US-China trade war escalates, tariff list aims to hinder China’s high-tech development: expert


China will impose 25 percent in tariffs on 659 US goods worth $50 billion, including soybeans, cars and seafood.

The move came as a tit-for-tat response to the tariffs announced by the Trump  administration Friday morning. An expert  said the US decision does not aim to tackle the trade deficit with China but to block the Chinese government’s efforts in high-tech development.

Tariffs on 545 US goods worth $34 billion will take effect on July 6, involving agricultural products, car parts and seafood, according to a statement released by China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) on Saturday morning. Soybeans, which are China’s biggest import from the US in value, are on the list.

Chemicals, medical equipment and energy products from the US will also be subject to 25 percent tariffs, which will be announced at a later date.

The revised list is longer and involves more categories of products than a preliminary list of 106 US goods published by the ministry in April, but the total value of the products remains at $50 billion.

A Chinese commerce expert found that aircraft were removed from China’s new list, which is noteworthy.

“We need aircraft [from the US]. We have to consider the costs of the countermeasures we plan to take,” Bai Ming, deputy director of the Ministry of Commerce’s International Market Research Institute, said on Saturday soon after the Chinese tariffs were announced.

It’s like acting as a soccer referee who will not call out the offenses and let the play continue when the game still benefits the attacking team even though an attacking player is fouled, Bai further explained.

China is one of the fastest-growing civil aviation markets in the world, and 15 to 20 percent of Boeing’s aircraft deliveries are projected to end in the Chinese market over the next two decades, according to Morgan Stanley.

The US has kept changing their mind and ignited a trade war, which China does not want and will firmly oppose, a spokesperson of the MOFCOM said immediately after US took trade measures on China. “This move not only hurts bilateral interests, but also undermines the world trade order.”

“China and the US still have hopes of negotiating and reaching an agreement, as both the tariffs announced by the two countries will not take into effect until next month,” said Wang Jun, deputy director of the Department of Information at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges.

Wang told the Global Times that the removal of aircraft from the new list can be a signal that China still wants to talk, and also aircraft can be a valuable chip in the next round of trade negotiations.

Meanwhile, Wang said the Trump administration’s newly published list is not so much a solution for the trade deficit problem with China as efforts to hinder China’s technology development.

US President Donald Trump on Friday announced 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods, containing industrially significant technologies related to China’s “Made In China 2025” strategy.

According to a list published by the office of the US Trade Representative, the tariffs will be applied on more than 1,000 types of Chinese goods, including aircraft engine parts, bulldozers, nuclear reactors and industrial and agricultural machinery.

American industry also opposed Trump’s decision.

“Imposing tariffs places the cost of China’s unfair trade practices squarely on the shoulders of American consumers, manufacturers, farmers, and ranchers. This is not the right approach,” US Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue said in a statement posted on the chamber’s website on Friday.

By Zhang Ye Source:Global Times

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 China vows ‘comprehensive measures’ against US tariff blackmail

China on Tuesday launched a swift and sharp response to the latest trade  rovocations from the US, which threatened to slap tariffs on almost all Chinese exports to the US, calling the US move “blackmail” and vowing to respond with strength to protect its own and the world’s interests.

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result will not provide a favorable political environment for President
Trump.

China vows powerful retaliation against US tariffs

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tariffs on billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese goods, threatening to
target US goods on the same scale and intensity, a spokesperson for the
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From Industrial 4.0 to Finance 4.0


 

MOST people are somewhat aware about the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The first industrial revolution occurred with the rise of steam power and manufacturing using iron and steel. The second revolution started with the assembly line which allowed specialisation of skills, represented by the Ford motor assembly line at the turn of the 20th century.

The third industrial revolution came with Japanese quality controls and use of telecommunication technology.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, or first called by the Europeans Industry 4.0, is all about the use of artificial intelligence, robotics, genomics and process, creative design and high speed computing capability to revolutionise production, distribution and consumption. Finance is a derivative of the real economy – its purpose is to serve real production. Early finance was all about the finance of trade and governments to engage in war.
It is no coincidence that the first central banks (Sweden and England) were established in the 17th century at the start of the First Industrial Revolution. Industrialisation became much more sophisticated as Finance 2.0 brought the rise of credit and equity markets in the 18th and 19th centuries. Industrialisation and colonisation came about at the same time as the globalisation of banks, stocks and bond markets.

Again, with the invention of first the fax machine, then Internet that speeded up information storage and transmission in the 1980s, finance and industry took a quantum leap into the age of information technology. Finance 3.0 was the age of financial derivatives, in which very complex (and highly leveraged) derivatives became so opaque that investors and regulators realised they became what Warren Buffett called “weapons of mass destruction”. Finance 3.0 stalled in 2007 with the Global Financial Crisis and was only propped up with massive central bank intervention in terms of unconventional monetary policy with historically unprecedented interest rates.

We are now on the verge of Finance 4.0 and it may be useful to explore what it really means.

The common definition of Industry 4.0 is the rise of the Internet of Things, in which cloud computing, artificial intelligence and global connectivity means that cyber-physical systems can interact with each other to produce, distribute and trade across the world in a massively distributed system of production.

But what does Finance 4.0 really mean?

