Death of western democracies?


I told you so’: Trump showing off a copy of USA Today’s front page featuring his acquittal in the Senate impeachment trial, as he arrived to address the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. — Reuters

ANGOLA, Haiti and Cambodia are “Banana Republics”: countries where the rule of law has been traduced by a man or woman or group seeking their own aggrandisement.

There is a new addition to this list: the United States of America. As one of the oldest and proudest of the world’s democracies, this country’s appalling downgrade is testament to one man’s work.

His name is Donald Trump and he is the 45th President. TV reality show star, charlatan and bigot, Trump has tweeted his nation’s principles – as articulated by the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights – into a pulp.

Of course, he had help. He has been ably assisted by a coterie of men and women known as “Republicans”. In the years to come, as historians pore over the catastrophe that is the Trump Presidency, tracking its dismal, neo-fascist trajectory, one of the most important dates will be his acquittal by the US Senate from impeachment charges of abuse of power and obstructing Congress on Feb 5,2020.

The Americans have demonstrated that the highest office in their land and the most powerful in the world – the Presidency – can be manipulated for personal gain, that their political elite will actively enable this.

Across the Atlantic, a buffoonish Old-Etonian turned hack journalist turned politician Boris Johnson has parlayed Brexit to not only propel himself to 10 Downing Street but also persuade the UK’s working-classes to vote against their own interests.

Membership in the European Union was more than just about common markets and free movement. It was limiting, but that’s precisely the point: all its members accepted the EU’s strictures to create confidence and hence, the conditions for peace as well as development in their continent.

All of that has gone out of the window now.

If the Yanks who want to “Make America Great Again” are living in a Banana Republic – their British cousins who want to “regain control” via Brexit exist in a posh-boy rerun of Downtown Abbey crossed with 1917 and the Raj Quartet.

What happened? How have centuries-old democracies become so fragile and even self-destructive?

First: inequality has gotten out of hand. The neoliberal, trickle-down economic policies launched by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in the late 1970/80’s fuelled a massive shift in prosperity from workers and the middle-classes to owners and shareholders. Real wages stagnated and tax policies benefited the recipients of dividends not generated by their own labour.

Subsequently, more centrist leaders (such as Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Barrack Obama) maintained much of the same policies. And the numbers don’t lie.

When Thatcher came to power in 1979, the UK manufacturing industry employed 6.8 million people – by 2016 this had fallen to 2.6 million.

In 2017, three of the US’ richest individuals collectively held more wealth than the bottom 50% of their country’s population –160 million people. Gini coefficients (a measure of inequality) are shooting up on both sides of the Atlantic.

Moreover, the advent of social media allowed fake and demagogic information to be spread quickly as well as unchecked, shifting the national discourse and mood almost at will.

Meanwhile, ethnic and religious minorities as well as women – rightfully – sought greater representation in the public life and culture of the West.

However, the failure of the Anglo-American elite to address the above-mentioned inequalities led the white-majority working classes to feel that their leaders were more interested in playing identity politics than protecting them.

At the same time, a refugee crisis emanating from the Middle East and North Africa (in the US, the refugee crisis is predominantly Latino) heightened white anxieties over being displaced in their own countries.

This gave the opportunity for Trump and other demagogues to rise. Economic inequities and cultural insecurities fuelled white nativist impulses.

It’s not clear if the progressives can blunt this wave (Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn failed dismally) and the chaos in Iowa Democratic Party caucuses only underlines the gloom.

We, in Southeast Asia must learn from the fragility of these Northern Atlantic democracies.

Their mistakes aside – democracy is still the best way forward – especially for multi-racial and multi-religious countries.

What’s key is to avoid the pitfalls the West fell for. We must address the growing inequality of our societies. Growth alone will not bring stability and peace.

A 2018 World Bank report found that Indonesia’s Gini Index worsened from 30.0 in the 1990s to 38.1 in 2017. Singapore (45.8 in 2016), Malaysia (45.5 in 2008) and the Philippines (44.4 in 2015) all had Gini Indexes above 40: signs of higher income inequality.

Leaders ignore warning signs like this at their peril. We must invest in our people: their safety, health, education and skills.

Next, social media must be brought to heel. Hate speech and deliberately provocative postings must be curbed without resorting to undue repression.

The obvious racial and religious fissures in our societies must be managed very carefully. Common ground needs to be found – or created – between our majority and minority communities.

And we must remain engaged: both informed about the issues and vigilant against cynical manipulators of our insecurities.

