World’s first artificial intelligence (AI) news anchor


The new AI anchors, launched by Xinhua and Beijing-based search engine operator Sogou during the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, can deliver the news with “the same effect” as human anchors because the machine learning programme is able to synthesise realistic-looking speech, lip movements and facial expressions, according to a Xinhua news report on Wednesday.
“AI anchors have officially become members of the Xinhua News Agency reporting team. They will work with other anchors to bring you authoritative, timely and accurate news information in both Chinese and English,” Xinhua said.
The AI anchors are now available throughout Xinhua’s internet and mobile platforms such as its official Chinese and English apps, WeChat public account, and online TV webpage.

https://youtu.be/GAfiATTQufk

The world’s first artificial intelligence (AI) news anchor made “his” debut at the ongoing fifth World Internet Conference in east China’s Zhejiang Province.

The news anchor, based on the latest AI technology, has a male image with a voice, facial expressions and actions of a real person. “He” learns from live broadcasting videos by himself and can read texts as naturally as a professional news anchor.

The AI news anchor was jointly developed by Xinhua News Agency, the official state-run media outlet of China, and Chinese search engine company Sogou.com.

According to Xinhua, “he” has become a member of its reporting team and can work 24 hours a day on its official website and various social media platforms, reducing news production costs and improving efficiency.

Celebrity anchors are regarded as important assets at major news networks in the US. The highest paid news anchor, CNN’s Anderson Cooper, is reportedly paid US$100 million a year, while Diane Sawyer at ABC and Sean Hannity at Fox News earn US$80 million each. Celebrity anchors in China are generally paid a lot less because they work for state-run TV stations but they often earn extra money from product endorsements and book sales.

But AI anchors may one day challenge the human variety because of their ability to work 24 hours a day provided human editors keep inputting text into the system.

Xinhua said the achievement was a  “breakthrough in the field of global AI synthesis”, pioneering the synthesis of real-time audio and video with AI-created anchors in the news field. Search engine Sogou, which also does research and development in AI, is providing the underlying technology for the project.

The AI technology has a “endless prospects” because it will greatly improve the efficiency and reduce the cost of producing daily TV news reports, Xinhua said, adding that it could also quickly generate breaking news reports to improve the timeliness and quality of such reports. – South China Morning Post
China’s AI race via @SCMPgraphics  http://bit.ly/2NdeiK4 #AI #ArtificialIntelligence #Dataviz #infographic

 

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China leads the way as world’s billionaires get even richer


The United States created 53 new billionaires in 2017, down from 87 five years ago
China produced around
two new billionaires a week last year as the fortunes of the world’s
ultra-rich soared by a record amount, a report said Friday.Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2018-10-china-world-billionaires-richer.html#jCp
China produced two new billionaires a week last year as the fortunes of the world’s ultra-rich soared by a record amount – AFP

China produced around two new billionaires a week last year as the fortunes of the world’s ultra-rich soared by a record amount, Swiss banking giant UBS and auditors PwC said.

Billionaires’ wealth enjoyed its “greatest-ever” increase in 2017, rising 19 percent to $8.9 trillion ($7.8 billion euros) shared among 2,158 individuals, said the report by Swiss banking giant UBS and auditors PwC.

But Chinese billionaires expanded their wealth at nearly double that pace, growing by 39 percent to $1.12 trillion.

“Over the last decade, Chinese billionaires have created some of the world’s largest and most successful companies, raised living standards,” said Josef Stadler, head of Ultra High Net Worth at UBS Global Wealth Management.

“But this is just the beginning. China’s vast population, technology innovation and productivity growth combined with government support, are providing unprecedented opportunities for individuals not only to build businesses but also to change people’s lives for the better.”

The report said China minted two new billionaires a week in 2017, among more than three a week created in Asia.

In the Americas region, the wealth of billionaires increased at a slower rate of 12 percent, to $3.6 trillion, with the United States creating 53 new billionaires in 2017 compared to 87 five years ago.

Currency appreciation saw European billionaires’ wealth grow 19 percent although the number of billionaires rose by just 4.0 percent to 414.

Wealth transition from just five families accounted for 30 percent of the continent’s wealth expansion, the study said.

It warned of lower economic growth in the United States and China if the trade war between the two countries escalates.

