China policies with President Xi tightly in control

I have been following this two week meeting of the Chinese Communist Party to understand how decisions are made within the CCP.

President Xi may be very powerful in China, but he still needs to get the support of the party leaders, including the previous leaders who have retired from the government.

Some of the hard liners wanted China to take a harder stand against America. President Xi has to convince them to support his approach.

Read this report from South China Morning Post

After Communist Party summer retreat, Xi Jinping is sticking to his policies

President has held at least four high-level meetings since the Beidaihe session wrapped up, but analysts say there are no signs of any big changes

President Xi Jinping appears to have successfully rallied the party around him at the Beidaihe meetings.

The annual gathering allows the leaders to break from their day-to-day work and engage with each other in a relaxed, informal setting where they can socialise and have discussions.

It has taken on an almost mystic status in Chinese politics, known as the place where major decisions are made while the country’s two dozen most powerful people are on their summer break.

This year, amid an escalating trade war with the US, a slowing economy and growing discontent at home, some China watchers were expecting Xi would face more pressure to make changes.

“Some people are saying, we are getting ourselves into trouble because we have been too tough, or we have been overly ambitious, we have become too impatient in showing that we are strong enough to resist US pressure,” said Wang Zhengxu, a professor of Chinese politics at the University of Nottingham’s China campus in Ningbo.

But Wang and others agreed that signals coming out of China after the Beidaihe retreat showed that Xi had things tightly under his control.

This is what happened in Beidaihe.

First, the president called a meeting with the country’s top generals and demanded that the military show absolute loyalty to the party. He also vowed to deepen the anti-corruption campaign to clean up the world’s largest fighting force.

Two days later, Xi chaired a five-yearly propaganda and ideological work conference. Speaking to top officials, media chiefs and editors, the president called on them to close ranks around the “party core” and unify minds.

He followed this with another key meeting on law and order, asking officials to deepen reforms and safeguard the constitution. That call came after major constitutional revisions were made in March, including the controversial move to scrap presidential term limits.

Xi chaired a meeting on his signature “Belt and Road Initiative” at which he defended the trade and infrastructure strategy against criticism from Western countries.

Amid this flurry of activity, there have been subtle changes indicating a softer tone, but there has been no sign of any fundamental change to Xi’s key policies.

Analysts said it showed that Xi had successfully rallied the party around him at the Beidaihe meetings.

“So far, it hasn’t gotten out of control. After Beidaihe, [Xi] needs to continue to signal that things are still in order – that I am still in charge, and the direction the party points to is still the right direction,” Wang said.

While the trade war has given his critics more leeway to articulate their concerns, Xi remains the most powerful leader in China for decades, and any political dissent is too weak to substantially change the policy direction, said Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute in London.

“When things get tough, some noises will be made, but it doesn’t change the basic equation of the power balance,” he said. “Xi is still very, very powerful. What I think we may be seeing is that because these kinds of noises are now being heard – and much sooner I think than Xi was expecting – he will probably do even more to tighten up his power.”

After Tsinghua University law professor Xu Zhangrun criticised Xi’s administration in a widely circulated article, Beijing rolled out an extensive campaign to promote a “patriotic striving spirit” among Chinese intellectuals.

Meanwhile, the latest commentary from party mouthpiece People’s Daily on Wednesday said Xi “profoundly analysed the domestic and international situation” and had taken the right steps to safeguard the country’s security during a “critical period in China’s national rejuvenation

Analysts say Xi’s rhetoric appears to be an effort to play down China’s technological advances – given US fears that Chinese industrial policies will allow it to overtake America – as well as the belt and road plan amid “debt trap diplomacy” fears, particularly after the Malaysian government suspended two key projects.

“The Belt and Road Initiative is an economic cooperation initiative, not a geopolitical or military alliance,” Xi was quoted as saying by state news agency Xinhua. “It is an open and inclusive process,
and not about creating exclusive circles or a China club.”

But while Beijing has sought to allay suspicions about the belt and road plan, even softening its outward posture on the strategy, observers say it is unlikely the government will make any substantial policy changes to Xi’s pet project – or to China’s approach to the trade war with the US.

