Q: Many people have described the advent of Brexit, Trump and Duterte as a populist movement – do you think this trend will grow to such an extent where we will see more of it?

A: See more of it? We are already in the thick of it. People who choose to use the term populist are being presentist – they show no inclination whatsoever to come to terms or to even understand the shortcomings of globalization – and providing this attitude of denial persist. We are likely to see more Brexit’s along with Trump’s.

Q: What would be the quick antidote to this irrational wave?

A: You know the words one chooses to describe this turn of events often betrays one’s attitude along with vantage and possibly beliefs – for example you see fit to describe it prosaically as ‘irrational’ – but I prefer to see all this, in simple terms of cause and effect.

Solution – give a diploma holder and below only one vote and no more. A degree holder two votes, a master’s level three and a doctoral four votes.

Q: Surely you are not serious!

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A: I am perfectly serious. As when you choose to term all these developments under the aegis of ‘irrationality’ – then what I just mentioned can really be the only suggested solution.

And this goes back to what I mentioned earlier – we cannot be presentist or so lazy that we don’t even bother to look back at history and trace out chronologically where it all went so very wrong – not if we are serious about formulating an effective prescriptive solution.

The way I see it – for globalization and free trade to remain sustainable and robust along with possibly the precepts of meritocracy – custodians of power not only in the West, but also in Singapore as well have to ensure that it produces benefit all and not just a select few. That in a nutshell is the only solution to reversing this trend.

There however a moral dilemma to this suggested solution.

Q: What is the moral dilemma?

A: The upwardly mobile and financially independent didn’t just walk over the knoll – these category of individuals were diligent, took risk and whatever benefits they enjoy today from globalization is really an accretion of their hard work, dexterity and willingness to adapt to change.

Those who lost out you could say didn’t bother to study very hard and missed out on many opportunities in life and they really have nothing to offer to the rest of the world to benefit from globalization.

So if one decides to redistribute the benefits of globalization equally – then what you’re really doing is dismantling the whole credo of capitalism and possibly even reviving socialism.

The problem here is even the communist these days don’t believe in socialism any longer – there lies part of the dilemma.

So the real question is how does one go about intelligently ensuring the principles of capitalism in the shape of globalization continues to produce benefits for all without running into the danger of evolving into socialism and welfarism.

As you can see it’s very circular; so have no doubt this is not an easy nut to crack. Now if you say tax the shit out the rich – then I say, it’s a Sunday today and as you can see I am working. But if 90% of what I earn goes to people who are picnicking on Sunday – then what incentive is there for me to break sweat. I much rather tinker with stuff like how to make cheap beer out of turnips or potatoes instead of working on a Sunday.

That’s really the dilemma.

Q: Why do you see it in terms of a dilemma?

A: It’s a very long story.

Q: Do Share.

A: Brexit is not new to the world. It’s really just old dressed up as new – during the 30’s when Hitler became Reich Chancellor by winning the GE. Many Europeans then echoed the same sentiments today. Eventually after a war that left Europe completely ravaged, though Hitler and his motley crew disappeared.

Many European thinkers began to ask themselves only one question – how can we stop this from ever happening again. I know it seems odd today that they should even ask such a question – but you really have to get up to speed on what was the prevailing challenges of that tumultuous period. The war was cut and dried. But a new menace loomed in Europe in the form of Bolshevism. Britain had more or less bankrupted herself in a Phyric victory. Many Europeans still remembered the First World War and the second and the prospects of a third – this time waged with atomics was very real.

To cut to the chase – one of vein of thinkers managed to beacon out the fog. There were of course many other thinkers – such a Brandeis, Hayek, Popper et al. But the linchpin of a new Global order was based on the works of John Maynard Keynes. The crux of Keynesian logic was based on the assumption – all economies if left to their own would ultimately end up so unstable that people would eventually lose faith in governments and nominate a radical such as Hitler. Keynes was not alone in his belief – many other thinkers supported him. As the failed Weimar Republic following WW1 was still fresh – there was certainly a nexus of causation between failed economies and radicalism.

And Keynesianism which advocated regular government interventionist policy seemed sensible in order to combat excessive boom and bust cycles in a nation’s economy.

This marked a significant paradigm shift among economists and sociologist at the time – now this was where the whole idea of the welfare state emerged from – while it took some time for Keynes’ ideas to take hold, it really only gained traction when it was coupled with the works of William Beveridge which was then known as universalism or what is today called welfarism.

Now this was the bedrock of how post war Europe would be reconstructed – and even today when we look at the rationale behind the EU, it’s really just an accretion of this logic specifically it’s predecessor the EEC – the problem with the welfare state was not dissimilar with what eventually brought down the Soviet Union – it could not be sustained at a macroeconomic level. Not at least without having to put up regularly with workers striking, non existent quality or for that matter customer service – as since the profit motive was secondary to the principles of egalitarims which required wealth to be distributed – there was no incentive for trains to run on time or for that matter even oligrachies to balance their accounts. It would not be an exaggeration to say by the late seventies the whole of Europe resembled the caricature of the soviet era carrier Aeroflot.

Now Aeroflot was really the carrier that all destitute students of my era dreaded – it was also the metaphor that summed up succinctly what was so wrong about welfarism, though in this case we are talking about communism, but my point is the welfare state was ideologically not so far from Marxist Leninist precepts – the only good thing about Aeroflot was they were dead cheap. But it came devoid of any known form of customer service that every traveller comes to expect as de riguer today – for example, it wasn’t unusual for one to be sleeping only to be jolted violently out of the seat. As the plane had landed without the pilot even bothering to announce, please fasten your seat belts blah blah blah. The food was like cardboard chicken and rock hard potatoes, if it ever came. The air stewardess all resembled stern matrons who got promoted from their previous jobs in the gulags – it was just a nightmare carrier where by the end of the trip. Everyone would breathe a sign of relief and say, we are so lucky we didn’t die!

That was what welfare state produced…trains that didn’t run on time, crummy products and services where if one wanted quality it usually came at a premium under the sales tag deluxe which was code for, what did you expect, didn’t you know we awe living in a welfare state. Businesses in Europe began to fossilize. There was no innovation to speak of, not at least the variety that any entrepreneur would ever consider putting his own money in as the prospects of a good return from investments was virtually nil. Soon everything in the juggernaut of the welfare state began to either fall apart or fail – the prescriptive cure for this macroeconomic state of decay came only in the mid eighties in the form of Thatcherism and Reaganomics.

Today with Trump in the White House again – it’s like that movie back to the future. It’s a déjà vu moment for me.

Like I said, today is a Sunday. I have my No.4 on. It’s another working day in the plantation and the only reason why I am doing this is because of the profit motive.

That’s why I choose to see this conundrum in terms of a dilemma – as this Brexit or Trump moment is hardly new. And my fear is history will repeat itself again and attempt to make progress by going backwards by opting for the welfare state.

That would be nightmarish. There has to be a better way. There has to be.

Q: Do you think Brexit and Trump presages the end of democracy as we know it?

A: It may sound very strange. But democracy has always been unstable since recorded history. The Romans flip flopped between the republic and Caesar countless times – and some thinkers even theorize today had it not been ideological war between capitalism and communism – it’s unlikely democracy would have lasted as long as it did thru out the entire second half of the twentieth century in the West.

I think it was Walter Lippman who first wrote about how people can’t be depended to always make the right decisions. His works was especially influential in coloring American politics.

You should consider watching it here and draw your own conclusions. As for me I really haven’t got around to thinking about it.

Only I have to warn you. Some things in life it’s best not to know about. Only because ignorance can indeed be bliss. I much rather remain stupid when it comes to such questions. After all I am just a simple farmer smack in the middle of the wild living on just two hours of electricity a day….what do you really expect me to know about the rest of the world?

That’s a question best left to some of my regular readers.


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I am very impressed by the way Najib dresses. His suits are impeccably fitted. Not too loose or wide to come across as sloppy. Just the right tension between fit and ease to come across as incredibly snappy.

The selection of materials impossible to fault. Absolutely right – they all just hit the right notes, not to loud or muted, just the right whispering rush to convey quiet confidence, authority and gravitas of a statesman.

I have observed he even has day and evening suits that he regularly changes to look Savil Row dapper.

I also like the way he matches his ties with his pocket squares or maybe it’s his better half that sees to it – my only critique about Najib is his shoes, they’re always black. They look way too serious. As if he’s going to attend a wake or something. He should absolutely try something besides black. Maybe oxblood, dark brown or burgundy complimented with a classy French patine finish to give it some age.

Told you all. A well dressed man always goes a very long way in life. Just like our resident style mentor – his royal highness the Maharaja of a thousand sartorial wonders – http://kingofdhaka.com

This merely confirms my inner most thoughts.

From today onwards I am going to confer on Najib honorary life time membership into our sartorial brotherhood.

Even dress his shoes on a brotherhood only discounted rate.

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‘Have you all considered this. Why is it – Najib of Malaysia can stroll into China and come out with a big bag of goodies while all Mini Lee of Singapore seems to be able to do is get played out by Obama over the TPP – while the Chinese pelt him with rotten tomatoes over his complicity in the South China Seas.

Want to know my theory? Time again I have emphasized this to all of you in this blog about the importance of dressing well – to always be considerate and mindful of paying the highest respect others and institutions of power and most importantly to take exceptional pride in putting your best foot forward.

Some of you think it’s a joke that I keep repeating this. Looked what happened in the Ukraine when we all know who, but since we are all wearing out super polite top hats – we are never going to mention their names egged it all up wearing gunny sacks to business meetings. And they all wonder why their host asked them – are you staying in the YMCA?

My theory is very simple – Najib knows how to dress strategically – to this man his suit is not just clothes, it’s like armor – it hides his weaknesses and amplifies his strengths – this is why Najib can regularly pull rabbits out of hats with very serious world leaders. As he understands the keys to power.

While all Mini Lee seems to do EVERYTIME is come across as a tired lightweight. Please bear in mind. I am not being offensive. Rather I want to be accurate. He wore loafers to the White House when he sat down with Obama. I am not kidding the same variety that I would wear should I need to fix my four my four on a weekend and don’t want my good pairs stained with engine oil. As for his suit – it looked as if someone baked it in the hotel oven then ran over it a couple of times with a steam roller.

I ain’t kidding – he came across like someone who was just there to fix the Panasonic air condition and Obama was so kind that he offered him a lemonade after the job. You can google the pic for yourself, it’s too painful to put it up here – there was no verve, élan or style. It’s just a suit like the sort where clothes go to die in the Salvation Army shop.

Above all there is no respect. Wonder no more why the TPP is down the chute. As for the Chinese. All he would get from them is a fortune cookie that reads – Confucios say: man who dress like poop will have to deal with backlog.

Now you all know why I keep emphasizing to all of you in this blog to be impeccably dressed. EVERYTIME like Najib. If you cannot do that please make a serious effort to hitch up with a wifey like Rosmah.

