Trump–Najib White House Meet in September, 2017


April 24, 2018

Trump–Najib White House Meet in September, 2017

By Bradley Hope,Rebecca Ballhaus and Tom Wright

http://www.wsj.com

Image result for TRUMP AND NAJIB

Donald J. Trump–The Art of the Deal

Najib Razak, whose administration is at the center of the 1MDB corruption probe, may use the trip to play down the risk of further investigations

https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/08/23/statement-press-secretary-visit-prime-minister-najib-abdul-razak

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, whose administration is at the center of a major corruption probe by the U.S. Department of Justice, will visit President Donald Trump in September in Washington, according to a White House official and several people in Malaysia familiar with plans for the trip.

Mr. Najib has been eager to emphasize his friendship with Mr. Trump at a time of U.S. scrutiny over alleged corruption in the Malaysian administration. People close to Mr. Najib say he would likely use the White House visit to try to play down the possibility of further investigations. A spokesman for Mr. Najib declined to comment.

Image result for White House Statement from the Press Secretary on the Visit of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak of Malaysia

The Justice Department, in lawsuits filed in 2016 and updated in June, alleged that Mr. Najib received $681 million and his stepson, Riza Aziz, received $238 million originating from a state development fund called 1Malaysia Development Bhd.

The fund is the subject of one of the world’s biggest alleged frauds, with a total of more than $4.5 billion allegedly stolen. At least six countries are probing the affair, including Singapore and Switzerland.

The 1MDB issue is one of the most pressing problems for Mr. Razak’s administration in the run-up to elections expected in 2018. Nonetheless, Malaysia and the U.S. have many areas of mutual concern, including China’s expansion of military power in the South China Sea.

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Golf with Trump next?

Mr. Najib has had warm ties with recent U.S. administrations. He has boasted to a Malaysian newspaper and other media that he partnered with Mr. Trump at golf several years ago. Mr. Najib and Mr. Trump won the game, according to Malaysian media reports, and Mr. Najib said he has a signed picture of them together at the event, with an inscription from Mr. Trump: “To my favorite Prime Minister. Great win!” Mr. Najib also played golf with then-President Barack Obama.

Related imageMalaysia’s rich and powerful First Lady of Malaysia and her soulmate Grace Mugabe (below)
 

 

The U.S. suit in June also alleged that Mr. Najib’s wife received a $27 million diamond necklace paid for by funds embezzled from 1MDB. Much of the money Mr. Najib received was returned to the offshore company that sent it to him, court filings show. Mr. Najib and Mr. Aziz have repeatedly denied wrongdoing.

1MDB itself has denied wrongdoing or that any money is missing. It has pledged to work with any lawful authority. Mr. Najib’s wife, Rosmah Mansor, hasn’t responded to the allegations.

The U.S. allegations are contained in a series of civil asset forfeiture cases, in which the U.S. government is seeking to seize $1.7 billion’s worth of homes, artwork, a mega-yacht and company stakes, among other items it says were bought with embezzled funds. The suits only target assets and don’t allege crimes against individuals.

Earlier in August, the Justice Department filed a motion to stay all those cases while it conducts a criminal investigation.

The civil cases identify Jho Low, a Malaysian financier close to Mr. Najib’s family, as the central orchestrator of the alleged scheme. Mr. Low has denied the charges and pledged to fight them in court.

Mr. Najib and his wife, Ms. Rosmah, aren’t named in the civil suits, but are referred to as Malaysian Official 1 and wife of Malaysian Official 1. A government minister has publicly confirmed Mr. Najib is Malaysian Official 1. Mr. Najib’s stepson is also named in the suits.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly denied 1MDB was defrauded and that any money went missing. He created the fund in 2009 to help drive investment in Malaysia and as finance minister he was the final authority for making decisions.

In 2016, Mr. Najib hired Ashcroft Law Firm LLC, headed by former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, to advise him on the 1MDB case, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Najib and Mr. Aziz, and Mr. Aziz’s film production company, are also represented by Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP.

Amid investigations by several Malaysian authorities into 1MDB in 2015, Mr. Najib replaced his Attorney General over his handling of the case. The new Attorney General (Mr. Apandi Ali) announced his own review of the evidence, found no wrongdoing and closed the case.

Mr. Najib and his supporters have repeatedly said the 1MDB affair is hyped by the political opposition—led by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad—in an effort to oust Mr. Najib and the ruling UMNO party.

