Get-rich-quick ‘Bitcoin Formula’ exposed: Vincent Tan denies investing US$250m



 

Vincent Tan denies investing US$250m in get-rich-quick ‘Formula’

PETALING JAYA: Berjaya Corp Bhd founder and executive chairman Tan Sri Vincent Tan Chee Yioun (<<pic) has denied investing US$250 million in a project known as “The Formula” which allegedly promises huge profits and quick riches.

Tan said in a statement today said that the ‘The Formula’ is supposedly a share trading platform that allows trades executed through it to beat the stock market with an accuracy of 80% thereby allowing users to make huge profits.

“I refer to a current online media entitled ‘Vincent Tan gives back to the people with his latest project” wherein it is reported that I have invested US$250 million in a project known as “The Formula” with a wish to make Malaysians wealthy.

“I would like to categorically deny that I have made an investment in this project or that I am in any way involved in it and there is absolutely no truth in this report which I believe has been put out by unscrupulous persons to deceive the public,” Tan said.

Tan has reported the matter to the relevant authorities so that appropriate action can be taken and urged the public to take caution on promises of quick riches and not to fall prey to scams.

Tan said this is not the first time his name has been used in similar instances for the purpose of lending credibility to online investment scams.

On June 28 (see below), Tan exposed a dubious startup trading platform called “Bitcoin Formula” which used his name and doctored photos to promote its business.

An article claiming he had invested in and was promoting Bitcoin Formula, together with some photographs, was circulated on social media.

The article was accompanied by a few photographs, one showing Tan allegedly awarding a cheque for RM500,000 to Bitcoin Formula for winning the “Project of the Year” prize in a computer engineering “hackathon” in Kuala Lumpur, and another picture of him apparently speaking about Bitcoin Formula at a social media business summit.

Both pictures were in fact images altered with the use of photo-editing software and had originally been taken by theSun in March 2014 and January last year.

A check with the Companies Commission of Malaysia found that no company by the name of Bitcoin Formula exists.

Credit:  Kevin Deva newsdesk@thesundaily.com

‘Bitcoin Formula’ exposed

 

This picture of Tan Sri Vincent Tan speaking at the Social Economic Forum at the GK Enchanted Farm in Bulacan in the Philippines was doctored to appear as if he was promoting Bitcoin Formula

PETALING JAYA: Berjaya group founder and executive chairman Tan Sri Vincent Tan has blown the whistle on a dubious startup trading platform called “Bitcoin Formula”, which has used his name and doctored photos to promote its business.

It came to Tan’s attention that an article claiming he had invested in and was promoting Bitcoin Formula, together with some photographs, was being circulated on social media after a friend who saw it asked him if it would indeed be a good investment.

“How can it be a good investment when the operators have to resort to such dishonest ways like using my name in fake reports and doctored photographs to promote their business?” he said.

“I think anyone who invests in such a shady business will surely lose their money,” said Tan, who urged the public not to be deceived by such posts on social media.

The article about the company, that purports to promote blockchain and crypto technologies, claimed Tan had donated RM500,000 to Bitcoin Formula, a supposed financial startup by young computer engineers developing an efficient trading platform.

The article was accompanied by a few photographs, one showing Tan allegedly awarding a cheque for RM500,000 to Bitcoin Formula for winning the “Project of the Year” prize in a computer engineering “hackathon” in Kuala Lumpur, and another picture of him apparently speaking about Bitcoin Formula at a social business summit.

Both pictures were in fact images altered with the use of photo-editing software, and had originally been taken by theSun in March 2014 and January last year.

The cheque presentation photo was actually of Tan presenting a RM500,000 award to representatives of Dharma Master Cheng Yen of the Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation after she was named Better Malaysia Foundation’s Personality of the Year in 2015.

The other image was taken when Tan was speaking at the Social Economic Forum that was held at the GK Enchanted Farm in Bulacan, in the Philippines.

A check with the Companies Commission of Malaysia found that no company by the name of Bitcoin Formula exists.

Tan is apparently the latest prominent person whose name had been used by get-rich-quick scheme operators to scam unsuspecting people, and prominent tycoons like AirAsia founder Tan Sri Tony Fernandes and “Sugar King” Robert Kuok were among people whose names have been used by these scammers.

Tan also dismissed a Facebook article claiming that he will be donating RM525 million to Tabung Harapan Malaysia.

“There is absolutely no truth to either of these reports, that I believe have been put out by unscrupulous persons to deceive the public. I hope the public do not get fooled by these fake reports,” he added.


Credit:  Amar Shah Mohsen newsdesk@thesundaily.com

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The Damocles index by Nomura warns of fiscal tension in Malaysia, score accross coountries, the hits and misses 1996~20118


PETALING JAYA: Allowing a larger fiscal deficit and running the risk of a sovereign credit rating downgrade in 2019 could cause balance of payments stress, given Malaysia’s high short-term external debts and low foreign exchange (forex) reserves, said Nomura.

Following the reversal of fiscal reforms like goods and services tax (GST) and the removal of fuel subsidies, the new government now faces the tough choice of either cutting spending at the cost of growth, or allowing a larger fiscal deficit and the risk of a sovereign credit rating downgrade in 2019.

According to a Nomura global research report, Malaysia’s Damocles score in July 2018 was 86.9, below the 100 threshold.

The Damocles index by Nomura summarises macroeconomic and financial variables into a single measure to assess an economy’s vulnerability to a currency crisis.

The oil price slump of 2014 to 2016 was a major shock for Malaysia, one of the few net-oil and gas exporters in Asia.

