Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

Singapore-style democracy

This is not exactly China news, but there are lessons to glean from this that one can use as a reference point to what China is doing. The island-state some deem as ‘Authoritarian Capitalist’ is sometimes known as a China 1.0 – a blend of do as I say, do what you wish, but just do not criticize the ones who govern you. In many senses, it is the alpha version of what China is growing to become today.

Singapore-style democracy

Source – Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Singapore, Oct 30, 2009

Shanmugam cites US economist who sees the Republic as a challenge to time-tested models

By Zakir Hussain

IN CHICAGO, Democratic mayors have won without interruption since 1931. In San Francisco, they have done so since 1964.

And while Democrats have not monopolised the mayor’s office in New York City, they have near-PAP dominance of the city council, where they hold 45 out of 48 occupied seats.

‘But nobody questions whether there is a democracy in New York,’ Law Minister K. Shanmugam said on Wednesday, referring to the frequent questioning of Singapore’s democratic credentials given the 50-year dominance of the ruling People’s Action Party.

Drawing on arguments by American economist Bryan Caplan in a recent article, he said Singapore was viewed as a deviation from the democratic norm because it was seen primarily as a country.

‘This is where most people make a mistake…I have tried to explain that we are different. We are a city. We are not a country,’ he told 200 lawyers, many from America, at the New York State Bar Association International Section’s meeting here.

Mr M. N. Krishnamani, a panellist and president of the Supreme Court of India Bar Association, asked if it was true that with the ruling PAP in power for some decades now, the opposition was unable to survive or win cases in the courts.

Mr Shanmugam anticipated such a question and came prepared with Dr Caplan’s article, published in July. Reading extracts, he told his audience it was the best response he could provide to the question.

In the article, Dr Caplan said Singapore had two puzzling features. It adopted economically efficient yet politically unpopular policies that would easily cost politicians elsewhere their jobs; and it was effectively a one-party state despite being a parliamentary democracy.

But he said that the legal opposition parties here ‘hardly live in mortal fear of the PAP’.

‘Pressure from the dominant party is a feeble explanation for the opposition’s near-total failure to gain political office, given that many countries demonstrate vigorous electoral competition despite far graver dangers,’ Dr Caplan wrote.

‘Opposition candidates who avoid personal attacks against PAP politicians can and do freely attack specific policies as ineffective and unfair.’

He also noted that international observers ‘consistently rated its government as one of the least corrupt in the world, with elections that are free from irregularities and vote rigging’.

He observed that voters here, like those elsewhere, wanted lower taxes and more public services. Yet they accepted unpopular policies and continued to vote the PAP into power.

‘Singapore is a fascinating challenge to time-tested models of how democracy works,’ Dr Caplan wrote. ‘But more importantly, the mechanisms underlying Singaporean political economy are probably at work in every democracy. These mechanisms are not unique to Singapore, just uniquely visible.’

Mr Shanmugam also addressed the issue of the opposition and defamation suits, which he said was mentioned in ‘every single report on Singapore’.

He said Singapore valued personal reputation – which the law of defamation here sought to protect. It was a point that he and Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong made to the group in discussions this week.

This was because the Government believed that the best people should be brought into public service. But such individuals could be deterred from serving if anyone could say anything about them without having to prove it.

‘Some societies, including yours, think that is a mark of character and that is what is needed. We take a different approach,’ he said.

He said the most successful opposition politician here is Workers’ Party chief Low Thia Khiang. He has been in Parliament as Hougang MP since 1991 and has never been sued.

The other successful opposition figure is Singapore People’s Party chief Chiam See Tong, who ‘is known and seen as an honourable man’.

Mr Shanmugam recalled that Mr Chiam threatened to sue two PAP ministers who made remarks about his law firm and his abilities when he first stood for election 30 years ago:

‘The two ministers took legal advice and paid damages. They did not go to court because that is the way we operate.

‘Sensible people take legal advice and if you think you do not have a case, you pay up and they paid up. Mr Chiam sued other people as well, and he has never ever faced a legal suit.’

Mr Krishnamani had also read that judges were not independent as they were interchangeable with officers from the Attorney-General’s Chambers. He asked if this was correct.

Responding, Mr Shanmugam said Subordinate Court judges were part of the broader legal service and could be transferred to other positions there. But High Court judges, once appointed, cannot be removed until they reach the age of 65 and retire.

Singapore thought about creating a separate judicial service where judicial officers could have a career track, he revealed. But this was not possible given the small size of the legal service, which had about 300 officers.

The bar association’s week-long meeting ended yesterday and steering committee member James P. Duffy III told The Straits Times that participants learnt much: ‘While not everything we learnt would fit comfortably with some important Western values, we are at the beginning of what we expect will be a long and fruitful dialogue with people whom we respect and want to know and understand better.’


