Posts Tagged ‘Thailand’

Trump fiddles with phone as US burns out in Asia, and China gives a lesson in leadership

December 9, 2017

By Richard Heydarian

President’s Twitter rants and lack of a coherent strategy have seen confidence in US leadership plummet, and Beijing has not been slow to fill the void

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 December, 2017, 8:32pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 December, 2017, 8:33pm

“Of all manifestations of power, restraint impresses men the most,” warned Thucydides, who painfully observed the Peloponnesian war and the devastation of the Athenian empire.

Centuries from now, the world is likely to look back at the Donald Trump presidency as the beginning of a precipitous decline in America’s global influence. His midnight rants on Twitter, open hostility to the international liberal order, and lack of a coherent grand strategy has alienated friends and allies like never before.

In contrast, Beijing has deftly forged ahead with constructing an “Asia for Asians”, while luring the world with ambitious infrastructure projects that will transform globalisation in China’s image.

Meanwhile, US allies such as Japan, Australia and the European Union have openly expressed their willingness to fill the leadership vacuum by pushing for alternative trade, security and climate-related agreements.

To be fair, what we are witnessing is partly driven by a relative decline in the foundations of American power, primarily due to the meteoric rise of China and other major developing countries.

In the coming years, Beijing is expected not only to oversee the world’s largest economy, but also emerge as a leading global source of investment and technology. Even in the realm of military power, where the US holds a decisive edge, China is rapidly closing the gap.

 Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Apec summit in Da Nang, Vietnam last month. The two leaders support free trade in the Asia region. Photo: Xinhua

According to a Rand Corporation study, Beijing is catching up in virtually every crucial area of military technology, while enjoying geographical advantage vis-à-vis crucial flashpoints such as the Taiwan Strait, South China Sea and Korean Peninsula.

Nonetheless, as Thucydides observed in ancient Greece, quality of leadership can define the fate of superpowers and the broader trajectory of history.

Throughout my conversations with senior officials and experts from American allied nations in Asia and Europe, I have seen nothing short of outright trepidation regarding the Trump presidency.

While the statements and actions of able officials such as US Defence Secretary James Mattis have been warmly received, there is still an excruciating clamour for a steady hand at the top.

Surveys show that global confidence in America’s leadership has collapsed in the past year alone. A Pew study reported an average 42 per cent decline among 37 surveyed nations.

An intensified “Russia-gate” investigation into members of Trump’s inner circle is expected to further distract an already wobbly administration.

Trump’s “America first” mantra has been interpreted as an unvarnished expression of unilateralism and isolationism by the global superpower. In response, many countries have found themselves either embracing China or veering away from America.

 Despite the best efforts of US Defence Secretary James Mattis, global confidence in America’s leadership has plummeted this year. Photo: Reuters

During his November trip to Asia, the US president struggled to secure a single major concession from either allies or rivals, namely China. Crucially, Trump was deeply isolated during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in Vietnam, where he openly called for bilateral trade agreements and lashed out at globalisation.

Aside from nixing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which deeply alienated regional allies and new friends such as Vietnam, Trump failed to propose any new economic initiative in the region.

In a blatant rebuke, allies such as Japan and Australia subsequently discussed a revitalised TPP deal, which excludes America yet upholds the principles of free trade. Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping extolled the virtues of an open global order.

The Chinese leader described globalisation as an “irreversible historical trend”, reiterating his country’s commitment to a “multilateral trading regime and practice”, which enables “developing members to benefit more from international trade and investment”.

In particular, China supports the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which covers 16 nations and aims to dramatically reduce tariff barriers across the Asia-Pacific. In fact, it’s here where Beijing’s greatest strength lies: commercial diplomacy.

 Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (left) extended his stay in Manila last month to discuss multibillion-dollar infrastructure projects with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte (right). Photo: Reuters

Across Southeast Asia, China is increasingly seen as the next major driver of industrialisation and development, including among American treaty allies Thailand and the Philippines.

While Xi used the bully pulpit to promote globalisation during the Apec summit, China’s Premier Li Keqiang, in turn, offered concrete investment deals during his visit to Manila for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit just days after.

