Indonesia’s poll and presidency on a coalition course…and the Thais that bind

Popular presidential candidate of major opposition party PDI-P and Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo walks with his supporters in Jakarta following the 9 April 2014 legislative election. He came out ahead in the polls but a worse-than-expected election performance by the party means that Indonesia is staring at a coalition government. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

The election for Indonesia’s legislature last Wednesday represents another remarkable achievement in the country’s democratic transition. Indonesians proudly went to the polls and delivered a result that was without major incident and has not yet been disputed (though that may change when the official results are declared in a few weeks). Read more…

Can Abe deliver Japan from stagnation?

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks at a news conference at his official residence in Tokyo. Some of his closest advisors are worried that without grasping the structural reform nettle, the lift in productivity that is needed to succeed in re-booting the Japanese economy will not come any time soon. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe’s bold ‘three arrows’ strategy to lift Japan out of two decades of economic stagnation got off to a good start with the swift implementation of expansionary monetary policy and public spending. Abe’s strong parliamentary position, especially after the July 2013 upper house elections, also buoyed confidence that he could deliver the crucial third arrow — structural reform. Business and consumer confidence were given a long awaited boost. Read more…

Abbott pivots from enragement to engagement of Asia

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks at an address to the Asia Society of Australia in Canberra on 25 March 2014. The prime minister said that China, Japan and South Korea have decisively shifted the world centre of economic gravity. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott heads off on a major expedition at the end of this week in a make-or-break effort to unlock the opportunities of the Asian century for his country in Japan, South Korea and China. The mission includes a large delegation of businesspeople and state premiers as well as many of Australia’s top officials. It embraces Australia’s top-three export markets Read more…

On the edge in Asia, yet right in the middle of it

On the heights above Thimphu, a Bhutanese man straightens a prayer flag at a Buddhist shrine. Even the biggest powers in the region, such as China, India, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea, are beholden in some way to their smaller allies or clients. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

The course of Asia’s future will be significantly determined by how the bigger powers in the region — China, India, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea, perhaps — manage their own national development and choose to play into regional and world affairs. In this context there is natural pre-occupation with China’s transition towards great power status and particularly its relationship with the established powers, importantly the United States Read more…

Telcos and the new protectionism

Visitors sit during the Mobile World Congress on 26 February 2014. The Congress saw a push to get mobile devices cheap enough to reach emerging markets without sacrificing performance. Chinese telecoms giants Huawei and ZTE who participated in the Congress have been barred from the United States ostensibly over cyber security concerns. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

The telecommunications sector is rightly seen as critical infrastructure to a country’s economic development and competitiveness. It is at the heart of modern production systems and the efficient delivery of a whole range of services, both public and private, to people in countries all around the world. The revolution of the industry over the past half century has accelerated the pace of global economic integration Read more…

Japan’s constitutional dilemma

Japan Ground Self-Defense Force soldiers train with US Marines during Exercise Iron Fist to promote military interoperability on 8 February 2014. The Shinzo Abe government hopes to reinterpret the security clause of the constitution so that Japan can exercise collective self-defence and help the US in emergency security situations. (Photo: US Marine Corps/ Lance Cpl. Anna K. Albrecht).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

Japan’s ‘defenceless on all sides’ security strategy has served it well through the post-war period, underwritten as it has been by America’s security guarantee and continuing presence on Japanese soil. Despite the steady accretion of its military capabilities, the ‘peace’ constitution allayed anxieties within Japan’s neighbours, China, South Korea and the newly independent Southeast Asian nations, about Japanese military intentions. Read more…

Cooling the Cold War mindset in Asia

US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping wave as they walk at the Annenberg Retreat, California. Although the political-security community has been hinting at a new Cold War in East Asia, the US-China leadership dialogue is a powerful symbol of quite the opposite stream in both US and Chinese thinking. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

There has been a tad elevation in the excitement of the political-security community about drawing lines in the sand around China’s rise and the interests of the United States and its allies in recent months, with more than a hint that a new Cold War is emerging in East Asia along the lines of that in earlier times between the old Soviet Union and the Western bloc. Read more…

Charting a course for Asian integration and security

Delegates from 16 Asia Pacific nations pose for photos in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, on 9 May 2013, prior to the first round of negotiations of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

