Can France’s daring move eliminate Islamic State? Terrorism is modern society’s cancer !


599ae-france2bvs2bisis
France vs ISIS 2015 By Li Min

After the brutal terror attacks in Paris, France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called for the “dissolution of mosques where hate is preached.” Earlier this year, French authorities said “Foreign preachers of hate will be deported [and their mosques] will be shut down.” The reiteration is taken by many as a renewed demonstration of France’s tough response to the attacks.

The tougher the stance France shows, the more embrace it will get from the public. Likewise, after the September 11 attacks, the US Congress rapidly passed a bill to launch war in Afghanistan and later, the ousting of Saddam Hussein won bipartisan advocacy. But reality shows that after attacks, the agitated Western society tends to overestimate the effects of fierce retaliation and underrate the complexity of the origins of terrorism.

Closing mosques where hatred is preached may be interpreted by Muslims in a way France doesn’t mean. Frankly speaking, the French government is daring enough to take such a measure and it faces a smaller risk of public opposition than if China and Russia did the same. Countries with which the West has biased opinions have to consider the response from Muslims and primarily criticism from Western opinion.

France’s air strikes against the Islamic State (IS) with its Western allies can have some effects, but the IS cannot be uprooted unless the West sends large-scale ground forces or fully supports the Assad regime to fight them.

Even if the IS could be largely crushed, it doesn’t make much difference. In the Middle East, there are no political strongmen any more, and its political and social structures have been shattered. Built up by extreme forces taking advantage of the rift, the example of the IS can be repeated easily.

More importantly, the West’s bombs can destroy the encampments and ammunition depots, but cannot deal with attire like veils. Nor can the West prevent children from being sent to extreme religious schools or grapple with conservative Islam.

Until now, Osama bin Laden is still deemed by many in the Arabic world as a positive figure fighting the West, which reflects the limitation of the war on terrorism.

Terrorism that originates in the Middle East has been embedded with unbelievable hatred. The West has no measures to counter it, nor can it form a consistent organization to take action. The West has been depressed by the consequences of the Arab Spring.

In the Islamic world, there is no figure or power of authority to advance the regional reforms, and apparently the vacancy cannot be filled from the outside. The Islamic world may be in pressing need of examples where some of its countries completely modernize so as to bring some inspiration.

But such a plan is not realistic in the current situation. In this sense, much of the West’s drastic rhetoric only works to show their emotions with problems remaining unsolved. It is merely a response to public opinion.

Terrorism is modern society’s cancer

A series of terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday night have left the world in shock, and all people with a sense of justice will strongly condemn the atrocities. With the Bataclan concert hall, soccer stadium and restaurants as targets, it’s obvious that the terrorist attacks were elaborately planned. These are the most severe terrorist attacks the West has suffered in recent years. They are also the most coordinated and lethal terrorist attacks worldwide in recent years.

Since the 9/11 attacks, the cost of anti-terrorism efforts has been increasingly soaring in both developed and developing countries. However, terrorism continues spreading like cancer. Al-Qaeda has been greatly devastated, but Islamic State, a more brutal extremist group, has emerged. The West is suffering from intermittent terrorist attacks, while in some turbulent underdeveloped countries, terrorist attacks have become commonplace in the fight against their governments. In China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, a small number of young people has also embraced terrorism, instigated by extremist ideas, turning Xinjiang into a global anti-terrorist front.

Middle East countries suffering from turbulence and abject poverty are the hotbed of terrorism. Like an airborne virus, it spreads to other regions. Refugees and immigrants from the Middle East have brought some deep-rooted problems to Europe and the US. Europe and the US need new immigrants, but their societies have been resisting the trend, including anti-immigration protests.

People with radical ideas from Europe and the US continue to travel to the Middle East to join jihad. Some of them have returned, carrying the terrorist virus. In many cases, terrorist attacks in Europe and the US are no longer directly launched by terrorist groups from the Middle East. The identity of terrorists and the nature of some terrorist groups have become complicated. It is more difficult to take precautions.

Since it’s virtually impossible to reverse globalization, openness and freedom, the system on which societies operate runs counter to the anti-terrorism system. A dangerous element identified by security authorities could be totally free, which means a much higher cost for preventing terrorist acts.

Every government is trying every means to defend themselves from terrorist attacks, but the general understanding of terrorism remains ambiguous and elusive. Geopolitics and ideologies are driving a wedge between different countries. Some countries have double standards over terrorism, imposing a harsh attitude to terrorists on their own turf, but striking a noncommittal and even sympathetic stand on terrorists in other countries.

The rapid rise of IS, to some extent, is believed to being used by the US and Europe to topple Syria’s Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The US is of two minds in cracking down on IS. Terrorism, by taking advantage of the divergence among major powers, survives and free societies invite intermittent terrorist attacks. Furthermore, terrorism can gain support from some radical forces, and lone wolf attacks could also cause heavy losses as terrorist attacks do.

Terrorism is like a cancer of the world, which requires a long-term fight. As the chance of wars among countries gets slim, terrorist attacks will probably become the most challenging global form of violence.

Source:  Global Times

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Yasukuni glorifies Japan’s inglorious past


Yasukuni_Shrine Japanese Ghost: Yasukuni Shrine

In the field of diplomacy, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe could be better described as “Downturn Abe”.

