Religion restrictions growing worldwide, bad marks on US: Pew report


Highest levels on religion curbs found in several countries, social harassment of religious groups in the US among worst in the world

People walk by a poster from the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP/UDC) depicting a woman wearing a burqa in front of a Swiss flag upon which are minarets which resemble missiles, at the central station in Geneva, Switzerland.
People walk by a poster from the right-wing Swiss People’s Party
(SVP/UDC) depicting a woman wearing a burqa in front of a Swiss flag
upon which are minarets which resemble missiles, at the central station
in Geneva, Switzerland.

NEW YORK — Government restrictions on religion have increased markedly in many places around the world, not only in authoritarian countries but also in many democracies, according to a report surveying 198 countries that was released Monday.

The report released by the Pew Research Center, covering developments through 2017, also seeks to document the scope of religion-based harassment and violence. Regarding the world’s two largest religions, it said Christians were harassed in 143 countries and Muslims in 140.

This was Pew’s 10th annual Report on Global Restrictions on Religion. It said 52 governments, including those in Russia and China, impose high levels of restrictions on religion, up from 40 governments in 2007. It said 56 countries in 2017 were experiencing social hostilities involving religion, up from 39 in 2007.

Pew said the Middle East and North Africa, of the five major regions it studied, had the highest level of government restrictions on religion, followed by the Asia-Pacific region. However, it said the biggest increase during the 2007-2017 period was in Europe, where the number of countries placing restrictions on religious dress — including burqas and face veils worn by some Muslim women — rose from five to 20.

Among other measures in 2017, Austria enacted a ban on full-face veils in public spaces and Germany banned face veils for anyone driving a motor vehicle or working in the civil service. In Switzerland, voters in two regions have approved bans on face veils and voters nationwide backed a ban on the construction of new minarets.

In Spain, according to the report, some municipal governors have introduced bans on burqas and face-covering veils and have also restricted public preaching and proselytizing by such groups as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Circumcision of boys also has been an issue in Europe. Muslim and Jewish groups in Germany and Slovenia have complained of government officials interfering in their religious traditions by trying to criminalize circumcision for nonmedical reasons.

Globally, among the 25 most populous countries, those with the highest level of government restrictions were China, Iran, Russia, Egypt and Indonesia, the report said. The lowest levels of restriction were in South Africa, Japan, the Philippines, Brazil and South Korea.

In terms of government harassment of religious groups, Pew said the phenomenon was most pronounced in the Middle East-North Africa region, but two examples from Asia were highlighted. The report noted that hundreds of thousands of Uighur Muslims were sent to reeducation camps in China, while in Myanmar there were large-scale abuses against the Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority, leading to massive displacement.

Another category in the report was religious harassment by individuals and social groups. The United States ranked among the worst-scoring countries in this category in 2017, in part because of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white supremacist protesters displayed swastika flags and chanted anti-Semitic slogans.

Pew said the biggest increase in religious hostility by individuals occurred in Europe. Victims of violence, in incidents cited in the report, include Jehovah’s Witnesses in Ukraine and a rabbi and a Muslim woman in Belgium.

In Germany, Pew said, there were reports that thousands of refugees were pressured to convert to Christianity after being warned they might otherwise be deported.

Jocelyne Cesari, a professor of religion and politics at the University of Birmingham in Britain, views governmental and societal discrimination against Muslims in Europe as a threat to the broader principles of religious freedom.

She also suggested that headscarf bans and similar laws play into the hands of radical Islamist groups “that build their legitimacy among some segments of the Muslim youth in Europe by presenting the West as the enemy of the Islamic religion.”

Jonathan Laurence, a political science professor at Boston College who has written about Europe’s Muslims, said the continent’s debate over headscarf bans has strengthened the hand of populist parties while failing to bridge social divisions.

“Ironically, headscarf laws that were intended to force integration have instead accelerated the creation of publicly subsidized religious schools where children may wear what they like,” he said in an email.

Religious discrimination and persecution will be the topic of a three-day meeting hosted by the US State Department starting Tuesday in Washington, attended by hundreds of government officials, religious leaders and other participants from all regions of the world.

Previewing the event, Sam Brownback, the US government’s ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, noted that religions of all sorts are vulnerable to persecution.

“Almost every faith that’s a majority somewhere is a minority somewhere else and often gets persecuted where they’re a minority,” Brownback said at a State Department briefing. “So that’s why a big part of our effort is to get the faiths to come together and to stand for each other.”

“We’re not talking common theology here — nobody agrees on theology,” he added. “We’re talking about a common human right.”

Pew’s annual reports are compiled by researchers who annually comb through numerous sources of information, including annual reports on international religious freedom by the State Department and the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, as well as publications by European, UN bodies and nongovernmental organizations.

