America vs China: odds narrowing


Leaders meet: A file picture showing Trump welcoming Xi to the Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Florida during the latter’s visit to the US recently. Xi has a growing economy too behind him, whatever the hiccups. Trump only promises one, without any clarity or logic. – AFP

THE contrast could not be greater. While United States president Donald Trump raves and rants – and belts this or that person – China’s president Xi Jinping looks measured and assured as he offers a global future to the world.

Xi is no angel of course, as his political opponents would know, but his system conserves and protects him, as Trump’s would not. If only Trump were the leader in a centrally controlled political order – but even then his temperament would blow it apart.

Leadership, like politics, is the art of managing the possible. Trump does not understand this, and does not know how. Xi does, knows why, and knows how.

He has a growing economy too behind him, whatever the hiccups. Trump only promises one, without any clarity or logic.

His plan to boost the American economy, based primarily on slashing corporate tax from 35 to 15%, is likely to flounder in an American Congress seriously concerned about its causing the fiscal deficit to balloon.

Already Trump has had to climb down from trying to secure funds from Congress for his dreaded border wall with Mexico in order to avoid budgetary shutdown in September.

The stock market has fallen back from the boost to the price of banks and industrial products following his election. Interest now has returned to what might be termed “American ingenuity stocks” such as Google, Apple and Microsoft on Nasdaq – a proxy for much that is great about America, which Trump’s immigration and closed-door policies threaten to destroy.

Meanwhile Xi has been rolling out his “Belt and Road” plans – something he first envisaged at the end of 2013 – for greater world connectivity and development, committing funds from China and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and engaging global financial institutions such as the World Bank.

Malaysia, for instance, will be an actual beneficiary with additional projects thrown in. China is Malaysia’s largest trading partner. But the US has not been a laggard, being Malaysia’s fourth largest trading partner. And indeed the US remains the largest foreign investor in Malaysia, both new investments and total stock.

A staggering statistic not often recognised is that total American investment in Asean is more than its investment in China, Japan and India COMBINED!

The point, however, is that this position is being eroded. Trump’s policies are hastening this process. Abandonment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) means there is no American strategic peaceful challenge to the Chinese economic juggernaut in Asia-Pacific.

Balance is important to afford choice. Absence of choice means serious exposure to risk. Price, quality and after-service standards are affected, not to mention a new geostrategic economic underlining.

Over-dominance by China in the region is a price not only countries in the region will pay, something that most probably is on Trump’s mind. It is a price that America too will sooner or later have to pay.

China’s Belt and Road proposition is not without its challenges, of course. India is deeply suspicious of the connectivity with Pakistan which cuts across India-claimed Azad Kashmir, about 3000km of it.

The link to the Pakistani port of Gwadar, in southwest Baluchistan on the shores of the Arabian Sea, is seen by India as a Chinese presence at the entrance to the Indian Ocean and a hawk eye on the Indian sub-continent. With the Chinese also in Sri Lanka, India is circumspect on China’s Belt and Road initiative.

There have also been commentaries on some uneconomic linkages which extend right across the English Channel.

All these reservations, however, do not take into account the benefit of connectivity to economies, the time it often takes to get those economic benefits and, most of all, the patience, persistence and long view of history of China and its leaders.

One of the most striking things about the Belt and Road map is that America is not there. Of course, Xi Jinping does not preclude America just as much as the US did not say that China was not permanently excluded from the TPP. And of course, in the Old Silk Routes and shipping lanes, the New World – America – had not been discovered.

But in their revival, led by now rising and then ancient China after 150 years of national humiliation to the present time, there is the irony that the last three quarters of a century of America world dominance is on course to be marginalised, if not supplanted, by the old Eurasian world centred in an ancient civilisation.

Trump does not seem to understand history. The art of the deal is purely transactional. Short-tempered and short-term gratification does not a strategy constitute.

So we have leader, system and economic promise distinguishing the two leaders – and the two countries.

Instead of America first, what we are seeing is Trump hurrying America’s decline relative to a rising China.

We are not seeing a world changed from people wanting to be like a kind of American to being people wanting to be a kind of Chinese. Actually, the Chinese people themselves want to be like a kind of American, with all that wealth, influence and power.

What we are seeing is China – not America – leading the way to that desired, if not always desirable, end. It is China that is driving the next phase in the evolution of world economic development.

Under Xi Jinping, China appears to be heroically moving towards an epochal point in its Peaceful Rise. With Donald Trump, America is being led backwards and inwards, with all the problems of its governance now all coming out. It is in grave danger of losing in the peaceful competition.

Not knowing how to play that game – certainly under its current President – there remains the danger of the status quo power lashing out against the rising one.

The Greek historian Thucydides observed: “It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable.”