What truly differentiates Finance 4.0 from the earlier version is the arrival of Blockchain or distributed ledger technology. The best way to think about the difference is the architecture of the two different systems.

Finance 3.0 and earlier versions were all about a top-down or hierarchical ledger system, like a pyramid, in which trade and settlements between two parties are settled across a higher ledger.

A simple example is payment from Joe in bank A to Jim in bank B is finally settled across the books of the central bank in local currency. But in international trade and payments, the final settlements (at least more than 60%) are settled in US dollar finally across the ledgers of the Federal Reserve bank system.

Finance 3.0 was not perfect and those who wanted to avoid regulation, taxation or any official oversight basically moved trading and transactions off-balance sheet and also off-shore. This was the “shadow banking” system that financial regulators and central banks conveniently blamed on their failure to see or stop the last global financial crisis.

Although technically the shadow banking system is the non-bank financial system, which would include bond, stock and commodity markets, the bulk of illegal, illicit transactions traditionally was done in cash.

Welcome to the technical innovation called cyber-currencies, which was made possible for peer-to-peer (P2P) transactions across a distributed ledger system (commonly known as blockchain). In architectural terms, this is a bottom-up system which technically can avoid any official oversight. Indeed, cyber-currencies or tokens were invented precisely because the users do not trust the official system.

As the populist philosopher Stephen Bannon said, “central banks are in the business of debasing the currency”. Hence, those who want to avoid the debasement of their savings prefer to deal with either cash or cyber-tokens like bitcoin (pic).

What is happening in the rapidly evolving Finance 4.0 is that as the world moves from a unipolar order to a multi-polar world in which other reserve currencies also contend for trade and store of value, the top-down architecture is fusing (or merging) with a bottom-up architecture in which trade, transactions and stores of value are shifting towards the P2P shadow system.

Why this is taking place is not hard to understand. Post-global financial crisis, the amount of financial regulations have tripled in terms of number of rules and complexity on what the official sector can regulate, which is mostly the banking system. It is therefore not surprising that all the innovation, talent and money are moving to outside the banking system into the asset management industry, which is much more lightly regulated.

No talented banker, however dedicated to the values of banking probity, can resist the temptations of working in asset management, away from the heavily regulated environment where he or she is 24×7 under regulatory internal and external oversight.

Another reason why the cyber-P2P business is flourishing is because the official sector is worried that further regulation would hinder innovation. But those who want to increase the complexity of regulation must remember that for every 50 foot wall, someone will invent a 51 foot ladder.

So competition in the 21st century has already moved from the physical and financial space into cyber-space.

If there is one thing I learnt as a former regulator, it is that if the banks are behind the curve in terms of technology, the regulators are even further behind, since they learn mostly from those whom they regulate. But if financial regulators deal with financial innovation through “regulatory sandboxes” where they allow their regulated banks to experiment in sandboxes, they are treating their regulated institutions as kids in an adult game of ruthless technology.

Time for the official sector to make their stand clear or else Finance 4.0 promises to be very different from the orderly world that they are used to imaging. Nothing says this clearer than a recent survey by the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute, which showed that 54% of institutional investors surveyed and 38% of retail believe that a financial crisis in the next one-three years is likely or very likely.

You have been warned.

– Tan Sri Andrew Sheng writes on global issues from an Asian perspective.

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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
Related  

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Washington has unrealistic fantasies about “balancing
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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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Malaysia’s low wages: low-skilled, low productivity, low quality, reliance on cheap foreign workers! Need to manage!


Survey: Most workers not paid enough to achieve minimum acceptable living standard

 

Wages too low, says Bank Negara – Survey: most workers not paid enough to achieve minimum acceptable living standard

ALTHOUGH the income levels of Malaysians have increased significantly over the years, voices of discontent are mounting over the decline in purchasing power.

Low and depressed salaries are among the grouses of executives and non-executives amid the apparent lifestyle changes of Malaysians.

With the rising cost of living, they lament that there is now less room for long-term savings and investments.

According to the Employees Job Happiness Index 2017 survey by JobStreet.com, one in three Malaysian employees want a pay rise, with rewards constituting 52% of the domestic workforce’s motivation to work.

In its 2017 Annual Report, Bank Negara points out that the expenditure of the bottom 40% (B40) of Malaysian households has expanded at a faster pace compared with their income.

From 2014 to 2016, the average B40 income level grew by 5.8% annually, marginally lower than the 6% growth in the B40 household spending in the same period.

It is also worth noting that half of working Malaysians only earned less than the national median of RM1,703 in 2016.

The central bank, in consideration of the low-wage conundrum, has recently recommended that employers use a “living wage” as a guideline to compensate their employees for their labour.

Essentially, the living wage refers to the income level needed to achieve a minimum acceptable standard of living, depending on the geographical location.

Citing Kuala Lumpur as an example, Bank Negara estimates that the living wage in the city two years ago was about RM2,700 for a single adult. The living wage estimate for a couple without a child was RM4,500, while for a couple with two children, the living wage was RM6,500.

As much as Malaysians support higher wages, which can outgrow escalating living cost, the bigger question is whether their employers are willing to increase wages significantly.

Also, is it realistic for employers to pay higher salaries in line with the suggested living wage?

