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Monday, 26 July 2021

Govcoins and crypto to coexist


GOVERNMENT-backed coins and private cryptocurrencies will coexist for a while, despite rising regulatory walls set by the government to counter virtual coins, experts at a global webinar session said Thursday.

Noting that cryptocurrencies and digital currencies by governments are “two different animals,” they will coexist for now partly because current cryptocurrencies are not actually solving payment problems.

“How many of them (cryptocurrencies) are solving actual payment problem? Most of them are speculative and used as a means of storage,” said Nelson Chow, chief fintech officer of the Fintech Facilitation Office at the Hong Kong Monetary Authority.

Chow said that some central bank digital currency, or CBDC, projects such as Multiple CBDC Bridge have the potential to solve decades-old problems for cross-border transactions. Multiple CBDC Bridge is a wholesale CBDC co-creation project between the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, Bank of Thailand, the People‘s Bank of China and the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates.

Under the current regulatory environment, John Kiffmeiste, a former senior financial sector expert at the International Monetary Fund, said that it is unlikely that the emergence of CBDC projects, now numbering nearly 60 according to Kiffmeiste’s data, would make crypto assets obsolete.

“CBDC has to operate within confines of tax regulations, anti-money laundering, KYC (know-your-customer) and so many other regulations whereas cryptocurrencies don’t operate in that environment,” the economist added.

Speakers at the webinar co-hosted by The Investor, a tech media outlet run by The Korea Herald, Malaysia’s The Star and the Asia News Network.Speakers at the webinar co-hosted by The Investor, a tech media outlet run by The Korea Herald, Malaysia’s The Star and the Asia News Network.

But, Kiffmeiste pointed out that as the regulatory and legislative walls are closing in on crypto assets, they will come under the same rules that other types of conventional currencies operate under. “In that case, that levels the playing field. Perhaps in that new world, CBDCs and cryptocurrencies coexist, but crypto assets become redundant as at least payment medium.”

Andrew Sheng, one of Asia’s top economists, stressed that authorities should understand the complex contextual backgrounds that have brought about the rising interest in CBDCs and cryptocurrencies.

Noting that the value of the cryptocurrency market has reached US$1.2tril – half the value of the official gold reserves – Sheng said cryptocurrencies had grown outside of the purview of public control. “This was the big lesson of the Covid-19, private cyber currencies will be with us whether you like it or not,” Sheng said.

The tug-of-war between regulators and cryptocurrencies is most apparent in the US in the area of stablecoins like USD Coin, a digital equivalent of the US dollar.

The US-proposed Stable Act will bring USD stablecoin issuers into conventional regulatory perimeters.

Kevin Werbach, a professor of legal studies and business ethics at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, said that the cryptocurrency industry does not have to be allergic to regulations.

“There is always a notion that we have to choose either innovation or regulation. And I think it’s a false dichotomy. For new technological markets to mature and develop, they need to be trusted. They need to get to the point where ordinary people around the world are willing to participate in these activities at scale, and regulations are an important part of that,” Werbach said.

As to the increasing public controls on crypto assets, speakers called for regulations compatible with the emerging cryptocurrency industry. They shared a similar view that cryptocurrency companies and regulators must work together on bringing the industry into the system.

“Since innovation is always ahead of regulation, it is inevitable for regulators to rely on us when drafting policies. It is crucial to reshape their ‘legacy mindset’ and make them understand the nature and dynamics of cryptocurrency,” said Marcus Lim, CEO and co-founder of Zipmex.

They were speaking at a webinar co-hosted by The Investor, a tech media outlet run by The Korea Herald, Malaysia’s The Star and the Asia News Network entitled “The rise of Govcoins & What’s next for crypto”. Speakers at the July 22 virtual seminar included a group of experts in the US, Europe and Asia who are navigating the current situation surrounding the development of central bank digital currencies and challenges posed by and to cryptocurrencies.

Experts said that central bank digital currencies have a huge potential to solve many issues, ranging from decades-old problems involving cross-border transactions to digital transformation.