A Harvard professor has studied what is now called the Thucydides Trap and found in 12 out of 16 cases in which this occurred in the last 500 years, the outcome was war.

There are many potential flash points against the background of China’s rise – the North Korean Peninsula and the placement of THAAD missiles in the south, the South China Sea – where Trump may temperamentally find cause to lash out. This is the trapdoor he might take the world down because of failure to compete peacefully.

By munir majid – crux The Star

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.
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One Belt One Road paving the way to success


In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed building the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, which became known as the Belt and Road Initiative.

Countries along the Belt and Road have their own resource advantages, and their economies are mutually complementary. This means there is a great potential and space for cooperation.

Connecting facilities is a priority in implementing the initiative. On the basis of respecting each other’s sovereignty and security concerns, countries along the Belt and Road are improving the connectivity of their infrastructure construction plans and technical standard systems, jointly pushing forward the construction of international passageways, and forming an infrastructure network connecting all sub-regions in Asia, and between Asia, Europe and Africa.

At the same time, China and countries along the way are making efforts to promote green and low-carbon infrastructure construction and operation management, taking into full account the impact of climate change on any construction.

With regard to transport infrastructure construction, they are focusing on key passageways, junctions and projects, and giving priority to linking up unconnected road sections, removing transport bottlenecks, advancing road safety facilities and traffic management facilities and equipment, and improving road network connectivity.

Countries along the Belt and Road are building a unified coordination mechanism for whole-course transportation, increasing connectivity in customs clearance, reloading and multimodal transport, and gradually formulating compatible and standard transport rules, in order to facilitate international transport.

China suggests pushing forward port infrastructure construction, building smooth land-water transportation channels, and advancing port cooperation, increasing sea routes and the number of voyages, and enhancing information technology cooperation in maritime logistics. We should expand and build platforms and mechanisms for comprehensive civil aviation cooperation, and quicken our pace in improving aviation infrastructure.

In this episode, we will see how Belt and Road helps close the distance between people around the world.

The Belt and Road:

http://watchthis.chinadaily.com.cn/video/column/belt-and-road/

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Belt-road changes world order


Illuminated boards highlighting Xi’s signature One Belt- One Road foreign policy plan in Beijing. Leaders of 28 countries are set to attend the summit in the Chinese capital next month to discuss the infrastructure investment programme to stitch together the Eurasian continent. — AP‘Win-win development will lie at the core of the forum. The Belt and Road has become the most important public good China has provided to the world. It was first proposed by China, but now it is for all countries to enjoy.’ – Wang Yi.  ‘Belt and Road has the power and prestige of President Xi Jinping behind it. It is the centre of his vision for China, and of his ambition to transform China’s place in the world during his time as its leader … And already it is starting to change the geoeconomic and the geopolical landscape.’ – Huge White

 

China’s ambitious economic plan is set to draw up a new global paradigm with countries seeking to engage the Middle Kingdom.

WHEN the ambitious Belt and Road initiative – with projects reportedly worth US$1 trillion – was first announced by President Xi Jinping in the autumn of 2013, many were sceptical of this Chinese move aimed at building up economic connectivity of 65 nations (China plus 64) along its ancient silk road and maritime routes.

For China, this New Silk Road would also serve to redirect the country’s domestic overcapacity and capital for regional infrastructure development to improve trade and ties with Asean, Central Asian and European countries.

Unprecedented in terms of China’s financial commitment, many Western critics have viewed this strategy as a grandiose foreign policy to expand Beijing’s influence to poor nations hungry for economic and infrastructure development.

The initiative was mooted at a time when the United States and the West excluded China from regional trading blocs. Hence, Beijing’s new development vision has been read as a strategy for asserting its leadership role in Asia and beyond.

But after nearly four years of promoting the concept and implementing projects, this initiative – dubbed as a modern-day Marshall Plan – is gaining traction.

It is seen by some Western academics as posing a threat to the US-centric world trade order and economic model.

Without a doubt, China is heading towards achieving its regional economic and diplomatic objectives. And the internationalisation of the renminbi is being boosted.

“We expect the One Belt-One Road (OBOR) to support long-term growth of development in the economies involved, particularly in some of the least developed parts of the world… We also expect it to help boost China’s global influence,” says a report dated April 27 by Oxford Economics.

While the idea of enhancing connectivity has drawn interest, the worry on China’s potential hegemonic ambitions has prevailed among regional rivals India and Japan, as well as the United States.

Despite this, nations that correctly read China’s economic strategy and Xi’s resolve were quick to announce their support for this China-led inclusiveness. And Malaysia had become one of the earliest participants and is now a gainer.

The Belt and Road initiative is largely assessed as having progressed well despite some setbacks.

Many countries are at ease to engage with China, particularly after Xi declared the “Three Nos”: no interference in the internal affairs of other nations; no intention to increase the so-called “sphere of influence”; and no motive to strive for hegemony.