Remember I genuinely desire the very best for every single one of you – it is not a sheer accident – the average brotherhood reader earns more, lives better and enjoys life when compared to Joe average – as he is a man who takes the art of manliness with utmost seriousness.

As you can all see for yourselves – it’s really the tale of two cities.

The power of a quiet mind

November 11, 2016

In order to see things as they truly are and not what others say it is, one must absolutely cultivate the art of being comfortable within solitude. Solitude is not loneliness. Solitude is the form that allows you to stand without fear before loneliness. For one must first overcome the fear of being alone.

When fear has no dominion over the mind in the sea of loneliness…that is when one is encased in the the force field of solitude – then everything that once jumped up and down and made just noise will begin to still and quieten down. Only then will ceaseless chatter of the world begin to grow silent giving way to nothingness and all that remains is the true fearless self.

In this state of mind. Nothingness is not nothingness. It is simply the form of the quiet mind.

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‘Quietness can never come into the essence of one’s being without considerable effort. Since I am autistic. I am naturally quiet. I have observed man is by nature fearful of quietness….he always feels the imposition to make noise by what he cleverly describes as polite conversation. To put it another way, he feels the imposition of others on his being like a stone on his chest…..but the real reason that compels him to make noise is – deep down man has always been fearful of being alone. Since the moment of his youth, he has been scripted to believe – quietness and loneliness are loathsome and undesirable states of mind. Therefore if you look around man is always like a going around like a deaf man with wires and small speakers stuck to his ears – they make noise in the form of music and like a baby that is soothe, he feels comforted by noise…..it is a form of connection….to something that he does not quite know or has never felt the compulsion to even seek to understand. But in reality – it is the very fear of loneliness itself that compels all of us to reach out and seek validation, approval and respect from the world beyond us that I shall refer too as the external in this blog entry.

When so much of one’s being is reaching out instead of turning inwards into the quietness – that simply means one existence is entirely invested in the external. The internal world of quietness is neglected like a locked up room….soon it becomes a place to be feared.

But the real reason why man does not see the wisdom to go inwards into quietness is there is nothing inside his core – like I said, it’s a fearful room that has always been locked that is how man learns to fear loneliness.

When one is fearful of loneliness – then even if one is completely in the embrace of solitude. A thousand voices will be murmuring in one’s head…it is like a chorus of chants – one is always interrogating the self against the external – did I say the right thing to him or her during that meeting? How was my response just then, could it have been better or was it to rash? What does he or she think about me? Will I get that thing or has it slipped from my fingers? Etc etc. One is always living in either the distant past or future but never in the present.

When the mind is always craving the approval, respect and validation from the external – one can only be like a scared child in this very dark lonely room. Suddenly it becomes a very intimidating and scary place that is too painful for one to bear for any length of time.

But a mature mind always goes inwards – this is the first protocol of all mature minds, it does not seek answers outside the self. As it knows it to be a hall of mirrors that is like the perpetual blur of a noisy whirlwind that can only cloud the mind and take it further away from the core of one’s being.

Above all a mature mind is never afraid of loneliness. As even in the complete desolation of solitude – it since it craves absolutely nothing, certainly not your approval, or respect or even your love. It desires absolutely nothing that can be offered by the external.

All that the mind who does not fear loneliness seeks – is to be at one with the power of quietness, to seek absolute and complete communion with quietness….till the self disappears completely into this void of nothingness.

Nothingness is not nothing. It is the form of the quiet mind.’

Q: From the top of your head. Are you shocked?

A: No. I am not shocked Trump has been elected. But I am certainly very shocked that so many well educated, travelled and read thinkers are shocked.

Q: You mean to say, Trump’s win is just a confirmation to you?

A: That’s not for me to comment on. I think my regular readers are all aware of my long standing reservations concerning the corrosive effects of unmitigated globalization and leaving everything to the auto pilot wisdom of the free market.

Time and again. I have highlighted the dangers of globalization and the urgency to mitigate it’s social and economic fall out on people and plant – simply because it is so fixated on the profit motive and very little else that this blinkered approach can only produce massive social inequalities, gut out whole communities and continue to deny the masses opportunities for upward mobility as it really only benefits big corporations and enriches so very few.

Q: Don’t you think most people have a right to be shocked, disgusted and apprehensive about Trump winning?

A: It depends whose under your appellation of most people – I notice you like to phrase your questions in a very loaded manner where if I am not in agreement with you – then I can only represent the lunatic fringe.

I must say you do this very skillfully – now coming back to your question – if you’re using the prefix most people to describe the regular readers of my blog. Then you would probably be very disappointed – as I don’t believe for one moment any of the regular readers here would really express the quotient of shock and dismay that you’re expecting – simply because the hack that keeps writing and throwing out stuff here keeps harping on and on that globalization if it’s not tempered with social shock absorbers to ameliorate the social and economic fall out will certainly result in a stark day of reckoning.

However if you belong to that quadrant of readers who are hermetically insulated from the corrosive effects of so called free trade or remain so ambivalent about how just as meritocracy can produce good – it can also produce undesirable fall outs – then this will probably come as a cataclysmic shock.

Whether you are shocked or just saying to yourself this day was very much in the cards really belongs to which social economic quadrant you belong too.

Q: Which quadrant do you belong too?

A: Make absolutely no mistake. I am a free marketeer. I believe in globalization. I put my mouth where my buck is by running a successful enterprise. I am not just someone with a tube of Mentos in my pocket sitting in a room where clothes and overnight pizza go and die – I genuinely want the free market to remain sustainable and reliable and be widely perceived as positive by as many people as possible, that is why I am also sensitive to the sentiments of the working man. In the plantation business even if you happen to belong to the aristocracy of the landowning gentry. But if you don’t have one feet firmly planted in the working man’s boots – I think you are looking for big trouble to come your way.

Having said that I do admit – my vocation is quite classless. The rapport between the boss and the working man is often so close that it’s virtually indistinguishable. As plantations is old economy and the planter is traditionally a paternal figurehead – he is not siting in some air con cave in some skyscraper far removed from the everyday realities, not at the micro scale I run my enterprise at least. One day maybe. But even if I grow to that size one day – I will still be very close to the ground getting my hands dirty, that sort of thing. Simply because if my business has to go thru a Brexit moment – then I’ll be wiped out. I will be looking a foreclosure cum nationalization of all my landholdings, so it’s game over for me. I will have to go back to Singapore and sell tissue paper in Bedok bus interchange.

So stop trying to label me as a closet communist or someone whose against capitalism or meritocracy – too many dumbo netizens are already doing that – they only see what they want to see, read what they want to read and think the things everyone else thinks about.

All I am saying is one has to be mindful that leaving everything to the free market will invariably produce both good and bad. And one has to constantly weed out the bad with affirmative action and not be lazy or so blasé to ensure there’s always a surplus of good so that there is enough of it to go around to benefit ordinary folk to keep them believing in the system.

But if the free market theory produces so much bad that it some how manages to squeeze out the good or renders it so rarified and distant for ordinary folk to reach out and improve their lot – then don’t be shocked about Brexit or the upset of Trump getting elected.

You don’t have a right to be shocked! Not in my book.

Q: You are prepared to condone Trump’s under handed methods at winning along with his bigoted values just because his message resonated with the disenfranchised, marginalized and disgruntled. Tell me isn’t that a disservice to mankind in general?

A: What is politics about? It’s really only about one thing – improving people’s lives by opening the field of possibilities. That is the raison d’être of politics – that is the primary criterion. Everything else is optional.

Did Trump throw low blows in the elections? Was his message xenophobic, bigoted and perhaps even bordered on the racist? Maybe. Perhaps. Could be. But you seem to be forgetting one important detail in your summary – his clarion call to make America great again certainly resonated with the masses and they voted him in democratically – you make it sound as if he staged a coup d’état.

To paraphrase the only reason why Trump was voted in was because many Americans believe real or imagined the status quo did not improve their lot as they promised.

It’s very simple. There is no conspiracy theory. This is simply a vote of no confidence directed at the status quo.

Q: How doable is Trump’s clarion call, Make America great again!

A: It will be very difficult to impossible to reconstruct the sentimental romanticism of America’s past glory days. Facts are brutal. Ghost towns which once nourished whole communities by providing jobs in factories are not going to be magically filled up again. Just as one cannot step back into a time machine and punch in a return to the little house in the prairie days to recreate little quaint cottage industries – those days are truly gone it’s finished!

Because globalization as an economic theory is inextricably an elemental feature of American corporate culture – it’s all pervasive and is now widely regarded as the gold standard of how firms can reliably carve up competitive advantage in this century and possibly beyond. When one version of the truth or seeing the world is so embedded in corporate thoughtware – it’s no longer just an economic theory, it’s transformed into a fait accompli like religion. That’s not very appealing to it’s adherents, but also intellectually so robust that it can easily resist any form of change. I am afraid there is a finality to the logic that drives globalization.

Trump can certainly try to shave off some of the bad that globalization so often produces – this not theoretical. It can be done. This is doable. Agriculture and livestock in virtually every country for example continues to enjoy many indirect forms of subsidies in an attempt to take the edge off globalization – only bear in mind, it comes at a cost increment to consumers. For example, Japanese pay five times what Singaporeans typically pay for a kilogram of glutinous rice. They are prepared to do so without gripping as that is the cost of keeping an agricultural sector in their country. Consumers are willing to accept the cost increments. Paradoxically, the US does exactly the same thing – every sub-Saharan African knows by heart what’s printed on a fifty kilogram of pack of wheat that is parachuted under the name of humanitarian USAID – from the American people – but it’s got nothing whatsoever to do with altruism and more do with economics – as it’s America’s back door method to subsidize farmers in Nebraska to keep the price of wheat from bottoming out. Result, Americans pay a lot more than what they should actually pay for a bagel if it was left to market forces. Though in this case I don’t think many Americans know about this capper. As generally they don’t read broadly and perceptively about what their own governments awe doing behind their back. My point is Trump can certainly come up with protectionist terms like all automobiles sold in the US must have at least 50% US steel – but ultimately like Japanese rice, bagels. Are US consumers willing to pay those sort of premiums?

I don’t really think so.

So these examples really illustrate the difficulties he will face when trying to change the logic of globalization. He might as well go and plough the sea – in my opinion it cannot be done. Since the victim will the be US consumer. Trump is doomed to fail to make America great again. Many who placed their hopes on him will be disappointed and let down.

After the end of his first one hundred days this reality will sink into his head.

As in my assessment – globalization cannot be stopped. It’s an inexorable force that’s even bigger than the US. Even the communist Chinese are globalizing in earnest and that’s diametrically against their ideology. The logic is really that powerful.

Having said all that the way I see it – it might well be Trump’s greatest achievement is not what changes he will bring forth in his term as president. Rather it lies in underscoring the level of dissatisfaction in the masses that now cannot be ignored by successive governments. Not only in the US. But in every country in this world.

This is certainly a very sobering wake up call for many politicians through the world. I wonder how many are pricking up their ears?