In fact, his recent speeches “indicate that he’s not satisfied with progress and wants tighter party control and better management of propaganda, the military, the legal system, and the belt and road”, said Michael Kovrig, senior adviser for the International Crisis Group.

Zhang Baohui, a political science professor from Lingnan University in Hong Kong, also said there had been no major changes.

“People who were expecting policy adjustments were proven to be wrong,” Zhang said. “Xi cannot afford to admit mistakes in his policies – that would further embolden his critics.”

Singapore Economy is heading for a short term recession

A recession is possibly on the horizon as Singapore’s GDP may record further gradual decline from the 3.4 per cent recorded in the second quarter of this year, according to according to Swiss multinational investment bank Credit Suisse AG.

Credit Suisse, in its latest report on Singapore’s market strategy, also observed that Singapore’s GDP growth in the second quarter of this year has “slowed more significantly compared” in contrast to regional competitors in international trade such as Hong Kong and South Korea.

Hong Kong’s GDP grew by 0.6 per cent, South Korea by 2.1 per cent, and Taiwan by 2.4 per cent, while Singapore’s GDP grew only by 0.1 per cent, noted Credit Suisse, as seen in the graph below.

From a year-on-year (YoY) perspective, a GDP growth of 0.5 per cent is projected to take place, which Credit Suisse posited to be a significant slowing down from the 3.1 per cent recorded last year, and is below the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s prediction of 1.5 per cent to 2.5 per cent.

Growth in tourism is expected to slow down by 1 per cent YoY this year, which falls short of Singapore Tourism Board’s projection of 1-4% increase, due to “a slowdown in arrivals from China, Indonesia and Malaysia, impacted by poor consumer sentiment and currency weakness relative to the Singapore dollar”, Credit Suisse predicted.

“In addition, loss of market share of Chinese tourists to countries such as Vietnam and Japan presents further downside risks,” the report added.

Read more at https://www.theonlinecitizen.com/2019/08/09/credit-suisse-report-recession-in-singapore-expected-in-2019-slower-growth-in-retail-tourism/

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What a load of BS coming from an MP that did not experience “poverty”

PAP MP Lim Biow Chuan: The poor just need to put in ‘hard work’

Looking down on the poor, the S$15,000/mth PAP MP from Mountbatten SMC sneered that the poor need to work harder if they want to afford aircon and internet.

Responding to a state media interview on Singaporean poor who could not afford basic necessities in the world’s most expensive country, PAP MP Lim Biow Chuan arrogantly said the poor need to put in ‘hard work’:

“The only way to improve their circumstances is to teach them skills relevant for evolving jobs. I won’t pretend it is easy, and we have to try and help them. But with hard work, you can make a difference in your life.”
The recent government survey on household income saw the poor becoming poorer each year by 0.2%, with expenses increase surpassing wage growth.

PAP MP from Jalan Besar GRC, Lily Neo, also dismissed the state of poverty in Singapore, claiming that the poor are ‘covered’:

“The results may suggest that government schemes need another tweak. (But) The broad areas – such as housing, education and medical care – are covered, and noted that the maximum annual payouts under the Workfare Income Supplement scheme, which helps lower-paid workers, will be increased by up to $400 a year from next year.”

According to government assistance group the National Council of Social Service, government support like the Workfare Income Supplement already made up half of the annual household income per member for the bottom 20%.

Despite the damning report, the Singapore government has no plan to help the poor by implementing a Minimum Wage. The actual state of poverty and low wages is also covered up by the government in the survey as government support was factored in as “income”.

Elderly Singaporeans make up the bulk of the poor, with their average monthly CPF payout at S$450 a month.

US tariffs only forms a small fraction of China exports and has no effects at all

Quora: Why does China seem so confident in the Trade War?

Janus Dongye Qimeng, Interested in Chinese history and geography answered.

During the summer in 2018, I’ve travelled to quite a few places in Europe including Germany, Austria, Hungary, Serbia and Poland. For each country we visit, we spent lots of time in the local shops and supermarkets and try to find those some souvenirs that are not “made in China”. Since then I gradually developed a hobby that whenever I go for a new shop in a new country, I always read the product labels and try to sample how many of these are actually manufactured in China.