It may seem like a daunting task when our former colonial masters and role models have failed so miserably. There is no choice. We cannot join the Americans and the British in rubbish dump of history

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Xi discusses fresh ties with Trump


Presidents’ phone talk raises hope for final phase one trade deal: experts

WASHINGTON: The China-US phase one trade deal, reached on the basis of equality and mutual respect and against the backdrop of an extremely complicated international environment, will benefit both countries and contribute to peace and prosperity of the world, Chinese President Xi Jinping told his US counterpart Donald Trump.

In the phone call at the invitation of the US side on Friday, Xi expressed “grave concern” over the recent US “negative statements and actions” on issues related to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet, which he said interfered with China’s internal affairs, damaged China’s interests, and are not good for mutual trust and cooperation.

Xi told Trump that China hopes the US side will “conscientiously” implement the important consensuses reached in their multiple meetings and phone conversations, and pay close attention to China’s concerns, thus avoiding disturbing the bilateral relations as well as the important agenda of both countries, according to a statement released by the Xinhua News Agency.

Xi noted that the economic and trade cooperation between the two countries contributed tremendously to the steady development of their bilateral relations and to global economic growth.

As the modern economy and technology have connected the world, the interests of China and the US will become increasingly interlinked, and there will be some differences in the course of their collaboration, he said.

As long as the two sides adhere to mutually beneficial and win-win cooperation, and always respect the dignity, sovereignty, and core interests of the other country, they will be able to overcome the difficulties in the course of development, and push forward Sino-US economic and trade relations under the new historical conditions for the benefit of two countries and two peoples, Xi said.

Xi also said he is ready to maintain contact with Trump through various means, and exchange views on bilateral relations and international issues, and work together to promote a China-US relationship based on coordination, cooperation and stability.

In their phone call, Trump said the phase one trade deal is good for both countries and the rest of the world.

It has received positive responses from the markets of both countries and the world, according to the Xinhua report.

The US side is ready to keep close contact and communications with the Chinese side for the deal to be signed earlier and implemented, Trump said. — China Daily/ANN

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China-US economic and trade exchanges ballast stone for bilateral ties: former Chinese official

China-US economic and trade exchanges, instead of bilateral economic and trade relations, is the ballast stone for bilateral ties because there involve more superstructure and actions, and they cannot be entangled , a former Chinese official said Saturday.

West shows ill will to ignore Macao’s boom

Before the return, Macao’s GDP per capita was much lower than that of Hong Kong, but it is now nearly double that of Hong Kong. This refutes all kinds of arguments. Time will tell.

Macao’s devt lesson for Hong Kong

If more Hongkongers can reflect on the region’s development from Macao’s experience, it will be beneficial to the future of Hong Kong.

2020 will provide respite from China-US trade tensions: expert

China-US trade tensions will be less fierce in 2020, although disrupting factors like issues concerning Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and Taiwan island will remain amid the hubbub generated by the US presidential election next year, an expert said Saturday.

West silent on Xinjiang’s ‘inconvenient truth’

Besides, Chinese media should take the initiative to post reliable information about hot-spot issues, such as the education and vocational training center in Xinjiang. More detailed planning can be made to increase the effectiveness of news diffusion. As long as Xinjiang develops toward prosperity, and Chinese media’s publicity strategy improves, the truth will come to the light eventually. More people will recognize Western media’s selective deafness strategy and break away from its lie of objectivity and freedom of the press.

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Singapore growth forecast down to 1%


Unknown future: As Singapore further cut its growth forecast, New Zealand, India and Thailand also cut their interest rates signalling concerns on growth outlook. — AFP

SINGAPORE: Singapore slashed its full-year economic growth forecast as global conditions were seen worsening and data confirmed the slowest growth rate in a decade amid mounting fears of recession in the city-state.

The government cut its forecast range for gross domestic product in Singapore – often seen as a bellwether for global growth because international trade dwarfs its domestic economy – to zero to 1% from its previous 1.5%-2.5% projection.

Singapore’s downgrade adds to concerns globally about the effect of increasing protectionism on exports and production.

The deterioration in the global outlook has pushed central banks to cut interest rates and consider unconventional stimulus to shield their economies.

“GDP growth in many of Singapore’s key final demand markets in the second half of 2019 is expected to slow from, or remain similar to, that recorded in the first half, ” the trade ministry said in a statement to the media yesterday.

The ministry flagged a host of growing economic risks including Hong Kong’s political situation, the Japan-Korea trade dispute, the Sino-US tariff war, slowing growth in China and Brexit.