His visit to the Yasukuni Shrine is a calculated rebuff to those in Japan who seek better diplomatic relations and warms the hearts of those who want Japan to be a major military power and jettison any constitutional restraints preventing this.

The Yasukuni Shrine does not serve the same purpose as Arlington National Cemetery in the United States, or the Cenotaph in the United Kingdom. No bodies are buried at Yasukuni Shrine. Japan’s head of state refuses to visit. Indeed, no emperor has set foot inside the shrine since 1975, three years before the souls of war criminals were interred there by Shinto priests. News of the enshrinement was kept quiet for months.

The late emperor Hirohito refused to go there after convicted war criminals, seven of whom were hanged, were secretly enshrined in 1978, joining about 2.5 million other Japanese who died in battle in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Hirohito had paid his respects at Yasukuni eight times after the war but made his final visit in 1975 by which time, according to palace documents, he became disillusioned with the way the shrine was being managed and what it was trying to represent.

His son, Emperor Akihito, has never visited.

Japan does have a national cemetery, with the remains of the war dead, in Chidorigafuchi, just up the road from Yasukuni. Few politicians visit.

Yasukuni has a specific role: It pays homage to, and celebrates, unapologetic militarism. This piece of Tokyo real estate, close to the Imperial Palace, with its broad avenue lined by cherry blossom trees, is considered holy ground by extreme nationalists.

It is a shrine dedicated to glorifying war, empire and unrepentant militarism.

It is a privately run shrine that enjoys the close patronage of the Japan Association of War Bereaved. The association has, and continues to enjoy, close ties to the governing Liberal Democratic Party.

The Yushukan museum, attached to the shrine, is a land of make-believe for militarists. It claims that Japan was forced into war by the US, and that Tokyo waged an honorable campaign to free Asia from white European colonialism. This time frame, conveniently, leaves out the rapacious behavior of Japanese troops in China before Pearl Harbor.

A Zero fighter aircraft greets visitors at the museum’s entrance. No mention is made of the Nanjing Massacre or the razing of Manila. A giant mural depicts the Battle of Tokyo Bay. No battle ever took place.

During World War II, a ballad popular with Japanese troops heading off to fight had the following refrain: “You and I are cherry blossoms of the same year. Even if we’re far apart when our petals fall, we’ll bloom again in the treetops of Yasukuni Shrine.”

Abe is nurturing the roots of those cherry blossom trees.

By Tom Clifford, a senior copy editor of China Daily USA

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Get pay from spying?


Spying HeroWhistleblowing hero: Germans holding up pictures of Snowden while protesting in front of the Reichstag building which houses the Bundestag (lower house of parliament) in Berlin . — AFP

Heavy-duty spying does not pay 

The hidden costs, and the controversy, of the massive US global spying operation keep on growing.

IF officials behind the US-based “Five Eyes” spying network had hoped the scandal would soon fade away, their obvious disappointment should be an object lesson about their excesses and abuses.

US, British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand spies – together with their Singaporean and South Korean co-conspirators – had violated the implicit trust placed in their governments by friendly and ally nations around the world.

Former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden had exposed how the conspirators had tapped into fibre-optic cables in 20 locations worldwide and infiltrated 50,000 computer networks.

This unprecedented scale of spying makes no distinction between friend and foe. It has provoked questions about the value of being a friend or “ally” of these Western countries.

Countries in the world’s main regions have routinely been spied on: Europe, East Asia, West Asia and Latin America. The spying exceeds all norms of intelligence gathering to target the personal cell phones of national leaders, from German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and even his wife Ibu Ani Yudhoyono.

Snowden’s leaks reveal that Spain, for example, had been spied on so much as to have 20 million phone calls tapped each day. For the US authorities to insist that it was all for the sake of fighting terrorism is too much of a stretch.

The spying covers economic as well as political purposes. It was revealed that a foreign government’s confidential information picked up from spying is also used to give an unfair advantage to US companies against other companies in bids for international contracts.

Today’s supercomputers can do a lot of work in very little time. The ones used in the US global spying scheme apparently had very little ethical human supervision, precisely because that was the intention.

It has long been a “given” that all countries gather intelligence, to varying degrees, through some of their diplomats, expatriates and other undercover operatives. The extent of this activity also varies with the distance in relations between the spying country and the one spied upon.

Between friendly countries, discussions on issues of common interest and concern are the means of updating one another on events. Excessively intrusive and invasive spying, however, such as the kind Snowden has revealed, is supposed to be for untrustworthy governments and enemy nations.

Such universal perceptions and expectations lie at the heart of the current spying controversy. There is little wonder that countries so sordidly spied on take the matter so seriously.

Such spying shows the United States would enforce its will on all other countries, as opposed to sharing information between equal partners with mutual respect. It also implies that rules will be made by the US alone.

At the bilateral meeting in Jakarta during the week between Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Susilo, Malaysia declared full support for Indonesia in placing the spying scandal on the agenda of the next Asean Summit in Myanmar.

In seeking a satisfactory corrective for spying intrusions that breach all known limits, granting a regional profile to the problem is the least that Indonesia and Malaysia can do. Thailand is another Asean country targeted by these spies operating in part from the respective Australian embassies.

