UNIQUE CIVILISATION: There’s no point judging it by liberal norms

THIS month provided a beauty contest between the two most important powers on the planet right now: America and China. On Nov 6, the United States chose President Barack Obama for a second term in an exciting election that reverberated worldwide.

A week later, the 18th congress of the Communist Party in Beijing began a once-in-a-decade leadership change that lacked for nothing except suspense. Xi Jinping was inaugurated as general secretary on Nov 15. It had been known for some time that he would rise to that pinnacle and become China’s president.

Through narrow Western eyes, the comparison was made as invidious as possible. According to Dominique Moisi, founder of the French Institute of International Affairs, November brought “two victories: not just Obama’s over Republican challenger Mitt Romney in the presidential election, but also the victory of America’s democratic system over China’s one-party authoritarianism”.

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Both China and the Philippines have mishandled their dispute over Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, a leading British scholar said Monday, noting Beijing’s obstinacy about its sovereignty claims and Manila’s ill-advised decision to send a naval vessel to confront Chinese fishing boats last April.

This developed as the Philippines vowed to keep speaking out on the global stage about its territorial row with China, as an effort by Southeast Asian nations to forge a united stance at the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia crumbled.

In a television interview Monday, Martin Jacques, author of the best-selling book “When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order,” said China could have opted for “joint development” with the other claimants of the resource-rich Spratlys region instead of asserting its sovereignty over it.

The ensuing cordon by Chinese ships around Panatag Shoal after a war of words with the Philippines raised the specter that the title of Jacques book was a fast-approaching reality.

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As a matter of political pastime or even serious study, leaders and observers often try to note who blinks first in a confrontation between two major powers

Viewed in this perspective, there is a message in the absence of an instant blink-watch when Japan set free the captured Chinese captain of a fishing boat on September 24. He was not formally charged. This can perhaps be treated as a sign of maturity in the enormously complex relationship between Beijing and Tokyo.

However, the statements by the two sides on this event bristled with the tone and tenor of righteous indignation. At the same time, the discernible political mood behind the scenes, a day or two after the captain’s release, was one of trying to prevent a further escalation of tensions. It was too early, at the time of writing, to foresee with certainty how exactly Japan and China ride out this new storm in their increasingly direct and dynamic engagement within the larger framework of inter-state cooperation in East Asia.

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Former Journalist Martin Jacques Attempts To Shed Light On China’s Economic Prowess In His New Book

AUTHOR Martin Jacques pulls no punches when he writes about the Chinese people and their ­perceptions about race in his book When China Rules the World.

He calls a spade a spade and much of his need to ­understand the psyche of the Chinese is perhaps ­influenced by the death of his ­Malaysian wife in a Hongkong hospital. He had filed a racial discrimination suit against the hospital after her death.

On her death, Jacques writes: “After a major campaign in response to the death of Harinder Veriah, a Malaysian of Indian descent in 2000 who complained about serious racial discrimination in a Hongkong hospital, the government was finally forced to acknowledge that racism is a serious problem and in 2008, mainly as a result of this case, belatedly introduced anti-racist legislation for the first time.”

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KUALA LUMPUR — In her relationship with Malaysia, be it bilateral or at the regional level, Beijing has always been willing to listen and suggest cooperative endeavours for all-round benefits, said Foreign Minister Datuk Anifah Aman. He said that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had made a most successful visit to China earlier this year where he was warmly received.

Anifah said a number of new areas for cooperation were also identified which Malaysia was looking forward to jointly pursue. He said during the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis when the West turned its back on East Asia, China did not devalue the Renminbi to ensure countries in trouble did not get deeper in it and proposed swap arrangements for those with balance-of-payments difficulties.

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KUALA LUMPUR: Foreign Minister Datuk Anifah Aman believes that there is a small group of people with “ulterior motives” playing up supposedly contentious issues between Malaysia and Indonesia.

In his meeting with his Indonesian counterpart in Jakarta on Thursday, he said they will discuss why a small group of people in Indonesia kept on playing up the Pendet dance issue despite the explanation given by the Discovery Channel to the relevant authorities. Anifah said he was confident that the small group of people who were repeatedly playing up the issue had ulterior motives.

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Renowned British author, broadcaster, scholar and journalist MARTIN JACQUES discusses his latest book, When China Rules The World: The rise of the Middle Kingdom and the end of the Western world with BUNN NAGARA in a comprehensive, 90-minute interview. Excerpts:

Is the provocative title to celebrate China’s rise, warn the West of its decline or fuel China-bashing?

None of them. It is to give a rough idea of what the book is about, to attract people’s attention.

Literal titles are boring, so it’s not a literal title. If and when China becomes the dominant power, the book shows what form of hegemony it would take.

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