Oil rig out, but still no happy ending

Lieutenant-Colonel Ngo Minh Tung, captain of a Vietnamese Coast Guard vessel, speaks to reporters aboard the ship on 16 July 2014. On 15 July, the Haiyang Shiyou 981 oil rig was removed from the Vietnamese claimed EEZ in the South China Sea. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Tung Nguyen, Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam

On 15 July, the Haiyang Shiyou 981 oil rig was removed from Vietnam’s claimed EEZ in the South China Sea. But this might not be the happy ending it appears to be. The way the crisis began and ended suggests that similar incidents will occur. The Chinese decision to place the rig in the area was unilateral. So was the decision to pull it out. It was made in the absence of an agreed solution between China and Vietnam and was accompanied by a claim touting the ‘success’ of the drilling operation, which occurred ‘well within China’s sovereignty’, according to China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Hong Lei. Read more…

Australia, Japan take a ‘domino approach’ to regional integration

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe speaks with Australian prime minister Tony Abbott ahead of a signing of a trade agreement between the two nations at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, 8 July 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Takashi Terada, Doshisha University

The recently signed Australia–Japan economic partnership agreement (EPA) is an example of the dynamic domino effect of regional trade and investment. This is where the benefits an FTA brings to one country, such as eliminating tariffs, generally disadvantages a third country not included in the agreement. This third party is thereby pressured to engage in seeking FTAs of their own. Australia’s regional integration strategy has adjusted itself well to this environment — in which big economies, each with different rules and ambitions, struggle with each other for trade advantages. Read more…

What happens in China, doesn’t stay in China

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks before the Congress in Brasilia, on 16 July 2014. The BRICS group of emerging powers met on Wednesday with South American presidents as they justified the creation of a development bank seen as an alternative to Western-dominated global financial organisations. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Yizhe Daniel Xie, Waseda University

The experience that Chinese leaders gain in domestic politics has a big impact on how they view and handle international issues. Many China watchers and political analysts often overlook these domestic roots of Chinese foreign policy, particularly in China’s push to reform the international financial system. Read more…

Abe’s aid reform, in the name of peace?

Myanmar President Thein Sein, left, greets Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, right, at Presidential Palace in Naypyitaw, Myanmar. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Fumitaka Furuoka, University of Malaya

On 26 June 2014, a panel of specialists under Japanese foreign minister Fumio Kishida submitted a report that recommended transforming Japan’s foreign aid policy into a ‘strategic’ diplomatic tool. Based on the panel’s recommendations, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has begun the process of revising the fundamental guidelines of Japan’s official development assistance (ODA). This process is to be completed before the end of this year. Read more…

Jokowi saves Indonesia’s democracy (and maybe Southeast Asia’s too)

Indonesian presidential candidate Joko Widodo and his wife Iriana show their ballots before giving their vote during the presidential election. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Chulalongkorn University

Many years from now, the electoral victory of Indonesia’s president-elect Joko Widodo (Jokowi) may be seen as pivotal to the fate of democracy and regionalism in Southeast Asia. A win by Jokowi’s opponent Prabowo Subianto would have been a retrograde step for Indonesia, promising shades of authoritarianism even with a popular mandate. Jokowi’s victory, on the other hand, bodes well not just for Indonesia’s future but also for the region’s democratic prospects and ASEAN’s forward momentum. Read more…

Japan’s search for a new regional vision

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe delivers a speech in Tokyo on 20 July 2014. Clearly articulating his economic agenda was a decisive factor in the electoral success of Abe and appears to be a critical element in his continuing popularity. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

To many inside and outside Japan, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe brings both hope and a breath of fresh air to an economy and society that has been in relative retreat in recent times. Abenomics, with its enthusiastic adoption of unconventional monetary policy under the skilful leadership of Haruhiko Kuroda at the Bank of Japan, its commitment to continuing fiscal stimulus and its promise, as yet not fulsomely delivered, of deep structural reform — is just the mix of tonics that the Japanese economy needs. Read more…

China’s response to Japan’s constitutional reinterpretation

Chinese president Xi Jinping delivers a speech during a ceremony marking the 77th anniversary of the Second Sino-Japanese War. The Chinese response to Japan reinterpreting its constitution has been predictably negative. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Amy King, ANU

