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Monday, April 12, 2021

Taken in by dubious facts cause less-than-ideal uptake in Covid-19 vaccine registration

The less-than-ideal uptake in Covid-19 vaccine registration so far is because of trust issues, say medical and public health experts.

They attribute the low numbers to the circulation of dubious information including hearsay, and have called on the government to utilise all its resources to clear any doubts and instil trust in the vaccines among the public.

Universiti Malaya professor of occupational and public health Prof Dr Victor Hoe said some people had the misconception that the vaccines were unsafe or that some were better than others.

“When I held community engagements with residents, I found there were still many people who did not trust the safety of the vaccines. They were worried about possible adverse effects of taking the vaccines.

“They told us that they received news through social media and friends about the vaccines’ safety and efficacy, ” he said.

Dr Hoe said the low uptake could also be due to many people not having a smartphone to register themselves for the inoculation and urged the government to make use of all its resources to bridge the gap between technology and trust.

“The move should not just involve the Health Ministry but all levels, from village heads and community leaders to state assemblymen and MPs. They should organise engagement sessions with people on the ground to help them register and also to clear doubts regarding the vaccines.

“However, all of them should have been inoculated against the coronavirus first to ensure people’s confidence in the vaccines, ” he said.

As for states with a low registration rate,Dr Hoe said if the campaigns to promote better understanding and uptake of the vaccine failed, they should be reassessed.

“The cause of concerns should be addressed adequately without blaming any party, ” he said.

Dr Hoe, however, is not in favour of making Covid-19 vaccination compulsory.

The Special Committee on Covid-19 Vaccine Supply Access Guarantee has said that as at April 10, only over 8.4 million of the targeted 26.7 million people had registered.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba recently said the government would identify the causes of the slow uptake while Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said Malaysia might review its voluntary Covid-19 vaccination policy come July if the rate was still low.

Malaysian Public Health Physicians Association president Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar said a majority of Malaysians were still adopting a “wait and see” approach.

“They see it as not urgent and think there’s still time before the actual vaccination (involving the public) starts, ” he said.

Dr Zainal Ariffin said the Covid-19 Immunisation Task Force needed to understand community behaviour and the dynamics of vaccination programmes.

“The most important outcome is the actual vaccination coverage, ” he said.

Agreeing that some citizens do have problems accessing registration channels and need help with it, Dr Zainal Ariffin suggested the government consider mass walk-in vaccinations when more vaccines are available.

He, too, thinks it is not necessary to make Covid-19 immunisation compulsory.

Universiti Malaya professor of epidemiology and public health Prof Dr Sanjay Rampal said more health experts need to critically appraise the benefits of the vaccines without pre-formed biases.

“This will increase trust in the translation of science and how it benefits the community... our opinions tend to be polarised through social media.

“Maintaining trust and goodwill is key to increasing vaccine uptake by the community, ” he said.

To encourage communities to register Dr Sanjay proposed having roadshows in shopping complexes, workplaces and community centres including at PPR (People’s Housing Projects) flats and villages.

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Task force: Confirm vaccination appointment

PUTRAJAYA: Vaccine recipients under phase two of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme are reminded to confirm their vaccination appointment within 48 hours of receiving their details, or risk having it cancelled and rescheduled to a later date.

The Covid-19 Immunisation Task Force said the slots for those who failed to respond to the appointment notification would then be given to others.

“If they (recipients) confirm to be present for the vaccination appointment, a reminder will be sent three days, as well as a day before, the (actual) date, ” it said, adding that the notification for the appointment and the reminders will be sent via both the MySejahtera app and the Short Message Service (SMS).

For those who have not registered through MySejahtera, the appointment details will be sent via SMS.

The second phase of the national immunisation programme is set to begin April 19, targeting at-risk groups such as the elderly, individuals with comorbidities and persons with disabilities.

Those with queries regarding their appointment may contact the toll-free hotline at 1800-888-828. —Bernama

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Covid-19 vaccines: Addressing the worries of allergy sufferers

Anyone with a history of negative reactions to certain medications may want to seek advice from an allergy specialist before receiving a Covid-19 vaccine. — dpa

 Covid-19 vaccines can cause strong allergic reactions in very rare cases.


However, rare or not, this is making many allergy sufferers around the world uneasy.

In Germany, allergy outpatient clinics are seeing an influx of people extremely worried about the vaccines, says Dr Ludger Klimek, president of the Medical Association of German Allergologists (AeDA).

”Many would like to be vaccinated and are looking forward to it, and then they read that a severe reaction is possible,” he remarks.

“This has raised a lot of uncertainty.”

So, how high exactly is the risk?

Since vaccinations started in England and the United States, there have been reports of some strong allergic reactions that occurred shortly after a vaccination and had to be treated.

Precise data on the frequency of such reactions after Covid-19 vaccinations aren’t currently available, however.

Based on existing preliminary data, Dr Klimek says, the new messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccines by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna likely carry a somewhat higher risk than the other Covid-19 vaccines – around 2.5 to 4 times higher.

Nevertheless, he adds, the risk is still extremely low, namely “one case in every 100,000 vaccinations”.

Allergic reactions aren’t confined to Covid-19 vaccines, of course, but can occur after taking any medication.

No one becomes allergic to a substance by taking a Covid-19 vaccine, he says, explaining that an allergic reaction to an ingredient in the vaccine means you’ve already been previously sensitised to it.

As the injected dose of it is higher, the reaction can be stronger.

Also, not all allergy sufferers are affected equally.

“If you have hay fever, you’re not really at higher risk of side effects than someone without allergies,” says Dr Klimek.

But if you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to certain medications – a laxative or X-ray contrast agent, for example – you might also have one to the ingredients in the Covid-19 vaccines, he says, noting that known allergenic substances in medications include polyethylene glycol, polysorbate and ethylene oxide.

While completely eliminating a risk is hardly possible, Dr Klimek says, you’d do well to consult an allergist if you’ve had an allergic reaction to a medication.

If need be, the allergist can refer you to a specialised allergy centre that can make a specific recommendation based on your allergy and the ingredients in the various Covid-19 vaccines.

As for whether, say, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine would be a better choice than AstraZeneca/Oxford’s, or vice versa, he says: “(An assessment like) this is very complex and not affordable by every doctor’s surgery.”

In any event, health experts, such as those at Germany’s Federal Centre for Health Education (BZgA), have made it clear that if you know you’re allergic to an ingredient in a Covid-19 vaccine, you shouldn’t get that vaccine.

Before you’re vaccinated, it’s imperative that you accurately and thoroughly fill out your medical history questionnaire – and if in doubt, do so with the help of an allergist – so that personnel at the vaccination site know what to watch for and can further evaluate you if necessary.

After getting the jab, you have to remain on site for at least 15 minutes so that you can be monitored as a precaution.

