Philippine presidential election a chance to settle South China Sea issues


The Philippine presidential election on May 9, arguably the most contentious in decades, will see a new leader assume power because incumbent President Benigno Aquino III is barred from seeking re-election. Since Aquino is responsible for the souring of Beijing-Manila relations by endorsing Washington’s “rebalancing to Asia-Pacific” policy over the past six years, the world is waiting to see what the new Philippine government’s China policy will be.

Backed by the United States, the Aquino government has constantly sought to challenge China over the South China Sea issue, which, however, has proved to be a fool’s errand.

To begin with, Manila’s attempt to confront Beijing over its Huangyan Island has failed.

To maintain relations with the Philippines, however, China has exercised exemplary restraint in the island dispute. And the Philippines was expected to reciprocate the gesture for the sake of bilateral ties, which Aquino has long refused.

Encouraged by Washington, Manila sent military vessels to harass Chinese fishing boats and fishermen operating in waters off Huangyan Island in 2012, triggering a two-month confrontation with China’s surveillance ships. This prompted Beijing to strengthen its presence on the island, leaving no scope for Manila to encroach upon the Chinese territory.

Thanks to the Aquino administration’s accommodative policy, US troops, which the Philippine people fought strenuously to get rid of, are back in the country and will be stationed at five military bases.

Seeking Washington’s protection might not be a good move for Manila-it could even be counter-productive-because Philippine soldiers, despite being equipped and trained according to US standards, have not been able to defeat the poorly-equipped anti-government forces.

By selling its Hamilton-class cutters and other advanced weapons to the Philippines, Washington is strengthening its military alliance with Manila.

But the Philippines should realize that it is just a piece on the US chessboard. The US may make use of the Philippines to meddle in the waters of the South China Sea, but it will never get involved if it leads to open confrontation between China and the Philippines. Should a serious conflict break out between Beijing and Manila over the South China Sea issue, which is about China’s maritime sovereignty, Washington might prefer to watch from the sidelines because it does not concern the US’ core interests.

Manila’s provocations such as those around the Huangyan Island and the filing of an arbitration case in its dispute with China in the South China Sea, have a lot to do with the deteriorating bilateral relations, which have dealt a heavy blow to their trade and commercial cooperation.

As such, the incoming Philippine government should recalibrate its China policy.

But the prospects for that do not look encouraging, because the US is likely to take steps to ensure the new Philippine administration keeps serving its “rebalancing to Asia-Pacific” policy.

On the one hand, Washington is expected to ramp up its military aid to Manila in the next five years. On the other, in an attempt to hype up China’s legal construction on its South China Sea islands, the US flew six of its military planes through the international airspace near Huangyan Island last month, injecting more uncertainties into China-Philippines ties.

The Aquino government has been trying to justify its hawkish stance on the South China Sea issue and urging the incoming leadership to follow the same policy. Worse, its anti-China propaganda has seriously affected domestic opinion, as more Philippine citizens now seem to distrust China.

Given these facts, the new Philippine administration should take appropriate measures to improve Beijing-Manila ties and seek peaceful solution to bilateral disputes without becoming an expendable part of Washington’s Asia-Pacific maneuver.

By CHEN QINGHONG (China Daily)

The author is a researcher in Southeast Asian studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.


China has sound reasons to reject South China Sea arbitration

An aerial photo taken on Sept. 25, 2015 from a seaplane of Hainan Maritime Safety Administration shows the Yacheng 13-1 drilling rig during a patrol in South China Sea.(Xinhua file photo/Zhao Yingquan)

 

Interview: No ‘ruling’ can destroy China’s sovereignty over S. China Sea

CCTV have talked to Victor Gao, the Director of the China National Association of International Studies. He says whatever the ruling is, the end result may be the opposite of what the Philippine government wants …

Videos:

http://t.cn/RqEfUgE

https://player.cntv.cn/standard/cntvOutSidePlayer.swf http://english.cctv.com/2016/05/06/VIDEiXOWX2qORs4PH2OlXKHk160506.shtml

The Philippines’ unilateral attempt at arbitration over South China Sea disputes is not a real attempt to find a solution, but pursuit of selfish gains in the name of “rule of law.”

The core of the Beijing-Manila South China Sea dispute is territorial issue, caused by the illegal occupation of some of China’s islands and reefs since the 1970s by the Philippines, and the issue of maritime delimitation.

The arbitration violates the basic principles of international law and undermines the integrity and authority of the UN Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS).

The court has no right to adjudicate on the case as in 2006, China exercised its right under Article 298 of the UNCLOS and made a declaration excluding compulsory arbitration on disputes concerning maritime delimitation.