“While Bank Negara initially expanded forex reserves to defend the ringgit, it eventually allowed a sharp depreciation in 2015 which boosted export competitiveness.

“Malaysia has proved resilient and its current account remained in surplus, benefiting from a diversified economy and fiscal reforms,” said Nomura.

Three countries in the region, namely, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines, have a Damocles score of zero, while Vietnam has a moderate Damocles score of 35.

The Bank of Thailand is signalling policy normalisation to build policy space and reduce financial stability risks following a prolonged period of exceptionally low interest rates. This is as headline consumer price index (CPI) inflation returned to within the 1% to 4% inflation target and economy growing at potential.

Thailand’s current account surplus as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) has been sizeable since 2015, driven by weak domestic demand and, more recently, growing tourism revenues as well as an export recovery.

“Over this period, forex reserves rose sharply, and they are now at very favourable adequacy levels relative to both imports and short-term external debts.

“The fiscal deficit is expected to widen slightly in 2018, as the government increases spending to support populist policies targeting low-income earners, in the run-up to the election in early 2019,” said Nomura, adding that real interest rates are falling gradually and remain marginally positive, as inflationary pressures have been stubbornly weak.

Over in Indonesia, a negative terms-of-trade shock in 2014 raised the Damocles score in 2014 to 2016, but it has fallen back to zero due to Bank Indonesia’s build-up of forex reserve buffers and government reforms that improved foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows.

While depreciation pressures have risen again in 2018, BI has acted decisively with 125 basis points in policy rate hikes to date.

“We expect another 25 basis points, with the risk of more.

“Bank Indonesia maintains a flexible forex regime and a dual-intervention framework in forex and bond markets, as well as introduced macro-prudential measures, like requiring residents to hedge external exposure,” said Nomura.

The research house added that Bank Indonesia has also strengthened policy coordination with the Finance Ministry, which is implementing policies to reduce the current account deficit, while prioritising a credible 2019 budget despite upcoming presidential elections.

Sword of Damocles hangs over Sri Lanka

PETALING JAYA: Sri Lanka is at risk of an exchange rate crisis mainly due to its still-weak fiscal finances and a fragile external position.

Sri Lanka charted the highest Damocles score of 175, among 30 emerging market (EM) economies.

The Damocles index by Nomura summarises macroeconomic and financial variables into a single measure to assess an economy’s vulnerability to a currency crisis.

A score above 100 suggests a country is vulnerable to an exchange rate crisis in the next 12 months, while a reading above 150 signals that a crisis could erupt at any time.

Sri Lanka has large refinancing needs, with foreign exchange (forex) reserves of less than five months of import cover and high short-term external debt of US$ 7.5bil.

“Political stability also remains an issue, as recent resignations have weakened the government (its term ends mid-2020) and despite retaining a simple majority, complicates the task of continuing to implement International Monetary Fund (IMF)-induced reforms.

“However, without IMF support, the risk of a currency crisis would be higher,” said Nomura in its global research report.

Meanwhile, South Africa, Argentina, Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey and Ukraine are currently vulnerable to an exchange rate crisis, having Damocles scores of more than 100.

“Based on our definition, Argentina and Turkey are experiencing currency crises, while Argentina, Egypt, Sri Lanka and Ukraine have turned to the IMF for assistance, leaving Pakistan and South Africa as the standouts.

“As investors focus more on risk, it is important not to lump all EMs together as one homogeneous group; Damocles highlights a long list of countries with very low risk of currency crises,” said Nomura.

Eight countries, namely, Brazil, Bulgaria, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Peru, Philippines, Russia and Thailand, have Damocles scores of zero.

It is notable that China’s Damocles index has maintained since dropping to 36.9 in late 2017 from 62.4 in October 2017.

The index far below the 100 threshold suggests that the risk of an exchange rate crisis in China is limited.

Nomura concurred that China’s balance of payment position remains healthy, given it has the world’s largest foreign exchange reserves at US$3.1 trillion, as of July 2018.

“However, we highlight that its pockets are not as deep as they once were, given that current account deficits at minus 0.4% of gross domestic product (GDP) in the first half of 2018 may occur more frequently, net direct investment inflows may moderate further, and external debt has risen significantly.

“Moreover, we see domestic challenges from weakening aggregate demand and other fundamental problems, and external risks from the escalation in China-US trade tensions and trade protectionism,” said Nomura.

As for India, its Damocles score has fallen to 25 in the third quarter of 2018, from 56 during 2012 to 2013.

India’s most recent currency crisis occurred in 2013 and was due to weak domestic macro fundamentals and worsening external funding conditions. Since then, consumer price index (CPI) inflation has moderated to about 4.5% in 2018 from 9.7% in 2012, as has the current account deficit at an estimated -2.5% of GDP, compared to minus 5% in 2012. Furthermore, India’s central bank has a sufficient forex reserve buffer of 9.3 months of import cover versus 6.4 in 2012.

“However, given India runs a current account deficit, it remains vulnerable to bouts of global risk aversion. Higher oil prices and portfolio outflows are its key external vulnerabilities.

“Aside from these, the key risks stem from the government turning more populist ahead of the 2019 general elections (worsening domestic fundamentals) and a sharper-than-expected domestic growth slowdown (triggering equity outflows),” said Nomura.

The Damocles index comprises eight indicators that are found to be the best predictors of exchange rate crises in the 30-country sample, in which there have been 54 crises since 1996. It includes five single indicators which are import cover, short-term external debt or exports, forex reserves or short-term external debt, broad money or forex reserves and real short-term interest rate.