France and Germany are particularly outraged by “Five Eyes” snooping. Italy, the Netherlands and Spain are also concerned, as the scandal unites political parties within individual nations as well as European countries throughout the EU – except for Britain.

The aggrieved countries find the excessive spying violating privacy rights, their national sovereignty as well as their domestic laws. US officials predictably reject its seriousness.

The EU now wants a new law requiring private IT companies to inform European regulators if a foreign snooping request is made on any European citizen. That effort could clash with an existing US law that bans any company whose “cooperation” is required from telling anyone.

The potential conflict would pit European determination against US intransigence. It would further test the trans-Atlantic alliance in the post-Cold War period.

As the initial leaks started to provoke European anger, clandestine efforts tried to dilute or divert the upset.

It was somehow also “leaked” that the French government had been spying on its own population, followed by allegations that the German government had known about and even used information obtained by US-connected spies. The truth of these “mitigating” leaks was, however, less clear.

As expected, such efforts at damage control had a very limited effect. The harm perpetrated by US-led spying on the trust, goodwill and relations with Europe was far more serious, and remains a main feature in the foreground.

In Latin America “south of the border”, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela are particularly disturbed by US-led spying activities. Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Uruguay are also concerned.

Several of these countries have already offered asylum to Snowden, who hopes to avoid prosecution in the US after his current one-year asylum stay in Russia. The more Washington pressures and threatens these countries, the more keen they are to protect whistleblowers like Snowden.

The Union of South American Nations (Unasur) is currently working on a new, alternative communications system that will cut the prospect of US spying in the region. As a sign of seriousness, the region’s defence ministers who form Unasur’s defence council are tasked with developing the new system.

Unasur’s 12 member countries may be disadvantaged in lacking sophisticated technological inputs for the system. However, they also enjoy certain advantages in a renewed unity, determination and strength of purpose.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, whose email had been hacked by US spies, has accused Washington of violating human rights and crime. Four days ago, she followed this with a defence procurement contract that spelt out clearly where Brazil stood.

Capping a 10-year plan, Rousseff announced on Wednesday that Brazil would buy 36 of Sweden’s Saab Gripen fighter jets instead of Boeing’s F/A-18s in replacing the air force’s ageing fleet. Brazil had bargained the price down from US$6bil (RM19.8bil) to US$4.5bil (RM14.8bil).

US officials privately grumbled over having lost “a US$4bil deal” but in fact the cost of NSA spying on Brazil is almost twice that. Boeing’s price for the F/A-18s was US$7.5bil (RM24.7bil).

Over the longer term, the cost to the US economy is likely to grow if Washington does not or cannot seriously mend its ways. US-based companies like Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft are often seen by other countries as part of the problem in having to comply with US laws and demands.

Unasur is already showing the way forward by working on an alternative. In time, other regions like Europe and countries such as Russia, India and China may also develop their own communications systems and software, taking more business away from US companies.

In the short term it is always tempting to blame the messenger such as Edward Snowden rather than the problematic nature of the message itself. Ironically, the development of modern communications has raised awareness of privacy and sovereignty rights – and of their violations.

To level the playing field, IT development as well as spying activities may need to become more equalised. By serving the greater interests of the greater number, that would be democratisation indeed.

Contributed by Bunn Nagara, who is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia, The Star/Asia News Network

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Financial crises a result of governance failures


ROMAN emperor Julius Caesar was famously warned by a seer about the Ides of March, traditionally March 15.

Euro Zone

On March 15 this year, banks in Cyprus were closed to allow politicians time to decide how to raise 5.8 billion euros so that the country could qualify for 10 billion euros in bailout funds from the rest of eurozone and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The solution suggested was to levy a tax on depositors, sparking a realisation that finally, the Europeans had decided to “bail-in” investors and depositors, rather than using public funds to “bail-out” everyone else.

The Cyprus crisis caused a stir in global financial markets, because it punctured expectations that the worst was over. Instead, it demonstrated another episode of muddling through.

Banks in Cyprus re-opened on Thursday with new capital controls on the amount depositors can take out. Larger depositors with over 100,000 euros would stand to lose up to 40% of their deposits. Of course, a significant portion of the deposits in Cyprus banks belong to Russians, who may suffer losses of 4 billion to 6 billion euros. For certain investors, this is the price of putting money in higher risk offshore financial centres. The price to Cyprus of operating as an offshore financial centre is likely to be a drop of GDP of more than 20% in the next couple of years.

The Cyprus outcome is not unexpected. If European governments are to be loaded with heavy debt burdens as a result of the crisis, they will be bound to start “taxing” offshore financial centres, where rich Europeans had been avoiding tax for years. If the eurozone banking union is to have any credibility, they will have to start controlling banking centres which operate largely on tax and regulatory arbitrage. Moreover, having banking assets seven to eight times GDP is no longer considered viable, whether for Cyprus or Iceland.

At the heart of such troubles lies the issue of governance. Financial crises are more governance failures than anything else.

Last week, The End of History philosopher and political scientist Francis Fukuyama published an important blog commentary on “What is governance?” This is the much-awaited part of his promised series on political governance, beginning with his 2011 book The Origins of Political Order. In that book, he looked at the three components of a modern political order a strong and capable state, the rule of law and accountability of the state to its citizens. Since the 2011 book stopped at the French Revolution, most readers would be curious to see how he handled the rise of China, which has a different political system from the West.

