Jack Ma Ends 20-Year Reign Over Alibaba Wealth Creation Empire


Stepping down as chairman: Jack Ma waving while standing for a photograph with Alibaba CEO Jonathan Lu (left) and co-founder and vice-chairman Joseph ‘Joe’ Tsai in front of the New York Stock Exchange. Ma is giving up the reins of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd after presiding over one of the most spectacular creations of wealth the world has ever seen. — Bloomberg

Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma retires as CEO on 55th birthday

As Alibaba founder Jack Ma retires, a look at how he built the $460 bn ecommerce empire in China


 

Related posts:

Jack Ma’s Alibaba to take on Kuala Lumpur’s traffic Artificial Intellligence project

Alibaba Cloud, which set up a datacentre in Malaysia last year, is considering a second one to further develop a
local ecosystem, its president Simon Hu said. — Reuters

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

Jack Ma Embraces Blockchain for Ant But Warns of Bitcoin Bubble

Jack Ma advisor to Malaysian Govt on digital economy to start with e-FTZ

Looking East policy with a twist to China ?

Japan may have led Malaysia’s Look East policy of yore, but the stakes are heavily tipped in China’s favour now as the leader of the new world order.

Advertisements

‘Money/cash is King’ comes back to bite Pakatan


Politicians using cash to buy power and votes has created a culture in  Malaysia in which people have started valuing money more than truth, hard work and honesty. 

THE enduring potency of the ringgit caused by former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s “Cash is King” regime came in for much ridicule in the last election campaign, much to the chagrin of the perpetrator of this philosophy.

In all his speeches and media interviews in the last two years before 2018’s 14th General Election, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad never failed to hammer home the point that Najib told him this when he asked why he was giving out cash hand-outs in so many forms to the people, and very freely too.

His intended message to the voters was that Najib used this tactic to “buy” votes, as Malaysians will eventually be beholden and grateful to the man who dishes out cash. Whether those receiving it deserved it or not did not matter, everyone wanted the money and many did not care where it came from.

For a long time, money and power worked like a firewall around Najib and his Cabinet, which made him believe cash was indeed king as they blithely went about plundering the nation.

It has been established or is being established at Najib’s on-going corruption trial involving the alleged siphoning of funds from SRC International Sdn Bhd, that money was freely dished out for political support, popularity and reverence, among others.

Mahathir’s campaign was direct and simple, that it was borrowed money and stolen funds from the people that was being given out, and this campaign strategy worked. It thus showed that anti-corruption is an easy sell and proved that most Malaysian voters did care about abstract ethical issues like corruption.

Unbelievably, even many of the beneficiaries of Najib’s largesse had obviously voted against Barisan Nasional while some others became turncoats shamelessly, leaving the flagging party.

But one year after dismantling the Cash is King mantra, it somehow appears to be coming back to bite Dr Mahathir and the Pakatan Harapan leadership. The new mantra among many Malaysians now is that they don’t seem to have enough money all the time.

True, the cost of living never came down substantially after the abolition of the GST (goods and services tax), but we cannot deny that it did lower shopping bills in places like hypermarkets as there was no SST (sales and services tax) levied at such outlets.

RON 95 petrol, which is currently used by most motorists, is capped at RM2.08 a litre which is about 40 sen lower than the actual price it would have been if the old managed float system based on global crude oil prices was in place

Not very tangible for the average Malaysian, right? Do they even care to understand the intangibles that they are benefiting from as a result of several new policies and taxes? No! Looks like Malaysians are not prepared to ask what they can do for the country, it is always what the country must do for them.

Nearly every person I meet seems to have just one thing to say: nothing has come down. All prices have remained the same while some have only gone up. And that Pakatan has not delivered or is slow in keeping its promises.

And strangely, I have been noticing a pattern where those providing certain home services like courier and telecommunication technicians actually volunteer to say that times were better under the Barisan government as they had more money to spend.

“It is very difficult now, we have less money to spend compared to last time when BN was in power. Pakatan Harapan is not keeping its promises,” a Pos Laju staff told a friend of mine without being asked.

I’m one who views surveys by certain groups and parties, especially the random ones, warily as the respondents do not necessarily reflect the actual feelings on the ground. So I make it a point to talk to strangers about this subject whether in public stations or while in a queue waiting to pay something.

What I notice is that while people may be a tad bit sympathetic when I tell them they have to give Pakatan more time because of certain extenuating circumstances, generally, they are unhappy.

The bottom line of their unhappiness now is all about cash. They are receiving less money from the government, never mind what they were enjoying in the past was stolen or borrowed money.

This group of people don’t seem to be outraged, which we all should naturally be, at past leaders who had virtually abused their power to rob the nation’s coffers, a fact which has emerged or is being exposed in many key institutions.