The wait is 30 minutes if you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to a vaccine, the BZgA says.

The most serious kind of allergic reaction is anaphylaxis, in which your immune system releases a flood of chemicals that can cause you to go into shock.

“This is definitely life-threatening,” says Dr Klimek.

Less serious potential reactions include a skin rash, scratchy throat or itching.

According to the BZgA, vaccination sites and mobile vaccination teams are required to be equipped to treat any cases of anaphylaxis quickly. – By Tom Nebe/dpa

Information in this article was accurate at the time of its writing. Due to the fluid nature of the Covid-19 pandemic, scientific understanding, along with guidelines and recommendations, may have changed since the original publication date.

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The danger of too many people refusing vaccines

 

Some vaccines are only completed when a child is older, leaving them vulnerable to getting the infectious disease in the meantime. — Positive Parenting

 Last fortnight, we talked about anti-vaxxers and why they oppose getting vaccines. So many anti-vaxxers do not want to get vaccines for either themselves or their families. But it only hurts them and their families, right? It does not hurt the world.


Wrong. It hurts the community and the world in the long run, or even in the short term.

There are two main types of anti-vaxxers.

One is the type who just refuses to inoculate themselves and their loved ones.

The other – even more dangerous – is the type who not only refuses to inoculate themselves and their loved ones, but also go around telling all their friends and acquaintances on social media not to inoculate themselves, too.

They want to make sure everyone believes in their misconceptions too, and will shout out their beliefs to the world.

They are the most dangerous type, although the first type are dangerous, too.

What is the danger?

When there are large numbers of people refusing to vaccinate themselves against a certain disease, it leads to the reemergence of that disease in that community or area.

Take, for example, measles.

Back when I was a kid, I had measles. Every single one of my classmates had measles.

It was a thing you went through in childhood.

But when the measles vaccine was introduced as part of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccination for children, measles all but disappeared in the parts of the world that were vaccinated.

And before you dismiss measles as a minor disease that mostly gives you red bumps on the skin, do not forget that it has many complications, including encephalitis (infection of the brain), which can lead to death in children.

By 2002, measles was declared eradicated in the United States due to widespread vaccination.

But this infectious disease soon reemerged, and by 2014, there were over 600 reported new cases.

This was because of anti-vaxxers who refused to vaccinate their children, resulting in some of them catching the measles virus.

Not only has this happened to measles, but whooping cough (pertussis) has also seen a dramatic increase in cases due to anti-vaxxers.

Right. But if my child is vaccinated and he goes to school with a child who has not been vaccinated, my child should be safe, right?

Yes, for the most part. It depends on the vaccine.

Some vaccines have a very high efficacy rate, such as over 90%.

This means that the vaccine will protect nine out of every 10 vaccinated children.

Let us say that your vaccinated child is the one out of 10 who did not develop antibodies to the virus.

If he goes to school with an unvaccinated child who has fallen ill, then your vaccinated child will get sick too.

Vaccines are supposed to confer herd immunity when enough people are vaccinated.

So, if you do not vaccinate your child, others who might otherwise be safe will get infected too.

And the ones who are the most vulnerable and will get sick first are:

> Infants too young to get vaccinated

You may say, “Oh, my child will not come across an infant.”

But that is not true.

You go to a hospital and there are infants in the clinic. You go to a mall and there are mothers with infants.

There are also some children who are too young to be vaccinated against a certain disease. You expose them too.

Children can only get certain vaccines at certain points in their lives.

The MMR vaccine, for example, is only given when they are one year old, and the second dose is given at age four.

Will you be responsible for a three-year-old child dying of measles just because you refuse to get vaccinated?

> People with weak immune systems

These include those with cancer who are on chemotherapy.

Yes, they may have been vaccinated before, but they are too weak now to mount an effective immune response.

In 2018, there was a college student in Pittsburgh, US, who had measles.

He exposed more than 100 cancer patients to measles. Any of them could have died.

> Healthcare workers

They are always at the greatest risk, even if they have been vaccinated before as they are constantly exposed to all sorts of dangerous microorganisms.

So, because of anti-vaxxers’ actions, large numbers of people are exposed to infectious diseases they might otherwise have not gotten.

OK, so I got the flu vaccine, but I still got the flu! That is why I don’t fully believe in vaccines!

The flu vaccine is only 40% to 60% effective.

Sometimes, you may have already been infected by the flu virus before you got your vaccine.

It takes two weeks after receiving the flu shot for you to develop immunity.

The flu vaccine also cannot shield you against all types of flu viruses as the virus mutates very quickly.

But it still works in protecting many vaccinated people from getting the flu, or getting a severe version of it.

Two doses of the MMR vaccine, however, is 97% effective against measles, 88% effective against mumps, and 97% effective against rubella.

So you cannot use the flu vaccine to say that all vaccines do not work!

Please get better informed about the type of vaccine you are taking.

Dr YLM graduated as a medical doctor, and has been writing for many years on various subjects such as medicine, health, computers and entertainment. For further information, email starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information contained in this column is for general educational purposes only. Neither The Star nor the author gives any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star and the author disclaim all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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Covid-19 vaccines: Facts about the myths

 

Employees carry a container of mixed raw materials for mRNA at the BioNTech SE laboratory in Marburg, Germany. This technology was developed over the past 20 years. — Bloomberg

  Although the Covid-19 vaccines offer hope in controlling the pandemic, they have been the subject of myths and misinformation that have contributed to vaccine hesitancy.

This article clarifies the facts surrounding some of the common myths, which the writer has encountered in interactions with patients, colleagues and friends.

Myth 1: The vaccine developments were rushed, so the vaccines are not safe

Facts: The development of vaccines, like medicines, require compliance with global regulators’ safety protocols and adequate testing.

The Covid-19 vaccines were tested in rigorous clinical trials involving tens of thousands of volunteers in many countries to ensure that they complied with safety standards, and protected adults of different ages, gender and ethnicities.

There was no shortage of volunteers, which was facilitated by social media.

None of the usual steps in testing procedures were omitted, but instead, were conducted on overlapping schedules to enable faster data collection and analysis.

As Covid-19 was so widespread, it did not take long to determine if the vaccines worked for vaccinated volunteers.

A critical factor was the large amounts of financial resources available to the vaccine projects as governments and donor agencies invested in the research and/or paid for the vaccines in advance.

This is unlike the research and development of other vaccines, which is usually funded by the company’s own resources.

Regulators worldwide reviewed and continue to monitor the safety of the vaccines – no public health safety concerns have been found thus far.

Myth 2: The vaccines can lead to infection by the SARS-CoV-2 virus

Facts: All Covid-19 vaccines stimulate the body’s immune system to recognise and fight the SARS-CoV-2 virus if there is an infection.

