"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Saturday, July 28, 2018

Links - 28th July 2018 (1)

BBC World Service - The World This Week, Responding to chemical weapons: are we entering a New Cold War? - Broadcasts - "'Karen Pierce, the British Ambassador to the UN challenged her Russian counterpart by saying: 'This isn't like the Cold War, because during the Cold War, your predecessors played by the same set of rules as we did'. This argument about a kind of rules-based conduct of international relations seems to have become quite important in the debate at the moment, not least over the idea that use of chemical weapons somehow breaks the rules of war. Is there a worry that some sort of rules based system is breaking down?'
'Well two things. In one sense you're referring to two sets of rules. I mean in the more general sense you're right. The hope was that when the Cold War ended, Russia and indeed in many ways the same applies to China could be drawn into what is called the international rules-based system. You heard many people talking about making China a responsible stakeholder in the international system and it seems increasingly that countries like Russia and China want to play by their own rules...
The Russian government, accused by the British of poisoning Sergei and Yulia Skripal using a nerve agent has deflected the accusation with a blizzard of alternative theories, imaginative enough to satisfy Conan Doyle but bewildering too, because of Moscow's inability to substantiate any of them... the Foreign Ministry in Moscow offered its latest: that the Skripals are being held hostage in the UK...
Nearly 80% of Russians get their news from the TV, and almost all TV channels are state funded, or have strong state affiliation. And of course, since this crisis has started, for example, polls show that more and more Russians treat the UK as their enemy. So they become more and more suspicious. And state media does a lot to promote this image and has been doing for quite a while. Definitely since 2014 the Russian state TV's portraying Russia as a besieged fortress. As the only capital, Moscow the only capital in the world, standing against the Western conspiracy and fighting for the truth as they show it. I think one of the brightest examples is that Skripal was poisoned on the fourth of March and on the 18th of March. Russian presidential actions took place. So the head of Putin's campaign's press office actually thanked Theresa May for her rhetoric just after the elections have finished saying that this actually helped to attract more people to the pointing stations and helped Putin secure such a high percentage of people supporting him... Putin's approval rating heavily relies on the narrative that Russia is fighting against the West because actually internal matters inside Russia are not that good...
They have a few main strategies. First of all, they multiply various theories. Oh, they might be poisoned by this, by that, not poisoned at all. Second one, they try to question each argument the United Kingdom provides, for example, the recent study with animals... The Russians say, oh, that's suspicious. But Russians are very skilful on noticing those small details, which sometimes can be questioned, for example, British foreign ministry deleted one of its tweets from earlier on. And then Russians say oh look. They are changing their narrative...
When people meet in Northern Ireland, and the first thing they do is try to figure out whether the other person is a Protestant or a Catholic. He said they don't do so by asking outright, but far more subtly."

Trump Does Have a Syria Strategy - "President Obama had grandiose goals that he omitted to attain. He wanted Bashar al-Assad to go. He wanted the Russians to leave Syria. He wanted to promote democracy and protect human rights unless it became too costly (see: vacillation on military aid to Egypt). He wanted to advance the remit of international organizations and international law. His administration talked about “whole of government operations” but failed to conduct them. President Trump has no grandiose goals... Critics are not giving Trump enough credit: He does have a strategy for Syria and the broader Middle East. His strategy is to limit American involvement, to push responsibility for outcomes in the region back onto states in the region, and to let power determine outcomes. He has no particular affinity for states in the region, and professes to be a devoted friend to each without committing to enduring obligations to any. He is indifferent to government type, and just as likely to be a benefactor to authoritarians as to democrats. It is an approach international relations theorists call “realism,” of the variant called “offshore balancing,” as he seeks to withdraw U.S. forces from the region... Obama was self-deterred, whereas Trump—or at least his administration—runs limited risks. Obama generated false hope among reformers and victims; Trump generates no hope. But he does have a strategy, and it does carefully assess and manage risk to achieve its aims."
The IISS approves

Trump’s Russia Policy Is Better Than Obama’s Was – Foreign Policy - "More than a year into his presidency, Trump’s Russia policy is far more forceful than that of his predecessor. It is substantive, antagonistic to Russian aims, and not at all to the Kremlin’s liking. Still, this fact has been buried by politics, optics, and the president’s own behavior... Trump’s policy toward the Kremlin should be evaluated on its merits. If you extract partisan politics and strip away justifiable distaste for his general conduct, what remains is arguably the most effective Russia policy since the end of the Cold War."
So much for collusion

