Timely superpower funds from China to ease woes

Fruitful talks: Top Malaysian businessmen having a meeting with Li (centre right) on Nov 23. Also present was Prime Minister’s Special Envoy to China Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting (centre left)

Republic’s generous gesture is like prescribing right medicine to a sick patient, say top businessmen.

LAST Monday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announced numerous measures to help Malaysia stabilise its financial market, and their positive impact was felt the next day with the gains in ringgit and bonds seen.

For the country, the most significant measure had to be Beijing’s pledge to buy up Malaysian government bonds, which have been hit by foreign dumping since the second half of last year after crude oil prices began to plunge.

For 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), the sale of its power assets under Edra Global Energy Bhd to state-owned China General Nuclear Power Corporation for RM9.83bil cash was a huge relief. This transaction will help 1MDB cut its debts of RM42bil by about 24%.

And for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, China’s choice of Malaysia to issue the first “silk-road” bond and plan to invest more here is a major diplomatic victory.

As expected, sentiment on the capital market improved the following day. The ringgit rose the highest among emerging-market currencies, while stocks and bonds gained, due mainly to the power deal, according to Bloomberg. The ringgit strengthened 1.3% to 4.2495 a dollar in Kuala Lumpur while the KLCI index rose 0.5%.

On the sale of power assets, Credit Suisse said in its research report on Nov 24: “The sale of the 1MDB power unit is the first step towards resolving 1MDB’s RM42bil debt. We see this news as positive for the ringgit. The sale of 60% of Bandar Malaysia will likely be concluded by year-end. We believe 1MDB would then be wound down.”

Strong ties: (picture left) Najib showing the development of Putrajaya to Li during the latter’s recent visit to Malaysia and (picture above) Ter (left) sharing a light moment with Li during a meeting as Ong (centre) looks on.Strong ties: (picture left) Najib showing the development of Putrajaya to Li during the latter’s recent visit to Malaysia.

Strong ties: Najib showing the development of Putrajaya to Li during the latter’s recent visit to Malaysia.

To recap, at the Malaysia-China High-Level Economic Forum on Nov 23 in Kuala Lumpur, Li said: “It is imperative to stabilise the financial market. So, we want to assume a market role by purchasing your treasury bonds in accordance with market principles.”

The Chinese premier also said that in the next five years, China was expected to import foreign goods worth US$10 trillion (RM42.6 trillion) and this demand could unleash business opportunities for Malaysian firms.

“A waterfront pavilion gets the moonlight first,” he said, citing a Chinese proverb. This means that Malaysia, being close in terms of distance and diplomatic ties with China, will enjoy the most benefits generated by China’s economic policy.

Li was in Malaysia for four days from Nov 20 to 23 to attend the Asean-East Asia Summit and to hold bilateral talks with Najib.

But Li, who was paying his first official visit to Kuala Lumpur as premier, did not reveal how much Beijing would invest in Malaysian bonds. However, businessmen who know China well believe this bond purchase could be major.

“As the Chinese Premier handles China’s economic policy and affairs, I believe this bond purchase will be significant enough to stabilise the ringgit that is grossly under-valued,” says Datuk Ter Leong Yap, president of the Associated Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (ACCCIM).

Ter was among the 10 corporate captains whom Li met with before speaking at the forum. Ter, in this private meeting, says he had proposed that China buy Malaysian bonds to halt the ringgit’s decline.

Malaysian top businessmen meeting with Premier Li on Nov 23 of 2015.Malaysian top businessmen meeting with Premier Li on Nov 23 of 2015. –

Ter (left) sharing a light moment with Li during a meeting as Ong (centre) looks on.

The ringgit, seen as facing further decline due to the impending hike in US interest rates, has been hit by three waves of outflow of foreign funds.

The first came after the crude oil price plunge, the second after the 1MDB saga was highlighted and the third, political instability amid calls for the resignation of the Prime Minister.

The ringgit has lost about 20% of its value to the dollar so far this year. Its fall is the biggest among currencies in the region.

The outflow of funds has not only hit Malaysia’s economy and investor confidence, but also reduced its international reserves tremendously.

Li also announced that China would provide a 50 billion yuan (RM33bil) quota under the Renminbi Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor (RQFII) programme for Malaysian institutional funds to purchase shares and bonds directly in the world’s second largest economy.

In response to this announcement, Bank Negara Malaysia said the RQFII programme would complement the renminbi clearing bank arrangement in Malaysia. And collectively, the initiatives will support the growing bilateral trade, investment and financial flows as well as position Malaysia as an offshore renminbi centre in the region.

In conjunction with Li’s visit, China Construction Bank (Asia) Corporation Ltd announced it would list the world’s first ever 21st Century Maritime Silk Road bond of one billion yuan (RM667.1mil) on Bursa Malaysia. The notes will support China’s “The Land & Maritime Silk Road” initiative.

“These announcements, together with the bond purchase, are significant for Malaysia as they imply that this big economic power is reading Malaysia positively and has confidence in our country. Confidence crisis is a major reason for people dumping the ringgit.

“By making announcements to invest in Malaysia and invite local funds to invest in China, Li is sending two strong signals: China is reading Malaysia positively and this superpower has confidence in Malaysia,” said Ter in an interview.

Chinese daily Nanyang Siang Pau describes Li’s announcements as “gifts” that will stabilise Malaysia’s financial market, while China Press sees these as “timely rain after a long drought”.

During one of his speeches here, Li told Malaysia to get ready for the influx of Chinese tourists, as his government would encourage its people to visit the country.

Chinese tourists, who form a significant portion of in-bound visitors, have declined since the dis­appearance of Flight MH370 last year.

As tourism is high on Najib’s agenda to bring in the much-needed foreign exchange earnings, this influx will cheer Malaysia up.

But China’s generous gesture is not to be taken that it’s all about friendship, though both countries say bilateral ties have been lifted to a new height now. There is the interplay of diplomatic and economic reasons.

It is public knowledge that Beijing appreciates Malaysia’s stance to play down China’s dispute with other nations in the disputed waters of South China Sea, in which China, Japan and several South-East Asian nations, including Malaysia, are territorial claimants.

China’s construction on islands and reefs in the disputed waters has caused diplomatic tension, heightened recently by the United States’ move to send a warship within 12 nautical miles of a Chinese reef in the area.

There are also investment returns and economic benefits in the long run for the Chinese.

“China’s investments in Malaysia is a smart move, contrarian investing at its finest. What the wise man does at the beginning, the fool does at the end. Our fundamentals are intact, ringgit tremendously undervalued,” says Ian Yoong Kah Yin, business development director of Red Sena Bhd.

This former investment banker at CIMB believes Chinese investments will pay as the ringgit should improve to 3.70-3.90 to a dollar by the end of 2016, from current levels of around 4.25 to 4.30.

In response to China’s timely aid, Najib pledged that Malaysia was committed to awarding the Johor Baru-Gemas double-track rail project to a consortium of Chinese companies. Indeed, China’s state-owned construction giants have been awarded local projects worth over RM15bil in the last three years.

Najib also took note of China’s interest in the high-speed rail project between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, but said this would be decided via international tender.

Referring to the bilateral trade target of US$160bil (RM683mil) by 2017, the Prime Minister said there should be doubling of efforts to reach the level. Annual bilateral trade has exceeded US$100bil (RM426bil) since last year.

Summing up Li’s visit to Malaysia, QL Resources Bhd’s Dr Chia Song Kun says: “All these measures announced by Premier Li during our most trying times will certainly help Malaysia, be it from the economic or political aspect.”

The vice-president of the Selangor/Kuala Lumpur Chinese Chamber of Commerce adds: “Our country is facing a confidence crisis and this has undermined business and consumer confidence. China’s move this time is like prescribing the right medicine to a sick patient.”

By Ho Wah Foon The Star/Asian News Network

A superpower, but not a threat

Premier Li’s visit to Malaysia serves as ‘silent counterattack’ over South China Sea conflict.

600-year-old bond: Li (second from right) and his wife Cheng Hong touring the Cheng Ho Museum during their visit to Malacca. — Bernama

“WE come in peace, as always,” is the strong message sent out by China’s Li Keqiang to Malaysia and other countries in the region during his recent visit.

When the Premier made repeated refe­rence to Admiral Zheng He (or Cheng Ho) in his speeches, he reiterated that the prominent navigator had embarked on his voyages with friendship and peace in mind.

Admiral Zheng He and his Chinese fleet of the Ming Dynasty did not invade the lands they visited 600 years ago, and China has no plans to do so now, too.

China wishes to assure its neighbours that its rise as a superpower in the realms of politics, economy, and military should not be seen as a threat.