Sometimes, the process can cause temporary symptoms like fever, but these symptoms are normal and a sign that the body is building protection against the virus.

The mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) vaccines do not contain the live SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Instead, they instruct the body’s cells to produce a protein that is a part of the virus.

This helps the body recognise and fight the virus if infected.

The protein does not cause any infection and is eliminated from the body in about 72 hours.

Another type of Covid-19 vaccine is the inactivated vaccine.

This traditional method of producing vaccines involves the use of killed or inactivated SARS-CoV-2 viral particles to stimulate the body’s immune system without causing serious disease.

It takes a few weeks for the body to develop an immune response following vaccination.

This means that it is possible that a person could get infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus just before or just after vaccination, and still get sick.

This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.

Myth 3: The mRNA vaccine will alter the body’s DNA

The mRNA contained in the Covid-19 vaccine only enters our cell cytoplasm (lighter blue), while our DNA is in our cell nucleus (darker blue). — 123rf.com 

The mRNA contained in the Covid-19 vaccine only enters our cell cytoplasm (lighter blue), while our DNA is in our cell nucleus (darker blue). — 123rf.com


Facts: mRNA is not the same as DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid).

mRNA, which is found in all living cells, acts as a chemical intermediary (or messenger) between DNA in the cell nucleus and the cellular machinery that produces the proteins needed for bodily functions.

mRNA instructs this machinery to produce these proteins.

The mRNA vaccines do not alter or interact with DNA in any way.

It only enters the cell cytoplasm. It does not enter the cell nucleus where the DNA is located.

This means that it cannot affect or interact with the body’s DNA.

The mRNA instructs the body’s cells to produce the viral protein that stimulates an immune response and is eliminated from the body after its work is done.

Myth 4: The mRNA technology is a brand new technology

Facts: The mRNA technology has been developed over the past two decades.

It has been used to produce certain cancer medicines, and studied in other infectious diseases like influenza, Zika, rabies and cytomegalovirus infection.

The use of this technology has facilitated large scale production of vaccines, which is needed in managing the pandemic as quickly as possible.

Myth 5: The side effects of the vaccines are dangerous and severe

Facts: The Covid-19 vaccines contain normal vaccine ingredients, e.g. fats that protect the mRNA, salts and a small amount of sugar.

They were not developed with foetal tissue, and do not contain any materials like implants, microchips or tracking devices.

Just like other vaccines, there are short-term mild or moderate side effects.

They usually resolve without complications or injury.

These side effects include discomfort at the injection site for a day or two; muscle ache; headache; and fatigue or fever after vaccination.

These are usual reactions to any vaccine and indicate the immune system is responding.

Most symptoms resolve within days.

There is no perfect vaccine, just as there is no perfect medicine, without any side effects.

When hundreds of millions of people have received the Covid-19 vaccines, it is inevitable that some adverse events will occur in the days and weeks after vaccination.

As such, careful investigation is necessary to determine if the vaccine was the cause or if it was coincidental, i.e. the adverse event was not related to the vaccine, but may be attributed to it erroneously as it occurred soon after vaccination.

When evaluating such reports, it is important to check the denominators and not just the numerators.

There has been media hype about blood clots in those who had the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, which has prompted investigations and vaccination pauses in some countries.

The UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) received 30 reports from 18.1 million doses administered as of March 24 (2021).

One case and five cases were reported among the more than 400,000 doses administered in Australia and Holland respectively.

The World Health Organization (WHO), UK MHRA and European Medicines Agency (EMA) reviewed the reports and concluded that the benefits continue to outweigh the risks.

The EMA added that unusual blood clots with low blood platelets should be listed as very rare side effects of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, following a review of 62 cases of cerebral vein thrombosis (blood clot in the cerebral vein, which drains blood from the brain) and 24 cases of splanchnic vein thrombosis (blood clot in the splanchnic venous circulation, which drains blood from the digestive system) in the European Union (EU) drug safety database as of March 22 (2021), from about 25 million doses administered.

UK data found that long Covid symptoms were worse in those younger than 50 and those who were fitter before getting Covid-19. — AFP 

UK data found that long Covid symptoms were worse in those younger than 50 and those who were fitter before getting Covid-19. — AFP


Myth 6: As Covid-19 has a high survival rate, vaccination is unnecessary

Facts: The death rate of Covid-19 varies and is influenced by age, gender, co-morbidities (concurrent illnesses) and social deprivation.

Covid-19 is now recognised as a multi-organ disease with a broad spectrum of manifestations.

Data from the United Kingdom found that more than half of Covid-19 patients had long Covid symptoms three months after discharge from hospital, with worse outcomes among those younger than 50, women, and those with higher pre-Covid fitness levels.

Another study reported that discharged patients had higher risks of new respiratory disease (six times), major cardiovascular disease (three times), chronic liver disease (2.8 times), chronic kidney disease (1.9 times), and diabetes (1.5 times), than matched controls from the general population.

These risks were higher in those younger than 70 and in non-white individuals.

There were similar reports from other countries, but no published Malaysian data.

Take home message

Getting the Covid-19 vaccine is important to prevent infection and serious disease, which may have long-term consequences.

It may also prevent the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to others.

Anyone who has any doubt about getting vaccinated would benefit from a discussion with their general practitioner (GP) or family doctor.

Dr Milton Lum is a past president of the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners Associations and the Malaysian Medical Association. For more information, email starhealth@thestar.com.my. Information in this article was accurate at the time of its writing. Due to the fluid nature of the Covid-19 pandemic, scientific understanding, along with guidelines and recommendations, may have changed since the original publication date. The views expressed do not represent that of organisations that the writer is associated with. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Malaysia's 'taiko' diplomacy in China sparks debate

 

Storm in a teacup: Hishammuddin’s ‘big brother’ remark when meeting Wang caused a stir in the country. — Photos: Xinhua

Hishammuddin (left) and his Chinese counterpart Wang at the signing of the historic MOU on the Establishment of a High-Level Committee to Promote Co-operation in the Post Covid-19 Era.Hishammuddin (left) and his Chinese counterpart Wang at the signing of the historic MOU on the Establishment of a High-Level Committee to Promote Co-operation in the Post Covid-19 Era.

 

 

AT a recent joint press briefing in Fujian Province with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said Wang “is my taiko (big brother)” after he described “Malaysia and China is a family” with broad smiles.

For both phrases, he had spoken in “broken” Mandarin before translating into English himself. And in response, a pleasantly surprised Wang Yi replied promptly in Mandarin “We are brothers”.

While this “big brother” remark on April 1 has sent Chinese social media into frenzy as this was interpreted as Malaysia’s strong respect shown towards China, the world’s second largest economy, it has whipped up a storm back home.