—Yantoultra Ngui in Kuala Lumpur contributed to this article.

Write to Bradley Hope at bradley.hope@wsj.com, Rebecca Ballhaus at Rebecca.Ballhaus@wsj.com and Tom Wright at tom.wright@wsj.com

Trump’s White House and Thailand’s autocratic descent


August 22, 2017

Trump’s White House and Thailand’s autocratic descent

by Matthew Phillips

http://www.newmandala.org/trumps-white-house-thailands-autocratic-descent/

Image result for Thailand and the Trump Administration

Header image: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meeting for talks with Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha in Bangkok on 8 August 2017, via the US State Department on Flickr.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Bangkok as part of a tour of the region. Top of the agenda was Thailand’s relationship with North Korea, but Tillerson also confirmed arrangements for Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to visit Washington in October and paid respects to the recently deceased King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Conspicuously absent from the Secretary of State’s remarks, both to Thai officials and later to staff at the US Embassy, was any criticism about Thailand’s deteriorating human rights record. This apparently pragmatic approach marks a significant shift in Thai–US relations, which had cooled considerably after the military coup of May 2014, led by General Prayuth.

It is a rapprochement that permanently threatens Thailand’s already struggling democracy.

In Thailand, symbols matter. Throughout the Cold War, pronouncements of US support for dictatorship were vital in securing the dominance of the Royal Thai Army. As long as Thai generals could point to American friends guaranteeing economic development, they could align themselves (however loosely) with the principles of freedom and democracy that legitimised their role. For their part, US actors, by claiming to respect Thailand’s cultural traditions (primarily through support for the Thai monarchy) helped frame communism as a threat to the Thai ‘way of life’.

This consensus changed in the early 1990s when a popular movement emerged from within the urban middle class calling for reduced military power and greater accountability. In May 1992 military leaders ordered the suppression of pro-democracy protesters leading to scores of deaths. For many within Thailand, the heavily-censored local media meant that international outlets became the only trusted source of news. With Thailand’s leaders condemned by the international community, it was the protesters who now commanded the respect of global peers.

Thailand, it was clear, was out of step. With the end of the Cold War, and communism no longer a threat, authoritarian regimes through Asia were falling or being forced to adapt. The emerging new order, led by the middle class, was characterised by a shift towards greater democratic accountability and underpinned by a shift toward neo-liberal economics. It was at this point that King Bhumibol Adulyadej, in the fifth decade of his reign, stepped in, aligning his own destiny with the forces of change.

In an exquisitely dramatised exchange, broadcast across state media, His Majesty sternly encouraged then Prime Minister General Suchinda Kraprayoon to reconcile with enraged civilian leaders. The King, in a single stroke, positioned himself in line with global trends, at the same time securing the enduring affection of Thailand’s middle classes. This Royal intervention also marked a historic breakpoint that was followed by economic deregulation and more democracy so that by the beginning of the new millennium, Thailand appeared to have taken its place within a world united around free market economics and liberal politics; what the political economist Francis Fukuyama had boldly described as ‘the end of history’. Portraying himself as a critical agent of change, King Bhumibol helped authenticate the moment as an intrinsically natural and necessary step for the Thai people. He also reaffirmed his status as a benevolent monarch who, by appearing to gift the next step toward democratisation, demonstrated his love and concern for the Thai people: the embodiment of Buddhist virtues that confirmed his divinity.

By 2005, however, the Thai establishment had grown weary of elections that repeatedly elected populist parties connected to Thaksin Shinawatra. In 2010, the army violently attacked Thaksin-supporting ‘Red Shirt’ protesters, many of whom had spent months away from rural homes to call for elections. Taking to the internet, the middle classes rallied to support the establishment view that force was necessary. They also joined a chorus of growing disdain for the international media, taking particular issue with what they felt was the uncritical reporting of Red demands for more democracy. Of all the networks, CNN was most notably earmarked for derision.

In late 2013, middle class groups were once again mobilised to topple a Thaksin linked government, finally provoking the May 2014 coup. Since then, Prayuth’s government and the royalists who support him have been relentless in attempts to extinguish both the influence of Thaksin and the political system that produced him. Many from the middle class have cheered them on.

Today Thailand is the polar opposite of what King Bhumibol’s 1992 military-civilian mediation was supposed to foretell. Journalists are silenced; sharing a critical Facebook post can land someone in prison; and many who oppose military rule have been forced into exile.