Speaking to StarBizWeek, Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan says that the living wage is unsuitable for adoption in Malaysia – for now.

He believes that the living wage will turn out to be damaging to the domestic labour market, given the rising cost of doing business in recent times.

Shamsuddin: While employers in Malaysia are more than happy to compensate workers for their work, people must also understand that they are bogged down by escalating costs. << Shamsuddin: While employers in Malaysia are more than happy to compensate workers for their work, people must also understand that they are bogged down by escalating costs.
Shamsuddin: While employers in Malaysia are more than happy to compensate workers for their work, people must also understand that they are bogged down by escalating costs.

“The living wage concept is unrealistic in Malaysia for the time being. While employers in Malaysia are more than happy to compensate workers for their work, people must also understand that they are bogged down by escalating costs.

“However, if the workers are proactive and upskill themselves to increase their productivity, then I do not see any reason for employers to refrain from offering higher pay packages.

“The Government on its part, should not micro-manage the economy to the extent of telling the employers how much to pay their workers. Instead, the Government can provide various incentives to the employers to bring down costs, which will translate into higher salaries or even exempt the employees’ bonuses from tax,” he says.

Socio Economic Research Centre executive director Lee Heng Guie welcomes Bank Negara’s living wage guideline “to prevent a wage employee from the deprivation of a decent standard of living”.

In order to push for the acceptance of a living wage in Malaysia, Lee recommends that government-linked companies (GLCs) adopt the concept gradually.

“The enforcement of commitments toward the living wage is a complex and costly issue, and more importantly, should be paid voluntarily by the employers.

“This would require extensive consultations and engagements with the stakeholders.

“Perhaps, as one of the largest employers in the country, GLCs can incorporate the living wage clause in their suppliers’ procurement contracts,” he says.

Concerns about Malaysia’s low-wage environment are not only centred on the low-skilled workers but across-the-board, as even executives lament about being lowly-compensated.

Are Malaysians being paid enough?

Based on data from the Statistics Department’s Salaries and Wages Survey Report 2016, most Malaysian workers are still paid significantly lower than the desired amount to achieve “minimum acceptable living standard”, at least in Kuala Lumpur.

Nearly 50% of working adults in Kuala Lumpur earned less than RM2,500 per month in 2016, notably lower than the RM2,700 living wage as suggested by Bank Negara.

In fact, up to 27% of households in Kuala Lumpur earned below the estimated living wage in 2016.

While wage growth has exceeded inflation over the years, real wage growth has been largely subtle. Real wage refers to income adjusted for inflation.

According to the MEF’s website, the salaries of executives were expected to grow by 5.55% in 2017, compared with 6.31% in 2013. As for non-executives, the average salary was anticipated to increase by 5.44% in 2017, down from 6.78% in 2013.

Given the 3.7% headline inflation registered in 2017, executives’ salaries may have just inched up by 1.85% on average, after factoring in inflation.

As for non-executives, their real wage could have grown by 1.74%, lesser than the executives in Malaysia.

While a slight moderation in headline inflation is expected this year, the purchasing power of Malaysians is unlikely to improve significantly.

In an earlier report by StarBiz, Shamsuddin described 2018 as a “bad year for employees and employers”, and projected Malaysians’ average salary increment to be lower than last year.

He blamed several new policies and measures introduced by the government such as the mandatory requirement for employers to defray levy for their foreign workers and the introduction of the Employment Insurance System, which would increase the costs borne by domestic businesses.

“It will be difficult for employers to raise salaries after this, given such dampeners,” he was reported as saying.

The biggest challenge now is to strike a balance between the market’s ability to compensate a worker and the worker’s required income level to achieve a minimum acceptable standard of living.

Sunway University Business School professor of economics Yeah Kim Leng says that more efforts have to be made to enhance the business and investment climate, in order to entice existing firms to expand and upgrade while new firms and start-ups emerge to create more high-paying jobs.

Yeah: A good quality and inclusive education system coupled with sound economic policies and effective implementation have enabled the two countries to sustain growth. << Yeah: A good quality and inclusive education system coupled with sound economic policies and effective implementation have enabled the two countries to sustain growth.
Yeah: A good quality and inclusive education system coupled with sound economic policies and effective implementation have enabled the two countries to sustain growth
.

He also calls upon business owners and employees to forge appropriate wage-setting mechanisms, which are benchmarked against the productivity of the workers.

“The Government should consider additional fiscal incentives for firms that provide worker benefits to meet the living wage standard. For example, double tax deduction for transport allowance and other cost of living adjustments for the lower-salaried employees,” states Yeah.

Meanwhile, Lee opines that employees should be given a higher share of the profit generated by their employers moving forward, in line with the practice in many high-income nations abroad.
 

“It is actually reasonable for Malaysian employers to allocate a larger chunk of their profits to reward their workers and motivate them,” he says. 

In 2016, the compensation of employees to gross domestic product (CE-to-GDP) ratio in Malaysia improved to 35.3%. The CE-to-GDP ratio shows the workers’ share in the profits made by business owners.

For every RM1 generated in 2016, 35.3 sen was paid to the employee and 59.5 sen went to corporate earnings, while five sen was given to the government in the form of taxes.