Recipient nations are enjoying higher economic, trade and business activities, as well as a tourism boom helped by the influx of tourists from China – the world’s second largest economy and biggest consumer market.

The impact of the Chinese strategy is particularly conspicuous in the least developed nations in Africa and West Asia, as well as Asean nations such as Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia and Malaysia.

“Many belt-road countries have for many years been neglected by the West and Western investors, so even though there are concerns, some countries see China as offering once-in-a-lifetime chance to get out of poverty and under-development,” observes Dr Ngeow Chow Bing, deputy director of Institute of China Studies, Universiti Malaya.

China says it has invested more than US$50bil (RM220bil) on belt-road projects over the past three years, and signed project contracts worth US$926bil (RM4.16 trillion) covering mainly railway networks, highways and ports.

But China and its construction companies have also benefited from these endeavours. Its economy has been stimulated by exports from industries with overcapacity such as steel, cement and aluminium. Its GDP growth of 6.9% in the first quarter of 2017 was higher than expected.

Significantly, China’s state-owned construction conglomerates have successfully ventured out into belt-road nations. With these giants leading the build-transfer-operate schemes, smaller private enterprises have followed suit.

With China’s infrastructure projects and industrial investments extended to over 60 nations, the belt-road strategy is challenging the US-led world order and a new economic paradigm is definitely emerging, according to analysts.

Teoh: ‘OBOR will reshape the world’s economic dynamics
  “OBOR will significantly reshape the world’s economic dynamics. It will sharply increase accessibility and trades, across over 65% of the world’s population and 25% of global trade and services,” says Teoh Kok Lin, founder and chief investment officer of Singular Asset Management, a Kuala Lumpur-based regional asset investment company.

“Emerging economies, in particular, will benefit most from the increased global trades and services as well as improved infrastructure. OBOR will expand trade globalisation at a time when the world is worried about the Trump administration push towards the Buy America policy,” adds Teoh.

Closer economic relations with Beijing has helped reduce regional tension and friction, as seen in the case of the South China Sea where the Philippines under its current president saw economic cooperation with China as more practical.

Despite concerns over China’s rapid reclamation of reefs in South China Sea, in which Manila and several Asean nations have contesting territorial claims with China, the Asean Summit is unlikely to kick up a storm.

According to Reuters, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday “it is pointless” discussing Beijing’s contentious activities in the South China Sea at this summit, and “no one dared to pressure China anyway.”

Referring to the Belt and Road initiative as “a brilliant plan”, CLSA in its report remarks: “Xi Jinping’s ambitious strategic initiative – an adaptation of the historical Silk Road – marks the beginning of a new geopolitical era.”


May 14-15 summit and forum

The major achievements of the belt and road initiative are expected to be further highlighted at the coming two-day Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, which will be opened by President Xi on May 14 in Beijing.

This summit could be the most important diplomatic event this year to discuss what is expected to be the largest global economic programme.

“Amid challenges and the perceived fear of China’s influence of regional geopolitical landscape, China’s OBOR initiative has achieved commendable progress since 2013,” says Datuk Ter Leong Yap, president of the Associated Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia.

“China has made significant headway by kick-starting infrastructure and connectivity projects to facilitate trade and investment, promote financial cooperation as well as deepening cross border flow,” he adds.

Since 2013, China’s businessmen have built 56 economic and trade cooperation zones in belt-road countries, generating nearly US$1.1bil (RM4.7bil) in tax revenue and creating 180,000 jobs, according to Xinhua.

Large-scale infrastructure projects – along with funding – have led to a boom of economic activity in countries like Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Belarus, and Poland.

And in Asean, rail and ports projects are either being constructed or planned. These include the China-Laos Railway, Jakarta–Bandung High Speed Rail, Malaysia’s East Coast Rail Link and a high-speed rail project in Thailand.

And Eurasia, the vast landmass from China to Europe, is being interconnected into a massive market via high-speed China-Europe, trans-Eurasian direct trains.

These modern freight rail systems, which have replaced the silk-laden camels of the Han Dynasty, could transport goods at lower costs and more efficiently from China to European cities (and vise versa), compared to shipping.

In sum, China’s overland belt-road projects have achieved the objective of building a trans-national network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa, and promoting economic development in participating countries.

And it looks like the current objective and scope will be widened to embrace nations outside the belt-road routes.

“China is upbeat about the initiative in boosting mutual development and is willing to channel more energy into it,” declared Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on April 21, when he briefed the media on the coming summit and forum.

“Win-win development will lie at the core of the forum. The Belt and Road has become the most important public good China has provided to the world. It was first proposed by China, but now it is for all countries to enjoy,” Wang said.

A total of 28 heads of state and government – including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak – have confirmed they will be attending the May 15 summit.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim and International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde will also be present.

