Donald Trump could be the best thing that’s happened to China in a long time


January 15, 2017

Donald Trump could be the best thing that’s happened to China in a long time

by Fareed Zakaria*

https://www.washingtonpost.com

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Donald Trump has perhaps attacked no country as consistently as China. During his campaign, he thundered that China was “raping” the United States, “killing” us on trade and artificially depressing its currency to make its goods cheap. Since being elected, he has spoken to the leader of Taiwan and continued the bellicosity toward Beijing. So it was a surprise to me, on a recent trip to Beijing, to find Chinese elites relatively sanguine about Trump. It says something about their view of Trump, but perhaps more about how they see their own country.

“Trump is a negotiator, and the rhetoric is all part of his opening bid,” said a Chinese scholar, who would not agree to be named (as was true of most policymakers and experts I spoke with). “He likes to make deals,” the scholar continued, “and we are good dealmakers as well. There are several agreements we could make on trade.” As one official noted to me, Beijing could simply agree with Trump that it is indeed a “currency manipulator” — although it has actually been trying to prop up the yuan over the past two years. After such an admission, market forces would likely make the currency drop in value, lowering the price of Chinese goods.

Chinese officials point out that they have economic weapons as well. China is a huge market for U.S. goods, and last year the country invested $46 billion in the U.S. economy (according to the Rhodium Group). But the officials’ calm derives from the reality that China is becoming far less dependent on foreign markets for its growth. Ten years ago, exports made up a staggering 37 percent of China’s gross domestic product. Today they make up just 22 percent and are falling.

China has changed

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China has changed. Western brands there are rare, and the country’s own companies now dominate almost every aspect of the huge and growing domestic economy. Few businesses take their cues from U.S. firms anymore. Technology companies are innovating, and many young Chinese boasted to me that their local versions of Google, Amazon and Facebook were better, faster and more sophisticated than the originals. The country has become its own, internally focused universe.

This situation is partly the product of government policy. Jeffrey Immelt , the Chief Executive of General Electric, noted in 2010 that China was becoming hostile to foreign firms. U.S. tech giants have struggled in China because of formal or informal rules against them.

The next stage in China’s strategy is apparently to exploit the leadership vacuum being created by the United States’ retreat on trade. As Trump was promising protectionism and threatening literally to wall off the United States from its southern neighbor, Chinese President Xi Jinping made a trip through Latin America in November, his third in four years. He signed more than 40 deals, Bloomberg reported, and committed billions of dollars of investments in the region.

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Chinese global leadership on trade gaining support from ASEAN, Australia and New Zealand

The centerpiece of China’s strategy takes advantage of Trump’s declaration that the Trans-Pacific Partnership is dead. The trade deal, negotiated between the United States and 11 other countries, lowered barriers to trade and investment, pushing large Asian economies such as Japan and Vietnam in a more open and rule-based direction. Now China has offered up its own version of the pact, one that excludes the United States and favors China’s more mercantilist approach.

Australia, once a key backer of the TPP, has announced that it supports China’s alternative. Other Asian countries will follow suit soon.

At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Peru in November, John Key, who was then New Zealand’s prime minister, put it simply: “[The TPP] was all about the United States showing leadership in the Asia region. . . . We really like the U.S. being in the region. . . . But in the end if the U.S. is not there, that void has to be filled. And it will be filled by China.”

Xi’s speech at the summit was remarkable, sounding more like an address traditionally made by an American President. It praised trade, integration and openness and promised to help ensure that countries don’t close themselves off to global commerce and cooperation.

Next week, Xi will become the first Chinese President to attend the World Economic Forum at Davos, surely aiming to reinforce the message of Chinese global leadership on trade. Meanwhile, Western leaders are forfeiting their traditional roles. Angela Merkel and Justin Trudeau announced last-minute cancellations of their plans to speak at the Swiss summit. Trump has only made sneering references to globalism and globalization, and no senior member of his team currently plans to attend.

Looking beyond Trump’s tweets, Beijing seems to have concluded that his presidency might well prove to be the best thing that’s happened to China in a long time.