Keeping a very low profile

November 11, 2016

When the price of oil palm rockets skywards….everyone it seems wants to seek my opinion…..everyone wants to know whether I can do lunch….everyone throws me twenty questions – usually I disappear whenever a mood of exuberance sets in.

My feel is too many talk. When they should be remain still and listen and reflect on what’s actually happening.

During such times my movements are random and frequently unpredictable. I can suddenly appear in places and for appointments that was not scheduled. Or simply cancel them in the last minute. I trust no one. I am suspicious of everything even the most benign and interrogate everything. Even all my electronic devices are frequently turned off during the day. The security is so tight. Nothing can ever get thru or come out.

Above all I trust my judgement least of all.

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‘Many people are shocked by the Trump victory. When you ask them why they are shocked. They will exclaim you have to be delusional not to be shocked. After all the polls said time and again Hillary Clinton was set to win by a landslide. So did the newspapers. As for the political pundits they echoed the same message that Trump never stood a chance in hell to walk into the White House. Even the political establishment read it all so very wrong that they ended up holding on tightly to the wrong end of the stick right up to the eleventh hour.

Everyone got it wrong – they saw what they wanted to see, heard only what they wanted to hear and thought what everyone else seem to be thinking.

But when one sits down calmly and ask – how is it possible to neglect the needs and aspirations of so many US workers for so long without at least incurring a backlash? How is it possible to sustain an inequitable system where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer for so long without at least running the danger of a backlash? How is it even possible to maintain a double standard system where the rich seem to get all the opportunities while the lot of the common Joe gets smaller till it’s virtually impossible to make ends meet…surely all this would all culminate in a day of reckoning.

When one sits down and reflect on this calmly, alone and without the distraction of noise. Then very slowly the realization emerges – those who were shocked by Trump’s victory are actually the delusional one’s. There are so awfully disconnected from reality. You could even say they live in their own manufactured version of reality that is unhinged from the workings of the real world.

Yes anyone can fall into that sort of mind trap.

That is why I always keep a very low profile and much prefer to be alone most of the time. I don’t like crowds. I’ve even been known to clear whole buildings out of people or to only have meetings at very unearthly hours just to keep a very low profile…..as doing that keeps one grounded…clear and very level headed.

Remember, when you are doing well spare a thought for those who may be less fortunate than you. If you earn big bucks. Keep a low profile. Don’t be too loud and showy. Better still learn to disappear and go about your business whisper silent like a submarine. This way when you are out of sight, you will hopefully also be out of mind and never be a target as well.

Today a group of oil millers made it clear in at an oil palm convention publicly, they refuse to talk to me – to which I told everyone else, that is their prerogative. Now if you don’t mind. I will have to talk to others.

They were all very surprised that I did not insist on talking to them. After when my delegation stood up abruptly and marched out – there was pandemonium.

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‘Never allow others to stick labels on you – as it is nothing short of an act of power.

Call a man mad and believe it or not you have cast an evil spell that if others choose to believe, then it will be an agreement and soon even if that person is perfectly sane – he will be treated like a mad man.

I have seen this many times. Call a man useless and hopeless and virtueless and if a man believes it – even a capable man will end up useless, hopeless and virtueless.

As when one says and another agrees or gives it even a morsel of space to take root in the mind – then it can only grow.

So learn to cast aside evil spells by repudiating them forcefully and confidently with finality.

Do not be ashamed to say – I do not agree with you. Better still go tell them to fuck off. Or let us agree to disagree and learn to be comfortable to walk right out of the door – When one is comfortable with just this. One is simply rendering evil spells powerless and impotent and it has no dominion over one – as when one learns to only to do this and this alone. Suddenly everything becomes so very clear.’

Q: Asians seem very anxious about Trump elected as president. Trump mentioned recently in a rally, Singapore is stealing American jobs. How does it all fare for Asia and specifically Singapore.

A: Understand this! And I have said before time and again. Nothing will change. Not significantly in the short term at least since your question pertains specifically to foreign policy in the Asian Pacific theater. You’ve got to understand to Trump foreign policy in Asia is like quantum physics to a caveman.

Even if there is going to be changes – appreciating the long time lines is key.

I understand completely the reasons for anxiety – as so many wild things have been thrown out during the GOP. But that is all election talk to pander for votes.

Trump the man who was running to be president. And president Trump are not necessarily one of the same reality – they cannot possibly be. Even if they want to be. As there exist real constraints on the office of the president.

I know Trump threw out many wild statements concerning Asia, like he wanted Japan and Korea to pay for US policing in the Pacific. But they’re already doing that, the Japanese are prolific hoarders of US bonds, so are the Koreans. Obliquely that is an indirect way of funding the US and propping up their economy – so it’s not as if the US is getting nothing out of stationing their seventh fleet in Asia. Without US presence. They stand to lose much more. Trump may not completely appreciate the realpolitik nor limits as president. But as soon as he gets a briefing from the Republican intelligentsia on foreign policy – maybe Henry Kissinger or perhaps Madeline Albright or even the Republican et al think tank. He will eventually come to terms with the facts of life which is simply this – there is more pay out for the US to stick to status quo than to embark on a wild goose chase and change the set pieces in Asia.

I am not saying as president he’s entirely powerless. No. He can for example gradually steer the US as an outward-looking country that is committed to ensuring peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region through a diplomatic and military presence, to an inward-xenophobic nation that cares little for what goes on beyond its immediate neighbourhood – that he can do. But it will take at least eight years and even then it will be such a long and windy road because power is Balkanized in the US by the doctrine of separation of powers – and it will take truck loads of buy in. That he can do – but my point is there’s the factor of factor of time and opportunity cost.

But he cannot just pull plugs out of Asia wildly like force US firms to pack up their factories and go back to the US like a traveling circus – he cannot like he said just visit North Korea like Gardens at the Bay. Dennis Rodman the basketball superstar can. But it’s impossible for the President of the US to do the same – there is such a thing called international law – along with protocol, convention and agreements which are both formal and tacit. He has to go to the UN to get buy in to set aside sanctions. Do the same with the South Koreans and Japanese – senate and congress needs to ratify all this and above it all needs to be congruent to the US design of realpolitik and geopolitical realities.

So please don’t panic unnecessarily.

Q: What about the TPP – Trump has mentioned he will scrap it. What’s your take?

A: As I said before when he has had a combo meal of KFC with the likes of heavy weights like Henry Kissinger and Madeline Albright. The TPP will be given a make over and perhaps repackaged as the Trump deal of the century and it will be signed and passed. But I want to emphasize – it’s essentially a wolf in the sheep’s clothing – it will be the TPP.

As I said before too much is already invested in the TPP and it all connects with a larger schema – I don’t see how it can just simply die.

Q: If both Malaysia and Philippines decide to pull out from the TPP will that kill it?

A: That’s if they can pull out – I don’t think they can, not without being cut off completely from market access. The TPP may be principally packaged as a free trade agreement to enhance market accessibility and harmonization of cross border trade legislation – but what many people don’t seem to appreciate is it’s also an ultimatum to many signatory countries by the US – if you don’t join me. You perish!

Q: Can the TPP exist alongside China’s economic agenda for primacy in the Asia Pacific region?

A: That is a very good question. There are gaps – by this I mean to say the TPP is a negotiated treaty that is customized to take account the strengths and weaknesses of each country. In the case of the Philippines, Japan and New Zealand – there exist significant compromises on agriculture and livestock to such an extent where it’s not truly possible to say free trade rules and the lowest producer wins. In that respect agriculture and livestock will still continue to enjoy exemptions from globalization.

This in part answers your question somewhat – the TPP does to some extent provision room for each country to customize their needs. In Malaysia for example, pure application of free trade translates into revoking Malay privileges in the form of changing the national economic policy that favors bumiputra’s – I don’t see how that can ever happen.

I think it’s fair to say as it is – China aspiration for economic primacy in the Pacific and the TPP can co-exist. It may be tight in some areas especially intellectual capital / but in phase 1 of TPP there is plenty of room for improvisation.

Q: Do you see a divided America being an issue that will militate against the Brexit Trump administration?

A: From all our intelligence post – following directly from the shock outcome. I think many Americans who support Hillary Clinton will justifiably feel outrage. This is only natural. As this has been the most divisive clash that even you feel fit to describe as a Brexit vote.

A Brexit vote to me is just an elegant word to describe class and culture war between have’s and have not, educated and working class, beneficiaries of globalization and disenfranchised.

A postmortem needs to be done on the demographics of votership – but all this considered. However always remember just as Brexit was the result of a democracy at work in the form of a referendum – so was the elections of Trump. At the end of the day, the rule of law will prevail.

Personally I think the tenor of Trump will have to soften considerably – it has too. After all he too has access to intelligence concerning demographics.

Eventually we are likely to see a very different Trump from the Trump who was running for president.

Q: Is free trade and globalization at risk of being rendered obsolete – will Trump be more inward looking, xenophobic and less inclined to engage the rest of the world?

A: For many years I have written about the perils of how if the forces of globalization and free market is applied too dogmatically without adjustments to social realities – it can only produce class war leading to it’s eventual demise as an economic theory – not only in America. But everywhere else including Singapore. Including the virtual in our own game – we saw this simulated maybe fifteen years back ago. In our case it was so violent and divisive it culminated in the Ascension wars.

When I was promulgating my theory of how the free market had to be constantly tempered to redistribute wealth and the open up the aperture for social mobility – some netizens labelled me a communist and even used all kinds of charming words to describe me. Everything from delusional to egomaniacal.

Today against the backdrop of Brexit and the shock of Trump being elected as president – these same conceited erudite lot have the temerity to claim they are shocked, feel violated and insist their elemental rights have been gazzumped by malevolent forces. When they were the very ones who created this problem – by constantly insisting they are right even when so many fall off the sideline – now that so many of the disaffected have reached a tipping point. They all get together to throw out the status quo.

Q: How do you see Trump being different from other presidents who came before him?

A: We need to be patient and wait to see who his key persons and advisors will be – now it’s impossible to trace out the outlines. We are really just wasting time try to speculate.

Q: Trump has said he wants to cooperate with Putin instead of ostracizing him like Obama – what do you think?

A: Again difficult. He can of course do so – but he will end up pissing off so many people that instead of getting benefits. He will end up with more grief. As to have warmer relationships with Putin – a US president would have to condone so many things Russia has done that the EU bureaucrats and NATO don’t agree with, everything from the occupation and annexation of the Crimea to his open support of the Assad regime in Syria. Many vested interest is involved – it’s like one of those old houses, if you shift a beam, since it’s affected to the pillar and that supports the roof, it may all pack up like a house of cards.

Don’t want to sound boring and repeatative. But have to see whose in the line up of key persons and advisors.

Q: All in all do you think Trump’s presidency will produce more good than bad.

A: Good and bad for who? It depends which quadrant one identifies with. This is why people use the word divisive to describe this elections – if you’re a scholar that have a cushy job waiting for you with automatic salary increments. Trump is very bad news. But if you happen to be just a blue collar shift worker with maybe a dime per dozen diploma – then Trump is good.

