Asia Pacific Economic Leadership Shifting from the US to China for Free Trade framework

Apec 2014 China_FTAAP roadmap

All together now: Apec leaders posing for a family picture at the International Convention Center at Yanqi Lake in Beijing. Front row from left, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, US President Barack Obama, Xi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, (backrow from left) Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Najib and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key. — EPA

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit that just concluded in Beijing was no doubt China’s show. Beijing came out looking very much what it is touted to be — the world’s second-largest economy now leading the charge towards a free-trade region known as the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP). For a once-closed economy that was not even part of the global trading system, this is one giant leap. In doing so, China overshadowed and reduced a rival initiative by the United States — the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which excludes Beijing — to what is a subsidiary platform

Chinese President Xi Jinping has shown that the agenda of liberalising trade in the Asia-Pacific region cannot but take China into account; indeed, this agenda will be dictated by China from now on. To show how serious it is, the Beijing APEC Declaration came complete with a road map towards the realisation of the FTAAP, though a clear deadline was shelved for now.

With the US outmanoeuvred, the economic power game entered a second stage in Myanmar this week, where the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) hosted the East Asia Summit, in which both China and the US are members (with Beijing represented by Prime Minister Li Keqiang).

Interestingly, Beijing saw the revival of APEC as a major platform for regional economic integration — led by China. APEC has actually been the vehicle for trade liberalisation in the Asia-Pacific region since it was formed in 1989. Indeed, the FTAAP is not a Chinese idea, as Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made clear, but an APEC vision conceived in 2004 with its end-goal being a huge Asia-Pacific free-trade area.

But APEC lost its shine over time when no clear big-power champion emerged with the visionary leadership and commitment of then US President Bill Clinton, who hosted the first summit in Seattle in 1993.

During APEC’s downtime years, ASEAN fell back on its own trade liberalisation process, the Asean Free Trade Area (AFTA), and preached the message of trade liberalisation to the wider region. Two major platforms then emerged: One was the TPP, for which the US took leadership, with the exclusion of China. The other was the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), an outgrowth of the Asean Plus Three Summit comprising the association’s three North-east Asian trading partners, China, Japan and South Korea, as well as Australia, India and New Zealand.

China easily dominates the RCEP and insists that it be an East Asian platform — meaning it has no room for the US. This is partly the reason the US is eager to have the TPP as the key pathway to reach the FTAAP.

While the RCEP and the TPP evolve as competing platforms, both China and the US have, of late, downplayed this rivalry. This is just as well for Asean, whose members are divided between support for the RCEP and for the TPP. Only four of the 10 Asean members — Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam — are currently involved in the TPP negotiations, which demand a higher standard of trade liberalisation. The RCEP, on the other hand, sits better with many Asean members, virtually all of which benefit from huge trade with China.

The Asean dilemma

Apec 2014 China_ASEAN NUMBERSBut while Asean as a whole values China as a close economic partner, the group is also wary about Beijing as a security threat. This has resulted in a two-dimensional relationship — a duality, as some have called it — that Asean has with China: A growing economic relationship paradoxically matched by increasing political tension caused by Beijing’s aggressive claims to parts of the South China Sea.

How this two-dimensional relationship could be managed provided the backdrop for the Asean Summit this week in Myanmar and the East Asia Summit.

By stepping on the accelerator towards the FTAAP, China has virtually also quickened the pace of Asean’s own economic and political integration. The goal of an Asean Community — including a fully-integrated Asean Economic Community by December 31 next year — cannot be further delayed. At the moment, 80 per cent of its integration targets have been realised, with the remaining “hard part” set to be tackled after 2015.

But surely, the next lap cannot be only about tackling the unfinished business. If Asean Community 2015 is yet another pathway to the FTAAP, what is the vision of Asean after next year? This is where the group’s leaders must put on their thinking caps and collectively forge a road map to a new Asean that is a global player firmly situated in the 21st century.

This new vision must take into account the rapidly evolving economic and security architecture in the Asia-Pacific region. As displayed in Beijing this week, it will be a future in which China will not be shy to assert its economic leadership — in the same way it has staked its political dominance in the region.

As Asean leaders were convening for their summit in Naypyidaw, US President Barack Obama and Mr Xi in Beijing attempted to reforge the strategic relationship between the US and China, probing each other for a new calculus. Their major bilateral agreement on climate change was achieved in this context. But Mr Obama is a lame-duck President on his way out, while Mr Xi, who is only two years in office, will be around for a full decade to lead a rising superpower.

Asean’s dilemma is this: It appreciates the increasingly prosperous relationship that is blossoming with China under Mr Xi. Yet, Asean knows it is also entering a potentially tense future with Beijing under a leader who is prepared to flex China’s muscles — as seen in the resulting volatility regarding the South China Sea. Curiously, the tensions over the territorial disputes cooled down somewhat during the busy summit period.