Over 80 leaders from international organisations, 100 ministerial-level officials, as well as 1,200 delegates from various countries will be there, too.

President Xi will deliver a keynote speech, as well as host a roundtable meeting to brainstorm on policy and strategic development and interconnected development in the world.

There will be another high-level meeting to discuss infrastructure, trade and economic cooperation, energy resources, financial cooperation, eco-environment, and people-to-people exchanges.

According to Wang, China expects to sign agreements with around 20 countries and 20 organisations at the event to turn the grand blueprint into a workable road map, and to push for the delivery of joint projects under earlier MOUs.

He clarified that China has no intention of drawing geographical boundaries to areas covered by the initiative.

“As long as the spirit of the Belt and Road is recognised… everyone can enjoy its opportunities,” he said.

Japan sprang a surprise last week when Toshihiro Nikai, the secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said he would attend the New Silk Road summit.

“Given the international situation starting with North Korea, mutual understanding between Japan and China is vital,” he was quoted by Jiji News Agency as saying.

What lies ahead in 2017?

Over the past two years, China had generated huge momentum for its New Silk Road initiative by signing many MOUs on infrastructure projects with belt-road countries.

Chinese firms, mainly state-owned or controlled, had reportedly signed investment deals worth US$171bil (RM742bil). Among these was the US$46bil (RM200bil) China-Pakistan economic corridor.

The government of Xi is expected to start making good on these projects this year and help facilitate their financing and implementation.

Nearer home, the financing and construction of Malaysia’s RM55bil East Coast Rail Link is expected to start this year. The rail project is set to spur economic activities in the east coast states of the peninsula.

Wake Shepard, a China watcher and writer, expects increased economic participation from Europe.

“Beyond the further development of key trans-Eurasian logistics hubs on the Poland/Belarus border and a port in Greece, look for more high-end European products going overland by rail to China,” he wrote on Forbes.com.

Many Europe-based logistics giants have been promoting Europe-China rail transport in 2016, and in 2017 they should see results from these efforts, he added.

“European freight forwarders, manufacturers and policy makers are now waking up to the fact that these newly enhanced trade corridors are providing ample opportunity to get more of their high-value products to the booming markets of China and the rest of Asia,” says Shepard.

For China, the forum may be a good platform for it to listen to views on why some ventures did not progress well, such as its port-city investment in Sri Lanka.

Complaints that Chinese firms have posed unhealthy competition and threaten to wipe out small businesses of belt-road countries could also be on the table for deliberation.

The Middle Kingdom may also have to assess whether it is worthwhile to take risks in countries clouded by security issues, political instability and racial conflicts.

Belt road implications

The importance China has attached to the Belt and Road summit and forum goes to show how vital this international economic inclusive programme is to China and Xi.

It is imperative for Xi, who took over the presidency in late 2012, to show his ability to transform China into a global, influential leader.

After three decades of rapid growth, China needs to seek new investment and trade opportunities beyond its borders and the belt-road initiative mooted by Xi is addressing this predicament.

The infrastructure projects China build in belt-road countries will help absorb a significant portion of the country’s overcapacity, and counter its economic slowdown.

As western China has often been troubled by tension between the financially-weak Uighur Muslims and China’s Han majority in Xinjiang Province, economic development in this old silk road region may pacify the Uighurs and reduce ethnic conflicts.

But Hugh White, professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University in Canberra, sees China as having much bigger ambitions.

“China wants to consolidate its position at the centre of the global supply and manufacturing networks which will be the key to the global economy over the coming decades,” he wrote in a recent comment.

The initiative will also help China to realise its ambition to become a middle-income country and reinforce its parallel ambition to take the lead over the coming decades in developing key technologies and setting global standards – including for high-speed rail and data networks, he added.

He opined the Belt and Road Initiative could not be dismissed as a mere dream.

“It has the power and prestige of President Xi Jinping behind it. It is at the centre of his vision for China, and of his ambition to transform China’s place in the world during his time as its leader. And already it is starting to change the geo-economic and geopolitical landscape.”

“If America and its allies are determined to resist China’s challenge to the old US-led liberal global order, they have to counter Beijing’s powerful vision. And to do that they need an equally powerful and ambitious global economic vision.”

Source: by Ho Wah Foon The Star/ANN

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Xi’s governance of China book a hot seller


 

After its debut in Thailand, Cambodia and Pakistan, Xi Jinping: The Governance of China has become a top seller and been well-received among local officials and scholars, with many hailing the value of the book for both its language and its outreach.

The book, which outlines the political ideas of the top leadership in China, has been released in Thai, Khmer and Urdu versions in the respective capitals of the three countries in the past two weeks.