The UN Charter and international law advocate peaceful settlement of disputes through dialogue and negotiation. The UNCLOS respects the dispute settlement procedure chosen by the parties themselves.

Meanwhile, the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), signed by China and ASEAN countries, stipulates that disputes be resolved through consultation and negotiation by those directly concerned.

Therefore, China has sound reasons to reject compulsory arbitration. Whatever the result of the arbitration, it will not be binding on China.

The Philippines has distorted and abused the international arbitration mechanism, and reneged on its promise to solve disputes through negotiation.

It is also an outright lie to say that “all bilateral tools have been exhausted.”

China and the Philippines have conducted several rounds of consultations on building trust, managing disputes and promoting maritime cooperation and, during these occasions, the Philippines has never talked with China about any of the appeals it mentioned in the arbitration case.

As Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pointed out, attempts to pressure China over an arbitration of maritime disputes is “either political arrogance or legal prejudice.”

It doesn’t hold water to say that filing for an arbitration is upholding international law, while not accepting arbitration violates international law. This is not viable in international practice .- Xinhua

Related:

China rebukes U.S. official’s criticism on South China Sea arbitration

BEIJING, April 29 (Xinhua) — A Chinese spokesperson on Friday rebuked U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s remarks on the impending “arbitration” of the South China Sea issue, saying the United States is in no position to criticize China.

On Thursday, Blinken told a House of Representatives hearing in Washington that China “can’t have it both ways,” by being a party to the convention but rejecting its provisions, including “the binding nature of any arbitration decision.” Full story

Backgrounder: “Geng Lu Book,” encyclopedia on South China Sea

BEIJING, May 1 (Xinhua) — The “Geng Lu Book,” a historic book written between China’s Ming Dynasty (AD 1368-1644) and Qing Dynasty (AD 1644-1911), begins with a few sentences outlining an accurate maritime navigation route of ancient Chinese fishermen sailing from the Tan Men port of China’s Hainan Province to the South China Sea.

The origin of the “Geng Lu Book” could date back to the early Ming Dynasty. The book records names of more than 100 locations in and important maritime information about the South China Sea, including sailing directions, time, distance, islands and submerged reefs, as well as sea current speeds and weather changes. Full story

Backgrounder: China has indisputable sovereignty over South China Sea islands

BEIJING, April 29 (Xinhua) — The Philippines, distorting and partially applying the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), attempts to challenge China’s sovereignty over the Nansha Islands.

In its unilaterally-initiated arbitration, the Philippines argues that low-tide elevations and submerged reefs are part of the exclusive
economic zone and continental shelf, a claim that totally runs contrary to historical fact, reality and international law. Full story

Historical documents record China’s sovereignty in South China Sea

 

Taiwan Republic of China (ROC) President Ma visits Taiping Island

President Ma convenes international press conference after visits

http://english.president.gov.tw/Default.aspx?tabid=491&itemid=36718&rmid=2355

Office of the President, ROC (Taiwan) … See us on. youtube. flickr … After arriving at Taiping Island, President Ma first heard a briefing at the Nansha Command and … a speech explaining the purpose of his visit and his hope for peace in the South China Sea. … Office of the President, Republic of China (Taiwan)

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Jack Ma, Asia’s richest envisions the newspaper to leverage Alibaba’s technology & resources


Video:

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http://www.thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2016/05/03/let-our-readers-see-china-from-more-angles-and-perspectives/

 

Ma: 20 more years of enviable growth for China

 

In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Alibaba founder Jack Ma shares his views on the Chinese economy and the importance of entrepreneurship in supporting development.

CHINA’S economy will face “a difficult three to five years” but the slowdown will be good for its long-term development, Alibaba executive chairman Jack Ma told the South China Morning Post (SCMP) just before the e-commerce giant’s takeover of the 113-year-old newspaper.

Ma said the Chinese economy was indeed grappling with structural problems and that the authorities were working hard to steer it onto a new growth path.

But he dismissed fears that China would follow Japan’s route to stagnation, saying the country still had huge potential waiting to be tapped.

The rapid growth of China’s Internet economy and consumer culture could help the country through its temporary difficulties, Ma said.

China would likely continue to grow at a rate “enviable to most other major economies for 15 to 20 more years”, he said.

Ma gave the two-hour interview in Hangzhou, eastern Zhejiang province, during which he also discussed his vision for the SCMP, cultural differences between the east and west, and his concerns for Hong Kong’s next generation.

Commercial and residential buildings in Guangzhou, Guangdong province.

China’s economy has been grappling with structural problems but Beijing is working hard to steer it onto a new growth path.

On China’s economy, the businessman said it was unrealistic to expect an economy of such scale to maintain double-digit growth indefinitely.

“There is no reason to expect that an economy of such size can maintain such a growth rate indefinitely, nor is it good for China to continue to grow at such speed,” Ma said.

“After more than 30 years’ growth, spending a few years to adjust its course is reasonable.

“Some say the actual (growth) number could be just 5%. But even with 5% growth, there is no other economy of such size growing at that speed in today’s world.”

Comparing China with an ocean liner, Ma said the Chinese leadership understood that the country’s old growth model was unsustainable and that they needed to chart a new course.

“It is easy for a small boat to change its course. But as the world’s second-largest economy, China is like an ocean liner… we have to choose either to not slow down and overturn the ship, or to slow a bit to make the turn,” he said.

The key was to create enough jobs to keep the economy stable and buy time so the country could complete its much-needed transformation, Ma said.

Fortunately for China, he said, the rise of its Internet economy happened at the right time.

China’s gross domestic product grows 6.7% in first quarter – a good start to 2016

“The traditional industries are struggling, but we also see growth in domestic consumption, the services industry and the hi-tech sector, and young talents are flocking to these areas,” he said.

“The logistics and delivery industries create plenty of jobs for low-skilled workers. We still have a lot of room for growth.”

Ma said the deciding factor in a true economic transformation would be the country’s ability to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit among the young and create an environment to help it flourish.

“I believe there will be some great enterprises arising from China,” he said.

“The monetary policy and supply-side reforms are very important and can help rejuvenate China’s economy.

“But to me, the most important thing is entrepreneurship. If this can flourish in China, China will become successful.”

China’s slowdown had triggered panic among foreign investors, with some choosing to leave the country.

But this actually created fresh opportunities, Ma said.

History had proven that those who bucked the trend to invest in China during difficult times always received good returns, he added.

“China needs to develop its rural areas; China needs to develop its cultural industry. It is also shifting focus to services and IT industries. There are still plenty of opportunities around,” Ma said.

Global media agency in the making

Video:

//players.brightcove.net/4405352761001/default_default/index.html?videoId=4874322743001

http://www.thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2016/05/03/global-media-agency-in-the-making/

In the second part of an interview with SCMP, Ma says he envisions the newspaper to leverage on Alibaba’s technology and resources.JUST why does Jack Ma want to own a newspaper, and what will he do with it?

Those are the biggest questions that have confronted readers of the South China Morning Post (SCMP) since news broke of Alibaba Group’s acquisition of the 113-year-old English-language newspaper late last year.

Now, for the first time since the Chinese e-commerce giant’s takeover earlier this month, Ma has outlined his vision for the newspaper.

The acquisition has raised eyebrows, with some suggesting that the SCMP – which has for decades been reporting aggressively on China – would change its direction.

A few even believed the newspaper might henceforth gloss over sensitive or controversial issues that risked incurring the wrath of the Chinese leadership.

In a face-to-face interview with the SCMP in Hangzhou, eastern Zhejiang province, Ma addressed these concerns, explaining why he believed in having a narrative on China that was different from that of both the mainstream Western media and Chinese state media.

“I don’t see it as an issue of (coverage) being ‘positive or negative’,” the Alibaba executive chairman said. “It is about being impartial and balanced… We should offer a fair chance to readers (to understand what is happening in China), not just a fair chance to China.”

China’s growth will remain enviable for the next 20 years, says Ma.

As a reader, Ma said, he valued the importance of obtaining unbiased information in order to draw his own conclusion based on the undistorted facts presented to him.

“I believe the most important thing for the media is to be objective, fair and balanced. We should not report a story with preconceptions or prejudice,” he said.

With its access to Alibaba’s resources, data and all the relationships in its ecosystem, the SCMP can report on Asia and China more accurately compared with other media who have no such access.

“Sometimes, people look at things purely from a Western or an Eastern perspective – that is one-sided. What the SCMP can do is to understand the big ‘why’ behind a story and its cultural context.

“I want to stress the importance of being fair to our readers. You should not impose your own view and prejudice on the readers and try to lead them to a conclusion. As a reader, I understand what a fair report is.”

The tech tycoon said his vision was to transform the SCMP into a global media agency with the help of Alibaba’s technology and resources.

Alibaba, the world’s biggest online trading platform, is aggressively developing big-data and cloud technology. Every day, it analyses and processes a massive volume of data that can provide powerful insight into the world’s second largest economy.

Ma reiterated his promise that Alibaba’s management would not take part in the SCMP’s newsroom operations. Rather, it wanted to represent readers’ interests and give feedback on how to improve readers’ experience, he said.

“As I said to Joe (Tsai), you are going to the SCMP as a representative of its readers. You don’t have to represent shareholders. You speak for the readers,” Ma said, referring to Alibaba’s executive vice-chairman who is now the chairman of the SCMP.

Ma, who last year unveiled a HK$1bil fund to help Hong Kong’s young entrepreneurs start up their businesses, said he invested in the newspaper because he “loves Hong Kong”.

Hong Kong was stuck in a rut and in danger of losing its direction, the billionaire said, urging Hong Kong’s youth to hold on to the city’s uniqueness and have faith in its future.

“The city has lost its can-do spirit. The big businesses are less willing to take risks. I talked to some young people in Hong Kong and they said they are lost. Young people indeed have fewer opportunities than before. But is it true that there are no more opportunities for them? No!” he said.

Hong Kong had many strengths that were unique to the city, Ma said.

“It has the best location. The ‘one country, two systems’ allows it to enjoy the good things from China’s growth and the best things from the West… The quality of Hong Kong’s graduates can match the finest from any other city. Its services industry is first class,” he said.

“Hong Kong people say Hong Kong needs to preserve its uniqueness. I say Hong Kong’s uniqueness is in its diversity, its tolerance of difference cultures… China does not want to see Hong Kong in decline. I have full confidence in its future.” – SCMP

By Chow Chung-Yan The Star

Related:

In talks: A photo illustration shows the South China Morning Post website displayed on a computer in Hong Kong. Jack Ma is in talks to buy a stake in the publisher of SCMP. – Reutersicon videoLet our readers see China from more angles and perspectives’

Bearish market: An employee is seen behind a glass wall with the logo of Alibaba at the company’s headquarters on the outskirts of Hangzhou. Alibaba is trading below its initial public offering price of US68 after plunging 20 in the past year as it grapples with slowing growth, the result of its reliance on a decelerating Chinese economy. — Reuters

 

 Jack Ma’s potential entry lends fire to SCMP

‘Free trade’ in trouble in the United States


  The United States
  Current Bilateral/Multilateral FTA’s
  Proposed/Suspended Bilateral/Multilateral FTA’s

As free trade reaches a crossroads in the US, developing countries have to rethink their own trade realities for their own development interests.

“FREE trade” seems to be in deep trouble in the United States, with serious implications for the rest of the world.

Opposition to free trade or trade agreements emerged as a big theme among the leading American presidential candidates.

Donald Trump attacked cheap imports especially from China and threatened to raise tariffs. Hillary Clinton criticised the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) which she once championed, and Bernie Sanders’ opposition to free trade agreements (FTAs) helped him win in many states before the New York primary.

That trade became such a hot topic in the campaigns reflects a strong anti-free trade sentiment on the ground.

Almost six million jobs were lost in the US manufacturing sector from 1999 to 2011.

Wages have remained stagnant while the incomes of the top one per cent of Americans have shot up.

Rightly or wrongly, many Americans blame these problems on US trade policy and FTAs.

The downside of trade agreements have been highlighted by economists like Joseph Stiglitz and by unions and NGOs. But the benefits of “free trade” have been touted by almost all mainstream economists and journalists.

Recently, however, the establishment media have published many articles on the collapse of popular support for free trade in the US:

> Lawrence Summers, former Treasury secretary, noted that “a revolt against global integration is under way in the West”. The main reason is a sense “that it is a project carried out by elites for elites with little consideration for the interests of ordinary people”.

> The Economist, with a cover sub-titled “America turns against free trade”, lamented how mainstream politicians are pouring fuel on the anti-free trade fire. While maintaining that free trade still deserves full support, it cites studies showing that the losses from free trade are more concentrated and longer-lasting than had been assumed.

> Financial Times columnist Phillip Steven’s article “US politics is closing the door on free trade” quotes Washington observers saying that there is no chance of the next president or Congress, of whatever colour, backing the TPPA. The backlash against free trade is deep as the middle classes have seen scant evidence of the gains once promised for past trade deals.

> In a blog on the Wall Street Journal, Greg Ip’s article The Case for Free Trade is Weaker Than You Think concludes that if workers lose their jobs to imports and central banks can’t bolster domestic spending enough to re-employ them, a country may be worse off and keeping imports out can make it better off.

Orthodox economists argue that free trade is beneficial because consumers enjoy cheaper goods. They recognise that companies that can’t compete with imports close and workers get retrenched. But they assume that there will be new businesses generated by exports and the retrenched workers will shift there, so that overall there will be higher productivity and no net job loss.

However, new research, some of which is cited by the articles above, shows that this positive adjustment can take longer than anticipated or may not take place at all.

Thus, trade liberalisation can cause net losses under certain conditions. The gains from having cheaper goods and more exports could be more than offset by loss of local businesses, job retrenchments and stagnant wages.

There are serious implications of this shift against free trade in the US.

The TPPA may be threatened as Congress approval is required and this is now less likely to happen during Obama’s term.

Under a new president and Congress, it is not clear there will be enough support.

If the US does not ratify the TPPA, the whole deal may be off as the other countries do not see the point of joining without the US.

US scepticism on the benefits of free trade has also now affected the multilateral arena. At the World Trade Organisation, the US is now refusing attempts to complete the Doha Round.

More US protectionism is now likely. Trump has threatened to slap high tariffs on Chinese goods. Even if this crude method is not used, the US can increasingly use less direct methods such as anti-dumping actions. Affected countries will then retaliate, resulting in a spiral.

This turn of events is ironic.

For decades, the West has put high pressure on developing countries, even the poorest among them, to liberalise their trade.

A few countries, mainly Asian, staged their liberalisation carefully and benefited from industrialised exports which could pay for their increased imports.

However, countries with a weak capacity, especially in Africa, saw the collapse of their industries and farms as cheap imports replaced local products.

Many development-oriented economists and groups were right to caution poorer countries against sudden import liberalisation and pointed to the fallacy of the theory that free trade is always good, but the damage was already done.

Ironically, it is now the US establishment that is facing people’s opposition to the free trade logic.

It should be noted that the developed countries have not really practised free trade. Their high-cost agriculture sector is kept afloat by extremely high subsidies, which enable them to keep out imports and, worse, to sell their subsidised farm products to the rest of the world at artificially low prices.

Eliminating these subsidies or reducing them sharply was the top priority at the WTO’s Doha Agenda. But this is being jettisoned by the insistence of developed countries that the Doha Round is dead.

In the bilateral and plurilateral FTAs like the TPPA, the US and Europe have also kept the agriculture subsidy issue off the table.

Thus, the developed countries succeeded in maintaining trade rules that allow them to continue their protectionist practices.

Finally, if the US itself is having growing doubts about the benefits of “free trade”, less powerful countries should have a more realistic assessment of trade liberalisation.

As free trade and trade policy reaches a crossroads in the US and the rest of the West, developing countries have to rethink their own trade realities and make their own trade policies for their own development interests.

By Martin Khor

Martin Khor (director@southcentre.org) is executive director of the South Centre. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

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Locking horns over human rights


Human rights matter: Demonstrators protesting the shooting death of 16-year-old Pierre Loury confront police after shutting down the Eisenhower Expressway during a march in Chicago, Illinois recently. — Getty Images/ AFP

 

Video:

http://english.cntv.cn/2016/04/17/VIDE0l4zwWjzir4IqZ8mEs9m160417.shtml

It’s April and time for the usual tit-for-tat exchange between China and the United States over their human rights practices.

 

APRIL is the month when the two biggest economies in the world – the United States and China – lock horns in an annual exchange over each other’s human rights practices.

Since 1977, the United States has been releasing its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, giving its review of human rights issues in countries around the world (but not its own).

And in a retaliatory fashion, Beijing would follow up the next day with its Human Rights Record of the United States in response to the criticisms piled on China.

The Chinese tradition began in 1998 and functioned like a “mirror” for the United States to examine its own human rights flaws. In the words of this year’s document: “Since the US government refused to hold up a mirror to look at itself, it has to be done with other people’s help.”

This year’s collision happened last week.

In the US 2015 report, Washington criticised China’s repression of people involved in civil and political rights advocacy and China’s crackdown on the legal community.

It also highlighted the disappearance of five men in Hong Kong’s publishing industry, believing that Chinese security officials were responsible.

Among others, the report also drew attention to the repression of the minority Uighurs and Tibetans, and tight control on the Internet and media.

As expected, the comments did not go down well with Beijing.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang accused the United States of politicising the human rights issues in China to undermine the country’s stability and development.

“It’s nothing new for the United States to find fault with the internal affairs of other countries in the name of human rights,” he said.

China’s report, on the other hand, curtly labelled the US human rights record as “terrible”, “no improvement”, and plagued with “numerous new problems”.

Citing statistics, surveys and news reports, it zeroed in on the gun violence and excessive police violence, corrupt prison system and the prevailing money and clan politics in the United States.

Racial relations are “at their worst in nearly two decades,” it added.

And, most notably, Beijing reprimanded the United States for violating human rights outside its borders. Examples cited were the deadly Iraqi and Syrian air strikes, drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen, and bombing of a hospital in Afghanistan.

The United States is “treating citizens from other countries like dirt,” the report said.

One of the sections in China’s report was reserved for the economic and social rights of US citizens, which Beijing said did not record substantial progress.

A gloomy picture of the United States was painted: “Workers carried out mass strikes to claim their rights at work. Food-insecure and homeless populations remained huge. Many US people suffered from poor health.”

When the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Lu rejected the US report last week, he pointed out that China’s efforts in promoting human rights have resulted in “great achievements that have attracted worldwide attention”.

While he did not elaborate on the great achievements, China has always been championing eradication of poverty as “one of the greatest human rights successes a country could hope for,” as state news agency Xinhua put it early last month.

In an article to dispute the West’s attack on China’s human rights record at the United Nations, Xinhua pointed out that lifting people out of poverty is an area of human rights that is often overlooked by Western countries, in particular the United States.

“China’s achievements in alleviating immense poverty along with its other human rights feats are victim to the West’s selective amnesia,” it stated.

China has a “moderately prosperous society” goal to lift all of its poor out of poverty by 2020. Among the efforts by the Government, according to Xinhua, are increasing the budget to relief poverty by 43%, improving infrastructure in regions with minorities, and reforming the healthcare system.

By rolling out these facts and figures, Xinhua hoped it could change the West’s “tired and dated view” of human rights in China, but added that it won’t hold its breath.

Till next April, then.

By Tho Xin Yi Check-In-China, The Star

Related:

Findings on human rights practices unsubstantiated, says Govt

Findings on human rights practices unsubstantiated, says Govt

http://www.thestar.com.my › News › Nation  PETALING JAYA: The Government has criticised the United States’ 2015 Human Rights Country report on Malaysia as being based on …

 Press freedom index hides absurd logic

Journalism advocacy group Reporters Without Borders (RWB) released its World Press Freedom Index Wednesday, ranking China fifth from bottom, and Vietnam just one place higher. The group, while criticizing Asian countries, including South Korea and Japan for deteriorating press freedom, has mainly pointed the finger at China.

Source: Global Times | 2016-4-21 0:38:01

 

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Release of fraud suspects disgraces Taiwan


Video:

 Parties, media call for justice for telecom fraud victims

  • Parties, media call for justice for telecom fraud victims. Political parties and media outlets from Chinese Mainland and Taiwan have denounced a telecom fraud case, and said the suspects must be brought to justice. This is after Taiwan police on Saturday released 20 suspects who were deported from Malaysia….

Malaysia repatriated a group of telecom fraud suspects Friday, including 20 Taiwanese. Taiwan authorities maneuvered to have them sent to Taiwan.

To the surprise of the outsiders, these Taiwanese suspects were released in a few hours after arrival at Taoyuan International Airport.

When Kenya last week sent a batch of telecom fraud suspects to the Chinese mainland, also including Taiwanese, it triggered a public outcry in Taiwan. Pro-independence media and leading figures, including Tsai Ing-wen, protested against the mainland for “illegal abduction.” Now Taiwan is showing that it is more lenient to fraud suspects than anywhere in the world.

Taiwan’s judicial authorities expressed that the crime was committed in Malaysia and victims were mainlanders. Since they do not hold evidence against these suspects, they have to release them first.

However last week, the same department stated that it was in accordance with international law that Kenya repatriated Taiwan suspects to the mainland, and “only the mainland can hold them in control.”  Pro-independence forces would not admit the change was a result of pressure they exerted.

To the outside world, protests against the mainland and releasing suspects show the ugly side of Taiwan politics when it is taken hostage by radical public opinion.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is manipulating and coping with populism.

The release of the 20 suspects has disgraced the Taiwanese media and Taiwan’s rule of law.

The mainland is clear how the DPP is manipulating public opinion to instigate “anti-China” sentiments. Swayed by such sentiments, Taiwan politics prioritizes stance over facts.

Western democratic politics can easily provide a hotbed for radicalism and extremism. Taiwan and Hong Kong both have demonstrated this tendency.

A judiciary case, which should be fact-oriented, is turned into a political event across the Straits. The suspects even applauded Taiwan for its “human rights” after being released. Should the mainland feel indignant or treat it with disdain?

The key is that the mainland should stick more firmly to its principles, and resolutely resist the rascally demands by Taiwan’s twisted politics.

Taiwan’s poor performance in handling the suspects is also teaching a lesson to other countries. Malaysia is proved wrong in repatriating the fraud suspects back to Taiwan. Kuala Lumpur should learn from the case and not be tricked by Taiwan in the future.

Taiwan, which is an inseparable part of China, is always eager to prove it is a “country.” Taiwan’s ingrained sense of inferiority and paranoia have permeated into its politics, resulting in its self-righteous performances, of which Taiwan’s public should be aware.

– Global Times

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If it’s too good to be true, something’s wrong



DURING a recent shopping session with my family, I saw an interesting promotion for a television set at a big retail store.

The retail price for the said television set was RM4,999. A 22% discount was offered for cash purchasers which brought the price down to RM3,899.

While the price seemed attractive enough, I saw another sweetener for the deal, stating that the special price under its flexible payment plan was RM2,729.30, apparently a massive 45% discount from the retail price!

At first glance, the flexible payment plan was the best deal. As the deal seemed too good to be true, I decided to do some calculation to see the rationale behind it.

Under the flexible payment plan, the weekly installment was RM26.72 for a total of 5 years.

The price of the television set would end up to be RM6,947 instead of RM2,729 upon the last payment.

I was surprised with the huge difference between a cash purchase and the flexible payment plan. This incident has also highlighted some blind spots we have in our spending.

Many a time, there are instalment plans that offer seemingly low interest rates as their marketing strategy.

As consumers, we may end up spending more than we thought if the effective interest rate and other financial concerns are not taken into account.

Taking the television set as an example, the total amount paid for the instalment plan is 78% higher than the cash purchase.

The effective interest rate per year for the financing of 5 years is about 45%, which is way higher than our fixed deposit rate of only 4%.

Bear in mind the high amount that we pay is for a depreciating item. With more advanced technology introduced year after year, the television set we buy today would not have much value left.

Thus, what looks like an attractive deal initially does not ring true anymore after factoring in high effective interest rates and accelerated depreciation in values.

Looking at the high premium charged for the instalment plan, it would be better to go for a cash purchase if the situation permits.

Often, it is better to evaluate our needs before making the decision to purchase depreciating items.

I always encourage prudent spending especially in testing times when we are faced with uncertainty in the economic environment.

Imagine if we can channel the money spent on depreciating items to assets such as investments or properties for the same period of 5 years.

Our money would have grown and helped to improve our financial position, or at least to hedge against inflation.

Other than potential value appreciation, the interest we pay for a housing loan is lower compared to other loans such as personal, credit card and car loans.

The effective rate for a housing loan is as advertised, and the rate is calculated based on the reducing balance (only pay interest on the remaining loan balance).

On the other hand, for car loans and flexible payment plans like the one mentioned above, their interest rates are calculated based on the full loan amount throughout the term, which makes the actual interest rate higher than the advertised rate.

For instance, the interest rate for credit cards is calculated based on 1.5% per month, hence the effective rate per year is 18% (1.5% times 12 months).

On the other hand, for a RM100,000 car loan with a 2.5% interest rate and a 7-year loan tenure, the interest amount would be RM17,500, making the total amount for the car RM117,500.

As a result, the effective interest rate for this car loan is 4.7% instead of 2.5%.

On many occasions, we tend to be drawn in by the “attractiveness” of easy payment plans without weighing the hidden financial commitments.

Though it helps us to obtain an item immediately, we may overlook the true value of the item and the potential financial burden it brings.

Therefore, if a deal is too good to be true, most of the time, it is just too good to be true and worth a second thought.

By Alan Tong food for thought

Datuk Alan Tong was the world president of FIABCI International for 2005/2006 and awarded the Property Man of the Year 2010 at FIABCI Malaysia Property Award. He is also the group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties. For feedback, please email feedback@fiabci-asiapacific.com.

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Malaysia’s pragmatic patriot: friends with benefits


 

The South China Sea dispute. The global terrorism threat. Malaysia’s foreign policy is back in the world’s spotlight and it is exciting times for ISIS Malaysia’s Foreign Policy and Security Studies chief.

IN an article titled “Think tanks aren’t going extinct. But they have to evolve”, American scholar James Jay Carafano wrote that the capacity to do rigorous, credible research is “no longer sufficient” for think tanks to manoeuvre their ideas prominently into the policy debate. Instead, think tanks must learn to communicate “in ways that will allow their ideas to break through to decision-makers who are bombarded with information from all sides”.

In that regard, Elina Noor has proven to be a real asset to Malaysia’s premier think tank, the Institute of Strategic and Interna­tional Studies, or ISIS Malaysia. Her ability to articulate on complex and dynamic global affairs – such as major power relations, cyber warfare, terrorism and conflicts – in succinct yet jargon-free language has also made her a highly sought-after interviewee by the international media.

As a child, Elina wanted to be “everything”, from prime minister to fashion designer. Her parents, who ran a management consultancy firm, however, might have subconsciously put her on her career path by leaving the world news on television all the time when she was growing up.

“My parents would engage in lively debates about international affairs between themselves. As I grew older, I wanted to do law with an eye towards international law, specifically how war and conflict affect people.”

After graduating from Oxford University in the United Kingdom, she specialised in public international law at the London School of Economics and Political Science. This was followed by an internship at the Centre for Non-proliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in Washington DC, specialising in issues of weapons of mass destruction terrorism.

Essentially, she helped compile a database of terrorist groups with chemical or bioweapons capabilities by combing through secondary sources and obtaining intelligence from experts who had gone into the field.

Her days in the United States were cut short, however, by visa limitations. So, after nine months, she returned to Malaysia in 2001.

Her appetite whetted by her Washington experience, Elina joined ISIS Malaysia as a researcher.

Though formally positioned as a research organisation for nation-building initiatives, ISIS Malaysia was set up by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 1983 to serve as a crucial sounding board for the government on foreign policy and security issues.

In addition to research, ISIS Malaysia engages actively in non-governmental meetings between states, known as Track Two diplomacy, and fosters closer regional integration and international cooperation through forums such as the Asia-Pacific Roundtable.

Now, having risen through the ranks, Elina heads a team of eight in the Foreign Policy and Security Studies division.

As a claimant state in the ongoing South China Sea dispute, chair of the Association of South-East Asian Nations in 2015, and currently a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, Malaysia’s foreign policy direction has drawn renewed interest at home and abroad.

Invariably, Elina is asked questions on Malaysia’s relations with China. Her answer is perhaps best laid out in an article she wrote, titled “Friends with Benefits: Why Malaysia can and will maintain good ties with both the United States and China.”

On the topic, Elina had explained: “Malaysia should or will be subservient to an awakening dragon, but the cost-benefit calculus militates against provoking it. Equally, Malaysia’s location and posture make it a strategic partner for China in South-East Asia.

“It is the mark of a mature and solid friendship when overall relations are not held hostage to single-issue disagreements.”

Elina had added that such overlapping claims in the South China Sea, “should not, if managed well, stultify cooperation between Malaysia and China in other areas of the relationship. For a developing country with high-income and knowledge-economy ambitions like Malaysia, the show must go on”.

Or to put it simply, Malaysia wants to be everybody’s friend. That’s always been the country’s foreign policy from the start, she points out.

On the other hand, this pragmatic approach has also enabled the country to punch above its weight in places where even superpowers fear to tread.

Elina’s other portfolio, cyber warfare and security, is expected to come further into the spotlight with recent headlines claiming that the so-called Islamic State extremist group in Iraq and Syria intended to abduct top Malaysian leaders, including the PM.

“Malaysia up to this point has handled terrorism very well,” Elina says.

Many attempts have been foiled in the past, she adds, and the police have kept it low-key.

“If you follow the issues closely, you’ll notice the police only started publicising their efforts in the run-up to Pota (The Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015), an anti-terrorism law passed by the Malaysian government on April 7, 2015 enabling the Malaysian authorities to detain terror suspects without trial for a period of two years.”

Part of this publicising had to do with the political selling of Pota, but there was a more legitimate, pressing reason: People were taking security for granted in Malaysia.

“Malaysians treat security like it’s not a problem. We often criticise the police but the military and Special Branch in charge of counterterrorism really know what they’re doing. The police have been very vigilant and I think they do good work but haven’t been given enough credit.”

After 14 years, she still enjoys her job because of the intellectual robustness but admits some world-weariness has set in.

Nevertheless, Elina remains motivated by the knowledge that a lot of good Malaysians on both sides of the political divide are doing good work for the country.

Pointing to a faded wristband she has been wearing for “donkey’s years”, the inscription reads: “Malaysia tanahairku (Malaysia, my homeland)”.

“Call me cheesy,” she says, “but I’ve never thought of removing it. Love for country might, but does not always, equate to love for government. I’m a sentimental patriot.”

By Alexandra Wong, China Daily/Asia News Network

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