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Trip helps build mutual trust across Straits

Following Kuomintang Chairman Lien Chan’s mainland trip, James Soong, chairman of the People First Party (PFP), successfully concluded his own visit to the mainland, creating a new wave of enthusiasm for cross-Straits exchanges and perhaps ushering in the spring of cross-Straits relations. Soong’s trip has further boosted the mutual understanding of people on both sides

Stop rewinding, it’s time to press forward

Japan’s ambassador to China, Mr Koreshige Anami, said last Wednesday that Beijing opposed Tokyo’s bid for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, and that even if Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi stopped visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, China would still not reverse its stance and support Japan.   I posed this question to someone

Political flattery reaches dizzying new heights

Flattery, it seems, has become the order of the day within the highest corridors of power. When in doubt, praise, flatter, curry favour, back-scratch and/or ingratiate. You can’t go wrong. And your success is guaranteed as well, and instantly, too. If any proof is needed, just re-read this news item that appeared over the Songkran

Long-overdue media reform returns to the spotlight

The scandals at Channel 5 and Channel 11 that have dominated media headlines for the past week are just a tip of an iceberg of underlying problems impeding long-delayed broadcast media reform, but the scandals are not without a positive spin-off. At the very least, they have put the issue of media reform back under

Malaysia-Japan ties set to grow

MALAYSIA’S outward looking foreign and trade policies have always embraced all countries, regardless of size, power or wealth. With poorer countries, Malaysia practises a “prosper thy neighbour” policy for security and improved trade prospects. With richer countries, the purpose is mutually enriching trade and investment arrangements. In the context of Asian regionalism, this has taken the form of the “Look East” policy, the East Asia Economic Grouping and Asean + 3. Each of these covers comprehensive links abroad that span trading, financial, industrial and strategic relationships. Since Japan is the most economically developed country in Asia, much of Malaysia’s regional economic policymaking has centred on Tokyo. But the global emergence of China has also meant that relations with Japan serve as a barometer of other likely arrangements elsewhere in the region. One example of this is the free trade agreement (FTA) instrument, which correspondingly is more developed with Japan. The embryo of the Japan-Malaysia Economic Partnership Agreement (JMEPA) idea took shape in December 2003, comprising several bilateral elements including an FTA. Although the JMEPA is sometimes seen as a diplomatic prelude to the FTA, it acts as the mother of Malaysia-Japan agreements for the 21st century. Beyond that, the JMEPA also serves as a step-parent for subsequent FTAs elsewhere in the region. Malaysia’s Look East policy has thus come of age.

GE’s code of ethical conduct under test

It’s the world’s most admired corporation. It’s one of the most successful and one of the best managed. General Electric (GE) is also rated the most respected company in the world in terms of corporate governance, according to a 2004 global poll of CEOs conducted by the Financial Times and PricewaterhouseCoopers. In many ways, many of us have had high hopes that GE’s involvement with Thailand would be good for the country. And it has been. GE is today one of largest foreign investors here, with investments of more than US$1 billion (Bt40 billion) in silicone manufacturing, plastics compounding, medical systems, financial services, and the production of jet engine components and support services. And if Thailand’s business community and opinion leaders have so far taken a balanced and fair view of the US giant, GE can surely rely on the goodwill it has built up, particularly in times of threat to its Thai operations. The company has had its fair share of turbulence over the past 30 years of its expanding commercial relations with the Kingdom. Some might recall an incident in the 1990s during the tenure of former prime minister Chatichai Choonhavan. His young advisers, known as the Baan Phitsanulok clan, accused the then management of Thai Airways International of colluding with GE, which was supplying engines for most of

Long-overdue media reform returns to the spotlight

The scandals at Channel 5 and Channel 11 that have dominated media headlines for the past week are just a tip of an iceberg of underlying problems impeding long-delayed broadcast media reform, but the scandals are not without a positive spin-off. At the very least, they have put the issue of media reform back under the spotlight and driven home thThe scandals at Channel 5 and Channel 11 that have dominated media headlines for the past week are just a tip of an iceberg of underlying problems impeding long-delayed broadcast media reform, but the scandals are not without a positive spin-off.   At the very least, they have put the issue of media reform back under the spotlight and driven home the need for liberalisation of the airwaves, rather than being concentrated in the hands of a group of state agencies, as they are today.   How the Thaksin government will intervene in the controversies at Channel 5 and Channel 11 will determine the future course of media reform. The crux of the issue at the two stations is much larger than just whether Channel 11 will be allowed to technically split its frequencies, or if there is anything shady about the process of Channel 5 being listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand.   The two TV stations are part

Political flattery reaches dizzying new heights

Flattery, it seems, has become the order of the day within the highest corridors of power. When in doubt, praise, flatter, curry favour, back-scratch and/or ingratiate. You can’t go wrong. And your success is guaranteed as well, and instantly, too. If any proof is needed, just re-read this news item that appeared over the Songkran holiday: A group of loyalists from the Thai Rak Thai Party led by secretary-general Suriya Jungrungreangkit paid a visit to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and did something quite out of the ordinary. However, the fact that something extraordinary transpired isn’t what made this gathering stand out. In fact, these days it doesn’t matter if you turn tradition upside down or inside out as long as you say something that people want to hear. If you hit the right chord, you can get away with just about anything. What was out of the ordinary that day was that the purpose of the visit was supposed to have been that the gathered loyalists could ask for Songkran blessings from their senior. But what actually happened is best expressed by this statement from the group’s leader: “We come here today to pledge our loyalty to you, Mr Prime Minister. We promise that we will be obedient subordinates forever . . .” It might not have come as a shock

Stop rewinding, it’s time to press forward

Japan’s ambassador to China, Mr Koreshige Anami, said last Wednesday that Beijing opposed Tokyo’s bid for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, and that even if Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi stopped visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, China would still not reverse its stance and support Japan.   I posed this question to someone well-versed in China’s official position. But he asked instead: “Why should China object?” He did not elaborate further, probably for fear of saying the wrong thing if he talked further.   Why does China object to Japan’s bid? Does China really object to Japan’s bid? On the surface, the answer is clear, or else the Chinese authorities would not have allowed – at least tacitly – the numerous anti-Japan demonstrations that took place in several major cities; or Chinese Vice-Premier Wu Yi would not have cancelled a meeting with Mr Koizumi, citing the excuse of “returning home to handle important and urgent official business”.   But if we delve deeper, the facts may not be that simple. China will not suffer any big losses if Japan becomes a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. But if it objects to Japan’s membership, it may incur Tokyo’s wrath, and the negative fallout is difficult to estimate.   First, according to the two reform plans proposed by

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Trip helps build mutual trust across Straits

Following Kuomintang Chairman Lien Chan’s mainland trip, James Soong, chairman of the People First Party (PFP), successfully concluded his own visit to the mainland, creating

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Trip helps build mutual trust across Straits

Following Kuomintang Chairman Lien Chan’s mainland trip, James Soong, chairman of the People First Party (PFP), successfully concluded his own visit to the mainland, creating a new wave of enthusiasm for cross-Straits exchanges and perhaps ushering in the spring of cross-Straits relations. Soong’s trip has further boosted the mutual understanding