Amid this brouhaha focusing on the propriety of the phrases, the economic gains harvested by Hishammuddin in his refreshing display of charming diplomacy have largely been eclipsed. China’s nod to include Malaysian red palm oil on its import list had missed the news headlines.

In response to local criticisms, Hishamuddin has explained he was being respectful to the Chinese State Councillor and foreign minister, as the latter is older and a more seasoned diplomat. The elder brother is 67 years old, and younger is 59.

Hishammuddin had used this trip to express Malaysia’s appreciation to China for the latter’s help in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. When the virus first hit Malaysia, China promptly sent masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) to Putrajaya. Its medical teams also came to share their experience in fighting the noval virus.

In defending himself, the Malaysian top diplomat has argued the act of being respectful does not signify weaknesses.

However, his explanation has provoked more reactions and criticisms. Leading the attack on him are former Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman and Parliamentary Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

“As Malaysia’s top diplomat, Hishammuddin should be more circumspect and tactful in his choice of phrase. Instead of trying to justify such wrong choice of phrase, Hishammuddin should have just accepted that he has committed a diplomatic faux pas.

“It was wrong enough to commit a diplomatic faux pas but to argue and try to justify it clearly showed the real character of the person, ” said Anifah, a Sabah leader who had served as foreign minister of Malaysia from 2009 to 2018.

Opposition politician Anwar urged Hishammuddin to apologise to the nation. He said the language and expressions used has put Malaysia as a “boneka” (puppet) to a foreign country.

But whether Hishimmuddin was being careless, commentators with sharp eyes could provide some leads. They pointed out his gestures and body language showed he was sincere with his words.

Chinese commentator Cheng Yue said on his YouTube post: “We can feel that the Mandarin words on ‘you are my elder brother’ was learnt before attending the press event.

“He was smiling as he uttered those words. It was meant for the ears of our government and people, as Malaysia needs Chinese help in its efforts to get its post-epidemic economy back to normalcy.”

Indeed, Hishammuddin is no stranger to the Chinese people. He is remembered as the Acting Transport Minister holding daily press conference at KLIA after the March 2014 disappearance of Beijing-bound MH730 airplane. Many had given thumbs up for his handling of the disaster.

Hishammuddin, who was defence minister during the rule of Barisan Nasional before it was toppled in May 2018, is generally seen to have enjoyed a close rapport with Beijing.

In 2019, when he was in the opposition, he had offered to help track down fugitive billionaire Low Taek Jho, rumoured to be hiding in China. Low was (and still is) wanted to help in the investigations into 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

But while criticisms are aplenty for his “taiko” phrase, Hishammudin is not short of support.

Leading Chinese daily in Malaysia Sin Chew Jit Poh opines the Foreign Minister has not committed any wrong by showing respect and friendship to the host.

In its editorial headlined “Calling Wang Yi elder brother will not be self-dwarfing”, Sin Chew wrote last Tuesday: “We do not understand what wrong our Foreign Minister had committed. Did he sign any treaty deemed as insulting to Malaysia? Did he give away our sovereignty?”

The newspaper opposed calls for Hishammuddin to apologise to the country for his remarks. It said: “We have to be more broadminded. In our daily life, we address people we respect as ‘big sister’ or ‘big brother’. What is diplomacy? It is the use of a language skillfully to smoothen the process to achieve our goals in international negotiations.”

In fact, Hishimmuddin’s remarks have won praise from the most powerful Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying. In her regular media briefing the following day, she said: “Even separated by a screen, we can feel the warmth and close friendship of the two nations.”

To political observer Professor Dr Chin Yew Sin, the seasoned politician’s remarks could be interpreted from political and economic angles.

“On the one hand, our general election (GE15) is coming soon. From the political angle, he is playing with the China card to woo local Chinese votes. (About 30% of Chinese voters have not decided which party to support in GE15).

“On the other hand, Malaysia needs China to buy more palm oil to help revitalise our economy as it is facing problems with Europe. Post pandemic, we need more Chinese tourists coming. If not, you think Hisham will call China ‘taiko’?” While there may be doubt on China’s influence in GE15, Chin is right on the economic front.

As a government leader, Hishammudin knows the importance of China to Malaysia. The mainland is Malaysia’s biggest trade partner for 12 consecutive years. It has also been a significant source of foreign investment since the Barisan administration.

Despite the pandemic, China’s imports of Malaysian commodities and manufactured goods hit record high in 2020. This has resulted in a bigger trade balance in Malaysia’s favour.

In fact, some people believe Hishammuddin was exuding personal charisma to achieve the national goals for Malaysia.

As China’s economy is in the full swing now after recovering speedily from the pandemic, it is pertinent for Kuala Lumpur to deepen its economic cooperation with Beijing.

Last Wednesday, the International Monetary Fund raised its 2021 GDP growth forecast for China to 8.4%, up from 8.1% in January.

Hence, signing a pact to establish a Malaysia-China High-Level Committee on Post-Covid-19 Cooperation is a wise move, as Malaysia will stand to gain from cooperation rather than confrontation.

At the media briefing on April 1, Hishammuddin said this would “provide policy guidance for all aspects” of relations: trade and investment, food security, science/technology, travel and quality projects under the Belt and Road Initiative.

From this trip, Malaysia achieved a breakthrough in trade. Beijing agreed to allow imports of our red palm oil, which had previously failed to meet China’s colour specification standards. This gain is important as palm oil is a major export and foreign exchange earner for Malaysia.

The Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) recently projected that China would import 6.8 million tonnes of palm oil this year. Out of this, about 42% would be sourced from Malaysia.

China watchers say if Malaysia wants China to import more, it has to play its diplomatic card right. In this regard, Indonesia has outwitted Malaysia.

According to Xinhua News Agency, Wang said on April 1 China is willing to work with Malaysia to continue to promote high-quality Belt and Road cooperation in the post-epidemic period.

He also expressed China’s willingness to enhance cooperation on Covid-19 vaccine and drug research with Malaysia, adding that the two sides should enhance cooperation in fields including 5G, digital economy and modern agriculture.

According to a Nikkei report, Malaysia will become the second Chinese vaccine production base in the region, after Indonesia. These deals will help to promote greater acceptance of Chinese vaccines in this region and globally.

In this meeting, China and Malaysia also agreed on mutual recognition of “vaccine passports” to facilitate travel. For Malaysia, this will lay the groundwork to restart international tourism.

While the ‘taiko” remarks have caught the eyes of Malaysians and Chinese nationals, they might have also caught Washington’s attention.

On the eve of his visit to China, Hishammuddin received a call from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who “affirmed the key role of Asean-centrality in the Indo-Pacific and underscored the importance of promoting freedom of navigation, overflight and other lawful uses of the sea, including in the South China Sea”.

The Malaysian diplomat has described their conversation as “great”.

