Friday, March 31, 2023

China’s cities are buried in debt, but they keep shoveling it on

March 28, 2023

NEW YORK — In 2015, when Shangqiu, a municipality in central China about the size of Kentucky, laid out a plan for the next two decades, it positioned itself as a transportation hub with a sprawling network of railways, highways and river shipping routes.

By the end of 2020, Shangqiu had built 114 miles (183km) of high-speed rail, and today several national railways make stops in the city.

By 2025, Shangqiu expects the coverage of its highway network to have increased by 87 per cent. The city is building its first two airports, three new highways and enough parking space for 20,000 additional slots.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Ties with federal government improved under PM Anwar, says Johor Sultan

Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar with Malaysia’s Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim on Feb 8, 2023.
(Photo: Facebook/Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar)

23 Mar 2023 

JOHOR BAHRU: Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar said the state government’s relationship with the federal government has improved under Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

Sultan Ibrahim said that he has been getting along well with the Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman, who leads the unity government.

“We have worked very well together. I would say it’s better than any other previous prime ministers,” Sultan Ibrahim was quoted as saying by The Star on Thursday (Mar 23). 

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Commentary: Anti-corruption sweep exposes a disturbing truth in Malaysia

With former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin and others caught in the widening anti-corruption net, Anwar Ibrahim might have the momentum to push through political funding law reform, says CNA’s Leslie Lopez.

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has made battling corruption the central plank of his reform government.
But there are gripes over delays on pushing ahead with law to regulate political funding. (Photo: Facebook/Anwar Ibrahim)

Leslie Lopez

21 Mar 2023 

KUALA LUMPUR: Before taking over as Malaysian Prime Minister in November last year, Anwar Ibrahim often told his closest advisors that reforms to regulate political funding would be a priority. But it appears taming widespread corruption in government and politics must take precedence.

Recent charges brought against former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin and several leaders of his Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) party over governance breaches in a COVID-19 stimulus programme that was introduced in November 2020 to jumpstart the economy show that state capture remains a huge problem and little has been learnt from the debacle surrounding 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Muhyiddin has been slapped with seven separate charges that involved the abuse of power, mounting to RM237.5 million (US$53 million), and money laundering, totalling RM195 million. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Commentary: Call by China foreign minister for ASEAN to stay clear of power rivalry highlights tricky balancing act for region

Some Southeast Asian leaders have said they will not take sides in the US-China conflict - but if pushed, it is not unlikely they will do so according to national interests, says Oh Ei Sun.

Marines at the opening ceremony of an annual US-Philippine joint military exercise at Fort Bonifacio, Taguig city,
Philippines, Oct 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Oh Ei Sun

08 Mar 2023 

SHANGHAI: At a press conference on the sidelines of China’s annual “two sessions”, a question posed to Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang seemed to channel Southeast Asian regional sentiments.

The question postulated that as China’s economy faces growing downward pressure, regional countries are finding it difficult to rely on the US for security guarantees, and on China for economic development.

And according to media reports, Qin was equally blunt in answering, advising that Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should stay clear of any power rivalry between big countries. He noted that leaders of regional countries have stated that ASEAN should not be a proxy for any party.

Monday, March 6, 2023

China has some doubt on ability to invade Taiwan: CIA chief

Taiwanese Mirage 2000 fighter jets taxi along a runway during a drill at an airbase in Hsinchu, Taiwan, on Jan 11, 2023.
(Photo: AP/Johnson Lai)

27 Feb 2023

WASHINGTON: US intelligence shows that China's President Xi Jinping has instructed his country's military to “be ready by 2027" to invade Taiwan though he may be currently harbouring doubts about his ability to do so given Russia's experience in its war with Ukraine, CIA Director William Burns said.

Burns, in a television interview that aired on Sunday (Feb 26), stressed that the United States must take “very seriously” Xi's desire to ultimately control Taiwan even if military conflict is not inevitable.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Commentary: Why taking a long view on Singapore’s defence spending will reap security dividends over time

Defence Minister Ng Eng Heng viewing an F35 aircraft at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Arizona in December 2015.  
Raj Nadarajan/TODAY


February 28, 2023

Defence planning, expenditure, and acquisition are necessary tasks that require exercising “the art of the long view”, to use the term by famous futurist and scenario-planner Peter Schwartz.

This year’s debate on the Ministry of Defence’s (Mindef) budget serves to reinforce once again that our defence spending remains prudent and balanced, and is based on “the long view”, to ensure that Singaporeans can continue to enjoy adequate security from external threats, as they have in the past.

This is a dividend which, unfortunately, cannot be consistently derived in many countries, particularly those across Europe.

One need not look further than the current situation in Ukraine, which marked the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion on Feb 24.

Against this backdrop, it’s important that Mindef and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) remain committed to the course of transformation to stay ahead of evolving threats.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Fat, Sugar, Salt … You’ve Been Thinking About Food All Wrong

Scientists are asking tough questions about the health effects of ultra-processed diets. The answers are complicated—and surprising.

IN THE LATE 2000s, Carlos Monteiro noticed something strange about the food that Brazilian people were eating. The nutritionist had been poring over three decades’ worth of data from surveys that asked grocery shoppers to note down every item they bought. In more recent surveys, Monteiro noticed, Brazilians were buying way less oil, sugar, and salt than they had in the past. Despite this, people were piling on the pounds. Between 1975 and 2009 the proportion of Brazilian adults who were overweight or obese more than doubled.

This contradiction troubled Monteiro. If people were buying less fat and sugar, why were they getting bigger? The answer was right there in the data. Brazilians hadn’t really cut down on fat, salt, and sugar—they were just consuming these nutrients in an entirely new form. People were swapping traditional foods—rice, beans, and vegetables—for prepackaged bread, sweets, sausages, and other snacks. The share of biscuits and soft drinks in Brazilians’ shopping baskets had tripled and quintupled, respectively, since the first household survey in 1974. The change was noticeable everywhere. When Monteiro first qualified as a doctor in 1972, he’d worried that Brazilians weren’t getting enough to eat. By the late 2000s, his country was suffering with the exact opposite problem.