China courts friends in region; for others a show of strength

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (L) poses during the family photo at the 15th ASEAN-China summit meeting at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, November 19, 2012. Also in the picture is Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen. REUTERS/ Samrang Pring

PHNOM PENH/BEIJING (Reuters) – When U.S. President Barack Obama and more than a dozen leaders arrived in Cambodia for a regional summit meeting this week, only one of them was feted with banners strung from the venue gates.

“Welcome Prime Minister Wen Jiabao!” one proclaimed. “Long live the People’s Republic of China!” read another.

As the leaders left, the green-and-white banners were still festooned outside Phnom Penh’s Peace Palace, a fitting reminder of China’s powerful and growing clout as Beijing uses its influence – and money – to win friends and frustrate those uneasy about its sweeping territorial claims and rising military strength.

“Some states are easily swayed by money. If they see cash, they easily throw away their principles,” said one Asian diplomat at the East Asia Summit, which included heads of state from 10 Southeast Asia countries and counterparts from the United States, China, Japan and other Asia-Pacific nations.

“China has been throwing its weight around and buying the loyalties of some Asian states.”

A prime example is Cambodia, whose prime minister, Hun Sen, helped China to notch up a succession of diplomatic victories at the summit. China stalled debate on a resolution of maritime disputes in the South China Sea, rebutted attempts by Southeast Asian nations to start formal talks on the issue and avoided any rebuke from Obama over territorial ambitions. Commentators declared China a clear summit winner.

A closing statement by Hun Sen, this year’s chair of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), made no mention of the South China Sea, another victory for China’s attempts to prevent multilateral talks on the dispute.

China has poured investments and loans into Cambodia in recent years, becoming its biggest trade partner and bilateral creditor. Cambodia’s debt to China now totals at least $4.7 billion, about a third of its economy.

The price of that largesse has become clear this year, say analysts, as Cambodia has used its powers as ASEAN chair to restrict debate over the vexed issue of China’s maritime claims, dividing the group and infuriating U.S. ally the Philippines.

The 45-year-old ASEAN group has been built on a foundation of unanimity and unity, but that has unravelled as it struggles to cope with its biggest security challenge. In July, a meeting of the region’s foreign ministers broke down in unprecedented acrimony and failed to agree a communique for the first time.

This week’s ASEAN meetings again deteriorated into bad-tempered sniping and came close to a breakdown when Hun Sen adopted a draft statement saying there was a consensus not to “internationalise” the South China Sea dispute beyond ASEAN and China.

The Philippines, which sees its alliance with the United States as a crucial check on China’s claims at a time when Washington is shifting its military focus back to Asia, made a formal protest to Cambodia and succeeded in having that clause removed from the final statement.

China then poked fun at Manila’s assertion that there had been no consensus. Eight out of 10 leaders had agreed not to internationalise the dispute, meaning there was a consensus, said Qin Gang, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman.

“I suggest that people when attending the EAS (East Asia Summit) meetings have to be very good at mathematics,” he said.

“That’s 10 minus two, so which is bigger?”


Beijing claims a vast U-shaped line around the South China Sea that brushes up against the coasts of the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia. The area is thought to hold vast, untapped reserves of oil and natural gas, and naval flashpoints between Chinese vessels and the Philippine and Vietnamese navy have become increasingly common.

Hopes for a diplomatic resolution within the ASEAN-China framework look bleak in the next two years as tiny Brunei and then Myanmar take up the chairmanship of the group.

Cambodia, like fellow “Mekong” countries Laos and Myanmar, has been rapidly pulled into China’s economic orbit through rocketing trade and investment ties.

It has become customary for Chinese officials to arrive in Cambodia bearing “gifts”, such as the $100 million investment that Wen announced on his arrival this week to build the emerging country’s biggest cement plant. China has moved nimbly to set up free trade deals with Southeast Asia nations and has played a dominant role in financing and building big infrastructure projects in Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar.

After the summit, Wen visited Thailand where he signed an understanding to buy rice, which should strongly lift Beijing’s standing with a government that is a close ally of the United States. Bangkok has built up record stockpiles of 14 million tonnes of milled rice after a populist programme to pay farmers more for their crops made exports unprofitable.

If diplomatic efforts stall, China’s options to back its claims with force if needed are steadily growing with a military budget that outstrips the combined spending of Southeast Asia.

As China ushered in a new generation of leaders this month, outgoing President Hu Jintao made a pointed reference to strengthening China’s naval forces, protecting maritime interests, and the need to “win local war.”

“We should make active planning for the use of military forces in peacetime, expand and intensify military preparedness, and enhance the capability to accomplish a wide range of military tasks, the most important of which is to win local war in an information age,” Hu said.

Besides the South China Sea, China is embroiled in a dispute with Japan, also a close U.S. ally, over islands in the East China Sea.