Chinese students being taught 'us and them' brand of diplomacy - China power - "Future diplomats in the Chinese foreign service are taught that a particular set of ideas and ways of thinking are "correct". Above all, they are being taught the importance of maintaining correct-ness... I taught courses in International Relations and International Development at the China Foreign Affairs University (CFAU) in Beijing from 2009-2010... At the same time as China was seen to be inherently peaceful, other countries were also understood to have immutable characteristics. This particularly applied to Japan and the US... the ability to think and express the correct ideas is one of the most valued attributes in a Chinese student. Indeed, when I was teaching, I was chastised for not simply explaining what the "right" answers were by way of one-way monologue lectures, which the students could then note down and present back to me at exam time. When I said I didn't care what they answered as long as they made a strong argument to prove their case, they were genuinely confused. One student told me he was advised not to undertake a masters course overseas before applying for the Chinese civil service because learning to think in non-Chinese ways would be a liability, not an asset, for his application. This trend of training for future Chinese diplomats is not set to change in the near future. If anything, under Xi Jinping's increasing control over universities, the range of "correct" is likely to ossify. We cannot assume that future generations of Chinese diplomats will be more open and flexible. Political loyalty will be valued above all else as a measure of performance, leading to more, not fewer, instances of unsubtle diplomatic behaviour... The future of Chinese diplomacy is not just challenged by a shortage of diplomats. Beijing ardently wants to sell a more positive message of China to the world. In a world that will need sophisticated flexibility and savoir faire, Chinese diplomacy may struggle to be up to the task."
So much for mo4 xie3 not really being memorisation for the sake of memorisation, but a way to internalise lessons

China's brazen diplomatic stunt - "Shouting down a host country's Indigenous welcome to country ceremony is diplomacy gone mad. While this may not be the most detailed analytical description of what transpired in Perth on 1 May at the little-known Kimberley Process (a multilateral initiative combating the conflict diamond trade), adjectives like brazen, outlandish, disrespectful or uncouth, just don't seem adequate. What has been reported (in news and social media) is this: at the opening session of the Kimberley Process the Chinese delegation used their microphone to shout over the welcome to country ceremony and the introduction for Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who was about to take the stage. The Chinese delegation disrupted the event to protest the attendance of a group from Taiwan... Australians are uncomfortable with the Chinese Communist Party, with 73% of poll respondents answering that they see 'China's system of government' as a negative influence on their overall view of China. The appalling behaviour of the Chinese delegation in Perth will only further cement such feelings... The aggressive diplomatic coercion by the Chinese officials in Perth happens around the world. Last year this video featuring the Queen gave us an insight into the behind-the-scenes difficulties the UK Government encountered leading up to President Xi Jinping's state visit. At the 2010 Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) meeting in Vanuatu, Chinese officials (annoyed by a minor reference to Taiwan in the PIF communiqué) became physical with their hosts... It was a Zimbabwean state-controlled broadcaster that casually broke the story on the same day the drama unfolded. While it was missing much of the important-to-Australia detail, how did Zimbabwe get the jump on the Australia media, on the latter's home turf? This multilateral event was in Perth. The Australian Government was the host. Australia's Foreign Minister wasn't able to deliver her speech at the allotted time because Chinese officials repeatedly interrupted her introduction. They had already disrupted the welcome to country ceremony. This all took place in the Foreign Minister's hometown, in front of international officials, businesspeople and civil society representatives (who, luckily, use Twitter). It was Australia as the host who made the final decision to eject the invited Taiwanese delegation 'in order to allow the meeting to continue', to use the government's words. Taiwan has attended the event in various capacities since 2007 (though not every year). Official rhetoric was completely disconnected from the facts on the ground and gave no hint that an international incident was unfolding. The Australian Government does not have a history of giving into heavy-handed tactics. But it, along with other countries, arguably self-censors to cater for how we think China will react to certain policies"

Chinese city’s idea to deter jaywalkers – spray them with water - "The system in Daye in Hubei province is also fitted with facial recognition technology so offenders can be identified and publicly named and shamed... Pictures taken of offenders will be shown on large screens in public areas."

What’s the ‘dirty secret’ of Western academics who self-censor work on China? - "some researchers in Chinese universities had withdrawn from joint projects with foreign institutions after being warned by authorities that their projects were being monitored. He said some Western academics had become “spooked” during trips to the country when they were stopped by Chinese security agents and asked about their studies. In one case, he said, an academic was told to give the agents a copy of his doctoral dissertation... Australian academia was rocked by an 11th-hour decision by Allen & Unwin to cancel its publication of Silent Invasion, a book by the Australian academic Clive Hamilton that claimed the Chinese government was eroding Australian sovereignty by controlling Chinese businessmen and students in the country, as well as manipulating Australian politicians into taking pro-China stances. Hamilton found a new publisher, Hardie Grant, and the book came out in February. Despite incurring the wrath of Beijing, the author has stuck to his guns, writing this month that “scholars who work on China know that continued access to the country requires them to play by Beijing’s rules, which for most means self-censorship – the dirty secret of China studies in Australia”."

