BOOK REVIEW: David Frum–Trumpocracy: The Corruption of The American Republic

February 28, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: David Frum–Trumpocracy: The Corruption of The American Republic

by David Shribman


Image result for david frum's trumpocracy

Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic

Author: David Frum
Genre: Non-fiction
Publisher: Harper
Price: $28.75
Year: 2018

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Those six words, which could have been uttered by Paul Revere in 1775 or Winston Churchill in 1938, are an efficient summary of what David Frum, the Canadian-born conservative commentator, argues in Trumpocracy, written as a jeremiad against Donald Trump’s Presidency but fated to be a philosophical bookend to Fire and Fury, Michael Wolff’s sensational insider account of the Trump White House.

“The crisis is upon Americans, here and now,” Mr. Frum asserts in only the fourth paragraph of his new book, which carries the foreboding subtitle The Corruption of the American Republic. For the next 235 pages, Mr. Frum sets out his case against Mr. Trump, his worldview, his associates, his supporters, his enablers, his funders and his publicists. The result is a breathless but also breathtaking compilation of the mendacity and mistakes of the first year of the Trump ascendancy, a J’accuse for the second decade of the 21st century, a dark portent for the future – and a warning that despotism doesn’t necessarily begin with violent disruption.

It can come on little cat feet.



“The thing to fear from the Trump Presidency,” Mr. Frum asserts, “is not the bold overthrow of the Constitution, but the stealthy paralysis of governance; not the open defiance of law, but an accumulating subversion of norms; not the deployment of state power to intimidate dissidents, but the incitement of private violence to radicalize supporters.”

Verbatim: David Frum writes about how Trump turned his country into a headless giant

Mr. Frum is not, like Mr. Wolff, a gadfly with big ears and maybe a big Pinocchio nose. He is the rarest of alchemies: Canadian royalty (son of a beloved CBC broadcast journalist, brother of a Canadian senator) and American political analyst, known popularly for inserting the phrase “axis of evil” into George W. Bush’s 2002 State of the Union Address delivered before Congress and a nationally televised audience but also known, in the parlours of Washington, as a contemplative theorist. All of which makes the tone of Trumpocracy extraordinary. In the power corridors of the American capital, Mr. Frum whispers. In the pages of this book, he shouts.

He portrays Mr. Trump as an amateur, a charlatan, a con artist, a manipulator, a poseur, a serial fibber if not outright liar, a vulgarian, a swindler, a skimmer and a trimmer, a man-child lacking character, intelligence, integrity, judgment, clarity of thought, a coherent philosophy or a worldview and management and organizational skills.

His White House entourage, Mr. Frum argues, consists of a toxic combination of “bad people” and “weak people.” Plus this: “The Trump White House is a mess of careless slobs.” Mr. Frum has special enmity for conservatives he believes should have known better, for congressional leaders he believes should have stood stronger and for Republicans who should have thought harder about the man – hardly a conservative, contemptuous of congressional leaders, barely a Republican – to whom they delivered their greatest and most coveted prize, the Republican presidential nomination. Too late for that, of course.

While generally deriding or mocking TrumpWorld’s assault on the press – an especially raw topic both for writers of books and reviewers of them – Mr. Frum nonetheless sees the media as an unwitting accomplice to Trumpocracy, an unfelicitous but perhaps enduring term. “The traditional media’s commitment to ‘both sides of the story,’ ” he argues, “created within them an insatiable internal demand for positive comments about a president for whom there was otherwise so little good to say.” That is a topic for another book, and surely there is one – no, several – in the works. Watch this space.

On foreign policy, Mr. Frum is relentlessly critical of the President, arguing that Mr. Trump has made a dangerous departure from the post-Second World War consensus and, moreover, that the architects of that worldview “intended exactly the things that Donald Trump now complains about: that the United States would have to make concessions to smaller partners, that it would not act as judge in its own cases, that it would subordinate its parochial and immediate national interests to the larger and more enduring collective interest.” If this book had been written for a Canadian publisher rather than an American house, the name Lester B. Pearson might then immediately appear, perhaps weeping.

The isolationist President is himself isolated, a notion that even his staunchest defenders have not been able to wipe away. He is, in Mr. Frum’s view, “locked in a tiny circle by his distrust of outsiders.” In this – the isolation, not the isolationism – Mr. Trump is not alone, and here Richard Nixon comes to mind. And George W. Bush. And Barack Obama. And probably Mr. Trump’s successor, too, whenever that might occur. It’s an occupational hazard, even – perhaps especially – for populists.

Books like Mr. Frum’s are not unknown in every administration, though seldom produced so early in a presidency, seldom put forth by fellow party followers and seldom written with such mastery of the broader American political landscape. (Another is coming next week: How Democracies Die, from the Harvard professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt.) As a creditable part of that literary genre – a cri de coeur married to a call to action – the principal flaw of Mr. Frum’s book is that he is frustratingly stingy in relating his own role in conservative politics during the 2016 election season. Even so, he does offer a prescription for American redemption, which can be distilled down to this: Remember that a bully is a coward, and that democracy requires direct public involvement.

Through all of this – and truly this is a dark read – Mr. Frum does harbour some hope, a kind of Newtonian third law of physics applied to politics, with every Trump action inspiring an equal and opposite Resister reaction. “A new spirit of citizen responsibility,” Mr. Frum says, “is waking in the land.” If so, Mr. Frum may be remembered as one of the trumpeters playing Reveille.

Trumpocracy: Threats to Democracy in the Trump Era

February 28, 2018

Trumpocracy: Threats to Democracy in the Trump Era

If the Republicans have contained the president at all, it’s because they agreed to shield him from investigation.

President Donald Trump has enjoyed a small bump in the polls since December, hitting a 40 percent in Gallup’s weekly approval rating for the first time since May 2017. But Trump’s improved numbers are still a testament to how polarizing his presidency is, since this slight rise is due to rallying Republicans. As Gallup notes, Trump’s approval among Republicans rose to 90 percent after the State of the Union speech, but Democrats’ approval of Trump “remained extremely low at 6% last week, while independents’ 33% approval was unchanged.”

These numbers illustrate one of the most defining features of the current political era: the durability and intensification of Trump’s bond with the Republican Party. Over the course of his first year, Trump and the GOP have become one. Abandoning his many unorthodox stances as a candidate, Trump has adopted the policy agenda of conventional conservative Republicans, and in turn he’s been rewarded with the nearly unwavering support of the Republican base and the congressional GOP.

The consequence of this fusion is that any judgement on the President also applies to the Republicans. If you think Trump is corrupt and authoritarian, then you have to reject not just the president but his party. That’s the logic that led two resolutely non-partisan writers, Jonathan Rauch and Benjamin Wittes, to advocate in The Atlantic that Americans vote a straight ticket for the Democratic Party in all elections “until the party either rights itself or implodes (very preferably the former).”

“The Republican Party, as an institution, has become a danger to the rule of law and the integrity of our democracy,” they argue, which means “the most-important tasks in U.S. politics right now are to change the Republicans’ trajectory and to deprive them of power in the meantime. In our two-party system, the surest way to accomplish these things is to support the other party, in every race from president to dogcatcher. The goal is to make the Republican Party answerable at every level, exacting a political price so stinging as to force the party back into the democratic fold.”

Responding at Crooked Media, Brian Beutler wonders if even a thorough electoral drubbing would do the trick, since the extra-political institutional structure that allowed the Republicans to erode democratic norms would still be in place: “In a world where Sean Spicer remains respectably employable, corporate America loves regressive tax cuts, mainstream news outlets refuse to make pariahs of people who seek their destruction, and the cult of false equivalence remains the analytic foundation of political journalism, voters can ‘boycott’ Republicans in historic numbers, only to watch Republicans return to power unreformed a few years later.”

If Beutler thinks Rauch and Wittes offer a solution insufficient for the scale of the problem, the conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat believes the opposite. According to him, the Republican Party isn’t tainted by Trump’s bad deeds, but deserves credit for successfully containing a dangerous President.

In “The Taming of a Demagogue,” Douthat writes that Trump has been “weak and trammeled and conventional in policy,” and most of his worst authoritarian instincts have been held in check. He provides a long list of authoritarian promises Trump hasn’t met: “reinstating waterboarding and allowing torture, even over military objections; shaking up NATO and striking a deal that abandons American allies to a Russian sphere of influence; pulling the United States out of NAFTA; changing libel laws to make it easier to bankrupt his critics in the press; launching a major trade war with China; pulling the United States out of the Iranian nuclear deal; installing cronies and relatives in high judicial posts; banning Muslim entry to the United States; and deporting millions of illegal immigrants in an enormous sweep.”

Some of these are debatable, especially on immigration. Trump hasn’t gone as far as he wanted to, thanks in large part to the courts, but there is a limited Muslim ban of sorts and Immigration and Customs Enforcement is out of control.

But the larger problem with Douthat’s argument is that it ignores that the partial containment of Trump has come at a heavy price. The Republicans in Congress have an implicit deal with Trump: So long as he governs in keeping with the party’s conservative orthodoxy, they’ll protect him from allegations of personal corruption and collusion with Russia. That’s why Republican Congressman Devin Nunes released a deceptive memo designed to cast doubt on Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation.

Beyond the Mueller investigation, congressional Republicans are also shielding Trump from scrutiny over his self-enrichment as President. As Greg Sargent notes in The Washington Post, “Trump’s original refusal to release his tax returns, his refusal to divest in his holdings and the nonstop continued self-dealing have produced a situation in which we cannot know how much he and his family are directly profiting off of many facets of his actions in office. Republicans have done nothing meaningful about any of those things. In some cases they have actively blocked efforts to force transparency.”

This protection of the President, by the branch of government tasked with holding him accountable, shows the danger of the fusion of Trump and the GOP. If one accepts Douthat’s claim that the GOP has contained Trump, then one must also accept that the party is complicit in all of the President’s misdeeds—including those that have yet to be verified or unearthed. Trump’s authoritarianism, corruption, and general unfitness for office is manifest to conservative thinkers like Douthat, Republicans on Capitol Hill, and even to those who work for him. And yet most of them, in ways subtle or outrageous, have defended the President. Surely, this has not been lost on voters—a majority of them, the polls suggest. So even those who accept the optimistic case that Trump has been contained will have every reason to support the conclusion that the Republican Party as a whole must pay for its collusion with the President.

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The compromised loyalty of Civil Service and Armed Forces

February 28,2018

The compromised loyalty of Civil Service and Armed Forces

by S.Thayaparan


“Men are not corrupted by the exercise of power, or debased by the habit of obedience; but by the exercise of a power which they believe to be illegitimate, and by obedience to a rule which they consider to be usurped and oppressive.”

– Alexis de Tocqueville

COMMENT | Malaysiakini columnist Mariam Mokhtar wrote a great piece about the narratives of the state of defending “bangsa” and “agama”. I just want to hone in on this paragraph – “Those in the civil service, the police and the armed forces are mostly Malay. The cabinet members, the GLC bosses and the heads of government departments are mostly Malay. The majority of Malays benefit from educational scholarships, affordable home purchases, business funding, or petrol station operating licences.”

Image result for mariam mokhtar and mahathir

Social Activist and Political Analyst Mariam Mokhtar

This brings us to Public Service Department director-general Zainal Rahim’s rejoinder to the civil service to remain “loyal” to the government and Perlis Menteri Besar Azlan Man chastising retired armed forces personnel for “opposing” the government. Both political statements are because loyalty is not derived so much from any qualitative benefits that the government provides, but rather based on race.

While non-Malays have to put up with Malay potentates who live off their taxes but constantly remind them to be grateful, the majority of the Malay polity are constantly reminded that they need the government and hence have to remain loyal to the dominant Malay power structure. A power structure which through social engineering and economic banditry has ensured that the feudalistic system remains intact even if the idea of a constitutional monarchy has been chipped away over the years by the UMNO hegemon, the latest being the National Security Council (NSC) Act.

Let us not kid ourselves. There is a big difference between the propaganda aimed at the non-Malays and for the non-Malays, and the propaganda for the Malay community and against those Malays who are seen as rebelling against Umno rule. Senior Malay civil servants, retired or still serving, can tell you comical stories of how the establishment attempts to ensure compliance. This, of course, goes back to the days of the old maverick.

While high-ranking (thinking) armed forces personnel, who have had the benefit of tutelage under now-retired servicemen, cringe at the moronic displays of vote-getting by the establishment, there are far too many retired armed forces personnel who benefit from the largess of UMNO.

This is why when patriots like Brigadier-General (Rtd) Arshad Raji points out the corruption and inequalities of the system (based on) years of service, the UMNO hegemon is taken aback. Not only has he been on the receiving end of scurrilous attacks on his reputation, he has always been on the receiving end of the right-wing Malay intelligentsia who view the armed forces as the armed wing of a ruling party.

If you were to talk to the average wage earner in the civil service or the armed forces, you would understand that even with all the “benefits” they receive, they are still struggling.

Here is a prime example of how the government spends so much on “defence” but what the armed forces get is “third world facilities” and mockery from international military organisation they serve with – “Former army deputy chief Lt-Gen (Rtd) Abdul Ghafir Abdul Hamid said today the military camps were like ‘Third World facilities’ that have not been maintained and ‘when the men are asked to serve overseas, they are mocked by the international forces’.”

And this was just five years ago. Does anyone really think that things have improved?

Now some folks may wonder that if the wage earners of the state are struggling, what more the average citizen – Malay and non-Malay – who do not have the safety net provided by the state? If you are non-Malay, you pay double when it comes to not having a security blanket.

A shift in voting patterns?

While the opposition rightly worries about the armed forces postal votes and military base votes are suspect – that old Stalin rejoinder of the people counting the votes are more important than the ones casting their votes – the reality is that there are many people, those who have left the armed forces or are in the process of leaving, who understand that there is something very wrong with the way how this country is governed.

Mind you, they are not too concerned about all those fancy principles that opposition political parties like to throw about but what they do understand is that their lives are affected by the way how this country is run and no amount of pandering to race and religion can alleviate their problems.

The same applies to the civil service. One mid-level bureaucrat was pissed off that the MACC was going after small fish when the sharks were allowed to feed from the trough without any action from the state. This, of course, was unfair to the “average” corrupt small fish but was also demoralising to those civil servants who actually wanted to do their job.

Furthermore, when political loyalties are based on the petty fiefdoms aligned to greater power structures, the harassment of individuals deemed unfriendly to the current regime and thus ripe for targeting has agitated whole sections of the civil service waiting to express their disdain at the ballot box or are sympathetic to opposition political personalities wanting dirt on the current government. All this has created a toxic atmosphere in the civil service, with people questioning loyalties and allegiances.

This is not to say that race and religion are not a factor when it comes to the Malay vote, only that the opposition may not have as much to fear when it comes to the civil service and armed forces votes. While the average citizen may still be prey to the gung-ho nationalism of UMNO, those within the bureaucracy, which is an important voting bloc, may just surprise the Umno state.

This is the reason why the UMNO hegemon is busy reminding Malays in the Civil Service and the Armed Rorces that they should be loyal to the government. This is why a whole range of initiatives are mooted to dissuade the civil service from voting for anyone other than UMNO.

However, all these promises amount to a hill of beans because if anything, while the standard of the civil service has improved over the years, the agitation brought by the class dialectic of the opposition, the religious propaganda of PAS and the split in the Malay vote, has made traditional vote banks open to opposition intrusion.

I, for one, would not be surprised if there were a shift in voting patterns in the civil service and retired armed forces personnel.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

UMNO Warlords take on Robert Kuok, China’s Most Trust Malaysian Adviser

February 28, 2018

UMNO Warlords take on Robert Kuok, China’s Most Trust Malaysian Adviser

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Billionaire Robert Kuok and CIMB Group  Chairman Dato Seri Nazir Razak

Malaysia’s richest man Robert Kuok, who lives in Hong Kong, is currently under attack by not only half-past-six UMNO-Malay warlords but also from Prime Minister Najib Razak personally. The latest attack against the 94-year-old billionaire Kuok came from Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Abdul Aziz, arguably Mr. Najib’s top mad dog.

It’s no coincidence that the notorious Mr. Nazri was unleashed just a day after his boss – PM Najib – raised eyebrows when he specifically targeted Robert Kuok in a speech, claiming that the government had provided him with the key to become the “Sugar King”. Prior to that, Tajuddin Abdul Rahman, another UMNO-Malay racist, had warned Kuok not to forget his roots.

Image result for Nazri Aziz showing his fingerThe Uncouth and Crude Malaysian Minister of Tourism–Nazri Aziz


People familiar with the government SOP (standard operating system) knew instantly this is nothing but a political drama to divert attention. The only change to the script was replacing the victim with Robert Kuok. Of course, Kuok, the man worth a staggering US$15.4 billion, didn’t become rich because of Malaysian government’s handout, but through his own effort.

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Being Double-Faced won’t work with both China and Malaysian Chinese for Najib Razak. It is a question of trust, which is the foundation of guangxi for them

Najib talked as if Kuok became super-rich overnight because the government gave the Chinaman a winning lottery ticket. The Prime Minister argued that because the government gave Kuok the concession to trade sugar in the country, Kuok must forever become a slave and pro-UMNO. Of course Kuok needed a license to operate his business otherwise it would be illegal, would it not?

And from where do you think Kuok needed to apply his concession license if not from the government? Had Kuok failed in his sugar and rice trading business, would Najib proudly take the blame as well? Going by Najib’s idiotic logic, people who make money in stock market should be thankful and grateful to the government for setting up stock exchange and allowing stock trading.

On the contrary, it was Malaysian government which should be grateful to Robert Kuok because without him, the government’s coffer would not be flushed with more than 50% in taxes. In the same breath, it was because of excessive taxes that the billionaire finally decided to move to Hong Kong in 1974, forming Kerry Holdings Ltd with a capital of HK$10 million.


In case Najib and his band of mad dogs have forgotten, Kuok was also the man instrumental in setting up of MISC (Malaysian International Shipping Corporation), Bank Bumiputera and even PERNAS (National Corporation). Of course, when MISC and Bank Bumiputera fell into the hands of parasites like UMNO-Malays, they either went bust or needed massive bailout.

Image result for Robert Kuok with Deng Xiaoping

Kuok had begun his trading business years before the dawn of the NEP (New Economic Policy) era. He made his fortune by creating a niche in sugar and flour refinery, trading and hotels. The government did nothing but watch and collect taxes. And Najib’s shameless father had the cheek to demand free shares – first 20%, follows by another 20% – from Kuok’s MISC.

It’s pathetic that Najib’s henchman, Nazri has challenged the 94-year-old billionaire Kuok to contest in the coming general election. Mr. Nazri, known for this thuggish and poor upbringing, also called the Hong Kong-based tycoon a “coward with no testicles.” He also demanded Kuok to surrender his Malaysian citizenship.


Actually, Nazri should instead ask his boss Najib to strip Robert Kuok of his citizenship – if indeed the prime minister has balls at all. Then, the UMNO parasites could seize all of Kuok’s assets in Malaysia – easily worth tens of billions of US dollars – and then divide the wealth among those thieves of UMNO, as they would normally do with their ill-gotten money.


The question is – do Najib, Nazri, Tajuddin and other UMNO scumbags dare to rob Kuok of his citizenship and wealth? Why don’t Najib arrest Robert Kuok and use the Kangaroo Court to charge him for trying to overthrow the government? Heck, they can even throw in accusations of insulting the Malays, Islam and Agong (King) too. Clearly, they don’t have the balls to do so.

The simple fact that Nazri told Kuok to “surrender” instead of commanding the government to “strip” the billionaire’s citizenship, the same way they would normally do to ordinary people, speaks volumes about Nazri’s cowardice. Like it or not, they knew Robert Kuok is untouchable. That’s because Kuok has a very close relationship with Beijing.

A Distinguished Mandarin admired by Malaysians for his business acumen and integrity

In fact, stellar tycoon Robert Kuok is President Xi Jinping’s most trusted man in the country – although braggart Najib son of Razak would like to think the Chinese president likes him more. Kuok was such a respectable man in China that his meeting with paramount leader Deng Xiaoping was the last official meeting granted by Beijing before the Chinese leader stopped accepting visitors.

The respect for Kuok continues even after Xi Jinping took over. When China setup its first university abroad, the Xiamen University Malaysia Campus, at Salak Tinggi near Sepang, Robert Kuok donated RM100 million for its construction. And when Xi Jinping attended the China-Malaysia Economic Summit in Kuala Lumpur in 2013, who do you think accompanied the Chinese leader?

Well, it was Robert Kuok, of course. And if you think President Xi is another pariah Chinaman, think again. China’s governing Communist Party has just proposed removing a clause in the constitution which limits presidencies to two five-year terms. Essentially, President Xi Jinping is on the path to become more powerful than Donald Trump, or even Vladimir Putin.

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  The Globalist  President Xi Jinping of China

Xi can now extend his presidency beyond 2023 and he can actually rule for as long as he wishes to. When a delegation of 70 of the richest and most influential figures in Hong Kong flew to Beijing for a visit with Xi Jinping in 2014, the first of its kind since 2003, Robert Kuok was invited too where he brought along his son Kuok Khoon-chen.

Obviously, Kuok’s influence with the Chinese leaders in mainland China cannot and should not be underestimated. Unlike ungrateful UMNO-Malays such as Najib Razak, Beijing is still grateful to the renowned Sugar King, who secretly helped China overcome a severe sugar shortage in the early 1970s. The Chinese government’s trust and affection for Kuok didn’t stop there.

Image result for Robert Kuok with Deng Xiaoping

Whenever Chinese leaders visit Kuala Lumpur or Singapore, they deliberately choose to stay at Mr. Kuok’s Shangri-La hotel and that includes former president Hu Jintao and subsequently his successor, Xi Jinping. Even Najib’s former Special Envoy to China, ex-MCA President Ong Ka Ting, had to seek blessing from Kuok on certain crucial matters.

That’s why Ong Ka Chuan, the elder brother of Ong Ka Ting, panicked and came out of hiding to defend Robert Kuok. Mr. Ong knew the allegations over Kuok’s funding for opposition parties were baseless and dangerous, even though playing the racial cards could rally the Malay votes for his boss Najib Razak. He also knew it could jeopardise Kuok’s funding for MCA.

Go ahead, attack Robert Kuok like a mad dog. The stunt may backfire and instead rally the Chinese voters (who have otherwise decided to abstain from voting) to come out and vote in droves again for the opposition parties. Najib and his boys should be careful what they wish for. The personal attack on Kuok could be seen as an attack on Beijing, which may lead to retaliation.

With European Union boycotting and banning the use of palm oil in biofuels, producers such as Malaysia should not think with their toes about declaring a war with China’s most trusted man. An offended Beijing could simply send hints of stopping the import of palm oil from Malaysia. That would have marvellous effect on Felda settlers and stock prices.


When Najib unleashed his Red Shirt thugs with an intention to terrorize the Chinatown at Petaling Street in 2015, China’s Ambassador to Malaysia Dr Huang Huikang deliberately paid a short visit to the Chinatown, sending a message to Najib regime that China would not tolerate violence, let alone bloody racial riots targeting the Chinese community.

And now, the son of Razak foolishly tries to insult and threaten Robert Kuok, the single most trusted adviser of President Xi Jinping on Malaysian matters? If a state leader like Najib dares to intimidate an influential figure like Robert Kuok, imagine what the bully has been doing all these years to the ordinary Malaysian Chinese folks, who pay 90% of the country’s taxes.


But wait, what about the photo of Robert Kuok’s nephew, James Kuok, having group photo with opposition party DAP as published by Najib’s top-paid fake news blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin? Simple – James could be there just to assess, on behalf of China, the types of foreign policies that the opposition would adopt should Pakatan Harapan (Hope’s Alliance) win the election.


Get real, do you think James would be so stupid that he took photos after handover bags of cash to the opposition party? But even if Beijing wanted Kuok to fund the opposition for the sake of hedging and protecting its interests, what’s wrong with that? After all, Najib himself told Vincent Tan to pay former opposition Hee Yit Fong RM25 million to defect, causing the collapse of Perak state government.

China’s Lurch Toward One-Man Rule Under Xi Jinping

February 28, 2018

China’s Lurch Toward One-Man Rule Under Xi Jinping

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has traditionally rooted the legitimacy of its autocratic rule in the principle of institutionalization: it is the Party, and not a particular person or family, which holds the reins of power for, ostensibly, the benefit of all 1.4 billion Chinese.

But that already specious assertion took a severe knock on Sunday following the publishing of a proposal — one certain to be ratified next month — that China’s two five-year presidential term limit be abolished. This will essentially allow current President Xi Jinping, who is already China’s strongest leader for generations, to remain in power for as long as he desires.

The move is the culmination of a series of power plays by Xi over recent months, including having his eponymous political thought enshrined in the national constitution, and failing to appoint any potential successors to China’s apex executive body, the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC). But the timing of the announcement before Xi has even officially completed his first term in office has stunned China-watchers and raised serious questions concerning the governance of the world’s number two economy going forward.

“This is a very significant move towards China transforming into a one-man system,” says Jude Blanchette, a Beijing-based researcher on Chinese politics for The Conference Board analysis firm. “It’s hard to overemphasize what a big deal this is for the future of China and the world given China’s importance to the global economy and global institutions.”

Xi’s consolidation of power domestically comes as he has also announced his intention to be more assertive internationally. His signature Belt and Road Initiative — a trade and infrastructure network tracing the ancient Silk Road though Eurasia and Africa — stands to radically boost China’s geopolitical clout at a time when the White House under Donald Trump has questioned key alliances and the very international institutions that have been the foundation of American hegemony.

Read More: Xi Jinping Becomes China’s Most Powerful Leader Since Mao Zedong

China’s burgeoning influence, augmented by Washington’s retreat into nativist languor, further normalizes autocratic political systems that have been on the rise since the 2008 financial crisis. Beijing has ramped up censorship and clamped down on dissent since Xi, 64, took power in late 2012, coupled with incessant trolling of Western democracy as unstable, unpredictable and unable to deliver the goods. Meanwhile, Trump has launched a war on the American media and toadied up to strongmen from Russia’s Vladimir Putin to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and, of course, Xi himself.

The question remains whether China is set to repeat past mistakes where unquestioning observance to its leadership contributed to disasters like the Great Leap Forward of the 1950s and Cultural Revolution a decade later. Academics and officials are increasingly reluctant to voice opinions that differ from the Party leadership, which is invariably hailed with gilded paeans in the state press, while critics are summarily detained.

“There’s a risk of it become courtier culture, sycophancy, just telling him what he wants to hear,” says Professor Nick Bisley, an Asia expert at Australia’s La Trobe University. “It doesn’t have to be like that but the risks are very real and unsettling for those inside and outside China.”

Agrees Blanchette: “If we hold that good policy outcomes require the maximum amount of voices and input in design and implementation then we should be worried.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the 2018 Chinese New Year celebration party on Feb. 14, 2018 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the 2018 Chinese New Year celebration party on Feb. 14, 2018 in Beijing, China. TPG/Getty Images


Xi should know the risks better than anyone. Like millions of his contemporaries, he was sent down to live in the countryside during the Cultural Revolution of the mid 1960s, reduced to toiling in fields and sleeping in a flea-infested cave in China’s hardscrabble central province of Shaanxi. His father was repeatedly purged by CCP patriarch Mao Zedong, whose unassailable cult of personality wreaked numerous hardships on his people, including the Great Leap Forward, a frenzied experiment in collectivized industrialization that cost some 20-50 million lives between 1958 and 1962.

It was because of these calamities that the CCP leadership from Deng Xiaoping — architect of China’s economic revival — introduced collective leadership around the PSC, presidential term limits to ensure a smooth leadership transition, and thus countering a Mao-like strongman ever holding the country to ransom again. But Xi over recent months has taken careful aim at each of these safeguards. Meanwhile, his trademark ideology of the “Chinese Dream” and “great revival of the Chinese nation” has drawn uneasy comparisons with Mao-era sloganeering.

“While there appears little internal opposition to Xi at present, it could emerge in the future, such as in the event of economic instability or a mishandled international incident,” says Tom Rafferty, regional manager for China at The Economist Intelligence Unit. “Nervousness about his position could lead Xi to back wider crackdowns and political purges.”

The lack of neither elections nor term limits risks such problems returning with a vengeance. And worryingly for the international community, that Xi is brazenly prepared to rewrite four decades of political orthodoxy at home means he would have few qualms about tearing up the rule book abroad, where Beijing has long flouted international norms that it perceives as constraining its interests.

“It’s another piece of evidence that says be worried about a China led by Xi Jinping,” says Bisley. “Because if he’s happy to do this at home, then boy is he going to be happy to do it abroad.”

Malaysia: Self Respecting Civil Servants are not Lapdogs

February 28, 2018

Malaysia: Self Respecting Civil Servants are not Lapdogs

by Dato’  Dennis Ignatius

“The mandarins of the civil service do the country an enormous disservice when they behave as if the civil service is a mere appendage of the ruling party, or promote the idea that civil servants ought to support the ruling party at the polls out of loyalty and gratitude”.–Dennis Ignatius

Image result for Tan Sri C. RajandramHis Motto–To Serve

“Integrity is our business, and there are no favours for anyone.”–A True Blue Malaysian Civil Servant, Tan Sri C. Rajandram (pic above)


COMMENT | Loyalty and gratitude are two words very much in use by UMNO leaders these days, especially when speaking to civil servants and government pensioners.

There are currently approximately 1.6 million civil servants (including teachers, police and armed forces personnel) and 778,894 retirees on the government payroll. They represent a huge and critical voting block for UMNO. Hence the need to both pander to them and cajole them into supporting UMNO.

Don’t bite the hand that feeds you

Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, for example, said in a speech that pensioners must not bite the hand that feeds them or be ungrateful to the government. After all, he noted, the government had allocated about RM20 billion a year for retirees.

He also appeared to suggest that pensioners who support the government are “national assets” while those who criticise the government are a “liability to the country”.


The former Menteri Besar of Kedah was an ex-teacher who was rewarded with a Cabinet post for loyalty to PM Najib Razak.

Education Minister Mahdzir Khalid (photo) courted controversy earlier this year when he warned teachers that they risked disciplinary action if they backed or joined any opposition party. Joining BN parties was apparently okay.

And Perlis Menteri Besar Azlan Man, himself a former civil servant, expressed his disappointment with “a handful of Malaysian armed forces personnel… who oppose the government as soon as their service ended”.

He advised them to take up their grouses through proper channels instead of going against the government (never mind that “proper channels” is simply another term for “no further action”).

In the meantime, the director-general of the Public Services Department (PSD) said civil servants should be grateful (there’s that word again) to the government for improving public sector remuneration and benefits, noting that the present government had announced various benefits for civil servants including salary increases, promotions, special leave for performing the umrah, maternity leave and the special payment of RM1500.

He also urged civil servants not to  “destroy the country’s future” (presumably by voting for the opposition).

The role of the civil service

Clearly, there is much misunderstanding about the role and responsibilities of the civil service in a democracy, if we still qualify as one. What is worse, senior civil servants themselves appear to be either confused about their role or have compromised their integrity.

Civil servants, as the Sultan of Johor reminded us just this week, “are bound by their oath of office to remain neutral and not take sides”.

Image result for The Sultan of Johor

Their job is to advise the government of the day and then to faithfully execute policies and decisions made by the government irrespective of their own private political affiliations or views. They may not criticise the government or undermine it in any way.

If they disagree with the government and are unable to implement approved policies, tradition demands that they tender their resignation.

Upon retirement or resignation, they are, of course, free to comment on any policy subject to the provisions of the Official Secrets Act 1972.

Ex-service people and members of the Patriots Association are, therefore, entirely within their rights to either publicly support the government or openly criticise it as the case may be.

At no time, however, are serving or retired civil servants obliged to pledge their loyalty to the ruling party or vote for it. That is something that only happens in dictatorships.

The old adage “My country, right or wrong” does not extend to the government of the day. The loyalty of civil servants is ultimately to king and country rather than to any particular political party.

Contractual obligations

In return for their service, the government is obliged to pay civil servants, from public funds, fair and adequate compensation (including pensions where applicable).

Such compensation is not a bribe, a handout or a reward for loyalty but payment for services rendered. It is a straightforward contractual obligation between employer and employee.


The question of being thankful or grateful to the government, therefore, does not arise and it is simply ludicrous to suggest that civil servants ought to be loyal to the government because it pays their salaries.

It should also remembered that it is the public that pays the salaries of both the politicians they elect and the civil servants they appoint (through the Public Services Commission). Ultimately, both have an obligation to serve the people with integrity and dedication.

Politicising the civil service

The mandarins of the civil service do the country an enormous disservice when they behave as if the civil service is a mere appendage of the ruling party, or promote the idea that civil servants ought to support the ruling party at the polls out of loyalty and gratitude.

By politicising the civil service, they not only set a poor example but seriously undermine the neutrality and integrity of a hallowed national institution.

As for retired civil servants, I am sure they will continue to serve their country by speaking out and joining the debate to build that more perfect nation that we all want to see. Their loyalty to king and country demands nothing less.

DENNIS IGNATIUS is a former ambassador. He blogs at

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.