Fukuyama’s new definition of governance is “a government’s ability to make and enforce rules, and to deliver services, regardless of whether that government is democratic or not.” Notice that he has decided to remove any suggestion that democracy is automatically associated with good governance, appreciating that “an authoritarian regime can be well governed, just as a democracy can be mal-administered.”

Accordingly, he uses four approaches to evaluating the quality of governance: procedural measures, input measures, output measures and measures of bureaucratic autonomy. To put it into simple language governance should be measured according to how you govern (the processes); the efficiency of governance (how much tax or resources you need); the effectiveness (outcomes rather than objectives) and whether the bureaucracy is independent of politics or not (the autonomy question).

In dissecting governance into its different dimensions, Fukuyama has helped to clarify the methodology in thinking about the tradeoffs between the ability to have high discretion versus being bogged down by excessive rules, and high capacity to execute, versus low capacity to execute. Critics of that approach would argue that strong states with excessive discretion may not be sustainable. On the other hand, weak states with too many rules and no discretion may not be sustainable either.

Fukuyama is right to point out that the bureaucracy’s interests may not be identical to those of the people. The bureaucracy is supposed to be agent of the people (the principal), but many bureaucracies serve their own interests, rather than the public to the extent that civil servants may be neither civil nor servants.

Indeed, the simplistic view that the state is deterministic versus the view of free market self-order misses the fundamental point that large bureaucracies also have self-order. Anyone familiar with working in large complex bureaucracies in China, India or the United States, with many layers of government, would recognise that it is not easy to implement policies from the centre. State or provincial governments have a mind of their own, with very different priorities from that of the centre.

Indeed, in the 21st century, many cities have become more effective instruments of state, and it is not surprising that effective mayors have become national leaders because they show a capacity to deliver close to the people.

The more interesting question about governance is: why are collective action traps so pervasive? In other words, it is understandable why ineffective and weak bureaucracies or political systems are unable to overcome gridlock in their systems, but it is common to see highly effective and capable bureaucracies also caught in gridlock.

These gridlocks are apparent in the resolution of the euro crisis, the stalemate in the Doha World Trade Organisation negotiations and the Durban climate change debates. In the first week of April, the Institute for New Economic Thinking, the Centre for International Governance Innovation and the Fung Global Institute will be hosting a major conference in Hong Kong on how creative and innovative thinking can open up new avenues of thinking on the solutions to global governance. As a respected member of the global economic community, Hong Kong should make its voice heard.

You can watch most of the podcasts on http://www.ineteconomics.org or www.fginstitute.org.

THINK ASIAN By ANDREW SHENG

Tan Sri Andrew Sheng is president of the Fung Global Institute. 

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No easy path to ‘Chinese dream’


Chinese-dream-symbolChina’s new President last week reaffirmed his aim to achieve the ‘Chinese dream’, but the country faces many challenges on the road to fulfilling this dream.

LAST week saw the completion of China’s leadership transition, with Xi Jinping as the new president and Li Keqiang the new premier.

President Xi set the world speculating when he spoke of “striving to achieve the Chinese dream of great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”.

One Western newspaper commented it was a collective national dream, contrasting it, unfavourably, to the “American dream” of giving individuals equal opportunities.

But to the Chinese, the promised renaissance of the nation is a reminder of the collective humiliation during the colonial era and the “dream” to win back its previous place as a world leader in science, technology, economy and culture.

High growth in recent decades has boosted China’s economy and confidence. Nevertheless, China’s new leaders face many serious challenges ahead which need to be tackled if the “Chinese dream” is to be realised.

First is the need to fight widespread corruption. Making this his main priority, Xi warned that corruption could lead to “the collapse of the Party and the downfall of the state.”

New leaders usually vow to get rid of corruption, but few have succeeded. If Xi wins this battle, it would be a great achievement.

Second are administrative procedures and abuse of official power that cause inefficiency and injustices right down to the local level.

At his first press conference, premier Li promised to shake up the system, acknowledging the difficulties of “stirring vested interests.” He promised that a third of 1,700 items that require the approval of government departments would be cut.

Frugality is to be the new hallmark. Spending will be reduced in government offices, buildings, travel and hospitality and the savings will be redirected to social development.

Third are the complexities of running China’s large and complicated economy. China aims to grow continuously by 7-8% a year. The rest of the global economy is, however, in a bad shape.

The country has thus to shift from export-led to domestic-demand led growth, and from investment-led to consumption-led domestic growth. Implementation of this new growth strategy, which the government has accepted, is not easy.

There are also the challenges of managing the currency, the huge foreign reserves and the regulation of capital flows, with the aim of having finance serve the real economy while not becoming a source of new instability.

In foreign trade, China has been very successful in building up a powerful export machine. But growth of exports to the West is slowing due to the near-recession, and new forms of protection (such as tariff hikes using anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures) are increasingly used on Chinese imports.

At the same time, other developing countries are becoming wary of their increasing imports of cheap Chinese goods. How can China be sensitive to their concerns and strive for more balance and mutuality of benefits?

