How hard do Chinese work?

Workers in China put in the hours

Recently, foreign media reported on the Chinese work ethic, such as The Guardian article “How hard does China work?” . (Photo/Screenshot)

Recently, foreign media reported on the Chinese work ethic, such as The Guardian article “How hard does China work?” on Oct. 6, suggesting Britons needed to pull up their socks and work hard “in the way that Asian economies are prepared to work hard”. On Oct. 8, Singapore’s Lianhe Zaobao cites The Guardian’s statistics, saying the average Chinese worker puts in somewhere between 2,000 and 2,200 hours each year.

The earliest survey data is published on Wall Street Journal last year. It claimed, citing official statistics that nearly 85 percent of migrants worked more than 44 hours a week, earning an average of just £270 per month.

China is one of the countries with the longest average working hours in the world, equivalent to the level of the countries such as the UK, Germany and France in the 1950s, according to data. In addition, survey data reflect the general working hours of European and American countries per capita is shorter than of developing countries.

According to figures from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development,in 2013, working hours in Germany and France were 1,388 hours and 1,489 hours respectively, well below China’s per capital working hours at the same period. Compared to the UK average of 1,677 hours last year, the average Chinese worker put in 320 more hours last year.

Why do Chinese workers have to put in longer hours than their counterparts in European countries and the United States? Director of Research at the Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences, Ding Li, said that China’s per capita level of work depends largely on the strength of the domestic economy.

Chinese workers have to work longer hours than their peers from the more developed countries, such as the UK and US, because in China the average wage is low, while the domestic prices are relatively high, noted celebrity financial expert Larry Hsien Ping Lang in 2013.

Last year, the labor market research center at Beijing Normal University released a report, noting employees in 90 percent of industries in China work over 40 hours per week. Those working in the construction industry, resident services, repairs and other services have a working week of over 49 hours and the longest hours in China are worked by those in hospitality and catering, racking up over 51.4 hours.

For more than half of all industry sectors, including accommodation and catering industry, employees do over four hours’ overtime per week.
In recent years, Chinese people pay more attention to health problems caused by growing pressure from work, such as fatigue, obesity and insomnia.

However, long working hours will persist for a certain time as Ding Li pointed out, because China is still at the developmental stage of chasing GDP growth and increasing total production.

By Gao Yinan (People’s Daily Online)  

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Nobel Prize for Chinese traditional medicine expert who developed malaria cure

Developed for Communist troops fighting in the Vietnam War, Tu Youyou’s treatment was major breakthrough in global fight against malaria

Tu Youyou, right, working with Prof Lou Zhicen in the 1950s (Xinhua via AP)

Video: Nobel Prize for Chinese traditional medicine expert who developed malaria cure

A Chinese scientist who pioneered a malaria treatment for Communist troops fighting America in the Vietnam War has won the Nobel Prize for Medicine.

Tu Youyou spearheaded a secret programme set up by Chairman Mao to see if traditional Chinese herbal cures could reduce the number of North Vietnamese troops dying to malaria.

After sifting through thousands of different folk remedies, she finally unearthed a 1,600-year-old recipe using sweet wormwood that formed the basis for one of the most effective treatments ever discovered.

Under Mao’s Cultural Revolution, which saw academics as part of the despised bourgeoisie, her name was kept anonymous for decades, and until recently, even colleagues had never heard of her.

Now, though, at the age of 84, she has finally taken her rightful place in world medical history, with the Nobel judges announcing on Monday that she would be a joint winner of this year’s $960,000 award.

Pharmacologist Tu Youyou attends an award ceremony in Beijing in 2011 (Reuters)

The other two winners are Irish-born William Campbell and Japan’s Satoshi Omura, who developed avermectin, derivatives of which are used to treat river blindness and elephantiasis.

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“The two discoveries have provided humankind with powerful new means to combat these debilitating diseases that affect hundreds of millions of people annually,” the Nobel committee said. “The consequences in terms of improved human health and reduced suffering are immeasurable.”
Ms Tu’s work created the drug artemisinin, which now forms part of the mainstay of malaria treatment in Africa. Used in tandem with insecticide-impregnated bednets, it is credited with helping to halve malaria mortality rates worldwide in the last 15 years.

Yet for decades, its exact origins remained unknown – as did the remarkable story of its creator, which could easily form the script for a Hollywood movie.

It begins in 1969, when Ms Tu – then a mid-career scientist – was recruited to Chairman Mao’s top-secret Project 523. Its task was to investigate cures for malaria, which in the 1960s was developing resistance to existing drugs such as chloroquine.