“Blinken appeared just as enthusiastic about Malaysia’s relationship with China, ” according to a comment by Nikkei.

Given that President Joe Biden has pledged he will prevent China from becoming the world’s “leading” and “wealthiest” country, and Washington is getting all its allies to encircle Beijing, it is no surprise that any activities linked to China will be monitored by US officials.

Asean leaders have generally chosen to stay neutral in the US-China confrontation. But they have to engage more with China – their closer neighbour that is overflowing with economic opportunities.

In fact, Wang’s meeting with Hishammuddin was part of his meetings with three other Southeast Asian nations from March 31 to April 3. The foreign ministers of Singapore, Indonesia and the Phillipines had held meetings with Wang separately on different days.

Wrapping up his series of meetings with the four Asean nations, Wang Yi told China’s state media that he has called on Southeast Asian nations to be on the alert for external forces interfering in coup-hit Myanmar, as its junta faces rising international pressure to return democracy to the people.

On these Asean meetings, the Global Times of China opines Beijing is overcoming US attempt at “encirclement.” It said: “It is actually very easy to break the so-called US encirclement. This encircling of China is a false proposition put forward by those who think too highly about themselves.”

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  Only a US domestic revitalization plan that can forget about China will have any promise -When developing infrastructure,...

 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

What you need to know before you get that pup, Run, Rover, run

 Puppies need their mothers until they are at least eight weeks old - dpa


10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Getting a Puppy

A PUPPY is a big commitment, but if you’re ready to take the leap, congratulations! For a whole host of reasons, you should make sure that it doesn’t come from illegal breeders. Animal rights experts have put together a list to help you make sure you’re responsibly adding a new four-legged family member to your household.

> See the mother::

When meeting the breeder, ask to see the puppy’s mother. Does she look healthy? Does she have a teat? Sometimes online sellers will put up a picture of a dog from the same breed, while the actual mother is suffering at a puppy mill elsewhere.

> Look at the offers:

If the person selling the puppy has a large selection of puppies from different breeds and different ages, then you can safely assume that they’re acting only as a middleman.

> Assess the age:

Puppies need their mothers until they are at least eight weeks old. Only then are they old enough to be separated from their mother and their litter. Otherwise, you risk health issues.

> Beware of disinterest:

A responsible breeder wants to make sure that his or her puppies are going to a good home. If they seem uninterested in learning about you as a buyer, it’s a bad sign.

> No pity purchases:

If something seems strange to you, and you have doubts about a seller’s seriousness, don’t buy the dog. Instead, inform the police or a veterinarian authority to get them involved.

> Get it in writing:

Ask for a sales contract when buying the dog. That way, you have important details about the dog and personal data. – dpa



Run, Rover, run

Tips and tricks for training a dog for cross-country running, aka canicross.

 The beauty of canicross is that any dog can take part as long as it is fit and enjoys running - 123rf.com

RUNNING with your dog is a fantastic way to get back to nature, solidify the bond with your dog and to get fit. The canine sport, known as canicross is a sport rapidly growing in popularity.

When you first look to start running with a dog, it can be a lot of information to take in all at once. This beginner’s guide is a one-and-done read to introduce you to the wild world of canicross and give you all the information you need to get started.

Harnesses for running are designed differently  to daily walking harnesses. Tthe pull point is much further back on the harness, meaning the dog can learn into the harness and pull you along


What breeds are good for canicross?

The beauty of canicross is that any dog can take part. Provided they have good physical fitness and enjoy running, any dog can take part – even small dog breeds.

There are some prerequisites to this: the dog in question must be over a year of age and ideally fully grown. This is to prevent any additional unnecessary stress being placed on the joints while the growth plates are still forming.

Equally, your dog must not have any ongoing health issues that may make running uncomfortable for them. Making sure you take your dog for regular health checks with your veterinarian is the best way to ensure the health of your pup.

Generally speaking, gundog breeds such as Labradors, spaniels and beagles are most commonly seen at canicross events. You also very commonly see sled dogs at these events, known for their stamina and pulling ability.

Equipment

Like humans, dogs need their own sports kit for running with their owners. Harnesses for running are designed differently to daily walking harnesses.

The pull point is much further back on the harness, meaning the dog can lean into the harness and pull you along. The dog has a full range of movement in all four of their limbs and this is essential for them to be able to run properly. It is important to properly train your dog to wear their harness, as they need to be completely comfortable in it.

It is not advisable to allow your dog to run in a collar or headcollar, as this can result in unnecessary pressure on their head and neck.

To connect to the harness, many recommend a bungee lead or rope. You want something with some stretch as your dog will be regularly pulling, and any lead with a brittle fabric may snap after a few runs! You may also wish to invest in a belt to carry both you and your dog’s equipment, but also to provide a connection point for the lead so that you can focus on running.

If you are running in areas that do not have smooth, muddy tracks, such as pebbled beaches, hillsides, or even asphalt, you may wish to invest in boots for your dog. This is also important if you live in a colder area; your dog can injure their paws from repeated exposure to the cold ground. It is important to do some work around getting your dog completely comfortable in these as they will need to run in them!

Regardless of where you live, it is important to invest in a paw balm for your dog to sooth their paws after a run. There are many brands available online but we recommend one with shea butter in, as this will help to sooth and moisturise your dogs paws.

A very commonly asked question is: Will running with my dog in a harness encourage my dog to pull? Dogs are very intelligent creatures, and can tell the difference between a harness they wear on their walks and a harness they wear to run in. Using the cues suggested below and the different contexts of the two instances, your dog can learn to pull in one harness but not in the other.

Important cues

When you are looking to teach your dog to run with you, there are several important cues to teach. Although it is not advisable to start running with your dog before they are at least one year old, you can start teaching them their cues as early as you like.

> Forward: Teaching your dog to move forward is an essential part of running with you. Teaching this is easiest if you have a toy that your dog is particularly motivated by. Have your dog in their running kit just in front of you and throw their toy just out of their reach. As they adjust into their harness to chase it, say your chosen cue words (e.g., let’s go!) and allow them to chase after their toy. If they are not toy-motivated, you can have another person call them or throw them a few treats.

> Stop: Equally, getting your dog to stop is an essential part of running. To teach a stop cue, place a broom on the floor and throw a treat over it. As your dog runs back towards you, give them a treat just as they reach the handle. Repeat this several times before adding your chosen word (e.g. Whoa!) just as they reach the broom. You can then start to remove the broom and use your cue word and rewarding for stopping. Once your pup understands the exercise, you can start to practise while in your canicross equipment.

> Directional cues: Being able to teach your dog which way you would like them to go is essential as your dog will be leading the route. If you can, running with an already experienced dog is a great way to teach this, as a green dog will naturally follow an already experienced dog. If you do not have another dog on hand to help, one way to teach is to say the direction (e.g. left! or right!) and then throw a treat in that direction for your dog to go and get. As you play the game more and more, your dog will start to preempt you, learning what these words mean.

