The puzzle of Chinese political power

Chinese President Xi Jinping gives a toast during the National Day reception in a banquet hall at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, 30 September 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Peter Drysdale, EAF, and Ryan Manuel, ANU

When Xi Jinping ascended to the Chinese presidency, he, Premier Li Keqiang and their streamlined seven-person Politburo Standing Committee faced serious economic challenges at home as well as increasingly complex issues to manage abroad.

Domestically, the Bo Xilai affair hovered over the leadership transition ominously, underlining the need to deal with disquiet among the Chinese public over corruption and the relationship between the state and economic power. Read more…

With Xi’s new power is collective leadership over?

Chinese president Xi Jinping leads the parade of present and past leaders, as they gather for the National Day reception at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on 30 September 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Shen Dingli, Fudan University

There is currently much talk about whether China’s President Xi Jinping is shifting away from collective leadership. Western observers tend to conclude that, given his command of all powers since becoming Chinese communist party chief and state president, Xi is centralising power around himself. But that is a premature conclusion that bears more careful scrutiny. Read more…

Surge of sedition charges in Malaysia arrests Najib’s reform agenda

A Malaysian student holds a placard during a protest in solidarity for Malaysian law professor Azmi Sharom, at Malaya University in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 09 September 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Nigel Cory, CSIS Washington DC

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was charged with sedition on 24 September for statements he made at a political rally three years earlier. Shortly before, on 19 September, a Malaysian court sentenced a student activist to a year in jail for comments he made after the 2013 general election. These cases are the latest in a surge of sedition charges that is terrorising opposition politicians, social activists, journalists and academics in Malaysia. Read more…

Where are all the women in China’s political system?

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Author: Jude Howell, LSE

In September 2014 the Inter-Parliamentary Union released its latest figures on the number of women in national parliaments. Rwanda topped the league with women accounting for 63.8 per cent of parliamentarians in the lower house (or its equivalent). China, however, ranked 62nd out of 189 countries, with women accounting for 23.4 per cent of representatives to the National People’s Congress (NPC) — China’s nearest equivalent to a parliament. Given that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has long espoused the idea of equality between men and women and has a well-established, dedicated institution for protecting women’s rights and interests — the All-China Women’s Federation (ACWF) — it is curious that the figures are so unimpressive. Read more…

Can South Korea and Japan resolve the ‘comfort women’ issue?

A former South Korean ‘comfort woman’, Lee Sun-duk, weeps during a press conference welcoming the passage of a resolution by the US House of Representatives calling on Japan to formally apologise to the victims and accept historical responsibility in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, 31 July 2007. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Kazuhiko Togo, Kyoto Sangyo University

Japan’s relations with South Korea have reached a new low. Six issues continue to plague bilateral relations, exacerbating the divide on historical memory: a lack of trust between Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and ROK president Park Geun-hye, the ‘comfort women’ issue, the Takeshima/Dokdo dispute, ROK judicial decisions on forced labour, Japanese politicians’ Yasukuni visits and Japan’s moves toward collective self-defence. The ‘comfort women’ issue may be the most serious bilateral friction point, but it also presents the greatest opportunity for a breakthrough. Read more…

Hong Kong protests about economics as much as democracy

Pro-democracy protesters continue a sit-in demonstration under a banner calling for the resignation of Chief Executive CY Leung and genuine elections in downtown Hong Kong, 6 October 2014. The protests are about economics as much as democracy, argues Peter Cai. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Peter Cai, Business Spectator

For years, Beijing has feared colour revolutions. Now, it has one on Chinese soil. The Occupy Central movement has morphed into the Umbrella Revolution. Tens of thousands of Hong Kong citizens, including students as young as 13, have taken to the streets to protest against the Chinese central government’s electoral reform package. Read more…

Protestors’ triumphs merely highlight the travails of Hong Kong’s democracy

Holding two umbrellas, a man walks through tear gas used by riot police against Occupy Central protesters after thousands of people blocked a main road in the financial district of Hong Kong, 28 September 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Joseph Cheng, City University of Hong Kong

Just before midnight on 2 October, CY Leung, Chief Executive of Hong Kong, agreed to negotiations with student protest leaders on the issue of political reform. The protesters, as well as the people of Hong Kong, can be very proud of what they have achieved so far.

They have occupied not only the Admiralty area, but also several districts and ensured that the police cannot charge for another crackdown. Read more…

Can the Hong Kong protesters and China compromise?

A boy holds a sign which reads "Hong Kong push harder" in the Admiralty district of Hong Kong on 2 October, 2014. Pro-democracy protesters remain gathered in a push for free elections of the city's leader. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Courtney J. Fung, HKU

Many think that compromise between China and Hong Kong protesters is impossible. Protests continue to swell and China is holding firm on its position that the designation of the 2017 electoral ballot is ultimately under Beijing’s control. But in the past there have been multiple instances of compromise between China and Hong Kong protesters after public stand-offs over similarly sensitive issues. And compromise is again a feasible option, well worth considering now. Read more…

Nationalism, nuclear power and Japans fragile media opposition

Asahi Shimbun CEO and President Tadakazu Kimura bows in apology during a press conference at its head office in Chuo Ward, Tokyo, 11 September 2014. The newspaper admitted that its May article on the so-called Yoshida file concerning the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant was incorrect and retracted the article. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Tobias Weiss, Zurich University

In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011, public support for the Democratic Party of Japan vanished. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party won a majority in both houses of the Diet. In the absence of an effective political opposition, the liberal media have sought to fulfil this function.

Japan’s big media companies were criticised after the Fukushima incident for underreporting the risks associated with nuclear power. This triggered a surge in investigative journalism. Read more…

Aquino’s reformism hits a dead end

An effigy of Filipino president Benigno S. ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III is displayed as thousands of anti-corruption protesters march on the first year anniversary of an anti-graft street protest at a park in Manila, 25 August 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Mark R. Thompson, City University of Hong Kong

Unlike his scandal-plagued predecessor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo — who left office as the most unpopular post-Marcos president — it has long seemed that Benigno S. ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III, could do no wrong. Aquino promised to take the ‘straight path’ (matuwid na daan) to clean up corruption. This, he said, would also eradicate poverty. Read more…

The ghost of historical revisionism in contemporary Japan

Japanese lawmakers visit the Yasukuni Shrine on the day of the 69th anniversary of the end of World War II, Tokyo, 15 August 2014. At least two Japanese Cabinet ministers paid respects at the Tokyo shrine that honours the war dead including convicted criminals, a move that may outrage China and South Korea. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Koichi Nakano, Sophia University

The politics of historical memory is a key factor shaping the international relations of East Asia today. Controversy surrounding the Yasukuni Shrine and the ‘comfort women’ (sex slaves) issue has had far-reaching foreign policy implications for Japan’s relations with its East Asian neighbours. 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…

Narendra Modi’s foreign policy — too early to judge?

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi  and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe shake hands after a joint press conference at the in Tokyo on 1 September 2014. The two leaders reached to an agreement that both countries would promote security and economic relations. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Tridivesh Singh Maini, Jindal School of International Affairs

The Narendra Modi government turned 100 days old on 3 September, and while it is too early to judge its performance on both the domestic and foreign policy front, its first few months have revealed some important features of the government’s foreign policy — both positive and negative. Read more…

Is Modi’s honeymoon over?

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets the audience before delivering a speech during a business event in Tokyo, 2 September 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Mahendra Ved, New Delhi

It has been just over 100 days since Narendra Modi took office amid global euphoria, but the ‘honeymoon’ period seems over for the Indian prime minister’s government and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). As the media were dishing out the new administration’s ‘report card’, the party lost several state by-elections across the country. It raised the question of whether the ‘Modi wave’ is on the wane so soon. Read more…