This week another round of TPP negotiations is taking place in Singapore. USTR Michael Froman is talking up protections for US vested interests at home in order to obtain Congressional authority to complete the negotiations, rather than free trade across the region. The package on the table in TPP still has very little in it for countries like Australia, especially if the Australia-Japan trade deal is pulled off separately. Read more…

A way through for Myanmar

Myanmar President Thein Sein greets Myanmar Opposition Leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a dinner reception to mark the 67th anniversary Union Day on 12 February 2014, in Naypyitaw, Myanmar. Union Day is seen as the birthday of the Myanmar nation. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

The story of Myanmar’s political and economic reform in the past few years is still unfolding and the next 18 months will be critical to whether it will be a success or failure, as the country moves through a decisive phase of constitutional reform towards the 2015 elections. But one thing is clear. The country has been blessed in its journey thus far by exceptional leadership, not only in Aung San Suu Kyi’s steadfast quest for democratic reform but also in president U Thein Sein Read more…

Time out for democracy in Bangladesh

Former Prime Minister of Bangladesh and leader of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), Khaleda Zia, talks to BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir at a public meeting in Dhaka on 20 January, 2014. The BNP had boycotted the violence-marred 5 January election that was won by the Sheikh Hasina led Awami League party. Zia says the election was illegal and seeks reelection with in the shortest possible time. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

More often than not, the news out of Bangladesh is about natural disasters or the tragic costs of ill-disciplined early industrialisation. Now it’s the political system that’s collapsed. But in many ways, Bangladesh gets a worse press wrap than it deserves.

The Bangladesh economy has been a bright spot in South Asia, and among the best performers right across the Asian region. Read more…

How should the world deal with Chinese reforms?

A man walk past a branch of the Bank of Shanghai in Nanjing, China, 11 April 2013. The Bank of Shanghai is preparing to set up a financial leasing company in the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

The liturgy in the West is that so long as China becomes a responsible stakeholder in the international economic system — conforming to the western created rules and norms — its accommodation into the global economy is guaranteed. The same liturgy used to be cited when Japan was on the make.

Were it only so simple. Read more…

Resolving Thailand’s deadly political imbroglio

Thai anti-government protesters shout slogans as they gather outside a polling station and block its access in Bangkok on 26 January, 2014. The protesters besieged polling stations around Bangkok forcing dozens to close as advance voting for controversial elections got under way, deepening doubts over the viability of the ballot scheduled for 2 February. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy, and one of its real economic success stories over the past decade, is stalled in a political standoff that threatens not only to halve its recent 6.5 per cent growth rate to 3 per cent this year but also undermine the fragile foundations of its democracy. Read more…

China and the future of Asia Pacific trade

US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping at a bilateral meeting at the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California, on 7 June, 2013. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

The backbone of stability and amity in Asia and the Pacific is an open economic system, which has encouraged deep trade and investment interdependence within the region, and the United States security umbrella that provides reassurance to US allies and partners as well as those, like China, outside the alliance framework against a resurgence of military or political adventurism. Read more…

Time for hard economic choices in Australia

The general assembly line at the GM Holden factory in Elizabeth, South Australia. On 10 December 2013, General Motors announced that Holden will cease engine and vehicle manufacturing operations in Australia by the end of 2017. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

Australia alone among OECD economies has enjoyed strong uninterrupted growth over the past 22 years. The foundations for Australia’s more than two decades of strong growth were, as is well known, put in place through the productivity-raising reforms introduced by the Hawke-Keating governments from 1983 to 1996. Read more…

Crossing this Chinese river needs building a large bridge

Visitors look at the art work by American artist Tony Oursler entitled 100 Yuan which features a projection of a Chinese renminbi note with a talking Mao Zedong at a gallery in Beijing, China. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

China’s approach to economic reform is commonly characterised by Deng Xiaoping’s metaphor of ‘crossing the river by feeling the stones’. This is the experimental approach to economic and social reform. It is typified by the successful implementation of the household responsibility system that saw the transformation of Chinese agriculture and the early liberalisation of trade and investment through the establishment of Special Economic Zones together with economic experimentation in Guangzhou. Read more…