> Run past: As with sheepdogs, it is important to have a cue that signals to your dog to ignore distractions, such as other dogs, some smelly poo or a squirrel! Many owners do not teach a separate cue for this behaviour, but instead use their previously taught “leave it!” cue in this context.

Safety tips

When you first start out, it is inadvisable to go very far. You want to work at both your own and your dog’s level of fitness and slowly build this over time.

It is important to never run in extreme weather. When out running with your dog, you often will run in remote locations. Therefore, it is important to never run in extreme weather such as intense winds or thunderstorms. This is even more important in extreme heat, as dogs cannot sweat in the same way we do and will very quickly overheat while running.

We do not advise running with your dog in temperatures much above 80°F (27°C). Beyond that temperature, the asphalt becomes too hot for a dog’s paws and they will need to run on grass. It is best to run with your dog early in the morning as temperatures are between 75°F (24°C) and 80°F (27°C) and the asphalt hasn’t had a chance to heat up yet.

As dogs can overheat easily, it is important to bring water for both you and your dog and offer them water regularly. This is especially true on warmer days, but it is important regardless of weather conditions.

Summary

Running with your dog is a great way to get fit and spend time together. It can be a great way to spend time with your dog exploring the wilder places near you. Canicross can also be a great way to network and to make friends, as there are many wider social events to attend. Do you run with your dog? Are you just starting? Share with us your thoughts on canicross, at lifestyle@thestar.com.my.

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Sunday, April 4, 2021

Winners, losers in Xinjiang cotton row

Not many will gain in the current furore over Xinjiang cotton, but the West may end up losing more.

As the soil and climate is ideal for cotton farming, Xinjiang produces one of the best quality cotton crops in the world. 


 


XINJIANG has never left the radar of the United States and its allies in their relentless efforts in recent years to vilify Beijing. They have hurled accusations ranging from human rights violations to baseless claim of “genocide” against the Muslim minority groups.

The most recent blow, which has kicked up a huge international firestorm since March 24, centered on the alleged use of “forced labour” in the huge and vibrant cotton industry in Xinjiang.

Calling these accusations “malicious lies and fabrications”, Beijing has imposed tit-for-tat sanctions on politicians and groups in the US, Britain and the European Union (EU), in retaliation for Western sanctions on Chinese officials over their role in alleged human right violations in Xinjiang.

In its attempt to show the brain and culprits behind these allegations, Beijing has also said there are geopolitical and economic reasons in the conspiracy to “blacken” Xinjiang cotton.

Accusing the US of aiming to destabilise China, Beijing’s foreign ministry on March 26 showed the media a 2018 video that recorded a speech by career US army officer Lawrence Wilkerson, who told the US Central Intelligence Agency to use Uyghurs in Xinjiang to hit China from within.

Beijing has also highlighted the subtle link between US government and Geneva-based NGO Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), which has sanctioned Xinjiang cotton despite being informed by its Shanghai branch there are no signs of forced labour in Xinjiang in the latter’s own investigation.

The BCI, hitherto thought to be an independent trade group to promote better standards, is accused by China to have allegedly taken funding from US Agency for International Development (USAID).

According to USAID’s website, the work of the agency “advances the government’s national security and economic interest”.

The Chinese social media has taken this further. It points out that BCI council chairman Marc Lewkowitz is the president of Supima – the promotion and marketing organisation for American Pima cotton growers.

“The US has no right to accuse China over human rights. It’s time for some US politicians to end the drama they made up, directed and performed themselves, and it’s time for them to wake up from their own Truman Show, ” said Hua Chunying, China’s key foreign ministry spokesperson, at a regular press briefing last Wednesday.

As the history of Xinjiang is marred with bloody terrorism and separatism, which was only put to an end by the central government in 2016, the province populated with 12 million Muslim Uyghurs has become an easy target for anti-China groups to fan up religious and anti-China sentiment.

However, amid allegations against China, leaders from the Muslim world who have visited Xinjiang have not uttered disapproval. In fact, some Middle East nations even voiced support for Beijing’s treatment of the Uyghurs.

A 25-year strategic cooperation agreement signed on March 27 between China and Iran is seen as a stamp of confidence on China by a major Muslim country. The pact, signed at the height of the cotton conflict, covers military, trade, energy and economic cooperation. It has attracted Western media and eyes.

In countering the claim that Xinjiang cotton is tarnished by forced labour, China has questioned why its accusers have persistently refused to visit Xinjiang and do their own fact-finding.

In the past, Beijing has adopted a relatively passive response towards western accusations. Its rebuttals often came in the form of press statements and media interviews to show the good work they have done in Xinjiang, which include eradicating extreme poverty in this arid mountainous north-western province, setting up schools for the young, and creating employment for the jobless.

But this time around, China has dropped its soft approach. It has hit back mercilessly.

For politicians with wide-ranging commercial interest in China, it really hurts. One named person facing China’s sanctions saw his family fortune dwindle by US$1bil as businesses linked to him are hit, according to social media posts.

It is understandable that Beijing has to respond fast as these claims are hurting Xinjiang and undermining China’s economy. It has triggered boycott of Xinjiang cotton by Western brands led by H&M, Nike and Adidas – all members of the BCI.

According to China Daily, the boycott has had an instant impact on Xinjiang’s cotton/textile industry. Textile factories are planning to lay off workers and cutting purchase from local farmers due to cancelled orders.

The cotton/textile industry in Xinjiang has created jobs for 600,000 local people. More than 50% of farmers in Xinjiang grow cotton, with over 70% of these farmers coming from ethnic minority groups – the Uyghurs, Kazaks and Uzbeks, says the daily.

The boycott has had an instant impact on Xinjiang’s cotton/textile industry.

The boycott has had an instant impact on Xinjiang’s cotton/textile industry.

According to commentators on China’s official CCTV television (Channel 4) last Sunday, cotton farming was introduced to help eradicate abject poverty. As the soil and climate is ideal for cotton farming, Xinjiang produces one of the best cotton crops (in terms of quality) in the world.

With an annual output of 5.2 million tonnes, Xinjiang’s cottonco accounts for 87% of China’s output and 23% of world supplies. By end-2019, there were 808 cotton processing plants in Xinjiang, accounting for 84% of China’s total, says a report in Global Times.

These statistics show that cotton farming and textile manufacturing has become a mainstay of Xinjiang’s economy, apart from tourism.

If Xinjiang’s cotton is tarnished, this segment of Chinese economy will be affected. More so will be China’s efforts in poverty eradication, hailed by the World Bank as a great achievement.

Hence, it is no surprise China has had to roar back to stop further damage.

