Friday, October 16, 2015

US warned against 'provocations': patrol plan risks 'escalating tensions'

A J-15, China's first generation of carrier-based fighter jet, takes off from the Liaoning.

Firm reaction for US sea provocation

US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said US ships and aircraft would "fly, sail and operate whenever international law permits" in response to a question about whether the US would enter 12 nautical miles of China's "artificial islands" in the South China Sea. Carter said the South China Sea would not be an exception.

It was reported by US media recently that US military vessels would enter within 12 nautical miles from China's "artificial islands" in the South China Sea, and challenge China's construction work in that region and claims over the Nansha Islands. It is said that relevant plans have been submitted to the president's office. China may face a grave test imposed by Washington's escalation of tensions over the maritime disputes.

"Artificial island" is an inaccurate depiction of China's construction work in the South China Sea. China is expanding, not building these islands out of thin air. The expanding national interest in terms of waters and air space is not yet clearly defined by international law. Whether this ambiguity could trigger major-power conflicts depends on what major powers think.

China has not made any statement about the expansion of its sovereignty due to the construction work, and China has no intention of claiming more sovereignty. Washington's ceaseless provocations and coercion can only demonstrate that it does not intend to protect freedom of navigation in this region, as China has clearly stated that the right will not be impeded. What the US wants is to play rough against China and stress its hegemony.

In this case, China mustn't tolerate rampant US violations of China's adjacent waters and the skies over these expanding islands. The Chinese military should be ready to launch countermeasures according to Washington's level of provocation.

The US must have known that China's reclamation work does not contravene international law, so Washington has no sufficient reason to stop China. Despite the legitimacy of China's construction work and the public good it can provide, if the US adopts an aggressive approach, it will be a breach of China's bottom line, and China will not sit idly by.

China has remained calm with self-restraint even in the face of Washington's escalating provocations, but if the US encroaches on China's core interests, the Chinese military will stand up and use force to stop it.

If Washington wants to prove it can keep its military edge in China's offshore areas, then let it come. US military forces will have a chance to test the deterrence of its equipment and its willingness to show off its hegemony on China's doorstep at any cost.

The South China Sea is not a place where countries can act wantonly. Rules should be jointly made by all stakeholders, and US military ships cannot dominate the region. Washington has over-estimated the effect of its military prowess. - Global Times

US patrol plan risks ‘escalating tensions’

Tensions in the South China Sea could spiral out of control if the US starts patrolling too close to Chinese islands, with any military confrontation between China and the US escalating to a dangerous level, analysts said Wednesday.

Speaking after a two-day meeting between US and Australian foreign and defense ministers in Boston, US defense secretary Ashton Carter said Tuesday that the US would sail and fly wherever international law allows, including the South China Sea.

His remarks were rebuked by China's foreign ministry, which said China has indisputable sovereignty over certain South China Sea islands and their surrounding waters and that China is not the one that had militarized the region.

"I want to point out that some countries have recently flexed their military muscles again and again in the South China Sea," foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing Wednesday.

FM: Construction is our int'l responsibility

China has denied its island-building in the South China Sea would "militarize" the area, after

http://t.cn/RyBAP3C

"This is the biggest factor in the militarization of the South China Sea. We hope the relevant countries cease hyping up the South China Sea issue and scrupulously abide by their promises not to take sides on the territorial disputes," she said.

Carter's statement came a day after The New York Times reported that the US has been briefing its allies in Asia, including the Philippines, on plans to conduct naval patrols near Chinese islands, which could come as close as within the 12 nautical mile limit. The patrols look more imminent according to a Wednesday Reuters report, which, by quoting some analysts in Washington, said the patrols could happen at the end of this or next week.

Countermeasures

"What will happen is that China will take necessary countermeasures [if the US begins patrolling the area.] The actual measures will depend on how frequently the US decides to enter the airspace or waters close to the islands and what kind of aircraft or ship they plan to send," Wu Shicun, president of the National Institute for the South China Sea, told the Global Times.

According to Wu, the first measure would involve diplomatic and military warnings. If the situation escalates, China may dispatch planes to tail US aircraft to decide if there is hostile intent. If this is believed to be so, the next step would be for the Chinese military to expel the US ships and planes.