On the contrary, it is now offering vast opportunities to cooperate for mutual benefit while insisting on harmonious ties with other countries.

Li, who was on his first official visit to Malaysia as the Premier of China, had inclu­ded Malacca in his itinerary.

Dotted with historical landmarks, the state has a meaningful position in the relations between Malaysia and China.

It was where it all began.

From the Sky Tower observatory deck on the 43rd floor of The Shore shopping complex, Li looked out at the Strait of Malacca, which Admiral Zheng sailed through to dock at the port of Malacca during his voyages.

At the Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum, Li learned about Peranakan culture that came into existence from the interactions between people from the two lands. He also toured the Cheng Ho Cultural Museum, where Admiral Zheng’s warehouse once stood.

But Li’s visit to the state was more than just a walk down memory lane.

Malacca is now the “friendly state” to China’s southern province of Guangdong. This is the first of such status approved by the Cabinet, as the usual practice has been establishing a sister city tie with another foreign city instead of a state-to-state pact.

According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Guangdong province is now “actively dovetailing development with Malacca, and making preparations to build a modern seaside industrial park integrating maritime high-tech industries, deep-water wharf and logistics centres”.

The Strait of Malacca is included in the route of the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road, together with the land-based Silk Road Economic Belt, which represents China’s great ambitions to boost connectivity and cooperation with countries in the world.

Malacca Port is also one of the six Malaysian ports to form an alliance with 10 Chinese ports, as specified in a memorandum of understanding signed between both coun­tries during Li’s visit.

Li’s stopover in Malacca, although brief, has reverberating effects. Besides giving an official stamp of approval to the bilateral project in Malacca, Li wanted to get across the message of peaceful exchanges, harmony and inclusiveness.

China Foreign Affairs University vice-president Jiang Ruiping told state-owned news agency, China News Service, that Admiral Zheng’s friendly diplomacy is still relevant today.

It serves as a “silent counterattack” at a time when the international community plays up the South China Sea issue, referring to the territorial row between China and a few South-East Asian nations including Malaysia.

China’s assertiveness over the waters, as illustrated by its recent reclamation activities, has prompted the United States to patrol in the disputed waters. The US Navy has received the support of Japan, which is also embroiled in a territorial dispute with China over islands in the East China Sea.

Opposing the interference from countries outside the region, Li, when speaking at the Asean-China Summit in Kuala Lumpur during his visit, said China sees the high-profile intervention as an act that does no good to anyone.

He said China is committed to peaceful settlement of the dispute through negotiation and consultation.

“Together with our Asean friends, we have the confidence to make the South China Sea a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation for the benefit of all countries in the region.”

By Tho Xin Yi Check-in China


A new journey to make history 


1MDB exits power business, sells it to China for RM9.83bil …


Ringgit at 5-week high – The Star Online


TPPA a bad deal for Malaysia, can’t isolate China, only trade growth defines merits of TPP

KUALA LUMPUR: United Nations assistant director-general and coordinator for economic and social development, food and agriculture organisation, Dr Jomo Kwame Sundaram (pix) has called on the government not to join the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) as it provides little benefit for Malaysia.

“I am extremely disappointed. I think it is going to affect, not only the Malaysian business community, but also Malaysian consumers and citizens adversely,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the Khazanah Megatrend Forum 2015 .

On Monday, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (Miti) said the recently concluded TPPA negotiations had agreed to take into consideration almost all of Malaysia’s concerns and sensitivities such as government procurement, state-owned enterprises and bumiputra issues.

The TPP is a trade agreement initiative involving 12 countries namely Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam.

Miti said the TPPA will be presented to parliament once the complete and official text of the agreement is prepared.

Bloomberg reported that Malaysia’s state-owned enterprises may suffer from the deal, which calls for equal access to government procurement even though electronics, chemical products, palm oil and rubber exporters benefit from it.

Jomo said that the TPPA is politically motivated, in that it is an attempt by the US to try and isolate China, with minimum trade advantages for Malaysia.

“For example, if Malaysia produces solar panels it can’t be sold in the US and elsewhere. These are all contravening the bilateral agreements. You cannot expect the TPPA to overcome that,” he explained.

On intellectual property rights, Jomo said that the most significant implication is the cost of medication.

“They have exclusive rights and have been depriving people from the benefits of this. This is scandalous and inhumane, it cannot explain why Malaysia agreed to this,” he said.

In a statement late on Monday however, Miti had reiterated that the TPPA should not hinder the public’s access to affordable drugs and healthcare, while ensuring the necessary incentives for pharmaceutical innovators to produce new drugs and medicines.

Even though there will be “small” benefits, Jomo said the government should look at it as a whole, especially from the cost perspective.

He also said foreign complainants will have more legal resources for dispute settlement through new arbitration panels compared with those from developing countries.

“Even in the negotiations, they (developing countries) are not very well prepared, and everyone knows most of the developing countries just accepted what was given to them. It was the developed countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Japan that were insisting on it and the US compromised to them,” he added.

Meanwhile, Miti secretary-general Tan Sri Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria stressed that the full text of the TPPA will be made available to the public soon.

“We’ve nothing to hide, at the end of the day, the important thing is we want to be sure this works for Malaysia,” she said.

She does not foresee the TPPA taking effect in the next two years considering it has to be approved by every participating country

It will be a long process, maybe two years or more, I don’t know,” she added.

A cost benefit analysis commissioned by Miti to determine the attractiveness of the deal is yet to be completed.

TPPA cost benefit analysis still pending

Should have been finalised earlier for the sake of public understanding

PETALING JAYA: The cost benefit analysis on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) should have been finalised and released earlier for the sake of public understanding, Bantah TPPA group chairman Mohd Nizam Mahshar said in a statement yesterday.

Commenting on the conclusion of the TPPA negotiations, he said the cost benefit analysis should have been finalised and released earlier, to provide the public and interested parties with a greater understanding of the TPPA and its implications.

The release of the cost benefit analysis has been delayed for months.

“Until now, it has not been released and we only have three months from the official date of the negotiation’s conclusion to the date that it has to be signed,” he added.

International Trade and Industry Minister, Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said in a Facebook posting yesterday that the contents of the TPPA deal will be made public next month and presented to parliament for debate within the next two months.

The minister said it would also include the completed cost benefit analysis.

“This does not mean a thing. Even though debated by parliamentarians, the agreement cannot be amended,” Mohd Nizam said.
“From this day to the next 90 days Malaysia has only two choices, either to take the TPPA agreement as a whole or to reject it completely. We still have a say if we choose to speak up,” he added.

Nizam said despite the conclusion of the negotiations, the group is maintaining its position that the TPPA deal will not benefit the country’s trade or economic health.

He said the possible impact includes restrictions of policy space, intrusions on legal and political sovereignty, huge impact to small and medium enterprises and infant industry, access to affordable medicine, as well as intellectual property effects to knowledge and information institutions and industries.

Meanwhile, the recently formed coalition party Parti Amanah Negara said it hoped all comments from the public will be considered seriously.

“We also hope all necessary action will be taken and the debate will not merely be an exercise in ‘public relations’,” its communication director Khalid Abd Samad said in a statement.

He added that the minister previously had acknowledged that there were several concerns regarding the TPPA, saying among the concerns in the agreement is that it seeks to ensure free competition with minimal government control or intervention.

“This will only result in stronger companies overcoming all others and dominating the market,” Khalid said, explaining that local companies, which are much smaller than the United States multinational companies and other member countries will not be able to compete and therefore become sidelined.

Commenting on the intellectual property rights issue, Khalid said it would have a direct impact specifically on the price of medicine, and enforcement of intellectual property rights would cause higher prices of medicine.

“Even though this may be good for the pharmaceutical companies, it will certainly have a negative effect on the population as a whole,” Khalid added, saying that the party is worried that the deal will only bring short-term benefits, while increasing the country’s dependency on specific sources of revenue.

Meanwhile, Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute’s Centre for public policy studies chairman Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam said the Ministry of International Trade and Industry should hold several town hall meetings to explain the TPPA deal to the public.

“We cannot afford to leave important national agreements and treaties only to politicians to decide, as they may have their own political deals to settle. We all have to actively participate in the debate outside parliament as well,” he added. – The Sunbiz

TPP cannot ‘isolate China’ – Chinese economy increasingly open, inclusive: economist

The US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement will not isolate China or seriously hurt the Chinese economy, experts said Wednesday, adding it could lead the world’s second-largest economy to reach similar deals with other nations, after a deal was reached on the TPP earlier this week.

Amid widespread online pessimism over the trade pact among 12 Pacific Rim nations that some believe deliberately excluded China, Chinese economists said such anxieties have been overblown.