Final second quarter GDP data yesterday showed a 3.3% on-quarter contraction on a seasonally-adjusted annualised basis. That was slightly smaller than the 3.4% decline seen in the government’s advance estimate but deeper than a 2.9% fall predicted in a Reuters poll and a sharp contrast to the robust 3.8% first quarter expansion, which was driven by brisk construction activity.

Yesterday’s data also confirmed annual GDP expanded 0.1% in April-June from a year earlier, its slowest rate in a decade, and lower than poll expectations of 0.2% and the first quarter’s 1.1%.

Singapore’s benchmark stock index fell 1.2% to a two-month low in early trade, underperforming other bourses in the region.

Singapore has been hit hard by the Sino-US trade war, which has disrupted world supply chains in a blow to business investment and corporate profits.

Also yesterday, Singapore cut its full-year forecast for non-oil domestic exports to a 9% contraction from an 8% fall previously.

That comes after a 26.9% drop in electronics exports in the second quarter year-on-year.

“With trade tensions between the US-China unlikely to abate anytime soon, we expect exports and trade-related services to push the economy into technical recession in Q3, ” said Sian Fenner, lead Asia economist at Oxford Economics.

New Zealand, India and Thailand all cut interest rates last week, signalling major concerns about the outlook for economic growth. Last month, the US Federal Reserve cut interest rates for the first time since 2008.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in an annual speech last week that the government stood ready to stimulate the economy.

“It feels like the storm is coming if you look at the whole macro economic fundamentals softening, ” said Selena Ling, head of treasury and strategy at OCBC Bank.

“All the downside risks are piling up on one side, ” Ling added, pointing to the myriad of global risks flagged in the trade ministry statement. — Reuters

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Huawei developed own operating system Hongmeng OS; 5G商用 中国准备好了! China roll-out affordable 5G


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5G商用 中国准备好了! 20190605 | CCTV中文国际

 

Chinese consumers expected to use affordable 5G phones next year

 

After 5G commercial licenses have been officially issued, how long will Chinese people have to wait before they can use 5G smartphones?

The official issuance of the licenses shows that China — the world’s largest mobile phone market — has entered the 5G era. Industry analysts predict that Chinese consumers will be able to use 5G smartphones at prices ranging from 2,000 yuan ($290) to 3,000 yuan next year.

“Some 5G smartphone products will be released this year, but will be quite expensive, over 10,000 yuan,” Xiang Ligang, director-general of the Bei-jing-based Information Consumption Alliance, told the Global Times on Thursday. Consumers can buy 5G phones at affordable prices in a year, he noted.

Major regions such as Beijing, Shanghai and South China’s Guangdong will be the first places covered by 5G networks. Based on previous in-formation unveiled by the three carriers, smartphone users will have access to 5G high-speed internet and voice services without having to change SIM cards.

China’s telecoms industry regulator officially re-leased the first four 5G business licenses to Chi-na Mobile, China Union, China Telecom and Chi-na Broadcast Network on Thursday, helping the country get into the fast lane in commercializing the next generation of wireless technologies.

China released licenses a year earlier than scheduled to boost the economy while strengthening the overall telecoms sector in light of the US-led crackdown on Chinese telecoms vendors, Xiang noted.

“It will also help boost the sluggish smartphone market,” he said.

Chinese smartphone makers such as OPPO and vivo have shown confidence by releasing the first batch of 5G phones as soon as possible, and will adjust shipments in line with demand, media re-ported on Thursday.

– Global Times

 

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US global economic terrorism


Global financial markets are facing a stark wake-up call that they need to unite to stand against acts of what can only be described as economic terrorism by a country which unilaterally imposes its will on others and pursues its own goals at the cost of the interests of others.

More than a year after US President Donald Trump fired the first tariff salvo at China, he is extending the battlefield around the world. On Friday, his administration announced that it will end special trade treatment for India, removing a status that exempts billions of dollars of the South Asian country’s products from US tariffs. Trump is seriously mulling slapping tariffs on Mexican imports as he believes the country has taken advantage of the US for decades.

Even close allies cannot trust they will be exempt from Trump’s tariff addiction. It was reported that the administration considered imposing tariffs on imports from Australia, but eventually decided against the move amid opposition from his aides, “at least temporarily.”

Obviously, Trump, a businessman-turned president, is aiming his trigger finger regardless of the targets, be they US competitors or allies. Trump grumbles about his country subsidizing the world and weakening US industry and pledges to make America great again. But he doesn’t realize that a great superpower is supposed to provide public goods rather than resorting to coercion for selfish gains. His tactics are nothing short of economic terrorism.