An illustration describing Ms Tu’s work displayed during the press conference announcing the winners of the Nobel Medicine Prize (AFP)

It was also taking a heavy toll on the armies of China’s communist ally, North Vietnam, who were losing more soldiers to malaria in their jungle warfare against US troops than they were to American bombs or bullets.

At the time, the quest for an effective alternative to chloroquine had baffled the world’s scientific community, which had tested some 240,000 different compounds without success.

It was then that Ms Tu, who had studied both Chinese and Western medicines, began reviewing some 2,000 ancient herbal recipes from the Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Beijing.

One of them, written in a 1,600 year old text called “Emergency Prescriptions Kept Up One’s Sleeve”, recommended soaking sweet wormwood in water and then drinking the resulting juice.

Tried out first on mice and monkeys, it proved highly effective, although it then had to be tested to see if was harmful of humans. As head of the research group, Ms Tu volunteered to be the first test subject herself. Subsequent trials on labourers who had caught malaria while working in dense forests proved that it could banish malarial parasites from the bloodstream within just over a day.

While such a discovery might have won Ms Tu considerable fame in the West, in Maoist-era China, she gained no kudos at all. At the time, scientist and intellectuals were viewed with suspicion at best, with Ms Tu’s husband having been banished to the countryside, and the idea of an individual scientist claiming credit for a breakthrough sat uneasily with Maoist notions of collective endeavour. Tu was not even allowed to publish her findings until 1977, a year after Mao’s death, and even then, her contribution remained anonymous.

News of her work only emerged in the West when Louis Miller, an American research scientist, met Chinese scientists in 2005 and chanced to ask who had discovered artemisinin. Intrigued at the blank stares that his question produced, he began investigatingin detail.

An illustration describing the research on roundworm infections by Nobel Medicine Prize winners (AFP)

Various official paperwork – much of it once secret – revealed it to be Ms Tu, who by then was living in a shabby apartment block in Beijing. At the time, she was known by colleagues as “The Professor of the Three Nos”, since she had no post-graduate degree, was not a member of any national academy, and had no foreign research experience.

While Ms Tu received America’s top medical accolade, the Lasker award, in 2011, this is the first time that any expert in Chinese traditional medicine has been awarded a Nobel.

“This is indeed a glorious moment,” said Li Chenjian, a vice provost at Peking University. “This also is an acknowledgement to the traditional Chinese medicine, for the work began with herbal medicine.”

Artemisinin-based drugs are now routinely used by pharmaceuticals giants like Sanofi and Novartis in the fight against malaria, which still kills half a million people a year.

It is not yet clear whether the ageing Ms Tu will attend the Nobel annual award ceremony, which takes place on December 10. Each winner will also get a diploma and a gold medal.


Nobel Prizes 2015

Pic: AP/Fernando Vergara

Nobel Prize for Medicine

Awarded jointly for discoveries that assisted the treatment of infections caused by roundworm parasites, and Malaria
  • William C Campbell & Satoshi Omura
  • Youyou Tu

Nobel Prize in Physics

Awarded jointly “for the discovery of neutrino oscillations, which shows that neutrinos have mass”
  • Takaaki Kajita and Arthur B. McDonald

Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Awarded jointly to three people for “mechanistic studies of DNA repair”
  • Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar

Nobel Peace Prize

  • To be announced 9 October

Prize for Economics Science

  • To be announced 12 October

Nobel Prize in Literature

  • Awarded to the Belarusian author Svetlana Alexievich
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Discovery of DNA Repair Methods Nails 2015 Chemistry Nobel Prize

Three scientists who found ways that cells fix damaged DNA—staving off cancer and other diseases—have won this year’s prize

There are three reasons we are not constantly riddled with cancer, and today the scientists who discovered those reasons—three ways that cells repair damaged DNA that can ruin bodies–won the 2015 Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

This morning The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced the coveted prize is going to Tomas Lindahl from the Francis Crick Institute and Clare Hall Laboratory in Hertfordshire, England; Paul Modrich from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Duke University School of Medicine in North Carolina in the United States; and Aziz Sancar from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, also in the U.S. “I know, over the years, that I’d been mentioned for the prize,” Lindahl said in a telephone call to the academy. “But hundreds of people get considered every year so I feel very lucky.”

He and the other two researchers, working independently over the last 40 years, described three different mechanisms that create errors in DNA—the molecule that controls cell behavior—and the different ways that chemical and biological processes fix many of these problems.