“US and Asia ex-Japan equities could fall by 20 percent from their mid-summer 2018 levels.”

Asia challenging US dominance

For China’s young billionaires “the country’s fundamentals of a huge population and rising technology will continue to offer fertile conditions for entrepreneurs to grow their businesses,” the study said.

It there were only 16 Chinese billionaires as recently as 2006.

“Today, only 30 years after the country’s government first allowed private enterprise, they number 373 – nearly one in five of the global total.”

It said 97 percent of them are self-made, many of them in sectors such as technology and retail.

Billionaires from Asia, especially in the Chinese city of Shenzhen, are now challenging the traditional dominance of Americans as technology entrepreneurs.

“In 2017, they equalled America’s level of venture capital funding for start-ups, registered four times as many Artificial-Intelligence-related patents and three times as many blockchain and crypto-related patents as their US counterparts.”

Ravi Raju, head of Asia Pacific Ultra High Net Worth at UBS Global Wealth Management, said Asia’s billionaires “are young and relentless. They are constantly transforming their companies, developing new business models and shifting rapidly into new sectors.”

The report said that globally, self-made billionaires have driven 80 percent of the 40 main breakthrough innovations over the last 40 years.
UP AND OUT OF POVERTY – Xi Jinping https://youtu.be/SYWz2bwCUEE

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September 17, 2014 

 

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Asia’s billionaires see fastest wealth growth: report



September 17, 2014

Asia’s billionaires led by Chinese tycoons enjoyed the
fastest increase in their wealth this year compared to their peers in
the rest of the world, a report said Wednesday.

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2018-10-china-world-billionaires-richer.html#jCp

 

Unknown Chinese startup creates the world’s most valuable Bytedance


Independent moves: Bytedance has become among the most successful major Chinese tech companies in creating an
international base without the backing of giants Alibaba and Tencent. — Reuters

 

Building a vision: Over five years, Zhang has grown the app into one of the most popular news services anywhere, with 120 million daily users. — Bloomberg

Said to be valued at over $75 billion in new round of funding.

Bloomberg reports that when  Zhang Yiming first shopped the idea of a news aggregation app powered
by artificial intelligence six years ago, investors including Sequoia Capital were skeptical
.

Back then, the question was how a 29-year-old locally trained software engineer could outsmart the numerous news portals operated by the likes of social media behemoth Tencent Holdings. and extract profit
where even Google had failed.

Zhang, now 35, proved them wrong. Today his company, Bytedance Ltd., is on its way to a more than $75 billion valuation — a price tag that surpasses Uber Technologies. to top the world, according to CB Insights.
The latest in a long line of investors who’ve come around is Softbank Group., which is said to be planning to invest about $1.5 billion.  Bytedance now counts KKR & Co., General Atlantic and even Sequoia as
backers. Much of its lofty valuation stems from the creation of an internet experience that’s a cross between Google and Facebook.

35-Year-Old Unknown Creates the World’s Most Valuable Startup

 

News aggregation app evolves into a multi-faceted media goliath

 

WHEN Zhang Yiming first shopped the idea of a news aggregation app powered by artificial intelligence six years ago, investors including Sequoia Capital were sceptical.

Back then, the question was how a 29-year-old locally trained software engineer could outsmart the numerous news portals operated by the likes of social media behemoth Tencent Holdings Ltd and extract profit where even Google had failed.

Zhang, now 35, proved them wrong.

Today his company, Bytedance Ltd, is on its way to a more than US$75bil valuation – a price tag that surpasses Uber Technologies Inc to top the world, according to CB Insights.

The latest in a long line of investors who have come around is Softbank Group Corp, which is said to be planning to invest about US$1.5bil. Bytedance now counts KKR & Co, General Atlantic and even Sequoia as backers.

Much of its lofty valuation stems from the creation of an internet experience that’s a cross between Google and Facebook.

“The most important thing is that we are not a news business. We are more like a search business or a social media platform,” Zhang said in a 2017 interview, adding that he employs no editors or reporters.

“We are doing very innovative work. We are not a copycat of a US company, both in product and technology.”

What’s remarkable is Zhang was able to do it all without taking money from the twin suns of China’s internet: Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and Tencent.

It’s the first startup to emerge from the dwindling cohort of mobile players that hasn’t sought protection or funds from either of the two. In fact, it has often locked horns with them, in court and elsewhere. And it’s arguably more successful at engaging youthful audiences abroad.