On the other hand, the three joint indicators are non-foreign direct investment (FDI) gross inflows of one-year and three-year, fiscal and current account, as well as current account and real effective exchange rate deviation. To date, Damocles has correctly signalled 67% of the past 54 crises in Nomura’s sample, including the Asian financial crisis (1997 to 1998), Russian financial crisis (1998) and the 2018 EM currency crises in Argentina and Turkey.

“The advantage of Damocles lies in its objective nature in letting the data speak, not clouded by conventional misperceptions or biases based on past experiences. While the results achieved are encouraging, but given the inherent limitations of any early warning system, it would be foolish to make any exaggerated claims.

“For instance, Brazil’s Damocles score of zero implies very low external vulnerability; yet the Brazilian real (BRL) has depreciated more than 10% in August alone due to an uncertain presidential election outlook,” said Nomura. – The Star

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Rocky times ahead for China FDI in Malaysia


Li: ‘Malaysia must remember that by targeting Chinese investors in an unreasonable way, this will scare away not only FDI from China, but also from other countries.’ – credit: Malaysia Today

Great wall of controversy: Dr Mahathir’s criticism of Alliance Steel’s barricade for its RM6bil integrated steel
complex has upset some Chinese investors.

A series of attacks on China-funded projects in Malaysia by the Prime Minister is causing anxiety not only to Chinese nationals but also locals.

INVESTMENTS and mega contracts linked to China will have to brace for rocky times ahead if Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad continues unchecked with his incessant tirade against Chinese endeavours in Malaysia.

The golden era for Chinese investments, which possibly peaked during the rule of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, seems to have come to an unceremonious end.

The future of foreign direct investment (FDI) from China is now seen as unpredictable – at least for the next 3-5 years – under the new government of Dr Mahathir, according to Datuk Keith Li, president of China Entrepreneurs Association in Malaysia.

Li: ‘Malaysia must remember that by targeting Chinese investors in an unreasonable way, this will scare away not only FDI from China, but also from other countries.

“The series of comments made on Chinese investments by the PM have affected the confidence of Chinese investors. Those who originally wanted to come are adopting a wait-and-see attitude, while those already in are careful about their expansion plans,” says Li in an interview with Sunday Star.

The outspoken leader of Chinese firms notes that businessmen from the mainland are “worried”, although some comments of the Prime Minister were later “clarified” by other Cabinet Ministers or the PM’s Office.

“Malaysia must remember that by targeting Chinese investors in an unreasonable way, this will scare away not only FDI from China, but also from other countries as well,” adds Li.

Since his five-day official visit to China that ended on Aug 21, the 93-year-old Malaysian leader has caused anxiety to all by making shocking announcements.

While summing up his China trip on Aug 21, he declared he would cancel the RM55bil East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) and two gas pipelines being built by Chinese firms.

As the ECRL is of strategic importance to China’s Belt and Road Initiative – the policy which Dr Mahathir has repeatedly voiced his support for, Beijing would expect a renegotiation of the contract terms rather than an outright cancellation.

Dr Mahathir had reasoned that with national debt of over RM1 trillion, Malaysia could not afford these projects. In addition, these contracts are tainted with unfair terms and smacked of high corruption.
Although the Prime Minister said Chinese leaders understood Malaysia’s situation, reactions of Chinese nationals on social media were unforgiving with many suspecting Dr Mahathir “has other motives”.

Many see Dr Mahathir as attempting to raise Malaysia’s bargaining power in the negotiation for compensation for the cancelled projects. China, according to social media talk, is asking for RMB50bil as compensation.

On social media, there are also suggestions that Dr Mahathir is aiming at his predecessor as most China-linked projects were launched during the rule of Najib.

During the rule of Najib, Malaysia-China relations were intimate.

This has resulted in the influx of major construction and property companies from the mainland, followed by banks and industries.

But on May 9, Dr Mahathir’s Pakatan Harapan coalition toppled the Barisan Nasional government of Najib after the most bitterly fought general election in local history.

The second-time premier has put the blame on Najib for the massive 1MDB financial scandal, which Najib has denied, and mismanagement of the country’s finance.

And while the Chinese nationals are all riled up by the cancellation of ECRL, Dr Mahathir came up with an ill-advised statement.

Last week he ordered a wall surrounding Alliance Steel, which is investing US$1.4bil (RM6bil) for a massive steel complex, to be demolished. This was seen as unreasonably targeting a genuine FDI.

Although the foreign ministry later clarified that the leader had mistaken the wall to be built around the Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park (MCKIP), the anger of Chinese nationals lingers on.

The industrial park is a G-to-G project to jointly promote bilateral investments. There is an even bigger sister industrial park in China that houses many Malaysian firms. All these were built during Najib’s reign.

Dr Mahathir’s statement has also caught the attention of China’s Global Times, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China.

In an editorial on Aug 28, the news portal warned: “Many words of Kuala Lumpur can spread to China via the Internet, causing different reactions. How the Chinese public sees China-Malaysia cooperation is by no means inconsequential to Malaysia’s interests.”

It noted “while Dr Mahathir advocates pursuing a policy of expanding friendly cooperation with China … but when it comes to specific China-funded projects, his remarks gave rise to confusion. Like this time, it is startling to equate the controversy surrounding a factory wall with state sovereignty.”

Global Times added: “When such remarks are heard by Chinese people, the latter find it piercing. They will definitely make Chinese investors worry about Malaysian public opinion and whether such an atmosphere will affect investment in the country.”

In fact, it would be unwise for the government to disrupt MCKIP. Co-owned by Chinese, IJM Corporation and Pahang government, this industrial park has lured in Chinese FDI of over RM20bil.