While Trump cut his visit to Manila short by 24 hours, Li extended his stay in the city by several days. He met and discussed multibillion-dollar infrastructure projects with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

Lured by China’s economic initiatives, the Filipino president leveraged his Asean chairmanship this year to deepen ties between Beijing and Southeast Asian nations. We may have finally found a glimpse of Pax Sinica in Asia.

Richard Javad Heydarian is an Asia-based scholar and the author of several books, including Asia’s New Battlefield: US, China and the Struggle for Western Pacific and The Rise of Duterte: A Populist Revolt Against Elite Democracy.


Philippines: A lot of catching up to do compared to much of the rest of the world

November 20, 2017



STOCKHOLM — After a year of hosting ASEAN meetings culminating in the summits among regional leaders and with dialogue partners, the Philippines should be attracting more foreign direct investments and tourists.

Those are supposed to be among the dividends of hosting international gatherings, with preparatory meetings held the entire year.

Hosting a global event such as the Olympic Games or the World Cup means a nation – particularly the city chosen for the event – can compete with the best in the world. It’s a coming-out party, and in many host cities, the improvements undertaken to make the party a success become permanent: better roads, mass transport facilities and telecommunications services; cleaner, greener surroundings; more professional services.

This was the case when China hosted the Olympics in Beijing and the World Expo in Shanghai. There has been no turning back from being world-class.

The idea is not just to serve as gracious host, but to make the experience so memorable guests will keep coming back, and invite others to do the same. While taxpayers always gripe about the massive price tag for hosting any international event, the long-term return on investment must be so attractive that most countries that have already hosted events such as the Olympics keep vying for more chances to host them again.

The mark of an advanced economy is when it can host such events at the shortest notice, with minimal improvements required. Paris can host any global event with its eyes closed; so can New York, Tokyo and Geneva.

We’re still waiting for a chance to host our international coming-out party, prudently limiting ourselves to regional events. The rotating chairmanships of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum have provided good practice in hosting world leaders and organizing supporting meetings throughout the year.

Unfortunately, many of the improvements for these events are as ephemeral as the trimming of the greenery along Roxas Boulevard for the recent ASEAN summit. And even if ministerial meetings in preparation for the summits are held around the country throughout the year, it doesn’t seem to help us catch up with our neighbors in many areas such as tourist arrivals, foreign direct investment and overall prosperity.

Here we are, one of the five founding members of ASEAN, and we’re trailing much of the rest of the region in several human development indicators. Never mind oil-rich Brunei; why are we now lagging behind Vietnam?

Last month, Alibaba Group’s Jack Ma came visiting, and was remembered for noting that our internet is “no good.”

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How can we expect return business when even internet service, now one of the most basic human needs, is spotty? The service improved around the ASEAN venues during the summit and related meetings, but now it’s back to its “not good” quality. As I wrote, the improvements from hosting events are not sustained.

*      *      *

I’m in this lovely Swedish capital for an international sustainability forum. Before I left Manila, Sweden’s Ambassador Harald Fries told me that 27,000 of his compatriots visited the Philippines last year. I asked: and how many Swedes visited Thailand? Fifteen times more, he replied. Bilateral trade is also “too low,” he said ruefully, as he promised to work on improving the situation.

Air connectivity would help, the ambassador said. I had to stop over in Taipei and then enter the Schengen zone through Amsterdam before the final hop to this city. Bangkok, on the other hand, has direct flights to all the major European cities, just like the other top ASEAN travel destinations, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

We already suffer from the quality of our airports when compared with the gateways of several of our neighbors. Executives of about six Swedish companies are holding a joint seminar in Manila with representatives of the Department of Transportation and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines to discuss safety and efficiency of airports.

We’re now too far behind some of our neighbors in terms of airport facilities, but maybe we can end those chronic flight delays and improve air conditioning at the NAIA.

*      *      *

At least the airport now has free wi-fi. Mon Isberto of Smart Communications told me that the company is gradually replacing its copper wires with fiber optic cables, which make internet speed 10 times faster. Optical fiber also works best with 4G LTE.

Smart has also started installing smaller cell sites to dispel health concerns over telecommunications signals, although smaller sites also mean weaker service.

Copper was a compromise technology, Mon said. The speed of replacing copper wiring depends on the support and efficiency of the local governments. Last year Cebu’s Toledo City became the first completely fiber optic service area for Smart; the latest is Naga City.