“All forms of cancer start with DNA damage,” said biochemist Claes Gustafsson, one member of the Nobel chemistry committee. “If you do not have DNA repair, we would have a lot more cancer. That’s how important this is.” He added that the repair techniques let us understand how cigarette smoke, sunlight, and even mundane substances like water can damage DNA and point to ways that the damage can be rectified.

It is not just about cancer, Diane Grob Schmidt, president of the American Chemical Society, told Scientific American in an interview. “The understanding that we have of these mechanisms help us design drugs to repair all sorts of DNA errors,” she said. There are also several genetic diseases caused by the inability of cells to fix DNA properly, for instance, and work on the repair methods aids understanding of these ailments and how to treat them.

The discoveries illustrate the crucial and central role of chemistry, Schmidt added. “These mechanisms are fundamentally about the making and breaking of chemical bonds,” she said.

Scientists used to believe that DNA molecules were extremely stable. After all, they had to reliably transmit genetic information from generation down to generation. Then in the 1970s Lindahl demonstrated that the neat double helix and its components constantly decays. Every day, hundreds of those components, the DNA building block chemicals abbreviated as A, T, C, and G, get knocked out of their places. If the process continued unabated, the development of life on Earth would have been impossible. This insight led Lindahl to discover a series of enzymes and reactions, called base excision repair, which constantly works to fight this decay. The C building block, for instance, is repeatedly broken down into another molecule that should not be in DNA. The enzymes Lindahl found identify that broken molecule and rebuild it into a C.

Sancar found that cells use another technique to repair damage to DNA caused by ultraviolet light, the same thing that gives you a sunburn. This DNA fix is called nucleotide excision repair. People born with defects in this repair system will develop skin cancer if they are exposed to sunlight. Excision enzymes cut out the DNA lesions. The cell also uses this repair system to correct DNA damage people get after they are born, when they encounter mutagenic substances

Finally, Modrich found out how a cell corrects errors that occur during a vital biological process: Cell division, when DNA is replicated. This copying process is supposed to produce identical strands of DNA but often there are stretches of the new stand that do not match up. The set of cellular chemicals that Modrich found, a complex called mismatch repair, scans the strands and fixes them, reducing the error frequency during replication by about a thousand times during each replication cycle. (Modrich co-authored a Scientific American article on genetic engineering.)

“Without all of these repair mechanisms.” Lindahl said, “we would not be long-lived.” For finding them, he and the two other scientists will split $1 million dollars in three equal shares.
– By Josh Fischman | Scientific American


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TPPA a bad deal for Malaysia, can’t isolate China, only trade growth defines merits of TPP

KUALA LUMPUR: United Nations assistant director-general and coordinator for economic and social development, food and agriculture organisation, Dr Jomo Kwame Sundaram (pix) has called on the government not to join the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) as it provides little benefit for Malaysia.

“I am extremely disappointed. I think it is going to affect, not only the Malaysian business community, but also Malaysian consumers and citizens adversely,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the Khazanah Megatrend Forum 2015 .

On Monday, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (Miti) said the recently concluded TPPA negotiations had agreed to take into consideration almost all of Malaysia’s concerns and sensitivities such as government procurement, state-owned enterprises and bumiputra issues.

The TPP is a trade agreement initiative involving 12 countries namely Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam.

Miti said the TPPA will be presented to parliament once the complete and official text of the agreement is prepared.

Bloomberg reported that Malaysia’s state-owned enterprises may suffer from the deal, which calls for equal access to government procurement even though electronics, chemical products, palm oil and rubber exporters benefit from it.

Jomo said that the TPPA is politically motivated, in that it is an attempt by the US to try and isolate China, with minimum trade advantages for Malaysia.

“For example, if Malaysia produces solar panels it can’t be sold in the US and elsewhere. These are all contravening the bilateral agreements. You cannot expect the TPPA to overcome that,” he explained.

On intellectual property rights, Jomo said that the most significant implication is the cost of medication.

“They have exclusive rights and have been depriving people from the benefits of this. This is scandalous and inhumane, it cannot explain why Malaysia agreed to this,” he said.

In a statement late on Monday however, Miti had reiterated that the TPPA should not hinder the public’s access to affordable drugs and healthcare, while ensuring the necessary incentives for pharmaceutical innovators to produce new drugs and medicines.

Even though there will be “small” benefits, Jomo said the government should look at it as a whole, especially from the cost perspective.

He also said foreign complainants will have more legal resources for dispute settlement through new arbitration panels compared with those from developing countries.

“Even in the negotiations, they (developing countries) are not very well prepared, and everyone knows most of the developing countries just accepted what was given to them. It was the developed countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Japan that were insisting on it and the US compromised to them,” he added.

