The Age of Uncertainty


We are entering the age of dealing with unknown unknowns – as Brexit and Turkey’s failed coup show

The dark future of Europe

THE Age of Uncertainty is a book and BBC series by the late Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith, produced in 1977, about how we have moved from the age of certainty in 19th century economic thought to a present that is full of unknowns.

I still remember asking my economics professor what he thought of Galbraith, one of the most widely read economists and social commentator of his time. His answer was that Galbraith’s version of economics was too eclectic and wide-ranging. It was not where mainstream economics – pumped up by the promise of quantitative models and mathematics – was going.

Forty years later, it is likely that Galbraith’s vision of the future was more prescient than that of Milton Friedman, the leading light of free market economics – which promised more than it could deliver. The utopia of free markets, where rational man would deliver the most efficient public good from individual greed turned out to be exactly the opposite – the greatest social inequities with grave uncertainties of the future. Galbraith said, “wealth is the relentless enemy of understanding”. Perhaps he meant that poverty and necessity was the driver of change, if not of revolution.

The economics profession was always slightly confused over the difference between risk and uncertainty, as if the former included the latter. The economist Frank Knight (they don’t make economists like that anymore) clarified the difference as follows – risk is measurable and uncertainty is not. Quantitative economists then defined risk as measurable volatility – the amount that a variable like price fluctuated around its historical average.

The bell-shaped statistical curve that forms the conventional risk model used widely in economics assumes that there is 95% probability that fluctuations of price would be two standard deviations from the average or mean.

For non-technically minded, a standard deviation is a measure of the variance or dispersion around the mean, meaning that a “normal” fluctuation would be less than two; so if the standard deviation is say 5%, we would not expect more than 10% price fluctuation 95% of the time.

Events like Brexit shock us because the event gave rise to huge uncertainties over the future. Most experts did not expect Brexit – the variance was more than the normal. It was a reversal of a British decision to join the European Union, a five or more standard deviation event – in which the decision is a 180 degree turn. The conventional risk management models, which are essentially linear models that say that going forward or sequentially, the projected risk is up or down, simply did not factor in a reversal of decision.

In other words, we have moved from an age of risk to an age of uncertainty – where we are dealing with unknown unknowns.

There are of course different categories of unknowns – known unknowns (things that we know that we do not know), calculable unknowns (which we can estimate or know something about through Big Data) and the last, we simply do not know what we may never know.

Big Data is the fashionable phrase for churning lots of data to find out where there are correlations. The cost of big computing power is coming down but you would still have to have big databases to access that information or prediction. Most individuals like you and me would simply have to use our instincts or rely on experts to make that prediction or decision. Brexit told us that many experts are simply wrong. Experts are those who can convincingly explain why they are wrong, but they may not be better in predicting the future than monkeys throwing darts.


Five factors

There are five current factors that add up to considerable uncertainty – geopolitics, climate change, technology, unconventional monetary policy and creative destruction.

First, Brexit and the Turkish coup are geo-political events that change the course of history. In its latest forecasts on the world economy, the IMF has called Brexit “the spanner in the works” that may slow growth further. But Brexit was a decision made because the British are concerned more about immigration than nickels and dimes from Brussels. This is connected to the second factor, climate change.

Global warming is the second major unknown, because we are already feeling the impact of warmer weather, unpredictable storms and droughts. Historically, dynastic collapses have been associated with major climate change, such as the droughts that caused the disappearance of the Angkor Wat and Mayan cultures. Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Sudan and all are failing states because they are water-stressed. If North Africa and the Middle East continue to face major water-stress and social upheaval, expect more than 1 million refugees to flood northwards to Europe where it is cooller and welfare benefits are better.

The third disruptor is technology, which brings wondrous new inventions like bio-technology, Internet and robotics, but also concerns such as loss of jobs and genetic accidents.

Fourthly, unconventional monetary policy has already breached the theoretical boundaries of negative interest rates, where no one, least of all the central bankers that push on this piece of string, fully appreciate how negative interest rates is destroying the business model of finance, from banks to asset managers.

Last but not least, the Austrian economist Schumpeter lauded innovation and entrepreneurship as the engine of capitalism, through what he called creative destruction. We all support innovation, but change always bring about losses to the status quo. Technology disrupts traditional industries, and those disappearing industries will create loss in jobs, large non-performing loans and assets that will have no value.

Change is not always a zero-sum game, where one person’s gain is another’s loss. It is good when it is a win-win game; but with lack of leadership, it can easily deteriorate into a lose-lose game. That is the scary side of unknown unknowns.

I shall elaborate on how ancient Asians coped with change in the next article.

By Tan Sri Andrew Sheng

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

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Andrew Sheng writes on global issues from an Asian perspective.

China, next global hub for higher education


With its varsities gaining better rankings, the most populous nation is set to become the world’s leading learning destination.

 

HIGHER education in China can perhaps be traced to the establishment of a Taixue (the Imperial Academy) in the capital city of China during the Western Han Dynasty (206BC to 9AD).

Before this there were no formal organised institutions of higher learning. Only private education was available. Thus taixue became the highest educational institution in imperial China.

The earliest taixue education was based on legalist and Confucian ideals and philosophies, but later it evolved into one that was mainly Confucian-based when Emperor Wu (141BC to 87BC) decided to adopt Confucianism as the state doctrine. Imperial University was the first Confucian-based institution established in 124BC.

The taixue system later evolved into what was known as Gouzijian (Directorate of Education or National Central Institute of Learning). This occurred during the Western Jin Period (265 to 316).

Under the gouzijian system, higher education was stratified and segmented.

The system of admission and enrolment of students to these different levels and segments was based on social standing.

This traditional system of higher education was in place for the next 2,000 years before it underwent structural reforms into “modern universities” that we know of today.

In the late 19th century, several traditional institutions of higher learning sought permission from the Emperor to “modernise”.

However, Peking University is generally regarded as the first “modern university” in the country.

This was in 1898 and the term daxue for such institutions was adopted.

The university was first known as the Imperial Univer-sity of Peking before it became the present Peking University.

The reformation came about when events that took place in China in the mid-1800s opened up the country to the rest of the world.

Varsities closed

Even so, these new centres of learning experienced a period of great turmoil during China’s Cultural Revolution of 1966 to 1969.

In the early months of the revolution, schools and universities were closed.

Though the revolution was officially over by 1969, its activities however continued until 1971 and most universities did not reopen until 1972.

From the 1980s onwards, higher education in China underwent further reforms.

In 1995, Project 211 was initiated to raise research standards of about 100 universities by the 21st Century, hence the term Project 211.

Project 985 launched in May 1998 by President Jiang Zemin, initially targeted 10 universities. They were given the necessary support to make them all world-class institutions. The number of such universities has now gone up to 39.

The project has also resulted in the creation of what is known as the C9 League of universities. The aim is to create a league that is equivalent to the Ivy League of the United States.

The C9 universities are Fudan University, Harbin Institute of Technology, Nanjing University, Beijing University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Tsinghua University, University of Science and Technology of China, Xi’an Jiaotong University and Zhejiang University.

China spends about 4% of her GDP on education and currently spends about US$250bil (RM1.03tril) a year on human capital development.

There are about 2,900 universities and colleges in China with a total enrolment of some 37 million students. Close to 380,000 international students from 203 countries studied in China in 2014.

The bulk of them were from South Korea, the US, Thailand, Russia, Vietnam, India, Indonesia, France and Pakistan.