Transformation is slow. Mon said installing one cell site, from processing of documents to completion of the project, requires an average of 36 permits from the national and local governments, the barangay and homeowners’ association. The entire process could take up to a year, after which Smart must secure a separate set of permits for transmission.

Mon says other countries consider internet service as a public utility that qualifies for fast-track processing. This is not the case here. The result is the kind of service that, when visitors compare with those in much of the region, becomes another disincentive to visiting the Philippines.

Internet speed is on my mind because Sweden happens to rank third after South Korea and Norway in having the fastest internet on the planet. As rated by Akamai in the first quarter of this year, Swedish internet speed is 22.5 Mbps for fixed broadband, way above the global average of 7.2 Mbps. Hong Kong ranked fourth, Singapore seventh and Japan eighth.

The Philippines’ average internet speed was 5.5 Mbps as of the first quarter. We’re way behind Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

We have a lot of catching up to do, and the task keeps getting more challenging as our neighbors do better.


China’s Silk Road revival hits the buffers

November 13, 2017


China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ has run into problems from a stalled Indonesian rail project to an insurgency-threatened economic corridor in Pakistan

The ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative, unveiled by China’s President Xi Jinping in 2013, envisages linking China with Africa, Asia and Europe through a network of ports, railways, roads and industrial parks. Photo: Reuters

The ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative, unveiled by China’s President Xi Jinping in 2013, envisages linking China with Africa, Asia and Europe through a network of ports, railways, roads and industrial parks. Photo: Reuters

Singapore: From a stalled Indonesian rail project to an insurgency-threatened economic corridor in Pakistan, China’s push to revive Silk Road trade routes is running into problems that risk tarnishing the economic crown jewel of Xi Jinping’s presidency.

The “One Belt, One Road” initiative, unveiled by Xi in 2013, envisages linking China with Africa, Asia and Europe through a network of ports, railways, roads and industrial parks.

Xi, the most powerful Chinese leader in decades, has pushed the infrastructure drive which is central to his goal of extending Beijing’s economic and geopolitical clout.

The initiative was enshrined in the Communist Party’s constitution at a key congress last month, and some estimates say more than $1 trillion has been pledged to it, with projects proposed in some 65 countries.

But on the ground it has run into problems. Projects traverse insurgency-hit areas, dictatorships and chaotic democracies, and face resistance from both corrupt politicians and local villagers.

“Building infrastructure across countries like this is very complicated,” said Murray Hiebert, from Washington think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), who has studied some of the projects in Southeast Asia.

“You’ve got land issues, you have to hammer out funding agreements, you have to hammer out technological issues.”

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying however insisted the initiative was “moving forward smoothly”.

Beijing won the contract to build Indonesia’s first high-speed railway in September 2015, but more than two years later work has barely started on the route from Jakarta to the city of Bandung.

A recent visit to Walini, where President Joko Widodo broke ground on the train line in January last year, found excavators flattening land but no track laid for the train, which is meant to start operating in 2019.

“The first year after the ground-breaking ceremony, I did not see any progress at all,” Neng Sri, a 37-year-old food stall owner from nearby Mandala Mukti village, told AFP.

The central problem has been persuading villagers to leave their land on the proposed route, which is often an issue in the chaotic, freewheeling democracy.

The Indonesian transport ministry declined to give an update on the project and the consortium of Chinese and Indonesian companies building the line did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

On another planned high-speed line from southern China to Singapore, the Thai stretch of the railway was delayed by tussles over financing and protective labour regulations, and it was only in July that the military government finally approved $5.2 billion to start construction.

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Work is under way on the 415-kilometre (260-mile) part of the line in Laos, a staunch ally of Beijing.

But even there the project has stoked controversy due to its huge price tag—at $5.8 billion, roughly half the country’s 2015 GDP—and the question of how much deeply poor Laos will gain from the project.

There have been concerns in many countries about how much they will benefit from One Belt, One Road initiatives.

Gains for China, such as access to key markets and tackling overcapacity in domestic industries, are often more obvious than those for their partners.

Such worries have bedevilled projects in Central Asia, part of a potential route from western China to Europe.