Meanwhile, Miti secretary-general Tan Sri Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria stressed that the full text of the TPPA will be made available to the public soon.

“We’ve nothing to hide, at the end of the day, the important thing is we want to be sure this works for Malaysia,” she said.

She does not foresee the TPPA taking effect in the next two years considering it has to be approved by every participating country

It will be a long process, maybe two years or more, I don’t know,” she added.

A cost benefit analysis commissioned by Miti to determine the attractiveness of the deal is yet to be completed.

TPPA cost benefit analysis still pending

Should have been finalised earlier for the sake of public understanding

PETALING JAYA: The cost benefit analysis on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) should have been finalised and released earlier for the sake of public understanding, Bantah TPPA group chairman Mohd Nizam Mahshar said in a statement yesterday.

Commenting on the conclusion of the TPPA negotiations, he said the cost benefit analysis should have been finalised and released earlier, to provide the public and interested parties with a greater understanding of the TPPA and its implications.

The release of the cost benefit analysis has been delayed for months.

“Until now, it has not been released and we only have three months from the official date of the negotiation’s conclusion to the date that it has to be signed,” he added.

International Trade and Industry Minister, Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said in a Facebook posting yesterday that the contents of the TPPA deal will be made public next month and presented to parliament for debate within the next two months.

The minister said it would also include the completed cost benefit analysis.

“This does not mean a thing. Even though debated by parliamentarians, the agreement cannot be amended,” Mohd Nizam said.
“From this day to the next 90 days Malaysia has only two choices, either to take the TPPA agreement as a whole or to reject it completely. We still have a say if we choose to speak up,” he added.

Nizam said despite the conclusion of the negotiations, the group is maintaining its position that the TPPA deal will not benefit the country’s trade or economic health.

He said the possible impact includes restrictions of policy space, intrusions on legal and political sovereignty, huge impact to small and medium enterprises and infant industry, access to affordable medicine, as well as intellectual property effects to knowledge and information institutions and industries.

Meanwhile, the recently formed coalition party Parti Amanah Negara said it hoped all comments from the public will be considered seriously.

“We also hope all necessary action will be taken and the debate will not merely be an exercise in ‘public relations’,” its communication director Khalid Abd Samad said in a statement.

He added that the minister previously had acknowledged that there were several concerns regarding the TPPA, saying among the concerns in the agreement is that it seeks to ensure free competition with minimal government control or intervention.

“This will only result in stronger companies overcoming all others and dominating the market,” Khalid said, explaining that local companies, which are much smaller than the United States multinational companies and other member countries will not be able to compete and therefore become sidelined.

Commenting on the intellectual property rights issue, Khalid said it would have a direct impact specifically on the price of medicine, and enforcement of intellectual property rights would cause higher prices of medicine.

“Even though this may be good for the pharmaceutical companies, it will certainly have a negative effect on the population as a whole,” Khalid added, saying that the party is worried that the deal will only bring short-term benefits, while increasing the country’s dependency on specific sources of revenue.

Meanwhile, Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute’s Centre for public policy studies chairman Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam said the Ministry of International Trade and Industry should hold several town hall meetings to explain the TPPA deal to the public.

“We cannot afford to leave important national agreements and treaties only to politicians to decide, as they may have their own political deals to settle. We all have to actively participate in the debate outside parliament as well,” he added. – The Sunbiz

TPP cannot ‘isolate China’ – Chinese economy increasingly open, inclusive: economist

The US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement will not isolate China or seriously hurt the Chinese economy, experts said Wednesday, adding it could lead the world’s second-largest economy to reach similar deals with other nations, after a deal was reached on the TPP earlier this week.

Amid widespread online pessimism over the trade pact among 12 Pacific Rim nations that some believe deliberately excluded China, Chinese economists said such anxieties have been overblown.

Huang Wei, director of the Institute of World Economics and Politics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the TPP will affect China, but will have a “minimal negative impact” on the Chinese economy in the long run because of the economy’s size and its irreplaceable role in regional and global markets.

Huang believes the TPP creates more of a “psychological effect” on China that the country has been left out by its neighbors and trading partners from such a significant trade agreement. “But don’t turn pale just at the mention of a tiger,” she told the Global Times on Wednesday.

She said, if anything, the trade accord will push China to further engage with regional and global economies and pursue more trade agreements with countries in Asia and around the world, which will help the Chinese economy grow and better compete globally.

Chen Fengying, an expert at the Institute of World Economics Studies under the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, also believes that the TPP will not isolate China from the regional economy and could even be beneficial.