A Thai publisher sold more than 2,000 copies of the book in a single day after its launch in Bangkok on April 7, with many readers inquiring on social media about ways to purchase the book, reported Xinhua news agency.

Thai Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, who had read the book, said it was written in beautiful language, even though it was not in the form of a novel or essays.

“I believe that to be a great leader, one has to be a good reader, good thinker, good speaker, good writer and good doer, and I found President Xi has achieved all of them after I finished reading this book,” he said.

In Phnom Penh, more than 700 officials, scholars and entrepreneurs, including Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen and five deputy prime ministers, attended the launching ceremony for the book on April 11.

Chea Munyrith, director of the Confucius Institute of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said publishing a Khmer version will enable the Cambodian people to better learn about China and Xi himself.

Chea, who assisted in the translation of the book into Khmer, said it offers insights for government officials and scholars on how to properly manage a country.

“That is why it is important for the officials, students and scholars in Cambodia to read through the book,” he said.

At the launching ceremony of the Urdu edition of the book in Islamabad on Friday, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the book is as much about the contemporary world as it is about China.

“What has touched me most is that this book is not just about high-level politics, but also about moving stories of common people, their lives and inspirations about hard work and family values,” he said.

“This book is as much about the “Chinese Dream” as it is about the global dream to have a peaceful, harmonious and connected world,” he added.

Building a community of shared destiny is an important concept embodied in Xi’s thoughts on governance of the nation, said Jiang Jianguo, deputy head of the Publicity Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and minister of the State Council Information Office.

“And this concept has been included in the resolutions passed by United Nations organisations,” Jiang said in Islamabad.

Source: China Daily/Asia News Network

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Extraordinary man from Middle Kingdom


 Dr. Huang Huikang

China’s top representative in Malaysia has made waves in a way that has earned much respect albeit with  raised eyebrows at times

DR Huang Huikang (pic) is no ordinary ambassador. This Chinese envoy has become one of the most-watched diplomats in Malaysia.

As China’s ambassador to Malaysia, he represents his country in important government and political functions here and works hard to promote bilateral ties, trade and investment between the two nations.

Like his predecessors, he mingles well with local Chinese leaders, praising the community for its sacrifices and devotion made over the decades in the development of Chinese education in Malaysia.

But unlike his low-key predecessors, this diplomat hands out cash donations to Chinese schools in a high-profile manner and celebrates Chinese New Year with locals.

The 62-year-old doctorate holder in international law and former law professor, who began his posting here in January 2014, has the poise of an envoy but stands out among his peers with his unconventional mannerism. While other ambassadors are usually more measured in their statements, he does not hesitate to make comments that may raise anxiety.

At official functions, Dr Huang is addressed as “ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary” – an ambassador’s official title in full. This may be no exaggeration.

Having served as vice mayor of Tangshan in Hebei province and completed stints as deputy consul-general in New York and minister counsellor-cum-deputy chief at China’s embassy in Ottawa, Dr Huang is a seasoned spokesman for China.

Late last year, he was re-elected as a member of the International Law Commission at the United Nations.

Here are snapshots of Dr Huang:

Role in vast investments

The role played by Dr Huang in bringing in large Chinese investments has put him in good stead.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit here in 2015 was crucial to Malaysia and the Middle Kingdom.

When Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak visited China in November last year, Dr Huang was also seen in Beijing. The trip resulted in the signing of deals and investments totalling RM144bil.

Of late, there has been quite a number of visits by China’s central departments, provinces and cities here to promote trade and forge closer ties.

The influence of Dr Huang is pervasive.

When China’s investments in Malaysia came under attack by some opposition politicians, he crafted a strongly-worded statement to these unnamed politicians, explaining how China could help the local economy and its people. But to these naysayers, China is stealing jobs, eating into the economic pie and depriving opportunities to small and medium businesses.

Once, during a nationwide tour of Malaysia, he cautioned that “slander, vilification and obstruction” could dampen the enthusiasm of Chinese firms.

Chinese investments in Malaysia

With investments from China coming to Malaysia in a never-seen-before scale, particularly under China’s Belt and Road initiative, Dr Huang has hinted that Malaysia should not take all this for granted.

Chinese enterprises are encouraged to venture into Malaysia because of the close ties between the two countries, he said.

Dr Huang spoke of how China would share the benefits from its economic growth with Malaysia, citing technology transfer and job creation.

Malaysian industries could become world class if they adopt advanced technology, he said.

Though not an economist, he predicted that the value ofthe Ringgit would rise in line with the increased foreign trade and foreign reserves.

To a large extent, Dr Huang’s remarks reflected China’s confidence as a superpower and its responsibilities on the global stage.

Even DAP – after criticising MCA for acting like “China’s agent” with the setting up of the Belt and Road Centre and MCA People’s Republic of China (PRC) Affairs Committee – paid Dr Huang a courtesy call in February.