These include a free trade zone at Horgos on the China-Kazakh border, notable for flashy malls on the Chinese side and relatively little on the Kazakh side, and a planned railway to Uzbekistan that has stalled in large part due to opposition in Kyrgyzstan, through which the line would run.

“I am against this railway as it stands because the financial benefits that could accrue to Kyrgyzstan accrue to (China and Uzbekistan) instead,” said Timur Saralayev, head of the Bishkek-based New Generation movement.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a $54-billion project launched in 2013 linking western China to the Indian Ocean via Pakistan, has been targeted by separatist rebels in Balochistan province, who have blown up gas pipelines and trains and attacked Chinese engineers.

But the Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua insisted the One Belt, One Road initiative enjoyed broad support.

“We have seen more and more support and approval of our projects. Many projects have delivered tangible benefits to the people in these countries,” she said.

The view from the ground, however, is not always so positive.

“The high-speed train… is only for super busy people who think time is money,” said the villager Sri, who lives next to the Indonesian rail project.

“We are not rushing to go anywhere.”

United Nations Human Rights Experts Campaign to Improve Human Rights Among ASEAN Nations at Philippine Summit

November 11, 2017
Riot police prepare to push back people protesting the visit of U.S. President Donald Trump outside the main venue of the ASEAN summit meetings Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017 in Manila, Philippines. Trump is currently on a visit to Asia with the Philippines as his last stop for the ASEAN leaders’ summit and related summits between the regional grouping and its Dialogue Partners. AP/Aaron Favila

MANILA, Philippines — Four United Nations human rights experts urged the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations to discuss “pressing” regional rights issues during the bloc’s key summit in Manila.

From November 11 to 14, 21 world leaders—along with the UN chief—will sit down for talks in Manila for the 31st ASEAN meet.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: ASEAN Summit in the Philippines

In a statement dated November 10, the UN experts, while recognizing the “important work of the many active civil society organizations across the region,” expressed concern over the “worrying deterioration in the environment” where human rights defenders operate.

They also expressed dismay at the “increasing harassment and prosecutions” of bloggers, journalists and social media users.

“Human rights defenders, social activists, lawyers, journalists, independent media and even parliamentarians trying to speak out and protect the rights of others, increasingly face a multitude of risks ranging from judicial harassment and prosecution to threats, disappearances and killings,” the experts said.

“We condemn the public vilification, harassment, arrests and killings of members of civil society, and call on Member States to rigorously uphold their duty to ensure the freedom and protection of those exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly,” they added.

“Independent media, members of civil society and human rights defenders should be viewed as partners and as an essential element of democracy.”

The Philippines, one of the bloc’s founding states, chairs this year’s ASEAN summits. Members of the 10-nation bloc take turns at chairmanship.

Among the human rights issues hounding the region were the Philippines’ bloody “war on drugs,” the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, the crackdown on dissenters in Vietnam and Cambodia, and junta rule in Thailand.

Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi steps down from her plane upon arrival at Clark International Airport in Clark, Pampanga province north of Manila, Philippines Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. Suu Kyi is one of more than a dozen leaders who will be attending the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits in Manila. AP/Bullit Marquez

READ: Leaders urged to bring up regional rights issues at APEC, ASEAN

According to the UN rapporteurs, the ongoing ASEAN meetings in Manila should be used by member-states as an opportunity to “make real progress” on the region’s rights issues and to show that the bloc is “fully committed to securing human rights.”

They likewise encouraged Southeast Asian governments to see human rights monitoring and reporting, not as a threat, but as a positive tool that can help them comply with these commitments.

The statement was issued by UN special rapporteurs Annalisa Ciampi, Michel Forst, Yanghee Lee, and Agnes Callamard, who has been verbally attacked by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte for criticizing Manila’s deadly drug war.

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Agnes Callamard, U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions.

Faced with strong criticism of the administration’s violent campaign against drugs, Duterte on Thursday floated the idea of calling for a global summit on human rights violations by other countries.

“Not zero in on me. Why just me? There are so many violations of human rights, including by the United States, including the continuous bombing in the Middle East killing civilians. Even of children… of their schools,” he said.