Wu warned that there could be considerable danger, and if further measures need to be taken, the risk of a military clash or even casualties, based on either miscalculation or coincidence, would significantly rise.

"I think the bottom line for both China and the US is to make sure there is no open conflict or casualties," Wu said. His opinion was echoed by Hu Bo, a professor at the Peking University Ocean Strategy Research Center, who said that both China and the US will remain restrained to prevent any confrontation from evolving into a full-blown war.

"The problem is, both countries need to demonstrate their strong will to the world while trying to keep their heads cool. This makes controlling the situation difficult," Hu said.

Although entering within 12 nautical miles of Chinese islands may not be technically difficult for the US military, analysts believe the important question the US should ask itself is whether it will face a better situation in the South China Sea if it decided to take such action. "China is unlikely to let the US get away with it. A likely outcome would be a long-term military stand-off in the South China Sea," Hu said.

Civilian use stressed

The US intervention could also change what China plans to do with the South China Sea islands, experts said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said last month during his visit to the US that China did not intend to militarize the islands. Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua on Wednesday re-iterated that China's purpose of island construction is for civilian use.

She noted that China is only deploying limited military equipment for necessary defensive purposes, which is "understandable given that some countries are flexing their muscles and frequently conduct targeted large-scale military exercises with allies."

"The proportion of military facilities on these islands depends on how much threat the US and its allies exert on China," Wu said. "If the US military comes within 12 nautical miles of these islands, it would only be more reasonable for China to speed up its construction of military facilities, which at the moment is restrained," Hu said.

By Bai Tiantian (Global Times)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

How hard do Chinese work?


Workers in China put in the hours

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Gao Yinan (People's Daily Online)  

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

TPPA debate will continue although concluded



Video: http://t.cn/RyEoAkLv http://english.cntv.cn/2015/10/09/VIDE1444344482352696.shtml



FINALLY, the negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement have concluded. But that’s not the end of the story.

It will be many more days before the text is made public. Until then, there will still be so many questions unanswered.

Enough is known, from media reports and some leaked texts and analyses, to make some preliminary comments.

Firstly, trade is only one part of the TPPA. As important, or more important, are other issues including investment, intellectual property, government procurement, state-owned enterprises, labour and environment.

These other issues are at the heart of the country’s socio-economic structures and policies.

On these issues, the TPPA may have problematic elements for Malaysia. The Malaysian negotiating team has been fighting to lessen the adverse impacts of the main proposals.

It says it won concessions. But what these are, whether they are enough, and the effects are still not clear. What is clear is that “policy space” (a country’s freedom to formulate its own policies) would be very significantly narrowed as a result of the TPPA.

On intellectual property, the blow is perhaps the most obvious. Most patents filed in Malaysia are owned by foreigners. So when patent laws are made stronger, it will benefit foreigners who are the patent holders.

The enhanced monopoly given to patent holders will have adverse effects on Malaysian consumers who will have to pay higher prices and Malaysian companies which cannot make or import generic versions during the patent term.

The renowned medical group, Doctors Without Borders (MSF), condemned the TPPA as the “worst trade agreement for access to medicines”. Patients and treatment providers in developing countries will be the TPPA’s big losers as it will raise the prices of medicines by extending the monopolies enjoyed by the big drug companies and further delaying price-reducing generic competition, according to MSF.

The term of the patent may be lengthened (by adding time taken to register the medicine or approve the patent). Data exclusivity is to be granted for five years (or possibly for more than that, for the new drugs known as biologics), during which the generic companies are not allowed to rely on the test data of the originator firm.

On investment, the TPPA opens the road for foreign companies to be treated as well or better than locals, thus giving them rights of entry and ownership, and free transfer of funds, while prohibiting the host state from imposing performance requirements such as local content, technology transfer and joint ventures.

The TPPA also contains the investor-state dispute settlement system (ISDS), which enables foreign investors to sue the Government in an international tribunal.

Changes in government policies can lead to claims that this is unfair treatment and the foreign investor can ask for compensation for loss of expected future profits.

According to press reports, the TPPA has some safeguards such as diluting the ability of companies to make frivolous claims. Exactly what these are, is not known. The ISDS in any case remains intact as a powerful tool for foreign investors and puts Malaysia in a defensive position.