Will Asean remain a mere bystander, watching from the wings as the power game continues to unfold between the two giants? Or will Asean do something to secure its pivotal position so it can shape the future regional balance in its favour? This key question must have preoccupied Asean leaders in Naypyidaw. ― Today

By Yang Razali Kassim, a senior fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University.

Apec leaders all for free trade framework

BEIJING: The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders’ Meeting hosted by China endorsed the Beijing Roadmap for Apec to promote and realise the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP).

The roadmap details actions to be taken to achieve FTAAP – a trade liberalisation framework that China had pushed for – and includes undertaking a collective strategic study with results to be reported by 2016.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, during the summit held by the Yanqi Lake in the Huairou district, expressed Malaysia’s support on the roadmap.

“Malaysia sees the FTAAP as a natural progression for an overall trade arrangement across all economies in the region.

“What we have on the table now, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and Pacific Alliance, are building blocks towards the larger FTAAP,” he said.

Najib also called on Apec members to find a way out of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) impasse and place the Bali decisions back on track.

It was reported that an impasse over a global pact hammered out in Bali last December to streamline Customs procedures had paralysed all negotiations in the WTO.

“If we do not find a way out of the impasse, it means that the WTO can no longer hold sway as a rule-making entity,” said Najib yesterday.

The Apec summit, attended by heads of states from 21 Pacific Rim economies, also adopted a Connec­tivity Blueprint to promote integration through physical, institutional and people-to-people connectivity.

Najib told Malaysian reporters here that Malaysia could play a role in enhancing connectivity in the Asia-Pacific region, citing bilateral projects such as the Malaysia-Singapore high-speed rail project as an example.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang had reportedly expressed China’s interest to help build the rail link during his meeting with Najib on Monday.

Commenting on this, Najib said it was a bilateral project between Malaysia and Singapore and both countries would call for international tenders.

Najib also said Malaysia welcomed the blueprint on connectivity and commended China for initiating the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

He left Beijing yesterday evening.

Commenting on the visit, Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting, who is the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy to China, said mutual trust between China and Malaysia was growing stronger, judging from Najib’s bilateral meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Li in the Chinese capital.

“Najib was given special treatment. At China’s initiatives, he met both Xi and Li on the sidelines of the Apec summit,” Ong noted.

He added that Xi called for mutual support as China strived to realise the Chinese Dream and Malaysia the goal of becoming a high-income nation by 2020.

By Tho Xin Yin The Star/Asia News Network


ASEAN SUMMIT: China pushes for code at South China Sea


Asean 214 plus Three

Standing united: Najib (fifth from right) posing for photographs with Thein Sein (centre) and other Asean leaders during the closing of the 25th Asean Summit at the Myanmar International Convention Centre.

Beijing pledges US$20b in loans to boost Southeast Asian connectivity

China will push for the implementation of a code of conduct for the South China Sea – a document that will lessen the risk of escalating tensions in the area-but experts said such an agreement faces obstacles, at least in the short term.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang reaffirmed China’s resolve to safeguard territorial sovereignty at a series of three regional meetings in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, on Thursday, saying the country is willing to adhere to the code, which has been under discussion for more than a decade.

Leaders from the Philippines and Vietnam, countries that have seen maritime tensions with China rise, also attended the meetings.

“China and Southeast Asian countries are close neighbours with common interests and diversified concerns. It is inevitable-not strange at all-that differences emerge among us, but those differences will not affect the general stability in the South China Sea,” Li said at the East Asia summit.

“I believe that as long as we treat each other with sincerity and seek common ground while acknowledging differences, there will be no insurmountable obstacles that will stand in our way,” Li said.

Li said China’s policy of building partnerships with its neighbours is sincere and consistent, and the situation in the South China Sea has been stable as freedom and safety of navigation is ensured.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi said last year that the code should reflect “consensus through negotiations” and “elimination of interference”, indicating that maritime issues should be left to the parties directly involved to sort out through dialogue.

The declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea was signed in 2002, in which all signatories agreed to work out a code of conduct to guide future activities in the region. But limited progress has been made in drafting the code since then.

In a bid to reach long-lasting peace in the region, Li pledged to speed up negotiations on a cooperation treaty.

China also agreed to establish a hotline for joint search and rescue efforts at sea as well as a hotline for senior officials.

Wu Shicun, president of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, said the negotiation of the code has gone on for more than 10 years because of different opinions regarding how the document will be drafted and whether it will allow third-party intervention.