China’s stance is that it is not trying to become an offensive naval power, but wants to secure its energy imports and boost development of maritime natural resources, which are expected to represent 10 percent of its economy by 2015.

But it is also wary of being encircled as the United States refocuses its military clout on Asia in what Obama has called a “pivot” back to the region as wars in the Middle East wind down.

“It is absolutely (a buildup),” said Ruan Zongze, deputy director of the China Institute of International Studies, the think-tank of the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

“No matter what kind of narrative you use, the reality is that America in the past three years has been putting greater emphasis or focus on the west Pacific. That raises a lot of questions for China.”

China launched its first aircraft carrier in September, increasing its ability to project forces deeper into “blue-water” maritime territory. Bought from Ukraine ostensibly to use as a floating casino, the Chinese navy spent years refurbishing the carrier, which is undergoing sea trials. It also test-flew two types of stealth fighters this year, the second one last month – a smaller, more maneuverable model believed to be designed to be deployed on an aircraft carrier.

“China has ambitions to become the premier military power among its regional peers, and a serious threat to U.S. maritime primacy in the Asia Pacific,” said Sam Roggeveen, an Asian defence analyst with the Lowy Institute in Sydney.

Roggeveen added that if China were to deploy more than one carrier and equip them with high-performance stealth fighters, “it would become the pre-eminent regional maritime power, with the ability to coerce neighbours in disputes in which the U.S. prefers not to get involved”.

By Stuart Grudgings and Terril Yue Jones
(Additional reporting by James Pomfret and Manuel Mogato in PHNOM PENH; Editing by Jason Szep and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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Asean nations feud over South China Sea


‘No’ to property price speculation

Excessive Asian property price appreciation may be over for now

PEOPLE generally like to invest in properties. It is easy to understand you buy a house. It is a simple, tangible investment. It is long term and financing is usually easy. Most people tend to have positive experience after buying their first home, which normally would appreciate after a decade or two.

Simple things can morph into complex series of events. Buying houses may turn to speculation, massive speculations become a boom and bust “housing bubble”; banks may collapse from huge bad mortgages, a financial crisis and then a government bailout ensues, an economic recession soon follows. These events sound a little too familiar.

Low interest rates, massive liquidity and investors shying away from volatile stock markets, are some of the many reasons cited for Asia’s potential property bubbles today. From 2009 or so, private residential properties have seen large average price jumps in China (Beijing +100%), Hong Kong (+53%), Singapore (+53%), Malaysia (+21%) and Indonesia (Jakarta +14%).

Asian policy makers have taken many pre-emptive actions to control this property “bubble”, usually by regulating excessive speculation and guiding mortgage lending by banks. In Hong Kong, policy makers try to discourage speculators by raising special stamp duty for short term resale of residential property (5% to 15%, depending on holding period); in Singapore, measures include a hefty extra 10% stamp duty on purchase price for non-residents. In Indonesia, there’s a maximum 70% property loan limit.

Recent data suggest such curbs did not slow the Hong Kong or Singapore property markets for long. Transactions or prices picked up again recently. We believe however, if Asian property prices rise rapidly again, tougher curbs may be in the cards. The slew of increasingly tough measures in China the last 18 months is seen as an example. An avalanche of curbs eventually made China home prices dip for eight straight months up to May 2012.

Historically, financial crisis in many countries (Japan 1991, US 2008 and Spain today) are caused by property price bubbles bursting hurting consumers, banks and businesses. Therefore, it makes a lot of sense to have responsible lending.

Asian policy makers, having learned bitter lessons from the 1997/98 financial crisis, sees pre-emptive measures to control any potential property “bubble” as crucial to avoid banking problems or crises.

Governments in Asia on the one hand want to curb excessive price speculation, while at the same time, know that home ownership is a very important (and personal) issue notwithstanding it is also a big contributor to domestic economic growth.

What Asian policy makers aim to do is best captured in a Chinese phrase, which literally means “in peace time, think about danger”. The best time to prepare for rainy days is when the sun is shining it’s a lot harder to do so in a storm.

The biggest challenge for policy makers is to develop a sustainable property sector and promote home ownership (especially first time house buyers) without boom and bust. That includes the balancing act of curbing property speculation without inadvertently pulling the brakes on the economy.

Some Malaysian non-listed property developers I met recently have expressed deep concerns that sales of their high-end, new condominiums are lagging, because buyers find it difficult to get financing.

Bank Negara‘s curbs on lending for third property mortgage (maximum 70% financing) and stricter banks credit standards appears to be working for now.

The intent of Bank Negara, we believe, is to nip excessive property price speculation in the bud. Current property curbs ensure at least prices don’t run up too fast and banks may allocate more funds to first time house buyers rather than investors or speculators.

Interestingly, property developers who don’t complain about curbs are often the established ones who prefer sustainable growth, rather than a boom and bust property market. I believe many property companies have learnt not to borrow too much.