The take away from all this is politicians and thinkers have to be mindful – globalization and free trade can no longer shut out the small guy – you cannot say just because people don’t have college degrees doesn’t automatically mean they’re at fault and don’t have a right to enjoy social mobility. For over fifteen years – so many years so many hard working folk in the US have been marginalized by globalization. Their salaries get smaller. Or stay the same. In some cases whole communities just disaapear as the industries that used to support the local economy is transplanted elsewhere.

So you have to be very mindful not to automatically conclude the Brits or Americans are necessarily stupid to vote for Brexit or Trump. This is especially true for regular readers here – as most are educated and beneficiries of globalization. Only remember many are not as lucky as you. They didn’t have the opportunities that once came your way. Maybe their parents were educated so they grew up with no one emphasizing the importance of education to increase opportunities and social mobility. Maybe they are slightly autistic and people just think they’re good to go for mopping up toilets or putting screws into stuff on a conveyor belt. Or maybe they are just plain unlucky in life, these people have lost out and they have no voice. No one seems to want to sit down and hear their petition.

I for one am happy now at least someone finally has – his name is Donald Trump.

You can say whatever you want to say about Mr Trump. But even you cannot deny had those leaders who came before him listened more to the disaffected classes. This day wouldn’t have even come.

So ultimately I blame the zealots of free trade and globalization – if you feel the need to blame anyone. You should direct it there and not at Trump.

Q: Quickest answer that you can possibly manage – did Najib pull off a success in China?

A: Yes. There were many goodies – you’ve got to understand Najib is like a man with only two caps trying to stop water from coming out from ten holes – so before the China trip he was really like one of those contortionist using his body parts and only two caps to stop the water from rising above his neckline.

Now for the short term at least – he’s managed to plug the 1MDB hole with the new east coast rail line. That’s a big hole that he no longer needs to worry about. As potentially the 1MDB financial fallout would have been bigger than even the scandal itself. Now it’s sorted.

Q: What’s so important about the east coast rail line in Malaysia?

A: I’ll get to that. But first let me completely answer your question. The second thing that he has done is to send a very clear message to whoever gets elected as the President – hey, you better pick up the phone and get the attorney general in the department of justice to cut me and my tribe some slack. As by agreeing to buy Chinese frigates – he’s sending out a clear message to the Americans. He’s considering realigning Malaysia with China.

The third benefit is the rail line will revivify the much neglected East Coast of Malaysia. This is important as unlike the West coast which enjoys steady precipitation thru out the year – the east is really quite the direct opposite of optimal agricultural land. The easterly monsoon usually floods huge swathes of land – but the most important thing for Najib is this greatly enhances his prestige in the East. This is important as Najib’s political crèche is in the state of Pahang. The rail line will generate a lot of jobs for a sustained period throughout the whole vein to East to South.

Right now the east is just a top heavy tourist site with patches of padi fields – and since much of the East line will run thru PAS controlled territory – he can use that as crowbar to align UMNO further with the oppositional PAS.

Q: How important is PAS to UMNO to win the next general elections?

A: This is a fact in Malaysian social life and politics. Religion in the form of Islam is assuming an increasingly prominent role than ever as a galvanizing force along with garnering Malay votes especially in the kampungs (countryside) – it’s effects are mild and hardly registered at all in the city. But this is the new reality outside cityscape – Arabification is becoming a fact of life. Why is this occurring is a topic best left for another post. But this reality cannot be denied even by the apparatchiks of UMNO. To win significant swathes in the mainland – UMNO needs to secure votes in the rice belts of a Kedah and Kelantan to counterbalance the political shift to the South that is moving to the opposition – this can only be accomplished if UMNO collaborates with PAS.

Q: How is the China deal perceived by most Malaysians?

A: That is perhaps the most perceptive and intelligent question you have ever asked me since starting this interview series – I will speak plainly to be accurate in my personal assessment. The ultra Malay nationalist within and outside UMNO are suspicious of anything Chinese – the see a secret agenda furiously and mysteriously at work. Real or imagined is not the issue – they see it purely along racial lines. And this is quite normal in Malaysian politics as race and religion have always been set pieces – even Mahathir’s new opposition Pribumi party is streamed along racial lines to appeal to the Malay majority and specifically exclude the Chinese and Indians.

There is always the fear that China will be able to exert such a strong gravity as to be able to influence the domestic politics of Malaysia simply because there are Chinese in Malaysia – that fear has always been there historically since the days of Malayan Emergency when the Communist party was around – Najib’s recent visit to China merely stirred the sediments of history. No doubt about that – the opposition with play this up and it remains to be seen how Najib will deflect these anxieties.

Q: How well do you think Najib will perform in being able to balance the economic benefits of aligning itself with China while at the same thing soothing fears and concerns of the ultra Malay nationalist?

A: UMNO has a very well organized oligarchy from top right down to the grassroots – you don’t see this in the cities, because it’s too big. But in the kampung’s this is reality. Because communal ties are still very strong and voters still cast their votes based on communal lines.

He has to be able to demonstrate plus points – and plus points are plus points. I give you a simple example. Price of oil palm has gone up recently. Why? Because China has agreed to buy on a sustained basis, so it’s likely to stay up – kampung economy is very oil palmcentric. This is especially so after El Niño. As it has ravaged the micro kampung economy in so many ways that agricultural and livestock production will be riven with systematic complications for at least two possibly three years. This is not a period of growth. It’s a time to recover from the damage – and the lean times are not truly over yet. La Niña is expected to follow soon. So it’s a double whammy – but if the price of oil palm stays above $500 for class C many kampung folk will be more than happy to look the other way. As despite the low yield, the relative high price of commodities will make up for the shortfall – he needs to keep repeating the message – life will get better. Money can accomplish this. As it doesn’t smell no matter who or where it comes from. At the subsistence level of micro kampung economy especially the Felda small holders who number into the hundreds of thousands and run thru out the state of Perak right down to the south in Johor – this is very important. Because yield will go down significantly next year.

As for BN incurring major loses in the cities. That’s already factored into their calculations – but if the kampungs economy collapses, it’s game over for BN. If it’s holding up on the one leg of oil palm – BN will win quite comfortably with plenty of reserves to spare.

The way I see politics it’s very prosaic – if a harvester can’t even feed his family or service his loans to pay off his Honda scooter – then politicians can say anything they want but it will and can only go so far.

So this move by Najib to secure sustained Chinese oil palm imports is in relative terms the most important take away – as unlike the rail project that has a long gestation period before benefits can percolate down to the common man – this is like a shot of steroids. Bang! It’s effects are instantaneous and potent.

Having said that the opposition will certainly continue to sow the seeds of doubt by heightening the racial aspects of this deal along with possible compromise to sovereignty and even suggesting that the SCS has been flogged off without a fight.

I was quite surprised Najib unlike Duterte did not gain anything concrete from the Chinese concerning the SCS – as even a token assurance by the Chinese would have been enough to deflect the opposition from capitalizing on the geo political rammifications of this deal.

In my opinion that is a very serious omission as it looks as if he sold off Alaska in exchange for short term benefits. This will come back and bite him.

The bright side is an emotional appeal to the memory of his father’s move to connect with China – because Razak had a Nixon moment with the Chinese. So he can certainly leverage on that piece of history to create a narrative that this is just a continuation of realpolitik by other means.

Q: I was told never to interrupt you during a reply. But the question is – how can Singapore win despite being out of favor with China?

A: I am not going to comment on the no interruption detail. To the best of my knowledge. It didn’t come from me. Maybe from a navigator rank, but certainly not me.

Is Singapore out of favor with China? I really don’t know. I suppose a lot of it depends on who will become the next president of the US. That I imagine will have quite a big impact on whether the TPP will be shelved or put on track.

Q: But you mentioned earlier. No matter who wins the TPP will be passed.

A: Now you are interrupting me. Yes I certainly did. And I still believe that to be the case. In the event Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump wins – I still believe the TPP will be passed. It will of course be given a major make over and the spin doctors will probably repackage it as a new improved version of the great American deal of the 21st century to pull the wool over the general public. But all things considered. I still believe very strongly the TPP will come into effect albeit with very minor changes.

What the general public doesn’t seem to be able to understand is too much has been invested in the TPP. It is easier for it to go thru than to die. Even with all the anti TPP talk that is shadowing the presidential elections – the day after the last votes have been counted the TPP will be the first thing in the inbox of whoever gets elected. And it will be signed. As the forces that are pushing this grand design as so very unimaginably powerful at every level of persuasion.

Q: Coming back to the original question – how can Singapore win despite being out of favor with China?

A: I already mentioned. I am not so sure Singapore is really out of favor with China. After in realpolitik there is really not such thing as permanent enemies, only perhaps eternal interest that need to be furthered.

But let us assume the very worst, Singapore is cold shouldered and made an example by China to serve as a warning to the rest of the countries in the periphery of the SCS not to get to close to the US.

If that happens – nothing prevents Singaporeans from relocating to those countries that stand to benefit from China’s generosity and long term plans to establish a beach foot regionally.

There are a lot of stuff in the pipeline, not just trains. And when power shifts from one superpower to another – corporate primacy will also shift from the US to Chinese firms. They will eventually be the new creators of value. It will take some time but it will happen.

Try to see this way, if an Indian, Brit or even a Malaysian can uproot and transplant himself in Singapore why can’t the tide go the other way?

Why does it have to be a one way street?

The government would of course need to provision incentives to encourage people to uproot and transplant themselves elsewhere.

Q: What sort of incentives are you referring too?

A: Dual citizenship. Possibly tax breaks as well for those who work outside Singapore.

Q: Dual citizenship has been mentioned repeatedly as undesirable as not only does it dilute the notion of what it means to be a Singaporean. But it will also compromise Singapore’s dependence on national service as a means of defense.

A: I don’t necessarily agree for one moment it would compromise Singapore’s defense. After all when the Egyptians invaded Israel during Yom Kippur many Jews thru out the world dropped everything, put on their No.4 and flew back to defend their homeland.

Perhaps what I mean to say is in the past – it was possible to set aside this question of dual citizenship without incurring real penalties. These days I am not so sure Singapore has the luxury to say no to dual citizenship without incurring very real long term penalties.

Q: What are those penalties?

A: A lot of Singaporeans are already working abroad. Or at least thinking about that option quite seriously for the very first time in their career. I wouldn’t exactly categorize it as a diaspora – but it’s certainly happening or will intensify simply because locally the aperture for job opportunities is narrowing due to the global slow down – and if you don’t make it easy for those Singaporeans to assimilate in those countries they choose to work in – how can they maximize their scope of opportunities. In Singapore for instance there exist restrictions on foreigners to work, start businesses and maximize on their tax returns along with access to goodies.

In the Ukraine for example you can’t get a land concession unless you’re an Ukrainian.

The other thing is cross marriages are increasing – this is natural, so what is the spouse married to a foreigner supposed to do if he or she decides to follow his foreign wife a live abroad for a couple of years. Without the provision for dual citizenship – they have to give up their Singapore citizenship.