Currently only about 10% of foreign students receive Chinese government scholarships and the rest are mainly self-funded.

However this is expected to change as China aims to attract 500,000 international students by 2020 and providing more scholarships is a way to support the target.

The 2016 Higher Education System Strength Rankings (by Quacquarelli Symonds – QS), placed China at eighth worldwide with China’s strongest score being in the economy metric.

The eighth place ranking is the highest for Asia with South Korea and Japan placed at the ninth and 10th position respectively.

The first seven places were taken by the US, UK, Germany, Australia, Canada, France and the Netherlands respectively. Malaysia is placed 27th, behind Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore.

This ranking is an assessment of the overall education system strength and flagship university performance, alongside factors relating to access and funding.

Also, according to the QS World University Rankings of 2015/16, of the world’s top 800 universities, four of the top 100 are in China.

They are Tsinghua University (ranked 25), Peking University (ranked 41), Fudan University (ranked 51) and Shanghai Jiao Tong University (ranked 70) with Tsinghua being third in Asia after the National University of Singapore and the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore (ranked 12th and 13th respectively).

Tsinghua is even ahead of universities in South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Xiamen University, placed 17th in China, fell in the 401-410 band.

For Malaysian public universities, Universiti Malaya (UM) is placed 146 while Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) is ranked 289. Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) is at 303 while Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, 312 and Universiti Putra Malaysia, 331. None of Malaysia’s private universities appeared in the list.

According to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings of 2015-2016, two universities in China made it to the world’s top 100 out of the 800 listed.

The two were Peking University (ranked 42) and Tsinghua University (ranked 47), with Peking being ahead of universities in Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea.

Tsinghua was ahead of even the best in South Korea.

The best Malaysian university listed was UTM, placed in the number 401-500 band, similar to that of Xiamen University which has a branch campus in Sepang, Selangor.

Most of the British universities with branch campuses in Malaysia are within the world’s top 200.


Research performance

The Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), also known as the Shanghai Jiao Tong World University Ranking, ranked 500 universities worldwide based mainly on their research performance.

For 2015, four universities in Japan did better than those in China.

The top university in Japan was the University of Tokyo (ranked 21) while the top four in China, according to alphabetical order, were Peking University, Shanghai Jiao Tong, Tsinghua and Zhejiang University. They were placed in the number 101-150 band.

Malaysia’s top university, according to ARWU, was UM, placed in the number 301-400 band, while USM, the next best, was placed in the number 401-500 band. Xiamen University was placed in the same band as UM.

In a span of about 120 years, from having only one “modern” university, there are now about 2,900 universities and colleges in China. Several are world-class and are ready to compete with the best in the US and the UK.

Within the next decade, two universities in China may be ranked among the world’s top 10.

To achieve this, the government is going to great lengths to attract leading scholars, especially overseas Chinese scholars, to take up academic appointments at its leading universities.

Many universities in China are not only focusing on developing technologies that are competitive, but are doing so in areas like business education. Improvements have been by leaps and bounds.

Under such a scenario, what effects would the above have on world higher education in general and the trend of higher education pursuits by the global Chinese diaspora in particular?

It is an open secret that China encourages successful overseas Chinese to return to China to help in its development.

Even though the country is now the world’s second largest economy, there are still many spheres that need to be developed before China can claim to be at par with developed nations of the West.

One strategy would be to attract the best foreign students to study in China.

Upon graduation, these students can then be enticed to stay on to help develop the country.

Even if the graduates decide to return to their home country, their positive experiences while in China and the local Chinese network of friendship (guanxi) that the students have established are assets that will to some extent, influence their home countriesfavourably in their dealings with China.

Having foreign students on campus also has the added benefit of excha-nge and enrichment of experiences and ideas between local students and those from different parts of the world.

Such a strategy is not new as it has been practised by countries of the West even though these countries have their own bright students.

That is one reason why the West is now so strong and advanced, especially in the area of science and technology.

This approach of attracting the best foreign students can only be successful if an excellent system of higher education is in place, and China is doing just that.

As a start, China is also increasing the number of scholarships for foreign students.

For example during the 18th ASEAN-China Summit held in Kuala Lumpur last November, China’s Premier Li Keqiang made a commitment that China will increase the number of government scholarships for Asean countries by a thousand over the next three years.

Incentives

On a global scale such efforts may not seem much, but China might introduce innovative incentives to attract the best foreign students to its shores.

The country might just be waiting for the right moment to do so.

Like all other projects launched, once a decision is made and the time is right, China would go all out to implement the idea in a big way.

The soft power strategy outlined above, if introduced, would have a greater impact in countries with a large overseas Chinese population – especially in countries where these students are marginalised with limited access to higher education.

Together there are close to 27 million overseas Chinese living in the Asean region. This is about half the total number of overseas Chinese worldwide.

China may have the edge over the West in attracting these overseas Chinese students as many of these students would be familiar with China’s culture and language.

However it must also be highlighted that presently in China, some university courses are already being taught in English.

From the economic perspective, the cost of higher education in China is relatively cheap compared to those in the West.

Depending on the programme of study, the location of the institution, the type of accommodation sought, and the food consumed, the cost can be as low as US$4,000 (RM16,000) per year.

However it can also be at US$10,000 (RM40,000) per year, making it less affordable to those from poorer nations.

Nonetheless, even now, , studying in China is already a good option.

Doing so not only allows one to receive a world-class education at an affordable cost, it also provides the opportunity for one to establish vast professional and business networks.

These networks are certainly beneficial in a world that has predicted that China would be the largest global economy and a superpower in the not too distant future.

By Dr Lim Koon Ong

The writer is a former Universiti Sains Malaysia deputy vice-chancellor, and is presently an emeritus professor there.

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Don’t blame China for global economic jitters; China contributed >25% global growth


‘There has never been a real recovery in North America and western Europe since 2008.’ Photograph: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

The US stock market has just had the worst start to a year in its history. At the same time, European and Japanese stock markets have lost around 10% and 15% of their values respectively; the Chinese stock market has resumed its headlong dash downward; and the oil price has fallen to the lowest level in 12 years, reflecting (and anticipating) worldwide economic slowdown.

According to the dominant economic narrative of recent times, 2016 was the year when the world economy would recover fully from the 2008 crash. The US would lead this recovery by generating growth and jobs via fiscal conservatism and pro-business policies. Reflecting the economy’s robust growth, the US stock market reached new heights in 2015, although disrupted by the mess in the Chinese stock market over the summer. By last October, US unemployment had fallen from the post-crisis peak of 10% to 5%, bringing it back close to the pre-crisis low. In a show of confidence, last month the US Federal Reserve finally raised its interest rate for the first time in nine years.

Not far behind the US, the story goes, have been Britain and Ireland. Hit harder than the US by the financial crisis, they have, however, recovered handsomely because they kept their nerve and stuck to the right, if unpopular, policies. Spending cuts, focused on wasteful welfare spending, accelerated job creation by making it more difficult for people to live off the taxpayer. They sensibly didn’t give in to the banker-bashers and chose not to over-regulate the financial sector.

Even the continental European economies have been finally picking up, it was said, having accepted the need for fiscal discipline, labour market reform and cutting business regulations. The world – at least the rich world – was finally set for a full recovery. So what has gone wrong?