Tellingly, the top five Malaysian listed property developers have reduced average net gearing from 70% in 2000 to 18% in 2011, (Indonesian and Thai property developers reduced from 612% to 9% and 255% to 84% respectively). Asean property companies today are undoubtedly less leveraged with healthier cash reserves.

That’s one reason why most property developers in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand for example, are not rushing to unload properties at massive discounts, even as property curbs bite into sales. They know current measures are temporary and consumer demand is likely robust for quite some time.

Asian consumers are financially better off today. Healthy employment and wage increases across Asia means consumer demand for housing will likely stay buoyant and house prices, like in normal times, will gradually rise over time.

However, the intriguing impact on Asian properties today given the mind set and propensity of policy makers to pre-empt any potential property bubble I believe periods of excessive property price appreciation in many Asian property markets may already be over for now.

I believe policy maker’s curbs on excessive price speculation is a right policy. Even if there’s short-term pain, it will likely make Asian economic growth sustainable for the longer term in these difficult times.

Singular Vision

 Teoh Kok Lin is the founder and chief investment officer of Singular Asset Management Sdn Bhd.

Chinese Astronauts return to Earth safely; Success on road to deep space!

Module re-entry process: Shenzhou-9’s journey back to earth CCTV News – CNTV English.

After thirteen days in space, the astronauts aboard the Shenzhou-9 spaceship will return to the Earth.

The first stage of the process is for the re-entry module to separate from the orbital capsule.

The propulsion module will later separate from the re-entry module, after it’s propelled it to a lower altitude of 140 kilometers. The re-entry module will then adjust its position before making its entry into the atmosphere. Well, as we can see, according to accurate calculation, the module is to land at Siziwang Banner, in central Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

Let’s see this simple illustration. The module will pass through the so-called “black out area”. At this stage, communication is impossible, due to high levels of friction with the atmosphere, causing extreme temperatures. When the capsule is out of the black-out area, several parachutes will be released one by one, to gradually slow the module’s descent. When the vehicle gets below 10km, the heat shield will be jettisoned. At 1 meter above the ground, 4 small engines will ignite to reduce the speed to a safe range for landing. Once on the ground; the re-entry module will communicate with the control center to show its location, so rescue teams find it as soon as possible.

The completion of the Shenzhou-9 mission will bring China one step closer to building its own fully-fledged space station by 2020. China’s permanent space station is expected to weigh about 60 tons, so it require rockets such as Long March 5 rockets to send different parts into space. At the hub of China’s future space station will be the Core Module. It will control the station’s altitude, propulsion, and life support systems for the astronauts.

At one end of the core module is a small connecting chamber. On each side of this are the two Laboratory Modules. Experiments can be carried out both inside and outside these modules, testing such things as exposure to cosmic rays, a vacuum environment, and solar winds. On the other end of the space station is the cargo delivery module, which will carry supplies, equipment and energy stocks. Back on the other side, attached to the connecting chamber will be the Shenzhou spacecraft which will travel between the space station and the earth. China’s space station is an ambitious and complicated structure but it’s still only about one-sixth the size of the International Space Station.

Currently flying at an orbit of around 400 kilometers above the earth is the International Space Station. The US and Russia have led the design and construction of the ISS, with 16 other countries also contributing to the project. China’s main contribution to the ISS is the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. It is a particle physics experimental instrument designed to search for anti-matter and dark matter. These two mysteries have been puzzling scientists for decades according to theory, they should exist.  But so far, no direct evidence has been found. It’s planned that the ISS will plunge back into the ocean in 2028.

By that time, if China’s space program goes according to plan, China’s space complex will then be the only space station orbiting the earth.

The Success on road to deep space!

BEIJING, June 29 (Xinhua) — The return of the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft to Earth Friday morning marked the end of a 13-day journey through space for three Chinese astronauts.

But it also marked the beginning of a new journey for China as it inches closer to its goal of building a space station.

China’s space program has accomplished in 20 years’ time the same tasks that took developed nations nearly half a century to accomplish, including manned space flights, space walks and a manned space docking procedure.

The recent successful docking of the Shenzhou-9 and Tiangong-1 lab module marks a new height for Chinese space exploration, as well as a new leap forward for national rejuvenation.

China’s space exploration took a long time to ramp up. In 1992, 43 years after the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the country decided to establish its manned space program.

Scientific policies have facilitated the program and helped it develop comprehensively and sustainably. The aerospace industry was given a larger role in the country’s 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) and authorities have taken pains to implement every step of the manned space program with great care.

The success of the Shenzhou-9 has demonstrated the power of China’s collective wisdom and capability. About 110 research institutions have directly participated in the manned space program thus far, with more than 3,000 institutions and units coordinating their efforts.

The mission has also demonstrated the success of socialism, showing that it has the political advantage of accumulating wisdom and resources to achieve great things.