“Given the important role China plays in regional and global economics, a single agreement won’t isolate China,” Chen told the Global Times Wednesday. She added that if the TPP can help build a more open and prosperous Asia, it will be conducive for the Chinese economy.

Both Huang and Chen’s comments come after trade ministers from the US, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, and New Zealand reached a deal.

After days of negotiations on the details of the deal in Atlanta, US officials announced Monday that an agreement had been reached, ending years of talks, though the deal still needs to go through the legislative process of each country before it can be signed and implemented.

Prevailing issues

Some posts on popular social media platforms in China suggested Wednesday that China’s own issues in areas such as intellectual property protection, environmental standards and currency policies prevented it from being included in the deal, while others said the US is trying to single out China and counter China because the US feels its economic and political dominance is being threatened.

Experts said understanding the TPP’s impact should not only be based on the “US conspiracy theory” or the “China-deserves-it” angle.

Zhang Jianping, a foreign trade expert at the National Development and Reform Commission, told the Economic Daily that China lags behind in meeting the TPP’s requirements, such as environmental, finance and labor standards. It will take a long time for China to reach those standards, and that is why China held back in joining the TPP, he said.

Chen also said that intellectual property protection, environmental standards and other factors might have been reasons why China did not sit at the negotiating table, but such a move has pushed China to improve in such areas, as it holds numerous trade talks with countries in Asia and beyond, including TPP member-nations.

China engages world

China has reached separate free trade agreements with Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Peru, and Singapore, who are also involved in the TPP, while continuing talks with the US, Japan and other countries on free-trade deals.

China is also engaged in regional multilateral trade talks, such as the Free-Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) with Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economies, and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia.

All these efforts and other projects such as the “Belt and Road” initiative and the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) show the Chinese economy is moving toward being more open and inclusive, Chen said. It will help the country to maintain its increasing influence over regional and global trade, she added.

Chen also said she believes these trade deals are not mutually exclusive, saying they can complement each other by building a more open and fair regional economy in the Asia-Pacific.

China’s Ministry of Commerce said Tuesday that China is open to any trade agreement “compatible” with rules established by the World Trade Organization, and that is conducive to the regional economic integration of the Asia-Pacific region.- Global Times

Only trade growth will define merits of TPP

Only trade growth will define merits of TPPLabourers work at a garment factory in Sai Dong, outside Hanoi, Vietnam. [Photo/Agencies]

At a critical moment when trade is set to grow less than the global economy for the first time in the last four decades, there is no reason not to welcome the ambitious pact that 12 Pacific Rim countries reached on Monday to create the largest free trade area of the world.

That is why China’s Ministry of Commerce said on Tuesday that the Trans-Pacific Partnership is one of the key free trade agreements for the region and China is open to any mechanism that follows the rules of the World Trade Organization and can boost the economic integration of the Asia-Pacific.

As a top global trading power that has hugely contributed to and benefited from the global trade growth for the last two decades, China sincerely hopes the TPP pact and other free trade arrangements in the region can strengthen each other and boost trade, investment and economic growth in the Asia-Pacific, to benefit not just the region but also the rest of the world.

It is also the common wish of the international community that, as a long-term driving force, the current slow pace of global trade growth should be revived through deeper and wider reforms of the international trade system to fuel a sustainable global recovery from the 2008 financial crisis.

The appealing promise that the TPP may reshape industries and liberalize commerce in 40 percent of the world’s economy has understandably given rise to praise such as the “most ambitious trade pact in a generation”.

Yet the real implications of the TPP deal are far from clear since it has been largely negotiated under a blanket of secrecy to facilitate give-and-take among the signatories.

The power of a successful trade deal is to maximize as much as possible each participant’s comparative advantages in global trade while minimizing predictable political opposition from various domestic vested interests.

Nevertheless, even before the five-year marathon talks have secured a really workable arrangement, US President Barack Obama hastened to paint the pact as a way of stopping China from writing the rules of the global economy in an illusion that he may easily win over the domestic political support he expects.

However, if the deal is based on the political priority of one partner, rather than the shared benefit of all partners, it would be hard to believe that it can ensure free market trade as it is being touted.

The world needs a trade-boosting deal. The United States has a huge onus to prove the merits of the TPP.  – China Daily

A new era for world powers

Meeting of minds: Xi talking to Obama during a high-level ‘Leaders Summit on Peacekeeping’ during the 70th session General Debate of the United Nations General Assembly at United Nations headquarters in New York. — EPA

THE visit last week by President Xi Jinping to the United States was significant on many levels. It will take months, perhaps years, to fully gauge its implications, but it is not too soon to make some preliminary remarks.