READ: Int’l watchdog reacts to Duterte’s plan to hold human rights summit

Pacific trade deal reached but leaders won’t endorse it yet

November 11, 2017

Tran Tuan Anh, Toshimitsu Motegi

DANANG, Vietnam (AP) — Trade ministers from 11 Pacific Rim countries announced an agreement Saturday on pushing ahead with a free-trade deal whose destiny was uncertain after President Donald Trump dropped it.

“We have reached an agreement on a number of fundamental parts,” Vietnam’s trade minister, Tran Tuan Anh, told reporters in the coastal resort city of Danang, on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. But more work must be done before leaders of the countries involved can endorse the plan, said Anh and his Japanese counterpart, Toshimitsu Motegi.

The 11 counties remaining in the trade pact rejected by Trump in January have been working to revise the deal to allow them to proceed without U.S. involvement. That involved a difficult balance between maintaining high standards and pragmatism, Motegi said.

“Through a pragmatic response of the officials involved we could come to an agreement,” Motegi said. He said it was clear there would be a need for further changes but that differences had been narrowed down.

“The substance is something all the TPP countries can agree on,” said Motegi. “This will send a very strong message to the U.S. and the other countries in the region.”

The talks resulted in an even longer name for the trade pact than originally devised. It is now the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The announcement of a basic agreement was delayed by last-minute discord that prevented the TPP leaders from endorsing the plan when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not join other leaders who gathered Friday to endorse an agreement in principle on pressing ahead without the U.S.

In the end, Canada’s Minister for International Commerce Francois-P Champagne said in a tweet Saturday that “after lots of work, big progress on the ‘Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership.’”

Trudeau had said days earlier that Canada would not be rushed into an agreement.

Despite enthusiasm for sticking with the plan following the U.S. withdrawal, criticism over various issues persists. Detractors of the TPP say it favors corporate interests over labor and other rights. Trudeau said days before arriving in Danang that he would not be rushed into signing an agreement that did not suit Canada’s interests.

Aspects of the trade pact have also raised hackles over a requirement that companies be allowed to sue governments for lack of enforcement of related laws.

The proposed basic agreement reached in Danang said that the ministers maintained “the high standards, overall balance and integrity of the TPP while ensuring the commercial and other interests of all participants and preserving our inherent right to regulate, including the flexibility of the parties to set legislative and regulatory priorities.”

The U.S., the biggest TPP economy, had been one of its most assertive supporters before Trump took office. Trump has said he prefers country-to-country deals and is seeking to renegotiate several major trade agreements to, as he says, “put America first.”

Trump reiterated his markedly different stance on trade before the 21-member APEC summit convened late Friday with a gala banquet.

“We are not going to let the United States be taken advantage of anymore,” he told an APEC business conference. He lambasted the World Trade Organization and other trade forums as unfair to the United States and reiterated his preference for bilateral trade deals, saying “I am always going to put America first.”

Trump said he would not enter into large trade agreements, alluding to U.S. involvement in the North American Free Trade Agreement and the TPP.

In contrast, Chinese President Xi Jinping told the same group that nations need to stay committed to economic openness or risk being left behind.

Xi drew loud applause when he urged support for the “multilateral trading regime” and progress toward a free-trade zone in the Asia-Pacific. China is not part of the TPP.

APEC operates by consensus and customarily issues nonbinding statements. TPP commitments are to be eventually be ratified and enforced by its members.

But even talks this week on a declaration to cap the APEC summit had to be extended for an extra half day as ministers haggled over wording. The release of a set of ministerial agreements early Saturday suggested the leaders would finesse any disagreements, as usual, to demonstrate unity and avoid embarrassing their hosts.

As a developing country with a fast-growing export sector, this year’s host country, Vietnam, has a strong interest in open trade and access for its exports to consumers in the West. The summit is an occasion for its leaders to showcase the progress its economy has made thanks largely to foreign investment and trade. Danang, Vietnam’s third largest city, is in the midst of a construction boom as dozens of resorts and smaller hotels pop up along its scenic coastline.

APEC’s members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the U.S. and Vietnam.


Associated Press writer Robert Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.