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His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn

The country also has a new King, Maha Vajiralongkorn,  whose erratic behaviour and strongman persona has helped stabilise autocratic rule. Elections are penciled in for next year, but the new constitution does more to diminish the institutions and symbols of democracy than reinstate them.

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Throughout this time, Barack Obama’s White House had made it clear that Thailand had veered off course. While US economic commitments to the Junta remained largely intact, the symbolic relationship and professions of friendship that secured it deteriorated rapidly, leaving Thailand out in the cold. Come mid-2016, the country failed to win a non-permanent seat on the United National Security Council, scoring a humiliating loss to Kazakhstan by a vote of 55–193.

The election of Donald Trump, however, has blurred if not obscured Thailand’s status as an outlier and threatens to normalise many of those indicators that mark its descent into autocracy. For years now, Thais opposed to Thaksin have rallied against CNN and its counterparts as unreliable, a stance parallel to the new American President’s daily denunciations of “fake news”. Having rejected mainstream international media, conservatives and pro-royalists have turned to a gaggle of Thai nationalists and alt-right American journalists to reaffirm their political positions. Thai hardliners rail against the conspiracy to topple monarchy in favour of a globalist corporate-led government ushered in by Thaksin and his shadowy backers. Trump’s reliance on the same marginal outlets, such as Infowars—hosted by alt-right radio host Alex Jones—combined with his disregard for an informed free press, not only resonates with key segments of the Thai elite; these global conspiracy theorists share much of the same world. At the same time, strong man politics appear all the rage and with two from which to choose, a King and a Prime Minister, Thailand would appear to be ahead of the game.

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the highest level American diplomat to visit Thailand since a 2014 coup, met Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai in Bangkok

Secretary of State Tillerson has already indicated that the State Department is considering dropping “democracy” from its global mission. On Tuesday, he kept his word. His meeting with Prime Minister Prayuth and Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai has served to de facto legitimate both the ruling Junta and the anti-democratic forces that support it. Having spent a decade seeking to extinguish Thaksin-linked electoral politics, Thailand’s once liberal elite now sits comfortably alongside the most powerful populist movements of the age. History, with its faux teleology proclaiming the inevitable progression toward liberal democracy—so critical to the American balancing act during the Cold War and as embodied so brilliantly by King Bhumibol—has reached its natural conclusion. A dead end.

Dr Matthew Phillips is based in the Department of History & Welsh History at Aberystwyth University. His book, Thailand in the Cold War, looks at the role that Thai and American consumers played in securing the alliance.

 

 

Malaysia’s 2017 SEA Games Cock Up–Getting the Indonesian Flag Wrong


August 21, 2017

Malaysia’s 2017 SEA Games Cockup–Getting the Indonesian Flag

by FA Abdul

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for The Indonesian Flag at Independence Day--August 17, 2017

COMMENT| A young journalist working for a local media company, Wai Wai Hnin Pwint Phyu walked into the training room in the Pazundaung district of Yangon the other morning, feeling somewhat upset.

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The Cock Up. But the Magnanimous H.E. President Jokowi Widodo said we should not make a mountain out of a molehill. But we in Malaysia should not make this kind of mistake. Actually, this oversight is inexcusable.

“Fa, what you think of SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur?” she asked in her limited English.

“I think we struggled to make it happen. Why do you ask?” I said.

“I am not happy. I am very angry,” said Wai, her face sour.

Since we had a good half-hour before beginning the training session, I pulled out two chairs next to her – one for me and one for our translator – and prepared myself for a story.

Before I could ask her what made her upset, Wai showed me a picture on her handphone. It was of a big group of Malaysian supporters clad in Jalur Gemilang.

“What picture is this?” I asked, curious.

“This is a picture of Malaysian fans, taken during the 2013 SEA Games in Myanmar during the Malaysia-Singapore football match. See how happy they are supporting their country inside the stadium.”

I looked at her, confused.

“Do you know where the Myanmar fans were when our Myanmar football team fought Laos?” she asked, her eyes turning red.

“Where?” I asked worriedly.

“Outside the stadium,” she answered shortly as she showed me a picture of hundreds of fans with Myanmar flags outside the stadium.

 

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Malaysian crowd unfriendly towards our Singapore neighbours

According to Wai and allegations on social media, only 500 tickets were made available by Malaysia for the Myanmar fans during the Myanmar-Laos match at the UiTM Stadium, which has a capacity of 6,000 seats. Although there were a lot of empty seats during the match, no additional tickets were made available for the remaining fans. As a result, they had to camp outside – some climbed fences and some on trees, to catch glimpses of the match.

From time to time, someone from inside the stadium would ring someone waiting outside, to give updates on the match – that was how their fans outside the stadium celebrated all of Myanmar’s three goals.

Myanmar fans who were stranded outside were purportedly only allowed to enter the stadium 10 minutes before the match ended.

“This picture is going viral in Myanmar. It is making many people angry at Malaysia. Myanmar treated Malaysia so well during the 2013 SEA Games but Malaysia is treating Myanmar so bad in 2017 SEA Games. Why?” Wai asked an honest question.

I was lost for a reply.

“There are thousands of Myanmar people working in Malaysia. This is not fair for them,” she added.

“I agree, Wai. This is not fair….if it is true.”

“You always support your Malaysia,” Wai said. She did not sound too happy. “Look at this report in your own media.”

The news report was about the bus driver of the Myanmar women’s football team who apparently was arrested for theft during a match.

“The Myanmar team had already complained on social media that they were feeling scared of the way the bus driver was operating the bus while on the way to the stadium. And then after beating Malaysia 5-0, the Myanmar team who were tired and hungry had to wait almost two more hours because they could not find the bus driver. Nobody knew he was arrested,” Wai explained.

“That’s really bad,” I said, scratching my head.

Driving without a licence

“You know what is really bad, Fa? The report also says that the bus driver had no driving licence at all!”

My jaw dropped.

“How can Malaysia hire someone without driving licence for our athletes? What if something bad had happened while he was driving recklessly?” Wai was really upset.

I scrolled the Facebook page showed by Wai and was displeased to read chains of angry comments.

“If you are not ready for this, you don’t need to be a host. Shame on you Malaysia!

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Tony Fernandes and AirAsia Staff–The Bright Side of Malaysia

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“Everyone is angry at Malaysia. Me, my father, my boyfriend… everyone. We always like Malaysia because Malaysia is beautiful country, many of our relatives work in Malaysia and we have friends like you from Malaysia. But this time, we don’t like Malaysia.” said Wai, unhappily.

I apologised to Wai on behalf of Malaysia. She smiled, assuring me that it was not my fault that her countrymen were treated in such a way. However, deep inside, I know she is still very much upset.

With hundreds of millions of ringgit spent to ensure the 29th SEA Games unfolds perfectly, I wonder what went wrong.

Do the stories going viral in Myanmar hold any truth? Perhaps Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin should look into it.

As I was writing this, I received a text message forwarded by my son. It was an invitation for all Malaysian football fans to support the Malaysian team in the Malaysia-Myanmar match on August 21 in Shah Alam – the tickets all sponsored.

And I begin to wonder if Myanmar football fans in Malaysia will be able to purchase tickets for this match today – or whether they will be left allegedly stranded outside the stadium once again.

Sigh.

So much for the spirit of sport…


Singapore Thinks Ahead


August 20, 2017

Singapore Thinks Ahead–Former Prime Minister Goh calls Stronger and More Inclusive G4 Leadership

by channelnewsasia.com

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/esm-goh-calls-for-stronger-more-inclusive-leadership-team-9138468

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With Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong stating that he will step down by 70, the new generation of leaders will have to quickly establish themselves as a cohesive team, the Emeritus Senior Minister says.

 Singapore’s new generation of leaders will have to build a “stronger and more inclusive millennial generation team”, said Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong on Saturday (Aug 19).

Speaking at a National Day Dinner for his constituency, Marine Parade, Mr Goh said the robustness of the country’s leadership pipeline is one of the determinants of how a “small boat like Singapore” will fare in a turbulent climate of internal and external challenges. Other factors, he said, include the resilience of its politics as well as the cohesiveness of its multi-racialism and social equity.

Mr Goh noted that 65-year-old Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said he will step down by the age of 70.

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Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Cabinet Colleagues

“The fourth generation (4G) leaders will have to quickly establish themselves as a cohesive team and identify the captain amongst them,” he said in the speech.

“They must try their utmost to bring in potential office-holders from outside the Singapore Armed Forces and public sector to avoid group-think. Highly competent Singaporeans outside the Government must also be prepared to step up and serve,” he said.

Beyond technical competence, Mr Goh also said Singaporeans will want to know what “the leaders stand for, what kind of Singapore they want to build and what they will pass on to the fifth generation later”.

Singapore Politics must be “Bold, Resilient, Forward Looking and Inclusive”

At the dinner, Mr Goh also said Singapore politics must be “bold, forward looking and inclusive of all races and different political opinions”. It also has to be resilient, he added.

Mr Goh credited the country’s stability to Singaporeans having successively elected a strong government. “This enables the government to plan for the long term and prepare for contingencies … a strength which most other elected governments lack,” he said.

Elaborating on how Singapore has adapted the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy to local conditions, he said that Singapore’s provision of Non-Constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs) and Nominated Members of Parliament (NMPs) prevents a dominant party from shutting down opposition as at least one in five Members of Parliament (MPs) is not a member of the ruling People’s Action Party.

Furthermore, the Group Representation Constituency system “guarantees” a fair number of minority MPs in Parliament, he said, adding that this “prevents the ‘tyranny of the majority’ in free elections and gives every community a stake in our shared destiny”.

The Elected Presidency is likewise “a check against a populist and profligate government”, Mr Goh said. He called the recent decision to set aside reserved presidential elections for minorities a “stabiliser to ensure our multi-racial society stays afloat”.

“If these stabilisers are not introduced to our political system, our democratic state risks being capsized when buffeted by internal differences and divisions, let alone external storms,” he added.

Meritocracy safeguards Singapore against Nepotism and Cronyism

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Mr Goh Chok Tong and his political mentor the Late Mr. Lee Kuan Yew

Mr Goh stressed that meritocracy must remain a key pillar of Singapore’s “fair and equal society”, as it protects the country from the “greater dangers of nepotism and cronyism”.

Underlining the importance of maintaining social equity, Mr Goh said: “For a new country, the first round of meritocracy has produced the desired results. The brightest, ablest and most hard working have risen to the top. But for subsequent rounds, meritocracy entrenches the successful, widens the income gap and creates a sense of social inequity,” he said.

The Emeritus Senior Minister said children of well-to-do families inherit the gift of good family backgrounds and networks from the day they are born. The state, however, must intervene to ensure the meritocratic process serves it purpose, he argued, so that every citizen has equal opportunities at the starting line and a fair chance to succeed throughout life.

“We must guard against social inequity as a new fault line in our society,” he said.

Some Government policies that have gone some way to narrow the income divide are subsidies in housing, healthcare and education, as well as recent measures which soften the focus on academic grades and re-skill Singaporeans to take on higher value jobs, he said.

“The 4G leaders must find their own robust language, political values and programmes to lift the lives of lower-income Singaporeans,” he added.

These new leaders will have their “work cut out for them” – they will have to build their own social compact with the people and must be able to grow the economy, create jobs, resolve everyday livelihood issues, check divisive trends in society, give hope and improve the lives of all Singaporeans, Mr Goh said.

“But they will inherit a political system in good working order. In time, they will have to bequeath a fair and multi-racial society to the generation after them.”

Asia’s Fragile Strategic Miracle


August 20, 2017

Asia’s Fragile Strategic Miracle

by Richard N.Haass*

http://www.project-syndicate.org

*Richard N. Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, previously served as Director of Policy Planning for the US State Department (2001-2003), and was President George W. Bush’s special envoy to Northern Ireland and Coordinator for the Future of Afghanistan. He is the author of A World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order.

It is too soon to know whether and how the challenge posed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs will be resolved. But it is not too early to consider what that challenge could mean for a part of the world that has in many ways defied history.

Image result for The Asian Miracle

The moniker “Asian Miracle” goes some way toward conveying just how extraordinary the last half-century of economic growth in many Asian countries has been. The first economy to take off was Japan, which, despite a slowdown in recent decades and a relatively small population, remains the world’s third-largest economy.

China’s ascent began a bit later, but is no less impressive: the country achieved over three decades of double-digit average GDP growth, making it the world’s second-largest economy today. India, soon to be the world’s most populous country, has lately been experiencing an impressive 7-8% annual rate of GDP growth. And the ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations averaged some 5% growth in recent years.

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Crony Capitalism and Patronage

But contemporary Asia’s economic miracle rests on a less-discussed strategic miracle: the maintenance of peace and order. Since the end of the Vietnam War in the mid-1970s, Asia has stood out for its lack of major conflicts within or across borders – an achievement that distinguishes it from Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and even Latin America.

This stability is all the more extraordinary because Asia is home to a large number of unresolved disputes. When World War II ended in 1945, Japan and Russia did not sign a peace treaty, owing largely to their competing claims over the Southern Kuril Islands, known in Japan as the Northern Territories. Eight years later, the Korean War also ended without a formal peace treaty, leaving behind a divided and heavily armed peninsula.

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Asia’s Future depends on this handshake between Abe and Abe?

Today, competing territorial claims – mostly involving China – continue to stoke tension across Asia. Japan is embroiled in a dispute with China over the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands in the East China Sea. More than half a dozen other Asian countries disagree vehemently with China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. And India is at loggerheads with China over their long-shared Himalayan border.

Despite all of these tensions, Asia has remained largely at peace, partly because no country has wanted to jeopardize economic growth by initiating a conflict. This perspective is most clearly associated with Deng Xiaoping. In leading China’s process of economic “reform and opening-up” from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, Deng explicitly emphasized the importance of a stable external environment to facilitate internal economic development. The reliance on regional trade ties to support growth and employment has provided yet another incentive to sustain peace.

But economics was probably not the only factor at play. Because most Asian countries are host to relatively homogenous societies with strong national identities, the chance of civil conflicts erupting and spilling over national borders is relatively low. Last but certainly not least, America’s strong military presence in Asia – which underpins its robust regional alliance system – has reduced the need for Asian countries to develop large military programs of their own, and has reinforced a status quo that discourages armed adventurism.

These factors have contributed to peace and stability in Asia, but they cannot be taken for granted. Indeed, they are now coming under increasing pressure – putting the strategic miracle that has facilitated Asia’s economic miracle in jeopardy.

What changed? For one thing, China’s economic rise has allowed it to expand its military capabilities. As China adopts an increasingly assertive foreign policy – exemplified by its border dispute with India and territorial claims in the South China Sea – other countries are increasingly motivated to boost their own military spending. As that happens, it becomes more likely that a disagreement or incident will escalate into a conflict.

Meanwhile, the US – the only power with the capability to offset China – seems to be retreating from its traditional role in Asia. Already, US President Donald Trump’s administration has withdrawn his country from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and confronted US allies on their defense spending and persistent trade imbalances. More generally, the growing unpredictability of US foreign policy could weaken deterrence and prompt allies to take their security into their own hands.

The most immediate cause of potential instability is North Korea, which now poses not just a conventional military threat to South Korea, but also a nuclear threat to all of Asia, as well as to the US. This could invite a devastating preemptive strike from the US. But, if the US refrains from military action, the results could also be catastrophic, if the North actually does strike. Even just the threat of such a strike could be destabilizing, if it drives concerned US allies such as South Korea and Japan to increase their military spending and reconsider their non-nuclear postures.

Should any of these scenarios come to pass, the consequences would be far-reaching. Beyond the human costs, they would threaten the economic prosperity of not only Asia, but the entire world. A conflict between the US and China, in particular, could poison the single most important bilateral relationship of the twenty-first century.

The good news is that none of this is inevitable. There is still time for governments to embrace restraint, explore diplomacy, and reconsider policies that threaten to undermine stability. Unfortunately, we are living in a time of rising nationalism and at times irresponsible leadership. Add to that inadequate regional political-military arrangements, and it is not at all certain that wisdom will triumph over recklessness, or that Asia’s unique decades-long peace will endure.

 

KayJay on ASEAN beyond 50


August 17, 2017

KayJay on ASEAN beyond 50

Image result for khairy jamaluddin

As ASEAN celebrates its Golden Jubilee, it is opportune for us to take a step back and ask our people what they want of the regional bloc in the next 50 years before striving forward together as one community.

THERE has never been a better time to examine ASEAN as a regional bloc, how far we have come and where we are heading next. It has been exactly 50 years since ASEAN was formed and since then, this regional bloc has never been stronger and more prominent in the global stage.

Malaysia will always be a pro-active member of ASEAN and other multilateral organisations. Our success story as a nation has been predicated upon the stability provided by a multilateral framework. Malaysia as a country is one that reaches beyond its potential and one that has always set its sight on the distant future. For that reason, we must be integrated into a region that is greater than the sum of its parts.