Lu Jianren, the chief researcher of Sino-Asean relations at Guangxi University, said the importance of the code lies in the fact that it rules out the use of military force as a means to resolve issues and that no party is allowed to take further action to escalate tension.

Economic ties

Also at Thursday’s summit, China promised more loans and economic aid to Southeast Asia.

China will provide $10 billion in preferential loans to Asean countries and another development loan of $10 billion specifically for infrastructure.

China also started on projects for the second phase of the China-Asean Investment Cooperation Fund, which totals $3 billion.

Engineers have begun preliminary work on a rail network, which will start in Kunming, Yunnan province, and connect Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.

Kavi Chongkittavorn, senior fellow at the Institute of Security and International Study in Thailand, said China and Asean were forging ever closer ties and despite differences there are areas of growing cooperation.

“Economic opportunities exist for each party,” he said.


The best leaders are learners

One year ago, at a youth camp, a student who had been put in charge of his group confided in me that leading his team members wasn’t going as well as he had thought it would. “I’m just not cut out to be a leader,” he said, as he related to me what he thought a leader should have, which he didn’t: humour, confidence, wisdom and courage.

My reply to him, as one still understanding the ropes of what it truly means to lead was, “all these can be learnt, if you put your heart to it”.

It is said that there are approximately 50,000 books on leadership that are published annually – and this number may well be a conservative estimate – but if there is one indication that there is no final “destination” in this journey of becoming a leader, it is the countless number of resources that teach us how to better develop our awareness and management of ourselves and others.

Leadership is a relational endeavour; one cannot claim to be a leader without being able to inspire an action or a reaction in others. And because relationships are complex, one can only lead to the extent that he or she learns.

On the surface, it is painfully obvious that learning is imperative for any human enterprise – but I’d argue that in the long run, learning qualifies you to lead more than anything else (beyond promotions, positions, placement and power).

Here are three reasons why:

1 Learning equalises the years

How often have you heard the Chinese adage (often spoken by the elderly to the young), “I eat more salt than you eat rice”?

What is it about being “older” that makes one a wiser and better decision-maker? I’m convinced that the difference is not a matter of “years”, but a matter of “experience”.

We learn from our experiences, and our past outcomes that resulted in both positive and negative actions inform us as we negotiate between present choices.

But if experiences make us wiser, how do we attain more “experience”? Is “experience” purely a byproduct of the passing years, or can we, in the words of Sir Isaac Newton, see further into the future “by standing on the shoulders of giants”?

When we capitalise on the learnings and lessons of others and apply them in our lives, we are able to short-circuit the common bind of “years equals to experience” and accelerate our growth without wasting the time others have wasted.

Great leaders often ask themselves, “How can I avoid making the same mistakes, or how can I replicate others’ successes and take them further?”

2 Learning keeps you humble

Learning and humility feed off each other. On the other hand, the antithesis of humility, which is pride, has the sinister ability to deceive anyone into believing that he or she has “arrived”, that there is no need to adapt or change further, because he or she is superior and above reproach.

In contrast, great leaders are often the most humble people who are secure in themselves and do not see the need to put others down to elevate themselves.

John F. Kennedy once said “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other”.

Interestingly, most US Presidents were avid readers who invested much of their time in learning, despite their busy schedules.

It is said that Theodore Roosevelt read two books a day, while Abraham Lincoln, who had only one year of formal education, attributed his successful political career to his habit of reading.

A strong learning posture allows you to see from different perspectives, live in the experiences of others, and most importantly, empathise with other points-of-view.

It is only when a person is an avid learner that he or she is continually challenged in his or her current views, and thus able to grow in convictions. It is only when a cup is empty, that it can be filled.

Maintaining humility allows us to be intellectually curious – and curiosity always precedes discovery and creativity.

3 Learning enables you to give

Somewhere during my college years, an epiphany occurred to me: How much can I learn and grow, if I were to dedicate all my transit and waiting moments to learning something new?

In my frustration of waiting and chasing for buses to get to college, I found a treasure chest.

I had realised that an average Kuala Lumpur/Klang Valley resident would spend approximately 10 to 15 hours per week travelling, either by inching through heavy traffic or waiting at bus stops and light rail transit (LRT) stations, and what a waste of time it would be if all that time was given to staring into space or letting one’s thoughts run idle.

I then made a concrete decision to listen to podcasts, audio books (when I would be driving) or to read (when I was waiting for the bus or LRT), in order to redeem that precious time.

I have since listened to over 700 hours of podcasts on topics related to public speaking, general knowledge, story-telling, leadership, faith and personal development.

My greatest learning moments are no longer in the classroom, but in my car, when I am alone and can learn something new.