Chinese tourists kill kangaroo, hurling bricks to make it hop

Chinese physician released after 3 months in jail for criticizing a traditional medicine - "Tan Qindong had been held at the Liangcheng county detention centre since January, when police said a post Tan had made on social media damaged the reputation of the traditional medicine and the company that makes it... Although most of these therapies have not been tested for efficacy in randomized clinical trials — and serious side effects have been reported in some — TCM has support from the highest levels of government. Criticism of remedies is often blocked on the Internet in China. Some lawyers and physicians worry that Tan’s arrest will make people even more hesitant to criticize traditional therapies... Xia is worried that the case could further silence public criticism of TCMs, environmental degredation, and other fields where comment from experts is crucial. The Tan arrest “could cause fear among scientists” and dissuade them from posting scientific comments"

The Effect of Non-Contributory Pensions on Labour Supply and Private Income Transfers: Evidence from Singapore by Yanying Chen, Yi Jin Tan - "We use a new monthly panel dataset and a difference-in-differences strategy to study the effect of a new non-contributory pension in Singapore (the Silver Support Scheme, or SSS) on labour supply, work expectations, private cash transfers, and expenditure, one year after its implementation. We find no evidence that receiving SSS payouts led to a fall in labour supply, work expectations, or the receipt of private cash transfers in the first year after SSS implementation – our estimated effects for these outcomes are statistically insignificant, and are either negative but close to zero, or positive. Our point estimates of the effects of receiving SSS payouts on expenditure are positive but too imprecise to allow us to make any definitive conclusions. Lastly, we do not find evidence of anticipatory effects among younger individuals who are not age-eligible for payouts yet. These results, when coupled with our finding in a companion paper that the SSS improved recipients’ subjective well-being (Chen & Tan, 2017), suggest that the SSS was successful in improving recipients’ welfare without substantial crowding out of private transfers or changes in labour market behaviour of current and future SSS beneficiaries."

The Effect of Environmental Disamentities on Electricity Consumption: Evidence From Dengue Outbreaks in Singapore by Yanying Chen, Yi Jin Tan - "We investigate whether a major and growing environmental disamenity – dengue fever – leads to protective behavior that increases residential electricity consumption. We construct a unique panel dataset with nationwide coverage of electricity consumption and dengue risk intensity at the building level, and use geographic and temporal variation in proximity to dengue clusters to identify the effect of dengue outbreaks on electricity consumption. We find that being near a dengue cluster leads to a persistent increase in electricity consumption which varies by socio-economic status. In addition, electricity consumption rises discontinuously when a dengue cluster’s risk classification is upgraded from yellow to red. The cost of this increased electricity consumption, which is currently not accounted for, can amount to 7%–12% of the overall national costs of dengue"

China's social credit system has blocked people from taking 11 million flights and 4 million train trips - "Each list is based on similar offenses – such as misbehavior on planes and trains, or failing to abide by a court judgment – and determines the punishments people face, from throttling internet speeds to blocking loans... The court publishes the names and ID numbers of debtors on its website. They are banned from plane and high-speed train travel, and can’t stay at four and five star hotels, send their children to expensive schools, book cheap hire cars, or make luxury purchases online. Some provinces play a recorded message when someone tries to call a blacklisted debtor, informing the caller that the person they want to speak with has outstanding debts. And in May, a short cartoon with the photographs of debtors’ faces began playing at movie theatres, on buses, and on public noticeboards with a voiceover that said: “Come, come, look at these [debtors]. It’s a person who borrows money and doesn’t pay it back.”"

Obama: Liberal Arts waste of time - "It was reported that President Obama made remarks about liberal arts and criticized the effectiveness a degree in liberal arts would have in training people for jobs. “[A] lot of young people no longer see the trades and skilled manufacturing as a viable career. But I promise you, folks can make a lot more, potentially, with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree. Now, nothing wrong with an art history degree — I love art history. So I don’t want to get a bunch of emails from everybody. I’m just saying you can make a really good living and have a great career without getting a four-year college education as long as you get the skills and the training that you need.”... “There was a survey conducted of over 500 business leaders, like heads of companies, and all said that people with liberal arts education brought good communication skills, good analytical skills and good contextualizing skills to any job,” said director of Women’s and Gender Studies program in N.C State, Deborah Hooker
It's quite funny how saying you can make more in the trades is interpreted as meaning that the liberal arts are useless. Perhaps the liberal arts don't really teach you comprehension skills

What Color Is a Tennis Ball? - "Of nearly 30,000 participants, 52 percent said a tennis ball is green, 42 percent said it’s yellow, and 6 percent went with “other.”... tennis balls were once actually white or black. The arrival of television changed that. Viewers had trouble seeing tennis balls as they hurled across the court in televised matches, so the ITF instructed tournaments to start using yellow ones in 1972 (though white ones were still allowed). The new rule said “the ball shall have a uniform outer surface consisting of a fabric cover and shall be white or yellow in color.”... humans are good at pointing at a yellow paint chip in a line of colorful chips and saying, that’s yellow. But if we’re shown a yellow paint chip alone and asked what color it is, we become less certain about calling it yellow. In a recent study Conway coauthored that surveyed people who speak three different languages—American English, Bolivian Spanish, and an Amazonian language called Tsimane—researchers found that “language systems of people in cultures with little exposure to industrialization are pretty poor at communicating yellow.”... “It is truly horrifying every time it gets pointed out that we’re all walking around thinking we share the same reality,” she said. “And we just are not.”"
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