Huang Wei, director of the Institute of World Economics and Politics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the TPP will affect China, but will have a “minimal negative impact” on the Chinese economy in the long run because of the economy’s size and its irreplaceable role in regional and global markets.

Huang believes the TPP creates more of a “psychological effect” on China that the country has been left out by its neighbors and trading partners from such a significant trade agreement. “But don’t turn pale just at the mention of a tiger,” she told the Global Times on Wednesday.

She said, if anything, the trade accord will push China to further engage with regional and global economies and pursue more trade agreements with countries in Asia and around the world, which will help the Chinese economy grow and better compete globally.

Chen Fengying, an expert at the Institute of World Economics Studies under the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, also believes that the TPP will not isolate China from the regional economy and could even be beneficial.

“Given the important role China plays in regional and global economics, a single agreement won’t isolate China,” Chen told the Global Times Wednesday. She added that if the TPP can help build a more open and prosperous Asia, it will be conducive for the Chinese economy.

Both Huang and Chen’s comments come after trade ministers from the US, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, and New Zealand reached a deal.

After days of negotiations on the details of the deal in Atlanta, US officials announced Monday that an agreement had been reached, ending years of talks, though the deal still needs to go through the legislative process of each country before it can be signed and implemented.

Prevailing issues

Some posts on popular social media platforms in China suggested Wednesday that China’s own issues in areas such as intellectual property protection, environmental standards and currency policies prevented it from being included in the deal, while others said the US is trying to single out China and counter China because the US feels its economic and political dominance is being threatened.

Experts said understanding the TPP’s impact should not only be based on the “US conspiracy theory” or the “China-deserves-it” angle.

Zhang Jianping, a foreign trade expert at the National Development and Reform Commission, told the Economic Daily that China lags behind in meeting the TPP’s requirements, such as environmental, finance and labor standards. It will take a long time for China to reach those standards, and that is why China held back in joining the TPP, he said.

Chen also said that intellectual property protection, environmental standards and other factors might have been reasons why China did not sit at the negotiating table, but such a move has pushed China to improve in such areas, as it holds numerous trade talks with countries in Asia and beyond, including TPP member-nations.

China engages world

China has reached separate free trade agreements with Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Peru, and Singapore, who are also involved in the TPP, while continuing talks with the US, Japan and other countries on free-trade deals.

China is also engaged in regional multilateral trade talks, such as the Free-Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) with Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economies, and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia.

All these efforts and other projects such as the “Belt and Road” initiative and the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) show the Chinese economy is moving toward being more open and inclusive, Chen said. It will help the country to maintain its increasing influence over regional and global trade, she added.

Chen also said she believes these trade deals are not mutually exclusive, saying they can complement each other by building a more open and fair regional economy in the Asia-Pacific.

China’s Ministry of Commerce said Tuesday that China is open to any trade agreement “compatible” with rules established by the World Trade Organization, and that is conducive to the regional economic integration of the Asia-Pacific region.- Global Times

Only trade growth will define merits of TPP

Only trade growth will define merits of TPPLabourers work at a garment factory in Sai Dong, outside Hanoi, Vietnam. [Photo/Agencies]

At a critical moment when trade is set to grow less than the global economy for the first time in the last four decades, there is no reason not to welcome the ambitious pact that 12 Pacific Rim countries reached on Monday to create the largest free trade area of the world.

That is why China’s Ministry of Commerce said on Tuesday that the Trans-Pacific Partnership is one of the key free trade agreements for the region and China is open to any mechanism that follows the rules of the World Trade Organization and can boost the economic integration of the Asia-Pacific.

As a top global trading power that has hugely contributed to and benefited from the global trade growth for the last two decades, China sincerely hopes the TPP pact and other free trade arrangements in the region can strengthen each other and boost trade, investment and economic growth in the Asia-Pacific, to benefit not just the region but also the rest of the world.

It is also the common wish of the international community that, as a long-term driving force, the current slow pace of global trade growth should be revived through deeper and wider reforms of the international trade system to fuel a sustainable global recovery from the 2008 financial crisis.

The appealing promise that the TPP may reshape industries and liberalize commerce in 40 percent of the world’s economy has understandably given rise to praise such as the “most ambitious trade pact in a generation”.

Yet the real implications of the TPP deal are far from clear since it has been largely negotiated under a blanket of secrecy to facilitate give-and-take among the signatories.

The power of a successful trade deal is to maximize as much as possible each participant’s comparative advantages in global trade while minimizing predictable political opposition from various domestic vested interests.

Nevertheless, even before the five-year marathon talks have secured a really workable arrangement, US President Barack Obama hastened to paint the pact as a way of stopping China from writing the rules of the global economy in an illusion that he may easily win over the domestic political support he expects.

However, if the deal is based on the political priority of one partner, rather than the shared benefit of all partners, it would be hard to believe that it can ensure free market trade as it is being touted.

The world needs a trade-boosting deal. The United States has a huge onus to prove the merits of the TPP.  – China Daily

Japan security bills, Abe fans anti-China flames with defense paper

By Li Feng

Abe fans anti-China flames with defense paper

People hold placards during a rally against Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration and his security-related legislation in front of the parliament building in Tokyo July 15, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]

The Japanese Cabinet on Tuesday approved its annual defense white paper, in which it accuses China of raising regional tensions in the East China Sea and South China Sea. China’s Ministry of Defense expressed strong dissatisfaction and opposition toward the 429-page document later the same day, saying it “tarnishes the image of China’s military” and deliberately plays up the “China threat” theory. Comments:

By defaming China as a regional security threat in its defense white paper, the Japanese administration led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is clearly aiming to add necessity and legitimacy to the new security bills, which breach Japan’s pacifist Constitution, and complicate Asia-Pacific security issues such as the South China Sea disputes. It will be unfortunate for both Japan and East Asia if Abe remains adamant on challenging China.

Xinhua News Agency, July 21

Japan’s defense white paper for 2015 is not conducive to safeguarding peace and stability in East Asia. The so-called threat is not from China but Japan itself.

Kamakura Takao, an emeritus professor of Saitama University, Japan, July 21

Two new implications in Japan’s latest defense white paper should be noted. First, the document is in line with the new security bills that Abe is trying to muscle through, offering excuses for the country’s overseas military deployment. Second, as a non-stakeholder in the South China Sea issues, Tokyo may propose to participate in the US patrols in the area to expand its regional presence, and, of course, conduct more overseas military operations. It is a dangerous move that other regional powers should pay close attention to.

Qian Feng, vice-president of Asia Times, July 22

In the past, Japan used to see the Soviet Union and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as the top threats. Now China has become the No 1 “threat”. Confronted with the “unexpected” opposition to his security bills in Japan, Abe has resorted to the defense white paper to defuse public rage and convince peace-loving Japanese that the bills’ passage is necessary.

Ny Huang Dahui, director of the East Asia Research Center of Renmin University of China, July 21

Source: Asia News Network/China Daily

Related post:

Challenges in South China Sea, sophisticated diplomacy neededSophisticated diplomacy needed to tackle challenges in South China Sea Philippine President Benigno Aquino

Asian voice carries greater weight now

AIIB President_ Jin LiqunSelect head: Jin Liqun is the president-designate of the AIIB. – EPA pic >>

CHINA’S setting up of the AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank) is a most significant event in contemporary history.

It represents another shift eastwards in the global balance of power, particularly from the US to China. However, other Asian – particularly Asean – countries have also to reflect on what it means to them.

The US AIIB dilemma is a useful point over which to ponder. It has very little to do with transparency, governance and environment. It has to do with the power equation with China. Predominance and control.

Clearly the US is struggling to come to terms with China’s rise. This is not to say America opposes it, but it is a hard thing for the US to swallow, to play second fiddle. And the AIIB is the first big test of that adjustment.

With the launch of the AIIB, China has also shown how it can make good things happen with support not just from Asia, but also beyond. It is becoming a global power with considerable reach and influence.

Controlling about 30% of the capital of the AIIB China, as the promoter, has shown itself as a leader that can control the future of other countries. How Beijing exercises that leadership remains to be seen, but insofar as member state expectations are concerned, they see Asian countries for the first time in living memory controlling an international institution of considerable weight – and with it their economic prospects.

To sustain Asian economic growth trajectory, US$8 trillion of national infrastructure development is needed up to 2020, not counting US$290bil in regional connectivity infrastructure. Indonesia alone needs US$230bil, Myanmar US$80bil. With the potential of the US$100bil AIIB, plus the US$40bil Silk Road Fund for “One Belt One Road”, there is for the first time some good hope of meeting this need.