Filed under: Singapore, Straits Times

Obama’s team of rivals impresses MM

Singapore’s founding father puts the case of the China to its simplest. Great read that encapsulates some of the core essentials in understanding of the Middle Kingdom.

Quotable Quotes – “Look, they don’t want to be an honorary member of the West, unlike Russia. They’re quite happy to be Chinese and to remain as such… So when you tell them you ought to do this, you ought to do that, they say yes, thank you. But at the back of their minds, (they ask) ‘We’ve lasted 5,000 years, have you?” Singapore MM Lee Kuan Yew

Obama’s team of rivals impresses MM
Resurgence of Asia poses longer-term strategic challenges for US
By Chua Chin Hon, US Bureau Chief
Straits Times 24 October 2009
Source – Prime Minister’s Office, Singapore

WASHINGTON: Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew yesterday said he has been impressed by United States President Barack Obama’s ability and eloquence, as well as the ‘team of rivals’ Mr Obama assembled for his administration.

‘He is a very eloquent man who can be very persuasive,’ Mr Lee told American television journalist Charlie Rose in an interview broadcast last night.

‘And what impressed me most was his ability to appoint people with opposing, different minds,’ he said of the US President.

The Minister Mentor cited as an example the two veterans in Mr Obama’s economic team, Mr Lawrence Summers and Mr Paul Volcker. While both are widely respected in economic and policy-making circles, they hold vastly different views on how some key problems should be tackled.

For instance, Mr Volcker – who heads the Economic Recovery Advisory Board – has been arguing that US banks should be restricted to commercial banking and banned from trading risky Wall Street securities.

Mr Summers, the chief of the National Economic Council, is reportedly more sympathetic to industry concerns that such a rollback would hurt their global competitiveness.

Mr Obama applied this recruitment strategy beyond his economic team. Indeed, the biggest surprise came when he roped in Mrs Hillary Clinton – his bitter rival for the Democratic presidential nomination – as his top diplomat.

The wisdom of this ‘team of rivals’ approach is currently being put to a test, as he weighs his options for Afghanistan, a conflict that he has deemed a ‘war of necessity’.

That assessment has been challenged by a plethora of views from within the civilian and military leadership in recent months – ranging from a plan for a 40,000 troop surge to a call for the US to draw down its troops and focus more narrowly on terror cells.

When asked about the debate, MM Lee said the US should avoid getting entangled in the internal strife of Afghanistan.

‘Trying to make a country out of Afghanistan is a distraction,’ he said.

‘There was no country in the last 30 to 40 years. They’ve just been fighting each other since the last king was chased out. How on earth are you going to put these little bits together? It’s not possible.’

Mr Lee argued that the longer-term strategic challenges for the US are not hot spots like Iraq and Afghanistan, but the resurgence of Asian powers like China and India.

‘I see the imbroglio in Iraq and Afghanistan as distractions. They are not going to change the world, whatever happens there, because the major change taking place is the recovery of China, to a lesser extent India,’ said Mr Lee.

He reckoned that the US would continue to dominate the first half of the 21st century just as they had for much of the 20th century. In the second half of this century, however, the US would have to start making space for China and India.

Although the two Asian powers are now growing at a much faster pace than the US, it would be a long while before they really overcome some of the deep-seated cultural and political traits that might impede further growth.

India, for instance, has 320 different languages and 32 official languages to contend with. ‘No prime minister in New Delhi can at any one time speak in a language and be understood throughout the country,’ noted Mr Lee.

China does not have that problem, but the difficulties of the Chinese language make it tough for outsiders to fit in.

The US will maintain its economic edge not just because of the creativity and resilience of its own people, but also due to the talents it continues to attract from all across the world.

‘You are attracting all the adventurous minds from all over the world and embracing them and they become part of your team,’ Mr Lee said of the US.

‘Now I don’t see two million Indians and half a million other Japanese, Koreans or others becoming part of China. The language is so difficult, and secondly their culture is not embracive. How do you fit in?’

‘Understand Chinese mindset’

WASHINGTON: A new world order is shaping up as China rises. But the mainland has no interest in becoming ‘an honorary member of the West’, according to Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew.

Speaking at length on the implications of a rising China in his television interview with American journalist Charlie Rose, Mr Lee said the United States would gain from a better understanding of the Chinese mindset.

‘Look, they don’t want to be an honorary member of the West, unlike Russia. They’re quite happy to be Chinese and to remain as such,’ said Mr Lee.

‘So when you tell them you ought to do this, you ought to do that, they say yes, thank you. But at the back of their minds, (they ask) ‘We’ve lasted 5,000 years, have you?”

The recent mass celebrations for the Beijing Olympics last year and the 60th anniversary of Communist rule earlier this month may strike some as a flexing of modern China’s economic and military might.

But as Mr Lee saw it, the main message the Chinese were trying to convey was a historical one: ‘We have 5,000 years of civilisation and we are going to get there.