The International Air Transport Association has estimated that the US-China trade war and high fuel prices will wipe $7.5 billion off expected airline profits in 2019. This is just the figure from the airline industry, which is enough to show the disastrous impact the US-initiated economic terrorism has on the globe. Trump may disrupt the global supply chain with the US’ economic clout, but how can a disrupted global supply chain serve the US’ strategic objectives of being a great country?

What is worse, before the US becomes great again as the president wishes, he is actually employing the strategy of blocking other countries to take the lead, as we see in his actions in quashing Huawei’s 5G advancement.

Later this month, leaders from the world’s top economies will meet at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan to discuss key economic issues that plague the world. The conventional views of globalization and its benefits are still shared by most countries, and many countries and regions are continuing to open their economies. They should unite to face the chaos created by the Trump administration and find a way forward, so the process of globalization will not be held hostage by the US’ economic terrorism. – By Zhang Yi
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China aligns with world order by improving it

As a civilization that is thousands of years old, China has
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wars and the international rule of law coming into force. At the same
time, China is dedicated to promoting democratization and legalization
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2nd Kim-Trump summit deserves more support


North Korea’s Kim Jong-un takes train to China – BBC News[youtube

Kim Jong-un en route to Vietnam summit by train

According to media reports, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un left Pyongyang by train for Vietnam on Saturday for his second summit with US President Donald Trump in Hanoi, which reportedly will be held on February 27 and 28.

The upcoming second summit sends positive signals, indicating that Pyongyang and Washington have been moving forward on both denuclearization and permanent peace for the Korean Peninsula since the first summit last June.

Nonetheless, there exist anxieties among certain American and South Korean elites. They worry Trump may make too many concessions and harm Seoul’s interests. In their view, the first Kim-Trump summit was a failure and Trump should not repeat the mistake in the upcoming meeting.

North Korea-US relations achieved a major breakthrough since the first summit, providing a new impetus for fundamentally solving the peninsula issue. However, those elites proclaimed that Trump’s decision to stop the US-South Korea joint military exercise was a unilateral concession, while North Korea did nothing.

Pyongyang declared it would cease nuclear and missile testing, and dismantle its nuclear test site. According to this logic, did Pyongyang make a unilateral concession?

There is a serious lack of mutual trust between the US and North Korea. Washington requests Pyongyang to abandon nuclear weapons completely, while Pyongyang desires security guarantee and permanent peace on the peninsula. Both sides have been playing the game with their own chips from the outset, making the denuclearization process somewhat fragile.

Nonetheless, denuclearization is not something that can be accomplished in a single action, but through a cumulative process.

There are no more nuclear and missile tests, nor US-South Korea joint military exercises on the Korean Peninsula. Even verbal battles and threats between Washington, Seoul and Pyongyang have faded.

In addition, bilateral meetings between Pyongyang and Washington, and between Pyongyang and Seoul have been constantly taking place.

Both denuclearization and permanent peace on the peninsula are positive targets. From the perspective of the big picture, there is no need to argue which country is moving faster toward the two ultimate goals.

The old thinking must be altered of demanding only the other party take the initiative but using one’s own responsibilities as a bargaining chip.

Both Washington and Pyongyang were once extremely tough. Now the peninsula’s situation has been finally reversed. Trump has shown the will to move forward, which should be encouraged by both the US and South Korea.

The US partisan struggle should not take the Korean Peninsula issue as a new battlefield. As for concerns among some South Korean people, it is a disturbed way of thinking to worry US-North Korea reconciliation may undermine the US-South Korea alliance.

China welcomes the second Kim-Trump summit. Chairman Kim’s travel through China from the north to south by train is meaningful. China has played a constructive role in Pyongyang’s new routes. Beijing is both a promoter and a stakeholder in this summit.

We hope that the second summit will achieve new breakthroughs. Although the peninsula issues are complex, peace is obviously a good thing. Nothing is impossible to overcome.

Newspaper headline: Kim-Trump summit deserves more support -Source:Global Times



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Trade war’s twrist: US and EU gang up deal against developing countrries?


IN the past few days, there has been a new twist to the global trade war. The United States, which had threatened to impose a 25% additional tariff on European cars, made a deal with the European Union.

US President Donald Trump suspended the automobile tariff plan and may exempt the EU from the earlier US tariffs on aluminium and steel.

In exchange, the EU countries will buy more soybean and energy products from the US, and the two giants will work to eliminate tariffs and subsidies in all industrial pro­ducts traded between them.