They claim that the BR1M (Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia) payments are now lower and many recipients have also been removed from the list as they do not qualify under the minimum household income requirement. So what is wrong with that? Why do you want money that does not belong to you or you don’t deserve?

Yes, it’s true that the Bantuan Sara Hidup (BSH, as BR1M is now called) has been reduced by RM200 to RM1,000 but Pakatan has made sure that only really needy Malaysians get such welfare aid, as it had been greatly abused in the past.

And to make sure those really in need receive more help, the government is giving out an additional RM100 for each child below 18 years of age whose guardians are BSH recipients, for a maximum of four children. And if the child is disabled, it is for a lifetime, no age limit. So if a BSH recipient has four children below 18, he or she gets a total of RM1,420. This is higher than before.

Malaysia has thrived because of a culture of opportunity that encourages hard work in the private sector. Of course, the social restructuring policy, which was aimed at giving a hand to the have-nots to give them a lift, played a role.

But this should not go on forever, the number must reduce eventually as those benefiting should finally be able to help their families to grow away from this dependency.

The growth of this form of welfare state funded by projected or borrowed income — or worse still, by funds siphoned from government coffers — is turning Malaysia into a land where many expect, and see no stigma attached, to receive regular financial support.

I find this a growing and dangerous trend, when undeserving Malaysians sit back idly and wait for these cash hand-outs as an entitlement instead of a privilege. And what’s more distressing is to see politicians feeding this cancer as a way of continuing to stay in power.

The actual meaning of the phrase “Cash is King”, as most of us know, is a term reflecting the belief that cash money is more valuable than any other form of investment tool for businesses. For individuals, it is meant to be a fund which is easily accessible for urgent expenditures or purchases.

It is not a phrase that politicians or others use to indicate that they can buy power and votes so that they are able to be in absolute control of the nation for as long as they want. Unfortunately, though, many have done this and it has created a culture in Malaysia in which the people have started valuing money more than truth, hard work and honesty.

Cash is not king when it is stolen from others or, worse still, from public funds placed under your trust or control. That is called cashing in. It is surely not king if it is obtained by unfair trade practices or it is beyond a fair deal.

In this context, something that Dr Mahathir said about two years before the last election shortly after he decided to re-enter politics stands out in my mind. He had said: “You see the collapse of moral values in Malaysia is terrible. In the future we are going to be like those countries where bribery is a part of daily life — you can’t do anything without bribery.”

This is what he is trying to dismantle after he came back into politics at the age of 93, so we should give our wholehearted support to him and Pakatan for a better and cleaner Malaysia for all.

Source link 

Expect the unexpected from Dr M – Analysis

 

 

Mediocre future? If selection at the matriculation level is not based on meritocracy, the quality of our tertiary institutions will be …

Meritocracy Vs. Mediocrity  Education system must champion meritocracy THE country is facing yet another controversy of its own …

The Pakatan government has little choice
nor time to check the slide on its popularity and goodwill from voters.
WHAT a difference a y

 

Crime and cost of living are top concerns for Malaysians – Ipsos Global Research

 

 

 

 

 

 


Dialogue of civilizations can iron out cultural creases


lustration: Liu Rui/GT
The Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations will be held from May 15 to 22 in Beijing, and Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend the event and deliver a keynote speech, officials said at a press conference on Thursday. #AsianCivilizations #XiJinping

 

The Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations will kick off in Beijing soon. It is China’s attempt to promote understanding among different civilizations, inclusive development, and to respond to the theory of the Clash of Civilizations with the philosophy of building a community with a shared future for mankind.

During the just-concluded second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, China defined the future of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as a route that brings together different civilizations. It reflects China’s ample confidence in the initiative to enhance civilizational exchanges, mutual understanding and civilized coexistence. Through BRI, countries can understand, respect, and trust one another.

Differences do exist between China and the US – the two most influential powers in the world – in terms of civilizations. Some in the US are even prejudiced about China’s culture and disagree with the country’s development path and value system.

China has always advocated mutual learning between civilizations. The country needs to strengthen its power of discourse and show Chinese civilization’s unique charm to the US, the West, and the entire international community. The dialogue between Chinese and American civilizations, an important part of the dialogue of global civilizations, is of great significance in building a community with a shared future for mankind.

Over the years, China and the US have already explored quite a lot in this regard. At the Mar-a-Lago summit between Chinese and US leaders in 2017, the two sides agreed to establish high-level dialogue mechanisms, including social and people-to-people contact. In addition, Chinese and US scholars organized the Sino-American Dialogue on Core Values as early as in 2011. The Foreign Affairs magazine published an article titled “China vs. America: Managing the Next Clash of Civilizations” in 2017.