Fourth are China’s social problems. Poverty is still significant in many areas. Social disparities have worsened, with wide gaps in rich-poor and urban-rural incomes that are politically destabilising.

Redistributing income towards the lower income groups can meet two goals: reducing social inequalities and providing the demand base for consumption-led growth. The policies can include wage increases, provision of social services and income transfers to the poor.

Fifth is the need to tackle China’s environmental crises, which include emerging water scarcity, increased flooding, climate change and urban air pollution. Recent studies show the health dangers of the worsening air pollution, including links to the 2.6 million who die from cancers annually.

Many of the protests in China in recent years have been over environmental problems, including polluting industries located near communities. How can China integrate ecological concerns into its development strategy?

Sixth is China’s foreign relations. Xi last week reaffirmed China’s principle of “peaceful development” and that the country would never seek hegemony.

There is need to settle the different claims by China and other East Asian countries on the South China Sea in a proper and peaceful way and build confidence of its neighbours on this principle.

China, which is still very much a developing country in terms of per capita income and other characteristics, also need to stand with the rest of the developing world in international negotiations and relations.

At the same time, it is expected to provide preferences and special assistance to poorer countries and its investors abroad are expected to be socially and environmentally responsible.

Most difficult for China is the ability to manage foreign relations with developed countries, especially the United States. China is a rising or risen power, and viewed with some envy as a rival by those who fear losing their previous dominance.

Maintaining political stability with these powers is important; but of course this does not depend on China alone.

The above are only some of the hurdles facing China on its road to realise its dream of rejuvenation. As with any dream, it is not impossible to achieve but the road is long and difficult.

 GLOBAL TRENDS By MARTIN KHOR
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President Xi: Russia ties ensure peace; foreign debut illuminates China’s ‘world dream’


Xi-Jinping-wife1

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan arrive in Moscow Photo: AP

Freshly elected President Xi Jinping chose the Russian capital as the first foreign city he will visit as China’s head of state, as Moscow and Beijing move toward a full-fledged partnership for the next decade.

On the global arena, both Russia and China have a similar approach, and Jinping’s visit has been interpreted as a sign that the new Chinese administration is keen to re-inforce ties with Russia.

In the past, the two countries had a difficult and politically ambiguous relationship and were once Cold War rivals but their international interests are becoming more aligned.

The two countries have often jointly used their veto powers at the United Nationa Security Council, most recently with issues related to the Middle East, where they have blocked Western-backed measures regarding the Syrian conflict.

China and Russia also share a sizeable border and have tried to bolster their regional clout as a counterweight to a United States that is ‘pivoting’ towards Asia.

And as well as being permanent members of the Security Council, the two countries have worked shoulder-to-shoulder on the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the so-called G20.

President Xi Jinping will also be talking trade on his visit in Moscow. The two countries have burgeoning business interests.

Bilateral trade has more than doubled in the last five years and reached $83bn in 2012 but the volume of trade is still low compared to their other trade partners. It is five times smaller than Russia’s trade with the European Union, and also far smaller than China’s trade with the United States; but the trade in energy is seen as a growth market for the two countries.

Russia is of course the world’s largest energy producer and China the biggest consumer. The two countries are in discussion about a gas pipeline that could eventually deliver 38bn cubic metres of Russian gas a year to China

So, how significant is this visit? Will it shape a new relationship between Moscow and Beijing?

To discuss this Inside Story, with presenter Hazem Sika, is joined by guests: Victor Gao, the director of China National Association of International Studies, who was also a former China policy advisor; Dimitry Babich, a political analyst at Russia Profile magazine; and Roderic Wye, a China analyst at Chatham House and senior fellow with the China Policy Institute at Nottingham University.

“Obviously there is a lot of substance [in the meeting] about the energy relationship, there are big issues to talk about on the international stage – not least, North Korea and the problems there – but also it is an important symbol to show for both Russia and China that they have independent foreign policies … and that they are not beholden to the United States in any particular way.”

Source:Al Jazeera – Roderic Wye, China analyst at Chatham House

Xi’s foreign debut illuminates China’s “world dream”

On Friday, Chinese President Xi Jinping embarked on his first overseas trip since taking office last week, and experts here believe the trip will clarify Xi’s recent references to China’s “world dream.”

Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University of China, said, “The trip will reveal some important features of Xi’s concept of world order.”

“From the destinations of Xi’s first foreign trip, we can tell that China is committed to promoting democratization in international relations as well as a more just and reasonable international order and system,” he said.

In a joint interview on Tuesday with reporters from BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), Xi said China hopes that countries and cultures around the world will carry out exchanges on equal footing, learn from each other and achieve common progress.

He also voiced his hope that all countries will make joint efforts to build a harmonious world featuring enduring peace and common prosperity.

“This is Xi’s version of China’s ‘world dream,'” Shi said.

“It is in line with the common aspirations of people from different countries and closely related to the ‘Chinese dream’ put forward by Xi,” he said.

Pursuing the “Chinese dream” of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is conducive to realizing the “world dream,” and if the “world dream” comes true, it could offer a sound external environment for the country to achieve the “Chinese dream,” Shi said.