The US, in its difficult adjustment, points to potential future problems rather than the promise of the AIIB. How “lean, clean and green” will the AIIB be? As if the US dominated Bretton Woods institutions have been pristine, but that does not mean it is a question that should not be asked about AIIB.

So, as the Asian countries get in line, eyes glued on the lolly, they should not hold back from asking questions and seeking answers on how the AIIB is going to operate.

Another issue raised primarily by the Americans is over procurement and personnel appointments. Again, as if the IMF, World Bank and ADB did not come with strings attached by largely senior Caucasian officials from the institutions. But, having suffered from such suppression in the past, Asian countries should want to know what the future holds with the AIIB on procurement and personnel.

With the AIIB headquartered in Beijing and China putting up most of the money, it is only to be expected there will be a Chinese bias on both scores. The president-designate Jin Liqun, however, is suave and affable, better than some of the boorish heads past and present of the Bretton Woods institutions. Nevertheless, it is not undignified to ask about other appointments and their distribution. This horse-trading occurs at international level.

On procurement, Chinese companies are already assuming they will have first-mover advantage contractual right – but this does not necessarily reflect what the Chinese government thinks or mean that the AIIB will be biased for them.

Indeed, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang during his visit to France this week admitted China lacked advanced technologies and looked forward to “form joint ventures or cooperatives” with the developed world. This was stated on the occasion of a historic deal with France to carry out joint projects in Asian and African countries.

And it follows a considerable period during which China was intent on muscling out developed countries in its economic expansion to African and some Asian countries.

Thus, China’s tendency of blowing hot and cold has been a problem in gauging Beijing objectives and mode of operation.

A former US ambassador to the ADB recently related how the poorest Pacific countries failed to receive Chinese support at board level for projects as they had recognised Taiwan. Again, not that the US was ever reticent about such political power play.

Still, it would not be remiss to ask how far China would penalise countries on the wrong political wave-length, even if it would be too much to expect Beijing to support a state opposed to and in conflict with it.

How would the Philippines and Vietnam score in the AIIB on the Chinese political barometer given their adversarial position in the South China Sea dispute? Indeed, the other claimant states, such as Malaysia and Brunei. Of course, if they are willing to become vassals of the Chinese state in return for largesse, it is entirely up to them. But it is not to be expected the proud sovereign states of South-East Asia would stoop to this, but who knows.

In the AIIB, Asean states will each have a very small stake, even if Indonesia might be among the top ten shareholders. Together they might represent something a little more significant. Would they then not want to develop a common position in areas of infrastructure and connectivity development that would be of shared benefit?

Asean leaders do not seem to discuss strategic issues such as, now, the meaning and significance of the AIIB to future regional order. Generalised, but not inaccurate, assertions are made about its good in terms of infrastructure and economic development. But there is more to it than that.

When they meet, Asean leaders follow a well-scripted agenda that does not include a free flow of discussion. Foreign ministries often are hell-bent on avoiding this, because they think strategy and state secrets must at all cost be protected. They should give the leaders greater credit than assumed stupidity. These discussions must take place beyond other broad issues, such as the Middle East etc, or immediate issues, such as refugees and migrants.

Strategic issues are so critical to Asean’s future place in the regional order. Deficient discussion, or avoidance of it altogether, erodes Asean role in the evolving system. More time must be set aside at Asean summits for discussion on these issues.

The economic ministries too must not just look at issues and targets one by one and in a rush without presenting the bigger picture. There is great strategic content in the minutiae which is hardly highlighted or discoursed.

If Asean meetings and summits go on like this, community or no community, the region will miss the wood for the trees.

Comment by Munir Majid The Star/Asian News Network

Tan Sri Munir Majid, chairman of Bank Muamalat and visiting senior fellow at LSE Ideas (Centre for International Affairs, Diplomacy and Strategy), is also chairman of CIMB Asean Research Institute.

Related posts:

The center of world economic gravity moving east as AIIB shows
Chinese President Xi Jinping (C, front) poses for a group photo with the delegates attending the signing ceremony for the Articles of Agre…

Mara in Aussie property scam


Top Malaysian government officials and a former politician were alleged to spend RM65 million of public funds to purchase an apartment block in Melbourne, Australia, overpaying by RM13.7 million to allow for kickbacks back home.

Australian newspaper The Age, which made the allegations in an exclusive report today, also claimed the involvement of Mara, a government investment agency, which purchased the property in 2013.

The Age’s investigative report said that a group of Malaysian officials, using the Malaysian government’s investment funds, bid up the price for the Melbourne apartment block from A$17.8 million (RM51.5 million) to A$22.5 million (RM65 million).

The extra $4.75 million (RM13.7 million) was then laundered out of Australia and allegedly paid as bribes in Malaysia.

“The Malaysian firms that received the alleged kickbacks are closely linked to a senior figure at the Malaysian government investment agency, Mara.

“Another figure involved is a senior Malaysian official and former politician with close links to a Malaysian cabinet minister,” said the report.

Malaysiakini has e-mailed Rural and Regional Development Minister Mohd Shafie Apdal under whose watch Mara falls, Mara’s director-general Ibrahim Ahmad and its deputy director-general Salmah Hayati Ghazali for their responses to the corruption allegations.

The student hostel apartment bought by Mara was called the Dudley International House apartment block, located at the suburb of Caulfield.

The Age said about 150 Australian creditors, including tradesman and builders, have been left out of pocket or are facing bankruptcy after a company linked to the deal collapsed.

Money-laundering hub

The same group of high-ranking Malaysians were implicated in a deal involving A$80 million (RM231 million) worth of Australian property, including office or apartment blocks in Swanston, Queen and Exhibition streets in Melbourne’s CBD.

The newspaper said this was the first hard evidence of Australian property prices being inflated as real estate is used as a safe haven or money laundering hub by corrupt Malaysian government officials.

In May last year, Bernama reported that several Mara board directors and executives, headed by its chairperson Annuar Musa (photo) were in Melbourne to inspect two properties Mara had acquire, at a cost of about A$60 million, to house its students.

The 12-storey building at 746, Swanston Street, minutes away from the University of Melbourne and RMIT University, has 281 apartments, while the five-storey Dudley International House in the suburb of Caulfield, will accommodate 113 Mara students attending Monash University. The Swanston Street building was formerly a hostel for nurses.

Spokesman for the Mara group, Zainal Zol said Mara had more than 1,000 students in Australia with 309 based in melbourne and more than 500 in Sydney.

He said the visiting Mara leaders were pleased with the agency’s property acquisitions here.

The Bernama report also said executives from UEM Sunrise Berhad, one of Malaysia’s largest property developers and an arm of UEM Group Berhad, which is owned by Khazanah Nasional Berhad, were also in Melbourne to negotiate the development of two prime land parcels it had acquired in Melbourne’s CBD, in LaTrobe Street and MacKenzie Street.

Led by UEM managing director, Izzaddin Idris, they met the Victorian State Planning Minister Matthew Guy, Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle and Malaysian-born Ken Ong, head of the Melbourne City Council planning committee, to brief them on the projects.

Mohd Rameez said he was confident that both apartment developments will go ahead, thus enhancing Malaysia’s presence in Melbourne.

Malaysiakini has also e-mailed and texted Annuar who is also Umno supreme council member and BN Ketereh MP for his comments.

Sources: Malaysiakini, The Sun Daily, The Star/Asia News Network


DAP wants Mara chairman sacked after Melbourne property scam
Majlis Amanah Rakyat chairman Tan Sri Annuar Musa is now in the spotlight after Australian …

Related posts:

We must separate the roles of the Attorney-General as legal advisor to the Government and Public Prosecutor who prosecutes cases in cour…

Structural integrity and failure is an aspect of engineering which deals with the ability of a structure to support a designed load (w…

Remembering the legacy of Bandung, Sandakan death and Hiroshima bombing

THIS year marks the 60th anniversary of the historic Bandung Conference
and the 70th Anniversary of the end of the Second World War.
 A copy of the final “atomic bomb” leaflet, I think? I don’t read Japanese, but this was attached to the above memo. If you do read Japanese, I’d love a translation. Please ignore my thumb in the corner — it’s hard to photograph documents that are bound like these ones were.  http://blog.nuclearsecrecy.com/2013/04/26/a-day-too-late/

In order to commemorate the past, a series of conferences and events have been held, the most recent being the Afro-Asian Conference hosted by Indonesia President Jokowi this week. The first Bandung Conference was called by the first Indonesia President Sukarno in April 1955 among newly independent Asian and African nations, beginning what was later known as the Non-Aligned Movement against colonialism. Twenty-nine countries participated, representing 1.5 billion people or just over half of the world’s population. It was the first time that leaders of these countries met to discuss their future after the end of colonialism.

The conference was historic because it was attended not only by Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, but also Egyptian President Gamal Nasser, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, Muhammad Ali Jinnah of Pakistan, U Nu of Burma, Nkrumah of Ghana and Tito of Yugoslavia, all giants not only in their countries, but makers of history in the 20th century.

The United States did not attend because it was not sure whether it sided with the European colonial powers or its new role as an ex-colony liberating the world.

The Bandung Conference was a conference of hope that the newly independent nations would build themselves into a zone of peace, prosperity and stability. On the whole, despite some failures, they succeeded. By 2013, these countries together have a GDP of US$21.2 trillion or 28.1% of world GDP, significantly improved compared with their share of less than one-fifth of world GDP in 1955.

Aug 6, 2015 will also mark the 70th anniversary of the horrific atomic bombing of Hiroshima, which led to the end of World War Two on the Pacific side.

Lest we forget, World War Two was a horrific period, since the world lost between 50 million and 80 million people or 3% of world population. Japan lost 2-3 million during that war, but the rest of Asia suffered estimated losses of up to 10 times that number.

Even though memories are fading, there is still a generation who remembered the hardships and atrocies of war, from personal experience of family being killed, bombed or flight as refugees. Even a remote country like Australia could not escape that war. Australian soldiers fought heroically in Kokoda Trail to repell the Japanese invasion of Papua New Guinea in 1942. If not stopped, Australia could have fallen to Japanese hands, changing the course of history.

Image result for sandakan death marchBut the 625 Australian deaths defending the Kokoda Trail paled in comparison to the Sandakan Death March, in which 2,345 Australian prisoners of war died marching from their prisoner of war camp in Sandakan across primitive jungle in Sabah. Only six Australians survived those marches in early 1945, only because they escaped. One in 12 of every Australian who perished in the war died in that death march.

My impressions of this incident are indelible, growing up in Sandakan and following the trail across Sabah on a road built by the Australians to commemorate their dead. It fascinated me that man could be that cruel to other human beings to send them across the virgin jungle without food to certain death.

On June 9, 2014, when Japanese Prime Minister Shintaro Abe addressed the Australian parliament, he did mention Kokoda and Sandakan. In it, he did not offer an apology, but he did sent his “most sincere condolences towards the many souls who lost their lives.” This was very Japanese English, because one gives condolences to the living, not the dead.

Image result for Hitler's Abe imagesIn the Afro-Asian Conference this week in Bandung, he rephrased his words as follows, “Japan, with feelings of deep remorse over the past war, made a pledge to remain a nation always adhering to those very principles (of Bandung) throughout, no matter what the circumstances.”

We note that he is already shifting the official Japanese view on the war from his predecessors Murayama and Koizumi, who offered “deep remorse and heartfelt apology,” in their statements about the war in the 1995 and 2005 anniversaries respectively.

I always thought that the difference between remorse and shame is one that differentiates Western and Asian values. A remorse is a feeling of regret that something has happened but there is no sense of guilt. Shame is a feeling you have injured someone else and you feel guity about it, and you want to make amends.

There is a sharp difference between the German and Japanese attitudes. Seventy years after the war, the German courts are going to try the 93-year old “bookkeeper of Auschwitz”, whereas the Japanese are still revising their history books on what really happened.

What makes Abe’s “deep remorse” poignant is that he is a leader of a faction that wants to re-arm Japan by changing its constitution and he regularly visited or sent ritual offerings to the Yasukuni shrine, which contains the shrines for 14 class A war criminals. Even the Japanese emperor has not visited Yasukuni after these enshrinements.

Most Asians like myself have great respect for Japan, but feel uneasy that the Japanese are beginning to whitewash their role in the war. The Yasukuni shrine has an accompanying museum that seems to suggest not only that the Nanking massacre did not occur, but that US actions to deny Japan energy resources pushed it into war. But these do not explain why Japan invaded China in 1937.

On the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the end of the Pacific War, will the US leader express an apology or remorse for bombing Nagasaki or Hiroshima? If the Japanese want to understand how the rest of Asia feels about its actions during World War Two, just changing the history book will not solve the deep sense of injustice that war brought to the region. Could those who died or suffered during that period appeal to the rule of law that Abe-san so proudly proclaim today?

All of us want to move on, but not through denying the past. As the philosopher Santayana said, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Think Asian by Andrew Sheng

 President of Fung Global Institute
Sheng is Malaysian Chinese. He grew up in British North Borneo (todaySabah, Malaysia). He left Malaysia in 1965 to attend the University ofBristol in England, where he studied economics.

Datuk Seri Panglima Andrew Sheng (born 1946) is a Distinguished Fellow of Fung Global Institute, a Hong Kong based global think tank. He started his career as an accountant. He served as Chairman of the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) before his replacement by Martin Wheatley in 2005.


Related posts:

The Bandung Spirit: strengthering Asian African economic cooperation & legal consultationChinese President Xi Jinping has delivered a speech, with the aim of
carrying on the Bandung Spirit and promoting the common development …

Why should an organisation devoted to saving “succeeding generations from the scourge of war” make it its
business to authorise war?

FireEye threats of cyber espionage loom with the coming 26th Asean Summit in Malaysia

Photo by hfuchs/Relaxnews.

PETALING JAYA: Regional government and military officials, businessmen and journalists involved with the coming 26th Asean Summit in Kuala Lumpur could be among the targets of a recently discovered cyber espionage group, claims an Internet security firm.

FireEye, which exposed the presence of the APT30 group of hackers snooping on governments and businesses, including those in South-East Asia, said some of its previous attacks had been launched before key Asean meetings.

“Based on previous experience, I believe that this group and possibly others will try to use that meeting (26th Asean Summit) as part of their ruse to potentially target businesses and governments in the region,” said Bryce Boland, FireEye’s chief technology officer for Asia Pacific in a telephone interview here yesterday.

In its report, FireEye, which is based in the United States, said APT30 had a distinct interest in organisations and governments associated with Asean.

The group had released a malware in the run-up to the 18th Asean Summit in Jakarta in 2011 and the Asean-India commemorative Summit in 2012.

One of the domain names it used to command its malware was aseanm.com

AFP had reported that the APT30 group was “most likely sponsored by China” and that there was no immediate reaction from the Chinese government, which had always denied allegations of cyber espionage.

The two-day Asean Summit from April 26 is expected to discuss various issues, including maritime disputes between China and Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines in the South China Sea, and the formation of a single market and production base in the region.

“The hackers are after intelligence and information, primarily about political changes, political positions, especially over disputed territories, border disputes and trade negotiations,” said Boland.

“We have also seen that when they target journalists, they are specifically looking for information in relation to understanding concerns about the legitimacy of the PRC (People’s Republic of China),” he said.

The group has also attacked businesses to steal information on deals, manufacturing plans and intellectual property such as schematic diagrams.

According to the FireEye report, Malaysia is one of seven countries with targets hit by the group, which has operated largely undetected for the past 10 years.

Others are Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, India and the United States.

Boland said the group mostly attacked their targets via spear phishing emails with attachments that appeared to be from a known contact but were in reality sent by the hackers.

The attachment, which can be in the form of a document with an Asean-related title, will contain a customised malware that is activated the moment that it is opened.

It allows the attacker to gain control of the victim’s computer and retrieve information from it.

Boland advised computer users not to open suspicious e-mails.

“Businesses and governments should ensure that their IT infrastructure not only protects them from attacks but can detect the extent of damage done in the event of a successful hack.”

By Razak Ahmad The Star/Asia News Network


 FireEye: Cyber Security & Malware Protection

Regional issues today developed from the past to predict the future, the winds of change in Asia

To appreciate how issues today had developed from the past is also to understand how they are likely to develop in the future.

  “Since Sultan Mahmud Shah of 15th-century Malacca at least, Malay rulers have had no problems with a powerful China“.

MANY people can be so absorbed by specific issues as to neglect the larger picture that created them. Thus much misunderstanding persists of the issues themselves.

This failure to see the wood for the trees also affects many professional analysts or “country watchers”.

Putting issues in the news in their proper context is crucial.

In the late 1980s, economic growth in East Asia had become both contagious and self-evident. Talk of the coming 21st century as “the Century of Asia and the Pacific” had been gathering momentum.

After Japan’s stellar economic performance from the 1970s, rapid growth would visit the East Asian “tigers” – Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan – then the other countries of South-East Asia and then China.

Few countries at the time could see that never before in history had both Japan and China, old rivals with their historical baggage still in hand, achieve economic ascendancy at the same time like now – but Malaysia was one of them.

