Daily Archives: February 15, 2020

US Defense Secretary Calls on Global Security Leaders to ‘Wake Up’ to China’s Efforts to Impact World Affairs

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper urged world security leaders Saturday to wake up to China’s efforts to influence world affairs, maintaining the world’s most populous country plans to achieve its goals by any means necessary.

It is essential that we as an international community wake up to the challenges presented by Chinese manipulation of the long-standing international rules-based order, Esper declared at an international security conference in Munich.

Esper emphasized the U.S. does not seek conflict with China but voiced concern over what he said were China’s goals to modernize its military by 2035 and dominate Asia militarily by 2049.

He accused China of increasingly involving itself in affairs in Europe and elsewhere outside its borders with the intent of seeking advantage by any means and at any cost.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said later that Esper and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who accused China of using a nefarious strategy to win support for its next-generation wireless network equipment maker Huawei Technologies, of telling lies.

Pompeo said, We can’t let information go across networks that we don’t have confidence won’t be hijacked by the Chinese Communist Party. It’s just unacceptable.

Wang said The U.S. does not want to see the rapid development and rejuvenation of China and would especially dislike the success of a socialist country. He also said it is most important for the two superpowers to begin talks to find a way for two major countries with different social systems to live in harmony and interact in peace.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told the Munich Security Conference that China presents both challenges and opportunities for the West. He said the U.S. and Europe must agree on a unified approach to address China’s increasing global influence.

Esper sought to garner European support for competitors to Huawei after Britain decided weeks ago to use Huawai’s 5G equipment. Britain’s decision dealt a blow to U.S. efforts to persuade allies to ban Huawei from their networks, claiming China could use the equipment for spying, an accusation Huawei and Chinese officials have denied.

We are encouraging allied and U.S. tech companies to develop alternative 5G solutions and we are working alongside them to test these technologies at our military bases as we speak.

Esper also discussed the war in Afghanistan, saying a U.S. deal with the Taliban that could result in the withdrawal of U.S. troops is not without risk but looks very promising.

Esper’s remarks came one day after a senior U.S. official said a seven-day reduction in violence agreement had been reached with the Taliban and that it would be formally announced soon.

Source: Voice of America

Vietnam Turns to Private Companies for Public Services Needs

Last year companies like Coca Cola and Tetra Pak, an international food packaging and processing company, collaborated with Vietnam’s biggest city to lower garbage levels. Their work included putting recycling bins around Ho Chi Minh City and investing in the waste management system.

Garbage collection is still a local government responsibility.

The collaboration, though, shows how Vietnam is increasingly looking at private companies to fulfill its national development needs.

Vietnam is at a turning point. The country used to rely on aid from nations such as Sweden and Canada, and that foreign funding helped Vietnam improve education, health care, and other public goods, and transform into a lower middle-income nation.

Foreign governments are cutting aid budgets globally, though, and Vietnam no longer qualifies for as much aid, so it is trying a new approach to development, making it a business.

It matches marketing strategy to a need for investment dollars.

That means getting more companies involved in activities traditionally performed by government, with the intention of reaching Vietnam’s development goals.

A series of ongoing market reforms is giving Vietnam a market-leading status in Southeast Asia, making it an increasingly attractive place for investors, Nirukt Sapru, who is the chief executive officer for Vietnam, Southeast Asia, and South Asia at Standard Chartered Bank, said.

He added that in Vietnam, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals present opportunities for private sector investors looking to invest with impact and improve the lives of millions over the next decade.

Water is one example. The change in approach means officials are discussing the provision of clean water not just as a right or a development goal, but also as a potentially profitable investment. This hybrid approach is visible across Vietnam, with companies selling wind power as part of a national energy security agenda, building toll roads whose fees are collected by both government and companies, and laying internet cables as part of efforts toward universal connectivity.

Standard Chartered estimates these and other goals in Vietnam provide companies with a $45.8 billion investment opportunity.

The country is looking at public-private partnerships, which allow companies to participate in what are usually public services, sometimes for a limited time. For instance a city government could let a company build it a hospital, and run facilities until it recoups its investment. Vietnam must strike a balance, making the partnership profitable for companies, without the government getting in too much debt, according to Asian Development Bank consultants Sanjay Grover and Donald Lambert.

If it is too generous, governments can be saddled with millions of dollars in contingent liabilities, they wrote in an ADB analysis. If it is too conservative, investment stalls.

However, partial privatization is not without its drawbacks. Last year Vietnamese drivers protested against paying road tolls that went in part to private investors and that they felt had become unfairly high.

Elsewhere in the region, Malaysia struggled to introduce a fee to clean septic tanks when privatization occurred because residents had gotten used to that being a public service, already covered by tax dollars. Citizens globally have resisted when governments move to sell assets they think should be kept for public benefit, from airports in France to the oil business in Mexico.

One major donor, the U.S. Agency for International Development, though, thinks it’s a good idea for Vietnam to move toward more private sector involvement. In recent years it has promoted U.S. companies to work on Vietnamese development projects, such as energy and smart cities.

USAID provides development assistance for market-oriented reform and trade facilitation, including implementing a program to reinvigorate the public-private-partnership business model here in Vietnam, said U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel Kritenbrink last year.

Source: Voice of America

Cambodia Gets More Praise for Allowing Cruise Ship to Dock

SIHANOUKVILLE, CAMBODIA – The cruise ship that was allowed to dock in Cambodia after being turned away at five other ports by authorities fearful of the spread of the deadly new virus from China disembarked passengers for a second day on Saturday so they can fly home.

After being stranded at sea for two weeks, the MS Westerdam was allowed by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to dock for what he said were humanitarian reasons.

The Cambodian leader’s decision won praise from President Donald Trump, who tweeted: Thank you to the beautiful country of Cambodia for accepting the @CarnivalCruise ship Westerdam into your port. The United States will remember your courtesy!

The first batch of hundreds of passengers who disembarked Friday saw Hun Sen arrive by helicopter and then personally hand them flowers as they made their way to land.

Many were taken to the airport in the port of Sihanoukville from which they were flown to the capital, Phnom Penh, to make onward connections to home.

The ship’s earlier appeals to land in Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and Guam had been rejected.

The one thing I can say is we’re very, very grateful that Cambodia has opened literally its ports and its doors to people in need, U.S. Ambassador W. Patrick Murphy said Saturday at a dockside news conference.

We think this sends a strong message, said the envoy. We all have to help each other. And the passengers here are just average citizens from many different countries trying to make their way home. And this model is good and we hope that other countries can be equally as helpful to people in need.

According to Murphy, of the 1,455 passengers, more than 600 are American citizens.

British passenger John Stanley said that in addition to the Americans, there had been about 150 people aboard from the U.K., along with other travelers from Australia, Canada, France the Netherlands and Germany. The European Union Delegation to Cambodia said there were 260 EU citizens from 20 different EU members states aboard.

They’re from all over the world. It’s a logistical nightmare to get us out of out of your country, Stanley told said, referring to arrangements to get all of them home.

All the passengers were expected to have been sent on their way by Sunday.

Those passengers who had not already left Sihanoukville were looking for ways to occupy themselves. Hun Sen had said the passengers were free to go to the beach, go sightseeing in the coastal city, or even visit the famous centuries-old Angkor Wat temple complex in the country’s northwest.

We’re stuck on this ship for now, Lydia Miller from Washington State said in a text message. Hoping to go to town for coconut water and a massage before we leave.

Some other cruise ships in the Asia Pacific region remain in limbo, barred from some ports and allowed into others. Two cruise ships that were set to disembark passengers in Vietnam on Friday were not allowed to do so.

Source: Voice of America