Thirdly, businesses are no longer country specific. They don’t have to be at least. They can pack up and relocate elsewhere – so having dual citizenship is a very effective way to mitigate the low birth rate. As it will replenish the human pool.

Q: Wouldn’t the government lose tax revenue if citizens relocated and worked abroad?

A: Of course they would. But the question you asked is how can Singapore win despite being cold shouldered by big brother China?

In the short term the revenue loses from taxation would definitely hit the tax man very hard. He might even lose sleep in the short term. Because the most mobile people are also the most educated and they also happen to command highest salaries in the job market – so you would certainly be losing the top band of the cream.

But always bear in mind not every single one of them will choose the option to work abroad. As doing so is a form of change and that is quite unnatural to the Singaporean psyche.

Besides most of them wouldn’t be going abroad and doing stuff that humpbacks like me do like farming and growing turnips etc etc. Many of them would be cosmopolitan, highly educated and may probably settle elsewhere.

Q: So how does Singapore stand benefit from this cross broader human capital flow?

A: Like I said in the short term either way you splice it, up or down, left or right – it’s a nett loss. It’s like having a baby or planting saplings. Short term wise it’s lose lose. All you can do is manage to lose big or small that is all. Because what you’re engineering is a form of brain drain.

But I can argue that’s already happening already as many capable Singaporeans are placed in an untenable position where they want to continue to work abroad yet because there is no provision for dual citizenship. They are forced to give up their Singaporean citizenship.

These are of course things you don’t hear about in Singapore because no one seems to want to talk openly about. They only seem to want to discuss about how WP mismanaged town council finances.

But always remember what goes around will ultimately come around – now if you look at the industrial technological revolution of Taiwan, South Korea and many Asian countries that has successfully managed to move up the value chain by leveraging on innovation and creativity – most if not all the entrepreneurs had once worked abroad and at some point in the careers they said, I’ve learn enough. It’s time to go back home and do this and that with my work experience in Silicon Valley, New York or London.

I am not saying all these high flyers will come back home to roost. A certain percentage will definitely sink permanent roots abroad. But those who do return will come with new knowledge and hopefully revivify the economy.

Q: Will this affect the Singapore scholarship program?

A: I don’t really know. But what I do know is some scholars are already breaking their bonds – and if they already doing this, then there has to be a compelling reason that at least deserves serious consideration concerning the philosophy of how best to win – there is a whole gamut of set pieces that need to be redefined when we moot dual citizenship – first the simple binary quitter and stayer way of seeing organizational and personal success needs to be jettisoned. Secondly people need to really think hard and long about their life style choices. Singaporeans like to do the HDB thing when they get married and spend money renovating their love nest etc etc. Mind you. I am not saying all those life choices are necessarily wrong. Only it’s conceivable many natives have fallen into a very dogmatic and ritualistic way of living. All this will have to change.

I mean there are limits to what governments can do. It’s finite. They can certainly encourage people to go abroad and work, but if people are set in their ways and they only gravitate towards what then next couple seems to doing as well – then it’s very hard to break out of that sort of mind trap.

Q: What about upgrading and learning new skills to enhance one’s occupational attractiveness?

A: What about it? This has been like a ground hog day thing that Lim Swee Say keeps doing – from time to time, he comes out and says, wages are rising too high, productivity needs to go up etc etc. Then he returns back to his box again. But let’s get real how much can one really upgrade skills. The valence between skills and salary is sound to a point only. Beyond that and I say at best you’re chasing rainbows. At worst all you’re going to end up with diminishing returns.

The way I see it – I much prefer to see people go abroad and work than for everyone to stay in Singapore for just the sake of staying and fighting it out to make a living in a very small pond – that’s really a recipe for a race to the bottom.

I mean if professionals from other countries can come over here. Then why can’t the flow go the other way as well – sure, you may say it’s sweeter here that is why it’s a one way traffic and they are all here. But I say, keep your options open. I mean if you’re working and a foreign posting comes up. Go for it! Consider it seriously.

Q: I want to go back to what you said about people who go out to work, gain valuable knowledge and returning back to start enterprises. Is that even financially possible given that the cost of living in Singapore is so high and even if you happen to work in a third world country the conversion rate to Sing dollar is so low?

A: You know it goes back to what I said earlier about how do you measure organizational and personal success – I mean if you look at it from a purely economic return on effort standpoint. Maybe you may have to bear a real nett financial loss. But in opportunity cost terms – I rather be employed than be unemployed. I could even argue when it comes to committing yourself to an apprenticeship, what do you get in the short term except maybe a lousy deal – you probably get just enough to get by and very little else goes to the piggy bank.

But then again when we look at it things only from a purely accounting standpoint it will always produce a loss or deficit – that’s because we are using a very narrow metric of measurement that can never capture other plus points such as experiential knowledge, skill building, confidence or just being able to tough it out in places where there’s no 7/11.

The way I see it even if you commit yourself to do something really menial like prawn or fish breeding in some black hole in the third world – and all your friends and colleagues are laughing at you and your in laws to your next door neighbor thinks you’re an epic Singaporean best of the best loser.

In my book. In my private book where I see things in terms of gains and losses, pluses and minuses, advantage and setbacks – it will never be a real lost providing you have a strategy to one day perhaps to return back to Singapore and breed expensive red fin or Garoupa in fish tanks in some industrial lot in Boon Lay to supply to hotels and high end restaurants.

With exposure to skills and experiential knowledge – there is a lot of scope for improvisation. But if you’re just sitting in the room and watching reruns in YouTube and you’re unemployed. Don’t think you’re staying the same – you’re not, like metal. You’re slowly corroding away.

The way I see it – having a strategy is key. If you’re just working day in and out in Singapore and even if you get a so called decent salary that allows you eat out and even go abroad for holidays from time to time – but you never ever bothered sitting down and crafting a strategy to win long term wise…or there is no coherent plan to break out from salaried life….then even if you have all that. In my book. In my private book. You have nothing. You’re in the red zone. You’re just a meaningless cog in some really big machine, turning and turning on your axis like some hamster wheel going absolutely nowhere. To put it crudely, you’re already dead – you just think that you’re alive! But it’s an illusion.

Q: What’s your take on this statement – workers today especially the youth are like strawberries, they can’t take hard knocks and that is why it’s so difficult for them to succeed.

A: Leaders who make such statements have to be either mental or they’ve been living high up in tree house disconnect from the world. Look around you! Everything is not only just changing at a frenetic pace – but it’s not necessarily changing for the best either. Not for the ordinary cookie cutter or someone starting off in life. It may benefit corporations and maybe a few people at the very top of the food chain – but for the mass majority of humans life is getting incomprehensibly tough and hazardous. Nowadays you have ghost companies – firms that do really well in balance sheet terms and even turn a profit but because of extensive reliance on global outsourcing to optimize cost and manpower – they literally don’t employ anyone except maybe a receptionist and even if they do have workers it’s only contractual terms. Many set pieces are going thru revolutionary change – as a whole new generation is doing things very differently from the those who came before them. Even malls these days have to be differentiate themselves from just locales where people may go there to shop – as people are buying less stuff from physical shops. They may go there to look at it – but when it comes to the actual purchasing it’s online. To exacerbate matters things are going up, salaries stay either the same and even should one get promoted it remains the same. Job life’s are getting shorter and there is less incentives to hire older workers. So to say things are easy for people who are just stating off in life now is really very misleading.

Q: What would you do if you ever return back to Singapore one day?

A: Its very complicated in not only my case but many of my colleagues as well. Some are in plantations. Many others are invested in mining in South America and Africa. We never ever talk about it of course. But I think for my generation at least – we all knew deep down it could only be a one way trip with no possibility for a return. Besides fuel gauge is empty. There’s not enough for a round trip. For me it would take a miracle.

But I think if you start young and you begin with a strategy in mind – it doesn’t have to be like that at all. For the first generation – we all started way too late. We didn’t have a choice, if we didn’t go first – the rest would never follow. It’s always been like that with us. They would say, it all big talk and no action – so that shaped the decision nexus.

But if I could return. If that were really possible. Maybe I would try my hand at growing grapes to produce the first wine in a tropical country. Can be done. Not reds definitely. But a robust Reisling is just doable. I’ve got a lot of ideas like sucking up all the cold air from water desalination plants using heat exchangers to create temperate ambient. It’s all very symbiotic. There’s no extra cost – it’s a by product energy that can be harnessed with present technology. Grapes is the ultimate for every planter looking for an opportunity to prove his salt – oil palm, iceberg lettuce, mushrooms, Orchids – you can be the best, but all you’re really just doing is churning out first generation Beetle Volkswagons. It doesn’t test you. It’s the KFC of farming. It lacks the element of a sophistication along with having a delightful mystery to work with. But with grapes and wine it’s all about cultivation and craftsmanship at the highest level of the farming game – that’s like lovingly making handmade Swiss watches. It’s a game of cerebral fitness. And finesse because you need to have the discipline of have the end in mind from the very beginning and élan as well. Because the grape will only grow when every thing is just perfectly right – that’s what I dream about most of the time.

Growing grapes.

Q: You mentioned earlier Singapore failed to transition successfully from a low cost center to a fully developed country that was able to leverage on innovation and creativity to create competitive advantage. Why is it so important for China to succeed in this transition given that in the case of Singapore even when she failed – she was still able to carve up competitive advantage. This question is directly from message capsule by the IMG.

A: The IMG. If you are familiar with the history of the IMG. Then by every definition even you will have to agree the IMG was and is certainly a very impressive outfit. This is of course is a digression. But I feel it’s a necessary – as when you know the history of the IMG, it will supply an explanation why this question could only have emerged from the ranks of this small select group of thinkers.

Beware! The games we play in our youth will invariably shape our outlook and perhaps thinking through out life and this is truest for the ranks of the IMG. If in the moment of one’s youth – one is accustomed to playing ‘Go’ like Isoroku Yamamoto – then you will not have any difficulty understanding why only such a mind could have conceived the daring raid of Pearl Harbor along the battle of Midway. If one the other hand one is accustomed to playing angry birds or candy crunch – then one can only see the world like most simple minded Singaporeans. In the early days of our game. It attracted many university students – many of them were nerdy kids who read either engineering or science based disciplines. So the quantitative slant of the game appealed to many. To add to the illicit thrill of the game – it was deliberately couched in an iron curtain of mystery and secrecy just like maybe the order of the Templar Knights or the Masonic Order. This also allowed me to charge a modest subscription fee since I or more accurately the mythical character Darkness was really the main protagonist that many players identified and even hero worshipped. During that period the game was played out in a board albeit with one modification – it would make us of the prototypal variant of the internet as we know it today that existed only in universities, specifically the faculty of engineering.

In every weekly edition of the run of each chapter of the game – there would be a codex that would allow the player to find the codes to move the pieces on the game board. This was a labor intensive process too much for one player, it also required numerical dexterity – hence to manage the division of labor. Many of the players formed into groups or chapters that we eventually called Guilds. Eventually all the guilds consolidated into four main houses.