Kiffmeiste noted that almost 60 jurisdictions are currently exploring retail CBDCs, with countries like the Bahamas and China at the forefront, but they are divided in their motivations for issuing the CBDCs. For instance, emerging economies consider CBDCs as a way to spur financial digitalisation, while advanced economics mull digital currency as part of financial stability and to improve monetary policies. — The Korea Herald/Asia News Network

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China needs to play tough with US on virus origins tracing


Origin-tracing. Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

 By forcing the World Health Organization to put the focus of the COVID-19 origins tracing on China again, the US intends to kill two birds with one stone: help the US shift the blame of poor pandemic handling, and build a long-term strategic public opinion and political containment against China by tracing the COVID-19 origins. China's only choice is to fight back with more intensity.

The Biden administration's overall response to the pandemic has been no better than the Trump administration's. Breakthrough of the COVID-19 vaccine research was achieved during Trump's administration. The Biden administration's efforts to mobilize American population to fully get vaccinated have failed to fulfill its promise. And the epidemic is back on the rise. The Biden administration, which faces a growing risk of being punished in the midterm elections for its poor response to the pandemic, now has as much political need to blame China as the Trump administration.

The Biden administration is fully copying the Trump administration's line of political hooliganism: using every means to frame China. As the epidemic continues to rage in the US, Washington is finding it hard to directly shift its responsibility to China. Therefore they are playing the "COVID-19 origins card" fiercely, and comprehensively politicized a task that should have been scientifically advanced as nothing mobilizes Americans more than politics. Making Americans mad can make them stupid. Then they will feel that the ridiculous notion that China is responsible for US' failure to fight the pandemic "makes sense."

The vast majority of scientists and US media outlets last year publicly disapproved the allegation of a "lab leak" from Wuhan Institute of Virology. Recently, a large number of them changed their stance, and did not believe the conclusion that the link between the Wuhan Virology Institute and the epidemic had been basically ruled out after the WHO expert team visited the lab last year. A large part of the American scientific and public opinion community was apparently "fooled" by the Biden administration and became "political animals" to follow the politicians.

Trump's strategy was to teach Americans to hate China until they felt that the US government was lovable no matter how stupid it was. New cases in the US now reach 40,000 or 50,000 in a single day under the Biden administration, and it's going up. This is not a small number, even compared to daily cases during Trump's administration. The pandemic-response is still poor even with the vaccines. If American voters don't hate China very much, how can they not find out that they elected people to lead the country who are even more stupid than the last one?

The Democratic Party has only a one seat advantage in the Senate and a limited edge in the House of Representatives, the Biden administration's rapid descent into a lame-duck administration would be a joke if the Democrats lose both Senate and the House next year. As a result, the Democratic administration quickly acted recklessly. They inherited almost all the previous administration's China-bashing policies and went even further.

Tracing the origins of the virus is a good topic for Washington, because it's one that makes scientists frown. This is an area where political maneuvering is best done in a way that confuses the public: Since it's hard to reach a definitive conclusion quickly, the US can claim what it says it "right."

The aggressive and arrogant Western ideological bloc assembled by the US is now making the world lose basic moral rule and less open to debate. The coordinates of justice have been destroyed, the standards of good and evil have been tampered with. The US often talks about dealing with China "from a position of strength," but Washington itself in fact is in its relatively weakest position of strength, and they have even abused the definition of "position of strength."

The US leads the world in the epidemic death toll, but it still bosses around the world in the global fight against the pandemic. Washington is invincible because it is impudent. In dealing with the US on controversial issues, China must understand that there is no reasoning with the US at all. We only reason with the world, and we have no choice but to play hardball with the US.

We should demonstrate our determination and ability to confront the US and resolutely fight the arrogance of the US. The Biden administration's ability to deal with difficult issues between China and the US is much weaker than the Trump administration's. They already have far fewer resources than they had four years ago, and Biden himself has less decision-making power than Trump. On issues such as tracing the origins of the virus, we need to be tough with Washington. We need to make sure that whatever Washington says is in vain, and let the world see its rhetoric as a joke. The world will ultimately see Washington paying the price for its wrong China policy.