‘It may take us a long time, but we are going to work very hard. We will do it.’

Yet at the same time, Beijing was cognizant of the fact that the mainland was now part of a globalised and multi-polar world.

However deep their historical roots, China’s leaders know that their country would never again become the sole dominant power in the world, unlike during the Han or Tang dynasties.

While the mainland could once obtain everything it needed within its borders or territories, it is now dependent on resources from all over the world in order to keep its economy going, Mr Lee noted.

Where the US can play a helpful role, the Minister Mentor suggested, was in helping China feel ‘accepted at the top table’ and better understand the global responsibility that came with the enlarged role.

‘There are places waiting for you when you make it, but you’ve got to play by the rules of the game,’ he said.

China, for instance, cannot go to Africa merely in search of resources like copper and gold, without helping to address problems there like hunger.

‘(The Chinese) are already beginning to learn, that’s why they are giving something back,’ noted Mr Lee.

Filed under: Culture, International Relations, Straits Times, Strategy

Artificial Black Hole Created in Chinese Lab

A tongue-in-cheek piece found on Popular Science Australia.

Artificial Black Hole Created in Chinese Lab
By Stuart Fox
[via Nature News]
Source – Popular Science 16 October 2009

Just because most black holes are solar-system-sized maelstroms with reality-warping gravitational pulls doesn’t mean you can’t have one in your pocket! That’s right, just in time for the holidays comes the pocket black hole. Designed by scientists at the Southeast University in Nanjing, China, this eight-and-a-half-inch-wide disk absorbs all the electromagnetic radiation you throw at it, with none of the pesky time dilation and Hawking radiation associated with the larger, interstellar versions.

Unlike a regular black hole, which traps light using the gravitational pull of the dead star at its core, this simple metal disc uses the geometry of 60 concentric rings of metamaterials to lock up light for good. The metamaterial “resonators” that make up the rings affect the magnetic properties of passing light, bending the beams into the center of the disc, and trapping them in the etched maze-like grooves.

But wait, there’s more! These discs don’t destroy the energy of the trapped light, and emit heat when trapping ambient radiation. That means these metamaterial black holes could serve as the basis for solar panels that capture every wavelength of the electromagnetic spectrum. And do so near-perfectly, to boot.

Call now! Operators are standing by.*

*NOTE: No operators are actually standing by.

Filed under: Science

China-ASEAN FTA to accelerate RMB regionalization

Further evidence of China making inroads towards its strategic shield of ASEAN. It will be interesting to see the yuan becoming the standard. Further to its growing power, this move will surely set massive changes to the status quo. China is really set to change the world in a multi-faceted way, if it has not already begun to do so.

Quotable Quotes – “China is a huge market for us. Guangxi’s market alone is larger than that in our whole country. We prefer yuan as the trading currency if the Chinese part want the same,” Grace See Choo, managing director of Grace Cosmetics, a Malaysian cosmetic company.

China-ASEAN FTA to accelerate RMB regionalization
Source – Xinhua News Agency, 23 October 2009

NANNING, Oct. 23 (Xinhua) — The Chinese currency yuan is expected to play a bigger role in regional trade as the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (CAFTA) is to be realized on January 1 of 2010.

“The upcoming CAFTA, which boasts the largest population among all the world’s FTAs and allows zero-tariff on 90 percent of products traded between China and ASEAN, will quicken the process of RMB regionalization, “Xu Ningning, executive secretary general of China-ASEAN Business Council, told Xinhua at the 6th China-ASEAN Expo in Nanning, capital of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

Free trade demands free flow of currency, making possible the regional use of RMB, he said.

The expo, held from Oct. 20 to 24 ahead of the operation of FTA to embrace free trade and mutual investment, attracted state leaders, high-ranking officials and entrepreneurs from inside and beyond the ASEAN region.

Alongkorn Ponlaboot, deputy minister of commerce of Thailand, believed RMB would play a more important role in bilateral trade between China and ASEAN in the future.

He said yuan was a very stable currency and expanding its use could help reduce risks faced by the ASEAN countries in using the U.S. dollar, which has become highly volatile as a result of the global financial crisis.

Pung Kheav Se, general manager of Canadia Bank Plc. of Cambodia, echoed Thailand’s deputy minister, saying trade between China and ASEAN kept growing and less risk by the use of RMB would benefit both sides.

Data from China’s General Administration of Customs showed trade between China and ASEAN totaled 105.88 billion U.S. dollars in 2004, and rose to 231.07 billion U.S. dollars in 2008. China and ASEAN are currently the fourth largest trade partners to each other.


However, the use of yuan in ASEAN fell far short of the trade growth between China and ASEAN. Currently RMB settlement was mainly adopted in border trade which accounted for only 10 percent of the China-ASEAN bilateral trades, Teng Chong, board chairman of Guangxi Beibu Gulf Bank, told Xinhua.