If you read the ‘confessions of a Singaporean gangster in London’ – you will find the four houses being mentioned again and again. That was because at that period to supplement my meager income as a destitute student – I was also writing sappy love stories.

Today you have highly popular serials like descendants of the sun – just look at it as that lah! But it was all prototypal with bad spelling and lousy grammar.

Now everyone thinks I was a prolific writer. But that was not true. Yes, I certainly did flesh out the scenes like a set director in a movie and there was also the run of the mill ‘Akan Datang!’ To be continued….cliff hanger ending to each chapter that perpetuated the game.

So this was really the only game in town – everyone was playing this game. But what I never foresaw was one consequence of having one generation of highly intelligent people playing such a game was they would also gloss over it – that is to say. Many of the guilds would regularly meet up and discuss the travails of Darkness and how they could best win – hence each guild began manufacture their own version of how they could best win the game along with what Darkness meant when he said this or that. Truth is – I got a lot of inspiration from just sci-fi mumbo jumbo.

In the age of the sword – when computerization was made widely available to the masses. The game exploded and took a life of it’s own. Contrary to popular belief, by this period, I no longer controlled the game – yes Darkness was certainly a venerated figure to many of the gamers. A sort of post modernist hero like figure – but for most. He was also a distant and unapproachable figure. Since I was shy and autistic I feared crowds so I never attended any of the meet up’s and this merely heightened the mystery of Darkness.

During this period. One guild managed to fashion itself as the dominant house in the known universe of our game – the IMG, the Interspacing Mercantile Guild.

Under the aegis of IMG, there was a very large PRC contingent – but what really distinguished the IMG from the other guilds was a very charismatic leader. His name is Vollariane. He was a Singaporean scholar. Who eventually became a broken arrow and became a bond breaker. He was instrumental in engineering a breakaway group from mainstream brotherhood – like maybe the Waffen SS. Or perhaps the KG200 unit of the Luftwaffe. That is understandable as Vollariane the man was destined for greatest – that is to say both he and Prof Chandra believed in the overarching idea the game was not only a game, but rather a simulation of what will happen in the real world.

You must understand this was a period of great and historical change – the USSR had crumbled. Communism had ceased to exist in every sense of the word. And in the middle of all this was a group of very young and committed individuals who were mentally conditioned by the discipline of the game – they could be the architects of the future.

That is why I say, beware of the games you play in the moment of your youth – as it’s likely to shape your worldview and many of your attitudes.

Vollariane and his troupe believed that China could win and be the dominant force in the world. His worldview was confirmed in part by the daring of the IMG to seize control over the Laandstrad.

To many PRC students at the time this was inconceivable – the idea that an Asian group of students could beat and even dominate the West.

But what made all this possible was what I once published – today it in the annals of the brotherhood – it is known as the arcanum.

Secret knowledge concerning world domination – of course at that time it was all stuff that came out from my brain….stuff that I did not even take seriously myself. But I never counted on Vollariane and his troupe regarding it as seriously as they did – to them, it eventually became the blueprint of what will come to past and given Vollariane’s serious nature, he saw it thru to it’s logical end.

What is the arcanum? What does it involve?

I don’t want to ramble on and on – cut to the chase. The IMG were the only guild who first understood the importance of playing the game within the game – that is to say both Prof Chandra and Vollaraine were able to perform very complex calculations concerning two aspects of what is required to win in a game. The first was the availability and cost of the securing a quantity of a resource, such a steel or aluminum or even oil. The second was the ability to convert that resource into stuff such as being able to convert iron ore into sheet metal and finally into ships. Or to be able to smelt Bauxite into Aluminum ingots which finally can be moulded into engine blocks.

By engineering either a deficit or surplus of these two aspects – within a very short period of time the IMG became the most influential guild despite their small size. To summarize their ability to do reduce into scientific theory the expectant demand of fictitious raw materials such as the precious mineral Sardonxy and the ability of convert these resources into products such as ray guns or to use it to fold space to facilitate interplanetary travel made them indispensable to other guilds.

It did not take either Prof Chandra or Vollaraine long to comprehend how this knowledge or arcanum as they called it could be superimposed on the real world to predict outcomes accurately – now this knowledge may not have been new in the conventional sense. At has been around and even frequently used – that is why nations stockpile raw materials on a regular basis be it oil, commodities in the form of rice, wheat or sugar and in the case of Singapore even basic building materials such as sand and mortar. But what was completely new was how it could be used to accurately predict outcomes in the real world – like how in 1941, Japan went to war because of an oil embargo. Or how Nazi Germany expanded eastwards to the Caucasus because this was the only means to fuel the machinery of imperialism.

From the outside looking in – it all looked like very logically structured seminally written mumbo jumbo. To me at least. But even I could not deny how elegant and reliable this theory can be used to supply many explanations to world events and even be modified to predict events with uncanny accuracy. Time and again, both Prof Chandra and Vollaraine were adept at not only predicting outcomes within the game, but most vitally they could even engineer outcomes to secure the primacy of the IMG.

In the real world the resource availibility and conversion theory could even account for why despite being mineral rich, the continent of Africa seem terminally in debt. And why countries with limited raw materials but advanced material conversion capabilities like Japan could thrive despite their inherent disadvantages to why the USSR eventually collapsed – this body of work proved very influential in more ways than I can possibly elaborate or even know the scope of completely. As I said the IMG was a force within a force with it’s own hierarchy and hegemony.

But one thing is very certain. However I need to qualify by stating categorically, that just happens to be my personal opinion as I can never truly be sure it’s fact – the IMG was instrumental in shaping a whole generation of thinkers, especially the fifth generation Chinese leaders.

We were all very young at that time to really know or even appreciate the awful reality how the games we play will eventually shape our worldview.

Even today whenever I trace back developments in China’s second industrial revolution – their near obsessiveness and fixation to gain core competencies in train technology, the methodical way in which they foresaw the strategic need to not only network the country and beyond to move men and materiel. But also their paranoia with securing line after line of raw material supply lines at every cost and opportunity. I can’t but trace out the insignia of the all seeing eye of the IMG secretly and mysteriously and furiously at work.

It is only now with the benefit of hindsight that I can appreciate how it must have been for many of those young Chinese scholars. Imagine. You’re just a farm boy who perhaps did well enough in the public examination to secure a Western scholarship – you have never ever sat on a plane before. You arrive in a Western university with only two changes of clothes and they both look like uniforms undertakers wear. You attend lectures and return back to your room where you huddle around with other comrades who are just as confused and probably scared like you are. Then suddenly a whole entire world beneath the world who are conscious of opens up before you. A world where suddenly for the very first time – everything that had confounded you like a shard of glass stuck to your head is yanked out and then it all seems to make perfect sense. Suddenly for the very first time in your life – everything that used to confuse and make you scared begins to dissolve away. Suddenly for the very first time it all becomes so very clear like the game we all once played in the moment of our youth – suddenly after a long stupor, you can believe for the very first time since discovering consciousness – you can finally believe you can win!

Darkness was of course credited for revealing this stream of consciousness. You got to understand Darkness fits the bill of the superhero, the übermensch, the superman…he had a square jawline, dashing, popular with the girls and was so easy to believe in at so many levels – as even by then he had become a super duper mythical hero like demagogue figure. But the sheer genius was actually Vollaraine. The quiet, gentle, soft spoken and as I remembered impeccably polite and well read Vollaraine. Not a loud man like Darkness with absolutely perfect keel of disposition and demeanor in his clarity speech and precision of conduct. A top drawer gentleman, a man of letters. A man of wit, who perhaps didn’t have the boyish charm or even macho patina and brotherly voice of Darkness. But had somehow even at that young tender age when boys are boisterous and showy understood maturity and had made peace with his lot with providence. A man who by all appearances was content to live an austere life free of affectations and pretensions unlike Darkness who always wanted the trappings of success. Who much preferred a quiet life of servitude to humanity. As he was very much influenced by Opus Dei and I imagine truest to his faith as a staunch Catholic.

I did not know all this then. I couldn’t have. Like I said, I am a bit autistic.

Only…

Beware of the games you play when you are young.

I apologize if I did not seem to answer the question posed to me. I was thinking aloud to myself.

Q: Some people are saying Duterte is playing both sides to get the best deal out of China and America. What is your point of view?

A: Sure. Duterte is certainly playing one superpower against the other. Only understand – this is not a new chess game – not at all. That was really how it was when the world was once ideologically bipolar and divided between communism and capitalism. Only this time round – it’s not so much an ideological war. If anything it is simply a case of how much can I get if I stand with you?

By cold shouldering the US, Duterte will certainly be able to exert pressure on Beijing to offer infrastructure projects such as a railway in the south along with fishery concessions in the disputed region of the SCS. That’s already in his bag when he stepped on the plane.

However I need to emphasize very forcefully – Duterte and Najib are both securing a loan. This needs to be ultra clear – all the goodies Duterte has managed to secure is certainly not an ex gratia gift. It’s a loan. A big loan. A loan just like what they would probably get from the IMF which usually comes with truck loads of one sided terms and conditions that not only have to be obligated, but most importantly can be enforced with penalties. But since the sums involve are so mind boggling huge it even has the effect of modulating the domestic and foreign policies of those countries taking those loans. Again this is not new. This is exactly the same mechanism that the US and their allies have been using for the last fifty years to perpetuate their primacy via their covert proxy the IMF.

That’s one reason why no country ever wants to knock on the door of the IMF unless they happen to have two tic tacs and a packet of economy beehon in their haversack. As the default position is they will have to not only compromise their independence, but the lender will also be able modulate the directional and in certain cases the instructional policies of those countries.

China is essentially using the same thing. Again it is not new. They have been doing this thru out Africa to secure mining and plantation concessions. Every superpower uses loans as means of exerting command and control over a nation.

This is not new. So don’t think this is Father Christmas handing out presents – anyone who tells you different just has a very poor understanding of the mechanics of how a loan works and what sort of obligations it can theoretically impose on the debtor.

So I don’t believe Duterte can go back to the US and ask them can you better the deal? Neither can successive leaders who may come after Duterte do so either. As many of these loans have very long pay back horizons. We are talking about ten years and more.

Will Duterte go back to the US and ask – can you better the deal?

Of course he will. But the problem is the US are broke. So what can they really offer him except maybe a couple of ROD bone yard military jets or spare parts – that sort of thing – what many people don’t seem to comprehend is when people say power has shifted from West to East – that’s just a polite way of saying the Americans cannot possibly be as generous or for that matter offer as many possibilities as the Chinese. To put it crudely, the US now is like a bag man standing next to a billionaire. Period.

Q: What about Najib? Is he also getting a similar sort of loan as Duterte? It seems in the case of Malaysia there might be a military dimension in the agreement to purchase patrol boats.

A: As I said these are serious loans. Yes, they may come with friendship interest rates and very long term repayment schedules that don’t stress these countries in the short term. But nonetheless they are still loans from very very serious people.

As for the military dimension – again this is not new to Malaysia. Malaysia has Russian Sukhoi in their inventory. Just as they have US made stuff. It’s not new. Don’t blow it up to something that it’s not.

Q: I have asked you this question before. And if you don’t mind me saying – you have been quite evasive and careful in your past reply. However, this question comes directly from the Guilds. They want to know could Singapore have secured similar goodies from China like Duterte and Najib?

A: I am not evasive. I am succinct and economical in my reply – Singapore doesn’t need to take a loan. She has a near first class balance sheet. On paper at least.

The challenge for Singapore is how do they continue to fuel economic growth and still keep the natives happy – that is the one common question that occupies every political leadership.

The challenge for Singapore and other countries is like Tolstoy’s aphorism – Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. What this means is for a marriage to be happy, it must succeed in several key aspects.

In the case of Singapore. I believe the planners have calculated there is more benefit to ally themselves with the US. Their position is similar to Australia, Japan and to a limited degree South Korea.

The question is how sound is that strategy? It is very sound. Because say what you will of the US – but in terms of patents per capita, they have tremendous reserves of intellectual capital that will allow them to create value in the form of new services and products that they can continue to sell to the world.

So the question for Singapore is how do they insert themselves in this global supply chain?

The second aspect is no one can deny US primacy in the Pacific has been key to creating a very conducive business environment for trade and commerce to prosper.

But in the case of Singapore. Because she is small. And it’s essentially a service orientated economy – there is very limited scope to benefit from China. In the case of the Philippines they see the southern rail line as trade bridge that will network the Visayas. That’s a lot of steel and concrete on the ground. A lot of opportunities for job creation and profit sharing. Same goes for Malaysia. High speed rail is not just confined to trains – there is always a synergistic knock on effect like more buildings hubs that can create opportunities and jobs. But in the case of Singapore how much can be gained even if the Chinese lay tracks all the way from Simei to Woodlands?

I am not evasive. I am just saying Singapore has made the decision they can go further by allying themselves with the US rather than the Chinese. And that simple rationale is a key determinant that shapes their foreign policy along with worldview.

It’s not necessarily wrong or bad decision making per se. It’s just another perspective of what they believe will take them further.

If I harbor any critical views concerning Singapore’s strategy in the Pacific, it is simply this – they have placed too much faith in America. They don’t seem to appreciate even the basic concept of what is organizational and personal success in the US is going thru an unprecedented revision – just look at the presidential elections this time round and scan thru previous elections in the US in Youtube and even you will be convinced the US today it’s not what it used to be any longer like maybe during the Reagan, Bill Clinton or even George Bush years.

There are many Americans who are disillusioned or at least two minded about many set pieces that used to make up the DNA of America. Globalization, immigration, homeland security, foreign policy etc etc.

It’s even conceivable in my opinion – we are witnessing a wave of irrationality that even US leaders may not have the capacity to control any longer and must simply learn to accept as a fact of life that requires them to work around.

Q: How will the Americans be able to influence Duterte to come over to their side?

A: They have their bag of dirty tricks. Regime change. Trade sanctions. Embargo. Blackmail. Fabricating evidence. Mind control of public opinion Diplomatic assassinations. Right down to simply labeling him a mad man. This is what the Americans and their allies excel in lah – their motto is if you are not with me, then you’re against me. To me the CIA is just like the mafia with pension plans.

I don’t want to elaborate too much because the last thing I need now is for men with no necks to rappel down Blackhawk helicopters and double tap me.

I don’t need a predator drone to circle my plantation when I am working in the field spying on me with FLIR.

Dowan lah!

But their covert methods of soliciting compliance from world leaders is a well documented history based on fact.

Q: I get the feeling this conversation is veering to the non serious domain. Could you share with me what is your main gripe about the TPP – why are you so against free trade?

A: TPP has got nothing whatsoever to do with ‘freedom’ and even less to do with trade. Whenever politicians use that term – it’s just parlance for we want to rewrite the rules of the game so that we can always win or to tilt the level playing field in their favor – that’s all it is.

If the TPP is really about promoting free trade like you said why was it conceived in a veil of secrecy? Why were only the vested interest of corporatist and globalist privy to the negotiations? Why do ordinary folk need to regularly find out details about the TPP from Wikileaks?

From a free trade standpoint it brings absolutely nothing new to the table – you tell me what intrinsic value or utility is created when the life span of patents and intellectual property for medication to genetically engineered seed is extended beyond the statutory agreed terms.

Tell me? What new or extra value to mankind is actually created?

The only beneficiary of the TPP is US multinationals and their mainstay allies.

What does the common Joe get in return?

Do you get more choice? No! How can you when everything goes up in price because of the TPP’s ultra emphasis on monetizing and commoditizing and rent seeking from everything from drugs to music.

I am not saying people who invent stuff or who happen to be creative don’t have an elemental right to enjoy the dignity of labor that should rightly accrue to them – but what possible justification is there to extend that right beyond the current agreed term?

In what way does that spur innovation and creativity to deliver more value and choice to ordinary consumers when big corporations have so much power to monetize and enforce along with monopolize products and services.

I think these are questions that ordinary people who need to think about deeply. As it is there is really a vacuum of intellectual views concerning the TPP – I mean if you stop people along Orchard Road and ask them what is the TPP? They will probably think it’s some new highway like the ECP.

As for me I know exactly what is the TPP. Because I get regular underground commentaries and reports – I am not saying it’s all bad. Only when it’s placed on the scale, there is more bad than good. As it’s really just an elaborate ploy to perpetuate US primacy in the Pacific on the cheap without having to break sweat on delivering increased value and choice to the ordinary man.

Q: You also seem to be against the TPP as it you see as a covert plan to contain China. Is that true?

A: Absolutely! From day one I have not wavered from this stand point – that is why the politicians refer to it as a pivot. It’s to counterbalance the economic emergence of China. I am of the opinion – if you want to compete. Then slug it out. But when the person goes down for the count, then kindly bow out gracefully. The problem as I see it is the Americans and their lackeys don’t seem to demonstrate this ethos for sportsmanship.

For over 150 years. Since the treaty of Spain when the Philippines was ceded to the US. The Americans have assumed the mantle of primacy in the Pacific. Has it brought peace, stability and prosperity to the region? Yes certainly, that cannot ever be denied. But their time is over – and my feel is if they want to occupy pole position then by all means go and better China. Beat they at their own game where possible and all the power to you lah!

But don’t come up with arm twisting ‘I put in a box’ trickery and try to insult the intelligence of thinking folk by attempting to pass it off as a free trade agreement.

If you cannot compete. Then go! From where I am standing this is what the Americans seem to be doing. The seem to be having great difficulty along with pain in coming to terms with the reality of the new order in the Pacific region.

Fortunately, many far sighted leaders such as Duterte, Najib and I believe others in the region will begin to see the wisdom of engaging rather than alienating China.

If this new reality takes hold I believe our lives can only improve and get better.

image

The rainy season is finally here. This is the only time of the year to train a young pup – how to hunt. In the dry season this is not possible…too many distracting scents. Dogs after all don’t ever see the world like you and me…they make out the known world mostly thru their sense of smell. Hence during the wet season, this is the only period when all distracting scents are washed away allowing one to teach them how to hunt by relying on their eyes and radar hearing.

Young palm leafs are cut and put around Kee Kee’s collar. The strong smell of the palm resin is to prevent Kee Kee from relying on his keen sense of smell. The second function is to confuse the prey. As dogs can be picked up one kilometer away downwind by most wild animals – this unusual camouflage will make Kee Kee invisible to most wild animals.

Kee Kee does not seem to like his new jungle collar – it is itchy…maybe. Or perhaps he can longer rely on his sense of smell. There is even a possibility he is confused as to why he no longer looks like a dog.

But this is the first lesson for all hunting dogs.

To be invisible in the wild….one must first wear the jungle and be comfortable in your own skin.

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Q: Has Singapore lost out to the Philippines and Malaysia when it comes to dealing with China?

A: Even by the most forgiving standards. I think it’s fair to say at this point, it seems both the Philippines and Malaysia seem to be getting more out of China than allying themselves with the US and their regional proxies in Asia.

You need to understand. I want to be polite. So that is really another way of saying Singapore has really backed the wrong horse and to put it mildly, they have lost a precious opportunity to reap whatever benefits from a forging a strong alliance with China.

Q: Duterte comes across like a mad man to the world. Do you really believe the Chinese can gain anything meaningfully by cultivating his friendship to further their agenda regionally. Aren’t they, the Chinese taking a big risk by backing a wild card?

A: Please don’t label Duterte as mad. You can certainly say his methods are unconventional…controversial…questionable. But mad is a very strong word that I don’t think applies to Duterte – only because he is deploying intimidation tactics which has so far proven very effective in tackling crime and drugs and possibly a very one sided relationship with the US. To understand Duterte. You need to psychologically profile how he became the man that he is. This of course is digression, but I feel it’s important because there is so much out there that paints him incorrectly – Duterte’s outlook and conceivably worldview is predominantly shaped from his experience as a politician and administrator in Davao city in the Mindanao. Now to you – that just a place in the map. But I have worked in Mindanao and it’s really a place that even most Pinoy’s in metro Manila would rather give a miss. As it’s riven with crime and corruption at every conceivable level where it’s really not unlike the wild Wild West.

You go carry a samsonite briefcase in one hand and semi auto with a full clip with the safety off all the time to work and trust me within six months – even you would understand why Duterte thinks and speaks the way he does.

A lot of people who seem to criticize Duterte if you notice are the same people who have not been able to bring many of these crime warlords to heel and their ambivalence is one reason why Duterte continues to garner support from many perfectly same and ordinary and peace loving natives in the Philippines.

I for one happen to believe his methods are very effective – it’s psychological warfare. As what many of his critics continue to elide is – he has to work under tremendous constraints where there is chronic corruption and complicity between the law enforcement agencies and many of these crime warlords.

So at some point when everything breaks down – the law of the jungle has to come into effect.

I don’t mean to come across a rude. But I have reminded you many times before to structure your questions succinctly by asking me one question at only one time. I would appreciate it if you can do me the courtesy of remembering this.

Q: What can China get out from an alliance with the Philippines? What does the Philippines get out from an alliance with China?

A: If you look at the countries at the periphery of the South a China Seas (SCS) – one thing stands out very clearly. The biggest claimant to the fisheries and mineral largesse of the SCS is the Philippines. Singapore is very far away, she is not even a number card. She is probably the box that holds the cards. Malaysia is maybe a number card but definitely not a face card. As for Japan possibly a Jack or Queen. But the Philippines is the ace in the pack. Now if you are familiar with poker – then you will realize there is only so far you can go without a hand of aces.

The fact that the Chinese have been able to win over Duterte has multi dimensional geo strategic ramifications. Americans know this. They just wondering whether he’s playing both sides or serious. If it’s the latter. Then it’s very very serious – as we are not only talking about the four US bases in scattered along the archipelago of the Philippines but countless staging points that will make life very miserable for not only the US seventh fleet, but for all her allies as well to conduct war.