In its 11th Malaysia Plan, the Government aspires to increase the CE-to-GDP ratio substantially to 40%, from 34% in 2013.

While Malaysia’s CE-to-GDP ratio has continued to improve over the years, it is notably lower than several other high and middle-income countries.

The 11th Malaysia Plan document stated that the country’s CE-to-GDP ratio was lower than Australia (47.8%), South Korea (43.2%) and even South Africa (45.9%).

In an earlier media report, however, Malaysian Institute of Economic Research executive director Zakariah Abdul Rashid hinted that Malaysia was unlikely to reach its CE-to-GDP ratio target by 2020.

This was mainly as a result of Malaysia’s lower-than-expected productivity growth.


Low-wage conundrum

 According to Bank Negara, the main underlying cause of Malaysia’s low-wage environment is the high numbers of cheap foreign workers.

Governor Tan Sri Muhammad Ibrahim says that the country should cut back on its foreign worker dependency to drive higher wages for Malaysians across-the-board.

“In Malaysia, our salaries and wages are low, as half of the working Malaysians earn less than RM1,700 per month and the average starting salary of a diploma graduate is only about RM350 above the minimum wage.

“It is high time to reform our labour market by creating high-quality, good-paying jobs for Malaysians,” he says.

Echoing a similar stance, Yeah says that the continuing reliance on foreign workers has resulted in a predominantly low wage-low productivity-low value economy, with many features of a middle-income trap.

“On one end of the wage-skill spectrum, the low-skilled jobs are being substituted by easy availability of unskilled foreign workers, thereby keeping the blue-collar wages from rising.

“At the other end, skilled job wages are being depressed by insufficient high-wage job creation, weak firm profitability amid rising market competition and excess capacity, industry consolidations and other factors resulting in a slack labour market,” he says.

Lee: The enforcement of commitments toward the living wage is a complex and costly issue, and more importantly, should be paid voluntarily by the employers. << Lee: The enforcement of commitments toward the living wage is a complex and costly issue, and more importantly, should be paid voluntarily by the employers.
Lee: The enforcement of commitments toward the living wage is a complex and costly issue, and more importantly, should be paid voluntarily by the employers.

It is worth noting that the share of high-skilled jobs has reduced to 37% in the period from 2011 to 2017, as compared to 45% from 2002 to 2010.

Malaysia has come a long way since its independence, transforming itself from a largely rural agragrian country to a regional economic powerhouse, which is driven by its strong services and manufacturing sectors.


While industrialisation and automation have grown robustly since the 1990s, economists feel that the country has not managed to substantially move up the value chain compared with other countries such as Singapore.

The lack of a high-skilled workforce, low productivity, employment opportunities to cater to high-skilled professionals and the presence of cheap foreign workers have all weighed down on the Malaysian economy, particularly the income levels of Malaysians.

Citing the examples of Singapore and Australia, which are successful in raising wages historically, Yeah says that structural reforms should be undertaken in Malaysia to reverse the low-wage conundrum.

“A good quality and inclusive education system coupled with sound economic policies and effective implementation have enabled the two countries to sustain growth, raise productivity and wages and shift to higher-value activities,” he says.

Sources: by Ganeshwaran Kana, The Star

Economist: Manage labour issues to achieve high-income economy

Cheap manpower: While Malaysia has clearly
benefitted from the presence of foreign workers, the role that foreign
workers play in the Malaysian economy must keep up with the times.

WHY are wages still low in Malaysia?

Well, there are six words to describe the main reason for this – “high dependence on low-skilled foreign workers”.

The issue of Malaysia’s huge reliance on low-skilled foreign labour has been raised time and again, but only moderate progress has been made in alleviating the situation.

Low-skilled foreign labour remains a prevalent feature of Malaysia’s economy, and according to Bank Negara, it is a major factor suppressing local wages and impeding the country’s progress towards a high-productivity nation.

As the central bank governor Tan Sri Muhammad Ibrahim puts it, Malaysia is currently weighed down by a low-wage, low-productivity trap, with the contributing factor being the prolonged reliance on low-skilled foreign workers.

While their existence may benefit individual firms in the short term, they could impose high macroeconomic costs to the economy over the longer term.

“Easy availability of cheap low-skilled foreign workers blunts the need for productivity improvement and automation. Employers keep wages low to maintain margins,” Muhammad says.

“Unfortunately, this depresses wages for local workers. The hiring of low-skilled foreign workers also promotes the creation of low-skilled jobs,” he adds.

From 2011 to 2017, the share of low-skilled jobs in Malaysia increased significantly to 16%, compared with only 8% in the period of 2002 to 2010. Apart from that, local economic sectors that rely on foreign workers such as agriculture, construction and manufacturing also suffer from low productivity.

Nevertheless, it is an undeniable fact that foreign workers do contribute somewhat to Malaysia’s economic growth.

The World Bank, in its study about three years ago noted that immigrant labour both high and low-skilled, continued to play a crucial role in Malaysia’s economic development, and would still be needed for the country to achieve high-income status by 2020.

The global institution’s econometric modeling suggested that a 10% net increase in low-skilled foreign workers could increase Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP) by as much as 1.1%. For every 10 new immigrant workers in a given state and sector, up to five new jobs may be created for Malaysians in that state and sector, it said.