Pung Kheav Se said currently RMB, U.S. dollars, Thai Baht and Vietnamese Dong were in circulation in Cambodia, but the amount of yuan was small, mainly used for tourism and small commodity business. He did not give specific figures.

The main reason was that Cambodia was not a developed economy and some people had inadequate knowledge about yuan, he said, suggesting China should gradually establish credit system and settlement mechanism of yuan in ASEAN, and then expand its use globally.

Su Ning, vice governor of China’s central bank, said financial cooperation between China and ASEAN was still at the initial phase and financial markets were not open enough. But potential for cooperation was huge as finance in China and ASEAN seeing fast development currently.

China has been launching pilot RMB programs over the years, but the pace has obviously quickened since the onset of the global financial crisis as the U.S. dollar has been getting weaker, arousing concerns that an unstable dollar would lead to increased costs and risks for traders.

Last December, China announced pilot programs to settle trade deals in yuan between the country’s two economic powerhouses, Guangdong Province and the Yangtze River Delta (which includes Shanghai) and the two special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao. A similar arrangement was proposed for exporters in Guangxi and Yunnan Province in southwestern China to settle trade in yuan with ASEAN.

In April, China announced a pilot program to settle cross-border trade deal in yuan in five cities including Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Dongguan.

Currently, China has sealed cooperation agreements of bilateral trade settlement with the central banks of Laos and Vietnam in ASEAN.


A Vietnamese furniture trading company named Vietnam Charity Trading Company Ltd. had attended the expo for five years. It began trades with China 22 years ago and has been exporting 70 percent of its products to China.

The company buys materials from Laos and sells products to China and other countries, in which dollars, yuan and Vietnamese Dong are adopted. “That makes the process very complex and always results in losses because of the fluctuation of exchange rates,” said Huang Yifan, executive director of the company.

“I really hope there is a single currency like the euro to cut off the cost of exchanging currency and make the whole process easier,” she said.

“I hope yuan could be the one as it has been stable and welcomed by the ASEAN people,” she said, adding that yuan is very popular in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

Grace See Choo, managing director of Grace Cosmetics, a Malaysian cosmetic company, said her company had been importing packing materials from China since 2000. “We always traded in yuan, which operates well,” she said.

“China is a huge market for us. Guangxi’s market alone is larger than that in our whole country. We prefer yuan as the trading currency if the Chinese part want the same,” She said. The company now is looking for a Chinese agent to explore Chinese market.

Although yuan had gained reputation among ASEAN people, efforts of the ten nations’ central banks were still necessary to commit to a consensus of popularizing RMB, Teng Chong said.

Xu Ningning said new economic situation had created stage in Asia for RMB. The three FTAs between ASEAN and China, Japan and the Republic of Korea, respectively, will build a wider platform for RMB exchanging.

“Although it needs time to breed a new trade market or a new currency market, the CAFTA is believed to create new space for the regionalization of RMB,” Xu said.

Filed under: ASEAN, Economics, xinhua

We want good ties, says China

Perhaps it is not far from the truth that good ties with its neighbours benefits China in many ways. They extend their strategic shield, generate more avenues for income, and have less things to worry about. It is that simple. What is more pertinent though, from this report, is three things. First, that yes, ASEAN no longer looks at China warily. Second, China is really serious about building an aircraft carrier. Third, China may be in a state of Zen by not asserting territorial claims but as its people start to become more savvy and in the know of current affairs, they are surely pressuring their leaders to assert some of the power they have gained in recent times.

Quotable Quotes – “We face a lot of pressure from within the country…We have to explain to our people why we adopt such a policy (of restraint).’ China’s ambassador to ASEAN Madam Xue Hanqin

We want good ties, says China
By Peh Shing Huei
Straits Times – Oct 22, 2009
Source –  Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs

BEIJING: China has never bullied small countries, and has, in fact, exercised great restraint in its tussle with Asean nations over islands in the South China Sea, the country’s ambassador to Asean said yesterday.

Despite strong domestic pressure for Beijing to assert its territorial sovereignty, Madam Xue Hanqin urged South-east Asian nations to understand that China places a premium on good neighbourly relations. ‘We face a lot of pressure from within the country,’ she said at a press conference here, ahead of this weekend’s Asean-related summits in Thailand. ‘We have to explain to our people why we adopt such a policy (of restraint).’

China has been involved in territorial disputes with four Asean countries – Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei – over the Spratly and Paracel islands for decades. Military clashes broke out in the late 1980s and mid-1990s.

The spat surfaced again earlier this year, when the countries submitted their territorial claims to be compliant with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

In response to moves by Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, China sent fishery patrols to the potentially oil-rich island groups – and spoke about the usefulness of a Chinese aircraft carrier to settle future disputes. Chinese soldiers patrolling an islet in the Paracel chain reportedly angered the Asean countries by scrawling on a sandy beach ‘Long live the motherland’.