*Fareed Zakaria writes a foreign affairs column for The Post. He is also the host of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS and a contributing editor for The Atlantic. Follow @FareedZakaria

Bilateral and Regional Implications of the U.S.-Philippine Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement


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Number 365 | December 21, 2016

ANALYSIS

Bilateral and Regional Implications of the U.S.-Philippine Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement

By Renato De Castro

On April 28, 2014, then Philippine Secretary of National Defense Voltaire Gazmin and U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) a few hours before President Barack Obama’s arrival in the Philippines. The signing of the EDCA sent a strong diplomatic signal to Beijing that it would have to take account of an American military presence in the Philippines if it chose to unilaterally change the status quo in the South China Sea. More significantly, a rotational U.S. military presence was expected to strengthen the Philippines’ determination to uphold its territorial claims vis-à-vis China in the South China Sea dispute backed by American resolve and credibility to honor its defense commitment to the Philippines.

 The 21st Century Philippine-U.S. Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA)

This is not a new security treaty; it is merely an updated version of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty. This executive agreement serves as a framework by which the Philippines and the U.S. can develop their individual and collective defense capabilities. This goal is accomplished through the rotational deployment of American forces in Philippine bases. Although the EDCA allows American forces to utilize facilities owned and controlled by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine base commander has unrestricted access to these locations. Likewise, American-built or American-improved infrastructure inside these installations can be used by the AFP. Furthermore, any construction and other activities within the Philippine bases require the consent of the host country through the Mutual Defense Board (MDB) and Security Engagement Board (SEB). More importantly, the EDCA is designed to minimize domestic opposition to U.S. military presence in the country by explicitly affirming Philippine sovereignty and providing a legal framework for increased American rotational presence rather than the re-establishment of permanent bases, which remains a sensitive issue among Filipinos.

The EDCA also proved advantageous to the AFP. With its small and obsolete naval force and an almost non-existent air force, the Philippine military benefits from the regular and short-term visits of U.S. forces that conduct military training as well as humanitarian and disaster response operations. Logistically, the U.S. construction of vital military facilities, infrastructure upgrades (such as hangers, air defense surveillance radar systems, ground based air defense systems, and naval operating bases), and the storage and prepositioning of defense equipment in agreed locations can lower the cost of the force and training modernization programs since the buildings and equipment can be shared and utilized jointly by American and Philippine Armed Forces.

The implementation of EDCA augurs well for the Philippine military. Philippines Air Force (PAF) fighter pilots can train with their American counter-parts at the five airbases that are part of the agreement. The PAF can also use facilities that American forces will improve or build inside its facilities. In addition, the Obama Administration has requested US$50 million from the U.S. Congress to fund the Maritime Security Initiative in Southeast Asia. The lion’s share of the funds in the first year will go to the AFP’s capability building program. It is expected that there will be allocations for the purchase of equipment to monitor activities and movements in the South China Sea.

Regional Security Implications

During the Sixth Annual Bilateral Security Dialogue (BSD) between the U.S. and the Philippines in Washington D.C. on March 18, 2016, it was announced that American forces will be allowed access to the following AFP bases: Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan; Basa Air Base and Fort Magsaysay in Luzon; Lumbia Air Base in northern Mindanao; and Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu.

With EDCA’s implementation, the United States enhances the rotational presence of its forward-deployed forces, improves existing facilities, and pre-positions supplies and equipment in five agreed-upon locations. In the long-term, the effects of EDCA will go beyond the modernization of the Philippines’ military and increased inter-operability between the armed forces of the two allies. The EDCA will have two far-reaching strategic/diplomatic implications. First, a rotational U.S. military presence will strengthen the Philippines’ resolve to uphold its territorial claims in the South China Sea and test American credibility in honoring its defense commitment to the country. Second, the use of air and naval infrastructure in the Philippines will facilitate a rapid and massive deployment of American forces in case armed clashes erupt in potential flash points such as the South China Sea, the East China Sea, and in the Taiwan Strait.

Since the 1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis, the USAF has sought arrangements for the rotational deployments of its aircraft and personnel in the Philippines. This arrangement entails infrastructural improvements to keep facilities “warm,” enabling the rapid start of operations in the event of a crisis. American access to the aforementioned five operationally flexible Philippine bases addresses this need. It also thwarts China’s plan of preventing U.S. forces from operating in the disputed South China Sea.