Surprisingly, recent reports by the Washington Examiner and Voice of America indicate that the US State Department is developing strategies in response to the “clash” with Chinese civilization.

The Clash of Civilizations is a theory proposed in 1993 by Samuel Huntington, a well-known US political scholar who teaches at Harvard University. He argued that the clash of civilizations, instead of ideological and economic clashes, will be the primary source of conflict in the post-Cold War world. He conjectured that the core of international politics will be the interaction between Western and non-Western civilizations.

Huntington predicted that the clash of civilizations would be especially manifested in Western-Islamic conflicts after the Cold War. It is puzzling that US officials are now turning to China.

The Clash of Civilizations theory targeting China seems to be gaining traction among anti-China forces in the US. The National Security Strategy issued by the White House in late 2017 labeled China as a strategic competitor. The US adverse policies toward China have created obstacles in the path of smooth China-US relations.

If the US Department of State continues to promote policy measures against China based on the Clash of Civilizations, ties will be further hurt, and more specific steps taken. Not only that, the US may also take advantage of this theory and force other countries to follow its lead in containing China.

However, such attempts by adversarial US forces will eventually fall flat.

Their argument of Clash of Civilizations, violating mainstream American values based on pluralism and inclusiveness, has already triggered heated debate inside the US. Some senior US experts studying China have criticized the view for lacking understanding of China.

It will be tough if the US attempts to lead the West to a civilizational battle with China. The damage caused by the “America First” theory has yet to heal. Describing US competition with China as the clash of civilization may once again create contradictions and panic. Dialogue of civilizations is needed rather than a cold war.

By Xi Laiwang Source:Global Times

The author is a senior reporter and an observer of international issues. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

Related post:

Yes to Belt and Road – Everyone will benefit from BRI

 

Move away from a culture of mediocrity! Who does Malaysia belong to?


Mediocre future? If selection at the matriculation level is not based on meritocracy, the quality of our
tertiary institutions will be diluted and they will produce only mediocre graduates eventually.
— Filepic

Affirmative action should be based entirely on need because a poor Malay student needs a scholarship just as badly as a poor Indian or Chinese student.

THE debate over the intake of students into matriculation colleges in the country is an annual one, just like the offer of government scholarships. I have been a keen follower of this subject for many years and there has never been a year without complaints being made about the selection process.

It is always about top scoring non-Malay students in the SPM examination not being offered places while others with lower grades walk into colleges. This is nothing new in Malaysia, actually.

So why the intense debate now, with leaders from both sides of the political divide openly defending or criticising the quota system applied to the selection?

For those who may not know, the 90:10 (bumiputra:non-bumiputra) quota has been in existence since 2005, according to records. There have been “political adjustments” in the past when more non-Malay students were offered seats, but these were one off actions presumably during election years to woo votes.

One of the reasons for the deluge of criticisms now – some from leaders in the Pakatan Harapan coalition itself – could be due to the new kind of democracy that we expect under the new government.

There have been unverified reports of heated arguments in the Cabinet among ministers, with some defending the policy and others against a quota system that appears to be extremely unfair to Malaysians as they are being deprived of one of their rights in their motherland. Yes, Malaysia is the motherland for most of us and not India or China or Indonesia.

Maybe our government leaders should see the extent of hatred in the social media clips and hate messages that have been circulating expressing the anger, fear and frustrations of non-Malays.

And, of course, some unfairly blame Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, seeing him as the man who started this quota system previously and who is now perpetuating it.

What I gather from media reports and social media is that people feel Pakatan has moved away from its election promise of building a more equitable society that will not deprive any community of fair and equal access to tertiary education.

Hearing this promise, among others, Malaysians placed much hope on Pakatan building a new society for all races. When they see it is not happening, or becoming worse in some instances, they react.

I don’t think it is wrong for every top performing student from the B40 (lower income) category to feel devastated if he or she is deprived of a seat while lower-performing schoolmates are offered places. It makes me wonder if the selection committee has some ulterior motive to create this situation to benefit the opposition.

The matriculation programme, an affirmative action policy, started as a system that was based on wonderful ideals, so most Malaysians did not question its implementation initially. But for some reason, it has come to be regarded as pernicious now, as it appears to benefit only one community.

I believe that this practice has led – whether consciously or not – to excellence being suppressed to the point of creating a culture of mediocrity in many aspects of life. This is not going to change even if another government comes into power as long as the policy is not tweaked to meet the changing world.

OK, the government decided to add another 15,000 seats to the 25,000 given out in an attempt to quell the current outcry. Based on the quota, an additional 1,500 non-bumiputra students will now be given college places. At the same time, there will be another 13,500 bumiputra students added, which means there is a high possibility of the need to take in weak students just to meet the quota.