Facing limitless space, China’s space program is only just beginning. The country will face challenges on its road to rejuvenation, but the success of the mission has boosted national confidence and shown China’s people that the country’s space program will have a bright future. –  Xinhua

Touchdown! Chinese Space Capsule With 3 Astronauts Returns to Earth

by Staff
Date: 28 June 2012 Time: 10:06 PM ET
This photograph of a China CCTV broadcast shows the Shenzhou 9 space capsule lying on its side after landing in an autonomous region of China in Inner Mongolia on June 29, 2012 Beijing time (10 p.m. June 28 EDT) to end a 13-day mission to the Tiangong 1 s
This photograph of a China CCTV broadcast shows the Shenzhou 9 space capsule lying on its side after landing in an autonomous region of China in Inner Mongolia on June 29, 2012 Beijing time (10 p.m. June 28 EDT) to end a 13-day mission to the Tiangong 1 space lab module.

Three Chinese astronauts returned to Earth Thursday (June 28) after 13 days in space on a historic mission that made their country only the third nation ever to successfully dock a manned spacecraft to another in orbit.

China’s Shenzhou 9 space capsule landed at about10 p.m. EDT (10 a.m. Friday, June 29 Beijing time) in Inner Mongolia, an autonomous region of the People’s Republic of China. To prepare for their journey home, the space crew — which included China’s first female astronaut Liu Yang — separated the Shenzhou 9 capsule its target, the Tiangong 1 prototype space module, on Wednesday (June 27).

Their landing was broadcast live on China’s state-run CCTV television network, showing the capsule streaking through the atmosphere like a meteor, deploying its main parachute, then making the final landing and rolling over on its side in a rough touchdown.

“We fulfilled the first manned manual docking,” mission commander Jing Haipeng told CCTV reporters after exiting the Shenzhou 9 capsule. His comments in Chinese were translated into English by CCTV. “For the country and people all across the country, thank you for your concerns.”  [Photos of China’s Shenzhou 9 Mission]

Jing and crewmates Liu Yang and Liu Wang appeared to be in good health after their space mission. The trio wore broad smiles and waved to cameras after leaving their spacecraft, but did sit in reclined chairs to help ease their adaptation back to Earth’s gravity after nearly two weeks in weightlessness.

Shortly after the landing, China’s Premier Wen Jiabao proclaimed the Shenzhou 9 mission a complete success.

“This manned docking mission of Tiangong 1 and Shenzhou 9 marks a large milestone, a major breakthrough for China to master the space docking technology,” Wen said while reading a statement. “And also, it marks a decisive step forward on China’s second step on its space strategy.”

Chinese astronaut Jing Haipeng, commander of the Shenzhou 9 mission, salutes after exiting the space capsule following landing in Inner Mongolia autonomous mission on June 28, 2012.
CREDIT: China Central Television/CCTV

China’s big space leap

China’s Shenzhou 9 mission, which included successful displays of manual and automatic dockings, represented an important leap forward for China’s space program. In addition to being China’s longest space mission to date, it also tested technology vital for the country’s goal of building space station in orbit by the year 2020.

“Chinese astronauts have their own home in space now,” Jing told China’s President Hu Jintao on Tuesday (June 26) during a special call according to the state-run Xinhua news agency. “We are proud of our country!”

And while the orbital linkups are important technological achievements for China, the mission also carried a wider social impact because it included the country’s first female astronaut: the 33-year-old Liu Yang.

“It was like a home in Tiangong, and I feel very happy and proud of my country,” Liu Yang told reporters after landing.

Jing, the commander, is China’s first veteran astronaut to fly in space twice. The third crewmember, Liu Wang, served as the Shenzhou 9 docking pilot.

“It feels really good to feel the ground and to be back home,” Liu Wang said.

The Shenzhou 9 mission, which launched into space on June 16, accomplished China’s first manned space docking, after the spacecraft robotically docked to Tiangong 1 on June 18. Several days later, on June 24, the astronauts backed away from the orbiting module and parked their Shenzhou 9 spacecraft once more, demonstrating manual control over the procedure as well.


The successful linkups made China only the third country, after the United States and Russia, to accomplish manned dockings in orbit.

The Shenzhou 9 mission, as well as experiments performed aboard Tiangong 1 throughout the flight, tested technologies that will help China fulfill its goal of building a 60-ton space station in orbit by 2020.

“The data will help us improve technologies for astronauts’ future, long-term stays in a space station,” said Chen Shanguang, chief commander of the mission’s astronaut system, according to Xinhua.

China is not a member nation of the $100 billion International Space Station in low-Earth orbit, a roughly 430-ton orbiting outpost that is jointly operated by more than a dozen countries.

But Chinese officials have outlined an ambitious space program for the nation, which includes collecting samples from the moon and robotically returning them to Earth before landing astronauts on the lunar surface.

The Shenzhou 9 mission is China’s fourth manned spaceflight. Previous expeditions were launched in 2003, 2005 and 2008.

The Tiangong 1 test module was launched into orbit in September 2011. In November, a robotic spacecraft, called Shenzhou 8, completed the country’s first unmanned space docking. According to Chinese officials, Tiangong 1 has performed well, and could play host to another crew in the near future.

“Based on current conditions, the service of Tiangong 1 can be extended,” said He Yu, chief commander of the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft, reported Xinhua. “It has consumed less than one-fourth of its fuel and no back-up systems have been used.”

Depending on its condition, the module could remain in orbit as China continues its space station construction efforts.

“If Tiangong 1 was in perfect shape, it could work side by side with Tiangong 2, which will be launched in the future,” He said.

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A boost for diplomacy

The panda loan from China is more than just a visit by two cuddly animals — its significance goes beyond that as far as diplomatic and economic relations are concerned.

PUBLIC excitement has risen since Monday’s announcement that Malaysia will host a pair of giant panda cubs from China for 10 years.

It’s a big deal. You cannot put a value to this because the Chinese Government does not simply send off their pandas to zoos around the world.

The universally loved pandas are regarded as national treasures and certainly deserve to be given the royal treatment.

 Taking a snooze: A giant panda resting on a tree stump in a giant panda research centre in Wolong, China’s Sichuan province. The universally loved pandas are regarded as national treasures. — Reuters

On Friday, an agreement was signed by the China Wildlife Conservation Association and Malaysia’s Wildlife and National Parks Department. It is certainly a feather in the cap because the panda loan request was made by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao during his visit to Nanning in April.

Besides Malaysia, only eight other countries have reportedly been given the honour of hosting these giant pandas, including Thailand and Singapore. In the case of Malaysia, the loan is to mark our 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties with China.

Singapore’s panda pair of Kai Kai and Jia Jia are due to arrive in September, about six months later than the originally planned date.

Their new home is River Safari in Mandai, which is slated to be open by the year’s end. It has been reported that the pandas will be placed in a 1,500 sq metre enclosure that will cost Singapore S$8.5mil (RM20.9mil).

The enclosure, which includes an outdoor area, a walkway that allows visitors to view the pandas up close and an air-conditioned exhibit area, will be ready by the end of this month.

Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) chairman Claire Chiang was quoted as saying that the environment had to be at its best when the pandas arrived.

“The pandas are a precious gift from the state, so we are exercising the highest level of prudence and a heightened sense of responsibility,” she said.

When the panda loan to Singapore was first announced, a television crew was sent to Sichuan Province for a sneak preview of the pandas at the Bifengxia base.

The authorities went on a public relations campaign to boast of its “eco-friendly” food for the two pandas, pointing out that a special bamboo plantation covering 8,000 sq metres had been created to grow bamboo for the endangered animals.

In Thailand, Chiangmai Zoo has been home to panda couple Lin Hui and Xuang Xuang, on loan from China since 2003. The zoo has been really lucky because Lin Hui gave birth to her first baby in May 2009.

The panda birth created such a global sensation that visitors waited in long queues just to catch a glimpse of baby Lin Ping through closed circuit television during its first three months.

Shortly after the birth, The Nation newspaper quoted zoo director Thanapat Pongamorn as saying that the zoo had clinched a deal with cable television True to broadcast the life of Lin Ping and other animals at the zoo for two years.

At the time of the report, Lin Ping had already raked in 10 million baht (RM1mil) for the zoo, with half of the zoo’s daily income of 100,000 to 200,000 baht (RM10,000 to RM20,000) coming from tickets for the panda section.

For Singapore and Thailand, the authorities and the public wasted no time in exploring the numerous opportunities available from the loan of the pandas instead of engaging in time-consuming unproductive debate.

That aside, it is important for us to note that diplomatic ties between Malaysia and China are at its peak today. According to reports, bilateral trade volume is set to hit US101bil (RM319bil) this year, after reaching US$91bil (RM287bil) in 2011.

We are also reportedly the third country in Asia to hit this milestone after Japan and South Korea. Malaysia benefited from a surplus of US$30bil (RM95bil) last year, with IT products making up 40% of bilateral trade and palm oil being the biggest commodity export to China.

Relations with China received a further boost when both sides launched the China-Malaysia Qinzhou Industrial Park. There is already talk of setting up an economic and trade cooperation zone in Malaysia.

The panda loan is more than just a visit by two cuddly animals – its significance goes beyond that as far as diplomatic and economic relations are concerned. A lot is at stake, thus the pandas deserve nothing but the best during their stay here.


Related posts:

Giant Pandas are coming to Malaysia

Giant leap in relationship – Pandas World

Pandas to soothe your nerves; Huge housing task; Are Malaysians creative naming them?

