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    Showing posts with label Malaysia. Show all posts

    Flight 370: China sees limits to power as Malaysia struggles over jet

    China has not held back in forcing the pace of the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. It has deployed 21 satellites and a flotilla of naval ships. It has dispatched investigators to Malaysia, run background checks on the Chinese passengers, and scoured radar images of its vast western regions. Every day it has cajoled, chided and criticized Malaysian officials.

    And still it has come up empty-handed. Two weeks after the plane vanished on an overnight flight to Beijing, no trace of the Boeing 777 jet or the 239 people on board, two-thirds of whom are Chinese, has been found.

    The painful process of working with Malaysia in searching for the airplane and investigating what went wrong in the early hours of March 8 has revealed the limits of China's power, influence and technological and military might in the region, despite its rapid rise as a rival to the United States and American strategic dominance of the Western Pacific.

    Within China, anguished relatives and friends of the passengers and their many sympathizers are pressing hard for answers, but the government finds itself helpless as Malaysia takes the lead in the search and investigation efforts, which is consistent with international norms on air disasters.
    Malaysia has been keeping other nations, including China, at a distance, to the frustration of officials here, according to political observers. That tension is reflected in the frequent condemnations of Malaysia that have appeared in the Chinese state news media. China is out of its comfort zone, no longer in the position of strength from which it usually deals with smaller Asian nations, including Malaysia.

    The two countries have for decades maintained strong economic ties, and Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader, promised closer economic and military cooperation on a visit to Malaysia in October. At the same time, China has not been shy about pressing Malaysia on a range of delicate issues - in January, it sent a naval patrol to a reef in the South China Sea that is claimed by Malaysia; in 2012, it welcomed Malaysia's deportation of six ethnic Uighurs who had fled from China.

    Now, Chinese officials find themselves desperately prodding Malaysia to share information, to allow China a hand in the investigation and to placate the irate Chinese families who demand answers daily.

    "If you don't push them, they won't move," Zhu Zhenming, a scholar of Southeast Asia at the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences, said about the Malaysian authorities. "It's mostly to do with their administrative management capabilities, but also their culture."

    He added that Malaysia was "too lacking" when it came to "dealing with disaster management" - "not because they don't want to do it, but because they cannot."

    That sense of frustration, and perhaps condescension, has come through even in official Chinese remarks that were intended to be diplomatic. On Tuesday, Huang Huikang, the Chinese ambassador to Malaysia, told reporters in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, that "the Malaysian government has insufficient capabilities, technologies and experience in responding to the MH370 incident, but they did their best." 

    Bye bye Bond Street. Hello... er, Bicester: The small market town with designer labels at High Street prices

    Here's a gossip column teaser. Where could you find Sam Cam rubbing shoulders with Posh Spice, Kate Middleton, Kate Moss and the Saudi Royal Family?
    No, not the latest chi-chi restaurant, nor a new A-list nightclub. The celebrity magnet is none other than a designer discount outlet on the outskirts of Oxford that has quietly become one of the world’s most successful shopping destinations.
    Perhaps it’s due to the recession, or maybe it’s down to the Duchess of Cambridge championing High Street and discount stores, but bagging a bargain seems to have become a source of pride even for the smartest set.
    The result? For increasing numbers of trendsetters, it’s now a case of ‘Goodbye Bond Street, hello Bicester Village’.
    The retail outlet was started 15 years ago by an American, Scott Malkin, who wanted to introduce us to the American concept of discount shopping.
    Last year, it recorded sales of £1,400 per square foot — the highest of any shopping centre in the world, and nearly three times more than London’s Selfridges, which has sales of £500-£600 per square foot.
    This year, to date, sales at Bicester Village are up by 26 per cent — an astonishing achievement at a time of economic downturn. So exactly what is its secret?
    The uninitiated might assume that Bicester Village is a pile-it-high, sell-it-cheap warehouse; more Primark than Prada. But as you arrive on the immaculate, leather-seated shuttle bus from nearby Bicester railway station, it becomes clear this is far from the case.
    It’s early on a rainy Monday morning, but the car park is filling up with Mercedes, Chelsea tractors and even the odd Ferrari. No need for any edicts banning hoodies here — though there are plenty of silk scarves in evidence.
    The ‘village’ itself looks more like a film location than a Bluewater/Westfield shopping megalopolis. Immaculate New England-style clapboard houses, painted in subtle greys and whites, face each other across a broad, flagged street adorned with little topiary box trees and pretty benches.
    It’s a little like the set of Desperate Housewives, but there’s nothing suburban about the signs above the shop doors: Dior, Prada, Gucci, Alexander McQueen, Anya Hindmarch, Diane von Furstenberg...
    There’s a White Company for duvet covers, a Le Creuset if you’ve run out of cast-iron pans, a Bonpoint for well-dressed babies and a Jack Wills for their teenage siblings. Even fashion-phobic men get an ultra-chic Bose electronics store, offering, for example, a home cinema system reduced by £780 to £1,820.
    Altogether, there are 130 of the world’s most glamorous stores here — and not a traffic warden in sight, let alone a crisp packet. All BV staff, including the top dogs, are instructed to pick up any litter they see.

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