Since economic strength meant diplomatic and political clout, tensions between Tokyo and Beijing could grow to unmanageable proportions with potentially devastating effects throughout the region.

Something had to be done to anticipate and contain any such fallout.

In December 1990, on the occasion of the visit to Malaysia by Chinese Premier Li Peng, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad proposed the formation of the East Asia Economic Grouping (EAEG).

This would comprise all the countries of South-East Asia and China, Japan and South Korea working together towards a more integrated regional economy.

Since economics was less controversial than politics, the EAEG would skirt political sensitivities while a culture of working together as a region could in time overcome them.

Such regional cooperation that acknowledges and encourages regional integration could also pre-empt and minimise any economic crisis.

But that was not to be. Australia and the US had not been included and opposed the EAEG, the latter also pressuring Japan to reject it.

Within Asean, Indonesia’s Suharto rebuffed it because as senior regional leader he had not been consulted, while a West-leaning Singapore still preferred Occidental leadership to anything so distinctly Asian.

Singapore then proposed a watered-down East Asia Economic Caucus (EAEC), this compromise being a subset of the larger Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) grouping largely to assuage US insecurities. After the EAEG died, the EAEC withered away.

By 1997 a financial and economic crisis struck East Asia, devastating the economies of Indonesia, Thailand and South Korea in particular.

There was no regional grouping or bank to help deflect, absorb or otherwise mitigate it.

South Korea then stepped up the drive to form an Asean Plus Three (APT) grouping, with the EAEG’s same 13 countries. The crisis also gave China an opportunity to demonstrate regional leadership: it suspended its planned currency revaluation, thereby helping to cushion the shock of the crisis.

Throughout the whole long-drawn saga, the unspoken issue for some countries was the impending economic dominance of China that they could not accept.

Thus they opposed the EAEG, as if China’s economic dominance could be restrained in the absence of a regional grouping. The reality would have been quite the reverse: with South Korea and Japan balancing China, and Asean countries at the fulcrum.

Meanwhile an underlying Western presumption shared by West-leaning Asians is that once China achieves economic ascendancy, it would mimic the West in acquiring overseas colonies and generally throwing its weight around.

That remains a heavily constructed hypothesis at odds with the history of China and the region.

China had been a great maritime power before, but had never embarked on naval conquest in a region where naval power trumps all other strategic options.

And through the years of talk on the EAEG, EAEC and APT, China’s economy kept on growing.

Then came China’s massive projects resulting from, and further empowering, that growth: the New Silk Road Economic Belt (“One Belt, One Road”) linking Asia and Europe overland, the Maritime Silk Road at sea, and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the New Development Bank to fund them.

In contrast only Indonesia’s still formative and insular “maritime highways” idea, just a tiny fraction of China’s proposals in scale albeit grandly positioning Indonesia as a Global Maritime Fulcrum, appears to be the only response from the region.

Why has the rest of South-East Asia, or East Asia in general, become mere passive spectators to China’s bold plans? Why have other countries not offered their own thought contributions in response to China’s proposals?

Indonesia has, through different presidential administrations, clung to its informal position as first among equals in Asean. It has foraged for opportunities lending it such a profile, though not always elegantly or consistently.

On President Joko Widodo’s first visit to Beijing for an Apec summit last November, one month after he became president, he asked that the AIIB be moved from Beijing to Jakarta. That was a non-starter.

He recovered some equilibrium last month on state visits to Japan and China. On the day of his arrival in Tokyo, an interview was published in Japan in which he said China had no legal basis to its South China Sea claims.

That was three days before his arrival in Beijing, where the news had preceded him. One day after his arrival there, a bilateral agreement had been fleshed out for full-scale economic cooperation.

Now that much of the dust has settled on which countries would, or would not, be founding members of the AIIB, the challenge of projecting possible futures begins.

The positives include there being more international support for the multilateral lending institution than expected, a good mix of countries in Asia and Europe, and that the bank will proceed unimpeded.

However, the negatives include the voluntary absences of the US and Japan, two major economies that would have made the bank more multilateral, better resourced and further enriched with the collective experience of multilateral lending.

Playing somewhere in the background is the Western-oriented anxiety that a militarily powerful China may one day edge the US out of the region.

That prospect goes against the grain of China’s deep policy pragmatism and interests.

US military dominance in East Asia is often credited for keeping the peace in the region.

That peace has meant unfettered transportation and travel that has benefited the region, most of all China, in its imports of fuel and raw materials and its exports of manufactured goods.

China has had ample opportunity to learn from the tragic errors of not just the Soviet Union but also neighbouring North Korea, where overspending on military assets only wrecks the economy. The same applies to the US itself in profligate spending on questionable foreign wars.

China’s focus on infrastructure for facilitating trade is clear, its economic priorities echoing those it has had for centuries. Since Sultan Mahmud Shah of 15th-century Malacca at least, Malay rulers have had no problems with a powerful China.

Such a China had prioritised economic growth and cooperation without meddling in local affairs except to provide protection against hostile outside powers.

There are still no indications that modern China would deviate significantly from such a position, other than perhaps “protection” today including cushioning the shocks of economic crises.

Behind the Headlines by Bunn Nagara

Bunn Nagara is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

Winds of Change in Asia

The birth of new development banks led by developing countries and the United States’ failure to block them are signs of rebalancing of economic power, especially in Asia.

The world must adjust to the rise of new powers. It will not stop just because the United States can no longer engage. If the results are not to the United States’ liking, it only has itself to blame! – Martin Wolf


China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB): U.S. Asian, European “Allies” Pivot away from Washington

IN the last month, the international media has been carrying articles on the fight between the United States and China over the formation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

Influential Western economic commentators have supported China in its move to establish the new bank and judged that President Barack Obama made a big mistake in pressurising US allies to shun the bank.

The United States is seen to be scoring an “own goal” since its close allies the United Kingdom, Australia and South Korea decided to be founding members, as well as other European countries, including Germany and France, and most of Asia.

The United States also rebuked the United Kingdom for policies “appeasing China”, but the latter did not budge.

The United States did not give any credible reason why countries should not join the AIIB.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said the new bank would not live up to the “highest global standards” for governance or lending.

But that sounded like the pot calling the kettle black, since it is the lack of fair governance in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank that prompted China to initiate the formation of the AIIB, and the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) to similarly establish the New Development Bank.

For decades, the developing countries have complained that the developed countries have kept their grip on voting power in the Breton Woods institutions by clinging to the quotas agreed upon 70 years ago.

These do not reflect the vastly increased shares of the world economy that the emerging economies now have.

Even the mild reform agreed upon by all – that the quotas would be altered slightly in favour of some developing countries – cannot be implemented because of US Congress opposition.

The big developing countries have been frustrated. They had agreed to provide new resources (many billions of dollars each) to the IMF during the financial crisis, but were rewarded with no reforms in voting rights.

In addition, the unjustifiable “understanding” that the heads of the World Bank and IMF would be an American and a European respectively remains in place despite promises of change.

So much for legitimacy of lectures about good governance, merit-based leadership and democratic practice, which are preached by the Western countries and by the IMF and World Bank themselves.

The BRICS countries then set up the New Development Bank, which will supplement or compete with the World Bank, while China created the AIIB to supplement the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which also has a lopsided governance system.

The new banks will focus on financing infrastructure projects, since developing countries have ambitious infrastructure programmes and there is gross under-funding.

Critics anticipate that the new banks will finance projects that the World Bank or ADB would reject for not meeting their environmental and social standards.

But that is attacking something that hasn’t yet happened. True, it would be really bad if the new banks build a portfolio of “bad projects” that would devastate the environment or displace millions of people without recognising their rights.

It is thus imperative that the new banks take on board high social, environmental and fiduciary standards, besides having good internal governance and being financially viable.

The new institutions should be as good as or better than the existing ones, which have been criticised for their governance, performance and effects.

It is a high challenge and one that is worthy of taking on. There is no certainty that the new banks will succeed. But they should be given every chance to do so.

The AIIB, in particular, is being seen as part of the jostling between the United States and China for influence in the Asian region.

A few years ago, the United States announced a “pivot” or rebalancing to Asia. This included enhanced military presence and new trade agreements, especially the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

It seemed suspiciously like a policy of containment or partial containment of China. The United States combines cooperation with competition and containment in its China policy, and it retains the flexibility of bringing into play any or all of these components.

China last year announced its own two initiatives, a Silk Road Economic Belt (from Western China through Central Asia to Europe) and a 21st century Maritime Silk Road (mainly in South-East Asia).

The first initiative will involve infrastructure projects, trade and public-private partnerships, while details of the second initiative are being worked out.

