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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Greetings. I have moved!

TUMBLEWEEDS: Greetings, thank you for dropping by. I have moved to -

I will be maintaining the blog over at wordpress from now on. This site is now officially closed. My humble thanks.

60th Anniversary: What history teaches about toppled regimes — Ching Cheong

Quotable Quotes - "as long as the prairie (of discontent) is there, no one knows which spark can start the fire..."


What history teaches about toppled regimes
Ching Cheong
Straits Times
Source - The Malaysian Insider

SEPT 29 — China’s leaders are pulling out all the stops to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic on Thursday.

No expense has been spared for a grand parade to showcase China to the world, just as no effort has been spared to keep the Chinese capital safe and secure from “all unstable elements”.

A “security moat” will bar undesirable or dubious characters from entering Beijing from neighbouring provinces and regions — Hebei, Liaoning, Shandong, Shanxi, Inner Mongolia and Tianjin.

The authorities’ concern is understandable, especially following the outbreaks of social and ethnic unrest in recent months. Indeed, in the run-up to Thursday, there had in fact been open discussion of the possibility that these events may portend the collapse of communist rule.

In July, the Guangdong-based Southern Metropolitan Daily ran an article on some common features in the collapse of dynasties.

One such feature, it said, involved emperors believing that they could survive any crisis so long as they controlled the army and therefore commanded force.

“Whenever this mentality emerged, the emperor’s days were numbered,” the article observed.

Another feature was that the fall of a dynasty was often triggered by an accidental incident or a seemingly inconsequential event. This was especially so whenever there was widespread public discontent.

Said the article: “In fact, numerous failures might have preceded some seemingly accidental incident succeeding in toppling a regime.

“In the people’s hearts, every effort counted. If it did not succeed here and now, it could succeed there and then.”

The Southern Metropolitan Daily article concluded by saying “as long as the prairie (of discontent) is there, no one knows which spark can start the fire”.

A month later, the Outlook magazine published by the official Xinhua news agency, ran an article by Zuo Fengrong, a research fellow at the Central Party School, entitled “Drawing Lessons From The 1977 Soviet Union”.

While Zuo did not explain why he picked 1977, it was the year that the then-Soviet Union celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Russian Revolution in October 1917. China will be marking its own 60th National Day on Thursday, in effect the culmination of the Chinese revolutions of the 20th century.

In his article, the researcher noted that the Soviet Union had attained a level of prosperity in 1977 that it had never seen before. Yet under the pretext of preserving stability, its leaders refused to undertake any reforms.

“Leonid Brezhnev thought everything was alright. He... never tolerated divergent views. Dissenters were locked up in psychiatric hospitals. High-handed ideological control and news censorship stifled innovation and the Soviets’ cultural and spiritual lives ground to a halt,” Zuo wrote.

He went on to point out that by 1977, the Soviet Communist Party had become the vehicle of a special privileged class. Instead of serving the people, Soviet officials ruled them instead. Corruption, nepotism and cronyism were the order of the day.

Needless to say, a similar culture of corruption, nepotism and cronyism also exists in today’s China.

Zuo concluded: “The 1970-80s were a rare stable and prosperous period in Soviet history. Yet it was only superficial. Stability turned into stagnation and the country lost its ability to re-invent itself. This finally led to the unexpected collapse of the Soviet empire.”

A week after Zuo’s article appeared, the Central Party School magazine Study Times published an article analysing the fate of the descendants of senior officials of the Tang Dynasty, which once gave China its golden age.

Essentially, the account showed that none of the descendants came to a good end. The writer concluded: “Even in feudal times, senior officials could not ensure that their descendants enjoyed ever-lasting prosperity, although they themselves had made great contributions to the country.”

“That is why (first-generation Chinese leader) Mao Zedong’s reminder to senior cadres that they should keep a close watch on their own children is so timely and important,” the author said.

There was no mention of modern-day China in this or any of the other articles. But the allusions were unmistakable. — The Straits Times

60th Anniversary: The dragon marks its peaceful rise — Ron Matthews & Wang Di

Having a look at China's good side is getting increasingly difficult. Much like how celebrities are pretty susceptible to picky and meticulous over-thinking interpretations by the general public, China has had its fair share of detractors. This article provides a good summary of the good that China has been doing in ensuring it is keeping to its promise of a harmonious ascendancy.

Quotable Quotes - "For instance, China’s “official” 2009 defence budget, at US$70.3 billion (RM246 billion), is only 10 per cent of what the US spends. Moreover, China’s offensive capability is far inferior to that of the US. China’s navy probably cannot sustain naval operations beyond 160km from its shores, its combat aircraft are less than half the number of America’s, and much of its artillery is antique by Western standards."


The dragon marks its peaceful rise
Ron Matthews & Wang Di
The Straits Times
Source - The Malaysian Insider 1 October 2009

SEPT 30 — Two events will once again focus the world’s attention on the Middle Kingdom.

The first is that China’s growth rate for this year is slated to hit 8 per cent, suggesting the country will be among the first of the mega-powers to recover from the global financial crisis.

The second will be tomorrow’s sight of China’s biggest and most impressive military parade in a decade, in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic.

Both events will inevitably fuel concerns about China’s power. However, China views its rise as a peaceful one. Beijing’s challenge is to project a soft rather than hard image of its power.

China’s economic power is the result of its unparalleled growth, averaging 9.5 per cent per annum over the past three decades. As a result of this growth, the country has been able to increase its defence expenditure by 17 per cent in each of the last four years.

Reflecting this substantial expansion in defence expenditure, China’s military power has undergone an impressive transformation, carrying with it the potential to destabilise the world order. China now has the world’s biggest standing army, with more than 2.25 million soldiers and a broad array of advanced military platforms, including nuclear-powered submarines. The country is also in the process of acquiring aircraft carriers.

Unsurprisingly, China’s rising hard power is seen as a threat. The United States, in particular, is nervous of China’s burgeoning military capability and strategic reach.