The past is prologue while the future is ours to shape. While taking lessons from the past, we must continue the work of building the future.

Immediately after the 1969 riots, Malaysia embarked on the New Economic Policy, which was to be a new deal for Malaysia in eradicating poverty and rebalancing the economic distribution in the country. Thirty years later, that was followed by Vision 2020, which would leapfrog Malaysia to a country that is modern and developed.

As we are nearing 2020, it became imperative for us to ask ourselves “what’s next?”. The world in 2050 will be much different from the world today – what will guide us to face this future?

This is I have been tasked to reach as many youths as possible to get their aspirations of what they want to see the nation be in the future, to be recorded in a massive plan called the National Transformation 2050 (TN50).

TN50 is an initiative to plan for the future of Malaysia in the period between 2020 and 2050. From the vision of becoming a developed nation, we should strive to be among the top countries in economic development, citizen well-being and innovation.

For this, I’ve spent the first six months of 2017 traveling through all corners of Malaysia, reaching out to more than one million youths and what they aspire for. Most of them coalesce around wanting a future that is fair, sustainable, competitive, united and happy.

What that means is we want a future that goes beyond the old measurement of GDP growth as an indicator of success to one that looks at well-being more comprehensively. One that looks into wealth and income inequality, healthcare, access to quality education, environmental protection, a good standard of living, integrated public transport, sporting achievement, civic consciousness and greater investments into scientific research, among many others.

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With shared dreams come shared responsibility – and nothing binds a society better than having a common weight on their shoulders. Similarly, as ASEAN heads towards 2050, it is opportune for us to take a step back, ask our people what they want of ASEAN in 2050 and then strive forward together as one community.

The challenge of automation and robots, the need for a differently-skilled and adaptive workforce, the breakdown of societal fabric into smaller family units, the shifting powerhouses in global trade and many other challenges await us in the near horizon.

Though individual countries are looking at these in their own way, there are many areas we can embrace together, leveraging on individual strength to compensate for individual weaknesses, so ASEAN can future proof the region and truly become a global powerhouse in the next 33 years.

What would we like ASEAN to be in the next decade, or five decades? The current generation entrusted with the responsibility to shape the future of ASEAN would like to see an ASEAN that will be able to realise all of its potential. An association consisting of 10 sovereign high-income nations fully developed with prosperity for all. It is indeed a tall objective, but not an impossible one, for ASEAN is a work perpetually in progress passing from one generation to the next, a sacred trust to be upheld.

I am an optimist on the future of ASEAN and I am a firm believer in its role as the catalyst for peace and prosperity in this region. Our fate in ASEAN has been pre-determined by our geography. As the saying goes, we can choose our friends but we cannot choose our neighbours.

The success of one nation in the region will have a positive bearing on all, while the failure of any will have a calamitous effect on all. ASEAN’s future is in its togetherness. We can either leverage on our collective strengths to soar together towards greater heights or go separately to face a more dangerous and challenging world.

Economically, we must continue to build upon the ASEAN Economic Community. More integration is needed, not less. By all means draw lessons from Brexit but the right ones not the wrong ones. We must be serious to further bring down barriers to trade both tariff and non-tariff.

We must work to better integrate our economy and welcome investments, ease the process of doing business, and protect intellectual property while better leveraging our various competitive advantages. Healthy competition coupled with pragmatic cooperation must be the way forward.

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ASEAN leaders must focus on good governance, fight corruption, end crony capitalism and work for peace, stability and development with equity. Make ASEAN relevant to the lives of Southeast Asians. That means more action and less talk.–Din Merican

We must work to make ASEAN more relevant to the needs of members and the challenges that they are facing, be it political, security or economic. ASEAN will continue to thrive, despite its many challenges, if every member perseveres to make it a national priority; for the national interest of each member could only be advanced effectively through ASEAN collectively.

The first 50 years is coming to an end, so let us now turn the work at hand to the next 50 years dedicating it to the future generation. Let us continue to build on the dreams of the founding fathers of ASEAN who started a journey so improbable that they themselves in their wildest imaginations never could have thought how successful it would eventually be.

That 50 years later, we are marveling at their collective wisdom in every capital of a united ASEAN is the most fitting tribute of all to this greatest and most enduring of endeavours.–by Khairy Jamaluddin

Khairy Jamaluddin is the Youth and Sports Minister. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.