During the course of the last two years, as a teacher in a high-needs school and a church leader, these moments of learning and reflection allowed me to pass on what I learnt to my students and congregation.

Those opportunities gave me great pleasure, as I was communicating to others what I had learnt and internalised for myself. I never felt “burnt out” because the stream of learning was always flowing.

Leadership may have many faces, but all leaders have the same outstretched hand of giving. And we can only give from what we have learnt. The good news is that leadership can be learnt – if we put our hearts to it.

Contributed by Abel Cheah

Abel Cheah is associate manager in the Talent Acquisition team at Teach For Malaysia. He believes that leadership is something that is nurtured and cultivated. If you are interested in listening to podcasts, he highly recommends Umano (an app that narrates articles). He believes that the best leaders are great lovers of learning. You can get in touch with him at

It’s is our battle: Obama in Malaysia

The biggest takeaway from Barack Obama’s speech was that he really isn’t that interested in solving our domestic issues.

I WAS one of the lucky young leaders who attended the town hall meeting with United States President Barack Obama. It was an incredible experience and I was impressed by his energy, oratory and diplomacy.

However, that town hall meeting left our social and mainstream media buzzing with two issues – the questions raised by the participants and Obama’s quotes on affirmative action in Malaysia.

Many Malaysians viewed the less-than hard-questions asked Obama (such as the meaning of happiness) as a waste of an opportunity. They felt the most powerful man in the world needed to be asked some powerful questions.

I, too, had some serious questions for him. However, I am not, as some critics put it, “disappointed in the future leaders of Asean” for asking theirs.

Four hundred young people attended the town hall meeting but only eight questions were taken. Two were from the social media (curated by moderators and, therefore, bound to be “safe”). The social media questions and three others from the audience came from non-Malaysians, leaving the remaining questions for only three Malaysians.

Might it simply then had been an unfortunate coincidence that Obama happened to pick the three Malaysians, in a sea of raised hands, who chose not to ask about the TPPA (Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement) or human rights?

Obama is a role model to many. Not all young people are political journalists, critics of his foreign policy or otherwise determined to tembak him.

The Asean participants are my friends and fellow alumni of the US State Departmentsponsored exchange programmes. I know them well enough to know they have a different take to politics than we do.

Malaysians thrive on discussing issues of the day in a kopitiam, at a forum or via Twitter. We’re practically hardwired to talk politics. Contrastingly, my Asean friends are here on a leadership initiative. They’ve attended numerous programmes, conferences and workshops all geared towards helping them become leaders of civil society.

Their focus is to find solutions to poverty, climate change and human trafficking – not to zoom in on policy and trade agreements.

Their questions simply illustrate that they’re more concerned with bettering themselves and their world than turning everything into a debate. This was a town hall for young leaders on leadership. Expect some young (read: naïve) questions on leadership.

At one point during his address, Obama said “Malaysia will not progress if non-Muslims are not given equal opportunities.” I, like many others, took his sound bite to social media.

Many people went further, calling on Obama to pressure our government into reform, to “save us”! And of course we had people labelling Obama a hypocrite, his comment either ridiculous or irrelevant, and condemning those who looked to him as a saviour.

These reactions reminded me that we are once again stuck in our dichotomy of “accept wholesale or reject wholesale”.

I personally think the biggest takeaway from his speech was that he really isn’t that interested in solving our domestic issues.

Many times, he urged us to fight a good fight, but he made it a point to remind us that he has his own problems in America to solve. I couldn’t agree more.

Realistically, the US president has bigger problems to deal with than us.

Idealistically, we shouldn’t need him to help in any major way. My Sejarah textbook taught me that time and again when our rulers were faced with domestic problems, they opened themselves up to colonisation by seeking help from foreigners instead of facing up to their countrymen.

However, I disagree with those who dismiss Obama. Yes, this is an issue we’ve been dealing with for so long that the US president isn’t adding anything substantive to the debate, but that doesn’t make him irrelevant!

It’s like any other old debate such as abortion or creationism. You’re perfectly entitled to roll your eyes and say “Yeah, I’ve heard this one before,” but to some people it’s a big deal to have the leader of the free world publicly say, “I’m on your side.”

Others cite his domestic and foreign policy to label him a hypocrite, but you can agree with what he said yesterday without having to agree to what he said last year or did in Syria.

I highly appreciate the public relations value of the leader of the free world demonstrating an awareness of my cause, but it doesn’t have to follow that I adore him, agree with all his policies or think he’s Superman.

In a week’s time, people will forget what he said. But the fight goes on, right?

So, instead of obsessing over whether he had the right to say what he said, whether it matters that he said what he said, or making idle wishes that someone else had said what he said, let us focus on the more important part of his speech – that it’s our battle.