But despite such friction, Madam Xue insisted yesterday that the summit was not the right occasion to discuss the territorial claims.

Beijing prefers to handle the issue through bilateral talks with the claimant states, and the Chinese delegation is heading to Thailand to ‘discuss cooperation and not to quarrel’, she added.

Those days of Asean wariness towards China are over, she said, when asked by a Taiwanese reporter for her views on Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew’s comments in his memoirs regarding the grouping’s suspicions of Beijing.

Mr Lee wrote, in a reference to the late 1970s: ‘Because China was exporting revolution to South-east Asia, my Asean neighbours wanted Singapore to rally with them not against the Soviet Union but against China.’

Madam Xue replied that Mr Lee was referring to the Cold War period and that it was true Asean countries were very suspicious of China. But today, the two sides have greatly strengthened relations.

She said China has proven its sincerity to Asean in the past 20 years. One example is the US$10 billion (S$14 billion) development fund which China pledged towards infrastructure-building in Asean.

Additional reporting by Lin Zhaowei in Nanning

Filed under: ASEAN, International Relations, Straits Times

China, India Forge Alternative to UN Climate-Protection Treaty

I have always believed that the growth of China and India puts as a cusp of something very positive. If we learn that the conditioning of East and West is just the agenda of polarity, then we can learn much from each other. Better days ahead everyone. Let us not lose this unique opportunity. The sooner we all make friends, the lesser the chance for parties to grow insular and eventually territorial in clusters. Then we’re back to the drawing board all over again.

Quotable Quotes – “Trust between rich and developing nations had “broken down” at recent UN negotiations in Bangkok…

China, India Forge Alternative to UN Climate-Protection Treaty
By Gaurav Singh
Source – Bloomberg 22 October 2009

Oct. 22 (Bloomberg) — China and India’s joint plan to cut greenhouse-gas emissions provides the developing world with an alternative to the global climate treaty that wealthier nations want them to sign in Copenhagen this year, analysts said.

Asia’s two biggest polluters from burning carbon-based fuels said they will collaborate on renewable power and energy- efficiency projects, in a memorandum of understanding yesterday in New Delhi. They rejected limits on their emissions proposed by industrialized nations under an international climate accord.

“They’re trying to gain leverage going into Copenhagen and show the world they have other options if the global talks break down,” said Olav Roenningen, senior analyst at carbon-markets advisory firm Markedskraft in Arendal, Norway.

The New Delhi accord shows how support may be eroding for a treaty that United Nations negotiators aim to conclude in Copenhagen in December. Developing nations led by China and India are devising similar regional agreements, citing a failure by wealthier countries including the U.S. to agree to reduce emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020 and share clean-energy technology with poorer countries.

Speculation that countries won’t produce a treaty has built this month after Yvo De Boer, the top UN climate official, said on Oct. 13 that the Copenhagen summit may be “half-baked” unless rich nations agree to do more to trim gas emissions.

“When India and China take the lead, the rest usually follow,” said Michael Mason, director of the conservation program at Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at the London School of Economics. Still, their new accord may be seen “as a ploy to say we’re going to go ahead and start dealing bilaterally if we can’t come to a multilateral agreement.”

More Regional Deals

The accord was signed by Xie Zhenhua, vice minister at China’s National Development and Reform Commission, and Indian environment minister Jairam Ramesh in the Indian capital.

“We may see even more regional deals like this during the next month before the UN climate talks start,” Roenningen said.

India and neighboring countries may sign a regional environment treaty next year, Ramesh said in a separate speech at a meeting of officials from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, known as Saarc.

“A regional environment treaty will be finalized, to be signed at the next Saarc summit at Thimpu in April 2010,” Ramesh said on Oct. 20. Thimpu is the capital of Bhutan.

Saarc includes India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Maldives and Bhutan. China is not a member.

Ministers from more than 30 African nations agreed in May that measures to adapt to the effects of climate change on agriculture, water supply, forests and human health should be included in national and regional development plans.

Chinese Pledge

Chinese President Hu Jintao said last month his country will cut emissions in proportion to economic growth, without outlining specific goals or whether he would included it in a global agreement.

China and India together account for about one-fourth of the emissions blamed for global warming that scientists say leads to rising sea levels, as well as disruptive weather patterns that cause more intense storms and droughts.

The United Nations is aiming for a climate agreement to replace or extend the Kyoto Protocol, expiring in 2012. After climate talks in Bangkok this month, countries have another week in Barcelona in November before the Copenhagen summit.

“India and China are most vulnerable to climate change,” Xie said yesterday. “Both countries are in the process of rapid industrialization and urbanization. I am confident China and India will make a positive contribution to Copenhagen.”

Examining India

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol provisions are the most appropriate framework for addressing climate change, according to the copy of the agreement given to reporters in New Delhi.