The AIIB can be seen as a financial arm (though not the only one) of these initiatives.

China is also part of negotiations of the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) that does not include the United States.

Last year, it also initiated a study to set up a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, which will include the United States.

These two intended pacts are an answer to the US-led TPPA. It is still uncertain whether the TPPA will conclude, due both to domestic US politics and to an inability to reach a consensus yet among the 12 countries on many contentious issues.

Meanwhile, prominent Western opinion makers are urging the United States to change its policy and to accommodate China and other developing countries.

Former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers said this past month will be remembered as the moment the United States lost its role as the underwriter of the global economic system.

Summers cited the combination of China’s effort to establish a major new institution and the failure of the United States to persuade dozens of its traditional allies to stay out of it.

He also called for a comprehensive review of the US approach to global economics, and to allow for substantial adjustment to the global economic architecture.

Martin Wolf of the UK-based Financial Times said that a rebuff by the United States of China’s AIIB is folly. This is because Asian countries are in desperate need of infrastructure financing, and the United States should join the bank rather than pressuring others not to.

The real US concern is that China might establish institutions that weaken its influence on the global economy, said Wolf.

He added that this is wrong since reforms on influence in global financial institutions are needed and the world economy would benefit from more long-term financing to developing countries. China’s money could push the world in the right direction.

In a devastating conclusion, Wolf said the world needs new institutions.

“It must adjust to the rise of new powers. It will not stop just because the United States can no longer engage. If the results are not to the United States’ liking, it has only itself to blame.”

The winds of change are blowing in the global economy, and many in the West recognise and even support this.

Global Trends by Martin Khor

> Martin Khor is executive director of the South Centre, a research centre of 51 developing countries, based in Geneva. You can e-mail him at director@southcentre.org. The views expressed here are entirely his own.


‘Belt and Road’ should be collective endeavor

Given the mutually beneficial nature of the Belt and Road Initiative, it should nev 

Related posts

Washington’s Lobbying Efforts Against China’s ‘World Bank’ Fail As Italy, France Welcomed Aboard. The cheese really does…
 “Danny Quah of the London School of Economics has calculated the world’s economic centre of gravity and reckons that, thanks to Asia’s ris…

Building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road 

 The ancient maritime Silk Road was developed under political and economic backgrounds and was the result of cooperative efforts from ancestors of both the East and West. China’s proposal to build a 21st Century Maritime …
 According to an article in the Asia Weekly of China Daily, an English-language newspaper, the proposed 21st century Maritime Silk Road (MSR) begins in Quanzhou in Fujian province, moves on to Guangzhou in Guangdong …

The AIIB groundswell; Asian development to the fore

Washington’s Lobbying Efforts Against China’s ‘World Bank’ Fail As Italy, France Welcomed Aboard. The cheese really does stand alone. Every single U.S. ally with the exception of Japan have all hopped on board the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, or AIIB. Italy and France were approved on Thursday to become founding members, bringing the total membership base to 33 from the original 21.

The AIIB groundswell

Just in time for the deadline, an impressive coalition of countries have signed on for the newest development bank on the block

THE deadline of March 31 has passed, and 52 countries are now on the list of would-be founders of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

The China-led bank was launched in October last year at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, a year after Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed a bank to offer funds for development projects during his official visit to Indonesia.

The initiative would promote regional inter-connectivity and economic integration, he said when delivering a speech at the Indonesian Parliament.

In the past few days leading up to the deadline, news of more countries hurrying to join the AIIB made headlines, especially when a few of them announced the decision at the recently concluded Boao Forum in Hainan province, which Xi officiated.

The world was watching closely to see if the United States and Japan would sign up as founding members just before the deadline, but both have decided to opt out of the bank that is seen as a rival to the Western-dominated World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Back in October last year, the bank had confirmation from 21 countries to participate as founding members – Malaysia was one of them – all of which are in the Asian continent.

The tipping point came when the United Kingdom announced its decision to join the AIIB in the middle of March, to the surprise of many.

More countries followed suit right after that, including France, Italy, Germany and Switzerland.

Martin Jacques, a senior fellow at the Department of Politics and International Studies at Britain’s Cambridge University, said the rise and growing awareness of the Chinese possibility in the context of a multilateral initiative pressed Britain to act the way it did, making AIIB not just an Asian institution but a global one.

“I think this is an extraordinary historical moment,” he said in a panel discussion during the Boao Forum.

“The new institutions (AIIB and the New Development Bank operated by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) do not necessarily conflict with the Bretton Woods institutions. They are very different.

“The developing countries now account for nearly 60% of global Gross Domestic Product and they represent 85% of the world population.

“The new institutions, unlike the Bretton Woods institutions, are being defined as relevant to the needs of this 85% of world population, most of whom are concentrated in this continent.”

Countries which have missed the March 31 deadline can still join as ordinary members, while those that have already submitted their application will find out if they are on the final list of founding members by April 15.

With an initial capital of US$50bil (RM184bil), AIIB is scheduled to be officially established at the end of the year, after the rules are finalised and signed in mid-2015.

New Zealand’s former Prime Minister Jenny Shipley said there is a need to define “infrastructure” to determine the types of projects that are qualified to obtain funding from the AIIB.

“If I could be provocative – if you were to put a diverse group of qualified women and men together and ask them the question, you’ll get a broader definition than if you just ask the question of classical male concept of buildings,” she said.

“We need to stand in the shoes of the people whose lives will be unleashed if we get this right. Just bringing in the classical morals of the same thing would not give us the breakthrough.”

Josette Sheeran, the president and Chief Executive Officer of the Asia Society, chipped in on this, citing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s agenda of building more toilets as an example.

“The reason young girls don’t go to school in India is that there is no toilet. That’s the kind of infrastructure that would really capture the mind of humanity and transform hope in the world,” she said.

Former Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz was more concerned about the governance of the new banks, placing emphasis on professionalism, transparency and quality leadership.

“The people hired for AIIB must be professionals who know what infrastructure financing is all about,” he said.

“The quality of people will determine the ability of these banks to analyse risks to give money and to make credible loans which are payable back.”

Transparency, in the opinion of Deloitte global chairman Steve Almond, is also key to attract the private sector to come onboard.

“The regional or sub-regional projects are arguably the ones that bring the greatest impact to economic development. But because they go across the borders, they are also harder to manage and least likely to attract private sector capital,” he said.

“We need the mechanism to provide confidence to the private sector, and transparency governance is one of the compelling reasons to encourage them to come and join the projects.”

And what is the magic that would make good governance work?

Li Ruogum, former chairman and president of Export-Import Bank of China, believes in understanding.

“This newly established institution cannot just clone the older one, as we are working in a very different environment.

“We have to accumulate our experiences and need to have a mind of innovation. All should come together and understand each other, and try to achieve good governance.”

Check-in-China by Tho Xin Yi


Asian development to the fore

Chinese President Xi Jinping. – AFP
Hungry for development: In 2013, President Xi Jinping proposed a new development bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. One year later, 22 Asian countries had signed up, including 10 Asean countries – Blooberg

Asia’s need for better infrastructure and more development is too important to be held to ransom by outdated big power politics and petty posturing.

FOR many observers, the US “pivot” (later renamed “rebalancing”) to the Asia-Pacific was classic Obama: the rhetorical flourish was more dramatic than the policy substance.

In the second half of its first term, the Obama administration sought to assign two-thirds of its military assets to the Asia-Pacific theatre, up from the standard half from the even split between the Pacific and the Atlantic.

By the middle of its second term, officials were struggling to maintain a semblance of a policy largely left to coast under its steadily diminishing momentum. US foreign policy, and by extension US defence policy, appeared distracted by other concerns.

The State Department and the Pentagon seemed consumed at once by the Syrian debacle, Iraq’s instability, rising terrorism everywhere, civil war in Ukraine, Europe’s problems with Russia, Iran’s nuclear programme and an uppity Israel.

Then there were the ever-present ­budgetary constraints. Deploying another 16% of military assets to the Asia-Pacific, from half to two-thirds, seemed hardly noticeable or achievable.

Meanwhile, officials were anxious to insist that the rebalancing had nothing to do with the rise of China and its growing assertiveness in the region. It was, they said, part of efforts to preserve US strategic interests.

Whatever the choice of words, and however implicit China may be as motivation, rebalancing was fast becoming history. By March last year, a Pentagon official admitted it was going nowhere.

However, the Obama administration’s gift of verbalising policy intent made US intentions clear enough.

President Obama had famously said the US should be writing trade rules in the Asia-Pacific rather than let China do it.

Thus, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade pact with controversial demands that swiftly became synonymous with US trade preferences. But China had not been idle either.

