The unknowns in China’s great urban change

Newly constructed apartments in Shantou, Guangdong, China.

Author: Kam Wing Chan, University of Washington

After more than a decade of mostly empty talk, China has finally announced a bold move to grant urban residential registration — known as hukou — status to 100 million people by 2020.

The target is a major component of China’s new urbanisation plan, which represents a significant commitment towards achieving genuine urbanisation. Read more…

Obama visits a troubled East Asia

US President Barack Obama waves as he gets off Air Force One upon his arrival at Haneda Airport in Tokyo on 23 April 2014.  (Photo: AAP)

Author: Tobias Harris, Teneo Intelligence

President Barack Obama’s state visit to Japan on 23–25 April comes at a fraught moment for the US–Japan relationship.

The cautious US response first to China’s declaration of an air defence identification zone in November and then to Russia’s annexation of Crimea have Japanese elites concerned about what the US would do if China were to seize the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. Read more…

The evolution of Sino–American competition in Myanmar

US President Barack Obama delivers remarks after a meeting with Myanmar President Thein Sein in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 20 May 2013. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Adam P. MacDonald, Halifax

For decades, China has been Myanmar’s principal international partner. In the years preceding Myanmar’s opening up, China dominated Myanmar’s foreign discourse as an important economic and military partner, and a source of international diplomatic protection due to the diplomatic isolation and widespread sanctions imposed on Myanmar by the West, especially after the 1988 coup. Read more…

South China Sea on the rocks: the Philippines’ arbitration request

This Philippine Navy vessel has been grounded since 1999 to assert the nation's sovereignty over the Second Thomas Shoal, a remote South China Sea reef also claimed by China. The Philippines commenced in 2013 arbitral proceedings against China to seek declarations as to the legal status of, but not legal title to, various land features in the South China Sea. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Christopher Ward, 12th Floor Chambers and ANU

The overlapping territorial and maritime claims in the South China Sea are regularly described as flash points and sources of tension. A number of these overlapping claims do not involve China. However, it is the assertions made by China that lie at the heart of many of the disputes, as well as their possible resolution within the framework of UNCLOS. 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…

Can China win the war on air pollution?

Chinese tourists wear facemasks during a visit to Tiananmen Square as heavy air pollution shrouds Beijing.(Photo: AAP)

Author: Daniel K. Gardner, Smith College

China’s polluted air — so much in the news these days — has been 30 years in the making.

When Deng Xiaoping introduced market reforms in the late 1970s, the country started its steady rise from the economic doldrums, largely through investment in heavy industrialisation. Since then, its GDP has grown about 10 per cent annually, and its economy has displaced Japan’s as the world’s second largest.  Read more…

Embrace China, but for just a moment

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao engage in talks at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, December 2013. Despite extremely close Sino-Australian economic relations, Bishop has argued that the US is Australia’s most important economic partner. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Derek Scissors, AEI

Shiro Armstrong recently claimed in these pages that China is Australia’s most important economic partner, indicting Australian government endorsement of the US for the position. The defence of the US offered by Australia’s foreign minister Julie Bishop and others is unsatisfying, and the case for China is reasonable. However, Australians and others should be mindful that China’s current importance is probably transient and there are subtle reasons to regard the US as Australia’s key partner. Read more…

Strategic ambiguity a hazard for Asian security

US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speaks during a news conference on the flight deck of the USS Anchorage after a tour at Pearl Harbour with his counterparts from Southeast Asia. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Richard A. Bitzinger, NTU

One of the most dangerous challenges facing the Asia Pacific is ambiguity — particularly strategic ambiguity on the part of the two most important players in Asian security, the United States and China. How these two nations engage with each other is ultimately of paramount importance to regional security. Therefore, it is crucial that they make their intentions crystal clear, not only to each other but to the other Asia Pacific nations as well. Read more…

Is Vietnam’s bamboo diplomacy threatened by pandas?

Russian President Vladimir Putin talks with Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang as they attend the cooperation signing ceremony between Russia and Vietnam at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam in November 2013 (Photo: AAP).

Author: Thuy T. Do, ANU

Vietnam is maximising its political leverage with ‘clumping bamboo’ diplomacy. Although Thailand is famous for its skilful ‘bamboo diplomacy’ — always solidly rooted but flexible enough to bend whichever way the wind blows to survive — the Vietnamese have found another diplomatic philosophy to engage great powers. Read more…

How the Ukraine crisis is pushing two superpowers together

Chinese President Xi Jinping is welcomed by his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during his first foreign visit since assuming the presidency. Western political and economic sanctions will inevitably push Moscow toward Beijing. (Source: AAP).

Author: Artyom Lukin, Far Eastern Federal University.

There is one international player that stands to gain from the recent turn of events in Ukraine, regardless of its outcome. This player apparently has nothing to do with the crisis that has engulfed Russia, the EU and the United States, and makes a point of staying on the sidelines. This player is China. 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…

Embracing China as number one

The Chinese flag seen here on the Mekong River (Photo: AAP).

Author: Shiro Armstrong, ANU

China is Australia’s most important economic partner. That is true now and it is only likely to become more so in the future.

In January Australia’s foreign minister Julie Bishop unexpectedly declared that ‘the United States remains our single most important economic partner. When you combine two-way trade and investment, it stands at over $1 trillion’. Read more…

Beijing’s South China Sea strategies: consolidation and provocation

A Chinese marine surveillance ship alongside a Japan Coast Guard ship near the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Gregory Poling, CSIS

Recent months have seen a steady progression of China’s long-term strategy in the South China Sea, which can be loosely divided into two parts. Beijing is building up its maritime surveillance forces in the area and strengthening effective control of the features it occupies. At the same time, Chinese vessels are venturing far afield with greater frequency to assert Beijing’s claims to the entire area encompassed by the ‘nine-dash line’, and to provoke missteps by fellow claimants. Read more…

Challenges remain for China–Sri Lanka FTA

Sri Lankan students watch coal being unloaded for the only coal-powered electricity generating plant in the nation, which is Chinese built. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Saman Kelegama, IPS

Although China–Sri Lanka trade had been growing steadily beforehand, China was not a large trading partner of Sri Lanka until 2005, which was a turning point in China–Sri Lankan economic relations. In the mid-2000s, China was increasingly asserting its global power via bilateral loans for developing countries in Asia and other continents. In Sri Lanka, a new government was looking for unconditional loans with negotiable repayment periods to defeat a drawn-out separatist war and develop neglected infrastructure in the country. Read more…