Even so, the World Bank acknowledged that the influx of foreign labour did have a negative impact on the wages of some groups.

Its study found a 10% increase in immigration flow would reduce wages of the least-educated Malaysians, which represents 14% of the total labour force, by 0.74%. Overall, a 10% increase in immigration flow would slightly increase the wages of Malaysians by 0.14%.

According to Muhammad, while some argue that foreign employment creates economic activities, which consequently create jobs for local employment, it is neither the most efficient nor the desired route to create more mid-to-high-skilled jobs.

“Compared with local employment, foreign workers repatriate a large share of their incomes, which limits the spillover or multiplier effect on the domestic economy,” he explains.

Total outward remittances in 2017 stood at RM35.3bil, of which the bulk was accounted for by foreign workers.

In addition, Muhammad says high dependence on low-skilled foreign workers will also have an adverse effect of shaping Malaysia’s reputation as a low-skilled, labour-intensive destination.

Bank Negara says while Malaysia has clearly benefitted from the presence of foreign workers, the role that foreign workers play in the Malaysian economy must keep up with the times.

The central bank believes critical reforms to the country’s labour market are very much within its reach, and it should continue to gradually wean its dependence on foreign workers.

Malaysia should seize the opportunity now to set itself on a more productive, sophisticated and sustainable economic growth path, it says.

According to Muhammad, cutting back on foreign worker dependency can help to drive higher wages for Malaysians across-the-board.

The Government’s efforts in reducing the country’s dependency on low-skilled foreign workers have been ongoing since the implementation of the 8th Malaysia Plan (2001-2005), with greater clarity and a renewed focus to resolve the issue at hand upon the implementation of the 11th Malaysia Plan.

This has resulted in the steady decline in the share of documented foreign workers from 16.1% in 2013 to 12.0% of the labour force in 2017.

More can be done to build on the progress made, Bank Negara says, while proposing a five-pronged approach to managing foreign workers in Malaysia.

Firstly, it says, there must be a clear stance on the role of low-skilled foreign workers in Malaysia’s economic narrative. Secondly, policy implementation and changes must be gradual and clearly communicated to the industry.

Thirdly, existing demand-management tools (such as quotas, dependency ceilings and levies) can be reformed to be more market-driven, while incentivising the outcomes that are in line with Malaysia’s economic objectives.

Fourthly, there is room to ensure better treatment of foreign workers, be it improvements in working conditions or ensuring that foreign workers are paid as agreed. Lastly, it is also important to note that the proposed reforms must be complemented with effective monitoring and enforcement on the ground, particularly with respect to undocumented foreign workers.

An economist tells StarBizWeek that addressing the high reliance on foreign workers is pertinent for Malaysia’s transition into a high-income economy.

“Malaysia needs to shift its focus from importing cheap labour to managing labour flow that can maximise growth and facilitate its structural adjustment towards a higher income economy,” he says.

“It has been far too long for our economy to be swamped with foreign workers who are unskilled, or have low skill sets that could not contribute meaningfully to Malaysia’s aspiration of becoming a high-income economy,” he adds.

By Cecilia Kok, The Star

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In the digital dumps: technology triggers teen depression


Teenagers are unable to disconnect from their
smartphones, causing them undue anxiety and distress. But according to experts, saying no to smartphones is not the solution.

Teenagers feel if they’re not on social media all the time, they’re missing something important, or will miss out on a  funny conversation, or someone might say something about them, according to Nolan. — 123rf.com
Technology is how teenagers maintain relationships so Nolan advises parents to discuss and find healthy ways to use it. — dpa
“We know that people rely on smartphones. A recent study shows we touch them about 2,500 times a day on average ”

Brian Bolan, guidance director at Andrew High School in Tinley Park, Illinois.

“Nobody likes to feel a loss of control. So work with them to arrive at a
mutually agreed upon reasonable amount of time to spend on the phone.
Haveitbea discussion, a collaboration. That will probably yield better
results than just saying, ‘No phones’.”
– The Daily Southtown/ Tribune
News Service

Parents have to help teenagers turn off in a world that’s always on.

The problem with teens and ­smartphones, experts say, is “they’re always on”.

Both of them. And that can take a toll on their mental health. A new study links anxiety, severe depression, suicide attempts and suicide with the rise in use of smartphones, tablets and other devices.

Parents are urged to help their children foster real ­relationships, the ones that involve making eye contact and ­interpreting body ­language. Local mental health experts encourage teens and ­parents to establish a routine that fosters a balance between real and virtual communication, even as many adolescents will no doubt have found gifts of technology under the tree last holiday.

For as smart as phones may be these days, they simply don’t know when to quit. To protect their kids’ mental health, parents must ­develop methods for outsmarting them, experts say, and often that involves simply turning them off.

Jean Twenge, psychology professor at San Diego State University and a graduate of the University of Chicago, has written extensively on youth and mental health. She has released a study that shows a ­correlation between the rise of the smartphone and increasing rates of depression, suicide attempts and suicide itself among teens.