NEW TYPE OF INTER-POWER TIES

Based on Xi’s first foreign trip and his interactions with other foreign leaders in the past week, analysts believe China is committed to developing a new type of “inter-power relations” in an all-around and open way, with hopes of breaking the zero-sum theory by promoting win-win cooperation.

Unlike past inter-power ties that have mainly targeted certain world powers, China now advocates a new type of cooperative relationship among all major powers, including leading powers among developing countries, said Ruan Zongze, deputy head of the China Institute of International Studies.

“We should adopt a new and open attitude toward all powers,” he said, adding that the word “new” here means regarding the development and growth of other countries as an opportunity for one’s own country.
“Only by doing this can state-to-state relations develop in a sound and sustainable way,” he said.

In the joint interview Tuesday, Xi said his visit to Russia shows the “high level and special nature” of the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries.

Ruan said China’s relations with Russia, the first leg of Xi’s trip, have already reached a stage featuring a “high level of mutual trust,” with both countries seeing each other’s development as an opportunity.

“The zero-sum mentality, namely believing one party’s success means the other’s failure, has been one of the major factors hampering mutual trust and creating conflicts between major powers,” he said.

Ruan pointed out that although Sino-Russian relations have seen marked progress in the past decade, this does not mean there are no problems in the bilateral relations.

“Both sides, however, agree not to let these differences restrain the development of bilateral relations,” Ruan said.

MAIDEN TRIP NOT TARGETING A THIRD PARTY

Analysts here also point out that Xi’s maiden overseas voyage as China’s head of state is not of an exclusive nature and does not target a third party.

Zhang Yuanyuan, former Chinese ambassador to Belgium, said China’s foreign policy is inclusive.

During his nine-day tour, Xi is scheduled to pay state visits to Russia, Tanzania, South Africa and the Republic of Congo. He is also expected to attend the fifth leaders’ summit of BRICS countries in Durban, South Africa.

Zhang said the visits involve multiple factors, including a world power and a neighboring country, developing countries and multilateral cooperation, all of which have been among China’s foreign policy priorities.

During the week since Xi was elected president, other Chinese leaders have received important guests and maintained contact with leaders from other countries.

In a phone conversation on March 14, Xi and U.S. President Barack Obama both promised to make efforts to achieve the goal of building a new type of inter-power relationship.

While meeting with U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew here on March 19, Xi urged the two nations to objectively view each other’s development stages, respect each other’s interests for further development and regard the other party’s opportunities and challenges as its own.

Zhang pointed out that building a new type of inter-power relationship and exploring ways for the two major powers to get along with each other could straighten out Sino-U.S. relations and break the historical curse in which “conflicts between major powers are inevitable.”

Meanwhile, Ruan Zongze dismissed concerns about Xi’s itinerary, saying such concerns are “totally unnecessary.”

“The reason for China to pursue the building of a new type of inter-power relationship is that it will not embark on the path of alliance,” he said.

“The age of old-school alliances or jointly targeting a third party has long passed,” Ruan said.- Xinhua

 

Malaysia lures for its Gen Y youths?


KUALA LUMPUR: Gen Y youths young people usually recognised for their savvy in communications, media, and digital technology will benefit from the Government‘s move to draw quality high-tech and knowledge-driven investments to the country.

International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said with the Government’s emphasis on developing the 11.4 million youths who make up 46% of the nation, it was important for Gen Y workers to have access to companies with good training, exposure and salaries.

“The Government is adopting new methods by looking beyond hard FDI (foreign direct investment) numbers,” he said here yesterday.

“Services companies are becoming more crucial to our economy, and their presence in Malaysia is relevant to the young through their (the companies’) job creation.”

Mustapa said the Government was not only giving out fiscal incentives, such as tax holidays and training grants, to attract quality investments, but had also liberalised 18 services sectors this year, to follow the 27 in 2009.

He said such measures had yielded “fruitful results” with companies like Service Source, test and design company National Instrument and computer multi-national Hewlett Packard, employing large numbers of Gen Y workers.

“Service Source, a recurring revenue management company, came to Malaysia in 2010 with only 27 people.

“Last June, it surpassed 550 staff the majority being graduates or diploma holders and more than half of them are below 30.

“National Instrument is another sterling example. It offers a salary scheme to graduates equivalent to that offered by some investment banks in Malaysia,” Mustapa added.

The Jeli MP emphasised that FDI was particularly relevant to Gen Y, as the creation of employment and knowledge spillover from foreign companies allowed youths to be exposed to new technologies and cutting-edge training schemes.

He said these companies offered competitive salary packages.

“This will increase their knowledge in the industry and improve their employability,” he said, giving the example of oilfield services corporation Halliburton, which sends fresh graduates to their training centre in the United States for up to 18 months to gain specialised knowledge.

However, Mustapa said, there were challenges to attracting such investments.

“Some companies are not willing to pay more for talent, and so might face a higher turnover rate.
“There is also competition for FDIs from countries that offer bigger incentives or huge domestic markets.

“However, Malaysia offers a value proposition as we have a sound infrastructure and legal system, investor-friendly policies, and a talent pool that will be able to complement investors.”

International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed has been working hard to bring in investments that Gen Y can benefit from. 

In an interview, he talked about the government’s approaches and challenges faced.
Excerpts from the interview:

>What do you think of the state of Malaysia’s economy?