Thailand: Palace official dismissed for “extremely evil behavior”

November 8, 2017


BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s Royal Household Bureau has dismissed a top palace official for “extremely evil behavior”, a note on Wednesday said, in what appears to be the latest shake-up under new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

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Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn takes part in a procession to transfer the royal relics and ashes of late King Bhumibol Adulyadej from the crematorium to the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 27, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

The removal of Grand Chamberlain Distorn Vajarodaya, whose role is to manage the royal household, was announced by the palace in a document dated Nov. 6, media reported.

The document lists things that Distorn allegedly did including falsifying a 25 million baht ($754,830) charity receipt for royal honors and tax evasion in the name of the crown.

“The Bureau of the Royal Household deemed Distorn’s … acts as disciplinary misconducts considered as extremely evil behavior deserving of dismissal from the civil service,” the royal household bureau said.

A palace official told Reuters on Wednesday that she was unable to comment on the matter.

Reuters was unable to reach Distorn for comment.

Distorn’s dismissal is the latest sign of the new king’s assertiveness and part of an ongoing purge of officials who the palace says did not perform or behave according to their rank.

King Vajiralongkorn, 65, who inherited the throne last year following the death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, has set about reordering the palace, including the way its finances are managed.

In February, a top palace official was also fired for “extremely evil” misconduct.

Late King Bhumibol died in Oct. 2016 aged 88 after ruling for seven decades. During his reign, he helped revive the prestige of the monarchy with the help of a powerful palace public relations machine.

He was cremated on Oct. 26 after a year of mourning.

The funeral was attended by hundreds of thousands of people who thronged Bangkok’s historic area to watch a series of spectacular processions and ancient Buddhist and Hindu rites and say goodbye.

Reporting by Aukkarapon Niyomyat, Pracha Hariraksapitak, Amy Sawitta Lefevre, Panu Wongcha-um and Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Nick Macfie

‘Freed’ Hong Kong Bookseller Is Still Missing, Daughter Says — More Chinese “Tricky Mischief”?

October 24, 2017

China’s foreign ministry said Gui Minhai was released, but his family hasn’t heard from him

Image result for Gui Minhai, photos

HONG KONG—A Swedish bookseller who was detained by Chinese officials in a crackdown on a publisher of controversial political titles hasn’t been heard from a week after Beijing says he was released.

China’s foreign ministry on Tuesday said Gui Minhai had been released Oct. 17 after serving a two-year sentence for a traffic offense. The ministry’s statement came after Swedish officials disclosed they were recently told by Chinese authorities that Mr. Gui had been freed.

The daughter of jailed publisher Gui Minhai says no-one has heard from him since his “release”.

Hong Kong bookseller released by China is missing – daughter

AFP / Angela Gui — Angela Gui said she was still waiting to hear from her father a week after his release

Sweden says its citizen Gui Minhai, one of the five jailed “Hong Kong booksellers”, has been released from prison in China.

But Mr Gui’s daughter, Angela, said no-one had seen him or spoken to him a week after his supposed release.

Mr Gui’s Hong Kong publishing house sold books about the personal lives of China’s political elite.

He disappeared in Thailand in October 2015 before mysteriously turning up in detention in mainland China.

Mr Gui was officially in prison after confessing to a fatal road accident which allegedly took place in 2003. His daughter says the confession was forced.

The four other members of the publishing company detained in China were previously released. Three remained silent about their detention.

But one, Lam Wing-kee, who has no family on mainland China, said the confessions shown on Chinese television were forced, read from a script written by Chinese officials.

He also alleged one of the men, Lee Bo, had been abducted from Hong Kong against his will – something Mr Lee has not confirmed himself.

Allegations that Mr Lee and Mr Gui were abducted across international borders in an extrajudicial process sparked international concern.

Chinese officials say he and the four other men detained all went to China voluntarily.

‘No idea where’

On Tuesday, after Mr Gui’s release was announced, his daughter Angela Gui said: “I still do not know where my father is.”

A spokeswoman for the Swedish foreign ministry confirmed that information about Mr Gui’s release had come from the Chinese authorities and said Sweden was seeking clarification.

No other official details were available.

Ms Gui, who lives in the UK, released a statement saying the Swedish embassy had been told, in advance that her father would be released on 17 October.

She said that when Swedish officials arrived on the morning of his release, they were told by prison officials that he had already left at midnight.

“They were also told that he was ‘free to travel’ and that they had no idea where he was,” she added.

“Neither I nor any member of my family nor any of his friends have been contacted. It is still very unclear where he is. I am deeply concerned for his wellbeing.”

China frees Swedish bookseller held for books on party chiefs: Sweden foreign office

October 24, 2017


STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – China has informed Sweden that it has freed a bookseller detained for publishing books on the personal lives of President Xi Jinping and other Communist Party leaders, the Swedish foreign office said on Tuesday.

Gui Minhai, a Chinese-born Swede, was abducted in Thailand while on holiday in 2015. He was among five Hong Kong booksellers who went missing in 2015 and later appeared in mainland Chinese custody. The four others have returned to Hong Kong.

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Gui Minhai

“We have been told by Chinese authorities that Gui Minhai has been released in China,” foreign office spokeswoman Sofia Karlberg said, offering no further details.

Earlier this year Gui Minhai won a prize for free speech and press freedom awarded by Swedish media organization Publicistklubben.

Tillerson: China ‘Predatory’ for Dumping ‘Enormous Levels of Debt’ on Developing Nations

October 20, 2017

In this Sept. 26, 2017, photo, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks at the State Department in Washington. Tillerson is making his second trip to China since taking office in February, and relations between the two world powers have rarely mattered so much. The standoff over North Korea’s nuclear weapons has entered a new, dangerous phase as its leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump exchange personal insults and threats of war with no sign of a diplomatic solution. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Tillerson’s speech comes as a welcome response to the aggressive global agenda laid out by Xi, but it is also surprisingly tough given how hard the Trump administration has worked to get China on board with restraining North Korea.

Tillerson, who usually plays the “good cop” counterpart to Trump’s fiery criticism of global adversaries, was unsparing in his criticism of China’s business practices. The topic of his speech was “Defining Our Relationship with India for the Next Century.” He segued into hammering China during the Q&A session, after praising India’s economic development and efforts against terrorism in glowing terms for a good twenty minutes.

CSIS President John J. Hamre teed up the assault by quoting a “very interesting” passage from Tillerson’s remarks on India, in which he called for a close U.S.-Indian partnership to “ensure the Indo-Pacific is increasingly a place of peace, stability, and growing prosperity” and prevent it from becoming “a region of disorder, conflict, and predatory economics.”

Asked to clarify what he meant by predatory economics, Tillerson described the hunger of emerging economies and “fledgling democracies” in the region for infrastructure investment.

“We have watched the activities and actions of others in the region, particularly China, and the financing mechanisms it brings to many of these countries, which result in saddling them with enormous levels of debt,” said the secretary of state.

“They don’t often create the jobs, which infrastructure projects should be tremendous job creators in these economies, but too often foreign workers are brought in to execute these infrastructure projects,” he continued. “Financing is structured in a way that makes it very difficult for them to obtain future financing, and often has very subtle triggers in the financing that results in financing default, and the conversion of debt into equity.”

“This is not a structure that supports the future growth of these countries,” Tillerson said. “We think it’s important that we begin to develop some means of countering that with alternative financing measures, financing structures.”

“During the East Asia summit, ministerial summit in August, we began a quiet conversation with others about what they were experiencing, what they need, and we’re starting a quiet conversation in a multilateral way with how can we create alternative financing mechanisms,” he revealed. “We will not be able to compete with the kind of terms China offers, but countries have to decide—what are they willing to pay to secure their sovereignty and their future control of their economies? We’ve had those discussions with them as well.”

Tillerson recalled having similar discussions with borrowers during his days as a private-sector oil executive, which is a hopeful sign that he’s the right person to be waging this quiet financial war with China.

“On a direct competitive basis, it’s hard to compete with someone who’s offering something on financial terms that are worth a few points on the lending side,” he conceded, an especially important point when considering the billion-dollar scale of the loans he was describing. “We have to help them put that in perspective of the longer-term ability to control their country, control the future of their country, control the development of their economy in a rules-based system.”

“That’s really what we’re promoting. As you retain your sovereignty, you retain your commitment to a rules-based order, we will come with other options for you,” he said. This will be an interesting challenge when China is so aggressively pushing the idea that sovereignty, both individual and national, is overrated compared to the material benefits provided by authoritarian central control.