In 2013, President Xi Jinping proposed a new development bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). One year later, 22 Asian countries had signed up, including all 10 Asean countries.

In Asia, the world’s most promising continent for rapid economic growth, infrastructure needs for development are peaking. The IMF, World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB) can serve only a fraction of its needs: between 2010 and 2020 alone, some RM30tril is needed.

China set a deadline of March 31 this year for countries around the world to sign up as Prospective Founding Members (PFMs) before operations begin later in 2015. China would provide the biggest contribution to the authorised capital of US$100bil (RM363.49bil) and initial subscribed capital of US$50bil (RM181.75bil).

The US immediately saw this as a game-changer challenge to its dominance in global lending. For decades, it has controlled the World Bank, and through its European allies, the IMF and through its ally Japan, the ADB.

These institutions have been known to set tough conditions on debtor countries that may not serve domestic aspirations or national interests. A cash-rich China also felt it remained under-represented in these institutions even after becoming a leading global economy.

Washington had hoped, even expected, that its allies and friends would stay away from the AIIB as a rival institution. But like its pivot or rebalancing strategy, that hope steadily faded.

In Europe, Britain as the closest US ally was the first to sign up to the AIIB early last month. Soon, other major European economies like France, Germany and Italy followed, as did all the Scandinavian countries.

Washington then quietly pressured Japan, South Korea and Australia to stay away. But Seoul and Canberra signed up anyway. By then, the US had started to soften its stand, denying that it had ever pressured any country to stay away. It was only unsure if the AIIB would adhere to best practices in international lending.

Then, other US allies like Taiwan and Israel also signed up. The US was becoming increasingly isolated, with only Japan as the other major economy for company.

But not for long, perhaps. Last Monday, Japan’s ambassador to China, Masato Kitera, said in a Financial Times (FT) interview that Japan would join the AIIB as well, probably around June.

That came as a bombshell to the conservative Japanese government. It would seem too much of a betrayal of yet another US ally, the final one being the “unkindest cut of all”.

The next day, on the deadline for countries to sign up as PFMs for the AIIB, Tokyo denied that Ambassador Kitera ever said such a thing. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Japan had no imme­diate plans to join the AIIB.

Besides being a US ally, Japan was also wary of the prospect of the AIIB undercutting the ADB.

Whatever the actual chances of Japan joining the AIIB, Tokyo would want to underplay it as much as possible.

Like the US, Japan said it was reluctant to sign up because of uncertainty over the AIIB’s standards. But countries such as Britain and Singapore that have joined said the best way to ensure high standards was to get on board and be part of the decision-making process.

To be part of that process, it was necessary to sign up early before the big decisions were made. The terms and conditions of lending and borrowing have still to be firmed up as dozens of countries including giants like India and Russia are already in.

The FT report also revealed that Japanese business leaders were pressuring their government to join the AIIB. Mitsubishi bosses, for example, had expressed confidence in Jin Liqun, a former senior ADB official who will head the AIIB.

On the deadline last Tuesday, China announced that 30 countries had been admitted as PFMs. More than a dozen others were in the queue.

Then a flood of criticisms and denuncia­tions of the stubborn US position came, mostly from within the US itself. Analysts and commentators, including in Forbes and The Economist, said the US administration had miscalculated badly in staying out, only damaging US long-term interests in East Asia and the Pacific.

Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright also condemned the US position, lamenting the way Washington had scored another own goal by rebuffing the AIIB. The US had placed itself behind the curve in changes in the Asia-Pacific rather than stay at the leading edge.

If and when Japan finally signs up, the US may have to be resigned to becoming a part of the AIIB. But as a latecomer, it may be limited to playing only a bit part such as an observer rather than sit at the main table.

China has long regretted the US fixation with what it calls a Cold War “them against us” bipolar mentality that frustrates progress on many fronts. For the countries of Asia hungry for more development, progress must not be held hostage to big power rivalry.

Ultimately, any rivalry between the US and China today is not over political ideology but economic ideology: the Washington Consensus of free trade rhetoric where the state and private industry are at odds with each other versus the emerging Beijing Consensus of close public-private partnerships that have worked so well for so much of Asia already.

US opposition to a proven formula for Asia is most unlikely to win friends and supporters anywhere, least of all in Asia.

By Bunn Nagara Behind the headlines

> Bunn Nagara is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia.

Related post:

27 Oct 2014
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (C-R) meeting with the members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China 24 October 2014. 21 Asian countries are the founding …

Singaporeans from ”Third World to First’, emotional farewell to Lee Kuan Yew

‘From third world to first’: Lee Kuan Yew’s legacy in charts

Lee Kuan Yew, who has died aged 91, presided over a turnround in the economic fortunes of his nation, taking it from a colonial backwater to its status as one of the richest places on the planet — a journey ‘from
third world to first’, as Lee titled his memoir.
From ease of doing business to concentration of millionaires, 21st-century Singapore consistently ranks among the world’s most economically developed nations.
Charts: Economic freedom and dollar millionaires

But Lee’s legacy goes beyond wealth-creators. Since he came to power just about every aspect of Singapore has been transformed, and along with it the fortunes of ordinary Singaporeans. The population has, of course, grown.

Singaporeans have become much better educated and crime has dropped, partly as a result of Lee’s authoritarian influence.

An enormous public housing programme in the 1960s and 1970s has allowed more than 80 per cent of citizens to live in
government-subsidised apartments. But an ageing population raises challenges for the years ahead.

Emotional farewell for Singaporeans

Thousands wait in long queue for hours to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans wept on the streets and queued in their thousands to pay tribute to founding lea­der Lee Kuan Yew as his flag-draped coffin was taken on a gun carriage to parliament for public viewing.

After a two-day private wake for the family, the coffin was taken in a slow motorcade from the Istana government complex, Lee’s workplace for decades as prime minister and cabinet adviser, to the legislature yesterday. It will lie in state there until Sunday.

The 91-year-old patriarch died on Mon­day after half a century in government, during which Singapore was transformed from a poor British colonial outpost into one of the world’s richest societies.

The government led by his son Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, apparently taken by surprise at the heavy early turnout, announced that Parliament House would stay open for 24 hours a day until Saturday night “due to overwhelming res­­ponse from the public”.

Lee will be cremated on Sunday after a state funeral expected to be attended by several Asia-Pacific leaders even though he was just an MP when he died.

Applause and shouts of “We love you!” and “Lee Kuan Yew!” broke out as the dark brown wooden coffin, draped in the red-and-white Singapore flag, emerged from the Istana housed in a tempered glass case on a gun carriage pulled by an open-topped military truck.

Earlier, in scenes that evoked Singapore’s colonial past, the carriage stopped in front of the main Istana building, where British administrators once worked, as a bag­­piper from Singapore’s Gurkha Contingent – the city-state’s special guard force – played Auld Lang Syne.

After the motorcade emerged from the palace, many in the crowd waiting behind barricades along the route were in tears as they raised cameras and mobile phones to record the historic event.

Some threw flowers on the path of the carriage, while office workers watched from high-rise buildings.

President Tony Tan and his wife Mary were the first to pay their respects in the parliament’s foyer.

By mid-afternoon Singaporeans were waiting for up to eight hours in queues that snaked around the central business district, many using umbrellas against the 33°C heat.

In true Singaporean fashion the crowds were orderly, with free drinking water and portable toilets set up for mourners.

Police helped direct traffic flow and priority queues were created for the elderly, pregnant women and the disabled.

People from all walks of life turned up to honour the authoritarian former leader popularly known by his initials “LKY”.

“These are amazing scenes. I have not seen anything like this in my lifetime,” said bank executive Zhang Wei Jie, 36.

“LKY is the founder of our country. It is a no-brainer that we have to pay respect. We have taken some time off from work, my supervisor is also here somewhere in the crowd.”

R. Tamilselvi, 77, brought two of her granddaughters, each clutching flowers.

“Lee Kuan Yew has done so much for us,” she said. “We used to live in squatter (colonies) in Sembawang, my husband was a bus driver. Now my three sons have good jobs and nice houses. The children all go to school. What will we be without Lee Kuan Yew?” — AFP

Related posts:

Former Singapore prime minister Lee Kuan Yew waves to supporters as he submits his nomination papers to contest in the elections in Sin…

No one could accuse LKY of being weak When he suddenly fathered a reluctant new nation, the iron was forged in him. LEE Kuan Yew…

Merdeka: (From left) Tunku Abdul Rahman, first Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Abdul Rahman and MacGillivray standing outside King’s House in…

>>>> ” 90% of the Doctorates held by Malays is not worth the toilet paper on which it is printed
because it was all prod…
%d bloggers like this: