Thursday, September 29, 2016

US presidential hopefuls show a country lacking in leadership, debate falls into trite format

Monday's first presidential debate between Democratic and Republican nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was the most-watched in the US since the 1980 match-up between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. It attracted some 84 million viewers on 13 television networks, not including online watchers, National Public Radio reported.

It is widely held that in the showdown, politician Clinton, who did her homework, crushed seemingly unprepared and ill-informed Trump who often ranted, though the polls afterward showed a different picture. The CNN/ORC poll immediately after the debate found 62 percent of respondents thought Clinton won the debate, while just 27 percent felt Trump triumphed. Yet online polls with wider coverage of respondents overwhelmingly showed Trump was the winner.

However, no matter who won, it won't make the debate as significant as it is supposed to be. The two debaters deviated from substantive statements on the real problems that matter to the country, becoming embroiled in personal attacks against the bad records of each other. They did not appear statesmanlike, but rather like TV stars competing to amuse the audience for approval. Neither seriously mapped out a trustworthy blueprint for the country. In this sense, whoever eventually wins won't quell the public doubts about their capacity to steer the US out of its plight of worsening domestic and external situations.

It is widely recognized that the US, baffled by the quagmire in the Middle East and rampant terrorism, has seen its leadership decline and is unable to lead the world to squarely face up to a slew of challenges. The latest debate gives ammunition to the judgment.

The US president is in many cases the best proof of US leadership. But neither of the candidates looks capable of helping the superpower regain its global leadership in a multipolar world. Clinton, a smart politician that looks so presidential in comparison with Trump, doesn't seem able to inject anything new to the US given her poor performance as secretary of state, let alone her credibility issues. Meanwhile, caustic Trump has risen by giving voice to the anger of conservative Americans, but that's all he can offer in front of the severe tests facing the country. His ridiculous policies that woo US voters will be disastrous for US clout and raise so many uncertainties about the direction of the US.

In the final analysis, the presidential election has become a game to choose who is the least unfit to rule the superpower. As the influence of its leadership slides, the world needs to be ready for it. - Global Times

Clinton-Trump debate falls into trite format

The first US presidential debate between the Democratic and Republican candidates concluded Monday night, drawing unprecedented attention from around the world. No previous two contenders have displayed more differences in personality, vision and background than Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, making this year's race to the White House all the more enthralling.

Many commentators thought Clinton's versed performance well-demonstrated her background as a veteran politician. Trump, a bit inexperienced, didn't display many faults and restrained his flamboyant style. In general, it was a trite debate.

As Clinton has been exposed to various scandals during the campaign, she tried to highlight her honesty and prudence. Many people have doubts about her integrity, however they are also accustomed to candidates' empty promises.

Trump wasn't faking. But the problem is that Trump does not make many Americans feel secure, and they worry he might be capricious if he is elected. This debate did not reassure people.

Clinton and Trump are perhaps the most controversial candidates in the history of US presidential elections. American society has different concerns about the two candidates, as neither is a role model for the country. With only less than two months before the election, voters have no better alternative than choosing the least worst candidate.

Be it in Europe or Asia, Western countries or emerging economies, few people look forward to the result of the US election or believe the leadership transition will promote global harmony. The two candidates are publicly making their calculations and revealing their selfishness to the world. For them, it seems the whole world owes the US.

Both candidates mentioned China several times in their first debate. Trump was particularly arrogant, and has spread the mentality that the US has suffered losses from its relations with China, and is also taken advantage of by its allies. This mentality, together with Washington's powerful strategic tools, poses potential threats to global stability.

The US will not stop pursuing its privilege as a superpower, and this will for sure challenge the status of China and Russia. While Clinton tends to make the current system more favorable to the US, Trump is more straightforward in maximizing benefits. The China-US relationship will witness more difficulties in the future. The US will also weigh benefits from its ties with China with those from a tougher China policy, and evaluate whether it could afford the price of jeopardizing its relationship with Beijing.

Chinese do not want to see China pressured by Clinton, and meanwhile are uncertain of Trump's presidency. Let Americans worry about who will end up in the White House. Chinese should be ready for the change in the US presidency. We have many tools to respond, enough for the future US president to feel the dread if it makes trouble with China. Such tools matter more than the goodwill of American presidents. - Global Times

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Getting back up after a fall

Don’t keep saying ‘no’ and ‘don’t’ to the kids because all it does is squelch their curiosity, determination and thirst for exploration. The truth is, even when you fall, you can learn from the experience. Growth happens when you step out of your comfort zone.

AS YOU likely would have heard by now, while training in the British Virgin Islands recently, I was bicycling down a hill, hit a bump in the road and was flung off my bike into the air. In the microseconds that I spent anticipating the feeling of concrete against my face, my life actually flashed before my eyes.

I genuinely thought: I’m going to die.

My bike disappeared off the cliff, and I landed hard. I was wearing a helmet, but I suffered a fractured cheek, torn ligaments and a few cuts and bruises.

While the timing couldn’t have been worse, my recovery is going well.

By the time you read this (injuries permitting), I will have been long into my journey on the Virgin Strive Challenge, the most physically demanding test I’ve ever tackled. I’m joining my children, Holly and Sam, and a group of inspiring people on this challenge.

We’re traveling entirely under our own power on a month-long trip through Italy, from the base of the Matterhorn in the Alps to the summit of Sicily’s Mount Etna.

We will be facing all sorts of physical obstacles along the way: a vast landscape across which we will hike and cycle, deep waters that we’ll have to swim across to reach Sicily, an active volcano we’ll run on. It will take great perseverance, solidarity and mental clarity to get through this adventure.

But it’s likely that the toughest obstacles will be those inside our own heads.

In business and in life, most people consider others to be their toughest opponents, whether it’s winning a tennis match or winning more market share. However, the real adversary is actually far closer to home. In my 66 years, I’ve learned that there is no tougher foe than yourself.

Think about it: As an entrepreneur, you’re the one who has to put in the hard yards.

You’re the one who has to deal with all those late nights and early mornings. You’re the one who has to figure out how to push past barriers you didn’t realise existed.

But if you’re determined enough and have the right mindset, you can reach heights you thought were impossible to reach.

That’s what the Virgin Strive Challenge is all about: pushing yourself to do something you didn’t think was possible, and in the process setting a great example for others, particularly young people.

Too often, children are told: “You can’t do this,” or “Don’t even try.” Adults say these things to keep their kids safe, to protect them from the pain of failure.

But in my opinion, this is a big mistake. The more children are told they can’t do something, the more they lose their curiosity, determination and thirst for exploration — qualities that are essential for entrepreneurs.

That’s why Virgin has partnered with Big Change this year, a youth charity in the UK that looks for different ways to encourage young people to thrive and develop a growth mindset.

It is all about believing that you can grow through both failure and success. When you fail, it’s tempting to slip into a negative mindset, to start thinking that you’re hopeless. But that just makes it easier to give up.

If you remain positive about your abilities, chalk up losses as valuable experiences and get back on your feet, it will be easier to forgive yourself and move on.

After all, while you may be your own toughest adversary, you can also be your biggest supporter. It’s important that we all know this, children in particular.

My wife, Joan, and I have always encouraged our children to chase their dreams, push themselves hard and live their lives without regret. I’m so proud of the adults they’ve become and the work they’re doing now through Big Change. It’s an incredible privilege for me to be able to join them in their latest undertaking.

I just hope my body holds up after the accident!Together, we’re going to have the adventure of our lives as we try and raise over £1.5mil to support positive change for young people. It doesn’t get much better than that!

And we hope to send a clear message: Growth happens when you step out of your comfort zone, and the truly extraordinary happens when you do it with the support of others.

Make sure you head over to the Virgin Strive Challenge website,, for more information, and check back for updates on our journey. — Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate

By Richard Branson

Questions from readers will be answered in future columns. Please send them to Please include your name, country, email address and the name of the website or publication where you read the column.

