Why history is a problem for Park Geun-hye in confronting Japan

Park Geun Hye visits the grave of her assassinated father, former South Korean President Park Chung Hee. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter McGill, London

Relations between South Korea and Japan have deteriorated significantly in recent years. South Korean President Park Geun-hye has refused to hold any bilateral meetings with her Japanese counterpart Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Park lays the blame for poor Japan–ROK relations squarely on Abe for his historical revisionism. Read more…

Why Thailand must decentralise

Is Thai democracy, like the Democracy Monument, closed for renovations? (Photo: Peter Warr).

Author: Peter Warr, ANU

Bangkok’s iconic Democracy Monument is currently fenced off. A large, hand-written sign reads ‘closed for renovation’. In April the monument was damaged by shots fired at protesters demonstrating against the Pheu Thai government of Yingluck Shinawatra. At least three protesters died.

Ironically, Thai democracy is itself ‘closed for renovation’. On 22 May a military coup claimed power, for the 12th time since the 1930s. Read more…

Put up or shut up on China’s infrastructure bank

Chinese president Xi Jinping and Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa shake hands at the inauguration of the proposed Harbour City construction in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 17 September 2014. China will try to meet the need for infrastructure through the activities of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, East Asia Forum

This year’s G20 summit has rightly given infrastructure investment top priority in engineering long-term recovery of the global economy. Despite continuing signs of recovery in the United States, growth in much of the industrial world remains stagnant and slower growth in emerging economies is yet to bottom out. Lifting global growth towards its long-term potential and avoiding a new normal of low growth will be greatly assisted by filling the US$50 trillion infrastructure gap that the OECD estimates worldwide with productive investment. Read more…

Welcoming China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank initiative

Chinese workers pave rails at a construction site of Chengmianle. China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank initiative will be launched this year. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Andrew Elek, ANU

In October 2013, just before the APEC meeting in Bali, Chinese president Xi Jinping announced the creation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). The bank will be launched this year, possibly when APEC leaders meet in Beijing.

This new development bank can help fill the vast unmet demand for productive economic infrastructure, especially in the emerging economies of Asia. Read more…

Why is Indonesia terminating its bilateral investment treaties?

Authors: Leon E. Trakman and Kunal Sharma, UNSW

The value of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) procedures has been questioned by Australia and, more recently, Indonesia. The Australian government’s controversial 2011 Trade Policy Statement — stating that Australia would not agree to ISDS in its treaties — caused significant debate. In part, Australia’s policy was motivated by Philip Morris’ legal action against the government over legislation requiring the plain packaging of cigarettes. Read more…

Modi’s new financial inclusion plan is a step in the right direction

Authors: Akshay Gakhar and Geethanjali Nataraj, Observer Research Foundation

On Independence Day 2014, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched his financial inclusion plan to provide a bank account to every Indian household. His ‘Jan-Dhan Yojana’ (Scheme for People’s Wealth) — which, in typical Modi vernacular, plays on rhyming words — seeks to provide financial independence to unbanked Indians through a two-phase plan.

Phase one focuses on providing every household in India with a free zero-balance bank account and a RuPay debit card — which allows for electronic payment at all Indian banks — with an aim of increasing financial literacy among the poor. Read more…

The ‘Indo-Pacific’: absent policy behind meaningless words

Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi shake hands before giving opening remarks before the next round of the Australia–China Foreign and Strategic Dialogue in Sydney, 7 September 2014. China is likely to endorse the term Indo-Pacific, which Julie Bishop directed her department to use in 2013.-minihighres

Author: Trevor Wilson, ANU

Some may not have noticed when it happened but Julie Bishop, after becoming Australian Foreign Minister in September 2013, directed the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to use the term ‘Indo-Pacific’ instead of the traditional ‘Asia Pacific’ which has now been in use throughout the world for more than forty years. According to some, Bishop was not initially wedded to ‘Indo-Pacific’ but she seems to have become a convert, although she still occasionally uses ‘Indo-Pacific/Asia Pacific’. Read more…