It is an important economic driver in the East Coast and has aimed to create 19,000 jobs by 2020.

While the “wall” statement might be seen as a minor mistake, Dr Mahathir’s flawed announcement last Monday that foreigners would be barred from buying residential units in the US$100bil (RM410bil) Forest City stirred another uproar.

On Aug 27, Reuters quoted Dr Mahathir as saying: “That city that is going to be built cannot be sold to foreigners. Our objection is because it was built for foreigners, not built for Malaysians. Most Malaysians are unable to buy those flats.”

Currently being developed by Country Garden Holdings of China, this 20-year long project, built on reclaimed land in Johor Bahru, aims to house 700,000 people. As about 70% of the house buyers are Chinese, some locals fear this could turn into a China town.

Unlike Alliance Steel that has stayed silent, Country Garden fought back by seeking clarifications from the PM’s Office.

In a statement, the major Chinese developer said all its property transactions had complied with Malaysian laws.

Citing Section 433B of the National Land Code, it added a foreign citizen or a foreign company may acquire land in Malaysia subject to the prior approval of the State Authority.

In addition, it said Dr Mahathir’s comment did not correspond with the content of the meeting he had with Country Garden founder and chairman Yeung Kwok Keung on Aug 16.

During the meeting, Dr Mahathir said he welcomed foreign investments which could create job opportunities, promote technology transfer and innovations.

In fact, this forest city project – along with ECRL – were the main targets of attack by Dr Mahathir before the May 9 election.

Opposition to these projects had helped drive Dr Mahathir’s election campaign, during which he said was evidence of Najib selling Malaysia’s sovereignty to China.

These projects, together with major construction contracts won by Chinese and the inflow of industrial investments, place the total value of Chinese deals at more than RM600bil in Malaysia.

But few would expect Dr Mahathir to use his powerful position to resume his attacks on China-linked projects so soon after his so-called “fruitful visit” to Beijing.

During his official visit to Beijing, the Malaysian leader was accorded the highest honour by China, due mainly to respect for “China’s old friend” and strong Malaysia-China relations built since 1975.

Dr Mahathir was chauffeured in Hongqi L5 limousine, reserved for the most honourable leaders, and greeted in an official welcome ceremony by Premier Li Keqiang. He was also guest of honour at a banquet at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse hosted by President Xi Jinping.

But beneath these glamorous receptions, there were reservations exuded by the Chinese for this leader whose premiership is scheduled to end in two years.

There were no exciting business deals signed in Beijing. There was absence of high diplomatic rhetoric that “Malaysia-China ties have been elevated to another historic high”, oft-repeated during Najib’s past visits.

Many even notice that Premier Li and Dr Mahathir had a cool handshake after their short joint press conference in Beijing.

And although China promised to buy Malaysian palm oil, the statement was qualified with “price sensitivity”, which means it will not buy above market price.

In addition, there was no mention of “buying palm oil without upper limit”, which was promised to Najib last year.

If Dr Mahathir’s original intention was to target Forest City and its owners, his move has certainly backfired. The country will have to pay a price for his off-the-cuff statement.

The “new policy” will have serious ramifications as it would hit the value of the properties not only in Forest City but also in other China-linked and non-Chinese projects.

Country Garden’s Danga Bay project will also be hit. It now faces a more daunting task of selling the balance of about 2,000 units in Danga Bay, according to a Starbiz report.

Other Chinese developers like R&F Princess Cove and Greenland Group will be affected.

VPC Alliance Malaysia managing director James Wong told Starbiz there may be legal suits against the government.

“That may force Country Garden to scale down because it has invested a lot with its industrial building systems factory and an international school, among other investments. It will impact Country Garden and Malaysia’s property sector negatively,” Wong said.

“Foreign buyers and other foreign companies will shy away,” Wong added.

The change in government and the insensitive comments on China-funded projects have turned Malaysia into a high-risk investment destination for the Chinese, according to Li.

“We don’t know which China projects will be targeted next. Looking back, it’s a blessing in disguise that we were pushed out of the RM200bil Bandar Malaysia project. It is also lucky that Chinese money has not gone into the RM30bil Melaka Gateway project,” says Li, who owns a travel agency in Malaysia.

“In the immediate future, more tourists from China are likely to shy away from Malaysia.

“Malaysia may not hit the target of having three million visits from China this year,” Li adds.

Credit: Ho Wah Foon The Star

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American Ban on ZTE offers much food for thought & pain together with ZTE


This photo taken on April 19, 2018 shows the ZTE logo on a building in Nanjing in China’s eastern Jiangsu province.AFP/Getty Images
Video

//players.brightcove.net/2111767321001/default_default/index.html?videoId=5764045273001
 

Ban on ZTE offers much food for thought

The US ban on sales of chips and components to China’s telecommunications company ZTE shocked Chinese society. Some Chinese people are furious at US behavior, others think ZTE deserves it, while some advocate Beijing take it as a warning and boost the country’s domestic semiconductor industry. Some are more pessimistic and feel China cannot beat the US in a trade war.

The ZTE case can be argued as a show of high-tech hegemony by the US. It is absurd for Washington to pull this maneuver at the eleventh hour simply because ZTE failed to cut bonuses for its 35 employees as promised. The logic works for US society and the West is watching the case for fun. But certain Chinese people are also taking pleasure in it.  This is the reality.