India will consider outside measurement and verification of its efforts to tackle climate change if they were supported by international finance and the transfer of technology from developed nations, Ramesh said in a statement on Oct. 20.

“There is virtually no difference in Indian and Chinese negotiating positions,” Ramesh said.

Ramesh suggested earlier this month that only a limited agreement would emerge in Copenhagen and that the conference should focus on rich countries financing and aiding poor nations affected by climate change.

Trust between rich and developing nations had “broken down” at recent UN negotiations in Bangkok, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gaurav Singh in New Delhi at gsingh31@bloomberg.net

Filed under: Bloomberg, Environment, India, International Relations

China’s dream of shaping world opinion

China’s dreams of reclaiming its place as a major power really does not stop short at being an economic and military powerhouse. It has been showing sophistication in its thinking, and this observation of China’s advanced use of rhetoric (great fodder for the media to latch onto) and dangling of carrots to the world media stakeholders only points us in one direction. Not only will China produce everything we need, it will quite quickly shape the way we think. 

Quotable Quotes – “Observers pointed out that there were no discussions about freedom of speech or of the press at this event, which China termed a “media Olympics.” China’s goal is clear – it hopes for greater influence in directing world opinion – while the participating media tycoons hopped on board in hopes of somehow winning a slice of what they imagine to be a huge Chinese media market.

China’s dream of shaping world opinion
By S.L. Shen
UPI Correspondent
Source – UPI Asia 13 October 2009

Beijing, China — China has long been known for controlling its citizens’ access to information by limiting freedom of the press both in traditional news media and on the Internet. But now, as the country sees its status rising in the international community, China has decided it wants a role in the international media spotlight as well.

Last week the Chinese government hosted a three-day World Media Summit in Beijing, attended by heads of the world’s major media companies and hundreds of other media representatives.

Chinese President Hu Jintao addressed the group at the Great Hall of the People on Friday, saying that China hoped to strengthen its cooperation with foreign media in a wide range of areas. Hu urged the media to take social responsibility and contribute to peace and harmony. He also asked them to deepen the world’s understanding of China.

According to Xinhua news agency, some 300 representatives from 40 domestic and 130 foreign media outlets participated in this first effort to woo the world’s media, which China plans to repeat every two to four years. They included such media heavyweights as News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch, Associated Press CEO Tom Curley and Reuters Editor-in-chief David Schlesinger.

In a statement issued at the close of the event, participants called on world media to provide “accurate, objective, impartial and fair” coverage of news events around the globe.

However, the call seemed somewhat ironic to journalists used to working under Chinese authorities’ frequently arbitrary restrictions. Most are skeptical that officials have an authentic grasp of what global media players consider accurate, objective, impartial and fair, let alone a sincere commitment to meet those standards.

Chinese Communist Party officials have a long history of viewing media as a propaganda tool of the party. In recent times they have seen its main mission as maintaining social stability – under the leadership of the party, of course.

To protect the party’s economic and political interests the authorities have maintained a monopoly on news media and frequently censored both domestic and international news, so that the media does not “mislead” people and cause “social disorder.”

Media in China remains state-owned and its leaders take instructions from party officials. It is not at all uncommon to hear of journalists and their editors losing their jobs over articles that revealed “sensitive” information or failed to follow the party line.

During major events like the Beijing Olympics and the recent National Day celebrations, domestic media were forbidden to report negative stories for fear they would disrupt the festive atmosphere or even stir up social unrest.

For example, when a bomb blew up a Uighur restaurant near Tiananmen Square in Beijing a few days before the Oct. 1 National Day, only a brief news item appeared in local media. The media portrayed the incident as an accident in which some people were hurt, adding that all were “well taken care of.” But a doctor at the Beijing Jishuitan Hospital, where the victims were taken, told UPI Asia.com that three people died in that incident.

The Chinese government routinely tries to muzzle the media whenever there is any kind of social unrest, political incident or even natural disaster.
China’s General Administration of Press and Publications just revised its regulations on issuing press cards last week. The new rules, which take effect on Oct. 15, forbid anyone from reporting without a press card issued by the state. They also state that a journalist with a valid press card cannot be stopped from performing his or her duties as long as they are not illegal.

This regulation may turn out to be merely another scrap of paper. There are numerous reports of journalists being stopped, detained and even beaten by police or officials while trying to do their job. This applies to both domestic and foreign reporters.

Fifteen Chinese intellectuals released an “Internet Human Rights Declaration” on Oct. 8 – just as the World Media Summit was getting under way in Beijing – in which they declared the rights of netizens to freely report, edit and publish. They also proposed that Oct. 10 be declared Internet Human Rights Day in China. Unfortunately, although this Declaration was posted on different websites, the postings were soon deleted by cyber police.

China has frequently been criticized for its Golden Shield Project, which netizens have nicknamed the “Great Firewall of China,” referring to the government’s cyber blocking system.