Conclusion

Currently, there is small unit of USAF aircraft and personnel deployed in the Philippines.  Only time will tell whether this small USAF formation will become an effective forward-deployed force that can deter China’s expansion in the South China Sea. This will depend largely on how President Rodrigo Duterte would tolerate China’s expansion into the Philippines’ maritime domain, and the importance of his country’s long-standing alliance with the U.S. Recently, however, President Duterte has expressed critical comments toward the alliance. He announced that he wants the withdrawal of 107 American troops from Mindanao, saying that he was only maintaining them against possible attacks by Muslim militants. He declared that the Philippines would stop patrolling the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea with the U.S. Navy to avoid provoking China. In early October, he also announced that the U.S.-Philippine Philbex joint amphibious exercise would be the last during his four-year term.

On November 7, 2016, despite his earlier rhetoric against the U.S. and the alliance, President Duterte suddenly gave his consent for the conduct of a joint U.S.-Philippine military exercise and for the implementation of the EDCA. His decision to continue joint U.S.-Philippine military exercises and to implement the EDCA will be conveyed to the MDB later this month. However, it is still too early to guess President Duterte’s future executive decisions toward the implementation of the EDCA in particular, and the alliance in general. The AFP’s recommendations to conduct joint exercises between U.S. and Philippine forces and the implementation of EDCA will not only affect Philippine national security interests but also the regional balance of power.

About the Author

Dr. Renato Cruz De Castro is a professor (on sabbatical leave) in the International Studies Department, De La Salle University, Manila, and holds the Charles Lui Chi Keung Professorial Chair in China Studies.  He is currently the U.S.-ASEAN Fulbright Initiative Researcher from the Philippines based in the East-West Center in Washington, D.C. He can be contacted at renato.dccastro@dlsu.edu.p

The East-West Center promotes better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue.

Established by the US Congress in 1960, the Center serves as a resource for information and analysis on critical issues of common concern, bringing people together to exchange views, build expertise, and develop policy options.

The Asia Pacific Bulletin (APB) series is produced by the East-West Center in Washington.

APB Series Editor: Dr. Satu Limaye, Director, East-West Center in Washington
APB Series Coordinator: Peter Valente, Project Assistant, East-West Center in Washington

The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the East-West Center or any organization with which the author is affiliated.

For comments/responses on APB issues or article submissions, please contact washington@eastwestcenter.org.

East-West Center | 1601 East-West Road | Honolulu, HI | 808.944.7111

East-West Center in Washington | 1819 L Street, NW, Suite 600 | Washington, DC | 202.293.3995

East-West Center in Washington, 1819 L Street, NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20036

Australia-Philippines Relationship Status: “It’s Complicated”


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Number 364 | December 14, 2016

ANALYSIS

Australia-Philippines Relationship Status: “It’s Complicated”

by Charmaine Deogracias and Orrie Johan

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The Philippines and Australia fought side by side in the 1944-1945 campaign that liberated the Philippines from Japanese occupation. After the war, both countries forged alliances with the United States, as Australia and an independent Philippines became increasingly friendly. Today, with their overlapping and proliferating security partnerships, Australia and the Philippines have built on seven decades of bilateral ties to become comprehensive partners.

The two countries share an interest in the continued security and stability of the region and in freedom of navigation of the seas. The rising strength of China also looms large in the security calculus of each country. Both are trying to navigate the vast economic benefits and security concerns that China’s rise presents in the region, and this focus has brought the two countries much closer together. A major difference between the two is that the Philippines has a territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea while Australia does not.  This means that for a time Australia was more worried than the Philippines about being entrapped into a war against China. Now that friendly relations between China and the Philippines have been restored under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who vowed to rely on China economically, there is greater convergence with Australian interests in avoiding conflict with China. But Philippines-Australia relations are now being undermined by the new Philippine government’s allergic reaction to human rights and resulting criticisms by Australian and U.S. governments. Relations are also affected by Duterte’s skepticism of Australian and U.S. resolve in supporting the Philippines, and by Australia’s concerns about a shift by Duterte away from the U.S. and towards China. These trends pose major challenges for Philippines-Australia relations and risk causing them to deteriorate.