Those who put forward the narrative are now trying to blame China in advance for the coming economic woes. George Osborne has been at the forefront, warning this month of a “dangerous cocktail of new threats” in which the devaluation of the Chinese currency and the fall in oil prices (both in large part due to China’s economic slowdown) figured most prominently. If our recovery was to be blown off course, he implied, it would be because China had mismanaged its economy.

China is, of course, an important factor in the global economy. Only 2.5% of the world economy in 1978, on the eve of its economic reform, it now accounts for around 13%. However, its importance should not be exaggerated. As of 2014, the US (22.5%) the eurozone (17%) and Japan (7%) together accounted for nearly half of the world economy. The rich world vastly overshadows China. Unless you are a developing economy whose export basket is mainly made up of primary commodities destined for China, you cannot blame your economic ills on its slowdown.

The truth is that there has never been a real recovery from the 2008 crisis in North America and western Europe. According to the IMF, at the end of 2015, inflation-adjusted income per head (in national currency) was lower than the pre-crisis peak in 11 out of 20 of those countries. In five (Austria, Iceland, Ireland, Switzerland and the UK), it was only just higher – by between 0.05% (Austria) and 0.3% (Ireland). Only in four countries – Germany, Canada, the US and Sweden – was per-capita income materially higher than the pre-crisis peak.

Even in Germany, the best performing of those four countries, per capita income growth rate was just 0.8% a year between its last peak (2008) and 2015. The US growth rate, at 0.4% per year, was half that. Compare that with the 1% annual growth rate that Japan notched up during its so-called “lost two decades” between 1990 and 2010.

To make things worse, much of the recovery has been driven by asset market bubbles, blown up by the injection of cash into the financial market through quantitative easing. These asset bubbles have been most dramatic in the US and UK. They were already at an unprecedented level in 2013 and 2014, but scaled new heights in 2015. The US stock market reached the highest ever level in May 2015 and, after the dip over the summer, more or less came back to that level in December. Having come down by nearly a quarter from its April 2015 peak, Britain’s stock market is currently not quite so inflated, but the UK has another bubble to reckon with, in the housing market, where prices are 7% higher than the pre-crisis peak of 2007.

Thus seen, the main causes of the current economic turmoil lie firmly in the rich nations – especially in the finance-driven US and UK. Having refused to fundamentally restructure their economies after 2008, the only way they could generate any sort of recovery was with another set of asset bubbles. Their governments and financial sectors talked up anaemic recovery as an impressive comeback, propagating the myth that huge bubbles are a measure of economic health.

Whether or not the recent market turmoil leads to a protracted slide or a violent crash, it is proof that we have wasted the past seven years propping up a bankrupt economic model. Before things get any worse, we need to replace it with one in which the financial sector is made less complex and more patient, investment in the real economy is encouraged by fiscal and technological incentives, and measures are brought in to reduce inequality so that demand can be maintained without creating more debts.

None of these will be easy to implement, but we know what the alternative is – a permanent state of low growth, instability, and depressed living standards for the vast majority.

By Ha-Joon Chang, Guardian Economics News

China Should Take Advantage of Industry 4.0 to Shift Economy: Bill Gates

Philanthropist and co-founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates attends a panel “Preparing for the Next Pandemic” at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on January 22, 2016. [Photo: Imagine China]

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has urged China to take advantage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution so as to face the challenge of transforming its economy.

He made the remarks on the sidelines of the ongoing World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos.

“Well China’s obviously got a lot of people, a lot of smart people. It’s moved to not only have more people college educated, but lots of engineers, to raise the quality of those engineering skills. It’s created a recognition that if people invent something that they can be rewarded for that, which is leading to all new sorts of companies. Not just the IT space, although that’s the most visible, but also more and more in biology, robotics, those things, so China’s going to carry its weight. ”

Gates also expressed his optimism about China’s economic future.

“There are a lot of great talents in China. You know, building up the educational system, you know, I think China has got a very bright future. I have a lot of confidence in China partly because they take long-term view; they look at what other countries are doing. You know China is going to contribute more and more to the world’s innovation.”

Figures from China’s National Bureau of Statistics showed that the country’s Gross Domestic Product in 2015 registered an annual growth rate of 6.9 percent, the lowest level since 1990.

Though slowing, China still contributed to more than 25 percent to global economic growth.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, also termed as Industry 4.0, is marked by convergence of smart technology including artificial intelligence with the industrial sector.- (CRI Online)

China to Contribute More to World’s Innovation: Bill Gates

With a strong ambition to promote science and research, China is going to contribute more and more to the world’s innovation, Microsoft’s founder Bill Gates has said.

In an interview on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting 2016, Gates said China would probably become a huge participant in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is already under way and bringing a fast and disruptive change for most industries.

Talking about the new revolution, Gates believed the digital revolution, something he spent most of his life working on, was a huge factor.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution refers to the ongoing transformation of our society and economy, driven by advances in artificial intelligence, robotics, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, nanotechnology and other areas of science.

A key enabler of much of these new technologies is the Internet where Microsoft and Gates has been a leading contributor to the progress.

“An industrial revolution is coming to increase productivity very dramatically,” Gates said, “It creates opportunities, and it creates challenges.”

New technology changes would free some labor, so that people can do more in culture sector, according to Gates.

He said China had built some advantages in science and technology through its educational system, and the country had a strong will to promote its contribution in different sciences sectors.

“China obviously has a lot of people and a lot of smart people,” Gates said, “Not only a lot of people college-educated, but also a lot of engineers with the quality of engineering skills. ”

“With the recognition that people have done something that they can be rewarded for that, many experts have been leaded to have new companies, in IT sector, biology, robots and other those things.”

“China is going to carry its weight,” he said.

In recent years, the former internet elite has been dedicating to driving innovation in global health and development. As the Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Gates decided to join force with China’s Tsinghua University to establish the Global Health Drug Discovery Institute(GHDDI) in Beijing during his Davos visit.

“China has made incredible progress in reducing poverty and shares the foundation’s commitment to harnessing advances in science and technology to address the critical health challenges affecting the world’s poorest people,” Gates said.

“We are excited about GHDDI’s potential to drive innovation in global health research and development, and look forward to partnering with Tsinghua University on our continued work to address the world’s most pressing global health challenges.”

In an article released during WEF, Gates pledged his foundation would invest more in innovation in the coming years. He told Xinhua that the investment that went to China’s innovation was expected to increase gradually.

Asked whether he worried about China’s economic slowdown, which may hinder innovation progress, Gates said he was quite optimistic about China’s economic outlook.

“I have a lot of confidence in China, partly because they take a long-term view, and partly because they look what other countries are doing,” he said.

Faced with a challenge of turning the economy into new directions, Gates said China had great talent to achieve its goal.

“Most countries would envy a 6.9 percent growth, I think China has a bright future,”he said, adding “China is going to be contributing more and more to the world’s innovation.” – Xinhua Web Editor: Zhang Peng

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Xiangshan Defence Forum: Regional military chiefs hail Beijing’s security proposal


Photo taken on Nov. 21, 2014 shows the scene of the plenary meeting of the 5th Xiangshan Forum in Beijing, capital of China. The two-day Xiangshan Forum focuses on security in the Asia-Pacific region. The biennial event, organized by China Society of Military Sciences, has been held since 2006. It will be held annually starting this year. (Xinhua/Shen Dongdong) 

http://player.cntv.cn/standard/cntvOutSidePlayer.swf

 

 Regional military chiefs hail Beijing’s security proposal
Xiangshan Defence Forum_DM speaks
Chinese military academic delegate Wang Yisheng talks to British delegate John Kingwell (center) and Observer Simon Levey during the Xiangshan Forum attended by senior officials and academics from Central Asia and the Asia-Pacific region in Beijing on Friday. PETAR KUJUNDZIC / REUTERS

At a glance
• Xiangshan Forum, first held in 2006, and initially staged every two years. Upgraded to an annual event this year.