According to news reports, the finding is based on CDC data and teen-issued surveys that revealed that feelings of hopelessness and suicidal contemplation had gone up by 12% during the time period and that nearly half of the teens who indicated they spend five or more hours a day on a ­smartphone, laptop or tablet said they had contemplated, planned or attempted suicide at least once – compared with 28% of those who said they spend less than an hour a day on a device.

Local school counselors and social workers as well as clinical mental health experts at local ­hospitals in the United States ­confirm they are seeing an uptick in signs of depression and/or ­anxiety among teens. But, they also say, there are things parents and professionals can do to help curb the risks.

Too much, too often

“I just came from a South Side guidance directors conference where we heard from a couple of hospitals in the area that treat ­students for depression or suicidal tendencies or high anxiety. They’re telling us they’ve seen quite an uptick, that they’re hiring staff, they’ve got longer waiting times, they’re running more programmes just to keep up with the need they’re seeing among high school kids and even younger kids,” said Brian Nolan, guidance director at Andrew High School in Tinley Park, Illinois.

Nolan said, “My belief is that today’s technology never allows children to truly disengage from their social lives. When we were kids we could hang out with our friends during the day and then at night, we’d have down time with the family or we might go shoot hoops or play Legos away from friends, so we could gain some kind of balance.”

But the smartphone’s ability to connect us all immediately doesn’t allow that social interaction to ever be turned off, he said. Some of the allure is the desire to be included, and some of it is defensive, he said.

“They feel like if they’re not on it all the time, they’re missing ­something important, or will miss out on a funny conversation, or someone might say something about them. There’s a lot of worry and concern and stress about what’s going on in social media at a time when it would be nice for a child to step away from it and not care,” Nolan said.

“We know that people rely on smartphones. A recent study shows we touch them about 2,500 times a day on average,” he said. “I use food as a metaphor. If a student is overeating or eating a bunch of junk food, you probably as a parent would have a conversation about better eating habits, the importance of exercise, moderation, things like that.”

“Cellphones are exactly the same. To tell a student you can’t use it, is the same as saying you can’t eat. That may sound extreme but that’s the ­reality. (Technology) is how they maintain ­relationships. So, it’s ­probably better to discuss healthy ways to use it,” he said.

Questions to ask your teen, he said, might include: Do you feel addicted to it? Are you checking it ­constantly? Can you set it down for awhile?

When students only ­interact via technology, Nolan said, “they’re much more likely to withdraw from healthier interactions and are more likely to be hypersensitive to what’s being posted. If they aren’t included they can feel lonely. If they are included, they can feel pressure to keep up”.

“I think parents feel bad (about this). It’s hard to attack a thing we don’t fully understand ourselves, because we didn’t grow up with it,” he added.

But, Nolan added, “modeling is a big piece of this. We as adults sometimes stop conversations with our own children because we have a text message coming in. Or we’ll text at the dinner table or while driving. So, we’re teaching our children that what comes through the phone is immediate and important and that it should take precedence over what we are currently doing”.

Equal access to good and bad

In her 17 years as a social worker at Argo High School in Summit, Illinois, Allison Bean said she’s had “a front row seat to the shift from a time where kids couldn’t wait to leave the house to hang out with their peers to the present day digital age where our kids are reluctant to leave the couch”.

“Many of my students may not have adequate clothing, food or even running water in their homes; but they have phones,” she said.

Teens, she said, “are (physically) isolating themselves more and more from their real support ­systems during a period of their lives that, even under the best ­circumstances, is very turbulent and stressful”.

Exacerbating the situation, Bean said, is that the very device that can cause depression is also giving fragile teens access to websites that can encourage them to engage in self-harming behaviours.

To complicate matters, she said, mental health experts are warning about the dangers of technology at a time when more schools are going paperless and issuing tablets to students.

“While there may be an upside to going paperless, one thing is ­certain: Our kids will be spending countless numbers of hours in front of some type of screen during the duration of their education. Headaches, tired eyes, and ­insomnia are bad for everyone. For students that are already prone to mental health issues, this too often results in truancy, low test scores, poor homework habits and ­depression,” she said.

“They are depriving themselves of the opportunity to exercise their social skills; skills that are critical for life. This is obviously dangerous in numerous ways. Not only does it dissuade students from ­leaving the confines of their rooms to engage with peers in a ­developmentally appropriate way, there are many predators online who are able to find young people who are vulnerable, isolated and desperately seeking attention,” she said.

“There’s no question mental health crises are on the rise, and at the high school level, depression and anxiety are the primary ­diagnoses that I see in our ­community,” she said.

Signs of trouble?

It’s not just technology that is causing the trouble, said Rian Rowles, chairman of psychiatric services at Advocate Christ Medical Center. In his 12 years at the Oak Lawn, Illinois hospital, the ­psychiatrist has seen the number of patients referred to the ­adolescent programme rise by more than half.

“It’s also social media. It’s very clear to me that the advent of social media has exacerbated stressors. Not just depression, but anxiety as well,” he said.

“There are stressors that go along with adolescence but you used to be able to leave the interpersonal stuff at school. Bullying used to be a school phenomenon.”

Social media, he said, can make it a 24/7 thing.

“When you’re writing and ­posting things, there’s a phenomenon in which you don’t have the same filter you might when talking on the phone or in person. I think that lends itself to more abrasive statements,” he said. “So not only is it constantly there for these kids, it’s more intense.”