But is this fear justified? There is room for doubt.

For instance, China’s “official” 2009 defence budget, at US$70.3 billion (RM246 billion), is only 10 per cent of what the US spends. Moreover, China’s offensive capability is far inferior to that of the US. China’s navy probably cannot sustain naval operations beyond 160km from its shores, its combat aircraft are less than half the number of America’s, and much of its artillery is antique by Western standards.

China is aware of the international anxieties engendered by its growing military strength, and needs to communicate the purpose and nature of its military “modernisation” programme.

Progress has been made on this front. In June, defence consultative talks between Beijing and Washington were resumed, and last month the two countries held maritime safety talks to reduce incidents such as the recent naval confrontation in the South China Sea.

China’s Defence Ministry has also launched a Chinese and English website to give an unprecedented amount of information on the country’s military capability. The country is also seeking to counterbalance its hard power with a focus on soft power projection, the ultimate goal being to create the image of a benign China.

For instance, in the area of maritime territorial disputes, it proposed to shelve disputes and engage in joint developments in 1978, providing the basis for the path-breaking preliminary agreement with Japan last year to jointly explore gas fields in the East China Sea. China has also cooperated with neighbouring countries in non-traditional security areas such as drug trafficking, piracy, terrorism, money laundering and cyber crimes.

The country has also sought to become a good international citizen. It has taken part in peacekeeping operations in international hot spots. In December last year, it sent three ships to the Gulf of Aden to combat piracy in the waters off Somalia. China acted in response to a United Nations Security Council request for assistance. Significantly, it was the Chinese navy’s first mission beyond the Pacific.

China provides a large amount of overseas aid, both economic and technical. By the end of 2005, it had completed 769 projects in Africa, most of which were associated with sustainable development.

The country has begun two other major programmes to expand its soft power. One is the establishment of the Confucius Institutes. The other is the launch of what has been described as a “media aircraft carrier” aimed at the hearts and minds of a global audience. The Chinese government has pumped 45 billion yuan (RM23 billion) into supporting four key state-run news organisations — China National Radio, China Central Television (CCTV), People’s Daily and the Xinhua News Agency — to expand the country’s influence. There are also plans to launch an international news channel with round-the-clock global news coverage, rather like a Chinese version of the Arab network Al-Jazeera.

China’s desire to cultivate the image of a benign and responsible state is likely to curtail any use of its hard power. Therefore, the country’s rise should be viewed positively. — The Straits Times

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Chinese becoming targets of terror, crime

China is always astounding, and all one has to do is take a look at the numbers involved. Read the quote below.

Quotable Quotes - "The annual number of overseas visits by Chinese reached more than 45 million in 2008. Between 1949 and 1979 was only 280,000..."


Chinese becoming targets of terror, crime

China Daily/Asia News Network
Source - AsiaOne 30 September 2009

Chinese citizens have become targets of foreign criminals and terrorists as the country's profile on the world stage has been increasing, said vice foreign minister Song Tao.

"We are facing a more and more complicated overseas security situation," he was quoted as saying by People's Daily Tuesday.

"Deteriorating regional conflicts and turbulence in some countries have directly affected the safety of our citizens and companies abroad."

As many countries are suffering from the global financial crisis, Chinese people and Chinese companies are also experiencing a hard time, he added.

"In many non-traditional security accidents, such as terrorist activities, kidnapping and pirate attacks, Chinese citizens are now not only innocent victims but direct targets. "More and more crimes and accidents are causing casualties and property losses for overseas Chinese."

Last year, more than 3,400 Chinese tourists were trapped in Thailand due to domestic turbulence in November and Chinese cargo vessels were attacked by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden.

The Chinese government rented 12 passenger flights to rescue the trapped citizens in Thailand and sent a convoy of warships to Somalia.

The two actions are widely seen as the best examples of China strengthening overseas protection in recent years.

But Chinese citizens are still not the main target of the terrorist attacks in the world, Li Wei, director of the center for counter-terrorism studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told China Daily Tuesday.

"Inadequate preparations for the complicated overseas security situation is one of the main reasons for the increasing number of accidents," he said.

"Chinese visitors should know the sources of danger and find proper solutions before leaving."

The annual number of overseas visits by Chinese reached more than 45 million in 2008. Between 1949 and 1979 was only 280,000, the vice minister said.

To protect the safety and rights of Chinese citizens and organizations abroad, the Foreign Ministry set up a consular protection department in 2006.

In recent years, the ministry has handled more than 30,000 consular protection cases a year.

But the lack of local knowledge and customs and inadequate security measures also cause losses and taints the image of Chinese people, he said.

In order to equip Chinese citizens with more legal knowledge of foreign cultures, 1 million copies of overseas safety and etiquette guidebooks have been issued at all entrance and exit ports and overseas embassies.

Free materials can be downloaded from the ministry's website.

China Daily/Asia News Network

S'pore population to hit 5 million soon

5 million honestly seems too much. The new forecasted solid state population for Singapore is now targeted at 8.5 million. Now that may not sound like a lot of people, but when we look at population density, it's rather insane. Singapore now has a density of close to 6,814 people per square kilometre. That's 6,814 people standing on an area the size of a football field. How insane is that. This statistic places Singapore as third, after Macau and Monaco, as the world's most densely populated nation.

With 8.5 million, I shudder to think how much more crowded it will be on our humbly sized island all of 700 square km (and that's after years of reclaiming land adding close to / more than 100 square km of space to our spot in the Malay Peninsula.

Now the big question for me is - can I find out how many of these new migrants are mainland Chinese? The quest begins.

Quotable Quotes - "The growth has been fuelled mainly by the increase in immigrants, as the number of babies delivered by Singapore residents rose only marginally."


S'pore population to hit 5 million soon
By Lee Hui Chieh
Source - AsiaOne 29 September 2009

SINGAPORE'S population hit almost 4.99 million in June this year, up 3.1 per cent from last year.

The growth has been fuelled mainly by the increase in immigrants, as the number of babies delivered by Singapore residents rose only marginally.

The figures released yesterday by the Department of Statistics show that the number of citizens grew from 3.16 million last year to 3.2 million this year, while that of permanent residents inched up from 0.48 million last year to 0.53 million this year.

The number of non-residents rose by 4.8 per cent to reach 1.25 million this year - a lower rise from the over-10 per cent rate in the last two years.

Just slightly more babies were born last year than in the previous year: 39,826, up 0.9 per cent. However, the total fertility rate dropped from 1.29 to 1.28 last year.

Associate Professor Paulin Straughan, a sociologist from the National University of Singapore, said that it is positive that Singapore has been able to sustain population growth, despite the recession and competition from other developed countries.

Like Singapore, they seek immigrants to make up for falling fertility rates.

Prof Straughan, who is also a Nominated Member of Parliament, said: "It shows that Singapore is a draw for migrants, that there are still jobs and quality of life here."

Administrative planner Yvonne Tay, 35, became a citizen in April this year, 16 years after coming here from Perak, as she wanted her children "to enjoy better education opportunities and subsidies as a citizen".

She said: "We're used to the lifestyle here, it's safe and peaceful. Half of my family is also here, and my sister's family also took up citizenship three years ago."

Monday, September 28, 2009

60th Anniversary: China goes Hollywood

Quotable Quotes - "While revolutionary leader Mao Zedong is the star of the film - and of most of the other TV shows and stage productions - the theme of 'Jianguo Daye", as China battles current day economic crisis and social unrest, is national unity."

China goes Hollywood
China's 60th anniversary
Source - The Straits Times 28 September 2009

BEIJING - CHINA is going Hollywood for the communist state's 60th birthday. Dozens of films, TV mini-series and shows are hitting screen and stage, with a sweeping all-star epic taking the country by storm.

'Jianguo Daye' (The Founding of a Republic) is hard to miss. The film, which cost 30 million yuan (S$6.23 million) to make, is on a record 1,700 screens nationwide and Tinseltown-style ads are everywhere.
More than 170 of China's most beloved actors and directors - Zhang Ziyi, Chen Kaige, Jet Li and Jackie Chan, to name a few - lent their skills to the project, which was the brainchild of the king of Chinese cinema, Han Sanping.

While revolutionary leader Mao Zedong is the star of the film - and of most of the other TV shows and stage productions - the theme of 'Jianguo Daye", as China battles current day economic crisis and social unrest, is national unity.

The two-hour blockbuster tells the story of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference - a coalition of 'democratic' parties, artists, scientists and intellectuals who voted to create the People's Republic.

Mr Han - the boss of China Film, the country's biggest movie producer and distributor - says he has created a new style of propaganda film, in which Mao and Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek are more realistic, human characters.

In one scene, we see Mao, the 'Great Helmsman' himself, completely drunk after a major battlefield victory.

While the film may draw older moviegoers wanting to relive the events of 1949, the stars have been recruited to lure younger viewers like 21-year-old student Fu Qiang, who raved about the film after a recent screening in Beijing.

'Every person in China should see this film,' he said.

'The most important thing is not the star power, really - even if that helps bring in the money. This film will boost a feeling of patriotism in China. Plus, it's a great way to celebrate National Day.' Wang Yu, a retiree in her 60s, said the film was 'truly authentic'.

'It shows how the revolution in China came to pass - it started out weak and gained strength - and explains the time when the Communist Party rallied the people to liberate the country,' she said. -- AFP


Controversial artist Ai Weiwei, whose work is often censured by the communist government, sees the film differently - as yet another piece of blatant propaganda by a regime that has hardly changed in six decades.

He suggested the stars - who were not paid for their work - had been pressured or felt obliged to take part, as otherwise 'they knew they would miss out on future opportunities'.

'The director (Han) is a very powerful man in the film industry. This nation has become more and more like a crime family - the Mafiosi control everything and so they can either make you or break you,' he told AFP in an interview.

No matter what the politics behind getting the film made, it is sure to be a massive hit.

Luisa Prudentino, an expert on Chinese cinema, says the 'Jianguo Daye' formula will be the model for future propaganda films.

'This allows the authorities to counter Hollywood's growing influence here by making blockbuster films that make money while also getting their message across to the masses in a more glamorous way,' she said.

The other major production on offer is 'Road to Revival", a two-and-a-half-hour Broadway-style musical that takes the audience on a journey from the Opium Wars to the present day, glorifying the re-emergence of China as a world power.

State television's main channel has also 'gone red' with 'Jiefang' (Liberation), a 50-part mini-series that tells the story of Mao's victory over the Nationalists, complete with bloody battle scenes. -- AFP

Friday, September 25, 2009

Confucius' 2m descendants?

Confucious has been the butt of many a joke despite its revered status as a mainstay of Chinese thought. Some examples - we'll hear some say...Confucius says...

"Man who walk through airport door sideways is going to Bangkok." or "Man who drop watch in toilet, bound to have shitty time."

Good humour I'm sure. It's not so much of a joke when you consider this ancient Chinese great's lineage now counts more than two million descendants. That's a mighty long line of people. And this, occurring over about 2500 years.

Quotable Quotes - "ABOUT two million people are now recognised as descendants of Confucius, more than tripling the size of the celebrated Chinese philosopher's family tree..."


Confucius' 2m descendants?
Source - Straits Times 25 September 2009

BEIJING - ABOUT two million people are now recognised as descendants of Confucius, more than tripling the size of the celebrated Chinese philosopher's family tree, state media reported on Friday.

The new list, which includes ethnic minorities, women and overseas relatives for the first time, was unveiled on Thursday in the thinker's hometown Qufu to coincide with the 2,560th anniversary of his birth, the Global Times said.

The family tree - believed to be the biggest in the world - was last updated in 1937, and had only 560,000 members, according to the Confucius Genealogy Compilation Committee, the report said.

'It is not only important for academic research, but also valuable in helping Confucius descendants around the world discover their ancestors and strengthen family bonds,' said Kong Deyong, a 77th generation descendant of the philosopher who is known as Kong Fuzi in China.

Mr Kong, who heads the International Confucius Association, said he was glad that gender, religion and nationality were no longer factors in determining which descendants were counted.

'Even if many descendants are no longer Han or without Chinese nationality, we should count them in because we are one big family,' the Global Times quoted him as saying.

Kong Dejun, a teacher at Cambridge University, said her inclusion in the family tree - which has 43,000 pages and is bound in 80 books - was the 'most exciting moment' of her life.

'In terms of genes, Confucius' blood is flowing in our body,' Xinhua news agency quoted her as saying.

Extensive research was carried out in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and across Southeast Asia to find the descendants, Kong Deyong told the paper.

Previous reports said each person had paid a five-yuan (S$1.03) fee to register for inclusion in the family tree.

The ancient teachings of Confucius (551-479 BC), centring on peace and social harmony, have enjoyed a renaissance here in recent years, after being suppressed in Maoist China. -- AFP

Thursday, September 24, 2009

China at age 60: from pariah to world power

SO. the PRC is turning 60 in modern terms. In reality, I reckon it celebrates 5000 years of continuous civilization.

Quotable Quote - "The so-called 'workshop of the world' is a global leader in research and development - China, Japan and the United States accounted for nearly 60 percent of all patent requests filed in 2007."


China at age 60: from pariah to world power

By Joelle Garrus | Reuters
Source - AsiaOne 24 September 2009

BEIJING, CHINA - Sixty years ago, as Mao Zedong declared the founding of a new communist nation, China was backward and isolated.

Today, it is a world power with sweeping influence - it is financing America's debt, snapping up access to natural resources in Africa and Latin America, and making its voice heard on major diplomatic issues.

his remarkable transformation - to be celebrated on October 1, communist China's 60th birthday - occurred thanks to a radical change in tactics at the midway point in the PRC's history, after three turbulent decades of Maoism.

'A big part of the first 30-year period can be regarded as lost decades for China,' explained Ren Xianfang, an analyst at IHS Global Insight in Beijing.

But then as the rest of the world was in 'great transition', moving towards market-based economies and privatisation, Beijing embraced a 'policy shift to economic and political pragmatism', Ren said - and everything changed.

A country that was once seen as a pariah, stuck between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and which barely gained United Nations membership in 1971, slowly emerged from its isolation.

In 1978, Beijing agreed to establish diplomatic relations with Washington. Then, under paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, it launched a programme of economic reforms that opened up the country to foreign investment.

Francoise Lemoine, a China expert at the Research Centre for International Economics (CEPII) in Paris, says the country's authorities quickly understood how to reap the benefits of the new world order.

'China is opening up at a time when other countries are ready to move their intensive manual labour activities offshore,' the French economist told AFP.

'China knows how to take advantage of this new globalisation, of the worldwide movement of capital and goods, and is claiming its rightful place in this new global division of labour.'

When Mao and his communists took power in October 1949, China was emerging from the ravages of civil war with the Nationalists, who fled to Taiwan, and Japanese occupation.

The country's gross domestic product had sunk to levels not seen since 1890 - its 500 million people were largely poor, illiterate and working the land to survive.

Lemoine said the first 30 years in the history of communist China - typified by the devastating fallout of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution - were nevertheless not a total waste.

The country made 'progress in terms of hygiene, health and education - most young people now have access to a basic education,' she said.

Today, China is the world's third-largest economy, the biggest exporter on the planet and has the world's largest foreign exchange reserves, at a whopping 2.13 trillion dollars, 800 billion of which is held in US Treasury bonds.

Beijing is one of five veto-wielding permanent members of the UN Security Council, participates in key international negotiations on Iran's disputed nuclear programme, and hosts the six-party talks on North Korea's atomic drive.

The country is seen as key to resolving the deadly conflict in the western Darfur region of Sudan, where China has major oil interests, and its stance on climate change is considered an essential piece of the global warming puzzle.

Its military is catching up with the West in leaps and bounds, and China is only one of three countries, along with the United States and the former Soviet Union, to have ever put a man in space.

The so-called 'workshop of the world' is a global leader in research and development - China, Japan and the United States accounted for nearly 60 percent of all patent requests filed in 2007.

It is the world's most populous nation, at 1.3 billion people, but barely eight percent remain illiterate. While the rich-poor divide is still of great concern, far fewer people are considered destitute.

Some experts say China has, 60 years on, finally acquired power and influence commensurate with its size, but others caution that it has not yet achieved 'superpower' status, in part due to the Communists' iron grip.

'The country is just an emerging power that is still facing lots of uncertainties in its ascent,' Ren noted.

'One major obstacle... is that China has yet to be accepted by the world as a leadership charting world values and ideology, which will require drastic political reforms in the country - and that is unlikely to come to pass soon.'

Hu Xingdou, a professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology, agreed, saying such reforms were needed to eliminate any fears about a 'China threat'.

'The doubts about China will only fade with the development of a democratic, constitutional political system, and once it adopts the values of mainstream civilisation,' Hu said.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Foreigners seek jobs in China amid crisis

So it seems from this report that China has now becoming the new land of opportunity. Well, not quite, with only 217,000 foreigners holding work permits, it is not that significant a number relative to China's workforce size. I do believe this number will grow pretty quickly though, just as any trend that develops in China, the potential for pretty substantial exponential growth is there.

But what's really pertinent about this report is the fact that these foreign work seekers are going to be competing with millions of well-qualified Chinese jobseekers willing to work for just a few hundred US dollars a month. Not much, but a stepping stone into a potentially huge market. So, those who venture there I would reckon, would possess considerable foresight.


Quotable Quote - "China's job market has been propped up by Beijing's 4 trillion yuan (S$828 billion) stimulus, which helped to boost growth to 7.9 per cent from a year earlier in the quarter ended June 30, and from 6.1 per cent the previous quarter."

Foreigners seek jobs in China amid crisis
Robust growth creates 'land of opportunity' for millions of job seekers
Associated Press
Source - Straits Times 20 September 2009

A growing number of young foreigners are going to China to look for work in its unfamiliar but less bleak economy, driven by the worst job markets in decades in the United States, Europe and some Asian countries.

Many do basic work such as teaching English, a service in demand from Chinese businessmen and students. A growing number, however, are arriving with skills and experience in computers, finance and other fields.

'China is really the land of opportunity now compared to their home countries,' said Mr Chris Watkins, manager for China and Hong Kong of MRI China Group, a headhunting firm. 'This includes college graduates as well as maybe more established businessmen, entrepreneurs and executives from companies around the world.'

He said the number of resumes his company receives from abroad has tripled over the past 18 months.

China's job market has been propped up by Beijing's 4 trillion yuan (S$828 billion) stimulus, which helped to boost growth to 7.9 per cent from a year earlier in the quarter ended June 30, and from 6.1 per cent the previous quarter.

The government says millions of jobs will be created this year, though as many as 12 million job seekers will still be unable to find work.

Mr Andrew Carr, a 23-year-old Cornell University graduate, saw China as a safer alternative after offers of Wall Street jobs to classmates were withdrawn because of the economic turmoil.

Passing up opportunities at home, he started work last month at bangyibang.

com, a classified listings website in the southern city of Shenzhen.

'I noticed the turn the US economy was taking and decided it would be best to go directly to China,' said Mr Carr, who studied Mandarin for eight years.

China can be more accessible to job-hunters than economies where getting work permits is harder, such as Russia and some European Union countries.

Employers need government permission to hire foreigners, but the authorities promise an answer within 15 working days, compared with a wait of months or longer that may be required in some other countries.

An employer has to explain why it needs to hire a foreigner instead of a Chinese, but the government says it gives special consideration to people with technical or management skills.

Some 217,000 foreigners held work permits at the end of last year, up from 210,000 a year earlier, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Thousands more use temporary business visas and go abroad regularly to renew them.

Job hunters from other Asian countries are also looking to China.

Mr An Kwang Jin, a 30-year-old South Korean photographer, has been working as a freelancer for a year in the eastern city of Qingdao. He said China offers more opportunities, as South Korea is struggling with a sluggish economy.

Still, foreigners will face more competition from a rising number of educated, English-speaking young Chinese, some of whom are returning from the West with work experience, said Mr Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group in Shanghai.

'You have a lot of Chinese from top universities who are making US$500 to US$600 a month,' Mr Rein said. 'Making a case that you are much better than they are is very hard.'


Hans Rosling on the Rise of China

Swedish statistics master talks about the numbers of China in a short six minuter.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Ancient Chinese Wisdom

This comes from Zhuge Liang, one of the most important and renown strategists of Chinese history.

"夫君子之行:静以修身,俭以养德;非淡泊无以明志,非宁静无以致远。" - 诸葛亮

One should seek serenity to cultivate the body, thriftiness to cultivate the morals. Seeking fame and wealth will not lead to noble ideal. Only by seeking serenity will one reach far. - Zhuge Liang

Source - China History Forum

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Beijing cancels final rehearsal for Oct 1 National Day Parade

Beijing cancels final rehearsal
Source - Straits Times 19 September 2009

BEIJING - BEIJING has cancelled a final rehearsal for a massive National Day parade after disruptions caused by preparations this week in the Chinese capital shut roads and large parts of the subway system.

The official Xinhua news agency said the final rehearsal for the Oct 1 parade had been set for next Saturday.

Downtown Beijing ground to a halt on Friday afternoon to make way for tanks, missile carriers, soldiers, floats and dancers getting ready for the celebrations to mark 60 years of Communist rule.

Office workers in buildings lining Changan Avenue, the main thoroughfare for the parade, cleared out early to avoid being stuck by a transport clampdown and armed paramilitary police swarmed street corners to keep onlookers at bay.

The event, which ended in the early hours of Saturday, would be the last before Oct 1, Xinhua said.

'A planned rehearsal on Sept 26 has been called off to avoid further affecting the public,' it cited an unnamed spokesman for the organisers as saying.

'The four rounds of rehearsals had helped the organisers to spot and solve problems in preparation of the gala event,' the spokesman added. 'We are again deeply thankful for people's understanding and support.' The run up to Oct 1 has been accompanied by heightened security in Beijing, with the stability obsessed government taking no chances, especially after recent unrest in the far western region of Xinjiang.

As well as military personnel and equipment, the rehearsals featured 100,000 ordinary people, 60 floats celebrating everything from last year's Beijing Olympics to renewable energy projects, and 80,000 school children, Xinhua said.

State television showed images of the area around Tiananmen Square turned into a riot of colour and lights, thronging with performers in sparkling costumes. -- REUTERS

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Eyeing China, Singapore sees Mandarin as its future

What has always been apparent is now getting very obvious. Chinese-majority Singapore is located in a part of the world where they are quite isolated from natural allies such as their own ethnicity, and alignment with China was always going to be important.

Quotable Quotes - "English has long united the ethnically diverse island-state but Singapore's leaders now foresee a time when Mandarin will be the country's dominant language and they are aggressively encouraging their people to become fluent in Chinese."

Also - "In two generations, Mandarin will become our mother tongue." Singapore's first prime minister Lee Kwan Yew.


Eyeing China, Singapore sees Mandarin as its future
Wed, Sep 16, 2009
Source - AsiaOne, 16 September 2009

SINGAPORE - A cacophony of Mandarin and English echo through the streets of Singapore's Chinatown as crowds of shoppers buy joss sticks and fruit as offerings to the spirits during the Seventh Month Ghost Festival.

English has long united the ethnically diverse island-state but Singapore's leaders now foresee a time when Mandarin will be the country's dominant language and they are aggressively encouraging their people to become fluent in Chinese.

'Both English and Mandarin are important because in different situations you use either language. But Mandarin has become more important,' said Chinatown shopkeeper Eng Yee Lay.

Hit hard by the global slowdown, strengthening ties with China has taken on a strategic imperative in Singapore which seeks to leverage the bilingual skills of its ethnic Chinese majority to get a larger slice of China's fast expanding economic pie.

'With the growing importance of China on the world stage, Chinese Singaporeans who are competent in the language and familiar with the culture would have a distinct advantage when working and interacting with Chinese nationals,' Lim Sau Hoong, chairwoman of the Promote Mandarin Council, told Reuters.

The government-sponsored campaign to promote Mandarin began in 1979 to unite under one language Singapore's disparate Chinese communities that spoke a multitude of dialects passed on by their ancestors who came from China in the 19th and early 20th century.

Unifying the Chinese majority in a country with sizeable Malay and Indian minorities was a priority and in the early days the Speak Mandarin Campaign discouraged ethnic Chinese from speaking the dialects that prevailed such as Hokkien.

Now, with a majority of Singaporeans speaking Mandarin in their homes, according to government figures, the focus is on improving fluency in spoken and written Mandarin.

'In two generations, Mandarin will become our mother tongue,' said Singapore's first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew at the launch of the 2009 Speak Mandarin Campaign earlier this year.

His vision is for Singapore to become China's Southeast Asia hub as it expands its commercial interests in the region, while Singapore firms would entrench their positions in China, giving them a first-mover advantage over foreign firms.

Already, despite its small demographic size, Singapore was China's third largest foreign investor with total foreign direct investment of S$6.5 billion in 2008, a 40 per cent rise from 2007, according to the Chinese government.

Trade between the countries has risen 17-fold since 1991 to S$91.4 billion ($63.34 billion) in 2008.


Singapore has come a long way since the 1970s when its Campidge-educated Lee was suspicious of Maoist China's designs on the region and focused on keeping the country predominantly English speaking and aligned with anti-Communist powers, the United States and UK.

As Singapore prepares to mark two decades of ties with China next year, 20,000 Singaporeans are working in China and scores of joint ventures are underway.

Among them is the construction of an 'eco-city' in Tianjin, near Beijing, which is being designed to use renewable energy, recycled water and has an extensive public transport system.

Singapore's senior cabinet minister and head of its Monetary Authority, Goh Chok Tong, discussed the project with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao during a visit to China last week.

Among Singapore investors in China are offshore oil rig builder Keppel Corp, bank DBS, water treatment firm Hyflux, energy services provider Rotary Engineering and Raffles Education.

Singapore developer CapitaLand, which aims to build 58 malls across 40 Chinese cities, said this month it planned to nearly double the value of its assets in China to $8 billion, or 45 per cent of its overall assets.

Singapore is proving to be a fertile recruiting ground for Mandarin-speaking middle and senior managers to run multinationals' operations in China where a lack of qualified managers has held back expansion plans by many foreign firms.


The financial crisis took a toll on Singapore's export dependent economy, reducing annual economic growth to just 1.1 per cent in 2008, compared to around 8.2 per cent between 2004-2007, and creating the highest unemployment rate in five years. Strengthening ties with China is seen as mitigating Singapore's risk.

China is expected to become Singapore's largest single market for non-oil exports this year, overtaking the United States, says economist Irvin Seah at Singapore's top bank DBS Group.

'We use the term 'China-ready,' meaning we will just have to grow with them,' IE Singapore CEO Chong Lit Cheong, whose state agency promotes Singapore firms' investment apoad, told Reuters.

'As far as China grows 7 to 8 per cent a year in a foreseeable future, we will continue to have a bigger presence there.'

Singaporeans were among the first foreign investors in China after Deng Xiaoping adopted a market economy in 1978. Singapore's then prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, still in the cabinet, has visited China almost every year.

After Deng's 1992 remarks to officials to 'learn from the world and, especially Singapore, and do better than Singapore", thousands of Chinese officials started flooding the city-state for trips and university degree programmes in administration.

Around three-quarters of Singapore's population are ethnic Chinese, giving many of its businessmen a cultural advantage versus the West, but the government is also trying to strengthen understanding of the Chinese culture and mindset.

'Although we speak the same language, when we look at issues we are different,' said IE Singapore's Chong. 'The next step is how we see China in a Chinese perspective.'

Business China, an agency under Lee's patronage, is tasked to 'groom 20,000 to 30,000 bilingual and bi-cultural Singaporeans with the ability to communicate effectively in the China market'.

Eugene Aw, a 22-year-old Singaporean, sees his professional future in China after studying for his degree in the UK and turning down a job with an American multinational firm.

'I realised that Asia wouldn't wait for me. For now I intend to stay local (in Singapore) to gain exposure, contacts, and especially capital. And then if I can, I will spring into China.'

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

New PM cements Japan power shift

Now this should signal a brand new dynamic in the Asia-Pacific region. New Japanese Leadership that affirms needs for strong ties with the US. An undercover (to an extent) public announcement of a renewed deterrent force to China's rise I suspect.

Quotable Quotes
- "On foreign policy, he said ties with the US were a priority.

But he said he wanted a relationship in which Japan "can act more proactively and tell them our opinions frankly", adding that his party's position on reviewing deals relating to the US troop presence had not changed.
" Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama


New PM cements Japan power shift
Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama promised economic revival and strong US ties, hours after taking office.
Source - BBC 16 September 2009

In a news conference, he vowed to deliver a "people-oriented society", quick economic improvements and frank but trusting ties with Washington.

Mr Hatoyama's Democratic Party of Japan won a huge poll victory last month, ending 50 years of almost unbroken Liberal Democratic Party rule.

His untested government now faces tough economic and social challenges.

The new cabinet will be sworn in by Emperor Akihito later in the day.

Former DPJ leader Katsuya Okada becomes foreign minister and Hirohisa Fujii, a veteran bureaucrat, takes over as finance minister.

Another former DPJ leader, Naoto Kan, will head a new National Strategy Bureau set up to oversee the bureaucracy. He also becomes deputy prime minister.

The defeated LDP, meanwhile, will hold an election later this month to choose its new leader, after former Prime Minister Taro Aso stepped down.

The DPJ has entered into a coalition deal with two smaller parties, the Social Democratic Party and the People's New Party, and controls both houses of parliament.

Its priorities now include tackling a rapidly ageing society and an economy still struggling after a brutal recession.

"We would like to carry out policies that will stimulate households so the Japanese people can have hopes for the future," Mr Hatoyama said.

He has promised to increase social welfare spending, cut government waste and rein in the powerful bureaucracy.

''Now is the time to practise politics that are not controlled by bureaucrats,'' he said.

On foreign policy, he said ties with the US were a priority.

But he said he wanted a relationship in which Japan "can act more proactively and tell them our opinions frankly", adding that his party's position on reviewing deals relating to the US troop presence had not changed.

The DPJ was elected as a wave of discontent with LDP rule swept across Japan.

Opinion polls have shown many people did not vote for the DPJ because of their policies - but because they wanted change.

Analysts say the electorate will be watching the DPJ closely in the next few weeks and months to see if it can deliver.

The BBC's Roland Buerk, in Tokyo, says that in defeating the LDP, Yukio Hatoyama has already achieved what many people thought for years was impossible.

But now the difficult part - governing Japan - begins, our correspondent says.

Roland Buerk, BBC News, Tokyo

Yukio Hatoyama looks like many who have gone before him, the scion of a wealthy dynasty, the grandson of a former prime minister. But his DPJ has promised profound reform.

For decades the LDP, bureaucrats and big business held sway, steering the country from wartime defeat to economic might. But in recent years this brought stagnation, rising unemployment and increasing inequality.

Mr Hatoyama wants to build a more 'fraternal' society, with a social safety net including a generous child allowance to try to encourage people to have children and arrest Japan's declining population. He wants to turn away from export-led growth and encourage domestic demand.

But there are deep concerns over whether the untested new government can deliver the new era they promise.

Geylang: The new Chinatown

This is a long feature, but worth a read. Welcome to Singapore's true Chinatown - Geylang! Singapore's 'official' red-light district is transforming into a social enclave for Chinese foreign, and migrant workers.

As you read on, you might notice that the Chinatown in Chinese is 'Tang Ren Jie' literally, Street of the People of the Tang. Now why not Han Ren Jie (i.e. Street of the Han People)? The Chinese are often known as the Han (ethnicity), even the spoken language is known as Han, so why 'Tang Ren Jie', where 'Tang' refers to the 'Tang Dynasty'?

Now this is an ancedote so I'm not entirely sure. Apparently the Teochew diaspora was responsible for much of the establishment of Chinatowns around the world. Out of the 40-over million Chinese overseas, more than half are Teochew. Now this is way more Teochews than there are on the mainland. And I'm Teochew too. Known to be rather resilient entrepreneurs (think Thaksin and Lee Ka Shing), they've become some of the richest overseas-born Chinese there are today. Now, the Teochews, geographically and socially never quite associated themselves with the Han (people and dynasty), but more with the culture and ways of the sophisticated Tang Dynasty - and there you have it. Tang Ren Jie.

Quotable Quote - “Geylang is a food haven and a district populated with places of worship, clan associations and other traditional enterprises. New arrivals could have been drawn to Geylang because of these characteristics.” Dr Leong Chan Hoong, research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies


Geylang: The new Chinatown
China nationals are flocking to Geylang, drawn by low rents and cheap food.
By Jamie Ee Wen Wei
Straits Times | Tue, Sep 15 2009
Source - AsiaOne Relax

Ask Hebei native Albert Li where the real tang ren jie, or Chinatown, is in Singapore, and he will tell you confidently that it is in Geylang.

“Among the Chinese nationals here, we have privately discussed this many times,” he said in Mandarin.

“Geylang is more like a tang ren jie than Chinatown. There must be more Chinese nationals living and working here than in Chinatown,” said the 25-year-old.

Mr Li, who has been in Singapore for almost two years, mans a provision shop on Geylang Road which sells goods from China.

Indeed, his sentiments are shared by most of the China nationals whom The Sunday Times met in the neighbourhood known for its red-light allures and food.

No official numbers are available but anecdotal evidence suggests that a growing number of China nationals – namely the working class, students and entrepreneurs – are flocking to the precinct.

Singaporeans certainly have noticed their presence. In a letter to The Straits Times Forum two months ago, a reader observed how Geylang has evolved from a racially mixed, multilingual area into an enclave for new residents from China, with a growing prevalence of Chinese-only shop signs.

When The Sunday Times visited the neighbourhood last week, many such signs were seen, advertising Chinese products and services like hairdressing and Internet usage. Mom-and-pop eateries serving authentic Chinese cuisine dotted the shophouses.

Their waitresses, almost all China nationals, greeted passers-by in various Chinese accents. Drive by in the evenings, and you spot groups of Chinese workers sitting along the busy streets to unwind.

Why is Geylang such a magnet?

Dr Leong Chan Hoong, a research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies, said that historically, immigrants from developing countries tend to congregate in the less fanciful or desirable town centres because of lower rent and cheaper food.

This was true of Chinatown in Singapore, and elsewhere, like the Newtown suburb in Wellington, New Zealand, and the Fortitude Valley in Brisbane, Australia, he said.

“Geylang is a food haven and a district populated with places of worship, clan associations and other traditional enterprises. New arrivals could have been drawn to Geylang because of these characteristics,” he said.

Indeed, China nationals who live and work there said they chose Geylang for its lower rents, array of Chinese food and accessibility.

Mr Liu Yang, 28, who lived in a dormitory for foreign workers for eight months, said the rent for a bed space in Geylang is between $150 and $180 a month, way below that elsewhere.

“I’ve a friend who works in Chinatown. He tried to find a place to stay in Outram and was quoted $280 for a bed space,” said Mr Liu who works at a beancurd shop in Geylang. He lives in Whampoa now.

Ms He Wen Wen, 24, chose Geylang as it is near her school in Aljunied, where she studies accounting and finance. The Henan native lived in an HDB flat in Sengkang before moving to a condo in Geylang with seven friends – all students from China – five years ago.

“I like the food here, such as the beef hor fun at Lorong 9. I can also find Shanghainese food like xiang la xie (spicy crab), which I enjoy.”

Dr Leong said the nooks and corners in the neighbourhood also favour small-time businessmen who can nurture their trades at a lower cost. Indeed, businesses like Internet cafes and eateries targeting the Chinese have mushroomed.

Earlier reports estimated that there are about 200 food outlets opened by China nationals.

On weekends especially, scores of their countrymen living elsewhere flock to the area for a touch of home.

Singaporean Kelvin Ho, 35, who runs two supermarkets in the neighbourhood, has benefited from their presence. Some 70 per cent of his customers are China nationals.

“I’ve been doing business here for about 10 years and it’s obvious to me the number of China nationals is growing,” said the businessman who stocks items like vegetables and beauty products.

Dr Leong said a social enclave like the one developing in Geylang is harmless and is a natural coping mechanism for new immigrants.

“It is only human instinct to want to meet and socialise with people who share a similar cultural background and nationality.”

Sociologist Tan Ern Ser from the National University of Singapore agrees, noting that social enclaves serve the needs of new immigrants and help them settle in faster.

But if it becomes a segregated community with different habits and values, it could lead to prejudice, discrimination and tensions, he said.

Already, some Singaporeans whom The Sunday Times spoke to are complaining that the China nationals tend to talk loudly and some have undesirable social habits. Ms Linda Ong, 40, who runs an electrical goods store on Geylang Road, said they sometimes discard empty bottles or food outside her shop.

However, Geylang Serai citizens’ consultative committee chairman Eric Wong said he has not received any feedback specifically about China nationals, although residents do complain about the crowds and noise in the area.

He does not think Geylang is evolving into a Chinatown. “There is a good mix of foreigners and locals here,” he said.

Whether the area will continue to draw the China nationals remains to be seen. Dr Lai Ah Eng, a senior research fellow at the Asia Research Institute, noted those who have moved up socially and economically tend to relocate.

Dr Leong agreed, saying: “There is no reason why a successful immigrant, who is financially well-off, can speak English and has a bigger circle of Singaporean friends, would choose to patronise shops only in Geylang or Chinatown.”

Ms He, for one, hopes to move out of Geylang once she finds a job after completing her studies.

She does not find the area ideal – she has been mistaken as a streetwalker and has been propositioned. She said: “The culture here... it’s too complicated.”

Good place to work but not to live.

For four years, Geylang has been both home and workplace for Shandong native Wu Min.

He lives in a condo in Lorong 31 with his wife, also a Shandong native. She is a nurse at the Singapore General Hospital.

They met in Singapore four years ago through a friend when Mr Wu was studying for a degree at the Singapore Institute of Materials Management.

They registered their marriage here last year and have a four-month-old daughter, who lives with his parents in China.

He opened a provision shop here after he found the work at a logistics company, which he had joined after his studies, too stressful and the pay low.

The 29-year-old said he chose to do business in Geylang because of its large Chinese population, wide variety of food and convenience of travel.

He used to visit restaurants in the area on weekends.

Sited between Lorong 11 and 13, his provision shop sells local products and China imports. The minimart, called Ba Fang Guo Huo, has another outlet between Lorong 40 and Lorong 42.

The two outlets were set up with $100,000 borrowed from his parents. Every month, he pays about $6,000 in rent for each of his shops, and income is just enough to cover costs now.

About 60 per cent of his customers are China nationals.

“It’s more like ‘Chinatown’ than the real Chinatown. You see Chinese here every day, not like in Chinatown, where perhaps the Chinese may visit on weekends,” said Mr Wu.

Given a choice, however, he said he would not want to live in Geylang. He is considering moving to Tampines, where he lived for about two years as a student.

“Geylang is a good place to run a business but it’s not so ideal for a home,” he said, referring to the red-light district.

Location won them over.

For married couple Dai Xue Yong and Zhang Zhi Ying, Geylang was the perfect location to set up their food business, Orient Garden Restaurant.

The one-year-old homestyle eatery, which serves Shanghainese cuisine, sits alongside several other Chinese restaurants.

“We know that Geylang is a food haven. We thought we could offer another variety of Chinese cuisine,” said Ms Zhang, 40.

Indeed, on week nights and weekends, their eatery is packed with China nationals who go there for a taste of home.

Singaporeans and tourists are among the patrons as well.

Ms Zhang said she and her 43-year-old husband had considered setting up shop in Chinatown, but a scouting trip to Geylang last year led them to do so in Lorong 39 instead.

They have been in Singapore for a year now and used to run a trading company in Shanghai.

“We felt that Chinatown attracts more of the tourist crowd whereas in Geylang, you get the people who live and work here,” she said. “We just see so much potential in Geylang.”

The couple hired two chefs and two waitresses from China. They will consider opening a branch when business picks up.

They are now making small profits after paying the monthly rent of about $8,250, Ms Zhang said.

The couple live in the upstairs unit of the shophouse that is home to their restaurant. They like the location because they can get both local and China products easily.

“If I feel like eating prata, there’s a stall just down the street. If I want to eat Chinese food like dianxin, it’s also easily available here,” she said.