Without the Philippines in the US breast pocket there can be no talk of a coherent military response to the SCS.

It’s game over.

What will the Philippines get? I believe they will get a lot of concessions. One of the most contentious issues facing the Philippines is food security. You can certainly moot the idea Duterte is maybe stupid. But the same cannot be said about his planners and advisors. They know that if they sign the TPP, one scenario that may play out is they will face rising food cost. That’s because the Philippines is an archipelago, it’s not like Vietnam, Thailand or Malaysia where there is one monolithic land mass with rivers and tributaries that will dramatically lower the cost of growing food – so to me this along with other goodies is certainly in the mind of Duterte. As the primary economy in the Mindanao stretching from Davao City right up to Zamboanga is very dependent on fishing.

There are of course other goodies as well.

Q: What about Malaysia? There is a lot of rumors circulating around stating he has had a change of heart recently because the US dept of Justice seem to be drilling deeper into the 1MDB scandal.

What is your take?

A: You really want to know the truth. No one wants to be part of the TPP. They are all just taking their seats on the bus. But in truth – no one really wants to be part of it. Except for a few reliable US allies.

As the whole idea of a pivot is just an elaborate fantasy to depict China as an aggressor. Why is this point important?

Because from the word go. My point is there has never been a strong alliance between most claimants in the SCS and the US.

Since this whole idea of an alliance with the US lacks a significant economic dimension when compared to China. How can there be any talk of a strong alliance. In the case of Malaysia – when China is it’s biggest trading partner. This is nonsense.

So what Najib is doing in the general scheme is very logical and natural.

I will however say this – the only thing that holds this crumbly alliance together is a lot of propaganda about the benefits of the TPP. Pundits like to point to the fact – that it’s encapsulates 40% of the global trade. But what they convenient omit is most of it is specifically structured to benefit only America that makes up nearly 22% of the the much publicized 40%.

The paradox is many Americans don’t even realize they are the primary beneficiaries of the TPP – yes, there will certainly be some winners such a Vietnam and definitely Singapore. As the latter can set in concrete it’s primacy as a shipping, trading and service industry hub, but for the rest of the signatories. They all secretly know that it’s not going to change anything dramatically. Above all China knows they all know and she is simply calling them out to confirm this reality.

That is why she is leveraging on soft loans and long term cross trade deals – to put it crudely China is using monetary incentives and the most importantly holding out long term promises of being able to prop up many of the economies of the countries in ASEAN to effect a political paradigm shift to undermine the US sphere of influence in the Pacific.

Please observe carefully. China is not saying to either the Philippines and Malaysia – the SCS is all mine and only mine. She is parlaying with them and it’s really a public relations exercise to divide and rule and to perhaps even blunt the influence of the US and their reliable allies.

So if this plays out to it’s logical end we are likely to see both Philippines and Malaysia sharing whatever booty that is in the SCS.

China is not stupid. She is showcasing to demonstrate to the other reticent countries in ASEAN – if you come to the table and talk. We will strike a deal. But there is also an iron fist in the velvet glove as well – she is also saying at the same time – if you stand alongside Uncle Sam and fight me. You get nothing!

Q: What can Singapore hope to get out by aligning themselves with China?

A: That is not a credible question. Firstly, Singapore cannot be allied to China. Singapore is really intertwined with the US and the old hat idea of preserving the status quo ante of US primacy in the pacific to perpetuate her own interest. She is ultra pro TPP and since she is perceived as an instigator to cement an alliance against China – like I said, if you stand by Uncle Sam and fight me…you get nothing!

In truth Singapore has nothing to offer China. That is a fact. It is an awful fact. The US on the other hand can with the TPP.

Q: Both Clinton and Trump are dead against the TPP. Is the TPP dead?

A: There is a dissonance between reality and perception that must be corrected. The way I see it – the TPP remains the only means for the US to retain it’s appellation as a prime mover and shaker in the Pacific – there is nothing else.

Hello! The biscuit tin is empty lah! The alternative is they spend billions building ten more carriers. But even they have to come to terms with the awful reality that strategy may have reached the point of diminishing returns.

The way I see it – if Clinton wins and she will. Within one hundred days the TPP will be given a make over and marketed to the US public as something other than what it really is and it will be passed.

I can almost guarantee you this by the uncommon certainty of fact.

In the unlikely event Trump wins – the same thing will happen. Because his advisors will tell him the same thing..the biscuit tin is empty!

All this talk about the corporatist elites and political hegemony being against the TPP is just white noise – throwing bread to appease the masses – truth is all the US thinkers know only too well this remains possibly their only counter response to an emerging China.

That’s the only game in town.

Q: How can Singapore position herself better to benefit from a rising China?

A: Like I said previously, they’re really so terminally invested in the whole US architecture of how this part of the world should and must be to perpetuate the status quo – it’s really like asking a man with two feet cast in concrete – do you want to dance. The die is cast for Singapore. For better or for worse she has to stick to the choices once made and just bite the bullet.

Q: Do you see the recent strengthening of the leadership in the Chinese political hegemony having a significant impact on their foreign and domestic policy? And what sort of China do you expect to see from all these changes?

A: This idea of core is very different from the literal English understanding. Yes, we might speculate on what it really means by scanning the past precedence. But in my view that is a hopeless exercise. My understanding of what the core really means is – we will see the current party political leadership that is less inclined to allow the fifth generation leaders to emerge and assume the reins of power by dogmatically following the two term protocol.

It is conceivable the current oligarchs don’t trust the fifth generation Chinese elites – for good reasons too I might add. As all thought from the outside the communist hegemony looks like a monolithic party political outfit – many of the fifth generation leaders don’t believe in the communist system as a coherent platform to take China to the next level.

Of course such talk is treason…but when one is alone with friends sharing the facts of life over whisky this is certainly one of their concerns that is shared by many.

You just don’t know about it – because Western intelligence analyst are just terrible at reading between the lines.

Having said that I consider this quite a natural response given that China is currently confronted with an unprecedented range of challenges that they have never ever experienced before. Mind you this is not new. Putin did it. So let us not speak of dictatorship as if it is a dirty word. To me it is purely a function of necessity like how my car needs big tires to transverse across rough plantation terrain – as we are not only talking about the obvious such as the inexorable economic slow down in China and it’s ramifications, but there are also cultural as well especially in the autonomous regions which has always been a perennial problem – along with some intractable problems.

All these challenges no matter how you splice it cannot do without strong and decisive and sustained leadership. So I see this extension of the political hegemony as a clear sign to lay a strong foundation to do what needs to be done which cannot possibly be accomplished if power needs to be devolved in just two terms.

Q: You mentioned some problems China faces are intractable. Please elaborate.

A: China is a bit like an old Hutong with plumbing, electricity and modern amenities – but this all this came about thru a mixture of forced accommodation and having to work around many of the immovable constraints. If you’ve ever seen a Hutong, then you would probably understand how difficult it is to marry modernity with tradition to produce a happy balance…it’s never 100% – sometimes the accommodation works for length of time. At other times since it’s best to leave some of the old things alone simply because they are really like linchpins that support other good things – it’s debatable whether that is good. That is how I see China.

In the past, the leadership could probably turn a blind eye to many of these intractable problems. A notable one worth mentioning is the power of some of these oligarchies such as the PLA – that really have their hands into everything from coal mining to power generation. Many of these oligarchs haven’t really changed at all since the time of Deng. They may well embody all the elements of change but the form is still intact and that will be a problem for the new China – simply because the margin for error is getting less and less along with the diminishing opportunities for trying to figure out how to keep growing the economy.

Facts are brutal for the new China. All if not most of the low hanging fruits have been harvested – low labor cost, backward environmental laws and enforcement, low cost of starting businesses and factories etc etc – that cycle of how to grow the wealth of a nation has in my opinion come to an end.

They have to step up their game by migrating upwards in the value chain – it’s no longer possible for them to grow the economy by just rubber stamping new foreign investments projects.

Only understand this! At that level it is not an easy game to play – not even Singapore succeeded in being able to move up the value chain. Sure we experienced limited success with A Star, electronics and of course there was creative technologies that once monopolized the global sound card market – but when one looks at it, it’s been a patchy record that’s why Singapore ended up focusing on banking, port and the service based industry.

In the case of China. They don’t nearly have the luxury to fail like Singapore. If that happens there will certainly be revolution – so on one hand you can say, well they seem to be able to make pretty solid trains that can bullet over one hundred kilometers without disintegrating. Or that they can even produce jet fighters that don’t flame out. They even make pretty good smart phones and can send astronauts into orbit – but all this China has been able to do only with reverse engineering.

Nothing really new has emerged out of China.

To put it crudely, they are replicating the second wave of technological revolution by copying just as probably how the Japanese once learnt how to make good cameras by copying the greats like Leica or Hasselblad to build their stable of household brands like Nikon, Sony, Panasonic et al.

But at that level of the game what you’re really talking about obliquely to my understanding at least is decoupling from the communist system completely – and that is where the metaphor of the Hutong comes in.

Some set pieces in my view cannot be moved. In some parts of China and even in certain state owned oligarchs, communism is not just a philosophy, it’s so ingrained that it has become a way of life – like religion.

For China to move to the next level. I have no illusions. These sacred cows will be slaughtered and reincarnated again into very efficient business units that we regularly see in the West.

Having said that the problem is how does one go about effecting that sort of change in that scale and within a defined timeline. Mind you time is not on their side.

On one hand they’re happy they can still grow digit wise at least in GDP metric terms. But at the same time, they too realize with each digit of growth – it also means they’re approaching another new level of the life cycle of how to grow the wealth of a nation. Only this time round they have to be leaner, meaner and smarter.

Like I said, it’s not an easy game to play. On one hand you can say they have a big domestic market – but like the metaphor of the old Hutong it’s not just selling cars, washing machines and fridges that makes it all come around. There is also the social side like what we are currently seeing in Hong Kong with the struggle to for more autonomy from Beijing.

At some point the oligarchy that is the communist party itself will have to decentralize and eventually die – this is what we are actually witnessing….the question to me is will it be a graceful or violent death.

It must indeed be disconcerting for many to read that the word mysterious has been associated with trains that should work…but for some mysterious reason…they don’t.

Even by the most forgiving standards. The word mystery should never be associated with trains, planes, rockets, automobiles or anything that is intrinsically constructed along the strict and immovable lines of science.

The term mysterious may very well apply to why so many people continue to believe in flying saucers. Or why they don’t seem to be confounded by how aliens who seem to spin round and round whenever they fly are still able to mysteriously walk unassisted whenever they step out of their space crafts. The term mysterious could even apply to why I never seem to be able to figure out where all my pens go too – maybe they all disappear into some mysterious fourth dimension…..the term could albeit with very limited scope even apply to weather, though the apt word that is usually deployed is phenomenon.

Hence it’s quite incomprehensible for me to understand how the word mysterious can be associated with trains….now that is certainly very very mysterious.