Rowles said adolescents can have the same symptoms as adults when it comes to depression and anxiety: abrupt changes in sleep ability, appetite changes (usually significantly less food), social ­isolation marked by less ­communicating with friends and less participation in social or school events, and drastic or ­significant personality change, say from calm to irritable or angry.

Parents can help by reducing the amount of time a teen spends on social media, he said. Professional help typically involves teaching kids ways to develop new coping mechanisms.

Something that might surprise adults, Rowles said, is that ­overusing technology can have a detrimental affect on them, as well.

“Not as drastic, because of what kids have to deal with at school. The phenomenon I see in adults is someone who is already in my care for anxiety or depression and then they get on Facebook,” he said. “People will sort of put on Facebook things that make their life seem very wonderful and it may not be the reality but other people see that and it can ­contribute to their depression. (Facebook) makes it seem like everybody has a better life.”

Widening the lens

Technology may not be the lone culprit, and it is not necessarily bad, said Nadjeh Awadallah, licensed clinical professional ­therapist at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park, Illinois.

The current increase in ­depression and anxiety among teens might be attributed to a ­higher frequency of smartphone use and the fact there’s less stigma about mental health issues, Awadallah said.

“Kids are more prone to ­speaking about mental health issues than maybe they were before,” he said.

A lot of adolescents, he said, would argue that the relationships they have with people online are real relationships. “If they’re ­interacting at a high level of ­frequency, either talking with friends or playing videogames, they’re actually interacting with them,” he said.

And a phone can be a kind of “digital security blanket” in that it enables a person who is dealing with anxiety to look at their phone instead of at other people.

“It’s kind of protective if you want to be left alone,” he said.

Nevertheless, Awadallah added, there is “a great deal of benefit to interacting with somebody face to face because so much of communication has to do with nonverbal communication and giving feedback. When you’re just texting you have to imagine how the person’s voice sounds. It’s hard to deduce if someone is being ­genuine, or sarcastic. So whatever the person transplants onto the thing that they’re reading can impact their mood.

“There’s a high correlation between people withdrawing from person-to-person interaction and depression because that’s what people tend to do when they’re depressed,” he said. “So it’s kind of like a chicken and egg relationship where you don’t know if they’re depressed because they’re on ­electronic media or if they’re on electronic media because they’re depressed.”

Smartphone addiction is a form of process addiction, he said. “It’s a non-chemical addiction where ­people compulsively use the Internet or phone in lieu of self-care actions likes eating or ­sleeping,” he said.

Signs there might be a deep-­seated issue: problems at school, such as concentration, lack of ­energy, poor attendance or a drop in grades; substance abuse or superficial self-harm (such as cutting as an emotional release); and a significant decline in self-esteem.

What can parents do? Awadallah said, “Institute a routine. Make sure kids aren’t using phones or devices when supposed to be ­sleeping because exposing ­themselves to unnatural blue light that’s going to be overly ­stimulating and not let them sleep well. If they’re more invested with ­interacting online than with people in person, you need to talk.

“Nobody likes to feel a loss of control. So work with them to arrive at a mutually agreed upon reasonable amount of time to spend on the phone. Have it be a ­discussion, a collaboration. That will ­probably yield better results than just saying, ‘No phones’.”

— The Daily Southtown/Tribune News Service

How can parents help their teens?

● Encourage downtime

● Be a good role model

● Teach your child to develop coping skills

● Institute a routine

● Mutually agree on time limits for devices and social media

By donna vickroy, The Star

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Living at the edge of chaos, climate change is not fake science


 

Nature’s fury: A car dealership is covered by Hurricane Harvey floodwaters near Houston, Texas. The chaos caused by the hurricane proves that climate change is not fake science. — Reuters

THIS month, two Category 4 hurricanes hit the United States within 17 days of each other. In Asia, North Korea is threatening nuclear Armageddon, and floods and famine are putting thousands of lives at risk from Bangladesh to Yemen. How can one survive in this chaotic era?

A first step must be to make sense of the apparent chaos. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have proved that climate change is not fake science, but real threats to home and security. When hailstones the size of golf balls hit Istanbul in the middle of summer, even the agnostics accept that climate change is serious business.

The biggest uncertainty that has hit Asia recently is the shock that North Korea has not only developed possibly a hydrogen bomb, but also the missile capability to deliver it even to the United States. This has changed the geopolitical balance not only in North Asia, but globally because it is no longer possible for the United States alone to contain nuclear proliferation.

Physics teaches us that chaos is often a characteristic of transition from one order to another. Chaos is also a pattern in which there is apparently no discernible pattern.

But there is a seismic transition from a unipolar world led by the United States to a multi-polar world of competing powers and ideology, particularly after the 2007 global financial crisis. As the share of US GDP in the world declines relative to the rest, the rise of China, India and increasing assertion by Russia and non-state players like IS means that the United States’ ability to dominate militarily and ideologically is being challenged.

At the same time, increasing stresses from social inequalities and paranoia of terror, immigration and job loss have tilted the United States to become more inward looking. The Trump administration has dramatically begun to dismantle the neoliberal order of multilateral trade and finance that shaped US foreign policy since the end of the Second World War.