To my surprise, even in the 2018, there are still over 70% of the products that are made in China based on my observation. Nearly all the electronics, half of the clothes, most of the tourist souvenirs (all the fridge magnets), all the plastic-made products, most of the toys and even most furnitures that are made in China. You can have your own observation in your local supermarket and shops and I believe it is true for your place. Even the supermarket in a furthest village in the middle of nowhere in Serbia, you can find that most of the products are still made in China.

This is pretty astonishing to me as a Chinese national. Even there are predictions that some of the manufacturing are leaving China, however based on my observation, this is not true for all.

Is manufacturing leaving China for Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Thailand?

And more surprisingly, the poorer the country is, the more fraction of made-in-China goods are found there. I saw less Made-in-China products in Germany but more in Serbia and Hungary.

These products are actually the majority of Chinese exports. The majority of goods are still low-end products even though China is aiming for high-end manufacturing.

Do they require high tech to manufacture them? Possibly. Do they rely on the US market to make money? As far as I know, those low-end goods exports to US only account for 15% of the Chinese total exports. And China is actively expanding its market in the Africa. By making African richer, they can gradually afford more made-in-China or Chinese made-in-Africa products.

China seems to be confident because the US is over estimating its market impact. The core interests of China is focusing on the rest of worlds. There are still 200 countries that need made-in-China products.

The high-end manufacturing in China has been growing rapidly since the China 2025 initiatives. This is the sector where US is mainly targeting for. However the high-end section still accounts for a very small faction of Chinese exports. Attacking this sector does not hurt the root of Chinese exports.

If US is enforcing tariffs to all made-in-China products, China may lose 10% of its sales. At the same time, China can expand its market in Africa for another 10% to compensate its losses. Meanwhile the US may suffer higher prices for its basic goods, which indirectly hurts its people in the long run.

We are capable of reaching Swiss standards of living ourselves

Singapore and Singaporeans are trapped in a flawed and failing system that is enriching a few at the expense of the many while dividing them, putting them in competition with each other and blaming them if they don’t get ahead in a loaded system as they slowly sink in to poverty and hardship.

This is not just a local issue, it is also a global one, with the self-serving Neo Liberal economic model that has become the story and religion of the central bankers and elites around the world at the heart of it. A system that the current PAP has fully embraced and is endeavouring to defend even while it is being rejected and thrown off almost everywhere else.

While they owned all the methods of information this narrative could be sold to the people and while the negative effects were not widely felt that narrative was accepted with little question. Now with the advent of social media, the challenges of income inequality and a disrupted and changing economic and geopolitical model causing stress, fear and dislocation that narrative is being seen through for the flawed system it is.

This is emphasized when our Prime Minister tells us we must “steal other’s lunches”, “cannibalize ourselves” and “tighten our belts and scale back our lifestyle and dreams” all while fighting for our survival and many other negative and disempowering statements.

The leading edge of many sciences and philosophies have now shown empirically that our natural state, and incidentally the state for the most successful ecosystems, is a combination of altruism and co-operation. This is the opposite of the one our rulers wish to keep us in because when we are united and cooperative that is a threat to their plans and positions and gives us a power and ability to thrive without them that they are understandably afraid for us to have.

I fully concur with the opinions of Dr Tan Cheng Bock and Mr Lee Hsien Yang who say the PAP is no longer the one of old and has lost its way.

Where once it was focused on society, community and advancement for all it now seems far more focused on power, control and self-preservation at any cost. Partly because of the manufactured nature of the current crop of MPs and ministers who were grown in a sheltered system which created entitlement and group think and partly because they do not seem to have the ability or wisdom to adapt and lead in the rapidly changing world. While everyone else is moving in to the 4.0 economy, Singapore is stuck in the 3.0 one and going backwards.

We are now in an economically challenging time, but you must notice that, unlike the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the 2008 global financial crisis where Singapore stood stronger, now we are the only ones really suffering while our ASEAN neighbours are still doing okay and in some cases thriving. With a forecast regional average growth of 3.3% and the likes of Vietnam at 6.6% we will be lucky to register 1.5% (largely due to a flood of foreign workers and NOT due to real economic value added) and we will soon fall into full recession.