The story of how Bytedance became a goliath begins with news site Jinri Toutiao but is tied more closely to a series of smart acquisitions and strategic expansions that propelled the company into mobile video and even beyond China. By nurturing a raft of successful apps, it has gathered a force of hundreds of millions of users and now poses a threat to China’s largest Internet operators.

The company has evolved into a multi-faceted empire spanning video service Tik Tok – known as Douyin locally – and a plethora of platforms for everything from jokes to celebrity gossip.

But as with Facebook at the same stage of its life, Bytedance now faces questions over when or even how it will start making a profit.

“The predominant issue in China’s internet is that the growth in users and the time each user spends online has slowed dramatically.

“It is becoming a zero-sum game, and costs for acquiring users and winning their time are increasing,” said Jerry Liu, an analyst with UBS.

“What Bytedance has created is a group of apps that are very good at attracting users and retaining their time, in part, leveraging the traffic from Jinri Toutiao.”

Despite its seeming isolation, it’s become the most successful major Chinese tech company in creating an international base, venturing via apps like Tik Tok into the US, South-East Asia and Japan.

Even Tencent’s WeChat had to pump the brakes on its own overseas initiative four years ago.

What Zhang perceived in 2012 was that Chinese mobile users struggled to find information they cared about on many apps.

That’s partly because of the country’s draconian screening of information. Zhang thought he could do better than incumbents such as Baidu, which enjoyed a near-monopoly on search.

The latter conflated advertising with search results, a botch that would later haunt the company via a series of medical scandals.

There was little Toutiao could do about censorship – in fact, the company’s been repeatedly excoriated by authorities for failing to filter content and been forced to clean up its services with alarming regularity.

But Zhang held fast to his early vision of delivering content that mattered to users through AI. The closest American equivalent was Facebook’s news feed.

After falling flat with the bulk of China’s venture capital stalwarts, Zhang eventually secured investment from Susquehanna International Group.

It began offering the news app in August 2012. The platform studied what users read and searched for, then referred information and articles based on those habits. The more people used it, the better the experience, and the longer people stayed.

By mid-2014, daily active users had climbed to more than 13 million.

Sequoia finally came to the table, leading a funding round of US$100mil.

“We push information, not by queries, by news recommendations,” Zhang said in the interview last year.

But it was video that really propelled Bytedance into the big leagues.

Streaming services have always been popular in China. Even during the desktop era, companies like YY Inc championed a model where people sang and danced in virtual showrooms to win online gifts from fans. Later, outfits like Kuaishou fuelled that penchant for zany showmanship.

Bytedance saw an opportunity, but made its videos much shorter: 15 seconds, to be precise.

Around September 2016, it quietly launched Douyin. The app let users shoot and edit footage, add filters and share them across platforms like the Twitter-like Weibo or WeChat.

That format appealed to shorter millennial attention spans and became an instant hit, so much so that WeChat later blocked direct access to the app.

A year after, Bytedance acquired Musical.ly for US$800mil. It saw synergy between the buzzy teen US social video app created by Chinese co-founders and Tik Tok, and is now in the process of combining them. Tik Tok and Douyin had a combined 500 million users as of July.

The challenge now is in translating buzz and viewership into dollars. The company is expanding its ad sales operations, particularly for Toutiao.

Several media buying agencies said its massive reach and the attention it draws is a natural lure for marketers. Many said Bytedance is even pulling spending away from Tencent.

Bytedance, which previously cut a deal with Cheetah Mobile to sell ad space, has brought most of its ad sales in-house, said Kenneth Tan, the chief digital officer for Mindshare China, an agency.

“From a pricing perspective, they are expensive for what they are. They definitely charge a premium,” Tan said. “But that has not been an inhibitor for the large brands.”

There’s a big caveat, however. Brands remain cautious about Bytedance’s regulatory issues, particularly given Beijing’s historic unpredictability around censorship.

This year, it had to shut down a popular joke-sharing app in April just as it appeared to take off. It also suspended Douyin and its bread-and-butter Toutiao around the same time.

That’s “a potential risk to brand collaboration,” said Sherry Pan, general manager for China at the agency Magna Global. — Bloomberg

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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

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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
Related  

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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