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Religious freedom card of US ridiculous

It is increasingly difficult for the US to disturb Chinese society. Xinjiang and Tibet have restored order long ago with the constant economic and social accomplishments. A new harmony has been shaped between religious freedom and social order.
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US global economic terrorism


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Provoking trade rows is ‘naked economic terrorism’, says China …

China aligns with world order by improving it

As a civilization that is thousands of years old, China has
always been integrating into the current international system and
taking responsibility to defend the international order after the world
wars and the international rule of law coming into force. At the same
time, China is dedicated to promoting democratization and legalization
of international relations.

 

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Dialogue of civilizations can iron out cultural creases


lustration: Liu Rui/GT
The Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations will be held from May 15 to 22 in Beijing, and Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend the event and deliver a keynote speech, officials said at a press conference on Thursday. #AsianCivilizations #XiJinping

 

The Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations will kick off in Beijing soon. It is China’s attempt to promote understanding among different civilizations, inclusive development, and to respond to the theory of the Clash of Civilizations with the philosophy of building a community with a shared future for mankind.

During the just-concluded second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, China defined the future of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as a route that brings together different civilizations. It reflects China’s ample confidence in the initiative to enhance civilizational exchanges, mutual understanding and civilized coexistence. Through BRI, countries can understand, respect, and trust one another.

Differences do exist between China and the US – the two most influential powers in the world – in terms of civilizations. Some in the US are even prejudiced about China’s culture and disagree with the country’s development path and value system.

China has always advocated mutual learning between civilizations. The country needs to strengthen its power of discourse and show Chinese civilization’s unique charm to the US, the West, and the entire international community. The dialogue between Chinese and American civilizations, an important part of the dialogue of global civilizations, is of great significance in building a community with a shared future for mankind.

Over the years, China and the US have already explored quite a lot in this regard. At the Mar-a-Lago summit between Chinese and US leaders in 2017, the two sides agreed to establish high-level dialogue mechanisms, including social and people-to-people contact. In addition, Chinese and US scholars organized the Sino-American Dialogue on Core Values as early as in 2011. The Foreign Affairs magazine published an article titled “China vs. America: Managing the Next Clash of Civilizations” in 2017.

Surprisingly, recent reports by the Washington Examiner and Voice of America indicate that the US State Department is developing strategies in response to the “clash” with Chinese civilization.

The Clash of Civilizations is a theory proposed in 1993 by Samuel Huntington, a well-known US political scholar who teaches at Harvard University. He argued that the clash of civilizations, instead of ideological and economic clashes, will be the primary source of conflict in the post-Cold War world. He conjectured that the core of international politics will be the interaction between Western and non-Western civilizations.

Huntington predicted that the clash of civilizations would be especially manifested in Western-Islamic conflicts after the Cold War. It is puzzling that US officials are now turning to China.

The Clash of Civilizations theory targeting China seems to be gaining traction among anti-China forces in the US. The National Security Strategy issued by the White House in late 2017 labeled China as a strategic competitor. The US adverse policies toward China have created obstacles in the path of smooth China-US relations.

If the US Department of State continues to promote policy measures against China based on the Clash of Civilizations, ties will be further hurt, and more specific steps taken. Not only that, the US may also take advantage of this theory and force other countries to follow its lead in containing China.

However, such attempts by adversarial US forces will eventually fall flat.

Their argument of Clash of Civilizations, violating mainstream American values based on pluralism and inclusiveness, has already triggered heated debate inside the US. Some senior US experts studying China have criticized the view for lacking understanding of China.

It will be tough if the US attempts to lead the West to a civilizational battle with China. The damage caused by the “America First” theory has yet to heal. Describing US competition with China as the clash of civilization may once again create contradictions and panic. Dialogue of civilizations is needed rather than a cold war.

By Xi Laiwang Source:Global Times

The author is a senior reporter and an observer of international issues. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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2nd Kim-Trump summit deserves more support


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

Kim Jong-un en route to Vietnam summit by train

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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Why Huawei’s 5G technology is seen as a threat by the US


Reuters pic.

The term 5G stands for a fifth generation — to succeed the current fourth generation of mobile connectivity that has made video sharing and movie streaming commonplace.

The new technology will require an overhaul of telecommunication infrastructure.

The 5G will do more than make mobile phones faster — it will link billions of devices, revolutionising transportation, manufacturing and even medicine. It will also create a multitude of potential openings for bad actors to exploit.

The vulnerability helps explain the rising tension between the US and Huawei Technologies Co, China’s largest technology company.

Huawei is pushing for a global leadership role in 5G, but American officials suspect that could help Beijing spy on Western governments and companies.