Many popular websites remain blocked, including YouTube, the Chinese version of the BBC, blog services provided by Blogspot.com and Yahoo Taiwan.com, as well as most Chinese-language media in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

The fact that Xinhua, the Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece, got together with eight renowned media companies to hold the Beijing summit demonstrates China’s ambition to participate in the global media community – despite China’s efforts to make this event appear “nongovernmental.”

Observers pointed out that there were no discussions about freedom of speech or of the press at this event, which China termed a “media Olympics.” China’s goal is clear – it hopes for greater influence in directing world opinion – while the participating media tycoons hopped on board in hopes of somehow winning a slice of what they imagine to be a huge Chinese media market. At this point in time, the two are indeed strange bedfellows.

Filed under: International Relations, Media, UPI Asia

‘Brilliant’ Chinese women lead the business world

Quotable Quotes – “The latest list of China’s rich women includes 51 women who appeared among the 104 women on the 2009 Hurun Rich List, which ranked the most wealthy 1,000 men and women in China.

‘Brilliant’ Chinese women lead the business world
Sat, Oct 17, 2009
China Daily/Asia News Network
Source – AsiaOne 17 October 2009

Half of the world’s richest self-made women are Chinese.

According to the newly released 2009 Hurun List of the Richest Women, five of the 10 most successful female billionaires are from the Chinese mainland.

The latest list of China’s rich women includes 51 women who appeared among the 104 women on the 2009 Hurun Rich List, which ranked the most wealthy 1,000 men and women in China.

The average wealth of the women on the new list is 6.6 billion yuan ($966 million). Their fortunes rose, on average, by 30 percent this year.

The top female Chinese entrepreneur on the list is “Paper Queen” Zhang Yin, from Nine Dragons Paper, who has assets worth $4.9 billion. She is followed by Yang Huiyan, from Country Garden, who is worth $4.6 billion, and Chen Lihua, from Fu Wah International Group, who has $3.4 billion in assets.

“If you tell people the best pingpong team in the world has half of its members coming from the Chinese mainland, they will take it for granted,” said Rupert Hoogewerf, the list’s compiler.
“But it is surprising to know that half of the richest women in the world come from the Chinese mainland.”

The average age of the 51 richest women on the list is 46, and most made their money from property or the finance and manufacturing sections.

Hoogewerf said the wealthiest self-made women in the United Kingdom and United States are also very well known – author J.K. Rowling in the UK and talk show host Oprah Winfrey in the US – yet they both lag behind Zhang Yin in terms of wealth.

The 52-year-old Zhang founded Nine Dragons Paper.

The company buys scrap paper from the US, imports it into China, and mainly turns it into cardboard boxes used in the export of Chinese goods. The company is China’s biggest paper maker.

In October 2006, at 49, Zhang became the first woman to top the list of the richest people in China.

Her personal fortune at the time was $4 billion.

“I came up with the idea of making a list of the richest women in China in 2006 when Zhang became the richest person, the first time a woman was in that position”, Hoogewerf told China Daily.

Zhang’s wealth shrank sharply last October by $300 million because of the economic crisis but it rebounded back to $4.9 billion by this September.
This year’s list of 1,000 super rich men and women in China includes 104 women, 16 more than last year.

Most of them are self-made entrepreneurs.

Hoogewerf was at a loss to explain why Chinese women are so adept at making a big impression in the business world but he has one or two theories.

“I guess one reason is that they enjoy a balanced and equal social status in terms of politics, culture and economy.

The other is that Chinese women mostly let their parents take care of their only child, which allows them to focus more on their career,” he said.
“After all, one thing for sure is that Chinese women are brilliant.”

Filed under: AsiaOne, China Daily, Economics

Rudd policy on China ‘set by BHP’

Quotable Quotes – “‘There’s no one in Treasury who can tell up from down on China, beyond what they read in the newspapers.

Rudd policy on China ‘set by BHP’
Source – The Age, October 15, 2009

A former senior Treasury official has accused the Rudd Government of caving in to the wishes of BHP Billiton over Chinese investment in Australia, contributing to a serious deterioration in relations with Beijing.

Stephen Joske says BHP bent the ears of senior ministers and exploited the Government’s ”policy dysfunction” to get its way on China.

Mr Joske, who was the Government’s top China economist until he left to join the Economist Intelligent Unit in Beijing in July last year, said the Australian bureaucracy abrogated its responsibilities and Treasurer Wayne Swan opened the door for lobbyists to fill the policy vacuum on China.

”My very strong view is that the key things that got the foreign investment problem going was Government indecision and listening too much to the vested interests of BHP,” Mr Joske told The Age.

”Emails from BHP were circulating at the highest levels, copied in to ministers’ offices, about all the ‘China Inc’ stuff.”