Marina Tan

Open Season by Marina Tan

> Marina Tan won the 2012 English Speaking Union International Public Speaking competition. She is presently studying at Kolej Yayasan UEM and will be going to Yale University in the United States in August to pursue a double major in engineering and economics.

Marina Tan The Star-ESUM Public Speaking Competition 2011

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Chinese President Xi’s carton an online hit

Xi Infographic

For the original cartoon, check Where has President Xi’s time gone? 

Cartoon of hard-working Xi moves Chinese netizens

An online cartoon entitled “Where Has Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Time Gone?” has hit the headlines, depicting the leader’s hard work via cute animation.

It portrays Xi in a gray jacket and blue trousers with maps and charts featuring his busy schedules, including both domestic and foreign travels, the meetings he has presided over and his hobbies.

The cartoon, released by Beijing-based on Wednesday, has been much discussed in online forums, with “President Xi works too hard” and “the cartoon figure is so cute” typifying the comments.

Yang Mingxing, who is responsible for the cartoon, told Beijing News that her team was inspired to make the cartoon by comments Xi made at the Winter Olympic Games.

During his visit to Sochi for the opening ceremony of the Games, the president said in an interview with Russian media that he devoted most of his time to work while quoting a song named “Where Has Time Gone?” that was performed at this year’s Spring Festival gala.

According to the cartoon, since Xi was elected general secretary of the Communist party of China (CPC) Central Committee in November 2012, he has made 12 research trips throughout China, covering 11 provincial-level regions.

The cartoon also shows that Xi has spent 39 days on five trips overseas, covering 14 countries on five continents, since he took the helm as Chinese president in March 2013.

In 2013, Xi attended meetings on a monthly basis, with the number of such commitments peaking at six. The most important meetings have been the annual gatherings of the National People’s Congress, the country’s top legislature, and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the top advisory body.

Xi chaired the group study session of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee on 12 occasions, covering topics including anti-corruption drives, deepening reform and “cultural soft power.”

During his tiny amount of spare time, Xi is a big reader and loves sports, turning his hand to swimming, climbing, ball games and martial arts, according to the cartoon.

In order to create a vivid image of the president, Yang’s team gathered a number of his pictures to “grasp his expressions and features.”

The clothes were based on his daily wear, and the cartoon figure stands with his feet pointing to different sides, an illustrators’ technique designed to make the image more cute and friendly.

A netizen with the screen name “Xiaodipanwuxianda” suggested on Twitter-like that the comic maker should make a series of such animations.

“Guduqiudan” wrote, “President Xi works really hard and I should be introspective about where my own time has gone.”

Zhu Lijia, professor with the Chinese Academy of Governance, said that such cartoon imagery breaks the conventional mystery surrounding leaders of China and creates closer ties with the Chinese people.

It is a sign for Chinese society to be more open and confident, Zhu added.

In October last year, Xi appeared in cartoon form for the first time in a five-minute animation that compared China’s government system with that of the United States and Britain.

The video, produced by a studio called “On the road to revival,” featured stories about Xi, U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

The animation surprised Internet users with its frankness on leaders with both Chinese and English versions, and has been viewed over two million times online. – Xinhua

Drawn together: Xi Jinping cartoon puts people over politics

Animated cartoon – The makings of a Chinese leader

Watch Video:  How to Make Leaders (How Leaders are made) – Viral Chinese

► 5:29► 5:29

The five-minute animation introduced the tough promotion process through which Chinese President Xi Jinping came to power from the grassroots. It is the first time a Chinese leader has appeared in cartoon images. The animation, with both Chinese and English versions, was produced by a studio called “On the road to revival,” about which no more details are available. [Read more]

【视频:【喜大普奔】领导人是怎样炼成的】 (分享自 @优酷网

● Weibo posts

Public eats up Xi’s trip to steamed buns shop
President Xi Jinping’s surprise visit to a fast food eatery on last December 28 in Beijing has drawn unprecedented attention, which shored up his everyman image that had rarely been seen among top-level Chinese officials in the past.

Blurred photos of Xi queuing at a restaurant, holding his own plates and dining at a table were posted online by Net users first in the afternoon. The photos were forwarded by Xinhuashidian, an official Weibo account run by the Xinhua News Agency.

Given no official media accompanied the president during his surprise visit to the eatery, all the photos and videos were taken by diners with their cellphones.

‘Fan club to learn from Xi’ welcomed by the public
A Sina Weibo account called Xuexifensituan, which means “Fan club to learn from Xi,” became quite popular online for its real-time reports of Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping’s inspection tour of Gansu Province in 2013.