Thailand-China upgrades ties while Philippines spat with China worsens

China, Thailand upgrade bilateral ties, vow closer trade links

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (R) shakes hands with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in Beijing, capital of China, April 17, 2012. (Xinhua/Zhang Duo)

BEIJING, April 17 (Xinhua) — Premier Wen Jiabao and his Thai counterpart Yingluck Shinawatra agreed on Tuesday to upgrade bilateral relations to a “comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership.”

“Establishing the China-Thailand strategic cooperative partnership is of great significance for both countries and the peaceful development of East Asia,” Wen told Yingluck during their meeting at the Great Hall of the People.

“China hopes to enhance strategic communication with Thailand, jointly face challenges and boost cooperation in diversified areas,” Wen added.

Yingluck, who is visiting China for the first time as Thailand’s prime minister, said the creation of the partnership meets the common interests of both countries.

She vowed to facilitate stronger cooperation with China in all areas, adding that her country will play a positive role in boosting ASEAN-China cooperation and maintaining peace and stability on the South China Sea.

The Chinese premier proposed expanding bilateral trade to 100 billion US dollars annually before 2015 and enhancing cooperation in ocean, telecommunication, technology, energy and agriculture.

Wen pledged continuous support for Thailand in its post-disaster reconstruction and water conservancy following last year’s devastating flood, the worst flood to hit Thailand in nearly 50 years.

The two premiers also agreed to boost joint patrols of China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand along the Mekong River and jointly safeguard peace and stability on the South China Sea.

Yingluck said Thailand will conclude judicial proceedings regarding the murder of Chinese crewmen on the Mekong river as soon as possible and punish the criminals involved in accordance with the law.

Two Chinese cargo ships were attacked on Oct. 5 last year, with the attackers killing 13 sailors.

After their talk, the two premiers witnessed the sealing of seven bilateral cooperation agreements on issues ranging from trade, agriculture and railways to flood and drought prevention and ocean research.

Yingluck arrived in Beijing earlier Tuesday for a three-day official visit. The first female prime minister of Thailand was accompanied by executives from about 100 Thai companies.

According to Chinese Customs statistics, China is both the largest export market and second-largest import source for Thailand. The two countries’ trade volume hit 64.7 billion U.S. dollars in 2011.

  Philippines spat with China worsens in violating maritime law

 Associated Press

BEIJING –  China said Wednesday that the Philippines is violating maritime law by claiming a shoal in the South China Sea and dismissed Manila’s request to take the dispute to an international court.

“We believe it runs counter to historical facts and violates the law,” said Liu Weimin, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry.

Philippine navy and Chinese maritime patrol vessels engaged in a standoff last week over a fishing incident near the Scarborough shoal in the South China Sea, an area both sides claim as sovereign territory.

Liu said China had “lodged solemn representations” with the Philippines and that Fu Ying, a vice foreign minister, had called in the Philippine envoy on Wednesday over the issue.

The Philippines plans to seek resolution in an international court, arguing that the shoal is well within the country’s 370-kilometer (230-mile) exclusive economic zone that is recognized under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Liu said the Philippines is violating international law by using the U.N. convention to call into question sovereignty over the territory, known as Huangyan island in Chinese.

“China has sufficient legal evidence for its jurisdiction over the Huangyan island. China was the earliest to discover (12th century) and name the island, and has included it on maps and exercised its sovereignty over it ever since,” Liu said.

Liu said that the Philippines never objected to China’s territorial control of the shoal before 1997 and that its claim now is “completely baseless.”

A Philippine government statement on Wednesday contradicted Liu’s remarks, saying it has effectively occupied and exercised jurisdiction over the shoal — which it calls Bajo de Masinloc, or Panatag shoal — for decades.

A map published in 1734 showed the shoal was part of the northwestern Philippine province of Zambales, the government said, adding that a Philippine flag and lighthouse were erected on Scarborough islets in 1965.

U.S. and Philippine warships engaged in defense exercises at the shoal when American forces maintained a naval base in Zambales, the government said. The shoal “is an integral part of the Philippine territory” and Chinese vessels in the area are committing “serious violation of the Philippines’ sovereignty and maritime jurisdiction,” it said.

The shoal is among numerous islands, reefs and coral outcrops in the South China Sea claimed by China, the Philippines and other nations for their potential oil and gas deposits, rich fishing grounds and proximity to busy commercial sea lanes.

The controversy flared on April 10 when two Chinese ships prevented a Philippine warship from arresting several Chinese fishermen who were accused of illegal entry and poaching. The fishermen slipped away from the shoal over the weekend, angering Philippine officials.

Manila lodged a protest with China on Monday, accusing one of the Chinese ships and an aircraft of harassing a Philippine-registered yacht that was conducting archaeological research in the shoal.

Liu said tensions started to ease after bilateral talks.

