Where Is Oceania? 4 Things to Know About This Remote Corner of the Globe

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIP TRIVIA)

 

Where Is Oceania? 4 Things to Know About This Remote Corner of the Globe

Have you heard of Oceania? If not, don’t worry. You aren’t alone. Few people outside of the region are familiar with this remote corner of the world, despite its rich cultural background. Let’s shine some light on the area with four things you might not have known about Oceania.

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Oceania Is the Region Between Asia and the Americas

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First and foremost, where the heck is Oceania? Oceania is the collective name for the islands that rest between Asia, Australia, and North America. The area is generally broken into four parts:

  • Australasia (Australia and New Zealand)
  • Melanesia
  • Micronesia
  • Polynesia

Broadly, this range encompasses most of the tiny islands and archipelagos that dot the Pacific. In fact, Oceania contains over 10,000 islands across its entire geography. But of course, not every island in the Pacific qualifies as part of Oceania.

The islands included in Oceania’s territory are grouped together for their similarities in heritage and cultural traditions. But others in the area, such as Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan, and the Philippines, have cultures more firmly rooted in the Asian continent proper. Therefore, common definitions often exclude them from Oceania’s boundaries.

Oceania Contains 14 Different Countries

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Within the above four regions, there’s a surprising amount of political diversity. The Oceania region is home to 14 different countries:

  • Australia
  • Papua New Guinea
  • New Zealand
  • Solomon Islands
  • Fiji
  • Vanuatu
  • Samoa
  • Kiribati
  • Tonga
  • Federated States of Micronesia
  • Palau
  • Marshall Islands
  • Tuvalu
  • Nauru

In addition to these countries, the greater Oceania region boasts many islands that belong to mainland countries located elsewhere in the world. Many of the countries listed above (like Australia or Fiji) are sovereign nations in their own right, though many of the smaller island nations became independent only recently. Others are even more complicated.

Take Samoa, for example: An archipelago with both sovereign and owned islands. While the western islands of Samoa are self-managed, the eastern island — dubbed “American Samoa” — is an official territory of the U.S. And given just how many islands there are throughout Oceania, it’s fair to say that this region has a more complicated political landscape than other isolated areas.

Oceania’s Economy Is Dominated by Tourism

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Though home to over 40 million people, Oceania is considered somewhat remote compared to many other parts of the world. And though many of its member nations have thriving import/export economies that bring in substantial income, the vast majority of the region’s economy is dominated by a single industry: tourism.

According to state reports, tourism contributed $57 billion to Australia’s economy in 2017/2018. Other regions in the area, such as New Zealand and the Hawaiian Islands, report similar figures, with tourism making up substantial portions of their GDP.

Part of the region’s desirability comes from its isolation. Wealthy travelers from Japan, China, the Americas, and the U.K. regularly visit the Oceanic region on holidays, likely because of the area’s unique climate, diverse wildlife, and “beachside paradise” allure. And while tourism is a challenging income source to maintain, it has the potential to bring significant revenue to otherwise impoverished areas.

Oceania Is Home to Ancient Artistic Tradition

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With so many diverse member states and cultural histories making up its foundation, it makes sense that Oceanian art would be rooted in human history. In fact, the longest continuously-practiced artistic tradition in the world is found in Oceania: The rock art of Australian Aboriginal cultures, some of which date back over 40,000 years!

But that’s only the beginning. The Oceanic region is known for artistic works of all kinds, including sculptures, paintings, feather works, tattoos and bark weaving. You might be familiar with one of the region’s most iconic and mysterious artistic creations, the Easter Island Moai.

These giant, monolithic statues were carved by the Rapa Nui people of Polynesia sometime between 1400 and 1650 CE. And while they’re just one of the many amazing cultural artifacts to come out of Oceania, they’re certainly an impressive sight to behold.

The Diverse World of Oceania

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Unlike other regions, Oceania is too diverse to lay claim to a specific culture or set of beliefs. Its constituent nations are diverse, and so are its inhabitants. So if you ever get a chance to get down there and see the area for yourself, we suggest you take it! It’s a remote region of the world unlike any other.

3 Things You Must Know Before Visiting Myanmar

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

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3 Things You Must Know Before Visiting Myanmar

Myanmar is a beautiful country with a rich history that you could spend years exploring. Many of its people belong to the Buddhist religion, and almost every aspect of their culture reflects this. While most people from Myanmar are warm and welcoming to travelers, there are certain things that tourists should and shouldn’t do if they don’t want to seem disrespectful. Here are three things you must know before visiting Myanmar so that you and everyone else will have a calm, enjoyable time.

The Fork Is Not Your Friend

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In America, we eat pretty much everything but soup with a fork. In Myanmar, though, forks are not usedfor the bulk of the eating. They are used, but not in a way that is familiar to us. Forks are held in the left hand and used to push food onto a spoon held in the right, which you then eat with. Knives are also largely absent in Myanmar, but this is a bit easier to get used to. Luckily, eating with a fork isn’t as serious as some other faux pas you could make, but it is always best to appear polite and observe the local customs whenever possible.

Money Exchange Can Be Complicated

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Myanmar has a closed money economy, meaning that the Kyat, its official currency, can’t be bought outside of the country. This means that you have to exchange your U.S. dollars inside Myanmar itself, but there are a few catches. The first is that the higher the value on your bill ($20, $50, $100, etc.), the more favorable your exchange rate will be, so the best course of action is to exchange high-value cash if you can. Also, your cash must be pristine. According to the Myanmar government, any marks, stains, or rips on your bills make them useless and worth nothing, so they will not accept them in an exchange.  To make things even more complicated, the U.S. dollars you are exchanging must also have been printed after 2003, and can’t feature serial numbers with CB, BC, or AB because of a counterfeiting scheme carried out by North Korea several years ago. The one good thing, though, is that most trains, boats, planes, etc. accept the U.S. dollar as currency, so you don’t have to exchange everything.

Watch Your Feet

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In America, we don’t tend to think much about where we point our feet. We just walk or stand and that’s about it. In Myanmar, though, it is considered to be extremely rude to point your feet at a person, a statue, or other object, because feet are considered to be “the most disrespectful part of the body.” Be mindful to point your feet in a neutral direction when you are talking to a person (especially a local), so as not to offend anyone. On this same topic, it is also important to remove both your shoes and your socks before entering one of Myanmar’s many breathtaking temples or pagodas. The Myanmarese fought very hard for their right to worship their religion in the way they feel is best and most respectful, so it is only right to follow their rules.

Six Geography Facts That Will Change The Way You Look At The World

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

As an avid explorer and Travel Trivia reader, you probably know a lot about the world. Well, this planet hides a few surprises. Here are six geography facts that will change the way you see the world.

Around 90% of the Planet’s Population Lives in the Northern Hemisphere

Around 90% of the Planet's Population Lives in the Northern Hemisphere

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When we think about where people live, we assume each hemisphere has a good number of residents. In reality, most of the world’s population is located in the Northern Hemisphere, leaving the Southern Hemisphere nearly uninhabited by this study’s standards. Around 90% of the people on the planet live in the Northern part of the world in countries such as the U.S. and China, making the rest of the world look a bit sparse.

Continents Shift at the Same Speed That Your Fingernails Grow

Continents Shift at the Same Speed That Your Fingernails Grow

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If you were awake during social studies class, you will remember that the planet’s tectonic plates are in a state of near-constant movement. This is how the earth went from having basically one big continent to having seven. For around 40 million years, the continents were in a slow phase, moving away from each other at a rate of about one millimeter per year. Then, about 200 million years ago, things got kicked into high gear and the plates began to move at 20 millimeters per year, which, scientists say, is equivalent to the speed at which fingernails grow.

Reno, Nevada, Is Farther West Than Los Angeles

Reno, Nevada, Is Farther West Than Los Angeles

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Los Angeles is typically seen as the West Coast city. It is right next to the ocean and it has all those beaches, so it would make sense for it to be farther west than a desert city like Reno, Nevada, right? Wrong! Reno is actually around 86 miles farther west than Los Angeles, due to the curve of California and the placement of the states.

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Asia Is Bigger Than the Moon

Asia Is Bigger Than the Moon

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Continuing on this same shocking track, the moon isn’t as big as it looks either. Still, though, it is around 27 percent of the size of Earth and has 14.6 million square miles of surface area. Although this seems like a lot, it is significantly less than the total surface area of Asia, which is 17.2 million square miles, meaning that Earth’s biggest continent is actually bigger than the moon.

Mount Everest Is Not the World’s Tallest Mountain

Mount Everest Is Not the World's Tallest Mountain

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If someone asks you “What is the tallest mountain in the world?” you will surely answer, “Why, Mount Everest, of course! Everyone knows that!” But sadly, you would be wrong. Technically, Mount Everest is the tallest mountain above sea level, but it isn’t the tallest in the world. This honor goes to Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Mauna Kea rises up 13,796 feet above sea level (compared to Everest’s 29,035 feet), but it also extends down an additional 19,700 feet below sea level, into the Pacific Ocean. To make this mountain even cooler, it is actually a volcano, whose last eruption was 4,600 years ago.

Alaska Is the Westernmost, Easternmost and Northernmost State in the U.S.

Alaska Is the Westernmost, Easternmost and Northernmost State in the U.S.

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This sounds impossible, but I assure you it is true. From looking at a map, it is pretty obvious that Alaska is the northernmost state in the country. What’s surprising? The Aleutian Islands between Russia and Alaska boast the westernmost point of the United States, but in what seems like some sort of geographical oxymoron, they are also home to the easternmost point of the U.S. too. An island called Semisopochnoi (which just so happens to be a collapsed volcano) has a spot that sits so far to the west (around ten miles west of the Prime Meridian) that it actually becomes easternmost spot in the U.S.

UN report finds creative China is booming, supporting Asian trade

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SHANGHAI CHINA’S SHINE NETWORK)

 

UN report finds creative China is booming, supporting Asian trade

Xinhua

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development said Wednesday that one of its recent reports on the creative economy shows that China’s trade in creative goods and services is outstripping those of other countries and regions.

This makes it the “driving force behind a prosperous creative economy over the past 15 years”, said UNCTAD in a statement here.

The report tracks the country’s performance in the trade of creative goods and services between 2002 and 2015 and finds that China is the biggest single exporter and importer.

UNCTAD said that China’s trade in creative goods between 2002 and 2015 grew exponentially, at an annual rate of 14 percent.

In 2002, China’s trade in creative goods amounted to US$32 billion. By 2014, this figure had increased more than fivefold, climbing to US$191.4 billion.

There was a drop off in 2015 when China recorded a US$168.5-billion trade in creative goods, but comparatively the country has maintained the lion’s share of the trade in creative goods.

“China’s contribution to the global creative economy is both important and has driven more than a decade’s worth of growth in creative industries and services,” said UNCTAD creative economy head, Marisa Henderson.

Currently, China is the world’s biggest art market, and the film market is set to expand.

The country’s creative economy growth is fueled by internet accessibility, a big consumer marketplace, and a growing digital economy, both closely integrated with the creative economy.

The data also shows that Asia outpaced all other regions, with China and South East Asia, combined accounting for US$228 billion of creative exports, almost double that of Europe.

Besides China, India, Turkey, Thailand, Malaysia, Mexico, and the Philippines were also among the top performing developing economies stimulating global trade in creative goods.

“Generally, South-South trade is on the rise and looks set to be an area of vibrant future growth especially for the creative economy, where the Asian nations are currently very strong performers,” said Henderson.

Among developed economies, the United States, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands, Poland, Belgium, and Japan were the top 10 creative goods exporters.

South Korea Legalizes Medical Marijuana, First Country In Asia To Do So

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BUSINESS DAILY NEWS)

 

South Korea became the first country in East Asia to legalize medical cannabis, marking a significant milestone in the global industry and a potential turning point in how the drug is perceived in traditionally conservative societies.

The country’s National Assembly voted to approve amending the Act on the Management of Narcotic Drugs to pave the way for non-hallucinogenic dosages of medical cannabis prescriptions.

Medical marijuana will still be tightly restricted, but the law’s approval by the central government is seen as a breakthrough in a country many believed would be last – not among the first – to approve any use of cannabis, even if it is just low-THC, or CBD, to start.

To receive medical cannabis, patients would be required to apply to the Korea Orphan Drug Center, a government body established to facilitate patient access to rare medicines in the country.

Approval would be granted on a case-by-case basis.

Patients would also need to receive a prescription from a medical practitioner.

South Korea’s cannabis law overcame a major obstacle in July when it won the support of the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, which said at the time it would permit Epidiolex, Marinol, Cesamet and Sativex for conditions including epilepsy, symptoms of HIV/AIDS and cancer-related treatments.

On Nov. 23 the ministry said a series of amended laws passed in a National Assembly session will expand the treatment opportunities for patients with rare diseases.

A number of other countries had been vying to join Israel as the first countries in Asia to allow medical cannabis, including Thailand and Malaysia.

“South Korea legalizing medical cannabis, even if it will be tightly controlled with limited product selection, represents a significant breakthrough for the global cannabis industry,” said Vijay Sappani, CEO of Toronto-based Ela Capital, a venture capital firm exploring emerging markets in the cannabis space.

“The importance of Korea being the first country in East Asia to allow medical cannabis at a federal level should not be understated. Now it’s a matter of when other Asian countries follow South Korea, not if.”

Matt Lamers can be reached at [email protected]

To sign up for our weekly international marijuana business newsletter, click here.

India: Participation in Asean, East Asia summits sign of continued commitment, Modi

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

Participation in Asean, East Asia summits a sign of continued commitment, says PM Narendra Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is participating in the Asean-India and East Asia Summits in Singapore on November 14-15.

INDIA Updated: Nov 14, 2018 00:04 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Nanredra Modi in Singapore,Asean summit,PM Modi in Singapore
Prime Minister Narendra Modi embarks on the plane to leave for Singapore on November 13. (Twitter/PMO)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Tuesday his participation in the Asean-India and East Asia Summits in Singapore reflects India’s “continued commitment” to strengthen its engagement with Asean members and the wider Indo-Pacific region.

Besides participating in these two summits during November 14-15, Modi will also join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) leaders’ meeting and hold a bilateral meeting with US vice president Mike Pence.

“My participation in these meetings symbolises our continued commitment to strengthening our engagement with Asean member states and with the wider Indo-Pacific region. I am looking forward to my interactions with other Asean and East Asia Summit leaders,” Modi said in his departure statement.

On Wednesday, Modi will be the first head of government to deliver the keynote address at the Singapore Fintech Festival. As the world’s largest financial technology event, he said, the festival is the right forum to showcase India’s strengths in this fast-growing sector and to forge global partnerships for fostering innovation. Modi said he would also have the opportunity to interact with participants and winners of the India-Singapore Hackathon. “It is my firm belief that if we provide the right encouragement and a nurturing ecosystem, our youth has the ability to become global leaders in providing solutions to the challenges facing humanity,” he added.

Besides Pence, Modi will hold bilateral meetings with Singapore PM Lee Hsein Loong, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

First Published: Nov 14, 2018 00:02 IST

“The people’s voices” prevail: Sri Lanka’s prime ministerial crisis to be put to a parliamentary vote

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘GLOBAL VOICES’)

 

“The people’s voices” prevail: Sri Lanka’s prime ministerial crisis to be put to a parliamentary vote

The Parliament of Sri Lanka. Image from Flickr by Kolitha de Silva. CC BY 2.0

Since October 26, when Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena ousted Ranil Wickremesinghe, the country’s prime minister, and replaced him with former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, the ensuing political crisis has many in the country analyzing the constitutional legitimacy of appointing a prime minister without wider consent. The president also suspended the country’s parliament for three weeks and dissolved the cabinet of ministers.

On October 30 and 31, in response to the questionable legitimacy of Wickremesinghe’s removal and the temporary suspension of Parliament, thousands took to the streets of Colombo to demand that Parliament be reconvened in order to resolve the ongoing political crisis.

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Azzam Ameen

@AzzamAmeen

Massive Demonstration in Colombo demanding President Sirisena to convene Parliament “The people have spoken. Summon Parliament. Restore democracy now” says @

Harsha de Silva

@HarshadeSilvaMP

Thank you! Tens of thousands of people thronged the entrance to Temple Trees. They were orderly, not drunk and didnt climb lamp posts. They came only to demand that parliament be summoned and dislodge . Huge success. @MaithripalaS don’t trample democracy. @RW_UNP

Vikalpa

@vikalpavoices

Live updates from the people’s protest at the Liberty Plaza roundabout calling for the re-convening of Parliament

In a news conference, Speaker of Parliament Karu Jayasuriya urged the president to let Wickremesinghe prove his majority support on the parliament floor, and warned of a bloodbath if the impasse continues.

Nusky Mukthar@NuskyMukthar

Diplomats from UN, EU, UK, Canada & Germany met the Speaker today and urged to convene the parliament and to ensure democracy is protected

Pressure from protests to reconvene Parliament have borne fruit, as Sirisena has scheduled a parliamentary vote to decide who is the lawful prime minister on November 7.

A dysfunctional coalition

The events of the past few days have stoked fears among some Sri Lankans of a return to the period of Mahinda Rajapaska’s presidency, when sectarian violence, state-sponsored repression and censorship were rife. As a group of students has noted in a statement on the matter published by GroundViews:

The resort to violence and coercion is a chilling reminder of what dictatorship looks like. The coup is being followed by a return to the norms of self-censorship, violence, and fear that were characteristic of Rajapaksa-era politics. State media institutions were stormed in the night and security for the Prime Minister and Ministers  arbitrarily withdrawn. Moreover, many private media stations are already becoming vehicles for misinforming the public and spreading disinformation.

Sirisena told reporters that he removed Wickremesinghe after discovering that the latter was involved in an assassination plot against him. But it is believed that the current situation is, in fact, a by-product of the existing power struggle between Sirisena, Wickremesinghe, and Rajapaksa.

In January 2015, then-President Mahinda Rajapaksa called for a presidential election in a bid to consolidate his power and to seek a third term in office. Sirisena, a former minister in Rajapaksa’s government, defected from Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and was nominated as a candidate by the Wickremesinghe-led United National Party (UNP) to contest the presidency against the incumbent. Sirisena emerged the surprising winner—securing 51.28% votes against Rajapaksa’s 47.28%—and took over as the new president of Sri Lanka.

After the election, Rajapaksa handed over leadership of the SLFP party to Sirisena in accordance with the party’s constitution, which states that any member who is President is automatically leader of the party. During the parliamentary elections in August 2015, Siresena’s and Rajapaksa’s factions joined forces to contest the election under the banner of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA). Wickremesinghe’s UNP-led coalition, however, won 106 seats out of 225, with the UFPA winning 95—55 by the pro-Rajapaksa faction, and 40 by the pro-Sirisena faction.

After the parliamentary elections, Sirisena appointed Wickremesinghe prime minister and created a National Government after signing a memorandum of understanding in order to address issues which were not resolved after the end of the 30-year ethnic conflict. Since then, the Rajapaksa-led SLFP faction has been the de-facto opposition party.

Over the past two years, however, Rajapaksa has been gaining significant ground, and his party swept the local elections in February 2018. In April 2018, Wickremesinghe survived a no-confidence motion in Parliament brought by supporters of Rajapaksa, a move clearly meant to weaken the already unstable ruling coalition.

The growing popularity of Rajapaksa’s SLFP party and existing tensions between Sirisena and Wickremesinghe over the latter’s leaning towards India as a geopolitical partner instead of China, may be one of the many reasons that Sirisena has chosen to appoint Rajapaksa as prime minister.

“The people’s voices have been heard. . . ” Wickremesinghe stated optimistically on Twitter on November 1, after it was learnt that parliament would be reconvened next week. “Democracy will prevail.”

The Chinese century is well under way

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ECONOMIST)

 

 

The Chinese century is well under way

Many trends that appear global are in fact mostly Chinese

When scholars of international relations predict that the 2000s will be a “Chinese century”, they are not being premature. Although America remains the lone superpower, China has already replaced it as the driver of global change.

There is one economic metric on which China already ranks first. Measured at market exchange rates, China’s gdp is still 40% smaller than America’s. However, on a purchasing-power-parity (ppp) basis, which adjusts currencies so that a basket of goods and services is worth the same amount in different countries, the Chinese economy became the world’s largest in 2013. Although China is often grouped with other “emerging markets”, its performance is unique: its gdp per person at ppphas risen tenfold since 1990. In general, poorer economies grow faster than rich ones, because it is easier to “catch up” when starting from a low base. Yet in other countries that were as poor as China was in 1990, purchasing power has merely doubled.

China’s record has exerted a “gravitational pull” on the world’s economic output. The Economist has calculated a geographic centre of the global economy by taking an average of each country’s latitude and longitude, weighted by their gdp. At the height of America’s dominance, this point sat in the north Atlantic. But China has tugged it so far east that the global centre of economic gravity is now in Siberia.

Because China is so populous and is developing so quickly, it is responsible for a remarkable share of global change. Since the start of the financial crisis in 2008, for example, China has accounted for 45% of the gain in world gdp. In 1990 some 750m Chinese people lived in extreme poverty; today fewer than 10m do. That represents two-thirds of the world’s decline in poverty during that time. China is also responsible for half of the total increase in patent applications over the same period.

For all its talk of a “peaceful rise”, China has steadily beefed up its military investment—even as the rest of the world cut back after the end of the cold war. As a result, the People’s Liberation Army accounts for over 60% of the total increase in global defence spending since 1990. And all of this growth has come at a considerable cost to the environment: China is also the source of 55% of the increase in the world’s carbon emissions since 1990.

Sources: Economist Intelligence Unit; Global Carbon Project; Maddison Project Database; SIPRI; World Bank; World Intellectual Property Organisation; The Economist
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This article appeared in the Graphic detail section of the print edition under the headline “Well under way”

It Is The Communist Government Of China That Is “Confused” Not The Whole World

(This article is courtesy of the Reuters News Agency)

China says Japan trying to ‘confuse’ South China Sea situation

China on Monday accused Japan of trying to “confuse” the situation in the South China Sea, after its neighbor said it would step up activity in the contested waters, through joint training patrols with the United States.

Ties between Asia’s two largest economies have long been overshadowed by arguments over their painful wartime history and a territorial spat in the East China Sea, among other issues.

China has repeatedly denounced what it views as interference by the United States and its ally Japan in the South China Sea.

Japan will also help build the capacity of coastal states in the busy waterway, its defense minister said last week during a visit to Washington.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said countries in the region had reached a consensus that the South China Sea issue should be resolved through talks between the parties directly involved, and that China and Southeast Asian countries should jointly maintain peace and stability there.

“Let’s have a look at the results of Japan’s throwing things into disorder over this same time period … trying to confuse the South China Sea situation under the pretense of (acting for) the international community,” Lu told a daily news briefing, when asked about Japan’s announcement.

Japan’s actions have simply pushed other countries away from it, and it has failed to compel other nations to see its point of view, he added.

“China is resolute in its determination to protect its sovereignty and maritime interests,” Lu said.

China claims almost all of the South China Sea, through which ships carrying about $5 trillion in trade pass every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims in the sea, which is also believed to be rich in energy resources and fish stocks.

In July, an arbitration court in the Hague said China’s claims to the waterway were invalid, after a case was brought by the Philippines. Beijing has refused to recognize the ruling.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

The Great Nation Of Singapore, It’s History And It’s People

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA FACT BOOK)

 

Singapore

Introduction Singapore was founded as a British trading colony in 1819. It joined the Malaysian Federation in 1963 but separated two years later and became independent. Singapore subsequently became one of the world’s most prosperous countries with strong international trading links (its port is one of the world’s busiest in terms of tonnage handled) and with per capita GDP equal to that of the leading nations of Western Europe.
History First settlement

The first records of settlement in Singapore are from the 2nd century AD. The island was an outpost of the Sumatran Srivijaya empire and originally had the Javanese name Temasek (‘sea town’). Temasek (Tumasek) rapidly became a significant trading settlement, but declined in the late 14th century. There are few remnants of old Temasek in Singapore, but archaeologists in Singapore have uncovered artefacts of that and other settlements. Between the 16th and early 19th centuries, Singapore island was part of the Sultanate of Johor. During the Malay-Portugal wars in 1613, the settlement was set ablaze by Portuguese troops. The Portuguese subsequently held control in that century and the Dutch in the 17th, but throughout most of this time the island’s population consisted mainly of fishermen.

Colonial rule

On 29 January 1819, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles landed on the main island. Spotting its potential as a strategic geographical trading post in Southeast Asia, Raffles signed a treaty with Sultan Hussein Shah on behalf of the British East India Company on 6 February 1819 to develop the southern part of Singapore as a British trading post and settlement. Until August 1824, Singapore was still a territory controlled by a Malay Ruler. Singapore only officially became a British colony in August 1824 when the British extended control over the whole island. John Crawfurd, the second resident of Singapore, was the one who made Singapore a British possession. He signed a treaty with Sultan Hussein Shah on 2 August 1824 in which the Sultan and the Temmenggong handed over the whole island to the British East India Company thus marking the start of the island’s modern era. Raffles’s deputy, William Farquhar, oversaw a period of growth and ethnic migration, which was largely spurred by a no-restriction immigration policy. The British India office governed the island from 1858, but Singapore was made a British crown colony in 1867, answerable directly to the Crown. By 1869, 100,000 lived on the island.

The early onset of town planning in colonial Singapore came largely through a “divide and rule” framework where the different ethnic groups were settled in different parts of the South of the island. The Singapore River was largely a commercial area that was dominated by traders and bankers of various ethnic groups with mostly Chinese and Indian coolies working to load and unload goods from barge boats known locally as “bumboats”. The Malays, consisting of the local “Orang Lauts” who worked mostly as fishermen and seafarers, and Arab traders and scholars were mostly found in the South-east part of the river mouth, where Kampong Glam stands today. The European settlers, who were few then, settled around Fort Canning Hill and further upstream from the Singapore River. Like the Europeans, the early Indian migrants also settled more inland of the Singapore River, where Little India stands today. Very little is known about the rural private settlements in those times (known as kampongs), other than the major move by the post-independent Singapore government to re-settle these residents in the late 1960s.

World War II

Years before the rise of the Japanese, the British noted that Japan was building its forces rapidly. Wanting to protect its assets in SouthEast Asia, the British decided to build a naval base on the Northern end of Singapore. However, due to the war with Germany, all warship and war equipment was brought over to Europe.

During World War II, the Imperial Japanese Army invaded Malaya, culminating in the Battle of Singapore. The ill-prepared British, with most of their forces in Europe, were defeated in six days, and surrendered the supposedly impregnable fortress to General Tomoyuki Yamashita on 15 February 1942. The surrender was described by British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill as “the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history.” The British naval base (see above) was destroyed before the Japanese could take over the base and make use of it. The Japanese renamed Singapore Shōnantō (昭南島?), from Japanese “Shōwa no jidai ni eta minami no shima” (“昭和の時代に得た南の島”?), or “southern island obtained in the age of Shōwa”, and occupied it until the British repossessed the island on 12 September 1945, a month after the Japanese surrender.

The name Shōnantō was, at the time, romanised as “Syonan-to” or “Syonan”, which means “Light of the South”.

Independence

Singapore became a self-governing state within the British Empire in 1959 with Yusof bin Ishak as its first Yang di-Pertuan Negara or president, and Lee Kuan Yew as its first Prime Minister. It declared independence from Britain unilaterally in August 1963, before joining the Federation of Malaysia in September along with Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak as the result of the 1962 Merger Referendum of Singapore. Singapore left the federation two years after heated ideological conflict between the state’s PAP government and the federal Kuala Lumpur government. Singapore officially gained sovereignty on 9 August 1965. Yusof bin Ishak was sworn in as the first President of Singapore and Lee Kuan Yew remained prime minister.

While trying to be self-sufficient, the fledging nation faced problems like mass unemployment, housing shortages, and a dearth of land and natural resources. During Lee Kuan Yew’s term as prime minister from 1959 to 1990, his administration tackled the problem of widespread unemployment, raised the standard of living, and implemented a large-scale public housing programme.[citation needed]It was during this time that the foundation of the country’s economic infrastructure was developed; the threat of racial tension was curbed; and an independent national defence system centring around compulsory male military service was created.

In 1990, Goh Chok Tong succeeded Lee as Prime Minister. During his tenure, the country tackled the impacts of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, the 2003 SARS outbreak, and terrorist threats posed by Jemaah Islamiyah after the September 11 attacks. In 2004, Lee Hsien Loong, the eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew, became the third prime minister. Amongst his more notable decisions is the plan to open casinos to attract tourism.

Geography Location: Southeastern Asia, islands between Malaysia and Indonesia
Geographic coordinates: 1 22 N, 103 48 E
Map references: Southeast Asia
Area: total: 692.7 sq km
land: 682.7 sq km
water: 10 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly more than 3.5 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 193 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 3 nm
exclusive fishing zone: within and beyond territorial sea, as defined in treaties and practice
Climate: tropical; hot, humid, rainy; two distinct monsoon seasons – Northeastern monsoon (December to March) and Southwestern monsoon (June to September); inter-monsoon – frequent afternoon and early evening thunderstorms
Terrain: lowland; gently undulating central plateau contains water catchment area and nature preserve
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Singapore Strait 0 m
highest point: Bukit Timah 166 m
Natural resources: fish, deepwater ports
Land use: arable land: 1.47%
permanent crops: 1.47%
other: 97.06% (2005)
Irrigated land: NA
Total renewable water resources: 0.6 cu km (1975)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 0.19 cu km/yr (45%/51%/4%)
per capita: 44 cu m/yr (1975)
Natural hazards: NA
Environment – current issues: industrial pollution; limited natural fresh water resources; limited land availability presents waste disposal problems; seasonal smoke/haze resulting from forest fires in Indonesia
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: focal point for Southeast Asian sea routes
Politics Singapore is a parliamentary democracy with a Westminster system of unicameral parliamentary government representing different constituencies. The bulk of the executive powers rests with the Cabinet, headed by the Prime Minister, currently Mr Lee Hsien Loong. The office of President of Singapore, historically a ceremonial one, was granted some veto powers as of 1991 for a few key decisions such as the use of the national reserves and the appointment of judiciary positions. Although the position is to be elected by popular vote, however only the 1993 election has been contested to date. The legislative branch of government is the Parliament.

Parliamentary elections in Singapore are plurality-based for group representation constituencies since the Parliamentary Elections Act was modified in 1991.

The Members of Parliament (MPs) consist of either elected, non-constituency or nominated Members. The majority of the Members of Parliament are elected into Parliament at a General Election on a first-past-the-post basis and represent either Single Member or Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs).

The elected Members of Parliament act as a bridge between the community and the Government by ensuring that the concerns of their constituents are heard in the Parliament. The present Parliament has 94 Members of Parliament consisting of 84 elected Members of Parliament, one NCMP and nine Nominated members of Parliament.
Elected Members, In Group Representation Constituencies, political parties field a team of between three to six candidates. At least one candidate in the team must belong to a minority race. This requirement ensures that parties contesting the elections in Group Representation Constituencies are multi-racial so that minority races will be represented in Parliament. Presently there are 14 Group Representation Constituencies and 9 Single Member constituencies.
Non-Constituency Members,This is to ensure that there will be a minimum number of opposition representatives in Parliament and that views other than the Government’s can be expressed in Parliament.
Nominated Members, up to nine Nominated Members of Parliament (NMPs) was made in 1990 to ensure a wide representation of community views in Parliament. Nominated Members of Parliament are appointed by the President of Singapore for a term of two and a half years on the recommendation of a Special Select Committee of Parliament chaired by the Speaker. Nominated Members of Parliament are not connected to any political parties.

Politics in Singapore have been controlled by the People’s Action Party (PAP) since self-government was attained. In consequence, foreign political analysts and several opposition parties like the Workers’ Party of Singapore, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) and the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) have argued that Singapore is essentially a one-party state. Many analysts consider Singapore to be an illiberal or procedural democracy rather than a true democracy. The Economist Intelligence Unit describes Singapore as a “hybrid regime” of democratic and authoritarian elements. Freedom House ranks the country as “partly free”. Though general elections are free from irregularities and vote rigging, the PAP has been criticized for manipulating the political system through its use of censorship, gerrymandering, and civil libel suits against opposition politicians.[citation needed] Francis Seow, the exiled former Solicitor-General of Singapore, is a prominent critic. Seow and opposition politicians such as J.B. Jeyaretnam and Chee Soon Juan claim that Singapore courts favour the PAP government, and there is no separation of powers.

Singapore has a successful and transparent market economy. Government-linked companies are dominant in various sectors of the local economy, such as media, utilities, and public transport. Singapore has consistently been rated as the least corrupt country in Asia and among the world’s ten most free from corruption by Transparency International.

Although Singapore’s laws are inherited from British and British Indian laws, including many elements of English common law, the PAP has also consistently rejected liberal democratic values, which it typifies as Western and states there should not be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to a democracy. There are no jury trials. Laws restricting the freedom of speech are justified by claims that they are intended to prohibit speech that may breed ill will or cause disharmony within Singapore’s multiracial, multi-religious society. For example, in September 2005, three bloggers were convicted of sedition for posting racist remarks targeting minorities. Some offences can lead to heavy fines or caning and there are laws which allow capital punishment in Singapore for first-degree murder and drug trafficking. Amnesty International has criticised Singapore for having “possibly the highest execution rate in the world” per capita. The Singapore government argues that there is no international consensus on the appropriateness of the death penalty and that Singapore has the sovereign right to determine its own judicial system and impose capital punishment for the most serious crimes.[

People Population: 4,608,167 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 14.8% (male 353,333/female 329,005)
15-64 years: 76.5% (male 1,717,357/female 1,809,462)
65 years and over: 8.7% (male 177,378/female 221,632) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 38.4 years
male: 38 years
female: 38.8 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.135% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 8.99 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 4.53 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: 6.88 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.08 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.07 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.95 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.8 male(s)/female
total population: 0.95 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 2.3 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 2.51 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 2.08 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 81.89 years
male: 79.29 years
female: 84.68 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.08 children born/woman (2008 est.)
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