• About 300 delegates from 47 countries and four international organizations attending this year.

• This year’s theme is “Cooperation and Win-Win Build an Asian Community of Common Destiny”.

• Held from Thursday to Saturday, the forum discusses regional and maritime security and anti-terrorism cooperation.

China proposed on Friday that disputes in the Asia-Pacific region be tackled by an efficient crisis management and control mechanisms.

The proposal, put forward at a major defense policy forum in Beijing, won widespread acclaim from military chiefs and leading defense specialists in the region.

They said a liaison system has yet to be established to help the economically dynamic region tackle looming geopolitical concerns, and the proposal will help to resolve this.

In an address to the fifth Xiangshan Forum, State Councilor and Minister of National Defense Chang Wanquan said that China held 2,000 talks or meetings last year with neighbors on border issues.

China seeks to further enhance dispute management procedures, boost defense cooperation and “strengthen the regional security architecture”, Chang said in a three-point proposal.

Singapore’s Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen endorsed Chang’s proposal and underscored the need to build an Asian security framework to set up meetings and cool any potential tension.

Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein also backed Chang’s proposal.

Yin Zhuo, director of the PLA navy’s Expert Consultation Committee, said Asia-Pacific is “the only region in the world that still suffers
from the wounds of the Cold War”, and a security mechanism, like that established in Europe, has yet to be set up.

The forum provides a platform that “transcends different ideologies and involves all regional stakeholders”, Yin added.

Some Western analysts have speculated that the China-led forum was upgraded from an event held every two years to an annual one earlier this year to steal the thunder from the Shangri-La Dialogue held in Singapore.

Singaporean Defense Minister Ng told Friday’s plenary session that more opportunities for dialogue should be given to high-ranking military
officials in the region, and meetings such as the Xiangshan Forum help to keep areas of tension from spiraling out of control.

Zhang Tuosheng, director of the Department of Research at the China Foundation for International and Strategic Studies, said China is a major player in the region, and “such platforms do not conflict with each other because they are working in concert to shape a safer region”.

Ruan Zongze, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, said changing mindsets is important, adding that, “It may take quite a long time to shape a strong and popular belief of win-win cooperation.”

Chang dismissed any connection between China’s “justified” defense budget growth and allegations of “growing assertiveness” by China.

Military modernization “serves China’s practical need to secure its own borders” Chang said.

He told the forum, “To defend our own security is a most direct contribution to security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.”

Andrei Kokoshin, director of the Institute for International Security Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences and former secretary of the Russian Security Council, said the modernization of the People’s Liberation Army is playing a positive role in boosting regional security and stability.

By Zhangyunbi China Daily, News Network

 

 Chinese DM addresses Fifth Xiangshan Forum

Gen. Chang Wanquan, state councilor and minister of national defense of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), is delivering a speech on the topic of China’s armed forces and Asia-Pacific security at the Fifth Xiangshan Forum in Beijing on the morning of November 21, 2014. (Chinamil.com.cn/Sun Xiaoxu)
Keynote Speech at the Fifth Xiangshan Forum
by General Chang Wanquan, State Councilor and Minister of National Defense, 21st November 21, 2014

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, good morning! I am very glad to meet all of you here at Xiangshan. Let me begin by welcoming you all to the Fifth Xiangshan Forum on behalf of China’s Ministry of National Defense and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). I wish to take this opportunity to share with you my views on this topic—China’s armed
forces and Asia-Pacific security.

The remarkable growth of China’s comprehensive national power, and the continued progress in national defense modernization, have become a focus of international attention in recent years. First of all, I would like to explain, from both historical and contemporary perspectives, why China has accelerated the modernization drive of its national defense and armed forces.

First, China has learned a bitter lesson from its wretched modern history. The Chinese civilization is one of the oldest in the world. As we
entered the modern era, however, Chinese people suffered grievously in a semi-colonial and semi-feudal society because of the corruption and incompetence of their feudal rulers, coupled with unrelenting aggressions of foreign powers. Our people did not become masters of their own destiny until a century later, after a protracted struggle. When it comes to national sovereignty and security, the Chinese give great credence to the adage, “We should not rely on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him.” Therefore, China is firmly determined to promote the modernization of its national defense and armed forces and effectively safeguard its national sovereignty, security and development interests.

Second, military modernization serves China’s practical need to secure its own territory. China has a vast territory and a large population. Its land borders,
mainland and island coastlines are very long indeed. In particular, China has not yet fully realized national reunification. These are all factors which place the Chinese military under heavy pressure in securing the country and its border areas. There is therefore a pressing need for China to strengthen its national defense and armed forces. It should also be noted that to defend our own security is a most direct contribution to the security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

Third, China has to adapt to the revolution in military affairs. As the revolution in military affairs gains momentum worldwide, every country is dedicating efforts to modernizing its armed forces or conducting various degrees of military reforms. At present, the Chinese military has yet to become fully mechanized and its application of information technology is still at an early stage. It lags far behind those advanced military forces elsewhere in the world. A decision to strengthen the reform of China’s national defense and armed forces was adopted at the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. Mindful of the goal of building a strong military, we are now exerting ourselves to develop a system of modern military force with Chinese characteristics. This is a sure choice that China has made in keeping with the times.

Fourth, military modernization serves the overall interests of China’s reform, opening up and development. China initiated the historic process of reform and opening up in the late 1970s. The Chinese military, committed to serving the larger goals of reform and development, has made a unique contribution to China’s economic takeoff. Since the beginning of the new century, China’s armed forces have benefited from the country’s economic growth and stepped up their efforts to pursue modernization. The move is mainly intended to ensure the balanced development of national defense and the economy, and provide a more effective safeguard to China’s economic and social development as well as its expanding overseas interests. It should be noted that China has not changed the basic state policy of taking economic development as the central task. Its military growth has always been kept at a reasonable level.

Fifth, China is under an obligation to work together with other countries to cope with non-traditional security threats.
In recent years, the threats of terrorism, separatism and extremism have mounted, in addition to frequent and major natural disasters and new challenges to the security of sea lines of communication. Such non-traditional security issues have become the common concern of all countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Against this backdrop, we have attached greater importance to the employment of armed forces in peacetime. It has shouldered increasing international obligations in areas such as UN peacekeeping, international anti-terrorism, commercial vessel protection, international disaster relief, and humanitarian assistance. Accelerating the modernization of national defense and armed forces will also enable China to come up with a better response to the various security challenges in collaboration with other countries and live up to its role as a responsible major country.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, the world today is undergoing major developments, changes and adjustments. The global trends toward multipolarity and economic globalization are deepening. Cultural diversity is increasing, and an information-based society is fast emerging. The security landscape in the Asia-Pacific region is largely stable. As they depend on each other for security and development, countries in the region have formed a community of common destiny in which they will prosper or decline together.