The account published the details of Xi’s Gansu tour starting on February 3, 2013 and set itself apart by publishing close-up photos of the leader, some of which are exclusive. The man behind the account identified himself as an ordinary netizen when responding to the public’s queries about his true identity, according to a report from the Shanghai-based Oriental Morning Post on February 5, 2013.

Having first been registered on November 21, 2012, this account had over 480,000 followers as of 4 pm, February 6, 2013.          Editor’s Note

Previously, a video titled The makings of a Chinese leader went viral online in October last year via popular video website Youku, in which China’s top leadership was presented in animation.

          Latest News 

Xi’s cartoon depiction breaks taboo
A cartoon depiction of President Xi Jinping in an infographic, the first such image of him carried by a State-run media outlet, has triggered much discussion of the new attitude toward publicizing China’s top leadership.

Leader cartoon screened
A video depicting China’s top leadership in an animated cartoon has been played during the five-day visit of a Chinese delegation sent to Laos to promote the spirit of the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) since December 18, reported on December 20, 2013.           Drawing the People Together


Chinese media:
Zhengzhou Evening Post
Cartoons are a good way to present officials as everyday people. Politics are a serious subject, but politicians are regular people. China’s grassroots officials should learn from the President and try to better connect with the people.

The Beijing News
Cartoons of China’s top leaderships not only bring them closer to the common people, but also help the public better understand their political views.

Chengdu Business Daily
Cartoons of top leaders are a modern and effective way to connect with the public. They help people learn about their leader’s schedules and activities through humor. The Party and the government are seeking new ways to connect with the public, such as through Weibo and WeChat, and this will increase in the future.

Weibo voices:
@小地盘无限大: The cartoon is very cute. Hope to see more.

@一零六点一: I like President Xi very much. He doesn’t use a lot of official jargon during his speeches and is easy to understand.

– Web editor:

No time to be patient

Can we, Malaysians, not see the changes we so long for in our lifetime?

Change inline-speeding-changes-modern-world

NELSON Mandela is dying. The world waits sombrely and respectfully for what seems to be inevitable. He has lived to a good age – he turns 95 on July 18 – and it is time to let him go. What’s more, this great man’s place in history is assured.

He is in the same league as Mahatma Gandhi and Abraham Lincoln, for what he did for his country.

Yet, I wonder: Mandela was in his Robben Island prison cell for 27 years. During that time, did he ever think he would not live to see the end of apartheid in his beloved South Africa. Perhaps he thought, “Not in my lifetime.”

“Not in my lifetime”, that’s what we say to denote the unlikelihood of something momentous or significant happening or coming to fruition within our life span.

I guess NIML (as those four words have been abbreviated in this Internet age) would have crossed the minds of cynics concerning the fight to end slavery or suffrage for women in centuries past.

“Freedom for slaves? Never, not in my lifetime?” “Vote for women? Balderdash! Surely not in my lifetime.”

In our more recent past, so many amazing things have changed or taken place that were thought quite impossible, at least NIML: The creation of the Pill that sparked the sexual revolution, men walking on the moon and the birth of the first test-tube baby.

I remember when “Made in Japan” was a byword for shoddily made products that didn’t last and China was an uptight communist state where its repressed people dressed in monochrome colours and were deprived of life’s little luxuries.

Today, Japanese-made products are synonymous with quality; Russia and China are practically unrecognisable from the USSR and China of, say, 1985.

So too South Korea, now east Asia’s poster nation. But it wasn’t too long ago it was under a repressive military dictatorship and it was only in May 1980 that the Gwangju Uprising began that nation’s transformation to liberal democracy.

Who would have thought back in the 1980s, that many Chinese nationals and Russians would become obscenely rich citizens living freely in various parts of the world; or that South Korea would rule with “soft” power through its pop culture.

Ironically, I found Korean music grating and unpleasant during the opening ceremony of the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. Twenty-five years on, I can hum Arirang, Korea’s popular folk song, and have k-pop songs on my handphone, a Samsung Galaxy, of course.

All that in my lifetime. And I am not that old. Really.

Change is a constant throughout the ages but the current speed of it is what takes our breath away. We accept and even demand it when it involves technology, our devices and machines.

Japanese scientists are ready to send a talking robot called Kirobo into space that can communicate directly with astronauts on board the International Space Station.

Better still, researchers just announced that people with severe spinal cord injuries can walk again with ground-breaking stem cell therapy that regrows nerve fibres.

Dr Wise Young, chief executive officer of the China Spinal Cord Injury Network, was quoted as saying: “It’s the first time in human history that we can see the regeneration of the spinal cord.”

He further declared: “This will convince the doctors of the world that they do not need to tell patients ‘you will never walk again’.”

It is a pity quadriplegic Christopher Reeve, who will always be Superman to his fans, did not live to see it happen in his lifetime.

Yet, strangely enough, when it comes to change to create a better and safer society, change to weeding out corruption, change to needs-based policies, change to save our education system, change to end institutionalised racism, we seem willing to apply brakes and decelerate.

We tell ourselves, “slowly lah”, or “some things take time” and yes, even “not in our lifetime” because we believe the things we want changed are too entrenched or too rotten.

I refuse to accept that because, as I have repeatedly lamented, we don’t have the time to slow such things down. We need to change urgently and effectively or we will fall further behind other nations. What I think we need for effective change to happen is great statesmanship and selflessness from our leaders.

While Mandela is rightly honoured and revered, he could not have succeeded in ending apartheid without the support and courage of F.W. de Klerk, the now largely forgotten last white president of South Africa who freed Mandela.

Similarly, it was Mikhail Gorbachev, the last general secretary of the Soviet Union who brought political, social and economic reforms that ended both the USSR and the Cold War.

It is men in power like them who had the political will, the vision and steely courage to dismantle their untenable systems of government and set their nations on the path of a new future.

Do we have a de Klerk or Gorbachev among our leaders who will demolish race-based politics and policies, free our education system from politics and truly fight corruption and crime? A leader who will move our nation onto a new path of greatness by quickly harnessing all the talents that a multiracial Malaysia has to offer without fear or bias?

Can it happen in my lifetime? Since I have seen what was deemed impossible, NIML, the first black man elected US President, I want to believe the answer is yes, we can.

So Aunty, So What? By JUNE H.L. WONG

> The aunty likes this quote: Patience is good only when it is the shortest way to a good end; otherwise, impatience is better. Feedback: or tweet @JuneHL­Wong

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Dressing stature

Chinese new president visits Tanzania

Elegant couple: China’s President Xi Jinping and wife Peng disembarking from a plane on arrival at Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, recently for a two-day visit. – EPA

JUST when you think there are no new personalities projected into the spotlight, comes the debut of the First Lady of China (Peng Liyuan) last week. Her first foreign engagement was accompanying the president on an official visit to Russia and a few countries in Africa.

When the plane doors opened, people saw a modern elegant lady, unlike her predecessors.

She took the husband’s arm when walking down the stairs from the plane instead of walking behind holding the rails. Most unconventional.

Everyone knows that no matter how independent we are, we need to hold on to our man for support when we are navigating steps on high heels. Especially where there is an audience and we cannot afford to trip.

It took a couple of days before people could figure out what “branded” items she was wearing. The bag she was carrying looked nice but did not have the conspicuous logos of a luxury brand that one can spot from a distance.

Throughout the whole trip, there was only a pair of modest pearl earrings. There were no necklaces, strings of chunky pearls or big and flashy stones.

It was just so refreshing. Now wonder there was incessant news about her in the foreign and domestic media in China.

Given her stature, she did not need to dress to scream, “look at me”. People will be looking and scrutinising her. It reminds me somewhat of Adele. If you have a great voice, you can just sing. You don’t need all the massive accompaniments.

When you are in London or Paris, the crowd who buy designer bags like they are free, without needing to think long and hard over which one to buy, are from China. Here is now someone who has shown that you can look elegant, fashionable and well put together without the need to carry expensive brand names.

I can understand the need to dress up. When one is a young up-and-coming executive, one has to drive a nicer car and carry some expensive branded items to show either taste or success. But as we progress in life, the need to create an impression dissipates.

I like this interesting story about dressing and change in a CEO interview. To change the work culture and have people take pride in their work, the new CEO initiated a “dress like you are attending a wedding” campaign as his first project.

His message was simple. Be bothered to dress up for work because it is important. Let your dressing be a reflection of your professional attitude. When you are a slob, you will be sloppy.

Have you noticed the ladies selling snacks on the Shinkansen? Their hair tied up neatly and makeup immaculate. Uniform is neat, tidy and clean. They wear black cord shoes with heels. They might be pushing a trolley and selling snacks but they are professional and polite. They have their processes. Before they leave the compartment, they bow and say goodbye.

Have you seen the lady who welcomes you as you drive into the shopping centre in Seoul? She is in a black formal looking suit, looking immaculate and welcoming you as you drive into the car park. She does this with pride, like welcoming a VIP. I thought it was too much.

We did try once to dress with the times. During the initial dot-com days, we thought we could dress casual and carry a backpack. After the dot-com craze fizzled out, so did our dressing. It was very difficult to go into a boardroom looking like you are better suited for a different place. You can dress what you like at your office but when you are with clients or in their office, you need to dress suitably so that clothes are not the distraction or the talking point.

As a consultant, I always felt the need to dress well enough to look professional and carry the right demeanour to inspire confidence. Somehow, in the early days of a client relationship, casual just don’t cut it.

It is not right to judge someone by their dressing. However there are many studies that show the impact that dressing and appearance has on the first impression.

Coming back to Peng Liyuan. She impressed on the world stage with good taste, projecting a unique personal style. Let’s hope she is able to sustain the excellent dress sense by not having to wear chunky and expensive branded items.


Joan Hoi is the author of Take on Change. She is hoping that the trend for “no brand” high fashion has been sparked!

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First lady in the limelight

China‘s Peng Liyuan joins the ranks of the world’s most fashionable first ladies.

Xi Jinping and Peng Liyuan arrive in MoscowXi Jinping and Peng Liyuan arrive in Moscow. Photograph: Ivan Sekretarev/AP

He is the most powerful person in China and head of the world’s second largest economy, but when Xi Jinping arrives for the Brics summit in South Africa on Tuesday, chances are that all eyes in his home country will be on the woman at his side.

Peng Liyuan, China’s new first lady, was the talk of Chinese social media at the weekend during a trip to Russia when she emerged as a trendy contrast to her predecessors.

Pictures of Peng stepping off a plane with Xi in Moscow on Friday – the first stop on his first trip abroad since assuming China’s presidency on 14 March – went viral online with praise for her attire: black high heels and stockings, an understated leather bag and a light blue scarf emerging from beneath a dark trenchcoat, collar turned up against the wind.

The 50-year-old People’s Liberation Army singer is often compared to Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, Michelle Obama, Raisa Gorbachev and even Kate Middleton: a charismatic performer, trendsetter and dash of colour in an otherwise monochrome regime.

“I kind of knew she would play some role in public life, but not in this way,” said Wang Zhengxu, an associate professor of contemporary Chinese studies at the University of Nottingham. “Somehow she just hijacked the limelight from Xi Jinping on Chinese cyberspace. That’s quite a dramatic development in my view.”

After bloggers identified Peng’s bag, coat and scarf as products from the Guangzhou-based outlet Exception, the company’s website crashed on Friday from an overload of traffic. On Sunday the site was still loading only intermittently.

Exception was founded by a Guangzhou-based couple in 1996 who now run about 100 outlets across the country. “[Its CEO] once said Exception is best suited for this type of woman: a bit artistic, someone who appreciates quality but also stands apart, someone who understands international trends but wants to express her eastern flare,” the LadyMax fashion website reported. “Is this not Peng Liyuan’s style?”

The Beijing-based entrepreneur Wang Lifen said Peng’s life story was a classic inspirational tale.

“Born into poverty, she used her innate singing ability to leave her home town, worked diligently to complete a master’s degree at China Conservatory of Music, and used her gradually growing fame and visionary intelligence to start dating a low-level cadre,” she wrote. “This is why so many people admire her.”

The recently retired president Hu Jintao‘s wife, Liu Yongqing, and Jiang Zemin’s wife, Wang Yeping, were both known to keep low profiles. Looking for their names on Chinese search engines brings up only fragmentary biographical information such as birth dates and alma maters.

When Xi assumed the Communist party’s top post in November, analysts predicted that Peng would remain as low-key as her predecessors: after all, the soprano had chosen to eschew large-scale performances in recent years to avoid drawing attention from her husband’s political career.

Yet Peng’s arrival in Moscow was covered extensively by China Central Television and received a full-page spread in the Beijing News. The couple arrived in Tanzania on Sunday, and on Monday Peng was pictured in a bright red scarf casually draped over a tailored black jacket and white dress.

Some commentators have expressed hopes that she will take a more active role in forthcoming visits to South Africa and the Republic of Congo. Peng was appointed as the World Health Organisation‘s goodwill ambassador for tuberculosis and Aids in 2011.

Peng joined the People’s Liberation Army as a civilian at 18 and had already reached the heights of folksinging fame when she first met Xi in the south-eastern province of Fujian in 1986. She is best known for her 24 years as a soloist at the annual spring festival gala, perhaps the most-watched television event in the world, belting folk songs in her brassy, nasal soprano.

In one widely shared video clip, Peng, dressed in military garb, sings about “bravely advancing for victory” amid a chorus line of bayonet-wielding soldiers. The stage show is juxtaposed with stock footage of battle-ready Chinese tanks, jets and warships.

Internet censors have given largely free reign to positive discussion of Peng but have kept a grip on the conversation. Terms such as “Auntie Peng” and “first lady Xi” have been blocked on Sina Weibo. Wang Zhengxu said censors probably wanted to maintain Peng’s image as a symbol of public diplomacy rather than brash commercialism.

By Jonathan Kaiman Guardian News & Media

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