If this practice goes on, it will continue to dilute the quality of our tertiary institutions, producing only mediocre graduates eventually.

As a result, striving for excellence has become secondary, with some Malaysians feeling it is their right to be given university or college seats, or positions and promotions later, because they belong to one race. This is widely in existence and is being perpetuated despite the new government’s promises.

Winning votes at any cost has become as addiction with our politicians, it seems. Are we going to let their thirst for power destroy our nation?

I do agree that most Malaysians are not ready for an absolute meritocratic society because, as some critics say, it will create reverse discrimination where the majority will lose out to a minority.

But I believe, slowly but surely, the balance has to change for non-bumiputra citizens. After all, we are not asking for what is not ours, only what we deserve.

There is no discrimination when we pay our taxes and our only home is Malaysia. And I am sure the first two lines of our national anthem run deep in our hearts: “Negaraku, tanah tumpanya darahku (My country, for whom I will shed my blood)” are words that most of us carry in our hearts, and we are indeed ready to take up arms to defend the nation from any threat, as shown in the past.

We are in the 21st century now when affirmative action should not be based on a citizen’s skin colour or creed. Affirmative action should be based on one’s need because a poor Malay student needs a scholarship just as badly as a poor Indian or Chinese student.

There are many Malaysians who think that we’ve arrived at a time when affirmative action needs to be dismantled slowly, with a specified time frame given.

But this is a highly contentious issue and the government must tread carefully, as any sudden deprivation will have a strong social reaction.

We should create a belief that a love of learning will gain Malay-sians far more than any affirmative action laws we might pass.

But this change should come from within, as no quota or law can make us realise this. If Malaysians are not willing to work hard and earn their places or positions and instead wait for hand-outs all their lives, we will fail as a nation eventually.

kparkaranLet’s stop breaking the hearts of Malaysians when it comes to education. All students need a helping hand, irrespective of who they are, as we march onwards towards becoming a respected First World nation.

Read more  

 

 

We can soar with a meritocratic system – Letters

 

Who does Malaysia belong to?

 

Great responsibility: To move forward, we Malaysians have to take responsibility for the destiny of the nation on our own shoulders.

The Federal Constitution does not confer any rights to ‘ownership of the nation based on ethnicity or religion.

TO whom does Malaysia belong to may sound like a hilarious question, but do not overestimate the capacity to which the human mind is used.

Experience and observation will tell you that many of us (sometimes me included), often make a choice of not thinking about things based on facts. Instead, we form conclusions based on conjectures and other people’s uninformed opinions.

So who does Malaysia belong to?

There are many ways of approaching this question. As I often tell the audience in my talks about “thinking”, we have to understand the question first before we can even attempt to seek an answer.

For example, if we think of Malaysia as a politico-legal entity – a “nation” – then it becomes obvious that the question relates to an examination of the legal structure of the nation.

Seeking the answer may lead to further questions. It is no longer a “kedai kopi” kind of discussion where everyone wants to have a say simply because they can make sounds with their mouths. That can be a tiring experience, at least for me.

So when then did the politico-legal entity called “Malaysia” come into being’?

Malaysia was legally born on Sept 16, 1963, when the Federation of Malaya (West Malaysia), Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak formed the larger Federation of Malaysia. About two years later, the Malaysian Parliament passed a Bill to separate Singapore from the Federation. Hence, from 1965, Malaysia is legally made up of what is know today as West and East Malaysia.

Obviously, we do not think that the Federation of Malaysia had come about as a result of some casual social chat between the leaders of the respective states over teh tarik.

There were meetings and discussions back and forth between the parties and they came up with an agreement to join together as the Federation of Malaysia vide the Malaysia Agreement 1963.

Whenever there is an agreement, there are terms and conditions for the parties to abide by. The agreement, however, is not the subject of this article.

When you see Malaysia as a legal entity, you will immediately ask a few other questions: How is Malaysia managed as a nation and who manages it? What are the rights, duties, obligations, and privileges of the “members” of this Federation of Malaysia? What about “non-members” who are present in the Federation?

These kind of questions have to be asked and thought about. We can understand that the “members” refer to the states that make up Malaysia and most of the human beings who live here.

The human beings make up the citizens and the non-citizens and well, some illegal immigrants. Each of these human beings have different legal status in our country.

When we speak of “belong”, we think in terms of ownership, management, rights and privileges. How is it possible to say something belongs to you if you do not own it, or do not have the right to manage it?

Legally, the nation is “owned” by the citizens of the country because they are authorised to “manage” the country and to determine its destiny. The citizens can either bring the nation to a high level of civilisation or bring it down to a failed state.

The basic framework of the rights of the citizens and how the nation is to be managed is provided for in the Federal Constitution, correctly termed by the constitutional law expert Professor Emeritus Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi as the “document of destiny”.