Last May, Chinese President Xi Jinping put forward an Asian security concept that calls for common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security. While expressing hope that Asian countries advance common security in the spirit of inclusiveness and cooperation, he welcomed the participation of other countries concerned. The concept offered a new vision for Asia-Pacific countries to cope jointly with security challenges. The Chinese military will uphold this concept as a participant and promoter of international security cooperation. It is willing to develop an approach to Asian security alongside the armed forces of other countries that features joint efforts, shared benefits
and win-win results.

First, for the sake of common security, China has dealt with sensitive disputes in an appropriate fashion. It is to be expected that disputes will arise between nations. The key is to strengthen management and effectively prevent and resolve crises. Along its land borders, the Chinese military has set up 64 border defense force meeting venues, where in 2013 alone more than 2,000 meetings were held with neighboring countries. China and India have jointly implemented their Border Defense Cooperation Agreement to maintain border peace and stability. As far as naval cooperation is concerned, the Chinese Navy has conducted 16 joint patrols in the Beibu Gulf with the Vietnamese Navy. China is also exploring the possibility of opening a defense hotline with the ASEAN countries. Only recently, China’s Ministry of National Defense and the U.S. Department of Defense signed two memorandums of understanding on Notification of Major Military Activities Confidence-building Measures Mechanism and The Rules of Behavior for Safety of Air and Maritime Encounters. With these practical moves and more, we have contributed to regional peace and stability and done our utmost to create a positive environment for the development of all countries in the region.

Second, China has engaged in regional security dialogue to promote cooperative security. We are committed to candid and in-depth talks with other parties in a bid to expand the common ground for Asia-Pacific defense and security cooperation. To date, China has established defense and security consultation and dialogue mechanisms with 26 countries. In recent years, China has held more than 80 joint military exercises and training sessions focusing on areas such as anti-terrorism and disaster relief with more than 50 countries. China’s defense authorities and armed forces have taken an active part in regional multilateral security cooperation. They have played an important role in multilateral security mechanisms such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the ASEAN Regional Forum and the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus. This Xiangshan Forum where we are gathered is an example of the efforts of the Chinese military to promote security dialogue and cooperation.

Third, China has been active in providing public security goods in pursuit of comprehensive security. As security challenges become increasingly interconnected, transnational and comprehensive, there has been a rising demand for public goods in the global security filed. Since 2002, the Chinese military has carried out 39 international emergency humanitarian assistance operations. It has shipped more than 1.3 billion yuan ($212 million) in aid materials to 30 disaster-ridden countries. Since the end of 2008, China has dispatched 18 naval task forces to the Gulf of Aden and the waters off Somalia. These have provided an escort to almost 6,000 Chinese and foreign ships. China has contributed more peacekeeping troops than any other permanent member of the UN Security Council – a total of more than 27,000. Currently, 2, 027 Chinese peacekeepers are working with nine UN peacekeeping missions. In order to cope with the Ebola outbreaks in West Africa, the Chinese military has sent almost 300 doctors and nurses to epidemic-affected areas. It has built an Ebola holding-center in Sierra Leone and will soon complete the construction of a 100-bed Ebola treatment center in Liberia. This represents a humble contribution to the fight against the deadly virus.

Fourth, China has reinforced results-oriented defense cooperation to boost sustainable security. The armed forces constitute the cornerstone of national security. Whether a country is secure and whether its security is sustainable hinge on its ability to protect itself. The Chinese military has, to the best of its abilities, helped other countries, especially developing countries, to strengthen their armed forces. While taking into account the long-term development of these countries’ armed forces, it focuses on improving their overall capability to safeguard national security.Since 2003, China has trained more than 30,000 military personnel for over 130 countries. It also assists other developing countries every year by providing military aid with no political strings attached. Much of this material is used for the construction of such infrastructure as military academies and hospitals.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, while Asia-Pacific security cooperation looks promising, we still have a long way to go to secure our region. All countries should work in concert for its peace, stability and enduring prosperity.

We call for further strengthening of dispute management procedures to improve our ability to cope with crises. We believe that peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region should be put at the top of the agenda. Disputes should be resolved through negotiations with full respect to historical facts and the international law. The parties concerned should establish accessible and efficient dispute management and control mechanisms, refine their capacity to deal with crises, and prevent disputes from escalating. The Chinese military stands ready to seek appropriate solutions to relevant issues in collaboration with other parties by sharing information in a timely manner through a variety of liaison mechanisms at different levels.

We call for further strengthening of defense exchanges and cooperation to bolster strategic mutual trust. All countries should promote regular, open and inclusive contacts between their respective defense authorities and armed forces. They should put in place regular defense and security consultation mechanisms, reinforce bilateral and multilateral exchanges, forge a growing consensus, and enhance strategic mutual trust. We are willing to work together with other parties to promote the growth of positive military-to-military relations in the Asia-Pacific region by strengthening wide-ranging, multi-tiered and all-round cooperation.

We call for further strengthening of the regional security architecture to foster a stronger sense of belonging to a community of common destiny. We advocate that countries should transcend Cold War thinking and base their decisions on the reality of the Asia-Pacific region. They should take all parties’ security concerns into consideration. They should also accommodate each other’s comfort levels as they build an open, transparent, equal and inclusive Asia-Pacific security architecture.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, President Xi Jinping said at a recent APEC event, “Those who share the same ideal and follow the same path can be partner. Those who seek common ground while shelving differences can also be partners. More friends, more opportunities.” Let us commit ourselves to the goal of forging an Asia-Pacific partnership
featuring mutual trust, inclusiveness, cooperation and win-win results, and join hands to create a bright future for our region.

Thank you!

Editor :  Zhang Tao

Building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road


Reflections on Maritime Partnership

China Maritine Silk Road_ Asean

The “Silk Road” is a general term used to geographically describe ancient Chinese exchanges between Asia, Europe and Africa in the areas of politics, economics and culture. Starting on land and developing on sea, the “Silk Road” is a vehicle of historic importance for the dissemination of culture. The ancient maritime Silk Road was developed under political and economic backgrounds and was the result of cooperative efforts from ancestors of both the East and West. China’s proposal to build a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road is aimed at exploring the unique values and concepts of the ancient road, enriching it with new meaning for the present era and actively developing economic partnerships with countries situated along the route. Specifically, the proposal seeks to further integrate current cooperation in order to achieve positive effects.

The ocean is the foundation and vehicle necessary to build a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. It is China’s mission to understand the importance of building a Maritime Silk Road and take effective actions at present and for a certain period to come.

21st Century Maritime Silk Road from a Global Perspective

In the twenty-first century, countries have become more inter-connected by the ocean in conducting market, technological and information exchanges. The world is now in an era that values maritime cooperation and development. China’s proposal to build a Maritime Silk Road conforms with larger developments in economic globalization and taps into common interests that China shares with countries along the route. The goal is to forge a community of interest with political mutual trust, integrated economies, inclusive culture and inter-connectivity. The construction of a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road is a global ini-tiative that pursues win-win results through cross-border cooperation. It is thus of great importance to view it from the perspective of multi-polarization, economic globalization and the co-existence and ba-lancing of cooperation and competition.

Building a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road will help stimulate all-round maritime opening-up and benefit ASEAN and relevant countries.

Oceans contain a treasure trove of resources for sustainable development. China is currently at a critical stage in its economic reform process and must pay more attention to the ocean. As mentioned in the resolution of the Third Plenum, “[China] needs to enhance opening-up in coastal regions and boost the connectivity construction with neighboring countries and regions to spur all-round opening-up.”