While the main focus was on the fact that it was a full scale state visit with all the trappings, the programme actually comprised three legs: a high-profile meeting with US business leaders in Washington State; the formal state visit in Washington DC including meetings with President Barack Obama; and a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

On the first leg, Xi assured the US business community that China would remain open to them – as a market for their products and services, as a destination for their investments, and as a source of the goods US consumers want. The underlying message was a very important one: China is now fully plugged in to the global economy, and intends to remain so forever.

The second leg was more notable for the pomp and ceremony rather than for its tangible achievements. There was a Guard of Honour to be inspected, a 21-gun salute on the South Lawn of the White House, a full-scale state dinner plus several meetings with Obama in greater or smaller groups, and even a “private” stroll in the garden.

The third leg saw Xi in the role of international statesman. His measured address to the world body included a pledge of US$2bil (RM8.82bil) to help poorer countries to develop, and the promise of debt relief to those governments who are most hard up.

All high-profile visits of this type have three distinct audiences – one in the host country, one in the home country, and one in the international community at large.

It is probably fair to say that the public in the US took more interest in the coincidental visit of Pope Francis. Then just when the focus began to swing back toward the Chinese leader, the Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner announced his resignation and briefly captured the headlines.

Nonetheless, it is the visit of China’s president that will have left the more enduring and deeper impression, especially with the audience that matters most in politics, the media and commerce. The sight of the titans of US business queueing up to greet him on arrival in Seattle, Washington, will linger, as will the mutual respect shown during the formal proceedings, and the heavyweight address to the UN. All these have raised China’s profile with the US people.

For Obama, the visit required the striking of a delicate balance. His overriding priority during the next 16 months is to preserve the main items of his legacy, in particular the Iran nuclear deal and the affordable healthcare legislation.

That means, if possible, he must try to ensure that another member of the Democratic Party succeeds him. If the Republicans were to take the White House and maintain their majorities in both houses of Congress, they could do a great deal to undermine his achievements.

The audience back home in China cannot fail to have been impressed. There was the president rubbing shoulders with Bill Gates, Tim Cook and Mark Zuckerberg – all household names – who could not wait to greet Xi. Similarly, officials at all levels will have got the message that engagement with the US is inevitable and needs to be handled pragmatically. Recognition for Xi as a major player in front of the UN added further luster.

Other nations around the world will have seen the same events as people in the US and China. Government leaders in Tokyo, Seoul, Pyongyang, Canberra and other capitals will have to factor in the developments in Sino-US relations to their own policies and strategies going forward. The world has changed and a new era has begun. – China Daily

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By Luo Jie

President Xi Jinping’s first state visit to the United States may mean vastly improved China-US relations, with key agreements signed ahead to mark the occasion.

IF timing is a significant factor in shaping important events, what has it done to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first state visit to the United States?

That the visit came at the same time as the first-ever papal address to the US Congress meant that media attention was effectively halved. Xi and Pope Francis had to share the media blitz; prime-time and front-page priorities were split.

But while the Pope’s visit was imbued with spirituality, Xi’s was rich in material significance and consequence. The Xi-Obama huddle was a meeting between leaders of the world’s two largest economies with much to discuss on economic and security matters.

More significantly, the Chinese leader, who is still in the early years of his decade in office, has come to visit his US counterpart in the twilight of the latter’s tenure. Yet China’s state media have no qualms about calling the visit “historic”.

President Barack Obama leaves office in January 2017. Although that is still more than a year away, it takes time for two distant yet interrelated, lumbering giants – China and the United States – to size each other up to work effectively together.

Not that Xi and Obama are total strangers. They have met repeatedly since 2009, some of those times only incidentally “on the sidelines” of a larger conference.

Still, much is assumed about the decisive nature of personal rapport between leaders. What impact does it have on bilateral relations between nations?

Western societies generally prefer formal agreements such as treaties to benchmark external relations.

For Asian countries such as China, unilateral pledges work as well and their voluntary observance deserves plaudits.

But Asian cultures also value personal connections, such that know-who is at least as important as know-how. Thus, Xi’s careful cultivation of Obama is nearing its end.

That cultivation has included the development of relations between the two First Ladies, and Xi’s affinity with Lincoln High School and Tacoma from early personal associations.

These are human touches, not simply frivolous details. For millions of Americans, they help to flesh out the character of the leader of an otherwise faceless, alien monolith that is China.

The importance of a personable character and thus of personal ties is also more important in the United States than is generally supposed. How can the personal imprint of any particular president on policy be denied?