How we interpret the Constitution and if at all we give “life” to the provisions in the Constitution will shape the destiny of the nation. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land and it is an extremely important document that every citizen should know.

It is important to note that the Constitution does not confer any rights to “ownership” of the nation based on ethnicity or religion.

Every citizen is equal before the law save for particular laws relevant to particular groups of citizens due to the diverse nature of our citizenry. The Constitution clearly spells out the fundamental liberties that all citizens have a right to enjoy in Part II, and the manner in which the Federation of Malaysia is to be managed in Part IV and VI.

There are also provisions regarding the civil service (Part X), the judiciary (Part IX) and elections (Part VIII), to name a few.

In this regard, therefore, any claims to ownership of the country in terms of religion or ethnicity is therefore not supported by the reality of the law.

It is also a divisive and bigoted perspective which will harm the nation in the long run. In layperson terms, Malaysia legally belongs to all Malaysians and they have equal rights and duties to develop Malaysia and to live in it peacefully.

Do not behave as if the country belongs only to the politicians in power. We should have learnt this lesson by now. Ownership does not come without an effort. You have to protect the nation as how you protect your home or property in accordance with the laws.

If you really think this country belongs to you, then you should not simply be subservient to unjust laws, if any.

You have to challenge it and ensure that it is consistent with the provisions in the Constitution and move your parliamentary representatives to pass just laws that will protect you and develop the nation wholesomely. Ownership comes with real responsibility and not with mere slogans, rhetoric or political speeches.

It is most unfortunate that despite having achieved independence for more than 60 years, there are still many citizens who are ignorant of the Constitution.

This I believe, is largely due to their own apathy and also due to the unfortunate Malaysian culture of taking the politicians to be their teachers.

Hence, political narratives that affront common intelligence are mistaken to be the law by the feeble minded amongst us. We have to move forward and take responsibility for the destiny of the nation on our own shoulders.

Penang Lang: Feeling increasingly displaced in Penang, sad the demise of colourful language


槟城人(Penang Lang) – Home | Facebook

Feeling increasingly displaced in Penang, too

DATUK Seri Wong Chun Wai’s article expressed my sentiments exactly (“Feeling lost in Penang”, On The Beat, Focus, Sunday Star, Jan 27; online at bit.ly/star_hokkien /A banana’s feeling lost in Penang, fearing will be illiterate in future).

I attended primary and secondary school at Convent Green Lane, and later went on to do my Sixth Form at St Xavier’s. Needless to say, I do not speak any Mandarin either. I, too, feel increasingly displaced in Penang, and am so sad to see Hokkien perceptibly fading away.

In preparing for my sociolinguistics class with undergraduates, I came across an interesting website by the Persatuan Bahasa Hokkien Pulau Pinang, speakhokkien.org. Others are concerned too.

(By the way, my class was studying concepts of language loss and language death, and I picked Penang Hokkien as a case to highlight the issue. In my demo, I spoke some and we all had a great big laugh – my personality inexplicably transforms when I speak Hokkien!)

One of the last bastions of Penang Hokkien could possibly be the Sg Ara market. During a visit sometime last year, I could still hear quite a bit of this beautiful dialect being spoken, to my great delight.

Thank you for highlighting the issue from a heartfelt personal perspective. I will include it in the reading list to help my students understand that language loss is not some abstract theoretical construct but is real and happening in our own backyard in Penang.

(By the way, wah ah boey khi bank gia ang pow long. Wah boh eng! Ah bo wah khi pasak bey kah ho :-)) (I haven’t gone to the bank to get ang pow packets. I am not free! Maybe it’s better that I go buy them in the market.)

JOY QUAH Kuala Lumpur The Star

Sad to see the demise of a colourful language

FIRSTLY, I must say I thoroughly enjoyed Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai’s article, “Feeling lost in Penang /A banana’s feeling lost in Penang, fearing will be illiterate in future ”.

I was sent a link to the article by an old Auckland University friend who now lives in Singapore.

I’m a “banana” still living in Auckland after 40 years. And like Wong, I get pretty lost in Penang whenever I return.

Being ex-Penang Free School, I never learnt Mandarin. I worked in Shanghai for a year-and-a-half and my colleagues there used to tease me, “You can’t read Mandarin? You can’t write Mandarin? You can’t speak Mandarin? You must be illiterate!”

Penang is now starting to feel like China.

I find it’s more common nowfor Chinese youngsters to converse in Mandarin than in Hokkien. I speak Hokkien to the hawkers and get told that I must be from overseas! The Penang sing-song Hokkien will soon disappear. It’s a shame.

Like Wong, I too avoid Penang during Chinese New Year – it’s just too hectic. My wife and I visit mid-year when there are no events, celebrations or festivals. This year, it’s May/June. Wonder if there’s durian around then!

