scheduled to deploy a rover to the Martian surface. Russia’s last successful planetary probe was in 1984. One unanswered question is whether Russia and United States will go their separate ways if the International Space Station’s mission ends as planned in 2024 or continue to play in the same sandbox.

What happens in the future with the big three space powers will likely come down to politics as it usually does. Outside of cooperation in space, the U.S.-Russia relationship is strained and that may well spill over into space relations.

China was never a part of the space station family of nations. And, the U.S. congress forbids NASA from cooperating with China. So, China has been going it alone quite nicely. But nobody is getting along very well. It is possible that by the middle of the next decade, all three will be going their own ways and perhaps all in different directions.

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Penang Free School: Learning religiously – without religion !

Penang Free School:

Penang Free School, the first English school in the country, turns 200 in a week. It was, and remains, a school for the brave and the true. And for the Free.

WE’RE on the cusp of history. A week from today, the oldest English school in the country, Penang Free School, will turn 200. It’s a proud moment for the school. And for yours truly. I spent my formative years in that school.

It’s the kind of school that cliches are made off – you can take a student out of Free School but you can never take the Free out of the students. We will always be Old Frees.

The old boys are already celebrating. There have been golf tournaments, dinners and get-togethers lined up. There was a 73-day, 20,000km road convoy from Penang to Dittisham, Devon, in Britain, where the founder of PFS, Reverend Robert S. Hutchings, was born.

The six-vehicle convoy left on July 17 and arrived at its destination on Oct 3.

The huge school field is now covered with canopies waiting for the thousands of Old Frees who will gather there on Oct 21 to celebrate the grand old dame’s birthday.

The field is one of the things most Old Frees would remember. It was both a blessing and a bane. With two football fields, three hockey pitches and a cricket pitch, it was great for outdoor activities.

The track around the field was good training ground for long-distance runners. But for the errant ones in school, it was a pain. The teachers made you run around the field as punishment. If you were not athletically inclined, that was punishing indeed.

But it was the teachers who made the school wonderful. We had some of the best and most dedicated teachers – not just in the subjects they taught but also in sports.

There was Wilson Doss, the cricket-mad teacher. He played for Selangor, Penang and even in international matches and he would try to get every lad in the school to give the sport a try-out.

I have to admit to being an absolute flop at it. With only the experience of playing “rounders” with the neighbourhood gang, I would hurl the cricket bat away as I ran. And Mr Wilson would growl.

There was N. Vallupillay, the hockey coach with the kindest of souls. He, too, would try to get everyone to play hockey and among the top players he nurtured was former national captain Ow Soon Kooi.

With Vallupillay at the helm, PFS was the state’s school hockey champion for 20 years from 1964 to 1984. The rivalry with St Xavier’s Institution and the Bukit Mertajam High School was intense, sometimes even rowdy.

Vallupillay then moved to George Town Secondary School and voila, that school became another hockey powerhouse in the state.

Then, there was Johnny Ooi, yet another teacher who was very much into hockey and who took over when Mr Vallupillay left.

Ooi Bee Seng was the basketball man. Under his watch, more basketball courts were built and more of the students turned to the game.

Nai Bej Sararaks was the athletics guy. Every now and then, he would bundle a gang of us into his beat-up jalopy and drive us off to training. The one I vividly remember was when we ran up Penang Hill from what Penangites know as Moongate.

The man waited at the bottom of the hill as the bunch of us ran up to the top of the hill and later scrambled all the way down. He was there with some juice before taking us all back to the school.

There was no need then for sports schools or schools of excellence. The teachers delivered. It’s been some years but I believe the teachers in the school are still a dedicated bunch.

But the real wonder of the school is the belief on which it is built – that it should be free from religion and open to all.

It’s a very strange thing. At a time when almost all education was under the care of priests (or brothers), there was one Rev Hutchings who did not want to impose his religious beliefs on the local populace.

When Hutchings first petitioned for a “free school”, his aim was to provide a school to educate, feed, and clothe orphans and poor children. It wasn’t about religion – only about education.

Yes, there was a bit of “free” in the financial sense. Only those who could afford it were asked to pay $3, $2, and $1 per year. Poor children were exempted.

The country has come a long, long way from then. Education standards have slumped. We have been dithering over the direction we want to take. Sports in schools is no longer a big thing. Few teachers believe in the power of sports.

Instead, religion has come into schools in a big way. There is a lot of emphasis on religious education and rituals, causing our children to drift apart from one another.

There really is a need for more new “free” schools – schools where education and sports are where the emphasis is.


Why Not? By Dorairaj Nadason is The Star’s Executive Editor.

The writer, who can be reached at, still salutes the gates of the school when he drives by. She is, after all, alma mater – the mother who nurtured him.

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