Chinese investment into Australian mineral resources has grown from a trickle two years ago to a deluge from when Chinalco bought 9 per cent of Rio Tinto’s shares in February last year. This year Chinalco agreed to invest a further $US19 billion in a complex deal that broke down when Rio walked away and joined iron ore operations with BHP Billiton.

Both Chinalco investment moves had upset BHP Billiton’s strategic plans.
The breakdown of the second Chinalco deal and Australian Government moves to reject, amend or delay a series of other Chinese investment bids have contributed to deep strains in the bilateral relationship.

China sent a signal yesterday that it is ready to recommence top-level engagement with Australia when Vice Premier Li Keqiang was unexpectedly made available to meet Climate Change Minister Penny Wong in Beijing.
Ms Wong told reporters the pair had discussed the road to the December climate change summit in Copenhagen but she declined to give details.

She also denied the Federal Government was more predisposed to being captured by business interests than its predecessors, noting that it had been attacked for being ”too tough” and ”too soft” on big business.

Wang Wenfu, an Australian executive at Chinalco, said he had ”admired” BHP’s strategic discipline but thought it ”unusual” that the company kept its lobbying activities secret. Mr Joske, who was an economic adviser to former treasurer Peter Costello in the 1990s, said Australian officials failed to understand the economic costs to Australia of missing out on Chinese investments.

”We’re seeing clear signs of policy dysfunction where regulators are being let loose to over-regulate,” he said.

”There’s no one in Treasury who can tell up from down on China, beyond what they read in the newspapers.”

Mr Joske said Prime Minister Kevin Rudd specifically instructed Treasury to devote more resources to China ”but it never happened”.

”Alarm bells are ringing that these policy failures are more serious than previous [Howard government] ones, because China is too important to mismanage,” he said.

A spokesman for Mr Swan last night suggested that Mr Joske’s tenure in Mr Costello’s office during the 1990s had tainted his credibility on the issue.

”The Treasurer takes his decisions in the national interest, without regard to the political views of a former Howard government staffer,” the spokesman said.

BHP Billiton yesterday declined to respond.

Filed under: Australia, Economics, International Relations, Resources, The Age

China has more millionaires than UK for the first time

Interesting. So China’s finally ‘overtaken’ one of its fiercest and most oppressive bullies, the UK (at least about two hundred years ago). Think Opium War, Macau, Hong Kong, the list is quite long. I wonder how the Chinese will feel about it. Some immense face-saving I imagine. It’s time to go ask the friends from China.

Quotable Quotes – “…Asia-Pacific will take the “lead in wealth growth, surpassing North America by 2013… spurred by increasing US consumer spending and the extension of the autonomy of the Chinese economy, already sparking a new increase in consumer demand

China has more millionaires than UK for the first time

China is home to more millionaires than the UK for the first time on record, according to the latest World Wealth Report.

Philip Aldrick

Source – Telegraphy UK, 24 Jun 2009

China has more millionaires than UK for the first time
China is home to more millionaires than the UK for the first time on record, according to the latest World Wealth Report.
By Philip Aldrick
Published: 5:14PM BST 24 Jun 2009

A collapse in the UK financial services industry, stock market and housing prices caused the number of British millionaires to plummet faster than in any other leading country last year. The number of dollar millionaires in the UK, based on assets excluding their primary residence, fell by 26.3pc to just 362,000. In China, the global recession and local stock market crash caused the number of millionaires to shrink by 12pc to 364,000.

According to the World Wealth Report, compiled by Merrill Lynch and Cap Gemini, Asia-Pacific will take the “lead in wealth growth, surpassing North America by 2013… spurred by increasing US consumer spending and the extension of the autonomy of the Chinese economy, already sparking a new increase in consumer demand”

China has been rising inexorably up the table, leapfrogging France in 2007. Only Germany, Japan and the US now have more millionaires. Brazil, too, has been making inroads. It jumped over Australia and Spain to reach 10th place among “high net worth individual” populations globally, with 131,000.

All of the top 10 countries for high net worth individuals saw a decline in millionaires. The total population fell by 14.9pc to 8.6m and their combined riches shrank by 19.5pc to $32.8 trillion (£20 trillion), wiping out two years of growth. Despite last year’s setback, the report predicts that “wealth [will] grow to $48.5 trillion by 2013, advancing by an annual rate of 8.1pc”.

The rich pulled out of stock markets and moved into cash in increasing numbers last year, the report showed. The proportion of cash-based holdings increased to 21pc of overall portfolios, up 7pc from 2006. “Last year was about preservation, not appreciation,” said Nick Tucker, of Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management.

For the first time in the 13 years the report has been compiled, the number of ultra-high net worth individuals, with assets of $30m or more once their homes were excluded, declined faster than simple millionaires. Their numbers fell 24.6pc to about 86,000.

Ed Merchant, head of UK financial services at Capgemini, added that “the uncertain economic times” provided great opportunities for “wealth management firms and advisers”.

Filed under: Economics, Telegraph UK

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