Have a Happy New Year, Keong Hee Huat Chai!

MICHAEL ONG Auckland, New Zealand The Star

Related post:

Children admiring a Hokkien glove puppet
theatre performing ‘Journey to the West’ on a portable wooden stage at
the Little Pe
.

A banana’s feeling lost in Penang, fearing will be illiterate in future


Children admiring a Hokkien glove puppet theatre performing ‘Journey to the West’ on a portable wooden stage at the Little Penang Street Market.

 

Its decline has been progressive, but Penang’s Hokkien heritage is at its closest to death’s door as 2019 takes off. 

LAST week, I returned to my hometown, Penang, to celebrate Chinese New Year. The family reunion meal with my father (who turns 94 this year) and (87-year-old) mother is an annual event I always look forward to.

It’s not possible to have my brothers (now in their mid-60s to 70 years old), their wives, children and grandchildren with us at the family event every time, but we get as many of them as we can. I have made it a point to host these pre-CNY meals because for the last few years, I have avoided being in Penang during the first two days of the actual celebrations.

That’s when Penang island’s roads get choked up and traffic comes to a complete standstill, the city desperately dealing with the homecoming of Penangites and tourists, especially during the second day of CNY.

The temperature on the island during the CNY season always seems to spike and at times, the scorching heat is almost unbearable. And that’s another reason why I withdraw from the otherwise lovely island during this festive period. As much as I yearn for my Penang hawker fare, I don’t want to jostle for a plate of char koay teow with tourists. But on this recent trip home, it hit me that I have become a stranger in my proud Hokkien-speaking island. The loss of the distinct northern-accented Hokkien has been apparent in the last few years but now it looks like its death may come sooner than feared.

It’s worse for a “banana” like me – a term to denote a person of Chinese origin who can’t speak or write Chinese, and instead, identifies more with Western culture. The term is derived from the fruit, which is “yellow on the outside, white on the inside”.

Those like me are regarded a disgrace to the Chinese-speaking community because I can’t read or write Chinese or speak Mandarin.

Their horror turns to disgust when I confess that I can’t even write my name in Chinese.

My decade of education was at St Xavier’s Institution, a Catholic establishment, and despite the religious background of the premier school, it had a liberal and open- minded culture that moulded most of its students, and this, us former students are enormously grateful for and proud of.

The multi-ethnic mix of the school’s population also means we had real friends from all races, developed and tested over a decade. So we always felt sorry for those who studied in Chinese, Tamil or Islamic-based schools then, because we felt their set up was mono-ethnic. And no matter how much the products of these schools claim they had friends from other races, we know they didn’t have the deep ties or bonds that those of us in English-medium schools developed.

Fast forward to 2019! Just like The Last Of The Mohicans – the James Fenimore Cooper historical novel realised in the 1992 movie about the last members of the dying Native American tribe, the Mohicans – it dawned on me last week that I could well be among the Last Of The Bananas in Malaysia.

At the Air Itam wet market, I asked for the price of the thee kuih, or kuih bakul, in Hokkein and the stall keeper, in turn, replied: “Oh, nee yau (you want) nian gao.”

A few steps away, another trader was loudly hawking ang pow packets, which, in previous times, would be referred to as “ang pow long” (red packets), but this time, I was hearing “hong bao feng”.

By the time I sat down at a coffee shop, the waiter was already taking down my order, again, in Mandarin, and quoting prices in that language, too. It was no longer “kopi” but “ka fei” now.

If there’s one clear feature that separates Penangites from the rest of the ethnic Chinese in Malaysia, it has always been the melodious Hokkien, with its rich sprinkling of Malay words that reveals its nonya-baba linguistic roots.

Penangites – at least from the older generation – are fiercely proud of their Hokkien, as it completely differs from the one spoken in Singapore, Taiwan or Xiamen in China, and even that in Melaka or Johor. Call us smug, snooty or parochial but we sometimes dismiss the Hokkien spoken elsewhere as somewhat crass and unrefined.

Only the Hokkien spoken by the Chinese in Medan closely mirrors Penang Hokkien, presumably because of the proximity between the island and the Indonesian city.

Whether rightly or wrongly, or plainly out of ignorance, Penangites feel the sing-song delivery is easier on the ears.

Words such as balai (police station), balu (just now), bangku (stool), batu (stone), cilaka/celaka (damn it), campur (to mix), jamban (toilet), gatai/gatal (itchy) gili/geli (creepy), sabun (soap) and kesian (pity), are an integral part of the Penang Hokkien dialect.