“We hope that the Philippines can stay with their commitment and pull back their ships as soon as possible, and resume peace and stability in waters near the Huangyan island,” Liu said.

“Clothes that poke eye”, Melayu English; Lost in translation!

baju melayu + samping + sonkok (picture of myself)

All abuzz over ‘Ethical Clothing’ –

Netizens laughing at Mindef’s  no ‘clothes that poke eye’ dress code


PETALING JAYA: If you are working at the Defence Ministry, be sure not to wear “clothes that poke eye”.

This was one of the many colourful descriptions of “Ethical Clothing” (etika berpakaian) that is acceptable within the ministry’s standards.

Netizens on social networking sites were literally ROFL, which is cyberspeak for “rolling on the floor laughing”, as they shared the link to the ministry’s amusing English translation of the staff dress code on its official website.

Lost in translation: The amusing English translation of the staff dress code on the Defence Ministry website.

“Clothes that poke eye” is a literal translation of pakaian yang menjolok mata, which is supposed to mean revealing clothes in Bahasa Malaysia. Other finds included: “collared shirts and tight Malay civet berbutang three”, which, in Malay, is berkolar baju Melayu cekak musang berbutang tiga.

Baju batik lengan panjang berkolar / cekak musang buatan Malaysia, meanwhile is translated as “long-sleeve batik shirt with collar / mongoose fight made in Malaysia”.

There was also “shine closed”, which was translated from kasut bertutup, or closed-toe shoes.

Another was the brief summary of the ministry’s history on the website, which read: “After the withdrawal of British army, the Malaysian Government take drastic measures to increase the level of any national security threat.”

The actual summary in Bahasa Malaysia read: Selepas pengunduran tentera British, Kerajaan Malaysia mengambil langkah drastik untuk meningkatkan tahap keselamatan negara dari sebarang ancaman.

The ministry took down the English translated version several hours after it went widespread on Twitter and Facebook.

A ministry spokesperson said a clarification has since been posted on the website, adding that page hits shot up remarkably yesterday.

The clarification on the website said corrective action was being taken on the related software to ensure translations were accurate.

Lost in translation

On The Beat By Wong Chun Wai

Malaysians have to accept the reality that horrendous English is here to stay.

Does it come as a surprise that the English translation on the Defence Ministry website is so atrocious that it has become the butt of every joke in town? It’s not even Manglish, but simply sub-standard English.

Malaysians used to be amused at the bad Bahasa Malaysia subtitles in movies but the “clothes that poke eye” translation for “pakai­an yang menjolok mata” simply takes the cake. “Ambil kuih”, if literally translated.

Last week, the social media zoomed in on the ministry’s official site which had a page listing out guidelines on “ethical clothing” that have to be adhered to by its staff.

Other interesting examples included “collared shirts and tight Malay civet berbutang three” for “berkolar baju Melayu cekak musang berbutang tiga” and “long-sleeve batik shirt with collar/mongoose fight made in Malaysia” for “Baju batik lengan panjang berkolar/cekak musang buatan Malaysia”.

There was also “shine closed” which was translated from “kasut bertutup”.

Thankfully, the Defence Ministry responded in double quick time – it not only took down the relevant pages but also posted an online clarification promising to make the necessary corrections. Still, time on the Internet moves by the milliseconds so the spread in cyberspace could not be so easily contained.

The ministry adopted the right and honourable approach by not offering any lame excuse or shifting the blame.

This is not the first time lazy and incompetent officials have got us into trouble. If they are not capable enough, they should seek the help of professionals.

Wen Jiabao at WEF Annual Meeting in Davos 2009

Wen Jiabao

Last April, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabaoand his entourage must have laughed their heads off when they saw the words in Chinese printed on the banner backdrop at the welcoming ceremony in Putrajaya.

The words were literally translated from the Bahasa Malaysia sentence, “Istiadat Sambutan Rasmi Sempena Lawatan Rasmi TYT Wen Jiabao Ke Malaysia” (Official welcoming ceremony in conjunction with the official visit of His Excellency Wen Jiabao to Malaysia).

The Chinese translation had so many serious syntax and grammatical errors that the Chinese-literate Malaysian ministers and members of the media could only cringe in embarrassment. Translated literally, it read, “Official welcoming ceremony, with him Wen Jiabao His Excellency’s official visit Malaysia”.

Our officials apologised to Wen Jiabao and this was widely reported in China.

Although Bahasa Malaysia is our official language, it is necessary that all our official websites also have an English version simply because English is the language of the Internet. There are many convenient translation tools on the Internet, such as Google Translate and Yahoo BabelFish, but while these tools claim to be able to translate practically every language on the planet to another, they are not meant to substitute the services of professionals.

I decided to use Google Translate to translate “pakaian yang menjolok mata” and was pleasantly surprised that the English equivalent was “dress scantily”; it was certainly much better than “clothes that poke eye”. But on the more difficult phrases, this tool failed miserably.