The Maritime Silk Road of the 21st century will further unite and expand common interests between China and other countries situated along the route, activate potential growth and achieve mutual benefits in wider areas. The Maritime Silk Road will extend southward from China’s ports, through the South China Sea, the Straits of Malacca, Lombok and Sunda and then along the north Indian Ocean to the Persian Gulf, Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. In other words, the Road will extend from Asia to the Middle East, East Africa and Europe, and it will mainly rely on ASEAN countries. Building the Maritime Silk Road will connect China’s ports with other countries through maritime connectivity, intercity cooperation and economic cooperation. On the one hand, the Road will strengthen the economic basis for China to cooperate with countries along the route and better connect Europe and Asia. On the other hand, the Road will facilitate the development of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), bringing benefits to China, ASEAN and other countries along the road.

The Maritime Silk Road will increase trust and regional peace and stability.

As the world’s economic and political center shifts towards the Asia Pacific, the region has stepped into a stage of geopolitics characterized by intersecting, overlapping and conflicting interests. By facilitating communication between countries along the road, the Maritime Silk Road will help build a community that represents the common concerns, interests and expectations of all countries. The community is expected to guide and support a peaceful and stable Asia Pacific landscape.

Moreover, the Maritime Silk Road will further bring together the “Silk Road Economic Belt,” the “Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor” and the “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor” that together connect Europe and Asia. Such connections will greatly enhance China and other countries’ abilities to develop economically while limiting external risks. The Maritime Silk Road will also enhance cooperation in non-traditional security areas while maintaining maritime security.

Maritime Partnerships Are the Key to Building the Maritime Silk Road

At a speech before the Indonesian parliament in 2013, President Xi Jinping stated that Southeast Asia has become an important hub for the maritime silk road and that China is willing to enhance maritime cooperation with ASEAN countries, boost maritime partnerships and build a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. President Xi’s speech set forth a clear path for developing road. Enhancing maritime cooperation will be a priority task in building the Maritime Silk Road. The first step will involve China and countries along the route promoting pragmatic maritime cooperation.

Connecting multiple regions and uniting wide areas of co-operation, the tasks put forth in the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road will not be achieved in the immediate future. Instead, these tasks call for China and relevant countries to work in a step-by-step and practical manner. Building the Maritime Silk road will require diverse forms of cooperation. With a focus on economic cooperation, the Road will give consideration to all parties involved. It will be based on the existing cooperation mechanisms and platforms and be promoted by China and other countries along the route.

The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road will cover more than 20 countries and regions that share a broad consensus on enhancing exchanges, friendship, promoting development, safety and stability within the region and beyond. The Silk Road has already received positive responses and support from many relevant countries. Greek Prime Minister Antonidis Samaras, for example, made it clear that Greece will “support and actively participate in building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road proposed by China.” The Road runs through a region that is sensitive to international strategy and has complex geopolitics. The countries in the region differ in size, development, history, religion, language and culture. Therefore, the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road will accommodate various countries’ demands and apply suitable policies to each country. Meanwhile, the Road must change and consolidate new patterns of cooperation.

China has been building friendships and partnerships with nei-ghboring countries and developing maritime partnerships with its ocean neighbors, providing a solid foundation for cooperation with ASEAN and countries in the region. The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road requires the following efforts: First, consensus must be reached between major countries along the route to enhance maritime cooperation. During high-level dialogues in recent years, the Chinese leadership made maritime cooperation an important topic of bilateral discussions and established the China-ASEAN and China-Indonesia Maritime Cooperation Fund. At the same time, China has actively promoted maritime cooperation between Southeast Asia, South Asia and African countries and established high-level mechanisms between various national maritime departments.

Second, countries must engage in pragmatic cooperation along the route in the areas of trade, the economy, culture and infrastructure. In 2012, the trade volume of countries along the route accounted for 17.9 percent of China’s total trade. The contracted turnover in countries along the route accounted for 37.9 percent of China’s overseas contracted turnover. People-to-people exchanges between China and ASEAN recently topped 15 million, while two-way students reached more than 170,000.

Third, countries along the route must engage in effective cooperation on ocean and climate change, marine disaster prevention and mitigation, biodiversity preservation and other areas of maritime policy. In 2010, the Indonesia-China Center for Ocean & Climate (ICCOC) was established. In 2013, the China-Thailand Climate and Marine Ecosystem Joint Lab were both launched. In 2012, the Chinese government set up a Marine Scholarship, and from that year onward, the scholarship will sponsor young people from developing countries in Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America to obtain a master’s degree or doctorate in China to enhance the marine capabilities of their own countries.

Focusing on Developing Partnerships Along the Maritime Silk Road

The Maritime Silk Road is in line with the development of national economies and the improvement of welfare. China must follow the new perspectives on value, cooperation and development featuring equality, cooperation, mutual benefits, win-win results, inclusiveness and harmony. Guided by President Xi’s desire to “expand the scale of cooperation and gradually foster regional cooperation,” China must make use of its comparative advantages and promote communication, connectivity, trade flow, currency circulation and consensus among people. China needs to target common interests between countries along the road and map out long-term plans and execute its plans in a step by step manner.

The Road will connect the Pacific and Indian Oceans. China will focus on upgrading the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area and extending it to the coastal regions of the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. By virtue of connecting the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the “Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor” and the “Silk Road Economic Belt,” China will build an open, safe and effective maritime road that can facilitate trade, transportation, economic development and the dissemination of culture.

The Road will also make good use of the China-ASEAN Maritime Cooperation Fund and enhance pragmatic maritime cooperation. By prioritizing cooperation in inter-connectivity, the maritime economy, marine environmental protection and disaster prevention and mitigation, China aims to improve the welfare of countries along the route and share the benefits of the Maritime Silk Road.

The Road will also make use of existing bilateral and multilateral marine cooperation mechanisms and frameworks. By making use of the existing and effective marine cooperation platforms, China will improve the area’s marine partnership network, forge closer ties between countries along the route and finally create a cooperation landscape in which marine resources, industries and culture are all reasonably distributed and mutually reinforcing.

The construction of a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road the development of marine partnerships call for the following measures:

First, it will call for better marine connectivity. Infrastructure connectivity is the priority of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. Countries need to focus on building key pathways, points and major projects, and China needs to work with countries along the road to build marine infrastructure, improve law enforcement abilities, provide public goods of marine security and guarantee the security of marine pathways. China needs to support the construction of ports, wharves and information networks to ensure the open flow of goods and information. It must also enhance communication on marine cooperation policies to facilitate marine investment and trade.

Sea lane safety is the key to sustaining the development of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, while ports are the foundation of sea lane safety. Like posts along the ancient Silk Road, ports along the new Maritime Silk Road will act as “posts on sea” that handle cargo and resupply ships and people. Such “sea posts” also must provide safe and convenient sea lanes for all countries to make use of. These posts can either be built by individual countries or built with the help of China and other countries, or even be leased in other counties. The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road will thus able to cover and drive more countries to create “sea posts.”

Second, it will call for strong cooperation on marine economy and industry. Many countries along the route strategically exploit the ocean, develop their maritime economies and sustain marine development. Strengthening cooperation on marine economics and industry will help push forward modernization and promote the upgrading and optimization of industry. Such cooperation will better integrate China’s economy with those of countries along the route.

Closer cooperation in the marine industry will require domestic industrial restructuring according to market demands, require prioritized cooperation in marine fishery, tourism, desalination and marine renewable resources and require Chinese enterprises in this industry to go global. China encourages enterprises with intellectual property and sophisticated desalination technology, marine renewable resources and marine bio-pharmaceutical technology to invest and build their own businesses in countries along the route.