There is a raw open division within the United States in outlook and values. The Democratic Left believes in maintaining the old order of moral leadership on human rights, democracy and multilateral global stability and prosperity. The Republican Right questions these beliefs and prefers America First, negotiating bilaterally to achieve that premier status.

Earlier this year, the Pentagon asked the Rand Corporation to conduct a review on “Alternative Options for US Policy toward the International Order”. The key questions for the New Global Order are: Who sets the rules and how binding are the rules?

The study breaks the future order into two camps of rule-makers – the US and its allies or a concert of great powers. Under such a division, there are two conditions where rules are binding – one dominated by the US camp to enforce rules and the other where the great powers agree to a global constitutional order enforced by institutions. The other two conditions where rules are not binding involve a coalition of states aligned to counteract against revisionism and a new concert of great powers.

The immediate problem with the Rand categorisation of New Order Visions is that the existing liberal, rules-based order is not being challenged by others, but by the US itself.

First, after German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s comment earlier this year that Europe must begin to look after its own interests, it is no longer clear that America’s traditional allies are going to follow the US leadership when there are serious disagreements on trade, climate change and immigration. It is no coincidence that the largest trade imbalances are no longer between China or oil producers with the US, but between Europe and the United States. Germany alone is running a current account surplus equivalent to around 8% of GDP.

Second, within the Middle East, alliances are shifting almost by the day. The quarrel between Saudi Arabia and Qatar has riven the Gulf Cooperation Council, while Turkey is playing an increasingly pivotal role within the shifting alliances.

Third, North Korea’s bid for nuclear power membership, despite being a small state, means that Great Powers may have to accommodate new players whether they like it or not.

Fourth, climate change in the form of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma demonstrate that nature can impose larger and larger economic losses on nations and regions, which will require global public goods that the current order is neither willing to fund, nor able to agree on how to address. The economic losses from Harvey alone is estimated at US$180bil, equivalent to the annual GDP of a middle-income economy. The existing multilateral bodies such as the United Nations and the World Bank are facing serious resource shortages relative to these new global demands.

The bottom line is that the current order has neither the resources nor the collective will to enforce rules when the human population growth puts increasing competition for scarce water, food and territorial spaces. Chaos arises from the breakdown of rules and borderlines.

In short, globalisation of trade, information and human migration has meant that traditional borders in many regions are becoming non-enforceable. For example, it is 101 years since the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement divided up the collapsing Ottoman Empire into British, French and Russian spheres of interest and eventual control. These borders were drawn and enforced by the Great Powers through their military superiority.

Seen from the long lens of history, with the Great Powers being unwilling to put troops on the ground to enforce borders drawn up under the colonial era, these artificial borders are failing.

A hallmark of the times is that even the best of think tanks cannot map out how to navigate through this era of disruptive technology, unpredictable climate and shifting alliances and interests. What history teaches us is that the fault lines will be at the borderlands, at the confluence of emerging forces and stresses.

We should therefore be prepared for not only disruption at the borderlands of physical space, but within the realms of cyberspace.

By Andrew Sheng

Tan Sri Andrew Sheng writes on global issues from an Asian perspective.

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China’s powerful drone ready for global market


 

China is ready to mass-produce the CH-5 reconnaissance/combat drone, the nation’s latest offering to the international military drone market.

The first mass-production CH-5 made its debut flight, in which it was airborne for more than 20 minutes, at an airport in Hebei province on Friday afternoon.

Ou Zhongming, project manager of the Caihong, or Rainbow, series of drones at the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics in Beijing, said after the test that several nations, including current users of other CH models and new clients, are in talks with the academy on procurement of the CH-5, which is believed to be one of the best unmanned military aircraft in the world.

“Today’s flight means the CH-5’s design has been finalized and we are ready to mass-produce it,” he said, refusing to name potential buyers.

The China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics is the country’s largest military drone exporter by the number of products sold overseas. Its CH-series drones have been sold to militaries in more than 10 countries, making it the largest drone family the country has exported, according to statistics from the academy.

Shi Wen, chief designer of the CH series, said the CH-5 outperforms all of its Chinese-made counterparts when it comes to operational endurance and payload capacity. The plane is as good as the US-made General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper, a hunter-killer drone often deemed by Western analysts as the best of its kind, he added.

The prototype CH-5 was first flown in August 2015. The drone is made of composite materials and has a wingspan of 21 meters. Twice as big as its predecessors in the CH family, the drone can stay in the air for 60 hours, almost three times that of other Chinese models. Its maximum operational range is designed at 10,000 kilometers, according to Shi.

The drone’s 1-metric-ton payload capacity enables it to bring as many as 24 missiles on a single mission, strong enough to take out a convoy of armored vehicles.

The unmanned aircraft is also able to carry an airborne early warning system to act as a platform for regional surveillance and battlefield command and control. It also can carry electronic warfare instruments to collect electronic intelligence and to jam enemy communications or radar.

Moreover, the CH-5 can detect underwater targets such as submarines when mounted with certain devices, Shi said.

The CH-5 can also use high-resolution cameras, radar and radio transmitters to serve a wide range of civilian and public sectors.

Source: (China Daily)

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