There lots of of challenges globally and regionally. Europe is still in some trouble, America is not out of the woods yet. India is going through a difficult period politically and economically as well – there was a time where India was very bullish. Although growth is still good there, it’s not that good as a year and a half ago. China is still going strong. The bright spots will be ASEAN, Africa, the Middle East.

Against that backdrop, our performance has been quite credible, our economy is doing okay, steady growth that is higher than the world’s average. Unemployment rate is low, inflation is manageable, we have an issue with the deficit which is being managed well by the govt. We have strong reserves. Our fundamentals are strong.

Some factors leading to Malaysia’s relatively strong state of economy are the fiscal stimulus, the Economic Transformation Programme, our diversified economy, and robust customer spending.

>Do you think the youth population of Malaysia will benefit from our economy?

Yes, our employment opportunities will of course benefit mainly young people. Many come out from universities and expect to get a job, a good job. Some come out and do temporary work, which is useful – working in a hypermarket or petrol station, for example – these are very important stepping stones as they allow you to get some experience.

Our graduates are not as selective as before, they are prepared to accept these jobs to sustain them for a few years before moving on to a better-paying one. Gen Y represents a big percentage of the Malaysian population, and the Government is mindful of the fact that this is a volatile and dynamic component of the population.

The issue is quality employment. Graduates being paid RM2,000 is not true reflection of what they can contribute. Some companies are not paying their graduates too well, some graduates are accepting jobs which require lower qualifications and for that reason salaries are lower.

Job opportunities are plentiful, that’s not an issue here. We have lots of job opportunities in Malaysia but the challenge for us in government is to generate more quality employment opportunities.

From anecdotal evidence, many graduates are not happy with the entry-level salaries. That’s why Budget 2013 focuses a lot on young people, including measures such as the Graduate Employability Taskforce with an allocation of RM200mil. This isn’t new, we have Talent Corp, we have collaborated with various institutions like Mida to help young people.

We also have the 1Malaysia Training Scheme Programme (SL1M), which will increase the employability of graduates through soft skills and on-the-job training in private companies.

From MITI’s point of view, our job is to stimulate investment, both domestic direct investment and FDI. We have been working very hard.

In an average year, the companies approved by the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (Mida) will normally generate about 100,000 new job opportunities. The ETP over the next 10 years will generate 3.3 million jobs, that makes 330,000 a year. That’s the kind of number we are looking at, and many of these jobs will b available to young people.

>Are we making steady progress towards this goal?

Definitely. There’s a company out there, Service Source international – they started small here but when I saw them two weeks ago they had a headcount of more than 500. Their plans are to add more. This is a company of graduates, most of the staff are either diploma-holders or local graduates.

Service Source have also launched a Protg Programme in the company where many fresh graduates are given on the job training at an executive pay package.

Another of fruitful result, is a company in Penang called Agilent which has 2,800 people. 900 of them work in research and development.

In Iskandar you have Legoland, people who work in these places command high salaries.

Of course in sectors like banking and finance they will be well-paid, there has been good growth in Islamic banking and finance in the country. As Islamic finance in Malaysia grows, as the country becomes a hub for the region, there are more opportunities created for young people.

>Why are foreign direct investments relevant to the young, particularly to Gen Y?

The creation of employment – without jobs, our youth will not find an opportunity to improve their economic standing.

Panasonic, for example, employs 20,000 Malaysians as executives and also as blue-collar, factory workers.

The other reason is knowledge spillover as a result of forward or backward linkages with foreign companies possessing high technology that invest in Malaysia, our youth will be exposed to new technology on their job. This will increase their knowledge in the industry and improve their employability as they move further in the industry and perhaps opportunity for them to carry out their own business operations as a vendor to the foreign investor.

Halliburton, one of the world’s largest providers of products and services to the energy industry, provide specified training to its fresh graduates from six to 18 months while they are on the job.

They also send these Malaysian fresh graduates to Halliburton Technical Training Centre in the United States. This is an example of how knowledge spillover from FDI can benefit our youth.

>What is the Government doing to attract quality investments? 

We are more focused now, more targeted. We can’t compete with some of our neighbours in terms of wages, but where we can compete are the areas where companies require higher skills, productivity. We target companies that are high-tech, knowledge-intensive companies.

The Government is considering GNI creation of any project or investment while also using employment creation as a complementing tool to measure a “good investment”.

In giving out fiscal incentives such as tax holidays and training grants; the Government targets knowledge-driven, research and development based companies that budget a large amount on capital spend on technology per employee.

We have to look at the supply side as well, increase the supplies of trade and human capital.

The Government liberalized 27 services sectors in 2009 and a further 18 services sectors in 2012. The intention behind this is to drive foreign investments which can create quality, high-paying jobs.

While recording low investments, services companies are becoming more crucial to our economy and their presence in Malaysia is relevant to the young through their job creation.

>Have these approaches been fruitful?

Yes, along with companies I already told you about, there’s National Instrument – another sterling example, a test-and-design company. NI Malaysia offers a salary scheme to graduates that is equivalent to the salary schemes offered by some of the investment banks in Malaysia.

More importantly, it has a unique internship programme formed in 2009. In 2012, they admitted around 30 graduates and these interns were trained in R&D and manufacturing as well as IT applications.

