An Open Letter from Malaysian Politics: Universal Virtues

Some analysts see Obama’s visit to Malaysia, a close trading partner of China, as a strategy to dilute China’s influence in Southeast Asia, writes the “Global Times”, a state-owned English-language paper from China which is mainly written for a foreign audience (and possibly for Chinese learners of English, too). However, quoting Qu Xing (曲星), director of the China Institute of International Studies, the article suggests that Kuala Lumpur was in fact taking a balanced attitude and showed that Malaysia is trying to avoid confrontation with China on this issue. The article suggests that the American president didn’t make much headway in promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade project that, if put into practice, would manage trade between its original member states of Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, and Singapore, as well as Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, the United States, and Vietnam. If the trade pact would benefit or damage the interests of the nations involved is contested, as is a trade project between America and the European Union, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

The (English-language) “Global Times'” headline is implicitly about censorship: US TV shows removed from popular streaming websites / The removal of several popular American TV series from Chinese video streaming sites over the weekend may indicate stricter online monitoring. Huanqiu Shibao, the Chinese-language sister paper for a mostly domestic readership, carries a headline about the Ukraine crisis. Huanqiu also prominently features a short news article from Jilin: Unearthing the whole story of Japanese invasion has made many experts suffer from depression (日本侵华档案发掘始末:很多专家患上抑郁症). According to the news article, the files in question were some 100,000 volumes of Japanese files in an archive in Jilin, northeastern China, concerning the invasion, 90 percent of them written in Japanese.

Underneath the top headlines, another article of today quotes an American official – or American officials – as saying that America was working on several military plans to contain or deter China (美国官员:美国拟定多套军事方案遏阻中国). Huanqiu quotes a quote from the Chinese edition of the Wall Street Journal (also of Monday) which is avaliable online.

The Wall Street Journal:

American officials say that the American military prepares several plans to strongly respond to future provocative actions in the South China Sea (called Southern Sea by china) and the East China Sea (called Eastern Sea by China). These plans include dispatching B-2 bombers to places close to China, and holding aircraft-carrier exercises in the range of China’s coastal waters.

美国官员称,美国军方准备了多种方案,将强有力地应对中国未来在南中国海(中国称南海)和东中国海(中国称东海)的任何挑衅行动。这些方案包括向靠近中国的地方派遣B-2轰炸机,以及在接近中国沿海水域的范围举行航母演习。

Apart from the explanations in brackets, the first paragraphs are identical at WSJ and Huanqiu. From the second paragraph, Huanqiu cuts a long WSJ story short, with only two more paragraphs:

Security issues play an important role on president Obama’s tour of four Asian countries. On April 28, the American president will sign an agreement in the Philippines which allows American military to return to the Philippines after more than twenty years. The Philippine opposition parties had previously forced America to abandon its military bases on the Philippines.  Equally, Obama stood side by side with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe during his visit to Japan, saying that America’s promise to guarantee Japan’s security was “absolute”.*)

美国总统奥巴马近日 访问亚洲四国,安全问题是他此行的一个重要议题。4月28日,美国总统将在菲律宾签署一项协议,允许美军在二十多年后重返菲律宾。此前,菲律宾反对党曾迫 使美国方面放弃了在菲律宾的军事基地。同样,巴马访问日本时与日本首相安倍晋三并排站在了一起,并表示,美国在条约中对日本的安保承诺是“绝对的”。

Besides military aspects, the Huanqiu account of the WSJ argicle also mentions contingency plans and humanitarian aid operations. Surveillance of areas near China would be strengthened, calls of American navy vessels to allied countries’ ports be intensified, so as to demonstrate American military strength (加强对中国附近地区的监视、增加美国海军对盟友港口的停靠等,以展示美国的军事实力).

A major issue mentioned by the WSJ Chinese edition, about Washington trying to alleviate doubts among its Asian allies in its security assurances, especially after the annexation of the Crimean peninsula (尤其是在俄罗斯吞并克里米亚半岛之后), are not quoted by Huanqiu Shibao.

The full WSJ article (which has been put behind a registration wall by now) quotes Pacific Command public affairs officer Chris Sims as a source.

But it’s not all about the U.S. Navy. Under China’s lead, eight countries’ navies carried out the “Maritime Cooperation 2014” military exercises off the coast of Shandong province last week. China, Pakistan, Indonesia, India, Singapore and three other countries participated, reports a Beijing Youth article republished  by Huanqiu Shibao on Monday. Beijing Youth in turn quoted Xinhua newsagency as reporting that the exercise featured reactions to non-traditional security issues (非传统安全的内容) such as piracy, terrorism, natural disasters as well as other threats faced by countries in the region and everywhere in the world.

» The Negarakuku Saga, August 2007

Tony Pua (潘俭伟), a member of Malaysia’s Democratic Action Party (DAP) and member of parliament for Petaling Jaya Utara, published an open letter to Barack Obama on Saturday, the day of the American president’s arrival in Kuala Lumpur:

Mr President, with all due respect, we do not need you to visit our country to tell us that our country is a standout example of moderation, because it is not.

Or for you to praise our government that it is a model plural society living in peace and harmony, because it is a façade.

We need you, Mr President, to speak of the universal virtues of humankind, of the principles your forefathers upheld and sacrificed for.

We want you to speak of the importance of basic human rights, equality, freedom and fundamental democratic principles.

We want to know that the president of United States still believe in the protection and promotion of civil liberties throughout the world – those very liberties which allowed you to be in your position today.

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Footnote

*) this apparently refers to this statement by Obama: And let me reiterate that our treaty commitment to Japan’s security is absolute, and Article 5 covers all territories under Japan’s administration, including the Senkaku Islands.

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Related

» Pivotal state, BBC, April 26, 2014

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