Australia’s Cautious Bilateralism

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Australia has chosen to respond to the risk of increased regional instability by pursuing closer ties with many of its neighbors in the region, including with the Philippines. Until recently, Australia relied on its close alliance with the U.S. for its security and did not pursue strong security relationships with many other countries in the region. China’s growing challenge to U.S. predominance in the Asia-Pacific has led Australia to shift its approach by bolstering its ties with other regional powers, such as Japan and India.

This trend was strongly encouraged by the U.S., which under the Obama administration has advocated a similar approach to others throughout the region to help develop an Asia-Pacific Principled Security Network and boost regional stability. However, this approach has also become more attractive for Australia because of concerns that the U.S. could reduce its regional presence or even surrender its regional leadership role in the long-term, given growing opposition to international engagement within the United States. In such a scenario, strong Australian ties with other countries in the region could provide additional leverage in future interactions with China.

Among these bilateral partnerships, Australia’s relationship with the Philippines has been one of its fastest growing. Bilateral security cooperation began in earnest in 2005 when the Australian government expressed interest in assisting the Philippines with counterterrorism challenges. The relationship has since deepened to include a Status of Visiting Forces Agreement (SOVFA), which went into force in 2012.

Australia now conducts joint military drills with the Philippines, and has participated in the annual Philippines-U.S. Balikatan exercises since 2014. Australia has also supported the Philippines’ right to pursue an international arbitration tribunal’s judgement on its disputes with China in the South China Sea, over Chinese objections. However, despite these major bilateral advances, there have been signs that Australia is less willing than the Philippines to consolidate strong ties. Australia chose to sign a comprehensive partnership with the Philippines rather than the stronger strategic partnership that the Philippines sought, even as it chose to ink such an agreement with Singapore.

The reason for this appears to be that Australia has historically avoided escalating tensions in the region and chosen to refrain from pursuing a strategic partnership or alliance with the Philippines due to concerns that such an action could undermine stability in the South China Sea or force Australia into a conflict with China.

The Philippines’ Pivot to China 

Given the foreign policy shifts that Duterte is seeking, Australia’s calibrated form of security engagement with the Philippines is the kind that Duterte favors for now. His independent foreign policy is shaping up to have Russia as an ally, China as an economic partner, and have Japan compete with China to provide economic benefits and regional security for the Philippines.

Duterte would prefer to keep the status quo with the US alliance and the Australian comprehensive partnership, but their criticisms of his controversial anti-drug campaign will complicate this. Australia and the U.S. have provided a great deal of support to the Philippine military but Duterte has questioned Australian and U.S. resolve against China. He also criticized the US and Australia for meddling in Filipino affairs by condemning his anti-drug campaign that has so far resulted in over 3,000 extra-judicial killings. But his anti-U.S. sentiments are more deep-seated for personal and ideological reasons.

Changing the rhetoric on the South China Sea issue post-arbitration ruling, Duterte has chosen to take a more conciliatory approach in resolving territorial disputes with China and is poised to settle the contentious issue of sovereignty bilaterally. He has not sought a complete overhaul of his predecessor’s policies, as he expressed willingness to maintain close ties with Japan, which has become concerned at Duterte’s talk of radical shifts by the Philippines towards China. He is open to joint military exercises with Japan, but has redirected the focus of bilateral drills with U.S. armed forces from maritime security to humanitarian assistance and counterterrorism, and scrapped naval drills such as amphibious landings and boat raids altogether.

Duterte has not yet spoken of abandoning Australia or reducing the already low scale military exercises with it the way he has about the United States. But the fact is that Australia’s criticisms of Duterte’s extra-judicial domestic policies and controversial comments have put Australia on Duterte’s watch list alongside the European Union and the United Nations. It appears that under Duterte, Australian ambivalence towards stronger ties with the Philippines is beginning to be reciprocated.

Until recently, the main factor complicating Australia-Philippines relations was a divergence in attitudes to the risk of conflict against China. While that is no longer the case, differences over the Duterte administration’s policy approaches are now the primary obstacle to strengthening Australia-Philippines ties. These concerns will prevent the bilateral relationship from improving and may even undermine it in the future.

About the Authors

Charmaine Deogracias is  a journalist writing for Vera Files in the Philippines. She can be reached at charmdeogracias@gmail.com.

Orrie Johan is a researcher at the East-West Center in Washington. He recently obtained a master’s degree in Security Studies from Georgetown University. He can be contacted at orrie.johan@gmail.com

The East-West Center promotes better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue.

Established by the US Congress in 1960, the Center serves as a resource for information and analysis on critical issues of common concern, bringing people together to exchange views, build expertise, and develop policy options.

The Asia Pacific Bulletin (APB) series is produced by the East-West Center in Washington.

APB Series Editor: Dr. Satu Limaye, Director, East-West Center in Washington
APB Series Coordinator: Peter Valente, Project Assistant, East-West Center in Washington

The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the East-West Center or any organization with which the author is affiliated.

For comments/responses on APB issues or article submissions, please contact washington@eastwestcenter.org.

East-West Center | 1601 East-West Road | Honolulu, HI | 808.944.7111

East-West Center in Washington | 1819 L Street, NW, Suite 600 | Washington, DC | 202.293.3995

East-West Center in Washington, 1819 L Street, NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20036

Australia’s China choice is not between security and prosperity


November 15, 2016

Australia’s China choice is not between security and prosperity–Why not both?

by Paul Hubbard, Australian National University @Canberra

http://www.eastasiaforum.org
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If strategic rivalry between China and the United States escalates, Australia will face uncomfortable choices that could leave one or both partners unsatisfied. But it is wrong to frame this as a trade-off between national security and economic prosperity, as if strategic strength were born from economic pain. National security and economic prosperity are both vital national interests and deeply symbiotic. A stable international order underwrites economic prosperity; international economic engagement supports a stable order.

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop in her office at Parliament House.

Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop in her office at Parliament House. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Unfortunately, economists and strategists have trouble talking on the same terms. The starting point for economists is usually an abstract model that assumes the security infrastructure and norms needed for markets to thrive. If economists think about armed conflict it is usually as a ‘tail risk’ — potentially catastrophic, but highly unlikely. But take away a stable national, regional or global order and the business and commerce that generate material prosperity will evaporate.

Security thinkers don’t sit around and assume thriving societies. Instead they are paid to detect threats and contemplate worst-case scenarios. Mitigating these requires clear thinking, well-resourced diplomacy and defence capability. This, in turn, depends on a prosperous economy.

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Chairman Mao Zedong meeting with the Hon. Gough Whitlam QC, Prime Minister of Australia during the historic Prime Ministerial visit to the People’s Republic of China, 31 October – 4 November 1973. Photo courtesy the Hon Tom Burns AO, Chair of the Queensland China Council, personal collection.

Australia can afford multi-billion dollar submarines and joint strike fighters because it has a US$1.2 trillion economy. The Defence White Paper’s US$32 billion funding target for 2020–2021 assumes that the Australian economy will continue growing faster than the United States, the Euro Area or Japan. Achieving this requires deeper economic engagement with a fast growing Asia.

The complementarity of security and prosperity is not a new discovery. Former US president Lyndon Johnson’s 1965 Peace Without Conquest speech recognised that popular support for communism in Southeast Asia came not from the peasant’s fascination with Marxism, but rather from a desire for basic life necessities and an ‘end to material misery’. He proposed the creation of the Asian Development Bank to show that these needs could be met through markets and capitalism, without resorting to radical communism and violent conquest.

While the United States lost the battle against communism in Vietnam, it won the war for open markets and prosperity in Asia. The examples of Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore convinced China’s leaders in 1978 to put aside the horrors of Maoism and adopt not just ‘reform’ but crucially, ‘opening up’.

Unbridled ideology was exchanged for market pragmatism. The result was the largest and most rapid movement of humanity from poverty in history. China stopped exporting international revolution and instead now exports 18 per cent of the world’s manufactured goods, in accordance with the rules-based order of the World Trade Organization. Foreign investment in and out of China puts assets at risk on both sides, giving owners a strong material interest in preserving peace.

Of course national interests go beyond the economy. Providing for the material welfare of citizens is only one of the legs of political legitimacy. States sometimes adopt goals that cut across the material welfare of their citizens. The first era of globalisation did not stop the imperial follies of the First World War. The following wave of fascism and totalitarianism subordinated individual welfare to the strategic interests of the state.

China’s policies after 1978 were calibrated to reassure the international community that its re-emergence would not follow this menacing route. Deng Xiaoping’s foreign policy mantra was to hide China’s strength and bide its time. Hu Jintao promoted China’s ‘peaceful rise’. Which is why strategists have reacted with alarm to a more assertive foreign policy under Xi Jinping.

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What should economists make of this? Is China’s increasing assertiveness ‘a reality that seems to have bypassed many of Australia’s economic commentators’ as one strategic commentator suggests?

The new direction is worrying. Perhaps the risk of conflict is slightly less remote. But there’s not enough to overthrow the central scenario under which China continues to prioritise domestic and international stability. Just as regional stability serve Australian prosperity, so too does it serve China’s own vital economic interests.

The economist would also distinguish threats to international stability from more common but less catastrophic risks that hide among the cross-border movements of people, goods and capital. As Deng Xiaoping famously observed, opening the window invariably involves letting in a few flies.

The best line of defence against economic harm is competition in a well-regulated domestic market. Unlike Mao’s China, which hoped that correct behaviour would flow from correct ideology, the market system does not depend on the goodwill or benevolence of market participants. Where threats appear to specific security interests, the solution is not to shut the window on prosperity, but rather to use some of the proceeds to buy more and better fly-swats.

This approach allows Australia to choose both security and prosperity, putting the country in a more comfortable position to deal with both the United States and China.

Paul Hubbard is a doctoral candidate at the Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University. He is currently on leave from the Australian Treasury as a Sir Roland Wilson Scholar, and is a former Fulbright Scholar in international relations. The views in this paper do not reflect those of the Australian Treasury.

The economics of Australia’s security in Asia

Budgies, boobies and booty


October 8, 2016

Budgies, boobies and booty: Learn to respect cultural sensibilities

I do object to behaviour by fellow Australians that offends if not insults the cultural sensitivities of people in foreign countries of which they are guests… And I shudder at the sight and sound of bunches of oinks arrogantly shouting “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oi, oi, oi” anywhere, either at home or abroad… Especially when the offenders are not only of what should be mature age, but also of privileged family and educational backgrounds, as in the case of what the Australian media are calling either the ‘Budgy Nine’ or ‘Budgie Nine’–Dean Johns

by Dean Johns
http://www.malaysiakini.com

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The Budgie Nine

The mind boggles at what a balls-up the boobies of the UMNO-BN regime are making of so-called ‘justice’ in Malaysia.

Nine Australians who made grand pricks of themselves at the Petronas F1 Grand Prix by stripping down to ‘budgie smugglers’ or in other words swimmers, cossies or Speedos emblazoned with the Malaysian flag escaped conviction for any offence, though in the meantime spent four days in jail.

But apparently the same people who objected to the sight of these skimpily-clad bodies didn’t have the same problem with the way the Petronas bimbos flaunted their boobies and booties.

Personally, of course, I take no offence whatever at the sight of beautiful, bootiful, boobiful or otherwise bountiful bodies of any sex or gender. But I do object to behaviour by fellow Australians that offends if not insults the cultural sensitivities of people in foreign countries of which they are guests.

And I shudder at the sight and sound of bunches of oinks arrogantly shouting “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oi, oi, oi” anywhere, either at home or abroad.

Especially when the offenders are not only of what should be mature age, but also of privileged family and educational backgrounds, as in the case of what the Australian media are calling either the ‘Budgy Nine’ or ‘Budgie Nine’

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This is more any respecting Malaysian can take–It is provocative and uncalled for.

Alternative spellings that bring me to what no media in Australia or elsewhere appear to have noticed: an apparently commercial motivation for this group’s antics.

Swimsuits of the kind they flaunted in Malaysia, and reportedly previously in locations as diverse as Croatia, The Netherlands, Italy and Greece, and which are worn by male competitive swimmers virtually everywhere, have been traditionally known as Speedos.

Only comparatively recently have Speedo-brand and other Speedo-style swimsuits become known in Australian slang as ‘budgie smugglers’, a term defined by the online Urban Dictionary as ‘any item of male bathing costume that encloses the wearer’s genitalia in a manner that resembles the concealment of a budgerigar’.

In other words, ‘budgie smugglers’ is a generic slang term, but ‘Budgy smugglers’, as close scrutiny of the nine flaunters of this garment in Malaysia reveals, is a registered brand.

Marketing method in apparent madness

Thus there could clearly be a good deal of marketing method in these exhibitionists’ apparent madness, and presumably a great deal for some or all of them to gain from the glare of global exposure they are achieving for the Budgy smugglers brand through such stunts as they have pulled in Malaysia and elsewhere.

In short, I strongly suspect that the Budgy Nine are in it not just for laughs but for also for loot. Or, if you like, into semi-baring their booties for booty.

If this is the case, then it’s no wonder they were treated so leniently by the Malaysian court before which they appeared. Because apparently, as far as Malaysian ‘justice’ is concerned, the more privileged the suspect and the more booty involved, the better.

Petty offences by the poor and powerless are mercilessly punished, as in the case of illegal immigrant Abu Huraira Razak, who was recently sentenced to three years in jail, a RM5,000 fine or additional 12 months in jail and deportation after serving his sentence for breaking into a restaurant and stealing RM1.

Yet, to cite just a few of countless examples of cases of the connected getting away with the booty, the principals involved in the RM250-million National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) scandal were found to have no case to answer; as far as I know nobody has been penalised or repaid a penny for involvement in the RM12-billion Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) fraud; billionaire timber-stealing suspect Abdul Taib ‘The Termite’ Taib apparently remains untouchable; and of course Malaysian Official 1 and his accomplices in the RM42-billion 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fiasco are at least so far still uncharged and at large.

Furthermore, in an outrageous instance of the pot’s calling the kettle black, the man most largely responsible for enabling if not engineering this bootyful but far from beautiful state of affairs, Mahathir Mohamad, despite his own wealth and that of his allegedly filthy-rich sons, remains free to criticise his successors for continuing his legacy.

In the face of such massive crime and corruption, not to mention politically-connected killings, it seems obscene to me that so many Malaysians can get their knickers in knots about such a minuscule matter as the sight of a bunch of beer-swilling mat sallehs in Budgy smugglers.

But I suppose that at least it serves to divert their attention for a moment from the fact that they’re forever the butts of a far more serious if not outright fatal joke: a ruling regime that sees them as nothing but a source of booty, and complete with institutions as the police, judiciary and media that allegedly utterly fail to perform their sworn duty.

South China Sea dispute: where the world stands


June 14, 2016

South China Sea dispute: where the world stands

by Matthew Pennington

A case brought by the Philippines against China represents a diplomatic dilemma for far-flung nations as Washington and Beijing rally support for their respective positions on the use of international arbitration in South China Sea disputes.

The United States has been building diplomatic pressure in the West and in Asia on China to abide by the Hague-based tribunal’s decision, which is expected soon. China, which maintains it won’t be bound by the ruling, has been pushing back by building support from nations mostly in Africa and the Mideast.

The US is not a party to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, under which the tribunal has been constituted, but says it wants China to play by international rules. Since there is no enforcement mechanism for the ruling, any impact will depend on how the international community reacts.

Here’s a look at where dozens of countries stand:

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

ASEAN has been trying for years to achieve diplomatic solutions in the South China Sea, making little progress and exposing divisions in the 10-member bloc, which includes the Philippines. Reaching consensus on the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling will be tough.

When President Barack Obama met ASEAN leaders in February they agreed on “full respect for legal and diplomatic processes” in accordance with the UN convention, but pro-China members Cambodia and Laos nixed any mention of “arbitration.”