Relying on existing Economic and Trade Cooperation Zones between China and other countries, as well as marine demonstration zones in Tianjin, Shandong, Zhejiang, Fujian and Guangdong, the government will play a leading role in the initial stages, guide enterprises with mature technologies in iron and steel, shipbuilding, fishery and aq-uaculture to establish production bases and extend industrial chains to countries with rich resources and huge demand.

China needs to work with countries along the route to facilitate regional cooperation, building industrial parks, enhancing investment and cooperation in the marine industry, building marine economic demonstration zones, marine technology parks, economic and trade cooperation zones and marine training bases. Through such industrial cooperation, China will forge an investment cooperation platform in which Chinese enterprises can gain international competitiveness and participate at a higher level of the industrial echelon.

China needs to build a cooperation belt to enhance the marine industry and set up cooperation networks to facilitate marine tourism. A sustainable Maritime Silk Road will not be achieved without the help of port economic zones. As a result, China must develop its port economic zones and free trade zones to provide a platform for the Maritime Silk Road. China will focus on eliminating systematic and mechanistic barriers, lowering market thresholds and facilitating the opening-up of major areas.

Third, it will call for all-round cooperation in marine fields. In recent years, non-traditional security issues such as piracy, maritime terrorism, cross-border crimes and maritime disasters have loomed large. Countries along the route share a common interest in addressing these problems. Naturally, fighting against non-traditional security challenges will become an important part of the Maritime Silk Road. As such, China must promote exchanges and cooperation between countries along the route in the areas of marine technology, environmental protection, marine forecasting and rescue, disaster prevention and the mitigation and climate change.

Putting the “Marine Technology Partnership Plan” into practice. Based on existing marine cooperation centers and observation platforms, China will focus on promoting marine technology cooperation networks and building the China-ASEAN Marine Cooperation Center, the Indonesia and China Center for Ocean and Climate, the China-Thailand Climate and Marine Ecosystem Joint Lab, the China-Pakistan Joint Marine Center, the China-Sri Lanka Marine and Coastal Zone Joint Research Center and other ocean stations.

Building “marine ecological partnerships.” By paying more atten-tion to an ecological civilization, China needs to enhance cooperate with countries along the route to build a green Silk Road that addresses the marine ecological environment and climate change. China must set up an effective dialogue mechanism, map out major projects in which all parties can get involved and make comprehensive plans for regional ecological and environmental protection. China must work more closely with Southeast Asia and South Asia to protect biodiversity, build a cross-border bio-diversity corridor and establish marine conservation areas.

Conducting the regional marine research. By building cooperation networks for marine disaster preparedness, providing marine forecasting products and releasing marine disaster warnings, China will increase marine benefits for relevant countries.

Fourth, it will call for expanding cooperation in marine culture. Marine culture is the foundation of building a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. When talking about the Silk Road Economic Belt, President Xi has stated that “amity between people holds the key to sound relations between states.” He also highlighted the importance of “common aspirations,” given that the Silk Road will be supported by countries only if it is able to benefit people. China will inherit and pro-mote friendly cooperation along the Maritime Silk Road and develop a proposal with international consensus so that marine cooperation and partnerships will be firmly supported.

The plan will also call on countries to increase marine awareness and achieve common aspirations. China needs to make full use of the geopolitics and culture of Maritime Silk Road to promote exchanges in marine culture, tourism and education to make the Road a key link for friendly exchanges. By “going global” and “going local” at the same time, China needs to carry out exchanges and cooperation in marine culture, in areas such as cultural or art exchanges, archaeological exchanges, marine tourism cooperation, education and training.

China will guide and encourage the community to conduct various cultural exchanges and offer tours and products with distinct Silk Road features. In such a way, China will be able to expand the cultural influence of the Maritime Silk Road, push the Road into the new century and promote general marine cultural diversity.

Conclusion

On June 20, 2014, Premier Li Keqiang spoke at the China-Greece Marine Cooperation Forum, stating, “We stand ready to work with other countries to boost economic growth, deepen international cooperation and promote world peace through developing the ocean, and we strive to build a peaceful, cooperative and harmonious ocean.” China’s proposal to build a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road suits the current era and is characterized by peace, development, cooperation, innovation and opening-up. With the goal of building a harmonious ocean, the proposal rests on opening-up and innovation and aims to achieve “harmony between humans and the ocean, peaceful development, safety and convenience, cooperation and win-win results.” A 21st Century Maritime Silk Road will enhance cooperation between China and other countries, increase mutual trust, create a stable environment for cooperation and bring new opportunities for regional stability and prosperity.

by Liu Cigui

China Institute of International Studies

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Secessionism rising in the West; Scotland independence an inconvenient possibility; Scots choose to stay with UK


Scotland Independence
By Luo Jie

Tide of secessionism rising in the West

The Scottish independence referendum has come as a shock to the world at large. Even if the result of the vote vetoes independence for Scotland and maintains the unity of the UK, it is not so much a false alarm as a tremor shaking the whole Western system.

The UK is a representative country in the Western world. Despite the fact that the disintegration of the British Empire saw the painful departure of most of its colonies, the historic referendum on Scottish independence jeopardizes the integrity of its homeland. It is the fiercest outbreak of secessionism that has plagued major European countries in recent years.

The referendum is different from massive riots or disturbances in which immigrants acted as the main forces. It displays in a direct way a division in United Kingdom society. It is a showdown with the purpose of getting a “divorce.”

The referendum conveys a signal that the Western system has taken on numbness and lost efficacy in dealing with conundrums. People in the rest of the UK did not take seriously the term “Scottish independence” years ago, which, however, has kept swelling and become a major factor for the UK’s destiny. UK Prime Minister David Cameron made an appeal for Scotland to stay within the union and the US President also urged Scots to vote against independence, hoping the UK “remains strong, robust and united.” Western countries are making concerted efforts to save a united UK.

There is also secessionism in the Oriental world, notably in China, India and Russia, where, however, legal, political and moral systems play an effective role. Liberal practices in the UK might have worked in the past, but now are facing immense uncertainty.

Since the end of the Cold War, the West has come to the pinnacle of power step by step, while the Oriental world has been threatened by myriad crises. Nonetheless, emerging countries have flourished now after more than 20 years has passed. They have overcome deadly shocks and developed an effective control system.

There are signs that the West has started feeling anxious in front of the collective competition of emerging economies. Western society now apparently lacks confidence in an unprecedented way. Terms like solidarity, cooperation and diligence have long disappeared from the dictionary of many Westerners, who instead pursue maximized profits by using financial or political means.

Meanwhile, the vigor of the Oriental world is deeply rooted in people’s hard work and political progress gained at the cost of bitter lessons in the past. This represents a development trend of the world: Human society is seeing narrower gaps, which will likely be the essence of globalization.

Source:Global Times Editorial

Scotland: An inconvenient possibility 

Scotland Independence1

William Wallace, Robert the Bruce, David Cameron.

It’s ironic but if there is a yes vote in the referendum in Scotland on Thursday, and it is once again ruled from Edinburgh rather than London, it will be in large part thanks to David Cameron, the incumbent prime minister of the United Kingdom. Not only did he have to give his government’s consent for the referendum to go ahead, but he also ruled out the option of what is now being referred to as devo-max, the devolving of more powers to the Scottish parliament, and instead insisted on a straight yes or no choice to the question: Should Scotland be an independent country?