If the person is not from Penang, then he or she is likely from Kedah, Perlis or Taiping in Perak, to be able to converse in the northern-accented Hokkien. Which brings me to my point: As the daily use of the dialect is rapidly being replaced by Mandarin, I am feeling the impact the most. It is worse for the “bananas” who are feeling lost and out of place – in their home town.

It doesn’t help that many of the present Penang state and federal leaders aren’t from Penang, having been born and raised in either Melaka, Johor or Selangor.

The Penang Monthly bulletin, in its May 2017 issue, dramatically headlined the situation: “Penang Hokkien on life support”.

In an interview with the publication, Penang Hokkien Language Association secretary Ooi Kee How lamented that “our creativity, our cultural identity, will decline. A lot of innovations will disappear, because different languages shape the way we think differently.”

But the wide use of Mandarin and the decline of the dialects is not just endemic to Penang. Cantonese is spoken less in the Klang Valley, too, and is suffering the same sad fate as northern Hokkien. The random stranger who calls up, irritatingly “inviting” us to take up a loan having been “specially selected”, speaks to me in Mandarin because it’s assumed I can speak the language since I have a Chinese name. Likewise, the sales staff who stops us at the shopping mall also speaks to me in Mandarin, likely led by the same deduction.

So, as a “banana” who thinks and dreams in English, I am starting to suffer from anxiety. I am embarrassed by my inability to communicate in an important language – with huge economic value – and worse, the national language of my ancestral country.

At the rate, the Chinese language is being used, even by non-Chinese, I fear that I will be regarded illiterate in future. “Bananas” in the past ridiculed and mocked the Chinese-educated for not being able to speak English sufficiently, or roll their tongues well enough to produce the “r” sound, but now, it looks like the tables have turned on the “bananas”, instead.

A whole generation of Malaysian Chinese has been educated in Chinese schools, at least at primary level. It has been widely reported, from various surveys, that up to 90% of Chinese parents send their children to Chinese primary schools, and the balance to national medium schools.

As I have written here before, this is unlike the experience of the older generation of Penangites like me, now in their 50s, who attended schools using English as a medium of instruction. In the absence of Mandarin, we spoke mainly Hokkien and English, but people in their 30s and 40s are more comfortable conversing in Mandarin, and certainly not English.

Then there is the huge impact of Chinese TV shows, especially on Astro. They are entirely in Mandarin – with shows from mainland China and Taiwan – and Hokkien, which is spoken in a manner closer to that used in Melaka, Johor and Singapore.

It’s no surprise that the sales staff at malls also expect the Chinese community to speak Mandarin, and understandably, they will begin the conversation in Mandarin – because you are expected to know the language.

There is also the impact of China as the new economic powerhouse of Asia, if not the world. Mandarin has become the dominant language with economic value, and certainly prestige. That’s how it is now, but this may well come at the expense of a rich heritage.

The harsh reality is that the unique “sing-song” style of Penang Hokkien might no longer be heard decades from now if this frightening trend continues. Even worse, what’s certain is that the “bananas” will be history very soon.

Well, what can I say, except to wish you “xin nian kwai le” (happy new year) and “gong xi fa cai” (may you attain greater wealth) this festive season!

by Wong Chun Wai On The Beat

Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various capacities and roles. He is now the group’s managing director/chief executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.

On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.
Related:

I am a pig, so what?

Singing and dancing to world domination


 

 

This year’s CCTV Spring Festival Gala shows off China’s power, both soft and hard.


China now intends to lead the world in just about everything.”

BY the end of the show, there was no doubt left in my mind that China is ready for world domination.

This was the CCTV Spring Festival Gala, an immensely popular national event by China Central Television that is telecast live on the eve of Chinese New Year. I watched a day later on YouTube.

The gala, which started in 1983, has all the elements of a variety show with lots of singing, dancing, acrobatics and comedy skits. This year’s edition followed the same mix and ran for more than five hours.

Thanks to livestreaming, for the first time, it hit an all-time high worldwide viewership of a billion people, according to China Global Television Network (CGTN), CCTV’s international arm.

The gala is therefore an extremely important platform for China to present itself at its best. Clearly, a great deal of planning, with no expenses spared, went into the production that showcased Chinese creativity and culture, as well as the country’s military might and technological advancements.

The result: an awesome spectacle that would have put the 2008 Beijing Games opening ceremony in the shade.

Most of the action was in CCTV’s auditorium in Beijing supported by performances staged in four provinces: Guizhou, Guangdong, Shandong and Hainan.

These four stages were outdoor and unique. Guizhou, one of China’s most diverse provinces, showed off its minority groups like the Miao and Hmong in their elaborate traditional costumes in a hi-tech setting.

The Guangdong show took place on a section of the magnificent Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, the world’s longest sea bridge that is slated for opening the middle of this year.