“Huawei’s significant presence in 5G creates a new vector for possible cyber-espionage and malware,” Michael Wessel, a commissioner on the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission that advises Congress, said in an interview.

By connecting whole new classes of products, 5G “creates new vulnerabilities”.

The technology holds great promise. Forests of gadgets will communicate instantly via millions of antennas. Cars will talk to each other to avert lethal crashes, factory foremen will monitor parts supplies and doctors can perform remote surgery as video, sound and data flow without delay.

Connections will be 10 to 100 times faster than current standards — quick enough to download an entire movie in seconds.

Yet, US national security officials see billions of opportunities for spies, hackers and cyber-thieves to steal trade secrets, sabotage machinery and even order cars to crash.

Citing security threats, the US has been pushing allies to block Huawei from telecommunication networks. The US Congress has banned government agencies from buying the company’s gear.

Why is the United States intent on killing Huawei? Look at the data below:

Huawei employs more than 10,000 Phd degree holders as well as many talented Russian mathematicians.

Do you know how many Huawei employees earn more than 1 million yuan (RM603,280) a year? More than 10,000 people.

Do you know how many Huawei employees earn more than five million yuan a year? More than 1,000 people!

In China alone, Huawei’s research and development expenditure is 89.6 billion yuan.

Among the Big Three, Alibaba employs 30,000 people, Baidu 50,000, Tencent about 30,000, leading to a total of 110,000; but Huawei’s global employees total 170,000.

Alibaba’s profit is 23.4 billion yuan, Tencent’s 24.2 billion yuan, Baidu’s 10.5 billion yuan, and their profits total 58 billion yuan, but 70% is taken away by foreigners. Since 2000, Huawei has earned 1.39 trillion yuan from abroad.

In taxes, Tencent pays more than seven billion yuan a year, Alibaba 10.9 billion yuan, and Baidu 2.2 billion. Huawei pays 33.7 billion yuan, which is more than the total of the earlier three firms.

Huawei is a high-tech company, and technology represents the true strength of a country.

In China, many companies can’t last long because there are always other companies ready to replace them, but Huawei is irreplaceable.

Huawei is a 100% Chinese company that has not been listed and does not intend to go public because of the susceptibility to be controlled by capital (which the United States can simply print money to do).

Huawei is the first private technology company in China ever to join the league of the world’s top 100. The Chinese should be proud of Huawei.
FMT NewsKoon Yew Yin is a retired chartered civil engineer and one of the founders of IJM Corporation Bhd and Gamuda Bhd.

The views expressed by the writer do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

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Recession? No, not this year 2019


 

THE influential International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted slower global growth this year on the back of financial volatility and the trade war between the United States and China.

Turkey and Argentina are expected to experience deep recessions this year before recovering next year.

China, apart from fighting the trade war, is also experiencing its slowest quarterly growth since the 1990s, sending ripples across Asia. In the last quarter of 2018, China recorded an economic growth of 6.4%, which is the third consecutive quarter of slowing growth.

This has led to fears of China’s economy going into a hard landing and it possibly being the catalyst to spark global economic turmoil.

After all, it has been more than 10 years since the world witnessed the last recession in 2008 that was caused by a financial crisis in the US. If we are to believe the 10 to 12-year economic turmoil cycle, the next downturn is already due.

However, the economic data so far does not seem to suggest that the world will go into a recession or tailspin this year.

The bigger worry is what would happen next year.

The narrowing spread between the two-year and 10-year US Treasury papers would lead to banks being more selective in their lending. It is already happening in the US.

The impact is likely to be profound next year. When banks are more selective in lending, eventually the economy will grind to a halt.

But that is the likely scenario next year, assuming there is no fresh impetus to spur global growth.

At the moment, there is a significant amount of asset price depression due to slowing demand. The reason is generally because of the slower growth in China and the trade war.

China has fuelled demand for almost everything in the last few years. Companies and individuals from China drove up the prices of everything – from property and valuations of companies to commodities.

China itself is experiencing a slowing economy and the government has restricted the outflow of funds. Its overall debt is estimated at 300% of gross domestic product and banks are reluctant to lend to private companies for fear of defaults.

China’s manufacturing sector has slowed down because of the trade war. Companies are not prepared to expand because they fear the tariffs imposed by the US.

Nevertheless, the world’s second-largest economy is still growing, albeit at a slower pace. A growth rate of 6.4% per quarter is still commendable, although it is far from the 12% quarterly economic growth it recorded in 2011-2012.

The US, which is the world’s largest economy, is also facing slower growth this year. The Federal Reserve has predicted a slower economic growth of 2.3% in 2019 compared to the 3.1% the country recorded last year.

The ongoing US government shutdown is not going to make things easy.