There is also Hewlett Packard, which has its Operation Headquarters for Asia-Pacific here. We gave them a tax holiday – one of the ways we are attracting investments, as you asked before.

>But how do you know these foreign companies will hire fresh graduates rather than someone who has already been in the workforce for a while?

Well, some companies do prefer to take people from other companies rather than train fresh graduates. There are different ways to do it, and some companies to tend to take the easier way out. But I feel they should invest in youth, employ them, train them. The companies must play a better role in training youth, it can’t just be left to the Government.

I’ll bring up SL1M again – we’ve found that our graduates become much more employable after learning these soft skills – they become more proactive, more aggressive, more forthcoming. The government is doing that, but we urge and strongly encourage companies to play a more active role and train its new recruits.

>Are there any challenges when it comes to attractive quality investment?

It’s a chicken and egg issue – companies will come here if we have a large pool of skilled graduates and manpower, and that will bring in more investments as well. On the other hand, if the skills are not available then they will not come. We need to increase the supply of human capital.

Companies operate on cost factors and many companies that are interested in Malaysia are still looking at low cost factors in Malaysia. Some companies are not willing to pay more for talent.

There is also competition for FDIs, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan offers bigger incentives and has very liberal policies while countries such as Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia continue to offer a huge domestic market which interests investors.

However, I am convinced that Malaysia offers a value proposition as we have sound infrastructure and legal system, investor-friendly policies and a talent pool that will be able to complement investors.

>What are some of the challenges a company may face in recruiting Gen Y workers?

In general, those companies which offer lower salaries are not so good with attracting good people. Those which are willing to pay a little more have better luck.

>Do you think these companies would be more inclined to hire expats?

In general, bringing in expats costs money, and if you add up, it will almost certainly be more than what you pay a local.

>Would local graduates be making more if they took their skillset overseas?

If you factor in other costs – rent, transport, cost of car… We found that at the top level, the gap is not that wide. Malaysians earn a decent income. The problem is the entry rates at base levels, entry point salary is where the difference is.

Once Malaysians leave, it is harder for them to come back because they’ve made friends, settled down, become part of the community. If our entry level salary is low, and because of that people work overseas, it will become even more challenging to build this talent pool.

In my view, if companies have better entry-rate salaries, it will help to prevent brain drain, and also solve some problems companies have when hiring.

>Do you think that the development of our Gen Y will meet the Government’s aspirations of attracting quality investments?

In a way, some of our measures are short-term. We need more medium and long-term solutions, for example, reform the education system. It needs to be more hands-on, so we’ve got some measures like the National Education Blueprint.

We also need to regularly change the curriculum in schools and universities. Malaysians have to develop a love for skills, fight to get a job.

I would like to relate to you a story of a young girl by the name of Nani Abdul Rahman. She is an alumni of Yayasan Khazanah, which I chair. She read Law at IIUM and in her penultimate year, she interned at Khazanah. Khazanah Nasional offered her a job as an analyst and after working for a few years, she got an offer to do her Masters in Jurisprudence at Harvard University. Today, she is a senior personnel at one of the biggest Islamic banks in the world.

I have complete trust in our Gen Y. They are very confident and well exposed generation.

>How do MNCs feel about local graduates? Do they prefer those who graduated from foreign universities, Ivy Leagues and similar?

Some of our local graduate are good, some are outstanding. Many of our top corporate figures were trained in this country. Not every top corporate guy studied overseas. I don’t think companies have a preference, it does depend on the person.

If you’re a foreign university graduate but you’re quiet, timid, aloof – the company will not want to take you on. It is the qualities a person holds.

Companies are looking for a person who is outgoing, passionate, ready to learn, good work ethics… These characteristics can come from a local or foreign graduate.

>You hold the importance of education in very high regard. 

Yes – even within my community in Jeli, the constituency I am MP for, I focus on developing human capital.

I run and fund the Darul Falah programme, which provides free tuition for students between 10-12 every Friday and Saturday. The focus is on English, Maths and Science.

The centre actually operates out of my house in Kelantan, it started about 15 years ago. I also have three other centres which have been up and running for three years now.

It is important in a rural area like Jeli, the children get some exposure. There has been improvement, but I am still not happy with it.

The programme has expanded to offer free computer classes, we hold camps, essay writing competitions in both Malay and English – I give prizes to the winners.

Last year when I was in Perth for work I met a number of students and one of them, a JPA scholar, came to me. She said she was an alumni of Darul Falah. Her father was a customs officer who used to send her back and forth on a motorcycle to Darul Falah when she was 10.

She is now a scholar reading Commerce at the University of Western Australia and she aspires to be a Partner at PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

It’s moments like those that underline my conviction that education is the best investment.

>Do you have any advice for Gen Y looking to make a living in Malaysia?

Be prepared to start small, meaning, accept any job and learn while doing it. Shine in your job, by which I mean outshine others.

Discipline and passion are very important qualities. You need to be disciplined. Work ethics, passion – in my view, these are qualities some graduates are lacking. Passion and commitment are important.

The technical knowledge you earned is important, of course, but so are passion, discipline and commitment.

By TASHNY SUKUMARAN tashny@thestar.com.my
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Jul 27, 2012
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