The past successes and future pitfalls of decentralisation in Vietnam

Author: Thomas Jandl, American University

Vietnam’s market reforms are inseparable from the policy of economic decentralisation, which allowed for local experimentation and forced provincial leaders into competition. This improved the business climate throughout the country. In this sense, decentralisation is a root cause of Vietnam’s attractiveness to investors around the globe. Yet it would be a mistake to view decentralisation as one smooth process. Instead, it has gone through two main phases and is now entering a third. Read more…

Why Pakistan’s army stands to gain from political turmoil

Pakistani supporters of cleric Tahir ul Qadri listen to his speech during an anti-government protest in front of the Parliament in Islamabad on 17 September 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Vivek Kumar Srivastava, CSJM University

The political turmoil in Pakistan is approaching a decisive point. The ongoing protests led by Imran Khan and Tahir-ul-Qadri against Nawaz Sharif’s government have the potential to develop into a clash between democracy and the military. Already the crisis has given the Pakistani army greater political leverage. Read more…

The fragile happiness of Japan’s ‘insular’ youth

Ready to take on the world: college students at a ceremony in Tokyo to mark the start of the annual hunt for jobs. A recent survey into the attitudes of school students showed that the number who considered themselves to be very happy had doubled in the past three decades. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Noritoshi Furuichi, University of Tokyo

The youth of Japan appear to face a bleak future — a catastrophic budget deficit, ageing population and collapsing social security system. Despite this, according to data released last year, Japan’s youth are astonishingly positive in their outlook. In the government-run Public Opinion Survey Concerning People’s Lifestyles, levels of youth life satisfaction reached 78.4 per cent — the highest they had been since 1967 and higher than during Japan’s booming ‘bubble economy’ period. Read more…

Seeking accountability and failing to find it

Supporters of Pakistani cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan wave flags during an anti-government protest in front of the parliament in Islamabad, 14 September 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Rosita Armytage, ANU

It started off fun. The Azadi (freedom) March led by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman and former cricketer Imran Khan, and the Inquilab March (Revolution March) led by Tahir Ul Qadri of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) party have created a festival atmosphere in the nation’s capital of Islamabad. Read more…

Childcare not the only cost for working women in Japan

A mother and child cycle past an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, 21 January 2013. With the aim of increasing the female labour force participation rate, the Japanese government has begun to allocate significant resources to tackling longstanding childcare shortages. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Mark Fabian, ANU

Japan has recently moved to increase its female labour force participation rate, with the government allocating significant resources to tackling Japan’s longstanding shortage of child care places. Alongside this expansion in child care services, immigration laws are to be relaxed to allow for the recruitment of more foreign nannies. Read more…

Defeating India’s disastrous food price inflation with trade

The inflation of food prices in India is now a pressing policy issue that the Modi government must tackle. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Rajiv Kumar, CPR

Indian economic data in July on industrial growth and inflation was disappointing. Industrial sector growth slowed to 3.4 per cent in June 2014 with the manufacturing sector, the largest component, growing at an anaemic 1.8 per cent. But the more worrying set of statistics was the rise in retail inflation to 7.96 per cent in July 2014, which also reversed the declining trend observed since December 2013. Read more…

A chance to mend China–Japan relations

The respective leaders of China and Japan should not let issues like the Diaoyu/Senkaku Island dispute get in the way of building a stronger bilateral relationship. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Yves Tiberghien, University of British Columbia, and Yong Wang, Peking University

Over the last two years, China–Japan relations have been trapped in a downward spiral. The inescapable reality of an ongoing great power transition makes this situation particularly tense: the size of China’s economy relative to Japan’s jumped from a mere 25 per cent in 2000 to 99 per cent in 2009 and then to 188 per cent in 2013. Yet an alternative policy course is slowly developing. Read more…

China and India’s growing strategic weight

An Indian national flag is flown next to the Chinese national emblem. China and India will be at the core of the Asian powerhouse over the coming decades. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

The visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to India this week, so early in the term of India’s new prime minister, Narendra Modi, underlines the growing strategic weight of the relationship between the two countries. Modi’s prime ministership, with its ambition to re-invigorate India’s stalled economic reform and growth, more than any other single factor, promises to accelerate its potential growth radically. Modi has runs on the board with China in bringing Chinese investors to his home state, Gujarat — as of last year about 20 Chinese companies had set up shop — and through his personal engagement. Read more…