Village democracy shrugs in rural China

A Chinese police officer guards in front of a board to show result of counting votes for the candidates during an election to select village committees at a polling station in Wukan village, Lufeng city. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Bryan Ho, University of Macau

Lauded as one of the most significant political reforms in post-Mao China, village elections in rural China have received considerable attention since the promulgation of the Organic Law of Villagers’ Committees.

The law, first trialled in 1988–1998, is an attempt to allow villagers to elect their own local leaders in China’s lowest-level political unit. Read more…

China’s control over the South China Sea

A Vietnamese protester during a protest rally against China’s deployment of an oil rig in the disputed South China Sea. China recently announced that it would remove the rig. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

Last week China announced that it was towing away a giant oil rig from waters disputed with Vietnam, ahead of the onset of the typhoon season and after finding signs of oil and gas, at the same time insisting it stood firm on maritime claims that have sparked disputes with its neighbours — and warned it could return.

China deployed the US$1 billion rig in early May in waters close to the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea Read more…

Murky waters surround the rule of law in the South China Sea

A Chinese coast guard vessel fires water cannon at a Vietnamese vessel off the coast of Vietnam. The rule of law in the contested semi-enclosed seas of Asia needs to be constructed on a foundation that is objective, fair and equitable. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Sourabh Gupta, Samuels International

The air is thick with calls for the rule of law to be observed in the East and South China Seas. ‘Japan for the rule of law, Asia for the rule of law, and the rule of law for all of us’, Shinzo Abe said at the Shangri-La Dialogue earlier this year. Nations, he observed — and by which he meant China — must make claims that are faithful in light of international law and resolve them peacefully. Read more…

An immovable object and an unstoppable force: the Uyghurs and Beijing

Armed police patrol an area where blasts occurred in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, on 22 May 2014. The blasts killed 31 people and injured 94 others, according to local authorities. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Mubashar Hasan, Griffith University

China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region is experiencing, yet again, deep unrest and unease. News headlines have been dominated by violent clashes between Chinese police and some sections of the Uyghur population — recently a police building in Xinjiang province was bombed and 13 Uyghur activists shot dead in the aftermath. To comprehend the persistent tensions between the Chinese administration, managed by the dominant Han ethnic group, and Uyghur Muslims, one must consider historical tensions and both the strategic and economic significance of Xinjiang. Read more…

BCIM Corridor a game changer for South Asian trade

A vender weights corn for a customer at a market in Yingjiang, near the Myanmar border, Yunnan Province, China, 26 May 2012. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Pravakar Sahoo and Abhirup Bhunia, Institute of Economic Growth

The Bangladesh–China–India–Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor will increase socioeconomic development and trade in South Asia. The initiative seeks to improve connectivity and infrastructure, energy resources, agriculture, and trade and investment. It will connect India’s Northeast, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and the Chinese province of Yunnan through a network of roads, railways, waterways, and airways under a proper regulatory framework. The current focus of BCIM talks is on an inter-regional road network. This makes sense, as roads are the cheapest route of trade. Read more…

Chinese financial assistance to boost intra-regional trade in South Asia

A Chinese clerk shows RMB (renminbi) yuan banknotes at a bank in Ganyu county, Lianyungang city, 4 June 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Saman Kelegama, IPS

Since the mid-2000s, the South Asian region has witnessed an incoming wave of Chinese financial assistance. In some South Asian countries like Sri Lanka, China has overtaken traditional donors by highly engaging in post-war infrastructure development activities. So China’s engagement in South Asia creates both opportunity and uncertainty for India and its neighbours. The question remains: will intra-regional trade increase, if so, at what cost to the region? Read more…

China gingerly taking the capital account liberalisation path

A Chinese clerk counts renminbi banknotes at a bank in Lianyungang city, Jiangsu province, 4 June 2014. Renminbi internationalisation is one non-price measure of Chinese capital account openness. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Guonan Ma, Bruegel

The Chinese government recently pledged to substantially liberalise its still heavily regulated capital account. Since China is the number one trading nation, the second largest economy and a large net creditor, the world has a huge stake in how China manages its tricky transition from a state of binding capital controls to one of closer integration with the global financial market and system. Read more…

Chinese loans will counterbalance Russia’s influence in Kazakhstan

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko shake hands following the signing ceremony for the Eurasian Union in Astana, Kazakhstan, 29 May 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Micha’el Tanchum, Shalem College

On 29 May 2014, the presidents of Kazakhstan, Russia, and Belarus signed a treaty establishing the Eurasian Economic Union (EaEU). One week prior, Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced investment agreements worth US$10 billion. The timing of the two events reflects Nazarbayev’s determination to use Kazakhstan’s burgeoning economic relations with China to counterbalance possible Russian domination. Read more…

Rebalancing as the Rorschach inkblot test

US Secretary of State John Kerry addresses the joint opening session of the US China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Beijing, China, 9 July 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Brad Glosserman, Pacific Forum CSIS

Since it was first announced in late 2011, the US rebalance to Asia has become the great foreign policy ‘Rorschach test’ — what one sees in the rebalance says more about the observer than it does about the policy itself.

One school sees the rebalance as an effort to realise the goals laid out in President Obama’s 2009 National Security Strategy: it aims to tap the dynamism of the world’s most productive region to revitalise the US economy, sapped by a decade of war. Read more…

China must accept slower growth to avoid no growth

Members of the Politburo Standing Committee, including President Xi Jinping, raise their hands to vote on reforms at the third plenary session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in Beijing, 12 November 2013. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Ligang Song, ANU

In late 2013 the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee authorised far-reaching market-oriented reforms, including policies to deepen capital, labour, goods and services markets. The new model for economic growth seeks to increase the consumption and services share of the economy, raise the relative income of poorer people (especially rural residents and unskilled urban workers), and reduce environmental degradation. Read more…

China’s growing reach in South Asia

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi  shake hands during a meeting in New Delhi on June 9, 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Samam Kelegama, Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka

China’s economic reach in the South Asian region has grown considerably since the late 1990s, while that of India has lagged behind. In 2012, India’s trade with its South Asian neighbours — those in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) — amounted to US$17 billion, compared to China’s trade with the same countries which amounted to US$25 billion. China is currently the largest trading partner of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and the second largest trading partner of Sri Lanka and Nepal. Read more…

Capital in twenty-first century China

A beggar asks for money from people sitting at a pedestrian mall in Shanghai, China, 19 April 2012. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Wang Feng, UC Irvine

China’s inequality story received only scant attention in Thomas Piketty’s monumental new book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Piketty drew data mostly from sources in France, Britain, the United States and, to a lesser extent, Germany, Canada, Japan, Italy and Australia. These are all countries that have large quantities of capital and long histories of capital accumulation. Read more…

China is a big winner from Thailand’s coup

Thai people are allowed to pose with riot and special forces soldiers at a 'Bring Back Happiness to Thai People' event in the central Lumpini Park once occupied by protesters, in Bangkok, Thailand, 15 June 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Patrick Jory, University of Queensland

While the recent military coup in Thailand has drawn much of the world’s attention to the military junta’s suppression of democracy and human rights, it also has far-reaching geopolitical implications for the whole of Southeast Asia.

Read more…

China’s ethnic policies short on evidence

A general view of the Tibetan plateau. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Ben Hillman, ANU

Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leaders are showing increasing interest in research and evidence as a basis for public policy making. Leading universities have been beefing up their public policy schools and think tanks are multiplying. Government departments from the centre to the counties are setting up research units to evaluate policy impacts across a variety of sectors. But when it comes to public policies in Uyghur and Tibetan regions officials’ thirst for research and evidence dries up. Read more…