As for Europe, the European Central Bank (ECB) has warned of a slowdown this year. The warning came just six weeks after the ECB eased off on its bond-buying programme that was designed to reflate the economy.

Business sentiments on Germany, which is a barometer of what happens to the rest of Europe, is at the lowest.

As for Malaysia, the country is going through an economic transition of sorts following the change in government. Government spending has traditionally been the driver of the domestic economy when global growth slows.

The new government has cut back on spending, which is a necessary evil, considering that many of the projects awarded previously were inflated. Generally, the cost of most projects is to be shaved by at least 10% – and some by up to 50%.

However, the projects with revised costs have not got off the ground yet and contractors have not been paid their dues. For instance, contractors in the LRT 3 project had complained of not getting payments for work done a year ago.

Fortunately, a new contract for the LRT 3 has been signed. Hopefully, the contractors will be paid their dues speedily and work recommences on the ground fast.

The volatile oil prices are not helping improve revenue for the government.

Domestic demand is still growing, although people complain of their income levels not growing. This is because companies as a whole are also not doing as well as in previous years.

Nevertheless, even the most pessimistic of economist is looking at Malaysia chalking up a growth rate of more than 4.5% this year, which is respectable. The official forecast is 4.9%.

One of the reasons for the optimism is that they feel government revenue is expected to be much higher than expected, giving it the flexibility to push spending if the global economic scenario takes a turn for the worse.

According to the Treasury report for 2019, federal government revenue is to come in at about RM261bil, which is 10.7% higher than in 2018.

The amount is likely to be much higher, allowing the government the option to put more money in the hands of the people. It also allows the government to reduce corporate taxes, a move that would draw in investments.

Malaysia has a new government in place. What investors are looking for are signs of where all the extra revenue earned will go. They are also looking for the next growth catalyst.

The trade war and financial volatility is causing structural shifts in the global economy. It is impacting China, the US and Europe.

Eventually, the global crunch will come, but it is not likely to happen this year.

By m. shanmugam

 

Huawei unveils server chipset as China cuts reliance on imports


New chip: A Kunpeng 920 chip is displayed during an unveiling ceremony in Shenzhen. Huawei is seeking growth avenues in cloud computing and enterprise services. — AP

HONG KONG: Huawei Technologies Co Ltd has launched a new chipset for use in servers, at a time when China is pushing to enhance its chip-making capabilities and reduce its heavy reliance on imports, especially from the United States.

Huawei, which gets the bulk of its revenue from the sale of telecommunications equipment and smartphones, is seeking growth avenues in cloud computing and enterprise services as its equipment business comes under increased scrutiny in the West amid worries about Chinese government influence over the firm.

Huawei has repeatedly denied any such influence.

Chinese firms are also seeking to minimise the impact of a trade dispute that has seen China and the United States slap tariffs on each other’s technology imports.

For Huawei, the launch of the chipset – called the Kunpeng 920 and designed by subsidiary HiSilicon – boosts its credentials as a semiconductor designer, although the company said it had no intention of becoming solely a chip firm.

“It is part of our system solution and cloud servicing for clients. We will never make our chipset business a standalone business,” said Ai Wei, who is in charge of strategic planning for Huawei’s chipsets and hardware technology.

The Shenzhen-based company already makes the Kirin series of smartphone chips used in its high-end phones, and the Ascend series of chipsets for artificial intelligence computing launched in October.

It said its latest seven nanometre, 64-core central processing unit (CPU) would provide much higher computing performance for data centres and slash power consumption.

It is based on the architecture of British chip design firm ARM – owned by Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp – which is seeking to challenge the dominance in server CPUs of US maker Intel Corp.

Huawei aims to drive the development of the ARM ecosystem, said chief marketing officer William Xu. He said the chip has “unique advantages in performance and power consumption”.

Xu also said Huawei would continue its “long-term strategic partnership” with Intel.

Huawei’s new ARM-based CPU is not a competitor to the US company’s x86 CPUs and servers, but complementary, Xu added. Redfox Qiu, president of the intelligent computing business department at Huawei, said the company shipped 900,000 units of servers in 2018, versus 77,000 in 2012 when it started.

Huawei was seeing “good momentum for the server business in Europe and Asia Pacific” and expects the contribution from its international business to continue to rise, Qiu added.

Huawei also released its TaiShan series of servers powered by the new chipset, built for big data, distributed storage and ARM native applications.

The firm founded chip designer HiSilicon in 2004 to help reduce its reliance on imports.

In modem chips, Huawei internally sources 54% of those in its own devices, with 22% coming from Qualcomm Inc and the remainder from elsewhere, evidence presented at an antitrust trial for Qualcomm showed. — Reuters

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