Arguing against the “forced labour” claim, the Global Times noted that over 90% of cotton fields in the northern part of Xinjiang is mechanised.

And interestingly, the cotton-picking machines of Xinjiang are imported from the US. John Deere of the US has sold US$500mil worth of cotton-harvesting equipment to Xinjiang since 2017, according to the South China Morning Post.

But the loss in this row is not just confined to China. Western brands that have dropped Xinjiang cotton are feeling backlash from the mainland’s consumers, who have called for a nationwide boycott by China’s 1.4 billion people.

Sweden’s garment company H&M, reported to have 505 sales outlets in China, saw its stores empty on March 25, shunned by local customers. It was reported that six stores have closed after landlords cancelled their leasing contracts.

As China is a major market for H&M in terms of revenue, H&M last Wednesday posted a statement on its website to defuse tension. It said without mentioning Xinjing: “We are dedicated to regaining the trust and confidence of our customers, colleagues, and business partners in China.”

 Shuttered shops: Sweden's garment company H&M, reported to have 505 sales outlets in China, saw its stores empty recently due to backlash from irate locals - Reuters

But Chinese netizens are not happy with this statement.

The Chinese sentiment is largely reflected by a post by China’s Communist Youth League: “Spreading rumours to boycott Xinjiang cotton, while trying to make a profit in China? Wishful thinking!”

The foreign ministry’s Hua Chunying stated similar stance: “Chinese people will not allow foreigners to eat our rice and break Chinese bowl”.

More than 40 celebrities in the entertainment world have responded to call for boycott by quitting as brand ambassadors for foreign companies.

It was not a surprise when share price of some multinational companies plunged after the public outcry in China.

According to media reports, Germany’s Adidas saw its share price plunge by over 6% on March 25. Adidas and US-based Nike saw their combined market value dissipate by more than 70 billion yuan or US$10.7bil. The market value of H&M slumped by about 4.8bil yuan.

But if these multi-national corporations (MNC) want to continue to operate in China and earn billions from 400 million middle-class consumers, they may have to do soul-searching and research.

Zhang Yi, CEO of Shenzhen-based iiMedia Research, told Global Times these MNCs may find prospects and growth potential in the rapidly-expanding Chinese market dimmed, and their brand value could be reduced by half.

Before this cotton episode, many MNCs had rosy growth projections for 2021 in the Chinese market. For instance, Adidas was expecting 20%-30% growth in China in 2021, Zhang noted.

Apart from growth, MNCs could also face an irreversible loss in the world’s largest market. When an MNC loses its market share in China, another will promptly scramble in to fill the vaccum, according to Zhang.

According to media reports, Germany’s Adidas saw its share price plunge by over 6% on March 25.

 According to media reports, Germany’s Adidas saw its share price plunge by over 6% on March 25.

However, not all MNCs are losers. Companies that have aired support for Xinjiang, such as Fila China and Muji China, are enjoying consumer support.

And California-based Skechers has won generous praise for having done its own fact-checking. The footwear firm has said its audits found no evidence its Chinese supplier had used “forced labour”.

Some Chinese brands have also emerged winners in this conflict as consumers turn nationalistic. These include Li Ning and Anta.

Globally, the losers are consumers.

Yang Shu, associate professor of China Agricultural University, said this cotton row would disrupt supply chain and push up costs.

Hence, consumers in EU, the US and Southeast Asia will have to pay more for products with Xinjiang cotton.

For China, this cotton row may be a wake-up call to review its international strategies.

Mei Xinyu, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, told Global Times Beijing might have to exert “a far greater say in the global cotton/textile industry and in the formulation of standards and pricing”.

And rightly so, as China is the world’s second biggest cotton producer and largest textile/apparel exporter. Last year, it sold US$291.22bil worth of cotton-linked products to the world.

As US President Joe Biden has declared he will not allow China to overtake the US during his term of office, China can expect to see more blows from the US to contain China and counter President Xi Jinping’s successful Belt and Road Initiative.

But as the Alaska talk last month shows, Beijing is prepared to stand up to the US and the West. It has declared it will not allow China to be bullied and humiliated by the West like 120 years ago.

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Responding to reports by Chinese netizens of a "problematic map of China" on Swedish clothing brand H&M's official website (hm.com), the bureau of planning and natural resources in Shanghai informed the company and asked it to rectify the "problematic map" promptly.
 
 
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Smear campaign serving

The US has found the world order quickly shifting and is feeling uneasy with the challenge from China. 

. . . . Anger brews in China over brands boycotting Xinjiang cotton, linking it to claims of forced labour....

Smear campaign serving

The US has found the world order quickly shifting and is feeling uneasy with the challenge from China.

Beautiful diversity: Today, there are 25 million Muslims living in China. Here, Muslim devotees are praying at the Nanxiapo Mosque in Beijing to celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri. — The Star



 
 THE legend of Admiral Zheng He (more commonly known as Cheng Ho to most Malaysians) has always fascinated me, being a history student with Peranakan roots in Penang.


In fact, I took the opportunity to travel to Nanjing, China, to pay respects to the great man at his tombstone.

The only snag was, Zheng He’s resting place remains a mystery, he who led historic voyages to South-East Asia and eastern Africa.

His remains have never been found, leading many to believe he received his final rites at sea during his last voyage, sometime in 1433.

But Zheng He is not a Uighur (pronounced as wee ger). He was from the Hui ethnic group, which comprises Muslims.

The history of Islam in China goes back more than a staggering 1,300 years.

While Zheng He is probably one of the most famous Muslims, there were others during the Ming rule, Muslim military generals including Mu Ying, Hu Dahai, Lan Yu, Feng Sheng and Ding Dexing.

There was also the famous Confucian Muslim scholar, Ma Zhu, who served during the Ming dynasty. The name Ma is the Chinese counterpart to Muhammad.

Today, there are 25 million Muslims living in China. The Hui is the largest group (48%), followed by the Uighur (41%), and together, they make up about 90% of the total Muslim population. The other Muslims include Kazakh (6,1%) and Dongxiang (2.5%), followed by the Kyrgyz, Uzbek, Salar, Tajik, Bonan and Tatar groups. They live mostly in Xinjiang, Gansu, Qinghai and Yunnan, and even in Beijing and Xian.

My trips to China have taken me to Xinjiang by air, road and train, where I spent weeks meeting these beautiful ethnic minorities.

I travelled on the Silk Road and tried imagining how ancient traders treaded the same path. Famed Italian merchant, Marco Polo, probably used the same route in the 13th Century to look for spices, silk and carpets.

My journey took me across the Taklamakan desert on long overnight trains to Turpan (or the Flaming Mountains), the setting of the famous Chinese novel Journey to the West, of the Monkey God fame.

The trip concluded in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the far northwest of China.