We can no longer accept out of touch rulers who tell us to fight with each other while they themselves are insulated from the effects of their poor, outdated and flawed self-focused decision making and economic management. We must come together once again as a cooperative community and bring in leaders who will use 21st century thinking and leadership to implement a new and socially conscious economic model and plan and turn us around from the divided failing nation we are becoming to a united and thriving regional leading one again.

I believe Progress Singapore can provide that enlightened 21st century leadership and it can’t come a moment too soon.

What do you think?

Easier hiring of foreign talents for Tech companies

The Economic Development Board (EDB) and Enterprise Singapore announced yesterday (30 July) that foreign PMETs looking to work in Singapore as “core team members” of technology companies might have more flexible requirements over the application of their Employment Pass (EP).

EDB and Enterprise Singapore will help “facilitate” easier entry of foreign PMETs to become “core team members” of technology companies operating in Singapore. Qualifying companies will have the EP applications of their core team members “facilitated” by the 2 government agencies so that they can get the “talent” they need.

Founder and CEO Sinuhe Arroyo of a tech company said, “Timely onboarding of the right talents is critical to our success in developing world-class AI solutions as well as seizing market opportunities. Entry facilitation for core team members will expedite this onboarding process.”

But both EDB and Enterprise Singapore did not detail how EP applications for foreign talent will be different for these companies.

When asked by the media to elaborate, an EDB spokesman said manpower flexibilities for the applications of some team members will be provided, if needed.

Read more at http://www.theonlinecitizen.com/2019/07/31/edb-and-enterprise-sg-to-make-it-easier-for-tech-companies-to-hire-fts-even-with-no-qualifications/

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Helping the homeless : Why more needs to be done as more will fall through the cracks

SINGAPORE: When you live on the streets, a shower is one of the hardest things to come by.

You can take shelter in the nooks and crannies of a building when it rains. Temples will serve you hot food, for free when you’re hungry.

But when you have been living in your own sweat and grime for days, there is nowhere to go for a wash.
“The smell from your body and clothes can be unbearable,” said 41-year-old Annie, who declined to give her real name. 

She spent two years sleeping rough with her boyfriend near the Singapore Management University in the heart of the city.

They were living together at her place, but left after frequent arguments with her younger brother.

“He wanted to chase my boyfriend out. There was no warmth of family … so we’d rather be outside,” she said in Mandarin.

But that independence, of living without a fixed abode, came with its own set of issues. “People will point and stare,” said Annie.

Once, she told someone off.

“I told them not to (call us names) … I said: ‘You don’t know our pain, so why do you judge? You think we want this?’”

They are not the only ones seeking refuge out in the open under the stars.

A 73-year-old cleaner, who only wanted to be known as Mr Yeo, spent 20 years on the streets after his wife sold the flat when he was overseas.

He could not afford to rent on the open market, and ended up spending his nights on the streets of Chinatown.

Mr Yeo said it is hard to get a good night’s rest out in the open, as there are often police checks.

“I’ve had my identity card (IC) details copied more than 30 times,” he said in Mandarin.

FINDING THE HOMELESS A HOME

The plight of these destitute people moved 54-year-old Brian Monteiro to seek out more members of this invisible group.

The programme executive of the Catholic Welfare Services (CWS) took to the streets to give food and drink to the homeless in May 2014, and has never looked back.

Today, the charity’s 150 volunteers work in four neighbourhoods, where they have befriended nearly 120 homeless persons.

Another organisation, Homeless Hearts of Singapore (HHOS) has been on the same befriending mission since July 2014. Volunteers meet fortnightly to reach out to the homeless in the city centre.

Recently, HHOS held a free healthcare event for the homeless after teaming up with private hospital Mt Alvernia. 

“Because you’re in constant survival mode every day, healthcare is the last thing on your mind,” said Claire, HHOS volunteer.  

About 15 people turned up. Volunteer doctor Eileen Soon said some of the homeless were found to have undiagnosed conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes.

The hospital gives subsidised treatments for homeless patients referred to by their outreach clinics at Toa Payoh and Redhill.