Shandong, the birthplace of Confucius and Taoism, chose a citadel-like building as its backdrop. Finally, Hainan, famed for hosting several Miss World pageants, presented itself as a balmy tropical paradise.

Apart from the skits, which seemed very 1970s but obviously still very popular with the audience, the other acts were extremely elaborate and performed by what seemed like a million people, who danced in perfect precision, sang in total harmony, aided by dazzling use of LED screens and special effects.

In keeping with the joyous occasion, the venues were so brightly multi-coloured and busy, it was almost eye-watering. There was never a dull moment.

I couldn’t help comparing the show to the dance and acrobatic performances from the 1980s. That was when China started opening up and sending out performing troupes in cheap tracksuits and canvas shoes who excelled in contortions, twirling plates and bowls, balancing on ladders and chairs, and creating formations on a single bicycle in motion.

The performers were certainly well-trained and competent, but they hardly smiled and came across as rather soulless and robotic.

Well, how things have changed. The Chinese people are no longer poor, suppressed and grim. That’s long gone.

When it comes to national pride, the Chinese are beating out the Americans, who made flag and country a Hollywood staple.

When you have the likes of Jackie Chan singing a patriotic song about Chung-kuo, backed by a whole pride of stylishly clad smiling young people and footage of gorgeous scenery, modern cities and wind tur­bines, it sure does make the heart beat faster.

Over the Guangdong bridge, drones and acrobatic planes weaved magic in the night sky, while off Hainan, a flotilla of boats lit up the waters.

And when it comes to culture and heritage, China has it in spades, from Chinese opera to kung fu and wushu to traditional dances and songs.

A jaw-dropping performance featured a huge ensemble of women dressed as bodhisattvas moving in unison so fluidly they were like one body; their entire performance made more mesmerising by the play of lighting that changed their costumes from yellow, to white to fuchsia.

One of my favourite acts was singer Jay Chou performing with a blend of virtual reality magic that was beautifully choreographed and synchronised with his movements.

I was also happy that among the foreign guest artistes was my dear boy from Kazakhstan, singer extraordinaire Dimash, whom I wrote about in my April 19, 2017, column which brought me the most number of e-mails from around the world.

What I liked about this year’s gala was its restrained presentation of China’s armed forces. Usually, the stage is filled with uniformed military personnel doing formations or singing a martial song.

This time, it was a more arty performance and China’s military might subtly conveyed by a strongman doing incredible handstands.

As with previous galas, the meaning of Chinese New Year was beautifully conveyed in a heart-tugging video of people returning for and preparing for the reunion dinner that brought home the importance of family and traditions.

Except for one misstep – a dreadful segment that tried to showcase Sino-African relations that critics have savaged as “a racist blackface” skit – CCTV Spring Festival Gala 2018 was a truly spectacular show that fuelled nationalistic pride among China’s citizens and left the rest of the world gobsmacked. It paid homage to the nation’s rich past, revelled in a confident present and announced an ambitious future.

I shut down my PC at almost 4am and as I lay me down to sleep, I recalled what I wrote in a commentary in June 2016 in which I described China as a shy superpower that actually tried to pretend it wasn’t one.

Not anymore. On Oct 18 last year, President Xi Jinping announced at the 19th National Communist Party Congress that China now intends to lead the world in just about everything, be it military presence, economic and development policies like the Road and Belt, technological innovations and artificial intelligence or even sports and entertainment.

Don’t believe me? Consider this then: China is the world leader in applications for inventions with 1.36 million patents and it has been the leader for seven consecutive years.

When it comes to investing in research and development, it ranked second in the world last year.

It’s all part of China’s blueprint for world domination. And that’s no song and dance!

So aunty, so what? June H.L. Wong

Aunty wished she could highlight more of the five-plus hour-long gala. If you haven’t watched it, you should check it out on YouTube. Feedback: aunty@thestar.com.my

Related Links:

Beijing tops again in patent applications worldwide – ASEAN/East Asia …

China leads patent applications worldwide | Business

R&D input ‘2nd-highest in the world’ 

China Dominates Top Western Economies in Patent … – VOA News

China dominates top Western economies in patent … – Phys.org

China dominates top economies in patent applications | Asia Times

China applying for more patents than ever before as companies push …

http://www.scmp.com › Business › Companies

Source: World Intellectual Property Organization

Related Posts:

J-20 stealth fighter, Y-20 transport plane show China’s advances in technology

Tiangong-2 space lab draws global praise, with the world’s first “cold” atomic clock on board 

China’s Tiangong-1 completes orbit maneuver & the future missions

China Successfully Launches 1st Space Lab Module Into Orbit for Docking Tests

China aims to be top at science

Greener pastures: Wang at his company’s headquarters in Shanghai. The successful Silicon Valley alumni was lured back to China by the pro…

 

%d bloggers like this: