Singapore’s flip-flop stance toward China hard to change

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE GLOBAL TIMES OF SINGAPORE)

 

Singapore’s flip-flop stance toward China hard to change

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/11 23:48:40

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a recent interview with Australia’s ABC Radio National that many countries, including Singapore, see the Belt and Road initiative as a constructive way for China to integrate with other countries as China’s influence in the region continues to grow. He said his country supports the Belt and Road initiative as well as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

These could be the most positive remarks Lee has made on China recently. Since last year, China and Singapore have witnessed a cooling relationship due to the latter’s siding with the US and Japan regarding the South China Sea issue. The detention of nine armored vehicles of Singapore in Hong Kong added to the chill in the bilateral ties. Seven heads of state and governments of ASEAN countries participated in the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held last month in Beijing, but Lee was absent. This sparked more controversy.

Through the interview, Lee seems to be showing a willingness to turn around the Sino-Singaporean relationship. As one of the core US allies among ASEAN countries, Singapore has long faced the difficulty of balancing between China and the US alongside Beijing’s rise. As the country tries its best to strike a balance between the two sides, it tilts toward the US when a balance is impossible.

The reason for its choice is that as a small country sandwiched between two giants – Indonesia and Malaysia – Singapore’s security is very fragile, and it has to rely on the US for the greatest security guarantee.

Singapore was the most active ASEAN country, besides the Philippines, that supported the South China Sea arbitration case. In addition, it opened its military base to US’ anti-submarine reconnaissance aircraft for patrols over the South China Sea.

However, China is Singapore’s largest trading partner. Plus, the entire ASEAN bloc emphasizes the relationship with China, and most members advocate caution in dealing with the world’s two biggest countries.

More importantly, the administration of US President Donald Trump stresses cooperation with China and sent a delegation to the Belt and Road forum. This was followed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s subtle change on his posture toward China. Singapore must have felt an unprecedented isolation.

Lee’s positive comments on the Belt and Road are welcome. No matter what the Singapore government said and did previously, Beijing can move forward with it. It is the generosity a big country should have.

On the other hand, Singapore may not abandon its flip-flop diplomacy and China needs to be prepared for this. Singapore’s diplomatic thinking is hard to change shortly. Lee Hsien Loong is less adept at balancing diplomacy than his father Lee Kuan Yew, and geopolitical competition in Asia nowadays has become more complicated. Therefore, Singapore is confronted with more difficulties.

Singapore is a former a colony of Britain. Its dependence on the US, not so special compared with other ASEAN countries, is driven by pragmatism of safeguarding its own interests. As China grows more powerful, it will naturally readjust the balance between China and the US.

China sent a delegation led by a Lieutenant General to this year’s Shangri-La Dialogue. We feel that the level of this delegation is still a bit too high, and suggest a lower-level delegation be sent next year. The Shangri-La Dialogue is a platform Singapore built for the US and Japan, and China has no reason to show support to it.

In recent years, China sent fewer officials for training in Singapore, another sign of the decreasing influence of the country over China.

In a nutshell, China needs to take a normal attitude toward Singapore swinging between the US and China.

10 US Navy Sailors Missing After Destroyer Collides With Merchant Ship

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

10 US Navy sailors missing after destroyer collides with merchant ship

In this photo taken Saturday, Aug. 13, 2011, the USS John S. McCain sails off the coast of Vietnam.

Story highlights

  •  10 US Navy sailors are missing
  • Search and rescue efforts are under way

(CNN) Ten US Navy sailors are missing after a US Navy guided-missile destroyer collided with a merchant ship east of Singapore early Monday, the Navy said in a statement.

The Navy’s 7th Fleet said the USS John S. McCain collided with the merchant vessel Alnic MC while the destroyer was making its way to a port visit in Singapore. The collision was reported at 5:24 am local time, according to the Navy statement.
A Navy official told CNN the McCain was fighting flooding in several places and that it had limited propulsion and electrical power.
In addition to the 10 missing sailors, the Navy said five were injured in the collision.
Search and rescue efforts are under way, the Navy statement said, with helicopters and Marine Corps Osprey aircraft from the amphibious assault ship USS America responding.
Singaporean ships and helicopters were also responding, the Navy said.
Initial reports indicate the US ship sustained damage to its aft port (rear left) side, the Navy statement said. It said the McCain was steaming under its own power to port.
It did not give information on the status of the merchant vessel.
Map data ©2017 Google
Merchant marine websites describe the Alnic MC as a 30,000-ton, 600-foot-long oil tanker flying a Liberian flag.
The McCain is 505 feet long and displaces about 9,000 tons. Its homeport is Yokosuka, Japan.

Fourth incident this year

The McCain collision marks the fourth incident involving a US Navy warship based at Yokosuka this year.
On June 17, the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald collided with a container ship off the coast of Japan. That collision resulted in the deaths of seven US sailors.
On May 9, the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain was struck by a small fishing boat off the Korean Peninsula.
And in late January, the guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam ran aground while trying to anchor in Tokyo Bay.
All four of the US warships are equipped with the Aegis missile defense system, which has been touted as a possible defense against any North Korean missile launch that might endanger US forces and US allies in Asia.
The USS John S. McCain is named for the father and grandfather of US Sen. John McCain. Both of McCain’s relatives were US Navy admirals. The senator was a captain in the US Navy.
Earlier this month, the McCain carried out a freedom-of-navigation operation in the South China Sea, sailing within six nautical miles of Mischief Reef, one of the artificial islands built by China in the Spratlys.

Former Singapore PM Lee Kuan Yew Created A Near Perfect National Healthcare System

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SINGAPORE NATIONAL REVIEW)

(I GOT THIS ARTICLE FROM OUR FELLOW BLOGGER ‘1EARTUNITED’ 1EARTHUNITE.WORDPRESS.COM’)

The key is to ensure that one generation won’t bankrupt future generations by living beyond its means. Obituaries of Lee Kuan Yew, the first prime minister of Singapore who died this week at age 91, broke down into roughly two camps: He was a hero, building a “clean as Disneyland” republic that runs like a Swiss watch. He was an autocrat, who built a successful economy but crushed opponents and journalists who challenged his “managed” democracy.  Both statements have big elements of truth. I take a third approach, based on a fascinating visit I made to Singapore earlier this month. Lee Kuan Yew, a member of Britain’s left-wing Labour party while a student at Cambridge, managed to create a workable welfare state, one that provides for people without creating Social Security–like Ponzi schemes or unsustainable entitlements. Both liberals and conservatives have much to learn from what he built, the details of which are missing in most of the tributes to him.  Lee’s first priority when he became prime minister in 1959 was to reimagine Singapore’s economy. “Back then, this place was a swamp, with no natural resources, and it even had to import its drinking water from Malaysia,” Jim Rogers, a noted American investor who has lived in Singapore for nearly a decade, told me during my visit there.  By embracing free trade, capital formation, vigorous meritocratic education, low taxes, and a reliable judicial system, Lee raised the per capita income of his country from $500 a year to some $52,000 a year today. That’s 50 percent higher than that of Britain, the colonial power that ruled Singapore for 150 years. Its average annual growth rate has averaged 7 percent since the 1970s. “A 2010 study showed more patents and patent applications from the small city-state of Singapore (population 5.6 million) than from Russia (population 140 million),” noted economist Thomas Sowell observes. But that wealth wasn’t used to create a traditional welfare state. Economist Mark Skousen notes that Singapore is rated along with Hong Kong as one of the two most free economies in the world. Any expansion of government is gradual and grudging. In 2013, when Singapore broadened its medical-benefits program, the local Straits Times newspaper made clear the government’s philosophy: “The first [priority] is to keep government subsidies targeted at those who most need them, rather than commit to benefits for all. Universal benefits are ‘wasteful and inequitable,’ and hard to take away once given, [finance minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam] said.” That mindset is embodied in Singapore’s philosophy of welfare, which rests on four pillars: Each generation should pay its own way. Each family should pay its own way. Each individual should pay his own way. Only after passing through these three filters should anyone turn to the government for help. But it will be there when needed. Singapore’s approach to the provision of health care, retirement income, and housing is in sharp distinction to that of other countries. People are required to make relatively high payments into savings plans from which they can later buy a home, pay tuition, and purchase a variety of insurance policies. For those under age 50, the employee contributes 20 percent of his income, and the employer 16 percent. A third of the employee’s share is put into a private Medisave account. When the balance reaches 34,100 U.S. dollars, any excess funds can be used for non-health-care purposes. All are enrolled in a catastrophic-health-care plan, although they can opt out.  MORE LEE KUAN YEW, FATHER OF THE SINGAPORE MIRACLE LEE KUAN YEW’S GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT MAY NOT HAVE BEEN SINGAPORE’S ECONOMIC SUCCESS Health-care expert John Goodman is credited (along with economist Richard Rahn) with first proposing medical savings accounts in the U.S. He says Singapore shows that they can work as the backbone of a health-care system. “The issue is,” he says, “can individuals be counted on to manage their own health-care dollars responsibly, or does health care work better if all the dollars are controlled by government or insurance companies?” The answer is clear.  Not only is Singapore’s population healthy, but the private sector dominates health-care spending, and consumer choice keeps health-care costs down. In Singapore, the government’s share of health-care spending has fallen to 20 percent, down from 50 percent 30 years ago. “Singapore has found a rational way to provide services that are provided by legalized Ponzi schemes in the rest of the developed world,” Goodman told me in an interview. “Those governments have made promises they must either default on or impose draconian taxes to pay for. Singapore has avoided that problem.” It’s no wonder that other countries constantly consult Singapore for guidance on how to turbo-charge their economies. In 2011, Ghana’s vice president, John Dramani Mahama, told a visiting delegation from Singapore that his country “takes a lot of inspiration from Singapore in their economic transformation from a third- into a first-world country.” There is less to emulate from Singapore’s brand of politics. As Frank Lavin, a former U.S. ambassador to Singapore from 2001 to 2005, notes: “Lee believed that open politics can lead to demagoguery, rent-seeking, and short-term thinking. Yet over time, Singapore did become more open, allowing for both political debate and contested elections. . . . Of Lee’s many successes, his most important legacy might be the move to that more open political system to complement the open economics.” But from my visit there, I believe that the least appreciated part of Lee Kwan Yew’s legacy is his method of ensuring that one generation won’t bankrupt future generations by selfishly living beyond its means. It’s a welfare state that works, and one he always said was available to any political leader with the courage to tell his people the truth about the limits of government’s power to pass out goodies. — John Fund is national-affairs correspondent for NRO.

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/416071/singapore-lee-kuan-yew-built-welfare-state-works-john-fund

Morning scenery of Chinese Garden in Singapore – Global Times

Source: Morning scenery of Chinese Garden in Singapore – Global Times

China’s President Xi Jinping, U.S. President Trump Discuss N. Korea’s Dictator By Phone

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) China called for a “peaceful” resolution to tensions on the Korean Peninsula Wednesday, as a United States aircraft carrier strike group churned towards the contested region.

Chinese President Xi Jinping discussed the situation in North Korea and Syria with US President Donald Trump in a telephone call on Wednesday, China’s foreign ministry said, in what one analyst described as a “new phase” of China-US relations on North Korea.
“I think at this point the common interest between the US and China outweigh (North Korea saber-rattling),” Alexander Neill, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore, told CNN.

Trump & Xi's North Korea problem

Trump & Xi’s North Korea problem
“China may be prepared to do some sort of trade off… They want to rein in (leader) Kim Jong Un.”
Trump has repeatedly called on China to do more to rein in its unruly neighbor, which has stepped up its missile development and nuclear program since 2016.
The US dispatched the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson after the latest missile test by North Korea last week, drawing a forceful warning from Pyongyang.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Lu Kang said Trump and Xi had pledged to stay in close contact after their first meeting earlier this month and the phone call didn’t indicate any change in China’s position.

North Korea ‘looking for trouble’: Trump

The unexpected phone call between the two came after Trump turned to Twitter to vent his frustrations over North Korea.
“I explained to the President of China that a trade deal with the U.S. will be far better for them if they solve the North Korean problem,” he tweeted.
“North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.,” he wrote in a second tweet.

Who Is Jon Huntsman President Trump’s Pick To Be The U.S. Ambassador To Russia?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Washington (CNN) Former Utah governor and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman has accepted President Donald Trump’s offer to serve as the next ambassador to Russia, several senior administration officials told CNN.

If confirmed, Huntsman would become one of the highest-profile US ambassadors, helming the diplomatic mission to a country that has seen its relationship with the US become increasingly strained in recent years. Huntsman would also take on the post amid ongoing questions about connections between Russians known to US intelligence and Trump campaign advisers — and just months after Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.
The post would be the third ambassadorship for Huntsman, who previously served as US ambassador to Singapore and China. Huntsman was the ambassador to China during President Barack Obama’s administration.
Huntsman’s selection comes two weeks after the Utah Republican was first floated as a contender for a top diplomatic post.
One senior administration official said Huntsman was tapped because he is a “brilliant guy,” “tough” and understands what Trump wants.

Labor abuses found at Indonesian palm plantations supplying global companies: Amnesty

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Labor abuses found at Indonesian palm plantations supplying global companies: Amnesty

By Eveline Danubrata and Bernadette Christina Munthe | JAKARTA

Global consumer companies, including Unilever, Nestle, Kellogg and Procter & Gamble, have sourced palm oil from Indonesian plantations where labor abuses were uncovered, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

Children as young as eight worked in “hazardous” conditions at palm plantations run by Singapore-based Wilmar International Ltd and its suppliers on the Indonesian islands of Kalimantan and Sumatra, Amnesty said in a report.

Amnesty, which said it interviewed 120 workers, alleges that many of them worked long hours for low pay and without adequate safety equipment. The palm oil from these plantations could be traced to nine multinational companies, it said.

“Despite promising customers that there will be no exploitation in their palm oil supply chains, big brands continue to profit from appalling abuses,” said Meghna Abraham, senior investigator at Amnesty.

The NGO said it chose Wilmar as the focus of its investigation as the company is the world’s largest processor and merchandiser of palm and lauric oils, controlling more than 43 percent of the global palm oil trade.

Other companies operating palm plantations in Indonesia include Golden Agri-Resources Ltd, Indofood Agri Resources Ltd and PT Astra Agro Lestari Tbk.

Even though Indonesia had strong labor laws under which most of the abuses can amount to criminal offences, these laws were poorly enforced by the government, Amnesty said.

Wilmar said it welcomed the NGO’s report, which helps to highlight labor issues within the broader palm oil industry, but added that finding a solution requires collaboration between governments, companies and civil society organizations. (For Wilmar’s full statement, click bit.ly/2fx0q1t)

“We acknowledge that there are ongoing labor issues in the palm oil industry, and these issues could affect any palm company operating in Indonesia,” it said.

“The focus on Wilmar … is often used to draw attention to problems in the wider palm oil industry.”

Wilmar supplies around 10 percent of the total palm oil used in Nestle’s products, the Swiss food giant said in an email. Nestle said it is working with Wilmar to improve the traceability of the commodity.

“Practices such as those identified in Amnesty International’s report have no place in our supply chain,” Nestle said. The company said it would investigate allegations related to its purchase of palm oil along with its suppliers.

Procter & Gamble also said in an email it is working with Wilmar to “ensure they can remedy any potential human rights infringements in their supply chain”.

Indonesia is the world’s biggest producer of palm oil, used in everything from snacks and soaps to cosmetics and biofuels, with the sector employing millions of workers. But plantation operators say it is difficult to have complete oversight of labor conditions.

No company would “consciously” hire underage labor as that is against the law, but some plantation workers get their children to help out, Sumarjono Saragih, an official at the Indonesian Palm Oil Association, told Reuters by telephone.

“If children want to help their parents, companies cannot forbid that.”

Agus Justianto, an official at Indonesia’s environment ministry, said that a company found guilty of labor violations could get its permit revoked, but it is “not in the environment ministry’s domain.”

Indonesia’s manpower ministry did not immediately provide comment.

U.S. snack and breakfast food company Kellogg Co said it is committed to ensuring that its palm oil is obtained from “known and certified sources that are environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable”.

If Kellogg finds or is made aware of any supply chain violations, it would discuss corrective actions with its suppliers, it said. “If the concerns are not adequately addressed, we take action to remove them from our chain.”

Unilever said while significant progress has been made to tackle environmental issues associated with palm cultivation, more needs to be done to address “these deeply concerning social issues” and promised to work with its partners.

(Reporting by Eveline Danubrata and Bernadette Christina Munthe in JAKARTA; Additional reporting by Masayuki Kitano in SINGAPORE; Editing by Tom Hogue and Kenneth Maxwell)

China Confiscates Singapore Military Equipment They Bought From Taiwan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

Warning against Taiwan military ties

CHINA yesterday warned countries against maintaining military ties with Taiwan, after Singaporean armored troop carriers were seized en route from the island.

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China was verifying reports that Hong Kong customs had seized nine Singapore troop carriers and other equipment in 12 containers being shipped from Taiwan after military exercises.

Hong Kong customs said its officers were still investigating the shipment.

“The entry and exit of foreign personnel and goods in the Hong Kong special administrative region should respect its relevant laws,” Geng said.

“I wish to reiterate that the Chinese government consistently and resolutely opposes any form of official exchanges, including military exchanges and cooperation, between countries with which we have diplomatic relations and the Taiwan region.”

The seizure comes amid rising tensions between China and Singapore, which has deepened its security relationship with the United States over the past year.

Regional diplomatic sources say Chinese officials are particularly concerned at Singapore’s hosting of increased deployments of US P-8 Poseidon surveillance planes, which are equipped with various sensors that can target China’s expanding Hainan-based submarine fleet.

Singapore has had a long-standing if low-key military relationship with Taiwan. Singaporean defense experts say the Singaporean military still maintains a small semi-permanent presence in Taiwan, with larger numbers of infantry troops being sent to the island for annual training drills.

It has gradually reduced that training, moving to other facilities in Australia and India, but is unlikely to pull out of Taiwan completely, experts said.

Singapore defense ministry officials said yesterday that the shipment involved no ammunition or sensitive equipment, and it had earlier contracted commercial shipping line APL to handle the cargo.

“APL was required to comply with all regulations including … obtaining the necessary permits required to transit through ports,” a ministry statement said.

APL staff are now working with Hong Kong officials to free the shipment, aided by Singaporean diplomats and military officials, it said.

An APL spokesman confirmed the discussions. “APL is committed to ensuring cargo security as well as full compliance with all regulatory and trade requirements in its conduct of business,” he said.

APL is a subsidiary of the French-based CMA CGM Group.

No Country Seems To Have The Political Guts To Control Excessive Oil Price Swings!

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Oil prices dip after reaching June highs following U.S. crude stock draw

By Henning Gloystein | SINGAPORE

Oil prices dipped on Thursday but remained near June highs reached the previous session when they were buoyed by a fall in U.S. crude inventories.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures were trading at $49.63 per barrel at 0051 GMT, down 20 cents from their last settlement.

International Brent crude futures were down 24 cents at $51.62 per barrel.

Traders said the price dips early on Thursday were largely a result of profit-taking following strong price rises the day before.

Both contracts hit their highest levels since June on Wednesday after the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said crude stockpiles fell 3 million barrels last week to 499.74 million barrels, and as international oil markets prepared for a planned output cut by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

“Another week another surprise draw down in crude inventories by the EIA … Although crude in storage remains at record highs, this is the third week of unexpected draw downs in a row,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at brokerage OANDA in Singapore.

He added that WTI prices would likely be “eyeing the psychological $50” soon, although there was the downside risk of shale drillers putting rigs back into operation which were mothballed at lower prices.

Other analysts said that overall market conditions pointed to slightly higher prices, largely due to the planned OPEC cut, but also due to the risk of forced disruptions.

“All in all, oil prices seem headed for higher levels in the coming period,” Global Risk Management said in its quarterly report published this week. It pointed to the risk of “several oil producing countries struggling to increase or even keep production at current levels due to unrest/oil facility wreckage and lack of industry investments”.

(Reporting by Henning Gloystein; Editing by Joseph Radford)

Shanghai China Now Ranked 16th Among World Financial Hubs

(This article is courtesy of the Shanghai Daily News)

Global survey ranks city 16th among financial hubs

SHANGHAI ranked 16th in a list of 87 global financial hubs, with Shenzhen at 22nd and Beijing at 26th place, a survey showed yesterday.

London, New York, Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo were ranked in the top five, according to the Global Financial Centers Index report.

Shanghai stayed sixth in Asia rankings, a repeat of its position in the prior survey released in March. However, the city’s financial infrastructure gained higher points.

The index is compiled by the London-based Z/Yen Group and the non-official think tank China Development Institute. The index began the ranking in 2007, featuring five sub-indexes of human resources, business environment, entry barrier, infrastructure and general features.

Shanghai ranked fifth in 2011, but has since been surpassed by cities such as Los Angeles and Montreal, due to fast development of financial technology firms and better plans to deal with post-economic crisis problems.

“I believe Shanghai has real capacity,” said Mark Yeandle, associate director of the Z/Yen Group. “If we give it some true light in years to come, Shanghai might rank back among the top-10 centers though that’s with the expectation of how long it will take for the yuan to become truly internationalized.”

Shanghai aims to become an influential global financial center by 2020, “in accordance with China’s economic strength and a broader use of the yuan,” Zhen Yang, director-general of the Shanghai Financial Service Office, said in a speech yesterday.

The country’s currency will be included in the International Monetary Fund’s currency basket from October 1, holding a 10.9 percent weighting in the Special Drawing Rights administered by the fund, as China looks for a bigger say in the global market.