And Dr Huang, ever the gracious, told the delegation that bilateral cooperation transcended political parties and race.

In the limelight

Dr Huang has gained substantial coverage in the Malaysian media, particularly in the Chinese dailies.

Last year, Dr Huang contributed RM40,000 to eight SJK (C) schools in Sembrong, Johor. Early this year, he gave RM100,000 to five schools in Nilai and Seremban, and another RM200,000 to 10 Chinese primary schools and one secondary school in Raub, Pahang.

While the recipients were grateful to him and possibly China, some saw this gesture as China flexing its financial muscle.

As usual, Dr Huang took it in his stride. He said the embassy would continue to support the development of Chinese education here.

More recently, he went on a high-profile trip within peninsular Malaysia to visit projects with Chinese investments, covering Negri Sembilan, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Pahang, Kedah, Malacca and Johor.

His visits were splashed across the Chinese dailies. The spotlight trained on Dr Huang has led to much feedback.

A Chinese community leader told Sunday Star: “He is grabbing so much limelight, even more than our own ministers.”

And a senior government official felt that it was “as though he is a politician on a campaign trail seeking re-election, or attempting to claim credit for the projects.”


Chinatown controversy

He did a Chinatown walkabout a day before the planned “Red Shirt” rally in September 2015 when a group led by Datuk Seri Jamal Yunos threatened a riot at the predominantly-Chinese trading area in Kuala Lumpur.

Accompanied by his wife, Dr Huang distributed mooncakes to the traders for the Mid-Autumn Festival celebration.

He told the media that China was against anyone resorting to violence to disrupt public order and that he would not stand idle if the interests of China’s citizens and firms were undermined. To him, it would be “a waste” if the harmony among the races in the area was jeopardised. However, his remarks were seen by some as an interference in Malaysia’s domestic affairs.

With all his fascinating activities and remarks, the diary of this diplomat will continue to come under the public microscope in the days to come.

Source: The Star by Tho Xin Yi

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 China sends out positive signals

CHINA has sent out stabilising messages to the world on its economic, investment and foreign policies since it convened its two most important annual political meetings (“two sessions”) early this month.

The on-going “two sessions” inevitably attract global attention because China’s policies for the year are announced by top leaders at these meetings held in the imposing Great Hall of The People, to the west of Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

For this year, it is even more crucial for other nations to scrutinise the policies of China at the sessions, held from March 3 to 15, as US President Donald Trump has injected too much uncertainty into the global dynamics.

The world is weighed down by anxiety as Trump, who took office in January, abandons globalisation and advocates the return of protectionism. Hence, nations are looking for leadership from the world’s second largest economy, according to analysts.

The two sessions or lianghui refer to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) that began its session on March 3 and the annual National People’s Congress (NPC, or Parliament) that started on March 5. The CPPCC is China’s top political advisory body set up by the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 1949 after the CPC, led by Mao Zedong then, won the civil war.

Five years later, the legislative NPC was established.

Steady economic growth

China is expected to grow steadily at 6.5% or higher this year as it continues its restructuring and reforms. Last year, the country achieved growth of 6.7%.

China’s Premier Li Keqiang announced on March 5 that the growth target for this year would be around 6.5%, while he addressed more than 3,000 legislators.

This slower growth target shows China is opting for a steady growth to reduce financial risk from excessive borrowing, according to economists.

Like the rest of the world, China expects to continue to experience global headwinds and uncertainties. Indeed, the premier warned of a far more complicated global picture ahead in light of the threat of protectionism.

Alfred Schipke, an economist from the International Monetary Fund, told the South China Morning Post: “Anything between 6-6.5% will be appropriate. The key is to have sustainable growth.”

For this year, China will have to give its leaders more room to push through some painful reforms to deal with a rapid build-up in debt and over-capacity.

Li said he would tackle state-owned “zombie enterprises” producing more coal and steel than needed. And nationwide pollution, caused largely by heavy industries, has to be addressed to bring back blue skies. His list of China’s difficulties also included laziness of some government officials. But will China’s economy continue to slide?

Global Times, the party mouthpiece of the CPC, has this to say in its frank editorial: “There are many problems in China’s economy at the moment. Given that it is now stable on the whole, we do not fear these problems as they will most likely turn into future opportunities for further development.”

The news portal stated that structural reforms in the Chinese economy had been “comprehensively addressed”.

Many enterprises that are heavy polluters have been shut down. The country no longer helps inefficient enterprises to stay afloat.

The current anti-corruption campaign has curbed improper spending to the extent that businesses in classy restaurants and retail sector are badly hit.

“China’s biggest accomplishments in the past years are that it did not stop to make adjustments in its economic transition. Instead, it adjusted itself while continuing to move forward. Now, society has fully adapted to the new normal in the country’s economy,” said Global Times.

Despite having to tackle its own economic problems, China has sent out a heartening message that it will continue to be the strong engine of global growth. Last year, China contributed about one-third of the world’s economic growth.

“China’s steady growth has brought in greater demand, investment and products to the world economy … China will help improve global prosperity and regional infrastructure as it pushes its belt and road initiative,” said Wang Guoqing, spokesman for CPPCC on March 3.

More than 100 countries and organisations have joined the belt and road initiative and over 40 of them have cooperation pacts with China, added Wang.

The belt and road initiative, proposed by Xi in 2013, aims to build infrastructure and trade network to link Asia with Europe and Africa along ancient trade routes.

Since 2013, China has financed and gotten involved in projects on aviation, power, rail, road and telecommunications in participating belt-road countries. It is planning to host a belt and road Summit in May that could see China announcing more multi-billion dollar projects to benefit its trade partners and its own economy.

Opening up further

China had also told the world it would open up further and liberalise more sectors to promote trade and investment.

After the opening of the NPC session on March 5, core leader President Xi Jinping reiterated China’s commitment to “open up wider”.

“China will open up like never before. China’s opening door will not close,” said Xi in his report.

“China’s door will open wider, and China will keep working to be the most attractive destination for foreign investment.”

Xi made the remarks while joining in a panel discussion with lawmakers from Shanghai last Sunday, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

Foreign firms will be able to get listed on China’s stock markets and issue bonds. They will also be allowed to participate in national science and technology projects.

Foreign firms will also be treated as domestic firms in license applications and government procurement, and will enjoy preferential policies like locals under the “Made in China 2025” initiative aimed at modernising the manufacturing sector.

Service industries, manufacturing and mining will be more open to foreign investment.

Ian Yoong, a former investment banker in Malaysia, opines that Xi’s vows to open up and liberalise sectors “shows that China is ready to take over the mantle from the US as the dominant superpower”.

He tells Sunday Star: “The key themes of President Xi and Premier Li’s speeches are globalisation and liberalisation of trade, totally countering President Trump’s plans for the US.

“This is a signal to the world that China is ready to move into the trade and political leadership vacuum to be created by the US.”

Easing tension in South China Sea

For South-East Asian nations, there was some relief when the Middle Kingdom appears to have softened its tone in South China Sea disputes.

In remarks made on March 3, Wang, the spokesman for the CPPCC placed emphasis on “navigational freedom”, which the US has often advocated.

“As a major trading nation and the biggest country along the South China Sea, China attaches more importance than any other country to navigational freedom and security in the South China Sea.”

This stance was starkly different from the hard tone of previous months, during which China warned the US and Japan to stay away from its “own sea”.

China’s recent naval force demonstrations in South China Sea had also unnerved Asean nations.

Observed Panos Mourdoukoutas, a contributor to Forbes magazine: “The shift in China’s tone in the South China Sea disputes comes as a relief for investors in Asian equities.”

But what is more comforting for Asean is that last Wednesday (March 8), China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced that the first draft of a code of conduct (COC) for behaviour in South China Sea disputes has been completed.

He told a press conference: “Tension in the waterway has eased notably.”

Since 2010, China and the 10-member of Asean have been trying to work out a set of rules aimed at avoiding conflicts among nations laying rival claims over the waters.

China, which lays sovereign claim to over 80% of the resource-rich South China Sea through which US$5tril (RM22tril) worth of trade passes every year, has often stated it prefers to resolve disputes via peaceful talks with rival claimants – the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan.

Wang vowed China would not allow this new stability in South China Sea to be “disrupted and damaged” by outsiders.

There have been sporadic incidents between US and Chinese ships in the South China Sea. Late last year, a Chinese ship seized a US navy underwater drone off the Philippines, but later returned it.

Korean Peninsula crisis

At his press conference, China’s Foreign Minister also addressed the most pressing issue for the region now – the possibility of a war exploding at Northeast Asia.

North Korea recently launched four short-ranged ballistic missile in response to large-scale military drills held by the US and South Korea. It was reported that these launches were aimed at US military bases in Japan.

Wang proposed “double suspension” to defuse the crisis, urging North Korea to suspend its nuclear and missile activities while the United States and South Korea to cease their war games.

Describing the two parties as “two accelerating trains coming towards each other”, Wang said China was willing to be a “railway switchman” to switch the issue back to the right track.

But US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley promptly responded that the US must see “some sort of positive action” from North Korea, while Cho Tae-yul, South Korea’s UN ambassador, said: “This is not a time for us to talk about freezing or dialogue with North Korea.”

CPC’s Global Times, in its editorial, opined Wang’s solution is “the only way out” to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue peacefully.

The North Korean nuclear issue is not created by Pyongyang alone, it argued.

Although North Korea’s development of a nuclear programme is wrong, Washington and Seoul are the main forces that have pushed North Korea to this path, it added.

“Now, they want to stop Pyongyang from going ahead, while refusing to reduce the impetus they are giving to North Korea. When they failed to reach their goal, they blame China for not being cooperative enough,” said the editorial.

Despite the negative response to China’s proposal, Global Times opines Wang’s handling of the press conference “displays confidence of the country”.

By Ho Wah Foon The Star

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South Korea can’t tackle new Trump Order alone, be prepared new Trump order !


Trump-tanic by Stephff | China Daily

South Korea, in particular, could take a leaf from Japan’s playbook on preparing for a face-off and making the right structural reforms.

It’s official. A new world order, aka, the Trump Order, has been set in motion.

Most of us should have been ready for it, since the man had been more than clear about backtracking on America’s global trade policies. And now, in one flamboyant gesture, he has overturned his predecessor Barack Obama’s decision to join the TPP.

As one of the key members, Japan is up in arms. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has vowed he would continue to try and persuade President Donald Trump.

At the same time, Tokyo appears to be quite ready to face the new threat.

Japan is a country that downplays the number of naval destroyers it has in order to keep its frenemies in check, and to assure them it still has a long way to go in terms of military defense. In reality, Tokyo is armed with seemingly worn-down subs that can actually be made battle-ready at a moment’s notice.

The Abe Shinzo administration has been ready to face off with Trump for a while now, and internal government sources say the foundations have already been laid. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has already put in motion the necessary structural reforms to wean Japan off of the US or make Japanese firms more competitive in the face of high tariffs. Abe is also preparing to enlist the support of high-profile companies such as Softbank, which has been pledging more investment in America.

Further, Japan is looking to cut loose from China, which has made it clear it won’t play into US hands.

In contrast to Japan and China, South Korea has a smaller say. But that does not mean it has less on the line.

The country stands as the world’s 11th-largest economy in terms of GDP, but it also depends on exports for more than two-thirds of it. So any policy decisions by its chief trade partners are bound to have a profound impact — even more so now that its internal economic affairs are in a mess due to the ongoing impeachment. South Korea truly cannot afford to have its global partnerships jeopardized.

During his presidential campaign, Trump has already called the US-Korea FTA a failed partnership that has robbed the US of 100,000 jobs. 

The Seoul government should have long been brainstorming a strategy to keep the deal on track, and must readily communicate its plans with the public before the concerns mushroom into something bigger.

The alliance with the US goes far beyond military issues, and the significance should not be downplayed or tainted in any way if Korea is to continue pursuing its national interests.

The strategy should be laid out in such a way to prevent Koreans from harboring unnecessary ill sentiment toward the US, and vice versa. For this, both governments will have to cooperate seamlessly. Trump must realize the contribution that Koreans and the Korean economy are making in the US.

That while it may not be comparable in size to other nations such as Japan and China, there is no going around the fact that in the end, cliche has it may sound, it is indeed a global economy.

Korean firms should take a cue from Softbank and find ways they can offer more support for the Korean economy as it faces the aftershocks of Trump’s latest policy move.

As for the US, it must remember that Korean companies like Hyundai, Samsung and LG have been seeking cheaper entry into the US for years via countries like Mexico and Vietnam.

The change of a regime must not pull the plug on these efforts for the sake of global partnership. And needless to say, the products and services brought into the US also help create livelihoods there, and give Americans what they need.

All of this should not be forgotten or put on a back burner. As already witnessed in the Lehman Brothers meltdown, the intricate web of global trade and finance ensures that the demise of a single company can affect so many more.

But, in a weird and twisted way, I do envy the American people. Sure, there could have been someone better than Trump, who psychologists have branded as narcissistic and delusional.

But for many Americans, Trump is doing what they have only dreamed of doing and saying. To say out loud, that they think America is the best, that they are scared of anyone appearing to infringe upon its beliefs and interests, even at the expense of other nations and peoples. To say that the US won’t play the peace-brokering leader who is constantly mindful of others, including rivals. To say, the US will start acting only for its benefit-regardless of how short-sighted this may be.

To have a president, as strange as he may be, who for now, appears so committed in his campaign, does draw an odd contrast with our embattled President Park Geun-hye who now seems anxious only to cover her own tail.

In some ways, they are similar in that they seem to prioritize themselves. But at least for now, Trump is giving many Americans the promise they need, as twisted or unorthodox his methods may be.

In a similar fashion, but based on a strategic and acceptable approach, Korea should be ready to protect its interests and its people amid the fast-changing global order. And all other players in the economy must be ready to lend a helping hand.

By Kim Ji-hyun

Kim Ji-hyun is The Korea Herald’s Tokyo  Correspondent. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.
 

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