It is unlikely for US policy on China to be identical with George W. Bush, Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton in the White House. Election impresario and political mud wrestler Donald Trump will want it to be different again in his White House.

The US election season has begun, and among the seasonal domestic bloodsports is China bashing. How will the next president honour any deals Obama now makes with China?

The soothing argument is that however much a maverick a presidential candidate may be, the heft of political realities and high office will weigh on the incoming president to ensure a pragmatic moderation.

The problem is that nothing can guarantee that outcome.

Consistency in China’s external policymaking is less of a problem. A one-party state ensures that regardless of the personal style or preference of the leader of the day, the collective outlook is constant.

Barring unforeseen circumstances and contingencies, the ends and means in China’s long-term plans are reasonably clear. Individual leaders bring only a certain accent or tenor to dealmaking, with certain emphases such as eliminating corruption.

Xi has also called for a major reset in relations with the United States since at least 2013. No country can reasonably reject that call so there has been progress, even if it has been slow.

Xi’s first state visit is particularly significant in tackling three main themes head-on: essential new major-power bilateral relations, economic cooperation whose need is obvious enough, and military cooperation, which is as important as it may seem unlikely.

In mid-2013, just months into his new presidency, Xi flew to Califor­nia for a working meeting with Obama to jointly design a new style of US-China relations. They agreed on the importance of that task and on its follow-through.

This month’s summit is the next big step on that road. In the intervening two years, officials on both sides had been working on consolidating that agreement.

The economic aspects of the reset in relations are the most evident. So are their limitations.

The US Foreign Investment and National Security Act (2007) constrains China’s investments in certain key sectors deemed to impinge on key US infrastructure or other national security interests. Foreign enterprises are known to face difficulties in acquiring stakes in US “strategic industries” – oil or high technology assets.

China followed the US example this year with a draft of its own Foreign Investment Law (2015). During the Seattle trip, Xi pledged to facilitate US investments in China, but it was not clear if any aspect of the FIL would be compromised.

Meanwhile, reports of mergers and acquisitions between China and the United States continue to show promise.

The value of M&A deals in the first half of this year exceeded US$300bil (RM1.3 trillion), an increase of more than 60% over the same period last year, which had already set the record for the first half year.

Perhaps most significantly, China and the United States signed annexes to two agreements on major military operations, as well as air and sea encounters.

With China’s growing naval reach and US naval “rebalancing”, sea lanes in the Western Pacific are becoming more traversed as routes tend to overlap. The agreements signed just days before are intended to improve operational coordination and avoid misunderstanding and false alarms.

The first annex covers a telephone hotline between both countries’ defence ministries and mutual notification of an impending crisis. The second relates to airborne encounters, improved communication and better coordination in emergencies.

These are still early days in such China-US cooperation, but a promising start has been made in addressing the most pressing concerns. More cooperation and coordination can be expected.

More broadly, China-US cooperation has yielded results in environmental management and the Iran nuclear deal. More progress may be envisaged over North Korea, anti-terrorism measures and even improved US-Russia relations.

In already focusing on security provisions for the Western Pacific, with all its implications for the South China Sea and the East China Sea, Beijing and Washington have taken the bull by the horns.

This is surely the better and bolder way. The alternative is a somewhat indecisive and half-hearted attempt to face the issues, in part by deferring them to a later time that may never come.

Now that a bold start has been made, the follow-up has to be at least as gutsy. The momentum, once created, has to be maintained and built on to reach satisfactory policy conclusions.

Chinese commentaries have largely pronounced Xi’s state visit as momentous, in terms of China’s intent in soliciting a positive US response to redefining their bilateral relations. That will also require China’s continued commitment to the cause.

Xi’s objectives should also be Obama’s, as evidenced in their discussions for two years now, particularly since these objectives equally serve US and Chinese interests. To help realise them, the United States needs to contribute its share of commitment.

By Bunn Nagara Behind the Headlines

Bunn Nagara is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia.

Xi visit helps US avoid anxiety over China

President Xi Jinping arrived in Washington DC on Thursday. His stay there was the climax of his week-long state visit to the US.

The diplomatic exchanges in recent years seem to have reached a consensus, in which the heads of state prefer to hold a more private and longer meeting, where the subjects of their talks can range from domestic as well as diplomatic matters. Such a scheme helps to build personal trust and enable them to better understand each country’s policies.

On Thursday night, Xi and Obama’s talk lasted for three hours. On Friday morning the two met again in limited company. When the meeting expanded to more people, the duration was shorter. As such intensive exchanges continue, China and the US are in better place to avoid strategic miscalculation.

