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…

Cementing the BRICS together

The heads of BRICS member states pose for a picture during the 6th BRICS summit in the city of Fortaleza, Brazil, 15 July 2014. BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) member states discuss political coordination issues and global governance problems. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Garima Sahdev and Geethanjali Nataraj, Observer Research Foundation

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in Brazil for his first major international summit, the sixth annual BRICS summit. Before his departure, the leader put forward his vision that the vitality of the BRICS group would cut across the geographical and ideological divides of not only the five countries of the group but also of the global economy. 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…

G20 should facilitate international cooperation on climate change

Environmentalists from Poland and Europe participate in the March for Climate and Social Justice in Warsaw, Poland. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Ross Garnaut, University of Melbourne

The time is right to place climate change at centre stage of the 2014 G20 leaders-group meeting in Australia. The G20 has a record of leadership on the international climate change agenda. With the world working toward a critical meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris in December 2015, a firm position articulated by G20 leaders in Brisbane in November would be in time to influence the Lima UNFCCC meeting in December 2014. Read more…

China’s growing assertiveness transforms Japan’s security policy

People demonstrate against the defence policy change by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo in Tokyo, Japan, 5 July 2014. The Japanese cabinet decided on 1 July that Japan should be allowed to use military force abroad in special circumstances. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Jennifer Lind, Dartmouth College

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced on 1 July a decision to reinterpret the Japanese constitution, allowing Tokyo to militarily support partners that are under attack. Former prime minister Zenko Suzuki would approve. In 1981, Suzuki became the first Japanese leader to use the word ‘alliance’ to describe Japan’s relationship with the United States. The seemingly innocuous word sounded alarmingly militaristic to many Japanese who, since their country’s defeat in World War II, have been skittish of rearmament and involvement in overseas military operations. 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…

Behind North Korea’s hospital curtain

A North Korean nurse comforts a baby at a nursery inside Pyongyang Maternity Hospital in Pyongyang, North Korea, 20 February 2013. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Eun Jeong Soh, ANU

Health care has been a successful area of international cooperation for North Korea. Yet, there has been little discussion of daily health care practices, which remain largely hidden outside of the formal health care system. How much is known, for instance, about what people in North Korea do when their children fall ill? 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…

G20 must shape a new world trade regime

The G20 meeting at the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings 11 April 2014 at the IMF Headquarters in Washington, DC. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Mari Pangestu and David Nellor, Indonesia

Over the past decade global trade and investment discussions have moved far away from the formal global trade regime. The multilateral system has been mired in the Doha Development Round — defined by a single undertaking and a fixed agenda that is increasingly out-of-date. In the meantime, most countries have devoted their energies to regional trade and investment discussions. Read more…

Japan and the art of un-apologising

A regular rally of former so-called comfort women call for an apology from Japan in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, 22 January 2014. Japan forcibly took tens of thousands of Asian women, mostly Koreans, to battlefields to provide sexual services for the Japanese army during World War II. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Tessa Morris-Suzuki, ANU

The Japanese government has long had difficulties coming up with effective apologies for the wartime misdeeds of the country’s military. For decades, while many ordinary Japanese grassroots groups worked tirelessly to right the wrongs of the past, the silence from the corridors of power in Tokyo was deafening. 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…

Japan needs to rethink its Asian ‘diplomacy’

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe follows a Shinto priest to pay his respects at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, 26 December 2013. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Jean-Pierre Lehmann, IMD

There were many reasons behind Meiji Japan’s (1868–1912) astonishing rise from a feudal backwater to the only non-Western industrial and imperial power within the space of a few short decades. One indisputable reason was the quality of Japanese diplomacy.

After a relatively short period of heated debate as Western gunships threatened, Japan decided to abandon its two-century-old ‘closed country’ policy of isolation and to learn from and join the West. Read more…

TPPing over?

Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari listens during a press conference at the Trans-Pacific Partnership Ministerial Meeting in Singapore, 20 May 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Jayant Menon, ADB

Why is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) taking so long to conclude? It has already missed three deadlines, the latest being October 2013. And President Barack Obama’s recent Asia visit did not produce the widely anticipated push towards the finish line. And what will the TPP will look like when finally concluded? Despite WikiLeaks’ best efforts, the negotiations are walled by secrecy. Will the TPP be the comprehensive twenty-first century agreement proponents tout? Or will it wallow as a watered-down compromise, riddled with exemptions, as detractors predict? Read more…