Trump and European Commis­sion president Jean-Claude Juncker also agreed to work to reform the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and to tackle China’s market abuse, according to a Reuters report.
“If it holds, the US-EU pact could allow both to focus on China, whose economic rise threatens both,” added the report.

Trump’s economic advisor Larry Kudlow said that, “US and EU will be allied in the fight against China, which has broken the world trading system, in effect”.

Thus, the US-EU deal appears to be both good and bad news. Good because there is a cooling off on one front of the global trade war. Bad because the traditional Western allies may gang up to attack not only China but also the rest of the developing countries.

The US and EU may now jointly pressurise China on various issues. A bigger aim is to hinder China from its Made in China 2025 plan to upgrade its domestic industry in 10 high-tech areas including robotics, autonomous and electric cars, artificial intelligence, biotech and aviation. They do not want Chinese firms to emerge as world-class cham­pions that rival American and European companies.

The US, EU and Japan last December signed an understanding to jointly act against China on trade issues, including steel overcapacity, technology transfer, and the role of subsidies, state financing and state-owned enterprises.

Over the years, the EU has turned to some developing countries as potential allies when it has a conflict with the US but eventually it strikes a deal with the US and then the two Western powers unite and take aim at the developing countries.

This famously happened in the early 2001-2003, when the EU fought the US in the WTO over agriculture subsidies. Then they reached an understanding to protect their own subsidies while pressurising developing countries to open up their agricultural markets.

Today, developed countries continue to spend many hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies, as well as maintain high tariffs, to keep their farms in business.

The US and EU also flood the world market with their artificially cheapened farm goods, while insisting that developing and poor countries open their markets through lower tariffs for both agricultural and industrial products. This hypocritical practice is at the heart of the imbalances and inequities of the world trading system.

Now, as part of their deal, the US and EU seem to want to continue maintaining double standards. They agreed to cut indus­trial tariffs and subsidies to zero, but to leave alone their agriculture tariffs and subsidies.

Moreover, they agreed to work on reforming the WTO, without spelling out what this means. At the WTO, the US and EU have recently moved to change the way the system has differentiated between developed and developing countries.

Recognising the weaknesses of developing countries, the WTO long ago adopted the principle of special and differential treatment (SDT) for developing countries.

Under this principle, in talks to cut tariffs, developed countries have to cut by a higher percentage than developing countries, and the least developed countries (LDCs) need not reduce tariffs at all. In various rules, developing countries and especially LDCs are mandated to take on less obligations.

However, the developed countries are now challenging the SDT principle.

“Developing and least-developed countries are facing the worst crisis yet at the WTO due to the sustained assault by the US along with the EU and Japan,” according Ravi Kanth in the Geneva-based South-North Development Monitor (SUNS) on July 4.

“Using Trump’s aggressive trade demands as a pretext, some major developed countries such as the EU and Japan have been attempting to deny the SDT flexibilities to deve­loping countries,” SUNS added, quoting a trade envoy from a major developing country.

“The entire system of the WTO is under threat following the Trump administration’s trade initiatives based on reciprocal market access as well as the attempt to foist plurilateral outcomes without multila­teral consensus, and intensified moves to undermine the SDT flexibilities by industrialised countries, particularly the EU.”

Meanwhile, the US actions of unilaterally raising tariffs on alumi­nium and steel, and on US$250bil (RM1 trillion) of Chinese products, violate the WTO’s main principles, threatening the creditability and viability of the organisation itself.

But Trump is not worried or sorry at all. At the beginning of July, he said: “The WTO has treated the United States very badly and I hope they change their ways. They have been treating us very badly for many years, many years and that’s why we were at a big disadvantage with the WTO.”

Said the SUNS article, “In short, the developing and least-developed countries face the prospect of their hard won SDT flexibilities being taken away once and for all to ensure the US stayed at the WTO.”

When the US and EU were locked in a big conflict over auto tariffs, the main enemy of the EU, China and other countries would have been the US.

Now the EU and US have agreed to “reform the WTO” as part of their bilateral deal. It is likely that such an initiative would attempt to reduce the rights of the developing countries, and even to entirely remove the principle of special treatment or even the status of “developing countries” in the WTO.

The trade war could thus have huge collateral damage. All the more reason for the developing countries’ political leaders to pay close attention to what is happening in the trade negotiating and policy­-making arena.

Global Trend by Martin Khor

Martin Khor is advisor of the Third World Network. The views expressed here are entirely his own.
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