It must be admitted that the US is powerful and it has started to punch China hard. The rise of China has reached a juncture where Beijing has prompted Washington to ponder its status as the world’s No.1 and provided a somewhat disjointed West with a reason to strengthen its solidarity. The impulse to contain China’s rise is emerging among Western elites. Radical and even risky policies toward China are gaining increasing support.

China needs a strong will, an open mind and the capacity to fight back. Through political solidarity and a robust economy, Beijing should be tough enough to withstand the slings and arrows. China needs to incubate and shape strategic technology research and development.

The reason why chip technology has experienced such limited progress despite years of advocacy is that the Chinese system has not yet formed a key driving force for it.

Beijing must develop its “nuclear weapons” in the field of economics to make the outside world fear strategic confrontation with China.

China should also make friends worldwide, including Western nations, so as to unite all the forces that can be united. It must not overly focus on gains and losses in friction with others. Beijing must protect its interests, but in the meantime it cannot isolate itself doing so.

China needs to accept diverse opinions on the internet, governing them but also adapting to them so as to prevent online opinions from impacting on society’s overall judgment and confidence.

It is hoped that China will develop a greater core competitiveness which other countries cannot match. This is an expectation of all Chinese people.

American business to pain together in ZTE case

The US government sales ban of American components to the ZTE Corporation will surely inflict significant damage to the company. However, the pattern of globalization shows that not only will the US not secure a victory, it will also suffer a harsh blowback. The US stock market came to a similar conclusion, and media from around the world calculated that the US’ future losses will be significant.

Qualcomm is a major mobile chip supplier for ZTE mobile phones. According to Reuters, Qualcomm will be harmed during this strike because ZTE is an important client, and its competitors could benefit from ZTE choosing alternative manufacturers. Furthermore, Qualcomm might suffer more setbacks when China retaliates on the US for this ban.

According to studies by various media organizations, the full implementation of the seven-year sales ban on ZTE will amount to combined loss of $6.8 billion for Qualcomm, Acacia Communications, and Oclaro Inc. It will also affect more than 32,000 employees. Due to this estimation, Acacia Communications stocks dropped 35.95 percent this week. Additionally, Intel and Microsoft will be hit by shockwaves in the tech industry.

Over the years, China has grown to become the largest sales market for US electronic chips, providing US companies with substantial funds for research and development. Losing the Chinese market might cause these US companies to decline in quality, which could result in a bleak financial future.US semiconductor companies are facing real threats as they will likely be taken over by their opponents.

The US will also be hurt from increasing suspicions to its business environment. The US government ended ZTE’s business dealings with American companies by force, due to “35 employees’ bonuses issues” for the company with 80,000 employees. Is the American business environment still trustworthy? Does this not imply that the US government can bully whoever it wishes? Cooperation with American companies is already difficult and being reviewed by the US government for political correctness will not make matters easier.

Some Westerners criticize the risks of doing business with Chinese companies, but not one multinational company has experienced the same mistreatment ZTE has been subjected to. The proper name for ZTE’s case could be called “35 people bonus crisis” and if this is what starts the cooperation breakdown between the US and China, or globalization in general, it will be one of the most bizarre jokes in history.

China will hit back in the best way it knows and inflict losses for American companies in China. Washington should not have any delusions of tolerance from China after causing such damage to its businesses.

With China and the US trading blows in this situation, the US economy and trade relations will delve into chaos. Investments of American companies in China far exceed Chinese companies in the US, meaning that the US has more to lose since these investments will not be spared during this fight.

Most importantly, Chinese society will lose faith in cooperation with American high-tech companies. The “35 people bonus crisis” will also serve as a push for China determination to develop its semiconductor industry to replace America’s components.

China will endure a sting in the high-tech sector confrontation, but the US will suffer lasting pain. China has been slow to develop its semiconductor technology because it is cheaper to purchase American products in the past. Developing chips and operating systems will require massive market support and China’s yearly import of $200 billion can definitely cover the funding for this research.

The consequences of punishing ZTE is now out of Washington’s control. The intertwined economies of China and the US are like “conjoined twins” and separation will cause major pain for both sides. Washington’s thinking that this is a unilateral punishment is naïve, and this short-sighted judgement will be paid at the expense of American companies and enterprises. – – Global Times
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Why China cannot concede in trade war

Washington has unrealistic fantasies about “balancing
China-US trade.” It tries to solve US economic issues with sticks and
threats rather than painstaking reforms. Simply put, it attempts to make
a hard sell. The world is required to buy whatever the US produces at
its convenience, and developing countries like China cannot make
technological progress in the process.

China to open wider: How will US react?

If Washington thinks China’s upgrade of its opening-up
was triggered by US menaces, it is making a historic mistake in its
relationship with Beijing. Whether the Sino-US trade war is aggravated
depends on Washington. It is hoped US actions accord with Trump’s
pleasant tweets rather than more old carrot-and-stick

Opening-up China’s future growth path

The community with shared future for mankind is a goal of
China to lead the world forward into the future. The Belt and Road
initiative is one of the paths toward it. The world has never seen a
major power emerging with a peaceful and cooperative manner. Some people
say that China is only pretending to rise peacefully. After Beijing’s
new measures were announced at Tuesday’s forum, the world should have
gained a better understanding of China.

Trump’s car tariff tweet distorts truth

With the development of China’s economic growth and
strength of science and technology, further opening-up and lowering of
tariffs will be the future trend. But how China will do this will be
decided based on WTO rules and China’s own interests. This is China’s
sovereignty. Beijing will never listen to the command of Washington.

 

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VR gaming gears up for the mainstream


A group of gamers wearing VR headsets at Zero Latency Singapore. The VR arcade in Singapore is the latest to pop up around the world as backers of the technology seek to shake off teething problems and break into the mainstream. — AFP

Arcades seek to take virtual reality gaming mainstream

 

SINGAPORE: Gamers wearing headsets and wielding rifles adorned with flashing lights battle a horde of zombies, letting out the occasional terrified shriek.

The virtual reality arcade in Singapore is part of a wave of such venues being opened as backers of the technology seek to shake off teething problems and break into the mainstream.

The buzz around virtual reality (VR) gaming has seen Taiwan-based HTC, Sony and Facebook-owned Oculus VR battling to woo consumers with a range of headgear.

But it has been slow to really take off, partly due to the hefty price of top-end headsets, beginning at around US$350 (RM1,362), and the challenges in setting up complex VR systems at home.
But VR arcades, which have been springing up around the world, particularly in Asia, are now giving people the chance to try it out more easily and for a fraction of the price.

“Given the complications of at-home, PC-based VR systems, pay-per-use, location-based entertainment venues can fill the gap,” said Bryan Ma, from International Data Corporation (IDC), a consumer technology market research firm, in a recent note on the industry.

Several VR gaming companies have made forays into Singapore, seeing the ultra-modern, affluent city-state that is home to hordes of expatriates as a good fit.

The zombie fight-out was taking place at a centre where participants stalked a room with a black floor and walls.

“I did paintball before, it’s quite fun… but I think the whole scene is much more interesting here,” said Jack Backx, a 55-year-old from the Netherlands, who was playing with colleagues from the oil and gas industry on a work day out.

The location is run by VR gaming group Zero Latency, which started in Australia and has expanded to nine countries. It uses “free-roam” virtual reality – where gamers move around in large spaces and are not tethered to computers with cables.

It’s not all intense, shoot-’em-ups – VR group Virtual Room has an outlet in Singapore that transports gamers to scenarios in the prehistoric period, a medieval castle, ancient Egypt and even a lunar landing.

Asia leads the way

VR arcades have been springing up in other places. China was an early hotbed for virtual reality gaming although the industry has struggled in recent times, while they can also be found in countries across the region including Japan, Taiwan and Australia.

Many key industry milestones over the past two years have been in Asia but arcades have appeared elsewhere – London’s first one opened last year while there are also some in the United States.

Consumer spending on virtual reality hardware, software and services is expected to more than double from US$2.2bil (RM8.56bil) in 2017, to US$4.5bil (RM17.51bil) this year, according to gaming intelligence provider SuperData Research.

For the best-quality experience, it can be relatively expensive – a session in Singapore costs Sg$59 (RM175).

“The equipment here is not cheap,” said Simon Ogilvie, executive director of Tomorrow Entertainment, which runs the Zero Latency franchise in Singapore.

The industry faces huge challenges.

China offers a cautionary tale – according to IDC, VR arcades have struggled there after expanding too quickly.

There have also been warnings that improvements in home-based technology may eventually lead to VR gaming centres suffering the same fate as traditional arcades that were once filled with Pac-Man and Street Fighter machines.

“The rise and fall of coin-operated videogame arcades in the 1980s suggests that such VR arcades may eventually fade in relevance as home-based computing power and prices fall within mass consumer reach,” said the note from IDC’s Ma.

Rebecca Assice, who runs Virtual Room in Singapore, said one challenge was getting people interested in the first place as many still did not know about the arcades.

“VR is still a really new industry,” she said. “A lot of people just don’t know this sort of activity exists.” — AFP

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Silicon Valley faces tech backlash: maybe needs to be taken down to size


Polarising content and Russian manipulation of social media are fuelling calls for greater regulation of firms like Google and FB. — 123rf.com

 

Demonstrators at a rally in opposition to white supremacists and the postponed right-wing “March on Google” protest of James Damore’s firing that was originally planned the same day. — Bay Area News Group/TNS

Once a darling, tech hub Silicon Valley is under attack for its technologies which are damaging our lives.

ONCE upon a time, there was a beautiful land filled with bright minds and gleaming prospects.

People called it Silicon Valley, and out of it flowed knowledge, ideas and innovations that gave us almost-unthinkable powers to learn, to communicate, to transform our lives into exactly what we wanted them to be. The region’s denizens toiled happily at the cutting edge, and day by day, they were making the world a better place.

But today, this beautiful land is under attack from within and without. The products and services it sends out into the world are being called addictive, divisive and even damaging, raising the cry that instead of making the world better, they are making it worse.

As technology plays a deeper and more pervasive role in nearly every aspect of our lives, the industry that has upended everything from shopping and travel to education and human relationships is facing a backlash the likes of which Silicon Valley has never seen.

Polarising online content and Russian manipulation of social media platforms have fuelled calls from the right and the left for greater regulation of firms like Google, Facebook and Twitter. World wide web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, Republican US Senator John McCain, leftist billionaire George Soros, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and conservative Fox News host Tucker Carlson have all joined the chorus demanding the government take action.


Terrific or terrible?

Critics argue that the big tech firms have become too economically dominant, intruded too far into our lives and have too much control over what gets seen and shared online. At the same time, critics contend, those same companies have failed to take responsibility for the misuse of their services by malevolent actors, for the spread of fake news and for the way their platforms and algorithms can be gamed.

Stanford computer science students are protesting Apple, demanding it make less addictive devices.

The #MeToo movement has amplified a debate over sexual harassment and diversity in Silicon Valley. And conservatives have attacked the whole region as a liberal echo chamber that stifles precisely the open debate it claims to embrace.

Thus the backlash.

“What makes it categorically different now is that this is the first time I have seen that people are saying, ‘Hmmm, maybe Silicon Valley needs to be taken down to size,’ said Leslie Berlin, project historian for Stanford University’s Silicon Valley Archives. “This notion that what Silicon Valley represents actually threatens rather than embodies what makes the country great, that is new.”

Berners-Lee in an open letter recently called the tech giants “a new set of gatekeepers” whose platforms can be “weaponised” to widen social rifts and interfere in elections. Benioff told CNBC in January that social media was “addictive” and should be regulated like cigarettes.

Carlson wants Google treated like a public utility because it “shuts down free speech for political reasons”.

Former president Barack Obama, at a February conference at MIT, said social media was Balkanizing public discourse, creating “entirely different realities” that contribute to “gridlock and venom and polarisation in politics”.

Even Facebook has jumped in with an unusual mea culpa, issuing a news release in February admitting it was “far too slow to recognise how bad actors were abusing our platform”.

Raking in the money

Despite its critics, Silicon Valley remains hugely successful and influential, with 21% of employed people working in tech, according to a 2017 Federal Reserve Bank report. Though the region’s economy has shown some signs of slowing, job growth in Silicon Valley has been more than double the national rate since the beginning of the economic recovery in 2010.

And the region remains home to the two most valuable public companies in the world, Apple and Google’s parent firm Alphabet, as well as world-class universities. Every day, people around the world benefit from Silicon Valley-built tools that have transformed communication, opened access to information, and made life easier.

The notion that Silicon Valley’s best days are over is far from new – people have been predicting its demise ever since the advent of the microprocessor, said Berlin.

“It was going to be the oil shocks of the 1970s that were going to take it down, and then competition from Japan, India and China, the Dot Com bust, Y2K – it’s just been one thing after another, the 2008 crash,” Berlin said. “Time and again, Silicon Valley has bounced back from these perceived threats. Silicon Valley has always been sort of the golden child of the Golden State.”

But this time, Berlin and others see something shifting.

“It is unprecedented,” UC Berkeley Haas School of Business professor Abhishek Nagaraj, said of the backlash. “I think this is because of how deeply penetrated tech is in people’s lives.”

Nagaraj, who studies the tech industry, compared the demonisation of Silicon Valley to the outcry against Wall Street after deceptive investment banking practices knocked the United States into the Great Recession.

“It appears as if, basically, tech is the new finance,” Nagaraj said.

Overwhelming force

Increasingly, the public views the tech industry as a force against which they are powerless, said San Jose State University anthropology professor Jan English-Lueck, who researches Silicon Valley’s culture.

“It’s now on people’s radar screen to be a place of the elite, where they’re changing the world in a way that ordinary people don’t have an influence on that change,” EnglishLueck said.

While the devices and social media platforms created by hugely successful Silicon Valley tech firms have given us new ways to connect, they’ve also thrown the worst of human nature into our faces, said English-Lueck.

“You don’t have to look in somebody’s eyes when you’re telling someone something ugly,” English-Lueck said. “That’s really exaggerated people’s ability to hate.”

She believes the optimistic view of technology as the great liberator and connector helped keep major tech firms from building more safeguards into their platforms to prevent vicious online attacks, dissemination of fake news and nation-state intrusions.

“Do we want free speech and free action that’s amplified by the Internet?” she said. “Sometimes we don’t want that.”

Stephen Milligan, CEO of pioneering San Jose data-storage firm Western Digital, doesn’t think technology can solve everything.

But Milligan doesn’t buy the notion that Silicon Valley has lost its bloom. The region’s companies are still trying to solve “real problems” in the world and having a positive impact on people’s lives.

“It’s still cool,” Milligan said. “I actually think it’s more cool.”

Silicon Valley boosters such as Peggy Burke, CEO of Palo Alto branding agency 1185, will tell you the technology industry can fix the problems it creates.

“You have to weigh the good and the bad, and if the bad gets so bad that it outweighs the good, someone will solve for that,” Burke said. “If there’s a problem – traffic, transportation, housing, stopping Russians, fake news – someone in the Valley right now is working on solving for that problem. I’ve been in the Valley for 30 years and I’ve seen it happen over and over.”

A reckoning for the region is likely, but it won’t be a fatal one, Berkeley’s Nagaraj said. The problems arising from technology will exacerbate the ongoing decentralisation of innovation, as boot camps bring entrepreneurial skills to new regions, and clusters of expertise – in “deep learning” artificial intelligence in Toronto, for example – lead to cooperative projects linking the Valley to other areas, he said.

“It’s going to be a much more collaborative process than one of replacement,” he said. “We are moving to a world where not all the big hits come from Silicon Valley.”

Source: By Ethan Baron – The San Jose Mercury News/Tribune News Service

 

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Tycoon Robert Kuok stands tall amid the bashings from Umno leaders


Well-regarded: Kuok in his office in Hong Kong. Picture taken from ‘Robert Kuok: A Memoir’.

 

DURING the two week-Chinese New Year celebrations, with the tossing of yee sang for better times ahead, the key topic of conversation among the Chinese revolved around the general election.

But the sudden eruption of high-level political attacks on Robert Kuok last weekend sent shockwaves through the community. Since then, the richest man in Malaysia has been the talk of the town.

The onslaught could not be taken lightly as Kuok is not just any ordinary businessman but someone of stature held in high esteem not only in Malaysia and China, but also by the global Chinese community.

It is a known fact that Kuok helped to lay the groundwork for the end of communist insurgency in Malaysia, played a role in easing racial tension after the May 13 racial riots and contributed funds to Umno and MCA during elections.