On 1 July 2014, Japan’s Abe government announced a major change to the country’s post-war security policy by effectively lifting the ban on collective self-defence. The Abe government introduced new legislation that reinterpreted Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, thereby permitting Japan to use military force to come to the aid of an ally or a country in a close relationship with Japan when it is under armed attack. Read more…

Forging a common regional approach to China

Cadet members of the PLA take part in a military training at the Armoured Forces Engineering Academy Base near Beijing on 22 July, 2014. Chinese government authorised foreign media to view the military exercise. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Hitoshi Tanaka, JCIE

Despite China’s rapid and unprecedented economic growth, the world has yet to come to grips with the challenges and opportunities that the country presents. The story of China’s rise is as much about how the rest of the world responds to China as it is about the nation that China is growing to become. Read more…

Abe strikes a delicate balance in Australia

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe listens to Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott during a meeting with members of Abbott's cabinet on national security at Parliament House in Canberra, 8 July 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Thomas U. Berger, Boston University

Today, Japan finds itself in a remarkably difficult diplomatic and domestic political situation. While Japan continues to be secure from any existing external threat, the rise of a nuclear North Korea and an increasingly powerful and assertive China are creating major challenges for Japanese security policy. Read more…

Modi should use future budgets to build, build, build

An Indian labourer works at a construction site in Mumbai, India, 18 July 2014. Infrastructure was a key sector addressed in the first budget of Finance Minister Arun Jaitleythe and the Modi government. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Geethanjali Nataraj, Observer Research Foundation

Expectations of the Modi government’s first budget were high. But, in the face of difficult fiscal circumstances and volatility in oil and food prices, the new government and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had limited options. Seen in this light, this year’s budget is balanced and gives a sense of direction to the economy. In fact, it has laid the base for a whole set of reform measures that will be put into the place around the next budget. Read more…

Lessons from aid workers in North Korea

A North Korean girl reads along a rural road north of Hamhung, South Hamgyong province, North Korea, 16 June 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Eun Jeong Soh, ANU

Since the mid-1990s, various governmental and non-governmental organisations have delivered aid to North Korea’s orphanages and hospitals. But for some time now aid to North Korea has dwindled. The US has provided virtually no aid since 2009, South Korea has banned direct state aid and and limited private assistance since 2010, and UN World Food Programme operations have been running well below target levels. Read more…

China’s SOEs test the waters in the South China Sea

A Chinese government ship trails a Vietnamese Coast Guard vessel with reporters aboard in the South China Sea on 15  July 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Megan Bowman, George Gilligan and Justin O’Brien, UNSW

In early May, the Chinese HYSY-981 oil rig was moved into waters near the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. The oil rig is owned by the state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and operated by its subsidiary China Oilfield Services Limited. It was redeployed with Beijing’s approval to drill for another state-owned corporation, China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC). The rig was deployed 120 nautical miles from Vietnam’s coastline and within Vietnam’s claimed exclusive economic zone. Conflict ensued between Vietnamese and Chinese sea-faring vessels and between citizens of both nations on Vietnamese soil. Read more…

Will Myanmar’s military exit the political stage?

Myanmar lawmakers and senior military officials attend a ceremony to mark the 67th anniversary of Myanmar's slain Independence hero and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s father, General Aung San at the Martyrs' Mausoleum in Yangon, Myanmar Saturday, 19 July 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Adam P. MacDonald, Halifax, Canada

Over three million Burmese have signed a petition by Myanmar’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), urging immediate constitutional revision. A significant cause for protest has been the political powers afforded to the country’s military, the Tatmadaw, by the constitution.

Although the petition demonstrates the direction in which many want the country to go, such actions are unlikely to force the generals’ hand. Read more…

Indonesia has to make hard decisions on debt

Indonesian workers at a construction site in Jakarta, Indonesia, 25 November 2013. Indonesian policy makers will have to tackle a fear of international borrowing in order to invest in much-needed infrastructure. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Peter McCawley, ANU

Indonesia’s next president will need significant funds to fulfil election promises. But both candidates Joko Widodo (Jokowi) and Prabowo Subianto have expressed caution about international borrowings.

So should Indonesia undertake the risks of borrowing from overseas? Read more…