But since May 2018 – ­­­through a Government collaboration called Partners Engaging and Empowering Rough Sleepers or PEERS – the homeless have better hope of finding a forever home.

Of the 65 homeless engaged so far, 28 have been moved off the streets. Seventeen have either returned home or have moved into rental flats, while 11 are in interim accommodations such as transitional shelters.

This initiative sees officers from agencies like Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and Housing Development Board (HDB) doing night walks alongside befrienders in Toa Payoh and Kreta Ayer.

The agencies tap on the volunteers’ strong ties with the rough sleepers to gain their trust and render them help. 

With the permission of the homeless person, officers were able to check if the individual was eligible for financial aid or rental housing while on the ground. This reduced the need for them to repeat themselves to the different agencies.

“We try to bring the systems closer to the rough sleepers,” said assistant director at MSF Jaslyn Goh. 

PERILS OF SLEEPING ROUGH

CNA was given an exclusive invite to one of the night walks.

We met Mr Monteiro and MSF officers in the middle of a housing estate in central Singapore at 10pm. 

We began the walk after a quick briefing. As the bustle of the heartland crowd slowly thinned, it became obvious that the homeless were just hidden in plain sight all along.

One man was barely visible behind a haphazard tumble of stained plastic bags – likely holding his life’s possessions. Inches away from his bare feet, a cockroach scuttled away. 

Another slouched over a chair in the corner of a dim car park, where rubbish was strewn by the staircase landing.

In the darkness, the homeless tossed and turned in uneasy rest. Dangers abound in the streets – especially when pranksters, itching for a fight, pick on them; or when criminals eye what little valuables they have.

Annie learnt that the hard way. 

Once, her bag containing all her clothes and toiletries, was stolen when she was asleep. Luckily, she knew of organisations that give out second-hand clothes to the homeless.

During the walk, volunteers told CNA that many rough sleepers lose their ICs to thieves. This then hinders their process of applying for financial aid or housing. 

A replacement can cost up to S$300, a sum the homeless most likely cannot afford. Ms Goh said that MSF is working with the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority for fee waivers or for them to issue temporary ICs.

MSF says rough sleeping is a complex issue involving multiple underlying social needs – from family violence to financial issues.

During the walk, the group chatted with an elderly man who was struggling with his hoarding habit. His home has become so “uncomfortable” that some nights, he sleeps by the corridor right outside his flat.

“I just cannot stop myself … so I know I need psychiatric help,” he said. 

He also told an MSF officer that he wants to find a job so he “doesn’t become a parasite to society”.

The officer persuaded him to seek help at a nearby Social Service Office (SSO), and we were told later on that he kept his appointment. 

Ms Goh added that in similar cases, the process of getting help as already been fast-tracked as the SSOs are ready to receive them, having gotten their details from the walk.

But not everyone is as forthcoming. 

“Some of (the homeless) have had negative experiences with the system,” said Ms Goh.

For those who are not ready to receive help, organisations like New Hope Community Services (NCHS), Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, and Sultan mosque have set aside part of their premises as Safe Sound Sleeping Places or S3Ps, where the homeless can spend the night, but they will have to leave in the morning.

Mr Yeo was approached and offered the temporary shelter during a night walk in May. 

He was told he was eligible for a rental flat, and being at the shelter would help HDB facilitate his request in a timely manner as they know where to reach him. 

He has since been transferred to a transitional shelter, and is now just months away from a getting his flat.

“Now I don’t have to be at the mercy of the weather,” said Mr Yeo.

MSF hopes more organisations will step up to offer the homeless temporary shelters. 

Last year, Annie found her way home after family members stepped in and her relationship with her brother improved. With the help of HHOS, her boyfriend was also successfully allocated a public rental flat. 

“I was tired,” she said. “No matter what, you need a roof over your head.”

But for many others, a happy ending remains elusive.

After the walk ended at 1am, we strolled by a sleeping man at a void deck. A gust of wind made him move under the cardboard pieces he was lying on. All that separated him from the cold floor was his shirt.

In the units upstairs, many are snug in their beds. 

For him, all he had was the cardboard and perhaps the warmth of the sun in a few hours.

Source: CNA/ec/rw
Read more at https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/homeless-in-singapore-cws-msf-11758462