Examples of the predatory practices Tillerson described can be found in places like Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan, the latter two of which have been “virtually decimated” by Chinese debt manipulation according to this critique. Not coincidentally, the targets of Chinese financial assault tend to be located along its “New Silk Road” trade route construction project (which is often explicitly linked to the infrastructure projects Beijing funds) or along the borders of China’s great regional adversary, India.

Another case study is Cameroon, which owes China a huge amount of money, and noticed last year that Chinese loggers were illegally cutting down its forests. Critics specifically cited Cameroon’s debt to China for infrastructure loans as a major reason environmental laws were not enforced against it.

Tillerson compared China’s economic growth to India’s and concluded China has acted “less responsibly, at times undermining the international rules-based order.” He called out China’s “provocative actions in the South China Sea” as a direct challenge to international law.

“We’re going to have important relationships with China. We’ll never have the same relationship with China, a non-democratic society, that we can have with a major democracy,” he said.

What Xi Jinping’s second term can bring Asean (Good News and Bad News)

October 20, 2017
 / 03:24 PM October 19, 2017
Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, suit and indoor

Chinese President Xi Jinping. AFP FILE PHOTO

The Chinese Communist Party kicked off its 19th congress on Wednesday, ready to set a fresh course for the country and recast the leadership, although President Xi Jinping will almost certainly be re-elected to a second five-year term and be given even greater power in running the country. Xi’s leadership is utterly crucial as China’s peaceful rise has significant impacts on this region and the world.

At the congress, which continues through Saturday, the party will amend its constitution to incorporate Xi’s political thoughts and philosophy, in effect elevating his status close to that of founding chairman Mao Zedong and of Deng Xiaoping, who initiated China’s sweeping economic reforms.

Xi in his turn seeks to establish a fiscally moderate yet prosperous society by 2020 through reforms, the rule of law and strict party discipline. His thinking prioritises the integrated development of politics, culture, society and environmental protections while ensuring economic stability. It would be an impressive feat indeed if China could in the next five years put that vision into practice without any of the components being cruelly distorted.

Under Xi, however, China has over the past five years become more aggressive and more authoritarian, even with its healthy economy and remarkable technological advances. While China’s economic assistance to countries in Southeast Asia is most welcome, territorial disputes with Beijing in the South China Sea have cast our giant neighbour as an arrogant bully.

Xi’s “One Belt One Road” initiative is set to create a multitude of opportunities for economic development spanning much of the world, but building physical links over land and sea will also give China the wherewithal to expand its influence into every connected nation. Its political and economic influence is already evident enough in most member-countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar rely on China for financial and technological aid. Thailand and Laos are in partnerships with Beijing to build a railway that will connect them all, a project requiring not just Chinese investment and technology but also human resources. Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar have bolstered their military ties with Beijing, purchasing hardware from and conducting joint exercise with China.

All of this, though, proceeds in the shadow of the South China Sea conflicts, which put Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam directly at odds with Chinese expansionism. The volatile combination of fiscal reliance on Beijing and confrontation over disputed maritime territory could well split Asean in two. Its members with no land in the South China Sea tend to stand closer to Beijing in all other matters. Every Asean summit has at least one member-country imploring the others to tone down the wording of statements objecting to Chinese territorial incursions. China is poised to take full advantage of such disunity, and in fact might well be encouraging it.

It can be argued that Asean-China relations have suffered under Xi’s leadership. In the interest of maintaining and improving stability in Southeast Asia, Xi would be well advised to review his dealings with Asean. The bloc as a whole is a valuable trading partner for China. Every effort must be made in his second term to resolve the South China Sea issue and to pursue other forms of mutually beneficial cooperation with Asean, not just its individual members.

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

(Contains links to several related articles)

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Shiite corridor from Tehran to Damascus)

 (Enslavement Project?)


China is the nation gaining the most, so China should step up to pay for a greater share of the planned railway network, the Thai transport minister said less than a month agao

China leads the way: Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai inspecting a model at the launch of China High Speed Rail Exhibition at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre in December last year. It is undeniable that China garners the most support in the bid for the HSR project, beating countries such as Japan.

China leads the way: Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai inspecting a model at the launch of China High Speed Rail Exhibition at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre in December last year. It is undeniable that China garners the most support in the bid for the HSR project, beating countries such as Japan.