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Malaysia's vernacular schools not the problem

Those who oppose vernacular schools ... are driven by their desire to produce a society moulded in a way that they desire. Please keep element of choice for both parents and students.

AMONG those opposing vernacular schools, you can detect one umbrella argument that is continuously used by many parties. They say that the existence of vernacular schools is a threat to national identity and a hindrance to unity. Their fear is that this student segregation will lead to a fracturing of our society.

I disagree with this view. I think they confuse the purpose of education and there is also a lot of hypo­crisy going on.

Let us firstly look at the concept of schooling. Historically, the entity known as a school has its origin in Prussia in the early 1800s.

At that time, Prussians were looking at methods to produce citizens who would loyally work and fight for causes determined by their rulers. So they devised a system where, from a very young age, their citizens were trained to live a regimented life.

It did not matter what your abilities and interests were. As long as you were of the same age, you would be grouped together and forced to learn subjects determined by the elites.

Like the military, there was heavy emphasis on leadership by head teachers and teachers, while students were mere recipients of what was taught to them. That regimentation remains as the nature of modern schools.

After two centuries of bureaucratic evolution, schools these days are not about providing holistic education to support the child’s individual growth anymore. Instead it is about producing cohorts of citizens who can be easily grouped and compartmentalised.

Every one of us who went through the modern school system has been compartmentalised into groups based on our exam results.

And that is also why it has become the norm for those in power to use the school as a tool for social engineering. From day one, since Prussian times, the purpose of a school has always been about social engineering. Yet the vast majority of people today confuse schools with education.

In reality, you can still get an education without going to what have become our traditional schools. Education can be obtained from home, or in informal groups that come together for what is today known as “home-schooling”.

More interestingly, there is also a global interest in concepts such as unschooling, Sudbury schools, and democratic schools.

Those who oppose vernacular schools usually do not argue about the quality of education received by the students. They are not driven by the desire to catalyse social mobility by ensuring everyone has access to quality education. But they are driven by their desire to produce a society moulded in a way that they approve of.

The elites have a concept of what they feel society should be like and they want to use the Prussian factory-like model of schools to produce underlings who behave according to their pre-determined mould. To legitimise their mould, they label it as unity.

Note that their desire for unity has nothing to do with education. Their focus is on schooling. And this is where the hypocrisy creeps in.

Many of the people who want to promote their mould of unity have never attended any of our government schools. They don’t even send their own kids to our schools.

They step into our schools perhaps for a few hours a year for hyped-up visits, yet they speak as if they really know. More amazingly, they speak as if they actually have faith in our school system when their actions show otherwise.

In reality, these elites campaign for something that will never affect them. When it comes to their own families, they send their children for a “better” education elsewhere.

They want to limit our choices on schools because they know that they can always pay their way out and send their own children to a school of their choice.

This is the tragedy of some of the privileged. Instead of looking for ways to make sure everyone can afford school choices like them, they want to kill choice for everyone who cannot afford to pay.

Let me pose a rhetorical question.

If unity can only be achieved by making students from different backgrounds come together in one school, then why do they just want to close vernacular schools?

To be specific, data shows that Chinese schools have higher ethnic diversity than other schools. I can think of many non-Chinese schools that are completely mono-ethnic. If we are objective, it is not the Chinese schools that need to be closed down.

This is why I say that there is a lot of hypocrisy in the debate. Worse, that hypocrisy is clouded by confusion about whether we want to educate or we just want to have factory-like schooling.

The vernacular school debate is a debate of the elite. For us common people, our sole desire is to be able to provide our kids with quality education.

It is possible to provide school choices for the commoners, such as by using school vouchers so that choice is provided but schools are still free for the students.

Of course, it will take time to move towards this choice-based system. Until we get there, I beg the elites to stop trying to kill what few choices remain for us poorer citizens of this country.

By Wan Saiful Wan Jan The Star

Thinking Liberally

Wan Saiful Wan Jan is chief executive of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs ( The views expressed here are entirely
the writer’s own.

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