As for the achievement of this visit, people are focusing their attention on how much the talks over cyber security can yield and whether a code of behavior to govern the two air forces’ encounter will be officially signed. Although the bilateral investment treaty may not be signed this time, an exchange of negative lists for foreign investment will help both sides get closer toward the eventual agreement.

The strategic impact of Xi’s visit will take effect in the near future, which will be assessed by how much the tension will ease around thorny issues between the two countries.

Talk about a “Thucydides trap,” in which a rising power clashes with an existing power, permeates academic and media circles, especially in the US.

However, both Xi and Obama said they do not believe in the Thucydides trap, which means the two countries will not walk toward the strategic confrontation.

The US had three enemies in history, Germany, Japan and the Soviet Union. China is different from any of the three. It is larger than Germany and Japan, and it was more efficient than the Soviet Union. The most important thing is that China is one of the largest US trade partners. The US has more interests in China than in any of its allies.

China is still growing at a high speed, though the momentum has slowed. But the growth still outpaces other major economies. The anxiety from the US is inevitable.

Xi’s latest visit has helped ease the anxiety from the US. The Chinese and US people may also do something to help their countries avoid the Thucydides trap – give their governments more flexibility so that both can make compromises on thorny matters. – Global Times

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China-US new type of major power relations: positive narratives needed to help turn negative tide

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

New type of great power relations

Xi Jinping’s upcoming visit to the US comes amid the two sides’ pledge to push for a “new type of great power relations.” Though tensions come part and parcel of ties between great powers, China and the US have vowed to navigate those dangerous waters through dialogue.

China-US are on way to a new type of major power relations

Recently, worries have been heard in the Western academia and strategic circles on China’s development direction, foreign policy changes and thus the possible deterioration of China-US relations.

Two catchy phrases are mostly used to describe the current situation, the “Thucydides’s Trap” and “tipping point.”

The “Thucydides’s Trap,” which means a rising power generates fear in an established power that it ultimately leads to a war between the two, is not persuasive to describe the possible prospect of nowadays China-US relations. On the one hand, it neglects significant changes of the external environment. In addition, the theory hardly explains the peaceful transition of power in history.

On the other hand, the “Thucydides’s Trap” puts too much blame on the threat of the rising country, missing the possibility that the established country could be more comfortable in launching a preemptive war.

“Tipping point” is another phrase that has caused a round of discussion about China-US relations in both countries. David Lampton, a senior China scholar, delivered a speech in May, worrying that China-US relations were approaching “a tipping point.” After that, some US politicians and scholars followed the suit and expressed worries about bilateral relations. Even in China, people began to write articles, discussing how to avoid a hot war with the US.

Paying too much attention on the two phrases will exaggerate the competitive sides of the two countries and are not helpful for China-US relations. It will lead people to imagine more difficulties and feel frustrated about the relations.

We should adopt positive narrative about China-US relations and concentrate more on cooperation rather than competition.

It is a good chance for the two countries to strengthen the positive and grand narrative about bilateral relations during the upcoming state visit paid by Chinese President Xi Jinping to the US. A new type of major power relationship in general is a useful guideline and positive narrative for the future development of bilateral ties.

Meanwhile, the two countries should inject more concrete contents into the idea by narrowing divergences and expanding cooperation. China-US relations are the most important and complex bilateral relations in the world. It is impossible for the two countries to shun competition, but strengthening bilateral cooperation still forms the major part of the relations.

China and the US need each other. Although some US scholars and politicians argued that the US government should change its grand strategy toward China, namely balancing China’s rise, the fact is that the US needs China’s cooperation on a bunch of issues ranging from bilateral issues to global governance such as climate change.

Xi’s visit will provide a great opportunity to facilitate cooperation between the two countries. The communication between the two leaders will first of all enhance the strategic mutual trust and ensure the relations on the right track. Numerous highlights might pop up during Xi’s visit.

On cyber security, the two may reach some fundamental consensus like promising not to attack each other’s key infrastructure, regulating their own actions and forming basic norms.

On economic cooperation, as the top two economies in the world, the countries should express their willingness to lead the global economic development.

On climate change, the countries may carry on the momentum and release another joint announcement to accumulate more dynamism for the upcoming Paris Climate Conference.

In addition, Xi might share his experience of China’s development path to disperse US misunderstandings about China’s domestic policies and interact with the US public, offering a solid foundation of the bilateral relations.

By Sun Chenghao Source:Global Times

The author is an assistant research fellow at the Institute of American Studies, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.


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