With the opinion polls at the time showing a healthy majority in favor of maintaining the Union, it was decided a straight yes/no independence referendum would result in vote in favor of keeping the union. However, that is looking a lot less like a sure bet now, with the polls showing the yes and no votes running neck and neck.

Just 10 days before the referendum, with the polls showing an upswing in people saying they intended to vote yes, the three main English parties struck a deal and pledged to give more powers to the Scottish parliament. But no details have been forthcoming of what this entails and no timetable presented. So it will probably not sway the minds of many still undecided voters.

If there is a yes vote, the Scottish government will have to set in motion the process for a written constitution, and there are hard negotiations that will need to be completed, not least on key issues such as a currency union, Scotland’s share of the UK’s national debt, and what will happen to the four submarines carrying missiles armed with Trident nuclear warheads that are stationed in Scotland, before the proposed independence date of March 24, 2016.

An independent Scotland will also have to negotiate for membership of NATO and the European Union. The rest of the UK, or rUK as it is known, would retain membership of NATO and the UN Security Council, as the government in London would retain control of Trident, but there would be growing pressure from those living in some cloud-cuckoo land of an imperial past for it to opt out of the EU.

Those claiming that Scotland is better off as part of the UK have been suggesting it is not a foregone conclusion that an independent Scotland will be able to join the EU. They have also tried to paint a dire picture of the future with the support of the oil companies and big banks, which have threatened to head south.

However, while independence does mean uncertainties, most of which can and will be resolved through negotiation, it also offers new opportunities. Despite the no camp’s unproven portents of doom, there is a belief among many, not just in Scotland, but elsewhere in the UK, that too much power is centralized in Westminster, and it favors the wealthy at the expense of the poor. The wealth gap continues to widen and this is evident not just in Scotland, but also elsewhere in the UK.

With a growing number of people struggling to pay their bills, there is a perception that those supposed to safeguard their interests are too busy finding ways to pad their claims for expenses and voting for their own pay rises to listen to their concerns. It has been said only half in jest that it is London and the South East of England that should go independent, because they are far removed in mindset from the more community based values of the rest of UK.

The Better Together pro-unionists have tried to portray the yes voters as hearts-over-minds anti-English nationalists nursing historical hurts as well as present grievances. Yet to many in Scotland, not just Scots, but residents of other nationalities, including English, better together means people in Scotland working together for a fairer society, one that is not victim to the whims of the unchecked free-market pursuit of profit. The central question for many is which option, a business-as-usual more-of-the-same no vote or an uncertain-hopes-for-the-future yes vote, offers the best chance of creating a more caring and equitable society.

To overseas observers who say Scotland would become irrelevant if it votes for independence and the UK diminished in stature without Scotland, most of those who intend to vote yes might reply, that’s just fine; Scotland is just a small country on the fringe of Europe that doesn’t need or want to strut upon the world stage – something its leaders should bear in mind if the vote is yes.

By Hannay Richards (China Daily)/Asia News Network

Cameron thanks Scots for choosing to stay, promises a more unified UK

 UK Prime Minister David Cameron is now delivering a speech. Let’s go live to see what he is saying.

Showtime for China’s E-commerce giant, Alibaba world-wide


Alibaba_Chinese_logoAlibaba, China’s eCommerce giant, has quickly come onto everyone’s radar as it presents the possibility of being the largest tech IPO ever. According to the New York Times, the company is expected to go on the market at a value of roughly $200 billion – larger than US tech companies Amazon, eBay or Facebook. This week, we bring you articles to explain who Alibaba is and what you can expect from them in the future.

Two weeks, three continents, and 100 meetings. That — and founder Jack Ma celebrating his 50th birthday on the road — is what it will take for Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. to pull off the largest initial public offering in U.S. history.

The Chinese e-commerce company is weighing a plan to start marketing the share sale to investors on Sept. 3, with management traveling across Asia, Europe and the U.S. before an initial public offering in the middle of the month, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The schedule, put forth by banks managing the IPO, would have meetings begin in Hong Kong and Singapore before executives travel to London and eventually host their first U.S. event in New York on Sept. 8, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing private information. The timeline has Alibaba targeting a Sept. 16 trading debut, the people said.

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The investor meetings — called a roadshow — will give Alibaba the opportunity to answer questions from the world’s biggest fund managers and build demand for its shares. With Alibaba and selling shareholders expected to raise as much as $20 billion, the IPO has the potential to be the largest in the U.S. The company’s official price range is expected to be revealed on Sept. 2.


Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

Jack Ma, chairman of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., speaks at SoftBank World 2014 in Tokyo, Japan.

 

Monday Pricing

For trading to start on Sept. 16, Alibaba would have to set a final price the day before — a Monday. It is uncommon for companies in the U.S. to price IPOs on a Monday, in case news over the weekend negatively impacts market sentiment in the final day of the deal.

The plan is tentative and could change, although Alibaba wants to avoid debuting near the Jewish holiday the following week, one of the people said.

With six financial advisers already managing the sale, Alibaba plans to name additional banks that will have smaller roles on the deal, according to people familiar with the matter. The company will also update investors with earnings from the quarter through June, those people said.

Credit Suisse Group AG (CSGN), Deutsche Bank AG, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Morgan Stanley and Citigroup Inc. are the most senior banks on the IPO. Alibaba may end up using more than 20 financial advisers in total, one person said.

Shares of Japanese wireless carrier SoftBank Corp. (9984), Alibaba’s largest shareholder, rose 2.4 percent at the close in Tokyo. Florence Shih, a Hong Kong-based spokeswoman for Alibaba, declined to comment.

Birthday Celebration

At $20 billion, Alibaba’s sale would edge past Visa Inc.’s $19.65 billion IPO in 2008 as the largest in U.S. history, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Alibaba plans to divide executives into two separate teams, which will lead to about 100 meetings in total, according to the people. The teams will mostly be together for the larger group meetings, while separating to meet with individual investors, they said. The company hasn’t yet determined who from management will be attending each meeting, the people said.

In the U.S., Alibaba will also visit with investors in Boston, the Mid-Atlantic region, Kansas City, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco, the people said.

On Sept. 10, when Ma celebrates his birthday, investor meetings will be held in New York, they said.

Alibaba is waiting until September to begin marketing the share sale as it seeks regulatory approval of its prospectus, a person with knowledge of the matter said last month. The company, which originally targeted an early August trading debut, is holding off to avoid rushing the deal as it continues discussions with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, according to the person.

Discounted Valuation

The Chinese e-commerce operator may set its set its IPO value at $154 billion, or 22 percent below analyst valuations, in a move that could avoid repeating Facebook Inc. (FB)’s listing flop, according to the average estimate of five analysts surveyed by Bloomberg last month. The same analysts give Alibaba an average post-listing valuation of $198 billion, the survey shows.

Alibaba said yesterday it will sell its small-business lending arm to the company that already controls payments affiliate Alipay, separating itself from the last of its major financial units ahead of the IPO.

The sale takes financial and regulatory risk relating to the operations off of Alibaba’s balance sheet, while increasing the pool of profits the company can generate from them, the filing shows. The agreement also lifts a $6 billion cap, under certain conditions, on funds that Alibaba could receive if Alipay or its parent company go public, the filing shows.

By Zijing Wu and Leslie Picker Bloomberg

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