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Saturday, 24 July 2021

Malaysia’s Covid-19 upward trend continues to new high of 17,045 on July 25, to-date: 1,013,348 !

 The previous record high number of new infections was 13,215, posted on July 15. (Photo by Mohd Suhaimi Mohamed Yusuf/The Edge)

Upward trend continues


TODAY 24/07/2021: 15, 902 CASES, 184 DEATH !

25/07/2021:  17,045 Cases, To-date: 1,013,348 !

KUALA LUMPUR (July 23): Malaysia’s daily Covid-19 cases surged to a new high of 15,573 today — compared with 13,034 yesterday — in line with an increase in the testing rate, the Health Ministry said.

The previous record high number of new infections was 13,215, posted on July 15.

A total of 137,326 Covid-19 tests were conducted today, compared with 128,279 yesterday, with today’s positivity rate recorded at 11.34%.

Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said 98.7% of today’s infections were classified as Category 1 and 2 cases.

He said 53.1% or 8,273 of cases were classified as Category 1 (no symptoms), and 45.6% or 7,095 cases were Category 2 (mild symptoms).

Only 0.6% or 102 cases were classified as Category 3 (pneumonia), 0.5% or 74 cases were Category 4 (pneumonia requiring oxygen therapy), and 0.2% or 29 cases were Category 5 (critical and requiring assisted ventilation).

Dr Noor Hisham said the total number of Covid-19 cases reported by the country now stands at 980,491.

Selangor reported 7,672 new cases today — the first time the state breached the 7,000 level.

Kuala Lumpur, meanwhile, saw new infections surpassing the 2,000 level at 2,063, the highest daily figure reported by the nation’s capital since the pandemic began. 


Other states with three-digit new cases included Kedah (937), Johor (722), Negeri Sembilan (682), Penang (530), Sabah (516), Sarawak (461), Pahang (457), Melaka (452), Perak (415), Kelantan (372) and Terengganu (229).

Total deaths rise to 7,718


Meanwhile, 144 Covid-19 related deaths were reported today, raising the country’s death toll to 7,718.

Of the latest fatalities, 66 deaths were reported in Selangor, 16 in Kuala Lumpur, 15 in Johor, 13 in Melaka, 10 in Negeri Sembilan, eight in Pahang, six in Kedah, three in Sarawak, two each in Perak and Penang and one each in Sabah, Terengganu and Labuan.

Daily recoveries, on the other hand, came in higher at 10,094 from yesterday’s 8,436.

Active cases soared further to 147,386, in tandem with the rise in new infections today.

Of this, 939 patients are placed in the intensive care unit, with 456 of them requiring breathing assistance. 

To date, 825,387 individuals have been declared cured of Covid-19 while 980,491 Malaysians have been detected with the virus.

R0 declines to 1.07 on July 22

Dr Noor Hisham said the country's basic reproduction number (R-naught or R0) for Covid-19 infections nationwide declined to 1.07 yesterday (July 22) from 1.09 the day before, with Terengganu having the highest R0 at 1.44.

Kedah and Putrajaya came in next at 1.22, followed by Johor at 1.20, and Sabah at 1.19.

The R0 projects the average number of people that each new Covid-19 patient will infect, or what is termed the effective reproduction number. An R0 of less than 1.0 means the infection is not spreading.

119 cases involving variants of concern detected

Dr Noor Hisham also shared that the ongoing studies by the Institute of Medical Research and the Institution of Community Health and Medicine of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak have identified a total of 119 cases involving variants of concern.

“106 cases were of the Delta variant (B.1.617.2), 10 cases were of the Beta variant (B.1.351) and another three were of the Alpha variant (B.1.1.7),” he said.

With this, the total number of cases involving variants of concern to date is 409.

“There are 206 cases of Beta variant, 189 cases of Delta variant and 14 cases of Alpha variant,” said Dr Noor Hisham.

30 new clusters with 16 from communities

The Health Ministry also identified 30 new clusters today, including 16 in communities. The remaining clusters were linked to workplaces, high-risk groups, religious centres and higher education.

To date, 3,391 clusters have been detected by the ministry, with 2,433 declared ended. That leaves 958 active clusters.

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Friday, 23 July 2021

US can’t unilaterally define ‘guardrails’ of ties with China

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Wednesday that Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman would seek to show China on her upcoming visit to the country "what responsible and healthy competition can look like." He also noted that the US wanted to ensure there were "guardrails" in the relationship and that competition did not spill over into conflict.

` From our perspective, there's nothing wrong with the literal meaning of these words. China does not want competition to spill over into conflict as well. It would be good for both countries and the world if the two sides could work together to set up "guardrails" to prevent the kind of escalation that is widely feared.

` Yet, experience suggests that Washington often says one thing and does another, using beautiful concepts as their brand of bullying and forcefully reshaping the meaning of those concepts. For example, Washington often talks about "rules," but the world has seen the US consistently commit the most brutal violations of the rules on which the United Nations system is based. The rules they talk about are actually a framework for protecting the interests of the US and its major allies. They are also a behavioral norm to force other countries to maximize those interests.

` If China and the US want to set up "guardrails" between their competition, they must follow the principle of equality and mutual benefit and follow the spirit of the UN Charter. Washington must not unilaterally set boundaries for China's behavior, nor can it advocate its interests to harm China's core interests even more.

` Such "guardrails" would be a unilateral guardrail for the US but a prison circled by a wire fence for China. If Sherman had come to China with such a purpose, the Deputy Secretary's trip would probably have achieved little more than a taste of Tianjin's delicious steamed stuffed bun.

` The "guardrails" between China and the US to prevent conflicts must include the following contents:

` First, the US should stop interfering in China's internal affairs, abandon its obsession with "transforming China" and refrain from narcissism with the outward aggression of American values. It is the fundamental principle for building a security wall between major countries to respect each other and refrain from interfering in each other's internal affairs.

` Second, the US military should not press closer to China's core interests, but should keep the necessary distance. Especially in the Taiwan Straits, the US should not give secessionists in the island of Taiwan a sense of military dependence and encourage them to stir up the tension. That would be very dangerous. In the South China Sea, the US cannot directly intervene in disputes. If it tries to influence the direction of the situation in the South China Sea through military pressure, it will lead to a high risk of conflict.

` Third, the US must not turn its competition with China into an aggressive suppression of China's development. Its attempts to gang up allies to keep China out of the world's major supply chains will eventually lead to a fundamental conflict with China if they go any further. A conflict like that would produce a wide divergence, destabilizing and creating long-term uncertainty in international relations, and ultimately shaping China and the US as life-and-death strategic enemies.

` In general, the US cannot attempt to attack China's system, or divide China, or block its development path. These are the foundations of the "guardrails" between the two countries. If the US breaks these three rules, it is proactively attacking China, not competing with it. And China will fight back no matter the cost.

` So, the US needs to have basic honesty. It should not try to deceive itself. For example, if the authorities on the island of Taiwan under Washington's support or instigation cross the redline of "independence" - the People's Liberation Army will definitely stop it with force. If the US intervenes, a military confrontation between China and the US will take place.

` China has no intention to confront the US, but it is a national principle for China to defend its core interests. The US can't unilaterally define the "guardrails" between the two countries out of its own interests, because they need to be defined by both China and the US to advance the interests of both countries. The US has extensive experience in international relations, and hopefully, Washington will not be confused about the core problem of how to engage in competition, instead of conflict, with Beijing.

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Results of Sherman’s China visit depend on US attitude

 US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will visit North China's Tianjin from July 25 to 26, a visit arranged after the US proposal to exchange views on China-US relations, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry late Wednesday night. Sherman is scheduled to visit Japan, South Korea and Mongolia from July 18 to 25. Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is leaving for his trip to Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines on Friday.

` This time, the US is taking the initiative in proposing exchange of views on China-US relations. This shows that the Biden administration has made some progress in evaluating its China policy and may begin to implement these policies next.