What our ministries should do is to engage professionals who are not only competent in English but are able to make their websites attractive. Two ministries – Home, and Women, Family and Community Development – have websites that are regarded as more “innovative and approachable” and they will certainly draw more visitors.

The bigger issue here is that Malaysians have to accept the reality that horrendous English is here to stay. The day our leaders killed English as a medium of instruction and further downgraded the language as a subject in schools was the beginning of its demise.

Teaching hours for the subject have been drastically reduced and a compulsory pass is not even required in our school exams. So how serious can we be about uplifting the standard of English in this country? Worse, many teachers who are teaching English in schools are themselves not fluent in the language. It’s truly a case of the blind leading the blind.

Just yesterday, a retired civil servant, Dr Pola Singh, wrote that in the course of going through the application forms for jobs meant for graduates, he came across numerous instances of local graduates listing down that they have an “honest” degree when they meant an honours degree.

Honest to goodness, this is no laughing matter.

Related post:

‘Poke eye’ Melayu English in many public institutions inexcusable!

Prepare for combat, China’s Hu urges navy!

Chinese President Hu Jintao Tuesday urged the navy to prepare for military combat amid growing regional tensions over maritime disputes and a US campaign to assert itself as a Pacific power.

The navy should “accelerate its transformation and modernisation in a sturdy way, and make extended preparations for military combat in order to make greater contributions to safeguard national security,” he said.

Addressing the powerful Central Military Commission, Hu said: “Our work must closely encircle the main theme of national defence and military building.”

His remarks, which were posted on a statement on a government website, come amid growing US and regional concerns over China’s naval ambitions, particularly in the South China Sea.

Chinese President Hu Jintao on Tuesday urged the navy to prepare for military combat, amid growing regional tensions over maritime disputes and a US campaign to assert itself as a Pacific power.

The navy should “accelerate its transformation and modernisation in a sturdy way, and make extended preparations for military combat in order to make greater contributions to safeguard national security,” he said.

Addressing the powerful Central Military Commission, Hu said: “Our work must closely encircle the main theme of national defence and military building.”

His comments, which were posted in a statement on a government website, come as the United States and Beijing’s neighbours have expressed concerns over its naval ambitions, particularly in the South China Sea.

Several Asian nations have competing claims over parts of the South China Sea, believed to encompass huge oil and gas reserves, while China claims it all. One-third of global seaborne trade passes through the region.

Vietnam and the Philippines have accused Chinese forces of increasing aggression there.

In a translation of Hu’s comments, the official Xinhua news agency quoted the president as saying China’s navy should “make extended preparations for warfare.”

The Pentagon however downplayed Hu’s speech, saying that Beijing had the right to develop its military, although it should do so transparently.

“They have a right to develop military capabilities and to plan, just as we do,” said Pentagon spokesman George Little, but he added, “We have repeatedly called for transparency from the Chinese and that’s part of the relationship we’re continuing to build with the Chinese military.”

“Nobody’s looking for a scrap here,” insisted another spokesman, Admiral John Kirby. “Certainly we wouldn’t begrudge any other nation the opportunity, the right to develop naval forces to be ready.

“Our naval forces are ready and they’ll stay ready.”

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said: “We want to see stronger military-to-military ties with China and we want to see greater transparency. That helps answer questions we might have about Chinese intentions.”

Hu’s announcement comes in the wake of trips to Asia by several senior US officials, including President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

US undersecretary of defence Michelle Flournoy is due to meet in Beijing with her Chinese counterparts on Wednesday for military-to-military talks.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao last month warned against interference by “external forces” in regional territorial disputes including those in the South China Sea.

And China said late last month it would conduct naval exercises in the Pacific Ocean, after Obama, who has dubbed himself America’s first Pacific president, said the US would deploy up to 2,500 Marines to Australia.

China’s People’s Liberation Army, the largest military in the world, is primarily a land force, but its navy is playing an increasingly important role as Beijing grows more assertive about its territorial claims.

Earlier this year, the Pentagon warned that Beijing was increasingly focused on its naval power and had invested in high-tech weaponry that would extend its reach in the Pacific and beyond.

China’s first aircraft carrier began its second sea trial last week after undergoing refurbishments and testing, the government said.

The 300-metre (990-foot) ship, a refitted former Soviet carrier, underwent five days of trials in August that sparked international concern about China’s widening naval reach.

Beijing only confirmed this year that it was revamping the old Soviet ship and has repeatedly insisted that the carrier poses no threat to its neighbours and will be used mainly for training and research purposes.

But the August sea trials were met with concern from regional powers including Japan and the United States, which called on Beijing to explain why it needs an aircraft carrier.

China, which publicly announced around 50 separate naval exercises in the seas off its coast over the past two years — usually after the event — says its military is only focused on defending the country’s territory.


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