Vietnam, which has fought China over competing South China Sea claims, has been most supportive of the Philippines’ case and submitted a statement to the tribunal. Hanoi has said it supports “full compliance” to the procedures of the convention.

But other ASEAN nations are generally wary of speaking out for fear of alienating China, the region’s economic heavyweight. Malaysia and Brunei have said little about the case, though they too are South China Sea claimants.

Indonesia and Singapore are not claimants but have been a bit more outspoken. Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said last week that the ruling could have implications beyond the South China Sea and “we cannot subscribe to the principle that might is right.” Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry declined to say whether the ruling should be binding on both sides but said international law must be respected.

Even the Philippines’ position is unpredictable as a new government takes office there June 30. President-elect Rodrigo Duterte has expressed willingness to restart bilateral negotiations with China.

Russia

Moscow, which shares China’s suspicion of Washington, is Beijing’s most prominent supporter on the issue. On a visit to China in April, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia is against any interference from outside parties in the South China Sea – a reference to the US – “or any attempts to internationalise these disputes.” Like China, Russia says disputes should be resolved through talks between the parties directly involved.

China supporters In Africa, Mideast

China’s state news agency Xinhua on May 20 said that more than 40 countries have expressed support for China’s stance on the arbitration case. The Foreign Ministry has in recent weeks given prominent mention to support it claims to have from nations principally in Africa, the Mideast and Central Asia. But few of those foreign governments have issued statements independently. Some, including Cambodia, Laos and Fiji, have disavowed China’s description of their position.

Experts at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington said they could confirm official statements from Afghanistan, Gambia, Niger, Sudan and Vanuatu. A Chinese statement with the 21-member Arab League supported China but it was unclear if it represented all the parties’ official positions.

European Union and G-7

The EU has urged all South China Sea claimants to resolve disputes through peaceful means and “pursue them in accordance with international law,” including the UN convention. The Group of Seven wealthy nations, which comprises Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the US and the EU, has called on all states to fully implement decisions binding on them in courts and tribunals provided under the convention.

In June, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian proposed that European navies coordinate patrols in Asian waters to reinforce a rules-based maritime order. He warned that if the laws of the sea are not respected in that region, they could also be challenged in the Arctic Ocean or Mediterranean Sea.

Australia

In January, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the China-Philippines ruling will be “extremely important” as a statement of international principle and will “settle once and for all” whether artificial reefs are entitled to territorial waters. But Australia has been less outspoken in support of arbitration than the US, perhaps mindful of Australia’s own resistance to arbitration to resolve its disputed maritime border with tiny East Timor.

India

India has not issued a categorical position on arbitration case, but has been broadly supportive of the application of international law. India shares US concerns about Beijing’s rising ambitions in the seas of Asia.

India’s External Affairs Ministry says that “all countries must abide by international law and norms on maritime issues.” India set an example in 2014 when it accepted a decision by the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration that ruled in favour of Bangladesh in a dispute over the countries’ maritime boundary.

Japan

Japan was an early supporter of the Philippines’ pursuit of arbitration and says both China and the Philippines should abide by the outcome. Japan sees that as upholding international law, but it also reflects concern that historic rival China seeks strategic control of vital sea lanes in the South China Sea that carry 80 per cent of Japan’s crude oil imports.

Japan’s support of third-party dispute resolution is not universal. While it has sought to take its dispute with South Korea over the South Korean-held Dokdo or Takeshima islands to the International Court of Justice, it says no such action is needed in its dispute with China over the Senkaku or Diaoyu islands, which are administered by Japan.

South Korea

Like Japan, South Korea is heavily dependent on fuel imports that pass through the South China Sea, but it has closer ties with China and has been less inclined to speak out. The Foreign Ministry says South China Sea disputes should be resolved under internationally established regulations and that it is “looking with interest” at the Philippine-China arbitration case.

Taiwan

Taiwan has complained that the tribunal has not solicited its views. While Taipei officially exercises the same nine-dash line claim as Beijing in the South China Sea, it is primarily concerned about Taiping island in the Spratlys. Taiwan administers that remote land feature and is concerned it could be designated as a rock without the rights granted to islands.

AP