His generous donations have benefited the poor and rich.

Kuok has always stood tall among everyone.

Dubbed the “Sugar King of Asia”, Kuok has set up a huge international empire with businesses spanning from commodity trading to hotels, sugar and oil palm plantations, wheat flour milling, property development and entertainment.

In Malaysia, he retains control of Shangri-La Hotels and the wheat flour business after selling his sugar and property businesses.

Hence, the Chinese community here feels hurt to see their business icon being smeared based on hearsay. They see grave injustice done to this man whose loyalty and commitment to the country is being questioned.

However, due to suspicion that the whole episode could be a politically driven scheme ahead of GE14 for various reasons, Chinese community leaders only spoke up after Kuok defended himself.

While many are aware that Kuok’s recent memoir had irked some quarters due to his disdain for the New Economic Policy (1971-90), they are perplexed by the timing of this smear campaign.

Kuok’s political revelations in his book have also earned him brickbats from some people.

This round, the criticisms against the tycoon were based on three articles posted by blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin on the online portal Malaysia Today.

The most startling allegation made by the controversial blogger, who has a record of stirring up racial hatred towards local Chinese in past writings, was that Kuok had donated hundreds of millions to the DAP in a bid to overthrow the Umno-led government.

Without verifying the content, Malay critics and senior Umno politicians told Kuok to be grateful to the Government as the tycoon had built his early sugar, rice and flour empire based on his good ties with Umno leaders.

The remarks by Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz were particularly scathing, as crude and offensive words were used. In addition, he told Kuok to surrender his citizenship.

The critics might have misconstrued earlier statements by Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who had said that some of the richest people, including Kuok, owed their success to opportunities created through government policies.

“If we look at the list of names of the richest people in Malaysia, such as Robert Kuok, who gave him the key to become the rice and sugar king? It was given to him by the ruling government,” said the Prime Minister at an event in Selangor on Feb 24.

“Yes, he is driven, hardworking, industrious and disciplined – but that is not enough. Everyone still needs the key to creating these opportunities,” he added.

Although DAP leaders promptly denied receiving money from Kuok, this failed to stop the tirade of aspersions cast against Kuok.

It was obvious that Kuok had to defend himself. He issued a statement last Monday, saying all allegations against him were “untrue, unjustified and amounted to libel”.

The 94-year-old Kuok, who moved his business headquarters from Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong in 1975, denied funding The Malaysian Insight portal or opposition parties to overthrow the Government.

He also denied that he was anti-government, a racist or a Chinese chauvinist.

While Kuok’s hint of instituting libel suits might have some deterrent effect, the proposal by MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai to the Prime Minister to intervene in the matter could have shut the mouths of Umno leaders.

Liow tweeted: “I have conveyed the feelings of the Chinese community to the PM. We hope that the PM will intervene to put this issue to rest. Mr Kuok has contributed greatly towards the development of the nation.”

If the vicious attacks on Kuok were allowed to continue, the first casualty in GE14 could be MCA and Gerakan, and ultimately Barisan Nasional, as angry Chinese could be provoked to vote against the coalition in GE14.

And the unintended winner from this latest episode could be the opposition side.

The question now is: Faced with so many challenges in the coming polls, could Barisan afford to sow a new seed of discontent and allow it to germinate unchecked?

The Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement, saying Kuok’s success is “an inspiration” for other entrepreneurs.

Though this brief statement and its “cooling effect” came a bit late in the political sense, it was better than nothing.

In addition, a tribute to Kuok posted by Najib’s brother Datuk Seri Nazir Razak on Instagram is also a comfort to the Chinese.

“I may not agree with all his views but he (Kuok) is a patriot, the icon of Malaysian business and a first-class gentleman,” said Nazir, the chairman of CIMB Group Holdings Bhd last Wednesday.

However, the injustice done to Kuok on such a scale is unlikely to be forgotten soon, as this incident has also stirred up some debates.

Is there any hidden political agenda to vilify Kuok before GE14? Do successful businessmen owe their allegiance to ruling political parties? Is it morally wrong to change your political stand?

Dr Oh Ei Sun, former political secretary of Najib, offers some explanations to Sunday Star: “Robert Kuok has shown his contempt for the NEP in his book. This may be seen as questioning Malay supremacy and this attitude must be nipped in the bud.”

He adds that Kuok may not be forgiven for stating the obvious, which many Chinese have wanted to voice out but could not for fear of losing business opportunities.

In his memoir, Kuok stated that although the Chinese have played a significant role in the economic development of Malaysia and other South-East Asian nations, many did not receive just and fair treatment.

Sin Chew Daily, quoting unnamed Barisan sources, says the bashing of Kuok also carried a warning message to the business community to think twice before they contribute election funds to opposition parties.

“These attacks also sent a message to the Malay community that they must be united to support Umno, which is being ditched by others it has helped to prosper,” said the Sin Chew report last Thursday.

Although a life member of the MCA, businessman Tan Sri Lee Kim Yew believes people owe no loyalty to political parties.

He tells Sunday Star: “A businessman is expected to be loyal to his country, not to ruling parties. Politicians and political parties come and go.

“Whoever becomes the government has a duty to create a conducive environment for the people to prosper and live harmoniously. If politicians are not worthy of support, people are free to switch their political stand in a democracy.”

Apart from ordinary people, the business community is also watching developments linked to Kuok with concern.

“If the issue on Robert Kuok is not handled properly, there will be a negative impact on the sentiment of investors. We are all following these developments,” says a businessman at a CNY dinner.

by Ho Wah Foon, The Star

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