` Washington is eager to communicate with Beijing because it is increasingly aware of the need to cooperate with China on many issues.

` The US may also want to use Sherman's visit to pressure China on issues such as Xinjiang, the Taiwan Straits, and South China Sea.

` US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a briefing on Tuesday that the US will engage with China "when it's in our interests to do so, and we do remain interested in doing so in a practical, substantive and direct manner." During Sherman's talks with her Japanese and South Korean counterparts in Tokyo on Wednesday, the three sides agreed that they oppose "any unilateral attempts to change the status quo" in the East China Sea and the Taiwan Straits.

` This is a typical feature of the US' current China policy. "Our relationship with China will be competitive when it should be, collaborative when it can be, and adversarial when it must be," as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in March.

` Despite pressuring China on Xinjiang, the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea, Washington may also believe it won't affect pragmatic cooperation with Beijing in some other areas.

` However, China will make its principles clear during Sherman's upcoming visit. China focuses on cooperation, controls competition, and avoids confrontation in handling China-US relations.

` During the recent weeks, Washington has intensified its blame on China in terms of the so-called massive cyberattack. It has also issued a blanket warning to US firms about the risks of doing business in Hong Kong, and passed a bill that would ban all goods from or made in Xinjiang unless importers can prove they weren't made with "forced labor." We must show the US that China firmly safeguards its sovereignty, security and development. We firmly oppose the US' interfering in China's internal affairs and harming our national interests. These are all basic principles that China will make clear.

` During Sherman's visit, China and the US may have practical discussions on some specific issues including climate change, Afghanistan, Iran and improving the working environment of diplomatic personnel and institutions in the two countries. China will make a very thorough clarification on its principles, while also leaving some room for China-US cooperation on specific issues.

` Defense Secretary Austin previewed his Southeast Asian trip on Wednesday, saying that he will, "make clear where we stand on some unhelpful and unfounded claims by China in the South China Sea." Clearly, the South China Sea will be a key point of his trip. Vietnam and the Philippines are two countries that Washington wants to rope in the most in terms of the South China Sea issue.

` Together with Sherman's Asia tour, the US aims at showing Asian countries that it will continue attaching importance to the region, and making it clear to China that it will carry on the Indo-Pacific Strategy to pressure China.

` After Chinese top diplomats resolutely refuted the US' rude manners during Alaska talks in March, the two countries almost haven't had any face-to-face senior-level dialogues since. The US Department of State said Sherman's visit is "part of ongoing US efforts to hold candid exchanges" with China in order to "advance US interests and values and to responsibly manage the relationship."

` Nonetheless, the US' attitude won't be different from that during Alaska talks. Strategic competition with China is still the keynote of US' China policy. This won't change. Thus, the US will not stop interference in China's internal affairs, and will continue piling pressure on Xinjiang and other issues.

` The "candid exchanges" are possible if the two sides exchange views frankly. As for "responsibly managing the relationship," it may be hard to do. This will depend on whether Washington plans to properly handle its ties with Beijing. If Washington's China policy is dominated by the use of pressure and rhetoric of competition, then relations between the two countries will only worsen.

` After White House Coordinator for the Indo-Pacific Kurt Campbell said in early July that China and the US can "coexist in peace," Washington is now proactively seeking dialogue with Beijing. But this does not necessarily mean Washington is becoming more rational toward Beijing. For example, Campbell said, "We do not support Taiwan independence," yet the US has sent more military aircraft to the island. Similarly, the US is calling for dialogue while it is still trying to impose more pressure on China.

` On many issues, Washington says one thing and does another, making it unreliable.

` The article was compiled by Global Times reporter Li Qingqing based on an interview with Wu Xinbo, director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai.

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China's tough stance in Alaska turns heads

US can't accept painful fact that China is now its equal: Martin Jacques

China-US high level strategic dialogue: Chinese diplomats deal vigorous counterblows to condescending US representatives; common ground hard to reach on contrasting logics