On government procurement, the space that Malaysia has had to make policies on how the Government does its procurement will be curbed. The preferences given to locals will now give way to national treatment for foreign companies.

Malaysia has been negotiating for more exceptions in terms of the “threshold” of level of expenditure or project value where preferences for locals can still be given, and an exception for bumiputra policy. Details of the final agreement are still not known.

On state-owned enterprises (SOEs), the TPPA will impose disciplines and rules on how these SOEs operate, the subsidies they can or cannot get, and their need to be non-discriminatory when purchasing materials (they cannot give preference to local companies).

The advocates of the SOE chapter seem to want to curb the advantages that SOEs may have, and enable the foreign companies to more effectively compete and take some of their market share. Malaysia has also been fighting for exceptions for some of its SOEs. The final outcome of this is not yet known.

Investment policy, government procurement, SOEs and access to medicines are right at the heart of Malaysia’s political economy and socio-economic structures.

Policies that have been at the centre of the country’s economic and political development have now to be defended as exceptions and flexibilities, and there is a limit to what the other TPPA partners will accept.

The chapters on these issues are bitter pills to swallow and the debate will continue on whether they are worth swallowing.

The direct trade aspects of the TPPA should have such enormous benefit that they more than offset the disadvantages of the other issues. Otherwise, why join the TPPA?

However, Malaysia’s tariffs are on average higher than those of the United States, the main country with whom we do not yet have a Free Trade Agreement.

If tariffs go to zero through the TPPA, Malaysia will thus have to cut its tariffs by more than the US. Whilst we may gain extra exports through the TPPA, we will also have to import more. There is no guarantee that the TPPA will lead to a better trade balance, and there could be an opposite result.

The debate on the TPPA will intensify now that the negotiations have ended. The text should be made available as soon as possible, so that the discussions can be based on the agreement itself. After the TPPA, it will take another two years for the agreement to be ratified and come into force.

Thus, the TPPA is not a “done deal” and the real debate may only be beginning now. It is unfortunate that till now the text is not available.

BY MARTIN KHOR

Martin Khor (director@southcentre.org) is executive director of the South Centre. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

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Monday, October 12, 2015

MH370 may rest in Filipino jungle?

MH370 may rest in Filipino jungle: report

The missing MH370 plane may be crashed in a Philippines jungle, according to news.



KUALA LUMPUR: The police have reached out to its Filipino counterparts amidst a report claiming that an aircraft wreckage, with a Malaysian flag inside, was discovered in the jungles of a remote island in the Philippines.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said Sunday that police were seeking the assistance from the Filipino authorities to validate the report, which was lodged by a 46-year-old man on behalf of his relative who allegedly found the wreckage while hunting for birds at Sugbay Island in Tawi Tawi.

In confirming the report, Khalid said: "There was no photograph to support the claim so we are relying on our counterpart to check."

Khalid added that it would take one or two days before the claim could be verified.

On Saturday, the audiovisual technician reported to Sandakan police that a visiting relative from Sugbay Island had stumbled upon aircraft wreckage there in early September.

In the report the man said the relative and a few others were hunting for birds when they spotted the wreckage on the island.

They managed to get near the wreckage where they found human bones. They also found skeletal remains in the pilot's chair with the seat belt fastened.

Before leaving the area, they took a flag they found in the wreckage.

The man said he informed police as the wreckage could be that of an airplane that disappeared last year.

Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman said they were investigating the man’s claims and are still trying to verify their authenticity.

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370 disappeared in March last year en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew on board, most of them China nationals.

The incident triggered one of the largest searches for an aircraft focusing in the Southern Indian Ocean.

Anger and disbelief from MH370 China relatives over debris

Photo Source: AFP, Reuters, Linfo.re/Antenne Reunion
5 of 42
- See more at: http://news.asiaone.com/news/asia/malaysia-checking-report-possible-mh370-wreckage-found-philippines#sthash.dZDAuBFt.EGznjFHf.dpuf

Last month, French authorities confirmed a piece of wing found on the shore of Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean as being from MH370.

The flaperon was found on the shore of the French-governed island on July 29 and Malaysian authorities have said paint colour and maintenance-record matches proved it came from the missing Boeing 777 aircraft.

By BY NADIRAH H. RODZI The Star

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