Why Beijing shouldn’t worry about Manila’s military upgrades

A dilapidated Philippine Navy ship is anchored off Second Thomas Shoal, locally known as Ayungin Shoal. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Joseph Franco, RSIS

On 28 March 2014 Manila signed a US$420 million contract for the delivery of 12 Korean Aerospace Industries FA-50 aircraft for light surface attack and lead-in fighter roles. The purchase marked the return of the Philippine air force to the jet age. So far, it is the highest point in the Philippines’ gradual build-up of a ‘minimum credible defence posture’, and a recapitalisation of Southeast Asia’s least-capable military with the support of the US. Read more…

How Indonesian local governments spend too much on themselves

Aceh citizens wait in line to vote at a polling station in Banda Aceh in 2012 to elect a governor and mayor. (Photo: AAP).

 Authors: Günther Schulze and Bambang Suharnoko Sjahrir

Indonesian districts spend excessively on their own administration — money that could be spent on delivering public services for the people. The key problem is that democratic accountability is not (yet) sufficiently effective. After the 2001 decentralisation the districts, the third tier of government after center and provinces, are responsible for the provision of basic services such as health, education, and infrastructure and spend around a third of the consolidated government budget. Read more…

Why China stands to benefit from ambiguity on Crimea

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping (L) take part in video conference in Sochi, Russia, in February 2014 (Photo: AAP).

Author: Maria Repnikova, Asan Institute for Policy Studies and Georgetown University

From the outset of the Russia–Ukraine escalation, Russian official sources claimed to have secured China’s support. Most recently, following Russia’s official annexation of Crimea, President Vladimir Putin thanked China and India, which abstained from the UN Security Council vote condemning Russia.

In reality, however, Russia’s projection of China’s stance in this crisis has been misconstrued, as China consistently favoured strategic ambiguity Read more…

Modi and manifesto set sky-high expectations

Crowds show their support for Narendra Modi, the current favorite to win the Indian elections in Vadodara, India on 9 April 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Rajiv Kumar, Centre for Policy Research

The manifestos that have been made in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections are trying to please everyone. One has to read between the lines to truly appreciate the nuances and identify the differences.

Read more…

Reforms vital for Vietnamese economy to stay on track

Cyclists ride past a large poster advertising luxury cars on a road in Hanoi on July 4, 2012. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Suiwah Leung, ANU

After several years of macroeconomic turmoil, 2013 finally saw a return to some semblance of stability in the Vietnamese economy. There is no time to lose.

The government needs to push through significant reforms in key areas in order to lift long-term growth. Read more…

Peering into Thailand’s turbulent future

A Thai pro-government Red Shirt protester holds a placard showing a picture of caretaker Thai Premier Yingluck Shinawatra during a rally on the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand, 6 April 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Authors: Pasuk Phongpaichit, Chulalongkorn University, and Chris Baker, Bangkok

The courts may shortly remove Thailand’s prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra.

This would mean that in the past eight years, four prime ministers have been felled and four election results voided — surely a world record. Read more…

Japan and Australia ‘beef up’ relations

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during the National Security Council in Tokyo on 7 April 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Aurelia George Mulgan, UNSW Canberra

The Economic Partnership Agreement that Japan recently signed with Australia (JAEPA) has everything to do with Japanese trade strategy and little if anything to do with agricultural reform.

Some of the commentary on the agreement has argued that JAEPA was the product of Abe’s reform agenda, but it is neither part of that agenda nor will it advance it. Read more…

Can Pakistan free itself from polio?

A Pakistani health worker gives a child a polio vaccine in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, 8 April 2014. Pakistan’s beleaguered battle to eradicate polio is threatening a global, multi-billion dollar campaign to wipe out the disease worldwide. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Sanchita Bhattacharya, Institute for Conflict Management

In February this year, Pakistan’s ambassador Masood Khan told a UN panel that his country, under Nawaz Sharif, hopes to eradicate polio in 2014. How realistic is this goal?

There are only three countries where the polio virus (officially, poliomyelitis) remains endemic: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. Read more…

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…

No luck for Yingluck as Thai elections nullified

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra casts her ballot in the senate elections at a polling station in Bangkok on 30 March 2014. The NACC has charged Yingluck with malfeasance over her government’s rice-pledging scheme and the senate has the authority to impeach Yingluck. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Chulalongkorn University

The recent decision by Thailand’s Constitutional Court to nullify the 2 February elections has put the country on a collision course between those who advocate electoral democracy, even at the cost of corruption, and others who are bent on unelected rule based on what they see as virtuous moral authority. Read more…

What Indonesia’s legislative polls do and don’t mean

Jakarta Governor and Indonesian Presidential favourite Joko Widodo and his wife Iriana Widodo, after voting in Jakarta on Wednesday April 9, 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Liam Gammon, ANU

Indonesia’s PDI-P party, the home of Soekarno-ist nationalism, was expecting Wednesday’s legislative elections to carry it to a stunning comeback after a decade out of government during the Yudhoyono years.

It had the good fortune of being associated with Joko Widodo (normally known as Jokowi), the Jakarta governor whose mass popularity had convinced PDI-P’s old guard to give him the party’s 2014 presidential nomination. Read more…

India’s Look East policy in need of a relook

Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh listens during the 7th East Asia Summit plenary session as part of the 21st ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh, November 2012. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Tridivesh Singh Maini, New Delhi

Does India’s foreign policy suffer from alack of consistent and innovative outreach policies in Southeast Asia?

At a recent East-West Centre conference in Yangon, most participants seemed to feel the answer was yes. Such criticisms are worth mentioning because India’s immediate neighbours, such as Nepal and Sri Lanka often complain that New Delhi intervenes a touch too much in their internal affairs. Some go so far as to argue that China, in spite of being more powerful than India, does not exhibit the same hegemonistic tendencies. Read more…

US puts the Asian ‘pivot’ into pictures

US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel watches a flight demonstration of MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor V/STOL aircraft on the flight deck of the USS Anchorage during a tour with his counterparts from Southeast Asia, Secretary General of ASEAN Secretariat Le Luong Minh and Defense Minister of Singapore Ng Eng Hen. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Dean, ANU

The ‘rebalance’ to the Asia Pacific is alive and well according to the recently released US Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). If a picture tells a thousand words then the United States Department of Defense’s (DoD) latest strategic policy document has some interesting things to say. Eight of the 22 photos in the document focus on the region, and this outstrips the US homeland — the focus of overall US strategy. Read more…

Is Abe bypassing democracy to push his defence agenda?

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, reviews members of Japan Self-Defense Forces (SDF) during the Self-Defense Forces Day at Asaka Base, north of Tokyo. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Takanori Sonoda, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation

Is Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s new interpretation of Japan’s Constitution constitutional? Seeking to move his national agenda to revise the regime created after World War II, Abe has repeatedly argued for a new interpretation of Article 9 to allow ‘collective self-defence’ actions by Japan’s Self-Defense Forces. He has said that, as the head of the government, he would take ultimate responsibility for a potential reinterpretation by facing general elections. Read more…