Urumqi was a major hub on the Silk Road during the Tang Dynasty’s golden age, and today, it has one of the world’s largest bazaars.

Walking through the markets reminded me of the souq in the Middle East, being surrounded by the blue-eyed Uighur and their distinct Turkish looks, while blonde Russians, all speaking Mandarin, were among the other Chinese. It was an exotic place, indeed.

As a “banana” (a term describing a Western-educated Chinese with Western world views, and can’t speak Mandarin), I was lucky to have scholars from Universiti Malaya explain the historical and academic aspects of China.

I have also travelled to Xian, where China’s ancient capital, Chang’an, is located. It was home to more than 10 dynasties.

It was a delight for me to step into the mosques and immerse in local Muslim culture. Islam has long been part of Xian history, where the terracotta soldiers stand guard.

But today, Xinjiang is in the international news for all the wrong reasons. Damaging words, including genocide, have been hurled at it. The grim and gruesome word means killing many people from an ethnic group with the aim of wiping it out.

There is little evidence, if none at all, to prove genocide, but it’s such a strong emotive word that it recalls the Holocaust and Khmer Rouge killing fields in Cambodia.

The Xinjiang cotton fields are alleged to have practised forced labour, even though it’s common knowledge that machines are required for large scale productions. There have also been accusations of rape.

Nothing is spared in the mind games between the two superpowers (US and China) to discredit each other.

Reports on the issue have come thick and fast from CNN and BBC, almost on a daily basis, in fact.

It’s hard to ignore that since the protests in Hong Kong began, they have become more involved in instigative journalism than investigative journalism.

Since the racist campaign by Donald Trump, where China was blamed for the spread of the coronavirus, Americans and many ill-informed Westerners have looked at ethnic Asians – especially those with Chinese features – negatively.

They have lumped all Orientals together as Chinese, just like how some think turbaned Sikhs with beards must be Taliban.

Now, under the Biden Administration, there is little difference, except perhaps Joe is less antagonistic, though the anti-China sentiments remain.

From the coronavirus to Huawei, and Tik Tok through to purported spy scholars and the South China Sea, and now Xinjiang cotton, it has become a concerted campaign.

We all know the US has little love for Muslims anywhere in the world.

The US has dropped enough bombs in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, as well as imposed sanctions against Iran, to substantiate that claim. The US has also turned a blind eye to the plight of the Palestinians.

These assaults were launched on the pretext of destroying weapons of mass destruction owned by the Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi regimes, though we now know fact from fiction.

While the two weren’t angels (but more dictators), the fanatical Islamic State took over after the two were deposed and worsened the situation.

Now, the attention is China. It’s the perfect villain – communist rule, no elections and a campaign against Muslims in Xinjiang.

Most Americans can neither pronounce Xinjiang nor point it out on a map, although that seems a moot point to them.

The truth is, the US is jittery because its dominance is over. The world order has changed.

While the US was busy executing its campaign in the name of upholding human rights and western values, and burning trillions of dollars on arsenal, the Chinese spent the last decades building their nation and eradicating poverty.

No one should be surprised when China overtakes the US in the world economy. It didn’t happen overnight, though.

Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou may not be representative of the whole of China, especially compared to third-tier cities and rural areas, but credit where it’s due for the absence of homeless colonies in the cities.

As a Malaysian who has regularly visited China, I feel poor whenever I’m there. The glitzy skyscrapers, efficient transport system, low crime rate, affluence and orderly city administration has shown that China has certainly arrived.

The Chinese have become visibly wealthier and sophisticated, and while their tendency to flaunt their wealth rubs many the wrong way, they have simply become what the early rich Americans used to be. The rich Chinese are loud and brash, but along the way, they – just like the Americans did then – will change.

Rather than demonise China and its people, the US could do well with promoting its values, many of which are universal in nature, such as the rule of law, protecting individual rights, improving living standards and driving the engine of innovation.

The US remains the preferred destination for most people seeking migration.

The immigrants, including Muslims who refused to integrate, could have chosen Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar, Kuwait or Senegal, but they picked the US.

We embrace American culture and its lifestyle, especially Hollywood movies, Disneyland, burgers, Coca- Cola and music. That speaks volumes of how most of us admire the US.

While the Chinese are now at a stage where they are content with growth and material wealth, they will eventually question issues like environment, inequality and self-suffrage, when they find themselves without a safety net.

The expansion of the middle class has always been similar all over the world. When the stomach and pockets are full, people have time to talk about democratic ideals.

But for now, the chaos and destruction in Hong Kong and racism in the US have given reason for China, and Chinese all over the world, to push back, or even detest the aggressive campaign by the US. This is nothing more than blatant bullying.

It isn’t fair play, unlike what the US claims, because there’s clearly a lack of respect for competition.

We all believe “democracy is the worst system of government, except for everything else, ” as Winston Churchill said. It’s loud and messy, as we know, but power is more diffused in democracy, where it’s equally shared through the population, as James Stavridis, a retired US Navy admiral put it.

The Xinjiang campaign will come back to haunt the US. Unlike other Muslims in China, the Uighur have indulged in ISIS activities, including being actively involved in Syria, where many combatants are members of an Al Qaeda offshoot.

Reuters and Associated Press have reported of at least 5,000 Uighur in ISIS operating in Syria and Iraq.

Many of them from the outlawed Turkistan Islamic Party, are pushing for an Islamic state in Xinjiang, which China surely won’t tolerate.

That perhaps explains why China takes a different approach to the Uighur compared to other Muslims, though these actions remain open to debate.

But here’s the irony – while the US and its western allies are busy drumming up the issue, the powerful Muslim countries led by Saudi Arabia, along with 36 other countries, have defended China’s policies in Xinjiang in a letter released in 2019.

The world is not keen on getting entangled in an escalating trade war between the US and China.

We want both countries to work together, if they really believe and practise what they preach to the rest of us, the minion nations. And if they do, the world stands to benefit immeasurably.

 Wong Chun Wai

Wong  Chun Wai Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 35 years in various capacities and roles. He is now group editorial and corporate affairs adviser to the group, after having served as group managing director/chief executive officer. On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.

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BBC's Beijing correspondent John Sudworth left the Chinese mainland without notifying Chinese officials or fulfilling any departure-procedures required of a foreign resident journalist in China. He has "fled" to Taiwan and made himself the center of a breaking news. Some people in Xinjiang plan to seek legal redress against him and sue him for spreading misinformation.

 

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Winners, losers in Xinjiang cotton row

Not many will gain in the current furore over Xinjiang cotton, but the West may end up losing more.

 

. . . . Anger brews in China over brands boycotting Xinjiang cotton, linking it to claims of forced labour....
 
 
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Chinese diplomats state China's position in the opening remarks of the China-US high-level strategic dialogue in Anchorage, Alaska, on T...